Within minutes after he sat at the hotel’s bar Charleston was approached by a quite attractive young Latina in a red dress with a red rose in her long dark brown hair.

“Hola,” she said. She was thin and direct in her motions. Young, she might have been eighteen.

“Hola.” Charleston saw that even her shoes were a matching bright red. “Are you on vacation or something?”

“Sure.” She sat on the stool beside him.

Both leaned back against the polished granite bar. Her foot casually flopped.

Moderately crowded, mariachi music blared. Patrons ranged from businessmen to laborers in need of showers. Giordano navigated solo around the perimeter and joked with anyone who spoke English.

Charleston sized up the petite princess. “So, um. What do you do for a living?”

“I party. I take a class.”

“You’re in school?”

“Si. I’m very thirsty.” She smiled and made innocent eyes and then looked off.

“Are you? What would you like?”

Sex on the Beach is so a-yummy.”

“Yes it is.” Charleston ordered two, and he smiled at the girl. “So, uh—“


“Where are you from?”

“Here. Tijuana.”

“Ah. So where do you go to school?”

“Where would you like me to go to es-school?”

Their drinks arrived, green straws. Charleston sipped at the sweet concoction. Across the spacious room Gary provoked a heated conversation with some local musclemen.

“Gary?” Charleston called with his hand. “What’s up?”

Gary signaled back with his palm. Charleston let it go.

The Mexican girl to his left removed the thin orange slice from the rim of her glass, and she licked it. “Gracias. Es delicioso.”

“Uh huh.”

Again she licked around the citrus slice. “You wanna go back to your room?”

“Huh.” Charleston sat back in a haze. “Um.” He’d been boozing and smoking pot all afternoon, and the bar changed complexion like a zoom lens pulled swiftly back. “What the hell am I doing here?”

The pretty little Latina stood with force, drink in hand, and she pointed over at Gary. “Your amigo too?”

“Oh my God. No.”

“Cool. Whatever.” Her feather-weight hand yanked his wrist.

“No. No. Wait a minute. Hold on.” He sat with his back against the rounded edge of the bar. “I just thought you liked me.”

“I do, gringo.” She stared up with chestnut eyes, which seemed dead and dull. “You’re especial.”

Tables and chairs exploded around Giordano, and he wrestled wildly with the four Mexican guys. They brought him down like a pack of jackals on a water buffalo, and they stomped him into the marble floor of the hotel’s bar.

Charleston jumped from his stool. “Oh shit. Oh shit!” He searched, but no security existed to come to the rescue. So he ran up to the fighters alone.


One of the sinewy toughs, a smallish one, Napoleon complex, snapped back. “What you gonna do?”

“Just let him go.”

“Hey, maybe you’re next?” The guy kept his eyes locked on Charleston, and he scowled. The others split their attention. One kicked at Gary and another mad-dogged Cranston.

Charleston whipped out $100 cash and extended it. “I’ll pay you! Here. Money. US dollars.”

The men gathered in a huddle. Each negotiated in Spanish and then they split up.

“Two hundred,” said the small one who led the diplomatic offensive.

“Okay. Okay. Gary, you got any cash?”

Gary bled from the ears and nose, where he lay disoriented on the streaked floor. “Fuck these mother—”

“Shut up! Okay. I got it.”

Charleston stepped past Gary and toward the group. “Here you go. Just, take it.”

The angry short one snatched the cash from his hand and laughed. “Tequila!!!”

His buddies roared and they flooded like the tide toward the bar.

Charleston cautiously watched them recede. “You have a nice night. Thank you. Viva Mexico.” He dropped down to inspect Giordano. “Oh shit. Dude. Can you walk?”

Gary squirmed in a mixture of beer, piss and blood. “Fuckin’ pay those cock suckin’… mother fucker…”

“Shut the fuck up.” Charleston searched for elevators. “Let’s go before they spend it all.”

He heaved to right Giordano and stabilize him on noodle legs. The bar’s patrons gawked, amused as the two gringos stumbled pathetically as a unit toward the elevator bank.

Back in their room Charleston locked them in. Gary collapsed onto his bed, where he moaned and jerked angrily.

Charleston trudged over, disbelieving. “Fuck did you say to those guys?”

“I don’t know.” Gary’s hands flopped to search his pockets. “That was a long time ago. I need a bump.”


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