Date Published: Jun 1, 2021
Publisher: Épouvantail Books, LLC
In the jungles of coastal Mexico, twelve-year-old Kazu Danser is on the run, his bloody past haunting and attempting to be his ruination. Hot on his heals is journalist Carson Staines, a deadly madman full of blood thirst and greed, determined to first chronicle Kazu’s criminal life – and then end it. Staines must nail him down, dead or alive; the boy being worth a huge payoff.
Making a perilous crossing of the border into the States, Kazu fights for his life, desperately heading east. Entering sunburnt Florida, he teams up with a gang of Floridian street urchins, known to the authorities as, “The disposables.”
With Staines not letting up on the chase, Kazu and the other youths go on the run, fighting for their lives.
Can the Disposables and Kazu survive?
What will they have to do to stop the murderous and resourceful monster mowing through them to get to his reward?
The second part of the book takes place in the shadows of Florida, where street urchins fights every day to survive, both bodily and in spirit. In contrast to the tropical beaches and teeming vacationers, the children will do anything necessary to keep their heads above the perilous deep waters.
Leaving the Hotel Or
In Mexico, there’s plenty of wet work for an innocent-looking boy with a 9mm. For the smart ones, there was a world of new clothes, game systems, and a bedroom door with a lock. For the smartest, there were bank accounts and dreams of living without blood-splattered shoes.
Kazu was on the run, his last job gone ugly, as in kicking-a-mound-of-fire-ants ugly. The twelve-year-old had escaped the Hotel Or with a policia dragnet reaching out to snag his heals.
Sitting forward in the driver’s seat so his boot toes could reach the pedals, he kept the speedometer buried past 140km per hour, racing down Federale 200, running south from Puerto Mita.
He had escaped the resort hotel with nothing more than his backpack and his life, taking advantage of the chaos by driving away at a forced, leisurely pace. In his rearview mirror, he watched a swarm of policia vehicles turn into the hotel road.
When the last policia truck with sweeping lights and siren swung into the hotel grounds, Kazu buried his boot toe on the accelerator.
The two-lane highway began its swaying turns through endless miles of green jungle and forests. Thirty kilometers along, he slowed up and rode in the draft of a six-wheel cargo truck, a gold tuna and ‘Fish de Jo y Maria’ painted on the rear steel door. Knowing he had to ditch the car, he stayed in the queue forming on the highway, a farm truck running behind.
“Run it to empty,” he decided, leaning forward, the steering wheel inches from his chin.
He had paid cash for the stolen and re-plated Buick at the Or Petrol y Restaurante adjacent to the Hotel Or.
“Get distance.” He wiped a skim of sweat from his brow and neck.
Federale 200 continued south for fifty clicks before heading eastward, away from the coast. The lush green jungle walls brushed along both sides, and over time formed tunnels of cooler but dank air of ripe rotting vegetation. He dropped all four windows, the air conditioning having died the week before.
When the fuel needle sank under the E, he drove the grass shoulder, letting the trucks and cars behind him pass. With the stretch of highway to his own, he turned the Buick from the road.
Foliage brushing the roof, the car bounced and jolted downhill. He worked the wheel as trees and rocks cracked the sides, undercarriage, and bumper. Thirty yards in, the car was invisible from the highway.
Kazu climbed out with his backpack shouldered. Hiking halfway back up the hill to a green and shaded clearing, he kneeled in the wet soil, where patchy sunlight had dried out the vegetation.
The heat and stagnant humidity were pushing down on him.
His skin was dank with sweat. Scooping up two handfuls of dirt and dust, he rubbed the front of his black t-shirt. Same with his Pirates baseball cap. He ground dirt and leaves into the front of his black shorts before standing up and looking himself over. The results had transformed him into an everyday, poor Mexican street urchin.
Pulling the cap low to shade his foreign, almond-shaped eyes, he climbed halfway back to the road through the brush and rocks.
“Steal a pair of sunglasses,” he said, looking south, knowing he would come upon a village or city eventually.
Walking in the vegetation often high overhead, he paralleled the highway, standing still with his breath clenched when trucks or local buses went by.
He walked and climbed and crossed streams for the next two long hours. Sticky green vines repeatedly tried to grab and trip him up. The afternoon sun was lowering into the trees when he stopped. The highway sign up on the shoulder told him the town of Colomo was off to the east, and he headed that way.
“Get a ride. Then a Pepsi with lots of ice,” he said, pushing through green clinging limbs and leaves. He was approaching a scatter of small and worn residences. When he came up upon the first few cinder-block houses, he took to the pavement, the heat from the crumbled pavement pressing into each step he took. He entered the first side street, seeing no one about, hearing only a dog barking and a radio blasting Mexican disco a few houses up.
His next ride was parked alongside a station wagon on the dirt patch of a front lawn. The house was still and the windows dark. After drinking from a garden hose, he circled to the passenger side of the Ford pickup resting on its dirt tires. He looked in before opening the door.
The keys were on the dash, the passenger side of the bench seat cluttered with food wrappers on top of newspapers. Before climbing in, he checked out the truck bed. A five-gallon can of petrol was bungee-strapped to the side. He gave it a shake, and it sloshed and felt heavy. Opening the toolbox behind the cab, he swiped a roll of Gorilla tape and from the clutter in the bed grabbed two cuttings from a fence post among the other scraps of wood and aluminum.
With blocks taped to the two pedals, he turned the key and dropped the transmission into reverse. A half-hour later, he was a good distance away, up Highway 54, heading north and east.
Icons and beads swung back and forth from the mirror. Mary Magdalena was glued to the dash. She had a bubble compass embedded in her belly.
“Mary, right? Nice having someone to talk to,” he said, trying the windshield fluid knob.
It was empty.
Digging through the glove box, he pushed aside papers and food wrappers, coming up with a cashew tin full of green tobacco and some tissue papers. There was nothing to eat. He took out a sun-bleached folded map.
The miles rolled by, the road taking him through the outskirts of Guadalajara. The sun was low in the western sky when he passed through Zacatecas, where he braved a sleepy gas station to fill the tank, using forty of his one hundred ten dollars of cash. The soda icebox inside the station didn’t have Pepsi, so he bought two chilled bottles of strawberry Jarritos and two bags of chips.
“Help me find a place to hide?” he asked Mary on the dash. “Somewhere with cell service and a shower?”
The bubble compass in her mid-section appeared to bob and nod encouragement.
Four hours later, he pulled off the road on the north side of Saltillo. A dusty driveway ran to a simple row motel. A large and tired man sat behind a desk in a bowling shirt, television running to his left, radio playing to the right. Before saying a word, Kazu took out fifty US dollars from his backpack and laid it out.
“Una habitación para uno, por favor,” < A room for one, please> Kazu said.
The man didn’t even pause in renting a room to a short twelve-year-old boy. The entire fifty dollars was exchanged for a room key. Minutes later, Kazu parked the truck behind the motel instead of the parking lot and entered room six.
After locking and chaining the door, he got out of his black boots, stripped off his clothing, and took a long cold shower. He left the room one time to go out to the truck to pry the Mary Magdalena compass off the dash. After a dinner of chips and the second bottle of strawberry soda, he opened his backpack on the bed. Digging through his few belongings, he took out his old and battered gray Nokia flip phone.
He placed a single call to his former employer. Hitting voicemail as expected, he left a message.
“Lamento tu mala suerte en el Hotel. Necesito un trabajo. Cerca de la frontera.” < Sorry about your bad luck at the hotel. I need a job. Near the border.> After a second cool-down shower, he took out pens, pencils, and pastels and his current image-novel. With his pad of hard bond drawing paper leaning on his raised knees, he drew and shaded until his eyes began to close involuntarily and his chin bobbed on his chest.
Waking an hour before dawn as usual, he pulled on his clothes and took a third shower since arriving, rubbing out the dirt stains. Checking his Nokia, he saw he had no new messages.
With his backpack on his shoulder, he walked up the street to a market.
In the parking lot of the local Supermercado , a combination hardware and grocery store, he watched a thin and very short man push a shopping bag into the rear basket on the back of a motorbike. As the man started the bike, Kazu studied each movement of his hands and shoes on the throttle, clutch, and gears. The man toed the shifter into second gear as he sped away up the road.
Finding shade under a dusty tree, Kazu sat and waited. An hour passed before he saw what he needed. A man rolled in on a seriously old Honda 90 trail bike, once red and white, then different hues of oil stains and dirt. The rider got off, leaving the keys, and did a cowboy walk into the market. A dust devil also spun into the parking lot, a brown whirlwind crossing right to left. Corralled by the gap between two farm trucks, it spiraled slowly to death.
Kazu stood and crossed to the spinning residue, not bothering to wipe the dust from his dirty face, eyes on the key.
After scanning the cars and trucks and the store’s doorway, he climbed onto a dirt bike for the very first time. Minutes later, he was running up the highway in the slow lane, the wind cooling his skin even as the sun blasted down.
About the Author
Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.