The Hacienda of Roberto de Gonzalez between Ocosingo and Palenque, Mexico
By five o’clock in the morning. Detective Lieutenant Alvarez Cruz had enough to drink and more than enough small talk to last him a lifetime. He glanced at Dr. Eduardo Carlos and noticed that he was slumped in his chair, holding his wine glass at a precarious angle. Standing up, Alvarez walked the five steps over to the doctor and shook his shoulder.
“Did I nod off?”
Alvarez scanned the room. Roberto Gonzalez and his two counts had long left the room.
“Guess our host left us to sleep off our addled wits. Let’s go home before they wake up.”
“Well, Roberto will be asleep by now. That I know. As for his two friends, they’ll be out and about. They prefer to nap when the sun shines.”
Alvarez glanced into the doctor’s face.
“Everyone takes a siesta during the day.”
The doctor studied the detective’s bewildered face and chose not to clarify his statement.
“Never mind,” Carlos shrugged. “Our host is probably in bed with his good wife. As for his nighttime friends, consider the topic closed. Perhaps, when you drop me off at the hospital, I can make things clearer.”
Alvarez nodded. He stood up from the chair and walked toward the door. The doctor followed behind him. But just then Carlos felt a slight chill squeeze past his shoulders. He stopped and called out to Alvarez.
“Did you feel a chill just now?”
Alvarez too stopped. He twisted his head to scan the room and saw a black triangular shadow wedged between the two walls in a corner. Nothing else caught his attention. Alvarez rubbed his eyes and then blinked. The black spot disappeared from his sight
“I see nothing. Let’s go. I’ve got to find several missing boys and foreign tourists, and you have a hospital to run.”
Cruz and Carlos went out the door and down the steps toward the police four-by four. Cruz unlocked the two front doors and then the rear gate. The tarp still covered the amputated arm resting on the floor. Stepping into the vehicle, he inserted the key and started the engine. Carlos climbed in next to him and shivered.
“I hate being out at sunrise,” the doctor said. “It’s always unpleasant. Do you have a sweater in the back seat?”
The Bronco’s engine coughed into a steady purr. Alvarez waited a minute or so, stepped down on the clutch, shifted into first gear and drove slowly away from the hacienda. Neither he nor Carlos noticed a black shape hovering on the hacienda’s porch.
As Gabrielle Tairino materialized into flesh, his cowboy boots struck the porch. Seizing the chair that Alvarez Cruz had dragged close to the screen door, Tairino plopped into it. Curling up into a shivering ball, he felt Camazotz’s blood roar through his veins and blood vessels, like water bursting through a dam. Each one of his veins widened and pulsed with new life as if the god’s blood had enlarged his body from within. Energy poured through him, making him giddy. Tairino hadn’t felt like this since he was first initiated and infected by the Spanish ah k’ins – as the Mayans called the Spanish priests – Bartolone de las Casas, and Fray Marcos Niza. Both considered Tairino something of a religious experiment: good repulsing evil.
When the ah k’in Bartolone de las Casa shipped Tairino back to Spain, he was presented at court to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Their eyes consumed him as if they had never seen cocoa-colored children before. At their summons, one of their courtiers ran his hand up and down Tairino’s skin, expecting its dark color to rub off.
During the day, Tairino spent his time inside a massive stone structure with massive overhead arches and walls blanketed with tapestry. Smoldering candles provided minimum light while the ah k’ins sat on wooden stools writing with elongated feather quills and blackberry juice.
Dressed in his own coarse brown robe, tied with a frayed cord, his bare feet shod in leather sandals, Tairino saw that his teachers wore elaborate blue woolen cloaks covering embroidered brown tunics covering their entire bodies. Their meat sickened him. Their colored red water fogged his brain. At first, his teachers never left his side lest Tairino revert back to his former nature.
Bartolone de la Casa taught him his letters, religion, and how he should behave when at court and in the church. Tairino mimicked the actions of the ah k’in and soon found that, when he accomplished his lesson to his master’s satisfaction, he was awarded with smiles, warmer clothing, and a hat to cover his elongated skull. Later, when one of his ah k’ins revisited the monastery after a two-year absence, Tairino found that the ah k’in looked at him differently. They sent him to a new church where Tairino was initiated into the mysteries of church etiquette He remained hidden until he reached manhood. Once he took his vows, his ah k’in sent him to another monastery where he rose from simple parish priest to a bishop.
Tairino found himself working with two prominent priests, who initiated him in to their secret society. Blood became his eleventh commandment as dictated to him by their one true savior, Christ. Tairino left Spain and sailed back to Mexico, losing himself among the heathen Indians and the rush for gold.
As the years past, Tairino studied for a teaching degree, and found himself drawn to Texas, where no one bothered him with questions about why he had lived so long. He settled in Houston, with frequent trips north to Dallas, where he eventually accepted a teaching assignment at a high school. Since he was fluent in Spanish, the principal assigned Tairino to teach Spanish to freshman and junior students.
On parent/teacher day, Tairino met one of his student’s fathers, Jackson Coleman, who headed his own oil well firefighting company. The two men took an immediate liking to one another, and Tairino accepted an invitation to dine with Coleman’s family. The dinner was Tex-Mex with a heavy emphasis on tequila and sangria. Tairino recognized Francesca, the Coleman’s daughter, as one of his freshman students. Jackson’s wife was even more exotic, with her strawberry-gold hair. Tairino found a sympathetic audience with his version of his life and how he ended up teaching at a local high school.
After dinner, Jackson excused himself while Francesca lingered at the table until her mother, Miriam, dismissed her. Tairino turned his attention to Miriam. She reciprocated and flirted with him. Jackson rejoined them carrying a bulging pouch. Tairino smelled the pouch’s contents before the man sat down next to him. Without hesitation, Tairino reached for the pouch. Instinctively, he knew his host wanted to conduct business in Spanish to frustrate any eavesdroppers.
“ｿDonde usted lo quiere tomado?(Where do you want it taken?)
Jackson dropped the bag into Tairino’s outstretched hands.
“Chiapas. Un corredor lo espera.” (Chiapas. A runner waits for it.)
That settled, Jackson Coleman moved on to another topic and spoke in English so that his wife would understand the complexity of his plan.
“I’ve arranged for you to take Francesca’s Spanish class down to Palenque to visit and study the Mayan temples as part of a cultural exchange. In return, a freshman class from a Mexican high school will here and visit the Alamo and learn about Texas. The Mexican Cultural Student Exchange approved of the exchange and expects us in four weeks.” And then, as if he were describing the delivery of textbooks, Coleman said, “Chilam Balam arranged for one of his runners to pick up the pouch and deliver it to him.”
“I get to play chaperone. Won’t Francesca be pleased?”
Both Jackson and Miriam laughed. Tairino bit his lower lip and grasped the pouch. His nostrils told him it was raw opium. Now, four weeks later, Tairino shivered on the chair in front of the Gonzalez’ hacienda, not sure if Chilam Balam’s found the pouch he left in his room at the hotel, or if Camazotz’s blood would protect him from his two masters, Erros and Ambros. Tairino dozed.
Two black forms dropped to the porch and studied their servant. Erros swatted him with one of his wings.
“Thought you would turn up,” Erros said in Romanian. “Make it with that strawberry-blonde beauty of yours, yet?
The two Eastern European vampires snickered. Tairino’s eyes snapped opened. He looked up into their faces and saw his pinched face mirrored in their black pupils. Tairino managed a weak grin.
“Still working on it.”
The two counts pulled Tairino off the chair and slammed him up against the hacienda’s wall. Erros patted down Tairino’s body.
“Find it?” Ambros asked.
“It’s gone,” Erros answered.
Tairino shifted his back against the white stucco wall.
“Of course, I gave it to her; for protection against them. It’s of no use to me. Hasn’t been for centuries,” Tairino said.
“Where’s your friend now?” Erros asked.
“Where I can’t get to her.”
“And her daughter?” Erros screamed. “Where’s she hanging out?”
Tairino’s body sagged.
“Haven’t . . . haven’t seen her for a while,” he squeaked.
“Don’t lie to us. We know – even if you don’t. We bumped into our Elena riding in the jungle. Her husband, Roberto, collected her from the temple ruins. Thought maybe you two met in transient. Yes? No? Don’t play with us Gabrielle. We can feed off you, as well.”
Tairino scratched the back of his neck, where once the chain rested holding the gold cross. Erros’ threats didn’t bother him as much as Camazotz’s living presence inside his mind. He felt the god lurking on the fringes of his mind. Tairino tried banishing Camazotz from his head, and felt a slight quiver as if the god had stepped outside of him and watched him from another spot inside his mind. The two thug vampires released Tairino. He slumped to the porch and lay there like a crushed insect.
"What do you have to say for yourself?” Erros asked, continuing to speak in his native Romanian. “Why would a detective be interested in us?”
Tainio’s eyes turned toward the two counts, and he shrugged his shoulders.
“How would I know? Some of my kids got lost in the jungle. I couldn’t
find them. The girls hitched a ride home with a bus of senior citizens. Only one didn’t make it home, and she ain’t talking. As for the rest of the class – the boys – beats me. I haven’t got a clue. As for the police detective, maybe that missing girl’s mom set him after her. She’s Jackson Coleman’s kid. That’s all I know. Maybe, you’ve fed, but I haven’t. I sure could use a cool one. Just point me in the right direction. I’ll do the rest.”
“Not now. The sun is rising, and we must get inside and sleep. You should do the same . . . unless you found another way to survive . . . without that blood paste. It will not protect you forever. Here, take this,” said Erros, in a caring manner. “That’s all we have. Rub it over your skin and pray that it works.”
Tairino grasped the paste tube and squeezed it greasy contents onto his skin. Smearing the blood-paste up and down his bare arms, his unprotected chest, uncovered legs, and eventually, his face, it proved beneficial as the first rays of sun shot struck his legs. Erros and Ambros shrank inward until they became two black specks banging up against the screened front door. Swerving his body, Tairino’s fingers grasped the doorknob and twisted it. The door swung opened. The European vampires flew in, their wings beating against the heated air as the sun’s rays relentlessly followed them.
The day’s heat built quickly and pounded against Tairino’s bare skin. He ignored it, believing Camaztoz’s boast that he was now protected from sunlight and fire. Some things did both him: his two masters’ interrogation of his time spent with his Spanish class, his involvement with Miriam and Jackson Coleman, and their big-mouth daughter. He couldn’t make sense of it, but was grateful that Erros and Ambros hadn’t found the pouch he left behind at the hotel.
Tairino was exhausted. He sought refuge from everyone. As he stepped down the stairs, he peeked under the porch. A small opening at one end was sufficient for him to crawl in and sleep the day away. He dropped to his knees, snaking his body under the porch until he disappeared. Cobwebs brushed his face. Their occupants scurried up the length of the web’s silk tendrils, but none bit him. He rolled onto his back and looked up into the underside of the porch. Roughhewn timbers served as roads for insect hoards intent on its own agenda. Lulled by the heat, Tairino’s closed his eyes. Yes, he was confident he could still withstand the sun’s strongest rays. But he was grateful for the isolation and safety of his temporary tomb.
Elena stirred on the bed as Roberto entered her room. He tiptoed to the bed and sat on its edge. Opening her eyes to slits, she watched him as he disrobed. First came off his white ruffled shirt. Next, Roberto kicked off his pants. She waited for him to awaken her and demand that she take off his boots, but he didn’t.
Roberto glanced at his wife. He knew she was awake and watching him. He played his ace card.
“Are you awake, Elena?” Roberto asked in colloquial Spanish, wishing to sound caring. “I won’t disturb you if you still sleep.”
She kept her breathing even. Roberto twisted his lips and squinted at the rise and fall of the bed sheet. His ruse hadn’t worked. Taking a deep breath, he reached out with both hands, grasped her shoulders and shook her. Her eyelids sprang opened and targeted him with a baleful stare.
“I’m awake, now, Roberto. Is it morning yet?”
“Dawn is breaking. I need your help, Elena. You’re the only one that can make it work for me and the two counts.”
Elena yawned. Her body squirmed within Roberto’s clasp. She wriggled to the opposite side of the bed. He let her go.
“You have grown wild during my absence. What would your poppa and momma think should they see such unbecoming behavior coming from their carefully tended daughter?”
“You are right, my husband. Teach me now what I must do to make myself over so momma and poppa will recognize their daughter once again.
Roberto smiled, taken in by Elena’s self-preserving deceit. He reached out toward his wife a second time. This time when his hand connected with her shoulders, Elena suffered his touch. Inside, her stomach quivered and turned over as Roberto’s cold, clammy hand trailed down her arm stopping at her finger tips. As he caressed her, Elena’s legs stiffened. She stretched them, hoping to ward off the cramps she knew would follow. Her body tightened as she laid flat and taut on the bottom sheet. Trying to smile, Elena licked her lips and thrust her face up toward his, hoping that her illusion of love and trust would dispel any suspicions in Roberto’s mind.
“I want you to do something for me, Elena. It’s a little thing, and yet in its humbleness, it’s of grave importance to us both and the other landowners. Will you do this for me – for us?”
Elena forced a smile and sat up. Leaning against the bed board, she clasped both of Roberto’s hands in hers and then laid the hand bundle against her heart.
“What is it, Roberto?”
Roberto paused as if he wanted to make this moment last as long as possible. He missed Elena’s simple faith in him. She kept pressing his hands against her chest. He felt her heart as it tumbled inside her chest. Its beating kept time with her breathing. Suddenly tongue tied, Roberto raised his eyes up to the heavens and seemed lost in the vastness of his faith. Elena kissed him on the chin.
“Roberto, tell me. What do you want me to do?”
" I . . . want . . . you . . . to . . . join . . . the . . . Zapitastas. It’s a women’s movement. You can pretend that you need their help while secretly gathering information for me. Troop movements. Demonstrations. Leaders. Members. Bits and pieces of information like that. Can you do that for us, Elena? Help us get back our land without losing our dignity or honor?
Her voice shook.
“Is it possible for me to do this?”
“Did I ask you to do something against our religion? Have you forgotten your vows to me, your sanctified husband? I don’t have to ask, Elena. I can order you to do it as well.”
Elena’s hands sprang apart from Roberto’s. She grabbed Roberto’s head to her lips and kissed his hair multiple times. He pulled his head out of her fierce grip and jammed his lips against her lips. Elena kissed Roberto as if her life depended on it. Panting, he shoved off his boots and swung one leg over her body. Pushing the bed sheet out of his way, Roberto laid on top of his wife, still tongue kissing her.
Closing her eyes, she willed her body to obey as it melded into his. Together, they rode the storm of heat and sweat as they grunted and groaned their way through a passage of love, honor, and obedience. Fifteen minutes later, Roberto rolled off of Elena, and sat straight up on the edge of the bed. Taking a tissue from the box, he wrapped it around his member. Standing tall, with the tissue wrapped around his organ, Roberto walked into the bathroom shutting the door behind him. Spent, Elena sprawled on the damp bed sheets and wriggled her toes. Blood surged down toward them. No longer numb and useless, Elena sat halfway up. Reaching across the emptied spot where Roberto recently lain, she plucked a tissue from the box and blotted the insides of her vagina.
Pushing herself up against the bed board, she swung her legs over the covers and stood up.
“Was it good?”
Camazotz’ voice floated through her head.
“Spying on me now?”
“No need. I was in the area and wanted to check in. You have a visitor sleeping under your porch.”
“Under our porch?”
“He came with the counts. He is their creature.”
“Why not sleep inside? There’s more than enough beds to go around. Even Roberto hasn’t cast me from his bed.”
“I noticed. He slept with you?”
“He wants an heir.”
“Is that all he wants? An heir?”
Elena lowered her voice.
“He wants me to join the Zapitastas and report back to him on their movements.”
Camazotz slapped his hands together. It sounded like thunder to Elena’s ears. Roberto heard it, too. He threw opened the bathroom door and stuck his head out.
“Did I hear thunder just now? Wrong time of the year.”
“It must be because of global warning,” Elena said before she thought about the impact of her words on her husband, who years ago derided the very idea.
“I’ll be out and we’ll continue this discussion, Elena.”
“What discussion?”Camazotz asked. “I thought he would just order you to do it. I think it is a good idea, Elena. You are part of the resistance already. This way, you will join the women’s movement with Roberto’s blessings.”
“You still expect me to play the part of a subcommandanta and be a follower as well? Won’t the Zapitastas get suspicious? I can’t play two people at one time.”
“I have no intention of letting the leaders of the Zapitastas know you as the wife of Roberto de Gonzalez. You are but another unhappy wife of a wealthy landowning family. You want your independence from your parents and arranged marriage. They will accept you as one of them. As for Roberto, do what a dutiful wife does. Say yes, and be ready to go back to the temple ruins later on this morning. A tourist bus comes up your private road that is no longer private. It belongs to the Zapitastas.”
Camazotz’s voice faded as he withdrew from Elena’s mind.
“Wait,” Elena screamed.
Roberto ran out of the bathroom in his stocking feet.
“What? Are you all right?”
“It’s nothing. I stubbed my toe. Forgive me, I am so clumsy.”
And then in a small voice Elena added,
“Show me what I must do for me to join the women’s movement. My heart and soul belongs to you, my beloved.”