The Chimera Within

Chapter 26

In the dark alleys and shadowy streets of Sydney, Tom was searching for the address he had been given to meet Frank Castle's contact. Castle had set them up with a guy to provide them with fake ID's, passports and even plane tickets to Mexico City. That was the easy part. Everything went pretty smooth, too. They just had to pay. Surprisingly, Castle even gave them some cash for their journey, cutting them in on the black-market sale of the helicopter.

Once Tom and Elias arrived in Mexico, then the fun began. Tom didn't know anything about how to illegally enter the United States, but fortunately, there were plenty of people willing to help out in that regard. They just needed someone to introduce them, because they were running short on time.

Not knowing whom else to call, Tom phoned up his photojournalist friend, Carmen. "Sure, I know someone who could hook you up, but is this really something that you want to do?" she asked doubtfully. "I mean, the illegal human smuggling world is very dangerous. My friend is a journalist who investigated human trafficking and smuggling and she still has to watch her back after the story she published."

"Thanks for the warning, but I seriously need this. I have to get into the U.S. and quickly. There are Americans that are looking for me too, so I may as well take my chances with the gangsters down here."

"Well, alright, I just hope you know what you're doing. How is your Spanish?"

"It's… passable."

"Okay, I hope so, because my friend Lydia speaks some English but she'll probably only talk to you in Spanish out of being self-conscious."

"I'm sure we'll get by."

"Good luck."

Tom arranged to meet Carmen's friend Lydia in a small cantina in Nezahualcóyotl to find out how to make arrangements to sneak across the border. In the dimly lit diner, he found his way to the table where they had agreed to meet, where a short woman wearing sunglasses and a scarf was already sitting. "¿Está ocupada?" he asked about the other chair.

"Depende," she responded, without looking up.

"Soy el amigo de Carmen, Tom. Eso es Elías," he said, introducing Elias.

"Siéntate," she said, "¿Hablan español?"

Tom said, "Más o menos," and Elias shook his head.

"Nous pouvons parler français si est-ce que chose préférable," she said.

Tom looked at Elias, who was still only getting bits and pieces. "Je parle français un petit peu," Tom said, but then switched back to Spanish, "pero español está bien."

"D'accord," she said in French, but then got right down to business in Spanish. "¿Are you crazy? I cannot understand what possible reason you could have for wanting to enter the United States illegally. No hay sentido."

"Yes, my reasons are complicated but they are my own."

"No, no, no," she said, waving her finger in his face. "If you want me to help you then you have to tell me everything. Starting with, why do you need to go to the States and why is it such a big secret?"

"Bueno. Basically, we're doctors, and there is a very sick patient who desperately needs our attention. If she doesn't get it in the next few days, then she is going to die. It's very serious. The situation is more complicated because we have enemies who are waiting for us at the border. So, we need to cross into the U.S. without these guys noticing and then make our way to New York to try to save this sick woman."

"If that is true and you want to go with the Coyotes, you should know that it is not an easy way nor a safe one. These men are violent betrayers. Most of them also work with the narcotraficantes."

"Don't worry about it," said Tom, smiling. "We're going to be really careful. So how do you suggest we cross over? In a big truck? ¿In the trunk of some car?"

"These are the worst ways to do it. You at least have the advantage of being gringos, so nobody is going to ask to see your documents while you are in México. You can travel the whole country like a couple of kings. No, my recommendation is to go to the city of Altar and there, you can hire some Coyotes to take you across la línea."

"Why does she keep talking about the coyotes?" asked a bewildered Elias, trying to follow the conversation.

"Coyotes is what we call the people that take los migrantes across the border," explained Lydia in fluent English.

"¿And do you have contacts with these Coyotes that can help us?" asked Tom.

"Yes, of course. My mother's family is from Lebanon, and from my contacts within the community, I know the best Coyotes that can take you across the border through the tunnels."

"¿Así? Bueno. Its seems to me that going through the tunnels would be the safest way."

"But, you have to pay. Passage through the tunnels is not cheap. But yes, it would seem that that would be the safest option."

"Who are these Lebanese that are digging tunnels to the U.S?"

"It is better not to ask questions. These people don't even deserve to be called 'humans'. They are among the most cruel and violent men in the world. Son hombres de mala ley," she whispered in a very hushed tone, "animales de mierda que no son capaces de hacer nada que no sean desgracias."[1]

"Right, I understand the dangers, and while my flesh may suffer fear, I cannot. We have suffered too much to get to this point and we are not going to turn back now. So forward we must go! But I need to know, who are these Lebanese men that are working with the Coyotes?"

"Is it not obvious? They are Hezbollah, trafficking its agents into the United States. They have the expertise to dig the best tunnels, and in return, get a cut of the narco-beneficios or even worse, smuggle terrorists into America."

"I have heard of your reputation as a journalist, Lydia. I know that you have investigated the most violent and powerful people in your country. For example, I read your investigation into the murders of the women in Ciudad Juárez. So I just want to say that I really respect you as a journalist and for your courage."

"Thank you, but I am no heroine. I am a citizen of this world, I love my country, and I know my rights. But the sad reality is that the situation is going from bad to worse, and unless something big changes, all that we can expect to see from this pointless war is more violence, more death, fewer human rights for the innocent of society, and without a doubt, the mocking laughter of the narcotraficantes." As she said this, Lydia took off her sunglasses, revealing a rare and exquisite beauty, a strikingly gorgeous latin face, that also bespoke her middle eastern heritage.

"I agree that if we are to enjoy our rights and freedoms, then we must assume our responsibilities when it comes to defending the weak, and fighting for justice. I have a lot of respect for you and your work."

"If you really have so much respect for me, then why do you not listen to me when I tell you that this journey you are planning is sheer folly. I still do not understand if it is just a case of machismo, or perhaps you do not fully understand the evil of these people and how dangerous they really are."

"When you put it that way, Lydia, then I feel I must tell you about why I am doing this. Basically, I'm taking these risks because I'm in love with a woman who is in desperate need of medical attention that only we can offer her. For love is as strong as death, and it allows us to do things we never thought possible. Maybe it sounds like a tired old expression, but it is true. So no it is nothing new; but she is my life, and for me she is a very special discovery. It is not only the fire that burns between us but all of life, the simple story, the simple love of a woman and a man, just like everyone.[2] So I'm willing to endanger my life if there's any chance of saving hers." As Tom was speaking, her hand went to her bosom, a movement that was not lost on him while he stole glances at her blessedly ample cleavage.

"Andale pues, I cannot refuse you when you talk like a poet. Although I am not in agreement with your decision, I will try to help you, and I wish you success in your mission. Good luck. You are going to need it, and may God bless you."

After they left the cantina, Elias peppered Tom with questions about the plan and what he had agreed to with Lydia. "Try not to worry about it," Tom tried to reassure him. "I have all the contact info to get started, and after that we'll have to fly by the seat of our pants a little bit, but we should be okay. For now, let's just try to do our best to not get caught in the crossfire between rival drug cartels. And if we can avoid that, it should be smooth sailing." Tom tried to laugh, but Elias wasn't amused.

"Is that supposed to be a joke? Because if it is, it's not very funny."

"Yeah, you're right. It's not my best work. Anyways, we will have to be careful and pay attention to what's going on, but we should be able to stay out of trouble if we keep our heads down."

"How are we supposed to keep our heads down if we're hiring human traffickers to smuggle us across the border?"

"Here," Tom handed Elias a black balaclava, "Put this on. We'll do our best to hide our identities and see if we can get though this process without drawing too much attention to ourselves. What do you think?" Tom proceeded to don his Nacho Libre mask.

Elias stared at Tom in his ridiculous luchador outfit and could only shake his head. "Why would we draw attention to ourselves? We're just two white guys, trying to sneak across the American border, while one of them is dressed like a Mexican wrestler. I'm sure they see this kind of thing all the time."

"There you go, that's the spirit! Now let's get this over with. I'll explain the procedure on the way, and the plan as we go." Tom walked on ahead, with a bounce in his step, like he really knew where he was going.

"I guess you'll tell me the plan when you've figured it out yourself," muttered Elias, as he checked to make sure his revolver was cleaned and loaded. "So, we're not exactly here in Mexico legally, are we?"

"No, we're not legal, per se, but of course we have the advantage of appearing to be American tourists, so that's something. Hopefully the local cops won't bother us."

"I disagree. We look totally suspicious. And if they figure out that we're armed, they'll take us for drug traffickers, smugglers, you name it. And because we're here illegally, we have no rights."

"Well, that's why we're going to lay low, and be super careful so as not to draw attention to ourselves. But we will have to travel with the rest of the illegal migrants."

"How do we do that?"

"We're heading to the railroad tracks as we speak," said Tom, as he hailed a cab, "The migrants travel by a train, colourfully known as 'La bestia,' or the Beast. But I'm sure it's just a case of the Mexicans giving everything cute little nicknames."

Elias just shook his head in disgust.

[1] Quote from Gabriel García Márquez, basically meaning: "They are men without conscience, animals born from excrement that do not do anything unless it is to cause suffering."

[2] Pablo Neruda – The Captain's Verses

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