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News & Features » October 2014 » “Dead Picture Brides” by Kurt McGill

“Dead Picture Brides” by Kurt McGill

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Kurt McGill investigates the interception of a crate of human cargo in Ensenada, Mexico. Next week, Steve Flam will bring us to Florida for a little piece of heaven.

Dead Picture Brides
by Kurt McGill
Red Light District, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Night must fall in the Tolerance Zone, the same way it does everywhere. Tonight it fell hard. I watched the shipping crate in the bed of the Escalade pickup parked behind the cantina, the crate filled with the ripe kumquats—three snuffed picture brides—that Yee Chung Toy had tried to smuggle from Fujian Province to Veracruz, and then across Mexico, through Ensenada, and into San Francisco.

Tried and failed. The brides would have brought a nice price from some stodgy middle-aged Chinese businessman, a retired pet shop owner, maybe a balding importer of black fungus. Cozy. But this fruit was spoiled, tainted. When I opened the crate on the cargo ship—the captain knew something was wrong by the stench—they were in there: fifteen, sixteen years old, not wearing a hot stitch, dead as sardines in a tin can.

The crate had been intercepted en route from Yee’s freight forwarder, and some adjustments had been made to the contents. My job was to find out who did the adjusting, for starters. The why would come later.

I had redelivered the crate and left it on the beach in Ensenada, where it came aboard the cargo ship. The crate was out of place, awkward, leaning over on its side on a ledge of sand that had been hollowed out by last night’s high tide. It would attract attention—maybe unwanted attention if the cops asked a resident up in the shantytown overlooking the beach if they had seen something, somebody, a couple of nights ago.

I followed the Mexicans in the Escalade—the two thugs with big mustaches who had reclaimed the crate—in a cloud of dust on the road coming up from the beach, then over to the highway, and back to the cantina. I checked in at the Hotel Hot Lips across the street and waited.

Two Chevy Suburbans bracketing a white Mercedes moved slowly down the street and pulled into the lot behind the cantina. Mr. Mercedes got out of the car—hair in a ponytail, business suit, sunglasses—shadowed by his entourage in flak jackets, AR-15 rifles slung over their shoulders. Suave, swanky—a narcotraficante? Maybe he was a pollero, a poultry farmer, herder of chickens: slang for an illegal immigrant smuggler.

I ducked out into the hall for a minute and made my way down to the immoral toilet. When I came back to the window someone had closed the metal gates to the lot. But I still had a clear view of the two bodyguards dressed in yellow plastic coveralls coming out the back door. They wrestled the crate down from the bed of the pickup and pried it open with a crowbar.

The chainsaw made a high-pitched whirring sound, then a few short put-put-puts. One of the bodyguards went to work carving up a virgin bride. First the hands came off. Head went next. Severed parts were thrown into a plastic tub. The stumped carcass was quartered and chucked into the back of the Escalade. His coveralls were transformed by the spray. A tequila sunrise—yellow on top, orange and red highlights flowing together up from his middle.

In a spin . . . blood is that spin I’m in . . . under that old black magic . . . my overloaded circuits shorting out . . . ragged insulation . . . smoking . . . moving . . . a silent movie running through a defective projector . . . bloody plastic tub . . . dump the lost heads . . . the delicate hands . . . fifty-gallon vat in the corner of the parking lot . . . cloud of white mist wafting up from it . . .

I was on autopilot . . . switch on . . . engage remote control . . . sleepwalking . . . downstairs . . . out through the back door of the hotel to my truck . . . looped around the block . . . got a parking place across the street from the cantina’s lot . . .

The wind coming in through the windows of my truck felt cool on my sweaty face as I followed the Escalade—invisibly, softly, drawn along on the breeze, snaking through downtown, past the old cemetery, out Avenida Ojos Negros. Where the fuck are they? Cut right! Quick merge over to the ramp for the Ensenada-San Felipe Highway. Fell in a few car lengths behind them, came up to freeway speed.

Couldn’t see them as we approached the overpass. Too late. Shit. Already passed them. I pulled off. The traffic glided by serenely in the dark. Got out of the truck and looked back down the freeway. The Mexicans moved in the soft glow of the headlights. They dumped what was left of the brides under the overpass.

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NOVIAS EN VENTA MUERTAS
por Kurt McGill
Barrio Rojo, Ensenada, Baja California, México

Noche debe caer en la zona de tolerancia, de la misma manera que lo hace en todas partes. Esta noche cayó con fuerza. Miré a la caja de transporte en la cama de camioneta Escalade aparcada detrás de la cantina, la caja llenada de las naranjas chinas maduras—tres novias por correo—que Yee Chung Toy había tratado pasar de contrabando desde provincia de Cantón hasta Veracruz, a través de México, por Ensenada, y después al puerto de San Francisco.

Él intentó y fracasó. Las novias habrían llevado un buen precio desde los chinos viejos, un dueño jubilado de tienda de mascotas, quizás un importador de hongo negro. Acogedor. Pero esta fruta se echó de perder, podrida. Cuando abrí la caja en el nave de carga—el capitán sabía que algo andaba mal por el hedor—ellos estaban allí: quince, dieciséis años, no llevaban una puntada, muerto como sardinas en lata.

La caja había sido interceptada en la ruta de transitorio, y algunos ajustes habían hechos a los contenidos. Para empezar, mi trabajo consistía en averiguar quién hizo el ajuste. El motivo vendría más tarde.

Devolví la caja al remitente. Lo dejé en la playa de Ensenada, donde había llegado al bordo de la nave de carga. La caja estaba fuera de lugar, torpe, apoyándose a su lado sobre una repisa de la arena que había sido excavada por la marea alta en la noche anterior. Atraería atención por—tal vez atención no deseada si la policía pidió a un residente de la barriada de casuchas con vistas a la playa si habían visto algo, alguien, hace dos noches.

Seguí los mexicanos en la Escalade—los dos mugrosos con grandes bigotes que había reclamado el cajón—en una nube de polvo en la pista que sube de la playa, hasta la carretera, y últimamente a la cantina. Me registré en el Hotel Hot Lips a través de la calle y esperé.

Dos Chevy Suburbans pusieron un Mercedes blanco entre paréntesis. Se movieron lentamente por la calle y entraron en el lote de la cantina. Sr. Mercedes salió del carro—el pelo en una cola de caballo, traje negro, gafas de sol—sombreado por su escolta en chalecos antibalas, con rifles AR-15 al hombro. Suave, chuco elegante. ¿Un narcotraficante? Tal vez era un pollero, un pastor de pollos, traficante de mojados.

Me metió en el pasillo de repente y encontré el inmoral baño. Cuando regresé a la ventana alguien había cerrado las puertas de metal del lote. Pero todavía yo tenía una vista clara de los dos guardaespaldas vestidos con monos de plástico amarillo venían por la puerta trasera del cantina. Ellos lucharon abajo la caja de embalaje y la abrieron con una palanca.

La motosierra hizo un zumbido chirriante, luego unos cortos put-put-puts. Un guardaespaldas comenzó a repartir una novia virgen. Las manos salieron primero. La cabeza seguida. Las piezas cercenadas fueron arrojadas en una tina de plástico. El cadáver fue descuartizado y se lanzó a la trasera de la Escalade. Sus monos fueron transformados por la bruma. Un tequila sunrise—amarillos en el parte superior, de color naranja y el rojo que fluyen juntos en el medio.

In a spin . . . blood is that spin I’m in . . . under that old black magic . . . circuitos sobrecargados y cortocircuito . . . aislamiento andrajoso . . . fumando . . . moviendo . . . una película muda corriendo a través de un proyector defectuoso . . . un tina de plástico con sangre . . . deshágase de las cabezas perdidas . . . las manos delicadas . . . en tanque de cincuenta galones en la esquina de la playa del aparcamiento . . . una nube de niebla blanca flotando sobre del tanque . . .

Yo estaba en piloto automático . . . embragar . . . comenzar control remoto . . . sonambulismo . . . abajo . . . por la puerta trasera a mi camioneta . . . un bucle alrededor de la cuadra . . . conseguí una plaza a través de la calle de la cantina . . .

La brisa que entraba por las ventanas de mi camión sentía fresca en mi cara sudorosa mientras seguí la Escalade—de forma invisible, murmurar, tirado junto con la brisa, serpenteando a través del centro, por el antiguo cementerio, a lo largo de Avenida Ojos Negros. ¿Dónde carajo están? ¡Corte a la derecha! Rápida fusionar con la rampa de la carretera Ensenada-San Felipe. Ahora les seguí a una distancia, me acercaba la velocidad de la carretera.

Yo no podría verlos cuando nos acercamos al paso elevado. ¡Chingado! Ya pasé por ellos. Saqué rápido al lado. El tráfico se deslizó serenamente en la oscuridad. Salí de mi camión y miré hacia atrás por la autopista. Los mexicanos se movieron en el suave resplandor de los faros. Tiraron lo que quedaba de las novias bajo el paso elevado.

Traducción: Kurt McGill

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A graduate of UC Berkeley, KURT McGILL studied painting privately in London with R.B. Kitaj and David Hockney subsequent to their teaching at Berkeley, returned to get a master’s degree, then lived and worked as an artist and college professor in New York City. His work is held in private collections, has been exhibited at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and included in the Museum of Modern Art Archives. He is a flash fiction writer and author of three atmospheric noir novels: Ode to Blackwell Wren, Fragrant Fukien Women, and The Model Lodger. Now Kurt splits his time between St. Augustine, Florida, and Montevideo, Uruguay. He can be found at kurtmcgill.com.

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Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Oct 27, 2014

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , ,



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