CHAPTER 1 THE VAN
"Inside. We must look inside," said the policia.
He spoke softly from the cliff's edge, looking down at the wreck.
His partner, who (did not answer, was merely wondering again--for the
millionth time--how it happened in life that great wealth piled up in some quarters
and in others did not.
The one who had spoken continued to ponder the possibility of passengers
--surely the tumble down would have killed anyone within. As they
wondered and pondered--it was a long climb down--the timeless pulse
of the ocean, and the sudden collapse of a wheel, combined to loosen the
broken van from its setting in the rocks below. It slipped over on its
side into the water of the Sea of Cortez. It rocked gently back and forth
with the action of the waves, trapped and bruised, while the two cops silently watched.
From a high spot on a powdery road not far away, a pair of indios
coolly observed the scene. Descended from those who were once the world's
greatest long-distance runners, these ones, whose genes remembered, even
if their memories could not, out-running, out-lasting really, a band of
Apaches on horseback across barren desert--no desert is barren--to deliver
mouthfuls of water as evidence of their warrior-hood....
These ones considered how this van, this home, smashed upon the lap of
the sea, might best be saved and put to use. These ones saw the van as
shelter for doe-eyed, dusty brown innocents who would be forced by the chill of winter coming to sleep in a pile together under grimy blankets
because the sticks and the mud and the tarpaper do not keep out the wind
the way a metal car would.
These two brown, wiry men stood silently and watched. Then, without
comment, under the phlegmatic watch of pelicans perusing the shore from
ancient flight patterns, they trudged off toward the bus
and another day
Later, from one of several police vehicles attracted to the scene with roof lights flashing cosmetically as if there was someone to warn and something to warn them of,
two of the greener rookies make the arduous climb down the cliff to discover that the van is vacant. They find no broken corpses, no bodies tossed out on the way down, no signs of
violence or skid marks from the brakes being applied on the surface above.
There remains one item of peculiar interest. A clue, perhaps.
An old shot-gun lying in the grass where the van had gone over.
It points out to sea as if purposely laid.
Meanwhile, out on the highway some seven kilometers to the east, a lone early-morning hitch-hiker with backpack begs a ride. The ride he catches is headed south, but to this young man direction does not matter.
As he climbs into the truck a thirty year old ex-school bus passes by,
no longer the familiar yellow, blue-gray now,
crying out (from faded letters on its dusty flank):
"Minas de Sal de Sonora S.A.”
Sonora Salt Mines.
Within the bus two of the miners, indios, note the hitch-hiker with flat acceptance.
"Este," says one.
"Si, por supuesto,” nods the other. They concur without more being said. Of course.
It was gringo.