Beyond The Grave – Six: Ramon Rodriquez
Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn will always hold fond memories for Ramon. His parents immigrated from Puerto Rico looking for streets paved with gold. His dad told the story so well.
“Son, be careful when you pray to God.” The senior Rodriquez would tell him as he leaned into the counter while kneading the dough for the fifty loaves of Italian bread they’d need for customers in the morning. The bakery would sell out by 9:00 a.m. Saturday.
“What do you mean, papa?”
“I prayed to God every night, and I asked for the same thing. I’d say, ‘God, please, all I ask for me and my family is to be rolling in dough.’ And look at me now, son. Rolling dough for a living. A baker. God has a great sense of humor, eh?” Every time he told the story, he’d pinch flour on Ramon’s little brown cheek.
He knew his parents worked hard in their bakery, situated in the Italian section of Flatbush Avenue. His customers loved them. Every Friday night, while Ramon’s friends were going to the movies or hanging out on the corner, he was helping his ma and pop make Italian bread, cannoli’s, custard tarts, and the like. The neighborhood depended on their baked goods for their family Sunday meal.
The Rodriquez’s sent Ramon, their only son out of seven children, to private Catholic school because they wanted him to have a better education. “More opportunity for you here, and college is a must.” They both drilled it into his head in case he’d forgotten.
When he wasn’t studying or helping his parents in the bakery, he watched his favorite shows on TV: NYPD Blue, Law and Order, The Commish, and The Sopranos. But it wasn’t until he saw the movie Silence of the Lambs, with agent Clarice Starling, did he think about a career with the FBI. Having a crush on Jodie Foster may have had a small part in his decision.
Ramon didn’t share his career choice with many of his friends. A little naïve, he thought all his Italian friends were in the Mafia, or their families had connections. His friends took up Tony Soprano’s mannerisms or bragged how they had an uncle, twice removed, living in Jersey, who had dealings with the Mafia.
It wasn’t until Ramon was older and wiser did he realize it was just guy talk. His buddy Sal went into the Air Force after graduating high school and became a mechanic. His other buddy, Paul, became a dentist. Kevin, the only Irish kid on the block, died of an overdose, and Ralph took over his parent’s grocery market. None of them had Mafia ties.
When Ramon told his parents he was applying at the police academy, they weren’t too happy.
“Son, it’s a dangerous job. Your mama and me, we won’t get much sleep anymore. You want to send us to an early grave?”
“Pops, it’s been my life’s dream. Didn’t you realize my degree was in Criminal Justice?”
“Ahh, you don’t want to be rolling in dough like your old pop here?” Ramon knew his father’s hope of handing over the bakery to his son was slowing diminishing.
“I do, but differently. I want to hunt down criminals, protect the people, make the streets safe for my nieces and nephews. Catch those bastards who are kidnapping children or selling dope to them. My options are unlimited in a law enforcement career to do good.”
Ramon’s father looked down at the floor. Wiping his hands on his white apron, he approached his only son. He reached up to hold Ramon’s face in his hands. “You know we love you and want the best for you. Go. Do whatever it is you need to be happy. Who am I to deprive you of your happiness? Los dejaré ir en paz.” He kissed Ramon on both cheeks and went back to cleaning the blueberries and raspberries for the custard tarts.
After speaking to a career counselor, her suggestion was to apply directly to the FBI in Quantico. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” she said. “They say no; we then check out local law enforcement.”
It took a while to hear back from their recruiter, but it was worth the wait. He was to report for an in-person interview. If he passed the psychological portion and background check, he would go through a rigorous physical fitness test. Completing these would lead him to a written exam where his math, critical thinking, English, and Spanish language skills were tested.
Ramon’s scores were impressive. He was hired on to attend the next class starting in Quantico.
On the first day of class, Ramon was excited. He couldn’t wait to meet like-minded people such as himself. He wanted to talk freely about catching criminals without being criticized. To carry a sidearm and boost how accurately he could shoot. None of his friends nor his sisters enjoyed his conversations about a particular gun or scope’s specifics.
He felt at home for the first time in a long time.
And then she walked into the classroom. Ramon did a double-take. She was stunning, even if she looked uncomfortable in her uniform. Her dark hair was up in a bun, refreshing after looking around at the other women who had short hair. Her white shirt was bulging at the buttons, though it didn’t reveal anything inappropriate. The matronly skirt formed to her nicely rounded butt, and her legs seemed to go on forever. He became lost in sexual fantasy.
The agent sitting next to him bumped his arm. “Hey, Ramon,” he said as he looked down at his name tag. “Drooling isn’t allowed. You could get yourself kicked out. No fraternization while in the Academy. But afterward, you can do whatever. So, keep it zipped.”
“Thanks for the advice. Jeremy, is it? But it doesn’t hurt to look.”
“Dude, the way you were looking, I’d say you got a hard-on.”
Jeremy was right. Ramon did have a hard-on but listening to him whine about rules and regulations was lost pretty quick.
During roll call, he found out her name. Daniella Keezar. Career cop from Coos Bay, Oregon. Single. Well-known for catching a serial killer, which is how she got into the Bureau. Ramon’s infatuation increased. A girl after his own heart. His Jodie Foster. He hoped she wasn’t gay. Daniella never gave him a second glance. No matter what he did, it seemed like she was disgusted by him. It didn’t stop him from fantasying about her late at night while he lay in bed.
And so began the competition between Daniella and Ramon. He’d show her, and he did. He came in first in their class and she, second usually by not much. Whenever grades were posted on the board, he did a happy dance. Everyone but Daniella applauded his gyrations. She would roll her eyes and walk away.
On Friday nights, a few of his classmates would go out to a local bar and hang out, play some pool, down a few pitchers of beers. He got lucky with a couple of the other women from his class, a few blow jobs in the bathroom, but that wasn’t fraternization; it wasn’t even sex, according to Bill Clinton.
Daniella, though, was the mystery he wanted to solve. She’d sit at the bar with her bottled beer, either talking or texting on her phone. Never interacting much with the rest of them.
When they graduated, she grabbed her envelope with her orders in them and left. She said goodbye to a few of them, and when she saw Ramon staring at her, Daniella looked him in the eyes, smiled, and gave him the finger before walking out to her car.
Ramon felt rejected. His quest went unconquered.
That is until he showed up at the Kansas City, Missouri Federal Bureau of Investigation that cool Monday morning.
To hide his surprise and excitement to see Daniella sitting in the conference room, he chose to do his gyrating dance as she looked at him through the window. She displayed the same disgusted look then as she did in class. When he saw a smile cross her lips, he thought, Finally, she gets it.
The tap on his shoulder made him jump to attention. The Special Agent in charge didn’t look too happy. He realized the reason for her smile was because he was about to be reprimanded.
The first two weeks were intense as they both poured over the case files thrown at them. Occasionally they would speak to each other. But this one night, while they were both working late, he saw out of the corner of his eye, she was staring at him. But Ramon decided to play it cool.
It was the most she had ever paid attention to him. To break the ice, Ramon asked Daniella if she wanted to get dinner. When she came up with the lame excuse she had to feed her dog, he suggested grabbing take-out and eating at her place.
Driving over to her place, with the smell of Chinese food wafting through the car, Ramon had to talk himself down from being so excited. He made a list of questions in his head to ask her. He wanted to get to know Daniella; after all, they were partners, they had to have each other’s back.
And now here he was, in her house, sitting across from her in her kitchen, eating Chinese food out of a box with chopsticks. None of the guys would believe it.
When Daniella opened the door, she seemed like a different person. Friendlier, smiling, in sweats even. Dexter liked him too, even though she said it was because he smelled like food. Ramon knew he had a way with animals, especially dogs. He’d let her think what she wanted. This was the beginning of something more; he knew it.
“So, your parents own an Italian bakery in Brooklyn? I never would have thought,” said Daniella. “I love the part where you thought all your friend’s parents were in the Mafia.” She laughed. He loved hearing her laugh. “It’s so cliché. It’s like thinking all rednecks are white supremacists, or all guys who drive big trucks have little dicks.”
“What can I say? I was young. Remind me never to buy a big truck; I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.”
“You know, Rodriquez, you’re not as bad as I thought you were. You’re actually funny. And kinda cute.”
“Well, Geezer, I could say the same about you.”
Uh oh, he thought. “The guys told me it was your nickname?”
Daniella got up and threw her beer bottle into the trash can; clearly, she was annoyed.
“Guess not.” Sighing, he hung his head in shame.
“On that note, it’s late; we have another busy day tomorrow. I want to go over in detail Holly’s and Francine’s disappearance. I think we should schedule some interviews with their family and friends.”
Back to business, damn it, Ramon, you fucked up royally, he thought to himself. Ramon got up and threw his trash away. Dexter jumped up and stared at him. “See ya, boy, be good for your mama.”
Daniella walked him to the door. “See ya tomorrow at the office, and thanks for dinner.”
Ramon just waved his hand, turned, and walked to his car.
* * * * *
As Hank sat on his porch fantasizing on how he would capture a Federal agent, his radio squawked to life. Another stranded motorist. Maybe he’d let this one pass. It was getting a little too hot around here. He’d have to rush this one. He set his stogie on the porch rail, took a last swig of beer, and decided to call it a night. He saved another life tonight. See? I’m not such a bad guy after all.
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