Día de los Muertos: Chapter 21


Hotel Empresa / 9:30 P.M.

After Calhoun had been patted down by Frank Guzman’s bodyguards, a shouting match started about his weapons. Calhoun had been made to leave them in the living room. A young woman took Calhoun through the suite to the huge bedroom. Guzman was still in the bed, elephantine and naked under the sheets, watching television, his corpulent body like a monstrous human slug. Stunned by the sight, Calhoun stood in the doorway. He could see the ripples and puddles of fat. Guzman had a fan on him that pressed the sheet down on the whole fucking jellied mess of his body so you could see it. How the fuck am I going to cross that? He must weigh five hundred pounds, Calhoun thought to himself.”Slaughter sent me,” Calhoun said finally from the doorway.

“Buenas noches,” Guzman said. His voice was raspy from all the weight on his chest. He grabbed the TV control and turned down the volume. Calhoun noticed how short his arms were.

“What’s so good about it?” Calhoun said. He came into the room. He hadn’t expected a morbidly obese billionaire.

“Muy Américano. You are the crazy gringo… I heard about you. Slaughter says you do anything for money. All you have to do is get me to Los Angeles,” Guzman said. He didn’t bother to sit up. “You get me there and I’ll be okay…I have friends in the Congress.”

“Good for you,” Calhoun said. Calhoun saw a row of matching new black suitcases lined up under the window. There were at least ten of them. It was cool inside the bedroom with the AC on. The fan went back and forth across the fat man. Calhoun had heard from the newspapers that the PRI had been raiding Guzman’s bank accounts. He assumed that the bank accounts were now sitting on the floor in the suitcases.

“Get ready. I’m taking you to the other side – Palmdale, not Los Angeles. You can’t take much. Not all those, anyway,” he said.

“Los Angeles,” Guzman said. “Los Angeles. Take me to Los Angeles. You can do that.”

“Then you can die here for all I care,” Calhoun said. “Because that’s what’s going to happen… It’s my way or nothing.” Calhoun lit a cigarette and looked at the fat man. He wasn’t in the mood to argue. Guzman tilted his head up. He hadn’t shaved. His blubbery cheeks were covered with a scruffy day’s worth of black beard. Guzman looked at him from the bed.

“Well, maybe. Okay, maybe… Okay, I’ll go to this Palmdale, then. Just get me to the other side. I tell you what, you let me take my woman and this money and I let you have a suitcase. That’s a good deal, muy bueno para el gringo. Huh…go on…open one. Go on…open one. I got more in Europe these cabrónes don’t know about,” Guzman said.

Calhoun went to one of the suitcases. They were all new plastic jobs. He picked one up and put it on the foot of the bed.

“$100,000 weighs, huh?” Guzman said. Calhoun hit the levers and opened the top. It was full of American money.

“So, what you say, gringo? You let me take my money and the woman.” Calhoun had seen the girl. She looked like a New York runway model. Guzman was too fat to fuck her. He guessed he had her around to look the part, even if he was too fat to get out of bed without help.

The girlfriend came into the room while they were talking. She had a fresh brandy on a tray. She put it down on the table at Guzman’s side, then asked him if he wanted anything else. She was only about twenty.

“I’ll have some dinner,” Guzman said. She’d been smoking weed with the security people when Calhoun came in. Her eyes were red and she had that high half- smile like she had a secret.

“You want to stay for dinner, señor?” she asked Calhoun. She wasn’t looking Calhoun in the face.

“No thanks.”

“She comes with me,” Guzman said.

Calhoun looked at the girl. “Nobody comes with you and you can’t take that money either,” Calhoun said. “There’s no room for it.”

“She does. Or I don’t go. Monica comes, too. And the money,” Guzman said.

“Then Monica here can cross your fat ass herself.” Guzman looked at the girl, then at the suitcases full of money sitting around the bed.

“All right… Monica, you understand. You have to meet me in Los Angeles. Okay? You take the money with you. I’ll meet you later.”

“Okay, Frank.” The girl looked at the suitcases. Calhoun watched her. If she kept that date, he would be very surprised, he thought.

“You go to the Beverly Wilshire where we always stay and you wait for me.”

“Sí, cómo no, Frank. I wait for you at the Beverly Wilshire.” Guzman smiled at the girl and picked up the drink on the table.

“She’s muy guapa, no?” Guzman said. “Go on, honey, and get me something to eat.” Calhoun watched the girl walk out of the room and close the door.

“Why’d you do it?” Calhoun asked.

“Do what?”

Calhoun laughed; it was in all the papers. “Have the president of the republic’s brother killed in broad fucking daylight.”

“I don’t know who did it,” Guzman said. He smiled. “But I know why they did it, You don’t understand Mexico. Look out the window. What do you see?” Calhoun turned around and looked at the skyline.

“One very fucked-up city.”

“No. That’s property, amigo. Twelve people own this country. Twelve. Sometimes we don’t get along, and there’s a misunderstanding and then something like this happens,” Guzman said.

“You’re saying twelve people own Mexico?”

“Yes…and I have their phone numbers. Now one of them wants to own it all.”

“That wouldn’t be you, would it? Or are you just an innocent billionaire?”

Guzman laughed. “It’s the same in your country. Look at the headlines…Forbes, Perot. What’s the difference?”

“Yeah – what about democracy, asshole…it isn’t the same at all.”

“That’s very funny. Tell me something, gringo, how many political killings has your country had in the last twenty years?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve had many in Mexico; how many have you had?”

Calhoun looked at him, suspicious. “What are you getting at?”

“Look at the streets in Los Angeles. What difference is there between any of your big cities and Mexico City, now? People living in the streets, billionaires running things. Why do you think you’re so different…because everyone has television? Go to the poorest parts of Mexico City or Tijuana, what do you see? TV antennas. You’re just like us now; but you don’t want to admit it. You walk through a ghetto and see a streetlight and call that democracy. The greatest country on earth. Isn’t that what your anchorpeople call it? Look out that window, amigo, the view is the same everywhere now. Jakarta to New Jersey… It’s over.”

“Shut up,” Calhoun said. “We are different. We aren’t anything like this stinking country. We have rules and laws and you can drink the fucking water.

“How much do you weigh?” Calhoun lit a fresh cigarette. The room smelled like patchouli oil and fat man, and he didn’t like it.

“Why do you want to know? Nobody asks me questions like that. Who the fuck are you? Nobody.” Guzman was a little drunk. He moved his hand in the air. “Do you know who I am? I got more money than Bill Gates. You see…look.” Guzman threw a Fortune magazine he had on the nightstand. The World’s Richest Men. Calhoun looked at the picture of Guzman and then Bill Gates; they were both stone ugly.

“Look. See, more money than Bill Gates. See?” Calhoun threw the magazine back at him. It landed on his chest and stunned him.

“I don’t give a fuck. How much do you weigh is what I want to fucking know.”

“What difference does it make?”

“Let’s just say that the trip, with our service, is a little like flying. Can you walk?”

“Of course I can walk.”

“Why are you in bed then?”

“I’m tired.” Calhoun looked at his legs. They looked like they were each about two hundred pounds worth of pure lard, the hard kind.

“Prove it. Get up then and walk around the room for me,” Calhoun said.

Guzman looked at him. Then at the ceiling like it was his friend. He took his hands and tried to push his body toward the headboard. His hands looked like two small flesh paddles on some kind of weird amphibious animal. Guzman struggled to get his chest up off the bed. He tried to sit up, pounds of tit-flesh avalanched toward his right side. Guzman started to breathe hard. His small dark hands pushed against the mattress and disappeared. It was pathetic and sickening.

“Call some of the boys…that’s how I do it,” he finally said.

“You can’t walk, can you?” Calhoun said.

“I can walk…!”

“No, you can’t… You’re lying. Well, get up then. Fucking walk then…”

“I can…walk. I tell you!” Guzman started cursing, wheezing, all at once, trying to sit up in the bed, wheezing and sucking air like he were running a marathon instead of trying to shift his big fat ass three inches off dead center.

“Great. Now what?” Calhoun said. He went to the window. He rolled it open and threw his cigarette out into the night, watched its orange light fall twelve stories to the parking lot. He could smell the stench of the city, the acridness of the maquiladoras out along the line. You could see the giant spotlights they used to light up their perimeter fences like forts. He thought about what the fat man had said. He remembered what America was like when he was a child, what it was now. He got mad suddenly. It wasn’t Mexico yet, but it wasn’t America anymore either; it was on the way to being something he didn’t want to think about. Calhoun turned around.

“Stop it.” Guzman was still pawing the sheets. “Stop it. You’re making me sick.” Calhoun went to the phone and picked it up, then realized that he shouldn’t and got out his cellular phone, which was safer.

A room service kid pushed a cart through the door. Guzman’s girl took the cart and paid him off at the door. The living room was empty when Calhoun came out. “Where’re his guards?”

“They left,” she said. She went to a table and picked up Calhoun’s handguns and brought them to him. Calhoun looked around the suite. There’d been three professional body guards. He had been counting on them to help him get Guzman to the Cuauhtémoc.

“They don’t want to die. They think he’s lost his cuello,” the girl said. It was the saying Mexicans used to mean influence. “They know that when they come, they will kill them. They think you are a spy and the police will come here soon.”

“Why didn’t you leave, too?”

“I got no place to go,” she said. “I have nothing but him.”

“You could take some of the money and just go. Is that what they did?” She nodded her head. “Can he walk?”

“No, not really.”

“How the hell did they get him up here?” He looked at the girl. She pointed to something leaning up in the corner of the room. It was a kind of dolly leaning up against the wall at the front of the suite.

“In that,” she said.

“That’s a refrigerator dolly,” Calhoun said. He started to laugh. “It’s a fucking appliance dolly.”

She smiled at him. “That’s how they have to move him. It took two men before to get him up here,” she said.

“I’m sorry I can’t let you come with us,” Calhoun said.

“I understand.”

“There’s no room.”

“I understand, señor.” Calhoun looked at the girl. She looked decent, like she didn’t belong with Guzman.

“Can you help me get him dressed?” Calhoun asked. The girl nodded.

“What about the money?” she said. “There’s so much.”

“I called someone. Someone to help us get you across.” They went into the bedroom and started to dress him. The girl went over to Guzman and ripped the sheet off his body. It was the ugliest thing Calhoun had ever seen in his life. It was funny, the way the girl wasn’t bothered by it. Guzman didn’t say a word. He couldn’t. He knew he was running out of time.

“Where are the boys?”

“They’re gone, Frank. They left,” she said.

“Are you going to leave me, too?” He was scared now.

“No, Frank, I’m not going to leave you,” she said in Spanish. She pulled a huge fat arm through his shirt like he was a little baby.

“You will meet me in Los Angeles?”

“Yes,” she said. She was kneeling up on the bed. Calhoun looked at her rear in a mini-skirt. It was hard to believe she was in love with the fat man.

“You promise… I need you… I love you,” Guzman said. It was pathetic. He looked at Calhoun while he said it. “The gringo here is crazy,” he said.

“I promise you, Frank.”

Watching her, Calhoun got the feeling that the girl actually cared about him. All Guzman’s clothes were special, no zippers, just buttons. To put his pants on, they had to lift his legs one at a time. His ass was unbelievable. Guzman stayed expressionless the whole time they worked on him.

“I’m hungry,” Guzman said while they were putting his shirt on. It was like a regular shirt, except giant size, and went over his big belly and down to his knees, a kind of giant guayabera.

“Shut up,” Calhoun said. “We don’t have time to eat.”

“No!” Monica said angrily. She put down his arm. There were small red sores where the skin had worn off from spending so much time in bed. “If he doesn’t eat he gets sick,” she said. “He has to eat every few hours.”

“All right. But make it fast,” Calhoun said. He looked down at Guzman, and let go of his arm. Guzman’s hair was a mess, matted and greasy and long, and his big fat cheeks were puffed out from moving him around.

The girl went into the other room and rolled in the cart with the dinner she’d ordered. There were a couple of covered pans. She took a cover off of one. It was a potato dish, the way the Mexicans cook up potatoes, boiled with cilantro and swimming in butter. She took the dish over to Guzman and sat on the bed next to him. Guzman couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. Calhoun had to go out to the other room, he couldn’t watch him eat. It was was the sickest thing he’d ever seen: that beautiful girl standing there in a red mini-skirt holding the plate for him while the fat man ate, clear lines of butter running out of the corners of his small mouth and down those fat unshaven cheeks.


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