After a gruelling 17 hour flight, Manuel touched down at Barranquilla’s Atlantico airport & hastily made his way over to collect his luggage.
At the carousel, he was greeted by a local man holding a crude banner which read; Manell Padlo. Bemused, he glanced around the gathering crowd before finally deciding to approach the man.
“Mr Manell?” The man spoke “I will take you to see Mr Carlov, yes?”
Manuel nodded, relived that the sign was for him, & followed the man through the terminal to an exit where a long black limousine awaited.
Quickly darting ahead, the man opened the back door & gestured for Manuel to enter. Manuel obliged, expecting to find Juan Carlos relaxing in the back, but instead found that he was all alone. Disappointed, Manuel’s next port of call was the cars mini bar. After 17 hours in the air, he could definitely use a drink. Once again though, Manuel was to be disappointed. Empty! The cheap bastard, He thought.
After what must have been at least 45 minutes of staring soberly out of the cars ridiculously dark tinted windows, Manuel’s journey finally ended at the steps of what could only be described as a palatial estate on the city’s outskirts.
Again, Manuel’s door was opened for him &, as he stepped out of the limo, the man gestured for him to leave his luggage before climbing back into the driver’s seat, leaving Manuel at the foot of what he guessed to be a 50 stair climb to the residence’s front door.
With a sigh, Manuel began the climb &, as he approached the top, he was relieved to be greeted by a familiar face.
“Manuel!” A voice echoed “Welcome”
Oddly enough, the face that greeted him was not that of Juan Carlos, but rather his brother, Miguel.
“Miguel!” Manuel began “It’s been a while. I didn’t even know you were here! That’s quite a climb!” He huffed, staring back down from where he’d come.
“Yes well, you know Juan Carlos, nothing but the best will do!”
Manuel nodded & the pair entered the front door.
“Is he here?” Manuel asked “Juan Carlos I mean” Feeling the need to clarify.
“Yes, yes, I will take you to him” Miguel assured & gestured for Manuel to follow him.
The pair continued down a long corridor before finally stopping outside a large double door entrance at the hallways end.
“He’s in there” Miguel stated, motioning for Manuel to enter.
“You’re not coming?” Manuel asked.
“I do not go in there” Miguel replied “It makes me……” He had to think “Uncomfortable” He finished.
Slightly confused, Manuel opened the door & immediately understood what Miguel had meant.
Directly across the room, slumped over a large, expensive looking desk sat JC. Asleep, passed out or dead Manuel could not tell.
Unsure of how to proceed, his eyes began to wander around the room.
The first thing he noticed was how dirty the place was. Rubbish was thrown on the floor, almost every surface contained a plate with a half eaten meal on it & the air smelt mouldy & unclean.
On the walls hung various paintings, mainly religious depictions from what Manuel could tell. He recognised the last supper & the crucifixion of Christ, though many of the others looked obscure & of poor quality, but what did he know about art?
To JC’s left, at a much smaller desk, & equally as unfazed by Manuel’s presence, sat a bare breasted young girl of no more than 19 or 20, who chewed bubble gum whilst feeding large stacks of money into the counting machine in front of her.
“Nice aren’t they!” JC finally spoke, lifting his head from the desk “I told you I was doing quite well for myself!”
“I can see that” Manuel replied wearily.
“Come, sit” JC motioned to the chair in front of him, before realising it was stacked with bags of “produce.”
He raced around the table & quickly lifted the bags onto the desk before again motioning for Manuel to sit.
“Would you like to try some?” He asked, pointing to the white powdery substance “It’s some of the finest the country has to offer”
“No thanks” Manuel politely declined, taking his seat.
“How about that” JC tilted his head towards his young assistant “I know you want some of that, don’t you Manuel!?” He smiled as, for the first time, the young lady lifted her head & gave Manuel a flirtatious wink.
“Can we just get down to business?” Manuel pleaded, as he felt his face turning bright red.
“Haha, of course, Manuel. We were only teasing.” He continued “As you can see, my business here takes up much of my time, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you too much about the football club. For that I have bought in my brother, Miguel. He’s my eyes & ears in that department &, having started a club from scratch back in Spain, is quite knowledgeable. He will, for all intents & purposes, be your boss & Director of Football, Manuel. Is that ok?”
“Do I have a choice?” Manuel asked rhetorically.
“Of course not Manuel, what I say goes around here!” JC laughed, somewhat unnervingly. “Now go, go. Talk to Miguel. We have booked you the penthouse at a nearby hotel until something more befitting turns up, he’ll take you there & show you around the club & such.”
“Ok JC, sure. Good to see you again!” Manuel stood & began to back out of the room.
“Likewise my friend, you & I are going to do great things together, I can feel it!” JC countered, before snorting a freshly cut line from the desk.
Crap, Manuel thought. This can only end in disaster…..