From Chapter 1

Note: If you haven’t already done so please read the Introduction to this book, first. It will be helpful to better understand these sample chapter extracts.

The Comisario’s Band – Scoring ‘Mota’

Flaming orange tar pots lit up a stretch of black Arizona highway on which a dented, mud-spattered, dark green Chevrolet van inched its way into a long line of vehicles crawling toward the Mexican border. It was a hot humid summer night in the year 1992.

Morey whined, “Why do we have to come to Mexico to buy pot, when we can get all we want in LA?” Morey Levine played piano in a quartet with the other three down-and-out jazz musicians sitting in the van. Morey worried about many things. He especially worried about the instability of the group of musicians he had worked with for several years. He claimed he inherited the worrying trait from his Jewish ancestors, so it couldn’t be helped. His blue eyes, generous nose and oval face fit his five foot eleven inch well proportioned body. He was neat and orderly. He worked at keeping each one of his silver hairs in place and he couldn’t stand to be unshaven. Morey was worrying and sweltering in his wrinkled black tuxedo pants and his damp, white,ruffled dress shirt.

Charley DiCicco, the temperate mannered Italian tenor saxophone player, turned to the back seat promising, “Nothing’s gonna’ happen Morey.” His reassurance did little to calm Morey’s fears, because Charley never anticipated negative results and he always gave the benefit of the doubt. His black curly hair, threaded with silver, his deep set brown eyes and protruding Roman nose were inherited from his handsome Italian ancestors who had also blessed him with a height of six feet and two inches and their sense of ‘Qué Sera’. What would be would be, no matter what, and nothing could change that fact – meaning life should not be taken too seriously.

Roger Holden, a.k.a. Scat, the drummer in the quartet and the youngest member of the senior group, flipped the stub of his cigarette out of the back window of the van and removed his black bow tie and black satin cummerbund.

“Come on man,” he chided, “we’re only going to Nogales. We’ll score some Mota and be back in LA tomorrow night.” Scat had always lived on-the-edge and to his knowledge, he had no ancestors to rely upon or blame for being the way he was. Scat figured things out by himself. In his youth his hair had been blonde and wavy. He was still handsome with clean north-European features. His hair had turned silver, but at sixty-four, his clothes still hung model-like on his lean, six foot frame. In earlier times he was thought of as a cool cat.

Frank Evans, owner of the van and leader of the group, played string bass and trombone in the group.  He was six feet three inches tall, big-boned and over-weight.  In his prime he was very handsome with his black wavy hair, smooth olive skin and dark gray eyes.  His grandmother assured him he was a descendent of the famous Greek God, Zeus, and that was why he was so assertive.  He was meant to be a leader of men.

The four musicians, traveling in the van, had packed their suitcases before playing their last musical engagement at the Hilton Hotel in Tucson, Arizona, not bothering to change into street clothing.  The argument about going to Mexico to buy marijuana had been in progress from the time the four musicians left the bandstand.

Morey Levine lost the argument about returning to LA and now the dirt-encrusted, shuddering van vibrated slowly over narrow concrete ridges intended to slow traffic on its way into Mexico.  It followed the snake-like stream of vehicles into a large parking area, enclosed by a fifteen-foot high chain link fence that shone like a wall of silver mesh under the blinding overhead lights.  Light green, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles, their radios squawking loudly, were parked helter-skelter, in the parking area.

Morey broke the sizzling silence.  “Look at those observation towers.  There are guards up there with high-powered rifles, and dig the radar cans and spot lights on those trucks.  Everybody has a gun.  This looks like a war zone, Frank let’s get the hell out of here.”

Frank sighed impatiently, “Morey, those are our Border Patrol guys.  They’re looking for wetback Mexicans and guys trying to smuggle drugs into the U.S..”

Charley and Scat mumbled words of encouragement hearing Morey moan.  The stream of traffic, proceeding north from Mexico into the United States, was made to stop over a deep cement pit where U.S. Border Patrol officers searched the undersides of the entering vehicles with long-handled magnifying mirrors and punched in license plate numbers into their computers.  Impatient, perspiring, U.S. officers commanded their leashed dogs to jump into some of the vehicles traveling north to sniff for drugs.  Over the din of idling engines, blaring radios, slamming hoods and crying babies, U.S. officers rummaged through suitcases and plastic bags strewn over a long cement table, and afterward ordered everyone to gather their belongings and return to their vehicles.  The odor of perspiration and fear was as potent as the gasoline vapors, which contaminated the steamy night air.

“Frank,” Morey shouted, bracing himself on the back of Frank’s seat, as the van jerked into gear, “I have a real bad feeling about this.”

“Now damn it Morey,” Frank interrupted, “You’re making me nervous.  Relax man.”

The van stopped beside a paint-pealed, metal booth.  A middle aged Mexican Border Patrol Officer in a wrinkled beige uniform and billed cap, stepped out and signaled it to stop.  A dingy light bulb dangled from the ceiling of the cubicle, barely lighting the inside of the booth.

A pack of multicolored dogs rummaged through a toppled garbage can and somewhere in the moonless night, a boom-box faintly rendered a Mexican love song.

“Buenas  noches.  A donde van Ustedes?” the Mexican officer asked.  His black eyes shone and a smile spread across his glistening brown face as he placed a damp plump hand on the frame of the open window next to Frank.  No one answered.

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