Lorraine’s head was spinning. She had been minding her own business, having just arrived at the airport in Mexico City, when everything had spun out of control. She was fed up with the holiday insanity back in Black Mountain and needed a break, so she had fled to her sister’s hacienda in Mexico. She regretted having to leave Frederick and even Suki (especially her dog Suki) behind, but she needed to get away from everything. As she walked to the exit to find a cab or an Uber to take her to Oaxaca, she had been approached by two friendly men in black who had seemed to want to help. Next thing she knew, she was pushed into the back seat of a limo, and a black hood was thrown over her head. After what seemed like hours in the limo with this smelly bag over her head, she was feeling dizzy. The smell of marijuana coming from the bag and possibly from the men in the car made her nauseated.
Where were they taking her? And why her? “Excuse me,” she said in a muffled voice. “Can I take off this hood? It’s going to give me a bad case of Hat Head if I leave it on much longer.”
“No.” said one of the men in Spanish. (Translation: No.)
“I need to stop and tinkle.”
“Shut up,” said the man.
“I’m hungry. Are we going to pass a vegan restaurant? My blood sugar is dipping and it makes me light-headed.” Lorraine could hear that her voice had become rather whiny.
“Shut it,” repeated the man.
Lorraine felt as if she might start crying any minute but didn’t trust her mascara not to run. It would be embarrassing to have both hat head and raccoon eyes when they arrived wherever they were going. She bit her lip and was grateful that she was not handcuffed so that she could fumble around in her purse and find her lipstick to reapply.
The trip seemed to take forever. At first it felt as if they were riding at high speed on an interstate. Then they turned off the smooth surface and were bouncing over unpaved roads. She could hear the sounds of monkeys screeching and macaws calling as the limo crept along, weaving to avoid the deepest potholes. She thought she might car sick, and she was grateful when the men put the windows down and she could feel the hot, moist air of the jungle closing in around her. The sounds of jungle animals and men speaking Spanish surrounded her.
“Where are you taking me?” Lorraine asked again with a trace of hysteria in her voice. It was becoming more and more clear that wherever they were going, she was not going to be easy to find if Frederick came looking for her. He might be annoyed with her for taking off, but they loved each other and he would surely miss her. She already missed him, and she worried that he might forget to give Suki her vitamins.
It was hot in the car. She had packed for a visit to a civilized, air-conditioned hacienda and dinners delivered by servants. She had not packed for a stay in the jungle. What in the world would she wear? She had packed only enough for a short visit of just a few days. She sincerely hoped that this mysterious visit would not be for long. If so, she hoped there would be a decent dry cleaner nearby so that she could take care of her Eileen Fisher clothes. They were costly and she didn’t need them to be ruined.
Eventually the limo came to a halt. The car was greeted by a crowd of people hooting, whistling, and making “Ay-ay-ay” sounds. The men lifted the hood from her head and at first Lorraine was blinded by the bright sunlight filtering through the jungle foliage. She could make out indistinct faces of men and women peering through the windows of the limo at her. They were smiling, so she guessed they weren’t going to kill her. At least not right away. She smiled back and fluffed her hair. She had no mirror so couldn’t tell how bad her hair looked.
The men on either side of her pulled her out of the limo and started leading her across a dirt courtyard. Small shacks stood around a fire pit with junky trucks parked haphazardly. Mangy dogs and children roamed unfettered. “Please tell me where you are taking me?” Lorraine begged.
The men exchanged words in rapid Spanish. Finally, one man said, “We take you to El Jefe.”
Lorraine was puzzled. “El Jefe? The guy who makes Folger’s coffee in the mountains of Colombia?’
“No, Senorita. Is El Chappo. The man who makes drug deals.”
As they climbed a slight hill, she could make out a rambling mansion above them. At least it might be air-conditioned, Lorraine thought. She reached up and finger-combed her black hair.