Unapologetically my fingers flayed and flew in complex gyrations as my brain shot furious commands to overworked neurons which quailed from the lack of oxygen as a seemingly infinite series of waves poured forth from the bell of my trumpet in uniquely perfect notes that flitted around the revelers ears before passing out into the infinite afternoon sky. As I paused to draw breath, the wheels clicked in my brain of the clear truth. The Dead Souls would never sound better than we did at that moment. Immediately, there was a tiny devil in me that wanted to cast aside my trumpet and yell to stop the performance so that we could record the day our souls had been truly bought. That idea was quickly quashed, as it would ruin the moment. Eventually, the metronome of life cast the infinite notes aside, and our performance was over. We stood around gaping as the guests slipped off, and stared in disbelief at each other.
“Ay, chicos, muy caliente! That was some hot swing.” Broke the silence from the Best Man. “But now we need you to do Mariachi! The happy couple is leaving – quickly – rapido!”
Before we could object, he was gone. There was nothing to do but shrug and strike up an impromptu melody. But in Africa, someone killed a beetle. Somewhere in Asia, a door slammed shut. And with plummeting finality, the happy couple’s “Mariachi” departure sounded vehemently awful. On the plus side, we had our souls back. On the downside, we now had to worry about our lives, as the guests now were giving us the evil eye. The last song had been so foul, it had completely obliterated the three hours and fifty six minutes of good music in their brains. There was nothing we could say as we packed up our gear quietly. If someone had asked me what had happened, I would have told them that it was simple: swing and jazz bands just don’t do Mariachi. Finally, the Best Man came by with an envelope, and with a dirty look, handed it to Mr. Mysterious. It was our $2500 in cash. Nice, crisp, one hundred dollar bills.
The money was enough to make up for any vendettas we had started. Mr. Trombone and Ms. Skins immediately started their car and drove off. Several minutes later, we too were driving back to the Estados Unidos in the exhausted Datsun. A kilometer from the border (Mr. Basealicious had been reading the signs in his second year high school gringo Spanish to us despite our entireties to stop), Hot Chops looked back at Basealicious and I with more concern than he usually exhibited.
“What?” I inquired.
“That.” He said gesturing. I looked back, as did everyone else. If our Datsun was a rolling junk pile, the car that followed us was lucky to be rolling. Mud caked the wheels and obscured the grill. The windshield had a large crack through it, and we could hear its engine growling fiercely. It also had the infamous and universal roll bar of police lights on its roof.
“They’ve been following us for five minutes.”
“Did you break any laws?”
“Are there laws in Tijuana?” Mr. Mysterious said facetiously.
“Mexico operates under the civil law, not the common law…”
“Shut up!” All of us said to Basealicious instantly.
“No.” Hot Chops said, eyes darting back to the road.
“Well, don’t then.” Mr. Mysterious suggested easily. “We’re almost at the border crossing, and therefore almost home. Nothing to worry about.”
“Right.” He said uncertainly.
A moment passed, and the line of cars entering America appeared. The overhanging approaching border barrier was a tantalizing finish line that was waiting for our final sprint. The brakes were just beginning to make their ugly grinding noise when the police siren sounded behind us, causing all of our heads to pivot simultaneously, and our ears to wince at the horrible syllables they were hearing that were unmistakably directed towards our car.
“They want us to pull over.” Hot Chops noted in a stunned tone, “At that building.” He waived at the concrete fixture just before the official border.
“Well, I think you’d better do it.” I said regretfully after no one else said anything.
We watched the building come closer with the grim anticipation of a paralyzed fly looking for spiders. Once stopped, I looked over at the mud-streaked police car now next to us, and noted that half the logo said “Federal”. My heart sank.
“What’s going on?” Basealicious asked frantically, as the police officers had left their car and were shouting orders at us.
“I think we’re under arrest.” I said grimly. “And they want us to get out of the car.”
I opened my door slowly, as directed. I took two steps to the front, hands raised. Then I had a good look at the squashed and dismembered bugs as my face was scorched against the hood of the Datsun as I was cuffed and searched. The others received similar treatment before we were directed inside, the metal door slamming coldly behind us as we were placed in a windowless room with one chair. The pockmarked concrete wall shaved off another layer of my burnt cheek as the cuffs were removed. With another clang, the cops were gone.