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The Cuban Connection by Kevin Surface Excerpt 10

The unsuspecting pedestrian moaned in agony as Fuentes knocked him to the ground to get him out of the way. The assassin's arms flailed wildly and his jacket flapped in the wind as he rounded the corner of Piazza San Marcos and headed toward the center of St. Mark's Square. His mind was a whirling dervish of thoughts on just precisely what he was going to do when he reached the opposite end of the square next to St. Mark's Basilica. The whole square was surrounded on all sides by the waters of Venice's Grand Canal.

Almond made up some distance, but Fuentes was faster than he had expected. As they made their way through the middle of the crowded square, Almond could feel the blood boiling inside of him. He could still barely see the top of the Cuban's head as he jostled his way trough the crowd in hot pursuit of his quarry. "I've finally got you now," he muttered audibly under his breath. "You've got no place to go now." Almond knew if Fuentes tried to escape into the deep recesses of the church, he would trap him like a rat in a maze. Not much longer now, he thought. Not much longer at all.

Miguel Fuentes knew he had less than fifteen seconds to make a decision. If he made the wrong one, he knew his life could very well be over. The possibilities that presented themselves seemed very limited. A tinge of panic swept over him as he realized that St. Mark's Basilica presented the only form of refuge available for him to take. Th is option presented a daunting obstacle, though. Even though he knew the layout of the church fairly well, once inside, Almond would virtually have him cornered. It wasn't supposed to end like this, he thought. Not before he got his chance to purge his psyche and rid himself of the hellish demon that had forever tormented his soul - Fidel Castro.

Suddenly, it came to him - fate and destiny colliding in a celestial explosion that presented him with the only other means of escape. "Madre de Dios! Gracias!" he shouted up into the heavens as he spotted the gondola disembarking its passengers at the end of the concrete pier just south of the church. In the distance, he could spot the outlines of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church across the Venetian Lagoon on Venice's San Giorgio Island. Yes, he could make it, he thought to himself confidently.

Almond saw Fuentes, up ahead in the distance, dart suddenly to his right, away from the entrance to the church and toward the end of the concrete sea wall at the water's edge. What the hell is he doing? he thought, the perplexity of it slowing him momentarily. Then he saw it. The gondolier was letting out the last of his six passengers.

The gondolier never knew what hit him. Fuentes jumped off the edge of the concrete pier three feet downward to where the gondolier stood in his gondola, and clotheslined him all in one fell swoop. El Niño emerged quickly from the shallow water, grabbed the side of the gondola, and heaved himself in. Grabbing the long pole, he immediately thrust it with great force into the four-foot-deep water and pushed it away with as much power as his fatigued body could muster.

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