Panic set into Juan’s bones as he recounted the sacks. Thirty-four. Thirty-fucking-four, he thought.
If they had a bird, they could trace the animal back to the aviary. He didn’t know how, exactly, but it was a possibility. And all those gringos on the Mexican side of the border meant that the Mexican authorities were cooperating. Paranoia set in, and the only thing he could do was to move fast. Do everything in his plan, but faster.
“Ma…Ma!” Juan raised his voice.
“¿Qué pasa?” (What is happening?) Virginia asked.
“¡Te tengo una sorpresota!” (I have a huge surprise!)
“¿Qué mi hijo?” (What is it, my son?)
“Te acuerdas que querias ir al DF y que no teniamos lana para ir?” (Remember you wanted to go to Mexico City but we couldn’t afford it?)
“Pues mira. Nos vamos al DF. Sí, no hoy en la tarde, mañana en la mañana. ¿OK?”
(Look, we go to Mexico City if not this afternoon, tomorrow morning, OK?)
“Así que empaca pero a la de ujule.” (So go and pack, and do it quickly.)
“¿No empiezes a cuestionar, quieres ir o no?” (Don’t start asking questions. Are you coming, or staying?) Juan threatened.
“Voy.” (Coming.) Virginia agreed.
“Andale a empacar.” (Go and pack.)
Juan returned to the roof. His plan called for removing the aviary and totally obliterating the evidence, but now he was wondering whether removal of the aviary was such a great idea. If the bird came back, it would have to be flying on its own. So unless they had a helicopter following a pigeon, there would have to be a GPS on the bird. Was this even possible? He decided to keep the aviary but dispose of everything else and be prepared so if the thirty-fifth bird showed up, he could kill it, take the GPS and destroy it, and then quickly dispose of the aviary.
Juan dumped the bird bodies and the leather straps in a metal drum like the one under the overpass where he had burned the clothes. He doused it in kerosene and threw a match. He went to the freezer, removed the ice from the ice trays, filled them with water again and dumped the stones in the water. Then he placed the trays back in the freezer. In a few hours, he would have ice cubes worth millions. But this was a perfect place for now. Virginia never used ice, and they were invisible in case they were robbed. Right before leaving with his mom on the trip to Mexico City, he would put all the ice in a thermos bottle. It would be visible the entire time, and the clinking noise the diamonds made would go unnoticed, since they would sound like ice cubes.
He went up to the roof and began a thorough cleansing of the entire floor and aviary, using Clorox and picking up everything down to the last feather. He left a single tray with food and some water for the last bird. He brainstormed how to know when the bird arrived. It could come in through the Sputnik trap at any time and would be followed by police. The safest thing to do was to act immediately, right when the bird arrived. If the bird never made it back, then it would be safe to stay in this home.
As long as the bird existed, he couldn’t know for certain when it would come back, and this made the home unsafe. He needed to completely disappear. Fortunately, he now had the resources to do that; they just somehow needed to be converted into cash.
“Ma…Ma!” Juan screamed.
“¿Qué?” (What?) Virginia answered, poking her head out the window.
“Has tu maleta pero igual no salimos hoy. Tal vez mañana no se. Nos llevamos todo porque no le voy a pagar renta a Buitre, quien sabe cuanto tiempo nos vayamos.” (Pack your suitcase, but maybe we won’t travel today. Maybe tomorrow, I am not sure. And pack everything because I don’t intend to pay rent to Buitre, who knows how long we will be gone. )
“¡Qué contrariedad!” (What a hassle!) Virginia said.
Juan felt compelled to stay up on the roof. It was hard to leave the area, because the arriving pigeon needed to be immediately checked out. The smell of charred pigeon meat permeated the air, and there was a crude resemblance to chicken. He felt a pang of hunger in his stomach.
I need to know when the bird arrives, without having to be up here. I need an alarm! Juan thought. His panic shut down any creative thinking, and he just sat there, staring into the distance, with close to ten million dollars in diamonds in the refrigerator of his tiny home in Tijuana. He sat there, feeling simultaneously empty, insecure, and victorious. It was not what he had expected to feel. If only all the birds had made it home, he could already have taken down the aviary and left for Mexico City. He planned to drive in his Camry with his mom. He already had eyes on a high-end jeweler in Mexico City, to whom he planned to sell the first diamond, so that he could begin his new life. His plan would allow his mom to live in complete luxury in the metropolitan city she had grown up in and loved. The missing pigeon was a complication of huge proportions.