Three years ago,
Samuel Fernandez sat at his kitchen table staring at an egg white omelet with gluten-free toast wondering if it was worth eating. The cancer was spreading from his lungs, and the doctors wanted him to go north to see a specialist, but Sami made it clear he would never go into that country. He told his son Jorge that the American’s war on drugs was fought to let the white men kill the brown men and keep them in their place. He was proud when his son Jorge joined the army to defend the country from the outsiders even if it meant having to work with the Americans. But right there and then he had this egg-white glob staring at him and an appetite that didn’t want anything to do with it. He could feel the angry and sad stare of his wife Maria as she cooked for their fifteen-year-old daughter Maria and their nine-year-old son Titus. Samuel thought about his children and started to eat wanting to be there for them. He even thought about going to America and seeing those doctors.
Little Maria as she was known came out of her bedroom and into the kitchen wearing only her purple nightgown. The gown came to her knees but was just a little too revealing for her father’s taste. He had told his wife that she just looked too much like a woman in the gown when Momma, as she was known said, “she looks like a woman in everything she wears.” Little Maria sat at the table, and her mother gave her a plate with sausages and eggs that made Samuel’s stomach lurch. He fought the urge to vomit and went back to his paper. Little Maria watched her father’s hand shaking as he held the paper. They could hear Titus in the bathroom rapping along with some song he was playing on the radio. His voice broke with the words making the act more comical then he knew causing the others to fight not to laugh. Little Maria stopped laughing when she saw her father’s shaking grow worse.
When most people in American think about a small village in Mexico if they think about one at all picture rustic adobe buildings and cobblestone lined streets with more mules than cars. The small village of Jaluco was a place that could easily be confused with a small town in New Mexico, Arizona or even Spain. The village was built around an old mission that was long abandoned then built back up to support a tire plant built after the North American Free Trade act or NAFTA help made in Mexico become a plausible thing. Eventually, the tire plant moved north to Alabama, but the town with the small subdivided subdivisions remained. Smaller manufacturers moved in giving this place along the border a reason to exist even if the locals didn’t like being used. Samuel was a third-generation auto mechanic running the shop his grandfather opened in the 1920s. He was one of the few in the area with experience working on Toyotas and other Japanese cars. He preferred working on the non-American cars. The village was near the highway and the border but not much else. This remoteness along with the access to the highway made it a place where people could cross the border for work or with drugs. It also made the village a target for something worse.
Samuel put his paper down and saw his daughter staring at her phone. She was never without the thing as he called it and hated both it and the bill. Samuel said, “put it away or lose it.” Little Maria just looked at him. Samuel said, “no phone at the table. How many times do I have to say, no phone at the table?” She looked over at her mother who said, “do as your father said or so help me.” Before a threat could be said, Little Maria put the phone in a pocket in the front of her nightgown. Samuel said, “get dressed, or you’ll be late for school.” Little Maria hated the uniform for the Catholic school she attended, but Samuel liked seeing his daughter dress in clothing that made her blend into the crowd. For a few hours a day, she was that young girl on her way to her first day of school and not the woman that turned the heads of way too many older men. Little Maria got up with a bounce and went into her bedroom. Momma Maria said, “I can’t believe we have to buy her yet another new cup size.” Samuel said, “I don’t want to know that.”
There were a thump and a crack in the bathroom that on any other day would signal the boy had broken yet another thing. This time the music had stopped. Samuel thought, “thank God.” Momma Maria asked, “Titus is everything OK?” There was no answer. Samuel yelled, “answer your mother.” A strange whoomph sound came from his room then the smell of something foul and strange. Samuel watched as his wife went into the back. She made a gasping sound followed by the same strange sound then the sound of something falling and hitting the floor. Samuel got up and started for the back when he heard Little Maria scream. He came around the corner to find his wife on the floor with blood pouring out of a hole in her head. Little Maria was there with a man behind her one arm around her the other with a gun pointed at him. The man was wearing all black from his boots to the mask over his face. The front of Little Maria’s dress was ripped open as she tried to fight the man and hold the dress closed. Samuel could see his son’s foot just inside the bathroom doorway along with a large amount of blood along the door jam. The man pushed his hand into the ripped opening of Little Maria’s dress until he had exposed one of her young breasts. Maria pleaded, “papa.” The man pointed and fired the gun. Samuel didn’t feel the round strike him in the head. He saw blood as the room went black. The man pulled his mask off and said to Little Maria, “I’m your daddy now bitch.” He forced her back into her room and did things to her that was worse than death.
Across the village, the individual houses were cleared out and anyone found was killed. That is almost everyone. The cartel had connections in human trafficking, and they knew that girls ranging from seven to nineteen could bring about a good payday. They drew the line at selling boys, so any boy found was just killed on site. Any child, boy or girl under seven was also killed, but they didn’t waste a bullet knowing a knife or boot works just as well and is cheaper. The remaining girls including Maria were brought to a warehouse on the border side of town. Most of them were beaten and bruised or worse. When the unnamed man was finished, he had let Maria put her nightgown back on and clean up a little. Maria found the little eight-year-old Jessica Martin among the group of girls. Maria would babysit Jessica on some nights, so their parents could go out. Jessica had a crush on Titus. The Two embraced as Jessica asked where Titus was along with all the other boys. The man took her phone, but he left a marker she had in her pocket. Maria wrote a number on Jessica’s arm and told her to call when she was free. She figured that the men didn’t count the girls, so she helped Jessica out a hidden vent in the back. Jessica made it out of town and to the border where she found a family crossing. They had a cell phone.
Jorge sat on a beach on the gulf side of Mexico near a resort. He was wearing a pair of bright blue Speedos and orange flipflops. It was mid-day, and neither he nor Luis had done anything but sit by the pool. Luis was in a matching pair of Speedos. It had been about two years after he left the army and about six months after they became more than friends. Luis always knew he was gay. His father would call him queer or something fowl if he knew so Luis kept his life his and away from his family back home. Both Luis Martin and Jorge Fernandez were from the same town, and their parents were longtime friends, but he and Jorge didn’t know each other until the army. Jorge never had a girlfriend. He had girls that were friends but never a girlfriend. Luis would drive across the border and look for people that felt the way he did finding a couple of clubs that didn’t ask questions. Both men were proud to be from Mexico and never wanted to leave. They became friends in the army and rented an apartment together afterward. One night over a bottle of cheap whiskey they became more than friends and Jorge started to understand himself a little better. They both worked in security using their specialized training to help protect rich people’s stuff. Jorge’s phone rang. The number was one he didn’t recognize, but he answered it anyway. The girl on the phone was frantic, but he knew her voice as one of Luis’s sisters.
Jessica, her six-year-old sister Jessie, twelve-year-old sister Sara and fifteen-year-old brother Jacob were waiting for the bus when a van pulled up, and four men came out with guns. The man force Jessica and Sara into the van. One of them asked Jessie her age. She said, “six.” Before the door closed, Jessica saw the men stab her brother and little sister to death. She and Sara screamed until one of the men struck her in the face. One of the men held her licking her face as two other men ripped at Sara’s dress until she was naked. Sara said, “Jessica turn your head.” The man holding Jessica whispered, “do that, and we do the same to you.” Jessica watched as the men took turns with her sister. When they were done, Sara curled into a ball in Jessica’s arms. Sara cried but didn’t make a sound. One of the men came over to Jessica and whispered, “I think I’ll keep the two of you for myself.” He put his hand up her dress and squeezed her between her legs breaking something causing her to bleed. Sara looked at her sister then at the men. She got up and started to attack them causing the van to swerve. One of the men pulled a knife and buried it in Sara’s chest.
Luis turned white as he nearly smashed the phone in his hand. Jorge had handed him the phone when he recognized the voice. As Jessica told him what happened, he could see his family as they were on that last day before he left for the army. There was a thump, then another thump and Jessica screamed. A voice came over the phone saying, “stay out of our business if you know what’s best for you.” Luis figured the men found his sister and killed the family that helped her. When the sunset, the two men made their way into their hometown. Most of the lights were off, but there were trucks and various all-terrain vehicles patrolling the streets with armed men in the back. A large flatbed truck piled with bodies slowly went down the street as men added to the pile. They were cleaning out the dead from the homes. They watched as trucks hauling boxes of something into the empty homes. Luis’s house was empty, but there was a light on in Jorge’s family home. They looked inside and saw three men in the living room watching football (soccer). Another three in the kitchen and a sound coming from a bedroom. Jorge looked inside and saw his sister Maria. Her clothes were ripped away, and she was underneath a man as he went at her raping her. Her face was bloody and bruised, but she didn’t make a sound. Jorge went to make a move when Maria shook her head and mouthed the words, “just go and let me die.”
Over the next few days, Luis and Jorge watched as an army of men reworked the town until the invasion was complete. The unknown cartel moved in their families to help make the village seem normal. About every third house was empty and filled with boxes of what had to be drugs and guns. About a week into the take over the tunnel was started. It became clear that they had no chance to win against the army the cartel planted in the village. They never found Jessica or any of the other girls. They did find one of the mass graves filled with the bodies of children. They also never found out the name of the cartel. Luis did some research finding out that the larger cartels acted like small nations within the country with their own armies. In his research, he found a place on the California border that forced the gangs out by cutting off their ability to smuggle into America while fighting addiction on the American side. Luis realized while they could never win a war against the cartel, they could use such a tactic to make occupying their village undesirable. Force them out by starvation or do enough harm to bring in the Americans. From there a plan was formed.