Cabo '98

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Love too much, care too much, hurt too deep
Peter Kohlsaat
Monday, February 9, 1998

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO --That was all the note said written by the woman who was hanging from the ceiling fan in her room. She checked-in late Tuesday afternoon, February 3rd. She was petite, no taller than five foot, with short black hair. She had no baggage other than her oversized handbag. The office manager was busy checking-in another guest, so the woman quickly paid cash for the room, not giving her name or any other information. She told the office manager she did not wish to be disturbed. Later that night the office manager remembered seeing her talking with two men under the hotel’s main palapa. Twenty-four hours later she would not be able to remember anything about them other than they had been male and they had been guests. A lot of guests checked-out Wednesday.

Tuesday night it rained. Rare big black clouds had rolled in across the mountains from the Pacific blotting out the stars and the almost half moon. The palm trees were groaning in the wind; the heavy fronds rustling madly.

Some time around ten the next morning the woman paid for another night. This time the office manager got her name, address, and phone number. Emilia S. Siva. 915 S. Casa, Dallas, Texas, 78078. (214) 555-1116. Check-out date: 2/5/98. She paid with U.S. dollars. Emilia Silva may or may not have been her real name. According to the Dallas police there was no such street as S. Casa.

The phone number had a legitimate Dallas area code but the number had nothing to do with an Emilia Silva.

Again the woman told the office manager to make sure no one disturbed her. About the same time, due to a break in a nearby water line, the hotel was without water and would be until precisely two o’clock that afternoon. Two Mexican guests saw her sometime early that morning leaning against a raised stucco flowerbed. They said to her buenos día and she replied buenos día. They remembered her seeming to be deep in thought. They were the last ones to see Emilia Silva alive.

About nine that same morning Gary Busk, the hotel owner, began to work on his van which was parked six feet outside the woman’s room. Between nine-forty-five and ten-thirty he recalled hearing the door to the room open and close. It was distinctive because of the rubber squeegee fastened along the bottom of the door and the sound it made moving across the concrete floor. He took a break for lunch around noon and when he returned at two-thirty, he could hear the shower running. He was glad the water was back on and the guests could finally enjoy a shower. After a half-hour the shower was still running. She was very much enjoying the shower, he said to himself. An hour later the shower was still running. He noticed that there did not appear to be anyone in the shower due to its static drone. Perhaps she had turned on the water earlier in the day, he thought, and when no water came out, she forgot to turn it off, leaving the room. He took out his key, turned the knob and the door resisted. There was a piece of furniture against the knob. The presence of someone in the room was confirmed, since there was only one way out of the room. He closed the door, apologizing through the thin metal door, and returned to work on his van.

For another hour and fifteen minutes the shower continued. About four-thirty he had heard enough shower. He felt he had been more than a tolerant hotel owner. Hell, what’s ever going on in there, it is my water, he thought. Still respecting the privacy of the registered guest, Gary enlisted the hotel manager—a sweet 25 year old Mexican woman—to open the door. She put in the key, turned the knob, and met the resistance. She pushed a little and the door opened. The woman, Emilia Silva, was hanging from the ceiling fan.

The first to arrive were the blue-uniformed local police in one of the unmistakable new white Dodge pickup trucks they drive—six policemen, two up front, four in the bed. None wanted to look into the room. They acted like the doorknob was hot. The head guy would peek in every now and then, "Yep, she’s hanging all right." They were waiting for the arrival of the Judicial Police. The Judicial police are the ones in plainclothes who drive whatever vehicles they happen to have confiscated. In the meantime other local police came to mill about and be part of the crime scene. There was a lot of ooing and ahhing and subdued talk going on.

The local police were surprised to discover the woman did not actually live in the room. In fact, they were surprised to discover they were at a hotel. When the call was placed to the local police informing them of the incident, directions had to be given on how to get to the hotel. It seemed no one had ever heard of the hotel--and San Jose del Cabo is a very small town.

About a half-hour later the head of the Judicial Police arrived. He began asking questions; all the same questions that the local police had been asking earlier. The responses were being recorded on an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper folded in half, held his palm. No one was allowed to touch anything in the room until the District Attorney arrived. The DA was en route. Meanwhile various police were walking in and out, the body still suspended from the fan. Twenty minutes later the DA showed but refused to cut down the body until the arrival of the photographer. The photographer arrived, shot the photos, the body was lowered, carried out, and plopped on the open bed of a white pickup. The owners of the hotel suggested that rather than carry a dead body through town in the back of a pickup, they were welcome to the bedspread to wrap the body so they did. Three police hopped in the back and the truck headed down the heavily washboarded dirt road, in a roundabout way to the police station.

In Mexico, after two days, unclaimed bodies are cremated. First and foremost on the mind of Gary Busk, was to obtain a usable set of fingerprints. Previous to running the hotel, Gary Busk worked for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. He is extremely familiar with police procedures and the resources available to law enforcement agencies. Emilia Silva is, at this point, a Jane Doe. Gary does not want her to forever remain a Jane Doe. He is willing to keep working at tracking down her family.

There are some clues. There were three notes. Two were similarly worded suicide notes, one written on Tuesday the other on Wednesday. The first one was found crumpled in the trash. The third note was contained the words:

Living will

February 3, 1998

Do not recesitate.

Below that the victim had signed her name, and then torn it off, leaving only the top loops of the letters, which did not correspond to the name Emilia Silva. The torn off piece was never found. Because of the two suicide notes and a sweater sleeve found in the trash indicates she most likely attempted to take her life twice.

There were two photos in her possession. One of a woman, not the victim, taken in a tropical or subtropical location, where palm trees are common. The other photo is of three children in the snow: a girl appearing to be in her mid-teens, another girl about 12 or 13, and a boy of about seven or eight. There is snow, but it is not cold out. This photo is smaller and cut from a larger photo. Both photos were developed at a Fox Photo somewhere. There is a number on the back of the photo: < >011 520 03**NNNN13 2(074).

The words, "Do not recesitate" are precisely correct to indicate a valid living will, leading Gary to suspect the victim was familiar with dealing with death. Either she was a member of the medical profession in some capacity, the legal profession, or she had recently experienced the death of someone close, perhaps from cancer, who had a living will on file.

Gary also feels that, because of the wording of the suicide notes, something had been taken from her, a relationship or her children. She had lost something.

He doesn’t believe she was from Dallas, but intimately knew someone from Dallas with whom she corresponded.

Gary feels strongly that he will eventually talk directly with someone who knew who this woman was.

Final note: any information that could facilitate the identification of "Emilia Silva" would be welcomed. Please email: Gary Busk at:

Zelda’s diary

Not much going on. Went camping. Things were moving all by themselves, all over the place. Wild. Found a very sweet place out of the sun. Quiet. Still. I could see everyone; everything that was going on at the car. I could see when people were going for a walk. It was great.

There was a big dog there. Just a youngster. Had weird yellow eyes, like a cat. I think he lived there. He would come over and eat my food and drink my water. That was OK. I didn’t feel like eating. But he would bug me. He wanted to chase me around; play. Oh, a little running in circles is fine, but enough! I had to get tough. Some serious snaps and growls. He knew what I meant. Even though these dogs are way different than the dogs back home, we all understand each other.

Last night Peter took me to a house with lots of little humans around. Running around like crazy. Grabbing me. Pulling my hair. Jumping on me. Pouring all sorts of shiny stuff all over my body. Sheeeesh. And there were these round things over my head, moving all by themselves. Sometimes they would simply disappear, and when they did—POP! Loud! I HATE that. I couldn’t even hide under the table because all these little humans were right there. They could fit under the table just like me. And there were lots of other dogs, all looking for human food--lots of sweet food. But it was OK. Nobody got mean.

Otherwise, it’s just been a lot of hanging ‘round the hotel. Eating. Sleeping. Giving the cat an occasional chase. They dig it.

Peter's diary

Wind. Zelda doesn’t get it. It moves things around. It makes noises. It causes towels, awnings, umbrellas, curtains to flap wildly in the air. As the wind builds, trees sway, the sound of its leaves and branches growing louder and louder. Car doors creak. Pots and pans blow off the table. Somewhere in Zelda’s past, the wind was evil. All this from a dog that has no hesitation about putting her whole body out the window of the van at 60 mph.

Sometimes during a thunderstorm, like a child in the dark, Zelda will jump onto my bed and curl up against my body. Other times she may simply disappear. One time we were camping on the Missouri River, where the weather seldom sneaks up on a body. It was late afternoon and large, black clouds had gathered along the western horizon. We had just finished dinner and I was busy with the dinner dishes and putting things away for the night. The front began to move through the campground, announcing its presence by a sudden wind. The big cottonwood trees swayed mightily. Whitecaps sprang up on the surface of the river. I continued to busy myself. During this time Zelda had vanished. I had no idea how long she had been gone. I whistled. My whistle is loud and piercing. I circled the campsite, whistling in all directions. I looked under the van, in the van, under nearby vehicles. I searched the riverbank, thinking that perhaps she may have fallen down the high clay banks into the muddy river, unable to make her way up and back. The dusk turned to night. I continued to search with my flashlight. Holding my flashlight in one hand I cruised the campground on my mountain bike. It then began to rain. At first, the raindrops were large, sounding like pebbles as they met the earth. It soon became a cold, constant wetness.

Zelda wore no collar, but surely no one could suspect her of being an abandoned dog. As I circled the campground I stopped at RV’s, campers, and tents where light glowed. I asked if anyone had seen my dog. I described her. Some of them remembered seeing a dog like that earlier. At the campground office, I left a note in the late pay box, explaining my dog was missing.

All sorts of thoughts began to run unchecked through my somber panicking mind. I didn’t know what more I could do. It was eleven o’clock. Not one light shone anywhere in the campground. I began to mist up. I could only return to my van and wait until morning. The thought of leaving Mobridge, South Dakota without Zelda was inconceivable. I would stay until I found the dog. Final. I couldn’t sleep so I read.

After a short while someone rapped on the side of the van. I peered out the wide-open side doors. By now the rain had subsided to a winsome drizzle. The man told me he thought he had heard a dog barking off somewhere. He pointed into a black abyss. I told him to show me. He walked me down a service road pointing all the while. I thanked him and began to walk, totally unconcerned whether my frantic whistles were disturbing those asleep.

Here came the dog. Just like nothing was wrong--wagging her tail, nose to the ground, lingering at tree trunks. We passed the man and his two young children who were there to greet us as we emerged from the dark. I thanked them for sharing my concern. We returned to the van and we went to sleep. This was the first time she had shown me her dread of wind.

Cabo Pulmo, on the Baja’s East Cape, is renown for its wind during the winter months. So when I went camping there a couple days ago, the gale winds and the rioting waves did not surprise me, as the exotic blue ocean swept across the miles of shallow reef. Of course, I was hoping for the rare wind from the south and the alee calm, but it was not to be. We were camped on the beach, side doors opened to the sea. The curtains blew wildly. The trash bag swung from the door handle. Paper and white plastic bags scurried by. The doors creaked as the wind tried to close them. Things fell off the plastic picnic table.

Zelda spent the entire two days under an over-turned rowboat 50 meters from the van. She would emerge to go for walks but she would not come to the van. She would not eat or drink. She would not even eat leftover dinner scraps, as unbelievable as that might sound to anyone who knows her. At night she stayed under the boat. In the morning she was under the boat.

When it became obvious that we were leaving, she made a dash for the van, popped into the passenger seat and was ready, as always, to vamonos. Once back in motion, she hung out the window and paced in her seat, looking for cows, just like nothing had ever happened.

The website of cartoonist Peter Kohlsaat
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Travels with Zelda, OutWest '97
Kent is about fame, one of the most obvious goals society celebrates. Kent has achieved this benchmark by being the lead character in a marginally successful cartoon strip. This has allowed him an amount of marginal fame, just enough to be silly, like so many others.
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Travels with Zelda, Cabo '98
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Just boppin' around the Baja

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Hanging out at the Iguana
The cow on the road - was it an omen?
Love too much, care too much, hurt too deep
As you can see, any guy can get a girl if he's got a Harley
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Prez Ja - the sweetest 14-foot aluminum boat that has ever been dragged across the sand
Even though Terry caught the fish, I was proud to be photographed with it.  With another two months having Prez Ja, I hope the next photo of me with a marlin is a marlin I caught.
My new office
Old timers: They sure do know how to fish! The van in typical camping mode, this time at the beach at Los Frailes

What was once a very utilitarian nine-foot shore casting rod was now a pathetic, unaesthetic stick
Howie and Zelda on the briny for a day of not catching fish
The Baja is a mecca for all cow-obsessed dogs
Unnatural elements were still coursing through his system. Rocks, he told me, were all looking like shark teeth
It was Marcos' fish, to bring in or lose.  I would content myself to sitting in the bow, smoking a cigar, a witness to the theater
For four years Bobby has been trying to get me to rent one of his pangas, telling me, You will catch fish
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