~ This column was originally published by Ríodoce on February 22, 2015 ~
There are two bodies, they said. They snatched them in the neighborhood and took them to the hills. That’s where they turned up, far from the fields and the irrigation canal, face down and very close to each other. They say it’s Alberto and his son. That they found two IDs and that they live here, in Colonia Hidalgo. That’s what they said was on the identifications.
That’s why they told Paco. Paco, paco. I have bad news for you: it looks like they killed Alberto. And that’s not all. His son too. They said they were taken. That they were heading to the fields and an armed group grabbed them. There, near their house. But it’s not confirmed. It’s just that the addresses match up and I remember that Alberto always had his son at his side. I’m worried it’s them.
That was the call Paco received. Disbelieving and shaken. Paco could only say it couldn’t be. He knew the person who had called, but the guy was more Alberto’s friend than his. He said that he would make a few calls, but with discretion. I don’t want this to become a rumor and for people to get scared and for the news to reach his family before it’s absolutely sure.
He made a call. Sunday, in the morning. It rang seven times and nobody answered. They must be sleeping. It was odd. His fear rose. It occurred to him to call someone else, someone he trusted. He did. It went straight to voicemail. He felt as though his legs had melted and looked for a place to sit down. His concern grew.
What to do? I can’t tell his wife: I don’t want to scare her, don’t want her to stress or start smoking again. He thought about her, and then about Alberto and all the friends. The drunken nights in that dive bar. Jazz, boleritos, sensuous cumbias, flowing from those tired tuning forks and the mouth of the baritone sax. And Albert, loud, glowing, friendly and always warm: like a placenta to hide in. Tall, generous, honest, and always good for downing those Johnny Walker black labels.
Ay no. And the stormclouds appeared in the voids beneath his forehead. It can’t be. He called again, after thinking about it five times. It rang and rang. On the fourth, his buddy answered. Hey, buddy, sorry to bother you on Sunday and so early. Decorous and trembling, trying to postpone the inevitable question. Y’know, they told me… do you know what’s up with Alberto. Nothing, what would be? He’s right here, he woke me up to go for birria.
Paco recovered his breath and his color. Uff, that’s good. I was getting scared. The next day he went to the corner store. Closed. Two days later, he went back. The woman who had worked there for years was dressed in black. Tearful. What happened Ms. Chelo. Ay Paco. What can I say. I’m sad: they killed my son and my grandson.
Journalist Javier Váldez Cárdenas edits RíoDoce, an investigative news website based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is a prolific author, with a new book, Con una granada en la boca (Aguilar, 2014) (With a Grenade in the Mouth — as yet unavailable in English). This Malayerba column for Ríodoce first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Los dos nuertos” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/los-dos-muertos
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute