Last Seen Heading South
by Leroy B. Vaughn
Antonio Jesus leaned his old bicycle against the garden shed and went to the door to remove the hose. He was twenty minutes late for work, but he was always twenty minutes late and he knew that his gringo employer would not say anything to him about being punctual. He liked working for the Santoris. He did not know anything about them, except that they treated him and his housekeeper wife well. He worked for them three days per week and his wife worked two days and they paid well, especially for this part of Mexico.
The gardener found his spot under the big shade tree, turned the water on and placed his thumb over the end of the nozzle. He would spend the next two hours watering the grass, before trimming the plants and raking the lawn.
Mr. Joey Santori knew that the gardener was doing the yard work backwards, but he also knew that there was no point in mentioning this to the gardener. He was not trainable. He never wore a watch, because he did not own one but he always knew when it was time to quit work.
Antonio Jesus’ wife was working at the house that day also. Mrs. Santori had sent her to the local mercado to pick up a few things for lunch. Joey Santori watched from the upstairs window for a few minutes. He did not bother to ask why Tony Jesus, as he called him bothered to start work in the middle of the day, but he had been in Mexico long enough to know that there was no point in trying to change the little man’s habits.
Antonio Jesus moved the hose to a dry spot and looked towards the highway in time to see a car pull into the driveway. This was very unusual. Since he had worked for the Santoris at their rented house in San Luis Soyotlan, he had only seen them leave the house together once. The Santoris never had visitors, as far as the gardener or his wife knew. The gardener did not want to be seen, so he hid in the garden shed, in case Joey Santori wanted him to help with unloading something from the car that was now parked in the driveway.
Antonio Jesus became more interested in the car, as he watched a well dressed black man get out of it. He had only seen three other black people in person, in his entire life. He watched as the black man looked around and then entered the house without knocking.
The gardener thought that he heard a car backfire, but then he realized that there were no other cars in the area. He looked towards the front door and saw the black man leaving the house carrying a pistol. Antonio Jesus hid behind the big tree and waited for the car to turn south on the road going out of town, towards Sahuayo.
As the car pulled onto the highway, he heard Mrs. Santori scream. He ran into the house and found Mrs. Santori holding her dead husbands head in her lap. She yelled for the gardener to call the Cruz Roja and the cops. After several attempts, he was able to get the operator to dial the Cruz Roja. After he gave them the address, he was able to contact the State Police.
The ambulance arrived ten minutes before the State Police. The cops would have been there sooner, but they were waiting for the tacos that they had just ordered before receiving the call. There was no hurry; the dispatcher said the man was dead.
There was nothing the State Police could do. They waited forty-five minutes for the investigator from the Ministerio Publico to arrive and take charge of the scene. The investigator was careful. This was his first murder case and he wanted to make sure he did everything right. He knew that it was a murder after examining the bullet hole in the dead man’s forehead. The investigator was able to talk to Mrs. Santori, as she could speak fairly good Spanish, although she did have a Puerto Rican accent.
At the end of the day, after talking to Mrs. Santori, the housekeeper and Antonio Jesus, all he knew for sure was that Joey Santori was a police officer from Newark, New Jersey. He was on a sabbatical, as she called it, from his job. The Santori’s had been in Mexico for less than one year and very seldom went out. They did not have any friends in Mexico and she or the housekeeper prepared all of their meals. Joey Santori had been a private person who spent most of his time reading crime novels, building model ships and listening to the B.B.C. on an expensive radio.
The investigator spent almost one hour talking to Antonio Jesus. He knew Antonio Jesus’ uncle and gossiping about relatives took most of the interview. The gardener was not much help. He did not wear a watch and since he did not drive, he had no interest in cars, and could not describe the vehicle the killer used, except for the color and he wasn’t sure if it was dark blue or black.
He told the investigator the direction that the killer had come from and the direction he left in. He could not read, so he had no idea what state the license plate had been issued in. It might have been a Mexican plate, but he was not sure. He did not know that each Mexican state had their own license plates. He thought that he had seen some numbers on the license plate, but could not remember what they were.
He described the killer as looking similar to the black cop on Miami Vice. The investigator had heard of the old television show, but had not seen it. He thought he knew of a video store where he could get pirated copies of Miami Vice. The next day, the investigator was glad he had found copies at the local open air market. He and two other investigators were enjoying the old tv shows, especially the ones that featured big booty Trudy.
Eight days after her husband’s death, an F.B.I. agent from the Guadalajara office arrived at the house in San Luis Soyotlan to interview Mrs. Santori. There was a ‘for rent’ sign stuck in the grass and the agent found Antonio Jesus sleeping under the shade tree. Antonio Jesus suggested that he telephone the Canadian lady at the real estate office in Jocotepec. He did not have any information for the agent.
The F.B.I. man was glad that Mrs. Santori had disappeared. He had never worked a murder case before and was sent to Mexico from Los Angeles when his senior agent found out that he could not work bank robberies either.
The agent was in luck. He telephoned the Newark, New Jersey police department and was referred to internal affairs. The I.A. detective gave him a number at the State Attorney’s Office and he was told that they would take the case from here. All the Deputy State Attorney would say was that Santori was under investigation for being involved in organized crime. He thanked the F.B.I. agent for his time, before hanging the phone up.
The F.B.I. man poured himself another cup of coffee and went back to work on the commendation that he was writing for himself on the Santori case.
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Leroy B. Vaughn
Leroy B. Vaughn lived in Mexico for three and one half years. He now lives in Arizona and writes short stories in several genres.