“Woah, woah, woah, stop the clock,” I said, taking a sip of the viscous shake that always seemed in need of improvement. However, upon every visit to White Mana, I was always willing to give them another chance at redeeming themselves. That, and I was a glutton. “So…wait…Are you telling me that Mayor Dwek eats people? Listen, I’ve heard some interesting accusations about Jews in my day, but practicing cannibalism takes the cake. Unless it’s some sort of Orthodox Jewish thing…they can be a little weird at times, especially with that chicken-killing ritual…”
Octavio shook his head. “Nah, Pete, we’re not talking about that…dude, she’s selling their body parts!” Interpreting the expression on my face, he added, “And, no, she’s not selling them to cannibals, but to rich people who need them! That fuckin’ puta killed my aunt and sold her kidneys…like she was some sort of fuckin’ animal…”
“Okay…so, what Joe is trying to say is that Mayor Dwek is a dealer in the black market? In the trade of illegal organs?” I inquired as I finished the last few bites of my meal, along with any remainder of good health in me.
Joe nodded. “Exactly.”
Though I wasn’t about to announce my ignorance in this particular forum, the truth was that I knew little of Mayor Dwek. However, from my few months of residency in Little Peru, I knew that she had a devout following among her constituents. It wasn’t uncommon to pass an home and notice a large poster of her proudly displayed in a street-facing window. On rare occasions when walking by an open front door, you could peek inside and inspect their living room, where a portrait of Mayor Dwek would be positioned next to a picture of The Last Supper…as if she were the 13th apostle and had been tardy due to a meeting with the DPW that had run late. Of course, any explanation of how Dwek was Jewish and how such a tableau might seem ridiculous would likely fall on the deaf ears (sometimes literally deaf) of your typical Honduran grandmother. (As with sarcasm and subtlety, irony was not something that was yet universally understood or appreciated by all cultures.) When the day for elections came, her supporters would canvass the town and invade every building with an open door, placing flyers and posters throughout lobbies and accessible hallways. I had discovered such uninvited regalia taped to our own building’s walls, and they probably would have wallpapered my apartment with her visage if I had forgotten to lock my door. I could only guess that such cultish devotion came from her ability to dole out municipal and state welfare aimed at their impoverished families, along with other such perks. But could such a passionate loyalty result in them turning a blind eye towards occasionally butchering and harvesting one of their friends? To that extent, I had my doubts.
I wiped my hands and placed my napkin on my plate. “So, Mayor Dwek is the Devil Incarnate, and these red jumpsuit guys are her minions? Her diablitos? They somehow trick or compel people into getting their organs ripped out, and because they’re likely illegals, nobody knows and nobody cares.” I turned to Joe. “I gotta be honest, Joe: I’m having a hard time swallowing this story. Those are some pretty tall accusations. Got any proof to back that up?”
“Nothing concrete,” Joe stated flatly, as shook his head. “Just missing people, statements from their families, and some circumstantial evidence. Some eyewitness accounts about people running in hospital gowns through Little Peru at night; sometimes they’re wearing nothing.” Even though that last part sent a chill up my spine, I did my best to shroud it. Naked people running around Little Peru…why did that suddenly seem familiar to me? “But, as you can probably guess, we don’t have anything that would actually stick if an arrest were made.”
Octavio interjected, his face flush with emotion. “Joe knew about my aunt, Pete. And I didn’t even tell him about her. Dude, how else would he know about that? And then he showed me a bunch of papers about her death. How that bitch killed my aunt! I remember…I remember how my aunt would always bring me presents on my birthday…” He stopped midway through his sentence as his voice began to waver. Like every teenager, a public display of vulnerability was beyond his current skillset; it made him endearing, in the most awkward kind of way.
Moved by the emotional toll on my young friend, I looked at Joe gravely. “And so what do you and your benefactors want from us?” I deciphered the suggestive hint in Joe’s eyes. “Or, should I say…what do you want from me?”
“If you’re willing to help, we’d like you to do a little reconnaissance for us,” Joe began, flourishing his hand in incantation and summoning our check from the aether behind the counter. “We know about the legal problems in your building…don’t ask how, we just do. Invite the mayor to your building, under the assumption that she can help to fix the problem with your other tenants. When you get her alone, you should talk about the building for a while…but, at some point, make up a sob story about your struggling father and his need for a new pair of kidneys. Then, see what she says about it…and then relay that back to me.” He wiped his hands for emphasis. “No mess and no strings attached. Besides, maybe she could actually help you with your building problem. Who knows? In the end, it could be a win for everbody.”
“Well, maybe not for Mayor Dwek…And, so, that’s it?” I shot at him, with an assertive tone reserved for cross examinations in courtrooms.
Joe gesticulated with a flattened hand, passing it smoothly before him. “That’s it.”
Hmmm…even if this guy is full of shit, maybe Mayor Dwek could help me dismantle the legal bomb in our building…Though I was suspicious of him, I had to admit it: he was starting to make some sense. That, or all of the blood meant for my brain was now in my belly, and in my mentally-challenged state, I had just made a Faustian deal with a drooling smile.
I reluctantly nodded, as an elated Octavio patted my back in excitement. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
Flashing his perfect teeth, Joe held out his hand. “Dinner is on me, buddy…you know, I could tell that you were a good guy, Pete. I’m smart like that.”
“Stop it already,” I said, rolling my eyes. “There’s a difference between beating a dead horse and running a victory lap on top of its rigid corpse…but, yeah, you got me. For the time being, I’m your man.” And with that, I took his offered hand and shook it.
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.