The Second Bat Guano War: a Hard-Boiled Spy Thriller

THE SECOND BAT GUANO WAR

 

By

J.M. Porup

ALSO BY J.M. PORUP

Novels

The Judas Syndrome

Death on Taurus

The United States of Air

Non-Fiction

Food-Free At Last: How I Learned To Eat Air [*]

[*] with Dr. Robert Jones, MD, PhD, DDS, ODD

THE SECOND BAT GUANO WAR

 

Copyright © 2012 by J.M. Porup

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Wanna make something of it?

 

Published by J.M. Porup

epub ISBN: 978-0-9880069-8-0

kindle/mobi ISBN: 978-0-9880069-7-3

ASIN: B00A1B10IO

 

www.JMPorup.com

for Anna-Sofia

 

a nightmare I dreamed up

before you were even a glimmer

Timon:

 

What wouldst thou do with the world,

Apemantus, if it lay in thy power?

 

Apemantus:

 

Give it to the beasts,

to be rid of the men.

 

—Shakespeare,
Timon of Athens,
IV.iii

One

Someone was calling my name. The sound was distorted, a foghorn of death and regret. Jackhammers pounded inside of my skull, a reminder of yesterday’s excess.

“Horse.”

There it was again. I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to dull the pain behind my eyes. Who was talking to me? I peered out at my class through grease-smeared lenses. My students avoided my gaze. Can’t say that I blamed them. They were criminals, all of them, the oozing pus of this chancre of a city. But who was I to judge? I’m no better than they are.

No. I’m worse.

“Horse,
please!”

The voice called me again. Whoever it was, why couldn’t they leave me alone? Couldn’t they see I was trying to teach English?

“Oh my God, what is that?” said Paco the pickpocket. “Is that a UFO?” He thrust a finger skyward at some plaster dripping from the ceiling.

“Excellent, Paco.” A noise was coming from my throat. Was that me talking?

“And then I steal them.”

“Steal
from
them. Yes. Very good.”

Six months ago I caught Paco with his hand in my pocket. My friend Pitt wanted to crack the boy’s skull open against a nearby dumpster, then leave him in it. I gave him my business card instead.

“English for Criminals.” Word got around. If you wanted to learn English in Lima, and from a teacher who wouldn’t rat you out (and who happily accepted, in lieu of cash, cocaine by the ounce,
pisco
by the case, or sexual favors in half-hour increments as payment), then I was your man.

The class was no longer looking at me. I followed their gaze. A blonde stood in the doorway of my grungy classroom, a long cherry fingernail up her nose. She cleared her throat. She was tall, a good six foot something, a Valkyrie towering over my Napoleonic shortness. She had a whiplash-inducing figure, but on closer inspection the sands were draining from her hourglass, as things began to sag and bulge in all the wrong places. She wore a black leather miniskirt and a turquoise tube top, which would have looked good on her twenty years ago; her breasts were in open revolt against gravity, a testament to the efforts of a talented plastic surgeon. If you didn’t look too closely at the crow’s-feet around her eyes, you might think she was still in her thirties. That is, if you dynamited your way through several geologic layers of makeup, first.

Every pair of eyes swiveled to examine the blonde’s crevices and curves, calculating their odds. Including, I was sorry to see, Juanita, the only female in the class, who carried a slim switchblade parked between her breasts and always paid me promptly, and in cash.

The fingernail slithered out of the blonde’s nostril, tried in vain to hide itself under a breast. She stepped forward. “Horse?”

I turned back to my class. Maybe if I imagined she wasn’t there, she’d go away.

“Now, Major.” I addressed the class’s sole member of Lima’s finest. He’d busted me with a kilo of coke, which, I might add, really was for personal consumption. I gave him free English lessons in exchange for keeping me out of jail. At first his presence had inhibited conversation. But the major was too drunk most days to remember his own name, much less those of the others, and tales of illegal exploits soon flowed freely once again.

Today was one of the cop’s more lucid days.

“Major Villega,” I continued, ignoring the blonde’s urgent stare, “when you catch the thief, what do you say to the gringo?”

He grinned, his rotting teeth glittering with saliva, grotesque belly spilling sideways over his belt. “I say, ‘Hello, pretty lady, you wan’ make fuck wit’ me?’”

The blonde’s pale complexion, covered as it was in the fine powder that settles on everything in this city, colored a violent shade of pink. Even her makeup wasn’t enough to hide her discomfort. The students pounded their desks and laughed, slapped each other on the back.

Besides Paco and Major Villega, there was Luis, an earring snatcher who paid me in blood-stained gold; Álvarita, a transgender whore who sucked cock in the park, then robbed her johns with a knife to their balls as they came; Lucho the
taxista,
who was always there to give a horny gringa the ride of her life; Andrès, a Hilton bellboy who was also the de facto concierge
—cocaine? chicas? concert tickets? I get for you, don’t worry;
Ricardo, a script kiddie who wanted to know the value of the secrets he stole; and half a dozen other creeps, lowlifes and riffraff, the scum who make up most of this foul city.

“Horse, please,” she said. “It’s about Pitt.”

I sighed. “You have to call me that? The name is Horace. And what about him?”

She tiptoed into the room, teetering on her high heels. “Can I talk to you?” She lowered her voice, glanced at the class. “Alone?”

“El profesor tiene cojones, amigo!”
The class whooped and high-fived. “Who’s your lady friend, man?”

“That’s enough.” I looked at the clock. Five to. “Same time Wednesday. Your homework,” —I held up my arms to stifle the groans— “excuses and apologies. I want to see some creativity this time!” I shouted as their chairs scraped against the rotting wooden floor. I had given them a long list of possible excuses, ways to convince a gringo victim not to turn them in: sob stories of nonexistent baby sisters in need of operations, kidnapped cousins forced into slavery and cannibalism in the high Andes, malnutrition in the slums. I wanted them to think for themselves, though; it wasn’t good enough to just memorize my list. They needed to be ready to improvise.

As Paco walked by I grabbed his arm. I held out my hand.

He grinned. He pulled my wallet from his pocket and laid it on my palm. “You alright, Horse. You cut me slack.”

Getting people to call me by my given name was a lost cause. Once they’d seen my camel toe, the nickname stuck.

I slapped him on the shoulder. “See you, Paco.”

The last of the men trooped down the stairs, leaving me alone with the blonde. I walked down the peeling linoleum hallway, past the overflowing toilet with no door to a small room with a bed, fridge and stove. My flip-flops threw up puffs of dust. Her spike heels echoed behind me as they punctured divots in the underlying floorboards.

I dropped my glasses on top of the television before turning around. She looked better out of focus. Less tempting, too. I avoided pretty girls as a rule. I threw myself ass first onto the bed and sank almost to the floor, the ancient metal springs creaking to support my modest weight.

“What do you want, Lynn?”

We had met in a bar in Barranco. The Rat’s Nest. Three levels of debauchery, each more wicked than the last. We’d ground against each other to the
reggaetón,
then paid for one of the stand-up booths in the corner. I’d penetrated her without a condom. She didn’t object. I don’t think she cared much either.

It became a regular afternoon liaison. I knew she was married. I knew she had kids. My age. I knew I could do better. I didn’t want to. Being with her was the same sadness I got from lying with whores, only more intense. I was a worthless piece of shit and deserved no better.

“Pitt’s missing,” she said.

She crunched her way over to the bedroom window, looked down at the courtyard. I lived over a butcher shop. Most days it served as an impromptu abattoir. If it moved and you could eat it, they’d kill it, skin it and pack it for you. From my bedroom window you could watch the meatpackers in their gore-flecked vestments making sausage, mixing flyblown offal with wheelbarrows of sawdust. The reek infiltrated my room through cracks in the glass.

“What else is new.”

I pulled a half-empty bottle of
pisco
from under the bed. I unscrewed the top and threw it across the room at the swarming mass of cockroaches that lived in the corner, scuttling their grandparents’ carcasses in its wake. I took a long swallow, grunted, held the bottle out to her. She took it and drank.

She said, “I haven’t seen him for a month.”

“So put the goon squad on the case. What’re you asking me for?”

“They can’t know about this, Horse.”

“You mean the embassy, or—”

“Neither.”

I shrugged. She took another swallow of
pisco
and offered me the bottle. I waved it away. I reached under my pillow and pulled out a travel soap dish. One of several I kept about the place. Pried off the lid, took a big pinch of cocaine between my thumb and forefinger, and snorted it. I held out the soap dish to her.

She looked at the coke and delicately scratched the inside of her nose again, as though considering today’s required dosage. Paced to the end of the small room, her heels sinking into decades of dirt. Her leather mini creaked with the movement. She clutched her forearms under her breasts, bit her lip.

“You don’t care, do you,” she said.

“Not really, no.”

“And if he’s lying in a gutter somewhere?”

“It was me,” I said, and snorted another pinch of coke, “I wouldn’t want to be disturbed.”

“The two of you are friends.”

“Were.
And he’d do the same for me.”

The coke hit me. My head went numb. Anesthetic for the memories. Instead of live-action replays of my crime on endless loop, it froze for an instant in gruesome caricature.

I put the soap dish on my pillow and stood up. Her breasts were at eye level. I put my hands on her hips and craned my neck. She didn’t move.

“I told you,” I said. “It’s over.”

Turned out she wasn’t just the mother of my best friend. Correction,
former
best friend. She was also the wife of my one-time employer, Pitt’s adoptive father. The two of them, father and son, had a license to kill—for their country; for sport; for any minor transgression, real or imagined; whenever they felt the urge. So hell yeah, I broke things off with Lynn. For our own good, I told her. And I meant it. But doing what was good for me was something alien to all my being, and again and again we came together in furtive intercourse, hating each other and loathing our own weakness.

She laid her hands on my chest. “I didn’t come here for that.”

“Then what did you come for?”

She unbuttoned the top of my shirt. “Maybe I could have a glass of water?”

I slid my hands down past her muffin top and clutched her cottage cheese buttocks, pulled her pelvis against me. “You came here for a glass of water?”

Her voice was soft, wounded. “Please.”

I went to the sink and filled the kettle with water, trying not to inhale the stench from the tap. Even I couldn’t handle that. Drinking water in this town was a shortcut to unhappy bowels. The best you could do was boil it. It still tasted like sulfur. No doubt I would drink my fill from hell’s reeking pits soon enough.

“Since when do you drink water?” I asked.

I carried the kettle to the stove and lit the gas burner with a match. I put the kettle on to boil.

“Since this.” She held out a piece of paper.

“Which is?”

“Read it.”

I took the paper. “You know I can’t read without my glasses.”

“Dammit, Horse. It’s an email from Pitt.”

“What does it say?”

“‘I’ve found a way to end the guilt.’”

Muhammad Ali connected with a solid right hook. My world spun. I held on to the table for support. Since when did Pitt feel guilt?

Conscience is overrated, bro. All it’ll do is get you killed by people like me.

“The words,” I said. “The exact words.”

She spotted my glasses on top of the broken television. There was a hole in the screen where I had kicked it in some months ago. On the whole I found I preferred watching dust gather on the gaping shards to the usual cable fare. She grabbed my glasses and forced them onto my face.

“Not so rough,” I said, adjusting the frames. I straightened the printout and squinted to focus. I recognized Pitt’s email address. The message was dated a week ago.

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