Death on the Cheap: The Disappearance of Nick Schrock

By Jake Strickler, Editor-in-Chief

Note: A previous version of this article erroneously reported that the body of an American male roughly matching Nick Schrock’s age and physical description washed ashore in the Sonoran city of Guaymas at the end of June, 1982. I have since discovered an official report stating that the body was, in fact, discovered on 8/30/82. The deaths of the two men in Los Mochis are confirmed.

This is the first part in a series of articles that will be published over the next weeks investigating the 1982 murder of Thunderbird professor Nicholas Schrock. It’s a big story that deserves breathing room and a certain attention to detail. I intend to give it both. I have determined, with a high degree of certainty, who killed him, potentially along with at least six other American citizens. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve also uncovered the words and deeds of those whose dissembling and deliberate obfuscation resulted in the ultimate lack of justice served, some of whom held or went on to hold positions of prominence at the Sinaloa state and Federal levels. I’ll here give the caveat that what follows is my analysis of reportage and source documents: no conviction has ever been handed down in the murder of Nicholas Schrock. I will present the facts, offer my interpretation of them, and allow you to make the ultimate determination of culpability or lack thereof.

This is also, to my knowledge, the first time the story will have been told in its entirety. There were no blueprints for me to follow. I’ve cobbled this together from newspaper clippings and handwritten notes and yellowed, brittle Telexes. What I offer is not an authoritative account, which would, at this point, be all but impossible to produce, but a jigsaw puzzle completed to the best of my ability. To that end, if you have any personal knowledge of the case; knew Nick Schrock or his wife, Ruth; or find your name in what follows, please contact me. This story certainly will not stop occupying my thoughts when the last word is written. There are a great deal of puzzle pieces still out there, and I won’t be satisfied until the picture is complete.

After wading through the hundreds of documents meticulously collected and preserved by Thunderbird’s longtime archivist Nelda Crowell, Schrock himself remains the biggest mystery to me here. But that may be immaterial to the matter at hand; although Nick Schrock lies at this story’s center, it’s his very absence that propels it. And for those caught swirling in the eddy around the vortex that his disappearance left, it was also a source of immense sadness, frustration, and anger. It’s to them that I dedicate all of this. Just as their repudiation of injustice and corruption motivated them, their preternatural tenacity motivates me.  Here’s to them.


Nicholas Wickham Schrock was born in 1939 in Massilon, Ohio, a city about 20 miles south of Akron. He was was never a tall man, standing 5’7” and sinewy at his peak. In high school, he was a champion debater as well as a Golden-Gloves-boxer. He lettered twice in wrestling, both the result of draws; he never won a match but he never gave up, either.

nickHe went on to receive a B.A. in Speech and English from Cleveland’s Case-Western Reserve University, followed by a Master’s in Economics from San Diego State in 1963 and a Ph.D. in the same from the University of Oregon, Eugene. His academic career went on to consist of positions teaching economics and economic theory in Eugene; Edinburgh, Scotland; Reading, England; and, eventually, Boulder, Colorado. It was in Boulder that Schrock’s specialized obsessions flourished: Keynesian economics, commodities futures trading, international trade and finance, and monetary theory and policy.

In 1979, Marshall “Marty” Geer, V.P of Academic Affairs at Thunderbird (then called AGSIM; the American Graduate School of International Management), persuaded him to add our campus, far from the beaten path of the academic world of economic theory at the time, to his resume. Geer and Schrock weren’t strangers; they’d shared an office in Eugene in the mid ‘60s, were colleagues at C.U. Boulder in the ‘70s, and had remained close friends up until Schrock’s disappearance. Coincidentally, Schrock had served as instructor to three AGSIM faculty members by this point: Taeho Kim, William Wilby, and James Mills. As Geer wrote in an email to Nelda Crowell in April of 2010, “[Schrock] took my two oldest sons camping and mountain climbing several times; he played catch with my youngest. We all still miss him. The search for his remains was the saddest episode of my life.”

Schrock began taking seasonal sabbatical from the University of Colorado in 1979 in order to teach units for Thunderbird at three overseas universities with which it was partnered: China’s Beijing Institute of Foreign Trade; The Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST) outside of Tokyo, Japan; and Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara (UAG). A 1979 Das Tor interview with Schrock by B.J. Hammond published under the “Meet Your Professors” column gives no clues as to Schrock’s personality; he dominates the piece with discussion of his work. I’ll provide the article’s fourth paragraph as representative:

“Once he has abstracted and quantified his problem…the artist in [Schrock] must then judge whether both the product and process of his analysis have captured the substance of the problem in its broader economic and social implications, and whether the product is genuinely applicable to reality.”

It only dries out from there. Hold on to that quote, though, because it’s exactly what I’m trying to accomplish here.

The overwhelming majority of personal remembrances of Schrock’s character paint the same picture: a consummate professional with a laser-like focus on his work. Beyond this, Nick had two other great passions in his life: the outdoors, particularly hiking, mountain climbing, and camping; and his intense devotion to his wife, Ruth. Not much else seemed to matter very much to him past the carefully curated collection of interests and relationships that brought him satisfaction. The fact that these interests didn’t often overlap with those of others led many to characterize him as an oddball, or a loner. As Nick’s brother-in-law told an interviewer from the Milwaukee Journal in July of 1982, he “was not the backyard barbecue type.”

Das Tor. 10/10/81.
Das Tor. 10/10/81.

While this description might give the impression of a simple, even monastic, life, Schrock was, in fact, a man of great complexity and contradiction. He was quiet and self-contained, yet never shied away from confrontation with anybody who disagreed with him. There are reports of knock-down, drag-out verbal fights with academic colleagues over points of theory and policy. A memorial article by an IIST student, translated and published in the 8/27/82 issue of Das Tor, describes him as a paragon of responsibility who could generally be found after class jogging up the trail ascending Mt. Fuji,  summiting it multiple times during the winter and spring months of 1981-2 in which “it was very cold, the winds were quite strong, and Mt. Fuji was covered with snow”. Schrock, the imminently responsible professional, the student says, got a kick out of the suicidal challenge. Also playing into this death-trip image is the fact that he was a health-nut who smoked like a chimney. This is a piece of information first related to me by the one Thunderbird alumnus I’ve met who claims to have known Schrock. I didn’t hold much faith in it until I came across an article confirming his multi-pack-a-day Pall Mall habit.

Another facet of Schrock’s life that fascinates me endlessly is the only other hobby I’ve found reference to: the saxophone. While the instrument was never recovered following his disappearance, its case was, proving that he had enough dedication to the horn to bring it with him to Mexico. Was Schrock, the deeply logical economist, a jazz fan? Who did he listen to as he sparked up cigarettes while driving down the Mexican coastal highway? Charlie Parker? Art Pepper? Glenn Miller?  Was he a crazed be-bop fan, chaotically breaking every rule of the form, or was he a big-band man who played tunes with a clean resolution? Jazz is a music that can be as technically and theoretically abstract as the commodities futures markets, or it can take the theory and smash it up. At which point of the spectrum did Schrock’s predilections lie? Was music an extension of his work or an escape from it? Was the sax a mere release valve that allowed him to step, ever so momentarily, out of his own cranium, as his smoking habit may have been, or are there deeper depths to plumb here? I’ll never know.

MapOn May 21, 1982, Nick and Ruth arrived at the Thunderbird campus after a long drive from Boulder. He’d spent a couple of weeks in Colorado after returning from teaching a unit that had split its time between Beijing and IIST since 12/15/81. As Marty Geer states in his email to Nelda Crowell, Schrock was “reluctant to do the program in Guadalajara” because he had spent the previous summer doing research in the southern Mexican state of Colima and had a strong desire to spend the summer of ’82 in Colorado. But Geer didn’t have anybody else who was qualified and willing, and Schrock decided to do his old college buddy a favor.

On the morning of 5/30/82, Nick dropped Ruth off at Sky Harbor Airport for a flight back to Colorado, and pointed his white ’81 Datsun pickup toward Mexico. He’d opted for the coastal route of Highway 15, via Nogales, Hermosillo, Guaymas, Obregon, Culiacan, Mazatlán, and Tepic. He telephoned an IIST student from a Sanborn’s auto insurance store on the Arizona side of the Nogales border crossing to discuss the “Incomplete” grade she had received in Schrock’s course as the result of a serious illness. He then purchased a 90-day policy for his truck. Records show that he crossed the border sometime around 5:00 p.m. He was never heard from again.

“Damnit, I Don’t Know”

The standard true-crime narrative follows a predictable trajectory: a person (or persons) commits one or more actions violating the agreed-upon laws governing our society.  The thin blue line separating civilization and anarchy is crossed. Evidence is assembled and the guilty are (usually) apprehended. Justice is then either meted out or miscarried. We know up-front that there will be resolution and catharsis. We get to have our cake and eat it, too; to learn the lurid details and see the blood splashed about in Technicolor, knowing, all the while, that the guilty will, nine times out of ten, get what’s coming to them.

Detective-Story-January-16-1932However, the besotted forefathers of writers like Ann Rule, Harold Schechter, and Vincent Bugliosi, who have printed money adhering to this formula, had made this structure obsolete long before it graced the aisles of our grocery checkout stands. The crime writers of the 1940s and 50s, guys like Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett, spun tales of such anarchic complexity that who killed who became a distraction. Rather than trying to rationalize crime, their novels started from a point of irrationality and worked backwards from there. Their characters existed in the real post-war America: the photo-negative of the Eisenhower white-picket-fence era.  They acknowledged the moral terror of the Holocaust and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the ultimate irony of a country that extolled the merits of freedom for all while simultaneously committing acts of systematized violence against entire racial groups. These writers, appropriately, minimized the crimes that took place in their stories to the status of grotesque comedy. What’s one life lost when put up against six million, after all? In their worldviews, life was cheap, including their own.

Ray Chandler, to zero in on one, was an off-and-on (but mostly on) drunk who somehow avoided cirrhosis of the liver and lived until the ripe old age of 70. In contrast, David Goodis, who wrote a few shades darker than even Chandler, managed to shuffle off this mortal coil at 49, following a stroke triggered by injuries incurred resisting a robbery while walking Skid Row, Philadelphia, observing “lives gone wrong” in an “urban environment teeming with criminal life and despair:” a favorite pastime of his and a demise that I’m sure Ray was envious of. Chandler was famous for saying things like, “I’m an occasional drinker, as in I occasionally go out for a beer and wake up in Singapore with a full beard.” He attempted suicide more than once, and his failure to follow through amounted to a sick joke played on him by a world that he found increasingly morally intolerable. When his 1939 novel The Big Sleep was turned into a seminal Bogart and Bacall noir film in 1946, he penned the script but was often too blitzed to make it coherent. William Faulkner was called in for support. Director Howard Hawks sent Ray a cable during filming asking who was responsible for a death early in the film. The zorched Chandler famously wrote back, “Damnit, I don’t know.”

thebigsleepIt’s this mentality that we need to adopt if we’re to comprehend the Schrock murder. It’s a jumbled, bloody mess that took place in an environment in which a man’s life was, as we shall see, as valuable as a tube of toothpaste. Nick Schrock’s death was grotesque, nihilistic, and, to the perpetrators, no big deal. Nothing makes sense and the true-crime narrative format is discarded from the beginning. What resolution there is provides nothing resembling catharsis. As Patty Burnett, a journalist for Boulder’s Daily Camera, wrote in an article headlined “Schrock Case Perfect Hollywood Fodder,” published 7/5/82, “If the Schrock case weren’t a tragedy, it might be a comedy.” Burnett’s characterization was freakishly prescient: about a week later the investigation would reach a fever-pitch of macabre absurdity lying somewhere between the Keystone Kops and Ed Gein. It’s to this series of events that we now turn, but keep Chandler in mind. “Damnit, I don’t know,” is a line that encapsulates and explicates the Schrock case. Ray was prescient, too, or maybe he just had an atypical understanding of death on the cheap.

How old was Genaro Juarez when he was arrested? Who was “El Nene” and was he ever caught? When was the Datsun found, and where? How many of the “San Ignacio 7” were taken into custody and when? Who was the eighth reported in several accounts? Damnit, I don’t know. But I do know that I know enough.

Ghosts on the Highway

In contrast to the inconsistencies, contradictions, and obfuscation that characterize the story that follows, it was a bizarre series of concordances that dropped it in my lap. Thunderbird Finance Professor Michael Moffett received his Master’s in Economics in ’83 and his Ph.D. in the same from C.U. Boulder in ’85. In the fall of 1982, Nicholas Schrock was lined up to teach a course in Monetary Theory that Moffett was enrolled in, but Schrock never showed, for reasons that will become obvious. This was the first time Moffett had heard of Thunderbird.

C.U. Boulder: The Schrock-Moffett-Strickler nexus.
C.U. Boulder: One of the Schrock-Moffett-Strickler nexii.

I was born at Boulder Community Hospital in 1989. Ruth Schrock, Nick’s wife, worked there as a nurse at the time. My mother worked in Patient Services at the adjacent Boulder Medical Center off-and-on for two decades. There’s no conceivable way in which they did not cross paths at some point. Additionally, I completed my undergraduate education at C.U. Boulder; Schrock and I have spent large chunks of our lives walking the grounds of the same universities. I have no idea whether Ruth is still alive; I poured my soul into a letter that I mailed to her last-known place of residence last July (a house in Boulder’s University Hill district that she and Nick bought in the mid ‘70s) and never received a response. She may have seen the return address and set it aflame without reading a word. If I were her, that’s what I would have done.

Moffett sicced me on this about a year ago for, I think, three reasons: the Boulder-Thunderbird connection that we both share with the Schrocks, my obsession with history (especially where aberrant or criminal behavior is involved),  and (I suspect) his recognizance that I’m a hound-dog that wouldn’t let this one out of my jaws until I was satisfied.  He sent me PDF scans of a couple of articles about the disappearance and told me that he’d never had the time to run it down. I was hooked. Dipping a toe into this story exposes the inquisitor to a wide and rapid river of blood. I jumped in head-first and wallowed in the mire. I’m satisfied with the answers that I’ve emerged on the opposite bank with, but it was a plunge that left me unsettled and nauseous. I’ve learned that it’s one thing to read about all this talk of mass graves and electo-shock torture when somebody else has done the legwork, but it’s another thing to put the pieces together oneself. This is not, I’ll emphasize, a pretty story. But, as the Everly Brothers sang, I’ll do my cryin’ in the rain.

TortillaSchrock’s death, as gruesome as it was, was but one piece of a couple of larger, parallel stories. One tells us what happened and the other tells us why. I’ll start with the former: a blunt object was repeatedly applied to Schrock’s head, a garrote was wound around his throat, and a knife was potentially thrust into his torso. It was all over in a matter of minutes. Nobody knows the exact circumstances and nobody ever will. But Schrock’s ghost haunts the location where the murder took place, along with a multitude of others. A Newsweek article published in 1982 states that in the preceding five years, 24 American citizens – all solo travelers – had been murdered while driving down Highway 15. In the days following Schrock’s disappearance alone, two fresh American bodies were discovered in the Nayarit town of Los Mochis. A cartoon published in the Arizona Republic paints this stretch of road as “The Tortilla Triangle,” a play on the legendary Bermuda Triangle: people enter it and…just disappear.

On June 2, the body of John Mills of Santa Monica was found floating in a river, beaten, stabbed, and gagged, with one end of a rope tied around his neck and the other end looped around a large rock apparently meant to weigh him down. It had become lodged between two larger rocks and the river’s current dragged him to the surface. Cause of death was listed as accidental drowning. Exactly one week later, the corpse of Randall Scott, of Newport Beach, was discovered propped against a rock facing the Pacific Ocean, shot through the temple, evidently with the pistol that was found grasped tightly in his hand. I’ve sought forensic analyses regarding the chances of a pistol remaining in a person’s full grip after such a manner of suicide and it’s…rare. The coroner, nonetheless, ruled the death a suicide and the case was closed. By all accounts, Scott was a happy man on vacation. We’ll err on the side of conservatism and mark this one suspicious.

Gavin, Ronnie, and the Red Menace

John Gavin, appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by Ronald Reagan from 1981-1986, will become a major figure in this story. He was a B-movie actor with no political experience prior to his appointment outside of a two-year stint as President of the Screen Actors Guild, a position previously held by Ronald Reagan from 1947-1952.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico John Gavin
John Gavin, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico 1981-1986

During that period, incidentally, Reagan actively worked with members of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to create the Hollywood blacklist, a group of suspected communists and communist sympathizers working in the entertainment industry who, well, had trouble finding work after their names had materialized on the list. HUAC was infamous for its coercive techniques; a man called in front of the Committee was expected to “name names” or risk ending up on the list himself. I mention this for two reasons: coerced confession is a theme that runs throughout this story, and Reagan’s obsession with halting the specter of global communism, on display in the 1940s, is something that would metastasize to the level of moral duty by the time of his 1981 swearing-in as President of the United States.

Normally, such a volume of American death would attract the attentions of various U.S. investigative agencies: the State Department, the F.B.I., even the C.I.A. While all of these agencies play a part in the story, they all deferred to local investigators in solving these cases. At no point did any one of them take an active role. The question that this naturally leads us to ask is, “Why not?” I think that I have the answers, and they’re not easy ones to digest.

Time Magazine, March 1986
Time Magazine, March 1986

This is where our second, and larger, story kicks in. Post-revolution Mexico served as the buffer zone between the U.S. and the proliferation of leftist regimes taking hold throughout Central and South America. José López Portillo, President of Mexico at the time of Schrock’s murder, tended to straddle the fence, which made a lot of people in the Reagan administration nervous. He and Reagan considered themselves close friends, but, at the same time, Portillo was actively supporting Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista National Liberation Front, an activity that the Reagan administration was decidedly not in favor of.

1982 was also the year of the Mexican sovereign debt crisis, the point at which the chickens of the “Mexican Miracle” – a period between the early 1940s and late 1970s of sustained year-on-year GDP growth of 3-4% – came home to roost in the form of economic stagnation and mass unemployment.  Up to this time, petroleum and mining exports constituted 70% of Mexico’s GDP, according to Sidney Weintraub in his 2010 book Unequal Partners: The United States and Mexico. The Mexican government had borrowed a lot of money against the hopes that crude oil prices would remain high. Much of this cash came from U.S. lenders. When the bottom dropped out of the oil market in ’82, Patrick Oster wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that “Reagan administration officials are particularly nervous about what a default on debt payments by Mexico would do to troubled U.S. banks…If Mexico failed to make interest payments for a year on its $21.8 billion debt to U.S. banks, it could wipe out one-third of the annual profits of the top nine U.S. lenders.” In other words, if Portillo decided to flash Reagan the bird and drop off to the left side of the fence, some of the biggest banks in the U.S. could be looking at failure.

Sandinistas in 1987: a glimpse into Reagan's nightmares.
Sandinistas in 1987: a glimpse into Reagan’s nightmares.

Reagan administration officials like John Gavin, then, had a strong incentive to not, as they say, rock the boat. In fact, Gavin’s perceived impotence in this matter would earn him the title of The “Unspeakable” Gavin in a 1983 letter from Ruth to Marty Geer. Against her wishes, though, we do need to speak of him, and also determine whether he earned this sobriquet as a result of impotence or forces beyond his control. I think that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.


The search begins.
The search begins.

Nick Schrock, without a doubt, entered Mexico on the afternoon of 5/30/82. He spent the night at a hotel in Hermosillo. He woke early, and continued the drive. In Guadalajara, orientation was scheduled for Wednesday, June 2, and the first day of classes for June 3. Nick’s teaching companion for the summer was fellow AGSIM professor John Conklin. Neither of them had arrived by June 2, or 3, or 4. Alvaro Romo de la Rosa, the professor in charge of the AGSIM program at UAG, was, understandably, concerned. De la Rosa telephoned AGSIM on June 3 to inform the Academic Affairs office that neither of the professors was present for the first day of classes. Geer, in an internal AGSIM document published July 16, writes that “No steps were taken that day, since the men were only 24-36 hours overdue.” In Phoenix, June 4 was registration day on campus, “so the telephones were not answered from noon on.” Late that afternoon, though, a Telex was received from de la Rosa informing the school that, still, neither Schrock nor Conklin had shown up. Geer immediately contacted the American Consulate in Guadalajara.

June 5-6 was the weekend. AGSIM Dean William Voris flew to Guadalajara for the night of Sunday the 6th. One Telex relates Voris’s hope that Conklin will have turned up by then, as he was looking forward to playing tennis with him. And Conklin did happen to make his appearance on one of these days. His car had broken down en route, he said, leaving him stranded in a town that had no telephone with which to inform either AGSIM or UAG of his situation. But on Monday, June 7, Schrock was still M.I.A. The following day, Geer and his assistant, Stephen Beaver, flew to Guadalajara. The trip had been planned in advance, and was unrelated to Schrock’s disappearance. Nonetheless, the two met with Guadalajara Consular official Frank Lantanzi, who assured them that the office would begin “pressing the inquiry.”

Telex 2The following day, June 9, Jorge Garibay, son of the President of UAG, started applying pressure to his own contacts. The Federal Police (whose status is comparable to the American F.B.I) and the Mexican military were now involved in the search. On Thursday, June 10, Geer and Beaver returned to Phoenix. AGSIM’s Chair of International Studies, Joaquim Duarte, was asked by Geer that evening to reach out to Ambassador Gavin (an old buddy from Stanford) for assistance, and Geer filed a missing persons report with the Glendale police. In Boulder, Ruth Schrock did the same. On June 11, AGSIM Vice President Lee Stickland began tracing Schrock’s financial activities. A travel advance of $4,295 had been given to Schrock on May 24 against his contracted Guadalajara teaching stipend of $7,500. The check was cashed by Schrock the same day, and an account opened at the Valley National Bank branch at 43rd Avenue and Thunderbird Road. Using these funds, leftover Japanese Yen from his prior teaching assignment, and savings, Schrock purchased a treasury instrument as well as $5,500 in traveler’s checks to be used over the summer.

On Sunday, June 13, the first article about Schrock’s disappearance was published in Boulder’s Daily Camera. Ruth Schrock and Marty Geer spoke several times by telephone this day, and Geer decided to use the school’s Mexican contacts to initiate the search for a reputable private investigator. Nothing came of this search, although a few weeks later Geer would be contacted by a Tucson-based, self-described “mercenary” offering his services. Determining this individual “flaky,” Geer turned him down. On Tuesday, June 15, Geer reached out to the State Department’s Citizen’s Emergency Center in Washington and Duarte called up Gavin. Both received the same response: absolutamente nada to report. The story didn’t change over the remainder of the week, and on Wednesday, Phoenix media began to pick it up.

Telex 3On Friday, June 18, de la Rosa informed Geer that he had hired “three men with police connections” with money from his own pocket to track down Schrock. Geer obtained permission from AGSIM’s Executive Vice President Berger Erickson (who had held the position since the school’s founding in 1946) to reimburse de la Rosa. Whether the school liked it or not, it now had bounty hunters on its payroll. On Monday, Geer called Washington again and learned that a woman named Betsy Malpass had been assigned to the Schrock case. In Geer’s estimation, Malpass was “completely uninformed about the situation.” She offered him State Department boilerplate: their agents had spent the weekend checking the morgues, prisons, and hospitals; standard operating procedure. After disconnecting with Malpass, Geer placed a call to the Phoenix office of the F.B.I. Since Mexico was not in their jurisdiction, the office could offer no official assistance, but Special Agent Kenneth Dougal pledged to make an inquiry on an informal basis.

There were no developments over the following week. Ruth had stepped up her involvement, sending letters to various Mexican and U.S. officials requesting assistance. During this week, Marty Geer also began to detect the impression that the State Department was leaning toward painting the disappearance as voluntary. One Alec Peltier, supervisor of Betsy Malpass, phoned Geer with a series of strange questions about Schrock’s tenure at IIST – Did he exhibit any odd behavior? Did he engage in sexual relations with his female students? Geer answered these questions firmly in the negative, but was put off by the implication that Schrock had, in some manner, snapped. It certainly would have lessened the State Department’s load if Schrock had gone native; a Colonel Kurtz of economic theory. Nobody, Geer most of all, saw this as a viable explanation. He’d known the man for twenty years, after all.

Welcome to San Ignacio.
Welcome to San Ignacio.

Between June 28-30, however, the case broke. Bob Downes and Michael Oreste, U.S. Consular officials stationed at the Embassy’s Mazatlán outpost, received a tip from a drifter/petty criminal that Schrock’s truck was in the village of San Ignacio, about 15 miles east of Highway 15. It could be reached only by a twisty road, the turnoff for which was 30 or 40 miles north of Mazatlán. Downes made the trek on the 29th and found the Datsun parked outside of the home of San Ignacio’s mayor. By the time Downes discovered the truck, though, it was too dark to do much about it. The next morning, he returned with twenty soldiers from the Mexican military.

The truck, it turned out, had been outfitted with a loudspeaker system and was being driven by Mayor Francisco Javier Palacios Sarabia in his re-election campaign. National elections were to be held in five days, on July 4. One other man had been seen driving the truck with impunity over the previous month: Arnulfo Velarde Cruz, San Ignacio’s Chief of Police. The license plates had been removed, but the VIN was intact. This number, obviously, matched the number on the report that had been making the rounds of the Sinaloa state police force for the past month. The jig was up. And, what’s more, John Gavin telephoned Duarte that night with news that, in addition to the discovery of the truck, a body had been found, an arrest had been made, and the police were seeking one more suspect. Geer and Ruth immediately booked passage to San Ignacio via Mazatlán, and left as soon as was possible. This is where things get…strange.

The second installment in the Schrock saga can be found here

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