Pete sat back on the basket chair, burped and lit up another cigar, he began to use the cigar as a pointer. He pointed to the barman who dutifully came over, “Armadillo!” said Pete. The barman turned quickly, fiddled behind the bar and returned with a dark brown bottle and there shot glasses. “This” said Pete “will complete your education, this is the spirit of the Andes and the elders.” He poured us a shot each and in almost automatic mode the three of us clinked the glasses and swallowed the unspectacular looking drink. It was a burning, muddy, dirty spirit, forged with an acid heat that treated the back of the throat like a familiar and unfriendly razor. Ernesto smiled in a broad, uncontrolled grin, “she is the spirit!” It was good and I could tell Pete sensed our tongues loosing, our guards dropping and a potential launch pad for his business opportunity ramble to open up.
We drank three more each in quick succession, Ernesto seemed most affected, eyes glazing slightly and speech dropping. Pete was smoking and talking and I was trying to keep tabs on the barman who I decided to mistrust. I also became aware that in the corners of the room, bar or café or restaurant various shapes had taken up lodging, human shapes. Pete’s words were flowing forwards with various money making schemes, gold mines to invest in, archaeological sites to loot, pre-Colombian art deals and drugs of many kinds. Ernesto looked like he was listening but he was tired and on the way to drunkenness, I was growing in the grip of paranoia. We were here drinking like Scottish tourists with an obvious crook in a slowly expanding criminal universe a few hundred miles from home in the rain.
Like on some incoming tide the room was filling with assorted floating farm workers and bobbing truck drivers. A few candles and oil lamps had been lit to supplement the dim electric bulbs that hung over the bar area making the place only more sinister. I decided, as I drank to respect Pete a little more, listen and then look for a good opportunity to bow out to the motel at the back where I thought we’d rented a billet. Pete was babbling about the economy and the police and Ernesto was responding with one of his idealistic political arguments. Then, with no warning that tide of workmen suddenly broke over us, a group of figures appeared in front of our table blocking out the light and so applying a wild and contrived sense of theatrical drama to the evening - but with no humour. There was a crack of a gun and a searing flash of yellow and white and smoke. Furniture tumbled, hands, feet and fist flew as I spilled left and Ernesto spilled right. In the middle Pete was collapsing like a pierced balloon and gasping, he‘d been hit. There were bottles flying from somewhere and I felt a sharp pain in my wrist as my weight fell upon it as I skidded across the floor. Looking up I saw the shape of Ernesto head out the back door and in a split second I was there with him. Behind us thirteen kinds of chaos were unfolding as two other shots rang out sending a cruel percussive crack of sound into the back of my head, but I wasn’t going to stop running.
What did stop me running was the kitchen girl, screaming and shouting and waving a tray like a tennis racquet. She thinks I’m responsible for something and catches me square of the side of the head as I fly past. It is a stunning blow and propels me sideways into the wall and across the floor of the corridor (I think it’s a corridor), then it’s another blow, same tray, same head. My face hit’s the floor and a black sheets descends. I feel strangely grateful, I am either dead, shot, concussed or drunk, perhaps all four, perhaps some fifth state, the nature of which I know nothing about.
The darkness doesn’t last as long as I’d wish, headlights and rain wake me. I’m lying in the car park. Behind me I’m aware of people jabbering and moving and a distant police siren wails closer and closer.