I have to admit, today was disappointing for me. I worked flat out all day, plenty of manual labour, and when I came home all I could manage to do was eat and then stretch out with a cup of tea.
Despite the fact that, while working this afternoon, the seed of an idea was born for today's challenge - El Diablo - and, despite the fact that this seed germinated into a (frankly strange) story that begins with a Mexican drug lord and heads off in an altogether different direction, I just didn't have either time or energy to write it properly tonight. I finally started at about 9.30pm and, two hours later, all I've got is a 640 word snippet that barely hints at the story still to come.
So, I make a solemn (and public) promise that I will finish this strange little story when I have more time. Although, I guess I can't beat myself up too much about it - after all, managing to bang out 640 words (that I'm vaguely happy with) in two hours after a long and tiring day is pretty good. But I'm still disappointed I couldn't share the whole story with you...
I had queued the line at Imperial Avenue for over an hour, air con up full against the baking sun, before crossing the border into Mexicali. The border guards scarcely glanced at me as I drove past them, I guess I have that kind of face, and I headed south taking Mexico 5, the road to San Felipe. The low buildings that lay clustered beside the road in the centre of the city soon gave way to scattered housing, which then gave way to little more than scrub brush at the side of the road. Within forty minutes, I was in the desert; flat blue sky, wispy white clouds, a mountain range rising off to the west of me.
My GPS had fallen silent once I arrived in Mexico, the voice which had, seemingly, been keen to give me directions every fifty yards was struck suddenly dumb south of the border. The screen gave me nothing more than my trip distance and longitude and latitude. Which was fine by me; I knew exactly where I was going.
Just over an hour south of Mexicali, I turned off Mexico 5 and headed west on what counts for a road in this part of the world, little more than a dirt track marked out by some old tires and white crosses to honour those considerably less fortunate in their driving. The Cadillac I’d hired protested at my decision, juddering and creaking as it bounced from rut to rut, from pothole to pothole, and I made a note to myself to always make sure I chose something with four wheel drive in future.
Little villages came and went; wooden houses dusted against the landscape, white satellite dishes the only real reminder that we were in the 21st century. The dirt track would occasionally interface with a stretch of ancient, pitted asphalt before eventually blending back into the desert dirt. People would sometimes look up as I passed, the car out of place alongside the rusting pickup trucks and worn out sedans, but no one stared too long. It didn’t pay to stare too long in a place like this.
Almost three hours since I’d crossed the border, I finally pulled into Loma Chica; driving past the white stone houses and church and up an even smaller road that led to the ranch which overlooked the village. This was Ramiro Garcia’s fiefdom and I knew that his lookouts had likely reported my impending arrival at least an hour ago; it was therefore not a surprise to find three men with machine pistols waiting outside the large black gate that led to the interior of the ranch. I rolled down the window and ignored their macho posturing.
“I’m Mr. Dalton, I believe I’m expected.”
“Get of the car,” said the man nearest to my door, his black eyes boring into me, “expected or not, no one sees Senor Garcia unless I search them.”
I smiled and opened the door, raising my hands in that universal gesture of compliance as I stepped out and let the man with the black eyes pat me down. He was fairly good at his job, to be honest; quick but conscientious and easier on me than the customs official on my last trip through LAX. I handed him my briefcase and he opened it, patting down the sides and tapping on the base to check for false compartments. Finally satisfied, he closed the case and returned it to me before stepping back and nodding to his compatriots who, in turn, radioed to the men that were behind the gate to open it.
“This way,” said the man who had searched me, and gestured towards the open gate. He allowed me to take the lead but kept close to my shoulder, “but if you make a wrong move, I will not hesitate to kill you.”