Victor in the Jungle

Chapter One

“It’s not technically breaking the law, so don’t look so worried.” Victor took a big gulp of his coffee while looking Mike straight in the eye. Mike seemed to shrink in his seat. “Think of it as just another meeting. One man meeting another man to talk. Forget about the drugs and the terrorists. It’s a friendly chat. A chat with a man who could incriminate a lot of people, but still, just a chat. That’s all.”

The bar area was empty except for the two of them and a tired-looking bartender whose shoes squeaked when he walked. The long wooden bar was scratched and splintered. Every few feet it was painted with images of palm trees, people in canoes, and the nearby volcano, Paxico, with clouds of ash spewing from its crater. The colors had probably once been bright, but now the paint was faded and chipped in places. Similar paintings lined the wall behind the bar and dirty dishes and glasses piled up on the counter below them. Victor saw a tarantula perched high up in the corner, its hairy legs and body as still as the people in the dulled paintings. A small black-and-white television, its antenna bent, burbled static quietly at the end of the bar.

CYA case officer Victor Caro and his colleague Mike Quinn sat nursing fresh watermelon juice and coffee at the bar. The bar area opened onto the lobby, which also had once been painted with luminescent greens and yellows. It was now worn down and tired from the jungle’s oppressive heat, a hot misty cloud that wrapped itself around the town and never let go. Four women sat on two couches near the check-in desk. The skin of their bare legs melted and spread across the faux leather cushions, sticking and sweating, pools of perspiration collecting under their knees. Their camisoles clung to their wet skin. They didn’t move, except to fan their wet, tired faces. A bright red bird darted through the lobby, landing on a curtain rod with a chirp.

“Explain it to me again,” Mike said. He wiped his palms on his cargo pants, leaving a small steak.

“You’ve got the Revolutionary Armed Forces for the Liberation of the Formerly Free Peoples of Tamindo,” Victor said.

“That’s a big name,” said Mike.

“The more violent they became, the more lefty words they added. We shortened it to the FRPT.”

“Shouldn’t it be the RAFLFFPT?” Mike asked. He pronounced it raffle-fuh-fipt.

“FRPT, for the group’s name in Spanish.”

“Firpt,” said Mike.

“The FRPT,” Victor said each letter separately, “has been working out of Tamindo, just north of here, for forty years. They started as your typical leftist, Marxist ideological group. Revolución, la lucha, Che and motorcycles. Until about fitfteen years ago, when they realized there’s not much money in ideology. But drugs…” [End of Excerpt]

Q&A with the author

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