Risky Business

Pam met Rosa Gonzalez in her junior year at Arizona State University.  Looking to escape the summer heat one August afternoon, she and her roommate wandered into Senora Rosa’s Psychic Center to get their futures told.  The Psychic Center was less of a center and more of a one-roomed shack situated on a dusty corner just close enough to the university to attract even the most discriminating student.

Rosa had been remarkably accurate reading her roommate’s palm and when it was Pam’s turn Rosa had pushed Pam’s upturned palm away and pulled out a large deck of cards.  Rosa explained a little about the Tarot deck, had Pam shuffle, and cut the cards. Rosa laid the cards out and talked about boyfriends (all ex’s), marriage (he’ll be a brunette with an important job), and babies (she’d have one – a boy).  The Death card loomed ominously on the table but Rosa calmed Pam’s unspoken fears and talked mainly about overall future happiness.

The girls left and laughed all the way home.  But some of what Rosa had spoken to Pam stayed with her.  In her senior year Pam met and married Bill Davies, a handsome, serious boy with a bushy head of brown hair who was starting work with Border Patrol.  Rosa’s words came to mind again when their son, Bill Junior, was born.  Rosa had said, “One son,” but she and Bill wanted more.  Bill quickly climbed the ranks within Homeland Security and wanted be an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.  Pam was all for the move as she sometimes spent days worried about Bill.  The Arizona border was a dangerous place and a move to ICE would mean a position in Phoenix which would allow him to spend much more time at home.

Bill and Pam were devastated when a doctor finally confirmed that Pam would be unable to carry another child to full term.  She thought then that she might pay Senora Rosa another visit and even drove by the old shack off Spence Avenue one afternoon.  She pulled her SUV into a space across the street and was impressed that the Psychic Center still stood.  From the signs hanging in the draped window, Senora Rosa still offered Palmistry and Tarot Readings but the ‘o’ on the neon sign was out and read “Tar t” readings which made Pam laugh.  There was new signage though: Psychic Readings, Runes, and Séances. Pam shuddered at the word séance.  She had no interest in communing with the dead.  Putting her car in gear Pam headed home.

It was just two years later that Bill got the call that he’d been approved for transfer to ICE out of the Phoenix office.  His initial position would be grunt and desk work but he didn’t mind.  It was cause for celebration.  Pam thought that her life was just about perfect.

Days later Pam heard the bus dropping off kids at the end of their cul-de-sac, Pam peeked out the window and watched as the big yellow bus opened its doors and dislodged screaming children running in all directions to their homes.  She smiled as she saw Junior jump down the stairs and stand talking to his friend Brian.  Just then the timer buzzed and Pam turned to retrieve the Snickerdoodles from the oven.  As she placed the second tray of cookies on the wire racks to cool Pam heard tires screeching, a sickening thud, a moment of silence, and then the screams.

Running out the front door Pam flew down the driveway surveying the scene before her.  A woman was shrieking hysterically beside a car with an open door.  Children were running around wildly as if they’d been wound up by a great metal key in their backs and left to totter out of control.  She could see the lump on the pavement in front of the woman’s car.  She recognized the familiar navy blue windbreaker, khaki pants, and bright blue Spiderman backpack. “Junior, no!” she cried out as she scurried under the car and pulled her boy into her chest.  She hugged Bill Junior tightly to her as she felt his life leave his body.  Wailing, she barely heard the muffled voices behind her.

“You shouldn’t move him, Pam,”

“I called 911.”

“Does anyone have Bill’s cell?”

“I didn’t see him.  I never saw him.”

She could only lay on the pavement, her son in her lap, and kiss his lifeless head as the sirens in the distance neared.  Soon the strong hands of the EMT’s took Bill Junior from her and laid him on a stretcher.  Police were speaking to the lady who killed her son and various other neighbors who’d amassed around the scene.  A gentler arm was suddenly around her shoulders and she turned to see her next door neighbor Nancy’s tear stained face.  She closed her eyes and dug her head into Nancy’s chest as she sobbed harder.

“Brian is calling Bill,” Nancy said quietly.  “It’ll be okay.”  Pam wondered how Nancy could know that.  “Go now with Bill Junior.  I’ll close up the house and we’ll meet you at the hospital.”  Nancy watched sadly as her friend climbed into the back of the ambulance.

Bill Junior had been declared dead at the hospital although Pam knew it had happened hours earlier on the pavement outside their house.  Bill, Nancy and Brian all seemed to arrive at the hospital at the same time.  One look at Pam told Bill all he needed to know.  His first words had been, “What happened?”  But she couldn’t get it out.  She waved over the police and the doctor to report the news to her husband.  Their only son was gone and she couldn’t give him another.

Years later she’d look back on those weeks after Junior had died.  Bill had thrown himself into his work with ICE and seemed to have withdrawn.  He worked even harder and longer hours and she felt cold and alone.  Did Bill hold her responsible?  It didn’t matter that the police had ruled the death of her son an accident.  She should have met the bus.  She should have taken Junior’s hand and led him home.  She should … She should … the thoughts tormented her days and caused her sleepless nights.  She finally headed over to Senora Rosa’s.

Rosa Gonzalez, whose real name was Maria Angelica Hernandez and was wanted in Mexico for her work as a coyote – a smuggler who traffics in illegal immigrants, hadn’t remembered the woman who walked in that day; at least not in the beginning.  She quickly discovered that the woman had lost her son to a car accident and that was all the information she needed to plan for a new pool in her backyard.  She allowed Pam to speak at length about that dreadful day and the painful years that followed.  When she was done Rosa began her spiel.  For a small fee they would start with a Tarot card reading.  That should be followed by a psychic reading, which would cost a bit more.  Before she could object, Rosa continued quickly, “You should bring an item of your son’s to the psychic reading.”  Pam shook her head yes and Rosa ended with the big ticket item of a séance.  “Pam, “Rosa said softly, “you could speak to Bill Junior again.”  Pam remembered shuddering at the thought of communing with the dead many years ago but knew that was just what she wanted now.

“But I can’t afford too much.” Pam whispered.  “My husband would never approve and with our relationship so fragile I just wouldn’t want to rock the boat.”

Rosa listened to Pam and expected any one or more of all the excuses she’d heard before, but something about this woman touched her.

“Listen,” she started slowly.  Rosa had never involved a gringo in her business before but felt she could trust this woman.  “I have an idea.  My cousins are arriving in Tucson on Tuesday and I have no way to get them up here.  They’re getting a ride to Tucson but are poor and don’t have enough money to get on a bus to Phoenix.”  Seeing Pam’s interest, she continued, “My brother was going to get them but he got a job next week in Flagstaff and can’t do it.  I’m at my wits end.”

“Say no more, Senora Rosa,” Pam said brightly.  “I’d be happy to go get them.”

Rosa’s smile was more genuine than anything she’d uttered that afternoon.  “That would be wonderful,” she sighed.  “Let me give you the information.”  Rosa stood and moved to a small table against the back wall.  She already knew Pam drove an SUV but asked the question as though she didn’t, “Oh, wait a minute.” Rosa faltered.  “My cousins are many.  There are six who are traveling together to visit me.”

“Oh that won’t be a problem,” Pam smiled.  “I have an SUV that seats eight,” she paused before laughing, “If they’re thin.”

Rosa laughed along with her, “That’s perfect,” she said and continued to write down the information Pam would need to find the illegals she was smuggling across the border.

Pam wasn’t stupid.  It took her less than a month to understand that she was part of a smuggling operation.  She had retrieved `so-called relatives in Tucson and at odd places in the surrounding desert and taken them to cities all over Arizona and as far north as Las Vegas.  Rosa’s strategy included changing drivers and cars every few hundred miles believing that somehow circumvented law enforcement.  Pam really didn’t know how Rosa had managed to not get caught all these years, but she had escaped detection and now she was caught up in it.  Pam considered herself lucky that she had never mentioned her husband’s occupation.  Certainly if she’d been found out she would have been dead by now.  Life as a coyote could be brutal.

Rosa was fully aware that Bill Davies was an ICE man.  She loved the irony of it.  She also believed that if they should be discovered by ICE that they might be protected rather than let on that one of her coyotes was the wife of an ICE agent.

Bill was knee deep in an investigation of a coyote operation where a suspected safe house was steps from the ASU campus in Tempe.  The place looked like a shack that might be blown over during the next sand storm.  Its front was a so-called psychic, Senora Rosa.  They didn’t know much about her except that she had a steady stream of individuals frequenting her business and a tip from a rival coyote they’d caught trying to obtain a plea bargain.  It could be she really was a medium or it could be a crack house or a coyote safe house.  The ICE task force had just begun surveillance and was working out the logistics of infiltration.

Bill sat in his unmarked car across the street from Senora Rosa’s doing a crossword puzzle and eating his lunch.  He flipped through the log book on the seat next to him.  17 cars had pulled up to the building over the last two days.  He glanced at the license plate numbers finding 12 from Arizona, 2 from California, and 1 each from Illinois, Washington, and Colorado.  It was likely that the out of staters were students at ASU and perhaps a few of the instate plates too.  An SUV was pulling into Senora Rosa’s parking lot.  Bill put down his sandwich and picked up the binoculars and the log book.  His mouth fell open as he recognized his wife’s car and he swallowed hard as he watched his wife walk into the building.  What the hell is she doing here, he thought?  He looked down at the log book, tapping the pencil on the side of the page.  Of course he’d have to record her car.  Could he make a mistake on the plate?  Could he smudge out the last number?  He looked down at his lunch, his appetite gone, sighed and dutifully recorded the time and his wife’s plate number in the record book.

At home that evening Bill looked at his wife over dinner.  It was almost as if he hadn’t seen her in years, he’d forgotten how pretty she was.

“What?” Pam said, her mouth full of chicken.  “You’re staring at me.”

“Sorry,” he stammered.  “I was just thinking about how beautiful you are.”

Pam blushed at the compliment.  Bill hadn’t noticed her in so long.  “Well, thank you kind sir,” she stated in mock southern drawl.  “You’re looking quite handsome yourself.”

Bill pushed around the rice and green beans on his plate.  “Pam,” he started, “I had to drive down to ASU this afternoon.”  Pam stopped chewing and looked at him.  “I saw your car outside this psychic reading place.  What were you doing there?”

Pam finished chewing her mouthful and carefully swallowed hoping she wouldn’t choke.  She placed her fork on the plate and as her eyes swelled with tears she told her husband about the time she’d gone to Rosa’s as a student, how accurate she’d been, and how when Junior had died, she needed to go back to her.  To find anything out about their son.  “We’re going to have a séance next week, Bill.  I hope to make contact with Junior then.”  She wiped at her eyes and looked hopefully at Bill.  “Would you want to come with me?”

“What? To the séance?” Bill barked, a little too forcefully.  He watched Pam shrink back and reached for her hand.  He wondered if his emotional absence from the marriage had driven her to this.  He knew now he could easily explain her license plate to his superiors.  “Honey, you know I don’t believe in that stuff.  Besides,” he continued, “You need to stay away from there.  We’re investigating a smuggling ring we believe is based there and I don’t need you caught up in that mess if something goes down.”

Pam sat staring at her husband and started to cry again.  “Bill …” she trailed off.  She didn’t know what to say or not say.  Bill was looking at her expectantly and sipping from his water glass.  “I know about the smuggling.”

The glass Bill was holding shattered as it fell from his hand and onto the table breaking his dinner plate in the process.  In a rush Pam told her husband the whole story.  The next morning Bill took his wife into the office.

He was able to work out a deal with his superiors.  No charges if his wife became a mole for ICE. She was already fully entrenched in the operation and the upcoming séance would make a perfect situation for them to infiltrate.  It seems that Bill would attend the séance with his wife.

# # #

2 thoughts on “Risky Business

  1. Hi, Felecia,

    This is Patty from Bridge Road Writers. I love your story! I hope it’s the beginning of something larger. You definitely have a gift!

    Blessings, Patty

    On Sun, Feb 7, 2016 at 3:36 PM, Whispers of Me wrote:

    > Felecia posted: “Pam met Rosa Gonzalez in her junior year at Arizona State > University. Looking to escape the summer heat one August afternoon, she > and her roommate wandered into Senora Rosa’s Psychic Center to get their > futures told. The Psychic Center was less of a cen” >

    1. Thanks Miss Patty!
      Coming from a published author, that’s some high praise! Thank you!
      I’ll let you know if it drives me any further in the competition!
      Thanks again for reading and for your support.

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