The romance which began between Hannah and Osvaldo was more Eastern than it was Latin, the fondness and clingy attachment was as steamy as an Ottoman bath and no less sophisticated. Every fashion show in a different city was as much about business as it was about fun, they were like the honeymoon before the wedding. Paris, Milan, Rio, Tokyo, or London, Hannah toured the world but more than that Osvaldo toured her heart. More than winning her love, he won her trust. Hannah saw in him an infallible being with whom she could entrust her life. However, while we may say that a dog is man's best friend, it would be important to be sure that the man is the dog’s best friend. For Hannah love was so blind that she couldn’t see a lot of things, didn’t ask questions, and didn’t check if this man was actually a man or a dog, or rather how much of him was a dog.
Like the moon of which we only see a side, the bright side, there was a side to Osvaldo which Hannah had not seen, the dark side. And more than that there were other sides to the fashion industry which Hannah had not been broken into.
Trouble started when Pedro Morales called Hannah on the telephone inviting her for a review of her contract which would see her get an improved contract; better pay, better jobs, better shows, and bigger brands. He wanted to “take her to the next level”. Hannah would tell Osvaldo about it expecting him to share in her joy, but Osvaldo wasn’t delighted. He knew a lot about this ‘next level' being an active participant himself. Pedro Morales was a covert member of one of the biggest drug and crime groups in the subcontinent, his sojourn into model management was initially in his bid to find a decent façade for his illegitimate trade. Also, he had over the years used some of the top models under his management to move illicit drugs across the border. He would invite them for a review of their contract, introduce the topic of drug trafficking to them, and if the model agreed to play ball then the next level was on, she would get a cut out of the drug deals, along with an improved contract. But if the model would not play ball, having known this dirty secret, said models soon lose their lives under controversial circumstances. Osvaldo played an outfield role in these. Where the model would swallow the drugs before boarding, it was Osvaldo's job to prepare the drugs and make prepare the drugs and their human container would remain in good condition before during and after the flight. Pedro Morales had a number of agents who played that role but Osvaldo was his most trusted lieutenant.
Also, there were two or three occasions on which the task of arranging a believable accident for a model who wouldn’t play ball was given to Osvaldo, and he delivered to a fatal perfection. But with the invitation extended to Hannah by Pedro Morales, Osvaldo had found himself in an entirely new situation. This was a girl he had come to sincerely love, he had even had the thought of marriage cross his mind in recent weeks. Don Pedro Morales obviously knew about their romance, but apparently thought it was a fleeting thing that would fade with time, Osvaldo thought that if Pedro Morales knew that he really loved Hannah then he would not have invited her to this next level. Hannah on her part could not think of a good reason why Osvaldo would not be in support of her coming promotion, where had he kept his “Congratulation”? What had happened to his cheerful words of encouragement, that reassuring speech that he often gave about how she was destined for the top? Hannah easily picked out the flat dullness of Osvaldo’s tone in conversations, his countenance was too colourless to avoid notice. Yet he wouldn’t open up to Hannah just yet on why he has maintained that mood ever since she broke the news to him. Telling Hannah the truth about that one thing would mean telling her the truth about everything. And with Hannah he was not ready to face the truth of how dark the hidden side of his moon was.
Osvaldo took a bold step sooner than later, he met with Pedro Morales in private and requested that he make an exception with Hannah. That he, Osvaldo, would take it as a token of Morales' appreciation of his lieutenant's loyalty all these years. It was a smooth conversation and Pedro Morales acceded to his request on the condition that Hannah would then not be getting any improved contract. Osvaldo took it upon himself to explain Pedro Morales' change of mind to Hannah, but lied that the plan was temporarily withheld due to contingencies that needed massive funding, and that Hannah should expect the contract offer back in a short time.
Now his smile was back, and hers too. On the spur of the moment Osvaldo would propose marriage, to which Hannah gladly accepted. She got her family involved and wedding plans began. However, as days and weeks went by something odd seemed to be happening. The advertisement jobs were no longer coming, the brands with which she had running agreements became increasingly uninterested in her, and the fashion shows which often took her around the world were no longer inviting her. Hannah was beginning to live not on her prosperity but on her reserves. Pedro Morales would not pick her phone calls and he would not reply her mails. Osvaldo understood what was going on; this was Pedro Morales making a statement, he was obviously the one throwing the spanner in the works. Osvaldo tried to reassure Hannah that all will be well. His love life had come in the way of his work, and romance had soured his relationship with his boss. Hannah was not alone in this blackout, Osvaldo soon realized that he too was being shut out. Every attempt to get to Pedro Morales failed. Without a single word, Pedro Morales had spoken, and in clear terms; he no longer wanted them. To where would this intending couple now turn? Osvaldo had been with Morales long enough to know how everything was done, both in the fashion and modelling business and in the dark streets of drug trafficking. Perhaps this was time to go solo. First he used his experience in law to get the brands to pay Hannah off since they had made it clear that they no longer wanted her. What they got was enough to fund their wedding, and to raise the capital needed to float a new model management agency.
In starting HANNOSVA Agency, a company name that he coined from Hannah and Osvaldo, Osvaldo Lopez wasn’t hoping to someday rival Pedro Morales. He merely wanted to put his experience to good use, and to get Hannah actively involved in a legitimate business. They scouted for little known models and worked with them from the ground up. Things were beginning to look good again for Hannah, within a year of breaking ties with Pedro Morales, she now co-owned a company, had gotten married, and not only had the freedom to pursue her career by her own rules, she now had the opportunity of mentoring and guiding younger models.
Bad habits live long in secret, and for Osvaldo his appetite for the drug trade was well and truly alive. He wanted back in it so badly that he left the day-to-day running of the agency to Hannah who was now pregnant, and invested much time and effort in re-establishing ties with the estranged partners of Pedro Morales. The Tigres cartel in Mexico were no longer seeing eye to eye with Pedro Morales after an ill-fated drug deal, aligning with them for Osvaldo would spite Pedro Morales. Spiting Morales was not his aim, he wanted a group that would take him as one of them, that would offer him protection along the violent and dark paths of drug trafficking, however, if spiting Morales would be a by-product of achieving that aim, he would not have any reservations whatsoever.
His new alliance with the Tigres group was without hitches, he eased seamlessly back into the trade, and was now enjoying more freedom than he had with Morales. Still he managed to keep Hannah out of it, while making good deals, settling his dues with the bosses and being his own man all at the same time. It didn’t look like anything could go wrong now.
As big as Pedro Morales' physique was his appetite for vengeance, and just about any form of hurt or spite against him was worth revenging. He would not take any prisoners in his dealings with anyone who dared challenge him, and there was a touch of finality about the thoroughness of his methods. He was not the sort of man who would hit his enemy and allow him enough strength to live to fight another day, rather he was the sort of man who would make sure that his enemy wouldn’t see another day, especially enemies that can’t match him in power or influence. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that in his philosophy of life he took Machiavelli too seriously. Had Osvaldo stopped at starting an agency of his own, Pedro Morales might not have bothered so much about him, but aligning with the Tigres cartel could not be forgiven. Also Osvaldo knew him too well to be allowed to work with a competent enemy, this latter reason for Morales cancelled out any lean thought of sparing Osvaldo, he had to be dealt with in the most severe of ways. And in Morales' book only murder was severe enough. And it so happened that that timeless irony would be remembered again; that he who lives by the sword dies by it. Osvaldo had seen the intrinsic conflicts of this drug business claim the lives of others, but he could not have told that his life would end in the way that Pedro Morales had so planned.
Hannah was in the office when news came in that Osvaldo had died having been shot in the chest at close range in the subway. And in a mix of fear and grief she went into labour immediately. Her assistants helped get her to the hospital, but despite the best efforts of the doctors, nurses and midwives, even though the child lived, Hannah died.
Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.
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