THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK SEVEN:  CUAHTENOTL EPACT

CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

 

          Finally the halfwitted cousin... as opposed to the other, who had no sense at all... guided his horse around, with difficulty, to face the major, holding his papers up, out of reach, as if to preserve the fiction of his authority. "Very well, if you are whom you pretend are, no harm shall befall you. I will take you to the jefe, and he shall take charge of this business, as you say. And if you are a Zapatista spy, he'll have you wishing that I put an end to you simply, here, and with a single bullet for the both of you. Have I told you that my cousin and I are expert marksmen? Come along..." and he actually had the temerity to prod José with his rifle, which act would normally have impelled the Major to rip the Mauser from his hands, unhorse him, shoot his cousin before the idiot could get his horse under control, then finish off the Rurale at his leisure.

          José already despised the life of a civilian... it corroded the spirit as thoroughly as rain and wind, as the calamitous tumbling down the mountainside that battered the debris of Cuahtenotl.

          Once in the office of the Jefe Militar, matters proceeded in a more agreeable fashion. The pleasant fiction of coffee trading being honored by both parties, José quickly secured access to the birth and death records of the region. It took him a half hour and the services of six clerks of the bloated municipal bureaucracy, but Gerardo Moscoso was eventually traced back to Cuahtenotl. The Major had thought him an ancient attaché to Bravo, whose virility and strength were owed to forces such as Doktor Krankenhauer (or Miguel Chankik) might command... perhaps even a pact with the Devil himself had been made. In fact, the Jackal was but three years old than José... both parents dead (the records listed the father, Guillermo's, occupation as basurero, not the more polite pepenedor as had come into fashion among civilized Mexicans). He had spent most of his years between twelve and eighteen in local jails of both Puebla and Morelos for assault, theft, rape and... finally... murder, celebrated his sixteenth birthday in a vicious prison of Cuernavaca, and his paper trail ended abruptly with the brief notation "joined mltry. Fed. in lieu sixteen years imprsmt.". Seven brothers... five dead, two missing... four sisters... one dead, two missing... the fate of the last simply recorded as "mard. negro merchant sailor, Vcz., left dstrct." Probably El Chacol had gone searching for her in the port by the ocean before fleeing up the mountain, thinking to hide in his childhood refuge.

          "Cuahtenotl is an excellent place to be from, señor," remarked the director of the bureau of births and deaths.

          José rewarded the clerk who had ferreted out the history of the Moscoso family with the ten pesos denied the idiot Rurales. Consuela sat in a chair by the window, watching the rains come and go and the people of San Sebastien about their business.

          With a full name, a photograph and, now, a history, José crossed the railroad tracks in search of someone who might have known the young Moscoso, or the fugitive on his way from Veracruz to, as he had foolishly thought, safety in the haunted, forbidding mountains of his childhood. Of course no such creature would be found in San Sebastien Alto... perhaps there were a few about, but none would admit to knowing one so clearly sociopathic as the Jackal.

          On the Calle Santa Anna, where what passed for the society of the town took their pleasure, the Major guided Consuela into a salon por damas, which was no drinking establishment at all but, rather, a place where clothing and shoes for women could be had. The tendera expressed sympathy for the poor girl, who was not familiar with the rigorous winters of the mountains, and mentioned that several sweater-coats of the finest Scots and Irish wool had, only that week, arrived from Belfast, by way of Mexico City. José suspected the goods to be from South America, but had no basis for comparison (for such wares were never needed, hence never worn, by women of the Yucatan peninsula).

          Leaving her with forty pesos to spend in the salon and instructions to meet him by the railroad station at sundown, José left in a hurry and crossed the railroad tracks into San Sebastien Bajo, where an hour's showing round the Jackal's photograph brought many expressions of dread at the aspect of the dead man... the Major, of course, neglecting to mention the fact of his death and hinting, further, at a reward for information. Not until he had reached a pulque cellar, dark and smoky with a heavy, sweet scent that José recognized as marihuana, did a little fish take his hook... a scrawny halfbreed with thin hairs growing from his chin, trying to counterfeit a beard as the fake pianos of the mountain plain aspired to become Webers. Introducing himself as Vicente, the fellow clung to the Major like lint, and finally succeeded in urging him out of the pulqueria.

          "I have heard of an establishment called the Club Diana," José remembered, "can you direct me there?"

          "Oh, you do not want to enter the Club Diana," Vicente affirmed, "asking questions, like the policeman that you probably are. That is a place full of Zapatistas, and they are very touchy... if he is a thief and deserter, as you say, those people would hide him, make him one of their own. All of the lowlifes who have not lost their patriotism... they have gone to La Hoya, where you will find not only drinks but a show... and not a Socialist in the place! If somebody knows of your man, and there is a price upon his head... you shall have your man, living or not!"

 

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