Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chapter 5

Brenan Ramirez, 45, is a complicated man, and no one understands him but his woman. He speaks very little, as all of the women in his family can attest. He is in control of absolutely nothing in his house, as the women in his house also can attest. To almost everyone who comes into his house, he is almost a fixture, speaking in two-to-three word sentences, and never offering too much of an opinion on anything. And that is what everyone in his social life thinks of him; little different than the coat rack in the hallway. Oh his family loves him, sure, and he loves them back, that much is assured. He just never demonstrates much in the personality department. Lola and Aicelle figure that their mother has so much personality that there is no room in their marriage for their father to have any at all, and they both seem happy with their place, so why question it?

Brenan does have one odd quirk that his family has noticed; he is constantly eating. There are very few times of the day when he is not seen eating, or preparing food, or cleaning up post-eating… the man basically ate all of the time. If he was waiting for food to me made, he usually was seen in his favorite chair, snacking on some sort of pork-related food. The irony of all of this was that Brenan’s body did not show any sign of his constant eating; in fact he was in top physical shape. The part of Floy and Brenan’s marriage that their daughters did not know about (much to their daughter’s delight) was that they had a spectacular sex life. When Floy’s girlfriends would ask her why she would marry such a plain man, she would answer “Brenan is a man of actions, not of words”, and then give them the slightest of smiles.

In fact, Brenan was all action, in and out of the bedroom. When he wasn’t snoozing or eating, he was at work as a FBI Detective. He was known as the closest thing the East Coast had to it’s own Sherlock Holmes, personally closing 34 murder cases in his 12 year career. And he wasn’t afraid to get dirty either. He had been shot in the line of duty 3 times, and often fought 2 and 3 suspects at a time, either alone or with his partner. He depended on his extendable baton and Eskrima fighting skills that he learned as a Filipino marine in his youth to see him through any altercations he got in.

Brenan wasn’t just a fighting machine however. He had a brilliant deductive mind, and his whole department knew that he was deep in thought when they saw him in his office munching thoughtfully on a bag of pork rinds. He was always amused by the idea that people thought that he was a genius. All life was, in Brenan’s opinion, was a series of causes and events, nothing more. Even human emotions and behavior was cause and effect, even when you factored in emotions. Man sees wife cheating with best friend, man kills friend. All that’s left is figuring out the details. Just because he happened to be especially good with the details, people hailed him as a genius. Brenan considered his wife to be a genius; she managed far more aspects of human behavior than he had to. He just had to figure out why people did bad things; she had to, well, control the masses. And she was magnificent at it. She hadn’t aged a day in all of their years of marriage, and she still turned heads the same as she did the day he met her. Brenan loved Floy the day he met her… well to be honest, he fell in lust with her the day he met her; she was the sexiest woman he had ever seen in his life, but love came soon after. Any second he was not thinking of work, or his daughters, he was thinking of her eyes, or her hair, or her lips, or the curve of her behind, or her scent, etc. He loved Floy, but he still was in lust with her, and that was what surprised him most. Being a student of human behavior was part of his work, and he had seen almost every type of it. He had seen more loves die than people. What he had seen more than people die, and more than love die, was lust die. Brenan had concluded many years ago that lust is not made to last in this world. At most he had seen it last for a year, and that was only in the case of some exceptionally attractive people. But in his marriage, his lust for his wife had lasted just as long, and was just as strong as his love had. It was the greatest mystery in his life, and it was the one that he had no problem not solving. Every day he woke up and looked up at his wife, and he felt in his heart, and yes, in his pants, the same feeling he had for her on his wedding day, was another day that the mystery endured, and that Brenan knew that all was right with the world.

As much as he loved his wife, his daughters, Aicelle and Lola were the reasons he worked as hard as he did. He saw his work as making a safer world for them to grow up in. they were his daughters, and every criminal he put away was one less person he had to worry about hurting them somewhere down the line. Not that he thought of hi daughters as helpless victims; to the contrary, he knew that they would be quite capable of taking care of themselves simply because of who their parents were and what kind of families they came from. Still, it helped him sleep at night to know that he personally was doing his part to make sure that when they grew up and had children of their own, there would be fewer criminals in the world because of his own personal efforts and the efforts of his coworkers. When Brenan retired he planned to teach others, to make sure that his knowledge of detective work was spread to as many people as possible, again, to make sure that for every criminal out there, there would be someone like him to neutralize that person, for the sole reason to make sure that his daughters would live in a safer world. He loved his wife, but Lola and Aicelle were his future, his family, his legacy, and he would gladly give his own life to make sure that theirs was even slightly better than his own. Floy was his life, but his children were his reason for living.

Everyone worries about Lola. “She’s not girly enough”, they say. “She plays with boys too much”, they say. “She lives in her own little fantasy world and plays those video games all the time”, they say. Brenan never worried about Lola. He saw in her a lot of himself. She was independent, and he knew that telling her what to do would only force her to do the opposite. Lola would always live up to her name, that is, get what she wanted. Now, whether what she wanted was what she actually needed was up for debate, but that is the way things where. It was pointless to get in her way or try to stop her. But he trusted her enough, and knew that she had enough common sense to not get herself into any trouble that she could not get out of. Besides, he had met her friends, and they seemed to have good heads on their shoulders. But really, it was Lola herself that he knew he could trust; she had picked up many of her mother’s better traits. Lola was devastatingly intelligent and incredibly beautiful, just like her mother, yet she managed to not grow up too fast or use her looks to intimidate others. She had achieved a good balance in her life, and he did not think that it should be bothered with. When she rebelled, it was usually against things that deserved to be rebelled against He let her have her space, and he sensed that she appreciated that from him. The one thing that Brenan wanted Lola to feel from him was respect, because she wasn’t a regular girl, and he knew that she probably appreciated respect more than mushiness and hugs and kisses. The biggest smiles she gave him was when he showed her respect, which confirmed his thoughts. There was something else he knew about Lola; you could not tell her she was going to make a mistake, she had to figure it out for herself. He knew that in the last few weeks she had started something that would soon lead to one of the most emotionally destructive experiences of her young life. He also knew it was useless to try and steer her away from this mistake. This in essence, was a woman’s issue anyway; it was up to Floy and Aicelle to help her through.

Speaking of Aicelle, she was the one he worried about. Physically, she had all of her parents good points. She had Model good looks from her mother, and an athletes body from her father. In terms of her personality though, she seemed to have only picked up her parents bad points. She had the tyrannical instinct to dominate any social group she belonged to that was common among Velasquez women, and, unfortunately, she had the casual disrespect for the law that was way too common amongst the Ramirez clan. Brenan was always independent, which is why he went into the military and then into law enforcement. It was his way of expressing himself. He had to chose those paths because his five brothers all chose paths that eventually landed them on the wrong side of the law in the Philippines, and then eventually in America.

At any particular moment, two of his three brothers were in jail either here in NJ or abroad, and the other three were involved in some sort of criminal enterprise. Brenan was the middle brother, and he knew that his family ties were stronger than his ties to his country and the law, but it constantly gnawed at him that he could not get his brothers to go straight. His oldest brother, Christopher, was not allowed into a casino on the East coast. He constantly cheated. He cheated at every thing he did, including relationships. He cheated at games, on his girlfriends, on his wives, on his mistresses, on his taxes…. He just had a general aversion to honesty. But he never cheated his brothers. It was his one saving grace, and the one reason Brenan could never bring himself to arrest Christopher. Actually, all of the Ramirez brothers new Brenan’s weakness; his guilt. If you respected him and his family, he couldn’t bring himself to turn you in. So his brother’s took advantage of this fact mercilessly. They were very careful to deal with Brenan and his family more honestly and truthfully than they had ever dealt with anyone else in their lives. It wasn’t hard though, Brenan’s brother’s loved their nieces and sister-in-law. Christopher never even considered sleeping with Floy, mostly because she scared him. But more likely, none of them had managed to establish a stable family life of their own, so they all sort of vicariously lived their lives through Brenan’s family. Lola and Aicelle where like their own daughters. If anyone was foolish enough to hurt them, they should pray that Brenan gets to them before his brothers do.

Esteban, 47, was wanted in 3 countries for Grand Theft. He has what is currently known as a kleptomaniac. He got bored with just taking things when he was young however, and when he got into his early twenties he started stealing more and more valuable things. Things that were protected by security systems and men with guns. Eventually that bored him, so his thefts became more and more violent until he was finally caught in a bank robbery in Philadelphia 4 years ago. Three times a year Brenan and his family take a road trip to the Federal Prison where Esteban currently resides to visit him. It’s something of a family tradition for the Ramirez clan, visiting family in prison.

Luis, 43, was the Boss of a mid-size criminal syndicate in Quezon City in the Philippines. His “business” included all kinds of illegal activities, and Brenan contented himself with the fact that all of them were far outside of his jurisdiction. Uncle Luis would visit 4 or 5 times a year on “business”, and would always come visit his brother and nieces when he was in the states. Lola and Aicelle loved their Uncle Luis, because he never came empty handed. He always had Luis Vuitton-this or CoCo Chanel-that for Aicelle, and whatever hot new video games where out for Lola when he would visit. Brenan was less than excited when Luis came to visit. Most of Luis’ money comes from drug and prostitution rings he runs in the Libis and Timog areas of Quezon, and Brenan knows it. He knows where the money comes from that buys those gifts, and it eats him up inside, but he also sees that it makes his daughters happy, and he does not want to spoil that happiness. Whenever Uncle Luis comes around in his expensive suits with his expensive gifts, he always exchanges a look with his big brother, a look that says “you know you can’t do a damn thing about it.” And as long as Luis isn’t hurting is daughters, Brenan can’t. After all, Luis is family too.

The brother who worried Brenan the most, however, was Giancarlo, 30. Gian was so much younger than the rest of them that he never really bonded as much as Brenan would have liked. Gian always showed tendencies that Brenan never was comfortable with. He was always too forward with women. He never seemed to be… Brenan just couldn’t put his finger on it, and it bothered him. From what his brothers could tell, he was fine, but his brothers all had warped senses of reality anyway. Gian was currently sentenced to 10 years in East Jersey state prison for human trafficking, of which he had served 2 so far. He had been smuggling women from the Philippines to the East Coast. What happened when they got here no one knew. Brenan hated not knowing things, and Gian was annoyingly coy when it came to giving up where his drop-off points were and where the women went to. Brenan prayed every night that those women got to their families and not… somewhere else.

This is the part of the Ramirez family that he was afraid infected Aicelle. That is why he was way harder on her than he was on Lola. He saw early on that she was not afraid to bend the rules, and though it took a lot of effort from Floy and he, it seemed like they had effected some change in her nature through nurturing. But still, he felt like he would always have to keep an eye on her. Aicelle had the looks and the intelligence to turn a Saint into a Sinner and back again. He only hoped she would use her powers for good, when it looked like her nature was to use her powers for evil. Put all of that together, every single one of those thoughts, worries, concerns, loves, hates, and responsibilities, and that is what keeps Brenan Ramirez’s mind occupied every single second of every single day.

You wouldn’t have a lot to say either.