Become a Fan
Two Nights in Tijuana
By C M Albrecht
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Annabella Lurie – Annie, a.k.a. Candi – often prefaced her remarks, especially when she found herself on the point of making a less than flattering remark about some person, by mentioning that she herself was no saint. But Annie certainly never thought of herself as being what she would call “bad”. Anyway, what’s bad about doing what comes naturally, doing what you were taught to do, doing what you do so well, and with such great enthusiasm?
Neglected by an alcoholic mother and abused by a couple of casual “uncles” as Annie learned to call them, she grew up fast and tough in a series of inner city rooming houses and apartments around Los Angeles.
Her toughness however was an inner resilience, a toughness that Annie concealed behind the façade of her light blonde hair, appealing blue eyes and pert nose. Her skin was smooth and fair and her smile was ready and winning; her manner always upbeat. She proudly displayed a shapely body that even at the age of twelve had developed a provocative line that made it difficult for men not to notice. That was the year in which Annie lost her virginity to a man twice her age. When she was fourteen she was living with a man three times her age. When her situation came to the attention of authorities, the man swore he believed Annie was eighteen and, although it wasn’t true , she willingly corroborated his story. He had been nice and spent money on her without reservation. She swore to the police that she had told him she was eighteen. The man got off with a fine, probation and some public service but that was the end of their relationship.
Left on her own and not being a person to dwell on the past, Annie wasted no time seeking other adventures.
Her voice was melodious and for a brief moment she had hopes of becoming a singer. But she lacked the discipline to follow through on the rigors of practice and preparation. Annie relied rather on the compliments and vague promises of men supposedly in the music business, smooth affable men who saw no reason why Annie shouldn’t have a promising future as a songbird.
When she really turned eighteen Annie sported one small tattoo of a bluebird on each breast just above the nipple and, slightly southeast of her navel, a butterfly. When men glimpsed Annie's creamy inner thigh and read the dark blue legend, ENTER followed by a small arrow pointing northward, their pulses throbbed with excitement and anticipation. On the occasions when she had got herself tattooed Annie was invariably pretty drunk, but drinking never spoiled her temperament.
While waiting for her singing career to take off, Annie worked off and on at different jobs; she tried being a waitress in a diner, she worked in a nursing home (a job that lasted barely one day), and tried other similarly menial, soul-deadening occupations.
Things went better when Annie found a job as a cocktail server in a lounge. One evening she fell into conversation with a wag in a silk suit and flashy jewelry. Pushing long blond hair from his eyes he mentioned through the din of glassware, loud music and strident voices that Annie had a better shape than most of the entertainers. Annie began to pay more attention to the dancers who gyrated around a brass fireman’s pole on the small stage that stood just above and behind the bar.
Before long a practically nude Annie – billed as Candi -- was up on that very stage rolling to the beat of impassioned drums and simulating raging sexual desire for the shiny brass fireman’s pole.
This went well: she'd never dreamed tips would be so good -- and more men had more opportunity to notice her. Annie began to attract a following -- and get offers. One fellow, Rolf, a handsome health-club instructor, finally made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: he offered to marry her; he begged to marry her.
Annie knew she was much more attracted to this muscled young man’s physique than in love with him, but he persisted and the novelty of the idea caught her up and within a month they got married on a fast drunken weekend in Las Vegas.
Nothing in Annie’s life had ever prepared her for a monogamous commitment and it was virtually impossible for her to understand her husband’s jealous rages on those frequent occasions when she forgot to come home for twenty or thirty-odd hours without a phone call or even an explanation. Worse, Annie wasn’t good at lying and didn’t feel the need to lie.
Rolf admitted to a friend, “I never saw anybody like her, man. But I can’t trust her. If she likes a guy, she’ll hop into bed with him without batting an eye. She won’t think twice about it.
“How did you meet her?” asked Rolf's friend, not really caring.
“Oh, she was staying with some stud from the gym and one night they invited me up to the apartment for a nightcap, you know? We were drinking beer and watching wrestling on TV you know, and then my buddy got kind of sick so he went into the bedroom and passed out.”
“Well, next scene Annie had her foot in my crotch right there on the couch, during Raw.”
“Jesus, man. So naturally that’s when you knew you wanted to marry her?”
Rolf frowned at this sarcasm, “Not exactly. I mean I could see she was pretty easy but –” He sighed. “Yeah, I guess it’s my own damned fault. I mean, I knew on the one hand that if she pulled that stuff on my buddy, she’d probably pull it on me. She told me she didn’t know if she was ready for marriage but still I had some dumb idea that once we were married, she’d want to stay home.”
“Great. Good thinking man. You thought you could keep her all to yourself, greedy bastard.”
After that brief marriage it was a while before another man expressed an explicit desire to marry her. Technically Annie was still married to Rolf since he hadn’t got around to filing for a divorce and neither had she, but the word technically wasn't in Annie’s book. As far as she was concerned, her marriage was over and done with. It was now a thing of the past.
Herbert was in his early fifties when he took her to Las Vegas. They got married in the same twenty-four hour chapel where Rolf and Annie had taken their vows. The old timer with the Bible in his shaking hands didn’t remember Annie. But Annie remembered him; a girl remembers these things she thought in a burst of sentimental warmth.
Herbert Schafer, a childless widower, owned fishing boats in San Pedro and although he no longer had to get his hands dirty, their hard dry skin showed the marks of earlier, more labor-intensive times. Thick callused fingers, ragged broken nails and Herbert’s way of looking uncomfortable in suits and ties marked him as a fish out of water wherever he went, but he was a good-hearted man and deeply smitten with Annie. On one level Herbert realized that a girl like Annie was too young and fast and pretty to fall in love with a guy like him. But on another, a more romantic level, Herbert’s whispering heart urged him to go for the gusto while he still had a chance to have a little fun in life. And too, he shared the same wishful gut feeling Annie’s ex, Rolf, had known, the feeling that all Annie really needed was the love of a good man to bring her safely into harbor…and to permanent anchor.
Actually for fifteen minutes or so Annie did feel it was time for her to settle down and maybe think about having a baby. After all, she was twenty-four.
Herbert spent most of his day in his little office in San Pedro, so Annie had plenty of time to cruise about. Now that she wasn’t supposed to work any more, she fell into the habit of running up to LA and dropping into lounges where there was always an ample supply of men only too willing to buy her a drink and admire her beauty. She had credit cards, thanks to Herbert, but with Annie the game was to see how long it would take for some man to order a drink for her. Half drunk, she tried to spend her evenings at home with Herbert where they did absolutely nothing. It had never occurred to Annie that as long as Herbert had a wife at home in the evenings he'd be content to do nothing at all but doze in front of the TV with a half-empty can of beer in his hand.
Late one warm morning in April, Annie found herself alone on a stool in a lounge just off Wilshire Boulevard. The man she had been chatting with had gone to the restroom and Annie was already a teeny bit tipsy when a real hunk sidled into the lounge. Dim as the light might be to a person coming in from the blinding sun outside, the hunk nevertheless headed for Annie as if he had her locked on his radar.
He was tall and, in Annie's parlance, buffed to the max. He had a sexy smile, an 18-karat gold Rolex wristwatch, and thick black hair tumbled casually about his head.
“Hi,” he said. His name was Brett.
“Hi, Brett. Are you going to ask me if I come here often?” She toyed with her empty glass.
“No, I was going to ask you if I could buy you a drink.”
“I like a man with attitude,” she laughed, "and you've got the right attitude." Her blue eyes danced merrily and she crossed her legs in a suggestive way she had learned many years earlier.
The other man returned from the restroom and seeing this strange, good-looking man on “his” stool, tossed his hands in the air in disgust and left the premises. Annie didn’t even notice.
Brett was in advertising or something and, while the pair drank and chatted away, their conversation became more intimate and Annie rode with him in his shiny BMW with the top down. They stopped at a motel where they passed a pleasant hour.
Back in the street, fairly drunk by now, the couple cruised along Wilshire toward Beverly Hills passing a billboard that advertised a vacation in Mexico and an idea sprang full-blown into Annie’s head.
“Tijuana?” Brett laughed. “That’s quite a ride, baby.”
She patted the leather seat by his leg. “In this hot-rod you could make it in two hours flat I bet.” She moved her hand to his leg and rubbed it lightly. “I want a real margarita. Are you man enough to get it for me or what…Brett…?”
There was the hesitation of one beat before Brett showed his beautiful white teeth. “One margarita coming up!”
Despite Brett’s lead foot, what with a couple of stops along the way for R and R, it took over four hours and was getting dark when they reached the border. Brett had been warned about bringing his car across so they left the BMW in the United States and took a taxi over to the Avenida de la Revolución.
It was fully dark by the time they arrived and the streets bustled with pedestrians and auto traffic. Taxis cruised about frantically honking their horns, and the evening air teased and tantalized with inviting aromas of outdoor cooking. There were probably two tourists for every native. Neon lights blinked and crackled; loud plaintive trumpets and strumming guitars spilled from every establishment. Annie had the impression that no one did anything but party in this city of nearly half a million humans and as many dogs.
She got the promised margarita, and another. They ate dinner in a noisy restaurant, laughing and cramming hot Mexican food and beer into their faces. Later they drifted from one noisy smoke-filled club to another. It was getting late and at some point in some club, tiring of the din of the deafening music, Annie wandered outside while Brett was in the rest room. It was cooler and quieter in the street at this hour and Annie had a challenging devil-may-care look on her face.
A good-looking man stood across the street by another cantina. He wore black slacks and a pleated white shirt with the tails out. He smiled seductively at her so she crossed over dodging honking cars and said "¿Qué hubo?”
“Hey, you talk Spanish?” he asked, arching his dark eyebrows.
“Jus’a leetle,” she laughed. Annie had only learned the expression half an hour earlier, but that was her little secret.
“I buy you a drink, okay?” She liked his melodious voice. Ricardo Montalbán at twenty-five.
He showed her how to knock back tequila with lime and salt and as the barroom roared and spun about her Annie had never in her life had so much fun.
The night, already fuzzy, became even more of a blur.
A young man, Rick, well dressed in modern funk and very drunk, bought her drinks. “I was supposed to be back in San Diego five hours ago,” he told Annie. He tried to focus his vacuous blue eyes. “I had to come down to San Ysidro on business but I wasn’t supposed to come over here. Jesus. My fiancée is going to kill me. We live together, you know. She’s going to be so pissed. I know I should call but I haven’t got the guts. I don't know what to do. I'm really fucked up. Oh, pardon my French.” He tried to put salt between his thumb and forefinger but missed. The salt spattered to the bar top. He licked his thumb and downed his tequila anyway. He shuddered and passed one nervous hand through his wavy red hair. “I should’ve gone home a long time ago.”
“I could call her for you,” Annie suggested. “I could tell her you’re sick or something.”
A vaguely hopeful spark appeared in the young man’s eyes. “Could you? You think – Ah, we couldn’t say I’m sick. She wouldn’t buy that. How about the car broke down and I had to go for repairs or something?”
“I’ll take care of it,” Annie smiled confidently. The young man talked to the bartender who called the manager, a man who had eaten many a taco in his time. In exchange for some money, the manager allowed the pair to go into his tiny office and use the telephone.
“I’ll get through to her and then you talk to her. Make it good,” the young man said.
“Don’t worry,” Annie said. She held the phone and when a female voice responded at the other end Annie smiled sweetly, “Now I know this sounds phony as hell, Brittany, but Rick’s car broke down over here and he had to go to Tijuana to get a new tire. But he’ll be back in the morning, okay?”
“What? Who is this? What's going on? Where’s Rick?”
“In the morning,” Annie said. “He’s all right. Don’t you worry about one little thing. He just has to get a tire.”
Ashen, Rick muttered something and staggered off to the rest room. Annie thought she had handled the situation quite well. She headed toward the front of the cantina.
Over the next hour or two Annie moved from one man to another and had long since left the main streets of Tijuana. Her last fairly clear memory was of being in some kind of place called a pulquería where the bar consisted of wooden doors laid on top of a row of whiskey barrels and Annie was the only woman in the place. A busy malodorous open urinal stood in one corner of the room and the bartender served Annie a water glass filled with some milky fluid that gagged her, but she got it down.
Her companion of the moment, a dark indistinct face with big gold teeth said, “Ee’s good no?”
Later there would be fleeting memories of glasses chinking, music blaring, people laughing, people fighting and then sirens and police but Annie would never be able to get it all straight; she was still on her feet when the lights went out. But it seemed only a moment later that she became conscious again. It took her a long time, however, to get her eyes open. Her head pounded so violently that she really doubted she would survive. After a long time Annie finally opened her eyes and realized she was standing in a corner, leaning against a wall beside a toilet. Slowly it dawned on her that she was in a large cell that held some twelve or fourteen other woman. Broad daylight streamed in through a barred window above her head.
For some time no one paid any attention to Annie. Beyond the opposite wall, a wall of steel bars, uniformed police and other people moved back and forth at intervals. Most of the women in Annie's cell sat around on the concrete floor. Some of the women leaned against the bars and joked with guards and others who passed by.
A heavy woman with sagging breasts came to Annie. Her smile wasn’t unfriendly. “You need a drink lady?”
Annie nodded, pushing hair back from her face.
“You got some money?”
Annie no longer had her handbag. She felt in the tiny pockets of her skirt and the one in her blouse. She shook her head mutely.
The woman went away but later she came back with a tiny glass of amber fluid. She held it out to Annie who clutched at it feverishly. Annie downed it and although it was like swallowing hi-octane gasoline, her head began to clear. Her load magically disappeared and she felt better almost instantly.
“That’s tequila. Tequila añejo, the bes’ kind,” the woman told her. When you get out you come pay me, okay? Fi' dollars.”
“O – okay,” Annie gasped.
The smells of so many presumably unwashed women in one tank were overwhelming; smells of sweat and urine and other vague but unpleasant odors that even the strong medicinal smell of disinfectant couldn’t obliterate. After a while the woman looked at Annie with a tender expression in her dark eyes. A few moments later she came over to Annie and tendered another drink of the liquid fire. Watching her, Annie realized that the woman had a regular business selling booze, cigarettes; even chewing gum and candy -- to anybody who could afford to buy her wares. She sold Coca-Cola and Pepsi and orange soda as well. Annie never learned what the woman’s arrangement with the police might be but she noticed that they were customers too.
By early afternoon Annie, after a number of tequilas and now just about as drunk as when she’d arrived in Tijuana the day before, stood by the bars with the other women and joked with people in the large waiting room.
One stocky policeman was obviously smitten. Shorter than Annie’s five-six, he wore a brown horsehide jacket, the kind worn by pilots in World War II. He had a badge pinned to his jacket and under the jacket he wore a brown shirt, tie and trousers. He wore an airline pilot’s cap with a brown leather bill and he packed an enormous pearl-handled pistol on his hip. He spoke good English.
“I lived in LA for ten years,” he told her. “I used to come back down here once in a while, and then one day my uncle said he could get me on here. He was a big shot then.”
“What do you mean, then?” she asked, trying to seem concerned despite her shaky condition and silly mood.
“Oh, he went to prison. Some kind of bad rap, I think. He’s retired now.” He grinned showing a bright gold tooth beneath his thick black mustache. “So anyway, here I am, still here, fighting for justice.” There was something about this swarthy young man that appealed to Annie.
“When can I get out?” she wanted to know.
The officer shrugged. “You have to wait till the capitán comes – maybe pretty soon. I don’t know.”
They talked more, becoming more and more intimate.
His name was Héctor Archuleta and he was thirty. He was married but not living with his wife. He told Annie a long series of stories most of which she believed and some of which she didn’t even hear. Finally Héctor looked around as if thinking. He turned back to Annie. She stood holding the bars and he reached out and caressed her fingers.
“Maybe I could get you out of here for awhile,” he said. “Maybe we could go someplace…”
Annie smiled. “I’d like that…Héctor.”
He went away and came back a few minutes later with a guard. The man opened the cell door for Annie. The old woman said, “Don’ forget to come back and pay me. Thirty dollars.”
Annie laughingly promised that she wouldn’t forget. Life wasn’t so bad after all.
Outside Héctor put on mirrored sunglasses and they got into an old Chevy. Héctor smelled good: soap and leather and sweat and tobacco. Annie squeezed nearer and he put one hand on her knee.
“I told them you were sick and I had to take you to the hospital for awhile. I have to bring you back but they won’t do nothing to you. They said some men got in a fight in a cantina and you threw a glass at them, that’s all.”
“I did?” Annie watched through the window as they drove down a dusty side street. “Why would I do that?”
Héctor shrugged. “I don’ know. Maybe you trying to stop the fight.” He glanced sideways at her. “When the police came you should have given them twenty dollars, that’s all. Even ten. They didn’t want to take you in. If it nothing serious we usually just hold Americans for a few hours and send them home. We don’t like to arrest them, you know. Bad for business.”
Annie smiled, “I don’t think I had ten dollars.”
Héctor braked in front of a faded yellow two-story building. A small sign above the door read, Hotel El Campestre.
Inside, the hotel was an open square with ambulatories around the four sides. Annie waited in the patio while Héctor went into a little office and made arrangements. Her head thrummed and she felt unsteady. She knew she must look a mess. She looked about her. Tables and chairs and potted plants stood scattered around a dry fountain that stood in the center of the patio. She noticed a few children’s toys lying on the dusty uneven bricks. Finally Héctor came back and took Annie to a room on the second floor toward the back of the hotel.
“Wait here,” he said, letting her in. “I go find us something to drink.”
The room was not large. It held a sink against one wall, an old bureau, a couple of chairs and an ancient cast iron bed with flaking white paint. The bathroom was more like a large green-tiled shower stall combining toilet and shower together with a drain in the center of the floor. The bathroom smelled strongly of Lysol.
Annie kicked off her shoes and lay back on the sagging bed. Her head was reeling but all in all she felt pretty good. She just needed a drink. What the hell.
Héctor came back with bottles and a six-pak of Tecate. They drank beer and made love and drank some more. As a lover Héctor was abrupt, but for all that, appreciative.
Héctor opened a dark square bottle and passed it over to Annie.
Annie suddenly realized the bottle had a something in it. Héctor said it was a worm. "That's mescal." He smiled that it was a tradition. The worm gave it flavor. He dared her to eat the worm so she did. Crispy, it didn’t have any particular flavor. They laughed at her daring and drank some more mescal while Héctor smoked Camels and the day faded into early evening. Annie began thinking she might just stay in Tijuana and become Héctor’s woman. She was no good for Herbert. She knew she would only end up making him miserable. Besides, life was so casual here in Tijuana. Everybody was having a good time in this town of perpetual parties. Everybody was friendly…and feeling the warmth of his body next to her, she had to admit Héctor was quite a man.
After the bottle had been emptied, they each drank another can of beer and made love again and then started in on a bottle of tequila.
Later Héctor went to sleep, or rather passed out, and Annie, who was now getting her second wind, couldn’t get him to stir. At last, miffed and feeling hungry, she got dressed, put on Héctor’s airline pilot cap and army leather jacket and, with the last can of beer in her hand, left the room.
Outside where the sinking sun cast long shadows in the dusty street Annie wandered from cantina to cantina looking and feeling pretty snappy in her uniform. An admiring taxi driver bought her a pork steak dinner in a small Brazilian diner but Annie wasn’t as hungry as she thought she was. Eventually she found herself drinking beer with an elderly American who had a room nearby.
“I just get a little veteran’s check. I get a lot more bang for my buck on this side of the border,” he explained. “And besides, I make my own gnôle and save a bundle in the process.”
His room was small but neat with a little sink, a table with two chairs and a single cot against one wall. She learned that the bath was outside a few doors down. She looked at Pablo. His name was really Paul but he said everyone called him Pablo. His thin hair was white and his jowls and chest sagged and his movements were imprecise. His Spanish was bad but in Tijuana that isn’t a hindrance. According to Pablo, he was an engineer who used to travel the world and had spent many years in Tahiti. Here in Tijuana his rent was low and at a small grocery across the street he bought five-gallon tins of grain alcohol that he cut with two parts water, Kool-Aid and a little sugar.
Annie drank her Kool-Aid with gusto and said it was the best damned Kool-Aid she’d ever had.
“The nice feature is you never get a hangover,” Pablo told her.
Feeling expansive, Annie allowed Pablo to admire her tattoos. They drank some more Kool-Aid. But Pablo was concerned about the jacket and cap she had thrown over one of the chairs. “I wish you hadn’t taken those,” he told her. “I’m afraid that cop’s going to be one mad hombre. He’s probably going to be in hot water when he comes back minus his prisoner and his hat and coat.”
“Héctor won’t be mad at me and anyway, I’m going back,” she laughed. “He said they’re not going to do anything to me. He’s a nice guy, Pablo, just like you.”
They drank and talked until finally Annie was out cold. Pablo sat on the side of the cot where she lay and wished he were young again. Damn! She was a beautiful woman, that Annie.
Hours later Annie awoke in the dark room. She called out but felt that there was no one in the room with her. Drunk and unable to find a light, she stumbled about and managed to locate the door. She stepped out into the night minus her jacket and cap.
Across the street the little grocery glowed with the light of bare bulbs but as Annie crossed over to it, she saw that there were no customers. Pablo must have got bored and wandered off just as she had done with Héctor. She shuddered and laughed as a stray dog rubbed shyly up against her leg. Suddenly she felt better and decided what she needed was a drink. That was easily fixed. Although Annie didn’t have a penny on her, she wandered into the first cantina she came to and almost before she could adjust her eyes to the dim smoky light someone had placed a bottle of beer in front of her.
A blur of men passed by: a cattleman, an American doctor, a Mexican doctor, a musician, a lawyer, a man who owned a brewery, a man who dealt in real estate; it seemed to Annie that everybody in Tijuana was wealthy and important. Best of all, the men were uniformly generous with the liquor and that was what mattered.
The night wore on and in a more sober moment, she remembered making the phone call for Rick. It pleased her that she had been able to help Rick, but then it occurred to Annie that perhaps she should telephone Herbert too and let him know where she was, or at least let him know she was all right. She didn’t really want to worry him, but a moment later she forgot all about Herbert as she moved on to another bar.
She came into a place filled with the heaviest herd of women Annie had ever seen congregated together at one time, and lo and behold, there sat Pablo quietly resting his elbows on the bar.
Pablo smiled as he saw Annie approach. “You were sleeping so quietly I thought I’d get out and let you rest. That cot isn’t big enough for both of us – not side by side anyway,” he laughed.
Annie smiled teasingly, “Well…?”
“Hey, ten years ago – maybe even five.” Pablo sipped his beer and looked wistful. “But not today. It’s been too long, Annie.”
He bought Annie a beer and a shot of tequila. They drank.
A jukebox shook the rafters with sad whining Mexican cowboy songs and Pablo waved at the roomful of women. “I call this place The Beef Trust,” he told Annie. “It’s always full of big women. I don’t know where they come from, but you know what they say: birds of a feather…”
After a while Annie decided it was time to move on, but Pablo reminded her, “You should go get that leather jacket and the cap and take them back before your cop puts out an APB on you, Annie.”
“I’ll come pick them up later. Don’t worry.”
“Are you sure you can find the place?”
“Sure I’m sure,” Annie laughed with all the confidence in the world. She left Pablo at The Beef Trust and wandered from bar to bar until sometime late in the night when she found herself back in the midst of the noisy bustle of the main street. American sailors winked at her and Annie winked back. She drank straight tequila in one club, beer in another, margaritas in the next. She suddenly had some vague sort of idea that perhaps it was time to try to locate Brett and head back home, but there was no sign of him. The smoke, confusion and high noise level of the clubs combined with the quantity of alcohol Annie had consumed created a dreamlike surrealistic world where anything could happen and there was no tomorrow.
The girls who worked in the clubs along the main drag did not like competition from some stupid gringa who didn’t already have a man on her arm. “Go back where you came from, ojos azules,” one angry girl told her.
Rebuffed, Annie returned to the side streets where the cantinas were more receptive to a girl like her, and besides she decided, it was about time she got Héctor’s things together and headed back to the hotel. He’d be waking up soon and want his clothing.
In a little cantina across the street from the post office Annie laughed and sipped beer with a paunchy man in a suit and necktie and a farmer’s straw hat when two stocky policemen wearing leather jackets just like Héctor’s came through the front door.
“Ahí está,” said one, pointing a finger at Annie. Her straw-hatted companion slid down from his stool and headed for the rest room.
“You come with us,” the other officer said.
Smiling happily, Annie got unsteadily down from her stool and accompanied the policemen outside.
“Where’s Héctor?” Annie asked.
“We take you,” one policeman told her.
A little later, somewhere in the dark, the car stopped by the corner of a small park and the two officers walked Annie up four concrete steps into the park and toward a bandstand that stood at its center.
Héctor Archuleta stepped out of the shadow. A bare overhead bulb hanging from the roof of the bandstand threw a weak yellow light across the floor.
“Héctor!” Annie cried. “I’ve been looking all over hell for you.”
“Oh…yes? I been looking for you too. Where’s my jacket and my cap?”
“Oh…” For a moment Annie found herself at a loss for words. Something about Héctor’s demeanor told her this wasn’t going to be so easy to handle as she had expected. “I – I left them at a friend’s house for safekeeping,” she explained. “We can go get them.” Then as an afterthought, in a pouty voice: “I don’t know what you’re all upset about; you went to sleep on me. That’s not a nice thing to do to a girl. Anyway, you knew I was coming back.”
“Where is this place – your friend?” Héctor said.
Annie realized suddenly that she didn’t have the faintest idea where Pablo’s room was. She didn’t think she’d recognize it if she saw it. She’d been drinking so much and hadn’t paid any attention at all to where she was going or what she was doing.
“Whore, you want me to get fired or what? I try to help you a little bit and look what you do to me. Everybody's laughing at me. I supposed to take you back six hours ago. I can’t believe you go around stealing policemen’s badges.”
This threw Annie over the top. She laughed hilariously, “Badges? Badges? You don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Then seeing the look on Héctor’s face, she quickly sobered. “All right! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you into any kind of trouble, Héctor.” The entire scene was so unreal that she wondered briefly if she was hallucinating.
“You're the one in trouble,” Héctor told her. “Oh you in plenty of trouble with me, bitch.” He stepped forward into the yellow light. He clutched some sort of thick truncheon in his right hand. “Nobody pulls that shit on Héctor Archuleta,” he told her.
The two officers grabbed Annie by her arms and pulled her toward Héctor.
“Not in the face,” one officer counseled him. “Don’t touch the face.”
Ignoring him, Héctor grabbed at Annie and as he swung her around he laid the heavy rubber truncheon into her rib cage. Never in her life had Annie felt such a crushing blow. A car had struck her, a freight train. The pain pressed in unbearably. Her mouth flew open to scream but no sound came out.
“Shut your snout, bitch,” Héctor told her, slipping into Spanish in his anger. He raised the truncheon again and then again.
Sobbing and choking, in such blurring pain that she was unable to scream, unable to breathe, Annie fell into shock and whimpered. She tried to beg through thick spittle that formed at her lips. She began to vomit and Héctor jumped back with a curse to avoid getting puke all over his shoes. Though Héctor tried to hold her up, her limp body slid to the concrete and still his blows pounded down on Annie while he vented his rage. Annie felt caught up in a hurricane. Her body tossed up and down and about at the whim of the storm, utterly powerless against the pummeling that rained down from all sides while the other two policemen stood with impassive faces and watched her punishment. At long last a blackness of enveloping velvet lowered itself mercifully about Annie…and the night went dark.
“¡Ya!” said one of the officers as Héctor’s arm came up again. “You going to kill her, man.”
“So? Maybe I will,” Héctor muttered, his anger nearly spent. His ragged breathing eased as he stared down at Annie’s crumpled body on the bare wooden floor of the bandstand. He kicked softly at her body, “Whore…”
Suddenly the other officer dropped to one knee. “¡Ay! She bleeding.”
Now Héctor bent down over the unconscious woman and saw blood trickling from her lips.
“Ah, she just bit her lip I think,” he said.
The officer studied Annie’s face. Another thin trickle of blood began oozing down from her nostrils.
“I better call the ambulance,” he told Héctor. “Listen to me, Héctor, we’ll tell them we found her on the street. Maybe somebody ran over her; we don’t know. You go home now. We’ll take care of it.” He got laboriously to his feet and lumbered back to the car.
“Dirty bitch,” Héctor said. He looked suddenly forlorn and helpless, “Now I’m never going to find my shit. Why did she do this to me? What? I try to help the bitch a little, that’s all I did.”
After an ambulance had taken Annie’s unconscious body away, the two policemen went back to headquarters to file their report.
Two days later authorities notified Annie's husband and the following item appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
AMERICAN WOMAN KILLED
San Pedro resident, Annabella Schafer, 24, succumbed to injuries incurred early Sunday morning when a hit-and-run driver struck the victim in Tijuana. Doctors pronounced Mrs. Schafer dead shortly after arrival at Miguel Alemán Hospital. There were no witnesses to the accident and the case is under investigation by local authorities.
Mrs. Schafer is survived by her husband, Herbert Shafer, 54, of San Pedro.
Site: C. M. Albrecht
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