It was almost six p.m., I was pruning my darlings, and fading another tropical afternoon with a fat roach of Punta Rojo. Dark clouds started moving in. I heard a faint thud on the other side of my rented flat.
It sounded like it came from outside the maid’s quarters. Which was weird, because I no longer had a live-in maid; I’d lost her in a poker game. And I was fairly certain I’d already freed the stripper I’d tied up in the adjoining bedroom the night before. So who could it be?
The dog? No, he’d been eaten by a crocodile. A thief? I must admit I’d read about the rise in crime in Central America. I’d read about the corrupt police and the need for expats to arm themselves. But the hippie in me had always been wary of the fantastical solutions proposed by the gringo right.
I was coming around; I caught the scent of cologne in the freshening breeze. Someone was out there. A man, possibly a native. I could hear my heart beating. If this was a sativa induced hallucination – it was a bad one.
I jammed a hand into the chocolaty bowels of a cereal box; My Pana ex-girlfriend had been raped and robbed several times, and she’d left a small handgun at the bottom of the box. Coco Crispies started falling onto the tile floor all around me. Outside, it started to rain.
I heard a man knock softly, call out, and enter through the open slider. I crouched down behind the stone bar, trying not to kneel in the puffed rice. Suddenly the phone went off, shattering whatever was left of my Panama high. It rang three times before I heard Ortiz leave the following message:
“Si, bueno, tried to call earlier. I left messages. There was a Colombian looking for you. He was very insistent about finding your location.”
Ortiz hung up, and I was left with the problem. What I was now calling the Colombian problem. I couldn’t just jump up and shoot. In the U.S., the white man had the god given right to kill dark-skinned people and the poors. But in Panama they were given a chance to flee.
“Can I help you?” I said, still cowering behind the bar.
I was hoping he couldn’t tell where I was in the fading light. I could see him though, looking around, squinting, trying to determine where my voice was coming from. Finally he said:
“Señor, I look for a writer.”
Ridiculous. I pulled the hammer back on the gun.
“Señor, is that a gun … please, there is no need for violence.”
A flash of lightening lit the room. I could see he was dark-skinned, lean, short hair, and wearing a dark guayabera. He had a serious look on his smooth face.
“Señor, I look for the writer Cojito.”
“He write something unflattering about your sister or girlfriend?”
Another flash of lightening lit the room.
“Ah! You are he. I see the photo … from your blog.”
“It’s not a fucking blog.”
“Never mind, so you’re the guy who reads it. -You want me to sign your dick or something, that why you’re here?”
“It is about money señor.”
“You wouldn’t be that Nigerian lawyer who keeps emailing me would you?”
I lowered the pistol and let it rest on my thigh. I dunno, maybe this was legit. Fans can be weird. Women arrive looking for sex, men come to drink or smoke-up. Who knows? Maybe someone had finally shown up with money.
The man stepped out of the shadows. I didn’t see any money. He was holding something. I couldn’t be sure, but my gut told me it could have been a gun. And if it was a gun, it looked much bigger than mine.
I was afraid. My girls were almost ready to harvest. I couldn’t take any chances with this dark stranger. So my gun began spitting fire. A bottle exploded soaking my Hawaiian shirt. I licked the fingers on my right hand and I fired with the left until my ears were ringing and the room was filled with acrid smoke.
“Was that rum?” I said, angry and panting from behind the bar.
“Señor, please stop shooting. I mean you no harm.”
“Sure, that’s what they all say before they slit your throat and stuff you into a suitcase.”
“What? No … Mira, señor, is that a Makarov or PPK?”
“Señor, the Bursa only have nine balas. And I see nine holes in the wall behind me.”
He stepped out from behind the old wood door. He had his hand over his heart, like he was pledging allegiance to the Colombian flag. He seemed a little too pleased with himself.
“Come out,” he said, motioning at me. “I am harmless.”
I stood up, still behind the bar. I didn’t believe him. He was Colombian after all.
“You know your guns,” I said.
“It is my business to know these things.”
“What business is that?”
“I look for people.”
“And when you find them?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Ah, so you’re not one of those killers who gets all expansive when he’s got the upper hand.”
“Killer? You watch too many movies Señor.”
“I do. I really do. But this little Bursa was my girlfriend’s -I got it off an Ecuadoran air force captain.”
“Won it in a poker game over in Patilla. Sweet little gun: Argentinian-made, easily concealed, accurate, reliable, cheap.”
“Si, si, I know this gun.”
“But did you know this particular model has an extra large magazine – holds 15 rounds.”
The Bursa doesn’t shoot combat rounds. That means a single shot’s not going to have much stopping power. So it’s a good idea to fire liberally, then let the cops sort it all out. I savored the look on his face as I emptied the rest of the clip into his chest.
The strange man fell to the floor with a sick thud. He just lay there, saliva and blood oozing from his holes. I must admit it was a good look for him. The red pooling on the green tile floor complimented his black shirt. I stood over him, looking down all god-like.
I felt more alive than I had in years. My dick was hard. Well, as hard as it gets at this age. The phone rang. If it’s the AARP, I thought, I’m gonna tell ’em to fuck off.
It was Ortiz again.
“You OK amigo?”
“Yeah, I got your message. Thanks.”
“What does he want with you?”
“I dunno man.”
Ortiz rung off. The Colombian gurgled and twitched. Blood bubbled up from his chest. It was then I noticed he hadn’t been holding a gun. – It had been a bottle of fine rum. A bloody check was in his other hand.
“25k and Flor de Cana?”
The man gurgled and choked when he tried to talk.
I leaned over.
“Book deal,” he gasped.
“A book deal?”
I put the gun to my head.
-Cojito @ Panama After Dark