This one’s for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge at Terribleminds. There were six different settings to choose from and I really liked them all, but had to pick one, so I chose ‘The Tower of Babel’.
I was aroused from my sleep in the middle of the night by Enzo’s grave voice shouting “Che cosa?!”, followed by his hand shaking me to attention.
“Non capisco!” He handed me his mobile.
I tried to shake the sleep off me before speaking, “Hello?”
“Cynthia? Es Alfonso.” His voice quivered. “Hay un problema. Uno muy grave.”
What? A problem? A grave one? My mind was still half asleep, my thoughts mixed with the leftovers of the dream I was awoken from.
“Che cosa sta succedendo?” Enzo turned on the light, making me wince, and started pacing around the room.
I covered my eyes with my hand, trying to concentrate on all the channels that were suddenly open in my head. Enzo was waiting for an answer, so I switched to Spanish and asked Alfonso –in the softest way I could– what was the problem.
“Tenemos una rata en el barco. Creemos que es Fabien.”
Oh fuck, someone had filtered information and they were blaming the French dude. Alfonso proceeded to tell me how the police had arrived at the dock when they were about to unload the shipload of cocaine we were waiting for.
WE. That was a funny thing to say. I’d been with Enzo for what? Six months. And this was suddenly a ‘we’ enterprise.
Who am I, you may ask? I’m a translator. I wanted to work with the United Nations and had applied there some weeks before a friend hooked me up with a gig. Sure, some freelancing never hurt anyone. Then I learned the venue was a nightclub and that I had to sign a confidentiality agreement before even meeting with my client. I signed, I needed the money. That’s how I ended up translating a whole drug deal between members of a Spanish mafia and Enzo, the leader of an Italian cartel.
How I ended up in bed with Enzo that same night is another story that, right now, doesn’t even matter. What mattered then was that I had Alfonso in the line and I could tell he was trembling with fear at how Enzo would react.
“Problemi con la spedizione, Enzo.” A problem, yeah, that was a pretty general concept.
“Che tipo di problema?”
I took a deep breath before saying, “Un informatore.”
Enzo paused, his eyes bulging like I had never seen them before. Someone had coughed. There was a traitor among us.
“Alfonso, ¿sigues ahí?” I needed to know if Alfonso was still with me.
“Sí.” He was. Trembling, but he was there. So I pushed him on telling me the details of what happened.
Apparently, the police were waiting nearby until they could get them with their hands literally on the merchandise. Sneaky fuckers appeared out of nowhere and surrounded them. Alfonso sprinted towards the darkness of the trees around the beach and managed to escape, unlike the rest.
“Chi?” Enzo pressed for a name.
Oooooh, he was mad now. Throwing stuff around the room and cussing loudly.
I whispered into the phone to ask Alfonso if he knew any other name.
“No.” He breathed.
I said I’ll call him back, that he get himself somewhere safe and call back if anything else came up.
That was when he said the thing that made my blood run cold: that Fabien, the supposed snitch, was on his way to Enzo’s flat with a whole entourage of police officers.
I hung up the call and turned to the frenzied Enzo.
“Siate tranquilo, Enzo.” He listened to me, his heavy breathing subsiding as his hands held on to the curtains.
“What else did he tell you?” He changed to English as the anger slowly made its way out of his system.
It is human nature that our brains switch to our native tongues when we are in stress situations. I understood this, since I had seen it many times before. Enzo and his men were from different nationalities and, at times, it felt like I was living inside the Tower of Babel. That was the nickname I used for his place, since it was where they would all come together and fret over deals and such.
A knock on the door startled us both.
“Police! Open the door.”
“Fuck.” I breathed, running around the bed to collect some clothes to dress myself.
Enzo stood in place, as if frozen.
“Enzo!” I shouted at him. “Come on!”
More knocking, more telling it was the police. I needed to get dressed, quick.
Enzo just ran his fingers through his hair.
The front door exploded into a million wooden splinters as I jumped into a pair of jeans and threw a T-shirt over my head.
They wouldn’t get me. No, sir. Not me. I was innocent, I was clean.
I gave Enzo one last glance, he nodded towards the window. I opened it, climbed out of the flat and landed on the cool metal surface of the fire escape in time to hear an officer shout “Enzo Macini! You’re under arrest!”
I ran down the ladder as fast as I could without looking back.
Chaos broke loose inside the flat and I could hear the gunshots getting farther as I took off towards the main street.
“Maybe the UN still has an opening for a translator,” I thought as I hailed a cab.
And that was the day I made it out of the Tower of Babel.