Urban Fantasy Speculative Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Disclaimer: Strong language, violence, and the aftermath of sexual abuse.


San Ignacio, Sinaloa, Mexico

The Crocodile was rapidly becoming the stuff of legend. A regionally popular band was making the charts with a driving narcocorrido about "Los Dientes Del Cocodrilo," and his bloody exploits on behalf of the Cartel de Sinaloa.

The rising star of Mexico's Golden Triangle thus had bristled about meeting in this filthy side-street marisqueria in the tiny backwater of San Ignacio. He preferred the gran entrada -- the splashy entrance, the spotlight, the erotic perfume of mingled adoration and terror. No audience this afternoon.

With El Chapo Guzman out of circulation, El Cocodrilo had dispatched his gente nueva to noisily dispose of random local cops and wannabe gangsters who claimed cartel juice. He clogged major boulevards and plazas with carjacked vehicles to impede military or police invasion and divert attention away from the actual stash houses and tiendita where product was sold.

With the help of his cyber-savvy nephew Tio, The Crocodile had embraced social networking and channeled the power of the flash mob to confound the federales and keep la familia's brand on the public radar. Tio had dissuaded his uncle from launching an online shop for Hecho En Cocodrilo gear, but across Sinaloa, the appearance of the family's signature croc-skinned boots and Lacoste polos elicited terror, reverence, and bottomless mescal. The young narcos had given Ed Hardy and Abercrombie immeasurable street cred, and the Lacoste folk clucked in Gallic disdain while savoring the company's most promising opening since Kanye had added their reptilian logo to his stage swagger.

El Cocodrilo aspired someday to the glory that came with being jefe de jefe. As he had pointed out in a PowerPoint Tio'd prepared for the Colombians, the cartels had transformed the Mexican economy, pumped new blood into a sagging ag sector, ignited new pride in a population embarrassingly dependent on the norteamericano tourist dollar. If a little blood must be shed, it was for the greater good. The Crocodile hand-delivered PCs and cartel-logoed sports gear to rural schools, provided even minor foot soldiers with lavish weddings, quinceanera, and, when necessary, funerals. Giving back, El Cocodrilo stressed, was the cornerstone of corporate responsibility.

He greeted his child server with a dazzling display of indeed very reptilian dental work. The boy attempted to return the gesture as he juggled carnitas and camerones, as if the obese crocodile in the porkpie hat might snap up the shrimp and a few of his digits with one bipolar flourish.

"Como te llama?" El Cocodrilo inquired soothingly. The boy, whose face echoed his grandfather's strong Yaqui bloodline, averted his eyes from the grim men about the table. The Crocodile assumed the muchacho de servicio was dumbstruck by the unexpected humility of such a great man. What had Whitney Houston once said?

"Adrian," the boy managed as he uncomfortably adjusted the platters. Oscar Alovar had very reluctantly but prudently dispatched the 9-year-old, packing Adrian's beguiling 15-year-old sister Luz off to the market in Mazatlan. Oscar knew from tragic past experience that The Crocodile and his merry banda preferred red meat and tender female flesh.

"An industrious young man," El Cocodrilo proclaimed. The smile faded a notch. "Come on; we're starving."

Adrian hastily distributed the platters, bowed, and crossed calmly to the kitchen to collapse into the wooden chair beside his grandfather's flattop. The Crocodile tucked into his shrimp, looking up irritably as Tio ignored his own steaming plate of piquant pork.

"Que hay?" he rumbled with an agitated swig of Malverde.

The handsome young technowhiz shrugged. "I got a server address for our blogger, and from there, I can get a name and address. But, with respect, I have to ask again if this is really a good idea. To take the war -- this war -- to the States?"

The Crocodile’s sister Elena occupied a hallowed niche alongside Santa Muerte, but her son relied too heavily on his blood ties and cyberskills, and Tio’s mouth someday would write a check his uncle was unwilling to cover.

Maybe it was the shrimp -- The Crocodile merely shrugged. "Fucking bloggers and Tweeters and hackers have no respect for our economic freedom, for progress. They sow chaos, stand in the way of the national welfare. We let this bullshit continue, we will lose the respect of the people."

The Crocodile paused, awaiting his nephew's inevitable plea for "reason." But Tio stared into his uncle's bloodshot eyes with an unnerving intensity. "You got something to say, college boy?" the drug lord demanded, his color rising.

Tio’s shining black eyes burned as his lips slackened into a mocking grin, and El Cocodrilo's overburdened chair shrieked on the tiles. Then the narcotrafficker saw it -- Tio's pupils now consumed the espresso irises that had hypnotized many a club girl into surrendering her dubious virtue.

"Boy, you fucking crazy?" The Crocodile wheezed. "I told you, no using on the job!"

Tio's lips parted, and a bubbly foam trickled down his squared jaw. His uncle's wrath dissolved into concern. He turned to Heriberto, an astonishingly stupid but indestructible third cousin-cum-enforcer who'd been shoveling chilorio during the mounting familial conflict.

"There's a doctor we use, Medina, a few doors away I think," The Crocodile growled. "Get him here, now. Vamanos!"

Heriberto nodded and fell face-first into his fried pork. The lieutenant to his right swiveled slightly, and his tartar-coated tongue emerged to absently lick chile sauce from his mustache as The Crocodile's muscle began to drown noisily in chilorio. The fifth diner, a hitman adept in managing Internet snitches, hummed Danny Elfman's whimsical theme to The Simpsons as his now-autonomous digits thumped non-existent keys on the sauce-spattered tabletop.

El Cocodrilo felt an icy jab of revelation. Old Oscar had poisoned their food on behalf of one of the rival familia. His tingling fingers fumbled his Herstal five-seven free of his jacket holster. He upended his chair, and his legs buckled beneath him. Sinaloa's would-be jefe de jefe landed on his ass, and he screamed in impotent rage.

"Zapatos!" The Crocodile bellowed at the elderly assassin in the kitchen. "Zapatos!!"

Slicing onions for the evening crowd, Oscar Alovar pondered why El Cocodrilo might be demanding shoes and how he might meet such a demand. Minutes later, as the restaurant was flooded with heavily armed federales and norteamericanos, Oscar's problems were both resolved and multiplied.


She rose, grunting slightly. Strenuous, repetitive labor and an affection for chocolate and Mr. Pibb's had strained the cartilage in her knees and honed the plantar fasciitis in her arches. She was 24, felt twice that. But, now, euphoric warmth spread through her overworked limbs.

The windowless chamber was illuminated by a hundred teardrop flames. Dead eyes stared at the mutely ecstatic young woman. A carillon began to peal in rhythmic cycles, and she sought the other source of illumination -- the screen of a Samsung Galaxy hours out of the box. As instructed, she ended the incoming call with the trembling jab of a calloused index finger.

She began dutifully to extinguish the flames, murmuring a benediction and a prayer of contrition. She'd learned the rough way that pride not only was a cardinal sin but also a potentially fatal failing. Even as she snuffed the last of the dollar store votives, she savored the company of saints and monsters.


The Mauve Shirts tensed slightly as the young man went about restocking Aquafina and Diet Coke and unwrapping a huge platter of chocolate chip cookies provided by grateful Best Western management.

Normally, in any room in Fountain Hills, Dontae was the invisible man (Ellison’s, not Wells’), and the attention now was unnerving. Up on the screen was the image of a huge wrinkled hog, surrounded by Chinese guys taking notes. Didn’t want to know how THAT fit into this scenario, or for that matter the slender sister at the end of the table, who accepted Dontae’s fraternal nod with a frosty smile. Dontae’s deductive instinct ebbed, and he rattled out with a tub of melted ice.

“So,” Danzer continued as the assembled “commodity analysts” attacked the cookies. “We’ve been accumulating on-the-ground data on a potentially tremendous untapped energy source. Well, untapped until recently. That’s why I invited our friend from the DOJ to join us today. Deputy Administrator Daniel Reiser, as many of you know, oversees the DEA. If you’ve read the papers or watched CNN over the last several days, you may be aware that the DEA has scored a major victory in the war on the cartels.”

Reiser looked uncertainly to Danzer, who smiled encouragement. “Not that I’m underplaying the significant blow dealt the Sinaloa Cartel with the apprehension of Manuelo ‘El Cocodrilo’ Amandares and several of his key lieutenants. The…unusual…nature of our offensive against Amandares could mark a monumental turning point in the war against narcotrafficking.”

“Unusual?” the deputy CIA director murmured with the same hypothermic smile she’d granted the hotel busboy. “I’d understood DEA and the Federales caught The Crocodile and his friends with their pants down in some small-town dump.”

Reiser nodded. “This raid had been in the works for a week, after our inside man found out Almandares and his top guys were holding a clandestine meeting to deal with cybervigilantes. This presented a prime opportunity to strike at the executive heart of the organization. As it turned out, force proved unnecessary.”

“Dan, if I may,” Danzer suggested. “By the time DEA entered the scene, El Crocodilo and his friends were dead or nearly so from severe cerebrovascular insult. The Crocodile is in a vegetative state under federal custody. His nephew Tio somehow forgot the complex process of breathing.”

“Please tell me the DEA didn’t deploy a biological agent against foreign nationals,” the CDC rep drawled.

“Absolutely not,” Reiser stammered.

“Well,” Danzer shrugged. “He is technically correct. And while Alovar was innocent of any complicity in these men’s deaths, his family’s fortunes and The Crocodile’s fate were inextricably intertwined.”

Reiser took up the lagging narrative. “Almandares’ nephew wasn’t above using his family’s rep or drugs to take what he wanted. Alovar had a niece, 14 at the time, who accompanied a cousin to a street festival in Mazatlan. She disappeared, and the cousin had the local cops searching everywhere for her. They found the girl a few hours later in a hotel the Cartel de Sinaloa frequently used. She’d been sexually assaulted, and couldn’t remember anything except a conversation with a young guy who’d considerately bought her a soda.”

“Roofied,” the CIA deputy stated grimly.

“They take the girl – we’ll call her Juanita -- to the hospital, do a kit, and get a description down to the assailant’s crocodile boots. Then the rape kit vanishes, hotel clerk can’t remember his own shoe size, and the cousin, who’s been screaming for justice, is found up in the hills, tongue cut out and shoved—“

“All right,” DOD rasped. “Where are we going with this?”

“The Alovars pack Juanita off to some relatives here in the Phoenix metro area. Got her a job at a packing plant in Mesa, but ICE rounded her up with a dozen other undocumenteds. Just before her removal proceedings, Dr. Danzer and the Phoenix archdiocese intervened on the girl’s behalf.”

Danzer waved Reiser down. “The family noted the potential threat to the poor girl were she returned to San Ignacio or her current location disclosed. Fortunately, Operation Streamline’s deportation show trials in Tucson were beginning to generate considerable negative press.”

“And just how did this unfortunate child come to your attention?” the CIA deputy murmured.

“One of my project associates had become aware of the young girl’s dilemma, as well as her very unusual history. A relative related an interesting anecdote of their shared childhood in San Ignacio – an anecdote that incidentally turns up in various forms on a number of websites.

“The incident occurred when they were roughly six or seven years of age, following the death of a much-beloved great-uncle during an altercation at the local cantina. The extended family gathered at Oscar Alovar’s café for the wake – coffin on a table surrounded by candles and herbs and a massive spread.

“As Alovar offers a toast to the decedent, the coffin begins first to sway, then to rock. Candles flicker out randomly. Bottles fly from the shelves behind Oscar’s bar. Music explodes from Oscar’s kitchen radio, and a family member finds every shelf in the pantry vibrating. Then, as suddenly as the melee began, it ends, leaving a child’s voice reciting what sounded like the close of a prayer. As ‘Juanita’ concludes, she looks up, smiles, and apologizes for ‘the trouble.”

“At about the same time, Raoul and Mauricio Yniguez, who had been charged in the beating death of Great-Uncle Herve, were found in their cell, throats torn out. It was determined they had eviscerated themselves. Their irrational actions were consistent with cerebrovascular disruption similar to that suffered by Almandares and his, er, employees. And, fortunately, we have family video of the occurrence at Alovar’s café. If you all could pull up the file you were emailed this morning?”

“Holy shit,” NSA muttered aptly, 10 minutes later.

Danzer nodded. “We were able to decipher young Juanita’s recitation. Psalm 137.”

The deputy director smiled mirthlessly. “’Our Lord, punish the Edomites. Because the day Jerusalem fell, they shouted, ‘Completely destroy the city! Tear down every building!’ You’re seriously suggesting this child brought the wrath of God down on her great-uncle’s killers?”

“I would suggest that what you’ve witnessed is the release of a massive level of high-frequency potential energy,” Danzer replied coolly. “The ‘poltergeist’ event at the café was merely the byproduct. Like a laser with defective optics.”

“Or a school science project that winds up vaporizing the gym,” the spy chief smiled.

Danzer matched her predatory smirk. “One that’s since been replicated with far greater precision. I just shipped you all another e-mail, with a second video file.”

This one was splitscreen. Oscar Alovar’s café was empty save a circle of gauchely dressed men at the largest table beyond the bar. The right screen was darker, grainier. Hundreds of light points wavered in what looked to be little more than a maintenance closet lined with metal racks. What the shelves held was the most compelling feature of this Blair Witch footage. Sharp beaks, claws, wings, teeth. Goggling toadlike orbs, black alien slits, feline and lupine pupils, eyed stalks. Dragons and golem and katsina and bulbously erotic Paleolithic “Venus figures,” a familiar figure on a cross. 

 “It helps our girl achieve the desired mental state,” Danzer lied.

A door on the single bare wall swung open and a blocky female entered. She took a stool as the light balance corrected, her back to the camera. Her head dipped, and a young monotone voice began to chant in Spanish as, on the other screen, a young boy warily bore a mammoth tray toward the Almandares party. Digital time stamps on both screens were synched to the second.

As the split screen froze on armed men swarming the cafe, the deputy director wheeled on Reiser. “If this is to be believed, you’re admitting to federally sanctioned execution. And Danzer, you’ve made all of us accessories.”

Danzer smiled. “To the telekinetic removal of a major narcoterrorist? No, I simply invited you here today to reveal the long-missing link between physics and genetics – the quantum energy of the human consciousness, a crucial validation of Einstein and Schrodinger’s unified theories.”

“All to whack a drug lord,” NSA muttered.

“Imagine conducting a surgical strike against a terrorist target without drone miscalculations or surplus human collateral.” Danzer said. He slipped his slim laptop deftly into its RFID-impervious case. “You have much to process at this point, and I will look forward to your response.”

Grinning, Danzer found the boys room, then continued down a side hallway and out into the mellowing late afternoon sun. A female figure was silhouetted beside his low-slung vintage Mercedes convertible.

“Well, Janine,” he sang. “I thought the group had reconvened.”

Deputy CIA Director Janine Mosley shook her head indulgently. “I feel like a mojito.”


Without a word, she retrieved a roll of towels and a spray bottle from underneath the FastFill’s scarred counter and moved to the front of the register. Fortunately, the Plexiglas sheeting the manager had installed for placebo security had largely shielded her from the splatter of hot toffee macchiato. She would have to launder her royal Blue FF Express apron that night for tomorrow’s shift, but the plastic had taken the brunt.

He hadn’t looked the type -- spotless black Lexus in the slot nearest the door, salt-and-pepper snowbird golfer in a teal Lacoste polo and creamily draped slacks bisecting his paunch. Of course, there wasn’t really a type these days. The snowbird’s face clouded and his fist tightened around his receipt as Luis, the Pepsi vendor, gave her a hearty shout-out as he wheeled his dolly back into the sun.

In their shared native tongue.

An Arizona Power worker in for his daily Dew and dog tried to intervene, first in his customer service tone, and then angrily as the man began showering the small, blocky clerk with racial epithets, f-bombs, and a general screed on the declining state of White America. The snowbird concluded by whipping his beverage at the clerk, hurling a different charming epithet at the worker, and storming out.

“I got the motherfucker’s plate,” the worker growled. “Man, sorry,” he hastily apologized, registering the first shock the woman had expressed and gently wresting the roll and bottle from her. “I can reach better – lemme get it. You just call the cops. Assho-, man coulda seriously burnt you.”

The clerk shook her head with a smile. “No es necesario. Gracias.”

“But—” the lanky lineman objected.

“Rezaré por él.” She pressed her palms together and closed her eyes.

Comprehending, the worker grinned. “Well, all I gotta say, Juanita, is you’re a lot nicer than I’d be.” 

December 20, 2022 23:08

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Wendy Kaminski
01:15 Dec 22, 2022

This was a fun trip! :) I loved the modernization of the Cartel ("dissuaded his uncle from launching an online shop for Hecho En Cocodrilo gear" and "pointed out in a PowerPoint Tio'd prepared for the Colombians")... lol! One of my favorite plays ever was Henry V with his planning scenes done mostly done in .ppt presentations. I laughed myself silly. Particularly effective ending, too. Excellent as always, Martin: sublime writing and intriguing plot!


Martin Ross
17:29 Dec 22, 2022

Thank you — you actually inspired me to develop my Danzer/Tinkering stories into a series with your own New Madrid stories. I began a satirical sci-fi/supernatural/mystery novel on this theme with my detective schlub Mike Dodge in 2014, but I couldn’t devise a good third act. I’m going to try to do more Tinkering stories and package them as a DIY on Amazon with a novelette version of the Dodge vs. Danzer murder mystery. By the way, just for fun, I worked up cover art for Event 149. I’m going to read the earlier tale once our lunch guest leav...


Wendy Kaminski
17:46 Dec 22, 2022

That is so cool… e-mail it:)))?! Can’t wait to read more of yours, too, such a great genre! Now the pressure is on to do more monster, I will have to buckle down ha ha :-)


Martin Ross
19:19 Dec 22, 2022

Absolutely, FB Messenger me your email, and I’ll send it. And buckle down! Between New Madrid and stories like The Chimperer, I could see a Bram Stoker Award in your future!


Wendy Kaminski
19:27 Dec 22, 2022

Oh am Facebook deficient but it’s on my profile. :-)


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Graham Kinross
10:13 Jun 22, 2023

I had deja vu reading this, I think I’ve read it before and forgot to comment. Very good but can’t dethrone Mike Dodge as my favourite of your characters.


Martin Ross
14:05 Jun 22, 2023

All the Arizona Danzer and Dodge stories are refashioned parts of a 10-year-old novel I couldn’t quite work out at the time. I want to reassemble the parts for a standalone or a cap-off novel in the fifth Dodge collection. If I can ever get it together, we’ll have a time travel-based murder, the telekinetic religious minimart clerk from Camarones, and whatever transdimensional being the ancient indigenous Americans called a kachina wreaking suburban perceptual havoc. Perhaps too many things going on, but in my mind-vice, I think I have some ...


Graham Kinross
23:55 Jun 22, 2023

A biverse? Don’t let the United right hear about that. They’ll stomp down on that woke nonsense. As they’re now saying about the beer company I’ve forgotten, go woke, go broke. If you’re broke to begin with though, maybe the only way is up? I was reading about a woman who campaigned for decades to ban abortion. She was so dedicated that she slept overnight in an office infested with cockroaches instead of taking the long commute back the home with her husband. She kept the lights on overnight sleeping on a sofa. To me, that suggests she was ...


Martin Ross
00:23 Jun 23, 2023

Forgot about the Micklerverse version. To me, a woman who battles to suppress other women’s rights is equivalent to those second-generation Latino-Americans who back Trump or DeSantis demonizing immigrants. I feel sorry for the cockroaches.


Graham Kinross
07:37 Jun 23, 2023

I have to admire the cockroach’s dedication to rights that they tried to pressure her to stop.


Martin Ross
13:51 Jun 23, 2023

Gawd, THERE’S a story I want to see you write. Some 21st Century Harlan Ellison meets Kafka right there!


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