Chapter 50

The doors open, and one by one we get out the back of the cramped little truck. It hurts to stand up straight, so we stay bent over for a while. We all look like a bunch of old folks who lost their walkers. We seem to be in a fenced-in area, of some kind of desert jail facility, but I could be wrong . . . That guard could open the door and lead us into a gift shop, the kind you often have to go through when you exit a major attraction at Disneyland. I wonder what kind of gifts they would sell here. Maces, beds of nails, maybe a waterboarding kit—deluxe home edition.  Handcuffs and whips are a given. Axes, chainsaws . . . it’d probably look like a combination, hardware store and evil gift shop. They could call it, Mace Hardware. Or better yet, Dungeon Depot!

We’re herded inside, down a dingy white hallway, and into a large holding cell. Once everyone is inside, a guard closes the door. Good, we’re all still handcuffed. My left hand is getting numb, but I don’t care. These guys don’t look too happy with me. Maybe they do this all the time, and now that they bring me along—they get caught. That would explain the hard stares, but then so would, this guy is a mole—lets kill him.  Mole, hah! Mule, actually . . . Okay everyone, we’re in a bit of a hurry, so please, I’d like all the moles against this wall, mules against that wall, and the coyotes right over here. Now, do we have any stool pigeons? Raise your hands . . .

This cell is a large cement box with dirty white walls, and a dark grey floor. There’s the obligitory heavy stainless-steel toilet off to the side, and there are floor drains scattered throughout the cell.  Metal benches with hard wooden seats are bolted to the ground and everything is painted white. They went all out on this facility. I can’t believe I’m becoming a connoisseur of jailhouse holding cells. This is worse than any nightmare I’ve ever had, and the worst part about it is; I can’t just wake up and escape.

The coyotes, or leaders, or whatever, must have been taken someplace else, or maybe they got away. Some of these guys look scared and unsure of what’s going to happen next—others don’t seem to care. Some of them are whispering in Spanish, and I can’t understand a word they say, although, I am getting more than a few harsh eye insults. I wonder what’s going to happen to me now? This is going on my permanent record for sure. Great, I’m a former drug-courier. Maybe I could work for FedEx when I get out of prison . . . Hi, my name is Pancho Villa. Previous work experience—currier of a privately owned multi-national shipping company, some experience with international package delivery. Yes, if required, I can lift seventy pounds . . .

One by one, people are taken out of the cell and nobody returns. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for who goes next, but I get the feeling some of these guys would like it to be later.

An overweight, middle-aged guard looks right at me and says something in Spanish. He points to the green stripe on the floor, and I follow it down a narrow hallway that ends in front of a door with a small window in it. The guard looks through the window, a buzzer goes off, and we enter a white room with a grey cement floor. We are greeted by two more guards, both tall, with black hair, thin, and in their thirties.

The wall to my left has a shelf running the length of the room, and in the center of the wall, is a thick glass window, where another guard sits, quietly working on something. He is sitting at a desk, built into the wall on his side of the window, and it runs the width of his room. The walls on my side are made of white cement, and they almost glow from the long, thin florescent lights in the ceiling.

The guard behind the window says something in Spanish that I don’t understand. “You can speak English, I’m American,“ I say, loud enough for everyone to hear. The guard I walked in here with looks at me for a second, rolls his eyes, cuts off my plastic handcuffs, then leaves the room.

“Okay, then,” one of the other guards behind me says, “take off your clothes and put them right here.”

I walk over to the side of the window and start to undress. I stop at my underwear, but the guards just stare at me.  I plead with a look that says, Do I really have to get naked?

They don’t say anything. I notice they are staring at my crotch, which makes me extremely uncomfortable. I look down and it occurs to me they are probably re-thinking their demand to take my underwear off. The dark brown stain from the french fry warmer last night doesn’t look very sanitary.

One of the guards returns my look with one of his own. It’s a—get to it, we don’t have all day—look.

The two guards watch me take my underwear off and I toss them on top of the pile on the floor. One of the officers puts on a pair of rubber gloves and goes through my clothes, while the other tall one pats me down. Seriously? I’m naked for Christ’s sake.

“Squat and hold it.” The officer that patted me down says.

“What?”

“Squat and hold your position.”

It sounds stupid, but what are my options? I do as he says.

“Okay, now cough.”

“Cough?” My escort grabs his night-stick and I suddenly have a coughing attack.

“Okay, stand up and do it again, and this time, cough hard, or were going to have to go up in there and take a look around, and I can promise you, you’re not going to like that.”

I don’t need any convincing, but I thought I was coughing hard. I squat, on tiptoes, and cough like a ballerina with the plague. Within seconds I let loose a nervous fart.

“Okay, that’s good.”

That’s good? That’s what he was waiting for? A fart? Doesn’t this guy know the difference between a cough and a fart? I sure wouldn’t want to be around him when he has the flu.

Officer Fart hands me an orange jumpsuit while the escort guard returns from wherever it was he went, and sets a grey bus tub down on the floor for my clothes and my personal effects. By this time, the silent guard finds my Mexican money, wedding photo, and the plastic baggie with my phone numbers. He gives me a sideways glance. Mexican money and Mexican contact information and a picture of a Mexican wedding party. You don’t have to be psychic to know what he’s thinking right now, but then again, if he’s anything like his partner—the fart guard—I could be highly overestimating him.

The silent guard places everything into the bus tub, being very careful not to touch my underwear. Officer Fart takes the St. Christopher’s medal off over my head and puts it in the bus tub too. “Excuse me, I want to make a phone call, please.”

“You are in Estades Unidos now, boy,” says the fart guard. “When you return to Mexico, you can make all the calls you want.”

“But I’m American.”

“Of course you are. We get a lot of you Americans crawling through tunnels from Mexico.” They all laugh.

The escort guard motions for me to go back to the window. I see the guard behind it is now ready to focus all his attention on the present situation. Lucky me.

“Okay, gringo, como se llama?”

Gringo? Como se llama? If I don’t tell them my real name, they’ll never find out who I really am. If I do tell them the name on my social security card, they’re likely to think I’m messing with them, and who knows what these guys are capable of.

“Pienselo,” says the escort guard.

“Think of a good one now,” says officer Fart.

I finish putting on the jumpsuit, which magically is just a few sizes too big, and say with all the seriousness I can muster, “Francisco Carlos Villa.”

There is a deafening pause in our conversation. “Maybe you should take another minute,” the fart guard says. They all laugh some more. Apparently, this is what they do for fun around here.

“Come on, Mark, There’s lots more where this came from, lets go,” the escort guard says to officer Fart. I slip on some rental-looking flip-flops and watch the guy behind the glass write Francisco Villa on a form on his clipboard. The silent guard standing next to me grabs my hand and starts taking my fingerprints with a little pad of ink on the shelf, while the escort guard takes the bus tub with my stuff in it and leaves the room.

The escort guard appears in the room behind the glass, and the guard behind the glass takes the bus tub and begins to inventory the contents, writing it all down on that same clipboard. The silent guard finishes with my fingerprints, and hands me a kleenex for my fingers. Without any warning, he sucker-punches me in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me. I double over in pain and fall to my knees.

“You think you’re funny now, do ya Pancho?” His eyes dare me to talk back to him.  I shake my head.  What’s the use?  The guard behind the glass just looks at me funny, cracks a half-smile, and reads the inventory aloud for my benefit; “ One pair jeans, one white shirt, one black belt, one pair cowboy boots, two white tube socks, one pair mostly-white briefs . . .” more laughing, “twenty seven pieces of paper with Mexican names and Mexican phone numbers on them, one silver St. Christopher’s medallion on a silver chain, and six pesos—all belonging to Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa. Let him go boys, I think we’ve made a terrible mistake. He’s obviously an American.” Yay, he has a sense of humor too!

He puts all the stuff from the bus tub into a black plastic garbage bag, then puts the sticker with my name on it on the bag.

“Stand over here with your back flat against the wall,“ the guard formerly known as Silent says.

They’re going to take my picture. Now what do I do? Do I smile and pretend I’m not guilty so that everyone who sees this mug shot will know I’m innocent, or do I just stand here and do nothing, and just get it over with, while trying not to look guilty or stupid? I opt for not smiling. I’m pretty sure I won’t be ordering any eight by tens. Besides, anyone who ever smiled for a mug shot always seems to look crazier than they really are. They say regular cameras add ten pounds to a person, but jail cameras take away half your I.Q. points. Even in all this light, I’m blinded by the flash.

“Turn to your left,” the guard formerly known as Silent, barks. Flash! “Good, now lets get moving. As soon as your prints come back and we ID you, we’ll see what else is in store for you—smart ass!”

I’m still not sure if that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing. I hope they learn their mistake, but without having a drivers license yet . . .

The escourt guard picks me up by my arm and leads me out of the room through the other door, into another narrow hallway, then through another windowed door, where I’m buzzed in. On the other side of this small room, is my final destination: an all-cement palace with stainless-steel furniture. Everyone here is dressed like felonious carrots and sitting around on thick, white wooden benches.

I look for a place to sit. There’s a spot on that bench. I walk over to it, but one of the Mexicans sitting there scoots over and blocks me with an evil grin. Great. This is going to be fun. I’ll just go sit over here . . . same thing. This guy glares at me too. I’m done. I get the hint. I’ll just go over and sit on the floor next to the short wall by the toilet. I think I’ll be safe there.

 

 

A couple of mind-numbingly boring hours pass, then a guard starts handing food through the bars to the eager guys nearest him. Looks like apples and sandwiches. The guys pass the food around. I’m not hungry, having recently feasted on a knuckle sandwich, but I think this condition won’t last forever. Everyone else has grabbed some food; the guard throws a few more sandwiches wrapped in plastic in the center of the cell. I can see two pieces of bread with a piece of bologna through the clear plastic wrap. I’m pretty sure there’s no mayo on them. There’s surely no point in asking if they have any packets of mustard.

The guard tosses me an apple and I catch it. I’m grateful he didn’t just roll it along the sketchy floor. I don’t think I would have eaten it if he did. Cardboard boxes of apple juice are also tossed into the cell for anyone who wasn’t standing near the door.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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