Club Embrujo‑"Warlock” in English‑was situated in the suburbs at the end of the number 27 bus line. Looking more like a fortification than a dance club, it was surrounded on all sides by high stucco walls into which were embedded shards of shattered beer bottles‑a crude security system preventing anyone from entering illegally without leaving behind a good portion of flesh.
During the ride, Becker had resolved himself to the fact that he’d failed. It was time to call Strathmore with the bad news‑the search was hopeless. He had done the best he could; now it was time to go home.
But now, gazing out at the mob of patrons pushing their way through the club’s entrance, Becker was not so sure his conscience would allow him to give up the search. He was staring at the biggest crowd of punks he’d ever seen; there were coiffures of red, white, and blue everywhere.
Becker sighed, weighing his options. He scanned the crowd and shrugged. Where else would she be on a Saturday night? Cursing his good fortune, Becker climbed off the bus.
The access to Club Embrujo was a narrow stone corridor. As Becker entered he immediately felt himself caught up in the inward surge of eager patrons.
“Outta my way, faggot!” A human pincushion pawed past him, giving Becker an elbow in the side.
“Nice tie.” Someone gave Becker’s necktie a hard yank.
“Wanna fuck?” A teenage girl stared up at him looking like something out of Dawn of the Dead.
The darkness of the corridor spilled out into a huge cement chamber that reeked of alcohol and body odor. The scene was surreal‑a deep mountain grotto in which hundreds of bodies moved as one. They surged up and down, hands pressed firmly to their sides, heads bobbing like lifeless bulbs on top of rigid spines. Crazed souls took running dives off a stage and landed on a sea of human limbs. Bodies were passed back and forth like human beach balls. Overhead, the pulsating strobes gave the whole thing the look of an old, silent movie.
On the far wall, speakers the size of minivans shook so deeply that not even the most dedicated dancers could get closer than thirty feet from the pounding woofers.
Becker plugged his ears and searched the crowd. Everywhere he looked was another red, white, and blue head. The bodies were packed so closely together that he couldn’t see what they were wearing. He saw no hint of a British flag anywhere. It was obvious he’d never be able to enter the crowd without getting trampled. Someone nearby started vomiting.
Lovely. Becker groaned. He moved off down a spray‑painted hallway.
The hall turned into a narrow mirrored tunnel, which opened to an outdoor patio scattered with tables and chairs. The patio was crowded with punk rockers, but to Becker it was like the gateway to Shangri‑La‑the summer sky opened up above him and the music faded away.
Ignoring the curious stares, Becker walked out into the crowd. He loosened his tie and collapsed into a chair at the nearest unoccupied table. It seemed like a lifetime since Strathmore’s early‑morning call.
After clearing the empty beer bottles from his table, Becker laid his head in his hands. Just for a few minutes, he thought.
* * *
Five miles away, the man in wire‑rim glasses sat in the back of a Fiat taxi as it raced headlong down a country road.
“Embrujo,” he grunted, reminding the driver of their destination.
The driver nodded, eyeing his curious new fare in the rearview mirror. “Embrujo,” he grumbled to himself. “Weirder crowd every night.”