The Road of
When the DEA
left with the prisoners in back of the truck it was temprano en
la manana-still dark. Their plan was to take them to a lock-up
in the capital, La Paz where, unlike in Santa Cruz, the officials
could not be bribed. It was probably a mistake. The only way
there was by a single road named El Camino del Muerte that wound
its way up, into the Eastern Cordillera or Cordillera Oriental of
the Andes and was called that simply because it was a treacherous
single-lane tract, with many switch-backs, at times steep, and
many buses of Indians had gone down there and fell over its edge
into the canyons, which were common, as the altitude climbed from
sea-level in the yungas, or flat lands, to fourteen thousand feet
near La Paz. It had a reputation for danger. On this day it
would keep its reputation… in spades.
As they pulled
out of town the forest began to surround the road. It was cool
and still early. An hour later the dew was still on the grass,
and the leaves, and the steel barrels of the AKs held by the
primos (or cousins) of the two brothers in the truck. They'd
secreted themselves in the forest. Hugo had seen to that. Dude
knew nothing about this. He was only along for the ride.
Handcuffed to the other two for crimes of hi own, they jostled
and bumped along the road in the back of the truck. On the truck
rolled, deeper and deeper into the gaping mouth of the forest.
There would be no arrival at the capital and no turning back on
this trip. Yet there would be a stop.
A tree had
fallen across the road. One agent stepped down to inspect.
"We'll just use
the winch and pull it aside," he told the other who remained in
"It's OK," the
second one answered, "we've got all day."
But then the
first one went to the trunk of the tree to take a closer
When the agent
came to the trunk he didn't see a break or an uprooting. He saw
it had been cut.
He noticed the
forest gone quiet, silent quiet as a tomb.
considered both the quiet and cut he knew he was dead.
A shot rang out
of the shadows proclaiming liberty. The other barrels grew hot
and turned the dew to steam. The prisoners regained their freedom
and along with the gunmen gained the safety of the forest. Their
laughter was soon muffled by the leaves and the creepers and
lianas, and the clearing went silent save for the drip drip
dripping of scarlet death as it stained the fallen leaves.
A day later Dude
left town for good, his only souvenir of the incident the cuff
marks on his wrists.
"Vaya con Dios,"
Hugo had told him. Before when he heard it from others it only
meant goodbye. From Hugo it meant, "Go with God."