Dead Meat . . . Again
Or should I say, He vuelto. Because I’m in Mexico. In prison. Next to a guy named Raúl with weird body hair and a bad habit of picking his teeth with a large knife.
Okay the Raúl part’s a lie. But I am in a Mexican jail, or at least in a small holding cell in the police station. The cops handcuffed me and fingerprinted me, and now I’m waiting behind bars to call my parents. That spells J-A-I-L where I come from.
And I do have a cellmate. Jonah “El Frijol” Schwartz (frijol means “bean,” as in “Mexican jumping bean,” as in “Jonah is a complete spaz”). He hit his head kind of hard and is currently asleep on a bench, snoring with a honk-honk-weee sound. A few minutes ago I shook him to make sure he wasn’t slipping into a coma—and to get him to cool it with the honk-honk-weee thing. He blinked at me and muttered something, so I guess he’s all right.
Don’t get me wrong. Jonah’s my best friend, and of course I care if he’s hurt. But if you had just spent the past two weeks in Mexico with El Frijol, you’d be glad he’s unconscious too.
I hear footsteps. A guard approaches, the same stocky older man who clomps by every ten minutes or so, refusing to acknowledge my existence. “¿Teléfono?” I ask for the hundredth time. He whistles a zippy tune and looks the other way.
I have to call my parents. It’s almost midnight, and they must be seriously freaking out. I stand up to get the guard’s attention, and wince. Cuts cover every inch of my body. My clothes are stained with blood—mine and Jonah’s—along with a fair amount of Jonah’s barf. I smell awesome.
“Oye, muchacho. Teléfono,” another guard grunts in a thick accent. He’s wearing a blue starched shirt with a star on each shoulder, and I think I heard the other guard call him Capitán, so I’m pretty sure he’s the man in charge. I’m also pretty sure he’s the guy who cuffed me back on top of the Mayan pyramid, but everything was a little blurry with the driving rain and wind in my eyes. It’s a miracle I didn’t lose my glasses.
He slides the bars open, the metal rattling loudly in its frame. Jonah groans, rolls over, and bumps his forehead against the cement wall. The snoring starts up again.
I follow the captain over to his desk, doing my best not to limp or get water on the floor and failing on both counts. He scowls at the puddle I leave behind. The Darth Vader costume I’m wearing—don’t ask—is dripping water like crazy.
“¿Hotel?” he says.
“El Hotel Cisneros,” I reply.
He nods and dials, then hands me the phone.
In shaky Spanish, I tell the receptionist my parents’ room number, then wait as the phone rings. And rings. My pulse pounds in my ears. What if they don’t answer? What if they’re out looking for us in this terrible hurricane? If anything happens to them, it will be all my fault.
“Hello? Er . . . ¿Hola?” my father’s deep voice answers.
“Hi, Dad.” I try to sound upbeat, but I’m barely holding it together because every inch of my body is throbbing and he’s going to kill me and I just want to go home.
There’s a strange static sound, followed by muffled words and high-pitched noises like a small engine trying to turn over. I brace myself.
“Edmund?” my mom says. “Are you there? Are you okay?”
“Hi, Mom. I’m fine. I —”
“Where are you?” she demands. “Is Jonah with you? He’d better be.”
I swallow hard. “Yeah, he’s here. We’re with the police. As their guests. Kind of.”
I cringe and hold the phone away from my ear. I’m sure everyone on the island can hear her shriek.
“We’re coming to get you,” she growls. “We’ll catch a cab and be there in ten minutes.”
“Uh . . . no.” Here comes the bad part. “We’re on the island. You know, La Isla del Niño?” The Island of the Boy, but they really should rename it the Island of the Dead Boy, at least in my case. “So you need to take a boat.” I pick at the cast on my wrist, the wet plaster leaving chunks of white mush on the floor. Should I mention that I mangled the cast and need a new one?
“Mom?” Oh, no, she’s keeled over in shock. Can moms have heart attacks at age forty-two? “Mom, are you there? We did it. We solved the case, and . . .” My voice dies in my throat. I should have learned my lesson back in New York. Parents do not like it when you call them from jail, even if you caught the bad guy.
“We’ll be there as soon as we can.” Her tone could melt steel. I can practically smell the anger through the airwaves. Sort of a cross between burnt rubber and sulfur. “You’re in a lot of trouble,” she adds.
“I know,” I whisper. “See you soon.” With a sigh, I hang up.
“¿La mamá?” the captain asks.
“Sí,” I reply. “La mamá.” La mamá is very mad-o. Edmund is dead meat-o. Not that I blame her for being upset. This is the second time in two months I’ve landed myself in police custody. Just wait until she sees that I’m covered in blood. Again.
I try to stand, but the captain motions for me to stay put while he pulls out a few first-aid supplies, along with a Spanish-English dictionary. After putting on his reading glasses and flipping through the pages, he points to my wrist and says, “Break?”
I nod. “Fractured,” I mumble. “Long story.”
“Cuidado,” he replies. “We be . . . careful.” With gentle fingers, he rolls up the black polyester sleeves of the Darth costume to examine the various scrapes and cuts I have on my arm. He dumps a clear liquid on my wounds.
“Ow!” I yelp as it bubbles and burns. The sharp smell of hydrogen peroxide slices the air. How about some nice soothing antibiotic cream? I want to say.
When he tries to apply more of the liquid acid to my skin, I shake my head politely and pull my arm away. I don’t care if my cuts get infected. That’s the least of my worries at the moment.
He shrugs and stands up, gesturing for me to return to the cell where El Frijol is now crumpled in a heap on the concrete floor. The captain hurries past me and kneels beside Jonah. He lifts Jonah’s eyelid...