j. l. navarro

The House of Gabriel Goez

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In East Los Angeles, in the area of City Terrace, on a high barren hill, there stands a house made of rough stones.  From a distance, it appears like a dark medieval castle without a moat surrounding its extensive property, having instead a high wall fashioned from the same stones as the two-story structure.  By comparison, the decrepit homes surrounding it are humbled all the more by the imposing stance the somber house exhibits in its solitary majesty.  When it was built in 1931, there was a great deal of activity in and around the estate.  There had been a festive air about the place, a luster that shone during the holidays and most other days of the year.  Over the course of time, this bustle of human goings-on died down to the point where people would sometimes wonder if anyone still lived there.  No one was ever seen around the house in those later years, yet the grounds were kept spotless and manicured as if maintained by a staff of invisible gardeners.   


The man who built the house was Gabriel Goez, a mysterious individual of Bolivian decent who came to this country after leaving Colombia under odd circumstances that were appended with a catalogue of dark rumors.  As a matter of record, he had been a miner and trader in emeralds who had made a considerable fortune in the sale of these precious gems.  No one in the vicinity knew anything of his past.  He was not one to socialize with strangers, preferring to entertain people he had been acquainted with before relocating to the house that overlooked the City of Angels.  In 1943 when his eldest daughter ventured outside the boundaries of the stone barricade, it brought yet one more crushing catastrophe to a man who had already experienced more than his share of human tragedy.


Gabriel Goez was only able to view life as a series of choices and consequences.  Before coming to the United States, he had made a number of difficult decisions that impacted the lives of many people, in some cases bringing unnecessary pain and death to innocent bystanders. These judgments were made with a clear conscience on his part, knowing the outcome beforehand and wagering that everything would come out in his favor, regardless of what grievance these actions might bring to others.  He had accumulated his wealth on the backs on those who worked for him and those who had the temerity to get in his way.  Friends and enemies alike regarded him as a contemptibly ruthless man.  In all cases, however, regardless of the severity of his decisions, he considered his dealings no more and no less than sound business practice.  Colleagues and competitors alike agreed that a firm hand in business matters was necessary to maintain order and respect, but they also realized that the execution of his most flagrant decisions were carried out with an inhumane brutality that bordered on the insane.


In the summer of 1943, while her father was away on business in New York, Leticia Goez, his first born, decided to go against her father's wishes and set out into the city by herself.  She had lived in the large house since she was three years old and had never once gone beyond the large stonewall without a chaperone, received her education at the hand of tutors, and was being carefully groomed to marry an Argentine businessman of Italian ancestry, the wealthy son of Ignacio Corvino, a colleague in the gem industry Goez had met while building his fortune in the 1920's.  This union would benefit both men in the financial arena, and Gabriel Goez did not want anything to interfere with the plans he had so carefully considered.  His wife did not have any say in this, knowing exactly the kind of man her husband was and what he was capable of doing if anyone transgressed his demands.  




This story is included in The Blood Cake Vendor and Other Stories.