The Waterfall of Chilam Balam, Chiapas
“Now that the pleasantries are over, and we know in what direction we’re going, why don’t we join our compatriots before they get to Palenque?” Ambros purred.
Shoving Jesus from his side, Chilam Balam rose to his feet.
“What’s the rush? I can direct the operation from here. No need for us to get our hands dirty.”
Eying the drug lord, Erros shrugged his narrow shoulders, but Ambros reached out and grabbed Jesus by his poncho.
“Our presence is required, but if you prefer to stay home, that’s your choice. We’ll take the boy. I understand he takes good pictures.” Ambros smirked.
Jesus body hung limp in the count’s hand, his arms dangling by his sides. In the back pocket of his pants, his pocket camera stuck out enough to catch both counts’ attention. With his free arm, Ambros reached into the pocket and plucked the camera.
“Got anything of value in here?”
Frightened, Jesus’s words squeaked out an answer.
“Several Señor. If you will put me down, I’ll show you what I have.”
Stretching his wings at half mast, Ambros hopped out of the cave, dragging Jesus with him. Erros followed, as he, too, stretched his wings to full width and, with a spring, soared into the air leaving Chilam Balam behind. Jesus gulped and kept his eyes closed, feeling light-headed and weightless as the wind buffeted his body. Twisting in the count’s iron grip, Jesus ventured to open one eye, which blurred with tears as the wind continued to buffet him.
“You okay down there?” Ambros asked, his words torn from his lips.
Afraid to answer, Jesus kept mute. His silence disturb either count as they continued flying higher into the rain clouds covering Chiapas.
Left alone in the hidden cave, Jose Arellano – Chilam Balam – rubbed his cheeks and wondered who made the better bargain, him or that Mayan god. Assembling his papers, he stuffed them into his pocket and left the cave without a backward glance, amused that the waterfall didn’t seem to disturb the counts’ exit any more than flying off with his minion Jesus.
The drug lord contemplated his options. With the two counts’ signatures on his contract, he was free to start getting his goods across the borders to the western countries in most need of his wholesale goods. Inside his shirt pocket, his phone vibrated. Plucking it out, Chilam Balam slid the unlock bar across his phone and pushed the call button. A familiar voice spoke to him in terse sentences.
“Made contact with the police. Interested in joining cartel. What should I tell him?”
Jackson Coleman’s words hung in the air long after he ended the call. The police had swallowed the bait, and either Coleman or Alvarez would soon contact them to negotiate the details. Rubbing his hands, the drug lord scrambled on the rocks as his eyes constantly searched the jungle, watching for his people to appear.
One of the Zapatista leaders waited for him in the shadows nearby. In her hand, an assault rifle. The cartel leader metamorphosed into his namesake. The Zapatista leader froze as the animal approached. Lowering its head, the jaguar pawed the dirt sending pebbles skittering into the stream leading from the waterfall. In a strangled voice, the Zapatista asked.
“Is that you Chilam Balam?”
In a high pitched female voice, Chilam Balam screamed out his words.
“What have you brought me?”
The woman faltered and took one step backwards. Chilam Balam, his rippling fur hiding his heavily muscled forearms and shoulders, strode forward, claws extended.
“Let me see,” the jaguar barked.
With hesitant steps, the Zapatista leader leaned forward and laid on the ground her automatic weapon.
“Who gave you this?”
“A friend,” she stuttered.
Eying the woman sideways, Chilam Balam retreated with the rifle clasped firm in massive jaws. The woman stayed where she was, her fear of the drug leader in his present shape conflicting with her anxiety of the paramilitary group that had followed her through the jungle.
“Expecting company?” the drug lord rasped out.
Lifting her eyes, the woman leader stared open mouthed at was once a jaguar, and now had turned back into a human.
“I may have been followed by the Chiapas paramilitary group. They have heard of our planned demonstrations at Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampek and Tenam Puente.”
“Anyone at the ruins yet?”
The Zapatista woman stopped talking and scanned Arellano’s lined face.
“I’ll take that rifle back,” she said. “We’ll need it for our demonstration.”
Chilam Balam licked his lips exposing reddened gums and bleeding teeth. He whipped the rifle like a club, striking the woman on the side of her head. She vomited and fell to the ground.
“I don’t think so. You know traitors never do live long enough to enjoy their monies. Better luck next time.”
Clutching the automatic rifle in his left hand, Chilam Balam ran down the path to his waiting group of modern day conquistadores.
“We thought you got lost,” one of his lieutenants complained.
“That would be the day,” Chilam Balam said. “Is everything ready? We must strike them at Ocosingo before they get any closer to Palenque. How many of the Zapatistas are joining Subcomandanta Susanna and her henchman Sister Bagdona? Anyone know?”
“What about that detective, Alvarez Cruz?” his lieutenant asked. “I’ve heard he’s joined forced with our American counterparts. Seems he wants a little action himself.”
Chilam Balam smiled, his filed teeth glistening with reddened saliva.
“You leave the detective to me. He wants in. I’ll be more than happy to oblige. Where’s Jackson? I don’t see him here. And Jesus, has anyone see him lately? He was with me this morning, then left. Anyone know where he’s at? It’s time for us to move our prisoners out and get them across the border tonight. You all know what this means to the prosperity of our company, so let’s keep the feds and the militia happy and leave no unburied bodies behind this time.”
His main man whipped out a scrap of paper and handed it to the drug leader.
“Instructions from that hacienda owner, Roberto Gonzalez who claims all of the land up to and including the Mayan ancient land of Palenque. He understands that you’re now on his side and is asking for asylum from the authorities until the demonstration is over.”
Chilam Balam stared at his lieutenant.
“Did you read it as well?” he asked, his voice coarse and rough.
“No. But he gave me the message word for word so I wouldn’t forget. He wasn’t sure that you could read his fine hand so he had me memorize the text just in case.”
“Is that man stupid? I am a man of letters – of means – how dare he assume that I can’t read? Where is his head? Still on his shoulders? Not for long.”
“Shall we take him out now when he comes to us for safety?”
The lieutenant unsheathed his knife and licked it, his eyes half closed. Chilam Balam drew back, the note scrunched inside his fist. Looking at the sky, he suddenly had his answer. Let Ambros and Erros take care of him.
“No, we’ll welcome him with open arms. Protection from the military whether it be from Chiapas military or the Mexican government or the feds from America, it makes no difference to me. As long as we win and get the land for our operations, there’s nothing that can’t be put off until the appropriate time.”
“We go to Ocosingo then?” his lieutenant asked a second time.
“We go to Ocosingo now,” the drug lord said.
As he sling the rifle over his shoulder, Chilam Balam saw his lieutenant gesticulating with both hands and choking on his words.
“You found the thief that robbed our stash of weapons?”
Chilam Balam growled.
“You mean that a thief broke into our hideout and stole weapons?” he asked angrily. “I took this AK-47 off a half-witted Zapatistas woman who lacked the wits to address me properly.”
Guffawing, the group of men laughed, but the lieutenant’s face sobered into a blank stare, his black eyes never leaving the drug cartel leader.
“Zapatistas are non-violent. They don’t use AK-47s for anything unless provoked, but you know that. Besides, it doesn’t look like an AK to me, but an American M-14”
The drug leader swung the rifle back off his shoulder and held it up before him.
“Funny you should ask,” Chilam Balam said. “An M-14, they’re the ones that jammed too much in Vietnam. I recall that from reading Army bulletins, or is there a new twist that I’m missing?”
His lieutenant took the rifle out of his boss’ hands. Cradling it against his chest, he examined it for any markings.
“We’re in luck. Someone has already done the work for us. It’s been rubbed. Really, where did you find it?”
“Off a chicken-shit Zapatista woman. She came upon me suddenly so I had to go into my routine.”
“Oh,” his lieutenant said, rolling his eyes. “Well, we’ve got the goods. So, it’s off to Oscocingo. Isn’t that where troops surrounded the Zapatistas from doing more bodily harm back in the 90′s?”
“They’re still doing bodily harm to our country. They’re demonstrating at all the Mayan tribal lands to get their land back from us. Let’s get moving. I’ve got people meeting us in the city, and I don’t want to be late.”
Chilam Balam changed back into a jaguar and led his group along the hidden paths of the jungle where no one tread except the Zapatistas and the government’s military.