Border Crossed - Cover

Border Crossed

Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 1

Córdova de las Americas International Bridge, El Paso

“I should be out fishing,” Alejandro Torres said to his partner, handing the passport back to the short man standing in front of him. “Adelántate. Bienvenido a los Estados Unidos.”

“No kidding. At least we’re on walking patrol and not stuck in one of the booths,” Gabriella Ortiz, his partner, said.

Alejandro just grunted as they stepped off the pedestrian walkway and into the line of cars.

The morning sun cast a golden glow over the bridge, the border crossing already bustling in spite of the early hour. The sky still held the last signs of dawn, its brilliant canvas of pink and orange hues gradually fading into a pristine blue, promising a beautiful day ahead. The early spring air was crisp and cool, a light breeze gently fluttering the flags on each side of the bridge.

The queue of cars, trucks, and buses waiting to cross the border already stretched for half a mile. Families with young children, business people, and tourists alike sat patiently in their vehicles, their breath fogging up the windows as they waited their turn to enter the United States. The thrum of idling engines mixed with the occasional honk of an impatient horn.

On either side of the cars, a slow but steady stream of people made their way down the pedestrian walkway, vendors moving among them, hawking their wares, hoping to entice potential customers with the scent of fresh tamales and piping-hot coffee.

Walking along the line of cars, Alejandro exchanged a concerned glance with Gabriella, thrusting his chin at a large, battered truck, its engine sputtering like a smoker’s wheezing cough. The truck driver, a burly man with a thick beard and sweat-soaked, grimy clothes, gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckled hands. The man wasn’t looking at them directly, but Alejandro’s sharp eyes focused on the driver, recognizing the side-eye stare he’d ‘seen hundreds of times before from nervous men trying to watch someone without being seen to watch them.

Gabriella gave a nod in agreement, breaking off towards the passenger side of the truck as Alejandro held up a hand, slapping the trunk to get the man to stop rolling forward. The truck lurched, dipping down slightly as the man smashed the brake a little too hard. Rotating his hand in the universal cranking gesture that meant ‘roll down your window,’ Alejandro continued around to the driver’s side window, stopping slightly behind the driver so his body was partially covered by the truck.

“Mornin’,” Alejandro said gruffly, one hand on the truck’s doorframe, the other resting on his hip. “What’s your business in the States today?”

“Just crossin’ over. Got a delivery to make on the other side,” the driver replied, his voice cracking.

The truck shifted slightly as Gabriella stepped up on the running board, holding onto the large side mirror, peering through the passenger window at the floorboard and around the driver’s feet. The man’s head whipped around to her and then back to Alejandro, in a jerky motion, his hands clenching and then relaxing on the steering wheel.

“A little jumpy?” Alejandro asked.

“N-no, sir. Just been a long night. I’m tired, you know?”

“Sure,” Alejandro said, looking past him and through the passenger window at Gabriella.

She didn’t make any gestures or facial expressions, but they’d been partners for a few years, and he could read her well enough to know she was thinking the same thing he was.

“We’re gonna need to take a look inside the truck,” he said.

“Uhh, sure. I ... yeah, that’s fine. It’s padlocked though,” the driver said, his face going a little pale.

Alejandro stepped back and gestured for the man to get out, pointing towards the back of the truck. The driver leaped down from the cab, instead of using the running board, his boots hitting the pavement with a hard thump. Alejandro looked him up and down as he walked to the rear of the vehicle, noting his legs seemed a little shaky.

Mexican drivers didn’t have the same regulations they had in the US, so it was possible the guy really was tired. These morning deliveries usually came from somewhere deep in Mexico, bringing a late shipment out, and driving through the night. Alejandro didn’t think so, though. The guy just didn’t feel right.

That feeling was reinforced by the way the guy fumbled through his keys, looking for the right one to the small, gold-colored padlock looped through the rear door latch. Alejandro exchanged another glance with Gabriella, who rested her hand lightly on her sidearm, a slight frown on her face.

The man had just found the key and inserted it into the lock when an earth-shattering explosion ripped through the air, fire engulfing the truck and the surrounding area in a searing inferno. Alejandro and Gabriella were vaporized instantly, along with the truck driver, neither having the chance to realize what was happening before being torn to pieces. The smaller cars closest to the now shattered truck were blown away, flipping over cars on either side, with two smashing onto the pedestrian walkway.

The shockwave knocked anyone not close enough to be engulfed in flame or launched into the air off their feet, sending them sprawling onto the ground. For a moment the only thing anyone could hear was a deafening roar, followed by shrieks as people ran in every direction.

As smoke and fire billowed into the sky, the bustling bridge was transformed into a scene of chaos and destruction.

Washington D.C. Whitaker sat in the big, overstuffed armchair, almost disappearing into it as she cradled the baby in her arms. Her face softened as she looked at her little face. The infant’s chest rose and fell gently, her tiny hand wrapped around one of Whitaker’s fingers.

Kara perched on the arm of the chair, brushing her thin hair gently with two fingertips, completely concentrating on her little sister. Since the baby was born six months ago, her visits home had become more frequent. Even though the fancy apartment she shared with her best friend Mary Jane, and her best friend’s secret service detail, had all the amenities one teenager could want, she’d started making runs home to ‘do her laundry.’

Both Whitaker and Taylor saw through the ruse. Even with them, she was often very reluctant to let anyone see her more vulnerable side, a consequence of the hellish life she’d had before Taylor had freed her and brought her home with him, making her part of their family. They didn’t say anything about her paper-thin pretext, however. Both were just happy to have their adopted daughter home more often. They’d only had a year or so with her living at home with them before she got into her fancy school and moved in with Mary Jane so she could be closer to the school.

Kara smiled, a smile hardly anyone other than Whitaker and Taylor got to see, as she continued to stroke the child.

“She’s so perfect,” she whispered.

Whitaker glanced at her with a tired smile, giving a small nod of agreement. “Yeah, she really is.”

“It’s crazy how I can see both of you in her. She’s got your eyes and nose, and Taylor’s chin and ears. It’s like someone morphed you two with a computer.”

“She’s got Taylor’s stubborn streak, too. She’s going to be a terror when she gets older.”

Both women shared a laugh, the sound light and easy, and then stopped as they both looked at Taylor, who from all appearances was on another planet. Hunched over his computer, his fingers dancing across the keyboard, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Whitaker frowned and said, “Taylor, these moments won’t last forever. Take a break and come sit with us for a little while.”

Taylor looked up, unable to keep the irritation out of his voice, “I will in a minute.”

“You’re looking for her again, aren’t you?” Whitaker said, heat in her voice.

They all knew who ‘her’ was. Six months ago, just before the birth of their baby, Taylor had a run-in with an assassin. More than that, she’d practically been a ghost. Until he got on her trail, no one in law enforcement even knew she existed, in spite of the over one hundred kills Taylor had traced to her so far. The list was a little terrifying. Mobsters, cartel members, judges, federal agents, even a bishop made up her impressive body count. Taylor had almost gotten her, tracking down her real identity and where she lived, closing in on her as she made a run for it. She’d outsmarted him, though, which wasn’t something that happened to Taylor often.

She’d set up a series of explosions, making it look like she’d blown herself up. It had taken the better part of two days to clear out the rubble from the building she’d half-collapsed on herself, where they discovered a well-constructed tunnel that led to an exit half a mile away. By the time they found it, she was long gone.

Bonnie had been hiding for a long time and was an expert at not being found. It was only dumb luck and desperation on her part that had led Taylor to her in the first place. And he’d been obsessed ever since, spending almost every waking moment talking to contacts and making inquiries into possible sightings, trying to find the one that got away.

“No, I’m not. Lopez has a pretty good contract lined up to provide security for a major company in the middle of a nasty set of lawsuits. Threats were made that look very credible. He’s also got a possible government deal with the state department. Both are going to require him to hire on guys, and we’re working on the details. I’m not just ignoring you. If this wasn’t time-sensitive, you know I’d rather be over there with you than sitting here.”

Taylor’s phone chimed and he was gone again, lost in whatever message he was responding to. Whitaker held up a finger to Kara and handed her the baby. The younger woman gladly took the small bundle, leaving the two adults to deal with their problems as she sank into the now-vacated chair, staring down at the little figure in her arms.

Whitaker moved silently, creeping up on him. Taylor was usually very observant and was incredibly hard to get the drop on, but she knew him well enough to know when he was distracted and completely focused on something else.

“Contracts my ass,” she said with an icy tone, looking over his shoulder. “You have got to get over this. It’s no longer about justice or doing your job. Ever since that woman got away, you’ve become obsessed.”

The monitor had multiple windows open, and some were, in fact, emails from Lopez with contract details, but more than a few had information about Bonnie up on them.

“Yes, I am,” Taylor said, swiveling in his seat to look at her. “Do you have any idea how dangerous she is? She knows who I am and she knows where we live. There is no amount of protection we can get to keep her from getting to any of you if she wanted to, and I’ve given her a lot of reasons to want to. The only way I can keep you safe is by putting her either behind bars or in the ground. You think I don’t care about my family? This is me caring about you. There is no level I wouldn’t go to keep you safe.”

From the corner of her eye, Whitaker saw Kara start to nod, looking up for a second to make eye contact with Taylor. More secrets in their little family. She loved Kara, but she’d never have the bond that Taylor had with her, and there were still several things the two of them had never told her. Robles had made a few comments telling her something had happened when Taylor had been in Africa the previous year, but no one was telling her what happened.

“I appreciate that, and it’s one of the reasons I love you, but you’ve got to get a grip. If she was going to come for us, she would have done so by now. She already had the entire federal government on her trail, and she managed to get away. Someone like her isn’t going to want to kick that hornet’s nest again.”

“Whitaker, I...” Taylor started to reply when he was interrupted by his phone rattling against the table as it vibrated.

As he reached to pick it up, her mouth formed into a tight, angry line. She was just about to yell at him when she saw the name on the caller ID, which caused her to stop the tirade she was about to launch.

“Yeah, Joe, what’s up?” Taylor asked after pressing the accept button.

Joe Solomon was their boss at the FBI. It was very unusual for two FBI agents to work directly under the Director of the FBI, but they were an unusual pair. Taylor, while he’d proven himself to be indispensable to the organization time and time again, wasn’t actually an agent.

Technically, he was a contractor there to lend his skills at finding people who didn’t want to be found or anything else the Director felt needed someone with an unorthodox approach to handle. That was how he’d met Whitaker, who had been a rising star in the organization until her connection with him slowed her rapid ascent. While the outside observer might think reporting directly to Solomon was a good sign, it was actually because almost no one else at the agency wanted to work with Taylor, who was notorious for how little he cared or paid attention to things like procedure and protocol, which had set him at odds with nearly every agent he’d been in contact with, with the exception of herself and Agent Robles, who didn’t count, since the two had come into contact before Robles joined the FBI.

“Okay, we’ll be right there,” Taylor said, and disconnected the call.

“What?” Whitaker asked as he set the phone down.

“Something’s happened in El Paso. Joe wants us to come meet with him and said we’ll be flying out as soon as we’re briefed.”

“Is it serious?”

“Sounds serious. Some kind of bombing at the main border crossing.”

“I can stay with the baby,” Kara offered from her chair.

“Only until I can get ahold of my sister. She’ll probably need help though, so if you could be around, that would be great,” Whitaker said, adding the last part when Kara’s face dropped.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.