This happened several months back – the day began innocently enough shopping for house stuff. I bought a rug for 100 pesos. Black and white woven out of who knows what by who knows who. Not a completely unattractive rug, clean looking; one that would see service and get periodically washed by hand in the lavandria area.

I bought 2 matching plates (60 pesos), with 2 matching bowls (50 pesos), 2 heavy water glasses (20 pesos), 2 heavy tequila glasses (16 pesos), 2 stainless steel butter knives, 2 matching forks, spoons, cocktail forks, and eggs spoons all for 160 pesos. All of the items were made in Mexico; I buy local if at all possible.

‘Hey, how are you doing? Are you enjoying Mexico?’ This fellow is shouting at me from across the street. Before I even got the chance to blink, he had crossed the street and was shaking my hand and introducing himself as Leo. Standing next to me he is very short, even for a Mexican. My warning bells begin to chime after about the third time he tells me that we’re going to be friends. He was friends with Dave and Steve; the other gringos, and he was going to introduce me around because that’s what he does is facilitate and make things happen for people. I immediately recognize that someone is a pretty gifted English speaker when they can use words like facilitate.

I get his short-term life story as he gives me a whirlwind tour of a couple of shops ostensibly to introduce me to people who might know of places to rent. Leo was deported from the US a couple of years ago for some technical violation and he was now using his English language skills to make a go of advancing his career in tourism.

He was periodically on one of his 2 cell phones trying to reach one of his gringo buddies so that he can hook us up. As he has reminded me numerous times that’s what he does is connect people. Leo admits to being a very social guy which he demonstrates frequently by saying hi to people and shaking hands, ‘I have a lot of friends,’ he says.

After 45 minutes I am finally able to shake the guy. As we are parting he drops that he can get me a resident’s visa, ‘my cousin works in the visa office in the DF.’

I am intrigued, skeptical, but intrigued.

We agree to meet for the coffee the next morning at 10 am.

When I turn on my phone the next morning I see that I have 4 missed calls, all from Leo.

At 9:55 am I am making my way to our appointment and my phone rings, it’s Leo again and I ignore it. When I see him 4 minutes later I ask him why he is calling me all the time. He blathers some inanities and I, the grumpy old man, tell him to stop it. This seems to take some of the spunk out of him for which I feel a little bad but I don’t want to be his BFF.

He is carrying a small briefcase kind of thing and after we order he whips out his laptop and fires it up. I ask why? The coffee shop doesn’t have WiFi. He says that he wants to show me some photos but the truth is he is putting on a show for me and the coffee shop women.

We eventually get down to some negotiations. The resident’s visa was going to cost me 3000 pesos and he would have it for me in a week. I immediately said ‘no’ when he asked for a 100 peso deposit instead I tell him that he’ll get his money after he delivers and – more importantly – only after I verify that what he’s sold me is the real deal.

Of course when he turns up a week later all he has is a photocopy of a credit card size piece of bogusness that ‘all I have to do is sign it’ then he’ll get it laminated and I’m ‘good to go’.

He must have thought that all people other than himself were either complete morons or that he was such a lovable guy that no one would think to check up on the Mexican Resident Visa process online; which of course I had done. So I knew that his document was bogus and that he was full of shit up to his eyeballs. But following protocol I told him he’d get his money after I had verified the document. His argument was all about his costs; what he had personally invested to get me my resident visa. In short, he wanted his money then. I said ‘no’. He then threatened me, ‘that he’d get me’. I told him to shove it and left. A few days later he was in the El Cito Cantina trying to run some other scam and Pancho called him aside and told him not to mess with me; that I had friends, that I was connected to powerful people, and that he’d in up in a world of trouble and maybe even jail if he didn’t drop it.

So two weeks ago I was crossing the plaza and heading out for a run when I heard someone shout my name. I turned around and saw Leo smiling and waving. I ignored him and kept walking. Then a couple of days later returning from a run he managed to corner me which started his running spiel about what he’d been up to since the last time we saw each other and of course acting like nothing had happened six months ago.

Before I know it he’s got his phone out and is showing me bloody pictures of gringo Dave who got stabbed last month and subsequently died. I was too exhausted after my 3 hour run to do anything other than to tell him to put his phone away and start the story in the beginning. I had never met Dave but I needed to hear the story; a gringo getting murdered in this little city was something I needed to know about.

The story of course unfolded like a sordid telenovela. And as I was able to piece together; Leo was staying at Dave’s house when he was awakened at 2:30 am to the sounds of Dave screaming, ‘Leo, come help me!’ Leo dashed into the hallway just as Susanne’s young lover was leaving Dave’s bedroom with 2 bloody knives in his hands.

The bedroom was slippery with blood but Dave was still alive and with Susanne’s help they manage to get Dave to the hospital in time; in fact there was even time for Leo to take a few photos of the carnage. Susanne at the time was sleeping in another bedroom whilst taking a short hiatus from her marriage.

Her young lover had broken in – he had liaised with her at Dave’s house before – so access [I guess] wasn’t difficult that night. Leo said that he intended on murdering Susanne as well. I asked ‘why’? Leo said ‘drugs’. And I thought ‘what does that mean’? But I didn’t want to interrupt and forestall the conclusion to the story which I hoped was forthcoming.  So something like 9 days later Dave dies when the infection from the stab wound in his neck moved to his heart.

As I said, I never met him. I just knew he was a 60-something year old gay man who had no local family.  He only had a few friends in the community like Leo and Susanne and Steve. Leo finished the story by saying that shortly after Dave’s demise, his possessions had started getting ‘legs’ and one by one began disappearing.

Regretfully the story doesn’t end there as coincidence would have it, two days ago a crusty old gringo by the name of Steve came up to me and introduced himself, forgetting that we had met months earlier in La Couchara, the coffee shop. I was sitting on a stool at Luz Elena sipping a large multi-fruit puree prepping for a run and just generally watching the mid-day Mercado traffic when he stuck his warty, freckled hand into mine.

He told me that he had run into James – who mentioned me – and that he’d like to have us over for dinner. But he had a small apartment, but was house hunting – did I know of anything? He was hinting at the fact that I might have space for him in my house. He rambled on all smiles, leaning in to me a bit too close for my comfort. He asked if I was ‘alone’? I said, ‘yes’ and of course I had to respond ‘how about you’? He said he was ‘in a relationship’. Of course manners dictated that I had to carry that uncomfortable conversation on to its uncomfortable conclusion. I then asked if he had managed to ‘snag one of the beautiful local women’; already knowing the answer. He gave me another radiant smile and said ‘no, I snagged a beautiful local man’, to which he pointed to a sullen looking Mexican boy who was standing 10 feet away. I then got to hear Steve’s short story on how he now had an extended family; the boy had 4 sisters whom he was helping to support. ‘Oh, and did I hear about the terrible thing that happened to Dave…’?

Advertisements