Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 36
The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.
“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”
The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.
“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”
“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”
Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.
“Bless you twice, Tomás.”
Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.
Nobody else was visible on the street for at least two blocks. All the doors in the light industrial/warehouse district were closed and bolted. It was as quiet as a Sunday morning. They were alone, but were being observed by security cameras on every building.
This quiet stretch of Avenida de Negocios was an industrial park, of sorts. Six automobile chop shop and smuggling operations, three drug labs, one counterfeit ring’s printing plant, two film studios cranking out pornographic movies that would make the Pacific Fleet blush, one weapons arsenal owned by the Chinese military and one very long and professionally constructed tunnel that was used for a variety of purposes, were all housed in this two-block stretch.
One of the most successful and—by necessity—corrupt civil engineering firms in Mexico had designed the tunnel. It was the same company that had built the Mexico City subway system. Their engineers had also constructed a similar illicit tunnel running underneath the border from Juarez, Mexico, deep into El Paso, Texas.
Laura and Davis could see none of this frenzied activity. The street looked quiet and benign. To their eyes it was deserted, but alerts had already been issued in seven different buildings and armed men were standing by to take care of the two strangers, if need be.
Laura pulled her ticket from her pocket.
“162 Avenida de Negocios. This is the train station, as Molina called it.”
“Laura, this is too spooky. Let’s find another way back,” he said as he looked up and down the empty street.
“We can’t,” she said. “This is it, here and now.”
She walked up to the front of number 162 and pushed the door buzzer. She held it down.
“Let’s get their attention,” she said, with a weary smile on her face. Her jaw was swelling noticeably, but the bleeding in her mouth had stopped.
She pressed on the button for thirty seconds. Inside the building, the loud and obnoxious klaxon was irritating everybody. Finally, a large man with a black shoulder holster opened the door. The holster was empty. Odds were against that he’d forgotten it at home this morning.
“Si?” That was all he said.
Laura moved closer to the door and looked up into his face.
“We’re here to catch a train. Molina sent us.”
The man looked down at her and at Davis. He gave no indication that he’d understood a single word other than Molina. He held up a finger signaling them to wait and then he closed the door. Laura immediately pushed hard on the buzzer again. With her left hand, she pounded on the metal door.
“Let us in or I’ll stand here yelling until somebody calls the police about the crazy American lady screaming in the streets.”
“Somehow, I don’t think that will happen,” said Davis as he looked up and down the Avenida.
The door opened again, this time by a smaller man with sharp, reptilian features and darting black eyes. He spoke in short, nervous bursts of English.
“What do you want? Are you lost? Go back downtown. Go shopping. See the bullfights.”
He started to push the door closed again, but Laura shoved it back open.
“Listen, Shorty. Molina sent us. We have tickets. If we go away, we go back to Molina. I don’t think he will be happy to know that you are ignoring his orders.” She was, literally and figuratively, in his face. He could feel her breath hot on his skin.
He looked up into Laura’s eyes, studying her resolve. These were the first yanquis who had ever knocked on his door. The usual passengers were other Mexicans, or the odd Chinese or Middle Eastern.
“You have tickets? Let me see them. Hurry, hurry.” He stuck out his hand, snapping his fingers.
She held up her ticket, just out of his reach. She wasn’t about to let this little lizard get his hands on it. Davis held up his ticket. The small man scanned his eyes rapidly over the papers. They had been endorsed by Molina. They looked legitimate to him. He opened the door wider to allow them inside.
“Come in, quickly. Hurry. Don’t just stand there.”
Laura and Davis walked through the door. The man with the complexion of an iguana cast a quick glance up and down the street, then slammed and bolted it behind them.
Standing off to either side of the door were two men holding small, dark, and very efficient machine pistols.
The interior of the building was a steel beam skeleton covered by a skin of LA garage doors. All the windows had been covered with duct tape and cardboard. A number of floor lamps without shades provided the only light.
The place was empty, except for a few desks and chairs by the far wall. In the opposite corner stood a metal shed. It was the kind you would buy at Sears and stick in your backyard to house the lawn mower and garden tools.
The small man with the terrible skin walked swiftly toward the desks, leading Laura and Davis. The two gunmen brought up the rear of this speedy procession. They were silent, but kept their eyes on the two visitors, ready to act at the slightest provocation.
“Sit down. Give me your tickets,” said the small man. Holding out one hand to take the tickets, he pointed with the other to the wooden chairs, clones of the ones in Molina’s reception area. In Spanish he told one of the gunmen to check the shopping bag. He did, saw no weapons and resumed his position behind them.
The Mexican sat down behind the desk. He studied the papers and eyed his two guests suspiciously. This was something new and he didn’t like anything new. Changes made him nervous. Being a type A personality made him wary—and being wary kept him alive.
He put down the tickets and pulled a cellular phone from his shirt pocket.
“They look okay, but I’m going to call Señor Molina,” he said.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said Laura. The two men with the guns moved closer.
“Oh, and why not, Señorita?” The small man smiled at her and tilted his head to one side, like a dog that is trying to understand a spoken command.
“Señor Molina will not appreciate the interruption,” Laura told him. “He is entertaining at the moment.”
Laura rolled her eyes and leaned forward in her chair. She spoke to him like he was a child. “Have you ever been in Molina’s photography studio, my little friend?”
“Of course, many times,” he lied.
“Then you know about that lovely brass bed he has there, with all the pillows?” Laura smiled at him and winked.
“Yes, of course. Oh—oh, entertaining. I get it.” He grinned widely, showing a mouthful of third-world teeth, gaps and gold. “Yes, entertaining. I like that.”
“Molina was on that bed when I left him and I don’t think he’s going to leave it anytime soon,” Laura added.
The ugly little man paused, scratched his chin and looked at Laura and Davis. He laughed a small, nervous laugh, imagining Molina “entertaining.”
“Okay. He signed them, right?” He wasn’t going to interrupt the boss.
“Right,” said Laura, confidently. “Now, can we get going?” She didn’t like this place or the people in it. She would rather take her chances with Dominic.
“You’ll have to wait a few minutes,” said Lizard Boy, as she had began to think of him.
“Why? You have our tickets,” interjected Davis. “Why the delay?”
“There has been a problem at the border,” he said, “at the crossing. Some stupid mules and Vanistas. Some smugglers, fools with big vans and machine guns, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” He held out his hands in front of him like he was firing the .50 caliber machine gun.
“The Vanistas made a small war with the yanqui customs. Everything is a big mess there now.” This was not a good day in the smuggling business.
“We go right under the customs building. We must be careful. So, we sit and you sit. Would you like something to drink while we wait for things to open up? A coffee, perhaps? Carlos over there used to work at Starbucks.” He pointed to one of the heavily armed men on the other side of the room.
“Make it two, I guess,” added Davis.
Lizard Boy smiled, showing a row of five gold teeth in front, on the top. On the bottom there was a gap where three teeth had been. It looked like a pink coal chute. He leaned back in his chair and yelled.
“Carlos, dos Frappuccinos! You guys want whipped cream on those?” At some point in his life he must have been a waiter—probably before all the dental work.
“You only live once,” said Laura, then she regretted it.
“Con crema!” yelled the little man. “Dos, no, tres Frappuccinos, por favor.”
He looked back at them and flashed his golden smile. “I love those things. On a hot day, better than sex. I hope Carlos never gets killed. He’s a great barista.”
The minutes passed slowly as they spooned and sipped their way through the slushy coffee confections. The second hand on the wall clock moved as if was mired in its own Frappuccino. Lizard Boy tried to make small talk. He was a dull little man, both Laura and Davis decided. He rarely spoke in sentences longer than five words and at such a pace that it made the listener wonder if the small man was on fire. At one point he left them at the desk and scurried off for another round of coffees. They were alone, except for the two silent men with the machine pistols who watched them every second.