They drove up the street. They were in Coyoacan proper now, and the bohemian atmosphere of the district became apparent, especially in the number of expat Americans and Europeans hanging around in parks and cantinas.
Estudio de Mañana proved to be a modest one-story tall building with a faded sign hanging over the street. Dr. Orange knocked on the door. There was no answer, but he frowned.
“I think there’s someone in there,” he said to Jimmy.
“Por favor, abierto la puerta,” said Millicent.
There was no answer. Jimmy swung around the corner to the delivery door. It was locked as well, but he camped there to see if anyone tried to come out the back. A few kids watched him, and he tossed them some coins.
He waited for the children to head up the alley, and then, well, jimmied the door with a small prybar. He slipped it open and slid inside.
There was a recording area on his left, with soundproofing and microphones. Down a short corridor he saw a large waiting area. A man was crouched behind a desk. Jimmy padded up behind him and touched him on the shoulder.
The man started. “Tiene un arma!” he said.
“I said, I have a gun.”
“I have a fist,” said Jimmy, showing him it. “And a gun.”
“You make a compelling case, Señor,” said the man. “Please don’t hurt me.”
“Let’s open the front door.”
“All right. I guess if I have to die, this is as good a way as any.” He yanked opened the door. “Oh great, more gringos. Come in.”
“Taco?” offered Millicent.
“No thanks, kid.” The man glanced down the hallway. “Hey, did you break the lock on the back door? You know how much I paid for that? The guy said it was impervious!”
“It’s very pervious, señor,” said Millicent.
“Great, I got ripped off and I got to replace the lock. Great job, Victor. You’re the next RCA.”
Jimmy hauled out some bills. “For the lock,” he said.
“I’ll probably need a better lock,” said the man.
“Don’t push it. What’s your name?”
“Do you live here, Mr. Cortez?” asked Millicent, looking at a couch that had clearly been slept on.
“No, I have a lovely house. I do not feel safe there, so I live here now.”
“Why don’t you feel safe? Is it a Brooks problem?” asked Geronimo.
“Brooks? Who’s Brooks?”
“Oh, them. They recorded here. Not recently, haven’t seen them in a couple of weeks. Right, the Communista. He and his little girlfriend Leticia. Talk about dragon ladies.”
“Why are you sleeping here?” said Millicent.
“Oh, yeah. I was scared because the last time I was home, some guys tried to break in, that big Russki, Konavalev. Works for Brooks—he’s a Commie, knows a lot of Russians.”“Why would the Russians want to break in?”
“Who knows why a Communist does anything? I work hard, try to make an honest peso. Have my own business, people buy my records, don’t buy my records, it’s capitalism. The way the world works.”
“You must have done something to anger them,” said Geronimo.
“Do I look like the kind of guy who angers anyone?”
Geronimo glared in response.
“Tell me about the last recording session,” said Jimmy.
“They came here, brought their own sound guy—I rent the board, make some extra money. But that’s not important. It’s Jorge, Jorge Novo. He was the guy who presses the records, the publisher. He didn’t like those records…and one day he tells me, ‘Victor, I don’t know about these guys. It’s one thing to record the Internationale in Spanish, but these records? They’re evil.’ I don’t know how that could be…”
“Where can we find Brooks?” said Geronimo.
“They must have their own place to record now. But I went to their penthouse once. I wrote the address down on a matchbook. I keep a jar at home with matchbooks from all the bars or restaurants I go to. That’s where it is, back at my place. But de la Luz, Leticia? She used to have a place near here.”
“Why do they want to hurt you?”
“I don’t know! They did all kinds of crazy things at Brooks’ place, drugs, who knows. These musicians, they’re all prostitutes.”
“What bar’s matchbook did you write down the address on?” asked Millicent.
“The Suckling Pig. El Cochinello. That’s good, you ever have it? They don’t serve it there. It’s a complicated dish! They only serve tacos! Why are you interrogating me about bar food!”
“Where’s that bar?”
“Oh, you don’t want to go there, it’s not any good. And if you want suckling pig, I know a couple of places. You have to go to Abuelita’s, about three blocks from here. So good.”
“Why were you at the bar if it’s no good?” asked Jimmy.
“We were just talking! Me, Luz, Brooks, Konovalev. He’s crazy. Beat up the bartender just because he didn’t have vodka. Well, he had vodka, but Konovalev said, This? Vodka? No. Then he hit him. Blood, vodka everywhere. Anyway, that’s not a good bar. You want to go to La Paz.”
“The musicians Brooks used play there. Nice guys. Javier Luna y sus hermanos, he’s really good. Owes me money. I could have bought a better gun with what he owes me. Maybe a Thompson. Or a guard dog.”
“Like a poodle?” said Millicent.
“Why would I want a little dog like that?”
“They yap a lot. Good alarm systems.”
“Oh, true. Not a German shepherd. Germans have done enough to Mexico. No offense, señor,” he said to the doctor. “Or maybe hire some tough guys. Not Russians. Maybe Guatamalans. They’re tough. Or Hondurans…they work cheaper. Anyway, I gave you everything I know, so you can leave me alone.”
“Will you be okay?” asked Millicent.
“No! I don’t have a lock on my back door anymore! Look, you made this mess, you should take care of me.”
“I paid you for the lock,” said Jimmy.
“Good, maybe my grandmother can pay for my funeral.”
“You didn’t know it wasn’t any good until I broke it. I did you a favor.”
“Yeah, but I had peace of mind.”
“I suppose you can’t go to the cops?” said Millicent.
“They won’t do anything to Brooks. He’s a typical American communist, his family’s rich and he still has plenty of money.”
“We’re done here,” said Geronimo.
“What about me? I could get killed!” wailed Cortez.
“You have a gun.”
“I don’t know how to shoot this thing, I bought it off a Nicaraguan!”
“Hold it like this,” said Millicent, picking up Cortez’s pistol. “Remember, squeeze the trigger slowly…”
“Who is this crazy American girl? Anyway, you can never get into my house. It’s a fortress.”
Jimmy and Geronimo glared at him.
“All right, here’s the keys. I don’t need to live. But I won’t tell you where the jar is. You’ll have to search for a long time. You’ll never find it on top of the fireplace mantel…damnit.”
Jimmy was the last to leave. As he closed the door, he took a last quick glance at the forlorn face of Victor Cortez, already crouching behind his desk again.