I am the Innkeeper, and my stories are both true and unique. Thumb through the pages. You will find over a hundred images to accompany some teenage exploits, a stint as an Air Force bomber pilot, some romantic encounters, a dive for treasure off a ship that sank in 1862, and 43 years as owner and Innkeeper of a small, seaside inn on a tropical beach in Mexico.
Manzanillo, in the tiny state of Colima, is the major setting for these adventures, and you will take away a singular view of the Mexican people you won’t find in papers and magazines. Intermix Spaniards with Indians and the result is quite something. You’ll see.
Innkeeper is a journey. Along the way you will meet Ken Kesey, Bing Crosby, Lee Marvin, Lyndon Johnson’s brother (I didn’t know he had one, either), Jack Ruby and many others. I expound a few times about things better presented by wiser persons, but that’s part of the fun in my book. My wife is German and calls me Herr Besserwisser which translates into Mr. Know-it-all. I can explain that.
Other than Mexico, you’ll spend time with me in North Africa, Spain, France, Italy, Iceland, Costa Rica, and underwater off the coast of Guam. And there will be sea snakes, alligators, sharks and their human equivalents to hold your attention.
Enjoy my tale.
|Publisher:||Dog Ear Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
On a Sunday morning in June of 1965 I packed the car, grabbed a handful of Dexedrine Spansules, kissed Joyce goodbye and took off for Guadalajara to kill Gilberto.
Mexico is skittish about foreigners working in their country without papers, and four years was a long time to wait, never knowing from one day to the next whether or not we'd be booted out of it. Having explored all the legitimate avenues and a few quasi-legal ones as well, a workable plan to secure the hotel continued to elude me so long as it remained in our attorney's name. That would be Gilberto.
I was frustrated to the point of desperation and emotionally prepared to actually deploy a dark fantasy I'd entertained of late in order to reverse his intransigence. Joyce reminded me that what I envisioned was not only dark but immoral. Morality, I told her, is a sometime thing and in our case a burden. She agreed, albeit with reluctance, handed me a bag of sandwiches, and helped me load a cooler of Carta Blanca in the back seat of the Ford. In the glove compartment was the snub-nosed .38 Smith and Wesson pistol I'd been issued in Uncle Sam's Air Force ten years ago and forgot to give back.
Long before I left on the five hour drive to Guadalajara that morning, I'd spent three years searching for a lawyer in Mexico's major cities to help me dislodge Gilberto from the title of the property we'd paid him for.
Finally, In Mexico City, I located an attorney who convinced me he could uncouple Gilberto from the title, give me control of the property and obtain my working papers. He, Jorge, would set the stage for my plan. I knew I had the right man when Jorge told me he had the government offices so greased, he needed to hang onto the door jamb when he entered so he wouldn't slide through the office and out the back door.
Jorge would set up an inmobiliaria, a corporation with the obligatory minimum of five Mexican stockholders, all straw men who in turn would hire me as general manager of the company. I would get my working papers as their employee and legally own the sixth and controlling share in the company.
But you'll need a lot of money," he said. "How much?" I ventured.
"Don't pay me anything until I do the job for you," was the reply. "The only thing you need to do is get Gilberto to agree in writing that he'll transfer title of the hotel to your new company. If you can get him to sign a letter of intent before a notary, I'll take care of the rest."
"He'll sign," I assured him — and then to myself, "or die."
Over the years I'd tried absolutely everything I could think of to get this crook to sign over to us the hotel we'd paid for, but I was a gringo in a foreign country without working papers, and Gilberto was a Mexican lawyer with the title to our property in his pocket along with the money we'd given him and which he, in turn had failed to give to Mrs. Brennan, the heiress of the former owner, her son, Tom.
Killing Gilberto was a last resort, and a few weeks before I left for Guadalajara to kill him, I'd made some discreet inquiries locally. A rendezvous was arranged for me to meet a man at a bar on the outskirts of town who hurt people for money. Any threats or ultimatums delivered to Gilberto were of little use unless I was prepared to back them up.
"How much," I asked the stocky young man at the bar, "to shoot a guy in the kneecap?"
"Cinco mil pesos, Señor," he replied.
That was only four hundred bucks which was well within my budget. "How much for both kneecaps," I ventured, expecting a reduced rate for double the volume.
"Veinte mil pesos, declared my new confidant.
That was a whopping $1,600!
"Why," I persisted, "do you charge so much more for the second one?" My curiosity was piqued, although my enthusiasm for this project had begun to wane. Everyone in the cantina seemed to know this guy and, if persuaded, could no doubt recall the furtive gringo who was getting cost estimates from the neighborhood assassin.
"Because Señor, one kneecap is easy."
He eased off the bar stool to act out his role in the scenario. "You sneak up behind the cabrón and BANG! But the other one? Ha! It is very difficult to shoot the other kneecap while he is flopping around on the floor and howling and you are trying to aim your pistol at his remaining knee and the people they are approaching to see what is happening."
The gunman stalked the boards of the tavern, jabbing his trigger finger at the elusive kneecap of his flailing, frantic — and imaginary victim.
"Of course," I said, "how foolish of me not to consider that."
My inclination to abandon this particular plan became a decision when my erstwhile hit man revealed — with pride — that he was an off duty police officer. At the same time, it sank in that whatever persuasion was needed to force Gilberto's hand would have to come from me. No kneecapping by local assassins. I was now emotionally prepared to kill the son of a bitch myself.
During my years-long quest for the Right Man to get La Posada out of Gilberto's pudgy little paws, and before I located the well-connected Jorge, I'd met with several other attorneys in Guadalajara who were willing to help but lacked enough influence in the right places to obtain all the permissions, letters and authorizations necessary to put a gringo in control of a business on a Mexican coastline. And to carry out my plan, I needed an additional lawyer, but from Guadalajara, because that's where Gilberto lived.
In Mexico, unlike the US, a notary is by definition an attorney with imposing credentials and not a businessman down the street who'll sign and stamp your document in exchange for a donation to the heart fund. To get Gilberto, himself a lawyer, to sign a notarized letter of intent, I needed the pick of the litter to make certain there'd be no legal loopholes for him to wriggle through.
I knew Gilberto would never fly to Mexico City to meet with Jorge and volunteer his signature to release his hold on La Posada. So I made arrangements with a notary in Guadalajara whom I'd met several months prior and trusted implicitly. His name was Victor Gonzales Luna — a man who would prove instrumental in a future project of ours and incidentally, become legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor's eighth fiancé twenty years hence. Victor was armed with a carefully drafted and irrevocable letter of intent that lacked only Gilberto's signature in his presence.
I arrived in Guadalajara that Sunday evening with the bag of sandwiches Joyce had prepared for me, a cooler of beer and my snub nose .38 in the glove compartment. I was primed for food, drink and murder.
On the outskirts of the city I rented a motel room using a phony name and called Victor, the notary, at his home to confirm our appointment for the following morning.
That evening I drove past the house where Gilberto lived with his parents in an exclusive and secluded neighborhood. I parked a block away. As I expected, his car wasn't out front, so I knew he hadn't come home yet. I made myself comfy in the front seat of the car, had an egg salad sandwich and washed down a Dexedrine with a can of beer. Gilberto was a night person, and I knew it was going to be a long night. For both of us.
At two in the morning he drove up in front of his house, but before he could get to the gate, I dashed out of my car and stopped him. I called out, "Hola amigo, I have wonderful news! We have an appointment this morning with a notary so that you can finally sign over the hotel to Joyce and me."
And there, in the predawn hours of a Monday morning on a dark and deserted street in front of his house we had the following conversation:
"I can't do that because you and Joyce are foreigners."
"All you need to do is sign a letter of intent before a notary."
"Intent to do what?"
"To transfer title of La Posada to my new Mexican corporation so we can get the hotel we paid for and the working papers we need to legally run it."
"I'll need time to think about that."
"No more time Gilberto. We have an appointment with Victor Gonzalez Luna, the notary, at nine o'clock this morning."
"But we're all friends, you and Joyce and me. Besides, I'm still your partner. Don't you trust me?"
"You're a thief. You've spent all our money that was supposed to go to the mother and heiress of the former owner, and Joyce and I are about to be deported, because you haven't even applied for our working papers. As of now we are not partners, and I wouldn't trust you to mail a post card."
"You can't make me sign anything."
"Yes, I can. Because if you don't I'll shoot you."
Thus far the scenario was playing itself out about like I'd imagined it would. After all, I'd gone over it in my mind a hundred times, and when I pointed my liberated .38 in Gilberto's face, I was more than prepared to use it. How else could I convince a crooked partner who held my future in his chubby little hands that I wasn't bluffing unless I believed it, too? I was counting, of course, on the element of surprise, the darkness of the neighborhood, the conviction in my voice and Gilberto's inherent abhorrence of violence to force him to capitulate without actually making good on my threat. In the planning stages of this little murder, I'd psyched myself into going through with it if need be. So much so, that I was beginning to hope he'd refuse. That was scary.
"Very well," he said finally, "I'll meet you this morning at nine in the notary's office."
"That's not good enough," I said. "Get back in your car, because we're going to spend the night together in a motel. If you refuse, I swear to God I'll shoot you dead right now. Nobody but Joyce knows I'm here, and I can be back in Manzanillo before they find your body in the gutter."
He hesitated, but finally got behind the wheel of his car. I climbed in the front seat next to him and gave him directions to the motel. Once in the room, Gilberto told me I'd be foolish to do him violence.
"I've got nothing to lose," I told him. "I'll be thirty-five next month, I'm broke because we turned over all our savings and the profits from the hotel to you, and if I get kicked out of Mexico, the best I can hope for is a dead-end job at a print shop in Miami. In other words, there is absolutely nothing I wouldn't do to keep from losing La Posada. Nothing."
At the motel he dozed fitfully on the bed while I sat up in a chair popping goof balls to stay alert.
At eight in the morning we left for our appointment with the notary. I told Gilberto, "If you're planning to change your mind in Victor's office, forget it. You'd be dead before noon and that's a promise."
By 9:30 Gilberto had signed the letter of intent before the notary, and it was officially recorded in the municipal registry an hour later by the efficient Victor. "Let's go have some breakfast," I suggested to Gilberto, and he surprised me by saying, "Sure, why not."
At a restaurant over coffee he asked, "Would you really have killed me?"
"You bet," I assured him, and meant it. "But that doesn't mean we can't still be civil. You stiffed Joyce and me for more than $20,000, and we're still going to have to pay something to Tom Brennan's mother. On the other hand, if you hadn't contacted us in Miami after Tom Brennan died, Joyce and I wouldn't be here in Mexico — and for that I'm sincerely grateful to you. Too bad you got greedy — you'd still be a partner."
Gilberto gave me a crooked smile. "I suppose I did get carried away with all that money," he said, "and since we're still speaking, I better tell you now that last year I used the hotel as collateral to borrow more. Your new corporation will now have to pay off two liens — one for $3,500 and the other for $5,000."
"Wow," I said, "You'd steal a hot stove and then come back for the smoke."
After breakfast Gilberto drove me back to where I'd parked the car the night before. I said Adios, popped two more Dexedrines and drove straight home to Manzanillo.
When I gave Joyce the good news she beamed, "My hero."
Then I told her the bad news — that the hotel was in hock for another $8,500. "Maybe," she said, "our friend Gilberto wasn't all that unhappy about signing over the hotel to us."
I was even more inclined to agree with her when two guys from California showed up one morning and announced the hotel belonged to them since they'd paid $10,000 to Gilberto for a half interest in La Posada.
"Where do we put our bags?" they asked. Back in your car, boys, you've been had by a pro.
It was Joyce who abetted me in my decision to kill Gilberto. I met her in 1956 at a party in Louisville soon after I got out of the Air Force, and it took me about fifteen minutes to fall hopelessly in love with her. She was everything I'd ever hoped for in a woman, and I remember thinking that here was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Joyce, who was from Lynchburg, Virginia, was a secretary for John Sherman Cooper, the Republican congressman from Kentucky who later became speaker of the House of Representatives. Joyce was working earnestly for the re-election of President Eisenhower. She would be in Louisville until November, at which time she was to accompany Cooper to Washington while Congress was in session.
I'd never known anyone even remotely like Joyce. As you'll see, she was an original. Not just a tall, wholesome, great looking blonde with bright blue eyes, a fine figure and gorgeous legs, but also smart, witty, quick to laugh and totally incapable of idle chatter. In fact, she was a joy to talk to, and I hung on her every word. And when Joyce confessed that she was not interested in raising a family, I practically proposed on the spot. "Togetherness," that sticky dictum of the fifties, took on a whole new dimension. Could this be the girl who would willingly share the unconventional life with me? I sure hoped so. Was I turned on? You bet.
I want to tell you how Joyce and I wound up in Manzanillo, but there's a lead-in tale or two.
When I was a little kid, my father used to tell me that I was a true child of the Depression, because he'd made me on October 29, 1929. Then he laughed. The stock market had crashed on that date, and perhaps in response to the unsettling news, my parents had coupled recklessly that night. As a result of their folly, I was born in July of the following year. My father's little joke was lost on me, but I giggled anyhow. Anything that tickled him during the Depression years was a glorious occasion indeed.
My grandfather, whom I recall as a cheerless and imposing old tyrant, had given him one of his clothing stores in 1925 on the day he married my mother. "This is your wedding present," he announced, "Don't ever ask me for anything else."
My father did well in Cincinnati as a haberdasher until the Crash. But midway into the Depression, he found it tough to keep his head above water — an ironic way to put it, because a horrific, record-breaking flood inundated his clothing store and forced him into bankruptcy. On the day of the high-water mark he'd floated over the neighborhood business district in a rowboat, poking despondently with an oar at the roof of his store.
Unwilling to approach the family patriarch with hat in hand, he looked for any kind of work to tide him over until he could get back on his feet — unaware that the record rise of the Ohio River had demoted him from the rank of tradesman and frozen him forever to that of a working stiff.
After months of pavement pounding, he finally found work selling life insurance policies door-to-door, and my mother, a college graduate, worked part-time as a substitute teacher at nearby grade schools. Both were grateful for whatever income they could generate, while I remained oblivious to the breadlines, sit-down strikes and mass unemployment. There was always food on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and, because my father was only careless once, no brothers or sisters to complicate my childhood.
It was 1944. In Cincinnati, I'd been the class shrimp all through grade school but sprang to a lanky six feet by the middle of my freshman year in high school. This unexpected growth surprised me. I'd assumed I would always be short like my father and was unprepared for my sudden popularity with the same girls who'd overlooked me — literally — less than a year ago. Because I'd skipped the second grade at fourteen, I was still a year younger than my classmates. But that didn't discourage me — or the girls. I even kissed one goodnight after a double feature, a lemon phosphate at the drug store and finally a ride to her doorstep in a streetcar.
Excerpted from "Innkeeper"
Copyright © 2017 Bart Varelmann.
Excerpted by permission of Dog Ear Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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