Chapter 5

“And what was your business in Mexico over the last week?” The reason that the Inspector knew that he had been in Mexico more than a week is because another border system, TECS ( Treasury Enforcement Communications System), takes a picture of the license plates of all cars entering Mexico from the United States and stores this information in a data base so that an Inspector will know the exact time that a car crossed from the United States to Mexico. Many drug smugglers have been caught because of a simple lack of knowledge of the TECS system. They declare that they have been in Mexico for only an hour when the TECS system reveals that they crossed a day or two earlier.

“International travel,” he replied curtly. As soon as he answered, he kicked himself, knowing that his ambiguous answer would set off alarms in the agent’s mind. Why hadn’t he just answered directly? Mark thought.

Inspector Arias, was trained in reading body language and nuances of speech. As he had predicted, the agent did not like the answer. Why had he not simply told him that he had traveled to Mexico City or Panama or wherever was his destination?, Agent Arias thought.

Inspector Arias shined his flashlight in the back seat of the car and noticed two large suitcases. What drew his attention to the bags was that they did not have the attached tags from their point of origin. He had removed the tags that said BOG for Bogotá where he had first traveled for fear that these tags would further delay his entry. His third strike was when Agent Arias smelled the fresh paint. What he did not know is that an alert for him and his car had also been placed in
the border patrol’s computer system. Considering his own evasiveness and the smell of his freshly painted car, Mark was not surprised when Agent Arias said, “I will need to refer you to secondary inspection area.” What surprised him was when the agent opened the driver’s door and motioned to him to move over the passenger’s seat-that was when he became scared and wondered if something could be seriously wrong.

He noticed that Investigator Arias had placed a small orange piece of paper under the windshield wiper. He could barely read it, but he was familiar with all of these codes from his criminal defense work. There was one code for agricultural inspection, one code for potential illegal immigration, and a code for random inspection. He suddenly felt a wave of panic sweep over him when he noticed that on the referral slip was the code for “possible drug smuggler.”