SECTION 6: CAELIUS
Clinton County, New York
At least the sun was out for this particular little charade. How many times now had he done this? Just in the past week he had done at least two of these a day. It was weird, but it made a certain amount of sense. It simply cost too damn much to hold so many of these people in detention centers on the taxpayer’s dime!
Not everyone thought that way, which was why they had started this program—at least, that was his understanding. They kept the vast, at times overwhelming majority of those people they caught, but it wasn’t technically ‘catch-and-release.’
The Uber pulled up along the side of the road a few yards behind his SUV. A Prius, he noticed, same plates and same driver as yesterday. Some people got rich however they could.
The rear-facing camera on his Tahoe made sure to keep that memory for future use. He would have to include it in the .pdf of his report. He stepped out of the truck and closed the door behind him.
Out of the back of the Prius stepped a male, emerging as if he had been folded up in a box rather than a car. He was brown-skinned, maybe East African, with a beard. He stood at the door and looked back into the car. Waving quickly, almost frantically, a family of seven emerged clown car-like from the back seat of the Prius, running past the man in a tumult of clothing, bags, and backpacks. They sprinted off the road and into knee-deep snow.
Jesus, Rick thought. They weren’t wearing boots.
All the while the first man—probably the father—had transferred to the back of the vehicle and was feverishly unloading more bags, a stroller, and some suitcases. The last of the children, two teenagers, heaved as many bags as they could and followed the rest of their family down into the snow, towards the stream. Little more had the father done than slam down the back of the Prius when the car tore off, whirling around in an overly-dramatic u-turn and speed away the way it had come.
It was then, and only then, that Border Patrol Agent Rick Garcia picked up his pace, shuffling forward in a fair imitation of a jog. He huffed up to the man, trying to look confused rather than bored. He knew his part of the game.
The other man, by contrast, clearly did not. With shaky hands, he drew a handful of passports from a coat pocket and handed them over nervously.
“Your kids really like snow, huh?” Rick asked, trying to sound casual.
“Yes, very much, thank you, sir,” the man said softly in response. He stole quick glances to his right, in the direction of his family, gauging their progress.
Rick scanned the barcode on the top passport—the father’s—with his phone. “What is your intention today?”
“Cross the border, sir.”
Rick nodded and looked down at his phone. “Sir, I have to tell you that I cannot allow you to do that.” He turned the phone over and showed the man his screen, “Your visa is expired, sir. I have to detain you.”
The man might have frozen if he hadn’t jumped back at hearing the word detain. Only then did he freeze.
“I have to check the rest of these,” Rick said slowly, wondering if the man would bolt. “You may want to have your family come back here so I can check with them. They’ll need to know where you’ll be detained.”
The man flinched again at the sound of that word, and this time Rick was sure that he would run.
But he didn’t. God damn it, the upstanding son of a bitch was going to stay and let himself get detained—and for the sake of his family, he thinks!
Rick cleared his throat as he started to open the second passport.
It was then that the first car stopped across the street. In the driver’s seat, he saw a man roll down the window of his Taurus and stick his phone out. He eyed the driver for a moment, wondering if he should order him away or leave him alone. It varied, but it was nice out today—no need to send him away.
Rick turned so as to hide his face from the phone’s camera. Had the driver decided to get out in order to remedy that, he would have ordered him to leave—but he didn’t, so Rick ignored him.
Passing his phone over the second passport, he lowered his voice. “I’m going to guess this won’t pass either?”
The man hesitated, but one look and he shook his head. His family was most of the way there now. They were just gathering on the near bank.
Now, he thought, but this joker either didn’t get it or was some kind of martyr.
No fucking martyrs out here. Rick cleared his throat again as his phone searched the database. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. If you run across the border before I catch you, there’s nothing I can do. If you stay, you get detained.”
The man’s eyes bugged out in an expression of either alarm or surprise.
“If you were to grab the passports out of my hand,” Rick continued quietly, “and make it across, I would not be able to do anything.” That wasn’t exactly true, but there was no point in splitting hairs…
And that’s when it finally happened. With a furtive glance at what were now three cars with a phones sticking out their windows, the man snatched the passports from Rick’s hands and made a break for it.
“Oh, damn it,” Rick said half-heartedly. He started after the man, not at full speed, but certainly faster than his jog from before. The guy was shouting something down to his family in his own language, probably something like, Go! Run! Jump across!
Their shouts added to his own as they did indeed begin jumping across to the opposite bank—and thus from the United States into Canada.
Now he had to arrest that guy, because he was inciting members of his family to break the law by crossing the border illegally.
And man, did this guy want it. Rick stared in some surprise as the man half-ran, half-jumped his way like some jackrabbit through the snow. On the bank of the stream, he helped heave the children across, before throwing bags across.
Now Rick picked up his pace, not as fast as he thought he probably could move if he had to, but fast enough.
Seeing the Border Patrol Agent bearing down on him, the man abandoned the rest of the family’s belongings and threw himself into the icy waters of the stream which separated the two countries. Rick winced at the sight as he brought himself to a stop on the snowy American bank.
On the far side of the border, Mounties snatched up the family, ushering them into the back of waiting cars. One of the officers looked out across the border at Rick.
Standing over the pile of leftover belongings, Rick put his hands on his hips and looked back across at the Mounty. “This is happening a lot,” he said matter-of-factly.
The officer nodded. “Yes, it is,” she responded politely, read hair poking out from under her hat.
Rick looked down at the bank. There were still a pair suitcases, the stroller, and a few reusable grocery bags here. He looked back up at the Mounty. “Since you have them, it makes sense to keep all of their stuff together—you’ll probably need to search it.”
“Probably,” she called back.
“So in that case, I’m going to turn all of this stuff over to you, but first I’m going to inspect them. If there’s anything in here,” he said, waving at the leftover belongings, “that we deem as evidence, we will need to keep it. Otherwise I’ll turn over the rest.”
“That’s fine.” She sounded bored.
It only took a little while, and it came up with some good finds—a wallet with an expired driver’s license and a few credit cards—but the rest was just normal crap: hairdryers, shoes, small bottles of shampoo taken from a hotel. He made a note of what he took and a description of the suitcase where he had found it. Dropping the wallet in a cargo pocket of his fatigues, he stood up and looked back across the border.
The family was looking at him through the back windows of the Mounties’ own SUVs. But for one of them, they all looked scared. It was one of the teenagers. He was glaring at Rick with a fiery intensity in his eyes.
Some of the kids in Afghanistan looked at you that way. White men were a source of problems to them, even if Rick wasn’t exactly “white.”
He made eye contact with the redheaded Mounty and gestured. Picking up the remaining items, he trudged his way through the snow further down the bank to a point where the two sides were closer. Stretching across the stream, he handed the family’s remaining belongings over the Mounty.
“Their other items?” she asked when the last of the bags was on her side. “Can they have those back?”
She must be new. “They would have to come back and get them in Federal Court.”
She gave him an angry look.
“That’s the law,” Rick said, taking a glance over his shoulder. There had been a total of four cars on the road, fewer than some days—now there only two remained. He turned back to the attractive Mounty and added, “Do they intend on coming back?”
She glared across the border at him. “Just following orders?”
That might have cut, if Rick had cared. He shrugged and turned to leave.
“You’re sick. Your government’s policies are sickening.”
Because of a wallet? was what he wanted to say, but he knew she meant it more broadly. This wasn’t the first of these conversation he had been in—not when you were a Border Patrol Agent. He turned back to face her. “That’s why you’re over there,” he said, pointing with both hands, “and I’m over here.”