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Mazatlán, Mexico, Thirty-five years ago
At twelve years old, Vasco Sánchez had the survival skills of Rambo. Orphaned two years earlier following a massive earthquake, he became a street urchin out of necessity. When the fat wallets of unsuspecting tourists couldn’t fill his belly, he relied on table scraps. He’d rummage through the large resorts’ garbage bins north of the city in an area known as La Zona Dorada. At any time of day, he could tell you what leftover delicacy lined which hotel trash bin.
Partial omelets and mango from Laguna Resort trash bins tasted good, but an angry stomach growl reminded Vasco he ate those hours ago. After checking his khaki shorts pockets, he realized two sticks of chewing gum and thirty-five American cents wouldn’t satisfy his adolescent hunger. Tapping his fingertip against his chin in the midday heat, he then snapped his fingers as if he’d just solved a puzzle. “It’s Saturday.” That meant two things; pepperoni pizza and a fresh crop of tourists at Las Flores Hotel.
After checking the diver’s watch he palmed off a drunk American tourist last month during a scuffle at the open market, he realized he needed to hurry. The street children favored American pizza, and it disappeared fast.
After tightening his tattered backpack with his “work” clothes over his shoulder, he dashed through service alleys like a gazelle to shave time off his route. When he turned the corner, he came to an abrupt stop, and his shaggy black hair flew in his face. Someone had beaten him to it. A younger boy, not over ten, stooped pawing at the plastic garbage sack Vasco had his sights on. Hungry and broke, he didn’t have time to negotiate a share of the find. If he hurried, he could make enough money for a week of meals.
Towering over the kneeling boy like a giant, he recognized him, having dealt with this waif before. “Ese es mi almuerzo.” (“That is my lunch.”)
The boy turned his head.
Vasco clenched his fists, then his eyes bored a hole through the boy’s skull.
The boy gulped. In a blink of an eye, dirty napkins and potato chip bags blew up in a dust cloud when he ran down the alley and out of sight.