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For All Nails #104a: There's Something About Larry

Ciudad Camacho, Kingdom of New Granada
12 July 1974

There was a bar in Ciudad Camacho that used to be called El Presidente, back
when Ciudad Camacho itself was called Ciudad Hermión.  Local legend had it
that the owner, Eugene Tiberi, had changed the bar's name to El Coronel
before the gunfire had died down in the governor's palace on El Día de la
Patría.  The day of the coronation had dawned with the signboard above the
door magically changed again to read El Rey Fernando.

Tiberi had done well by the change in administration, though.  The sudden
influx of workers and soldiers to the newly expanded FANG base meant more
business for all the local entertainment establishments, and especially
Tiberi's place, which had always been popular with the troops.  Lately the
soldiers had been accompanied by newly-arrived engineers and technicians who
always had plenty of money and whose Spanish had an unmistakable Mexican

Joan Kahn found El Rey Fernando to be typical of the breed - dimly lit, noisy
and smoky.  The local band was playing Mexican diablo music (because some
things transcend politics) with the sound, as the popular saying had it,
turned up to 13.  Kahn herself was dressed as a Mexican tourist, with her
blonde hair dyed black and her spectacles replaced by blue-tinted contact
lenses.  She wore a colorful spaghetti-strap sundress that failed by several
inches to reach her knees, along with a pair of equally colorful shoes with
four-inch soles.  She had spent enough time in Mexico that she didn't feel
particularly self-conscious baring so much skin, though she knew most North
American women would have been trying to use their handbags to discreetly
cover certain vital areas.

The crowd was a mix of local residents, bar girls, and men from the base,
with some scattered transients thrown in: tourists like her, and a few
less-identifiable sorts.  Kahn caught sight of one of the latter, a Mexican
arms dealer named Larry Gordon that she'd run into the night before.
Although he was almost aggressively nondescript, he had stuck in her memory.
There was something not quite right about him.

She found herself staring at Larry, trying to figure out what bothered her
about him, when he turned around and caught her watching.  Smiling, he left
his place at the bar and threaded his way through the crowd to her table.

"Martha!" he called to her over the throbbing music.  Martha Stewart was the
name she was going under - a nicely inconspicuous Jeffersonian name, you
could find at least a dozen in the Henrytown telephone directory.

"Can't get enough of the place, eh?" Larry continued jovially.  "Wicked
pisser band, eh?"

Kahn was of two minds about Larry.  She herself was faintly repelled by his
shady stories of dirty deeds done dirt cheap.  Martha, on the other hand, was
shallow and spoiled enough to find him intriguing.  Kahn didn't like sharing
her mind with Martha, but if she wanted to avoid being recognized as herself,
she had to let Martha do the talking for her.

"Muy caliente," Kahn - or rather, Martha - answered, with the distinctive
Jeffersonian drawl that turned the phrase into "moo-ee cally-entee".

"What are you drinking?" Larry asked.

"A Blue Turtle."

Corralling a waitress, Larry ordered another Blue Turtle for her and an Old
Nevada beer [1] for himself, then joined her at the table.

"Been down from El Norte long?" he inquired.

"About a week," Martha admitted.  "I did two days in Bogotá y another two in
Carácas before I came here."  Actually, Kahn had spent the last two months
moving back and forth between Mexico del Norte and Ciudad Camacho, collecting
various documents and mailing them back to her publisher in New York.  "So
what are you doing in Ciudad Camacho?" Martha asked (with a prod from Kahn).
"Doesn't everyone here already have a gun?"

Larry winked at her.  "Supply y demand, mi bonita.  Macho is for supply, not

Martha was fascinated, and even Kahn was interested.  "You're not getting
weapons from the base, are you?"

Larry tapped his nose in the universal "nuff said" gesture.  "Not the sort of
thing you want to talk about in a room full of soldiers."

If Larry Gordon had access to the top-secret
if-I-told-you-I'd-have-to-kill-you FANG base, then Kahn wanted him more than
Martha did.  "I know a nice quiet spot by the river," she suggested.

"Super," Larry said with a grin.  Finishing his beer, he stood and offered
her his arm.

Most likely, Kahn told herself, he was just feeding her a line of rubbish in
hopes of getting into her panties.  On the other hand, Larry Gordon wasn't
just your typical norteño naco.  She didn't know what it was, but there was
something about him?


[1] As in OTL, Central European immigrants brought with them the technique
for brewing the newly-invented lager beer in the 1840s. The Sierra Nevadas in
California proved to have an ideal climate for storing sedimentating lager,
and the area quickly became the center of Mexico's brewing industry. Needless
to say, the Old Nevada brand is neither old nor brewed in the Sierra Nevadas.