Montezuma's Revenge


By J. T. Seate



With the sunset a distant memory, the foursome crossed the border into Mexico. Two goals drove them — to take a break from killing women and to get shit-faced. Marcus was the car's driver and de facto leader of the Gruesome Foursome, the take-charge guy for this sortie across the border.

For a good portion of the three-hundred-mile drive through Texas sagebrush, Marcus pontificated on the uneasy friction between Mexico and El Norte, the treacherous mix of Oso Negro and cerveza, and the fact that this was a vacation. "So get any ideas about pretty little senoritas and how they might tremble at the sight of a knife against their skin out of your minds."

"Remember the Alamo," Kevin murmured from the back seat.

"Razz me if you choose, Dick-stick. I've got a way with these senoritas, but you've got to watch out for the local males. They have a thing about their firearms."

Marcus's three companions occasionally grunted at his comments, but mostly they were in and out of slumber-land while the miles clicked off on the odometer.

When they neared the border, Marcus's chatter switched from advice to the game plan for this trip. "I hear the Mexican Mafia is strong in these parts. We should skip the downtown bars, fellas, and head straight for Boy's Town where there's less chance of us being accidentally wounded or getting mailed home one finger at a time."

"You da man," Reece said from the back seat as he playfully elbowed Kevin following each snippet of Marcus's advise. "We love your flair for the dramatic."

"Just drinkin' and funnin'. Nothing serious."

"The only weapons we have are friendly ones," Kevin added.

Once through customs, they shook off their drowsiness and replaced it with anticipation. Besides being ruthless killers, the foursome was full of devil-may-care immaturity, determined to uphold a tradition of getting wasted in Mexico, restless youth celebrating a rite of passage.

They cruised the border town's main drag. The street was aglow with light from shoe stores, electronic shops, and neon signs in bar windows. Peddlers stood in the street offering their trays full of trinkets, and old women sat on their haunches, their hands begging for pesos along the sidewalks.

"You've got to wonder what they think of us gringos coming over to drink and carouse," said John. He was riding shotgun and had enough conscience at least to pose the question.

"Carouse? Is that what you call it?" Kevin scoffed. "We're just coming to drink and mess around like our dads and older brothers did before us. This is no time to start feeling guilty about the freedom down here. We could be living here someday if the cops ever trip over a clue leading to the G4, ya know."

"Ain't gonna happen. Besides, gringo business is what keeps these border towns going," added Reece in the fashion of a community service announcement. "That's the only reason I'd stay cooped up with you three pecker-heads for a weekend."

They chuckled and looked out of their windows at the passing menagerie. Marcus had been told the section of town they sought was beyond the stretch of bright lights. He called to a man on a street corner who looked like another Americano and asked for directions. Soon after, they turned onto an unpaved road a half-mile past the town's main plaza and drove to a district with signs in English that undoubtedly catered to the gringo trade.

A young boy waved the vehicle onto a barren patch of ground that sufficed as a parking lot. He asked for fifty pesos. The foursome piled out and stretched. The fun and games lay a half block ahead.

"Here we be, gentlemen." Marcus proudly held his hand out before him like Alexander the Great overseeing another conquest. "Let the good times roll."

They paid the kid and sallied forth. There were no neon lights here — just two grimy blocks of multi-colored adobe buildings on either side of a rutted, rain-soaked street. As the four men strutted down the street, a local looked at them with a knowing grin before his attention returned to his hand-rolled smoke.

"I feel a little like the four guys in the flick, The Wild Bunch, headed into town to save their compadre from the Federales," John said.

"But we're just packing those friendly weapons in this story," Kevin added to the delight of the others.

A dogfight broke out. A man leaning against one of the buildings kicked at the dogs, sending the less scurvy of the two scurrying down the street, splashing through black puddles streaked with bright colors from reflected window lights, the result of an afternoon rainstorm. The other pooch turned its attention to the four visitors. The man said something to the dog in Spanish, causing the mutt to come out of the street. If any of the four were getting uncomfortable, they didn't confess it, not considering the things they'd done together like two of them holding a woman against a tree trunk while the other two cut her open, marveling at how differently each victim reacted to impending death.

One hole-in-the-wall enterprise held a small, steamy bar. As ominous as it appeared, they saw a few gringo males within. They decided to start their evening of delights with a mix of Carta Blanca, Dos Equis, and tequila.

They slid onto four barstools and ordered. A bartender with a heavy black mustache and a pockmarked face set beers and tequila shooters on the counter along with a wooden bowl that contained thin salsa and an almost-dead, floating fly. Sticky spots from spilled food and drink mixed with sawdust beneath the barstools. No one paid any attention to the four of them, and that was a good omen, they reckoned.

As they drank and slapped each other on the back about exploits yet to come, an old lady crept into the bar. Reece saw her first. He tapped Marcus on the shoulder and nodded in her direction. The old woman was stooped and craggy. She made a beeline for the four men.

"Let me read your palm and tell your future, seniors," the woman said through weather-beaten lips and her few remaining teeth.

"No, thanks," Reece told her.

She didn't go away. "Please seniors. Only a hundred pesos. It might protect you."

"Sorry, lady. No mumbo-jumbo tonight. Gracias," Kevin said, not unkindly, but he could not contain a smirk.

"Then perhaps a few pesos for food."

"All part of the tour, I guess." Reece rolled his eyes and put a few coins in the old woman's withered hand. She nodded and shuffled out the door.

"Can't have a drink without getting hit on," Marcus said peevishly.

"Look into the bottom of my shot glass and read my future," Kevin said to him.

"Hold the sarcasm." Marcus eyed the waiter who had no discernible interest in anything other than the toothpick he was chewing. "We don't know who is related to whom down here. Let's drink up and hit the street. We've had enough to get our juices flowing, don't you think?"

They followed Marcus's lead and returned to the great outdoors. There were others in the streets, but overall, it appeared to be a slow night. Young women with short skirts and fake jewelry appeared in the doorways of most dwellings.

"Ride 'em, cowboy," Reece said, chuckling.

"Remember, no rough stuff. We're on vacation," Marcus warned the other three.

The four of them entered one of the buildings.

* * *

After leaving the bordello and having a few more shooters, the Gruesome Foursome headed back to Marcus's car, laughing and occasionally hitting each other on the shoulder in unspoken tribute to their shared conquests. Suddenly, the old lady Reece had given money to came up from nowhere and grabbed John's wrist.

"Your palm, senior. Let me see."

They kept walking, looking scornfully at the withered beggar even as John allowed her to turn his wrist over. She traced a gnarly finger along his palm and literally shrieked.

She looked at the four sets of eyes glued to her. "Leave Mexico, seniors. Vayanse esta noche." Then she turned and moved away quickly. "Esta noche, esta noche," she repeated, not looking back.

"What the fuck?" Marcus exclaimed.

They looked at each other. Kevin grinned as they walked, but there was a decided lengthening in their strides back to the vehicle.

"A good lay followed by a little voodoo bullshit. What a night, eh, guys?" Marcus asked.

"She didn't try to get more money. Just told us to get the hell out of Dodge like she knew the way."

They were all struck with the need to fill their bellies with beans and tortillas covered with hot sauce, Americano style. A lifetime of Tex-Mex had forever ruined their tastes for ordinary food. At an all-night restaurant in town, they ordered, and shared their individual experiences. Everyone fed off each other's stories as they ordered more beer, and dived into their Mexican Combination Supremes.

Marcus turned his attention to John, the quiet one among them. "How was your girl-next-door there, partner? Enquiring minds want to know."

"She was nice. We talked."

The other three looked at each other for a moment then guffawed, spitting out some of their beer and food in the process. "John-boy, you take the cake," Reece told him. "We come to sample the local cuisine, gently mind you, and you just chat it up." Reece slapped John on the back. "The truth shall set you free. You're a very cool, dude. I'm ordering you another beer, because you are the most honest one of us."

They ate and drank until they felt like puking, and talked until the establishment was practically deserted.

Marcus left to take a whiz. When he returned, he said, "Hey peckers — we're the only customers left, and it's getting light outside. You want to find a place to flop for a few hours? Or, if you-all will spell me at the wheel, we can start back."

They were tired, sweaty, and wearing shoes covered in mud. "Too late to avoid the fortune teller's warning," Reece lamented. "She told us to haul ass tonight, and it's been tomorrow for some time now."

"It's too early to think about such shit. We need java," Kevin said. So they ordered cups of strong coffee in hopes of feeling somewhat human and less like a pack of zombies. They drank the thick, black concoction amidst a rising pile of discarded, soggy pink sugar packets spread around on top of a cracked Formica tabletop that displayed scratchy patterns formed from knife points and years of ground-in grease and grime.

"We might as well head home," John said. "One night is enough for me."

The others agreed and slid off the stuffing-exposed, eviscerated seats in the booth and left the waitress most of their remaining pesos.

"This was one hell of a short vacation," Marcus said, "but it just goes to show we can be perfect gentlemen if we choose."

The others were too spent to agree with their leader this time. Marcus's Chevy was parked in front of a church. As the men approached, a young woman was leaving the church through a huge ironwork-laced, wooden door. Even from a distance, all four could tell she was a study in grace and beauty. She hesitated on a step to let the foursome pass.

"Awfully early for confession, isn't it, senorita?" Marcus said to her in a manner of a man still hung over from an evening of indulgence and naive enough to approach yet another woman as if she were a streetwalker.

The woman stood silently and lowered her chin.

"No offense, Miss," Marcus continued, "but you're so fucking beautiful, I'd like to introduce myself." He bowed drunkenly and grinned that interminable grin that had threatened to get them into trouble before.

John, Reece and Kevin shoved him along. "Christ on the cross, numb-nuts. She's coming out of a church. Let's go."

"I got a way with these people, I tell ya. Now that's a lady I'd like to get close to," he continued, but allowed himself to be ushered toward his car.

Three men piled out of two vehicles parked nearby. Before Marcus could unlock his car door, the three strangers were next to the four Americans.

"Excuse me, senior, but you spoke to the lady coming from the church." It was not a question but a statement.

"I only —"

Before Marcus could answer, two men produced pistols from inside their jackets and pointed them at the four youths. "Come with me, seniors."

"But we're just leaving —"

"Your piece-of-shit car won't be bothered," one of the three strangers said. He waved his pistol in the direction of a building next to the church.

Although the four desperately didn't want to leave the relative safety of the street, they couldn't conjure up an option. The two pistolaros prompted them to walk ahead toward an opening sandwiched between a closed pawnshop and a grocery store while the third man took the hand of the senorita and led her to one of their vehicles.

The six remaining men entered the alleyway, sidestepping trash bags and what looked like fresh puke. The place smelled like a backed-up sewer. A young boy was sifting through some of the mess, but ran when he saw the group of men approach.

One of the strangers ordered the foursome to stop and place their backs against a wall. A mongrel dog sniffed at John's pant leg and looked up expectantly, but there was nothing to give him but cold sweat that now dripped from the hollow of John's neck. The Americans knew that their short vacation had gone terribly south. They had become participants in what looked like a B movie.

"So, gringos — you like to talk to our women even when they come out of the holy church?"

"Please, mister. We meant no harm." Kevin said, his voice uneven.

"No harm?" the man laughed revealing several gold teeth. "You like to come down here and drink our tequila, listen to our music and fuck our women, no?"

No one answered.

The man patted Marcus on the head. One moment he was sardonic and the next, bemused. "That's okay, gringos. You come and spend your dinero all you want, but you must have the good sense to stay away from our decent ladies. In fact, senior, you have the misfortune of speaking to the senorita of Senior Maestas. You don't know of him, but no one speaks to Senior Maestas's woman that way."

John felt like a spectator at a surrealistic dream as the man continued to wave the pistol and talk to Marcus. But, somehow, he felt everything was going to be all right. That is, until he saw the figure of a hunched over old crone standing at the entrance of the alleyway with her gnarled varicose hands and her spindly fingers reaching toward him.

"You were nice boys just looking for a good time, yes?" The man with the gold teeth continued.

"Si...er...yes, sir."

"There are people who appear to be good but carry an evil within. I can see inside them. I think you gringos are this kind of person."

"No sir. If you just let us go we —"

"Get on your knees, gringos."

They remained standing dumbly, each contemplating his individual thoughts.

"On you knees!" the man shouted when the foursome didn't immediately respond. "Emiliano Zapata said it is better to die on your feet than to live on you knees, but we have to make a compromise sometimes, no? At least your death will serve a useful purpose."

Marcus began to whimper and they all hung their heads praying this scenario would turn out to be some kind of sadistic joke, a little fear placed within the hearts of the gringos who dared to notice Senior Maestas's jovencita. John turned his head to see if the old woman still stood at the entranceway of the street leading to their car and to the rest of their lives. Something was there — just the hint of a shrouded figure now. It possessed a misty quality. The Grim Reaper, Mexican style, perhaps?

There was more? Oh my God in heaven! More misty figures, women who'd been violated and slain for amusement back in the states. Their hands rested upon The Reaper, the procurer of the dead. John wondered if anyone else could see them.

"I feel so bad about what I said," John heard Marcus whine, his voice sounding as distant and final as if it were in a faraway catacomb.

"You want to feel something, cabron?" one of the pistolaros said. "Feel this!"

* * *

Senior Maestas sat at a grand table in the courtyard of his expansive villa miles from the squalor of the border town. With his family and friends surrounding him, they admired the sustenance that was only available on special occasions.

"Exquisite cut," he said to his chef. "You have learned how to present and prepare this special meal with skill."

The chef beamed, happy and proud that his employer was pleased with his preparation as everyone greedily lapped up the finger-toe stew and hungrily ate the Americano supreme tenderloin.

And somewhere in the Mexican desert were four new heads for the buzzards to pick at.


J. T. Seate's publishing credits include six novels/novellas, a dozen one-author anthologies, and more than two hundred short stories and memoirs. This is his second short story to appear in omdb! online.

Recent publications can be found at www.melange-books.com, www.whispershome.com, and www.museituppublishing.com for those who like their tales intertwined with the paranormal. See it all at www.troyseateauthor.webs.com and on amazon.com.


Copyright 2013 J. T. Seate. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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