“Are you sick, señor?” the coyote asked, eyeing his customer. “You look sick.”
Michael Nbume wiped the sweat from his face with his sleeve and leaned on the tailgate of the battered truck. Inside its sweltering back, a dozen Latin Americans waited to head north, staring at the African.
“No, it is just the heat. It is drier than in Liberia. I am not used to it,” Mbune lied in fluent English. He knew he was sick; he had seen so many die around him as the epidemic swept through the packed slums of Monrovia. When he first felt the severe headache and fever, he knew that to stay would be to die and be bulldozed into the mass graves like all the others. America – yes, there they could help him.
He was lucky; he had the money not only to buy the airline ticket but to pay the bribes that let him avoid any questions at customs. Not in America, of course; they would catch him at the airport and send him back to die. Instead, he came through Mexico, where a $1,000 bought him a wave through the turnstile. Now was the easy part – to cross into America through its porous southern border and claim asylum while he sought treatment. Even in Africa, he had heard that American hospitals were required by law to treat anyone who asked for help, including those in America illegally.
The coyote nodded and helped Mbune up into the truck as the others took his arms and pulled when he faltered. African crossers were unusual but not unknown; while most were Latin American, he had taken over Asians, Arabs and everyone else. To him, pollos were pollos, and their dollars – he only took dollars – all spent the same. With the promise of amnesty in the air, business was good.
As the coyote walked to the cab, he noticed a smear of blood on his hand. The coyote figured he had cut himself and thought no more of it. He started the truck and drove out of Ciudad Juarez.
At the drop-off point an hour later, the other crossers were upset. Mbune had begun coughing up blood in the packed compartment. The coyote told them to shut-up, grab their packs and follow him north on the desert trail. He had them pause at the border to he observe. As usual these days, the Border Patrol was nowhere to be seen, so he led them across and into the United States. There was no fence to stop them.
A couple hours and several hard miles later, Mbune fell to his knees and vomited out a great gush of red. “Sangre!” one of the women said in horror.
Mbune was rolling on the desert floor now, moaning. The coyote looked around. No Border Patrol, but that might not last. He had done what he had been paid to do; the man was in the United States.
“Leave him,” he said, chasing away the women who had bent down to help the sick man. “Move!”
Reluctantly, the women stood and followed the group, wiping the blood that stained their hands on their coats as the sound of the dying African receded in the distance.
Carlos Gomez steadied himself over the stove, another wave of stomach pain nearly knocking him off balance and onto the sizzling eggs and bacon. He coughed, doing his best to cover his mouth with his sleeve. It came away from his face red again, but he was not going to lose this good new job. Kansas City was expensive, and though he roomed with a dozen other illegals, he needed every penny for the many back home he was now supporting. He had come too far to let a cold stop him from working; he gave no thought to the sick African he had shared a truck ride with the week before.
Maria Fernandez’s sister had gotten her a job as a nanny for a family in Las Vegas. The mother was very glamorous and liked to try out her Yankee-accented high school Spanish. Maria patiently went along, but her heart was with the three adorable little children. “Yo te quiero,” the little girl had said, hugging her new nanny and smiling as Maria walked her to the elementary school. “I love you. I hope you feel better!”
“What do you mean we can’t say that?” demanded Dr. Jim Talmadge. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) doctor rarely suffered fools gladly, and today he was suffering greatly. “The infection is in the illegal immigrant community. We have to tell people.”
“Undocumented workers,” Chelsea Puig corrected him. The 26-year old White House aide had graduated from Harvard with a double major in Sociology and Feminist Theory, qualifying her to explain the situation to the 30-year epidemiologist. “We are not going to allow negative stereotyping and speculation let racist Teabaggers mislead the American people about our immigration policies.”
“Negative stereotyping? We have over 100 known Ebola cases in the undocumented worker communities in ten different cities. It won’t stay there. We have to tell people the truth. We have to stop it.”
“Your truth,” Puig sniffed. “is frankly more than a little racist.”
“Hey stupid, truth isn’t racist. It’s truth,” he shouted. “I know what this is. The midterms are coming and you political hacks are terrified because this came through the border you wouldn’t close. We told you this could happen. We told you but you wouldn’t listen. And you aren’t going to shut me up. I’m going to the media.” Puig snarled, stood, and left the meeting.
An hour later, Dr. Talmadge’s supervisor and two men in suits walked into his office. The epidemiologist looked up from his forecasting models – they predicted that the virus would spread exponentially – and asked, “What is this, and who are these guys?”
“Jim, I’m sorry but we’re suspending you indefinitely while you’re being investigated for violating the CDC’s sexism and harassment policies,” he said reluctantly, seemingly embarrassed. “It was…orders.”
Before the stunned Dr. Talmadge could respond, the taller of the men in suits produced an ID and a badge. “I’m Agent Duffy of Homeland Security. I’m here to formally notify you of your mandatory confidentiality requirements. If you disclose confidential information related to your former position, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, and you will go to prison.”
Several days later, a glamorous mother of three in Las Vegas found herself caring for three very ill little children without the help of her nanny, who had left sick one day and never returned. Other moms from her kids’ classes were texting her about how their kids were sick too.
At the same time, a dozen people who had eaten breakfast a few days before at one particular Kansas City diner found themselves sicker than they’d ever been before in their lives. In a crowded house not far away, a dozen illegals debated what to do about their friend Carlos, who had died the night before, bleeding out from every orifice in his body.
In Ciudad Juarez, an Arab man looked closely at the coyote he was paying to help him cross the border with a dozen equally serious friends and the bulging backpacks they jealously guarded from prying eyes.
“Are you sick?” the Arab asked. “You look sick.”
“I am fine,” replied the coyote, though he felt anything but. Still, sick as he was, these Arabs were paying too much for his help to pass up.
The Arab, an Iraqi who had spent the last decade fighting the infidels, nodded. All he needed was for this dog to get them over the border. Once that happened, they’d kill the Mexican and wait for their compatriots already in the United States to pick them up and drive them to their targets in cities across the country. There must be no witnesses who could compromise this martyrdom operation.
He smiled, his hand instinctively reaching inside his jacket to caress the knife he had used to kill so many prisoners. While the United States was in a panic over this Ebola outbreak, he and his friends from the Islamic State, and the 40 kilograms of Semtex plastic explosive looted for Assad’s stockpiles that each was carrying north, would soon give the American devils something to truly panic about.