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Forced Caravan, The

by A Baptiste 6 months ago in Mystery
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TW: Internalized Racism, Racism, Suicide, Body Horror, Horror, American Being Terrible, FBI, Classism, Alcohol, Agnst, Implied Abuse

Forced Caravan, The
Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

This is my last (and favorite!) story for November’s Throwback Thursday! I don’t have many fans, so I thought it was okay to take a day off - sorry if you happened to be waiting! I wrote this in college for an assignment where we were to address a current event through fiction. This time, I’m adding Non—Profit information at the end of this story to help make this horrifying less accurate.

0 Missing Persons

If you were only able to learn one thing about Guinevere Walker that was not present in her official file but was as integral to her identity as her name, it was this:

Guinevere Walker was a traitor.

She had the name of a white woman because her parents were also traitors; and so were her mother’s parents - the grandparents they had chosen to allow her to converse with every Christmas. The glinting badge on her hip is a mark of their treachery. It pokes her in the side as she walks, reminding her of her duplicity.

This treachery was something she shared with her partner, Andreas Vega.

Although, his treachery doesn’t run nearly as deep as Guinevere’s - he thinks about it sometimes, when he sits out on the step con su padre in the desert night. The air is dry, and he inhales it deeply as if that will allow him to take some of it back when he returns to the bustling city. The stars wink above them, scattered against the velvet fabric of night. He tells his Papa, en español, that he and his partner’s job is to catch the bad men – los acusados y los violadores.

“No,” His Papa says, taking a swig of the now warm beer to wet his lips. “El hombre malo esta ahí mismo, a tu alrededor.”

4 Missing Persons

Andreas’ eyes swept across the bar crowd, the hunched figures mumbling to each other over the half-drank bottles they were clutching like newborn children. The air smelled bitter: clouding cigarette smoke and piss from the seldom-cleaned bathrooms.

On the day that terrible excuse for a public official was thrown haphazardly into office, he knew where he would find her. And he does: with her elbow propped on the light oak bar, a curtain of box braids framing her face as she sipped slowly, uncommitted. The blue neon light washing her face made her look even more pallid.

She rolled her neck to look at him, box braids cascading over her shoulder. “‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns,’” She begins and then stops, peering at the shifting liquid in the half-empty bottle. Her eyebrows knit. She rolls her head back to him, hair falling over her lips. She attempts to blow it out of the way, making way more sound than necessary. It falls right back on her lips. She gathers it, tossing it over her shoulder with far less grace than usual. “D’ya wanna drink?”

“No,” Andreas says evenly, eyes flicking to the empty bottles near her arm. He places a careful hand on her shoulder. She glances down at it, then looks up at him with weary eyes. She wants to say something. It’s on the tip of her tongue. Despite all the drinks, it’s still feels like she swallowed the entire Chihuahuan desert. “Come on. Let’s go home.”

He hadn’t thought about it before he said it, but with all the late nights of the low, droning television and scalding cups of black coffee and stacks of dead trees strewn across his coffee table, it might as well have been.

The walk there was quiet, save for the relentless hollering of the cicadas. He held onto her coat, using it to steer her, to keep her steady. She swung away from him before falling back to his side.

She inhaled deeply. “I – I –“

There were no words to describe the hollow, yet simultaneously heavy weight on her chest.

Somehow, he knew.

“Yes,” He said.

He caught her just barely, straightening her again.

She tumbled onto his couch, pulling herself forward and snuggling into the well-loved cushions. He slips off her shoes, placing them side by side under the coffee table.

Guinevere stumbles into sleep, tripping over their tired exchange of broken poetry they had read in college.

5 Missing Persons

“I quit.” Walker slammed her badge on the Captain’s desk and turned on her heel, all without stopping.

“Request denied,”

“Excuse me?” Walker asks with an arched brow and a hand on the doorknob. “I don’t remember asking you to resign. I said ‘I quit.’”

“Denied.”

Walker turned back around and slammed her hand on the desk. “You can’t stop me from quitting,”

“You didn’t enter a two week’s notice for one,”

“Fuck a two week’s notice.” Walker snapped.

“Look, Guien,” The Captain removed his glasses, dragging a hand down his lined face. “I know these aren’t optimal working conditions-“

“No shit.”

“But we can’t let you resign. You know that,”

“Take any rookie fresh out of the Academy and they’ll be just as good,”

“We don’t need good. We need experience.”

Walker rolled her eyes.

“Look,” The Captain said, raising his hands. “If you need some time off to go shoot some clay pigeons or whatever, take as much as you need,”

Walker rolled her eyes, running her tongue along the bottom of her teeth.

“But you can’t quit, Guinevere.”

Slowly, unwittingly, Walker collected her badge and stormed out of the office.

“What are you looking at?” Walker made her way down the row of cubicles with long, intimidating strides.

13 Missing Persons

It was their first major case since “that little stint”, as the Captain had called it. Some random little white girl had disappeared in some random town that could have been any southwestern town.

Despite the briefing, they both knew it wasn’t random – they had been tracking these disappearances for a while and had the whiteboard to prove it. They just hadn’t had the official okay to look into it before now.

From what sparse information they had gathered it was concluded that: firstly, the only real commonality across all locations and timelines were the victims: prepubescent children of color, few of which where young boys and most of which were Mexicans and that, secondly: despite the repetitive nature of the disappearances and their victims, it probably wasn’t a serial killer, as no bodies where turning up. They had gotten lucky this time: two kids had returned – or, survived, they still didn’t know.

Socio-economically, there where two sides to the town. One of the kids hailed from the side of town with large, modern houses planted and grown on multi-acre plots. The other was from the part of town slowly was cookie cutting their suburban homes in their few and far between spare hours.

Guinevere and Andreas had chosen to drive down. It gave them time. For what, they didn’t know – but they relished in the comfortable isolation of being alone together.

‘There must be some kind of way outta here,’

Said the joker to the thief –

The wind rushed into the car, playing with his hair as they followed the subtle curves of the road. He brushes the loose strands from his eyes with one hand.

I'd no idea on what ground I was founded

All of that goodness is going with you now -

Her hand surfs the waves of air, lets it be forced back, catches it, riding the waves. Andres watches out of the corner of his eyes. He wonders, idly, why she even bothers painting her nails. If the color is that close to natural, what was the point?

And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones

'Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs -

“Do you think,” Guinevere begins, dropping her arm onto the windowsill. Andreas turns down the music. She inhales the chill air to wet her throat.

“I don’t know,” He tells her. But he does.

There is no justice for people like them.

15 Missing Persons

“Good afternoon. Half tank, please.” Guinevere’s eyes dart to the cigarettes behind the cashier, fall on the plush mat next to the cash register.

The old man’s stare was cold as he rung up her gas and sunflower seeds. He miscalculates the change, putting it on the mat.

“Keep it,” She says, turning on her heel to walk back outside.

Andreas rubs his hands, breathing into them. They meet eyes.

He quirks an eyebrow. “Sundown?”

She slams the car door. “I’m thinking a, like,” She inhales, folding her arms and pushing herself against the seat. “26 percent chance of being shot? They seem more like just the cold glare type of racists,”

“Chance a diner?”

Guinevere sucks her teeth. “Not hungry. You?”

He shakes his head. “I’ll just order room service or something.”

The young woman at the desk peers at them from the side of her face. Her bejeweled nails click loudly on the raised keys. “No, I don’t think we have any rooms left,”

“Funny,” Walker says from the window. “The vacancy is lit.”

The concierge blinks before typing again. “Ah, yes, the second floor,”

“Two beds?” Vega asks politely, tone cool.

“Just one,” She divulges, silently cringing.

Vega sighs. “We’ll take it.”

Guinevere lies awake on the floor, staring into the dark, listing to the sounds of artificial rain. She imagines the cool wetness on her face.

It’s 1:08.

At this rate, waking up is going to be even more of a bitch. And yet, she can’t seem to close her eyes.

16 Missing Persons

When they are interviewed the next morning, the children do not know how or what happened, when or why.

They go to the white family first. It’s them who made the call, after all.

“I –“ The Child begins, and Walker and Vega look down at them.

They had caught the child and their mother as they climbed up their slanted driveway, bordered by perfectly trimmed turf.

“ - Think we won’t speak until we have a lawyer,” The Child in the large house’s Mother said.

“But I –“

She sends the child a sharpened look.

“Why do you need a lawyer if you have nothing to hide?” Walker asks with a dismissive shrug.

The Mother raises her chin and closes the garage door in their faces. They stand there for a minute before turning.

“Certainly rude,” Walker says, elbow on the car roof. “But we can’t take people in for being controlling assholes,”

They open the car doors simultaneously.

They drive to the other side of town and are regarded warily by the Mother of the second Child. Walker lets Vega talk to them, soothe them.

“I – somebody tried to grab me. So I kicked them. And I ran and ran and ran until I got home,”

“And you didn’t see them?” Vega asked. His questions didn’t have the evident edge of normal questions, somehow. It made people trust him, tell him everything.

Walker inspected the pictures on the kitchen counter. She ran her thumb along the bottom of a painted gold frame. In the picture the kids are smiling, arms thrown over each other’s shoulders.

They look like Andreas’ cousins.

The Child from the suburban maze shook their head. “I… don’t remember. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Vega comforted.

“Do you still have the clothes that they wore that day?” Walker asked the Mother.

The mother looks at Vega, hesitant, before looking back to Walker and shaking her head. “I tossed away,”

“Oh,” Walker frowned. “I see.” She glanced around the room: to the little kid’s hands toying with their shirt, then back to the photos.

“On the first night,” The Mother finally gathers the courage to say as they are walking out of the door.“They said it was La Llorona, but that’s just story. Could be the woman … Di- di-“ She moved her eyes, looking for the words. “¿Como si dice disfrazado en inglés?”

“Dressed up?” Vega asked. “Like a costume?”

“Sí,” She nods. “That.”

Walker looks back at the Mother out of the corner of her eye and nod. “We’ll keep that in mind,”

17 Missing Persons

“I mean, it makes sense,” Walker said, closing the car door behind her. “That they would dress up, I mean. To confuse the kids.”

“Yeah, nobody would believe you if you said you saw La Llorona,”

At first, she thought it was the car keys, but Andreas wasn’t walking. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her: a little girl peeking timidly from behind the corner.

Her bright ribbon-trimmed white dress drifted on an invisible wind. Her dark hair was knotted with colorful ribbons and adorned with blooming flowers.

She had cat-bells for eyes.

They quiver in her sockets, tinkling lightly.

Guinevere looked back to Andreas as he finally opens the door.

She’s imagining it, she tells herself.

She was paranoid as her Father’s Mother before her. It was in her blood, seeped in her bones. She had been diagnosed with – with that thing, that disease, so young, she had thought she would have grown out of it. Grown out of it like her mother had said she would.

Could you grow out of something like that?

17 Missing Persons

Walker and Vega interview the Teachers, the Preachers, the few who will answer. Those who hated them and those who loved them alike are horrified at their disappearances and repeatedly declare so.

“Nothing like that ever happens here,”

“It’s such a shame,”

“The Devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy our community,”

Guinevere sits on the blood red pew cushions, head tilted back, eyes closed. A portrait of St. Jude with open palms is projected in jagged shapes and colors across the curve of her cheekbones.

She hears the feather-light jingling of bells.

She hears the voice of her Mother telling her to be more like her Sister; to be more like her Sister who married a nice man, to be more like her Sister who settled down, to be more like her Sister who had two beautiful babies, to be more like her Sister who knotted a ribbon around her neck and took flight.

Yes, Guinevere should be more like her sister.

19 Missing Persons

Later, again, she catches a glimpse of a girl with bells for eyes. Peeking at her from behind one of the tall, thin trees.

It’s a different child, she can tell by the way the bows are tied. She idly wonders why they always appear behind things.

“Guin!” She turns to Vega’s voice, braids fanning. “Over here!”

In the lake the Rich Child lays, looking more asleep than dead. They drift with the current, winding down the river bend.

“I guess we should … fish ‘em out?” Walker says, uneasily.

Vega nods, turning away and putting his phone to his ear.

Upon being told of her Child’s suicide, the Mother of the organically-grown-villa had the good sense to act shocked. Or maybe she really was shocked.

“Oh, Lord,” She wails, looking around for something to fall on. “Oh – oh, oh, Lord,”

Walker kept her mouth shut. If one word came out, there was a good chance that more would follow suit and decimate the poor woman. So, as usual, she let Vega do the talking for the both of them.

18 Missing Persons

She can’t take it anymore.

“What are you here for?” She hisses, eyes darting around, through the girl. “What do you want?”

The girl fades like cigarette vapors.

She closes her eyes, inhaling. Andreas stands off to the side. He doesn’t look particularly shocked or scared just … mildly confused. He had seen so many things at this point, it was the only emotion left that held any real weight.

She opens her mouth before closing it and turning back around.

18 Missing Persons

Her head is whirring. It’s been going back and forth for hours: what should she tell him, what should she not tell him? Her hands are curled around a half-cold coffee, dark as the bags under her eyes. She inhales.

“Andreas,”

He meets her eyes.

“There… are these little girls. Following me. They’ve got bells for eyes.”

Andreas says nothing. Somehow, that is worse than laughing.

“It’s crazy, I know, but it keeps happening,” Guinevere wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Do you think…” Andreas began slowly. “They're trying to tell you something?”

She quirked an eyebrow at the sugar shaker. Whatever she was expecting, it wasn’t that.

Andreas shrugged a shoulder. “We’re not getting anywhere with good old fashioned detective work, so why not call on the supernatural,”

“I didn’t call them,” Guinevere says.

“Well, maybe,” Andreas says. “They're calling you.”

20 Missing Persons

Arming themselves, they sit on a street corner and wait for the bells. Walker hears the jingling and pushes herself off the bench, walking toward the girl this time. The girl vanishes, appearing a few feet away. Walker follows the girls, Vega follows her.

One corner.

Another alleyway.

They follow her until they reach a door. She puts her cheek against it, listing for the ringing before she kicks it in.

20 Missing Persons

Inside, it is dark.

They hold their guns and flashlights in front of them, just as they had learned at the academy.

Little hands grasp at the hems of her pants, reaching for something, anything. Andreas’ flashlight reflects the bones of their shallow cheeks and hollow eyes, their faces caked with dirt.

Light bounces off the dulled and crumped tin foil.

They are in cages, stacked like animals. One grabs a fistful of her braids and refuses to let go.

Later, she feels their hands in her nightmares.

And of course, there is no justice.

The children dotted on the whiteboard are long gone, already traded or sold or something.

There was money per head, a number so low Guinevere almost – Andreas put his hand between her shoulder blades. She can’t look the local Police Chief in the eye.

It’s awful, she wants to say, but her lips are quivering. It’s life, she knows.

When asked about the case on his weekly visit to his father Andreas says merely, “Yo fallé.”

And he wants to offer his Papa some explanation, some of the closure they hadn’t got, but his lips are dry. There where no words to describe the hollow, yet massive lump in his throat.

Yet Papa understood, and opened another chela.

REPORT:

26 Missing Persons Found out of ??? Missing Persons Total

RESOURSES:

- Families Belong Together

- Agape International Mission

- Hispanic Federation

- Americans for Immigrant Justice

Mystery

About the author

A Baptiste

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