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Murder at the Taco Stand
“I’ll have two cabezas, with extra cabbage,” said Guadalupe. The swarthy taco stand worker took her order without a smile. “Onions?” Guadalupe nodded her assent. She surveyed the smattering of customers going about their taco-ingesting business at the small cluster of tables. The tall postman had obviously just finished his shift. He was methodically eating his carne asada with the measured bites of a satisfied letter carrier, rewarding himself for a long day of sliding small rectangular pieces of communication into larger rectangular boxes. Two small tubs of hot sauce sat on the table in front of him, along with an unwrapped taco and a large, blunt, object wrapped in plain brown paper. Perhaps the recipient of the object had not been at home and the thoughtful mailman had brought the parcel to the taco stand with him, to ensure its security. At another table was a figure Guadalupe recognized all too easily. It was Hector ‘One Thumb’ Espinosa, a small-time gang banger gone straight whose sullen face was familiar from its many appearances in the Pavedale Daily Breeze. Espinosa concentrated silently on the tortilla in front of him which he was slowly slicing into strips with a long, glinting butcher knife. Beside the tortilla was a tub of ‘macho salsa’, a specialty of the house – heavy on onions, jalapenos and fatty, blackened cubes of pork. Hector was evidently making his own tortilla strips to scoop up the chunky mixture. Sitting on the low concrete wall by the telephone pole, holding her soggy, dripping taco at a distance and looking at it as though it were an inscrutable wooden treasure chest carved with Maori insignia, was Elsie McCutcheon, the escaped mental patient from the asylum ten miles down the road. She wore an out-of-fashion dress with a pattern of small, red, grim flowers and buzzing, streamlined bees. Her sleepless eyes gazed at the taco with a mean bee ferocity, fixing it with mindless insect determination. Her history of poorly considered strangulations was partially evident in the involuntary jerking of her arms and the occasional, near-instinctive, clutching of her own neck by her left hand. Finally, Guadalupe took note of the Hoover brothers, the rotund artisanal potato farmers from the edge of town, each of them packing a sleek Smith & Wesson. The Hoovers were known for their possessive patrols of their extensive acreage and had more than once injured an alleged trespasser they claimed they’d caught digging up one of their fine Arcadia Golds or Purple Velvets. Their identical beady blue eyes and carefully combed heads of blonde hair were as cool and emotionless as their trigger fingers when they spied a suspected vegetable thief within their carefully planted domain. The Hoovers lifted their burritos to their respective mouths in a synchronized, masculine curve, taking decisive bites and chewing in large, clockwise motions. It was then that Guadalupe’s order was ready.
Brian Henry She laughed a nervous, inexplicable laugh, and reached out her hand for the tacos. Then there was a murder.