As we went through the airport, he would nod occasionally at a dark-suited man, here or there, and they would fall in step. When we got to the cars, they held doors, loaded luggage, etc. Drivers, I thought. We filed into the van, and Hector joined us in the van. The others filed into dark cars with dark tinted windows. The dark cars sandwiched our van on the highway for the entire ride, maneuvering through busy city traffic. At a toll, our driver rolled down the window to pay, his arm resting on the glass: thick, tinted - bulletproof.
We met in the hotel lobby after a quick refresh, to head over to a meeting. I recognized one of the gentlemen and said a quick hello. When my colleague approached, he motioned for us to follow, and I expected him to lead us to a car. We strolled out a side entrance to the hotel, across an expansive plaza, and into another building. Then to an elevator. Then in the elevator. Then to the lobby of our office building in the city. He stood in the lobby, waved us on, and we went to our meeting. When we finished, he was standing there, waiting.
Dinner was a repeat, though with our entire crew of almost 20, the crowd had grown, and several dark-suited, quiet men, some with thick necks and small scars on their faces, and suspicious bulges in their jackets, stood spaced around the lobby, hands crossed, waiting for us. No cars - just an escorted walk through a few blocks of the city. In the elevators, two or three of them would space themselves out into the corners, and fade into the background, the rest of us continuing our conversation about work, life, anything. Always in view until we'd boarded the elevators to our rooms to retire for the evening.
As we moved between countries, only Hector stayed with us, his focus always on our leader. He was gracious and kind, but a man of few words. He directed the others quietly, efficiently, and with a seriousness I've only seen afforded to heads of state.
When we finished our last meal in a private room of a beautiful old hotel, I stepped out into the foyer and didn't see any security detail. But as I walked down the stairs, there stood Hector, waiting, with his crew behind him, ready with multiple armored cars. As if he'd stood at the ready the entire time. I wasn't sure when he ate. When he slept. When he went to the bathroom. He was always just there.
I was never exposed to anything really dangerous, save for some rush hour traffic in Sao Paulo. Never saw anything or anyone suspicious. But maybe that's because it was hard to see around the quiet, dark-suited men stationed conspicuously every few meters, where ever I went.
I sat snuggled on the sectional with my 7 year old resting his head on my shoulder, my 12-year old stretched out on the long part of the sectional alternately watching the movie with us and playing an online video game. The doors were locked, but not impenetrable. The windows were not tinted or bulletproofed. There were no men in dark suits standing guard at the entrances. Just a yellow dog curled up on a dog bed at the base of the stairs, her ears twitching occasionally as she dreamed her dog dreams.
I felt more secure than I had the entire week.