Wednesday, September 12, 2007




Alebrije Part 3


- Tales from Pedro's Cab -

Part III

Story by
Steve Conrique-Ross
Art by
Richard Dominguez

Edited by I.C. Ross
Warrior Nun Areala created by Ben Dunn

Revised version of a story that originally appeared in Mangazine #16, published by Antarctic Press.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Virgin of Guadalupe was gone!


The famous image was stolen from Her basilica in Mexico City by alebrijes--grotesque folk art creatures--that were mysteriously brought to life.


Riots were tearing apart cities with large Latino populations. The Catholic Church sent Sister Shannon--Warrior Nun Areala--to Mexico City; there she joined forces with ex-wrestler Loca Sanchez, and her trumpet-playing sidekick, Trompeto. The trio fought alebrijes at the airport and around El Angel, a treasured national monument.


Androgynous television psychic Waldo Carniceria claimed to know where the alebrijes would strike next.


Sister Shannon, Loca Sanchez, and Trompeto rallied Adelita's former wrestling colleagues, and sent them to the locations where the attacks had been predicted.


The trio then visited Waldo, to question him. In Waldo's dressing room, his bodyguard/chauffeur knocked them unconscious!

That was a few days ago. Now, Trompeto--as cab driver Pedro Alvarez--continues to tell his first-hand account to a female passenger . . .

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Whew! That was a close call, lady! I told you I have great reflexes. So where was I? Oh, yes--

So there we were, down for the count, but La Loca's masked friends were still fighting alebrijes. They had positioned themselves at the locations we had gotten from Waldo's psychic hotline, and waited for the creatures to attack.

It wasn't long before nearly every famous landmark in Mexico City was a battleground, with masked wrestlers and Aztec superheroes battling hundreds of those papier-mache covered demons!

La Loca, Sister Shannon, and I woke up in an old warehouse. We were lying on the floor, all tied up--but we weren't gagged or blindfolded. We could see that the warehouse was filled with national treasures and religious artifacts. And there, leaning against a wall, still safely in her frame, was the famous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe!

Waldo and his men surrounded us.

There was Waldo's chauffeur--who was tapping a tire iron in the palm of his hand--and a big, hairy, devil-masked wrestler. I recognized him as El Diablo Rojo. La Loca and El Diablo Rojo were old enemies--a few years ago, they had a knock-down, drag-out feud both in and out of the ring.

A fat, dark-skinned man was with them. Sister Shannon told us that he was the guy from the airport: the one who was trying to get his box of hardcore books and magazines past customs.

Waldo stepped forward. He started speaking gracefully with his hands and his soft, lispy voice, "Yes, yes, yes. Waldo admits that Waldo is behind the alebrije attacks. Who but Waldo could have conceived such a brilliant plan?"

Waldo was playing to a captive audience, but two of us only half-paid attention: La Loca was staring at the chauffeur's tire iron, and I kept glancing over at the Virgin of Guadalupe. Only Sister Shannon was interested in Waldo's self-love sermon, so he spoke to her.

"Waldo is a jealous god. Waldo has been stockpiling symbols of faith and inspiration, carefully removing any potential competition to Waldo's reign as the Supreme Source of Wisdom and Hope in Latin America. And soon--very soon--the whole world will love only Waldo."


"I demand a rematch!" La Loca cut in. "You suckered me with a foreign object!"

(That's wrestling talk for the tire iron.)

Waldo was amused. "As for you, Miz Sanchez, it was only a matter of time before you ended up here. You must see now that a role model--and champion of fair play--such as yourself is a direct threat to Waldo? You see, Waldo has no other option, but to leave no other options . . . except Waldo."


Sister Shannon tried to distract him: "So how did you make the alebrijes come to life?"

Her question put Waldo on the spot, which made him nervous.

"Waldo does not to share Waldo's secrets with a Warrior Nun! Let us just say that Waldo's vast knowledge of the supernatural includes a Santeria spell that summons demons, and traps them within the papier-mache shells."

He grabbed an open box from a stack behind him, and threw it at us. Shredded paper scattered everywhere.

"The paper scraps used must be from the most horrific printed matter available, and some of the best raw material fitting that description comes from the United States."

The dark-skinned man smiled--he must've enjoyed picking the raw materials that he had smuggled into Mexico.

"But now, the time has come for Waldo to destroy the evidence. Waldo was going to wait a few days, so the alebrijes could acquire more idols, but you three have forced Waldo to do it now!"

He snapped his fingers. Sparks fell from his hand to the paper shreds--they immediately started to burn.

"This barrio has not been repaired since the last big earthquake. There are so many broken gas pipes beneath these streets that yet another fire would not be suspect.

"And now, Waldo bids you love, peace, and prosperity." He tapped his heart, kissed his fingers, and then threw the kiss at us: Waldo's famous farewell. He made a dramatic about--face, and left the burning room, followed by the chauffeur and the dark-skinned man.

In true rudo fashion, El Diablo Rojo kicked La Loca in the ribs a couple of times--then, with defiant and obscene gestures, he stalked away.


La Loca and Sister Shannon started thrashing around on the floor, struggling to get free. Waldo had used sturdy nylon ropes, and Waldo's henchmen had tied them tight.

I--Trompeto--heard a woman's voice call my name. I looked around. It wasn't La Loca, and it wasn't Sister Shannon--they were trying to untie each other, but with no success.

I looked over to the Virgin of Guadalupe.


Our eyes locked: I could see myself, reflected in the Virgin's eyes. I heard the voice again, and knew that it was Her.

"Pedro," She said, using my real name, "Pedro, you must do what must be done."

Then my head was filled with images so unthinkable that they never would have occurred to me on my own.

"But why me?" I whispered to her.

"Because you looked to me in your time of need," she answered. "Because you'll put faith before religion and tradition, and act."

I didn't have time to doubt: the room was an inferno! Flames were everywhere, and the heat and the smoke were starting to choke us.

I struggled to stand up. La Loca and Sister Shannon stopped to watch me. I half-staggered, half-ran, right towards the Virgin of Guadalupe, and. . .

And I kicked the glass with my steel-toed cowboy boot!

As the glass shattered, La Loca and Sister Shannon started screaming, "No! Trompeto, no!" But I just ignored them--I had to.

A piece of glass from the frame cut through my bonds as if they were string. I thought about cutting La Loca and Sister Shannon loose, but I knew that they could--and would--physically overpower me, once they saw what I was going to do.

Coughing from the smoke, eyes watering, I removed the tilma with the Virgin's holy image from the frame, and. . .

And I used Her to smother the flames!

La Loca swore like she was in a locker room--I doubt those words were in Sister Shannon's phrase book. La Loca was so desperate free herself that she endured intense heat and pain, and used the flames to burn through her ropes.

By the time she was on top of me, almost one-quarter of the fire had been put out. It was then that we witnessed the miracle:

(Please excuse me lady--I still get choked up when I talk about it.) Because you see. . .

As I beat out the flames, white roses--just like the ones the Virgin gave to Juan Diego on December twelfth, 1531--fell from beneath the cloth!

Although the fabric was warm and smoking, the sacred image of the Virgin was completely undamaged--another miracle!

La Loca was too shocked to say anything, so she just untied Sister Shannon.

When the last of the flames were out, I aided in the third miracle, courtesy of the Virgin of Guadalupe: I picked up one of the roses, and tossed it at the heavy, locked door.

It was just like I had thrown a grenade: the door exploded!

"Holy Mary, Mother of God!" whispered Sister Shannon.

Out of the corner of my mouth I said, "You got that right, Sister."

I told La Loca and Sister Shannon that we had to gather up all of the white roses. We loaded them into any usable crates that were lying around the warehouse, and made makeshift sacks out of tarps and canvases.

Then we called Frijoles del Oro for a pickup for ourselves, and the surviving artifacts.


It was already night when we left the warehouse. I drove the Gold Rider at dangerous speeds so we could meet with La Loca's friends.

Now, keep this in mind, lady:

Very few of La Loca's friends have superhuman powers--most of them are masked wrestlers, who do a little crime fighting in their spare time. GoldBase reported that they were having trouble with the supernatural threat of the alebrijes.

When Gold Rider skidded to a stop at Plaza Garibaldi, we saw just how bad things were.

The five members of the Champions of Justice--Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Tinieblas, Sombra Vengadora, and Medico Asesino--have fought mad scientists, vampires, aliens, and the Mummies of Guanajuato: enemies that could be punched, kicked, or body slammed.


But now the Champions were outnumbered: several hundred flying alebrijes to their five.

It takes a lot to bring Mil Mascaras to his knees, but wave after wave of alebrijes did just that. The other Champions barely held the alebrijes back. Their bare arms and torsos were covered with cuts and slashes from the creatures' claws.

I knew something had to be done, so I--Trompeto--blew my gold-plated trumpet! The ear-piercing, earth-trembling sound distracted the alebrijes from the wrestlers.

But then they came after us!


Sister Shannon hacked at a few of them with her sword. Pushing our way through fleeing mariachis, La Loca and I ran toward the alebrijes, carrying boxes of white roses.

When we reached Sombra Vengadora's side, La Loca pulled out a rose, and lobbed it at the closest alebrije. It exploded, and burned so thoroughly that only a wisp of ash remained--and then that blew away.

Sombra Vengadora got the message: he dug into the boxes, grabbed as many roses as he could hold in his arms, and started throwing them furiously! The sky looked like it was filled with fireworks, and the air smelled like white roses.

Soon, the other Champions joined us.


All night long we drove through the city, giving white roses to La Loca's other friends, who were defending their posts.


Explosions rocked the city! I don't know how Waldo Carniceria was able to make so many alebrijes--but, miraculously, we had the exact number of roses needed to destroy all of them!


When the sun came up, I noticed that the usual polluted smell of the city air had been replaced with the fragrance of white roses. For the first time in decades--maybe even centuries--the air around Mexico City was clean.


Our last stop was Telerisa Studios.


La Loca Sanchez, Sister Shannon, and I busted into Waldo Carniceria's dressing room.

I took on the stocky, dark-skinned guy. I'm not too bad in a scrap, and La Loca has taught me some sneaky moves.

La Loca could hardly wait to pound on El Diablo Rojo. It's funny to watch her in a "real" fight, because she never broke the habit of stomping her foot when she throws a punch.

Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!--then a finishing move, and El Diablo Rojo was down for the pin.

Sister Shannon dueled with Waldo's chauffeur. The chauffeur was a big, strongly-built guy, but he fought like a sissy, and was too worried about protecting his good looks. His tire iron clashed against Sister Shannon's sword, but she quickly disarmed him.

Then La Loca caught the chauffeur with a clothesline maneuver, which slammed him to the floor. She leaped on top of him, and started hammering his face with her fists.

"Use-a-for-eign-ob-ject-on-me-will-you?" La Loca growled between punches. Sniveling, the chauffeur tried to protect himself, but he was unconscious within seconds.

Finally, I conked the stocky guy with my trumpet. As he slid to the ground, we all turned to Waldo Carniceria, who had been cowering in the corner the whole time.

With no-one left to defend him, he suddenly tried to act brave and defiant. But it was hard to take him seriously, since his hair was done up in curlers.

Waldo started making mystical gestures with his hands.

Then he said, "W-Waldo still has Waldo's magic!"

At that moment, a cameraman from the studio arrived on the scene. When Waldo realized that he was taping us, he got an instant jolt of courage.

He shouted, all dramatic, "Fangs of the Jaguar!"

Maybe he did have some kind of magical powers, because I would swear that I saw him start to "morph," just like in his commercials.

Sister Shannon jumped at him. From somewhere in the folds of her habit, one last rose rolled out, and gently landed on Waldo.

Waldo's robes burst into flame! He pitched to the floor and started rolling, but the flames would not go out.

The cameraman dropped his equipment, and hurried to Waldo's side, but Waldo waved him back.

He kept shouting, "No! No! Keep taping!"

The cameraman went to pick up his camera. Then all of a sudden, Senor Hector Diaz and Mister Hunter Chamberlain--our bosses from the Frijoles del Oro Company--rushed into the room.

Senor Diaz ordered, "Adelita! Extinguish those flames!" Mister Hunter struggled to block the cameraman's lens.

After a moment's hesitation, La Loca jumped, flipped, and splash-dived on top of Waldo. Then she started patting out the flames--much harder than she had to.

Waldo winced and whimpered under her slaps.

The flames were out, but La Loca kept on "patting," until Senor Diaz and Mister Hunter pulled her off of Waldo. They left him on the floor, rocking back and forth, moaning and groaning. Sister Shannon stood nearby, keeping an eye on Waldo and his bodyguards.

Senor Diaz pulled La Loca and me to one side, and spoke to us in a hushed--but sharp--voice.

"We can not do anything against Waldo Carniceria," our boss explained. "There is no concrete evidence that he was involved with the alebrije plot."

"What do you mean?" interrupted La Loca. "The three of us are willing to testify. The word of a nun has to be worth something!"

But Senor Diaz just shook his head. "It's just your word against his. And now, Waldo has video footage of you assaulting him."

We looked at Waldo, staggering to his feet. We looked at the cameraman, still scuffling with Mister Hunter.

Senor Diaz continued, "Besides, Waldo is just too beloved by too many people; too many people believe that his predictions have improved their lives.

"Telerisa is a multimedia giant that could easily sway the public's opinion in Waldo's favor. Enough backlash and negative P.R. could destroy all of us--then no-one who knows the truth would be left to stand against Waldo."

By this time, Waldo was on his feet. He looked arrogant and triumphant as he adjusted himself. Then he stuck his tongue out at us.

Can you believe it, lady?

Defeated and disappointed, we all turned to leave--all except Sister Shannon.

Suddenly, Sister Shannon spun toward Waldo, and pointed her gauntlet's green gem at him.


Waldo was as shocked as the rest of us. He was bathed in a green light so intense that we could see his skeleton.

She glared at Waldo and said, "Acts Sixteen: Sixteen through eighteen!"

Then, without another word, she turned and left.

La Loca asked her, "What was that?"

Sister Shannon barely glanced over her shoulder.

"It's in the Bible," she said, "look it up."

And so I did--I just had to know. It's a story about Saint Paul.

On his way to church, he met a slave girl who made a lot of money for her owners by fortune telling. Saint Paul performed an exorcism--he commanded the fortune-telling spirit to leave the slave girl. And with that, she lost her powers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Later, at Benito Juarez airport, Sister Shannon passed through the metal detector for the fifth time. Once again, the alarm went off.

She had already surrendered her sword, her gauntlet, her belt, and her metal-buckled boots. She fished through her pockets, digging to the very bottom corners, looking for any coins or metal items she may have missed.

Her fingers touched an odd-shaped, heavy object. With a quizzical expression, she pulled it out of her pocket.

It was a golden bean: a souvenir left by Loca Sanchez after every adventure. Inspired by the Lone Ranger's silver bullet, they were created by the Frijoles del Oro Company's advertising department. Somehow, Loca had managed to slip one into her pocket.

Sister Shannon smiled, tossed the frijole del oro into the air, and then caught it.

When the airport security people saw the bean, they knew that she was a friend of Loca Sanchez. Smiling and nodding, they let her pass on through without any further trouble.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

And ever since Sister Shannon put that whammy on him, Waldo Carniceria has not been able to make one single accurate prediction.

His popularity has dropped so much that he hasn't dared to try any more crazy plans.

You know, lady--we've been driving around all this time, and I've been going on and on, telling you my story--but you never did tell me where you wanted to go.

Oh, look! Here we are, where it all began: The Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Now why did I bring you here?


"That's all right. I belong here."

Oh. Okay, lady. Then, about my fare. . .

"Please accept this, along with my thanks, Pedro 'Trompeto' Alvarez."

Hey, lady--I can't buy gas with a kiss and a. . . a white rose?!

Lady! It's you! Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God!

Please forgive me, lady--Our Lady! Before, I didn't get a good look at you. I. . .

She's gone.

People wonder why I--Trompeto--"Protector of Mexico" still drive my cab, to this day. . .

I do it because of the words my grandpa said to me--about always having a day job to fall back on. . .

And because I like sharing my stories--and the sweet smell of roses that She left in my cab--with my passengers.



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