NOTE: I meant to publish this with part 1. Since many have read part 1 already I don’t want to add it there now. Future parts of this story will not be so small!
Yanis Lamboi steered his border patrol SUV down a road winding through chaparral a couple hundred feet north of the border. Blistering heat squeezed every ounce of sweat out of the land. He rode with his windows up and air conditioning blasting.
If it hadn’t been for the unbearable heat, he’d likely have his windows down as he usually did, and if he’d had his windows down, then he would have smelled them sooner.
He followed his GPS towards the site of the previous night’s raid. Nothing major to tend to, just doing a quick inspection of the aftermath. Sometimes drugs might got left behind after night raids. Sometimes people. Just routine stuff. He didn’t expect to find much of anything.
Lamboi reached the coordinates and parked his truck. He was Puerto Rican, thirty five years old, tan skin and jet black hair. A gut had snuck onto his body at some point around his thirty second birthday, but his distance-runner’s build was still obvious even with the extra baggage.
And it does look like baggage, doesn’t it? Like a duffel bag stuffed full of pillows permanently tied around my stomach.
He took the M4 carbine from the metal holster bolted to the floor and opened his door. The moment the outside air came in, a stench hit him so hard that he nearly vomited. He slammed his door shut instinctively, as if the smell was attacking him.
He peered out through the window at the desert vegetation. He didn’t see anything at first, but he kept looking. The smell had been the smell of death. That much he knew from experience. The other thing he knew, but without knowing how he knew it, without having any experience to draw on, was that it wasn’t dead animals he was smelling.
Those were people.
He scanned the vegetation with binoculars a few times before finally seeing something.
It wasn’t far off the road. He couldn’t even be sure what it was, but the grasses grown up in a ring around a big hackberry bush were depressed in one spot, and sticking out from that was what looked like two pairs of tiny feet.
Lamboi’s heart seemed to hiccup in his chest. His training took over, and he opened his door and moved in a low crouch, his M4 at the ready, a body position that had been familiar to him as sleeping since his first year of life as an enlisted infantryman over a decade ago.
As he neared the site, the hackberry began shaking violently. Lamboi got down on one knee, eyeing the spot through his carbine scope. Inside the bush was a coyote, tearing at one of the bodies with its teeth, frantic to get something before Lamboi got there.
Lamboi fired a shot into the air and the coyote scrambled off into the desert. The agent followed the animal for a while, wanting to shoot it just from the base impulse to protect the already dead girls — and they were dead. He’d check, of course. He’d follow procedure. But it was clear.
The girls were dead.
Keeping the scope to his eye and holding his walkie-talkie with the other, Lamboi steadied himself and keyed the mic.
“Hotel Quebec, this is Yankee Lima, over.”
“Yankee Lima, this is Hotel Quebec, over.”
“I need agents on my location. Right now. Over.”
“Yankee Lima, clarify the situation. Over.”
“Hotel Quebec.” Lamboi paused. He’d seen plenty of things overseas in war. He’d seen plenty of things on the border. Looking at the faces of the girls through his rifle scope, though, he felt like a first-timer all over again.
“There’s something really bad out here,” he said.
The moment the words came out of his mouth he realized how juvenile they sounded.
“Two casualties. Young girls. I need personnel out here right now, Hotel Quebec.”
“Yankee Lima, this is Hotel Quebec. Did you say casualties?”
“Right now.” He placed the walkie-talkie back in his belt and headed towards the fallen girls to administer first aid that he already knew was futile.