Curious Kids Make a Discovery
North of Tucson, Arizona, on Highway 10, is the little town of Marana. From the highway, all you see is a gas station, a restaurant and a couple other buildings. It is not a large place… just a dusty little town on the main highway between Tucson and Phoenix. But many truck drivers like to stop there for a sandwich and coffee.
After Marana, there is not much on the highway until you get to Chandler, just a bit south of Phoenix. Truck drivers liked Marana because there is plenty of space to park their big trucks, little trucks, and all sizes in between.
Randy Jensen and his friend, Ricky Roberts, used to like to sit on the small hill overlooking the highway and watch all the trucks coming and going. One day, a big blue and silver transport truck pulled in. It had “Pecos Cowboy” written on the front with lights all over and a tarpaulin, like a big tent, covering the back. Ricky noticed that one end of the tarp at the back of the truck was flapping about.
“Wonder what’s under there?
“Probably stuff from Mexico,” said Randy. Mexico is only about 60 miles south of Tucson.
“Why don’t we go down and see. Maybe it’s treasure!”
They watched until the driver, a large man in a cowboy hat went inside the restaurant. As soon as he disappeared through the doorway into the restaurant, Randy and Ricky scurried down the hill and across the parking lot to where the big rig sat.
Randy looked around, checking to see if anyone was watching them. Nobody was. He put his foot on the little metal step at the back and, with Ricky’s help, lifted the flap and hoisted himself up and underneath. Inside, he could see rows of big wooden boxes. Right down the middle was a space – definitely big enough for a kid or two to squeeze through.
“Hey, Ricky. C’mon up!” Randy held the flap open for his friend. He reached down and took Ricky’s hand, pulling him up into the back of the truck.
“It sure is hot under here though, huh?”
“Yeah. Let’s go all the way to the front. Then we’ll get out of here before the driver comes back.”
The two boys peered into the space between the rows of boxes. Then Randy, the braver of the two, squeezed into the tight space. Ricky followed. It was getting hotter and hotter. The boys could not go fast either because the space between the rows of boxes was so small.
Near the front, Randy saw that one of the wooden cases had moved or been moved. Between it and the next case was a black suitcase.
“Look at that! What do you think is in it? Drugs?” The boys liked to watch the police shows on TV. They also had a policewoman come to school and talk to all the students about how bad drugs were. So, they knew something about them.
“Nah,” said Ricky. “Probably just the driver’s clothes.”
“I don’t think so. He wouldn’t need all these clothes. Besides, he would keep them in front in the cab or at least at the back of the truck so he could get to them easily, don’t you think?”
“You’re probably right. Why don’t we take a look?”
The suitcase was wedged between the two wooden cases but with both boys pulling, it shifted a little and then popped free.
“Bet you it’s locked,” said Ricky. But it was not. The metal catches slid back easily, and the lid opened. The suitcase was full of small, clear plastic bags full of white powder. It looked like sugar.”
“Holy Toledo! It is full of drugs! I told you so!”
“What was that?” Randy said as he heard a noise.
“I don’t know. It sounded like a door closing.”
“I’ll bet you the driver’s back and he’s going to leave. Let’s get out of here.” They heard the driver start the engine. The truck started to vibrate.
They started squeezing down the narrow aisle between the wooden cases. Suddenly the truck lurched forward. As the truck began to move forward, one of the top cases shifted.
“Watch out!” called Ricky.
Randy quickly pulled his leg back as the heavy case fell to the floor, filling the space between the rows. It was completely blocking the way out. Ricky hadn’t started into the space and so was on the other side of the big case.
“Get out! Hurry…before the truck is moving too fast to jump. Get the police. I can’t get out of here! Run!”
Randy scrambled as quickly as he could between the cases. The truck was just pulling out onto the highway as Randy jumped off the back. He yelled after the driver and waved his arms, but the driver just continued to pull out and soon was motoring up the highway heading north towards Phoenix.
Underneath the canvas, Ricky was sweating. His shirt felt wet. The case that had fallen had only missed him by a couple of inches. It had landed on top of the black suitcase, pinning that to the floor. There were cases on either side, so Ricky was wedged up against the front wall of the truck. Above his head, the canvas was stretched tight.
He wouldn’t be able to get out until the truck stopped. Ricky pushed against the big cases, but they were too heavy for him to move even a smidgen. Even if he were able to get to the back of the truck, he could not jump off because with the trucker barreling along at the speed limit, he would likely kill himself and that did not sound like something he wanted to do.
It was not as easy as they made it look in the movies. Maybe if he could cut a hole in the canvas, he would be able to breathe easier. Ricky remembered his penknife. He hoped he had not left it at home. Nope. It was right where he usually kept it. He took it out of his back pocket, opened the blade, reached up and pushed it through the thick canvas. He succeeded in making a hole and cool air rushed in. “That’s better! Now at least I won’t die…unless the bad drug guys find me.”
Ricky made a hole in the canvas big enough so that, by standing on the edge of one of the cases, he was able to squeeze his head and shoulders through. The air felt marvelous. He did not want to climb right up on top of the canvas. The truck was going far too fast and bouncing around. He would fall off for sure.
After about half an hour or so, Ricky felt the truck slowing down. By using the weight of the wooden cases, he was able to wedge his foot in enough that he could lift himself up a little higher. And see over the roof of the truck’s cab. A dirty, black pickup truck with two men in it was right in front of the truck. It was keeping pace with the truck and trying to make it slow down. The truck driver tried to pull out around the pickup but the driver of the pickup swerved in front of the big rig. He motioned the driver to pull over to the side and stop.
When the two vehicles stopped on the side of the highway, the trucker got out of the cab. He was very angry. “Why did you pull me over? I have a schedule to keep! What do you want?”
“Shut up and you’ll be back on your way in five minutes”, said one of the tough looking men. He was dressed in blue jeans, a black western style shirt and a black ball cap. There was a long ugly scar running down the left side of his face. “All we want is the suitcase in the back of your truck.”
“I don’t have any suitcases back there. Only wooden cases full of machine parts.”
“I told you to shut up.” The other man, a big pot-bellied guy with long dark hair under a cowboy hat, took a gun out of his jean jacket and pointed it at the trucker.
“Go and sit down in the ditch where we can see you.”
Ricky could see the two men walking towards the back of the truck. What could he do? There was no place to hide. They would find him for sure. Ricky was afraid. He and Randy should have stayed on top of the hill in Marana. Next time they would – if there was a next time. Those men looked awfully rough.
Just then, a new voice said, “Drop the gun and put your hands in the air. This is the police!”
The two men looked at the state police car that had pulled up right behind the truck. They did as they were told. Another police car pulled in as well with police swarming out of both cars, guns drawn. Randy was in the back seat of one of the police cruisers.
The police handcuffed the two bad guys and put them each in the back of one of the cars – not the one Randy was in. “Where is your friend?” one of the policemen asked Randy.
“I’m here! I’m here!” Ricky called out with his head sticking out through the hole in the canvas atop the truck.
With the trucker’s help, a policeman untied the front of the canvas. They moved a couple of the cases enough for Ricky to squeeze through. Then they removed the suitcase, opened it up, saw the drugs and put the suitcase in the truck of one of their cars.
“Are those guys drug dealers?” asked Randy, who had popped out of his seat in the police cruiser.
“Looks that way,” answered an officer. We’ve been looking for them for a long time.”
“About a week later, Randy and Ricky were in school when the same two policemen came into the class. They said something to the teacher.
“Would Randy Jensen and Ricky Roberts please come up to the front of the class?” When the boys did, one of the policemen took two small leather wallets out of his jacket. Inside each was a gold star.
“Thanks to you two boys, we were able to catch two men who have been bringing drugs into our country for a long time. The Mexican police have also been trying to apprehend these guys and they were successful in catching the guy who put the suitcase in the back of the truck. The driver did not know anything about it.
“These badges are for you boys.” He made them hold up their right hands and swear to uphold the law and to protect all the people of Arizona. Then he said, “As of now, you are both Junior Arizona State Police Cadets.” All the class applauded and yelled.
“Thank you very much, officer. Next time we see something suspicious, though, I think we’ll just call you guys instead of looking ourselves, right, Ricky?”
©March 2021 Robert W. F. Taylor
This story was originally self-published on Smashwords in 2012 in my e-book of short stories called ‘The Purple Forest and Other Stories about Children Around the World’. It has been updated.