Title: The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Graciela Limón
Publisher: Café Con Leche
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The Intriguing Life of Ximena Godoy follows the story of a woman from very early life to maturity. Her tale takes place in the early to mid-twentieth century unfolding first in her native Mexico, and ending in Los Angeles, California. It is a story of love and revenge told against the historical events of Revolution, Repatriation, War and Peace. When Ximena Godoy falls into the abyss of crime, she faces the punishment demanded of that crime.
XIMENA GODOY stood in the empty cocktail lounge, struggling to catch her breath. It was just before daybreak, on an early December morning, She had sprinted up the stairs to glare out the window at the commotion below. After a moment, Ximena opened her fur coat, fumbled to feel the wetness, then jerked her hands away and wrapped the coat tighter to cover the blood. On impulse, she reached for a cigarette and her lighter, but when she flipped the lid, the metallic click was so chilling that her hand shuddered violently. Once the cigarette was lit, she sucked in a long drag, inhaling deeply into her lungs, and waited for the jumpiness to pass.
Ximena tried to shake off the terror gripping her, but her mind slipped and staggered as she relived the moment when Camilo’s body had crumpled onto the street. She still felt the impact of falling onto her knees and hunching back on her heels, holding his bleeding head on her lap. Now, trembling, she looked out the window and muttered, “It’s done.” She took another drag on her cigarette, but the steadying calm she needed from the cigarette still didn’t kick in; the earthquake inside her continued—it just would not go away. Again, she glanced out the window and this time saw the coroner’s ambulance pull up next to the man’s body sprawled on the street.
Los Angeles 1950
The nightclub faced Sunset Boulevard, on that half curve4 THE INTRIGUING LIFE OF XIMENA GODOY
just before it intersected with Alvarado Street, so from her vantage point Ximena could see up and down the street. As she watched, it filled with cops piling out of black-and-white patrol cars, cherry lights whirring, splashing the damp pavement with flickering shadows. Some of the officers were busy writing; others exchanged words about the killing that had happened less than an hour before. On the opposite side of the street, a couple of newspaper reporters haggled over a camera and the pictures they had taken.
Ximena was taking it all in; she wasn’t about to miss anything. She watched when the rear panels of the ambulance swung open and two orderlies jumped out to help ease the gurney down next to the corpse. She stared as they paused, took a breath and then heaved the body up onto the stretcher, and just then she took a good look at Camilo’s blood-soaked head and shirt. His tie hung limply around his neck, and that sight made her hand shake so hard that the ash from the cigarette flaked onto the front of her coat.
The lounge was dark, lit only by the flickering reflections that bounced up off the street and smeared onto the ceiling. For a moment Ximena looked around at the rows of cocktail tables piled with upside-down chairs. At the end of the room, glittering in strange reddish shadows, was the long bar that had been so jammed with carousing, smoking customers just a few hours before. Nervously looking for an ashtray, Ximena moved closer to the bar, and for an instant she glimpsed her reflection in the darkened mirror behind the rows of colored bottles. She took a hard look and saw an angular face, its sharp features drawn by a startled expression.
It didn’t cross her mind that most people thought her looks were very special, even now at fifty. Maybe it was her smooth skin, or that pile of black hair, that made her so attractive; or it could have been the way she strutted on those high-heeled platform shoes; or perhaps the way her shoulders shimmied just a little when she spoke. On the other hand, she was actually more striking than pretty. When she glanced at a man, he got the message right away, and could be enticed to be by her side in a split second. Women, too, responded to her looks. They saw that she had a certain allure, a natural glamour and grace that
GRACIELA LIMÓN 5
made her striking. They knew that it came from inside her, and it made her different from other women.
Some people knew that despite her good looks and what they saw on the outside, the real Ximena Godoy was a closed book. Others said all sorts of things about her, especially that she didn’t know how to love, and that her life’s path was littered with withered love affairs. Well, that might have been so, but who really knew? Maybe it was just that she was reserved and solitary, or maybe the truth was that no one really knew her, and so they had no right to talk.
Ximena’s mind was fixed on her mirrored image when the flashing lights suddenly jerked her back to the scene down below. She turned, still searching for an ashtray, but she couldn’t find one so she let the ashy butt drop onto the floor and then absentmindedly squashed it with her foot.
The detective called out Ximena’s name twice before she turned to look, but it took her a moment to make out the man moving toward her. He was dressed in the style of the times: dark flannel suit with a matching tie and vest; a fedora pulled low on his forehead, an unbuttoned raincoat over his suit. In general, the detective cut a heavy-set figure, maybe a little out of shape.
When Ximena didn’t answer, he repeated, “Mrs. Ibarra?” She finally spoke up, “Miss Godoy.”
“What? Sorry! I didn’t catch what you just said.”
“I said, I’m Miss Godoy.”
“I thought you were… ”
“Married to the dead guy? No. We were partners, not married. My name is Ximena Godoy.”
“Right! Well, miss, I’m Detective Poole with Homicide. We need a statement from you. You’ll have to come with us to the station.”
“Why? Don’t you get the picture? There was a holdup and my partner was shot dead. We were robbed. What more do you need?”
“A lot more, Miss…”
“Right! You’re the only witness. We need to ask you some
6 THE INTRIGUING LIFE OF XIMENA GODOY
questions and get a signed statement from you.” “Now?”
“How will I get home?”
“Someone will drive you when we’re finished.”
Ximena leaned against the bar as she reached for another
cigarette, but when she held the lighter to its tip she, realized that her hand was shaking even more than before. She glanced at the detective and caught his sharp eyes taking in her nervousness, so she hid one hand in her pocket and tried to steady the one holding the cigarette.
“All right, let’s go.”
Once in the vehicle, she crouched into a corner; she was scared, and the dark streets didn’t help her get hold of her nerves. It was December in Los Angeles, with one of those drizzles: just enough rain to muddy pavements and cars. Inside the car, the swishing sounds of tires on the pavement and the back-and- forth rhythm of the windshield wipers broke the eerie silence.
The patrol car reached the precinct entrance and pulled up to the curb. When the vehicle stopped, Ximena pulled the collar of her coat high around her neck, stepped out and quickly climbed the steps to the front door. Inside she found Detective Poole waiting and ready to open a door into a small office. Without saying a word, he motioned with his head for her to step in. When she did, he followed and then pointed to a chair facing another man sitting behind a desk. The seated man was wearing a hat but not a jacket; his tie was loosened at the collar, and his face showed signs of serious fatigue.
“Thanks, Poole, and that’s it for now.” The man turned to Ximena, “Sit there, Ma’am. I’m Detective Tieg, Poole’s partner.” Then he reached into his shirt pocket for a cigarette, lit it, and Ximena did the same. He spoke with a drawl, as if perhaps he was from Texas, or maybe Oklahoma. He then pushed back his hat, giving her a clear view of his face: lean and craggy with flinty blue eyes.
The room was dim, lit by an overhead fluorescent light that cast a grayish tint on their faces; even Ximena’s coffee- toned complexion looked ashy. The bad lighting was made worse by heavy cigarette smoke, so it took her a few minutes
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to see that over in the corner was another cop sitting behind a typewriter, evidently ready to take down her statement. Tieg slid a form toward Ximena: “Fill this in. We need your full name and address. When you do that much, then we can get to your statement.”
Ximena filled in the blanks and then pushed the sheet back toward the detective who was rubbing his face, evidently trying to get new energy. He muttered, “Okay. Let’s start at the beginning. About what time did it happen?”
She said, “About three.”
“What makes you think that?”
“We usually close the club at two in the morning. We had
already done that.”
“What happened during the hour between closing time and
when the robbery came off?”
“Camilo and I stayed behind to have a nightcap. We
do…did that all the time.” With that, Ximena turned to look at the man tapping out the questions and answers and wondered how he kept up, but she knew from the clicking and pauses that he was catching every word. Then Tieg asked, “What happened next?”
“As always, we closed the place and headed for the car.” “Where was it parked?”
“Around the corner.”
“Where did the robber jump you guys? Were you in front of
the club or down the street?”
“We had just come out so we must’ve been in front of the
“Where did he come from? The side? Or maybe from another
“I’m not sure. I think he came from behind us.”
“Did you see his face?”
“I turned when I heard his voice, but I couldn’t see his face
because it was covered.” “Covered?”
“Yes. He had a handkerchief tied over his nose down to his chin. And his hat was so low, all I made out were his eyes.”
“Is that when he pointed the gun at you?” “Yes.”
8 THE INTRIGUING LIFE OF XIMENA GODOY
“Right or left hand?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“You said that you heard his voice. Was there anything about
it that caught your attention? Anything like a funny accent or drawl?”
“No. All he said was ‘Gimme the satchel.’ His voice was ordinary. Nothing different about it.”
“What about his eyes?”
“What about them?”
“Well, were they slanted, like a chinaman’s?”
“No they were regular.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean they were round.”
“Was the guy a metzican or a negro?”
“He wasn’t a negro. If you mean mexican, then maybe he
was, but then maybe he wasn’t.”
Tieg made a sour face. “What about his size? Short? Tall?
“He looked about six feet and he wasn’t fat.”
“Was he dressed like a bum, or like just another gigolo who
might’ve been in the club dancing and drinking?”
“He wasn’t a tramp. He was dressed in a dark suit and overcoat.” And after a pause Ximena said, “What do you mean,
“Never mind! Was there anybody else with you and Mr.
Ibarra? The barkeep, or maybe a waiter?” “No.”
“Camilo didn’t think he needed anybody tonight.”
“Okay, let’s go back to when the guy ordered Mr. Ibarra to
pass the satchel. What then?”
“Camilo snapped, ‘No!’ Then the guy grabbed the bag, but at
the same time Camilo tried to rip off his mask.”
“Did he rip it off?”
At that point Ximena seemed out of breath. She finally
Although he noticed that she was shaky, the detective still
pushed for more information. “Go on!”
“They fought over the bag, real hard, going back and forth.”
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Her voice was rough with strain but she went on. “Then I grabbed the guy from behind, by the collar, and I made him lose his balance. He nearly fell. Then the gun went off.”
“Went off? Like, an accident?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. There was a shot. That’s all I remember.”
“And then he pulled the bag from Camilo’s hands and ran away.”
“In what direction?”
“I don’t know. Away from us.”
“Then what did you do?”
“The next thing I remember I was on my knees with Camilo’s
head on my lap. He was shot through the head. He didn’t stand a chance.” At that point Ximena was finding it hard to breathe so she clammed up. The tapping of the machine stopped. Everything stopped. Even Detective Tieg let up on the questions, but after a while he went on. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I have to ask questions about you and the victim. What was he to you?”
“He was my partner.” Her voice was a whisper.
Tieg glared at her and then asked, “What kind of partner?” “Business,” she answered.
“Is that all?”
This time, it was Ximena who glared at him and said, “What
do you mean?” Tieg squirmed a little. “I have Mr. Ibarra’s driver’s license here, and it shows the same address as the one you just gave on this form.”
“Yes, we lived together.”
“Then I’d say that he was more than a business partner.” “And you want to know if we slept together.” Ximena’s retort
was quick and wrapped in sarcasm.
Tieg countered, “Well, you said it, I didn’t, but now that it’s
out, what about it? Did you or didn’t you?”
“Yes, we slept together. What’s that got to do with the
robbery and Camilo’s death?”
Without hesitating he snapped back, “I can’t tell right now,
“Look, Detective, I’m tired and real upset. I’m going home.” “Just a couple more questions before we finish. How did the
10 THE INTRIGUING LIFE OF XIMENA GODOY
thief know that Mr. Ibarra had money in the bag?” “I don’t know.”
“How much was in the satchel?”
“About ten thousand.”
Tieg whistled through his long front teeth. “Christ! That’s a lot of dough! Was that just one night’s work?”
“No. It was money that came in during the week. We kept it in a safe until Sunday when we took it home for Camilo to deposit Monday morning.”
“Is that what you always did?”
“Besides you, who else knew your routine?”
“I don’t know if Camilo told anyone.”
“How about you? Did you ever tell anyone?”
Tieg stared at Ximena, and she guessed that his eyes were
snooping for scraps of information that she might be holding back. When she sensed that he was trying to catch her in a lie she shut up and waited until he spoke. “Okay, ma’am, that’s it for now. Don’t leave your place in case we have to reach you.”
A short time later the patrol car slid through the now- awakening streets off Sunset Boulevard. When the vehicle pulled up to the curb in front of her house, Ximena didn’t wait for the driver to come around to the door before she pushed it open, jumped out onto the walkway leading to the front of her house, and in moments she stood facing the front door. “Jesus, why did I let Tieg rattle me? He saw through me, and I let him do it,” she muttered until she finally reached into her bag for the key, but because her hand was shaking so hard she fumbled around for a while before she found it.
When she finally made it through the door the house was shrouded in early morning shadows, but Ximena didn’t put on a light. Instead she kicked off her shoes, slipped out of the coat, stripped away the bloodied dress and let it fall on the floor. She kicked it aside. The place was cold so she headed to the bedroom to find something to pull on, and there she found the robe she had left on the bed the night before.
Thinking of Camilo, she absentmindedly put on the wrap and waited to warm up. Ximena returned to the front room
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where she lingered in the long shadows creeping in through the windows. She went to the liquor cabinet, poured a drink, helped herself to a cigarette, lit it, and then she went to the sofa where she sat trying to put things together, all the while smoking and exhaling thick coils of smoke that spiraled up toward the white plaster ceiling. Unmoving, she stared at the shadowy patterns inching across the floor. Daylight was making its way into the room.
Ximena scanned the room: high ceiling, bricked fireplace, polished wood floors, plush woven rugs. She sipped while taking drags on the cigarette, and when it burned down she lit another one, and yet another one. All the while she was lost in thought, reliving the events of the night that ended with Camilo shot through the head. Then, too agitated and nervous to sit, she got to her feet and paced the room while she drank, smoked and thought. The cops will wise up. They’ll track down Chucho Arana, and he’ll talk. The thought of her lover made her stomach churn. I’ll disappear. Just become invisible. Who’s to know? Then, suddenly struck with another thought, she stopped. Wouldn’t that prove that I’m guilty? With that idea Ximena returned to the couch; she decided to take a chance and stay put.
Ximena felt alone and scared as she sat in the gloomy room staring at nothing, but relieved when after a while she felt herself calming down. Maybe to escape those fears and anxieties bearing down on her, or maybe searching for a way out, she shut her eyes and let her memory take flight back to the beginnings of her life.