NO QUARTER SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Reese Maynard was awoken by the sound of forceful rapping at his front door. His sleepy eyes looked at the digital clock by his bed reading 4:30 a.m.
He quickly turned over to regard the raven haired beauty that shared his bed. She too was in the process of waking, but had not turned to face him yet.
In a loud whisper he said, “Listen, do what he talked about and do not make a sound. Listen for the signal. Comprande?”
Maynard opened the drawer of the night table and withdrew the small pistol he kept there for emergencies and placed it between the bands of his Jockey Shorts in the rear. The knocking came again, louder this time.
Reese got out of bed and closed the bedroom door behind him.
He cautiously made his way downstairs over to the front door and pushed the drapes aside to see who his mystery guest was.
Merle McGinty. He was dressed in their traditional work uniform: olive green trousers with a blue stripe down the pant leg, an olive green shirt with blue shoulder straps and the campaign hat that Border Patrol Officers wore making him look like Smokey the Bear.
Reese undid the chain on the door and opened it for his friend.
“Sorry to barge in on you at this hour..”
“Christ Merle, it’s 4:30 a.m. Couldn’t this wait?”
McGinty shook his head and walked through the doorway even though Maynard had not expressly invited him in.
“Official business, partner. Came from above.”
Reese knew what Merle meant. “Above” meant the Chief of Border Patrol, Michael J. Fisher. If Fisher sent out his men at this ungodly hour, something was serious indeed.
McGinty and Maynard were both Chief Patrol Agents (CPA for short) and both had the circular patch on the left arm of their uniform reading “U.S. Border Patrol.” On the right breast, each had their own gold badge identifying them as patrol agents with the proud American eagle at the peak.
Merle switched on an old lamp bedside the large brown couch while Reese just stood there in his boxers, with pistol still in place.
“I guess you know why I’m here dontcha?” McGinty asked.
Maynard scratched his head that through his graying crewcut. “No Merle, as a matter of fact I don’t.”
McGinty walked around the living room area, peering behind the door that leads to the kitchen.
“Well, sir, we’ve been hearing a lot of things, y’know.”
Reese followed him into the kitchen.
“Like what things? What do ya mean?’
McGinty idly opened the pantry for a brief moment and looked up at the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. “Oh, like some Mexican douche bags crossing over illegally, what else is new, right? But more importantly, that some officers may be y’know ….helping them.”
Reese said, “Merle, if you are insinuating that I..”
“Reese, how long we worked together for? 15 years, I figure. I hate doing this as much as you hate me being here, but this here is some serious stuff and I gotta do my duty.”
Maynard nodded. He would have to do something too.
McGinty hiked up his pants that were overshadowed by his protrudent belly.
“Gonna check downstairs first you don’t mind.”
Reese opened the door to the basement and extended his hand to allow his co-worker access. This would actually be perfect, he thought. Gives me a chance to go back upstairs to the bedroom…
He turned and started heading upstairs when Merle said, “Wait just one sec there partner. I want you to come with me.”
Maynard looked him in the eyes and saw two green stones looking back at him.
“Why you have a gun out for, Reese?”
Shit. He had turned his back to him.
“Nothing, I didn’t know it was you. It’s 4:30 in the goddamn morning. I’m not exactly expecting visitors.”
McGinty nodded. “No bother. Put the piece down and come downstairs with me.”
Reese placed the pistol on the table with the lamp beside the couch and made his way downstairs in single file behind Merle.
The staircase was old and creaked especially with the weight of the two men on it. When they reached the bottom, the room was pitched black and Reese pulled a chain to illuminate a single light bulb with no fixture.
The basement was cold and had the faint smell of must permeating the air. Merle saw stacks of canned goods on shelves, several folded deck chairs, an old television set and a loveseat.
McGinty walked around the area with the Maglite flashlight that was attached to his belt to add additional illumination.
Maynard stood near the base of stairs silent, beads of sweat starting to form on his brow despite the coldness of the basement.
Merle searched all the corners of the room, even shone his light to the ceiling to look for trapdoors.
After what seemed to be an eternity, Merle broke the silence. “Okay, now the bedroom.”
Maynard’s mind started to whirl. Got to come up with something. Got to stop this shit now.
Maynard led as the two ascended the staircase back into the kitchen area.
Thinking quickly, Reese opened up a lower cabinet.
“Hey, hey where are my manners? You want something to eat or drink? I can whip you up the best frittata in El Paso.” His right hand gripped the handle of a cast iron skillet.
McGinty smiled for the first time. “Nah, too early for that.” And then he turned his back to go to upstairs to the bedroom.
Reese’s hand clenched the heavy skillet’s arm.
It would be so easy. One whack and that’s all she wrote for old Merle. The man he thought was his friend, his compadre that was now leading this goddamn witch hunt on him.
Then he dropped the skillet. It made a resounding crash as it landed on the tiled floor.
McGinty stopped at the base of the stairs and whipped around.
“What the hell’s the matter with you? Scared the bejesus out of me. What are ya so jumpy for? You got nothing to worry about…right?” His eyes belied his words.
“Sorry, sorry. I guess I haven’t completely woken up yet,” Reese muttered.
“Know what you need? A woman in your life.” Merle waved a plump finger at him. “I’m telling you, it would do you a lotta good. Livin’ by yourself in this place..looks like you haven’t done no work on it in forever.”
Reese’s racing heart slowly started to subside. A bit. His voice was hollow. “Ever since Dale left you know..it’s hard to meet..”
“Dale? Shit Reese, she’s been gone what, 5 years now? Time to get back on your horse and ride, old friend. C’mon now, upstairs.”
Maynard eyed the pistol on the table. He could make a lunge for it, probably faster than Merle could draw his….
Instead, he sighed and followed his co-worker upstairs now.
Each step he took he felt a stab in his right temple. He was breathing through his mouth now, making his dry throat even drier.
McGinty nudged open the bedroom door using the Maglite. He slowly stepped into the room, busy green eyes scanning all over. Looking for hints of another visitor, female clothes, scent of perfume, feminine hygiene products..anything.
Reese stood in the doorway, panic racing through him and he fought with all his might not to let it show.
McGinty approached the walk-in closet and opened the doors.
“You done yet?” Reese asked him, interrupting McGinty’s thoughts.
McGinty did not respond.
He ran his hand through the clothes on the rack. He saw pressed cotton shirts, Maynard’s work uniform, multiple trousers, mostly black or olive green. No people hiding in the closet and no sign of any woman.
“Just about done partner.”
McGinty then tilted his head downwards to look under the bed.
Christ no, not under the bed, oh NO!
Just as McGinty started to kneel, there was an audible click elicited from his lower spine.
McGinty winced and assumed an erect posture once again. He held both hands behind his back and tried to arch himself backwards.
“Damn lower back pain. Jeez, this is the third time it’s gone out on me this month.”
Reese quickly said, “You want an Allieve? I got some in the medicine cabinet…”
McGinty shook his head, “Nah, nah it’ll pass. Always does.”
He started to make his way out of the bedroom.
Maynard breathed deeply, hoping his compatriot wouldn’t notice his anxiety.
McGinty shook his head again. “No, I think I’m all done here. Sorry to have been a pain in the keester but at least now I can write up a clean bill of sale on you.”
He extended his right hand. “No offense.”
Reese warmly accepted his firm handshake. “None taken, old friend.”
McGinty lumbered his way downstairs, right hand placed on his lumbar spine.
“You go get some more shut eye and I guess I’ll see you later at the border.”
Reese nodded. “Till then.”
He watched McGinty get into his car, start the engine and drive off into the night.
He then bounded up the stairs into the bedroom.
“Maria, it’s me. Come out.”
She slowly slunk her way from underneath the bed and stood up to face him.
“You heard the skillet drop?”
She nodded without saying a word.
Reese held her tightly and kissed her head. “That was close. Too close. We’re going have to leave here. It’s not safe anymore.”
She looked deeply into his eyes. Her English was far from ideal but one word she understood perfectly from Maynard was forever.
© Copyright 2017 Steve Balsky. All rights reserved.
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