"Death is a mirror, which reflects the vain gesticulations of the living..." – Octavio Paz

"Death was important only as the solving of an equation." – Graham Greene


          It was not until the first week of the month of October, 1912, that José Macias... to the best of his knowledge still a Major although, temporarily, a wanted fugitive... received information that the treacherous El Chacol had secreted himself high in the mountains along the frontier of Puebla and Morelos states and that... moreover... he was accompanied by a woman.

          "I knew the witch was not dead!" exclaimed Ignacio Bravo in the American Club of Havana, Cuba, nearly deserted for the violence of the approaching elections, causing the third member of their little party... an American performer of odd jobs who traveled under the name of Mr. Tymmonds... to throw up his hands and guffaw. What his real name was José did not know, nor care... "Tymmonds" was in Cuba to convey messages to and from certain interested parties elsewhere; including Herr Unstedt of Berlin, that trafficker in gum and information José had done business with in Quintana Roo. No amateur at the game of espionage and diplomacy, the Kaiser had replaced Unstedt with another, untainted agent upon Bravo's recall and... to the best knowledge of both the Major and his Commander-in-exile... this worthy remained in Vigia Chico, earning his keep and waiting out that interval before the inevitable fall of the pitiable Madero administration.

          "Witches!" Mr. Tymmonds now chortled, "...witches and their curses! Old superstitions... fit for consumption by the indians, pure green hell on any white man who lets his wits be swept away. The both of you are exceedingly fortunate to be out of that damned Quintana Roo jungle... otherwise you'd have gone the way of so many British colonials, too long in the hot climates. Losing their reason... throwing off their clothes and howling at the moon! Not that I blame you for taking her into your hamaca... place gets beastly enough without a little coño now and again. Even throwing down a few bastards ain't a problem... I whelped my share in the Philippines, and it's probably to the improvement of the race. But these affairs can't be allowed to become serious, I mean... you said this gentleman gave you her heart as proof that he'd done what he'd said?" (The weeks of waiting in Havana, where the sun beat down almost as fiercely as in Yucatan and drink was ever at hand had loosened the old General's tongue.) "Her... heart? That wouldn't pass muster even in one of those gloomy German novels my last ex-wife used to read... one of the reasons that I left her."

          "He said it was her heart and, because I was in a hurry, I chose to believe him," Bravo allowed, taking a healthy swallow of Havana rum, swishing it about like mouthwash before letting it plummet to his stomach. "I wonder whose heart it was? A prisoner's? An animal's? I hope he didn't cut it out of one of my own men," the General appended.

          "The Kaiser has been apprised of your dedication to duty and to the welfare of your men," Tymmonds attempted to console him. "We've taken a temporary setback, but what's important, now, is that we have a fix on this fellow and that he hasn't been able to do a damned thing with the securities, except cause several people in Veracruz to become shot over them... which is about what I'd expect, since you tell me that he cannot read, nor even write his own name..."

          "El Chacol is an imbecile in all but the arts of intimidation and murder," Bravo agreed. "But if she is with him, who knows how long we have before something unfortunate might happen?"

          "But she is another unlettered indian, barely capable of speaking Spanish... you say... let alone the King's English, especially in the way that the bankers use it."

          "So she seemed." Bravo set his copita down upon the table, but made no motion towards the half-empty bottle of Bacardi. "But she was there... in my quarters... for the better part of... has it truly been ten years, José?"

          "It seems longer," the Major remarked.

          "Well! Ten years, let us say, always there, always keeping the place tidy, always... listening. Did I abuse her? No more than any patron abuses his mistress, less so, I would think. I bought her fine gowns to wear to Mass, a looking-glass and these oils and unguents so appreciated by all women, no matter the circumstances of their birth. I gave her no reason to despise me... and what could she have learned in all that time? She put it into my Jackal's head... to betray me!... he never would have gone off on his own. The thought wouldn't have occurred to him! Josélito," the General said, then, using a diminutive that the Major despised, but tolerated as Bravo's way of pretending to show affection for those on whom he depended, "I entrust, to you, this photograph of my wicked, wicked deserter. I have no photographs of Consuela, though several were taken... none ever seemed to turn out exactly right. Boleaga... you'd expect a man like that would turn thief, that's why I entrusted him with gold that was not worth a tenth part of those securities. May God strike that miserable Cabo down in whatever swamp he's crawled into to spend my money..."

          "Boleaga will assuredly be taken with syphilis, if he has not already finished his days dangling at the end of someone's rope," José took a turn at comforting his General... "be it Madero's, Zapata's, Huerta's, Orozco's... or just some village Oficiale whom he has insulted."

          "Perhaps..." said the General, without enthusiasm.

          "Speaking of General Huerta," Tymmonds now confided, "my employers in Berlin still have a high regard for him."

          "That... Maderista!" José spat.

          "Let us not speak of our old comrade ungenerously," Bravo corrected the Major. "For many years, while we enjoyed authority and the privileges of our station in the Territory, Victoriano was subject to one humiliation after another... at the hands of both Porfirio Diaz and Madero. He could not be discreet about his championing of Reyes over that Corral... whom, I am given to understand, is near death... and, so, he paid the price. But, withal, he remained a man... I cannot begrudge him his successes in the field, even in such a futile cause as the survival of Madero's regime."

          The cunning old Huichol... his duty of escorting Porfirio Diaz to safety in Biarritz finished... had gleaned weakness in Bernardo Reyes' coup d'etat and remained on the sidelines, refusing to take up arms against the Federals. And so, when Madero's General Salas committed suicide in March after repeated trouncings by Pascual Orozco, Huerta had taken command of the armies of the North, even humbling himself to maintain an alliance with the volatile Pancho Villa who he would naturally prefer to have shot. Madero had refused him this privilege despite Villa's thieving and insubordination... instead, Huerta had directed his fury upon the rebels at Rellano, in May, and at Bachimba, a month later. Now the old drunkard was Madero's savior and a national hero... Capitaleños danced the Rellano waltz and did the Bachimba march.

          "How can you be sure the fellow won't follow orders if Madero sends him to oppose our interests."

          "He won't," Bravo declared. "I know the man... he may not be with us, at the start, but he'll contrive some excuse to prolong his usefulness to all sides." And then he repeated a proverb which, in translation to English, lost much of its potency... to the effect that where victory rested, there would be found Victoriano Huerta.

          Of course the money... perhaps eight hundred thousands of pesos, and lodged in the banks before Madero's latest devaluations... would have more than a little to do with the campaign against Madero, also.

          "The gentleman in Veracruz who has provided me the location of this treacherous Chacol and his woman travels under the name of Ricardo Malafonte... Rico, he calls himself... most assuredly he has assumed other names in the past. Don't concern yourself... he is only acting on behalf of some other person, high up in the mountains, who has actually seen them. Pay these gentlemen what you must, I have no fondness for either of them," the General added with a glint in his eye, something well short of a wink that, nevertheless, insinuated that it might well go better if they never lived to spend their money, or entertain thoughts of betrayal. "El Chacol gave me her heart," he added, speaking of Consuela, "...and that, evidently, was not good enough. Bring me their heads, if you can, I anticipate being in need of paperweights.

          "By Christmas," Bravo predicted, "Felix Diaz shall be President, I shall be his Minister of War and you, you José, will have your Colonel's rank... within a year or two, your Generalship and a command of your choosing. Perhaps you'd like a go at Zapata and his bandits, or maybe we'll make you jailkeeper for all Mexico, thinking up some of those inventive punishments of yours for don Francisco's creatures. Perhaps you can go back to the Territory!"

          José sneered and looked down at the photograph of El Chacol in his fist... it gave no inkling of the strength in that massive body beneath the petulant face that looked quite like that of any thief, with only the man's eyes betraying the maniac that he was.

          "And what will be my reward?" the irrepressible Mister Tymmonds spoke up, bobbing his head like a bouncy puppy.

          "We'll make him Minister of Gum, eh?" the General taunted, finally eliciting a smile from José Macias. "Plenipotentiary of all chicle, and henequen, too! You will be the Minister of Rope! And when Felix Diaz has become President, you shall remember small afternoons in cantinas as these, for the grandeur and enormity of the work which your ropes must do."