Across the street from the square is a yellow house with a black iron gate. Todd identifies it as the home of Andres’s paternal grandparents, where Helen has her custodial visits. Gus likes what he sees; Helen could walk through the gate with Andres to the waiting SUV. “They could come and get in,” Gus says. “This is a straight shot. The highway’s right up here,” allowing a quick getaway.
“It’s a very short route,” Todd agrees.
“I like that a lot better. She can walk out the door,” Gus says. “She walks down the street, gets in the van. Boom, gone …”
Helen and Jason grew up in Siquirres. They met as teenagers and started dating seriously when she was 17 and he was 19. Jason moved to San José to attend dental school; Helen finished high school and followed him there. After two years, they began to grow apart. Jason told me he broke up with Helen because she cheated on him. Shortly thereafter, Helen told Jason she was pregnant. According to Helen, Jason wanted her to have an abortion. Jason denies this, adding that he promised to take responsibility for the child if he proved to be the father.
A few weeks later, Helen met Todd Hopson, 18 years her senior. The divorced father of an adult daughter, he was vacationing by himself at a golf resort on the outskirts of San José. Though neither spoke the other’s language, he and Helen ended up spending the rest of his vacation together, touring the Costa Rican capital.
When Todd returned to the U.S., he talked to Helen by phone and exchanged letters with her; a friend of Helen’s acted as interpreter. Todd invited Helen to Florida. When she told him she was pregnant, he said he had already suspected that, and reiterated his invitation. Bringing along the friend as a translator, Helen flew to Florida and moved in with Todd. (The translator left after a couple of weeks, and Helen now speaks English.)
Two months later, Helen’s appendix burst, and she was hospitalized in Ocala. The next day, September 6, 1999, she gave birth to a boy. Todd held the infant before Helen did, marveling at his shock of black hair. When Andres left the hospital, a week before his mother did, Todd cared for him. Todd also paid the hospital bills, which came to $25,000, and financially supported Andres from then on.
Shortly after giving birth, Helen called Jason to tell him he had a son. Jason wanted to make sure that the boy was his, so he asked Helen to send him blood samples, which she did. Jason sent the samples to a laboratory in Costa Rica, and when the test confirmed that he was the father, he wanted to acknowledge his son legally.
When Andres was a year old, Jason flew to Ocala to get a copy of the birth certificate, which named no father. Even though she hadn’t intended to cooperate, Helen helped Jason obtain it, and invited him home, where he visited with her, Andres, and Todd. Jason then registered his paternity with the Costa Rican consulate in Miami, but he didn’t pursue custody, because, he told me, he was willing to allow Andres to live with his mother. In 2001, Helen married Todd.