USW: Tip the World Over on Its Side
Monday, February 7, 2011
(Session Date: November 21, 2017)
Javier Ramírez, also known as “El Tomador del Espíritu”
The target is Javier Ramírez, also known as “El Tomador del Espíritu” due to the persistent rumor that he drinks the souls of the people he kills. LAPD Detective David Daniels suspected Ramirez was responsible for several murders in Los Angeles, but there was no forensic evidence tying him to any of the sites, and all of the murders looked more like weird accidents than slayings. Ramírez’s police record only involved incidents of drunkenness. ICE crackdowns in the L.A.-area led Ramírez to flee to Mexico before Daniels could pin anything on him, so he reached out to fellow Blue Line officers across the border for assistance.
Weeks of email correspondence and planning have led to this meeting. Having traveled to Tijuana by seaplane, Daniels steps onto a Policia Tijuana boat captained by Cesar Arroyo and featuring Federal Inspector Adriana Diaz and Officer José Luis Valenzuela, all operatives of the Blue Line. Preparations made and equipment gathered, they head to the city, arriving just before 11 PM.
Cesar Arroyo, Policia Tijuana
Adriana Diaz, Inspector, Federal Ministerial Police
José Luis Valenzuela, Policia Tijuana
Valenzuela was unable to find out where Ramírez is hiding in the interim, as most of the underworld seems too scared to rat him out, but he did learn that a woman named María Aguilar, apparently some sort of street bruja, might know. The trio decides to head there first.
Finding themselves in one of the rougher parts of Camino Verde, Daniels deigns to stay in the car while Diaz and Valenzuela interview Aguilar. She lives in a small apartment in a crumbling tenement, and when Valenzuela knocks, she inquires what they want, and they indicate they have a question. She invites them inside and offers them tea.
María Aguilar, street bruja
After introductions and conversation, Diaz and Valenzuela indicate they want to know where Ramírez is. After thinking about it, she agrees to tell them on the condition that they are willing to give her a sample of their blood, as having a couple of police officers on retainer could potentially be useful to her. Not seeing any other recourse, they agree. She gathers a knife and two handkerchiefs, and after cleaning the knife thoroughly, Valenzuela cuts his hand first and bleeds onto his handkerchief, followed by Diaz doing the same. She gathers the handkerchiefs and indicates that Ramírez is supposedly meeting someone tonight at midnight at the bar La Posada del Crucero, located in the shantytown of Los Laureles outside the city. She warns them that the word on the street is that El Tomador killed a cartel member, and there’s also word that they’re out looking for retribution. They thank her and leave.
Returning to the car, they tell Daniels what they learned, and then drive into the shanties and improvised buildings of Los Laureles. They discuss their options, and the plan develops that Diaz will enter the bar and communicate back to Daniels and Valenzuela by radio. It will be up to her to alert them when to take down the target. As they drive around to find a place to park, they notice an out-of-place van about a block away. Valenzuela doesn’t specifically know about any raids tonight, but it certainly looks like the sort of van that might be used for a mobile base on a raid. While watching the front of the bar just before midnight — really just a house made out of plywood and garage doors, with a hand-painted sign reading “La Posada del Crucero” — they see a well-dressed man carrying a briefcase accompanied by a man in plainclothes. Diaz recognizes the man in plainclothes as having the bearing of a police officer, while Valenzuela actually recognizes him as a police officer with whom he has previously interacted, an Angel Dominguez. Diaz decides to enter while Daniels and Valenzuela gear up in the car.
Angel Dominguez, Policia Tijuana
The Man in the Suit
Diaz enters the bar, finding only a few patrons. There is a middle-aged bartender and a middle-aged woman serving. The well-dressed man is sitting at a table, his back to the front door. The plainclothes police officer is at the bar. Another Hispanic man — a little too clean, with shoes that are too nice for this place — sits at the bar, nursing a beer. In the back corner of the restaurant is an old man with a push broom mustache.
Diaz orders a drink and hears over her earpiece when Daniels and Valenzuela say Ramírez is approaching. A moment later, he enters the bar — a skinny Mexican man, bearing a half-full bottle of wine in one hand and a glass in the other. The glass appears to be a bottle of Olde English 800 with the top removed so as to form a drinking glass. He looks a little tipsy, and when he enters, he orders several shots of tequila, which he insists be poured in the Olde English 800 glass. He then sits across from the man in the suit.
They converse quietly, but Diaz listens and watches their movements in the cracked, piecemeal mirror above the bar. She gathers that the man in the suit had his niece taken by the cartels, and Ramírez claims he can deliver her whereabouts to the man. He gives the man instructions to pour out the wine he has brought using the aerator provided. (The aerator, incidentally, is a fluted glass structure with strange sigils shakily etched into it.) Once he has consumed the wine, he should be able to learn everything the man knew. Diaz notices, upon close inspection, that there almost seems to be a ghostly figure swirling in the wine, screaming and pounding its fist against the glass.
As Diaz whispers this into her microphone, Daniels gets into position, darting through the shadows to make it across the road and behind the bar. He brings Diaz’s gear and stashes it among the garbage. Valenzuela, meanwhile, takes position in the alley next to the bar.
Ramírez further asks to see the briefcase and the object inside. The suited man places it on the table and opens it, revealing an ornate jar of archaic Mesoamerican manufacture. It is apparently still sealed. The suited man closes the briefcase and puts it again at his feet, and asks if he can have a sample of Ramírez’s wares to ensure it’s what he needs. As he pours a glass of wine and Valenzuela sees a pickup truck peel around the corner, Diaz signals that it’s time.
The Mesoamerican Jug
Masked and armored, Daniels and Valenzuela barge into the bar. Most of the patrons and staff take cover; Diaz and the man with the nice shoes start heading for the rear exit, while Ramírez dives for the briefcase as Daniels and Valenzuela open fire. Three shots hit before Ramírez has a chance to do more than react, and he collapses forward, breathing shallowly. Valenzuela steps over him and fires a shot into the back of his head, but apparently freaks out at the display, as he promptly starts unloading three-round bursts into the back of the man’s head. The suited man vomits and begins screaming. Daniels starts to tug Valenzuela out of the bar as the engines roar outside. A cartel crew with bandanas over their faces and AK-47s rushes into the bar and starts firing, quickly cut short when they notice that their probable quarry has already been killed by a similarly masked group of gunmen. Both groups acknowledge this and slowly exit the bar.
As Diaz has been gearing up, and is rejoined by the others, they decide to dash inside to grab the Mesoamerican jug, the Olde English glass, the aerator, and the wine. Diaz and Valenzuela collect the objects while Daniels watches their rear. He sees movement, and notes two figures moving through the alleys to their position; even in the gloom, he can tell that at least one of them appears to be Caucasian and they appear to be outfitted in night vision and body armor while carrying assault rifles. He relates this to the others, and the group decides to head through the front door while Valenzuela tosses their single flash-bang grenade out the back door to cover their escape.
As they pile into the car and peel out of the neighborhood, they notice someone move into the front of the surveillance van and give chase. As they speed along the roads outside Tijuana, the van manages to gain on them despite Daniels and Diaz firing upon them. The van finally rams them and runs off the road, while the van itself loses control and drives into a ditch. As Daniels, Diaz, and Valenzuela collect themselves, they see movement from the van. Diaz and Valenzuela exit the car to use it as cover, while someone shouts, “DEA! DROP YOUR WEAPONS!” from behind the other side of the van. After brief deliberation, Valenzuela decides to handle the situation even though it might mean his job; he asks to see a badge, and the agent waves a badge over the hood of the van. Valenzuela indicates he’s Tijuana police; the agent requests to see his badge, so he lowers his weapon and approaches. The man in the van indeed appears to be James Vargas with the DEA. He indicates they were here on a drug raid, while Valenzuela, thinking Vargas must also with the Blue Line, says there were no drugs involved, so what was Vargas really doing here? Vargas seems confused, and reiterates that this was an operation with proper approval from the Mexican government. Valenzuela tries to intimate that weird things have been happening tonight, but this only prompts Vargas to request to take down Valenzuela’s badge number so he can begin sorting out all this paperwork. He indicates he will no doubt meet with him later, and he starts trying to work his van out of the ditch while Valenzuela returns to the car so that Daniels and Diaz can do the same.
James Vargas, DEA Agent
Once back on the road, the trio returns to Tijuana and deliberates what to do with the artifacts. They ultimately decide to keep the aerator, glass, and jug, probably separating them and sending them to Blue Line contacts they know are likely to be able to sequester such things. As for the wine, they decide to consecrate it and dump it in a cemetery, as that should be hallowed ground. They do just that before radioing Arroyo and telling him to come pick up Daniels. They drive to the docks in time to make the meeting, and Arroyo transports Daniels back to the waiting seaplane.