They found heaven in hell

by Max Saucedo

They had been picked up by the Coast Guard a while ago.  After background checks, Maggie and John, fresh from the earthquake-ravaged Haiti, were free to go.

“Only one more thing left to do,” John murmured absently.

While Maggie called a cab, John called the children’s guardian, Jasper, a friend who had agreed to take them on while John attempted to find Alexis, their supposed last kin in Haiti.  He still held her file he and Maggie had recovered at the hospital before they had been forced to flee.

“Hey, Jasper, I think we might have a solution for the kids.  Can you bring them to Miami?” he asked on the phone. “I’ll have a cab there to have you come to my location.”

“Sure man,” Jasper replied with urgency. “I’ll get them there.”

Maggie, having just finished her task, was still distraught about McCoy.  She didn’t understand why he had sacrificed himself on that dock.

Neither did John.

The cab arrived, with a trainee and a veteran in the front seats. John and Maggie got in.

“Where you going?” the older veteran asked.

“Yeah and where you from?” the trainee queried before he was reproached by his superior.

“Haiti,” John replied.

Maggie provided directions.  John was immersed in his own thoughts.

“I’ve just been to my own personal hell.  My punishment is watching the people I care for die.  Port-au-Prince, St. Louis—both by my misjudgment.  Dominique, Craig Orsini, Anderson McCoy,” John said as he closed his eyes.

They had arrived. Taking a liking to Maggie, the young driver convinced his boss to wait.

His employer, Pressly, waited at his desk, a stark contrast to the powerful magnate he had met months ago.  The man who had charged him with finding Alexis now used a cane. His wrinkles  were more distinct on his charcoal dark skin and his pepper gray hair had all but turned white.

“We’ve all aged from this,” Barnes thought.

Pressly smiled as Maggie gasped.


Spreading his arms, Maggie hugged Pressly before turning to John.

“Sorry, but Victor here has always seemed to point me in the right direction.  He helped me go to Haiti.  He knew I was lost, but he sent you there as well,” she said turning her head quizzically.

Pressly spoke gravelly in a low octave.

“It’s a different world—Haiti. When you first see it from the plane or a boat, you see paradise on an island.  Then, you arrive and see it all: poverty, starvation and people dying with no hope.  You see the worst the world has to show.  I did.  And I had enough, until I found hope in love. I loved Alexis, so much that I married her. But my company needed me. I couldn’t secure her citizenship though, so she said she would wait and send a message soon.”

“Orsini was the one who married you two when he was there on  his mission, right?” John asked. “That’s why you picked him for this job.”

Pressly nodded. “I always appreciated him for that.  When I heard of his breakdown, I made a donation to pay for his rehab.  Did he…?”

“Yes.  But he was happy, I think,”  John muttered.  “He was happy being home.”

“And McCoy?”

“Died buying us time.”

Pressly rose from his desk.

“Anderson McCoy once tried to steal a truck shipment that belonged to my company during the Iraq War.  He took the rap for a dead civilian killed during the theft.  He was innocent to be sure, but he guilted himself into a hole.  I pulled some strings and got him released to be a leader once more.”

John tossed the file on the desk, pointing at it.

“That’s what they died for, Victor.  She’s dead.  You knew I was looking for the same person you were.”

“The St. Louis riots, yes.  When I heard of Dominique’s death, I—”

“You mean your daughter!  For God’s sake, she was your daughter, Victor.  You didn’t trust me or anyone else with the truth enough.”

Pressly sank into his chair.

John leaned forward.

“And suddenly you were reminded of your past,  after all those years.  Alexis is dead, Victor.  Died of tuberculosis.  Never married again.  Maggie here was her nurse at the end of her life.”

Maggie stepped forward and handed the old man a photo of a young Pressly and Alexis together.

“She kept this for you, Victor.”

Victor softly wept to himself, moaning, “I tried.”

John pulled Victor up from his seat.

“Listen, Victor.  Anderson, Orsini, Dominique, Alexis don’t have to die in vain.  You can atone for what you’ve missed out on.  You can be who you choose to be, Victor.”

The doors opened, and Dominique’s children, accompanied by their guardian, Jasper, walked in.

“Children,” John said, “meet your grandfather.  He’s going to take care of you now.”

Victor looked up in amazement as the two children embraced him— their last living relative. He hugged them both back, giving thanks to Maggie, Jasper and John.

Maggie got in the taxi, smiled at the young cabbie and waved goodbye to John and Jasper.

“What happened out there?” Jasper asked quietly.

John thought about Craig, McCoy, Alexis, and Dominique.

“We found heaven in hell.”