ELEANOR TRAILED BEHIND JUAN down one dark, grungy, street after another, always moving away from the area around the Brownsville-Matamoros-Bridge where they’d crossed into Mexico, until at long last, Juan spotted what he’d been looking for; a turquoise Volkswagen parked in front of a rundown bodega that had been painted a bright red.
The area around the store looked more like it belonged in the country rather than in the city of Matamoros. It was situated on an unpaved road with gray lifeless dirt from which sprang a splattering of low ratty looking plants. On the same unpaved road were other squatty looking stores and houses that looked as if they had been thrown together haphazardly with whatever materials were at hand. And overhead was a jumble of electric wires that sizzled with so much electricity that the ends of Eleanor’s hair stood on end. The whole place reminded her of those non-industrialized shanty towns she saw on TV while watching GlobeTrekker on Saturday mornings. It was definitely not the sort of place a woman wanted to find herself, alone.
“There he is,” Juan yelled, pointing at the car and pulling her along by her elbow.
“There’s who?” Eleanor asked. Because, from her position, running behind Juan, there was no one inside the car. Or so she’d thought until they’d drawn near and Juan had knocked three times on its passenger side.
Up popped a head.
“Miguel,” Juan yelled, happy to see a familiar face.
Out jumped a very Mexican looking overweight young man with straight black hair, a dense close-cropped beard, and a Mexican style mustache. As he and Juan embraced, Eleanor noted that the young man was about two inches shorter than Juan and a few years younger.
Eleanor watched their reunion with something less than enthusiasm. She was tired, hungry, and generally pissed-off. She was, however, happy that they’d stopped running, for a while, and hopeful that this Miguel guy was their ride out of this hell.
But fear gripped her when she turned around and saw two good sized men hurrying towards them from the direction she and Juan had just come from. Obviously, the pair had been followed them from the bridge.
“Juan,” she’d said, tapping lightly on Juan’s arm.
“I hate to interrupt your reunion, but I think we have company.”
Fear ran across Juan’s face. Somehow Eleanor knew that if Juan was afraid of these men, this was serious.
“¡Prisa! (Hurry!),” the young man who’d been hiding in the car yelled. Juan jerked the passenger side door open, grabbed Eleanor’s bag, pulled the front seat forward, and urged Eleanor into the backseat. Miguel was already in the car seated behind the steering wheel getting the car started. As soon as Eleanor was in, Juan threw himself into the front passenger seat and Miguel pressed his foot to the gas pedal. The little turquoise car lurched forward chugging down the darkened street with the two men running full speed behind them trying to catch up. Eleanor could have sworn she heard gunfire.
Eliza D. Ankum
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