The International Writers Magazine: Cuban Cops
Morelos watches as Boeing 747, a delayed charter flight from Budapest, touches the ground. Rubber burns on hot tarmac raising clouds of thin smoke; wheels squeak like dying lobsters. At last, the plane comes to a stop at terminal 2 of José Marti airport in Havana.
Morelos is alone. Soon, he will meet the trio – Farouk, Gino and Ako? The three: a Persian with an Austrian passport, an Italian, and a Hungarian, are here to shoot a porno flick. Their project is to involve nubiles as Ako? had termed them, or in plain terms: very very young girls.
Morelos, an assistant detective, and the right arm to inspector Gayos, is in disguise. He; Tito, his colleague; and Gayos, their boss, had discovered the plan through the Internet, and are about to fold it.
‘Salve, Buon Giorno, Come va?’ Gino exclaims. High in the air, Morelos holds a piece of cardboard; it says: FGA Film Productions. That’s how he gets spotted.
‘Welcome to Cuba,’ says Morelos.
Gayos and Tito keep their distance. They watch the whole thing through a pair of binoculars, which they share as they argue.
Farouk is pale. Out of the three, he’s worst jetlagged. But also, he is hungry; didn’t eat on the plane. He’s a Muslim, he says, and it is Ramadan. He wonders if Morelos knows a butcher, locally, who sells , hallal meat, he wouldn’t trust a restaurant.
Morelos, is surprised, taken aback, wasn’t ready for that. He says: in Cuba with money… anything can be found, even hallal vegetables, he chuckles. He is at ease, always feels good amongst strangers, that’s why Gayos picked him for this stunt.
Soon the initial arrangement will be made; a hotel room has been booked, a penthouse actually: two rooms, three beds, and a large window with the view of the sky. A kerosene burner, which has been requested, is also installed. And everything seems alright. But Farouk loses his compass; ‘Which way to Mecca?’ he will ask.
‘Not sure,’ Morelos replies, ‘And there are no direct flights to Arabia, I don’t think.’
‘It’s weird,’ Morelos reports to his boos the following morning, ‘But this guy even brought his own carpet, a small one, quite nice.’
‘It’s got to be like … his religion,’ Gayos guesses, ‘He cannot, no one ever knows, disregard this little detail.’ He is an experienced policeman.
Gino will speak Italian, he thinks it’s Spanish. Farouk will remain sick till their very arrest. He will vomit.
Ako? will act like a businessman. He is young; 25 going on 26 and he wants a Mercedes Benz 600 for his 26th birthday. He hasn’t got a car now. He can’t afford it.
‘What’s pomodoro?’ a hotel bellboy asks when he sees Gayos. He (the bellboy) is to spy on the trio.
‘He’s been asking for it, the Italian, and offering money.’
‘Very little. Still I thought I’d best tell you.’
‘I think he meant tomatoes. He brought his own spaghetti.’
‘Is that so?’ Gayos says as he pencils it down (BROUGHT HIS OWN NOODLES) in a tiny notepad.
‘I mean it. I saw it with my own eyes.’
Gino, as it turned out, masterminded the whole thing. Farouk, a computer analyst and an ITA man from the City of Vienna Tax Department, put out the money.
Ako?, had dropped out of state university earlier this year, Magyar Universitat, and up to this day produced a few films on his own, casting mainly local prostitutes.
Nubias (working title), his first international project, is planned as a conservative piece – mainly stripping and masturbation scenes, and is to be sold in the Middle East.
Gino is to use his contacts in Lebanon. He (Gino) hopes Farouk will help their cause with his language. Apart from German, Farouk speaks Farsi. It is not the same as Arabic. Gino doesn’t know this.
Through his friends (undercover policemen) in Cuba, Gino has rented a studio – a small photo shop in the centre of Havana, And the three brought their own film equipment. The girls, too, have been arranged before, through their pimps and, at times, mothers.
The session, as Gayos discovered, was to last three days and involve an odd dozen girls, (plus, maybe, one or two who are still unsure.) Gino feels they could be convinced. A former insurance broker from Naples, he says, he’s got his own ways.
Gayos will find the tomatoes and have them delivered. The bellboy will look into the transaction. One Euro is paid. And the first infraction is carefully recorded – contraband, or actually soliciting to an anti-revolutionary trade. Gayos keeps his log. He knows this list will be long. He will need a new pencil.
A bogus arrest will be staged whereby the bellboy will be handcuffed, his rights will be read. This, the latter, is not a Cuban practice; it‘s something Gayos has seen in films.
The bellboy will be quickly released. He is a valuable contact, a good source; Gayos knows it.
The bellboy, meanwhile is content, he had performed well, and learned, in the process, how to cook aglio olio.
The tomatoes were sickly, unworthy of a sauce come si deve, Gino said, whatever that meant and were discarded. But he watched, like an apt pupil, how the Italian cooked expertly making without them.
‘First you you’ve got to heat the padella. Then you slowly pour the oil, poco a poco and wait. Oil’s got to be hot too. ‘the Italian spoke, bent over a kerosene burner, half-naked but wearing an apron. ‘Then you add some crushed garlic.’
That too, garlic that is, was not to his liking, leaving much to desire, or non abastanza aromatico.
‘Then you add pasta, cooked al dente of course, add salt and dried peppers, pepperoncino. And voilá, pronto, aglio olio a lá Gino’
The sting is scheduled for Friday, two days after the trio’s arrival. That’s when they plan to have their first shoot. Only two girls will know about the police plan. They will cooperate fully.
Others will of course be arrested and brought to the juvenile court and face prostitution charges. As of yet, there are no laws concerning porn on the Island, and in that sense the three are pioneers. New laws will have to be made, and enforced likely, but Gayos hopes his actions will be detrimental, though he knows they won’t stop the process.
‘You see,’ Gayos says to his colleagues, partners, ‘Cubans, in this day and age, will do anything for money; sell their daughters if they get a chance.’
‘Hear, hear,’ Tito nods ‘ Women are whores.’
‘I would rather kill my daughter,’ Morelos says unconvincingly. He is gay. Nobody hears him.
On Friday, they leave the police station. They are armed, but have no ammunition. That’s OK; they won’t need it. The three are amateurs, not real criminal. Gayos knows they will easily get scared.
He is right, in a sense. When they storm the studio, through a thick-metal door in the back of the building, and as the girls, naked, scurry out like mice, Farouk, despite his young age, will fake a heart attack. But a kick in the sheen from Morelos brings back his senses.
Gino, jovially, claims it is a party, a friendly gathering of Cuba-loving internationals and the girls who have been invited, some, he adds, showed up by themselves, came to celebrate cultural diversities over a glass of rum. And the cameras? Well, Gino just wanted to record the event, for posterity.
‘Bullshit!’ Gayos says and makes his arrest.
Ako? tries to escape. He is young and quick in his reactions. He jumps out of a window and nearly dies in traffic. He causes a major jam but limps his way out the mess of stopped cars and shouting drivers. He will be arrested a few blocks away. He’s twisted his ankle and can’t run. He sits on the pavement’s curb and sobs. Because of the pain? Humiliation? Who knows what?
The girls, too, will be rounded up, hiding behind corners with no clothes on, and laughed at.
They will soon face the trial.
The three Gino, Farouk and Ako?. will be charged, tried and deported and persona non grata will be stamped in their passports. All this time they will claim innocence; all three on three different grounds. Farouk, the president of FGA Film Productions, a limited company, will swear: ‘I didn’t know it was illegal.’ and Being Muslim,’ he continued ‘ I would not break the law.’
Gino will insists on the charitable aspects of their actions: ‘We just wanted to help those girls, their families. No harm,’ he will state ‘was meant.’
Ako? will be upset. His new career is thwarted, He may as well forget a car, never mind a Mercedes Benz, 600 to boot.
Gayos, Tito and Morelos are promised an honourable mention in the press, but that will never happen. It is argued for their own safety’s sake.
It’s OK. Gayos feels good. Crime of this kind is rising; he’s got his hands full. He will have another chance.
Stooped over his ruined desk, Gayos gives in to reflection. In his report, he writes the following statement: ‘Cuba is in a vulnerable state; prey to lonely and desperate pimps, destitute filmmakers, all in all sick predators. Men and women here are poor, too poor, and in need of new hopes, new …’ he stops and broods over what else new people need, puffs on his puro. Rarely, more often of late, does he have these moments... well, when he thinks things through and laments the current state of revolution. And he is slow when he thinks, very slow. In the end, as always, he puts it to fatigue. Irritated, he crumbles the paper, chucks it in to the bin.
© Piotr Wesolowski December 2009
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