tess 22


            SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26TH, JANNET BEGINS THE DAY WITH THE ODDEST NUDGE. SHE HAS the most impulsive urge to pack her O/N bags and to include those bags within her backpack. So she includes these bags, in her backpack, along with her other usual items and she sits in the living room, of the new apartment, waiting for Mari Belen. She is excited because there is a special excursion planned for today.

           About one hour later, she is sitting in Estadio Vicente Calderón. Today is an official municipal event day; it is a police, fire, and emergency personnel day; half price admission; at Atlético Madrid. It has been an usually warm October. It is presently 11:20 am, balmy, although light rain is predicted for the afternoon. The game is due to start at 12 noon. This is an European football (soccer) match between the home team and the Getafe Club de Fútbol. The Getafe Club is also located in Madrid. Jannet is anxious to attend because she had respectfully declined an invitation to the bullfights, during its recent season, so now she definitely wants to attend and show interest in the European football match.

            Mari Belen and Jannet are part of group of six, the three police investigators and their respective spouses or girlfriends. At the stadium, the police team enter a row of seats first and sit together, unavoidably discussing work issues, while the spouse/girlfriends enter second and sit together. The two women accompanying Jannet are trying to explain details of the football game to Jannet. The group is sitting in the six seats of a row near an exit gate. It is somewhere below Tower ‘A’ in the south section of the stadium. Jannet is thoroughly impressed by Estadio Vicente Calderón, which is majestically located astride the river Manzanares. The stadium is a monumental oval structure capable of containing over 50,000 cheering fans.

            With thousands of individuals moving about, in the gigantic stadium, and a very high noise level to contend with, somehow in unison and magnetically, the three police investigators suddenly direct their attention towards the aisle. Their attention is drawn to Jannet. She is standing, with her attached backpack, and she is looking upward toward the gate exit at a man wearing dark jeans, a dark hoodie that covers most of his face, and a pair of dark sunglasses. Mari Belen, Carlos Jon, and Umberto follows Jannet’s line of sight to the hooded man standing angularly above. Mari Belen sends hand signals to Jannet to wait for her, meanwhile the three investigators bob towards the aisle. As a group, the four individuals then proceed to advance the short distance upwards toward the gate.

             Jannet takes a walking position behind the investigators who move laboriously through the masses of the spectators who are surging in multiple directions inside a massive interior stadium pavilion. The hooded man easily maintains a definitive and unchanging expanse between himself and his pursuers. Meanwhile, Jannet is jarred quite deliberately from behind, by someone else. As she turns to look behind her, a few seconds later, she notices another hooded figure, slenderer and perhaps a woman, moving speedily in a direction opposite to the first fleeing figure. Jannet decides to pursue, only she pauses indecisively for a moment when she notices a holographic stop sign floating before her. She elects to push through it.

            About one minute later, within a deafening reverberation of sound from the crowds, Mari Belen turns to locate Jannet, who is not nearby her. She jumps atop a concrete barrier for a better vantage point of the swirling crowd scene and she spots Jannet, who is waving back at her and concurrently pointing to another retreating hooded figure. Mara Belen signals to her partners, who have lost the original fleet figure in the crowds, and the three muscle their way back in the opposite direction.

            The new slender hooded figure draws Jannet to a southwest gate area of the stadium, while maintaining a constant and unchanging distant beyond Jannet. The figure descends the stadium exit walkway and Jannet follows, she is at least one full minute behind the moving figure. At the entry to the descending gate area, Jannet notices another holographic stop sign floating before her and she elects to push through it. Mari Belen, Umberto, and Carlos Jon are forging towards the southwest exit though they are at least a few minutes in arrears.

            Outside of the stadium, in a long curving drive lane that is in front of a long curved demarcated parking area, Jannet fastens and tightens her backpack more securely to her body and she sprints after the hooded person. She bolts carefully across an oddly inactive Calle de San Epifanio onto a glassy backlot which she presumes to be connected to an adjacent looming apartment complex. She rushes through a gate just as the three investigators exit one of the southwest gates of the stadium. Upon exiting, the three investigators stop momentarily and they look about but they cannot seem to locate Jannet.

            Meanwhile, Jannet encounters another floating holographic warning sign but she again choose to ignores it. Her attention is instead riveted when she notices, standing stationery in a holding pattern, the figure of a hooded person at an entry to a swimming pool area.

            The three investigators continue to visually scan the parking area, and the adjacent areas, from the middle of the driving lane that surrounds the stadium. They notice no moving cars in this area, for the moment, and they notice no sign of Jannet. Just then, Mari Belen’s cellphone vibrates, only once, and it does not continue after that one solitary vibration. This triggers the police woman’s memory of the earlier mysterious text from the last night. She mentions aloud, to her partners, that ‘Jannet is near water and that she cannot swim’ but that proposition seems incorrect. The three have a clear line of sight to the river and the nearest bridges are at a quite a removed distance. But it is Carlos Jon, who suggests, that he believes that there might be a swimming pool area in the neighboring apartment complex. The three sprint towards that structure.

            At this time, Jannet is standing directly in front of the hooded figure, who is definitely a woman, in dark clothing with dark sunglasses. Jannet is standing directly in front of the hooded figure for only a moment when she hears a rough male voice from behind her, ‘Senorita Russman?’ As she turns, she is violently struck in the middle of her chest by a strong male fist and she crumbles backward. The now two hooded figures, one male and one female, roughly shove Jannet again, which accelerates her flight into the swimming pool behind her. Jannet uncontrollably tumbles backward into the waiting pool. The first thought, flooding her mind, is about her inability to swim.

            Jannet’s overwhelming sensation of helplessness, in the deep end of the swimming pool, is augmented by holographic ropes of synesthetic colors and sounds. She is actually incapable of much motion as her psycho/physical system seems to have become paralyzed. She slowly struggled to maintain her head above the water line for what seems to be an eternity. However less than a minute has lapsed and that is when she thinks she hears two large watery plops into the pool; and it is at that moment when she likewise realizes that she is now really sinking; she believes that she might be powerless to resurface.

           Two teenagers from the adjoining apartment complex have witnessed the swiftly unfolding series of events, as they were walking undetected toward the pool area. They dive into the pool, as the two culprits rapidly exit the site, and just as Jannet completely slips under water. They retrieve her, as she is helplessly descending, and they muscularly guide the still squirming woman out of the pool.

            As they lie the now limp and seemingly lifeless woman neatly on the pavement, they are struck by the realization that they do not know how to help her. However, their attention is diverted by a small group of sprinting and shouting individuals, who are rushing towards the direction of the downed woman.

            Umberto is the first on the scene and he commandeers a bath towel from one of the teenagers and places it under Jannet’s head. He checks her mouth and throat for debris and then begins to administrate CPR, alternating between breathing into her mouth while pinching her nose and then strongly pumping her heart muscle; he remembers to match his heart pump process to the beat of a popular Bee Gees’ song.

           Mari Belen calls for emergency services, and indicates to the dispatcher that there are already emergency units in front of the nearby stadium. Carlos Jon quickly questions the teens, one boy and one girl, about the direction the suspects have exited and then he rockets towards the back of the swimming area and through a gate to another grassy area and then onto yet another driveway area.

            Jannet responds almost immediately but violently to the CPR process and she commences a soggy coughing fit. Within a few minutes she has calmed but her breathing is labored. By that time, the swimming pool is swarming with police and an emergency unit. The smoothly functioning emergency team checks Jannet’s vitals, administers oxygen, places her on a flat stretcher, covers her with a blanket, and confidently situates her into a waiting ambulance.

            Mari Belen watch as the ambulance leaves for the hospital. Umberto telephones his girlfriend and Carlos Jon’s wife who are still waiting inside in the stadium; the two women do leave the stadium just as the game is starting.

           A team of municipal police have taken over the crime scene, as Jannet is removed from the site. Carlos Jon has returned and he reports, to the team in charge, that he did not get a sighting of a getaway vehicle but that there are visible skid marks related to their getaway.

           The municipal police team quickly cordon off the crime scene as the three cold case investigators depart. In their initial examination of the scene, the team in charge is finding no usable physical evidence because the scene is quite waterlogged. An cursory examination of two area surveillance cameras, reveal that they have been deliberately disabled. There are no other witnesses to interview, because of the football game next door, except for the two teenaged rescuers.

          Everyone would find out later, a close match will be won by Atlético Madrid; the score will be 1-0.

            Five and half hours later Jannet is waking gradually in a room at University Hospital. She had received a hyperbaric treatment earlier, which proves to be extremely beneficial. She wakes to a room full of police personnel, some from the cold case unit and a few unknown individuals. She becomes reassured when she finds the faces of Mari Belen, Carlos Jon, and Umberto among the grouping.

           Jannet addresses the assemblage, “May I visit the restroom first?” Mari Belen passes the woman her backpack, which is still a bit soggy and Jannet slowly maneuvers from the bed to the bathroom. When she returns she is a bit more refreshed and neaten up and her shag haircut has become more presentable.

            A nurse is waiting for her, when she returns, and Jannet patiently takes her meds and receives a shot. She turns to group. “Questions, yes?” She pauses for the collective silent returned affirmation. And then she internally considers her options. She motions Carlos Jon to join her at a window seat and the two sit.

           “Before we begin, I want to take responsibility for this present situation. I did not follow orders at the stadium. I knew that I was supposed to stay with the police investigators but I followed the other suspect on my own and that was ill-advised. Lo siento.” Jannet is happy that she has had an opportunity to offer her apologies although she does note that everyone’s reaction is one of disbelief. She suspects that this reaction is because of the fact that she nearly died from drowning just only a few short hours ago.

           Jannet settles on the window seat and she leans heavily on Carlos Jon’s shoulder while intertwining her arm in his arm. She closes her eyes and she is quite motionless for several long minutes, still clinging to Carlos Jon’s arm and resting on this shoulder.

            In attendance is some of the membership of the cold case unit, two officially assigned investigators from the National Police, and two very soundless agents from Europol, the European Union division of Interpol.

           Initially, everyone is mystified because nothing is occurring. Flor de Luz, the unit’s legal counsel, exhibits her now standard unimpressed countenance regarding the slow proceedings. And then something does occur. At the six-minute mark after Jannet has sat and has leaned against Carlos Jon in the window seat, there is the appearance of two floating visual images in the middle of the room. There is a fury of attentiveness, note taking, various forms of voice dictation and recording. The attorney is, at the present, courteously attentive. The visual projections are crystal clear. The visual projections are a live action replay of the events around the noon hour that occurred at Estadio Vicente Calderón. One of the visual projection involves a ground level perspective while the second has an overhead perspective. The live action sequences show four similarly dressed suspects before, during, and after the events of earlier today.

            After nearly 10 minutes Jannet starts to visibly fade and the images start to flicker in and out. She has started to turn a slight blue, from head to toe. Carlos Jon signals to end the presentation. It is Umberto who gingerly scoops up the woman. “Let’s get you back into your hospital bed.’ He returns the increasingly drowsy woman to her hospital bed.

            “You speak English?” Jannet barely whispers for she is quite nearly asleep.

            “Yes, but I do not like the sound of my voice, when I speak it.” Umberto’s perfectly understandable, though slightly inflective, English words, are the last sounds that Jannet hears before falling thoroughly asleep.

           Lara and Lavina, Mari Belen’s nieces, arrive to the hospital room just as a congregation of police officials are leaving. It is a short walk from their home west of the hospital complex. Mari Belen lingers to visit with the young university women. The conversation centers on Jannet’s condition and there is a brief discussion about the progress of Lara’s and Lavina’s collegiate careers. The nieces, armed with laptops, soft drinks, snacks, and textbooks, promise to stay in the hospital room until Mari Belen’s return. There is also a police person nearby installed as a guard. Mari Belen turns to leave and she is about halfway through the hospital room door, and she reverses herself. She posts herself by the bed of her American girlfriend. ‘Tu perteneces a mí y yo a ti’, she whispers in low voice. At that moment, Mari Belen now has a new appreciation for that phraseology, that is, its implication of deep connection, care, and responsibility toward a significant other. Her nieces watch and listen with abject attention. Mari Belen finally rushes out to return to the police offices.

           Late in the evening, a very weary Mari Belen walks into her apartment. The day had started out as a fun-outing to Estadio Vicente Calderón, however in actuality it unfolded into a crime scenario in which her girlfriend ended up in the hospital, and it has continued with an abundance of police activity concerning a mysterious cyber-crime enterprise. It is almost 11.00 pm here in Madrid which made it earlier by nine hours in Oregon. It is almost 2.00 pm in the afternoon in Portland.

           Firstly, Mari Belen calls her own family members with an update but she reassures everyone that a hospital visit is not necessary since Jannet will be released tomorrow morning. She specifically calls her parents, her brother, and sister, one by one. She contacts her nieces again, at the hospital, and they are surprisingly wide-awake and working on paperwork. There had been existing plans for a family gathering, so she also reconfirms that both her and Jannet will be attending the gathering, in Toledo, during the following weekend. After that, Mari Belen becomes busy with calling Portland. She talks to Sara Jean first and relays a concise but sincere report of today’s events and she promises that she will have Jannet contact her by Skype in a few hours. She repeats the same procedure with a call to Grace, who had already suspected that ‘something was wrong’, so she is relieved to receive the news that Jannet is ok. Mari Belen contacts Madelyn and finally Becka. She has indicated to each person that Jannet will contact them by Skype within a few hours and she also asks if anyone of them had any prior knowledge about Jannet’s inability to swim, and no one knew about it except for Becka.

            “Jannet was involved in a near drowning accident, in high school, and the incident was reported in the local newspaper.” Becka responds to the question from Mari Belen about Jannet’s past. “Oddly enough it was roughly 20 years ago, more or less, and she was at the pool because we were trying to coax her to take swimming lessons. Anyhow, related to the attempt in Madrid, perhaps someone just searched the newspaper archives and discovered that Jannet could not swim.”

            “Why did the accident occur?”

            “During Jannet’s first year in high school, she became the target of a group of mean girls. It started when one of the members of this group called Jannet an obscenely rude name in a crowded school hallway. And Jannet responded by ignoring the name-calling. Unfortunately, it was that incident that opened the door. For 3 or 4 months, Jannet had to endure more name-calling, a nasty gossip mill, and constant vandalization of her school locker. An earlier pushing incident on the stairs, involving her experimentation with extreme high heels, which you may already be aware of, and secondarily a later pushing incident into the pool, from which she was instantly rescued, these were the final straws. Of course, our little group of Black girls supported Jannet as much as possible.”

            “And then what happened?”

            “It stopped and that was because of the newspaper article with the title, ‘Local high school girl nearly drowns.’ When she was questioned by the school principal about the pool incident, Jannet lied and she stated that she accidentally fell into the pool; by the way the pool was at the Multnomah Athletic Club, of which Jannet is now a member. Of course, she did lie about the incident but it did immediately stop the bullying, probably because everyone in the high school realized that the bullying attacks had progressed much too far.” Becka pauses reflectively and with a hint of regret.

            “There is an interesting irony about Jannet’s high school experiences, because when I was in high school, I was considered to be a bully.” Mari Belen confesses. “I did get into a few fights, although I was not actually a bully. I was just either defending myself or defending friends. I know I was aggressive but some people interpreted that as the actions of a bully. It seems to me, in Jannet’s case, that she made a good choice because it ended a possible cycle of endless retaliations.”  Mari Belen has surprised herself by the frankness of her revelatory statements.

           “Well, Jannet has always been different. I remember her, throughout high school, subtly changing her appearance, her clothes, and her hair every few months and she constantly appeared to be on different wave length than everyone else; this was especially true in the last year or so of her high school tenure. And I also actually believed that she probably popped into and out of a light trance state more often than anyone might have realized back then. Thankfully, as an adult, her behavior is now considered to be a distinctive instead of a weird attribute. She has many people, in the community, who deeply respect her, these days, because she has been the prime mover, discreetly in the background, for the coalescing of some of the elements of the local spiritual community into the PAG organization that we have today.”

            “Thanks Becka for the information and the insight.” Mari Belen pauses for a long moment. “I have another question. When did she come out?”

            “Her senior year was the year. I remember that during the second half of her senior year she had her first official, public, girlfriend. And she sported a radical appearance change during the second semester of that senior year of high school. She had a boy haircut and she wore boy clothing for weeks.” Becka’s speech pattern is rapid but clear, which is her typical style of delivery.

            “Thanks for the information, Becka. I really, really, appreciate it.”

            “Sure. By the way, when are you returning to Portland? I would love for the two of you to come by for dinner again.” Becka expresses hopefully.

            “I think that I will try to arrive back with Jannet at the beginning of next month and stay for a few days before returning to Madrid. Thanks again and chao.”

            Mari Belen showers, changes clothing, and eats a quick meal. She leaves for the hospital, the same hospital that has hosted Jannet’s prior stay, when Jannet was first interviewed by the police earlier in the year, El Hospital Universitario Gregorio Marañón, and she arrives there by 2.15 am. She flashes her badge as she strolls through the hospital. Mari Belen expects a sleeping Jannet, two sleeping nieces, and a wide-awake uniformed police person, a woman, but what she finds is an empty hospital room. Mari Belen checks in at the dimly-lit nearby nursing station and the nurse on-duty motions to her security monitor. Mari Belen sees two women walking casually but deliberately throughout the hallways of this same floor of the hospital. They are followed by her two nieces who are walking behind them. When Jannet and the entourage return to the hospital room, a visibly relieved Mari Belen is waiting. Mari Belen is happily reassured of Jannet’s complete recovery when she sees her girlfriend walking, talking, and acting in her normal fashion.

            Mari Belen informs Jannet of her waiting friends’ desire for contact, her friends in Oregon and it is now evening there, in Oregon, and they want to hear from her personally. Accordingly, Jannet immediately embarks on a series of quick Skype sessions. Mari Belen has provided Jannet with her laptop. Jannet reassures everyone, responds to their questions, and she catches up on the latest news in their respective lives. Sara Jean informs her that she is ecstatic about her new condo and that she is happily dating one of the recommended candidates that had been referred to her by the dating agency. And Grace informs her that she and her mom are planning on a weekend visit to Vancouver BC to check out two higher education institutions.

            At nearly 5.00 am, it is Monday morning, Jannet is finished with her international conversations, and she has a slightly hoarse voice. Lara and Lavina had offered warm goodbyes about two hours ago and the university women returned to their home. Mari Belen is napping in a chair and the assigned police person is supremely alert. Jannet showers and readies herself for a normal day in her new home city of Madrid. She puts on the fresh clean clothing contents from one of her O/N bag.