The Tearful Eyes of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Music and merriment sounds. Linda Chavez and her two daughters laugh and play together at
the grand piano. The a/c works to stave the heat. Marina, almost grown, teaches Twinkle,
Twinkle, Little Star to her baby sister, Estrella. The house phone rings. Linda tears herself away
from her girls to answer. The gravelly voice irritates Linda. The tone. He says she needs to do
exactly what he tells her to do.

No one tells her what to do.

“Who is this?” she asks, voice tight and ready to strike.
“We have Victor.” Her husband. She has to do what they say, or they will hurt him more.
More. Linda’s legs go weak. She drops to the sofa. She was waiting for this, or something like it.
But still, the shock. This is happening now.
The voice keeps talking. “We need money, Linda. Three million American dollars. You have two
days. No money, no Victor.” The line goes dead. Marina stops her lesson. She feels her
mother’s terror.

Estrella climbs from the piano bench onto Linda’s lap. She feels it too.
Marina, her light green eyes against her olive skin like eucalyptus leaves against the branches,
brushes the sticky soft hairs from Linda’s forehead.

“We must call Kit,” she says.


The quarter moon shines silver between fast moving clouds. The house blazes with lights. It’s
hot still, even at midnight. A Mercedes sedan pulls into the long driveway of the ranch house.
The car stops. Dust puffs from the tires.
The driver, Yves Pearce, a handsome man in his early twenties, lean and gangly, gets out to
open the back door for his boss. Kit Hamilton, tall, slender, chicly dressed, is already striding
toward the house.

Linda and Cesar meet Yves and Kit in the dusty driveway. Cesar is Victor’s older brother, but he
acts like the younger one. The two women hug. Best friends. More like sisters.
“Where’s Estrella?” Kit looks toward the house for her Goddaughter.
“She’s with Marina,” Linda says.
“I guess that’s as good place for her as we’re going to get right now.” Kit can’t believe this is
already happening. She never saw this. How could she have missed it? She has to talk to

Linda stops Kit a few feet before the front door. “Zandra doesn’t know yet.”
Kit has never liked Linda’s crazy sister-in-law. She looks at Cesar, Zandra’s husband. He looks
away. He certainly isn’t telling Zandra any bad news.

“Well let’s do this.” Kit straightens her cream silk blouse and rolls her head to loosen her neck.
She tells Yves, “There’s liquor in the kitchen. Put one of these in there too.” She tosses him a
bottle of Xanax from her purse.


A telenovella murmurs from the tv. Zandra sits on the sofa. Her black hair wraps around curlers,
one eyebrow is drawn in on her round face. She wears a dressing gown and holds her wet
fingernails out, hands wide.
She sees Kit and her so-called butler. She feels the sharp vibration of the room. She senses

“What the Hell is going on here?” Zandra looks from Linda to Cesar to Kit.
Linda tells her.

Zandra screams loud and long and falls to the floor. She stays down, shouting prayers between
her sporadic screams. Cesar bends awkwardly to comfort his wife. Yves takes the Xanax to the
kitchen and makes the drink. Linda looks at her watch.

“Mami!” Alfonso, Zandra and Cesar’s oldest son, runs into the room. He’s thirteen. A little wisp of
moustache tickles his lip. Marina trails him, Estrella in her arms. His four year old brother, Hugo,
holds on to Marina’s leg.
Cesar moves away to let Alfonso tend to Zandra. Alfonso knows how to soothe her best. Cesar
feels sick when he thinks about what he will have to tell his oldest son now. Alfonso worships his
Uncle Victor.

“They hid it from you,” Marina says to Kit, her startling green eyes filled with sympathy. “It’s not
your fault.”
Kit looks away. No one will ever see her tears.
Zandra drinks the drink Yves brings in three gulps. She yells at everyone. “How could you keep
this from me? You all think you’re better than me, that I deserve nothing.”
“Keep what from you, Mami?” Alfonso follows his mother’s furious eyes to Linda’s irritated ones.
“Your Uncle Victor has been kidnapped by the Narcos.” Linda speaks the truth with a clear,
steady voice. “We adults need to handle the situation now. Alfonso, you take care of your
mother. Marina, put Estrella and Hugo back to bed. We’ll be in the kitchen.”
Alfonso stands up from where he has been kneeling by his mother, who is already passed out
cold. “I want to come into the kitchen too.”

Victor and Alfonso have been connected at the hip since Alfonso could walk. Linda guesses
Alfonso is as doomed as the rest of them. “Fine.”

Alfonso follows Cesar, Linda, Kit and Yves into the kitchen. He knows who he is, what blood
flows in his body. If anyone hurts his uncle, he will kill them.


“Talk to me, Babatunde,” Kit says into the phone. “What have you heard?”
An elegant, African-inflected voice sounds through the cackled line. “It is the Proletum. Saul is
certain. They do not have the sword, so more demands will surely be coming. Expect a

“Well they’ve got something to hold onto him for this long,” Kit says. “I’m at the ranch, call if you
hear anything new. I’ll do the same.” She hangs up the phone. All eyes are on her. She takes a
swallow of the drink Yves hands to her. She conveys Babatunde’s words. Proletum.
“Of course it is the Proletum,” Marina says, drifting into the room.
Linda sits straight as a ruler at the kitchen table, breathing steady breaths. “If it’s the Proletum
then why ask for money, why bother with a kidnapping?” She thinks the Proletum is a paranoid
delusion, though Victor and Kit are convinced. Wickedness is as old as time. There is nothing
more than that in the end. There is no conspiracy. Just an endless struggle.
“What’s the Proletum?” Alfonso takes a sip of the coffee Yves made. The adults drink tequila
and lime. Doubles.

“The Proletum is nothing,” Cesar says. “You’re too young to be here. Go to bed.”
“I’m not going to bed. I just drank coffee.” Alfonso will fight Cesar to the bitter end about
“The Proletum are the bad guys,” Marina says. “Don’t worry. We’re the good guys and we’ll
always win in the end.”
Cesar says, “It’s the Narcos. You know they don’t like Victor.”
Cesar doesn’t tell what else he knows.

Last week, Gabriel Estrada, head of the Cobras, the region’s most notorious drug cartel, got into
a fist fight with Victor in the city.
It came out of nowhere. Cesar was with Victor at the bar, relaxing after a day of getting supplies
for the ranch. Gabriel Estrada walked past, and Victor stuck out his foot and tripped him.

“How’s Rosanna Gomez, you piece of dirt?” Victor said to Gabriel, who was face down on the
grungy floor. Rosanna Gomez’s mother found her daughter in their yard, her belly cut open to
her chest. She refused to marry Gabriel’s brother. She was fifteen.
Victor and Cesar fought their way out of the bar, but it’s only a matter of time. You can’t humiliate
Gabriel Estrada and live. Not even Victor, who has the strength of five men.
Victor asked Cesar not to say anything to Linda about fight, but he might, if Kit and Marina keep
on talking about swords and the Scroll.
Cesar can’t understand why the smartest person he knows, Kit Hamilton, would believe in the
Proletum and all that other witchcraft his brother is into. And now they’ve got Marina believing it
too it looks like. At least Linda has some sense.

The phone rings. The room takes a collective sharp breath.
Kit says, “Tell them we want proof of life, or they’re not getting anything.”
Linda picks up the phone. She waits.
A rough voice speaks. “I’m going to tell you where to bring the money.”
“We want proof of life.” Linda presses the phone more firmly to her ear.
She hears heavy footsteps, grunts, and shattering glass. Finally a ragged breath comes through
the line.

“Mi Corazon, I don’t know these men. Don’t pay them.” She hears the sound of the phone hitting
the floor and men fighting.
The gravelly voice comes back, winded. “There’s your proof of life.” He names the church in the
desert where they’ll meet. “Just you, or he dies.”

The phone goes dead.
Alfonso speaks. “Should we call the police?”
Everyone laughs. The police are worse than the Narcos. On that they can all agree.
A wail punctures the heavy July air like the bite of a dog. Estrella!
Marina runs to get her sister, and carries her back in her arms. “Estrella had a nightmare.
Monsters.” Heat lightning brightens the room from outside.
Linda takes her hysterical child from Marina. Estrella’s screams turn into broken breath tears.
Everyone listens to the softening sounds.
Marina breaks the quiet. “They will kill father. There is no reason to pay them.”
Kit drains her drink. She knows Marina is right.


In the ebony night, almost morning, Linda cries into a pillow. Marina kisses her mother on the
forehead. The room lights with a soft, pink glow.
“It’s going to be okay, Momma. They can’t hurt him. It’s only his body.”


Marina and Estrella wake first. The Mexican sun, not yet risen, announces itself from the East, a
grey light breaking over the plain. Marina gives her sister a stick and some leaves to play with
on the morning-cool bricks of the courtyard.
Marina does her exercises. Punches, kicks, jumps, more kicks. She takes a breath, hardly
winded, bends her back in half, stands on her head, and rests there for several minutes. She
completes this routine by sitting, cross legged, head bowed in prayer. She chants softly. Shanti,
shanti, shanti.
Estrella giggles and sits in front of Marina, cross-legged too. She chants with her sister. Marina
opens her partially closed eyes. “Not a word of Spanish, but flawless Sanskrit. I love you, Little

Marina jumps soundlessly to her feet. Estrella motions her sister to take her in her arms. Marina
pulls Estrella to her without touching her. Estrella floats up to her sister’s hip, laughing with
Zandra calls, “Breakfast.” Food! Both girls love to eat.
The sun rises higher, making the day yellow.
On the bricks of the warming courtyard, Estrella’s stick and leaves create a branch, throbbing
with life, new shoots growing.


It is afternoon now. The courtyard is blind with sun.
“I want to pay them,” Linda says.
Kit inhales deeply from her cigarette. “You might just be throwing the money away.”

“I have to try.” Linda doesn’t think there is a Proletum, no matter what Victor, Kit, and Marina
say. But she knows the Narcos are real.
Kit looks into the dry, rolling hills. Mexican Pines droop in the July heat. “I can give you the
money.” God knows she’s got a lot of it. For her a tiny pinch, for Linda, everything. But she
knows Linda’s pride.
Linda takes a puff of Kit’s cigarette; this is no time to quit smoking. “I can’t accept your money.
You know that. I still have what’s left of my inheritance.”
Kit blows a smoke ring. “I’ll always be here for you and the girls, and the Water Trust too.
Always. This is our movement. I know what’s at stake. We’re in this together - whatever the
“These are some heavy consequences,” Linda says. “And they just keep coming.”
Estrella toddles into the courtyard. She climbs onto Linda’s lap. “I want my daddy. Now.” Her first

A hot wind blows through the ranch. Dark clouds gather in the blue sky. Thunder sounds and
lightning flashes.


Our Lady of Guadalupe church is a whitewashed shack with a cross. It leans to one side. The
windows are broken. Linda swallows her fear and keeps driving through the desert toward Our
Mother’s neglected outpost.
Two men with machine guns step outside the sand-beaten church.

“They’re here. Two of them so far,” Linda says into the wire that she wears beneath her
headscarf. She stops. The men approach.
A tall man with an eyepatch taps on the window with his gun, and tells her to get out.
Linda descends the vehicle. She chants to herself, “Stay calm stay calm stay calm.”
The man looks into the Jeep. “Where’s the money?” The open jeep is empty.
“Where’s my husband?”
The man pulls back the barrel of his gun.
Linda’s heart spasms. Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm. She says, voice low and steady, “Show
me Victor.”

The man grabs Linda by the neck and drags her into the church. Her knees bang the door
frame. Her dangling feet make a trail in the sand.
A naked man hangs, nailed to the massive wooden cross on the alter.
Linda covers her mouth with her hand to stop the scream.
The man on the cross raises his bloody head. He sees his love, wild-eyed with fear like a horse
before slaughter. This is the worst part, seeing the pain in her. He told her they would kill him.
She doesn’t listen. She’s been hard-headed since they were kids.
“Take him down!” Linda hears her voice quaver.
“Show us the money, we take him down.” Eye-Patch Man pushes Linda into the dusty wall of
the church.

“Don’t touch her!” Victor shouts from the cross, his mouth so dry the words come out like a
Linda wants to say her safe word into the tiny mic beneath the scarf. Not yet. Stay calm, stay
calm, stay calm. She takes a breath, stands at her full height. “Take him down first.”
“Put another nail, Domingo.”
A man in the front pew rises and puts down his machine gun. He picks up a hammer and nails
from the floor of the alter.

Victor knows what the nails are for. He sees Linda tense in terror. “Don’t worry, Mi Corazon, this
doesn’t hurt as much as you think. Call in your people. Keep the money.”
His words are stopped by a nail and Linda’s scream.
She seizes Eye-Patch Man’s arm and pulls him outside.
She runs, trips, falls. Tears make a thin mud of the dust on her face. She claws at the sand. A
leather bag reveals itself. She pulls it out and opens it. Between her frantic sobs, she begs the
man with the eye patch to cut Victor down.
Eye-Patch Man squats and rifles through the stacks of American money. He hefts the bag over
his shoulder and hits Linda across the face with his gun. She collapses into the sand.
“Kill him and let’s go,” he says into a walkie-talkie.
Gunshots ring out in the church, hundreds of them.
Armed men on four ATVs swarm from the directionless desert. The men fire machine guns, and
drive straight for the church.
Eye-Patch Man runs inside with the money and emerges with five weapon-heavy men.

Linda wakes and drags herself behind the Jeep.
The men shoot at each other, a man dropping with each exchange. Two more men come from
the back of the church and attack the ATVs from behind.


Only Eye-Patch and two of his men stand. They observe the carnage.
One of the two remaining hired guns says, “Well that was messed up.” He puts his finger in the
hole a bullet made in his arm.

The other hired gun stretches his jaw to loosen his saturated eardrums. “At least we get the
bonus. He said if she brought it we could keep it.”
Eye-Patch raises his gun, shoots two shots. “You mean I’m getting a bonus. I did all the work
anyway.” His men thud into the sand.
He stalks the Jeep. Linda huddles inside. He pulls her out by her hair, kicks her hard in her ribs
and says, “Give me the keys.”
She says, “They’re in the ignition. I guess with only one eye you can’t see them.” Dumbass.
Eye-Patch sees the keys glint in the cabin of the car. Stupid mouthy bitch.
“He said not to kill you, but I don’t like you.” He points the gun at Linda’s forehead and squeezes
the trigger.
Nothing happens. He tries again. Nothing. He whips the gun across her face a second time.
Crunch of bone; Linda crumples to the ground.
He starts the Jeep and drives away, a trail of dust like sails behind him.


Linda feels something wet and warm on her cheek. Her temples pound. She half-opens one
eye. A small brown eye looks into her own. She startles herself upright. A puppy. He looks part
wolf - skinny, long tail, big paws. He nuzzles Linda’s neck. She strokes his fur and absorbs the
bloody scene surrounding her.
Bodies everywhere. Machine guns. ATVs. Blood. Men she knows like family. She did this. They
all told her not to. She walks, back straight, toward the church, puppy at her side.
A weak voice summons her from the red sands. Cesar crawls from behind an ATV. Blood soaks
his shirt. She limps to him. The puppy licks Cesar on the forehead.
Linda says, “He’s dead. Everyone’s dead. They have the money.”
Together they enter the church.
Calm radiates from the Nave. Victor’s bullet-riddled body hangs on the cross, one arm severed
completely from the force of gunfire. Light shines from his corpse. Linda drops to her knees and
sobs. Cesar leans out the door and throws up.
The puppy barks. A black Mercedes approaches through the empty desert.


The ride back to the ranch is heavy with silence. The desert passes in a blur of changing colors
- orange, pink, purple - as the sun sets.

Yves makes the turn onto the long ranch road. They smell and then see black smoke. The
puppy howls from the backseat. Yves speeds up, the smoke grows thicker. A heavy sheet of rain
bounces down from what had been a cloudless sky.
They see the flames.
Zandra and the children stand in the wall of rain and watch their ranch burn. Sirens sound in the

Water runs rivers from Marina’s brow. “I couldn’t stop them. They felt the weakness. I tried...the

The last embers burn. The rain stops.
Firetrucks and ambulances pull into the drive behind them. Estrella and the puppy cuddle in a
ball in the backseat of Kit’s Mercedes. Estrella sleeps for the first time in two days.
The puppy extends his over-sized paw around Estrella’s curled body, opens one wolfish eye,
and growls.