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News & Features » July 2016 » “Last Tango in Sinaloa” by Howard Gimple

“Last Tango in Sinaloa” by Howard Gimple

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, Howard Gimple takes us to a deadly standoff in Sinaloa, Mexico.

howardgimpleLast Tango in Sinaloa
by Howard Gimple
Sinaloa, Mexico

Jay sat cross-legged under a cobia tree, the majestic Mayan tree of life, where the gods hung out to keep an eye on their minions below. Its elephantine trunk and thick green canopy shielded him from the oppressive heat of the midafternoon sun. He felt his usual preraid tingle. The target was a huge underground meth lab run by the Caballeros Templarios, just outside the Sinaloan city of Culiacán, the epicenter of the Mexican drug trade.

Tito recruited two locals, low-level soldiers of the Familia cartel, to help with logistics and for extra firepower. The boys—they could be no more than sixteen—had no idea who these strangers were, only that they were allies in their gang’s blood feud with the Templarios.

The two punks walked jauntily toward him from their command post, an empty cabin once used to house migrant farm workers, back before the agribusiness megafarms gave up fighting the narco-killers and left for greener, safer pastures. They each held a large paper bag. They joked and laughed as they walked, but their eyes were dead serious. Tito, the head of the Sinaloan cell and Jay’s jailer-handler-partner, wasn’t with them. Not a good sign.

Jay’s hand went to the pistol holstered under his shirt, a Chinese Type 59, modeled after the Walther PP. He moved casually behind the tree. From thirty feet away the Mexicans pulled Uzis out of the bags and sprayed bullets, waking the Mayan gods and wounding the mortal below.

Jay was hit in the left arm and the side of his head. There was a lot of blood but not a lot of damage. He propped himself against the tree, his knees pulled up in front of him, the pistol hidden between them.

Through blood-blurred eyes, he saw the Mexicans approach. One smiled malevolently. The other had a face of stone. The smiling one said, “You have treated us with respect. For that you will die like a man—quick, without pain.”

Jay needed time. A few more seconds to clear his mind and his vision.

“Where’s Tito, my comrade?” he asked, his voice thready.

“He is dead. He was a dangerous man, that one. He fought like a bull. I broke my knife in his fat belly and still he came. We had to cut open his throat like a chicken before he would stop.”

“Why did you betray us?”

“Money, much money.”

“I have money. Let me live and it’s yours.”

A sinister chuckle. “It’s ours anyway—as soon as we kill you.”

“It’s hidden. You’ll never find it.”

Laughing boy turned to look at his sullen friend. That was the opening Jay needed. He whipped the gun out from between his legs and fired. The first shot hit stone-face in the gut. He screamed, dropped the Uzi, and clutched his stomach, blood oozing through his fingers. The other turned and shot wildly, splintering the tree above Jay’s head. Jay rolled, then squeezed out two rounds. One bullet pierced his heart, the other his liver. The grin became a death mask.

Jay turned his attention back to the other, who was slithering over to the Uzi that had fallen a few feet away from him. As he reached for it, Jay steadied himself, aimed carefully, and shot him in the head.

Jay pulled off his shirt, ripped it in half, tied one end around his thigh, the other around his head. He walked slowly back toward the cabin. He was ten feet away when an explosion knocked him backwards onto the ground. In seconds, the old structure was engulfed in fire. He stood up, staring blankly, as flames licked the air and singed his face.

He walked, zombielike, to the old Toyota Land Cruiser parked in back of the burning house. Its original purpose was to be crammed with explosives and propelled, driverless, into the meth lab bunker. Now, instead of delivering destruction, Jay hoped it would deliver him to freedom.

Spewing blood and with only one usable arm, it took all his strength and will to drive the thirty miles to the US consulate in Mazatlán. Two Marines stood guard out front.

Jay stumbled out of the truck. “I’m an American citizen. I was kidnapped. I want to go home.” Then he fell, unconscious, onto the street.


HOWARD GIMPLE recently left his position as senior writer for the Stony Brook University alumni magazine and website to pursue writing fiction full time. While at Stony Brook, he taught two freshman seminars: “Rock & Relevance,” about the political influence of ’60s rock ’n’ roll, and “Filthy Shakespeare,” exploring the dramatic use of sexual puns and innuendos in the plays of William Shakespeare. Prior to that, he was a writer at Newsday and an advertising copywriter. Born in Flatbush, the heart of Brooklyn, Howard now lives on the north shore of Long Island with his wife Chris and his two goldendoodles, Brinkley and Mia.


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

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—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.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 25, 2016

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