Saturday, May 15, 2010

Baja Sunrise

Author's note: Years ago a country singer named Eddie Raven came up with a sad song about lost love and Mexico that I have always liked. This story is inspired by that song. Can't describe what genre it belongs to, but its something I have been playing with for a long time. Listen to the You Tube video at the bottom.

The rain falling on my head and the breeze cutting through my soaked clothes was a welcome relief to the storm I had just navigated my sailboat through to safety. The two giant granite pillars, relics from some past geologic age, sticking up from the depths of the Pacific ocean largely shielded the small cove where my boat now rested reducing the tempest that still raged on the other side to a whisper. Only a near miraculous lull in the storm had allowed me to spot the two outcroppings before crashing into one of them. I was able then to redline the diesel engine and get us behind the pillars before the storm renewed its fury. Once in the cove and floating in its calm waters the old cement dock that stretched out from gravel beach was a very beautiful sight. Despite my exhaustion, I came alongside the pier and joyfully brought her to rest.

My sailboat was a 38-foot Pearson sloop and the closest thing I had to a home now. I fought a sudden surge of resentment at the person that had forced me to endanger it, enough that I pondered actually turning her over to the thugs she had stumbled upon the night before. That person was my ex-wife who was on the shore looking off into the distance.
The woman had a real knack of screwing up my life and when she appeared in the small tavern I frequented I should have ran out of the place leaving some other unlucky fool to deal with her. Since coming to the small town on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur the pieces of my life had started to fit together, imperfectly I admit but at least I did not feel the same sense of loss since my marriage had so disastrously ended. My life now revolved around fellow American expatriates, a fine collection of misfits, disillusioned dreamers, scoundrels, and broken lovers that called the tavern Casa de los Perdidos home. But her appearance was so unexpected and unlikely the first thought that popped in my mind was a dizzy euphoria that maybe, just maybe, she had come to find me.
It was the usual collection of fellow exiles sitting at the bar and tables that night with the owner, Luis, in his position behind the bar glaring over his sorry clientele and protectively over the ladies that waited on them. Abby had slipped in unnoticed by everyone caught up in me tossing an obnoxious middle-aged American tourist through the doors of the tavern and into the small harbor outside. The guy had tried to grab Maria, one of Luis’s waitresses, after she embarrassed him in front of his wife and everyone else in the tavern. Maria and I had an ongoing relationship that I purposefully kept ill defined much to her frustration. Maybe that’s why she stormed off looking mad instead of thanking me for throwing the guy out who tried to touch her.
When the excitement died down I settled back on my barstool only to have the guy next me comment about the newcomer sitting across the room. My first thought was that I was hallucinating, the second was that with a big world to travel what in the Hell brought her to the tiny isolated spot I now call home. Really not believing what I was seeing I walked over to her table.
“Abby, what are you doing in San Miguel?” I asked feeling as nervous as a teenager standing in front of the head cheerleader with her friends listening.
“Daniel?” She said in disbelief looking small and fragile sitting at a table alone. “I’m lost, I can’t find William, and after walking the streets all afternoon looking for him I see these evil looking men stabbing another man in some alleyway. They came after me and I turned and ran until I saw people coming out the front door to this place and prayed it would be safe.
It was then that I knew I should walk away and leave her to her own devices. Hell, I was in good enough with the owner of the bar that I could get him to throw her out back on the street if I asked. As I was about to turn and walk away, the feelings I thought buried froze me in place and made me sit down with her.
“All right Abby,” I began, “take a deep breath and calm down, then start from the beginning.”
As Abby composed herself, I explained to the small crowd that had gathered around who she was. Both the expatriates and the tavern staff knew about Abby from our long evenings trading stories about what had driven each of us into exile. Still Luis and Maria looked astonished to have the very person sitting before them. When Abby looked just about ready to tell her story Maria saw fit to get her a drink, the idea of having my ex-wife and the current lady in my life so near was enough to occupy my mind despite the strange circumstances of her arrival and the danger she was in.
Abby and her husband William were staying at the newly opened resort called the Crystal Palace located to the south of San Miguel. As the day began Abby and William had gone their separate ways with her scheduled until noon in the resort spa and William playing golf. They were to meet again for lunch but when that time came Abby found herself alone in the restaurant. After learning from one of the resort staff William had left for town alone Abby caught the last bus of the day and began searching a steadily descending order of bars and nightclubs hoping to find her husband.
While walking up a side street Abby saw men jump out of a dark car and assault a man walking by. Instinctively, she jumped into some shadows and watched the man tortured for information then after he broke another man emerged from the car. The new man Abby described was huge with a bald head, wearing a white suit and took great joy in humiliating the poor soul covered in his own blood.
With tears rolling down her eyes Abby said when the man in the white suit finally shot the other guy in the head letting him fall to the ground she could not stop herself from screaming. That attracted the attention of the other men who started walking toward the shadows she was hiding in forcing her to run.
“Did any of the men actually see you?” I asked knowing that I could not be that lucky with her getting away before they saw her.
“Worse,” she whispered finally looking at me, “I dropped my bag with all my identification in it.”
Something about Abby’s story just did not make sense but it was clear that during her wandering she had stumbled into the dangerous part of town and witnessed one of the local crime lords, a lowlife named Spider eliminating a rival. Spider was a newcomer to the area and was in the middle of a small war with other crime bosses building his own underworld empire across the entire Baja peninsula. He was utterly ruthless and by coming into Luis’s bar Abby had made us all targets.
Luis quickly rushed Abby out of sight and into his apartment located on the second floor above his bar. If one thing could be said of the regulars that came to Luis’s tavern, it was the fact that we all were loyal; Luis would not tolerate a person’s presence otherwise, so Luis and I felt safe trying to figure out how we could save Abby and ourselves from Spider’s wrath.
As the night dragged on with Abby asleep in the spare bedroom Luis came up with a plan. I was hesitant, the plan was dangerous and not completely thought out. “Daniel, my friend,” Luis said staring at me. “I know you still have feelings for that woman but this is your home now and we are the closest thing you have to a family. You must decide which is more important.”
Several hours later during the dark and early hours of the morning Luis promised Abby that he would locate her missing husband and get him to safety. Her distraction over the subject of William and his location was great enough to have me wondering despite the dire circumstances we found ourselves. I didn’t have time to think about much as we made our way down the eerily quiet streets. Once on my boat we slipped out of the small harbor and quickly met the storm.

By the time I had my boat secured to the docks and locked up the storm that had been such a pain had passed on leaving a bright sunny day in its place. Stepping off the dock and on the gravel beach carrying my backpack I gave one last look at my boat, I had named her Fool’s Errand when I bought her years ago and hoped my choice would not come and bite me in my ass.
“Shouldn’t we be safe here, no one can see us from the ocean.” She said pointing behind me to the rocky pillars that completely hid the small cove from any passing ships.
“No Abby, the bad guys will be looking up the Baja coast all the way to San Diego for us. With San Miguel in the middle of nowhere the first place they will look is the resort and with no place to hide in town your only option is on someone’s boat. Spider has crossed too many lines and the federales and others are out to make an example of him so he will move heaven and earth to find and eliminate you and anyone else close by.”
It was easy to tell the weight of Abby’s inadvertent adventure was bearing down on hard on her. “So what are we going to do?” She asked.
“Well, see that dirt road leading away from the docks and going over those hills? About three miles further east is a nice place for us to hide while Luis makes a few phone calls, all we have to do is lay low.” I said not feeling quite as confident as I hope I sounded.
Abby’s eyes grew large when she saw my M-4 assault rifle slung over my shoulder and the holstered pistol at my side. “Yes we will need these,” I said walking past her, “it will take Luis some time to organize help, and the bad guys may get lucky and find us first.” She quickly threw her own backpack over her shoulders and caught up with me. While we needed the weapons for protection I double-checked the satellite phone I had stored in one of the cargo pockets of my pants, for Luis’s plan to work it was the most important item.
Our destination was an abandoned copper mining complex situated in a small valley with empty trailers and other buildings that had served as barracks, offices, stores, warehouses and recreation rooms for the miners that were bused out to the site. After cresting one last hill the complex and the road leading to the actual mining pit in a neighboring valley were visible. With her in shock of our final destination, I fished out a pair of binoculars and scanned the hills surrounding the complex and the main road that semis had used to haul the ore back toward civilization. The place looked like a latter-day ghost town, empty of all human habitation.
A walk through the complex confirmed the place was still deserted and after nightfall, she and I sat on an observation deck mounted to the top of the main office building eating army field rations by moonlight. Much to my discomfort, our topic of conversation stayed on our marital misadventures.
Abby and I met in college and quickly fell in love. Like most couples, our first couple of years were a struggle but we managed easing into a comfortable life. The problems came with Abby's constant desire for more; she wanted a bigger house, newer cars, and a lavish lifestyle that I thought was more trouble than it was worth. She became more ambitious, relentlessly pursuing her own career goals so she could get the things she wanted while I took satisfaction in what was around me. Almost as quickly as we fell in love, we drifted apart to the point our marriage evaporated into nothingness. William, who she had dated before me, reentered her life at some point leaving me to enjoy my simple life unencumbered by her desires; the trouble was I still loved her.
Even now, with Abby sitting across from me illuminated by moonlight dressed in a t-shirt, and shorts Maria had left on my boat I felt a familiar but uncomfortable desire. “Daniel,” she suddenly said looking at me, “why did you wait two years after our divorce to leave town? It surprised everyone including me.”
If she wanted honesty, I would give it to her. “What was I suppose to do Abby? I couldn’t walk ten feet in town without bumping into you, William, or his family. But the main reason was when your father-in-law dropped by my apartment all smiles telling me that since I had control of my dad’s land after his passing I needed to get over the part of the grieving ex-husband and work with him to develop the land or sell it to him outright. So I sold it to his competitor for half the price, left town, and eventually found my way to San Miguel. “
“I’m sorry Daniel, when things went bad for us I didn’t realize what I was doing many times until it was too late. I wish there was some way for you to forgive me.” She said, with the moonlight in her eyes and me feeling things I had tried so hard to forget. I don’t know who was the first to reach for the other but neither of us turned away and we made love under the stars.
Later a warm breeze blew across our spent bodies as we lay holding each other. The steady breathing I knew so well from our married years told me she was asleep. I did not want to move but the faint rumble of my satellite phone forced me pull away and dig it out from the cargo pocket of my pants. It was Luis calling to tell me all the pieces were in place and to expect visitors tomorrow afternoon. He also filled me in on certain other elements that would ensure our visitors would behave themselves. I looked at Abby after putting the phone away and hoped she could forgive me for putting her in such danger.
As Abby and I fled San Miguel, the plan I explained to her had us hiding out until proper authorities could eliminate Spider allowing her and William to return safely to the States. The real plan required Abby being bait to draw Spider out of town, away from his safe territory and eliminated. Luis had all sorts of contacts both above and below the law and got word out that a witness held at a secure location had seen Spider murder someone recently. A ransom would guarantee her turnover and any material that would also implicate Spider in the murder.
Knowing Spider’s desire to be involved in the cleaning up of all messes it was a certainty he would be along with the group that would drive out to claim Abby. If Luis’s plan worked a team of snipers in the hills surrounding the mining complex would take out Spider and his bodyguards.
The biggest problem was when I leaned from Luis's phone call that his prime contact in all this turned out to be Spider’s second in command, a guy who went by the name Rafael. Luis somehow knew Rafael did not like Spider’s extreme activities and wanted him out of the way before he jeopardized their more mundane but profitable business practices.
When Abby learned of the plan, she slapped me hard and began crying uncontrollably, I grabbed her by the arms and almost had to slap her back to calm her down. “Listen Abby, no one asked you to come to San Miguel and you’re coming to Luis’s after witnessing that man’s murder put everyone at the bar in danger, not to mention William and your family back in the States because if that bastard can’t get you he will get the people you care about.” Abby froze and looked at me as if I was insane, which given the trust I was putting in Luis’s contact, a criminal in his own right, I very well could have been.
Hours later Abby and I watched a civilian hummer heading our way down the old desert road that had once connected the mining complex with the rest of the word. As part of the ploy, I had talked her into allowing me to tape her wrists together and place a gag over her mouth. With her standing in front of me facing the oncoming vehicle, I tightly held her arms feeling her entire body tremble in fear.
The civilian hummer was all glossy black except the grill, which was polished chrome that to me looked uncomfortably like a grinning skull. It pulled to a stop twenty feet in front of us and for several seconds Abby and I watched the desert dust settle on the vehicle. At one time all four doors opened and Spider and three of his goons stepped out scanning the surroundings before settling their unnerving gazes on us.
“Is this the lady who mistook my actions with a business associate the other night?” Spider asked in English that was without a hint of accent.
“Yes it is and you and she can discuss what actually happened after you hand over the money.” I said holding Abby tighter for my own sake. Spider slowly raised one arm showing off a gym bag with the pay-off money for Abby inside.
“Okay,” I said trying to sound far cooler than I actually was, “I’ll walk ten feet with the lady and you then throw the bag. I’ll grab the bag and leave you the lady. After I’m safely away you will get the tapes where she talks about you killing your business rival’s son. That way we all can avoid needless bloodshed.”
Just as I was wondering if something had gone wrong four shots rang out and like puppet strings being cut Spider’s goons fell to the ground dead. Spider moved the wrong way at the last second and the round meant for him hit the hood of the hummer. For such a large guy Spider rolled to the ground and was up and running far faster than I thought possible to disappear amongst the abandoned buildings.
“This really sucks beyond belief.” I said to myself while pushing Abby the other way and into a nearby storage shed. I quickly cut the tape that bound her wrists and pushed her into the shadows. “Stay here,“ I said handing her my pistol then moving my rifle into my arms that had been slung across my back during our meeting. “Unless I yell first shoot anything that comes through that door.”
After moving the firing select lever to semi I stormed out of the shed hoping that Luis and the rest of the cavalry would arrive before Spider killed Abby and me but until then I had to try to kill him first.
Mainly following the vague footprints Spider had left in the dust and dirt on the ground I moved cautiously but quickly, my rifle raised to eye level, scanning side to side for movement, the rifle butt pressed hard against my shoulder and my finger on the trigger. Taking advantage of the cover and concealment offered by the neatly aligned abandoned buildings I did my best to stay low and pressed up against the metals walls. Moving out into the open between the miniature streets and avenues was a big worry I tried to solve by attempting combat rolls I was taught long ago during my enlistment in the army. Whether my Drill Instructors, long since retired, would recognize them was in serious doubt.
After maneuvering through the dusty streets for what seemed like hours, I took a moment to pause up against a corner wall of one of the abandoned barracks. While listening I heard the faint sound of gravel crunched under someone’s feet as that person moved. The sound hopelessly echoed off the metals walls all around me but I did catch sight of dust drifting from behind a building nearby. With absolutely no wind to speak of I took the chance that it was Spider stirring up the dust with his movements. Getting as low to the ground as possible I sighted my rifle at a point I thought would be center of mass for Spider and hoped the bastard would not double back.
With my finger on the trigger I waited, a bead of sweat took that moment to roll down the side of my face disturbing me enough that when Spider’s huge bulk appeared my shot hit him in his right arm blowing blood and meat in his face and over his suit. Still the bastard held onto the large caliber revolver he had in his other hand and after jumping backwards I could hear him scrambling away again.
By the time I was able to get up and safely to the other side of that building wanting to avoid a possible ambush Spider was long gone but finding him this time only meant following the trail of blood.
Given the amount of blood Spider was leaving on the ground, I figured I must have hit an artery in his arm. The trail was clear and solid for such a distance that I began to wonder how much blood the man had in him. The trail finally ended at the busted door of the last barracks trailer with him just inside, propped up against the far wall. With my rifle aimed straight at his head I slowly walked up the small set of steps and inside.
Spider’s normally white suit was drenched red in his blood while his face was deathly pale. Still he was alert and watched me enter the trailer, his good hand still clasping the nickel-plated revolver by his side.
“I knew it would end up this way, those bastards said deep cover would be an adventure, that I would not be held accountable, that they would pull me out before things got too intense,” he said to me smiling slightly. “I guess you should go ahead and finish the job. I won’t be a scapegoat for those Washington assholes.”
“I don’t think so, I’ll let my friends handle you.” I said since I was not about to kill a man in cold blood.
Spider just laughed and in a flash raised his revolver to his head and blew the top off.
When I returned to the location I left Abby I found her being held by a man who looked exactly like Fidel Castro but dressed in tailored khaki pants and lime green polo shirt standing next his own hummer that brought him and his bodyguards. The only thing missing was the cigar, AK-47, and a set of golf clubs. I figured it was Spider’s second-in-command, Rafael, and I carefully avoided raising my rifle since I figured his own bodyguards gathered around him would shoot me instantly if I looked threatening.
“Is the hijo de puta dead? He asked his face deadly serious while clutching Abby very closely.
“Yeah, he blew his own brains out after I winged him seriously, said he would not be taken alive.” Was all I said figuring I best keep the other stuff to myself. “What’s left of him is four rows over in one of the old buildings, just follow the blood.” I added figuring they would want to see the remains.
Rafael visibly relaxed and smiled, so much that his likeness now made me think of a laid back Fidel that sold ocean front condos in Miami. “Very good my friend,” he said gently turning Abby around and kissing her hand then releasing her, luckily Abby kept her mouth shut and ran over to me. Two of his bodyguards broke off to check the body while Rafael whipped out a similar satellite phone to the one I carried and made a phone call. After someone answered, he jumped back inside his vehicle so we could not hear.
Minutes later the two bodyguards returned, one was carrying Spider’s revolver, and the other what looked to be a ring that I somewhat remember him wearing. Rafael inspected both and images on a camera phone carried by one of the bodyguards.
“Here my friend," Rafael said tossing me the gym bag full of money Spider had brought, “you earned this. We need to be leaving now but tell my brother Luis not to be such a snob, he hasn’t been a cop for years so he can dirty his hands and come see me sometimes. Please join him, bring Maria as well I haven’t seen my cousin in long time either.” With that, he jumped in his hummer and they drove away, taking an overland route well off the only road.
One hour later the complex was swarming with police from a bunch of different agencies including two disgruntled Americans who had DEA written all over them. Different agents interviewed both Abby and me countless times but never did the two Americans say a word, they hovered like weak wraiths unable to affect what was going on. Luis finally showed up in the second wave of arrivals and it was clear that my friend who had mastermind of this plan was still a force to be reckoned with among the police. I never knew any of his real history in all the years I had known the man, much less that Maria was his cousin. It was quite a day for learning things but the final revelation would wait until we returned to San Miguel.
A police helicopter flew Abby and me back but my boat, Fool’s Errand, was sailed back by employees from the marina, as a favor to Luis, where she was docked. Her absence forcing me to bunk with one of my expat friends whose sailboat was usually docked close to mine. Abby in turn was driven back to the resort and the next day Luis informed me about the fate of William, Abby’s missing husband. She and I discussed that on the patio outside Luis’s bar the following morning.
“Abby, what were you really doing in San Miguel? Luis found out that William is back home in North Carolina, if fact he was looking for you, something about you disappearing after a misunderstanding.”
Abby looked away from me, with the breeze coming off the ocean blowing her blonde hair in a way that it was all I could do to keep my mind on the answers I needed. “Some misunderstanding,” she finally said, “caught the bastard with the wife of the couple that lives next door to us. I went crazy and left the house with him chasing after me naked, I’m sure the homeowner’s association will have words with us eventually about that.”
“Okay, but why did that bring you to San Miguel?” I asked knowing the answer but feeling completely different from the moment I first saw her in Luis’s tavern.
Abby looked straight back at me grabbing my hands. “Even before I saw William screwing Marsha I was doing a lot of thinking about us. I was so wrong about you and our marriage. After I caught William, I figured I had nothing left to lose so after speaking with a few of your old friends I found out where in the world you finally settled and came looking for you. I made up the story about William and I being on vacation so I would not look so pathetic in case you rejected me outright. Although I realize now I should have come clean after I stumbled across Spider. But Daniel I know we still have something after that night we made love on the deck, so how about it, can we go home and try again?”
Like an idiot, I had willingly put my life on hold for Abby for six years hoping she would take me back. Had she come to this realization sometime earlier I would be flying back with her and feeling like the luckiest guy in the world. However, the last couple of days had convinced me that even with its faults I had truly found my home.
“Abby, I’m so sorry you but you should go back home and figure things out with William, I realized now things have changed far too much between us. Its all far more complicated than I can explain but it boils down that he’s got you and I’ve got Mexico and I think that is best for us both.” We both knew it was over after that so Abby and I kissed like long lost friends, which in a way is what we are but she was soon in a van traveling back to the resort.
A few hours later, I drifted over to Maria who arrived at the tavern to begin her night and who was in a storeroom checking off a list of items. She looked at me angrily still suspicious of my intentions but the smile on her face after I opened the small box containing the ring I hastily bought that day gave me my answer to the question I was about to ask.


Pixel Peeper said...

Your story really pulled me in - so much, indeed, that I decided in the movie, Abby would be played by Scarlet Johanson and Selma Hayek would get the role of Maria.

Still thinking about Daniel...

Beach Bum said...

Pixel Peeper: The song I pulled the story from is one of my favorites, the song was recorded in 1984 and to this day will stop me in my tracks.

Selma and Scarlet are definite winners in my book.

Marja said...

had to come back today to read the rest of your intriguing story as I got interrupted yesterday. A little romance with an x wife in a blood curdling story. You got me hooked. I liked the sensible end as well. Cool

Beach Bum said...

Marja: Yeah, its a little long but you should have seen it before I cut it down. Glad you liked it.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

More good stuff I've been taking in at clips... treats. Thx again BB.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Very Tarantino-like. I especially like the succinct and dead-pan description of the way that that douche-bag killed himself. Of course, being that I'm also a fan of classic cinema, I was thinking more along the lines of Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum in the starring roles.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Though she came a little earlier than the other 2, I've decided - Dolores Del Rio as Maria. Google her, dude. She was HOT!!!!!

Beach Bum said...

Gwen: When I had far more detail in the story I almost cut it up into chapters. The relationship between Daniel and Maria was explained far better with Maria showing her anger at Dan. Also, some of the other expats were given names and had parts in the story.

Will: I actually had it far more detailed with Dan killing the guy in a dramatic battle but that was two pages all by itself. It was simply too long for a story that was already longer than I wanted.

I googled Dolores and yes, she was smoking.

Randal Graves said...

Another winner, sir, but you can't fool us, I know you based this on Sanford and his Argentinian lady.

TomCat said...

As ususl, Beach, an incredible tale.

Beach Bum said...

Randal: Actually the good governor was recently down in Key West with his Argentine lady friend.

Tomcat: Thank you, I just wish I was my main character in way.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

With all of the beautiful Hispanic actresses today, it's easy to forget about the rampant discrimination (type-casting being the least of it) that this population faced in Hollywood (not to mention in society as a whole). Dolores Del Rio was in this sense, double b, kind of a Jackie Robinson/Sidney Poitier figure. I can only imagine how big of a star she'd be today......P.S. Sorry for the tangent.

Naj said...

Beach; have you per chance published any booksÉ

I`d love to pre-purchase if you will :)

Beach Bum said...

Will: No problem at all, Hispanic women have always fascinated me with their fiery personalities and sensual looks. That might be a stereotype but dammit the Hispanic ladies I have known were like that.

Naj: Thanks, still working on it, maybe someday.

MadMike said...

Another triumph my friend. You have come a long way. I read this in three shifts and loved every word.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Two words, double b; Michelle Rodriguez......P.S. I wouldn't mind getting "Lost" with her.

Beach Bum said...

Madmike: You know I actually believe this could have been book length. I edited out a bunch of descriptive stuff as well as the incident between the obnoxious middle-aged tourist that hassled Maria causing Dan to toss him out the bar and into the water.

At one time, I was foolish enough to believe I could have kept this baby under 3000 words.

I do have one problem now, I'm out of story ideas for the most part.

Will: Hell Yeah!!! Truth be told I am just as partial to Indian and Arab ladies. Hell for the new Miss USA I'd almost convert.