Tag Archives: Mexico

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (The Dragon)

The dragon in the night.

I walked out of the dusty shop in Juarez with my two postcards and headed up the street. It was nearly noon, and the sun was thrusting down its fiery tentacles and burning the whole place up. At the end of the block, I turned the corner, passing by pharmacies and cheap-looking stores with posters and magazines and greasy smells.

At the end of the next block, I crossed the busy street. A bus was blocking traffic and I just moved with the crowd. A woman walked suspiciously close to me, and I moved away, over to a small square across the way where men were feeding a huge flock of pigeons.

I sat on a low wall and watched them tossing down dried corn on the ground or breadcrumbs or whatever it was. There were more buses clogging up the streets. I was glad I wasn’t driving, I would have gone mad.

Across the way from the square was a building made of dark brown brick, a smooth stone arch around the doorway. It was some kind of a palace for some king unlike me. It didn’t really look like a palace, but it was called a palace.

There was a mother walking with her two small boys. I sat on the wall taking pictures of all the surroundings like some lame tourist, and then felt odd so I stopped. I felt I was drawing attention to myself, and I did not want to do that, so I just sat there and watched, my head drooping down a bit out of habit, and I looked at the dirty ground.

I began to think if I was ever going to feel happy again. Seemed no matter how hard I pushed my thoughts and feelings in a positive direction, they just never went there. It was as if I was somehow always on the precipice between darkness and light and could just not get my leg over that highest rail. It was defeating and frustrating. Having to feign a smile for one’s whole life is not a good way to live, now is it, Anton Chico.

It was getting hotter still and I felt sticky and greasy all over. I wanted a shower. I thought of the girl in the room above the shop and wondered what she was doing right now. I pictured some UTEP college boy slobbering all over her and I imagined she hated it, but poppa didn’t hate it as he stood around downstairs collecting all that American dough. He loved it, but did he love her? I wouldn’t think so, but then again maybe they do things differently down here.

I stood up and walked away from the square and toward a park where they had a market going on. Rows of canvass covered cubicles spread out on the lawn crammed full of all kinds of cheap junk, trinkets, and souvenirs. I strolled through, but I did not buy anything. I was worried about exposing my wallet.

I kept on walking, back down to the main drag I came in on and turned back toward the border. When I saw a Mexican cop walking around, I got nervous. I heard stories about Mexican cops locking American dudes away in some crummy jail for months on end for doing barely anything. I was worried; Anton Chico is always worried and that is not a good state of mind to be in.

I turned into a kind of open mall. They had a Burger King there along with a bunch of dress shops. I just walked through, came out on the other side, and continued walking toward the border, the cop now behind me rather than in front of me.

Someone tugged on my sleeve. I looked down to see a small boy showing me his open hand and, in his palm, sat a few coins, foreign coins. He talked in Spanish but the only word I understood was “hamburger.” He wanted to buy a hamburger, but he did not have enough money. He looked sad, dirty, and desperate. I pulled out my wallet and gave him two dollars. He looked at me and grinned wide. I watched him run off.

I slipped into a colorful cantina in the shadows of a side street and ordered a drink at the bar.

“Beer. Tequila.”

I slammed the shot, chased it with the beer. The place wasn’t very crowded. There were a few Mexican dudes drinking at the end of the bar and talking amongst themselves. There was an older Mexican dude sitting closer to me sipping on a beer and watching Mexican TV.

Anton Chico could get carried away with the drink at times. It was tucked down in the alien DNA somewhere, and now I was spilling bills onto the bar. I downed shot after shot and began feeling very warm, as if my soul was walking on the surface of the sun. Then I got sad and wanted to cry about all that tarnished love that had gotten in the way of the perfect American dream. But it was no dream. It was brutal reality of the ball-shattering kind. I straightened myself out and returned to the present. The here and now. The only place one can be.

I wanted strange music and went to the dusty old jukebox and slipped in some coins, pushed some buttons, and then went back to my stool at the bar. A moment later, some weepy western tune came crawling out of the machine like a skeleton from a grave and I lit another cigarette as more desperados entered the cantina and clambered noisily around me.

Smoke and loud talk filled the joint. I could hear a cue ball being smacked around in the back, rolling across some beat up table and the desperados cheering it on.

Everyone was getting drunk and lucid and parading around the joint like they were on some great fucking holiday or junkie acid trip. It was becoming a fiesta. Anton Chico suddenly became sad again and huddled closer to the bar and bowed his head in painful drunken prayer.

In the dim reverence he let more of the strong drink run down to his belly and then to his brain where it sloshed around like a warm sea tide and as he looked out his blurry and wet eyes, through the smoke clouds, through the laughter coming from the mouths of those with bad teeth and unruly facial hair, he wondered, as he often did, if he had hit rock bottom once again.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at cerealaftersex.com. Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (A Mexican moon)

Border wall erected at Mexican border with United States.

The Inhuman Wall

I sat in the back of the hotel van as the Mexican man drove me to the border. He was playing Mexican music on the radio and speaking into a CB handset of some sort once in a while. He was telling his comrades on the other side: “Here I come with another gringo! Get your baseball bats ready you fuckers!” That’s what I thought.

It was at times like these that Anton Chico wished he had known how to speak Spanish, or at least understood some of it, especially with those bruisers on the other end waiting for me. I shifted uncomfortably in the seat and looked out the windows at all the chaos I had just come through myself earlier.

So, I should have turned there, but I didn’t, and the van pulled into a lot, and I thought to myself, “Well, this is it. They’re going to club me, and I’ll be done for. My keys, my camera, my wallet and I’ll wake up handcuffed to a bed with a dirty mattress in some dingy room with thin curtains and a half empty bottle of tequila sitting on a wobbly table and there sitting in the chair by the table will be this Mexican girl, big brown breasts exposed smoking a cigarette and staring at me like I was some sort of villain and then in would walk her John Boy in a stained wife beater t-shirt and having a big, black, bushy moustache and holding a switchblade and he’d come at me, cursing at me in Spanish, flailing the sharp blade all around in front of me, slicing the air, then he catches my cheek and I can feel the warm trickle start rolling down my damp face like a maroon tear and flow into my mouth.”

“We’re here,” the driver said as he always does, and he got out of the van, came around the other side and slid the door open. I stepped out and handed him $3.

“Gracias, senor,” he said, and got back into the van and drove away, leaving me there right on the razor’s edge between two very different nations. I was immediately approached by another man who had been waiting in the lot.

“You need senorita?” he asked. “Twenty dollars and I take you to senorita. Pretty senorita. My taxi right there, $20.”

“No, that’s all right,” I said. “I’m going to walk over the bridge. I want to go across on the bridge. Walk.” And I pointed toward the bridge. He looked at me like I was crazy. He seemed so disappointed.

I fell into the queue crossing over. I deposited 35 cents and stepped across. Now above me the Mexican flag painted the sky in the wind. I looked over the edge of the bridge and saw the muddy trickle of the Rio Grande piddle through. I saw the great barriers designed to keep the undesirables out rise up at its American shore. The sign deciphered: This is America. No illegal aliens, only illegal activity by our own is accepted.

Those barriers, those watch towers, those rows of razor wire are grim reminders of human selfishness, the God negative and gluttony, hypocritical pride and the suffering in its wake. On one side of the barriers, perfumed buttoned-up crooked sophistos drive to lunch in a polished Mercedes; on the other side, a starving man drinks himself senseless on a dirt road while the stars and the sadness spin. If only for an opportunity, but they don’t pass out opportunity like political payoffs.

Anton Chico suffers from a debilitating mental illness. When happiness should be sweet, it is sour for him. When love should be beautiful, it becomes a desperate crawl along the cold kitchen floor crying out in emotional pain for him. When human contact should be soft, it is like petting a dragon kitten of thorns for him. Everything hurts, everything aches, a narrow tunnel lined with dark light and harrowing thoughts of soiled innocence. It is physically exhausting and now I cannot get over the wall that they never did build. Such heartless, godless stupidity.

I was there. Stepping across the imaginary line that separates one way of life from another. The street was packed with people shuffling in and out, up and down. Ratty store fronts lined the way. Spanish language signs everywhere. Green and orange and sky-blue facades with painted black lettering. In every doorway stood someone desperate to sell me something. Desperate for the American money they could use on the American side to buy things made in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Honduras. To buy clothes sewn together by the sore fingers of their not-so-distant relatives in another, oppressed land just like their own. There were more offers to meet a “sweet senorita” upstairs for $20. “She’ll make you feel so good senor. Do you not want to feel good?”

There I was, sticking out like a flashing American beacon. They could smell me. They could see me in my red ball cap, my faded striped shirt and faded shorts exposing my whiteness, my 17 days unshaved and a Pentax film camera slung around my neck. And then I wondered as I walked, where were all the other Americans? Where were all the others just like me flowing across? But then I remembered, as I was crossing over, there were no others. I was immersed in the clan. It was a weekday, and these were all simple workers and shoppers streaming back into their homeland and I suddenly felt all alone, a poster on the white wall. I no longer felt so at ease.

I stepped inside a relatively safe looking shop; bare and dusty and two men hunched over the counter. One sprung on me as soon as I entered.

“What are you looking for? Some jewelry? Something nice for your girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Not anymore. Just some postcards. Do you have postcards?”

“Postcards! We have postcards. Here, I will show you.”

He took me to a wobbly spinner rack of muddy brass that held a few faded, dry looking postcards. I grabbed two.

“Fifty cents. Nothing else? No senorita?” He motioned with his head toward a staircase. “My daughter. You will like her.”

I set the postcards down on the counter along with one dollar. I stood for a minute thinking, looking out the grimy glass window to the hot, bustling street. The whole place smelled like greasepaint, and I could feel the greasepaint on my face. The grease clogging my fat pores. The sweat stinging my pale skin. I lifted the red ball cap from my head and wiped the wetness from my brow.

“I’m so sweaty,” I said to the man.

“Everybody sweaty. Don’t worry, she’ll take good care of you.”

I set twenty dollars on the counter and the man smiled. He motioned me to stand there while he went to the bottom of the stairs and shouted something up in Spanish. An agitated female voice shouted something back down. He came back over to me.

“Upstairs. You can go now.”

He tapped his worn wristwatch with the tips of his fingers.

“30 minutes,” he said, and I went to the stairs and climbed them slowly.

I heard crackling Mexican radio songs flowing down the stairwell. It grew hotter as I climbed, and I wondered how they tolerated it. At the top of the stairs was a doorway to the left. I looked in. It was a bathroom. Hot, not too clean. There was a short hallway and at the end of the hallway was a flowery curtain covering a doorway. I touched the soft fabric and pulled it aside. Inside the room was a single bed covered in crumpled white sheets. Next to the bed stood a small table and on the table a few glasses, a half-empty bottle of brown alcohol, and an ashtray littered with lipstick-stained butts.

The room had two windows spaced closely together. They were open, ratty, flowered sheets for curtains languidly flopping in the light breeze. It was very hot in the room and the sweat was pouring out of me. I saw a cloud of smoke spurt forth from another corner of the room. A girl was sitting in a chair, a yellow towel wrapped around her body, her hair was dark, flowing and wet. Her large brown eyes stared up at me in a kind of hopeless, loving and lost way. Her brown skin was dimpled with sweat or maybe water from a shower she just took. I watched her take a drag on the cigarette tightly clamped in her full, bare lips. She smiled after she exhaled and motioned for me to sit on the bed.

“Cigarette?” I asked her. I had my own, but for some reason I wanted one of hers.

She tossed me her pack and I pulled one out. She tossed me a book of matches and I lit it. I waved out the match and dropped it in the ashtray and then sat halfway in the windowsill next to her chair so that I could see inside and outside. I didn’t want to sit on the bed. I could feel the heat on my shoulder and the greasepaint smell was rising again. I could taste the smog on my tongue. Off in the distance I could hear traffic – honking horns, gunning motors, people yelling in Spanish. The girl sat emotionless, staring off into space as she held the cigarette between her fingers, the smoke flowing from the tip of it like a bluish whisper. We sat there in silence for half an hour looking at a Mexican moon that wasn’t even there. She didn’t seem to mind, and neither did I. I looked out the window one last time, and then I got up and walked out. She never said goodbye.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at cerealaftersex.com. Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (The First Instinct)

White brick wall near white chair in white room for Anton Chico experiment.
Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

Rough Ride to Juarez

I dreamt of having a collapsed lung and the doctors put me in a windowless white room and closed the door.

There was a table in the middle of the room, a white table and beside it a white chair. I did not sit down. It was cold in the room, like an air conditioner was on somewhere though I heard no sound.

One of the doctors came in with a clipboard and I told him I wanted to go to Juarez. He asked why. I told him I wanted to submerge myself in the various arts of indecency. He asked why. I thought about it, and I couldn’t tell him why. He asked why I had such demeaning goals. I told him I didn’t mean to; it was just what I thought about.

He wondered why I didn’t want to go to Mexico just to soak up the culture, go to a museum perhaps or take a bus tour. I told him I didn’t think about that. I told him I had a depraved mind sometimes. He scribbled something down on a pad, looked at me from over the top of his glasses and started walking toward the door. I asked him about my collapsed lung. He said I had worse problems than that and he’d be back in a few minutes.

When he returned, he was carrying a silver tray with a white towel draped over it. I glanced at what was in the tray and it was a needle, an injection of some sort. I asked him what that was for. He said he was going to give me a shot of morality and when I’d wake up, I wouldn’t be so damn depraved.

He had me sit in the white chair and roll up my sleeve. He rubbed a cotton ball across my upper arm and jabbed the needle right in there and pushed on the plunger without even warning me. I felt very warm at first and then very tired. I don’t remember much of anything else.

When I awoke from the dream it was very cold in the room. I fell asleep with the air conditioner on. Someone was knocking and there was a voice coming from the other side.


“Come back later please.”

Too damn polite Anton Chico. Why not just say: “Leave me the hell alone!”

I showered, got dressed and went down to the lobby restaurant for some breakfast. Besides an older couple on holiday and some business sophistos in suits chattering on about the meaningless, I was the only one there.

I chose a table in the corner by the window looking out on the downtown street. I ordered eggs, toast, and coffee. I sipped and ate in solitude, staring out the window. Another hot day I assumed from the way the sunlight was pouring down all around and I could see the heat shimmering off the cement. So hot. Too hot. Inhumane heat and I wondered why was it that so many people lived here? Why so many lives were compacted into such a tight, hot, and ugly space?

I decided to drive the few blocks to Mexico in my own car, park somewhere on the American side and walk over the great bridge that spanned the two nations and the Rio Grande River between them. Great river? Dirty, brown trickle. The Great Divide. The muddy vein separating grotesque wealth and desperate poverty. It made one want to puke.

It was such a hot day, and I had my windows rolled down as I meandered my way through the maze of streets winding up and around and through downtown El Paso trying very hard to follow the signs that were pointing me in the direction of Juarez.

As I got closer to the border there was construction and roadblocks and feverish masses of people walking all over the place and I could not find my way in all the confusion and the noise and the heat and decided it would be better to just go back to the hotel, park my car and take the shuttle as I had originally planned.

One should always go with first instinct. The first thought that permeates the gut and simply says: “Yes! Do it this way!” or “No. Do it another way, this is bad.”

Anton Chico in his confused mind cannot always differentiate the first instinct from the second or even the third. He often makes mistakes, takes falls, runs from his miscues, and ends up panting and raging and slamming his fists into a wall because shit just did not work out again!

Again Anton Chico. You fucked up! But Anton Chico also had a way about him that caused him to grossly exaggerate the little misfortunes in his existence into giant, earth-shattering sins with the ability to destroy his entire life to the point he is ready to jump off a balcony and call it quits for good, to trade it all in for eternal rest and prosperity. To sleep peacefully forever in the boughs of the soft trees of universal Heaven spread out in space like a sheet of stars and to never again have to speak above a whisper or for that matter even hear anyone speak above a whisper. He was not fond of chaotic noise.

And I was immersed in chaotic noise right now.

Lost and hot and horns honking and Mexican people chattering outside the storefronts as they do, the men in white sweaty t-shirts and big dirty straw hats perched upon their dark heads; the women, large and brown wearing colorful and flowery sun dresses of thin cotton waving chunky tanned arms and making deals with the shopkeepers in the big clunk of stores huddled in a dirty mass of glass and brick and stucco right on the edge of the border on the American side.

I wondered as I drove, what had I gotten myself into now, what have you done Anton Chico? You fool! You can’t drive your little car around in Mexico! They’ll shoot at it, steal it, rob you blind and maybe even rape you for the camera around your neck or the few American dollars in your wallet. Get out Anton Chico! Get out while you still have a chance! 

I drove my way slowly out of the chaos and back closer to the big buildings downtown. I finally saw the El Paso Times building. I was not too far from the hotel. I would go there and find out how to get across without having to be so paranoid and stupid.

See more of the Chronicles of Anton Chico at cerealaftersex.com. Thank you for reading and supporting independent writers and publishers. Be sure to subscribe by entering your email below for updates on new posts. It’s free to follow! Thank you.

The Chronicles of Anton Chico (Love and Loss)

Anton Chico. Juarez.

The Battles

All the battles of Anton Chico’s life have brought me to this place – alone. For the battles break you at times. There. Over those hills I look out at the far gone on the horizon, now bathing in the holy amber light of another fading day.

So many miles between myself and life. Anton Chico looks out over the edge of the balcony at the long way down. So far to fall. But look how far I have fallen already. The hum of the city winding down mixes with the din of my own loneliness as I watch a happy family trot along the sidewalk gazing at the sun and moon both etching out their individual spaces along the horizon.

Together, husband and wife and little kids too, all on their way to get gunned down in Juarez because they are the entitled Americans who know no better and think Mexico is just another shopping mall, another place to push a shopping cart, another place to bitch at inept clerks who don’t cater to their every spoiled whim.

Get gunned down you fools. Have your white American blood all over the filthy streets of Juarez in your endless endeavor for more stuff. Get gunned down as you piss and whine because no one speaks English, and the Burger King hamburgers don’t taste the same across the border. Shooosh the little begging boy away. Cringe at the sight of him why don’t you, at the site of his dirty face and dirty hair and big, wet weepy eyes and turn in disgust as the filthy rags he calls clothes make your eyes sting just from the smell of them. Get gunned down. It’s all for you but there’s no one there to save you now.

Anton Chico, me, that is I, turned off the television set and headed down to the car to round up some magic at a local magic shop. The car had cooled down considerably and when I got in it reeked of bar life. I headed for the main drag that runs up and down by UTEP (University of Texas El Paso). The street was surprisingly hilly and lined with appealing architecture unfamiliar to me. Mexican-American brick and stucco facades, adobe churches, wire and mesh fencing, stone yards, cacti, stunted little palm trees and yuccas.

This part of the town had a sad tone to it, it breathed poverty and desperation, yet it had a furious taste of survival to it – cultures clashed, the old and the new, the white and the brown, the intelligent and the inaudible. As I moved farther from the areas closer to downtown and nearer to suburbia, the familiar sickness of strip malls and neon rose and that is where I found the spirit shop, pulled into the parking lot and sat there for a while smoking a cigarette in the last rays of day.

When I went inside the Asian clerk behind the counter greeted me and watched me as I headed straight for the beer coolers at the back of the store. I looked up and down at all the varieties he had stocked there. I wanted something good, not the American piss swill I usually bought because it was cheap, I wanted something with some heart to it, something with some kick, something that would really slur my speech when I began talking to the television set back at the hotel… Something that might give me the crazed sense of false courage to throw myself off that balcony and crash face-first into someone’s nice, clean windshield. I wanted something that might kill me.

I left my cell phone on just in case someone called. Was something starting up? Not really. It was there, but not. There was a party and I was invited but of course I didn’t go because I was here, there, in El Paso getting lit on magic firewater and tossing burning cigarettes over the edge of the balcony. It was dark. The lights in the room were dimly lit and I began to tilt. It was sad there, yet jubilant.

No one in the entire world knew where I was and for insanity purposes, I truly believed that no one cared. I was Anton Chico the unloved, the ungraceful, the unbeauty of all males in the Southwest. But someone was hurt that I did not come to the party. I don’t know why. Said she was hoping I would, but most likely in the throes of the festivities I rarely came to anyone’s mind.

I went out on the balcony for some air. It tasted brown and smelled dirty, but I felt free as I cracked open that new bottle and added to my demon inebriation.

Once sufficiently aired out I commenced the ritualistic clicking of the remote control. There was nothing worth watching. There is never anything worth watching but I left it on just so I could hear some voices other than the ones in my own head. I was watching something about crocodiles and a man who drove around in a little boat at night with a flashlight and then he dove into the water and grabbed onto one of those crocodiles and wrestled with it. He had an Australian accent. Them fucking crazy Aussies. Anton Chico thinks there great, just great.

Another bite of magic please and I suddenly felt very, very lonely. No one had called. No love letters slipped in under the door. No angels from heaven dangling outside my doorstep. Nothing. Solid me. Lonely me. Empty me pouring out the emptiness into a world of emptiness and I wondered if everyone else was as bored stiff as I was.

How could they be? I hear them laughing, I see them smiling, I see them hanging all over each other doing great things and going great places and there was me, Anton Chico, lit up and down on the seventh floor of some dirty old downtown El Paso motel boo-hooing about another and another and another crushing loss while the entire freaking world is out there partying their asses off.


The TV is off. Muffled voices on the other side of the walls. The clinking of glasses. Laughing. The sound of faint music, a tap of a piano key, a lover’s whorish growl, a train whistle, my own rapid heartbeat banging to get out of my chest. A freight train leaving town, its call and grind a heartless calliope.

Check out the previous posts in the Anton Chico series: Low and High and The Monarch of Devils.

The Laguna Bungle (Session 3)

sophisticated woman talking to a man inside an office
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

An Unfortunate Meeting

My head was just totally empty for a moment while I stood there by that front door in this void of time stands still, Time Stand Still, (no S) that Rush song from eons ago playing in my head, and the sound of Jennifer Dillinger’s voice caa-kawing like an aggravated crow every time I played one of their CDs in my car. She was a girlfriend. An ex-girlfriend. She was a fox but hated Rush. I think she fell off a cliff and died. Somewhere in Mexico. I sort of remember hearing something about that, but I was usually high back in those days and so I had the attention span of a Tasmanian devil. I suppose it’s somewhere there in my memory banks all lost in the dust. All I know is she never got back to me… About anything. So, I moved on.

I rang the doorbell again, but was I really expecting a dead woman to answer? My thoughts had gotten ahead of me once again because the door slowly opened and in the cracked opening to this other dimension, I saw half an underbaked woman’s face look out at me. “Yes. What is it you want?” she said.

“I’m very sorry to bother you, mam. But I believe I saw someone being strangled out on the veranda and I was just checking to see if everything was all right in there.”

She opened the door wider. She was wearing the pink bathrobe and clutched it closed with a hand. She was the one for sure. But she seemed very much alive to me. There weren’t even any marks around her throat. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. Are you a police officer?”

I retrieved my identification. “I’m a private detective.”

She looked at the ID and then back up at me. “John Smoke? What kind of name is John Smoke? That seems made up.”

“It’s not made up,” I told her.

“But I still don’t understand. I haven’t called for any private detective… And as far as someone being strangled. I’m entirely baffled. No one was being strangled… Not for real, I assure you.”

“Not for real?”

“My husband and I are in show business, and we were merely rehearsing a scene from a movie we’re trying to get off the ground. That must have been what you saw. But why were you looking in the first place?”

“I like birds. I’m a bird watcher. The sights of my binoculars fell upon your veranda while I was doing some of my watching. I saw someone being strangled. I wanted to investigate.”

I’m a very convincing liar.

She looked me up and down like I was crazy. She was a middle-aged woman obviously carved up and pieced back together by an expensive plastic surgeon. She was tying to turn back time, but she should know that’s a losing battle… For anyone. I tried to build a time machine once but failed miserably. I never even knew where to start. And I don’t understand why people get plastic surgery in the first place. It makes them look worse. Fake. Manufactured. Desperate. How do they not see how unattractive they are? The woman before me was a poorly sculpted trainwreck, puffy and taut. She paid good money to look like this, I had to wonder.

“I’m not sure I believe you,” she said. “You don’t look like the birdwatching type.”

“But I am.”

“Really?” She looked past me and out to the yard. “Then what kind of bird is that sitting atop that bush over there?”

I turned to look. “That’s an oak titmouse.”

“Are you making that up as well?”

“No. I take birds very seriously.”

Her stance relaxed and she smiled as best she could with that jacked up face. “Well, all right then,” she said. “Would you like to come in? I may have need of your professional services after all. That is, if you truly are a real detective.”

“You mean a case?”

“Possibly. But we need to talk before my husband returns. This concerns him.”

The house was just as I expected. Large, showy, a blend of light and dark, modern yet strangely cozy. There were lots of big windows with views of the ocean. There was a lot of fancy furniture neatly aligned and looking as if it had never been touched by human hands or asses. She briskly strolled ahead of me across shiny marble floors toward an open kitchen with a long island and a row of perfectly placed stools. She was dwarfed by the sheer expanse of it.

“Please have a seat wherever you like. I’ll bring us some drinks. Do you drink, Mr. Smoke?”

I took a seat in a wide, comfortable chair and glanced out the cathedral wall of windows. “I’ll drink anything,” I answered her. I could hear ice being dropped in glasses and the sound of two rough pours. “You have an amazing view here.”

She came to where I was sitting and handed me a heavy glass of rusted amber liquid. “It’s a very pleasant view,” she agreed. “It’s a big part of the reason we bought this particular property. I hope you like Scotch. It was very expensive. All the way from Scotland that bottle came.” She held up her glass in a gesture of cheers and smiled before taking a seat in a long leather couch across from me. A meticulously kept glass table with a bright green plant in the middle of it sat between us.

“Would you drink poison?” she asked after squirming her ass into a comfortable position.


“You had said you’d drink anything.”

“I meant anything that doesn’t kill you.”

She laughed at that. “Wouldn’t you consider what’s in your glass right now to be poison? What is it Jack Torrance says… White man’s burden.”

I looked at the Scotch and then took a big gulp. “Depends on how much you let it get to you.” I polished off my drink and set the empty glass down on the table. “I like that you have an appreciation for good movies.”

“I’ve always found The Shining to be one of the most spinetingling cinematic escapades of all time.”

“Right. Now, what about this case?”

She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and sighed. “I believe my husband is having an affair behind my back. I need to find out for sure. Is that something you do?”

“Sure,” I answered with confidence. “Simple surveillance is definitely in my wheelhouse.”

“Good,” she answered. “It’s not that I really care if he’s screwing someone else, I just don’t want to be made to look like a fool. And I want the end result to be a clean divorce that favors me. I’m the victim of bad love here, and he should pay for that. Does that make sense?”


“When can you start, Mr. Smoke?”

“I usually don’t start until I secure a retainer fee. A thousand up front… And I’ll need any pertinent info you can give me.”

“I’ll pay you whatever you want as long as I get results.”

“You’ll get results. Any suspects?”

“That floozy assistant of his at the production company he runs… Misty something or another. But my husband runs around with his pants down around his ankles half the time, so, I’m sure there are more.” She got up and went to stand against the high windows looking out onto the ocean. She spoke with her back to me, but I could tell she was pressing her intelligent breasts against the glass. “And if he happens to die during your investigation, Mr. Smoke. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit.”