The first chapter of Mexico Fever, Bill Travis #12

Posted: September 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

Mexico Fever

CHAPTER ONE

Every once in awhile a fellow has to get his hands dirty. Working and living on this backward Earth, from time to time he may have to bloody them.

I could blame it on Mexico, but there’s no percentage in it.

Let’s just say that people die. Sometimes they don’t so much die as vanish. This is going on all the time behind the scenes. It’s going on everywhere. So when one gets word that it’s happening down in Mexico, far away from where one works and lives and has his being, the tendency is to shrug it off.

But then Walt Cannon disappeared. The guy saved my life once. Sure, I saved his skin once too, so it all should have been in balance. But while there may be two sides to the coin, let me tell you, one side is far heavier than the other.

For background, Walt, a now retired Texas Ranger, once stepped in a saved my bacon from the clutches of a insurgent Texas secessionist cell operating out of West Texas, and by doing so, he headed off the attempted assassination of the Governor, a man named Richard Sawyer.

Sawyer has been out of office for the last four years. It was Sawyer who called me up and asked me to come see him about something, he wouldn’t say what over the phone. I’d have to drive a hundred miles to find out.

*****

I drove my newly refurbished Mercedes—the engine had been replaced, it’d been rewired electrically, the transmission rebuilt, all the dings and dents have been hammered out, and it had a shiny new paint job that set me back quite a bit—down to River Oaks in Houston to meet with him. One doesn’t shun an elder statesman, former Governor or not. Also, it’s my philosophy that you never know from what vector an opportunity is going to arrive. No one has a working crystal ball. You have to keep yourself open to life, or life will close you off.

Sawyer’s front door was answered by a young girl—I say young, but she was definitely full grown, although probably not a day over nineteen. I would have thought she was a granddaughter, but then again I knew about Dick Sawyer’s family tree.

“Mr. Travis?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Come on. The Governor has been expecting you.”

Upon stepping inside, the feeling insinuated itself down into my gut that I was going to be in for a mild shock. The light—yet very present—scent of disinfectant was in the air of the front foyer. Twin staircases led upward in the main hall, but the young lady led me aft.

We paused outside of a closed door off a long hallway, and she whispered, “Mr. Travis, are you aware of the Governor’s medical condition?”

I shook my head.

“He’s…not well. He trusts that you are a friend, and won’t let word out to the press.”

“I’m not sure the press would be interested,” I said. “But I promise, I won’t say a word to anyone, not even my wife.”

“Thank you,” she said, and started to reach for the doorknob.

“Wait,” I whispered, and touched her arm. “Are you…family?”

“Yes. I’m Sherry’s and Milo’s daughter.”

It was like a punch in the stomach.

“Then you…know.”

“Yes. You were there when both of them…died.”

It meant something that she didn’t say that I had killed them. Truthfully, I didn’t kill Milo Fisher. And while I didn’t outright kill Sherry Euban, I had let go of her hand, and consequently she fell to her death.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know they had a daughter.”

“I was raised by others in the family. I’m the only one that came to grandfather…after. He accepted me.”

“That makes me feel better,” I said.

“I’m Elizabeth,” she said.

“Bill Travis.” I extended my hand out of habit, even though it felt awkward, and she took it.

“Come on in,” she said, and opened the door.

His voice boomed at us. “I heard whispering out there! Are you conspiring against me, Bill?”

I laughed. “Governor,” I said. “It’s good to see you.”

“Bullshit.”

And it was good to see him. He sat upright in a hospital bed. One rail was down and a foot trailed from beneath the coverlet out into space. The foot was purple bordering on black. The upper half of his body was as I remembered him, mostly: barrel-chested, broad, although not as solid. He sagged more than the Dick Sawyer I used to know.

His lips were curled around an unlit cigar.

“Are you supposed to be using tobacco?” I asked.

“He’s not,” Elizabeth said. “Honestly, I don’t know where he gets them from. I think he’s a magician or something.”

“Damn right I am,” Sawyer said. “Elizabeth, can you give me and Mr. Travis a few minutes alone.”

“Yes, granddad.”

She turned and left.

“What’s up with the black feet?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing, really. I’m dying, is all.”

I nodded.

“That’s not why I asked you to come. Have a seat.”

I looked, but the only chair was an old hardbacked chair against the wall ten feet away. I shrugged, went and got it and set it down beside Sawyer’s bed.

“Walt Cannon is missing,” he said.

“What?” I asked, taking a seat.

“He’s missing. Gone. Vanished.”

“From where?” I asked.

“Mexico. From the State of Yucatan.”

“What city?”

“Piste.”

“Wait a minute. That’s right at Chichen Itza.”

“It is.”

“What was he doing down there?” I asked.

“If you know Walt, then you know he loves Mexico as much or more than he loves Texas, and loves Texas more than any man I’ve ever known, with the possible exception of yourself. The man’s got Mexico Fever. He’s got it bad.”

I had to nod at that. So far he was describing Walt Cannon as if he were his best friend in the whole world.

“So while he had business down there, at first I figured that he was sticking around afterward, soaking in the sun, drinking a little tequila with the senoritas. But then, he never called.”

“Why are you worried about Walt? He’s one fellow who can take care of himself. True, the man’s got to be approaching eighty.”

“He’s my best friend,” Sawyer said. “I was by his side through his cancer treatment. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it, but then he did. He was the one who broke the news to me about the daughter I never knew I had.”

“I remember,” I said.

And then a slow scowl came over Dick Sawyer’s face, or at first I thought it was a scowl, and then I realized it must be something else.

“What?” I asked.

“It’s my fault.” It wasn’t a scowl. It was regret.

“What’s your fault?”

“Why he went down there. I had him chasing after Sunlight.”

“Who…or what, is Sunlight?”

“La Luce de la Sol. He is—or maybe it’s was—a Mexican religious leader. The guy was really big back in the 1990s and early 2000s. He had a big following and everything. You might call him a revivalist for the Aztecs—or crap, I don’t know, maybe it’s the Mayans—but somewhere along the line he got into buying American guns and arming rebels for the overthrow of the State of Yucatan and the Mexican government.”

“Huh!” I sniffed. “Where do you come into this?”

“Sunlight’s people killed a whole family down on the border near Eagle Pass, Texas. The son of a bitch thought himself untouchable, so I sent Walt down there to…touch him.”

“Was this before or after you left office?”

“Both. But Walt didn’t catch him the first time around. So, I sent him again.”

“When?”

“Over two months ago.”

I settled back in my chair and regarded Dick Sawyer. What little life the man had left in him resided mostly in his face, and I could read his face as if it was a coffee table picture book. The years and the miles lay heavy on him. His once hard frame was bowed by the gravity of his own sense of obligation. And regret.

“Governor,” I said. “Are you asking me to find Walter Cannon?”

He turned his head slowly. His eyes welled with tears that I prayed I might not be forced to witness streaming down his face.

He nodded slowly.

“Please,” he said. And then the tears came.

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