The case took them to Mexico. Where else would it lead them? Dark Continent Continental.
July 27, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“So, Captain, I don’t think it will do us much good, but I think we should go down south and just run over the border and talk to police officials—see if they know of any of their citizens who could be running over here and doing home invasions and running back—or if they know anything else along these lines.” Angus posed their problem to Captain Tyrone Sullivan.
“I think it would be more effective than if we just called them up on the phone. You know, we could read their body language while discussing it. If they had fingerprints, it would be a plus.”
“Sure, Angus. Since business is kind of slow, that might be a good idea. I don’t know if they will cooperate, and it’s a long shot. We are pretty far from the border up here, over two hundred and forty miles. Interstate 35 serves as a kind of pipeline and they could be coming farther up to avoid detection.” Sullivan was agreeable.
“One more thing.” Angus decided to push his luck.
“Could we take officer Martinez with us as a translator?”
“Ask him if he minds going. If not, it’s okay by me. If he does mind, try to find someone else as translator—anyone but Rosie Vega. We can’t spare her because we have too many dispatchers wanting to take vacations right now.”
* * *
Rosendo Martinez volunteered to take over the driving as the three homicide detectives went through the checkpoint between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo into Mexico. The wide Rio Grande was undulating before them in the steamy heat, and all around, within a few miles were the undulating and steamy activities of dangerous drug cartels. If one had chance to view the area from overhead the checkpoint and bridge resembled a strange musical instrument—a mandolin, a lute, maybe—the body of the instrument, with the entry and exit gates on the U. S. side and the stringed bridge of the instrument was an actual bridge jutting into Mexico
“Hey, you guys. I have some distant relatives in this town—forth and fifth cousins,” Rosendo announced.
“I had no idea. It might come in handy if we get into trouble!” Angus quipped.
“I haven’t met most of them and don’t plan to talk to them—we aren’t that close. It’s just some trivia. So let me see if I have got this straight. We are going to the main police headquarters—I know right where that is, by the way—and ask them if they know of anyone with police records over here that could be running over the border and doing crimes of a burglary or more serious nature, then running back.” Rosendo summed up the immediate goals.
“Yep! We are going to tell them we are stumped and we have no idea. We think they are petty thieves that have branched out into murder, accidently or on purpose—maybe they just panicked. We will tell them that we have good prints on file in Austin and if they have any likely candidates that we would like copies of prints so that we could compare them.”
“Then we will see how it goes. If the police officials are not real hostile
and suspicious, we will try to soften them up, in an effort to resolve this case working together. We will offer to take them to a nice lunch if things are going well.”
“You are evil, Angus.” Rosendo could not resist needling him.
“If things go well throughout, there is some more information I may be willing to share with them… and I hope they will reciprocate, naturally.”
* * *
Within a half hour, officers Carlyle, Sherwood and Martinez were sitting in gaudily upholstered spotted cowhide Savonarola chairs in front of the desk of a cigar-smoking Inspector Miguel Padilla. He was tall with olive skin and silver-tipped wavy hair—handsome and immaculately groomed. He had longish darker sideburns. Skeeter noticed that the tiny ends of his fingernails that were not trimmed showed up electric-white against his skin. Professionally-done manicures seemed to be part of his weekly agenda.
Inspector Padilla seated himself in an ornately carved chair and after extinguishing his cigar in a terra cotta ashtray, he displayed his palms out wide in a welcoming gesture. “Senors, Senorita—how may I be of assistance to my friends from Texas?”
Angus and Skeeter tried to glance at each other without being noticed.
His English is good. He is very gregarious. This is what they were thinking. Angus had decided it would be better for Rosendo to do the questioning, so he kept his mouth shut as Detective Martinez asked Padilla the pertinent questions in English.
Padilla answered. “Yes we do have several of those types, I am sorry to say—in Nuevo Laredo. They are somehow able to cross over, undetected, live for awhile, maybe months, then come back. We have suspected they do crimes over there. They have done crimes here, but want more money, so they decided at some point to start traveling farther north of the border.”
Angus finally spoke up. “What is your schedule like at this time, Inspector Padilla? We would love to take you to lunch. What is your favorite spot? We could possibly compare notes on these police characters while enjoying some of your delicious regional cuisine.”
Padilla replied. “Yes, I know just the place.”
* * *
“This is very nice,” Skeeter commented as her eyes rolled around taking in the atmosphere of the restaurant. Waterfalls that emptied into fish ponds ringed the largest of the dining areas. Gargantuan potted palms were accompanied by hanging ferns and other baskets of greenery—some containing colorful exotic flowers. The women that glided about assisting diners wore crisp white ruffled blouses and floor length printed skirts in bright colors. Ceiling fans suspended from gilded filigreed pipes rotated in slow circles. The floors, paved in high-luster Saltillo tiles, were accented with bamboo mats covering the high traffic areas.
As they snacked on tostadas and salsa—some of it made with Habanero peppers—Skeeter got out a tiny notebook and pen as if to take notes. JUST DRINK BOTTLED BEER, ANGUS. REMEMBER, NO WATER. YOU WILL BE SORRY LATER. When Padilla turned to wave at a friend, Skeeter made sure Angus saw her note. He tried not to laugh out loud, but obeyed her advice. They also only ordered cheese dishes, avoiding any meat. They did not want to spend a day in the bathroom because of the culture shock.
Inspector Padilla ordered a seafood entree that included abalone and calamari served with traditional Mexican side dishes. Rosendo drank beer instead of water, himself, but did order beef and pork enchiladas and chorizza. He also got a deep-fried avocado stuffed with crabmeat.
“I will have a list made up of these criminals, and send you photocopies of their photo IDs and what fingerprints we have of any of them. I will have my secretary fax them sometime this week,” Padilla offered in a gentlemanly fashion. “I am glad to work with you on this.”
“We would not try to extradite at this time, if they are back in your country, you understand,” Angus explained. “We just want to know who did this double murder of the elderly couple so we can close the case. However you choose to deal with them is your business. We will have warrants out on them, naturally, if we tie them to the fingerprints and when and if they come back into our country.” Angus tried to let Padilla know that he was being flexible and had no interest in trying to cause an international incident.
“Very good. I assure you that if they are in our country they will be dealt with,” Inspector Padilla replied.
While they were finishing up delicious and chocolate-y desserts Angus blurted out, “Oh, by the way, this has nothing to do with our business here today, but I am wondering, totally off the record—have you had any strange cases in Mexico lately where a body without a brain was discovered?”
Miguel Padilla’s demeanor changed immediately. “No! Nothing like that. It is time to go!” He got up from his chair abruptly.
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.