Harlingen, Texas, is forty-six miles from Reynosa, Mexico, and Rafael’s father’s little home had sat in a straight line to the Mexican town, which was the reason the Blanco family had seized that particular property and no other ten years earlier. When the contractors bulldozed the little house and built the Blanco mansion and barn, they also dug and poured a cement tunnel, six feet wide and six feet high, with electrical lighting, from the middle of the Blanco barn to the basement of one of Reynosa’s police stations. Several emergency exit holes were dug in the unlikely event federal agents ever raided the tunnel during a transfer.
At least three times a week, human mules with saddle bags would traverse the tunnel to deliver cocaine, heroin, and marijuana to the Blanco compound. Each “mule” received $50 in American money for the round trip. The drugs would be placed in the trunk of the Blanco’s’ limousine, driven to the Harlingen Airport, and transferred to distributors who handled the nationwide illegal drug trafficking system.
The supervisor of the US Customs and Border Patrol office at the airport was paid $10,000 dollars per week to personally supervise the departures of the private planes carrying the Blanco’s’ drugs. Customs supervisors at destination airports were paid similar amounts depending upon the average size of the weekly shipments.
Every Friday afternoon two large duffel bags of American cash containing between two- and two-and-a-half-million dollars each would be brought through the tunnel to the Blanco’s who would launder the money in several Texas banks on the following Monday. Each bank assessed a service fee of 1 percent of the total weekly deposit.
“Do the same men bring the money and drugs every week?” Eva asked Rafael one day as they sat under their favorite tree.
“Not so much,” Rafael explained, frowning. “Some are regular, but many are also new.”
“Do you know any of them?” she asked.
“One. I have talked to him a few times. His name is Cesar. He is about my age. He likes horses. He likes to pet them whenever he comes, so we started talking a little.”
“Will he tell you anything?” Eva asked hopefully. Wrapping her arm in his, she rested her head on his shoulder.
“Tell me what?” he asked.
“Everything,” Eva said. “If we are going to use the tunnel to escape we need to know everything about it: how long it is, how high, can we walk or do we have to crawl, do they have guards in there, and where does it go, where does it end up?”
Rafael shifted a bit and sniffed the sweet fragrance of Eva’s hair. “I don’t know if Cesar will tell me all those things, but I will try.” Eva raised her head and they kissed. Rafael moved his hand under her breast as Eva brushed her fingers lightly on Rafael’s thigh. Gradually, she began inching them upward.
The next several months at the Blanco compound were more difficult for Eva than all the many months that had preceded them. Now that actually escaping was a definite possibility, she thought about it constantly; she found herself more nervous and watchful than ever. She scrutinized and memorized Juan and Carmella’s every activity and habit so exactly she worried about being discovered by one them. Indeed, she was convinced that Anna, the maid, was watching her with decidedly mounting suspicion each day.
The late-night visits to her bed with Carmella and Juan groping and penetrating her were becoming more repulsive while every moment of every stolen encounter with Rafael was becoming more blissful. After making love they would hold each other tightly in the fleeting hours available to them, whispering their dreams, their hopes, and their plans.
After weeks of indirect probing, Rafael learned from Cesar, who was not sure how long the tunnel was, that it took him about two hours riding one of the mini-bikes and more than a full day on foot to travel the tunnel from the Mexican end to the Blanco compound. The light bulbs were strung along one wire, burned continuously, and were powered by a generator in the Blanco barn. The four emergency exit holes were marked with large Xs made with red paint and they were spaced approximately every twelve miles. The outsides of the emergency exits were skillfully concealed with brush, small rocks, and timbers of manageable sizes. These exits were checked at least twice a month by Blanco men to insure they had not been compromised. Cesar knew this because he was sometimes assigned to do the checking.
The drug deliveries were made on a regular schedule: cocaine on Saturdays, marijuana on Mondays, and heroin on Wednesdays. The duffel bags stuffed with cash were delivered to the Blanco’s every Friday from several Mexican drug families paying for the delivery service of their product into the United States. The other end of the tunnel was not guarded since it led directly into a sealed portion of basement under a police station that only the police captain and his first sergeant knew existed, and only they knew where the access key to the antechamber was hidden.
“Have you spoken to your father yet?” Eva asked Rafael, scrutinizing his face.
“Not yet,” he said, “but I will. I think we should leave on a Sunday morning, early.”
“No, Rafael,” she said. “We must leave on a Friday, late, one o’clock or at least no later than two o’clock in the morning.” She kissed his lips gently and grinned at his puzzled expression.
Eva never spoke to Rafael about the Blanco’s’ regular sexual exploitation of her, but she was certain that he knew about it. The matter was simply a topic they never discussed until now. Eva explained her strategy to Rafael with the patience and detail of a planner who has devoted considerable time to developing the plan.
The Blanco’s still visited Eva’s room about three nights a week, typically arriving around 11:00 p.m., and always on Friday nights. Juan would usually take her first while Carmella watched while fondling herself and then, after Juan ejaculated, Carmella would join them. On any particular evening, depending upon how drunk he was, Juan would either continue with the two women, or, if he was particularly depleted, fall asleep on the bed or in the chair. Carmella appeared unaware of Juan at these times as she ravenously explored Eva’s naked body and directed her in how she wanted Eva to pleasure her that evening. The liaisons would last one and a half to two hours after which the Blanco’s would return to their own room, leaving Eva exhausted and repulsed, but—as she always reminded herself—still alive.
On this Friday, Eva told Rafael, she would signal him through her window when the Blanco’s arrived at her door. Earlier on that day, prior to Juan’s storing the two duffel bags of money in the study for the weekend Eva would sneak into the room and unlock the small corner window. When Rafael saw Eva’s signal, he was to use the utility ladder to climb to the unlocked window and sneak into the study. Rafael would then steal both duffel bags, leaving by the same window. Since the bags were large, he would be required to make two trips, but he would have over an hour to do so, which, Eva assured him, would be more than enough time. He would hide the duffel bags in the barn until Eva joined him, which she would do as soon as it was safe, after the Blanco’s had left her room. They would escape through the tunnel with his father and the money and begin their new life of “love, freedom, and more money than we’ve ever seen in our entire lives,” Eva said. Her eyes shined with anticipation as she threw her arms around Rafael’s neck and hugged him tightly.
“We deserve that money,” she whispered in his ear, “all of us deserve it for what these monsters have put us through. I’m not leaving without that money, Rafael. We’re going to be rich forever. You’ll see. You, me, your father—all of us are going to be so rich no one will ever be able to hurt us again, no one will ever take advantage of us again, makes slaves of us again—I promise you that, my sweet, sweet Rafael.” Eva kissed him hard and began parting his lips with her tongue.