Several things fly through my mind at this announcement, but first and foremost is this...I REALLY don't want to stay in this town any longer.
Once again, time to leave - should I bother staying to eat the steak? It smells really good. "Well, if I can ever do anything else for you, you know how to get in touch. Good luck on your pending endevour." I get up and manage to make my way around the table in a casual manner, unhurried. But it was hard. I felt like there were already twenty guns pointed at my back. Heck, for all I know, there actually IS.
Eduardo doesn't say anything, just picks up a menu and begins to read. Sure, like he doesn't know what's on it already. The she snake is watching me head toward the front door in an unconcerned manner. I still owe her something, but that doesn't look to be settled in the near future. With any luck, the Tuxtepec monkeys will do for her.
Thug B moves to stand in front of the door as I approach. "Excuse me, I need to leave", I tell him as I approach.
No response - he just stands there blocking the exit, scowling at me. In the past, it looks like someone had taken a chainsaw and run it vertical down the right side of his face, leaving a blind milky white eye and an hell of a scar. The scar scowls at me too.
"Come sit back down, Mendozza, we have plans to make."
"I hate to say it, Eduardo, but I don't believe I would be any help in this matter, and I do not intend to hang around to see how it plays out. I have a reputation as an information gatherer, not a fighter." It's was true, but barely. I DID have a reputation as a drunken brawler in other parts of Mexico, but that was years ago. And I am a crack shot with a rifle, but I doubt El Bolo knew that.
"You will be going back to Tuxtepec to shadow Lady while she plays out her part in this matter. For your hide, I do not give two fucks, but I would be hurt if anything happens to her. You will position yourself to be allowed near her in her daily work. Fernandez has a firm grip on the Tuxtepec cartel, but he won't hurt her due to the late Bandito's older crew's loyalty to her. They practically raised her themselves, so for the moment, it is in Fernandez's best interests to keep her happy and alive. But not for much longer, I think. If he manages to take Oaxaca, he will have enough power and control to do with her whatever he will. I will certainly be dead then, but you may be able to prevent that. She will be involved in sabotage for the next few days."
I had begun to shake my head halfway through the speech. "Eduardo, I am a marked man in Tuxtepec, it won't work."
"You are the only one I can spare. You wouldn't be any good in a fight, but you CAN and you WILL do this for me. I won't threaten you at gunpoint, we go too far back for that, and I still have my own reputation to think of, but you WILL be taking this job."
The fuck? "Eduardo, listen, I don't want, nor do I need this contract. Since you say you won't kill me over it, then I fail to see why I should do this."
El Bolo reaches into his jacket pocket and places something onto the table. "You will leave tomorrow morning."
He got up and walked over to the bar to say something to Pedro, but I didn't pay him any more attention. My world had just collapsed on top of me, and I began to spiral back down into the depths of hell where I had been the previous night. He was right when he said that I had been getting careless, and now he had capitalized on it. And once again, I had completely and totally fucked up Vee's world through my own selfishness and stupidity. I sat staring at the bauble lying on the table, sensing more than seeing Lady smirking in my direction.
I am not bad at my job. On the contrary, I am very good, but some things I take for granted. Like my ability to blend in. I am sure that if I had gone to Tuxtepec by myself and had not tried to make it a getaway weekend for Vee and myself, I would have no facial scars and Vee would be safely back home. Unfortunately, bringing Vee along had caught the wrong eyes and brought notice to what would otherwise been thought of as just another face in the crowd.
And now The Bolo had her.
It didn't take a microsecond for that bracelet to tell me how this was all going to have to go down. El Bolo was correct, I had gotten careless, and now I was going to do whatever he said. Whether he would kill Vee afterwards or not was beside the point, I had to move forward as if I would someday talk to her again. That is, assuming she wasn't dead already.
I got up slowly to leave the restaurant - nevermind the steak now. "We leave tonight", Lady said.
"Fine", I replied, and headed on out the door - Thug B scowling at me again.
Once outside, I could see slight signs of tension. A few guys hanging out along the street, doing nothing, bothering nobody. They weren't here for me, they were keeping an eye out. I wouldn't want to be a first time visitor to this area right now - good way to find yourself dead. New faces would be expected soon, and probably the next few days would be TOO soon, but I don't suppose El Bolo would wait around for the first hit before he reacted. His defense looked solid I noticed, as I walked back to my room. There was doubtless a mole somewhere, but with every Pedro ready for an attack, I couldn't see how it might succeed. I could only hope that Fernandez wasn't as concerned as The Bolo.
I reached my room and crawled on top of my bed and began to go over in my head how things stood. El Bolo had Vee. Because of this, I had to go back to a city where I had been marked and watch Lady's back while she did whatever it was that El Bolo had in mind. There was no time to search for Vee, and even if I did know where she was, assuming again she was still alive, I still wouldn't be able to manage busting her out without one or both of us getting killed. Plus, there was still a chance that if I did my job, she would be set free to go.
The gist of it was this - I had absolutely no leverage right now. No way to turn the tables on El Bolo, and until Vee was safe, I did not believe that it was prudent to even try.
The remaining hours found me pounding my brain trying to come up with a way out of this mess, but in the end, all I could come up with was to do the job. Which sucks, because I didn't think I would be able to make it out of Tuxtepec alive again. Which meant that El Bolo would probably have Vee's body dumped somewhere that nobody would ever find it.
A knock sounded at the door after dark, and I got up to answer it. It was Lady.
"It's time to leave", she said, as she stepped into my room. Still wearing that smirk, she surveyed it's contents. "You live small, I see. Typical for someone in your line of work, but you should have stuck to it in Tuxtepec. Now your going back in with me. Let's go."
I grabbed a few things I thought I would need - clothes, shoes, money, and a few knives to hide on my person. "Wish I had time to bury one in this bitch", I thought to myself.
We left the room practically empty and headed downstairs to a waiting car. I got into the driver's side and sat back - waiting to get out of town before I got the details on the mission. She watched me for a few moments from the curb with that smirk on her face still and got in behind the wheel.
"You can't be a gentleman and open a door for me?"
"Hell no, not for you, ever."
"That has to change. You better put your personal feelings aside and act like I am your favorite person in the world, or we'll both be killed and you will never see your precious girlfriend again."
"So I just hang around you and watch your back like a good little boy? That will look suspicious after the beating I took a few days ago."
"It's our only shot. You have to play your part in front of Fernandez, and that part is to be my lover."
The bitch was smoking hot, that was for sure, but I couldn't see making goo goo eyes at her. Then again, considering the way she dressed, it might be easier for me to just play the submissive loser type guy and just follow her lead.
"OK, but I'm not sure how well I could pull such a role off considering the fact that you had me beaten half to death not long ago. Also, how do you propose to validate my presence in Tuxtepec at all? I am a little lost here - it's my life on the line."
"You will be tolerated because the story will be that Eduardo tried to kill you and has ALREADY killed your girlfriend. You are now out for revenge and will be willing to work on our end to eliminate EL Bolo."
I nodded. "That makes sense, but why lovers?"
"So that when we are seen to be fucking, it won't raise any eyebrows", she said slyly.
"What the hell are you talking about!!! I'm not going to be plowing you while your "uncle" is holding Vee hostage!"
"So her name is Vee? Settle down Hot Shot, I'm just kidding about the sex. We will need to be close, obviously, so that I do not get snuffed while we are about our business. The best way to do that is for me to be spending alot of time with you and the best way to accomplish this is for everyone to think we are a pair."
I settled in to consider this. It should work, and I wouldn't have to do much, really. Just keep the knives out of her back, if I could manage not slipping one in myself.
"So why the heck did you take "Vee" to Tuxtepec in the first place? If it hadn't been for her, you would be on your way now. She was a liability for you, it was a bad move.
"None of your business. You just make sure once this is over that we ARE on our way."
"Not my affair. I didn't nab your girl, Eduardo did all of that independant of me, and I didn't get you in trouble in Tuxtepec, you did that on your own. In fact, you owe me your life since I saved it in that alley. You should be a little nicer", she said. "In fact, you need to start acting right now that I am the hottest thing you have ever seen", she added laughing.
Not far off the mark with that hotness remark, but I wouldn't give her the satisfaction of agreeing with her on the point. I might not like it, but she was right. If she was telling the truth, she really DID save my ass. And if the story was to stick that El Bolo had killed Vee, then that must mean Vee really did leave Tuxtepec and go back to Oaxaca. Looks like I was going to have to start cutting Lady some slack.
"OK, Lady, you win this round. I will watch your back and play the horny fool for you until this is over. Then I am out, WITH Vee."
"Sounds fine, except you should stop calling me Lady, that's a nickname. Call me Rockess."
"Is that really your name?"
"No, but it's what a man would call me if he was my lover. Who knows, before this is all over, I might actually make that true, but only if your lucky", she said laughing as we drove on down the road, destination Tuxtepec.
The funny thing about moving from one area of Mexico to another is that common people always look the same. Dirty, underfed, and a little scared. In this case, we moved from a town that had people scared about an impending hit to a town who's populace was scared of the nutcase that was really pulling the underground strings. Politicians in these cities do whatever the local bosses want, and the real police on the streets answer to the bosses in truth. Not too bad of a thing if you happen to live in Oaxaca. Bad if you live or travel to Tuxtepec. Which is what I had just done.
We arrived on the outskirts of Tuxtepec a few days after leaving Oaxaca. Lady or rather, Rockess hadn't bothered to speak to me much other than to give me a rundown of the existing organization. Fernandez holds a firm grip at the top of the ladder. He is accepted, and fears nobody will try to supplant him only because his most loyal and trusted leaders stand next in line to take over if something happens to him. Mutual protection.
He treats Lady well enough to not get himself in trouble with the old timers and his plans to crash in on the Oaxaca profits have given his underlings a sense of direction, as well as a bit of excitement and, I daresay, a bit of greed. All in all, he would be just fine to run things until his death had he not decided to cross swords with El Bolo. These damn intrigues are nothing to me normally, but now I have no choice in pulling for the home team, no matter how much I would like to put a cap in El Bolo for his hold over me.
"Ok, Mendozza, listen up," Lady says as she slows down and pulls up to a rather nice looking house near the outskirts. "Everything from here on out gets real. We are a real, but new couple, your old girlfriend is dead, and you want revenge. I found you drunk in a bar talking shit about going after Eduardo Boleros right under his nose and managed to get you out and away from any reprisals long enough to sober you up. You are grateful to me for saving your ass from also being killed, despite my having your ass kicked. I think you might be useful in toppling El Bolo, and I also like the way you make love, which is the only reason you are back in Tuxtepec. This is our story. Live by it for the next few days. Don't do anything stupid and follow my lead from here on out."
"Alright," I say, "but what are you actually going to be doing? What am I supposed to be doing? If I want revenge, I need to appear to be working toward it."
"You do whatever I say to do, only superseded by anything Guillermo Fernandez might want you to do. Whatever that might be, try to stay close to me as much as possible, and I will do the same with you, as my efforts will allow. Keep your eyes and ears open and keep a low profile around the organization."
Impossible. "How do you think I can manage a low profile if everyone thinks I am pounding you at night? Eyes will be on me anyway, since the last time I was here. I was SPYING on Fernandez! He's not going to buy this shit!"
"He will for two reasons. One, he will grill you on what you told Eduardo and you will tell the truth. He won't care that he is now known to El Bolo, and probably will be happy when you tell him El Bolo is circling the wagons and playing it safe. This plays to his vanity. Second, he really doesn't care about me at all and considers me a liability. My days are numbered in his mind once his power is completely solidified. He will think to snuff us both anyway. He gets some possible use out of you temporarily. He won't care if you are fucking me or not."
"Won't the 'old timers' care that their precious Lady is getting drilled by some gringo that they had under the knife just a short while ago? Seems to me that they would be a bit pissed about it. It will make me untrustworthy in their eyes."
"Possible, but I think when they see how taken we are with each other, they will accept you. You forget, they love me. Don't worry, we will be safe until a point where either Eduardo is taken out or the takeover fails. If it gets to that point, leave. If I manage to pull off my part, we should be alright in the end." She turns off the car and starts to get out.
"Wait a minute! You didn't tell me what you will be doing, exactly. How will I begin to try to protect you if I don't know what you are about?"
"You have to be in the dark. You can't spill what you don't know, and I am the most important part of this plan, not you. You just act natural and watch my back, 'natural' meaning you would like to cut El Bolo's throat."
I don't like it, but she's right, I am probably the more expendable of us two on this job. While that sucks for me and it sucks to be in the dark on her task, I still have to see this through for Vee's sake. "Alright, I will trust your lead on this. Just give me warning if and when you can on how this should be playing out."
"Agreed," she says. We both close the car doors and begin walking toward the house. It is a nice looking thing. Obviously someone from the organization lives here, or it would look like most of the other shitty dwellings surrounding it. I spy a crack in the blinds of a first story window and what appears to be someone peeking out at us.
"We've been spotted," I warn her.
"This is one of the old timer's homes, name of Raul. Raul is pretty high in the organization. He doesn't like Fernandez much that I can tell, but he wouldn't turn on him either. Raul is not to be trusted, I think, mostly because he has no aspirations. So he doesn't see the need to shake things up for his own personal gain. He likes stability, and at the moment things are stable outside of the Oaxaca issue. He likes me, though, so from now on, you are smitten by me, got it?"
I nod my head as we approach the door. Lady knocks on it and steps back.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Just in case you are questioned, you need to know. I have a small heart tattoo on my ass."
Raul's pad wasn't shabby at all, and if anything, improved on the classy look it had from the outside. Even had a Bolo set off to the side of the entranceway which was outfitted with what looked like marble tile next to the luxury carpet that extended on into the house. Some goon that doubtless didn't speak a word of english ushered us on in through the entrance, and out through a set of double doors into a central courtyard. It looked nice here too, even had a pool of sorts. Raul has class, I have to admit.
He was there, waiting by an iron wrought patio table with cushioned iron chairs circled around it. A few more goons lounged around the central area seemingly minding their own business. I wasn't fooled. I needed to play this cool. Blank expression on my face, I pulled close to Lady in a "hovering" manner.
"Hello Raul", said Lady in a sweet voice. "How are things back here?" She reached casually for a chair, but I was faster. I grabbed it and pulled it out a bit for her to sit. She gave me a simmering smile and settled into it. I made no move for a chair myself, but instead took up position slightly behind and off to the side, but well within listening range. Raul considered me briefly and then pulled his own chair.
"About the same, what do you have to report on Oaxaca?", he inquired.
"They are ready, but I don't think they can prevent the coup. They don't have the manpower to stop it, and it's possible we could get in a few moles to cut the snake off at the head. We have the momentum and they are just now gearing up."
Raul is silent for a few moments, considering. "Who is this person you have brought in with you?"
"An asset. This is Mr. Mendozza - you may recall a few weeks ago there was some clumsy fellow questioning a few runners on Fernandez? This is the guy. Or rather this WAS the guy. I ought to know, I gave him that almost healed scratch on his cheek."
Raul scowled. "Why is he here and not dead?"
"The biggest reason is that I like the way he performs in the sack. But besides that, he has a bone to pick with El Bolo, and I thought he might be useful to us. El Bolo or someone else in his organization has apparently just recently killed this fellow's girlfriend for getting noticed the last time he was here in Tuxtepec. I found him there drunk as hell talking about going after El Bolo right under his nose. Stupidest thing I have ever seen, but I was able to drag his ass out and sober him up fairly quickly before he got dead. After that, I was able to convince him that his best chance for revenge was to throw in with us."
"If he is the same man, it doesn't look to me like he would be of any use. He was clumsy a few weeks ago, and now El Bolo will be wary of him. It is certain that El Bolo will know he left town with you. You should have just left him there and let him make the attempt" Raul looks at me again, only slightly less hostile. "And am I supposed to buy that he likes nailing you so much that he has already forgotten this other woman?"
"Have you ever seen me naked?" lady asked, smiling slightly? My guess is no, but he wouldn't mind it. Neither would anyone else that had a penis either.
Raul chuckled. He's buying it. I guess being hot as hell has it's benefits.
She saw the opening. "So I have someone to watch my back for the time being and a possible mole. He will be marked in Oaxaca, but we might be able to use that. If I let him climb off of me long enough, he could be a decoy while we slip someone else in. That's why I didn't let him make the attempt."
Sold, and it made sense. It's what I would do.
"OK, you will be staying here tonight until I meet with everyone else. Your things are already upstairs in your rooms. I don't suppose I have to tell you to behave while you are under my roof. We will meet again tomorrow morning and discuss any plans made tonight."
Sounded good to me. I made a move as if to accompany her upstairs, but she remained seated, apparently to chit-chat with Raul. Resigned, I considered what had just happened. It sounded solid, Lady had planted the idea in his head of me being a decoy. I would be heavily watched from now on by both sides, but for every eye on me, there would be one less on Lady. She might be able to move more freely, and I got to stay alive in a suspicious atmosphere.
I continued to act the attentive bodyguard while she talked of things with Raul about what lay on down the road after the upcoming war. From what I heard, Raul thought he would rise a good deal, and he thought she would too. I don't know whether she agreed, but it didn't matter to me. I passed the time letting my eyes roam the courtyard and thinking of where things might go from here. Also of just what Lady DID look like naked.
After a bit, Lady stood up. "We should go on up and get cleaned up for supper." she said to me. Raul wasn't paying me anymore attention as he stood also. "Indeed," he said. "We will speak again in the morning, I will be leaving shortly. Enjoy your food and your stay." He smiled at her. Didn't even look my way.
Lady made her way toward the stairs, motioning me to fall in behind her. I followed her up, her ass swaying side to side right in front of my face. At the top, she led me down a short hallway to the end. Two doors, one on either side. "Ok, baby, let's clean up. Wear what you have with you and I will be in shortly after I am ready." She leaned in close to kiss me. I let her do it and it was rather quick, and in my mind too short after considering her ass so closely a few moments before. Hugging me, she whispered softly, "I think we are in the clear here. The story is sound."
I agreed. "Yes, but it sounded dicey at first", I whispered back.
"It will stick even better after tonight when Raul's men inform him that I went to your room after supper and stayed there all night. And we didn't sleep much."