The story so far…While recovering from a near-death experience in a blizzard on the way to Timmins, Mark’s dispatcher Bud gives Mark a ticket to an all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. After his luggage is temporarily lost, Mark looks for a ride to the resort. He balks at the forty dollars US a cabbie asks for the trip, then hitches a ride with a truck driver for $10. However, the truck driver – Jose Hernandez – doesn’t take the money for himself, but rather as a “toll” for the bandits who demand it in exchange for passage along the road. Mark thinks this is wrong and offers to help remedy the situation.
On Mark’s first full day at the resort, he meets up with a gorgeous woman named Lana DeAngelis. Even though she works in the political arena and is a far cry from the type of women Mark usually meets, they hit it off and spend the day and night together. In the morning, Lana is gone and Mark thinks she’s left him, but before he can contemplate the thought, Jose is pounding on Mark’s door. He’s been badly beaten because he hadn’t paid enough toll to drive Mark to the resort, and now he’s turned to Mark for help. As Mark vows to come up with a plan, Lana returns from her morning jog, and hadn’t left Mark after all.
The next morning Jose arrived around 10 a.m., with an empty trailer and a change of clothes for Mark to wear. As Mark got into the clean but ragged pants and t-shirt, he went over the plan with Jose until they’d agreed on all the details.
Jose, however, wasn’t easily convinced. “These men are bad men,” he said, shaking his head. “They have been robbing us for months and the police have done nothing about it.”
“Are you saying the police are corrupt here?” asked Mark.
“There are some good police here, but it is very easy to make even them look the other way.”
“I’m sure that’s true,” Mark said. “But no matter how powerful someone is, they always have to answer to a higher authority.”
Mark realized that you couldn’t always count on police forces in many Central and South American countries to do the right thing, so that’s why he’d asked Lana to contact a few higher authorities to make sure he had them on his side before he stuck his neck out too far on this one. He’d gotten some assurances from the people she’d spoken to over the phone and was confident that his plan was solid enough to see it through.
“I understand, Senor…but these men, they have guns, and they are not afraid to use them.”
“That’s true too, but there are some things even more powerful than guns.” Mark tapped a finger to his head, signifying brains, then rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, signifying money.
Jose shook his head. “I don’t know, Senor.”
Mark turned to Lana, who had been sitting on the couch outfitted in a sundress, sandals, and a pair of oversized sunglasses. “What do you think?” he asked.
She smiled and said, “This is all so exciting.”
Mark and Jose set out around 11, Jose behind the wheel and Mark riding shotgun. Mark was dressed in Jose’s extra clothes and had done his best to darken his skin slightly to make him look more like a local than a tourist. Mark didn’t speak Spanish so he wouldn’t be able to talk, but he would be able to prompt Jose about what to say and when. If all went well, they’d be out of the woods in no time, after which Mark would be the one doing all the talking.
They crept along the road in low gear, making the Dodge’s engine rev so the bandits would be able to hear them coming a mile away. As they approached the bend in the road where the bandits usually appeared, Jose turned to Mark and said, “Are you sure this will work, Senor?”
Mark patted the man on the shoulder and smiled. “Trust me,” he said, “I do this kind of stuff for a living.”
Just then a bandit appeared on the roadway up ahead, followed by the second. Since Jose wasn’t waving money out the window, they motioned for him to slow down and stop.
The first bandit climbed up onto the driver’s side of the truck and said something in Spanish which Mark guessed was the equivalent of, “Who’s this?”
“He’s my cousin, Carlos,” Jose explained in Spanish, just as Mark had instructed. “I’m taking him into town for an ice cream.”
“He doesn’t talk?”
Jose shook his head and spun his finger around his temple. “He’s retarded. Loco.”
Mark continued to smile. Suddenly the second bandit appeared at Mark’s window. Mark turned to him and smiled. “Ola.”
“What’s in the truck?” the bandit next to Jose said.
“I think they’re televisions for the hotel. Of maybe computers, I don’t know.”
“Let’s take a look.”
The bandits were suddenly gone, heading to the back of the truck. Jose looked over at Mark, sweat beading his forehead and cheeks. “You’re doing great,” Mark said. “Perfecto.”
“Gimme the key,” one of the bandits said.
“Let’s go,” said Mark.
The two men got out of the cab and joined the bandits at the end of the trailer. Jose was going to key the padlock on the door, but the first bandit pulled the keys from his hands and unlocked the door himself. The doors opened with a long, noisy creek and the inside of the trailer – despite the numerous bullet holes in the walls – was dark and shadowy. There were several boxes piled up at the front of the trailer, some of them with the words “television” and “computer” stamped on them. The two bandits climbed up into the trailer and headed for the boxes.
At this point Mark and Jose closed the doors and secured them with the padlock. Jose laughed nervously, as if he couldn’t believe he’d done it.
“What’s going on?” came the call from inside the trailer.
“These boxes are empty.”
“I told you it would be easy,” said Mark.
Gunfire suddenly erupted from inside the trailer and Mark and Jose had to duck down to avoid getting caught by bits of metal bursting out from the sides of the trailer.
“I told you they would be angry,” Jose said.
“No problem,” Mark said. “I’ve got an idea how to cool them off.”
They crawled around to the tractor, Mark taking up the driver’s spot this time and Jose riding in the passenger seat. Mark keyed the ignition. The shooting stopped and the shouting resumed.
“Where are we going?” Jose asked.
“There’s a boat launch at the end of the beach. It’s just the thing to cool off our two hombres.”
Jose just stared at Mark, a confused look on his face.
The launch was deserted, and there were plenty of sturdy trees at the edge of the beach which would help them later on.
“What are you going to do?”
Mark didn’t answer. Instead he turned the truck around and backed up in line with the launch, as if the trailer he was pulling had a boat on it. “Unroll the winch line and wrap it around one of those trees,” he said.
Jose, beginning to understand, jumped out of the truck and did as Mark asked. When all was set, Mark eased the rig the rest of the way, inching the trailer into the water. As the water began to pour into the trailer, the screaming inside it began anew. Mark stopped to give the water a chance to stream in through the numerous bullet holes the bandits had made. They were cursing and banging on the sides of the trailer, but Mark was too busy laughing to hear them. Even Jose had a satisfied grin on his face.
Mark let the trailer fill with water for a few more minutes before deciding the men had had enough. Then he set the winch, put the truck into gear and slowly pulled the water-soaked trailer out of the ocean.
“That should teach them a lesson,” Mark said.
“Yes,” said Jose, “but now what?”
Mark grinned. “Part two, what else?”
There was a Canadian Consulate in Cozumel and the Consul General had heard stories of the bandits charging tolls and robbing tourists, but couldn’t do anything until something forced the local police to act. That had been all Mark Dalton needed to kn
ow. With Lana in the passenger seat, Mark drove the rig to Police Headquarters in downtown Cozumel. When he pulled up in front of the stucco-clad building, water was still leaking out the holes in the sides of the trailer.
“I want to see the chief of police,” Mark said to a uniformed officer standing out front.
The officer looked at him strangely, obviously not understanding English, but then another officer stepped forward and said, “He’s busy.”
“I think he might want to speak with me,” Mark said. “There are men in there, banditos with guns, who have been stealing from both tourists and truck drivers.”
The officer didn’t seem to believe Mark. Or perhaps he didn’t care. “They are not bandits, Senor. They are my cousins.”
“What’s going on here?” cried the chief a minute later as he exited the building and came down the front steps.
The officers who’d given Mark the brush off began explaining things to the chief. As the men spoke, the expression on the chief’s face changed from confusion to anger. “Get them out of there,” he said, gesturing to the trailer. Then he pointed to Mark. “And arrest this man for kidnapping.”
“What?” Mark said. He knew that there were plenty of crooked cops in Mexico, but this…this was outrageous. “They are stealing from tourists. They carry guns and rob people.” An officer had handcuffed Mark and was just about to do the same to Lana when a voice broke through the din of the growing crowd.
“You leave those people alone,” said the voice.
Everyone looked to see who it was. A man emerged from the crowd wearing a light grey suit and a Canadian flag pinned to his lapel. “My name is Mario Lesarge and I’m from the Canadian Consulate. I knew there was corruption going on here, but not like this.”
“This is not Canada, Senor,” said the chief. “You have no say here.”
“But I do,” said another voice. This one belonged to a very large Mexican man in a white leisure suit.
“Who are you?” asked the chief.
“Raphael Rodriguez,” he said. “I’m from the tourism office in Mexico City. How long has this, this, piracy been going on?”
As everyone turned to look at the chief Mark leaned close to Lana and said, “You never said you knew anyone in Mexico.”
“I don’t,” she said. “But I know other people who do.”
– Mark Dalton returns next month for the conclusion of The Last Resort.
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