An alternative cover (photo by Henry Craver)
1993 on the US-Mexico border. It’s a world without Internet. Cell phones are rare, and as big as squirrels. Newspapers still matter, but they’re endangered.
It’s a more innocent time. Tom Harley can pedal his 10-speed back and forth across the Rio Grande. Bad guys often shoot to miss. But as Harley follows the threads of the story, the darker future starts to come into shape: the drug wars that will soon turn Juarez into a murder capital, the tent camps of refugees and, above all, the proliferation of fake news.
Harley mulls his death threat
…Harley wondered again if Gustavo Jiménez had actually called him “dead meat.” He pictured himself hanging from a meat hook with a blue USDA stamp on his chest.
He looked at the woman across the table. She had her lips parted, and he could see a gap between her front teeth. She reached up to her neck and gave it a little rub where it met the shoulder, her thumb disappearing beneath the fabric of her blouse. He watched her fingers digging into the smooth skin and imagined himself leaning across the table and kissing her.
“Jesus,” he said. It just came out.
“What is it?”
“Ah, just something disgusting I heard about Jiménez,” he improvised.
She nodded, sensitive enough not to let it drop.
“Remember that radio reporter in Juárez who was killed a month ago?” he asked.
“Have you ever heard of anybody getting his lungs torn out?”
“As a way of getting killed.”
She considered it for a second and shook her head. “No. Never. And I’ve heard about lots of different types of murders.” She took a sip of coffee and put the cup down, leaving a red crescent of lipstick on the rim. “Your story must have made that guy really mad,” she said
“That article was just a roundup of what people in Juárez say about this guy. But the paper played it up big.”
“The tigers running loose in his house, and the harem?”
She shook her head. “I couldn’t really figure out what he had to do with Grupo Espejo and the maquiladora industry.”
“Those are examples of things they played up,” Harley said. “I didn’t exactly…” He groped for the right word. “I didn’t authorize them to use it.”
“You didn’t write it?”
“I did, but not every word. They took some things I told them, and played it all up.”
“You think all of this happened to Eddie?” She pointed to a color picture of Stevenson. His face was puffy, his shirt filthy.
“I guess so,” he said, wondering why she called him Eddie, as if she knew him.
“But you think they’re playing this up?” she asked.
“Of course, I mean, look at it. They love these stories.”
“But do you believe it? Do you believe your paper?”