Dylana Vargas 002

Caleta Beach– Acapulco, Mexico  (Previous Chapter: 001)

Acapulco is a resort-city that has an arching bay that urbane skyscrapers and mountains surround. It is a hotbed of escaped millionaires, locals and vacationers. The bay separates into Acapulco Bay and Puerto Marques Bay where dozens of hotels, restaurants, and tourist shops hug from behind. More luxurious hotels and gardens lay in the crevices and at the peak of the mountains between exotic vegetation and palm trees.  The sun was hot and dry over the premier tourist city of Mexico where its major port buzzed with activity.

The city was not so popular once. It rose to fame rose in the late 20th century after the International Airport and the city of Acapulco were connected by order of the current President.  Hollywood stars such as Elvis Presley molded a getaway out of the city, further heightening its notoriety. The rich history of the area allures international attention to the city that held remnants from pre-Columbian Mexico to Modern culture.  Acapulco pushed every stereotypical viewpoint of its culture to entice the luxurious with the exotic. Now the city was the “pearl of the Pacific” attracting thousands of tourist year-round.

It was easy to determine the tourist from the locals. The tourist who wore bold and brightly colored patterned skirts that one thinks of when one thinks of Mexico. They did their hair up in beads and scarves, and wore tons of jewelry. Those were the imitators. There were also the Americans, bleached and blonde and too skinny in bikinis and body-con dresses. They perpetually talked and texted with their sun glasses on, said hola to every olive-skinned person they saw, and spoke their English like molasses. However, none was worst then the honeymooners. They, so wrapped in themselves and their love, polluted the beach with their endless love garble and face-sucking.

Lana sat on a beach overlooking the Pacific.  It was infested with tourist that Lana watched with little interest as she took bites of her proscuitto sandwich, bought from Oleander, one of many Italian restaurants to be found in Acapulco. If she’d cared to look behind her, she would see large buildings created shadows with tall arches and screaming traffic. Cruise ships from Panama and San Francisco could be seen in the endless blue that surrounded Mexico’s largest beach.

Lana had spent her morning interviewing tourists and bartenders at this very beach, showing rough sketches of the two teen girls found dead earlier that morning. As usual, no one had seen anything nor could anyone identify the two girls. She had Medina keeping tabs at other local stations to see if a missing persons report was filed.

The soulless bodies had been left with Coroner Greene while she went to APD Base to update Commander Juarez. Lana waited for an official autopsy and toxin report that she didn’t need to tell her that the two girls were high as a kite when they were killed.

A small fig fell from her sandwich and landed in the sand. Lana thought to pick it up, who would care. She looked around at the people around her: families on long towels, women with beach waves and baked skin, a baby boy crunched white earth, and many flocked around the balneario‘s.  Paid actors walked around in red flowing gypsy skirts, white shirts and beaded bracelets offering drinks.  Market sellers coaxed children towards their stands with colorful jewelry and woven crafts. Her eyes looked absently and saw nothing, glazing as her mind slipped back to the past.

It was Saturday, and she was off of work. It was so rare for her and her brother to be off work on the same day.

This was during that time that she believed in luck. 

She had walked into the room like a bob cat grinning. Lana hadn’t seen the cotton hoodie on the floor.

Her brother laughed as she stumbled; the bowl of off-brand cheese puffs in a jalapeno flavor snowed around her. Her brother that she hero-worshipped with slicked back hair and big hands had a rich laugh. It had mingled nicely with Malena’s throaty laughter. His wife, perched on the sofa’s arm had seen the whole thing.

With clarity she saw him in his white beater, too-big jeans, his long dark hair braided and his favorite beanie. She teased him endlessly about the hat that he wore even in the dry, Mexican summer.

Malena had sighed, the plump child on her hips clapping her hands at the laughter she didn’t understand. Lana had scrambled to clean up the mess, throwing it in the bowl at her feet as her brother screamed ’10 second rule’ and then ’20 second rule’ racing with her to get as many puffs off the floor.

“We still can’t eat that Luis.”

Malena’s hand grabbed the back of his shirt, pulling him up.

“Waste not want not.”  He’d grinned down at her, giving her his charming little smile with smoldering eyes and then turned to his raving wife, kissing complaints from her lips. It was enough to make Lana wish she was not in the room. She had rolled her eyes, turning away. Towards the television that had an annoying buzz when turned on.

The flashback fizzled as her cell phone hummed.

“Detective Vargas.” She spoke between mouthfuls of fig.

“Medina.  I need you at the Groves in 15. Red 200.”

Eyebrows cocked, she began a question that died with a click.

To no one in particular she said, “I can be there in 30.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Groves was a lavish neighborhood far from the touristic beaches of the resort city of Acapulco where APD Base resided. The Groves was less, vibrant and splashy and looked more like the beauty of the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece with white houses and a green sea.  It was simpler here. Free of restless night life, heavy traffic and perpetual exhaust fumes.  Here, getting from one place to another wasn’t a war against Rome.

She pulled up to the gated community, hand poised over her gun. She unnaturally tensed, feeling death before she saw it.  Even smelled it. She pressed a button and a dusty British voice spoke, “May I help you?”

“Lieutenant Vargas. APD.”

The wrought iron creaked as it slithered open and the tension increased, settling at the base of her neck, causing her hand to grip her gun tighter.

Her phone rang.

Lana nearly jumped. She reached into her pocket.

“I see you. 8943. Park in the back.” She rolled her car into the back of the yard, looking up at a the mansion in front of her. It was three stories high, with a cobble-stone driveway and wide-arch pathways in true form of Mexican eclecticism.  Bougainvillea plants lined the edges of the roof and the window-sills. Lana walked around the side of the house to the front. The house separated into three units, connected by an outdoor bridge-way with tented roofing on the second floor. The main house was in the center. The houses were in pretty tones of beige and cream that she admired for its simplicity.  Lana walked up a small staircase and knocked on the door. Medina answered.

“Late.”

She brushed past him, noting his full Base Uniform, a black shirt, black pants, kevlar vest and combat boots to the knee. He wore the standard camouflage jacket. His shoulder length hair stretched into a small ponytail and his hand had never left his gun. She responded to his signals, gripping her own gun.  The odd tension came back, weighing on her neck, pressing against her shoulders. He led her through a small archway and then a larger one until they reached what Lana presumed to be the family room. The door was slightly ajar. Medina pushed it open, walking gun first.

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Dylana Vargas 001

Acapulco, Mexico

Pzzzt.

Lana grunted and rolled over, reaching blindly for her phone. Her hand connected with an alarm clock; her eyes opened to the red-hot glare of 4:33. With another buzz she pulled the phone to her ear.

“He–”

“DISPATCH: Reported double homicide. Two females, 6456 Braunt Drive, Homicide reported at 0400. Detective Medina,  Juan–” A voice said in automated Spanish.

The voice rolled over to an autopilot part of Lana’s mind that collected information, organized and assembled. She slipped on a APD Homicide sweatshirt over the simple cotton tank that she wore. She had fallen asleep with yesterday’s cargo pants on her slim waist and awakened with the dregs of yesterday’s caffeine in her mouth.

She crushed her feet in combat boots, feeling her head throb behind sleep deprived eyes. She grabbed her gun, holster, and body vest and slipped out of her one room apartment overlooking a city she fought to protect, leaving behind a trail of Spanish slur.

………………………………………………

The sun shyly peeked out from a curtain of trees on the far side of the park. The sky blushed pink, prescribing warm weather. Flowers lined cobblestone walkways that streaked through the park, beginning at the vertices of the octagon at the center. The grass was dewy with morning; the air tasted as salty as the Pacific Ocean but was void of the smoke and sweat smell of the city.

Lana remembered coming to the park as a child, enjoying its quiet. It had once been a pretty haven of foliage in the midst of a city. Quiet and beautiful. Now, trash littered the park where tourists had thrown fast food, where dogs had relieved themselves, and where two naked, dead bodies now laid contorted at Lana’s feet, bruised and battered.

She hated how police lights and sirens infested the area; it stained the park with roughness and grit from the city. It was more hated than the blood of the two victims which seeped into the earth.

She looked down into the face of two faceless women. They were unremarkable in appearance, just two teenagers who had not been lucky as they stumbled drunkenly back to where they were supposed to be. Tourists, Lana though. They were both too much: too tanned, too bleached, and too skinny. Their clothes–once skimpy dresses draped over skimpier bikini’s–was strewn away from them, ripped and bloody. They were distinguishable by one of the girls birth-mark under her right arm. She had a broken bottle in her hand, where Lana was sure skin particles lied. She mentally noted to tag the coroner on that. The other girl’s fingertips smudged with dirt from digging in the ground.

Lana crouched down beside both girls, seeing hand imprints along their wrists. They had been held down. Bruised on their stomachs, faces matched fists. She deduced at least 2 different men, from the foot prints. Her eyes zeroed in on their crotches, which smelled terribly of fear released and smoke. They had both been burned. It had been a small fire, not spreading past this area. Maybe a cigarette lighter?

The grass around was not burned, not even a little bit. Her eyes trailed upward and saw a purple hand grip on the back of the birth-marked girl. They were lifted up. She envisioned the girl being held with her feet in the air. It would take three. Two to hold the body, and another two light. She tried to orchestrate it another way in her head, but her conclusion remained the same. The burn was too precise to be done with one person.

Lana shifted, sensing the arrival of her partner.

“Vargas.” He moved to stand beside her.

“Medina.”

She moved from her crouch, brushing at grass stains on her pants.

“Two women found around 0400. Anonymous tip reported from a payphone,” the footage from the street camera would have to be checked, “Bruises around the crotch and noted vaginal tearing indicate rape on both females. Thick lacerations on the wrist suggest they were held down by a man.  Burned flesh in said area suggest at least two men. Possibility of DNA evidence.”

“Why not one?” His voice was gruff with sleep.

“Too clean.”

He only nodded and they crouched together. She pointed to the inner thigh of the birth-marked girl. “There is no spread of the fire. Small, maybe a cigarette lighter.”

“Or a match.”

“But they would have to contain it. The fire would have spread. Look at the grass under her.”

He rubbed shadow on his chin.

“Dewy.”

“And green. There is no evidence of fire. She was lifted. On her head. Look how it is contorted.” She moved her hand to the head, taking the gloves he gave her.

They both stretched to look at the head of the birth-marked girl. She pointed to the bend of the backwards head and then moved to the other girl.

“One held, while the other burned. Getting rid of evidence. Both raped, ” Medina brushed his hand along the birth-marked girls hair, ” not dragged. No marks. Two men, evidence of different shoe sizes in the grass. One subdued while other burned. Three men? –no, not enough evidence. Some head trauma on one, likely unconscious.  Both wallets are missing. Neither have Identification or passports. Tourists.”

Lana had once been annoyed by his detail-less statements, even once complained to him about it after he had plucked her from a sea of officers to be his partner. But now, as their partnership had gained tenure, she’d come to understand, eve appreciate his simplicity. It helped her arrange her thoughts. She now caught herself echoing his terse statements. She supposed the old saying was true: once you were in a relationship, you started sounding like the other partner.

Lana lifted from her crouch once again, listening but not hearing Medina’s muttering, her brain storing it, as the coroner approached.

“Detective Vargas, Detective Medina.” Chief Coroner Romain Greene held his hand to them, then thought better of it when he noted their gloves.

“What have we here?”

“Double homicide. Rape on both counts, burns in the vaginal region, laceration on the wrist. Bound with hands. We believe two men. Head contortion suggest the females were lifted and then burned. One was hit hard in the head–see the head trauma there–so the other could be burned. Her neck was slit. ” Lana recounted. Her eyes trailed scar along the birth-marked females neck.

He tsked as he crouched next to Medina.

“Too sad.” He said binding his dreads behind him, slipping on gloves.

Dylana Vargas Perez looked up at the sun that was just starting to wake the day, she heard tourist eager and ready, she felt a gentle ocean breeze ruffle her hair. It was still too early.

I need coffee.