Author Note: One from the archives. I wrote this in July, 2012 – posting today in honor of Turn Back Thursday. Feeling oddy prescient with the GOP discussion on borders and immigration in this election year.
“Phase one government curfew to be enforced in three…two … ”
It was after seven, but before eight. You could tell because after eight p.m. phase two commenced and they never gave you a warning. Citizen or not, you were made to pay then and there in live ordinance. I have several scars that can attest to this.
“Citizen code twelve foxtrot zero zero charlie seven zero five.” The nonsense code that once tripped up my tongue came forth easy and sure.
The drone bot had that infinitesimal pause as it communicated with whatever higher power was listening, probably in Tucson. “Thank you citizen, your code has been logged, be safe and go home. Phase two government curfew commencing in twenty-five minutes.”
Twenty-five minutes. This whole operation had to pick up the pace if I was going to get out of the hot zone in time.
The enforced government border curfew was something left over from before the takeover. A federal mandate for all areas running between Mexico and the States in an effort to curb illegal immigration from Mexico to America. It was ironic that the roles between countries had switched and the border patrols were now holding Americans in. Too many Americans had been fleeing into Mexico in search of work and security that was just not available stateside anymore since the Chinese corporate takeover of 2017 and the fallout war of 2019.
The fallout war of 2019 was the last ditch effort of some proud Americans to take back their country by a sloppy “any means necessary” doctrine; short bursts of guerrilla warfare and terrorist bombings that ended with a series of dirty bomb explosions throughout Texas and Arizona. I guess they felt if they couldn’t have America then no one should. Poor losers.
I checked my Geiger counter. I knew the area to be safe, but sometimes windstorms kicked up debris that caused the radiation levels to spike. The levels tonight were high, but not enough to make me sick, provided I did not stay out here much longer.
The shipment was running late, which was putting me in hot water. I put the binoculars to my eyes, scanning the blackened tree line; looking for the signal.
Five minutes later I saw the steady three beat pulse of blue lights from the trees. I flicked my flashlight twice in response, anxiety rising as it always did at this point. If things were to go suddenly, horribly wrong – this was that point. The fact that this group was coming over so late did not stir my optimism either.
I watched the beige pickup slide across the desert between me and the trees. They were driving too fast, fishtailing through the sand. I gave a silent prayer that they would not roll over. The breeze blew the engine noise to me, the pickup was not sounding good; like a wounded, whining animal.
I jogged to my nearby SUV and started it up. There would be no time here to make sure they understood what they could expect as they became illegals in Mexico. I would brief the families on the other side. I scanned the paperwork as the pickup closed the distance. A small group tonight: man, woman and little girl.
The truck pulled up. I noted the new bullet holes in the side and the broken out passenger window. Jeff climbed down from the driver’s seat, wincing. He was having a hard time standing up straight. His leg had a twist to it and he was pressing down hard on his left hip.
“Quince,” his words taut, lips tight. “Sorry we’re late – I’ve got three tonight, man, woman and little girl.”
“Jeff,” I said back in greeting, climbing down from the SUV driver’s seat “You look a bit more dinged up than usual – you alright?”
Jeff had been working these runs for a few months now. A likeable nineteen-year-old kid, a strong back. He reminded me of me when I had been so young and strong in body and ideas.
“I’ll be fine, bullet went through and through.” He tried standing up a little straighter, which was painful to watch, let alone for him to try. “We had to leave hot-”
“You can tell me about it later.” I said, cutting him off. “No time. We are pushing our luck as it is. Let’s get you unloaded and on your way.”
Like so many others before them, they were clustered into a tight-knit knot of family. Middle management specialists I would guess, their clothes were nice but not too nice. Hair a bit shaggy. The father had even brought along a leather briefcase, I noted some scrapes on the side and wondered how fresh they were. I greeted each person in turn, polite but brisk. Handed them a laminated reference card of commonly used Spanish words and phrases; “Puede ayudarme?” (Can you help me) “Gracias” (Thank You) ” No hablo español” (I Don’t Speak Spanish) “Por Favor” (Please).
“I am sorry folks but we are on a very tight timeline. Here are your Mexican citizenship papers. Jeff is going to drive you over the border but we need to trade vehicles.”
I shook the middle managers hand, whose name was already fading from my memory.
Jeff started to protest but I gave him a hard look and he knew he was shut down. I drew close to him and said “There is a new Free Clinic Angeles in Cananea. Ask for Dr. Romano. He’s fixed me up before, he can do the same for you.” Time, not enough time. “Just be sure you send someone along with my paperwork so I can cross over with next Wednesday’s run.”
“I promise Quince.” Jeff winced as he gave an awkward salute before hoisting himself into the driver’s seat “Thank you.”
“Try not to bleed on my seats so much. If it gets too bad have-” the names were already gone, I felt ashamed, “one of them drive you.” I looked back at them, eyebrows raised looking for assent. The man nodded, dark brown eyes behind glinting horn-rimmed glasses. “Welcome to Mexico.” I said and gave the SUV door a final slap.
A quick check of my watch after I had climbed onto the pickup’s blood sticky seat. Four minutes. The safe house was five miles from the border. It was going to be close. Just five miles in and I could lay low until morning.