The Long Way Home

August 1.  After spending a week in Cusco, Peru walking up and down the streets, shopping in the markets, taking photos of stone walls and immersing ourselves in Inca history and culture we flew back to Lima, Peru with a connecting flight on to Santiago.  Except when I went to check in to our flight on Lan Chile, they said our flight was not for July 31 but for the next afternoon, August 1st.  I was looking forward to getting back to Santiago.  A nephew was planning to pick us up, but the flight on the 31st was full and we weren’t on it.  So we got a taxi and headed to Miraflores.  I asked the taxi driver to take us to the Doubletree Hotel.  He countered that without a reservation there would be nothing available.  He suggested an alternative hotel–Stefano’s.  I went in and looked at a room.  It was definitely not the Doubletree but it reminded me of many hotels we had stayed in with the kids during our travels in Mexico.  It was only for one night; the room would be adequate.

They overcharged me at the front desk.  I knew it but we were on our way out of Peru.  I argued a little, they came down a little.  My husband was tired; I paid for the room.  Mike laid down and napped.  I walked up the street and bought bottled water and some slices of cake in a tiny shop.  I walked through a charming area filled with antique shops.  I peered in the windows and admired the sparkling crystal and silver, the old carved wooden furniture, the odd and interesting items in each shop.  Then I walked back to Stefano’s.  We ate our cake and drank water.  I read my Kindle, we talked.  About 10:30 Mike asked me to see if the restaurant was open.  He was a little hungry.  I wasn’t even sure there was a restaurant.  We turned off the lights and went to sleep.

Sometime in the night Mike got up to go to the bathroom.  I heard him, I talked to him, and I fell back asleep.  About 2:30 in the morning I woke up with a start.  Mike was laying on the floor between the bathroom and the bed.  I tried to lift him, I tried to turn his head, I shouted at him to wake up, but within a minute I knew I needed help.

I called down to the front desk–my husband had fallen and I needed someone to help me get him up and back into bed. Hotel security arrived almost immediately.  The man took one look at my husband and told me he would have to call the paramedics.  Two paramedics arrived very quickly and declared my husband dead.  I would not believe it.  I insisted that he was still warm, that they only needed to get him up off the tile and he would soon be alright.

Soon a detective arrived along with the coroner to make a report.  I became well acquainted with Detective Jose Pino, and I will always think of him as the head of CSI, Lima.  I was told to stay away from my husband’s body, to not touch anything, to wait.  I called my oldest daughter and told her dad had passed away in.  She was shocked and sad, but agreed to call her seven brothers and sisters.  And so the night passed.  Police came and bagged my husband’s body and carried him away.  All hotel room deaths are investigated as homicides in Peru.

Little did I know that I had just taken my first steps into what would become a two week nightmare, a nightmare punctuated by unexpected rays of bright sunshine.

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About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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