TALES FROM THE OLD STASH
Jack Wesley Hardin’s
MEXICAN SWEAT
(the anatomy of a dope deal) #2

Digressions aside, back at the ranch, Hector briefly laid out the plan of action. As I said, he couldn’t go home to Mexico again himself, since the Governors of both the states of Sonora and Chihuahua wanted his cohunes in their golf bags.

It was a three hundred mile trip from Tucson through Nogales, and on to Hermosillo. His fuck-up nephew Gordo was my chauffer for the journey. He grew up in the area and, like a true native, spoke with the local accent and slang perfecto. Once there he knew where to go to check out the product. If we made it that far, then on the return we would make a slight detour to a little town called Corborca, where I would give a couple of messages to the pilots, who would be staying at the Corborca Hotel, or the “Hilton”, as it was referred to by the flock of outlaw pilots whose planes were usually parked on the dirt strip several miles outside of town.

You out there who’ve grown up with remote control and computers at your finger tips, may find it hard to believe that the electronics umbrella not only didn’t open, but basically didn’t exist in those days; this was all seat-of-the-pants outlaw flying on its most basic level, with a thousand pounds of bricked pot packed on your back, and often even packed in the copilot’s seat. Five hundred feet off the deck, at 180 miles per hour flying by moonlight would pump the old heart of even the most experienced flyboy. Since moonlight was our headlights, only two weeks of moon a month were bright enough to weave through the valleys, dodging cactus and coyotes alike. So for two weeks a month, to put it mildly, the “Hilton” was one hell’va lively place.

This particular episode was basically a charitable deed on my part. My reward was to share in the loads at a good rate of $50 a pound. I sold it at $75; believe it or not, in those days that was an excellent profit. Pilots were paid $5,000 per flight, if all went well. But that’s another story, so reload your pipes, and I’ll continue with this one. . .With Gordo behind the wheel of his ’64 Chevy, and Mordida (bribe) money stuffed in my pocket, off we went. Tucson to Nogales is an hour drive, with mountains and desert surrounding us the whole way. Gordo spoke little on the way down, still acting pissed off at me for my wake-up surprise in his face.

When we reached Nogales I got out of the car on the gringo side while Gordo crossed over and got his visa and traveling papers for the Chevy. I just walked in without getting or needing any kind of papers. See, you could cross and hang out in Nogales on the Mexican side without any papers or check-in as long as you stayed 10 miles within the border. So after walking a couple of blocks through the tourist and vendor filled streets I spotted Gordo’s driving slowly through the crowd. All these years later I imagine his grin resembled Pancho Villa on Viagra. Luckily I was wearing sunglasses or the sun’s reflection off the gold in his teeth would have blinded me.

The first small obstacle was the 10 mile check-out point. Gordo’s value emerged here – one of his many cousins was one of the police at the check out point that day. Rolling up to what resembled a small wooden shelter at a bus stop, several uniformed blue meanies were standing and checking papers of the few cars and trucks in front of us. When our time came we were whistled through quicker than tossing quarters into a toll booth. A crisp United States one hundred dollar bill worked faster than a visa. It should go without saying, but just in case any of you out there are thinking of getting into the biz, it’s best in this profession to be as invisible as possible when working in a foreign country.

The drive to Hermosillo was uneventful, passing through the small town of Santa Ana, which was named after the Generalisimo who crushed Crockett, Bowie, Travis and the boys all those years ago in the first Alamo Bowl. The only occasional excitement was when a Del Norte double-decker Bus would pass us at over 100 miles per hour. The Mexican Bus Drivers had a rigid code: “Better Dead Than Late!”

By around 2:00 in the afternoon Gordo and I were at the Herraderia Bar in scenic Hermosillo sucking up on cold Dos Equis, when three Mexicans wearing serapes and sombreros, like characters out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, came and in and got me, leaving Gordo behind sinking his way into a bottle of cheap Tequila at the bar. We stopped several blocks away to pick up their fourth amigo, who had been keeping an eye on their beat up ’59 Impala, in case something went wrong. But that hadn’t happened yet.

I squeezed in between two large Mexicans, minus the sombreros — the ceiling was dented in and too low to wear them — and as a chatter of Spanish filled the car, we took off down the two lane highway, when suddenly I was grabbed, thrown on the floorboard, had several stinking serapes thrown over me as cowboy boots crunched down on my shrinking body from every direction, one even half stuck up my ass. I thought, “Oh shit, Hector must owe them money and I must be the interest.” Things were very silent for a few beats, then a long smooth barrel of cold blue steel was shoved down my throat. I heard the click of the Colt 45’s hammer, and in that instant of total disbelief that this was happening to me, thought I heard that dirty little Hollywood rat Edward G. Robinson cackle, “Is this curtains for Rico?” Which is exactly when the long smooth barrel of a Colt 45 was shoved down my throat.

When I heard the click of the hammer come down, my choppers instinctively chomped down on the barrel, certain my next stop on the map would be Boot Hill, if I didn’t choke to death before I reached my destination. Then for some inexplicable reason the boots lifted, even the one living up my ass, and several sets of hands pulled me back up off the floor to my seat, with the cold blue steel still incongruously clenched tightly between my teeth like a pacifier.

That little trick got a few laughs from my new amigos, even as they swamped me with apologies. Fortunately I could understand more Spanish than I could speak. The elder hombre of the crew explained a car of Federales had started to pass us, and they knew if the Federales saw a gringo in the car they would have pulled us over, and that would have been curtains for sure. To prove that point, each one of my amigos began to show me nasty scars inside their legs, on their breasts, on the inside of their arms, on places all over their bodies you don’t want to know about, in fact. The eldest of the gang explained these souvenirs were caused by electric shock torture that the Federales had used to squeeze information out of them. While the heads in the car were all shaking with memories of their torture, he told me, as we turned down a dirt road, that the amigos had all made a pact to not ever let that happen again, no matter what went down. Then they each reached under their serapes and brandished their own 45 automatics. I was a little surprised they were all carrying, since handguns, contrary to popular belief, were fairly rare in Mexico. At that point I asked them if I could keep the Colt I’d been sucking on, and everyone (except me) laughed like I was a genuine standup king laying down a punch line.

The car finally stopped somewhere up in the high desert. Everything as far as the eye could see was rolling plains, with just a few trees spread over the rising hills in the distance. One amigo stayed with the car while the rest of us walked over the closest hill and settled down in the low grass on the other side like we were going to have ourselves a picnic. The afternoon shadows were already beginning to hang down and lengthen around us. Within a half hour a man riding a horse and leading a string of two pack mules came over the butte about a mile to our backs. Not a word was spoken as he approached us, but as soon as he dismounted, introductions were made, and then we promptly got down to business. The pack was several 25 pound bales of bricked kilos. The bales were wrapped in burlap bags that once held other produce, their black inked advertisements still marked vividly on the bags. Carefully opening the twine ties at the top, I would undo the masking tape holding the paper wrapped kilo together. One look told me this was fresh, bright green top cut from farther down on the Pacific Coast. In those days, Pacific Coast weed was better than what was grown on the Gulf Coast, and for that matter, still is today.

Everyone sat on the ground watching me check the bricks, almost like they were waiting for me to serve them lunch. Picking several bricks from each bale gave me a good idea that this load was consistent and hopefully not spotted with heavy rocks or other objects that were sometimes put into the kilo when it was being pressed to add weight to the load. If you weren’t careful you could buy fifty pounds of small very heavy rocks in a thousand pounds. I’ve found enough empty shell casings, empty beer cans, and even part of a trigger finger with a string tied around it inside packages. The prizes inside most of them made what was inside a good ole box of American Crackerjacks seem boring.

Of course I rolled up a joint with one of their Buglar papers. I smoked it alone and I must say it was right good shit! Within 15 minutes, I was finished inspecting. Actually, after the first brick I knew the product was righteous, so the rest of my inspection was a courtesy to my new amigos. They had taken on some serious risk and gone through monumental preparation for this “show”, so I didn’t want to disappoint them by just going through the motions. Once I said muy bueno the old man who had come over the hill pulled out a plastic vial of cocaine so we could consummate the deal. Let me tell you here, I don’t like to mix blow with business on any level, but when in Mexico you do like the Mexicans or you’ll pretty much end up not doing at all.

By the time we got back to the bar and I waved farewell to my amigos, Gordo was long gone. Fortunately the car was still there, so I didn’t need a psychic to figure out he was at the closest whorehouse. By the time I found it and negotiated my way in, he was passed out cold, with two fat young whores yelling and trying to slap his unconscious drooling mug awake. It seems that Gordo had not paid in advance for his recreation, and the collectors were more than a tad nervous over this state of affairs. So nervous, in fact, they had hidden his clothes. I had a flash notion to let them keep them, but it passed, and for a crisp hundred they returned not only his pants but his boots, a small watch, a pocket full of change, a pocket knife and a religious artifact he carried with him for luck. It obviously worked, because they were also kind enough to get two more whores from inside to help drag his fat ass outside and load him in the car. Figuring he might throw up before he even woke up, I had them dump him in the trunk instead of tying him to the hood, hoping the heat in the trunk would help him sweat out the poisons naturally.

Backtracking up the highway, I turned left at Santa Ana without saluting the General, and headed to Corborca to find the pilots. The only sounds from the trunk during the four hour drive was an occasional gag or heave followed by dead silence. Fortunately I was upwind of the stench, but if I had followed my first impulse to tie him to the hood, it would have been refried beans all the way to the “Hilton”.

The last red glow in the western sky was fading to black as I pulled up in front of the “Hilton”. Corborca was a small town with the only highway running through it doubling as the main street. Electricity was scarce in those days. The adobe houses were lit with kerosene lanterns and the citizens moved around with flashlights leading the way. In the darkness, the “Hilton” looked like a Christmas tree. It actually had colored Christmas lights hanging on the outside. I thought about opening the trunk, but decided Gordo needed his sleep. It had been a hard day’s night for my hombre.

Entering through the open wooden and glass front door, I walked through the deserted lobby into a raging full bar. A five piece Mexican band was playing a Mariachi version of the Beatles’ Help. Loud talk and smoke filled in the background. There in the middle of this bizarre ambience were two pilots. Both were American. Tom Sawyer was a 40-something ex-commercial airline pilot, while “Dirty Duck”, as we called him, was a sometime crop duster. Both had leather sheepskin lined flight jackets with large gold colored marijuana leaves pins on their shoulders. Attractive young whores slinked around them, smelling the money destined to cross their palms before it even arrived. Duck was laying out some thick white lines on the bar when I walked up to order a drink from Calaka, the tall beautiful German-Mexican blonde who ran the joint.

“The regular, Jack?”

I nodded as she pushed a bottle of El Presidente and a shot glass towards me. This was probably the best bottled bar in all of Northern Mexico. Only the best for gringos with lots of cash in their pockets and a short time to live. We were all old friends and well acquainted with the Devil, so anytime we got together it was a good time to celebrate each other still being alive.

Calaka leaned across the bar towards me, revealing her absolutely perfect cleavage. “I didn’t think you’d make it back after last time, Jack”

“Frankly, either did I,” I laughed. “That was a close one.”

“I still have my rain check,” she smiled.

“Well now you have two. And I promise you—“

“Oh, you always promise me—“

“And I always keep my promises, don’t I?”

“Sometimes, Jack. Only sometimes.”

“It’s all about timing. And right now I’m on a short leash. But next time for sure.”

“Sure-sure,” she winked.

“I promise.”

“You always promise,” she repeated on cue, then turned and slid her fine-fine body down the bar to refill a defrocked British Colonel called Barfy, who would have cut off his nuts to make Calaka an honest whore.

After several shots, I passed on Hector’s instructions of the times each of my fly-buddies would be expected at the landing sites in the Arizona desert. The landing crew and the plane had to coordinate themselves too meet about 70 miles north of the border. There was no way to call to say I’m running late because I’ve just crashed into a mountain. All the landing sites had names like Ole No.1 or Dry Well 2. We all knew where they were without having to give directions. I passed several thousand dollars to pay for the barrels of aviation fuel at the dirt strip. Fuel was a tricky business, since the Mexican government controlled all airplane fuel. Often, a Mexican army truck delivered the gas. And yes, if you had money, all things were possible south of the border. Some things never change, do they?

After I fulfilled my tasks, the three of us walked outside to the car. The pilots wanted to say hello to Gordo – since everyone knew and had a bone or two to pick with the foul sumbitch. I popped open the trunk and there he was, sloshed to the gills like he’d been caught in a blender. Dirty Duck and Tom Sawyer did their best to revive him, but he was dead to the world, so they whipped out and pissed into the trunk until they couldn’t piss no mo’. However gross that may have looked to the outside world, Gordo’s face was a lot cleaner when I closed the trunk than when I opened it.

The drive back was restful for me. I knew it was a job well done, so I just followed the rising moon East, then North, back to Nogales, where I pulled into a Pemex gas station and hosed Gordo down until he finally returned to the planet. A few more dollars got an ill fitting new wardrobe for my drunk amigo to drive back through customs. Several blocks later I was walking up to US customs, only needing to tell them I was an American to get back across the border. And yes, of course, I bought the one quart of obligatory Tequila I could bring back tax free, took several huge swings, and feigning intoxication expedited my entry back into my home sweet homeland.

The last thing I saw before I crossed over were two customs officers opening Gordo’s trunk. They both fell back like the stench was alive and coming out after them like some kind of alien force; one of the guards even start blowing puke all over himself and the back of Gordo’s Chevy. Slamming the trunk closed, the other one shoved Gordo’s fat ass back into the vehicle, wildly waving him through. Good, I thought, I don’t have to wait on him all night.

The ride to Tucson was filled with Gordo’s exploits in the whorehouse. I just kept my tongue from wagging and breathed through my mouth as if I were in an open grave right before they threw the dirt down on me. As usual, that little exercise got me back to where I once belonged relatively unscathed. But of course it was only the first step of many that would have to be made in the next 48 hours to make sure the deal didn’t go down, and I didn’t go down with it.

To Be Continued…

Mexican Sweat #1 can be found at http://smokesignalsmag.com/7/?p=10

Jack Wesley Hardin is the nom de plume for a legendary Private Investigator involved in some of the biggest and most controversial high profile criminal and civil cases in the United States. A television series is presently being developed based on his exploits and involvement in those cases. A one time college football star, gonzo NFL linebacker, Green Beret, soldier of fortune, and hippie John Wayne on the Mexican side of the law (in the good ole days of his spent youth), Mexican Sweat (the anatomy of a dope deal) is a memoir from those early years that will be serialized in Smoke Signals. Stay tuned.

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