“Guatemala Kill Pit” by Tom Leins
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, Tom Leins finds new opportunities in Guatemala City.
We drove as far as we could and abandoned the car when the gas ran out.
I had never been to Guatemala City before—Belize City once, Panama City twice, but never Guatemala. The outskirts of the city looked like an automobile graveyard. The rusted cadavers were stacked two or three cars high and blotted out the pale afternoon sun.
Bobby Berahino fiddled his thinning ponytail with nicotine-stained fingers as we trudged through the dust. He always fidgeted when he got nervous. He gestured to a row of small concrete houses on our left.
“I knew a guy who lived around here. One Sunday morning the cops grabbed him and poured gasoline all over him. Then they struck a match and lit him.”
Even though he grew up in Guatemala City, Bobby looked nervous walking around his hometown. His father worked for the government, but his maternal uncle was a cop. Bobby used to reminisce about seeing his uncle walk across the kitchen floor after church on Sunday mornings, clothes slick with blood. He remembered his uncle’s bloody boots making a kissing sound on the linoleum. On weekends, off duty cops prowled the barrios in unmarked cars, shooting men like rats. Afterward, they would hack off the hands and throw the bodies in ditches.
Bobby moved to California with his mother when he was sixteen, but his father still lived in Guatemala City. They hadn’t spoken since Bobby was sent to Chino in 1997. That was where we met—we were briefly cellmates. He was too soft for prison, and I was too hard for my own good.
When I got out, Johnny Francisco and his half brother Tommy were both dead. I took a five-year jolt to protect their business interests but never got my payday.
Bobby owed me big time, and suggested that a man of my talents could make money south of the border. I thought he meant Mexico, but he told me the further south we went, the more money I could make.
“What’s that smell?”
“The basurero. The dump.”
A trail of putrid-looking smoke trails lingered on the horizon. It hung in the air like the threat of impending violence.
Zona 3 was bleak and claustrophobic. Bobby and I walked for hours, cutting down syphilitic side streets. Bobby’s contact Rigoberto used to stage cockfighting derbies in an abandoned warehouse not far from the Cementerio General, before switching to organizing bare-knuckle fights between Americans and locals. He had lined me up to fight a guy called El Sepulturero—the gravedigger.
A group of heavily armed men leaned against a white panel truck. Their thin black cigarillos gave off a feral stench. They glared at me with tattooed faces.
“Hijo de puta.”
Bobby dislodged the corrugated iron sheet that passed for a door and let me pass.
“Welcome to hell.”
The warehouse smelled of cigarettes and fear. Broken lights hung from frayed wires. A heavyset girl wearing a grimy sequined bra and see-through trousers served cloudy-looking drinks from a tray.
Bobby injected me with a steroid called Oradexon, which he told me was used by farmers to fatten livestock. He warned me that it might weaken my immune system and give me skin rashes. I didn’t give a fuck. If I lost to El Sepulturero, a rash would be the least of my worries.
El Sepulturero was wiry and damaged looking. I saw his thighs tense through his tight trousers. He lunged for me. I whipped a few hard rights into his skull meat, and he tried to gouge out my left eyeball with his thumb. I jabbed my fingers into his throat and smashed my elbow into his nose.
Blood flowed like rainwater.
Forty minutes later.
I swilled my mouth out with blood-warm rum from an old McDonald’s cup. I peeled off my blood-soaked clothing with broken fingers, and Bobby passed me a threadbare towel. As he counted out the money, he left bloody fingerprints on the quetzals.
Rigoberto had eyes the colour of chewed tobacco. He was wearing a faded Universidad soccer jersey and old jeans. I felt his hot stinking breath against my cheek as his voice oozed out of his mouth.
“Buena suerte, amigo.”
He squeezed my dislocated shoulder and melted into the gloom where the tattooed men were rolling El Sepulturero into an old carpet.
Somewhere, out in the darkness, I heard feral dogs barking.
TOM LEINS is a disgraced ex–film critic from Paignton, UK. In 2005–2006 he traveled across Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. He is currently working on a series of “Paignton Noir” novels, the first of which is called Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at http://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/.
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: Aug 31, 2015
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