‘No, I’m afraid not. It was not English.’
To good-natured jeering from his comrades, the linguist retreated, crestfallen.
‘Bueno,’ said Pancho, downing his glass. ‘Vamonos.’ Signally to the couple to follow, he was off to the exit, and heading to a parked jeep outside.
Pancho maintained a predictably fast pace through the traffic, cutting across the paths of other vehicles as the Tillyards tried gamely to keep up with him, grateful for the outsize swaying antenna mounted on the jeep’s bumper which helped identify him. On a divided highway, Pancho suddenly made a dramatic left turn across a ridged median in front of an oncoming truck, which blared its displeasure. They had arrived at a motel with an attractive forecourt and a large swimming pool, but whose parking lot looked discouragingly full. By the time they stopped, Pancho was already inside the office, talking to the manager.
The conversation was not going well. Pancho was gesticulating wildly and the manager’s shrug spoke eloquently behind the glass. No room at the inn. Spen felt embarrassed for his friend. He entered the office just as the manager left by a side door, Pancho in voluble and relentless pursuit. Spen waited, signalling ‘Quoi faire?’ to Sara through the window.
Moments later, the browbeaten manager returned, reached behind the counter, and without comment, handed Spen a registration card to fill out. His capitulation was as sudden as it was unexpected. Pancho slapped him on the back and laughed explosively, wagging his finger at the manager, and grinning at Spen.
Outside, Spen thanked him profusely, unable to fathom the manager’s change of heart. Pancho shrugged. ‘It is supper time,’ he said. ‘Let’s eat.’
The motel restaurant, an outdoor asado or barbecue, was full the smell of charred steak and the buzzing of a cloud of accompanying flies, as was customary in such places. Apparently, Pancho was well-known here. He commandeered a table for five, and snapped his fingers at waiters he considered inattentive. While the trio waited for their order, he decided it was time to introduce himself. With a flourish, he produced a business card. “Medardo Camacaro,” it read, “Inspector de Salud Publica, Servicio de Higiene de los Alimentos de la Unidad Sanitaria.” Medardo. Not Pancho. Spen examined the card. He shook his head in disbelief. Of all the people he could have blundered into, he had had the remarkable good fortune to locate the local public health inspector. Providence worked in mysterious ways. He glanced at their host, who shrugged .‘They owe me,’ he said brusquely by way of explanation.