Ivone hunched low among the sparse mesquite, trying to hide herself from the light of the moon. At high night in the Arizona desert, shadows played along the dusty ground, and the Milky Way showed itself in the isolation that’s not possible in city environments.
Before finding herself alone, she had just crossed the border from Mexico. Her father had hired a Coyote, or smuggler specializing in people. The Coyote promised a safe journey and took a year’s pay to do the deed.
Her father had pulled her as he sprinted away from a glow of light that rounded a small hill.
“Correr! (Run!)” the alarm sounded above the hum of the approaching vehicles, “La migra! (Immigration!)”
The Coyote had said the border patrol rarely appeared in this part of the desert, that it should be safe but not guaranteed – no refunds.
Her father stumbled. He grabbed at the woman running beside them and pushed his daughter toward her. The woman began a protest but his pleading eyes made her nod. She grabbed the little girl and bolted into the shadows.
The illegals were spotted long before they raised the alarm and scattered. They always scattered and sometimes they were hard to round up. That didn’t appear to be the case that night. They had already caught 15, slightly less than the estimate of the militia’s lookout.
He had heard that question twice and slowly approached in the direction of his best guess to its location.
He found the source making a feeble attempt to hide behind a low lying mesquite tree. He paused, taking in the lithe form that resembled a fear-frozen rabbit – wide-eyed and stiff with fright.
It was a quick submission and he was able to strap the plastic tie around her wrists with ease.
He herded her in the direction of where the men were corralling the other illegals before their journey back to the border. Vehicle lights soon appeared and he heard the voices of the others.
“He had a gun, so I had no choice but to shot him,” one of the guys said.
It was his first roundup.
The squad leader looked down at the body and then at the man standing before him.
“If he had a gun pointed at you, then it’s alright to shoot first.”
Ivone fell to her knees and began a sob that grew into a wail.
“Papá? Paaa pááá!”
Harold reached under her arms and lifted her, carrying her to the group that waited. He gently placed her on the ground before the woman whom her father had trusted.
He walked away.