May 12, 2013

Tim Burton

Dear Gato,

I hope you”€™re sitting down. If you”€™re checking messages while driving, pull over. Things got a lot weirder since last time.

I waited another hour in the Palacio Azteca’s lobby, my eyes peeled for a man of “€œIndian”€ descent. Indians in Tijuana are as rare as the Siberian white tigers that T-J’s ex-mayor, Hank Rhon, kept in his private zoo. Being that it was a Sunday, I saw only respectable middle-class families until a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows pulled up at the entrance. 

A man stepped out. A Guatemalan, I”€™d guess from his dark skin. Looked forty years old. Black jeans tucked into old ostrich cowboy boots. He walks into the lobby, beady-eyed and paranoid like a Zapotec sacrificer. I noticed his black-leather fingerless gloves. A half-inch nick was missing from his left ear. He made toward Eva, the prettiest of the recepcionistas. I had tipped her well, and for a second time already. She was with me. Our arrangement was that she ring the door-hop bell after directing “€œthe Indian”€ to Mickey’s room. That bell was my sign. 

Ding-a-ling! She followed protocol. The Indian made for the elevators and stepped into one. As the doors closed I made for the next lift. I got in and counted to ten before pressing “€œ4.”€

A digitized voice pronounced “€œFOURTH…FLOOR.”€ I emerged. El Indio was gone. I made my way to the end of the corridor, stopping outside room 402. The first thing to hit me was the smell, then the noise. The bittersweet smoke of freebase. The cacophony of daytime talk shows cranked up loud and the giggling of females.

Someone yells to the girls to “€œshut up already.”€ I listen in to the baritone arguing of two men trying to close a deal. Keywords came through…

“€œMickey looked like Tim Burton on a bad night in a silk dressing gown.”€

“€œBase, not paste!”€

“€œI”€™m not a fucking cook!”€

“€œIce is for junkies!”€

…followed by talk of numbers, multiples of a thousand dollars. Then talk of weights, by the dozen; eventually I heard “€œa kilo.”€ 

Figuring they were approaching an agreement, I backed around the corner and waited for Indio to exit. I could hear the Tony Blair-like English accent of Jeremy Kyle USA cutting through the din. It continued for twenty minutes and I was considering hitting the room when the door opened. The cacophony spilled out into the corridor, and with it the Indian. At last I heard the door slam. When the elevator dinged, I proceeded to the door of 402.

I grasped the handle. I twisted it slightly and it gave. Mickey had forgotten to lock the door just as I”€™d hoped. The hardest part”€”forcible entry”€”was taken care of. The next obstacle would be reassuring him I”€™d come in good faith. I took a deep breath, turned the door handle, and pushed forward”€”

Into a vortex. Into Mickey’s vortex. Glasses shattered. A widescreen TV sitting in an armchair. The bed a tangle of linen. Bathroom door open, revealing a wet floor soaked with towels. Bikinis and cigarette packets floating in a bath. The girls were twin sisters, I was thinking”€”when I was blindsided”€”thumped from the left by an adult male in the heavyweight range. 

I slammed to the floor, my head banging an ice tray as I went down. For a second”€”an eternity”€”I studied the gutted minibar lying on its side. Then, ultra close-up, an endless diamond pattern: the carpet upon which my jaw rested…before blacking out. 

I came to several minutes later. It took five more minutes to figure out who I was, then five more to figure out who the president was (I was sure it was Bush. Wasn”€™t it? Classic short-term amnesia) before figuring out what I was doing in a Mexican hotel [in Mexico] my head cradled by identical-twin curvaceous females…all while Mickey “€œFynn”€ was glowering at me like the space invader I was. 

Mickey looked like Tim Burton on a bad night in a silk dressing gown. I struggled to sit upright, then to stand. I was dizzy.

Mickey got to the point: “€œWho are you working for? What the hell are you doing in my crib?”€

I replied I was here as a friend. I”€™d come up because he wouldn”€™t come down. Mickey poured himself a shot of mezcal and sipped it slowly, as if ruminating on the very concept of friendship. “€œWhat kind of friend sneaks into a private party? Huh? Is it Jennifer? Did she put you up to this?”€

“€œI haven”€™t seen Jennifer for months,”€ I lied. My eyes roamed to a bedside table with a thick sheaf of paper upon it. Beside this was a hill of fine white powder. “€œWhat’s that?”€ I asked. 

“€œThe Fantasy Island Bible,”€ he sighed, draining his liquor. It was clear this was the source of his sorrow. Skirting the subject, I asked: “€œWhat’s the plan?”€

Mickey’s eyes turned on me, big and wild. His pupils were tiny as pins (sure sign of intoxication). “€œThe plan? The plan?”€ he raged. “€œI”€™m trying to work here, that’s the plan!”€

“€œAre the girls distracting you?”€ I suggested, nodding gallantly at the sisters.

“€œI need some peace and fucking quiet!”€ Mickey thundered. “€œI”€™ve got forty-eight hours to write a 100-page global tent-pole franchise, and I don”€™t have a clue where to begin!”€ Mumbling, he went into the bathroom and locked the door.

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