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CREATURES OF THE NIGHT
A BORDER PATROL FICTIONAL TALE
(OR MAYBE NOT SO FICTIONAL...)
Working nights in South Texas as a Border Patrol Agent was full of adventure, danger and sometimes, events that no one can explain.
About a year into my career, working a midnight shift out of a South Texas Border Patrol Station located in Uvalde, during muster I was briefed that the last shift had followed a group of would-be immigrants for a couple of hours and lost them after Knippa, a little town ten miles to the East. It was an ominous night with the deep darkness pierced by flashes of lightning spitting from high thunderheads outlined across the eastern sky. Stepping outside of the air-conditioned vehicle was like stepping into a sauna, the humidity enveloping you like a heavy blanket. It was easy to understand why the earlier shift gave up on following the sign.
As a relative rookie, I still had ambition and I was fresh into the shift. Catching a group first thing would make the night successful.
I cut sign on all the normal routes I expected them to travel with true optimism. But, halfway through the night I was soaked with sweat and void of luck. Disappointed, I gave up and parked my rig near Sabinal. I listened to a weak AM station of lightning-crackled talk radio and watched the light show that was presented for me off to the north, west and east. And slowly closing in around me.
An hour before sunrise I became restless so I began checking areas around Sabinal. Just before sunrise I happened upon their sign, three men walking a trail leading to the Sabinal River.
I called my partner. “I’ve got the small group just west of the Sabinal River,” I said into the mike.
“Good. The day shift will round them up when they come in.” Click. No ‘Hey, you need help?’ He sounded distant, sleepy and unimpressed. Of course he had many more years under his belt than me.
“I’ll be out on foot,” I replied, resigned to a solo effort.
“Good for you,” was his response. He didn’t like ambition. Years later, I wouldn’t either.
I followed the trail using a weak, red-lensed pen light. It barely illuminated the brush in front of me but was almost invisible to prying eyes any distance away. I carried two lights a rechargeable Mag-Lite that would seemingly light up a football stadium and this small inexpensive one for tracking.
It was that time in the early morning, you know when the world begins to have just the faintest color, changing from nearly black to having just a smidgeon of light. As my eyes adjusted to the terrain around me, the surrounding area was lit up far too frequently by a lightning flash which made it difficult for my eyes to adjust to the predawn. Imagine yourself in a large house with only a couple of candles in the far bedroom and then someone turning on bright spotlights every few minutes. With the dim light and my red-beamed pen light I could see well enough to keep from becoming entangled by one of the thorn encrusted Mesquite tree limbs or a Catclaw bush that had two-inch long curved thorns that seemed created to rip a person to shreds.
As I approached the west side of the river, some half mile in front of me, the tracks turned up river and headed for a windmill. It was then that I heard the strange sounding snarl of two creatures fighting over some treat they’d discovered. The South Texas brush is full of everything from armadillos to bobcats. Foxes and coyotes were a common sight, especially at sunrise or sunset. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I felt a chill of fear run down my spine. Coyotes and foxes and even bobcats were known to come down with rabies and when they did, they lost all fear of everything and everyone. That worried me.
In a break through the brush I saw the orange glow of a fire. The would-be immigrants had found the windmill and were camped, probably already asleep by the edge of that safety-inspiring fire. A wave of excitement passed down my torso and I felt my heart race. They’d be surprised at my arrival and more than likely not even try to run. I’d apprehend these guys and have them back to the office just in time for the day shift where I could embellish the amount of effort I put in to catch them.
I walked as silent as a leopard towards them with the same intent. I could barely make out two long shapes lying around the fire. I couldn’t see the third.
At fifteen feet I was close enough to prevent them from running. I’d won this cat and mouse game!
I flicked my Mag-Lite on which lit up the area like a spotlight. Perfect for just this situation. They wouldn’t be able to tell if I was by myself or with other agents. That helps in the potentially dangerous situation of one officer against three possible drug mules. These were likely poor peasants but we always erred on the side of caution.
When the light hit the three forms it was me that was surprised! “Holy crap!” Spat out of my mouth. Next to a figure on the right, furthest away from the fire, two sets of yellowish-orange eyes lit up in reflection from the powerful light. They didn’t belong to an opossum even though the creatures were about that size. They didn’t have thick fur but reminded me of a hairless dog whose head had been splashed in deep red paint. It was their mouths that shocked me most. Their teeth seemed too long for the size of their heads, bright yellow in the powerful beam of the light. Blood dripped from the corners of the creatures’ mouths as if a faucet hadn’t quite been shut off.
A large pool of red grew around the prostrate form. The immigrant’s blood.
Hoarse snarls emitted from the two creatures and I instinctively stepped back. I’m sure I was in shock for I knew what they were from pictures. I knew they didn’t exist, yet here were two of them, snarling at me. I froze for an instance in panic. It was then that they charged! Large yellow teeth and orange eyes was all I saw.
I’m a pistolero as most Border Patrol Agents are. We’re better than most other law enforcement officers as we have to be in the remote, lawless areas we work. I was better than most of my peers. Idiot savant good, some said. My Smith and Wesson .357 magnum instinctively appeared in my hands. The flame thrown out of the barrel was impressive but the sharp buck of the revolver caused me to drop the flashlight from my left hand. Suddenly my night vision was gone. My body instinctively braced for the impact. I expected to feel their teeth sink into me. But, as a full second passed, nothing happened. As my eyes adjusted, maybe a half second later, they were gone.
The other two previously sleeping men were awake now, their hands in the air, their pleas of, “Don’t shoot us!” reaching my ears over and over. The third didn’t move. He couldn’t for his throat had been viciously ripped open allowing some of his life blood to be sucked by the creatures. The rest of it puddled in the dry semi-desert sand.
There was nothing I could do for him. My flashlight wouldn’t work. It didn’t matter as the morning light was quickly penetrating the South Texas brush. I kept my firearm in my right hand, surveilling the shadows of the heavy brush areas around the windmill, looking for the two creatures that had disappeared into the tangled thorn-heavy brush. I clicked the mike with my left hand. My voice cracked as I tried to regain some control. “I need emergency assistance!” I said into the radio, trying to hold the mike steady but my hand was violently shaking.
When help came, coupled with the safety of the morning light, so did the heavy rains. Small streams of blood-infused water flowed away from the body. It was mesmerizing to watch.
I told my story to the first responders who answered my call for assistance to quizzical and obviously doubtful looks. An old journeyman, who kept me from being terminated on more than one occasion, stopped me, put his arm on my shoulder and ushered me to the side. “I know what you think you saw but forget it. If you write in your report that a pair of Chupa cabras killed that poor peasant, you’ll be drummed out of the Border Patrol on a psych charge. A rabid fox or coyote with mange killed that man. Nothing more. He’ll be buried in a box tomorrow and the other two, well, they’ll be in Mexico by noon. Keep your mouth shut about what you think you saw, if you want to stay employed. Okay?”
I kept my mouth shut but, after that night, I never doubted their existence. That night changed my career and me tremendously and when I left the security of my vehicle at night, I did so with great apprehension, for I knew they were out there.