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Only the big towns in Mexico got many visitors, but then again, Camalotillo wasn't a big town. So when a man dressed up for a New York snowstorm in the middle of summer comes walking in, a few eyebrows will be raised. The stranger was wearing a black coat, black pants, gloves, a scarf, a brown fedora, and sunglasses. He could of come straight out of an old western movie, if it was in Alaska. The visitor walked with a slight swagger to his gait, like he owned the town. He passed by a pottery stall on the side of the road, then stopped, and strolled towards it. The stall owner looked up from a jar he was painting and astonishment followed by suspicion crossed his face.
'I help you?' he said in choppy English. He was surprised when the stranger talked in Spanish.
'Estoy buscando a hombre nombrado Carlos Vasquez. 'Lo has visto?' I'm looking for a man named Carlos Vasquez. Have you seen him?
The stall keeper hesitated. Hadn't he he been warned about an American visiting?
'No s' de qui'n est's hablando' I do not know who you are talking about.
The concern must've shown on his face, because the visitor just stared at the stall keeper for a full minute, as if he was making a decision. The children behind them laughed and played with their ball. A bird crowed in the distance. Fear shot through the Mexican's veins. Then before he knew what was happening, a hand shot out and grabbed him by the neck. He was pushed out of the stall and then led into a small alley, the hand tight on his shoulder. It seemed that the decision had been made.
After they were in the alley, the stall keeper was shoved into the wall with the stranger's hands grasped around his collar.
'Stay,' the man hissed.
The stall owner cried out and tried to escape, but was pushed back against the wall with such force that the stranger's sunglasses flew off his face and his scarf slipped to the ground. The visitor noticed what had happened scrambled for his clothing, but it was too late. Where flesh and muscle should have been, the stall keeper only saw gray, dusty bone.
The bone of a bare skull.
''Esqueleto!' the Mexican shouted, and tried to escape again, but it yielded only another shove into the wall. The children's laughter and talking had stopped. The skeleton man led them farther into the alley and behind a building.
He shushed the stall owner and then spoke, quickly, in Spanish, 'Carlos Vasquez. 'D'nde est' 'l?' Carlos Vasquez. Where is he?
''l se fue hace aproximadamente dos d'as. 'l dijo que 'l iba el vacaciones a Panam'.' He left about two days ago. He said he was going on vacation to Panama.
If a skull could show anger, it did then. The stranger pounded his fists on the wall, and cursed. ''Est's seguro?' Are you sure?
A trace of hesitation preceded the reply. 'S'
The skull's jaw seemed to twist into a frown. The visitor didn't believe his response. 'Gracias. Adi's.'
Those were the last words the stall keeper remembered before a bony fist slammed into the side of his head. His vision swam, and he fell to his knees when another fist hit his gut. The last breath flew out of him as his head hit the ground, and on that breath were the words he rasped before losing consciousness.
'Dios me ayuda.' God help me.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ted Herman turned around from the beaten body and bent down to recover his scarf and sunglasses. He didn't enjoy having to be rough with the poor guy and knocking him out like that, but he had an agenda. After one year of searching North America, Ted had finally got him. Carlos Vasquez had finally been found.
He would have his revenge before the sun was up.