Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter Two

From a distance San Miguel de Allende looked like an impressionist painting. Paco pointed the city out as the road crossed a small dam at the far end of a lake.

“That’s San Miguel, senor,” he announced with pride, pointing across the water.

“Nice lake,” I replied, groggy after a short nap in the back seat.

“It’s too polluted to swim in,” Paco replied casually. “They keep saying that they are going to put in a new sanitation plant and it will clean everything up, but you know how it is.”

“Manana,” I said and laughed. The tequila and beers had leveled out my mood and I felt almost normal, at least as normal as possible given the circumstances.

I lay back down across the seat, took a swig of cactus liquor, and pondered those circumstances. I’d been banished from the business by my partner, Don White. He said he didn’t want me back until I changed my habits and gave up booze.
Lee Michaels, my dead client’s ex, had assembled an iron clad alibi and had lawyered up, so it looked like Detective Julio Ramirez and the LAPD were right, I was the fuck up this time. Our firm’s name made the LA Times, and not in a good way.

Don made it simple. Get the fuck out of the country and stay there until further notice. His brother, some Hollywood type, had a house in San Miguel de Allende. That would be my new residence until the whole thing blew over, and I had cleaned up my act. I had no leg to stand on, so I staggered out of LAX in the middle of the night.

I dozed off but the noise of the road as we arrived in the city woke me. I sat up saying, “What’s with the noise, Paco?”

“Oh, you mean the cobblestone streets? All the streets are like that in the central city, Senor Nick. The government declared San Miguel a national monument back in the 1920s to preserve its charm.”

“Nice,” I replied sarcastically, though gazing out the side window at the street I had to admit I was impressed.

There was a collage of colors; shades of tan, yellow, rust, all changing with the sun’s reflection. There were a thousand little shops selling everything from pottery to clothing to sundry items; at busy outdoor markets farmers were hawking fresh fruits, produce, and flowers. Mexican women were crouched on the sidewalk selling homemade tortillas and salsa. Galleries, antique stores, restaurants, and my beloved favorite enterprises, cantinas, appeared as we moved along. Lumped together, it looked like a party I was about to attend as the guest of honor.

“You’re smiling, Senor Nick,” Paco said as he looked in the rear view mirror.

“Yeah, I am. I think I’m going to get along just fine, Paco.” We both laughed.

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