The Harlequin Moon Series


Santiago McBoil, was bred in the jungles of Mexico, but was raised as an illegal migrant in the United States…      joins the American Army in 1967…    at the height of the Vietnam War…    subsequently became a participant of the Mylai massacre in 1968…   


 It is story of a man in midlife crisis who is chasing illusions of paradise while running away from the nightmares of the hell he has lived through.





Chapter 10 

the new year of fame





  How could ONE know that trust and love in such a contract of honor implies suspicion and hate? 

One’s trust means that you can give and take all measures

 and one can do just that. 

Yet who can be more savage to pride than one's dearest friend? 

If friendship is a fragile bridge that can be swept away in the flood of human pathos,

then marriage,

 must surely be

a crystal tight rope,

as dangerous to walk on …………………………………as it is to fall off.

They were like children full of bravado and excited hearts that bled too easily.  They wounded each other by the small darts they shot.  It was a love-hate game…tolerated by each other with alternate spasms of jealousy and liberty.  The little girl was at the center of their rolling waves. Tara was the innocent observer who kept the trio in their respectful roles. Santiago and Leila…the parents… while Charlotte was an ANGEL Auntie, perhaps an ASSASSINS ANGEL AS WELL...oh….martina when will you ever go…  But if Tara had not been there, the intrigue of coupling and lust would have been predictable. The only question was who would couple with whom. Leila was warmed by Charlotte's heat as much as Santiago.


The clock did its work. It took them through a French Christmas Eve dinner party.  They slurped down delicious slippery oysters while breathing in the succulent aroma of Corsican wild boar.  Empty bottles of hearty Corsican red wine and delicate French champagne stood on the table.  They had young hearts and laughed at the stories of Corsican bandit tales.  Charlotte came in and out of the room directing her current lover how to coordinate the meal while improvising seduction on a man standing in line…he the one… waiting to be chosen.  A new game plan was being designed in front of everybody's eyes.  Charlotte had no embarrassment in switching lovers.


Glenn neff eliane

"It is better to end a love-affair while it is alive… than… breathing the foul air of decay," Charlotte said.  She looked across the table at her next conquest standing in the doorway. In front of one lover she was running to the arms of his replacement.  It was very French.  But like all simple stories there are always the underlying complications. 

Nothing is free, especially freedom.  Charlotte was on the downhill slope to forty and the lover she was ditching was nearly twenty years her junior.  She understood his fickle youth and knew it was better to end the romance than suffering his ultimate boredom.  Besides, it was far more dramatic to make the first move, to not lose dignity.  She knew that an older woman holds a young man's roving eye best in the dim candlelight and satin sheets of midnight.  The light of dawn was coming and the spell would soon be over.  Charlotte would not be caught in that moment.  The act of the beheading her lover was as quick as the guillotine.



By New Year’s Eve, Charlotte had made the transition and her love bed was being made for the stand-in.  He was a quiet man – his friends called him the Silence.  He did nothing to bend the patterns of the trio.  Charlotte was unaware of his presence unless she needed a light… for her cigarette.

The trio accompanied with the Silence were invited to a New Year party in the villa of a wealthy art patron. It was on the Bay of Ajaccio, an Italian style mansion on a rich hump of land half circled with palm lined shore shores.  Below the south veranda was the large walled estate of an American rock star that died at the height of his career.  Jim Morrison was dead but they were all alive, drunk, and dancing. 


Charlotte was dangerous and distracted.  The young lover she had rejected was sitting in the library having a very cozy chat with a very young and very beautiful creature.  Her young erect nipples were pointed up on her fine silk blouse.  Charlotte fired missile-eyed hostility into the corner where they sat…



Santiago found the whiskey and was losing himself in its warm wash.  The host of the party was content to pour the burning liquid and joined Santiago on the journey down stream…


Leila had found Jean Simon and they were doing dance acrobatics to a bumping disco beats while other French couples around the room danced stiff slow motion to avoid sweating in their expensive clothes. 


Tara and other small children had been sent off with a professional nanny to the games-room and they were happily watching the antics of a heavy metal band making obscene movements on a television special.  The children laughed. The painted black and white masks of KISS …looked like clowns to them.


The night swirled and suddenly it was New Year.  Everybody kissed.  Leila went to the children's room and found Tara wrapped in the power of sleep.  She bent over her little angel and kissed her gently on the forehead. 


Santiago was in the kitchen holding Charlotte drunkenly in his arms. "What you need is a crazy man -- give me a little chaos with your lips baby."


Charlotte poured liquid laugh over Santiago but her eye's caught the last glimpse of her rejected love slipping out the back door with the young erect nipples. The Silence looked on with total devotion to the woman who hardly knew he was there. Across the bay fireworks exploded reflections on to black midnight Mediterranean waters.


Charlotte continued visiting Santiago and Leila at their new home, the House of Felix. She brought small presents for the little girl.  She had at last conquered the spirit of her former boyfriend and found a superior position, cold and aloof.  She could gaze into the blue skies where he did not exist.  The Silence hung at her side with puppy love eyes, speaking soft words that she chose not to hear.


The House of Felix became familiar… personal, but after two months the pleasure was compromised by an encroaching force; Felix. 


He usually appeared on weekends smiling and talking pleasantries, then puttered off about the house filling cracks with plaster, inserting electric lines and letting a nervous eye follow the actions of the family.  But now he was coming every two or three days, acting gruff yet smiling with the pipe clinched in his teeth. He repeated the phrase, “Pas de probleme,” when Santiago or Leila would ask with a sense of puzzlement if everything was all right.


The House of Felix was slowly becoming the headquarters for bohemian festivals. 


 Charlotte made sure of that.  The house was the perfect setting for her accumulated intellectual cadre.  Santiago and Leila were introduced as celebrities from Scotland. People rolled in from all points of Corsica carrying bottles of wine, songs and laughter but leaving hangover-heads for the morning. 


 Like a curse, Felix would arrive with the early sun to discover the bottle strewn aftermath, cigarette burns on ancient furniture, tire ruts through tender grass and crushed flower beds.  He would put on the face of a child who had discovered someone who had broken his toy, but then patronize, holding tight lips and squint hidden eyes.


Felix was barely out of sight one evening when Charlotte arrived with the caravan of party makers.  Seven cars carried a complete brass band from Marseille.  There were trombones, saxophones, tubas and snare drums. This was her way of announcing to the assembled friends her switch of lovers.  She was saddled up with The Silence who waited at Charlotte's feet for months.  He was hoping the great hope that one day she would notice him.  It was a melancholy trance for The Silence.  All he desired was her to want him.  He was faithful like a dog.  He would lie in her lap and lick her slightest offerings. 


Charlotte knew what he was. 


The Silence was a man she could embezzle with indifference, yet feel the wonderful glow of knowing she was loved, even worshiped.  After all, she was a Goddess.  Devotion no matter where were it came from sustained the illusion of youth.  She could feel the old magic. The irony was the dog was giving the bone to the mistress.


The month of January passed and blew down the doors of February.  The winds howled up the Golfe d’Ajaccio.  The bay was a funnel that narrowed the force of the gale. Merciless hammers of wind smashed against stone walls of the House of Felix.  The doors were not finished and they would bang open letting the storm tear through the rooms, ripping plastic sheeting away from glassless window frames.  The wind whirled through the house blowing the little pockets of warmth up the chimney.


Leila began to understand why Felix's wife had left.  After 15 years the house still had no proper windows and doors.  Leila cursed Felix and shivered with the cold. She swore at the stupidity of living in a house that held no heat.


  Santiago would become sodden on harsh peasant wine every night.  He dammed the evils of the Mediterranean winter and the deceiving warm weather friendship of Corsica that had turned to a cold companion.


The days and nights were not ice covered but when one is cold and when there is no refuge from the cold, one stays cold.  The house became a place of punishment -- a station of mixed blessings. Leila more than ever wondered why she had followed Santiago into a new misery.  She worried about Tara who was shy and now was encapsulated in the antiquated system of a Corsican elementary school.


Tara was tossed into a ring of outcast foreign children.  There were Africans, Arabs, Algerians, Moroccans, Portuguese and Spanish. They were all outcasts together. Tara began to learn French through the children’s songs and games.  But Leila worried. Tara was the only small girl with red hair, white skin, freckles and blue eyes.  She was a freak among the outcasts.  Leila could feel the loneliness of her little girl. Leila began to tutor her in French. She remembered her own school French. Every day she and Tara would add words to their vocabulary.

Santiago sulked.  He had no ability with language or at least that's what he told himself and he refused to learn. He could not distinguish one sound from another and so he continued speaking English as if he was a one-man institute for the Anglo-Saxon tongue.

Despite the language barrier both Santiago and Leila found a circle of Corsican friends -- friends that multiplied friends and every day a new face would come to the door of their cold house.  It was always the same.  They explained they were friends of Charlotte.  The conversation went on about whom they were and the slow questions and answers of small talk. The family would see these people for the next three years. 

As always Charlotte always kept tabs on the coming and going off her entourage. She would let Santiago and Leila know who was true and who was to be not trusted.  She told them of the individuals who were in the social world of Corsica, the ones that they should treat nicely -- it was a matter of butter on the bread -- she told them how to go around the corners of a small island bureaucracy.  Charlotte told them not to worry about Felix, because after all he was just another bureaucrat and he was jealous of anyone who did anything with a sense of freedom.


 Felix was becoming an everyday nuisance.  He was like any other nervous landlord in the process of evictions.  Felix was hinting at each visit he would like the house empty and very soon.

“You must understand there are so many repairs to keep up with, and to be sure there is no problem, but of course my 81-year-old mother is coming, and you see of course, I must have a place for her, but naturally there is no problem and you can stay  a little longer -- two or three more weeks, perhaps the longest, one month -- but you must understand my mother is a very old and I need time to make the house comfortable for her...” Felix driveled.

“What, like putting the doors and windows in for the good weather?” Leila said while her eyes burned sarcasm into the air.

“C’est quo?”  Felix would look at her innocently.

“Nothing, just nothing. But of course there is no problem,” she said.


March was only a few days away.  Santiago was beginning to think Corsica was a foolish choice.  It was time to leave the beautiful island where the winters were freezing and they hadn't made a dime.  The work had not come after their little moment in the limelight.  Their 15 minutes of fame evaporated leaving only wine saturated episodes and expensive hangovers. Santiago found only one small commission, painting a mural for boutique owned by Corsican gangster.  Leila realized if they were to keep food in the house she had better look for work or sell some of her sketches of bright colored mountains and blowing skies. She did not want to return to a gray world. These were days of unflattering and impoverished mediocrity. 


One afternoon Charlotte arrived.  She was breathless and excited. “I just found something for you.  Your future is all in front of you.  But of course you remember Madame Franccioni -- she is best friends with the Duchess De Pascal -- it is rumored she is better friends with the Duke.  Don't worry it is all arranged.  You have a rendezvous with the Duke and Duchess tomorrow.  Everything will happen for you now.”

“Who are they?” Santiago asked.

“I showed you their summer mansion on the Boulevard Bonaparte. Remember, you called it something -- oh yes, the Pink Palace.”


The Pink Palace was only a grand house, four floors high with a rooftop penthouse.  On the ground floor was an enclosed garden and a swimming pool.  It was not pink but the color of a bleached rose, perfectly matching the pastel blue summer skies of Corsica.  The Pink Palace was tasteful and classic.  It was money solidified, but more truthfully, Old Money.  It represented the ancient bank accounts of the aristocracy. The Duke and Duchess De Pascal were born with blood entwined with vintage wealth; land in Corsica, France and Argentina. There were partnerships in South African diamonds, Caribbean banana plantations; and astute decisions on the New York stock exchange.  The Duke had been told in the 50's, a little company was going to do well -- McDonald's -- he bought several thousand shares.  Ajaccion rumors were endless of the original money - who had married whom for their glittering financial history. Everyone knew for one certain fact, money marries money.


Madame Franccioni blinked her mascara laden eyelashes as she traced one of her fingers over the liver spots on the back of her left hand.  She looked up and winked at Santiago as she said, “You have to be very precise with Duke De Pascal. If he questions for example, how much time will it take or, how much money -- you must tell him directly and quickly.  He does not like to waste time.  But do not worry.  I am absolutely sure you have the commission. The Duchess loves the mural you did for our city.” Madame Franccioni smiled benevolently.  “Oh yes, I have recommended you highly.”


Leila had improved in understanding French and could follow the talk with little trouble. Charlotte translated for Santiago

Madame Franccioni rattled her sentences together like so many belts of ammunition. “The Duke and Duchess have wanted the entrance hallway of Palais De Pascal filled with murals, but there has not been the type of artists for their requirements.”  Madame Franccioni batted her extended eyelashes.  “Perhaps they have been waiting for Michelangelo, ha, ha, but he is very old now.”  She smiled sweetly and settled into her stuffed leather chair.

Charlotte laughed politely and then repeated it in English for Santiago.  He pushed out a flat laugh and gave the old beauty an idiot smile. 

Madame Franccioni continued, “It is a very big job.  If the Duke likes your propositions more than money will come your way.  I understand you need to find a house. The Duke would give you an apartment in the Palais De Pascal - I know there is one available -- but remember you must be very precise.  Of course I will try to help in any way I can.”  She gave Santiago a flash of her famous bedroom eyes.

“What do we call them?  I mean do we have to address them as royalty or what?”  He was surprised in feeling a throb between his legs. His eyes worked the centimeters of her wrinkled cosmetic skin. He could see the secret of beauty buried in years. 

Madam Franccioni understood English more than Santiago knew.  She flapped her long lashed eyes at him again as she said, “Ha ha, you know there was the revolution so long ago in France, so you may say Monsieur and Madam, but still in Corsica we prefer to think of them as our own Royalty.  In this case naturally he is still the Duke to us.” Madame Franccioni hesitated for a second and then continued after clearing her throat,  “The Duke is, eh, trés, trés, trés gentile.”


Santiago smiled spontaneously. It was the funny sound of the throat clearing and the syrupy clacking of three Latin r's in a row. He turned obliquely to Leila and whispered from the corner of his mouth, “So what do we call them?”


Within an hour they were standing in front of the big black double doors of Palais De Pascal. They were taken up the spiral staircase by a grumpy red faced old man who showed them into a large reception room.

 The floors were finely inlaid parquet with the worn antique smoothness of decades of hands and knees waxing. On all four walls were cracked varnished ancestral portraits of eight centuries.  The original Duke stared at them in a defiant cross-eyed glare, while a tiny Chinese dog nuzzled against his gleaming armor. A dead boar lay at his feet.

“Frig’n aristocracy,” Santiago whispered to Leila. 

The door opened and a distinguished looking man entered. He was white-haired with a high forehand, straight nose, small chin and a clipped military mustache.  He was a clone of Charles De Gaulle, but dressed as an English country squire. 


Santiago had a flash go across his mind when he looked at the Duke’s eyes, they looked so familiar. His wife came behind him.  The Duchess had her hair sprayed into the starched gray sculpture of Margaret Thatcher.  She wore the country tweeds of Princess Anne, accompanied by expensive sensible brown leather shoes.  The Duke and the Duchess both spoke English with an Oxford color but affected by a French accent. The Duke took Madame Franccioni warmly into his arms giving the accustomed two-sided French kiss, a decimal longer than required.


The Duchess asked most of the questions while the Duke was charming to the women and especially to the little girl.  Tara's smile made roads where Santiago's words couldn't even create paths.  The sales pitch was going their way.


 After a few minutes of talking, they descended to the grand entrance hall where Santiago inspected walls and made measurements while Leila continued discussing details - what style to be used, what was appropriate, constantly referring to the noble heritage of the De Pascal family.  She suggested perhaps there could be several views of their land holdings -- it would be a great idea to use the technique of trompe l'oeull -- no problem at all. 


Santiago listened to Leila as she switched to French, not understanding anything but the tone.  He gave a very confident nod to the Duke - absolutely, no problem at all –but in reality he had not the slightest idea of how to paint false marbling, fake wood paneling, imitation rococo plaster borders, the School of Italian Renaissance, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel -  but he threw in for free the one French phrase he knew,

“Pas de probleme,” he said again and again.

“Very well,” the Duke said in English.  His body language spoke plainly that the interview had come to a conclusion. “How much time do you think this project will take?”


Santiago’s mind crystallized as he remembered to be precise. “Three months, at the most four if we consider the possible problem of discovering wall areas that need to be plastered and drying times...”

The Duke immediately bored with details interrupted, “And the costs? What is the money you anticipate - the complete package?”


Santiago was surprised the Duke came so quickly to the point. He was disarmed. He hummed a few numbers to himself and went through the physical gestures of mental calculations as though he actually had a system. Continuing the pantomime he scribbled into his sketch book. He could feel sweat beading on his forehead as he gulped and leapt into the unknown. “Uh, it comes to an even twenty-five thousand dollars, which is, uh let’s see...” He jotted arithmetic as the sound of a ticking clock filled the room. “Yes, about one hundred and seventy-five thousand Francs...”


Madam Franccioni eyes bulged as she gasped, “Oo la la.”

Embarrassment exaggerated a long moment of silence. “C'est cher - it's expensive, very expensive,” The Duke put his hands into his trouser pockets and jiggled coins nervously. “Oui, that is very expensive. But of course one must pay for things of quality. Naturally, we must be shown a design before we can come to  a decision. How soon can you have that work prepared?”


Santiago coughed and threw a look of panic to Leila. He had come up with the money figure and his mind had frozen in the geometry of numbers.


“Two weeks should be enough time don't you think Santiago?”  Leila said confidently.

“Oh yeah, sure, yeah plenty of time,” Santiago said continuing the role but not really knowing what they were talking about.  The only thing that was going on in his head was the vision of very large numbers, Twenty-five thousand dollars.  He was already spending the money.  He smiled at Madame Franccioni.