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"Then they die," was the response. "These are for the army."
Arguello left the officer. He was reeling. What kind of war was this? What did it have to do with equality and freedom and food for his people? He cried from disappointment, and flew home. Why did black and white keep refusing to sit in opposite corners?
After a few months in Nicaragua he returned to his empty $300,000 home in Miami, his yacht docked not far away.
To cry out in pain and have nobody hear was a multiplication of pain that Arguello could not bear. His wife and child returned when he promised to stop prowling the night. Emptiness still ate at him, and he tried to fill it with cocaine.
One night Arguello reached for the drug when A.J. was staying at his house. He thought his son was asleep, but the boy came out of his room. "What's that, Dad?" A.J. asked, pointing to the white powder in his father's nose.
When he remembers the moment, all the muscles in Arguello's face quiver, and his hands uncontrollably cut the air. "I had no explanation," he cried. "I'm a bastard! My nose was falling apart. It was ruining my brain, making me lazy. All my life I'd built a good image, and now I was lying. I'm telling the kids on the street how important their lives are, and I'm killing myself."
He stopped taking cocaine. Life had to torture him to make him see each little lesson. He began to wonder if all the structure in his existence had been external, a framework supplied by boxing. Was there not a single joist or beam inside of him?
Now the phone would not stop ringing. Creditors. IRS agents. Lawyers and accountants. Something had been going wrong, very wrong, with the fortune—$3 million of it from the two Pryor fights alone—he had amassed since 1979 when the Sandinistas had wiped him out.
The trustee for his money was Eduardo Roman, a former vice-president of the national power and light company in Nicaragua, with a master's degree in economics from Indiana University, a man who had discovered Arguello as a teenager. Roman became his sponsor and father figure, gave him money and books and schooled him in how to live. Arguello became so dependent he would look for Roman's face for motivation during a fight. He told his children Eduardo was their grandfather. Roman became Arguello's manager, but did not take the 33% from his purses that most managers claimed.
What happened to Arguello's money is not an easy thing to pinpoint, for the story is buried beneath a cross fire of accusations. IRS claims and creditors' bills stacked up for months in a small mountain of unopened letters. Arguello claims to know nothing of them; he left all money matters to Roman. Roman says the mailbox key at their Alexicore Inc. corporate headquarters in Miami was lost, and Arguello did not produce a new one. People close to Arguello now claim that Roman arranged to take out a large loan using Arguello's assets as collateral, that questionable stock-market dealings occurred, that tax returns were improperly filed and that Roman took advantage of the fact that Arguello, the trusting son, would sign anything Roman placed before him. "If there were a nun, a priest, Eduardo Roman and a suitcase with a million dollars in a room, and Alexis came back to find the money gone," said a friend, "he would blame the nun and the priest." Meanwhile, Alexicore, of which Arguello was president and Roman director, had fallen into chaos; employees were using telephones for personal calls, a thousand schemes were being hatched, and little work was being done.