“Mija, nothing to it, but to do it,” La Señora Falcón said as she put the Honda Civic in gear and pushed her foot on the accelerator.
The car pulled out of the safe house at Daggett, California –only an hour from our Amboy destination–where we had spent the previous night. The refuge had been set up years ago when La Familia discovered that Oñate had established a zombie hive at Amboy. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a dark gray panel van and two Harley motorcycles pull out of the safe house driveway behind us. I knew that Filomino was at the wheel of the van and Lazaro in the passenger seat. Behind them Jimmy Yazzie and Gus Dominguez were commanding the motorcycles.
We had spent the night at the safe house– a three hour drive from Los Angeles– so we could get an early arrival at Amboy. The idea was to get as much info as we could in one day without arousing suspicious.
“Get into Amboy,” Mr. Nez had told us, “then go to the crater, get the intelligence we need , and get out as soon as you can.”
Now the three car caravan moved along the old Highway 66 that transects California, running parallel to Interstate 40 from Barstow to Needles, California.
I looked over at La Señora in her seersucker pants, flowery blouse and straw hat. It all fit the image of a matronly woman traveling with her twentyish daughter. We were ostensively retracing the route through Amboy where my pregnant mother had first realized she was about to give birth. She had barely made it to the hospital in Barstow where I was born.
When we reached Ludlow, we pulled into an empty dirt parking lot across the street from the Ludlow Café. We got out of the vehicles and gathered in a circle.
“From now on you two are going to be on your own,” Filomino said seriously. “We’re not sure what the range is for Lazaro’s mind reading. But it can work in reverse. We don’t want Oñate to detect Lazaro’s mindreading and have that give you guys away. Jimmy and Gus will on the hogs, two bikers retracing Route 66. They stay back from you but will be there if things get ugly. Lazaro and will here at the Ludlow Café waiting for you. If you get into a jam or your cover is blown, you know the signal. We’ll come running.”
Lazaro came over to me and gave me a hug.
“You be careful,” he said to me. “Remember anyone out there could be a mind-reading zombie. If someone approaches, mind block by directing your attention to a trivial problem you are trying to solve.”
“Hey, I the mind block lecture yesterday. I’ll be okay. Gotta go, got a job to do,”
With that La Señora Falcón and I got into the Civic and headed out on the old Highway 66 which at this point it was called National Trailways Highway.
I looked out the rear view mirror and saw Lazaro and Filomino looking after us. Jimmy and Gus were already mounting their bikes.
An hour later we easily found the town of Amboy. Boy, it was less of a town than I had even imagined–really just old Roy’s Café, still open, manned by a bored clerk looking about twenty. I read him as an Oñate zombie passing as human.
We bought a couple of Route 66 root beers that actually tasted pretty good. The rest of the “town” was nothing but a dozen empty abandoned buildings. We pretended to be interested in the empty motel rooms. La Señora Falcón raised her voice loud enough for the half dozen tourists snooping around the place to hear.
“Mija,” she said, “how I remember Roy’s Cafe! Your papa and I had stopped for coffee when my water burst! I knew then you were on the way!”
She made sure everyone knew that she and my purported father had then gone on to Barstow where I was supposed to have been born
“Then we drove to the Barstow hospital…”
“And that’s where I was born,” I said, finishing her thought. “Mom, you’ve told me that story a million times!”
The cover story seemed convincing enough to the tourists–several of them smiled at our conversation. I could tell even the scrawny clerk had overheard the story. Just then I saw Jimmy Yazzie and Gus Dominguez roll up in their Harleys.
Having set up our cover story, we got back into the Civic. As I got back into the car I gave Gus and Jimmy an “we’re okay” look as they passed by on their way into the café. They nodded.
La Señora Falcón and I drove a mile to a junction where Amboy Road came in from the South. We turned onto the road and headed south for a quarter of a mile. Then we arrived at a dirt road
off to the right, in the distance we could see the cone of Amboy Crater rising out of the desert floor only a couple of miles away.
“Alright, let’s check out the eastern approach to the crater,” Señora Falcon said.
We parked the car and I pulled a set of high powered binoculars. I scanned the horizon. From where we stood to the crater floor was a wide expanse of lava flow, dark rocks randomly strewn over the landscape interrupted by shallow hills and valleys of sand dunes.
As I examined the lower portion of the crater itself, I detected a glint, something was reflecting light from the late morning overhead sun. I zoomed into the light source and was shocked by what I saw. I hadn’t expected us to find any real proof of the Onate doings immediately up front. But what I saw through the binoculars was remarkable–a heavy duty metallic door was etched out of the volcanic base of the crater.
How could they risk such exposure? Then I remembered Mr. Nez’s words some time ago. “Oñate is vain and self-confidant. That will be his undoing.”
“My god,” I said, “Señora, look at this.”
I handed her the binoculars and she took a look.
“Mija, it’s as Mr. Nez suspected. An entrance to their underground headquarters.”
I turned and was about to head back to the car when I saw a white van come careening to a stop next to our Civic. The signage on the side of the van read “Bureau of Land Management.” An athletic man of about thirty got out of the van and walked toward me.
Did I leave the keys in the Civic? I thought. What did I do with the keys to the car? Does mom have the keys to the car?
“Howdy,” the man said. “You ladies lost?”
What happened to the keys?
“No, we’re just sort of sightseeing.”
By then La Señora had come up behind me .
“Hello!” she said affecting a country-bumpkin demeanor. “We ‘re trying to get a good look at that crater.”
“Well, you won’t see much here.” he said,
Does mom have the keys to the car? She must have the keys to the car.
“Nothin’ here but a lot of in accessible lava flow,” he continued. “You try to drive your car through out you’ll just get a flat tire. And I wouldn’t try hiking over there– those lava rocks will really tear up your feet. Make the hurt real bad.’”
“We heard you could see the crater up close,” La Señora said.
Maybe I dropped the keys when I got out of the car.
“You can. Just head back to the main highway, Route 66, turn left go up about 2 miles and you‘ll see the entrance to the Amboy crate parking lot. You can walk from there to the bottom of the crater along a graded path if you wish. But I warn you it’s a mile hike in the heat. Be sure you got plenty of water and a hat.”
He looked at me with a strange look.
“And you better be careful with our car keys. Don’t want to lose out here. You’ll never find them.”
With that he got back into his van and drove off.
“Mija, you okay,” La Señora asked.
“Yeah I’m fine, “ I replied. “But he was one of them! I’m sure. I was mind blocking that I had lost my keys. And he picked up on it. Did you hear what he said as he left.”
“It worked, Pearl,” La Señora responded. “I was mind blocking about how much my feet hurt. But I think it worked. He didn’t know what were here for.”
“Let’s take him up on his suggestion and visit the official entrance to the Amboy Crator.”
As we got into the car, I notice something that caught my attention. Two Border Patrol vans, white with green lettering, passed by on the Amboy Road , coming from Amboy and headed to 29 Palms.
“Strange to see Border Patrol up this far from the border” I said.
“Mighty strange,” Mrs Falcon agreed. “Mighty strange.”
Copyright 2014 by Lazaro De La Tierra and Barrio Dog Productions, Inc.