Set Up, The Hydra Effect, Nothing Comes After Z and the the forthcoming Coyote are titles in The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. The series follows JadeAnne Stone and her dog, Pepper, as they battle organized crime in Mexico.

The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures

Set Up
Chapter 1 – Jacked,  July 27, 2007

A pair of headlights rushed my old VW camper, assailing me with their high beams. I moved over as far as the shoulder-less causeway allowed. The vehicle pulled into the oncoming lane, honking furiously but didn’t pass.

“What the—? Pass, you idiot!”

Ahead, light strobed through the trees, and a bus barreled around the oncoming curve. It headed straight for the honking moron, and its brights reflected, blinding me through my side mirror. I tensed, gripped the wheel, and laid on the gas. The overloaded VW accelerated inch by inch while I rocked forward and back like a kid willing motion. “Go. Go. Go.” I yelled.

The Hydra Effect
Chapter 1 – Lura’s Funeral,  August 8, 2007

I’m being watched. I scanned the wide plaza bordered by the church and a low, ornate, red-painted building, but I couldn’t see anything that looked out of place. No malos hombres behind the well pruned park trees nor the black-clad phantasmata who flitted in  and out of my peripheral vision, sighting their sniper rifles from the rooftops along Calle Felipe Carrillo. As if, I’d actually see my assassin. I hurried across Plaza Hidalgo toward La Iglesia de San Juan Bautista.

I knew it was silly, but I couldn’t shake the last words Senator Polo Aguirre had said at the Krystal Hotel in Ixtapa, “I hold Ms. Stone responsible for the death of my cousin.” And Aguirre was a dangerous man—a criminal involved with marijuana and heroin cartels—Hell, he headed up a drug cartel. Wealthy and powerful, he had the backing of Mexico’s ruling class. This whole thing started because Aguirre was the swing vote on the coming Senate decision on the Privatization of PEMEX. But ni importa la culpa, if the Senator wanted to retaliate against me because his rival, Arturo Rodriguez, blew up Aguirre’s cousin Lura on the muelle in Zihuatanejo a week ago, then he had the means to do it. I hurried on.

Parking in the Coyoacán district of Mexico City was a joke on a good day, and I was afraid I’d be late to Lura’s funeral. I’d driven the cuota, Mexico 95, from Acapulco that morning after a lousy night’s sleep in a rent-by-the hour motel on the pimply backside of the posh Acapulco hotel district. It was filthy with trash, both on the ground and on two legs. Some of the human waste appeared to be coming or going from the disco next door, which had cranked up the volume of the music so loud that the shock of the bass almost felt like the bomb blast I’d survived in Zihua—the one that killed Lura. I peeked out my door a couple of times when the thumping and screaming got particularly obnoxious and was reminded that most hookers don’t look like Julia Roberts. God what an ugly lot—and they’re screamers. “Ay Papi! Cójeme Papito, eres mi rey.” Well, if I ever need to “do it” in Spanish, I’ll know how.

The plaza was filled with vendors. I noticed a couple of kids selling hippie paraphernalia—Mayan braided wristlets, peace sign earrings and pendants, Balinese batik shifts, tie-dye headbands, Rasta-colored t-shirts—the usual stuff found on any  treet vendor’s table in Berkeley. The pollution that afternoon stank and hung yellow and gritty around the vendors and their customers. I could barely breathe and scurrying across the plaza had me gasping so, that I slowed down, forced to catch my breath. A clown proffered me a bouquet of helium balloons while a white-clad man pushed an ice cream cart by, his bell jangling. I salivated. A scoop of coconut ice cream would have been a balm for my smog-irritated throat, but I swallowed hard and hurried on.

“Lay-dee, señora. Tengo tu futuro.”

I glanced toward the throaty voice. A gypsy-like bruja sat at a folding table and laid out Tarot cards on a black velvet cloth. Seeing my interest, she pulled a card from the deck in her palm and displayed the Knight of Swords. I slowed down.

“Venga, lay-dee. Así es el futuro.” She swept the displayed layout to the side and placed the card in the middle of her cloth. “A príncipe looks for you Señorita,” she paused and extracted the King of Pentacles from within her deck and placed it over the first card with a meaningful look. I started to move on, but she flicked a third card out of the pack and crossed it over the King. A man lay dead with a forest of swords sticking out of his back.

“¡Ay! ¡Dios mio!” The witch crossed herself and began to gather up the cards, her wrinkled, bony hands moving like the wings of a hummingbird.

My heart dropped into my gut and shivers ran up my spine. Someone walking on my grave. I hurried the last couple hundred feet to the church. Well-heeled mourners in small groups filed between the massive, scarred wooden doors leading into the dim interior. Most of the women appeared to have stepped from the pages of Vogue magazine, and I could see a lot of important jewelry sparkling on fingers and ears and around necks and wrists. I stood back to calm down, admiring the lovely relief sculpture on the facade and checked out the attendees as they arrived, hoping to see someone I knew—Anibal.

I glanced at my watch. Last minute mourners in limousines and chauffeur driven SUVs drew up to the curb opposite the main doors. Uniformed drivers helped rich urbanites, “Chilangos,” out of the vehicles and onto the sidewalk. It was obvious by the unusual lumps under jackets that some of these drivers were really bodyguards. Drug Mafia, I supposed. I mean, do Senators need bodyguards? I wouldn’t know. I realized, too, that there were way more armed police in the area than should be normal for the funeral of an American. My skin rippled with the thought of being sighted in somebody’s crosshairs again. I shuddered and pushed through the crowd into the church.

Nothing Comes After Z
Novel in progress.  Coming soon…

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Writing on the Wall with Ana Manwaring