morning, third day in, his coterie toured a chassis assembly
line for a hands-on session. At the factory, they were on
to Cubby immediately; it was impossible to disguise forty
hours worth of marathon imbibing; Cubby's exhalations alone
could have powered the generator. But, all the contacts were
solicitous to him, overbearing and ingratiating.. "...we
happreciate jore help, Mr. Deeler, we hope chu like Mexico..."
as he stumbled grandly over pallets, dropped handfuls of thrust
bearings, gibbered Taco Bell Spanish, took occasional sips
from the tequila fifth stashed inside his sports coat. At
the midday break, they converged upon a famous beef restaurant
in Cuatitlan, where Cubby tried to play host. The group allowed
him and his gregarious stupor all the space he wanted, especially
the Orientals in their fierce blue suits, who couldn't drink
their way into anything resembling self-confidence or find
much on the menu that didn't intimidate them. They all drank
beer, wine, scotch, but Cubby was miles ahead, thirty feet
over them. When lunch ended, one of the entourage, a Harvard-educated
Mexican named Hervin Araiza, suggested that Cubby and he repair
to the cantina to let the Japanese jitterbugs carry on at
the plant. Araiza was a slender, boyish-looking man in his
mid-thirties, an expert on tulip plunging joints, and Cubby
joined him gladly, flattered, assuming that Araiza was impressed
with him. In fact, Cubby Diller was the cut of American that
Araiza most despised; despised with the sort of serene totality
reserved for old-school Latinos and the mentally ill. Together,
they fired up Cuban Cohibas and drank and drank and drank,
neat shots of some oily, sweet liqueur made from mandarin
spoke in measured tones, and nothing he said made the slightest
reference to driveshafts. It turned out that he was obsessed
with politics, politics being the easiest and most profitable
job in Mexico, and though he was ideologically vague, spouting
the party-line of a leftist intellectual while dressing in
the imported loafers and slick technofabrics of the Mexican
bourgeois, his true agenda cropped between the second and
third Mandarin; "Mexico's a myth; you've heard that said?
But, it's a cohesive myth. That, combined with a crude sort
of realism makes up the legendary dichotomy of the people.
Determination and patience, those are our two greatest virtues;
and you see, they are not necessarily contradictions..."
sat facing Cubby, who had no idea what he was talking about.
Araiza removed several five-by-seven photographs from his
briefcase and laid them on the bar in a careful line, facedown,
with only the Kodak logo showing. "How strong's your
stomach, Mr. Diller?"
sinister tone was lost on the goofy, shit-faced American,
who grinned, as though his companion was performing a card
trick. Araiza continued, calmly: "There's six gentlemen
pictured here and one lady. Can you pick her out, without
screwed up his face and pointed to the last shot. "Not
bad," said Araiza, flipping over the photograph. "Most
people would have pointed to the middle one."
girl in the photo was about fifteen, wearing an expensive
party dress. She'd been dead for at least six months; there
was a bloodless bullet hole in her forehead, and her face
was completely mummified, striated and black; her mouth was
gaping open. Cubby stared down her surrealistic maw and counted
her teeth. Araiza said, "They find these kinds of girls
in the desert all the time; they're party dolls from the traficantes,
they're used up and quickly discarded; we came upon this one
when we were searching for a manufacturer's rep from a sintered
metallics company out of New York. The rep was kidnapped on
a business trip to Mexico. His name was Manfred Muller, he
was from Syracuse. Here he is, number six..."
took the snapshot obediently, shocked into mechanics by the
mummy girl and her beautiful white teeth. The second picture
showed a hooded man holding a mini-Uzi equipped with a silencer;
he was standing over the body of a fat, dead executive-type
who was still wearing his peculiar blindfold, Rayban sunglasses
painted with nail polish. Here, there was plenty of blood,
and some plump blue sausages that were probably intestines.
Araiza flipped the other photos one by one. Each showed a
corpse, all well-dressed, some hog-tied, some dismembered.
One hung from the window of a blue Mercedes 190 with a bullet-riddled
face. "Rental car; 9 mm. damage is not something normally
covered by Avis."
blinked rapidly. His head was spinning: despite the gory pictures,
Araiza appeared to be making jokes. He gulped at his drink.
Incongruously, Jethro Tull came up on the sound system, punctuating
the tearful boleros. Araiza's voice remained steady, unruffled.
He went on: "This is the handiwork work of the Union
Patritico; a Tzeltale Indian group intending to be the
first post-Communist ethic uprising of the twenty-first century.
They're headquartered in Chiapas, but operate mostly here
the D.F., where the hunting's better. You see, they abduct
and execute foreign businessmen; Americans mainly, that's
their 'thing', their 'statement'. These assassinations are
not viewed as a long-term political strategy, but rather,
redress for five hundred years of exploitation. Already this
year? Sixteen. Six of the bodies were found by local army
units. The rest are still out there somewhere, turning to
leather in the desert. Being from Chiapas, originally, I am
obviously in a position at least to know what's going on,
though the guerillas tend to distrust anything having to do
with civil society. Not that one can't understand their viewpoint,
as I say; the President's credibility is not very high...
most recently, in an attempt to pacify the rebels, the federals
spent almost sixty million pesos building them basketball
courts." Araiza shook his head, bemused. "Thousands
of concrete basketball courts, all across the country, each
with a ten- foot, regulation hoop. Only thing, Mexico's Indian
population averages five-foot-three. They work fourteen hours
a day, on hardly any food. And if that's not sadistic enough,
the only sport the Indians understand is soccer! That's the
only sport they want to play! They don't even know the rules
of basketball; you should watch them try to play it sometimes!
On their new, regulation-sized concrete courts! They all throw
underhanded, like grandmothers!"
clearly, slender Ariaza was trying to lighten things up. He
mugged and demonstrated the peasants' grandmotherly free-throw,
over and over again, until Cubby was poleaxed into the new
mood and began to chortle, mimicking Araiza's motion, tossing
an imaginary ball, upsetting the drinks and scattering the
corpse photographs onto the cool Saltillo tiles. Araiza gathered
them up quickly, patted them dry, and slipped them inside
a soot-colored envelope. He passed the envelope to Cubby,
murmuring gently, "I would like you to take these images
back to your directives, please, Mr. Diller. They must understand
that a world exists down here beside cheap labor and talking
promptly paid the check, and at the door, smiling, turned
to Cubby and said, "You know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking
I should make a business, negotiating with these terrorists,
these U.P. What's your opinion? Being from Chiapas, I grew
up with some of them. I'm Harvard educated, and they respect
that. They won't listen to reason, but like all men, they'll
listen to money. Me, I'm a free-market crusader. Mexicans
have a saying, Kindness is free, but it's not cheap. If companies
will continue to send top executives to Mexico, they might
someday need a mediator to save their lives. God forbid, VelCor
might wind up as my first client! Here, I will give you a
card to include with those terrible photographs, in case it
should ever become necessary. Who knows?"
handed Cubby his plunging joints business card, but on the
back, he had written a private number with the words: "100
k, US, per negotiation."