domingo, 31 de enero de 2016

Las Arenas Silenciosas/The Silent Sands: Parte II: Capítulo VI

VI

Sergio no sabía que hacer. Del exterior provenían varias voces que sonaban amenazantes. Lo que sí pudo entender era que iban revisar el interior del camión.

Tal vez no los notarían si se quedaban quietos, pensó él. Las cajas seguían estando ordenadas de tal forma, que parecía que el camión estaba lleno hasta el fondo.

Sus ojos se encontraron con los del padre de Aldo. El hombre debía sentirse en un conflicto terrible. Sergio adivinó sus pensamientos, y de inmediato negó con la cabeza, tratando de hacerle entender que no sería buena idea que buscara ayuda para su hijo en ese momento.

La caja del camión rechinó un poco. Alguien había subido para inspeccionar el interior más de cerca, ya que una de las luces de las linternas se podía ver con mayor claridad en el techo.

Sergio trató de pensar en algún plan, pero no se le ocurría ninguno. Estaban atrapados en el interior de la caja de carga, y había pasado tanto tiempo en aquel frío atroz, que no podía sentir bien las extremidades.

-If anyone is in there, you better come out with your hands in the air! -Mark ordered, his voice reaching all the way to the back. - You have five seconds to comply!

-¿Qué ocurre? -preguntó la mujer más joven.

-Nos agarró la migra -respondió uno de los hombres mayores. -Quieren que nos bajemos.

-One! -Mark counted, his stun gun at the ready. Dave and Pete were pointing their rifles towards the inside of the truck. -Two!

-A la chingada, yo me bajo -manifestó el padre de Aldo, levantándose él primero, y ayuddando a su hijo a que hiciera lo mismo. -Vente, vámonos.

El padre y su hijo comenzaron a avanzar por el estrecho camino entre las cajas de vegetales congelados. Pronto se escuchó un gran alboroto del exterior.

—I knew it! -Sam said, very happy with their catch. -We catched us some illegals, boys!

-Hell yeah! Just wait until we tell Mike about this. She's gonna be so envious -Dave mentioned.

Sergio y los demás comenzaron a ponerse de pie para salir, agarrando sus equipajes lo mejor que podían con la prisa. Puso sus manos en la mochila negra, pero de inmediato sintió que también la agarraba uno de los hombres de mala cara.

-Esta es mía -dijo el hombre, con un tono amenazante en la voz. El otro hombre ya estaba de pie con su propia mochila, esperando a que los otros salieran.

Sergio soltó la mochila equivocada, y buscó la suya. Estaba debajo de una de las cajas de cartón que habían llevado Aldo y su padre. Se la echó a los hombros, y ajustó bien las correas.

Si tenía una oportunidad, trataría de correr, y perderse en medio de la noche. Solo esperaba que las piernas se le desentumecieran lo bastante rápido como para que no lo alcanzaran.

-C'mon, get out here now! -Mark yelled, while the others surrounded the back of the truck.

George and Dave wee guarding the old man and his son. They were sitting in the ground, just between them. The kid seemed like he had been freezing to death inside the truck. His lips were almost purple, and he couldn't stop shaking all over.

Next came a group of three women. The youngest looked like she was in her twenties, the oldest one was well into her forties. They were carrying some backpacks in their arms.

-Go over there - Mark pointed towards where the father and son were sitting down.

Las mujeres no sabían que había dicho el policía, pero era evidente que quería que se sentaran al lado de los otros, así que lo hicieron, caminando de manera algo tiesa por el frío que sentían.

Los siguientes fueron los dos hombres mayores, que salieron con las manos en alto, seguidos por Sergio, que los imitó cuando las luces de las linternas le cegaron. Puso una mano en frente del rostro por reflejo.

Los dos hombres bajaron con cuidado del camión, sentándose primero en el borde antes de saltar hacia el piso. Sergio hizo lo mismo, con más lentitud de la que esperaba, ya que todavía sentía las piernas y brazos demasiado heladas.

-Anyone else in there? -Mark yelled again. He decided to climb into the cargo hold to make sure it was empty.

Dave kept a sharp eye over the illegals. The young guy had seated right next to one of the old dudes. Unlike all the others, he seemed like the only one who was traveling alone.

Paul and Nick came closer to see what was happening. He counted at least 8 people, sitting in the floor, their backs towards the road. They were a pretty varied group of men and women of all kinds of ages.

George and Dave were keeping guard, with George just behind them, and Dave was a bit farther down the line they were sitting in.

There was a young kid that was shivering, his face pretty pale from what he could see. An older man was patting him in the arms, trying to make sure his blood kept circulating.

He couldn't see where Mark was. Probably looking inside the truck.

Then all hell broke loose.

Un disparo rompió el silencio a su alrededor.

Sergio temió que ese grupo de locos armados estuviera empezando a matarlos, pero al levantar la vista se dió cuenta que estaban igual de sorprendidos que él.

Todos ellos estaban viendo hacia el interior del camión. El tipo que parecía policía había subido, pero ahora estaba dando un par de pasos atrás, tambaleándose.

Tres disparos más se oyeron, en rápida sucesión.

Mark stumbled and fell backwards into the hard asphalt.

Everyone else lifted their guns towards the back of the truck. Dave and Pete also pointed their lanterns towards the interior, trying to find who had shot Mark.

A small, sphere like object fell on the ground, rolling towards the middle of the group, making a metallic sound as it scraped the road.

-What the hell is...? -Sam tried to finish, but he couldn't.

The grenade exploded right next to Pete's left foot. The force threw everyone backwards, and kicked up all kinds of dirt and fragments of the road into the air.

Sergio no podía oír nada. Un zumbido persistente estaba atorado en sus oídos. Estaba tirado de cara al suelo, y cuando trato de ponerse de pie, no pudo. Sentía las entrañas revueltas, al igual que su cerebro.

Giró la cabeza para ver que le había pasado a los demás.

The truck had deflected most of the force of the explosion, but it still made Paul and Nick fall over ass-backwards into the ground.

Paul was familiar with that sensation, it had been like what he had felt in Iraq when he lost his leg, but this time a bit weaker. He had to use the rifle to support himself to get back on his feet. The fake leg felt a bit loose, but he didn't have the time to care about it.

He walked slowly towards Nick, who was still dazed. He had only managed to sit back up. Paul extended his left hand towards him, and helped him get back up.

Then he heard more shots.

Los dos hombres que se habían quedado en el interior del camión estaban ya afuera, disparando a todo lo que se moviera a su alrededor. Uno de ellos le dio el tiro de gracia a Pete, que estaba en estado de shock por la pérdida de sus piernas y de sangre.

El otro disparó hacia Dave, dándole justo en el cuello, cuando él apenas iba a levantarse con su rifle. El segundo disparo entró por su ojo derecho, y Dave cayó al suelo, ya sin vida.

-You motherfuckers! -Dan cursed, then pointed his rifle towards the one who had shot Pete. He had managed to go into a crouch position, and pulled the trigger.

The first shot went wild, since he was still wobbly from the explosion. The second was better, hitting the man in the left shoulder. The killer cried in pain, and let go of the sports bag he was carrying in that side.

George had managed to get up too, but couldn't do it as fast as Dan. The second mexican guy was pointing his gun towards Dan, and there was nothing he could do.

-Freeze! -Rich yelled, trying his best to run towards the scene, despite his considerable size.

The explosion had threw him against Dave's truck, and made him hit his head against the glass of the window at the driver's side. He had a nasty cut right above his forehead, and felt like his chest was on fire.

The injured guy started shooting at Rich with his gun. Rich just pointed his shotgun in his general direction, hoping to at least nick him.

Sergio oyó un disparo aún más fuerte. El tipo herido lo había visto venir, y se había tirado al suelo, a pecho tierra. El disparo dio contra una de las puertas abiertas de la caja de carga de la camioneta, y la dejó entre abierta.

El segundo tirador no se inmutó. De manera casual, como si estuviera caminando en el parque, avanzo alejándose del camión, disparando con cada paso.

Dan cayó de espaldas, dejando caer su arma.

-You bastard! -Nick yelled. He started firing towards the shooter, but he was beyond the field of light that the truck and the dropped lanterns gave around them.

He, on the other hand, was very visible. Three shots lighted the darkness, and Paul saw how Nick fell to the ground, like a puppet with his strings cut.

-Nick! -he yelled, but before he could do anything more, another bullet whizzed past his head. He pressed his body to the side of the truck, behind the opened door, hoping that it would give him some cover.

Sergio trató de ver que le había pasado a los otros en esa confusión. El joven llamado aldo yacía debajo de su padre, que lo había cubierto con su cuerpo, y no se movían para nada. Los dos hombres mayores yacían en el suelo, y al menos uno se quejaba lo bastante alto para que Sergio lo oyera encima de la balacera.

La mujer de edad media estaba también tirada en el suelo, y sus amigas se habían arrastrado hacia donde ella estaba. Una de las linternas que habían quedado tiradas les daba de lleno con su luz, y Sergio podía ver que sus amigas la habían jalado para tratar de alejarla un poco de aquel caos.

Eso era evidente por toda la sangre que había dejado tras de sí, como si su cuerpo fuera un enorme pincel.

El zumbido casi había desaparecido. La sensación de sus piernas ya casi había vuelto del todo. Si iba a sobrevivir, Sergio pronto tendría que jugársela y tratar de escapar hacia la noche.

George saw the injured guy shoot towards Rich. Rich fell down, with no sound except of that of his large body falling to the ground. Then his shooter got up, slowly.

The other guy was reloading his gun. He had turned his attention towards George, who then tried to get up and run.

He didn't get far. Two shots got him in the back, and suddenly he was on the ground face first, his mouth filling with his own blood.

El tipo al que habían herido se puso de nuevo de pie. Sergio pudo ver en su cara que estaba furioso. Y lo que era peor, lo había notado a él. Dio un par de pasos hacia dónde Sergio estaba sentado.

Así que así acaba todo, pensó Sergio. Cerró los ojos, y pensó en que lo único de que se arrepentía era de haber dejado sola a su hermana, Julia.

Sergio oyó el disparo, pero no lo sintió.

-Surprise, asshole -Sam said, his gun pointing towards the killer. The back his head was gone in an explosion of bone and brain matter.

Sam had taken his time, first making sure he was well enough to walk and use his gun. Then he had advanced in a very quiet manner, pressing himself against the side of the truck. He then had waited until the bastard was distracted.

But he didn't stop there. He started shooting against the other guy, who then took a dive and rolled to the side, getting out of Sam's field of vision.

Sam hoped that the guy would try to run away, but a couple of shots hit the edge of the truck. He took cover again, cursing to the night.

Sergio se había tirado de nuevo al suelo, preguntándose cuanto más iba a durar esa balacera. Entonces vio que uno de los hombres del grupo armado estaba oculto detrás de la puerta abierta del camión.

El tipo hosco estaba avanzando hacia dónde estaba oculto el que le había volado la cabeza a su compañero, disparando cada vez que el tipo gordo trataba de asomarse.

De repente, pareció disparar hacia una de las llantas del camión. El hombre gordo gritó, y caypo de rodillas.

-Ya te tengo, hijo de tu puta madre -exclamó el hombre, caminando con cuidado hacia su blanco.

The shooter got pretty close to Sam, who had let go of his gun. Then he shot him in the chest and the head.

-Freeze! -Paul ordered, pointing his gun towards the last shooter.

The mexican turned around slowly, his arms half-lifted. Despite all the carnage around them, he still seemed calm, like he had just happened to find all that during his morning walk.

-You gonna shoot me, gringo? -asked the man, in a mocking tone of voice. -Then do it already.

-The police will be here any minute now. So drop your gun! -Paul ordered him, all his attention towards the man.

-Really? Then why did you and your friends stop us? You're not police -the man asked, while taking a couple of steps forward.

-Stop right there! -Paul yelled. He wanted to check if any of his friends was still alive, but he didn't dare to even take a side glance.

Sergio levanto la vista apenas lo suficiente para apreciar la situación. El último de los gringos que los habían detenido estaba apuntando un rifle con mira hacia el hombre hosco, quién tenía los brazos a medio levantar. 

Al parecer, el gringo había dicho que la policía pronto llegaría al lugar. Sergio quería levantarse y correr de una vez, pero la tensión en el aire era tal, que lo clavaba a su lugar, no dejándole otra opción que presenciar el final de aquella matanza.

Ni siquiera sabía si quería que alguno de los dos ganara. El tipo hosco no parecía que lo fuera a dejar ir así nada más, y un cuerpo más entre todos los demás sería algo muy fácil de hacer.

El gringo parecía algo más razonable, pero después de todo habían sido él y sus amigos los que los habían detenido y bajado del camión, armados hasta los dientes.

No, de ninguna manera lo dejaría ir así nada más, lamentó Sergio en sus pensamientos.

Suddenly, the truck's engine came alive.

Bill had retreated to the cabin of his truck after the blast of the grenade had knocked everyone to the ground. the guy that had been at his side had run into the shoot-out, and Bill took the chance to crawl back to the truck, stopping every time he heard the shots, hoping that no missing bullet would hit him.

Bill had enough of all this. He waited until he couldn't hear any more shots being fired, and tried to make a run for it. Bill had no other plan beyond getting as far away as he could from that mess, right now.

El sonido del motor distrajo a Paul por un momento, pero un momento era todo lo que su enemigo necesitaba.

Paul disparó justo hacia el pecho del mexicano. El tipo alcanzó a disparar dos tiros con el brazo derecho extendido, antes de que el impacto de la bala lo lanzara hacia atrás.

Sergio vió como el tipo del rifle giraba el cuerpo, y luego caía al suelo, quedando boca abajo.

El camión se alejó por el camino, a toda velocidad, sus luces perdiéndose en la distancia, hasta que Sergio lo perdió de vista.

Las luces de las linternas iluminaban pedazos de aquella matanza. Una pierna aquí, un cuerpo tirado allá. El olor de la pólvora llenaba el aire, que había empezado a soplar, refrescando un poco aquella noche de finales del verano.

Sergio oyó el sonido de los truenos a la distancia. Se puso de pie, y miró a su alrededor. Nadie más hacia el más mínimo movimiento o producía un quejido siquiera.

El joven tomó una de las linternas que había tiradas, y pasó su luz sobre los cuerpos tirados. Se arrodilló al lado de los cuerpos del chico y su padre, esperando que al menos él si hubiera podido sobrevivir.

Le costó un poco el mover el cadáver del padre, volteándolo sobre su espalda.

El chico llamado Aldo estaba muerto. Su padre le había protegido de la mayor parte de los fragmentos de la granada, pero varios lo habían alcanzado en el estómago, causándole heridas profundas. La pérdida de sangre y su baja temperatura corporal habían hecho el resto.

Sergio pasó una mano por encima de sus ojos, cerrándolos. El rostro de Aldo estaba tan frío como el hielo, pero tenía una expresión como si solo estuviera durmiendo.

¿Quiénes diablos eran los tipos que ocasionaron todo eso?, pensó él, mientras se ponía de nuevo de pie. Debía haber un motivo por el que hubieran traído armas consigo, y hubieran querido arriesgarse a hacer su escape a tiros. Y creía tener una buena idea de que era.

Sergio caminó hacia dónde estaba la bolsa deportiva que uno de ellos había dejado caer, cuando lo hirieron en el hombro. Parecía estar bien, con solo un poco de suciedad encima. Buscó como abrirla, y encontró dos cierres encontrados en uno de los extremos de la bolsa.

Abrió el cierre con cuidado, esperando que la bolsa no fuera a explotarle en la cara. Luego usó la linterna para ver que había dentro.

La bolsa estaba llena con paquetes de plástico, envueltos con mucho cuidado. Dentro tenían un polvo cuya blancura parecía brillar bajo la luz de la lámpara. Una etiqueta en el frente de cada envoltorio anunciaba que cada uno tenía quinientos gramos del polvo.

Cocaína, por supuesto, pensó Sergio, mientras levantaba uno de esos paquetes para verlo más de cerca. Lo más seguro es que todo ese montón representara una fortuna.

¿Pero por qué los habían acompañado, en vez de usar un túnel o por mar, o cualquier otra manera?

De repente, Sergio se echó a reír por lo bajo. Por supuesto, esa tenía que ser la respuesta.

Felipe no habría podido seguir en su negocio de pollero sin tener lazos con los narcos. De seguro su verdadero propósito siempre había sido lograr que las drogas pasaran sin problemas. Pagar a un conductor que pasara a un grupo de inmigrantes debía ser mucho más barato que el hacerlo para que solo transportara la droga.

Y si acaso los detenían antes de llegar a su destino, como había pasado, habría mejor oportunidad para que los dos narcos escaparan si podían confundirse con el resto de los inmigrantes.

Sergio contó con cuidado los paquetes que tenía frente a él. Eran catorce en total, lo que significaba que tenía al menos siete kilos de cocaína pura en esa bolsa.

La policía pronto llegaría, si lo que había dicho el gringo era verdad. Sergio metió el paquete de nuevo en la bolsa con los otros, y se puso de pie. Si seguía la dirección que el camión habí tomado, de seguro podría llegar a Tucson antes del amanecer, pero tendría que internarse en el desierto lo suficiente para que no lo vieran desde la carretera.

Iba a empezar a caminar, pero una idea surgió en su mente. Trató de alejarla, como si se tratara de un mosquito molesto, pero la idea se hizo más y más sólida.

La droga debía valer una pequeña fortuna. Incluso si le daban solo la mitad del precio, sería más que suficiente para establecerse de manera cómoda, y traer a su hermana sin riesgos y sin esperar más tiempo.

Volvió a dónde había dejado el bolso. Se agachó, tomó la correa, y se la puso al hombro. Era algo pesado, pero podía cargarlo. Tardaría un poco más en llegar a Tucson, pero podía arreglárselas.

El plan de Sergio era simple: llegar a la ciudad, ir a la estación de autobuses, guardar el bolso en uno de los casilleros, viajar hasta Los Ángeles, dónde estaba Mariano, y ahí contactar con alguien que quisiera comprarla. Si acaso había algún fallo en el plan, tenía tiempo de sobrarlo para pensarlo mientras caminaba hasta Tucson.

-Stop right there... -Paul said, pointing his rifle towards the illegal immigrant.

The killer's last shot had grazed his head. The bullet had burnt a path starting at his left sideburn, almost following the entire side of his head. The pain had been too much for Paul, who had lost conciousness until a minute ago.

He saw that someone else was alive. At first he'd hoped that it was Nick or Rich, but he realized that it wasn't one of them when that person had started to walk away. Then the person had come back to see one of the bags that the killers had brought with them, and taking it with him.

Paul realized that it could only be an accomplice to those animals who had killed everyone. For what reason, he couldn't know, but he was damned if he was going to just let that guy walk away and escape justice.

He was still laying on the floor, but he had managed to grab his rifle again. The stars and the moon in the sky were starting to be eclipsed by large storm clouds, moving Northwest. Luckily for him, the guy was still holding one of the lanterns.

Sergio se quedó quieto. Uno de los gringos debía haber sobrevivido, pero en medio de aquella creciente oscuridad no podía saber dónde estaba, y no se atrevía a levantar la lámpara para verlo mejor.

¡Eso es!, pensó Sergio. Con cuidado buscó el botón en el dorso de la lámpara, y lo presionó.

The light went out, and Paul heard the sound of the guy starting to run away into the darkness of the night.

-Stop! -he yelled, full of anger and frustration. He shot three times towards were the steps were getting farther and farther, but it was the same if he had done it with his eyes closed.

The criminal was getting away. Paul mustered the last of his strenght, and managed to get back up. Using the rifle as a cane, he walked towards one of the dropped lanterns, picked it up, and looked around him.

Everyone else was dead. He shone the light over Nick's fallen body, but he could see that below him was a large pool of dark blood that reflected the light back at him.

He walked over to where the last criminal had fallen. He still had the other gym bag next to him. Paul kneeled down, grabbed the bag, and opened it up.

-God damn it -Paul cursed. So that's why those assholes had come out shooting. They were carrying a fortune in cocaine.

Paul had to make a choice. He could just wait until the police arrived to sort out all that mess, get some medical attention and go back home to mourn his dead friends.

But he could feel a bitter taste when thinking about that option. Paul could feel that rain was coming this way, a storm that might erase all traces of that man's path, allowing him to go free and unpunished.

To him, it was no choice at all. He knew that according to the law that what he was going to do was wrong, but how could something wrong feel so right? Unless he was following a more ancient, more binding law.

Paul had precious little time to waste. He searched inside the dead man's backpack, and saw that it had some canned food, four bottles of water, and five more clips for his gun. The bullets were the same caliber as Nick's gun, 9 milimeters, which was a small blessing. He didn't want to take along the gun that had been used to kill his friends.

He took the backpack, and walked back towards Nick's truck. It would be the fastest way to catch-up with the escaped criminal.

Paul got inside the cabin and seated behind the wheel, but couldn't start the engine. The keys were missing. He tried looking for them in the front seats, but they weren't there. The only thing there was one of the radios that Sam and Mark had been using to stay in contact with the base.

Who had the keys? When they were doing the stops, everyone was coming and going back to the trucks, talking by radio with Mike. It would take him too much time to search every body in the darkness.

-Hello? Do you copy? Anyone there? Eagle 3, do you copy? -Mike's voice came from the radio laying down on the passenger's seat.

Paul grabbed the radio. He waited a couple of moments to gather his thoughts, and then responded the hail.

-Base... Mike, this is Paul. Everyone else is dead. Over -he informed, surprised at how much grief such short words could contain in themselves.

-What? What are you talking about? -Mike blurted out, shocked at hearing the news.

-There was a shoot-out. Two guys caught us by surprise. I killed one of them at the end - Paul's eyes were filling with tears. -One of his shots grazed me. When I came to, a third one was getting ready to escape and I couldn't stop him.

-Paul? Paul, this is Helen! What about George? What happened to him? -the other woman asked, in a frantic manner. She had taken the radio away from Mike, and even through the airwaves, her voice was full of concern and worry.

-He's dead too. I'm sorry, Helen -Paul said, almost crying with rage and impotence. -I'm so, so sorry.

Helen's muffled cries could be heard through the static. Outside, the wind was starting to blow with more strenght.

-I'm going after him. Tell the police that I'm heading West... I think. I'll catch that guy and he's gonna pay for what happened, I promise you -Paul finished. He turned off the radio, since he didn't know how longer the battery would last, and hanged it from his belt.

The other truck also had it's keys missing, just as he had feared. He then went to the back seat, and searched for the small metallic box painted olive green that they had loaded before setting out earlier that afternoon.

There were at least ten boxes of bullets for the rifles. Each one had forty bullets inside, ordered in neat rows of ten. Paul grabbed two boxes, and put them inside the backpack.

He went back to the road, and looked one last time around the scene of the carnage. He felt he should offer a prayer for all the dead at least, but he had already wasted many precious minutes.

-Sorry, Nick, but I'm going to have to borrow that for a bit -Paul excused himself, as he took the gun from his friends cold, dead hand. He then put it inside the backpack, and turned around.

Paul started looking near where he estimated that the fugitive had ran away into the wilderness. It took him another ten minutes, but he managed to find his tracks, the prints of some old sneakers clearly marked in the desert's arid ground.

The tracks were going in a direct line towards the storm.

If the criminal believed that would make him desist, he would prove to him how wrong he was, Paul thought.

He started to follow the tracks, ignoring the growing discomfort below his left knee.

It was time to hunt.

The lightning in the distance grew larger. It was a storm unlike anything this world had seen. The walls of this world were coming apart right at its center, threatening to unleash a mighty horde the flesh from everything that was alive, and make their nest in their remains.

El mundo contuvo el aliento. Y en su aliento, dos almas fueron lanzadas a un dominio extraño.

jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2015

Las Arenas Silenciosas/The Silent Sands: Parte II: Capítulo V

V

Sergio comenzó a sentirse un tanto entumido, tanto por el frío que producía el sistema de refrigeración del camión, como por el no poder estirar bien las piernas desde hace más de dos horas.

Pero no le quedaba de otra que aguantarse. Se dio un par de palmadas en los brazos para tratar de desentumirlos un poco.

El resto de sus compañeros de viaje no estaban en mejor forma. El grupo de tres mujeres estaban acurrucadas entre sí, tratando de compartir su calor. La más vieja había extendido un chal sobre ellas, para tratar de insularlas un poco del frío, pero la tela era tan delgada que no hacía ninguna diferencia.

Sergio trató de distraerse haciendo un cálculo mental de cuanto tiempo faltaba para que acabara aquél viaje. Hace solo hora y media, el camión se había detenido por un largo tiempo, luego avanzado un poco para detenerse por veinte minutos, y luego había reanudado su camino.

Ahí debió ser cuando cruzamos la frontera, pensó Sergio. Las pausas debieron ser cuando los agentes de ambos lados hicieron sus revisiones de rutina. Uno pensaría que habrían abierto las puertas traseras del camión, y visto con mayor atención el interior, pero al final solo era uno de los cientos que atravesaban la línea fronteriza cada día.

Acaso estuvieran también familiarizados con el conductor y su camión, así que no lo harían pasar por una revisión a fondo. Eso debía explicar el precio tan alto que Felipe les había hecho pagar a todos ellos, destinando una buena parte del dinero a pagar al conductor.

Desde entonces debía haber pasado poco menos de una hora desde que estuvieran en el lado de los Estados Unidos. Él sabía bien la hora, porque la había revisado en el reloj Casio de su padre, presionando el botón que iluminaba la pantalla.

Sergio trató de recordar la distancia de Tucson desde la frontera, pero no lo logró. La primera vez que cruzó con su padre, Miguel, y sus amigos, les había llevado cuatro días llegar a Tucson. Pero habían tenido que hacer la mayor parte del trayecto a pie, ocultándose de la policía, hasta que llegaron a las afueras de la ciudad americana de Nogales.

Bien mirado, el precio del viaje sí que había valido la pena. Una vez que estuviera en Tucson, Sergio tenía planeado ir a la estación de autobuses, y comprar el boleto más barato que lo acercara a California.

Todavía tenía la identificación falsa que su padre les había conseguido poco antes de que tuvieran que volver a México, una licencia de manejo a la que le quedaban cinco meses antes de la fecha de renovación que tenía impresa al frente.

Sergio volvió a revisar la hora. Eran poco más de las diez de la noche, y un bostezo surgió de su boca. Él estaba acostumbrado a estar durmiendo a esa hora, para poder levantarse antes de que el Sol saliera, pero se esforzaba para mantenerse despierto.

Algo le decía que no sería buena idea dormir en medio de aquél frío, ni siquiera por un par de horas.

Se acomodó un poco mejor contra la pared del camión. El metal estaba helado, y podía sentir el frío a través del suéter y la chaqueta de mezclilla.

-Aldo, Aldo, no te duermas -susurró una voz de hombre.

A Sergio le costó un poco distinguir quién estaba rompiendo el silencio. La luz roja del panel de control era apenas suficiente para ver las formas sentadas del resto de los inmigrantes. De acuerdo a la dirección de la voz, y haciendo memoria de cuando se subieron al camión, el que hablaba era el hombre que viajaba con su hijo.

El padre estaba sacudiendo a su hijo, que parecía estar muy desganado. Su padre estaba elevando la voz poco a poco, tratando de que su hijo no quedara inconsciente.

-¿Qué pasa? -preguntó Sergio, tratando de no elevar la voz. No tenía idea de si alguien podría oírlos en el exterior del camión, aunque a juzgar por lo bien aislado que estaba la parte trasera, tal vez podrían hasta gritar sin que nadie los oyera.

-Es mi hijo, lo siento demasiado helado -susurró el padre, con la voz llena de preocupación.

El muchacho se veía demasiado aletargado, no respondía a pesar de que su padre lo estaba sacudiendo con firmeza por los hombros.

-Vengan, acerquénse -susurró la mujer mayor, mientras indicaba a sus compañeras que se acercaran al muchacho.

Fue todo un esfuerzo el mover al muchacho para que quedara entre su padre, que lo tenía bien abrazado, y una de las mujeres, quedando cubierto con el chal. Se podía oír como sus dientes chocaban contra ellos mismos por el frío.

Sergio echó un vistazo al panel que indicaba la temperatura de la carga. No tenía ningún tipo de botón, solo las luces que mostraban si estaba en la temperatura elegida, y cuando lanzaba más aire frío al interior. Los controles debían estar en la cabina del camión, para que el conductor pudiera manipularlos sin parar el vehículo.

Uno de los hombres mayores estaba dando un par de golpes en la pared que estaba más cerca de la cabina, tratando de llamar la atención del conductor. Pero era en vano, ya que si acaso llegaba a notar los golpes, Felipe les había advertido que él solo los ignoraría, sin importar que pasara.

Sergio pensó que tal vez podrían tapar los conductos de aire frío, para tratar de evitar que la temperatura estuviera tan baja. Se puso a buscar las salidas del aire con la mirada, y encontró un par de tubos de metal que estaban pegados a las paredes del camión, pero no tenían ninguna salida de aire.

El sistema de refrigeración debía enfriar la bodega de carga de manera directa, sin salidas de aire al interior de la misma.

El hombre mayor había dejado de golpear en la pared. Los dos hombres hoscos no hacían nada más que mirar en silencio, como si no les importara lo que le pasara al muchacho.

¿Cuánto tiempo faltaba para que llegaran a la ciudad?, pensó Sergio. El chico no parecía que pudiera resistir al frío por mucho rato más.

El camión comenzó a bajar la velocidad. ¿Acaso el conductor los había oído después de todo, y quería revisar como estaban? ¿O tal vez el viaje había transcurrido más rápido de lo que calculaba? No tenía manera de saber a que velocidad habían avanzado, sin poder ver al exterior.

Los siguientes minutos se le hicieron eternos a Sergio. Lo peor era el no saber que pasaba en el exterior. Trató de escuchar con más atención, por encima del tiritar que todos sentían por el frío. Creyó oír varias voces que provenían del frente del camión, pero no les encontraba sentido a lo que decían, a pesar de que podía hablar inglés de manera pasable.

De repente, se oyó como la cadena de la parte de atrás era retirada, y las puertas comenzaron a abrirse. La luz de un par de linternas danzó por el techo y entre las cajas de cartón cubiertas de escarcha.

Puta madre, fue todo lo que pudo pensar Sergio.


Paul was sure that what they were going to do was a terrible idea, and he let the others know what he thought.

-Just think of it as some sort of voluntary work -Sam explained, while their truck was following Nick's down the road, heading south.

-We just stop the people to give them some advice, make sure that they won't give a ride to any illegals that they find on the road -Mark added. -Nothing wrong with telling people that.

-Besides, we'll properly identify ourselves, like the good, law-abiding citizens we are -Pete said, from the passenger seat at the front.

-And won't they think you're a law enforcement agent, Mark? -Paul asked, raising an eyebrow as he looked at his companion.

-Not my fault if people judge me by my appearance. Shame on them! -Mark laughed it off, and the others followed suit.

Paul started to practice in his mind what he would say to the real law enforcement when they came down on them.

-You worry too much, Paul. You think this is the first time we done this? -Sam talked to him, putting one of his large hands on his shoulder. -The sheriff is grateful for all the help they can get, and if anything happens, he's got our back.

They arrived at the place they were going to put up their checking point at shortly after eight. The plan was to stay there a couple of hours, then go back to camp, where they would drink some more, share stories and then get ready to repeat the same tomorrow Saturday.

Mark had also brought four orange plastic cones, like the ones that were used on road construction, and put them on a line parallel to the road. They parked their trucks on the side, with the lights on.

About an hour passed by, where all cars that drove North towards Tucson got stopped by their group. Mark was the one who did most of the talking, since he already looked the part of a police officer and was familiar with the proper terms. Two of the guys stood next to him, while other two walked around the vehicle, checking if anything was out of place.

They did this with five cars and four trucks, with nothing out of the ordinary. That part of the road didn't have heavy traffic at that time of the night, and soon no other cars came down their way.

Paul yawned a bit. This trip had been nothing like Rich and the rest of the guys had lead him to think. All in all, it seemed more like an excuse to go out on the desert, shoot their guns, drink beer and pretend they were on some kind of patriotic duty.

He walked a bit in front of Nick's truck. The leg was bothering him again, but it wasn't the dull pain of having to put half of his weight on top of a pile of metal and plastic. Sometimes, he could've swear that he felt an itch, coming from the foot he no longer had, and since he wasn't able to scratch it anymore, the feeling stayed in the back of his mind for a longer time.

-Ok, guys, let's wrap it up! -Sam yelled, walking towards Mark's truck. -We did good today, let's get back to camp!

Good, Paul thought. Still, it wasn't so bad being there. The night sky was full of stars, like the times that he and his father had spent on their hunting and fishing trips. It took him a couple of seconds, but he found the Polar Star, at the end of the constellation that looked like a big ladle.

He was going to turn around to get into Nick's truck, when he saw a pair of lights coming their way. Judging by the size, it should be a cargo truck, going at the top of the speed limit.

-Alright, everyone, just one more time. Remember to be on guard -Mark ordered, then stood in the middle of the road making signs to the driver with the big lantern that he carried around in his belt.

He also carried some other stuff: a nightstick, pepper spray, stun gun, plastic zip-ties, and a swiss knife with green plastic covers.

The truck started to slow down, and the group got back into their positions. Paul grabbed the rifle that he'd left in the back of Nick's truck, and walked to reunite with the others.

The truck driver had lowered his window, and put the engine on neutral gear.

-Hello. Is there any problem, officer? -the big man said, trying to sound as non-chalant as possible, while Mark got right next to him.

-Good evening, sir. We're a group of concerned citizens, just taking this chance to remind you that you shouldn't pick-up any people you find on the road, since there's a high chance of them being illegal immigrants -Mark recited from memory the little speech, one he had spent his idle time practicing while doing his rounds at the mall.

-Well, uh, no, sir, I haven't seen any. None at all, that's for sure -the driver answered, feeling a bit nervous, and praying that they just let him continue.

-We'll just do a safety revision of your truck, just to make sure everything's in working order -Mark continued. He signaled towards the group to indicate them to start with it.

Dan, Nick, George and Paul walked toward the truck, lanterns in hand. Paul stated to check the closest side with Nick, while George and Dan did the same on the other side. Nick crouched to check the truck's underside, while Paul looked at the cargo section.

The box had a refrigeration unit on the top, still running and keeping things inside frozen. The logo on the side of the truck said it was from Sunland Farms, and it was almost sure it carried some kind of fruits or vegetables inside.

When he got to the back of the truck, George was already checking it out.

-Everything seems fine -the bald man said, passing the light of his lantern over the seals and the locked chain. -What do you think, man?

-Yeah, seems that there's no problem -Paul agreed. It seemed like the truck had those seals put into place back at the warehouse, and these looked unbroken.

Paul put his hand on one of the doors. It was cold as ice, so the interior should've been even colder.

-Hey, look at this -George called him over.

The light of his lantern was falling right on top of one of the yellow and orange sticker seals. They looked quite big, and no doubt were very easy to break, so it could be easy to see if the doors got opened.

-What is it? -Paul asked, not sure what was so strange about it.

-It's not reflecting the light. It's just normal plastic tape! -George exclaimed, feeling excited. -They're supposed to be made of reflective material so they can be checked out during the night. I know because I've seen them on other trucks when driving my hog at night.

Paul looked again at the tape with more care. He could see that under the cheap plastic tape, there was a bit of th reflective one underneath, shining back the light.

He tried to think about in a logical manner. Maybe the warehouse had run out of the reflective tape, he thought. But if it was faulty, why did the border agents let the truck pass without a second look?

The darkness was the answer. The checks at the border were done under very bright lights, so the border agents wouldn't notice if the seals were reflective or not.

-We gotta call Mike, tell her to call the police to come check this out -Paul said, turning away to go to where Rich was with the radio.

George walked ran a couple of yards, to where Mark was talking with the driver, now out of his vehicle.

-Yeah, that LeBron guy is overrated... -Mark commented. He had found out he shared a common interest about NCAA basketball with the driver, whose name was Bill. -Hey, what's the matter, George?

-We might have found something -George said, pointing towards the back of the truck.

Mark took a quick glance at Bill. His demeanor went from relaxed to tense, as soon as George had finished that sentence.

This was it, he thought. The moment that he proved that he was cut out for law enforcement. Nothing he would love more than having his name on a news site, congratulating him for finding out and stopping criminal activity.

-Sir, please let us check the inside of the truck -Mark asked in a polite, yet firm tone of voice. He put the right hand on top of his taser, just in case he needed to use it, like he always had trained to.

-Oh, no, I can't do that, buddy. The regulations... -Bill started to explain, but his voice trailed off when he saw Mark had his hand on top of what looked like a side-arm. And to make it worse, the rest of the armed men were coming closer to him.

-Why are you so nervous, dude? Got something you don't want us to see? -Nick asked, getting behind Mark with his rifle at the ready.

-Of course I'm nervous, you have all these guns, and I... -the driver babbled, while he could feel the sweat rolling down his forehead, despite being a cool summer night at the desert.

And I'm alone, he thought, realizing how compromising was his current situation.

-Sir, I'm going to ask one more time. Please, let us see what's inside your truck -Mark repeated, in a firmer tone of voice. He undid the little strap that kept his stun gun in place, in case the driver tried to make a run for it.

Paul and Rich were the last ones to join the tense stand-off. Mike had been pretty happy at hearing the news, and was notifying the sheriff's department to come sort things out.

The last thing he expected was to see his companions acting in such a threatening manner towards the driver.

He didn't know what to do. Many tense seconds passed by, while the world seemed to stop to a stand-still.

-Ok, alright, I'll do it! Just don't shoot me, Jesus! -the driver relented, lifting his hands over his head.

Paul took a deep breath, full of relief. Now, he hoped that the driver was really guilty of something, because if he wasn't, all them would be in deep trouble, even if that sheriff tried to help them out.

George and Dan flanked the driver, and walked with him towards the back of the truck. Mark followed them, having taking his stun gun out and keeping it ready. Nick, Sam and Paul stayed by the front of the vehicle, with their rifles down. The others went back to see what had made the driver so nervous.

Bill fumbled with the keys a bit, his hands jittery from fear. He dropped them and was about to grab them, but Pete took them first.

-Which key is it? -he asked, his voice as relaxed as if he was asking what kind of beer he wanted to try.

-It's the silver one, then the one with the three edges -Bill answered. He was then grabbed by Gerge by the left arm, and made him take some steps back.

Pete found the keys with ease, and opened up the lock. He let the chain fall down to the floor, the steel links making a heavy sound against the hard asphalt of the road.

Then he introduced the three-sided key in a small lock near the partition of the doors. Before he turned it, he took a look back, to see if the others were ready. Everyone got their guns at the ready, except for George, who kept the drivers arm in his firm grip.

Dave got a hold of the other door, and as soon as he did, Pete turned the key, releasing the last lock. The two men opened the doors, and the others lighted up the interior of the truck with their flashlights.

-Is anyone in there? -Mark said, in a very loud voice.

miércoles, 16 de diciembre de 2015

Las Arenas Silenciosas/The Silent Sands Parte II: Capítulo IV

IV

Sergio dio un vistazo al cuarto una última vez, asegurándose de no olvidar nada. Lo cual era fácil, ya que todo lo que llevaba cabía en la mochila negra que siempre llevaba consigo.

Se sintió un poco acalorado, ya que estaba usando el suéter negro debajo de la chaqueta de mezclilla, pero había recordado las palabras de Felipe acerca de estar abrigado. No sabía si tendría tiempo de ponérsela cuando estuviera en el lugar al que lo había citado, así que era mejor llevarla puesta de una vez.

Después de dejar la llave del cuarto con el encargado, salió a la calle. Eran las seis de la tarde, y la oscuridad comenzaba a avanzar entre las largas sombras que el Sol proyectaba conforme se ocultaba.

Tenía un par de horas antes de ir al lugar convenido. Él ya sabía dónde se encontraba, ya que había ido en la mañana a dar una vuelta por las cercanías.

La dirección estaba justo en medio de un área llena de bodegas y patios industriales, algunos con viejas máquinas de construcción en el interior, detrás de las bardas de malla metálica, protegidas con alambre de púas y candados más grandes que su mano.

Sergio camino con paso tranquilo por las calles de Nogales. Era una tranquila tarde de Viernes, y se notaba en algunos de los bares por los que pasó. En su interior podía oírse a la gente riendo y chocando sus copas, las melodías de la música norteña, y las luces de colores que parpadeaban y se movían por las paredes de los locales.

La música se fue volviendo más queda, hasta que el único ruido que Sergio podía oír era el de sus pasos sobre la grava de las calles sin pavimentar que había entre las bodegas. Aquí y allá se podía oír el sonido de la maquinaria pesada, de los camiones y grúas que entraban y salían de las bodegas, y del metal al ser soldado y cortado con sopletes.

Por fin llegó a la bodega que estaba indicada en el pedazo de papel. De acuerdo al reloj de su padre, había llegado quince minutos antes de la hora.

Sergio echó un par de vistazos a ambos lados, sintiéndose un poco intranquilo. Esa parte parecía desocupada. A lo lejos, en medio del camino de grava, un par de perros callejeros estaban acostados, tratando de guardar sus energías para ir a buscar entre los botes de basura a la mitad de la noche.

La bodega tenía una gran cortina de metal, por dónde debían pasar los vehículos. A un lado, había una puerta de metal, sin agarraderas, solo el agujero de la cerradura para meter la llave. Justo arriba de la puerta, había una esfera de plástico negro, con una cámara de seguridad que de seguro lo estaba viendo.

Sergio iba a golpear en la puerta, cuando escuchó de detrás de la puerta el sonido de varios seguros moverse, seguido por el de los mecanismos de la cerradura.

-¡Vamos, entra ya! -susurró Felipe de manera autoritaria.

Sergio hizo lo que le indicó. Una vez que estuvo adentro, vio que el interior de la bodega era muy diferente a su exterior.

Las paredes estaban bien pintadas de color blanco, y una franja de color arena que le llegaba casi a los hombros. En una de las esquinas más lejanas había varias cajas de cartón apiladas una sobre otra, casi al doble de su altura. A un lado, había varios tambores de metal, cubiertos de óxido.

Junto a la puerta había una pequeña oficina, con paredes de aluminio y grandes cristales. Adentro había un hombre de cabello cano, ocupado en leer el periódico, tratando de no poner atención a Sergio cuando entraba.

-¿Tienes el dinero? -preguntó Felipe, después de cerrar la puerta.

Sergio metió la mano en el bolsillo izquierdo de la chaqueta, y sacó el fajo de billetes, bien contados y separados por denominación. Al recibirlos, Felipe los paso de una mano a otra, contándolos con rapidez. Satisfecho al ver que estaba la suma correcta, se metió el dinero en un bolsillo del pantalón, y señaló a Sergio que fuera hacia el fondo de la bodega.

-Espera allá. Todavía falta que lleguen algunos -indicó Felipe, mientras regresaba a la oficina.

En la pared de la izquierda, dos hombres estaban sentados en unas sillas de plástico verde oscuro, conversando entre sí en voz baja. Estaban igual de abrigados que Sergio, incluso con gorros de lana y guantes guardados en los bolsillos de sus chamarras.

-Hey -saludó Sergio, mientras se sentaba en una de las sillas que estaban libres.

Los dos hombres no respodieron al saludo. Solo le echaron un rápido vistazo de arriba a abajo, como si trataran de tomarle la medida. Luego volvieron a su conversación, bajando aún más el volumen.

Uno de ellos tenía una mochila casi igual a la de Sergio, aunque algo más nueva. Parecía estar tan llena como la suya, aunque parecía algo más pesada. Aparte de tener mochilas, también llevaban consigo un par de bolsos deportivos, también llenos.

Era raro ver a alguien que llevara tanto equipaje para intentar cruzar la frontera. Acaso tenían planeado viajar aún más lejos, quizá ir a Florida o Nueva York, pensó Sergio.

Los hombres dejaron de hablar. Uno de ellos había notado que Sergio miraba las maletas que tenían a su lado. Sergio voltéo, y sus ojos se cruzaron con los de esos hombres, que lo miraban de manera hosca.

-Vamos, vamos, pasen de una vez -se oyó la voz de Felipe, que dejaba entrar a un grupo de recién llegados.

Se trataba de un par de hombres de más de cuarenta años, vestidos con camisas y pantalón de vestir, rompevientos de color verde oscuro, y tenis muy usados. Detrás venían un grupo de 3 mujeres, la más joven tenía apenas veinte años, y la mayor tenía casi cincuenta. Iban vestidas con pantalones de mezclilla, y chamarras con capucha, de tela gruesa tejidas a mano, de colores rosa y morado.

Los dos hombres dejaron de ver a Sergio y se distrajeron en ver a los que habían entrado a la bodega.

-Muy bien, tenemos media hora. Si alguien quiere ir al baño, solo pasen a la oficina, a la puerta del fondo, y no hablen con el guardia para nada. Para él, ninguno de ustedes está aquí, y eso costó caro, ¿está bien? -explicó Felipe, como ya era su costumbre -Una vez que estén a bordo, la puerta no se abre hasta que lleguen al destino, así que si tienen hambre o se sienten mal, aguántense. El conductor también está pagado para ignorarlos, sin importar que pase.

La espera se le hizo eterna a Sergio. No podía dejar de mover la pierna derecha de arriba a abajo. Incluso tras visitar el baño, y echarse agua en la cara, se sentía ansioso por el viaje.

La puerta de la bodega se abrió otra vez. Esta vez los que seguían a Felipe eran un padre y su hijo. El hombre parecía estar apenas en la treintena, y su hijo tenía la mitad de su edad. Los dos llevaban Un par de suéteres grises, con el escudo del club América impreso en el pecho.

El padre llevaba una mochila deportiva grande de color azul colgándole del hombro. Su hijo llevaba una mochila de color rojo, y un par de bolsas de plástico. El chico también llevaba en la cabeza un gorro de lana de color negro.

-Bien, ya son todos y están todos los que son -manifestó Felipe, mientras echaba un vistazo al reloj. -Quedan cinco minutos, estén listos.

Mientras Felipe intercambiaba unas palabras con el padre y su hijo, los demás migrantes comenzaron a hablar con sus compañeros. Sergio aprovechó de elevar una plegaria silencioa, hacia la Virgen María y todos los santos, para que todo saliera bien en su viaje.

Al otro lado de la cortina metálica, se escuchó el pitido de un auto. Felipe fue a la oficina, dónde se podía ver el exterior de la bodega por medio de la cámara.

El guardia se levantó de su silla, y fue a dónde estaba el mecanismo para elevar la cortina. Felipe salió con paso presuroso de la oficina hasta dónde estaban sus clientes.

-¡Órale, ya es hora de irse! -dijo el pollero, haciendo ademanes para que se levantaran de sus sillas y del suelo de concreto.

Ya era hora. Sergio dejó de mover la pierna, y se levantó de un salto, agarrando su mochila y poniéndosela al hombro. Los demás migrantes también fueron poniéndose de pie, agarrando sus cosas, dirigiéndose hacia el camión.

El camión era de tamaño mediano, con una caja de transporte bastante alta. El conductor bajó de la cabina, y se dirigió a abrir la puerta trasera. Era americano a todas luces, con una gran panza, cabello rubio algo largo bajo su gorra de color verde de los tractores John Deere, y una barba de dos días en su rostro cansado.

La caja de transporte tenía varias etiquetas en la unión de las puertas, además de una gran cadena con candado. El conductor sacó una llave de sus deslavados pantalones y abrió el candado, quitó la cadena, y abrió las puertas de par en par, rompiendo las etiquetas.

Felipe estaba al lado del camión, y mientras hacía ademanes a los otros para que subieran, sacó un juego de etiquetas que parecían casi idénticas a las que se habían roto.

-Vayan al fondo, ahí hay lugar, detrás de las cajas -informó Felipe, ayudando a que subieran las mujeres primero. -Nada de hablar, ni moverse durante el viaje. Si se les duermen las piernas se aguantan.

Sergio subió después de los dos hombres mayores. Al agarrarse de la caja del camión, se dio cuenta del porqué tenían que ir todos tan abrigados. El frío debía estar por debajo del punto de congelación, incluso varias de las cajas de cartón tenían algo de escarcha sobre su superficie.

El joven se las arregló para caminar entre las cajas amontonadas. Estaban ordenadas de tal manera que se podía avanzar de manera lenta entre ellas, con un espacio apenas lo bastante grande para que todos estuvieran sentados hasta el fondo de la cabina.

Al sentarse, Sergio quitó un poco de la escarcha de una las cajas con su mano. Las cajas llevaban "frozen vegetables", de acuerdo a la impresión en inglés. Se preguntó que tipos de vegetales, pero de seguro que al conductor no le gustaría que estuviera de curioso.

Los últimos en subir fueron los dos hombres de mirada hosca, cargando consigo sus pesadas maletas. Se acomodaron entre los demás, con las espaldas apoyadas contra las paredes del camión, dejando su equipaje en el espacio que quedaba en el centro, con el de los demás.

-¡Buena suerte! -se despidió Felipe, su voz llegando por encima de los montones de cajas.

Las puertas del camión se cerraron. Sergio oyó como la cadena era corrida de nuevo, y el sonido de varios golpes en la unión de las puertas.

El camión comenzó a moverse, dando algunos tumbos por el camino de grava y tierra. Dejó atrás la zona de bodegas, y se integró al resto del tráfico normal, dirigiéndose hacia la frontera.

En la caja el frío era muy duro. Sergio podía ver su aliento condensandose al salir de su boca, gracias a la luz roja que provenía de un panel de control en una de las paredes del camión.

Era algo tétrico, el ver a los demás bañados por esa pobre luz monocroma, y sintiendo ese frío intenso. Por un momento pensó que tal vez así sería el limbo del que tanto había oído en los sermones de la iglesia, un lugar sin tiempo ni forma, hasta que se decidiera si su alma iría al cielo o al infierno.

Sergio sintió las manos heladas. Las metió dentro de la chaqueta, justo debajo de sus axilas, para tratar de calentarlas un poco. Los otros migrantes también trataban de mantenerse lo más cálido posibles, juntándose con sus compañeros.

Solo tenía que resistir aquel frío unas horas, y la parte difícil habría terminado.


Paul was feeling a bit bothered by what happened in the morning. He didn't talk much while the others were talking and joking around, eating the food they had brought with along with them.

The group was next to an old, but well-maintained blue Dodge Ram pick-up truck. It was Mark's ride, and Nick's truck was parked right next to it. Helen, George and Dave had gone on another recon patrol, southwest of their current position.

Paul was sitting on the bed of Nick's truck, eating a half-soggy tuna salad sandwich made by Dan and Pete. They had also brought some potato chips, and a couple cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon to wash it all down.

Nick and Rich walked over to where Paul was. He just kept nibbling at the sandwich, trying to bite just enough to not feel sick.

-Hey, Paul, how you doing? -asked Nick, leaning back against his truck.

Paul didn't answer. He just kept taking small bites from the sandwich and taking a drink from his beer in between.

-You did the right thing, Paul, there's nothing to feel bad about -said Rich, standing right next to his young friend.

Paul sighed. If that was the right thing, he sure as hell didn't want to know what doing the wrong thing felt like.


Paul had accompanied  Sam, Mark and Dan on their patrol. They went to the East, to an area where it was mostly sand all over a rough terrain, and almost no plants around, except for a few rachitic trees and some cacti.

They were all wearing camouflaged green clothes, except for Mark, who looked more like a SWAT agent in his dark blue clothes. He even had a black baseball cap with a police star on it.

When Paul questioned him about it, Mark said that he had tried to join the Oregon police department, but had failed in some test. The guy almost talked Paul's ears off by going into a rant about how he suspected that the real reason was that diversity quotas were the real reason for him not getting hired.

Most of the reconnaisance consisted on them getting about five miles from the border, stand in the middle of nowhere, and look all around by using binoculars. Then Sam, who was in charge of the radio, sent a report back to the others saying that everything was clear so far.

They did that at what looked to Paul like random intervals, just stopping whenever Dan and Sam decided to. After the tenth time, he was getting bored, and was just looking outside the window, hoping to at least see some wildlife around.

-Hey, what's that? -Paul asked, pointing at a small group of trees just North of their route.

Sam put down the map he had been scribbling marks in, motioned Dan to stop, and grabbed his binoculars. The old man looked outside his side window, right towards Paul was pointing at.

-Motherfucker! -exclaimed Sam. Then he turned around and faced Dan. -Take us there. Good catch, Paul!

Paul had no idea what he had found. He just happened to see something bright, shining intermittently beneeath the trees.

They arrived there just five minutes later. Dan parked the truck just a few yards from the trees.

-Everyone, grab your guns. Be prepared for trouble -Sam ordered, after grabbing his own.

Everyone else had a hunting rifle, but Sam had broguth along a twelve-gauge shotgun, all black steel and high-grade polymers. He had the extra ammo on a bandolier that hung from his left shoulder and ran around his chest.

Paul grabbed his gun, which was a loan from Mike's own. Unlike the ones from his companions, the only notable thing was that the stock was painted in an intrinctae camouflage pattern, and had a medium-sized scope on the top.

-Paul, Mark, you two keep an eye out -Sam indicated. -Dan, you come with me.

The two men approached the trees with care, looking around them like they were expecting some kind of ambush. Their attitude made Paul feel tense, while hoping that they wouldn't find anything troublesome.

Mike and the others had explained to him that the mexican drug cartels sometimes used these routes to try and smuggle in their product.Just that year, had been a couple of incidents where the criminals had shoot against the border patrol agents, before retreating to the other side of the border.

That was the main reason all of them were carrying their guns around. Paul was no stranger to using one, having been on hunting trips with his father since he was a teenager, but he didn't want to be in a shoot-out for his life, like out of the Wild West.

His father had felt a bit dissapointed that Paul didn't want to go tot he police academy. And now here he was, trying to enforce the law with a gun at his side. The irony was not lost on him.

A shot broke the silence around them. Paul and Mark got their guns at the ready, pointing towards the trees. That had come from Sam's shotgun, and another followed it soon.

The two men ran towards the trees, gripping their guns tight. When they arrived , they saw that Dan was pointing his rifle towards something in the ground. He pulled the trigger, and shot his target in a perfect way.

Paul saw several plastic bottles and a couple of large plastic barrels, all shot up and broken. In the ground, there was a large puddle of water that came form the bottles.

-It's okay guys, we just wanted to do some target practice -Sam said, while doing a great effor to bend over and pick up the expended shells he had shot.

-It's also faster than using a knife -Dan said. He took a brand new package of cigarrettes from a pocket inside his jacket, and lighted one up.

The gleaming thing that had catched Paul's attention was hanging from one of the lower branches of the largest tree. It was one of many wide strips of aluminum foil, hanging like some kind of misplaced Christmas decoration.

-Wanna shoot one, guys? -Dan asked, pointing with the barrel of his gun towards the last, untouched plastic barrel. It had a black plasstic lid on, screwed on in a tight manner.

-What are those? -Paul said, intrigued.

-It's an immigrant watering hole, that's what it is -Sam answered, while reloading his shotgun. -It's so they have an easier time crossing through the desert.

-Some bleeding-heart type must've left them here. We find a couple of those every time we are in the area -Mark added. He kicked around some of the plastic bottles laying in the ground, to check if there were no intact ones.

-Don't go feeling bad about these people, Paul -Sam mentioned, after seeing Paul's face. -They're criminals who have made their choice.

-Yeah, you don't just leave your keys hanging from the front door just so thieves don't cut themselves breaking a window -Dan added, taking a long drag from his cigarrette.

Paul knew that they were right. The persons who had left there must've done it with the best of intentions, but it only helped people that broke the law.

His father used to say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, that people often did things that they knew were bad only because they somehow justify it to themselves as neccesary for something good down the road.

Paul lifted his gun, took aim at the lower part of the barrel, and squeezed the trigger. A large chunk of the barrel broke off, and the water jetted out with great force at first, but soon it was just a lazy stream.

-Nice shot! -Mark said, putting his left hand on Paul's shoulder.

-Let's wrap it up, guys. We should look around the area, see if there isn't any more of these water holes near -Sam indicated. He grabbed the radio he had hanging from a clip on his belt, and started talking into it. -Base, we found us an illegal well. Over.

The base was in Mike's house, with Mike as their operator. She had drawn the short straw earlier that day, before everyone headed out. This suited her well, since even though he loved going out on patrol duty, she had found it more and more difficult to rest well in the cold, hard ground instead of her comfy bed.

The duties of the person who was at the base included keeping a record in their movements by drawing in a large, old map that was kept at the dining table, making sure every team made updates about their condition ever hour, and making sure someone could call 911 in case of an emergency.

They also had the very important duty of keeping everyone out of trouble with official law enforcement. They were supposed to do their watching out for illegal immigrants within the limits of Mike's property and the nearby national park area, and just inform the proper authorities when they spotted someone.

Mark always brought his police scanner, and the person at the base used it to be informed of the border patrol movements. That way they could cover the areas that the understaffed border forces couldn't, and be more effective about their activities.

Paul was about to get back inside the truck, when Mark pointed at something behind his back.

-Look at that -Mark said. He was pointing towards a small figure in the hills that were some distance from them. -Didn't know there were any coyotes around.

When Paul turned to see him, all he could catch was a glimpse of the animal running away, hiding behind some large rocks.

-It's so weird that the shots didn't scare him away -Mark added. He was already sitting down in the backseat of the truck.

Paul remained silent all during the rest of the patrol. They didn't find any more spots with water drums and bottles. While the others felt a bit dissapointed, Paul felt a bit glad. Even though he knew that shooting them was the right thing to do, the whole thing was bothering him some.

It was almost one o'clock in the afternoon when they went back to the meeting spot to eat with the others, and Rich and Nick heard about his deed.


-I just didn't came to shoot drums full of water, guys -Paul said, after finishing the soggy sandwich.

-Well, we have some good news, then. Tonight we will do something much, much better than that -Nick announced, smiling like a child full of anticipation.

-We'll be doing some proper law enforcement, that's what -Rich revealed, clapping once with his hands with excitement. -Try and get some rest, we need to be sharp, and I mean SHARP for tonight.

-Great -Paul commented. He wondered what the plan would be, but before he could ask them about it, his friends had gone back to trying to make sense of the instructions for their tent.

Whatever it would be, he hoped it would be good.

miércoles, 25 de noviembre de 2015

Las Arenas Silenciosas/The Silent Sands Parte II: Capítulo III

III

Sergio se quedó sin saber que decir. Tenía el concepto atorado en la garganta, pero se negaba a salir en forma de palabras.

Un sorbo de la cerveza que tenía enfrente le ayudó a desatorar el nudo conceptual.

-¿Es en serio? -inquirió el joven, dejando la botella de cuartito en la mesa.

-Oye vato, si quisiera hacer bromas me iría al parque a actuar de payaso -mencionó Felipe, apoyando el brazo derecho en la mesa.

Felipe tenía poco más de treinta años, aunque aparentaba un par de años más por el bigote, que siempre traía bien cuidado y recortado, al igual que su cabello, negro como el carbón.

El pollero vestía con una camisa azul de manga larga, pantalones de mezclilla de un color negro deslavado por los años, y unas botas de cuero café, bien cuidadadas. Había dejado sobre la mesa su sombrero de vaquero, blanco como el algodón, al alcance de su mano izquierda.

Felipe era el sobrino de Graciano, quién siete años antes había pasado al grupo de Miguel y Mariano al otro lado de la frontera. Según contaba, su tío había durado solo un par de años más, antes de dejarle todo el negocio a él.

-Pues es que está muy caro. Casi lo mismo que costó cruzarnos a cinco personas, pues -comentó Sergio, todavía un tanto incrédulo.

-Eso fue entonces, ahora es mayor el riesgo -comenzó Felipe, mientras daba sorbos a su cerveza en cada pausa. -Hay mayor vigilancia de parte de los gringos, con más cámaras y drones; los pasos están más vigilados en ambos puntos, y es más difícil cruzar; y los cárteles te pueden agarrar de un lado o del otro, y créeme que no quieres que eso pase.

-¿Y por ese precio seguro sí cruzo sin pedos? -insistió Sergio, todavía sintiéndose inseguro.

Si no podía lograr un buen trato, estaba dispuesto incluso a esperar la caída de la noche, buscar un punto en la barda por dónde pudiera trepar, y jugársela a cruzar el desierto a pie, solo.

-Soy tan seguro que podría ser una agencia de viajes, vato. Y tienes suerte, porque justo mañana será el cruce que arreglo cada mes -explicó el pollero, con una sonrisa, tratando de mostrarse confiable.

-¿Ah, sí? ¿Pues cómo es el viaje? -preguntó Sergio.

Felipe se llevó un dedo a los labios, antes de contestarle.

-Mira, no puedo darte detalles, solo que es una ruta que hago desde hace año y medio, todos los que van cruzan sin pedos. Si vienes, te garantizo que llegas a Tucson. -dijo Felipe, cruzándose de brazos. -Ya después de ahí, es problema tuyo lo que hagas y adónde vas.

Sergio todavía no se sentía muy convencido. Acaso podría probar su suerte preguntando por algún otro pollero, pensó.

-Si todavía tienes dudas, pues es normal. Pero te garantizo que el precio es uno de los más bajos, considerando el riesgo y la distancia -continuó el pollero. -Si lo que quieres es solo saltarte la barda, o probar irte escondido en un coche, también puedo conectarte con la gente adecuada. Pero así sí es más fácil que te atrapen, vato.

El pollero hizo una seña a Roberto, pidiendo otra cerveza. El cantinero la llevó con rapidez, ya que se habían ido casi todos los clientes que llegaban de manera usual a la hora de la comida.

-Cuando acepté este negocio de mi tío, me hizo prometer que una vez que aceptara el dinero de alguien, de quien fuera, yo haría lo posible e imposible por cumplir con lo prometido- compartió Felipe. Limpió la boca de la botella con una servilleta de papel, antes de comenzar a beberla. -Si me pagas, te prometo por la virgencita que te llevaré del otro lado.

Sergio soltó un suspiro. Considerando sus opciones, lo mejor sería tomar el riesgo con Felipe. Cada día que esperara, era un día en que se exponía a ser detenido por la policía, o secuestrado por un cártel, que era casi lo mismo por aquellos lugares.

-Muy bien, acepto tu oferta -dijo Sergio.

Felipe extendió la mano, y Sergio la apretó, sellando el acuerdo. De inmediato sintió que elipe le pasaba un pedazo de papel doblado en la mano.

-Perfecto, entonces te veré mañana en la hora y el lugar que ya sabes -explicó Felipe. -Y abrígate bien.

El pollero acabó la cerveza que le quedaba de un trago, se levantó, y dejó dos billetes de doscientos a Roberto, el propietario del bar.

Sergio esperó unos minutos, y luego se levantó de la mesa, con el papel todavía en la mano. Se acercó a la barra, dónde Roberto estaba ocupado metiendo botellas llenas de cerveza en la nevera de plástico.

-Oiga, disculpe, ¿dónde puedo comer barato por aquí cerca? -inquirió Sergio, con una de las correas de la mochila en el hombro derecho.

-Saliendo vas a la izquierda, hasta la esquina, y de ahí te vas para abajo hasta ver un depósito de la Corona. Justo en frente hay un local con comida corrida -explicó Roberto, haciendo los ademanes para señalar la dirección correcta.

-Gracias -dijo Sergio. -Adiós, y gracias por todo.

-No hay de qué, pero mejor guardate las gracias hasta que estés del otro lado. Te deseo buena suerte -se despidió Roberto.

El cantinero volvió a su labor de reponer la reserva de cerveza helada. Sergio abrió la puerta de aluminio, y salió a la calle. Lo recibió el Sol menguante del atardecer, cuya luz comenzaba a tornarse en tonos naranja.

Mientras esperaba la comida en el local que le habían indicado, Sergio echó un vistazo a la nota. Detallaba la hora y el lugar dónde debería presentarse mañana.

Para cuando le sirvieron la sopa de verduras, Sergio ya tenía un plan. Esa noche buscaría el motel más barato que pudiera encontrar, y trataría de descansar lo más posible. Necesitaría todas sus energías para el viaje.

Se preguntó el porque Felipe le había dicho que se abrigara bien, pero decidió no pensar mucho en ello. Seguiría el consejo, y ya descubriría la razón mañana en la noche.

Por suerte había traído consigo un viejo suéter negro que había usado en el último año de la secundaria. Sus padres lo habían comprado un par de tallas más grande, porque esperaban que lo usara durante la preparatoria.

Sergio decidió dejar de lado sus preocupaciones por un rato, para poder disfrutar su comida. Sería la última buena comida que tendría en un buen tiempo, si lograba cruzar la frontera.

Mientras Sergio comía, el Sol seguía su descenso por el cielo, la gente entraba y salía del local. En el fondo, podía oír el sonido de una televisión sintonizada en una de las telenovelas de la tarde.

Cuando estaba casi a punto de comer lo último de la ensalada que le habían servido con la delgada carne asada, en su mente surgieron de nuevo las palabras del viejo Eliseo.

-Vas a morir allá afuera -es lo que había dijo es viejo borracho.

Sergio se quedó viendo por un momento el último bocado que tenía en el tenedor de plástico blanco.

Morir allá o morir aquí. Al final no había diferencia.

Acabó de comer, y se levantó para ir a pagar a la mujer que estaba encargada.


-Well, ain't that a kick in the nuts -Dave said, like he was doing more than just stating the obvious.

The blond man tried to reach into his gray camouflaged jersey for his pack of cigarrettes, but a mean look from Mike made him take his hand away.

-You know damn well it took me two years to get rid of the damn smell after Shawn died -Mike reminded him. -And that goes for all of you, too. If you want to smoke, do it outside on the deck.

The group had just finished eating dinner. The ones who had gone on the recon mission towards the fence had come back ten minutes after Paul and the others had finished setting things up.

Now they were drinking some beer from a keg that Mark had brought along to celebrate their ten year anniversary of doing the border patrol. Like always, Rich had been drinking a bit more that he should, but so did almost everyone, except for Helen, who was a teetotaller.

-And what happened after you got back home, Paul? -Helen asked, her head resting on the shoulder of a bald man with a black handlebar moustache with specks of white.

George looked like he would've been right at home on top of a chopper, with nothing else but him and the open road. He even had some intrincate tattos on his forearms, some of them looking a bit too rough to be made by a professional.

-Well, if the devil wanted a role-model, I would direct him to the insurance company that I'd signed up before being shipped overseas -Paul commented, his words dripping with some bitterness despite the time that had passed already.

-It's the fault of that goddamn socialized medicine we're being dragged into, if you ask me -Rich intervened, which gained him an annoyed look from Helen. Even if he had noticed it, Rich wouldn't have cared.

-God damn it, Rich, let the kid finish! -said a rather large man, fatter than even Rich.

Sam was almost at his sixtieth birthday, but time had eroded away his patience towards anything he found annoying, and he always had something to feel annoyed by.

Rich shrank a bit in his seat, feigning a sudden interest in his glass of beer. Sam motioned to Paul to continue.

-As I was saying, the insurance company was full of grade-A assholes, every one of them -Paul remembered, while playing a bit with his empty glass. -the bastards not only didn't want to pay for the hospital stay, surgery and all, but also tried to claim that the rehabilitation costs was something that wasn't covered by the policy.

-Fucking rat bastards -muttered Nick, who was resting his head on the table, using his right arm as a makeshift pillow.

-Yeah, that's some messed up stuff, son -Mark added, with a coarse voice. He was the second oldest person in the group, just a couple youngers than Sam. Unlike him, he looked like time had chipped away at more than just his patience, since he looked like tall, wiry scarecrow.

It didn't help that his green and brown camouflage jacket looked a size too big for him to use. It was also hard to ignore the scars running all over his nose and left cheek, a reminder of an old car accident he had been involved in his youth.

-I haven't gotten to the worst part. Or best, if you like -Paul said, with an ironic smile on his lips. -You see this fake leg of mine?

Paul then pointed down to his prostethic leg, and tapped the aluminum shaft with the beer bottle, making the glass sound like the bell on top of the door at Henry's shop.

Out of instinct, Nick got up, looking wildly from side to side.

-Welcome, sir, how can I help you? -Nick asked, like he always did when he was at the shop.

Everyone else laughed at him, while Nick was still trying to remember where he was.

-So, what about the leg? I think that looks fine -George commented, while the laughs started to calm down.

-Oh, this one is fine, is a real good leg. But it's not the leg that those assholes paid for -Paul revealed.

Of all the bad things that had happened once he got back home, that was still the one thing that he was hung up on.

-When I was going through rehab, the doctor told me that soon I would be ready to start working with the prostethic leg -Paul remembered, while the grip on his beer got a little tighter. -And I got kinda excited, because some of the guys that also went there were vets who had this fancy, battery powered things. Like out of a sci-fi movie.

-And people say we don't care about our veterans -Rich interjected. He was getting ready to start a rant, but a quick look around the table convinced him that it would be better received at a later time. Right now, everyone wanted to know more about what Paul was telling.

-Anyway, there I am at the doctor's office, feeling like a kid in Christmas morning, when he enters the room with a large box that looks a little beat-up, sits down and out he takes an ugly,cheap-looking prostethic half-leg -Paul described, still feeling the dissapointment and anger like he was back in that office.

He then explained how the doctor told him that that thing was the best the insurance company was willing to pay for. Paul and his father had tried to argue with the company, but didn't get anything more than getting cited a bunch of rules and regulations.

That thing worked as well as it looked. Paul couldn't even use the cane, and had to keep using the crutches, which did wonders for his ability to move around the town.

-It was a pretty bad time for me and my dad. I wanted to go back to work, any work, but it was damn impossible if I even couldn't walk right -Paul said. Then he nodded towards where Rich was sitting. -It was then that I met Rich and the guys, when he was handing leaflets at a park.

Paul was sitting down in a bench, trying to rest and let what was left of his leg to recover enough to go back to his dad's house. It had been another day were he was going around town, trying to find a job, but almost all of those jobs required someone who could walk without crutches.

He tried to distract himself by watching the people going around the park. He felt a bit bitter at how all these people went around, taking for granted something as easy as walking. He had tried to help his country, to do some good, and now here he was, after the people in charge had done just enough to quiet their conscience.

-He gave one to me, and I just crumpled it up and threw it away once he walked away -Paul recounted. -Then, a couple of days later, he hands me another, which I also threw away. Then a week later, he gives me another leaflet.

-And he told me: "Old man, I'm just going to throw it away like all the others, why do you keep giving one to me?" -Rich mentioned, this time his intervention not being resented.

-Yeah, like that. And he tells me: "Because you look like the kind of guy who is in a hole, and wants to get out" -Paul said, trying to make his best impression of how Rich's voice sounded.

He didn't threw away that leaflet. Once he got back home, Paul took a good look at that piece of paper. It was for a group called Concerned Citizens of America, in big bold letters flanked by crossed American and Confederate flags.

Fellow citizen! America is in danger!
The country is in turmoil, assaulted by enemies both abroad and at home!
As the once great society built by our forefathers crumbles around us,
the effects are being felt by each of us, the good people in every town and city!
Our government no longer cares about us, the true Americans, instead choosing to cater to the whims of a select few!
If you want to learn the truth behind it all, come to our meetings, ever last Saturday of the month!

The next Saturday, Paul was in front of a peculiar looking building. It was made out of two metal shipping containers put togehter side by side, with an elaborate wooden sign identifying it as "The Great Stag Hunting Lodge".

-So, I walk inside, and then I saw Rich, talking to Pete while sitting one of the wooden pine benches they had facing the far wall of the lodge -Paul described. -There were like fifteen other people already sitting there, and when Rich saw me he got up and shook my hand, thanking me for being there.

The first speaker was an old man wearing a cheap looking dark-blue suit. He was from Phoenix, Arizona, and talked at lenght about the problem of illegal immigration. The man's speech was full of attacks towards the "good for nothing liberals" in the federal government that "were content to let his home be run into the ground" by the never-ending flux of illegal immigrants coming from south of the border.

Paul found the speech quite droll, even if did have some interesting facts about the problem of illegal immigration. He was starting to think he should leave, when Rich announced the theme of the next presentation.

It was from a man in his forties, dressed in a flanel shirt tucked inside his jeans. He was bald, and had a full, neatly trimmed auburn beard. He was a representative from a charity whose main concern was helping the injured veterans coming home from Afghanisthan and Iraq.

That grabbed Paul's attention, and vor the next half hour he heard how many veterans couldn't cope with these life-changing injuries at first, but were still the same brave men and women they always were, adapting to their new challenges.

Still, they needed help to go back into society.  There weren't many places that hired people like them, and their families also faced their own challenges, getting accustomed to the changes that their loved ones had been through.

-After that meeting was over, Paul asked how he could get in touch with the organization. We got to talking, and that's when I found out about the troubles he'd had with his leg -Rich mentioned, drinking the last of his beer.

-They helped me a lot -Paul admitted. -To get rid of that piece of shit fake leg, and get this new one, that may not be fancy but at least let's me walk without a cane.

-We also helped him find a job at Henry's store -Rich added. He scratched his right forearm, just where a mosquito had bitten him. -It's not fancy, but it's a good, honest job.

-And that's how I got here -Paul finished. He took a sip of his beer. -I wanted to learn more about how to help make our country a better place, and to pay back the kindness I've received.

Everyone around the table mumbled with approval, the drinking and late hour starting to get to them. Nick had succumbed to it already, sleeping with his face down on the table, his left arm covering his messed up hair.

-Okay, everyone, time to go to sleep. Tomorrow we have a busy day -announced Mike, as she got up from the table.

Twenty minutes later, Paul was sleeping on the couch. The sleeping arrangements were always done in a first come, first serve way, but after hearing his tale the other guys almost forced him to accept the couch, instead of his sleeping bag on the floor of the living room, like Rich, Nick, Mark and Dave.

Sam had preferred to sleep on the outside, right on the back deck. He explained that he preferred to be outside, since that's what he always did on his hunting trips, and didn't like much sleeping inside a house other than his own.

Paul had left his prostethic leg right next to the sofa, propped against a small table that had a small flower vase with plastic orchids in it.

He covered himself in the sheets that Mike had given him, printed with a dark green grass pattern and some orange flowers. The night was getting a bit chilly, and he felt less guilty about not sleeping in the floor.

Paul wondered how things would've turned out if he hadn't accepted that leaflet, and gone to the meeting. It was kind of hard to believe that things would been better, he admitted to himself, before falling asleep.