ISBN 0-9760679-1-9
288 pages - 105x170 mm
 

 

"A first rate surfing book thriller that grabs you page after page."

Bobby Cruz’s past has caught up with him in the form of beautiful Costa Rican teenager Consuela, who turns up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter. She carries the startling message from her mother Blanca that the former ‘Contra’ war criminal Chato Torres is alive and killing again.

Bobby decides he must travel south to find Blanca and confront his past as a soldier in Central America. His journey moves from surf-clad beaches through dense rainforest, until on the sulphurous slopes of a volcano he hunts a phantom that was long thought dead.

Witches' Rock, Tamarindo and Costa Rica surf maps included

"Ollie’s Point is a soulful, gritty, surf travel adventure set in the rugged backdrop of Costa Rica.”

CHAPTER 1

 

Tommy Lopez was happy to be going home. The two-week holiday with his students at Roca Bruja, the Witches’ Rock, Costa Rica was a great success. He and his kids were on their way to the airport in an old yellow school bus with ‘Witches’ Rock Surf Camp’ painted on the side. The old bus took the curves on the coastal hills well.

The waves at Playa Naranjo and in front of Roca Bruja were a pounding beach break. One of the girls in Tommy’s group had even broken her board in a particularly heavy surf session.

Even Tommy had ridden a classic day at Witches’ Rock. The waves were two meters with offshore winds. He surfed until he was too exhausted to paddle, something he hadn’t done since he was the age of his students.

The boys and girls in his group behaved as well as you could expect 13–14-year-olds to behave. The only real crisis, a storm in a teacup really, was when he caught Amelia and Ethan buying marijuana from a local fisherman.

Tommy felt a little guilty about confiscating their stash, because he tasted it and it wasn’t bad. He rolled a spliff before ritually tossing the weed into the nightly campfire in front of the kids. They took it okay; he suspected they managed to roll a couple of joints themselves before it went up in smoke. If those were the extent of the school discipline problems at Richard Nixon Junior High School of Dana Point, California, it would be one of the safest schools in the state.

          Just last year they caught a kid with a Mac-10 in his backpack. They were lucky another student spotted him stashing the machine gun in his locker. After the Columbine killings students kept a sharp eye out for the dweebs, geeks and other social misfits ready to work out their rage and frustration with hollow-point bullets. Education in America had become a hazardous occupation.

          These days it’s the God-fearing WASP boys with names like Dylan, Eric or Justin that have their fingers on the triggers. It’s kids that used mom’s credit card to buy mail-order AK-47s or steal the .44 Magnum from dad’s gun case. It’s quiet kids living in good neighborhoods and from good Christian families who murder other kids. This is what passes for adolescent problem solving in America’s schools.

          Tommy Lopez was a full-time Geology teacher at Richard Nixon Junior High School and during his free time coached the school’s surf team. A couple of his kids were talented enough to turn pro if they could exercise enough self-discipline and kept up their studies.

          During these school-sponsored trips Tommy liked to mix in some of his lessons, and the geology of Costa Rica served as an excellent teaching tool.

The country comprises a strip of land connecting the landmasses of North and South America. It’s a region where the earth’s tectonic plates collided to form the Cordilleras ranges, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific and forming part of a chain of volcanoes that stretches from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America to Alaska in the north. Costa Rica has some of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Around the nightly campfire Tommy held the kids spellbound as he described the geological events that formed the Pacific coast region where they camped and the role played by the nearby Rincon de la Vieja volcano, the ‘old lady’s place.’

Tommy explained how the Witches’ Rock, a massive basalt rock planted in the sea in front of the surf camp, was formed by volcanic action. The process began with the buildup of pressure in the magma chamber, the heart of the volcano. If there were humans in the region they would have heard the rumbling and felt the earth tremors building up for weeks.

          Tommy told the kids that the volcano first started belching out clouds of ash into the upper atmosphere. Then came the fireworks as the volcano vented, shooting lava missiles hundreds of meters into the air. Fissures then appeared on the volcano’s flanks oozing lava.

If the wind patterns were anything like now, said Tommy, the volcano would begin to shower the beach with pumice pebbles, gas-impregnated lava so light it floated on water.

From past accounts of eruptions it could rain lava for hours and hours. Some of these pumice showers would be heavy enough to kill animals or men.

Then the sky above the volcano would grow dark; the thick clouds of volcanic ash would block out the sun and within the clouds there would be fierce bolts of volcanic lightning.

For anybody still alive in the area it would have seemed like the end of the world, but there was still more terror to come. There would be the choking poisonous gas followed by a pyroclastic blast that would roll down the flanks of the mountain like an avalanche. This superheated rock, ash and gas would cook every living thing in its path.

          Then in an awesome show of power the volcano would hurl molten chunks of lava the size of apartment blocks. Roca Bruja, or the Witches’ Rock, was one of those. A massive chunk of basalt rock that was thrown some thirty kilometers by a volcano into the ocean.

With his trained geologist’s eye Tommy pointed out evidence of the even bigger chunks of basalt ejected by the volcano, oil-tanker size, though now they were worn down by rain and overgrown with vegetation. Yes, he told them, it would have seemed like the Apocalypse with the sky raining down chunks of lava the size of buildings and oil tankers. It would certainly have been the end of the world for anybody here.

That night around the campfire the kids sat wide-eyed as Tommy taught them volcanology. That’s the way subjects should be taught, he thought, just find the right circumstances and a lasting impression can be made on young minds.

 

          At the wheel of the old school bus was tico driver Jorge Flores and he was glad it was his last day. It was a time he could have a little fun with the kids he’d supervised for the last weeks. He was happy the holidays were over, because these rich, spoiled gringo kids were getting on his nerves the way they constantly made fun of his accent.

          Before they left the surf camp Jorge announced that they were going to get a real treat. It was going to be something like out of the movie Crocodile Dundee, he said in his heavy accent. To play the part Jorge put on his version of Dundee’s bush hat and held up a dead chicken still shedding feathers.

          It was raining as Jorge drove the bus full of kids through the green countryside of the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. It had been raining since their first day at the camp and the kids had been complaining, as if Jorge could do anything about it. Now they had reached what was described in the guidebooks as the dry coast plains and it was still raining.

          Jorge started to slow down as the bus approached a long concrete bridge that straddled the swollen brown river El Paraiso, the Paradise. In the distance he could see the blue of the Pacific Ocean and the muddy brown water where the river’s flow stained the sea.

The bus crossed the bridge and pulled to a stop on the side of the road. Jorge told the kids to wait until he called for them, then he and Tommy exited the bus.

Jorge walked along the bridge; he cut a slightly ridiculous figure wearing his Croc Dundee hat with the chicken dangling at his side.

Tommy flipped open his umbrella and waited for the group of kids to get off the bus and line up. They had arrived early and Jorge told them that was good, because there usually were cars parked all along the bridge to see the show.

          Tommy followed Jorge leading a group of about ten kids along the bridge’s guard-rail. They walked towards the middle of the bridge where it straddled the river some two hundred meters from where the bus was parked.

          Jorge excitedly pointed to what at first seemed like a floating log in the brown water. It was a salt-water crocodile about three meters long. It swam slowly across the river and was joined by an even bigger croc moving in the same direction. The croc’s eyes were raised above the water and its powerful tail propelled it towards the bridge supports.

          As Tommy and the kids caught up with Jorge, he explained the crocodiles had good eyesight and were gathering on the mud flats under the bridge’s pilings; they knew it was feeding time.

          Jorge had been to the bridge at El Paraiso a number of times and was always gratified the way his crocodile show affected the kids. He knew that if his Crocodile Dundee act played well it was worth some big tips. He also made sure he brought a sack of chicken innards, legs and heads to sell to the kids so they could feed the crocs too.

          Amelia and Ethan left the group and ran ahead of Jorge, ignoring his shouts to wait. They finally stopped on the bridge where the river flowed directly underneath. But after glancing over the guard-rail they ran back, frightened and near to tears.

“What’s wrong?” asked Tommy.

“There’s someone down there,” cried Amelia.

          Tommy asked the group to wait on the bridge until he and Jorge could find out what had frightened the kids. Some of the group waited, but a few curious kids followed.

          The two men ran across the bridge and looked over the side. The scene was horrific. Two huge crocodiles were ripping apart the torso of a man on the mud flats below. Some smaller crocodiles not big enough to compete for the prize were waiting nearby to scavenge leftovers.

          Ethan pointed to a rope tied to the guard-rail. Jorge bent over the rail where the rope dangled.

Madre Mia,” said Jorge and turned to Tommy and called for help, “Ayuda mi!

Tommy looked over the side of the bridge and saw a second man dangling from the rope. The line was looped under his arms and he was swinging above a huge crocodile. One of the man’s legs was ripped off below the knee and big croc was up on its hind legs trying to get more.

          Tommy shouted for all the kids to go back to the bus, then handed Jorge his mobile phone and told him to call the police.

“He’s still alive,” said Ethan pointing to the man.

          Both Tommy and Jorge glanced over the guard-rail.

The man at the end of the rope rolled his eyes open.

Ayuda,” help, said the man.

Tommy, Jorge and Ethan quickly began to pull him up.

          Once over the rail they laid the man on the ground. Amelia ran back from the bus carrying a blanket. They covered the man and comforted him as best they could.

Tommy fashioned a tourniquet for the man’s severed leg, but he had already lost a great deal of blood and was going into shock.

Jorge was talking in rapid Spanish on the mobile to the police.

          The man was drifting in and out of consciousness. He motioned for Tommy to come closer. He leaned over the man.

“Chato Torres,” said the man. “Murcielago.”

The man died on the side of the road before the ambulance or the police arrived.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

KLM flight 601 Amsterdam to LAX was just to Bobby Cruz’s liking. The seats in business were classy, real luxury loungers. With a push of a button the leg rest kicked forward and the back support tilted to prone position. He could get used to this; it was much better than the cattle car experience in economy class, but those were surf trips and this was opera.

          Next to him lay Samantha Kane, the love of his life, snuggled up in the airline’s blue logo blanket snoring gently.

Bobby couldn’t sleep and watched five movies during the flight, his usual quota of cinema for a month, and none were memorable in the least. That meant for the next month he’d have to find other things to do than visit the multiplex. He decided that he would spend more time practicing pecak silat, the Indonesian fighting art, and maybe even try a meditation class that Sam had suggested.

          Bobby glanced over at Samantha as she turned and got comfortable. They made a good team, he thought. Together they had taken a party of nine opera aficionados to Venice for a Monteverdi festival at the La Fenice opera house, just rebuilt after burning down in suspicious circumstances in 1996. From Venice they had traveled with the train to the ancient city of Verona to see a performance of Verdi’s Nabucco in a Roman coliseum.

          While shepherding their clients between shows they had managed to see the sights of both remarkable cities. They swam at the Venice Lido, and then made a tour to the Emperor’s hot springs at Lake Garda, where they drank Proseco, a bubbly Italian wine, and made love under the stars. All this between the two performances at La Fenice and two outdoor shows in Verona. Life may be sweet, but opera was divine thought Bobby.

It was at Lake Garda that Bobby asked Samantha to marry him. She told him that it was a serious step and she needed time to consider it. He was disappointed, but said he would wait for her decision.

Bobby put on a brave face for the rest of the trip, but soon began to wonder if he’d made a mistake. They had been lovers for nearly three years and marriage seemed an obvious progression, but her hesitation made him question this assumption.

Bobby decided to let the whole thing play itself out naturally and try to live with the uncertainty. What is certain in this life except change, he reasoned, but this newly acquired philosophy didn’t bring him peace of mind.

          Samantha had arranged the trip through her travel agency Soprano, which specialized in opera tours. Each customer paid three thousand dollars for six days and as far as they were concerned it was money well spent.

          With Samantha’s eye for detail the tour went off with military precision, hotel, travel and opera tickets, which was no mean feat considering they were dealing with Italians.

          Bobby had been to Venice once before so he was familiar with the city. This allowed him the argument that his local knowledge was essential for the trip. In reality the only time he actually came in handy was when moving the luggage around the town.

          Venice is a walking city. There are no cars, scooters or bicycles; everything must be floated or carried by hand. Even if one traveled by gondola or vaporetto, the waterbus, you still needed muscle power to get your belongings from the dock to your hotel.

          Bobby manhandled two hundred kilos of luggage from the train station to the hotel in the middle of summer. By the time he got the group’s luggage to the hotel where the staff could take over he had sweated clean through his linen suit.

          When the time came to leave Venice he had picked up some tips from the local produce hauliers and rented a wheeled dolly from a fruit seller. He was able to bring all the luggage back to the train station in one trip.

          On this excursion the clients were docile. The only incident was a complaint about one gentleman’s seat at La Fenice, but when Bobby pressed a few Euros into the palm of the opera house usher the man’s seat was exchanged for one with a better view.

          For the rest of the tour the clients were left to entertain themselves between shows. Samantha made it clear in her sales pitch that her responsibility was for travel, accommodation and opera tickets; the participants had to fill the rest of the trip for themselves.

After each performance the group still gravitated to each other’s company. There would be a local café where the traveling party would meet and dissect the night’s performance over a late dinner and drinks.

Bobby surprised Samantha with his strong opinions about the shows. After a few glasses of wine he told those gathered around that he found the Italian productions too traditional; it was a shame they didn’t take more liberties with the staging. A more knowledgeable client agreed with him. He expanded on Bobby’s theory, speculating that there were certain expectations the Italian public had about opera which the local directors tried to fulfill.

 

Bobby’s attention drifted back to the movie playing on his monitor in KLM business class. It was the third of the Matrix series. He thought of what Nyoman, his Balinese buddy, had said about the previous one: “All fight, no story,” and it was the same here.

          The KLM purser interrupted the entertainment, freezing the movie scene mid-fight with the announcement that they were now descending to LAX and would land in ten minutes.

Bobby glanced out of the window. He could see the yellowish brown smog shrouding the Santa Monica Mountains. Welcome home, he thought.

          Bobby and Samantha accompanied the tour group as they picked up their bags from the luggage carousel and helped them through customs. At this stage of the trip their supervision was not needed, but it had become a habit and was accepted as natural by all.

At the terminal exit there were lots of hugs and kisses as the clients waited for transportation home. They had shared something in common, they had come together through the love of opera and now they were going their separate ways.

There was a lot of talk about staying in contact. And Samantha, ever the businesswoman, let them all know that there were still places open for her next tour to Cairo to see Aida under the Pyramids of Giza. She told them she would hold a place for any of them since there were all now the best of friends, almost family, and she meant it.

After the last client rode off from the terminal Samantha put her arms around Bobby and hugged him. She kissed him deeply.

“What did I do to deserve that?” asked Bobby.

“For being you,” she replied.

“Well that’s easy. Are we opera comrades now?”

“Forever and ever,” she said and kissed him again.

For an instant Bobby thought she was going to give an answer to his marriage proposal, but the moment passed and nothing was said.

A big red 4×4 Chevy truck with a white camper top pulled up to the curb and tooted its horn. Juanito Cruz, Bobby’s cousin, stepped out of the cab of the truck brushing sawdust from his overalls and gave them a brilliant smile.

          Juanito was a blonde-haired Latino over six feet tall and built like pro footballer. He gave Bobby a bear hug and Samantha a kiss.

“Hey, you guys are looking ever so European,” said Juanito.

“You’re going to have to make it to Europe sometime Juanito,” said Samantha.

          “There were some gorgeous Italian ladies looking for a big strong handsome man just like you.”

“Can’t disappoint the ladies, I’m just waiting for my chance to fly the coop, Sam.”

“How are things at home Juanito?” asked Bobby.

“Quiet.”

“And the bathroom?”

“Done. Just cleanup work is all boss.”

Juanito had a construction job in Santa Monica and rather than fight traffic commuting from the valley every day, Bobby let him sleep on his sofa in his mobile home. The deal was—Juanito would install a new bathtub for Bobby in exchange for his room and board.

“I can’t wait for a bath,” said Bobby.

“That may be a little premature boss,” said Juanito.

“How premature?”

“Just a couple of hours, detail work, no big deal.”

          An airport-parking cop approached and gave them a ‘Homeland Security’ look. Juanito took Samantha’s luggage and walked to the rear of the truck. Bobby followed him with his suitcase. Juanito brushed aside the tools and set both suitcases inside.

          Under the gaze of the airport cop Juanito took out a cloth and wiped the sawdust from the seat before Samantha sat down.

“Sorry about the mess, cuz,” said Juanito.

No problemo,” said Bobby and slid in next to Samantha.

Juanito eased the truck into the flow of traffic and gave a friendly wave to the scowling cop. He turned down Century Boulevard and headed towards the 405 freeway; from there he’d pick up the Santa Monica freeway west and home.

“Hey cuz, you didn’t say nothing about visitors,” said Juanito.

“That’s because I wasn’t expecting any,” said Bobby.

“That’s what I thought, but I figured you’d know about your daughter.”

“Amanda? She not supposed to be here for few weeks.”

          “It ain’t Amanda,” said Juanito.

          “Then who is it?” asked Bobby.

“Consuela.”

“Consuela? I don’t know any Consuela.”

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say, because she’s a fine looker, cuz. If you know what I mean.”

“Another daughter?” said Samantha enjoying his confusion. “I thought I knew all your secrets.”

“It’s got to be some kind of a mistake,” said Bobby.

“Man, I sure hope so because if she’s not blood I’m going to jump on her, otherwise I might catch me an incest beef.”

“It’s not incest,” said Samantha. “That would be with first cousins like you and Bobby marrying, but even that’s permissible under the law.”

“Maybe permissible but not advisable,” said Bobby. “Genetically speaking.”

“Sure sets my mind at rest cuz, I was imagining kids with three eyes calling me daddy and shit like that.”

“Where does this Consuela get off passing herself off as blood?” asked Bobby.

          “Got me cuz, she doesn’t speak much English, just Spanish. She comes from down south.”

“You can’t speak Spanish?” said Bobby. “What kind of Mexican are you?”

“I missed that class in school. I was disadvantaged. Listen I know how to swear, but that’s not going to get me far with that sweet young thing.”

“I’m going to take a Spanish course,” said Samantha. “Why don’t you come along Juanito?”

“Yeah, I might do that. What do the chicas in the class look like? Gorgeous like you?”

“You’re going to have to show up at class to see,” said Samantha.

She ran her hand through Bobby’s hair, “And you Mr. Cruz, you’re holding back on me.”

          “I don’t know any Consuela.”

“You’ll find out soon enough, she’s waiting at your place,” said Juanito.

“A secret daughter,” said Samantha with a smile.

For Bobby the jet lag was coming on strong and the excitement of travel was fading fast. He was looking forward to a long sleep in his own bed.

 

 

 

 


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