We settled on a method of attack on what we thought was a long-dormant but well-fortified base of operations for Mercerier. Heraclitus would have been proud.
A few nights ago after the commercial district closed for the night, the piñata shop went dark, though only temporarily. Within the hour, the small fire Heath lit in an adjacent storefront was completely out of control. Given the rush hour traffic jams, and the sorry state of affairs here, it was another 18 minutes before Oaxaca’s bravest were able to arrive. They were greeted by our merry band, outfitted as we were with Oaxacan fire department uniforms and a squad vehicle. The engine company prepared its attack on the fire as we suited up to enter the buildings to search for any civilians. Of course, we knew where a few could be found.
In an effort to keep up appearances, we first entered the taco stand where the grease fire was reported as starting. Working our way quickly to the back of the store with our polehooks and axes, we avoided the engine company which now had two lines hooked up and a good stream pouring into the kitchen. The fire was clearly hot, we felt some of the molten metal conduit pelt our coats as we made our way through the restaurant. At the direction of one of the chiefs, Ramirez used his rabbit tool to force entry on another door to the kitchen before continuing on with us. In the back of the restaurant, in a prep room, we located a heavyset old woman slumped next to a pot of mole sauce. She was still breathing when we found her and apparently had not seen Heath in the restaurant earlier. We were able to pull her out through the back of the restaurant and administer oxygen. We then handed her over to some paramedics. It was unfortunate, Heath should have cleared the area. All things come into being and pass away through strife. I longed for the feeling of administering salvation untainted by the fact that we created the peril.
Finding one civilian on our primary search, we had a strong pretext to search the piñata shop. We found one man just inside the rear entrance of the shop, preparing for a different type of firefight. He initially looked relieved when he saw the firefighters at the back door, until we turned the axes and polehooks on him. Dragging his body through the rear vestibule, we immediately came upon another door. The smoke had descended the better part of the distance to the floor at this point, and we were relatively low, but it was clear the door was steel. Not knowing the conditions behind the door, I had Ramirez try to pry it open.
It was clear the fire had spread to nearby buildings by this point. After a minute or two, Ramirez was able to get the door ajar two or three inches and then open. The room was filled with thick black smoke, which immediately began pumping out from the door. We entered the room blind and moving quickly before I realized Wilson had come across three men who had grabbed him. I approached them and held my hand up, trying to continue our ruse, and to figure out exactly what they were trying to do. At that moment I saw a flicker of concern in his eyes. And then the grenade. He and I rolled for cover, evading the phosphorous. Souls became fire that day. It is a pleasing thing to see the fruition of so many years of training in your men.
Apparently one of Mercerier’s men had avoided the white heat as well. The room burst into flames all around as the brick wall dividing the shop from an attached store started to crumble on top of us. I saw an orange glow and the flash of tracers piercing the smoke. I heard Ramirez start screaming after the first few rounds. After a few moments of silence, the man stepped out of the smoke near me and I brought him down. You cannot step into the same fire twice. Ramirez next emerged flashing me a big thumbs up and a ridiculous smile. He threw the bodies onto the fire.
After that, the building seemed clear. We made our way into the basement where we were able to procure a laptop, some weapons and several documents. We also discovered a passage leading away from the building at which point we decided to leave, perhaps having lost the elements of surprise and mass. We returned to the squad truck, purportedly to refill our air tanks, waiting to make sure no one left through the rear door, until the rear door itself no longer remained.
We then detonated the squad vehicle from a safe distance and our contact, claiming to be a member of APPO placed a phone call to take responsibility for the fire and the attack on four members of the Oaxacan fire department and their vehicle. What a desolate place this is to be able so easily to cover one's tracks.
It is disheartening to leave Ramirez behind, but perhaps some day he will serve a further purpose. He is a hammer where our profession is the scalpel. I have orders to return to Canada where I am reassured some word regarding Deseilligny’s death awaits.
Happy New Year,