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For All Nails Pt 138b: The Darkest Colors

June 2, 1949
100 hours

Prescott's Point
Angel Island 
California

The vitavision, a model that had been old even before the war began, flickered
a few times before the news image returned. The old Kramer compound in
Guadalajara in flames, the shifting red glow highlighting the green uniforms of
the cheering MVL [FN1] men and the three dangling forms by the lampposts.
_Madre de Dios,_ thought Sheriff Walker Bush, _let those be effigies._ Bush
watched, transfixed, until the commander of the Guadalajara garrison came onto
the broadcast, explaining why it was so difficult to keep the veterans
organizations from attacking ex-Kramer men and ex-Kramer property, and why the
anti-war movement had to be crushed so thoroughly. "Hey!" He smacked the
cellulite tabletop, pulling the morgue attendant from his dog shift
entertainment. "Doctor Kandinsky said the autopsy was finished?" 

The attendant, a middle-aged German with dark glasses in a wheelchair, looked
up, his left arm jerking up like a live thing and pointing at the interior
door. "In room THREE, mein...ah, jefe." "Thank you..." Bush shook his head as
he walked past the man into the morgue proper, his jackboots hollow on the
steel floor. Kandinsky, a Siberian refugee, had made the city morgue a
sanctuary for the flotsam and jetsam of several shattered continents. He
recognized a Chinaman washing an exam table before he found the third door. 

"Ah, Senor Bush! Bueno day!" The beefy former Siberian medic waved as the
sheriff walked into the room, a Caroline cigarette clamped between his lips and
his hands gesticulating in the air.  Kandinsky's hands were a study in colors;
red and cracked from a lifetime of antiseptic hand-washing, pale and bleached
>from the gloves he favored, and black from things Bush would rather not think
about. Just like he'd rather not think about what, or who, he knew lay beyond
the curtain behind the coroner. "You're a prompt man, you don't see that much
in the hombres in blue." 

"Yes, well, I wasn't doing much." Bush remembered Eva. Hispano, and so one of
the very few non-Anglos in his social group; there because her grandfather's
failing cattle ranch had turned out to sit on the largest silver mine in Del
Norte. They'd been engaged, or nearly so, before he'd gone off to war, they'd
exchanged letters until April 30, 1945, when he'd opened a Dear Juan letter
while standing in the barracks of Base Calles, the small Air Corps base in
Nambre[FN2]. Leisure time hadn't seemed like so much after that. "So, you've
got the results?" 

"Yes, of course!" Kandinsky swept aside the curtain and Bush nearly vomited. He
concentrated on the doctor's eyes, black and bloodshot, the red reflection from
the exam table all he could handle right now. "Subject is a nineteen year-old
Anglo female, identified as Julia Clinton of Brooklyn City..." He raised an
eyebrow. "I hope the Tory consulate doesn't get pissy, damn uppity norte
americanos..." 

"...And for your valor, Captain Bush, I and the Congress of the United States
of Mexico award you our highest and most sacred decoration of valor, the Purple
Heart of Honor..." As the President pinned the medal to Bush's hospital pillow
and delivered his speech, Bush caught Silva's eyes and realized that Mexico's
national leader believed everything and knew nothing." 

"Traces of marihuana and alcohol in her system, but of course the cause of
death is obvious." 

"And that's why we want you for the Order of the Eagle and Serpent, Walker."
The Mexico City party was crowded, but he suddenly felt alone in the room with
Manuel Huddleston. "You're a war hero, you're an Anglo, you're an honorable
man..." He leaned closer. "We've got to do something about those pacifist
cabróns, mi amigo, before they bring down the republic and all we've
accomplished." 

"Left leg is completely absent along with lower third of the viscera, right leg
missing approximately two inches above the right knee, right hand and forearm
missing to just below the elbow. These other bites here, where the eyes and
lips and ears used to be, were mostly our friends the crabs and our friends the
seagulls..." 

"You know we need veterans, Walker." Martin Wadsworth's eyes glittered
excitedly when he spoke, the same way they had glitterered when discussing the
United Mexicans back at University. "They can't keep cracking down on us,
calling us norte aristo spies and cowards, if we have an Honor Medal winner on
the Central Rainbow Commission, you could let us hit them back and hard..." 

"So, my verdict is definitely that this was a-" "Shark attack." Bush felt
himself flush pale and his voice start to crack. "Definitely a shark attack."
Kandinsky laughed. It was deep, rich, and not a pleasant sound. "You know our
friend the great white?" 

"Oh, yes." 

---

June 2, 1949
800 hours

"And so we've got to close the beaches, Miguel." The German clock on the wall
started to chime and Bush nearly jumped out of his skin. His visit to the
morgue had shaken him far worse than he'd first thought, and an anxious seven
hours drinking New Granada's Own hadn't helped his nerves. "There's a big Shore
Patrol station at Colorado City[FN3], they've got professional shark hunters I
can bring in to kill sharks; I can put out deputies on shark patrol, maybe ask
Commodore Carranza..."

"Walker, Walker..." Miguel Sanchez had been Mayor of Prescott's Point since the
Calles administration. There was a reason for that. He smiled perfect teeth and
stood up from his German hardwood desk. "I know you're doing your best to
impress your new community, and believe me, we're all very impressed. But think
for a minute." He gestured grandly to the big window next to him, to the city
spread out below. "You know most of our neighboring communities have gone under
in the last eight years. The men drafted, the mujers and ninos on relief or
starving in a tenement in Santa Fe." "We've been lucky, damn lucky, and we're
on-" 


Sanchez picked up a razor-sharp bayonet. As a young man, he'd fought in a
"Volunteers for Orders" company after the French invaded. There was a reason
there were only five ex-slaves on the island. "a knife-edge here. If you close
the beaches, if you announce that there's a shark in our ocean, it'll kill this
town sure as a bullet in the gut. You know sharks, they come, they eat
whatever's around, they leave. If our boy has only had one attack since he got
here, I'm guessing he's far, far away by now. I know you don't want to look
like an Anglo padrone destroying an Mexicano town, but if you do this..."

---

"Damn it, damn it, damn it..." Bush was cursing under his breath as he walked
out of the municipal building; fortunately there was still no crowd at this
hour to notice the sheriff cursing up a storm. _Maybe he's right,_ Bush
thought, _I don't know everything, maybe it was just a one-time attack, and I
don't want these people to starve...maybe I just need some sleep_ 

Bush was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he barely noticed the graffitti
on his patrol loke until he'd reached the green and gold craft. ARISTO IR
HOGAR!, it screamed in the Spanish of a poorly educated Hispano, in the red and
black of cheap boat paint. COBARDE MUERTE! The windscreen's glass was
shattered. 

"Damn. It." 


---

Thoughts? 

[FN1] Mexican Veterans' League, one of many extremist, anti-Kramer
organizations that has sprung up since the beginning of the War Without War
[FN2] OTL's Nome. 
[FN3] At the mouth of the Colorado River, in OTL a swamp, in the ATL a
moderately successful reclimation project of the Hermoin regime.