When I hear a grown person whining about anything I just want to walk right up to them and slap them silly. That would give them something to really whine about.
I know I can’t do that, but I can dream can’t I?
When I hear a grown person whining about anything I just want to walk right up to them and slap them silly. That would give them something to really whine about.
I know I can’t do that, but I can dream can’t I?
Throwback Thursday – “100 Years Of Turning Left”
AUTO RACING IS BIG, VERY BIG IN INDIANA. This year it is even bigger.
“Why, Oh, why?” I hear someone ask.
The reason is that this year is the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 race. This year, as in every other year, 33 cars will tear around the 2.5 mile track for 500 miles – turning left the entire time.
SOME PROBLEMS SEEM TO BE IMPOSSIBLE TO SOLVE. I’m not talking about some mathematical Gordian Knots and things like Time Travel or Pauley Shore’s career. No, I mean those everyday things that tend to drive us all slightly bonkers. There are problems and if we use our collective imagination we can find solutions.
Problem #1: Those pesky phone calls from “Hi! This is Elizabeth from the Resort Rewards Center!”
Where we go to eat changes weekly. Some weeks we go out for pizza. The next week we might hit one of the 70,000 chain restaurants that have found a home in Terre Haute (That’s French for “What’s your soup today?”). You name a franchise eatery and it has a store here. Good, bad, or ugly, if they have a plastic menu they can make a buck feeding the residents of the Hautian Ocean.
With all of that other stuff we now have to deal with something called “Ransomware.”
Ransomware is described in the Media as a virus that can infect your computer, locking up access to your files. The solution is to pay a “Ransom” to the perpetrators who will then unlock your computer. Nice, huh?
“Dominic, killing us won’t solve anything,” said Laura. “What’s done is done. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that Graciella was the law. I ran away from you because I wasn’t going to take you beating up on me anymore. If I’d wanted you dead all I had to do was ask my father and you’d have disappeared.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about hitting you, Beverly. You know something, Bette? Beverly here has a mean one-two punch. She knocked out a tooth of mine once. See, back here.” Dominic opened his mouth and pointed to a gap in his teeth with the barrel of his gun.
A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.
Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.
They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.
Chapter 37 Continued
As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.
It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.
They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.
“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.
“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up.
“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.
Chapter 36 Continued
Outside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.
The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.
“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”
The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.
“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”
“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”
Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.
“Bless you twice, Tomás.”
Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.
It was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.
“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.
“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.
She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.
“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”
She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.
“You are alone?” said Molina,
“For the moment, yes.”
“Very well, come with me, Señorita.”
Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.
“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”
Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.
“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”
He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.
“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.
Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?
Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”
“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.
Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”
“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?
“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”
Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished. “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”
“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.
Molina shook his head.
“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”
“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.
“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.
“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.
“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”
“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.
“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.
“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.
“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.
“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.
“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.
“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”
“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”
She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.
“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”
He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.
“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.
“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.
“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.
She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.
“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”
He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.
“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.
He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.
“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.
As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.
He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.
She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.
She looked down at him. He was grinning again.
“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.
“You could say that.”
He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”
She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.
“Ernesto,” she whispered
“Yes, cara mia?”
He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time to scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.
Then she vomited on him.
The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door. He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.
“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”
“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”
Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.
“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”
“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”
“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”
“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”
“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”
Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.
“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”
“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”
Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.
“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”
Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.
Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.
“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”
“You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.
“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”
Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.
“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”
Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.
As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.
Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.
“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.
“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”
They looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.
“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”
She hurried toward his voice.
“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”
Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.
Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.
Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.
Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.
“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”
“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.
Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.
“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”
There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.
“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.
They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”
Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.
“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?
“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”
“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”
Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.
In the darkroom at Ernesto Molina’s photography studio a new person was being born. Years of experience in creating false documents for many of the Earth’s most dangerous people had made Molina a very wealthy man. His home was an opulent, yet tastefully decorated, house by the ocean, near Rosarita Beach. This cheap-looking studio was a place to do his work undisturbed. He owned the building.
“Señor, I am confused,” he asked Davis. “What are we doing here? What are we looking for? Are you and the Señorita in trouble?”
“Yes, Tomás, but we’re not criminals. It’s just that some people are looking for us.”
“Say no more, Señor. I think I understand. After all, I too, have in-laws.”
Davis let it go at that. No sense in scaring him away. Laura had already paid him for the full day.
“Tomás, I’m going to move up a bit closer and take a look around. Don’t leave.”
“Señor, of course not. May I come with you?”
“Sure, why not? Come on.” Another pair of eyes couldn’t hurt, Davis reasoned.
After Tomás locked up his taxi, the two of them walked up the ramp that crossed over the northbound highway leading to the Customs station. Every few feet a young peddler approached them, offering a variety of last minute shopping opportunities. Tomás shooed them away with a blast of rapid-fire Spanish obscenities. Many of these merchants were ten years old or younger, and were often the biggest earners in their family.
From their vantage point Davis and Tomás could look into the plaza on the U.S. side of the border.
The cab was festooned with bobble-head dolls of Elvis, The Beatles, and Ricky Martin. The Virgin Mary held the place of honor in the center of the dashboard. Red and gold dingleballs circled every window and lying on the rear window deck was a three-foot-long crucifix.
The cab driver, dressed in a crisp yellow shirt, was doing his standard sales pitch to yet another pair of Yanqui tourists.
“Buenas dias. Let Tomás be your guide for the day. Only two hundred dollars—well worth the price. Tomás knows all the best restaurants and shops. And I can get you the best seats for the bullfights. My cousin is a matador. Deal, okay? Best price in Tijuana.” His accent made him sound like a parody of Cheech and Chong.
Davis looked at Laura, who was still holding the brochure outlining the benefits of membership in the San Diego Skyscrapers. She shook her head. This was a business trip.
“No, not today,” said Laura. “Just drop us up on the main drag. Maybe next time we’ll get the tour. Okay?”
“Okay, you the boss, but, I can show you where to get genuine Armani suits for three hundred dollars, with free alterations. Best price in Tijuana.”
“Another time, my friend,” said Davis.
Laura pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.
“Say, do you know any good photographers?” asked Laura.
Chapter 31 – Continued
“And buon giorno to you.”
Laura picked up the tray and turned around to look for Davis. He had found them a table by the wall. The restaurant was already half filled and would soon be packed, just as Vivian had predicted.
“Here we go,” she said. “Oh, could we switch seats? I want to be able to look out of the window.”
“Sure, no problem,” said Davis. They traded places. Davis could see the side door that opened onto the small parking lot and Laura could scan the entire plaza.
As she poured a pink envelope of sweetener into her coffee, Laura’s eyes picked out the good guys and the wise guys.
“Vivian was right. This plaza is overloaded with cops and I see three guys that might be Dominic’s boys and two more over on that bench back by the train. He must have called in reinforcements. I don’t recognize them. Damn!”
The traffic heading south on Interstate 5 was heavy, as usual. Every day of the week thousands of cars and trucks drive from the United States into Mexico through the crossing at San Ysidro, the last little community before the border.
All manner of merchandise goes over into Mexico by truck. A much narrower range of cargo comes back the other way.
The United States Border Patrol has the unpleasant and futile duty of trying to stop the flow of illicit drugs and other contraband that spews across the border by the truckload every day. Their best tools in this struggle are highly trained dogs and years of experience in spotting drug mules—the the people who attempt to cross into the U.S. with bundles of narcotics strapped onto, or ingested into, their bodies. They get caught at the border with stunning regularity. The drug wholesalers who send them don’t seem to care, because they know that even the small number who do squeak past the dogs and the eagle eyes of the Border Patrol make it an incredibly profitable method of transport.
As a result, the crossing at Tijuana is one of the most heavily-monitored international borders between two countries that aren’t actually shooting at each other, although that is starting to happen as well.
Vivian was near tears. Davis was numb. Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.
“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said. “It was just bad luck. We’re all safe.”
But she did blame Vivian in a way. She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place. She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.
Horton Plaza looked like the love child of Rube Goldberg and M.C. Escher. Seven levels high with a hundred and forty shops, restaurants and touristy boutiques, all connected by stairs, escalators, ramps, and glass elevators. The entire structure was painted in a full palette of pastels, with multicolored banners, flags, and flowers fluttering in the soft ocean breezes.
High up on Level Seven, in a choice corner location, was The Captain’s Table restaurant. It had everything that a family on vacation from Nebraska could ever want—a six page menu offering seafood delicacies named for every exotic locale on the globe, several tons of nautical-looking adornments made in China, and decals on the front door promising the acceptance of all major credit cards.
It is 16° degrees outside, but I don’t mind it right now because it keeps some people at home and away from me.
These days it seems like most people are screaming – at one another, at the government, at the world, at themselves. When things don’t go the way they like they start to scream thinking that will make things better – “Better” being the way they want things to be. It doesn’t work of course. It never has, it never will.
Self-Delusion is so much neater than Reality.
Laura gathered up the dishes as Davis toweled himself dry in the bathroom. She had showered first, standing under the steaming water for fifteen minutes, crying there so Davis wouldn’t see her fear manifested yet again.
“Davis, while you’re getting dressed I’m going to take the dishes back to Vivian.”
“Okay,” he called from the bathroom, “and thank her for me too.”
Vivian saw her coming across the parking lot and hit the door buzzer to let Laura into the small office.