They drove down to the apartment building Leticia de la Luz had lived in. Jimmy and Geronimo looked for the tail they knew must be there without success.
The complex was a simple building in the local style—the apartments opened directly onto a long balcony which ringed a small central corridor. The door to Leticia’s apartment was open. The apartment was in a state of disarray, but after a few moments they realized that the place hadn’t been searched but packed—and rather hastily.
“Look at these,” said Jimmy to Geronimo. “These photos have been scratched up through the glass.”
Geronimo pulled the heavily scarred photos out of their frames and held them up together. “I suppose this is Miss de la Luz.”
“That’s not her real name,” said Dr. Orange. “These bills are for a Rosario Lopez.”
Nothing else of interest turned up after a quick search. “Let’s talk to the neighbors,” said Jimmy.
Ruby spoke to the man in the next door apartment, who complained that she had woken him. “I work the night shift,” he grumbled. “Good they are gone now. Always with big parties and playing music. And the bed bang bang bang into the wall. I mean, romance okay…but there’s got to be a limit, right?”
“No,” said Ruby. “What kind of music did they play?”
“Norteamericano stuff, Mexican music…sometimes they would rehearse with a band. Played strange music, weird lyrics: my mouth, my love, my mouth…”
Downstairs they found a nice older woman in the apartment directly below Leticia’s. “Oh, you’re talking about Rosario,” she said.
From inside the apartment, a man in a tee shirt yelled out, “When’s breakfast?”
“Hecho in un momento. The crazy girl? She’s gone now. It’s great.”
“Dónde está el arroz?” the man shouted.
The woman shook her head. “I know, me too,” said Ruby.
“I talked to Rosario when she first moved in. She was broke. Communists, you know? Then Mr. Brooks started to show up and she changed her name. Leticia de la Luz, I mean, really? He bought her clothes and fancy jewelry.”
“Did anyone who came here strike you as overly dangerous?”
“That Russian guy, the big one.”
“I’ve never dealt with a Russian I liked,” said Ruby sympathetically.
“Yes,” said the woman. “Look, he’s coming in the courtyard right now.” She slammed the door behind them when they all swiveled around to look at the courtyard.
Ruby knocked on the next door. “Sir have you heard about the glory of our Lord Jesus?”
“Yes, every day at church,” said the man, moving to slam the door.
“I ran out of pamphlets,” said Ruby a bit desperately. “Could we come in to talk?”
The man looked her up and down. “Sure, American, come on in,” he said with a grin.
He stepped to one side and Ruby sauntered in. As he began to close the door, Geronimo stepped into view and slammed it open with one hand. “We also want to talk about our Lord,” he said, holding the door open while Dr. Orange and Jimmy hustled in.
“Who are you? I don’t have any money!” said the man.
“Don’t worry. I do,” said Jimmy, holding out some crisp peso notes.
“Hey, waitaminute, is this some kind of sex thing?” said the man.
“It can be,” muttered Dr. Orange.
Jimmy held a finger to his lips and looked at the man, and then Dr. Orange. Ruby pushed Julius over to a couch while Jimmy and Geronimo peered through the Venetian blinds.
A tall man came into the courtyard. He had a rough thatch of graying hair and was wearing a flowered shirt. For all that, he projected a serious air of menace. Behind him came several Mexicans, with the same spaced-out look in their eyes as the sniper at Victor’s house had shown.
The Russian and his men went up the stairs to Leticia’s room, but quickly came back out again. Soon Geronimo and Jimmy heard banging on the doors of the apartments on either side of Leticia’s flat.
“Ambush or follow?” said Jimmy. “I prefer following.”
“How are we going to get out?” said Ruby.
“There’s usually a bathroom window out onto an alley,” said Jimmy.
This proved to be the case, and soon they were in the bathroom, watching Dr. Orange already beginning to squirm out into the alley.
“It’s Berlin ’33 all over again!” he hissed.
They pulled him back into the bathroom and then Geronimo smoothly slipped out into the alley. He gave a quick look around and then helped Ruby down. Soon they were all gathered in a corner of the alley.
They could see their car parked on the street. “They’re for sure watching it,” muttered Jimmy.
“How do they always know where we are?” said Geronimo in a low voice.
Jimmy risked going up the alley for a better look. Across the plaza he could see a street cafe, cattycorner to their car. He scanned the patrons of the cafe carefully. He saw one man in a dark suit, wearing glasses, who had the look of watching without watching.
[Streetwise spend by JP.]
“I know that look,” he muttered. “I hire people with that look.”
“Did you hire him?” asked Ruby.
“Are you sure?”
“Wright-O’Donnell Investigations Internacíonal,” said Geronimo wryly.
Jimmy winced. “Let’s hope the rabbit hole doesn’t go that deep. He’s definitely a watcher, probably a pro.”
“Our best bet is to hole up until they leave,” said Geronimo. “Come with me.” He led them to the end of the alley and then they sneaked along the edge of the courtyard until he found the laundry room. They crouched down under some empty clothesbaskets until they heard the pounding feet of Konovalev and his men.
“Two go to the checkpoint and wait. They’re somewhere around here, keep your eyes open. The rest with me,” said the Russian in Spanish.
As soon as they were the Russian was gone, Jimmy led them down the alley and into the warren of narrow passageways behind the row houses. He doubled back and took a twisted route to the cafe. Walking quickly, he and Geronimo came at the watcher’s table from two directions.
“Hi,” said Jimmy, sitting down.
The man dropped his crossword puzzle and looked up to see Geronimo next to him.
“Jimmy, Geronimo, I can explain.”
“Are you one of my guys?”
“No, I’m just paid to watch you. I’m Gonchi del Toro. First, I’m an admirer of your work—I’m a private investigator too.”
“Who hired you?”
“Who do you think? Brooks. I was sent on your tail as soon as you arrived. Look, if you want me to get scarce, I’ll go…but these guys play for keeps. I was only doing my job.”
“I need something to get away…these guys will kill me if they think I’ve betrayed them. I never meant any harm, I just figured you’d leave.”
“Brooks is that scary?”
“Well…not really. But he knows a lot of scary guys. To be honest, I didn’t like working against you. It gave me a bad feeling. And then what happened to Cortez…”
Ruby counted out several wads of bills, and Geronimo gave them to Gonchi. “Take off for a few days,” he said. “Don’t go to L. A.”
Gonchi took the bills. “Brooks is planning something,” he said, standing up slowly. “He’s been really excited. He’s holed up in some hidden studio, him and Leticia. I haven’t seen her for a long time, but I know she’s still recording.”
“Good luck,” said Jimmy.
“You too. I’d hate to hear that you got killed.” He walked towards the plaza. Just before he left the cafe he turned around. “Oh, if I were you, I’d avoid feeding any birds.”