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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 


Buenos días, Infanta.” CJ panted the words. Not accustomed to Mexico City’s over 7,000 feet elevation, his pre-dawn jog had again left him gulping air. It was worse than his first strenuous activity in Vail had been years before.

Buen día, Señor CJ.”

Having traded good mornings with Liebe’s nanny, he held the door for her, and they rode the elevator together.

Infanta Romero, mother to half a dozen children, was found for him and Owen by Felicia Barrosa. With only a young girl left at home, Infanta was entering the job market for the first time in her life and must have felt extremely lucky. What her new employers paid her was a fortune for someone of modest means.

When CJ interviewed her before Owen and Liebe flew to Mexico, he had offered her the job subject to Owen’s approval. The Aussie had blessed the hiring after meeting her. The fact she insisted on cleaning, and occasionally cooking for them, was an unexpected bonus.

“I’m back! Infanta’s with me.” CJ skirted the narrow wall separating the entry from the rest of the apartment and peeked through the open kitchen door.

“Hey! Hola, Infanta.” Owen held a bowl away from Liebe while trying to wipe her face clean. The girl wore most of the oatmeal CJ had left simmering when he walked out of the apartment. Her plastic spoon lay on the ground.

Yo me encargo, Señor Owen.” The woman smiled at the toddler and was rewarded with a grin.

Gracias” Owen sounded relieved the nanny had offered to take over. Liebe insisted on feeding herself often and the result was usually a mess. She frequently ended up with more food on than in her.


Showered and dressed, CJ headed to the embassy. The American mission, located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma, was a convenient fifteen-minute ride away. He was early, as intended, since he wanted to review contact reporting procedures. Not expecting the need to file one, he had not given the process his full attention when it was described. He had just started typing when his supervisor interrupted him.

“Mr. Abelló, I’d like to see you in my office.” Stephen A. H. Northman, a thin redhead with a receding hairline and a short, perfectly styled beard—that failed to hide all his acne scars—did not wait for a reply. He turned and walked away.

“Yes, sir.” CJ locked his computer and rose to follow his boss. He thought the man was a walking advertisement for either Brooks Brothers or Jos. A. Banks; he took preppy attire a little too far for CJ’s taste.

“Close the door and have a seat.” Northman’s desk was devoid of documents and decorations. He did have what CJ recognized as the previous day’s newspaper’s social segment on it. “I’m not sure what they taught you at that fancy Ivy League school you attended—”

“Actually, sir, Georgetown’s not part of the Ivy League.”

“Don’t interrupt. I believe you have the wrong idea of how a diplomat representing the United States of America is supposed to behave when posted overseas. Maybe you assumed times had not changed and our lives were a constant cocktail party. The fact the article highlights your involvement in Clinton’s campaign is disturbing. I supported a candidate in that election too, but you do not hear me talking about it to the press. We are supposed to be apolitical in the State Department.”

CJ wanted to mention Pompeo’s disgusting behavior as Secretary of State but swallowed the objection. “I did not discuss it with the reporter, Mr. Northman. She must have gotten that information from our hosts. After all, Mr. Barrosa does own the company that publishes the newspaper.”

“Be that as it may, I expect you to concentrate on your job, and not make a spectacle of yourself by having your picture splashed—” A knock on the door interrupted him. “Come in.”

“Stephen, do you know where—” The ambassador stopped mid-sentence when she realized there was someone else in the office.

Both men rose as soon as the woman opened the door, and CJ extended his hand. “Good morning, Madame Ambassador.” Standing and greeting the ambassador was protocol.

“Oh, CJ, the man I was looking for.” Not asking for permission, Margaret Cox took the chair next to him, across from Northman. She spoke over his greeting.

CJ had briefly met the woman during his first visit to Mexico City but had not spoken to her since starting work.

“Good morning to both of you.” She nodded at the newspaper on Northman’s desk. “Excellent! I see you were talking about the same thing I wanted to discuss. Incredible job, young man. That amount of positive publicity so soon after your arrival is magnificent. Wouldn’t you agree, Stephen?”

“Well…” The man appeared at a loss for words.

“I am suitably impressed and would like you to cultivate the contacts you made over the weekend. Our image hasn’t been the best in this country for years, and I believe you and your husband can help improve it. Has he been to the Australian Embassy yet?”

“He’s there this morning, ma’am.”

“Fantastic. The Aussies are a more relaxed crowd than we are. If you spend time with them, I think you’ll meet other interesting individuals. Both Mexican and expats.” Her smile somewhat faded as she pointed at the picture of CJ and Owen flanking Yevgeny Domogarov. “You know who that is, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. He’s with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service in Mexico City.”

“You’re aware you should file a contact report?”

“Yes, ma’am. I was working on it when Mr. Northman asked to see me.”

“I’m certain Stephen wanted to congratulate you too, but you should complete and file that report as soon as possible.”

“I have a question, ma’am. Before Owen knew who Domogarov was, my husband asked him to our home for a cocktail party. The Russian also extended an invitation for us to be his guests on opening night when the Bolshoi Ballet’s in town and to the reception afterward. I’ll need to figure out how to get out of those.”

“You’ll do no such thing!” Ambassador Cox sounded adamant. “We need your social skills and contacts.” She paused momentarily and appeared lost in thought. “We may have to increase your security clearance, but I’ll arrange for a more detailed briefing on Domogarov in the meantime. If by any chance he wants to cozy up to you and Owen, we’ll take advantage of his interest. You never know what we might learn by turning the tables on him.”

Northman looked shocked. He, at last, spoke after remaining quiet during most of the conversation. “Are you sure that’s wise, Ambassador? Mr. Abelló’s file reflects his admission to using drugs in the past. If he should do it again, he could jeopardize embassy security.”

“Oh, for goodness sake, Stephen. It’s 2021. Everyone’s smoked a joint or done more at some point. I know I have.” She returned her attention to CJ. “When was the last time you used any illegal substance?”

CJ smiled. “It’s been a few years. My best friend’s a pothead, and he’s constantly upset with me because I won’t let him smoke around us.”

“There you go, Stephen.” The ambassador stood, and CJ did the same. “Great job, CJ. Go finish that report, and I’ll have my assistant get in touch about the briefing. Again, good performance. We’re lucky to have you with us.”


“What is it? Less than a month since you and Ozzie arrived? And you’re already the toast of the town?” Lincoln grinned from across the table. “As if that wasn’t enough, you have the ambassador ready to kiss your ass and your supervisor wanting to kick it.”

CJ had recounted the morning’s events for his friend’s benefit. “Screw you, Linc. We’re innocent bystanders.”

Lincoln Erickson befriended the couple when the FBI assigned him to investigate an extortion effort by a D.C. building inspector. He was folded into CJ and Owen’s group of friends soon after. The summer before his posting to the Mexico City embassy, he spent considerable time with CJ’s grandmother, practicing Spanish. In the process, Liebe had grown attached to him.

“Of course you are, buddy. Pure as the driven snow.” Lincoln grinned and winked. “I’m ready to order.”

CJ closed his menu. “So am I.” Toki Doki Sushi, the small restaurant three blocks away from the American embassy and across the street from the Japanese one, looked promising. A large number of Asian customers, presumably embassy employees, meant the place was acceptable to them.

“How’s Liebe? Is Owen back to work yet?”

“Liebe’s great. Owen’s visiting fellow Aussies at their embassy this morning. He wants to work mostly from home, but we’ll see. Hey! What are you doing Friday night? You have a date?”

‘Yeah, right. Between my size”—Lincoln was around six-and-a-half feet tall and muscular—“and dark skin, most guys are scared of me. Either that, or they’re looking for the Mandingo experience, and all they care about’s my BBC.” The ends of Lincoln’s mouth curled into a smirk.

CJ cracked up. “Let me check with Ozzie tonight. If he hasn’t made plans, come over for dinner.”

“That sounds good. Let’s talk about the nice Russian man you guys met this weekend.”

“I already filed a report, and the ambassador said I’d get additional briefings on him.”

“I’m the first step in the process. Let me tell you a couple of things about him that aren’t common knowledge.”


“I’m home!” CJ stooped to untie his wingtips and left them by the door. Something smelled terrific in the apartment.

Estamos en la cocina.” Announcing they were in the kitchen in Spanish, Owen was taking his expressed goal of improving his language skills seriously. He rarely bothered with English when Infanta was around.

“Ceej!” Liebe, sitting at one end of the counter, with Owen supporting her, raised her arms to be picked up.

Hola, Infanta. Hey, Munchkin. How are you?” CJ tossed the girl in the air a couple of times; she squealed, and the nanny crossed herself.

Opening the refrigerator, Owen reached for a beer. He pointed the bottle at CJ with a questioning look and received a nod in response. “Take her with you, get out of your suit, and come back. Your turn to feed her tonight.”

By the time he returned, Infanta had finished cleaning, and Owen had sent her home. The intoxicating aroma of whatever she had cooked lingered. “What smells so great? And where’s Liebe’s food?”

“Infanta made chicken pozole, elote, and fresh tortillas. We need one of those machines to make them. No way am I tackling what she did with a cast-iron skillet. They would end up sticking or drenched in oil.”

“So, order one from Amazon. Is Liebe eating the same thing?”

“Yep. I’ll run some of the soup through the blender to make her a puree. Put her in her chair, and come strip kernels from the elote. She can eat that with her hands.”

“What’s in this pozole thing?”

“Thank you, Google. I asked Infanta to spell it for me so I could look it up. According to anthropologists, it’s a pre-Hispanic soup used as part of ritual sacrifices. These days chicken, pork, and vegetarian versions are the norm instead of human body parts.” Owen chuckled when CJ shuddered. “It’s made from hominy corn with a ton of herbs and spices, and it stewed for hours. The longer she kept it on the stove, the better it smelled. You know what elote is?”

“Yeah, had it with lunch one day last week.” You could find someone selling the popular street food on nearly every corner in Mexico City. The maize was traditionally boiled and most often served on a stick. The customer’s choice of salt, chile powder, lime, butter, queso, and who knew what else could be added in abundance. “How was your day?”

“Bloody fantastic. They welcomed me with open arms. I’m sure having a letter of introduction from the Australian ambassador to the U.S. helped grease the cogs. Didn’t get to meet the one here, though. He’s out of the country right now. How was yours?”

“Interesting’s the best way to describe it. I’ll fill you in over dinner. I had lunch with Linc, he says hi.”

“We should have him for dinner sometime soon.”

CJ chuckled. “Funny you say that. I invited him over on Friday, subject to you agreeing.”

“Definitely! That may work well. I need to call Spencer”Spencer Liston was Owen’s brother“and give him shipping instructions. If he gets a case of wine out right away, we may have it by Friday. One of the trade attachés offered to handle them for us. They’ll come as embassy supplies, and we won’t have to pay import duties unless we self-report to the Mexican government.”

Over dinner, after putting Liebe to bed, CJ detailed his conversation with Northman and Cox. During the recounting, Owen’s expression alternated between shock, anger, and glee. “Oh, he’s gonna love you. Just so you know, we’ve already been invited to and are expected to attend an Australia Day reception in January.”

“I’ll send a message to him and Ambassador Cox just to let them know I’m following her instructions.”

“Asshole. You just wanna rub it in his face.”

“And your point is?”

Later that night, after watching a bit of TV, spending time on the internet, and making a long-assed phone call to Australia, both slipped in bed and reached for reading material on their respective nightstands.

Owen spoke before opening the latest issue of Nature Conservancy, the NGO’s eponymous magazine. “I forgot to mention one thing. Seems like Guadalupe, Infanta’s daughter, doesn’t have school on Friday. She asked me if it was okay to bring the girl with her. Hope you don’t mind I said yes.”

CJ was quick to reply. “Of course it is! What is she, like eight or something? It’ll be good for Liebe to have another girl around until we can find her some friends her age.”

The next day, Margaret Cox replied to CJ’s message with a two-word email: “Good job.” Northman did not utter a single one or acknowledge the communication.

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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