Kat and Sergio were on an adventure. It had been a few days since they were forced to leave the house of Simon, the man who had saved their lives, twice. They didn’t want to leave the man, but they had been forced to do so when an Invergence drone showed up on their doorstep. Now they were in Simon’s truck, continuing their trek west on Route 40. Occasionally they would leave the highway, taking back roads, or simply going on a detour and returning to Route 40. They did this to try and throw Invergence off the scent. So their progress was slow, but they had already passed through Oklahoma and were coming close to Amarillo, Texas.
They tried not to stop often. Some nights they would stay in a cheap motel, others they would camp using some equipment Simon had stuffed in the back of their truck. Other times, they would simply park and do their best to sleep.
Alice was the biggest problem. Since Sergio couldn’t drive yet because of his bad right leg, Kat did all of the driving. That meant that she couldn’t help Alice when she needed to. They had to make frequent stops at gas stations and rest stops so that she could nurse the baby, who had grown considerably in the almost three months since she was born.
One day, about a week into their trip, fortune failed them again. They made a stop just outside of Amarillo to gas up. Sergio did this, as it was one of the few things he could do for Kat, since he couldn’t drive himself, or feed the baby. Kat took the opportunity to use the restroom and took Alice with her. Sergio started gassing the car and waited.
He was distracted by a disturbance as three men came out the gas station, shouting at someone inside. They were obviously drunk, staggering as they were.
“Next time, get the change right!” one of them yelled, “Learn how to use American money if you’re in America. And actually, we don’t want you in America, go home. I don’t want to see you here again.”
Sergio looked inside and noticed a Hispanic cashier inside, looking thoroughly flustered. Sergio shook his head. He had seen similar acts of racism before, but it was usually more subtle and the perpetrator usually had no clue what they were doing. The man who had shouted staggered away from the gas station, and looked at Sergio. Sergio looked away quickly, not wanting to attract their attention.
The man who had shouted staggered away from the gas station, and looked at Sergio. Sergio looked away quickly, not wanting to attract their attention.
“You too! You can all go back to your country!” the man said. Sergio paused. The man was definitely looking at Sergio. “Go back to Mexico. This is Trump land, you ain’t getting your check no more.”
Sergio felt every instinct screaming at him to leave, but Kat hadn’t returned yet so there wasn’t much he could do except wait. The tank was full so Sergio extracted the nozzle and put it back. He ignored the man, who was still yelling. The two others, who hadn’t said anything up to this point, joined the speaker in sneering at Sergio. This wasn’t good.
“I’m an American citizen!” he yelled back at the men, not sure what else to say. It technically wasn’t true. Sergio had received his green card before Alice was born, but since then, he’d been living under a new identity. That new identity was an American citizen, and he had the papers to prove it. He fished in his pocket and held up a U.S. passport, trying to stall until Kat could get back.
This new information did nothing to dissuade the men. They started staggering closer.
“Hey where’d you get that fake passport,” one of them said.
“It’s mine.” Sergio became increasingly nervous, in a way he had never experienced when running from Invergence. The three men came closer.
“Of course it’s not yours. Just listen to that accent. You don’t belong here.” The burly man saw the tarp that covered the back of the truck. “Hey, you got more of your friends under here?” He lifted the tarp, and looked inside.
“Hey guys, I don’t want any trouble,” said Sergio.
“You’re packing a lot of stuff in here, man,” responded the leader of the three men, “Yeah, keep on packing. Then make like a tree and leave. We’re more American than you Mexicans.”
“I’m actually not from Mexico,” said Sergio. This was true. He was originally from Argentina. People from Argentina were generally fairer-skinned. This was why little Alice was still able to inherit her mother’s blonde hair and blue eyes. But obviously, hHispanicnic heritage was still evident to these gentlemen.
“I don’t care where you’re from man.” the leader said, “black, brown, yellow, we don’t want you here. We were here first.”
Sergio thought about pointing out that Native Americans had been here long before European immigrants, or that the area held a lot more Mexicans than white people, but thought better of it. He didn’t want to push the buttons of these men, not when they were drunk and outnumbered him.
His restraint wouldn’t do much good in the long run.
Kat had reappeared. She was watching the men warily as she circled around to the opposite side of the car, placing Alice in the middle carseat.
“Oh, is this your woman?” jeered the lead man, “How’d an illegal like you con a woman like that? Come here honey. I’ll give you a child you can be proud of.”
He had gone too far.
Without another word, Sergio kneed the man in the groin. The leader doubled over in pain. It took only a small moment for the other two to react, but by then Kat had rounded the side of the vehicle, taking out a bottle of pepper spray that she always carried in her purse. She sprayed it in the face of the other two. They screamed and went down like their leader as Kat kicked them both squarely.
Sergio didn’t have time to admire how attractive his wife was right now. Instead, he limped as fast as he could to the opposite side of the car and got in. Kat was already in the driver’s seat, and little Alice was cooing with pleasure. She liked excitement.
Before the three men could stop them, they had pulled out of the station. But that didn’t last long. The men had obviously recovered quickly enough, had entered their own car, and were now following them. Kat cursed as she increase their speed, pulling back onto Route 40. The pursuing car swerved back and forth across the road. Obviously their pain combined with their drunkenness wasn’t doing them any favors. But they were driving a newer truck with a much more powerful engine than the old rusty vehicle that Kat and Sergio had received from Simon. So they kept pace.
Kat continued to speed down the highway, hoping against hope that they weren’t pulled over. That was the last thing they needed now. The three men continued their pursuit, and started to grow bold. They pulled up and bumped the back of Kat and Sergio’s truck. Kat tried to speed up, but they couldn’t safely go much faster. Again, they were hit by the pursuing truck. This time it almost caused Kat to lose her steering.
“That’s it,” she said, completely frustrated. She hurried to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks. The three men overshot them and pulled over ahead. They started stumbling out of their car. The leader, who had not been hit by the pepper spray, was first in line.
Kat reached behind her, and Sergio realized what she was planning to do.
“Um,” he said, “is that wise? We don’t want any additional trouble.”
“They’re not exactly giving us much of a choice.” she shot back.
A moment later she was out of the car, a shotgun pointed squarely at the three men in front of her. They froze. Drunk or no, a shotgun was enough to get their attention.
“Don’t take another step,” Kat growled at them, “If you continue to harass us, I will shoot you.”
The leader gave a half-hearted smile, “Listen babe, we were just having a bit of fun.”
“Better continue it someplace else.”
The leader didn’t seem to have anything more to say. He looked almost like he was going to try his luck, but just then, Kat cocked the gun. That was enough to discourage any thoughts the man had. He started trotting back to their truck, the other two following. It wasn’t long before they had swung around, heading back in the direction they came.
Sergio sighed in relief. Kat unloaded the shotgun and put it back behind the seat. She got back in the truck and sat there for a moment with her hands on the steering wheel. Sergio realized she was shaking, partly from fear, partly from anger. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“Well they’re gone now,” said Sergio encouragingly, “Good job.”
“Was that too extreme?” Kat asked.
“Um…” Sergio secretly thought so, but he wasn’t about to say that to her, “That doesn’t matter. They’re gone, now let’s get out of here before they bring friends or something.”
Kat nodded and started driving. They sat in silence for a few minutes as they continued on Route 40. After the chase, they didn’t really feel like driving too fast, so they cruised at the speed limit.
Suddenly, they saw lights flashing behind them. Oh no, that’s all we need, thought Sergio. He hoped this was simply a minor issue like a broken tail light. That might actually be the case, considering the three men had bumped up against them earlier. But Sergio had a feeling that, with their luck, this was something worse.
Kat pulled over and the officer approached their truck.
Kat pulled over and the officer approached their truck.
“License and registration,” he said. Kat showed them her driver’s license. It displayed the alias she used most often, that of Carol Marcus. The officer took the documents and spent an unusual time looking them over.
“May I ask what’s the problem, officer.” Kat asked after a moment.
“Reports of a disturbance,” he said, “A gentleman called in and said he was assaulted by a blonde woman with a gun, in a truck matching this one. Said she was accompanied by a an illegal immigrant,” he glanced at Sergio.
Sergio swallowed. He had no idea how they were going to get out of this one.
Kat tried to save face, “I’ve never even touched a gun in my life. Do I look like someone who would threaten a man with one. I’m a mother, see here is my daughter right…” She took her hands off the steering wheel and went to pick up Alice.
That was a mistake.
“Put your hands back on the steering wheel, lady,” the officer ordered, pulling his own gun out of his holster and leveling it at her.
Sergio piped up, “Officer, we haven’t done anything, my wife was just grabbing the baby.”
Alice was clearly visible now, held in Kat’s hands, but the officer didn’t seem to care anymore. “I’d like both of you to exit the car and put your hands on the hood.”
Sergio countered, “Sir, we do not consent to you searching our truck. You can’t search it without probable cause.”
“You will exit the vehicle or I will charge you with resisting an officer.”
“We are not resisting, we simply do not consent to our rights being violated.”
“I SAID, GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE NOW!” he bellowed. His gun was still leveled at both of them. Sergio knew this was illegal. The man had no right or evidence to detain them. But there didn’t seem to be any other choice. Both he and Kat emerged from the car, the latter holding Alice in her arms. They did as the officer instructed and put both arms on the hood of the truck, though Kat really just put one arm on the hood, as the other was busy holding Alice.
The officer began poking around in the truck. It wasn’t long before he found the shotgun stashed behind the seats. Sergio glanced at Kat. This wasn’t good.
Suddenly, Kat’s face paled, and Sergio turned his head to see what she was looking at. The police officer had found a small lock-box, the one with all their identities in it. It was open. Sergio swore. Why hadn’t they locked it up? The thought had never even occurred to them that they might one day be in this situation.
The officer glanced through the documents, then at Kat and Sergio. Sergio closed his eyes. He knew they were busted. Illegal or not, this man would assume that they had forged documents to stay in the United States.
“I want you both to put these on.” he tossed two pairs of hand-cuffs to Kat and Sergio.
“What about Alice?” Kat said, worry creasing her brow.
“Never mind that, she’ll be fine. Place her on the seat, then put those on.” he indicated the cuffs again.
Slowly, they obeyed. Once Sergio had cuffed his hands, the officer hurried him to the back of the police car. Kat soon followed but she repeatedly asked about Alice, staring in her direction. Once both of them were secure in the back of the car, the police officer grabbed Alice’s car seat from the truck and placed the girl in it. He brought her back to his own car and secured Alice in the front passenger seat.
Kat and Sergio kept glancing at each other as they hurried off to the station. They didn’t know what to do. The officer would likely phone in to his superiors, and it wouldn’t be long before Invergence heard of their little run-in with the law. They were helpless.
They arrived at the police station a few moments later. The officer led them into the temporary jail cell where people waited until something more permanent could be arranged. Once inside, he reached through the bars and took their cuffs off.
A fellow officer called out, “What you got there, Steven?”
“An illegal. Also charges of armed assault. We have three witnesses. Check this out.”
He brought in the box full of Kat and Sergio’s aliases.
“Damn! What’d they need all these for,” the older officer asked.
“Beats me if I know,” responded Steven, “Thought we might need to call in someone from higher up.”
“Yeah, someone will want to look into this.” responded the old man.
Kat cut in, “What about Alice?”
The officers looked over at her, then the older one answered, “Don’t worry, she’ll be well taken care of. I can’t allow you to have her right now, though.”
Alice was already starting to cry.
“Please, she needs me, she’s hungry. And she reacts to formula.” That last part wasn’t true, but Sergio couldn’t blame her for saying so. Perhaps they’d be allowed to hold her.
The older officer thought for a moment, “Okay, we’ll let you feed her,” Kat sighed with relief. The officer turned to his junior, “Put her in the opposite cell, though. We don’t want the illegal trying anything stupid.”
“I wouldn’t…” Sergio began, but Kat put a hand on his arm. He nodded, reluctantly. These men obviously didn’t understand their situation. It was better this way because it allowed Kat to care for the girl.
Steven approached the cell and ordered Sergio to back up against the wall. He did so, and the officer led Kat out of the cell, then into the one right next to it. The older officer grabbed Alice’s carseat and placed it inside the cell with Kat. Then they shut and locked the door.
Alice was glad to see her mother again. She made a few babbling noises that cut off as Kat started to feed her. Both of the officers had moved on to other things, probably filing paperwork or letting their superiors know what was going on.
Once Kat had finished feeding, she started playing with the baby, making funny faces and bouncing the girl up and down. Sergio chuckled to himself. Here they were, facing prosecution and Kat was finding ways to deal with it. He, on the other hand, was far more concerned. As the accused illegal immigrant, he had a good chance of being deported. And if they learned his true identity, there’s no way that Invergence wouldn’t find out and come looking for him, his wife, and his child. His thoughts broke off when Kat called to him.
“Sergio!” she exclaimed, “Sergio, look!”
He looked. It took a moment to spot what Kat wanted him to see, but he finally saw it. Alice was smiling! They’d seen the expected half-smiles before, but those were more like Alice learning to use her facial muscles. This was a genuine smile! Little Alice stared at her mother with the cutest grin on her face as Kat bounced her up and down on her lap. It was the most beautiful thing Sergio had ever seen.
He leaned against the bars that separated them. For once, he forgot all about the predicament they were in, he forgot about Invergence, the three men who had harassed them, the police, or the thought of deportation. All he thought about was that beautiful expression on his daughter’s face.
His daughter. A wave of pure delight swept through him, pure love for the two people sitting in the other cell.
A paramedic arrived and entered Sergio’s cell. He asked a few routine questions about Sergio’s health, took a blood sample, and did a few tests.
Sergio hardly noticed. He kept glancing back at Alice, who was still smiling, particularly when her mother bounced her even higher. It wasn’t until the paramedic finished with him, and moved on to talk to Kat, that Sergio’s worries returned.
He would not be separated from his family. Just the fact that he couldn’t hold Alice right now was excruciating enough. He would find a way out of this.
The hint of a plan began to form in his head, and he waved to get the paramedic’s attention.
“Uh, hi, one question,” he said, “Can I get my phone call?”
The paramedic looked at him. Then with an annoyed expression, he went to get the older police officer, who arrived a moment later to talk to Sergio. The paramedic went right back to Kat, though she was now distracted, wondering what Sergio had in mind.
The police officer agreed to let Sergio have a phone. Sergio quickly dialed a number he had memorized a few weeks back. He hadn’t thought he would need it so soon.
The number rang for a long moment, and Sergio’s heart stood still. Then, blessedly, a cheery voice answered.
“Hello,” the voice said. “This is Simon, may I ask who’s calling?”