Two Mules for McCandless

by D. J. Herda

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Opening:

He hadn't wanted to go.  Not for anything.  He even told him so.  But you know Rommell.  When he started crying in his beer about needing an article on cruising down to Cabo San Lucas for the Journalís travel section, Lazlo started packing. 

 

He didnít have much choice.  Lazlo needed guys like Rommell.  That's how freelancers make their living.  That's how they survive.  Besides, he rationalized, it might even be fun. "Mexico Magic ... Cruising the Baja Peninsula" or some such Sunday morning dribble.  Not particularly exciting.  Then again, Lazlo had never been to Cabo.  He figured he owed it to himself.  Besides, Rommell had promised him four hundred bucks.  That was a lot of money for a travel piece back in 1987.  Even for Lazlo.

 

Boarding the SS Norway out of Los Angeles, the writer snaked his way through the innards of the vessel until he stumbled across a cozy little bar manned by people with names like Julio and Jesus and Manuel.  He climbed up onto a stool, noticing from the corner of his eye a solitary figure, hunched over a glass.  The figure sported a short-cropped G. I. haircut, freshly laundered open-necked shirt, and khaki trousers.  His stout build made him look like a Marine Corps drill sergeant or a travel writer or any one of a number of other people with whom Lazlo had no particular interest in associating at the moment.  As it turned out, he couldn't have been more wrong.

 

Lazlo laid a twenty-dollar bill on the bar and ordered a Bombay martini, Gibson, with two onions.  It was the best way he knew to help alleviate the disparity between first- and third-world nations.  About the time the glass had warmed to room temperature and the gin had evaporated, an absolutely sparkling blonde in her early twenties max came up to the bar and sat down next to the drill sergeant and started carrying on a conversation as though she knew him, which, it soon became painfully evident to Lazlo, she did.  He watched from the corner of his eye as she bubbled over, oohing and ahhing with each minute that drew the ship closer to sailing.  Her stocky companion grunted back occasionally, not in a rude or abusive manner but more like he had just awakened and found himself in a place where he would rather not have been.  The guy barely ventured a glance at his stunning companion until it looked to Lazlo as though he were a.) hung over; b.) trying to get hung over; or c.) royally pissed off that he was neither.  In any event, Lazlo decided the time was right for introductions.

 

The guy, it turned out, was Harry Block.  Harry Block was, without a doubt, the greatest living detective in the civilized world.  Lazlo learned that, of course, from Harry Block.  Debbie wasted little time in offering her affirmations.

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