Tappin County Texas is fictional and is based roughly on some of the geographic and social/economic characteristics of Hudspeth County, Texas. With a population of around 3,500 residents Hudspeth County is similar to many of the lesser populated counties in Texas that are on or in close proximity to our shared border with Mexico. The real Hudspeth County sits directly east of El Paso County which includes the city of El Paso. Both counties sit at the far western edges of Texas and border New Mexico. They also rest directly north of the US/Mexico border. El Paso’s sister city in Mexico is Ciudad Juárez which has had a terrible problem with cartel violence and has been repeatedly dubbed “the most violent city in the world outside an active war zone”. I’ve never visited El Paso, Hudspeth County or Mexico so bear with me since I’ve taken some liberties to add to the story's plotline.
Mexican Politics and the US Border Crisis-
The US Department of Homeland Security and other US Agencies estimate that Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) reap tens of billions of dollars every year off the smuggling of drugs and humans across our southern border. The scope of the problem in Mexico led Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón to crack down on the problem shortly after his election at the end of 2006, in an attempt to help bring the situation under control. Since that time over 35,000(estimates vary) men, woman and children have died in this brutal struggle between rival cartels and the Mexican Government. The pace of the murders is so frantic that it can often be hard to pin down the exact number of deaths that are cartel related in one form or another. Since there is no guarantee that the numbers from the Mexican Government are accurate, the numbers could be higher than generally thought.
Here’s some of what the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs had to say about the subject. I’ve picked only a few relevant paragraphs and if you’re interested you can go to www.travel.state.gov under International Travel for more information.
Since 2006, the Mexican government has engaged in an extensive effort to combat transnational criminal organizations (TCOs). The TCOs, meanwhile, have been engaged in a vicious struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity. According to Government of Mexico figures, 34,612 people have been killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico since December 2006. More than 15,000 narcotics-related homicides occurred in 2010, an increase of almost two-thirds compared to 2009. Most of those killed in narcotics-related violence since 2006 have been members of TCOs. However, innocent persons have also been killed as have Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.
The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat the TCOs. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways may encounter government checkpoints, which are often staffed by military personnel. You are advised to cooperate with personnel at government checkpoints and mobile military patrols. TCOs have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, and killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them.
Violence Along the U.S.-Mexico Border
Much of the country’s narcotics-related violence has occurred in the northern border region. For example, since 2006, three times as many people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua, across from El Paso, Texas, than in any other city in Mexico. More than half of all Americans killed in Mexico in FY 2009 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. Embassy were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.
The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Mexican authorities report that more than 2,600 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March, 2010. U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez. U.S. citizens should also defer travel to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX ports-of-entry. In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug related violence. There have been recent incidents of serious narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
Source-www.travel.state.gov (Travel Warning)
I empathize with the plight of all those that are adversely affected on both sides of the border by the ongoing Drug War in Mexico and other cartel violence. Many Mexicans and Central and South Americans believe that their path to a better life is through the US, accounting for the massive and uncontrollable influx of illegals that have or will seek opportunity in the US illegally regardless of penalty or hazard. I believe that the Drugs/Illegal Immigration problem has been mismanaged for years on both sides of the border and, like most problems, the longer it festers the worse it will become. Maybe now we are past the point that we should all say “enough”. Let’s curtail the drugs flowing into our country and address the millions of people that have gamed our immigration laws and safeguards by one method or another. If we, as a nation, don’t say enough, at some point it has the potential to negatively affect us even more than it already has.
And while currently the vast majority of the violence is centered over the border in Mexico, the sheer volume of money involved and the violence and corruption it has fostered in both countries staggers the mind. Unfortunately, the money involved has tempted a number of US officials to become part of the problem and accept payments for their cooperation in illegal activity. The US Department of Justice (www.justice.gov) recognizes the problem and is actively attempting to bring the corruption under control at the local, state and national levels. Part of me fears that if things went wrong, and I mean really, really wrong in the US we could see some similar types of rampant and uncontrolled violence within our borders.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the story.
The balmy September weather belied the thoughts rolling around in Tim Fields' head. Sitting in his family's kitchen Tim pondered the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy. His morning and early afternoon had been busy and he hadn’t had a chance to reflect on the importance of the day to his country or himself. But after an early dinner he flipped on the TV in the living room while his kids finished their homework at the kitchen table. He found numerous shows commemorating the anniversary and found one he became immersed in.
Watching the images again of that tragic day interspersed with the narrative reached into an emotional place inside of him. His eyes threatened to produce tears, so he quickly recorded the program on his DVR and went into the kitchen to see if anybody needed any help with anything. Of course the dishwasher had just quit running 20 minutes earlier and he was assigned the task of putting the dishes up while his wife Becky helped the kids finish up their homework. He tried unsuccessfully to put the thoughts and memories of that experience out of his head till the kids had gone to bed.
And while he was only partially successful in pushing those thoughts down, it was enough to keep from shedding any tears while the kids were up, therefore avoiding an uncomfortable explanation of why daddy was sad. Later his wife and he discussed the anniversary and both had shed a few tears at their memories of that fateful day that changed the way all Americans lived to some degree or another.
That night as Tim Fields climbed into bed with his wife Becky, he was still preoccupied with the 9-11 tragedy. He remembered that morning and the call that alerted him to what was happening in New York and Washington DC as if it had happened yesterday. Good information was hard to pin down that day and that added to the fear that infiltrated the minds of most, if not all, Americans as well as their friends and allies across the world. As he drifted off to sleep he hoped that the tragedies of that day wouldn’t infect his dreams in any way, shape, form or another. While he hadn’t been on the east coast at the time or lost anyone in the tragedy he had experienced a few nightmares over the years that seemed to be inspired by the events of 9-11.
The next day Tim Fields had just finished eating lunch as he looked over at the 16 inch flat screen video monitor sitting on the kitchen wall next to the phone as it started emitting a low pitched beep. Tim had seen a flicker of shadow cross the screen out of the corner of his eye and reacted faster than the high tech gadgetry had registered the event. The monitor was attached to the camera mounted beside the gate to the 30plus acre property and was equipped with a motion detector of sorts. The way it worked was that the Digital Video Recorder had software that activated when x amount of pixels were altered such as when a person or animal walked across the camera's viewing area or a vehicle pulled up to the family’s gate.
Only this time instead of a deer it was two newer looking black Chevrolet Suburbans outfitted with large brush guards and showing Texas license plates on their oversized front bumpers. As expected, the home phone rang since it was connected to the intercom that sat on a pedestal beside the entrance to the property.
As Tim watched the monitor to get additional clues about their visitor, his wife walked into the kitchen and stood beside him. “Who’s that? My mother is working today and isn’t supposed to be here till this afternoon.” Tim looked over from the monitor to his wife. “That’s a good question. Two newer Suburban’s just pulled up to the gate, maybe we should see who it is?” He reached for the phone before it had a chance to ring for a fourth time and picked it up. “Hello, can I help you with something?”
Over the other end of the phone from down at the gate a voice answered betraying a hint of a Texas accent. “I’m looking for Tim Fields; my name is Fuller R. Brown. I run a company called Brown Security Consulting in El Paso. Please feel free to look my company or myself up on the Internet. A Google search will also yield some stuff you can look at. I have a business proposition that I’d like to present to you and your wife. I’d be willing to provide a reference or two, if that helps you at all.”
Tim watched as the men at the gate sat without moving inside the trucks. He replied to the mysterious visitor to his property. “Mr. Brown, I need to check something out. Can you give me a minute?”
On the other end of the phone Tim could hear the smile on the man’s face.
“I understand, take your time.”
Tim hit the hold button of the business phone system that linked the gate and the house and turned to his wife shrugging his shoulders. “Ideas? What do you think?” He then turned back to watch the men at the gate on the monitor while he waited for his wife’s reply.
Becky, ever security conscious, looked at the monitor again and was trying to figure how many people you could hide inside the big SUVs. She turned to her husband standing beside her, “I think you should check his references. I’ll grab your pistol from the bedroom and go downstairs and bring your vest up. I’ll get my vest on and load the shotgun but I just don’t see being attacked in broad daylight. Those matching trucks look more like company or government vehicles than the ride of a home invasion crew.”
Tim smiled again, glad he had married a woman that got it. Becky had been taught that while you give people the benefit of the doubt there’s no use in acting stupid about it. In the ten years they had been together two things surprised and amazed him more than her other characteristics. The first was that his wife was aging like a supermodel. Every year as they grew older and even after giving birth to their two wonderful children she seemed to get more attractive than when they first met. In that way, being married and being a mother totally agreed with her. The second one is that in many ways she approached certain things in life like a man. Over their years together she had gained the ability to approach many problems or situations without the distraction of letting emotions dictate her reaction or viewpoint. As a rule, she was loving and supportive of her friends and family but could be shrewd and practical when the situation called for it.
Tim nodded his agreement with his wife’s plan of action and took the phone off hold. “Mr. Brown, I hope that you’re not offended but, I think if you don’t mind waiting, I’ll take you up on the search recommendation and I’d appreciate the references you offered. One in law enforcement would help.” Tim said as he turned back toward his wife and gauged her reaction to the exchange. She was nodding her head up and down slightly and gave him a thumbs up. Her face didn’t say everything was okay. It said this is strange and we need to be careful. She then turned and headed to the other side of the house to get the gear they’d need.
Over the speakerphone their mystery visitor replied. “Mr. Fields, I have no problem with that at all. The world isn’t the place it once was. If you have something to write with, we can get started.”
Tim rummaged around in the junk drawer under the gate video monitor for paper since he almost always had a pen on him. After 20 seconds he located a blank number 10 envelope that he thought should to the job. He spoke into the phone. “Sir, I’m ready when you are.”
“Of course, I’ll go slowly, and if I’m going too fast, let me know. My first name is spelled F U L L E R, middle initial is R and I spell Brown the same as the color. Sheriff Big Jim ‘Bear” Olsen in the Tappin County Texas Sheriff’s office will vouch for me.” He paused to make sure Tim was still keeping up. “Also talk to Head Judge Hiram R. Masters in Tappin County, Texas, he’s a close friend. If he’s out of his office somebody there can usually track him down for you. Also talk to Tusker, Texas Mayor Haney Todd, he’s also pastor of the Tusker Christian Church.” The references were dictated by the stranger in the cowboy hat sitting at their gate without the slightest hint of being offended or embarrassed by the process. In fact he seemed more at ease than when he had began the conversation over the intercom with Tim.
Tim walked across the kitchen and started feeding the information into his laptop. Becky returned from retrieving the equipment and handed Tim his 40 caliber Glock in an inside-the-waistband holster along with 2 loaded spare magazines and a sub-compact Glock without a spare magazine. She then swung his concealable vest off her shoulders and set it on their kitchen table. He’d need a plain white t-shirt to wear under his vest and she had remembered to bring one of those from the bedroom also. She had also brought him a denim work shirt to wear over his tee to conceal the Glock. Even with an untucked t-shirt the mid-size Glock had a tendency to print on him and if he wanted to be low-key he wore an unbuttoned shirt over everything.
Tim looked up and passed the envelope that he had written his notes on toward her.
“Can you look this stuff up while I get changed?”
Becky smiled and took the envelope from her husband, looking to be sure she’d be able to decipher Tim’s handwriting. “I think I can do that.”
She could type quicker than him and had the contact numbers written down by the time Tim had put on his outer t-shirt over the vest and put a denim work shirt over it. Tim also heard the printer whirl into action as he grabbed his cell phone from the charging cord it was attached to.
Becky started speaking to tell Tim of her progress as she walked into the pantry and grabbed the printed sheets the printer had just spit out. “OK, I got numbers for all these guys and some articles about Fuller R. Brown and his company. It looks like he runs a security company in and around El Paso that provides varied services including electronic security systems and monitoring, some investigation work and executive protection. Looks like their work is at the personal level and they aren’t listed as doing any event or site work. He grew up in a family with some cattle and maybe some oil in west Texas and entered the Marines after college at Texas Tech. He served 8 years as an enlisted soldier including two tours at the beginning of everything in Iraq. Made Master Sergeant and left the Marines Corps. I cannot find the reason why he left or what he did in the service. Few years later he starts his security company out of El Paso and is lured by the money to start finding guys to go work in the ‘War on Terror’ as security contractors. Local paper mentions charitable work and he has a training facility just east of El Paso in Tappin County. The website says that it offers a full range of training including everything from CCW courses to precision rifle and has some well-known guest instructors. One of the pictures of him on the internet shows him sitting at a desk and what looks like a pail of LTS food is barely visible in the background. Now the box could be empty but... This could be interesting.”
As she looked more carefully at the picture, she copied it and took it to the software she used to edit pictures. After playing with the pixel rate, resolution and image size for two minutes she smiled and looked up. “I enhanced the picture and it is LTS food and a company out of KC is listed on the pail. That picture might have been taken in a cave or underground storage facility. I noticed that the shadow is diffused and refracts off the back wall up top in a strange way. I messed around and I’m almost sure that the background up at the top is a cave or a mine.”