At the same moment Elsie Sanchez asked Jesus to forgive her sins and grant her a new season of life, Ramon Sanchez pulled his big Harley into the Faircloth Hotel in Kansas City. He had dropped Cindy at the apartment, made an excuse, and hit the freeway.
The swank hotel looked imposing, perched on a high incline in the heart of the city. He parked the bike and entered the ritzy lobby. Straight ahead, a clerk was working, head down and did not bother to look up. That was ok with Ramon, as he was looking to maintain a low profile. He wanted to get his business over with quickly, without being noticed.
He made a left by the nonchalant clerk and headed down a tastefully decorated hallway. The place looked like pictures he had seen as a child of Buckingham Palace. He thought: No wonder the clerk didn’t look at me. I don’t exactly fit in. That’s all about to change anyway. One day I’ll own one of these hotels. He then found his intended destination: Room 104.
Inside Room 104, Ramon’s contact, Sonny Alvarado, was sitting in the living area with his feet hoisted on the center table. His alligator-skin cowboy boots glistened in the artificial light. Ramon was ten minutes late and that would make Sonny look bad. Ramon didn’t know it yet, but there would be hell to pay.
Sonny jumped to his feet when he heard Ramon’s rough knock on the door. He opened up, said nothing, but hurriedly motioned Ramon to get in the room. Ramon ignored his gestures, walked in and took off his sunshades.
“Nice place you got here, Sonny Boy.”
Sonny turned and faced him. “Listen, Ramon, I don’t have time to play games. This is serious business, hombre. We ain’t in the service no more.”
“Easy, easy mi hermano.”
“Shut up and sit down over there,” Sonny said, pointing to an overstuffed loveseat.
Ramon obliged. Sonny looked nervous and agitated. Ramon had never seen him like this. They’d met in the Marines and became fast friends. Sonny had gotten out a couple of years before Ramon and tried to find a job enabling him to live a comfortable life.
He learned quickly that without a college degree or a rich daddy, he was stuck with clerical or menial jobs that would never pave the way for his American Dream. He would end up like his parents, Mexican immigrants who had died broke. No thanks, he decided and began considering alternative lines of business. Sonny hit the jackpot and now it was time to bring his boy Ramon in on the business.
This was the big day; the day that Ramon would meet Sonny’s boss, the man who ran the mid-western operations. Whoever he was, he was making Sonny very nervous. Ramon shrugged his shoulders, sat down and kicked his own feet onto the large center table. Sonny scurried to the back of the suite and knocked on the bedroom door. One minute later Sonny emerged from around the corner and nodded in Ramon’s direction.
A man stepped from behind the shadows and into the living area across from Ramon, who stood up slowly. The man was tall and muscular, with jet-black (probably dyed) hair. His face registered no emotion, although his broken nose made him look tough and intimidating.
Ramon had been around tough guys before and he was rarely afraid of anyone. But something told him that he was standing in the presence of a very dangerous man. There was no vulnerability about him. Ramon was sure that he was a stone-cold killer. He paused for a second, not knowing whether to fear him or admire him. Sonny’s boss spoke first.
“Hello Mr. Sanchez. My name is Raul Diego-Vega. You will never again be late for an appointment with me.”
Ramon hesitated, calculating whether he should cop an attitude or fire back a smart answer. He chose, instead, to be silent. Sonny was holding his breath and staring at the floor.
“Did I make myself clear, Mr. Sanchez?”
For the first time in his life, Ramon Sanchez backed down from a fight.
“God be praised!” David said in his heart. Ramon’s mother had come to Christ. This would change everything. If she cried out to the Lord, in time, He would surely deliver her son. Ramon was like some of the others who had come forward tonight. He was just mixed-up and in need of a Savior.
David had quickly flipped through the decision cards and saw that most of the people were accepting Christ for the first time. This meant that God’s hand was on the church and it would continue to grow. God had touched everyone in some small way that night, but none it seemed, more than Elsie Sanchez.
Tara had even given her some information on how to get connected with a recovery ministry for alcoholics. She was so excited about her newfound faith that she didn’t want to leave the church. He had to remind her several times that since she'd given her life to God, He promised never to leave or forsake her.
She had asked him to show her where in the Bible that promise was written. He did and read her the words. Upon hearing the words of assurance, she wept again.
“Thank you Lord,” she said, over and over.
Now seated in his study and rethinking the night’s events, David once again turned to that familiar passage. God had been with him tonight and He had indeed promised never to leave or forsake any of His children. David felt a lump rise in his throat.
“Thank you Lord,” he also whispered and trudged back down the hall to bed.
On the other side of town, Ramon Sanchez was restless in sleep. He slipped out of bed and out onto the tiny balcony of the third floor apartment. He lit up a cigarette and took a puff. He felt as if every part of his being was fully alive. How could he sleep at a time like this? He was about to become very rich.
He couldn’t take any credit for the set up; that was all Sonny. But the business opportunity was brilliant in its simplicity. He would buy an eighteen-wheel hauler for which there was, as they say, available financing.
His hauler would become a part of the fleet of the Great Neck Shipping & Logistics Company; a corporation owned and operated by Diego-Vega. At Sonny’s direction, he would be paid to haul goods and materials all over North America for a handsome contract rate. He didn’t have to do any of the loading or unloading and he didn’t need to ask any questions. If Sonny told him he was hauling onions, then, it was onions. If he said shoes, then it was shoes.
All he was required to do was show up at the required pick-up point and arrive at the specified delivery point, on time. Diego-Vega was very touchy about time. If he was ever approached by the authorities, he would tell them whatever speech Sonny had given him, and if that was not enough, the name and telephone number of the company lawyer.
If all of his deliveries were successfully made, on time, each month, on the last day of the month he would receive a thirty-five thousand dollar bonus. Simple, easy, and nice.
Sonny gave him his first thirty-five thousand dollar advance earlier that evening; a sign he said, of things to come.
Ramon intended to never miss a delivery. He calculated that his annual take, including contract rate, bonuses, and the cut that he would have to kick back to Sonny, would easily be more than a half million dollars. In no time, he would be living like a king; the king of Ozark Falls.