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June 12 , 2009

The Lies That Kill You


In the best of times Stan Willis wouldn’t have considered a weekend in Tijuana any more enticing than one in Rwanda. And with Mexican drug lords playing war games with police and drug rivals this is hardly the best of times. But there is a prize in this explosive Mexican piñata—hard-to-resist evidence to clear Stan and Marvin Rowan of a crime hanging over their heads.

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Proving one’s innocence of something as amorphous as insider trading works best in having evidence incriminating someone else. And this is the hook—a retired LAPD detective, living in Mexico, claims to have this exonerating information on a DVD, and lunch is arranged with the detective in Tijuana.

By all rights it should be an easy trip, a two-hour drive from Los Angeles to Tijuana, lunch and return. Well, of course, there has to be a catch, in this case a second DVD, one dealing with far more weighty issues, evidence of political corruption involving a police captain, a wealthy developer and Los Angeles politicians.

While the detective is only seeking advice on how to proceed with his DVD, he is soon murdered and Stan and Marvin inherit both DVDs, which sends them directly into Tijuana noir. The police captain has sent to Tijuana a team of Los Angeles barrio gang-bangers to retrieve the DVDs and kill whoever has them. Add the Tijuana police along with state and federal law enforcement to those pursuing them. The boys are boxed in.

Cars are shot out from under them, good-hearted women deceive them, hotel rooms come and go. They are non-violent men ultimately forced into violence. A genteel Martha Stewart white collar crime has deteriorated into “Scarface” brutality.

Both are employed by Warmweather, a software development company, Marvin in research, Stan in marketing. A former journalist, Stan had turned to marketing, disillusioned by his experiences as a war correspondent in Iraq and a short-lived marriage. And while Marvin would not have been Stan’s first choice as a traveling companion they have no choice in scrambling for their lives in Tijuana’s Third World ambiance. Stan’s doubts about Marvin are borne out and resolved.

In their mid 30s, Stan and Marvin are an odd pair—Stan is a compact 6-footer, wry and clever, Marvin is a computer geek, with the appearance of a caveman, an oversized 6'8", with a beard and shaggy long hair. In an attempt at lesser visibility Stan revamps Marvin: beard cut, hair trimmed and dyed, and draped in a new wardrobe. It sort of works.

Ultimately they discover why they were set up, and deciding to reverse matters go on the offensive, conceiving a border crossing strategy, fleeing to Brown Field, a private airport east of San Diego, where a Los Angeles TV station helicopter is to pick them up, only to find their enemy has followed them, forcing them into one final face-off.

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