In the helicopter, Brent followed the moving truck until they reached the point where he needed to decide whether they should fly back to the United States or keep going—they were down to a half tank of gas. The bird would need to be flying over the highway system to follow the path they were on, but Dick didn’t realize this was happening because the image on the iPad screen was zoomed in tight.
“We are at fifty percent right now, sir. We need to turn back unless we want to land in Mexico. Are we near the target?” The helicopter pilot asked.
“I don’t care if we have to land in Mexico. We will follow the bird until we get to its destination,” Brent said.
“OK, no need to raise your voice. I just needed to let you know that if we continue we will need to find a suitable landing spot to gas up so that we can return. That is all.”
They followed the highway system and Dick began to sense the GPS becoming faint.
“Sir.” Dick started.
“What now?” Brent asked.
“The signal is fading, see.”
“I see the dot.”
“It is flashing slower every time.”
“Let’s go closer.”
“Captain, please go faster. We need to get closer to the bird.”
The helicopter accelerated forward and soon closed the gap between the red arrow and the blue dot. They followed and followed at the speed of the truck for what felt like an eternity. The gas gauge was on everyone’s mind now. Helicopters can’t glide and gas is an essential element to their safety. So every minute that the search continued, their fear of the chopper’s eventual landing increased.
“It stopped. It stopped!” Dick shouted.
“Here.” He showed Brent a small grouping of buildings next to a freeway.”
“Show him again,” Brent ordered Dick to show the pilot for the tenth time the location of the blue dot.
“Captain, where are you going to land?”
“I see a truck stop ahead and lots of power lines. It won’t be easy, but I will look around.”
The chopper flew around the truck stop to where the gravel truck had parked with the GPS as part of its cargo. The truck driver went into the bathroom and saw the chopper making a roundabout over the truck stop area. Clearly he could read the English word for police, which is not all that different from “policía.” He ignored it and proceeded about his business. Behind the truck stop, there was an empty parking lot, which was ideal for the helicopter to land. The Pemex gas station was also the ideal refueling station for the helicopter, and the pilot was happy to land there.
“Sir, I will refuel as fast as possible,” the pilot said.
“We do not know if the bird will retake flight. Stand by until I give the order,” Brent said.
“Yes, sir.” The pilot looked at the copilot and mouthed the word asshole.
“Dick, let’s go,” Brent instructed Dick.
They descended from the helicopter and made a beeline for the small restaurant and truck stop. The blue dot was over the restaurant, with the red arrow at the parking lot. Dick zoomed out to see more definition and at that instant, the blue dot began to blink. Dick’s face turned white.
“What is it?” Brent asked.
“I hope it is not the end of the transmission. It seems as if the battery is dying,” Dick said.
The truck backed out and began to move toward its southerly destination again. The blue dot reappeared but farther south on the road. Just as the truck moved. Then it happened—the dot disappeared from the screen.
“What happened?” Brent asked in a panic.
“It’s gone,” Dick said looking up at the sky.
“Do you see it?” Brent said.
“Not on my screen.”
“I thought the batteries were supposed to last twenty-four hours. It’s barely an hour.”
“Well, we did use the GPS given to us. Who knows how full its batteries were. These things are not guaranteed.”
The blue dot appeared again over the highway and farther south.
“Did you see?” Dick said.
“Yes, it is getting away,” Brent said.
“No. It’s not the batteries; it’s the lack of cell towers in Mexico.”
“So it is working, but only when it gets within range of a cell tower.”
“Back to the chopper.”
They both ran toward the chopper, and the pilot was dismayed. He’d hoped to be able to get gas, fill the tank, and fly back to the States.
“Damn it. Here they come,” he muttered to the copilot covering the microphone.
The chopper flew south, its occupants hoping to receive a new blue ping farther down the highway. It was increasingly clear to all that the likelihood of catching the bird was becoming less and less.
“What if the bird moves into an area with no cell towers?” Dick asked.
“Don’t start trying to complicate matters. Stay positive,” Brent said.
Cliff was at least thirty minutes away, driving toward the truck stop. His Chrysler seemed to have a magnet for potholes, and every single one he hit, he screamed “shit!” This case was beginning to be a pain in the ass, both figuratively and literally. His biggest fear was walking into a lair of Mexican thieves who were armed with better weapons than he was.
“Madonna! These roads are horrible!” Cliff complained.
“I know. Maybe you should slow down a bit,” Ivory chirped.
“What, and get there too late?”
“It’s not like we are anywhere near them. They are flying, remember. And they will ask for local backup. So yes, slow down!”