Without a Trace… Chapter 24

Chapter 24

Steve paced inside the office of Assistant Deputy Chief Roland Bonitez, waiting for the distinguished official to return from the restroom at the end of the hall. In his mind, he’d been patient while he sat with his thumbs up his ass watching numerous visitors come and go as if their personal issues took precedence over his. He scoffed at a framed picture of President Obama, his former Commander in Chief; a man he once pled allegiance to in the name of God and country. A man he lauded as a politician yet despised as a military leader. He felt the same toward the government he served. In line with the President, he admired the American Government for what it represented in the name of freedom and democracy, yet frowned at the bureaucratic quicksand often forming the foundation upon which it stood. He’d given more than two decades of his life in support of his country, a country he would gladly serve again in time of need. Now he looked to his country to do the same for him.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Deputy Bonitez apologized as he entered his office to find Steve standing with his arms crossed. A man in his early sixties, the Deputy wore a silk suit and suspenders with a bright purple tie. His cordovan loafers clicked on the polished floor. He wore his thick, black hair straight back. He had thick hair for a man of his age, so much so that Steve wondered if the man was wearing a toupé. If he was, it looked authentic.

“I spoke with the American Consular Agent in Cozumel who put me in touch with Deputy Chief Feeney,” Steve started, “but now I’m told he’s out of the country.”

“Please sit down,” Deputy Bonitez offered Steve. “Perhaps there is something I can do for you?”

“My wife and daughter are missing and I need your help to find them.”

“When you say ‘missing,’ what exactly are you implying?”

“I’m saying they’re gone. Vanished. Something happened to them.”

“When was the last time you saw them?”

“Two days ago.”

Bonitez took a breath mint from the stash in his pocket and placed it on his tongue. “And where were they?”

“Cozumel. My family and I are—were—on vacation there.”

“Which resort?”

“The Presidente Suites.”

“Very nice. My wife and I stayed there last year. We chartered a fishing boat and spent several days—”

“With all due respect,” Steve blurted, “I don’t give a crap about your vacation. I need your help to find my family.”

“And you are certain they have not tried to contact you?”

“I wouldn’t be here if they had.”

Bonitez sucked the cinnamon flavor from the stale breath mint. “Have you contacted the Mexican authorities in Cozumel?”

“I spoke with them again this morning.”

“Have they filed a missing persons report?”

“As far as I know.”

“Then I’m sure they’ll find your family soon. Do you have any relatives in Mexico? Any friends your wife and daughter might be staying with?”

“No, none whatsoever.”

“Any relatives, or friends your wife might have kept from you?”

“What are you implying?”

Bonitez raised his hand. “Senor Chambers, please…” He leaned back in his swivel chair, pushing his hands on the armrests. “I am only trying to explore the possibilities since I know nothing about you or your family.”

Steve clenched his fist in the air. “I’ve agonized over every scenario I can think of, and no matter how much I want to believe my wife and daughter are on a marathon shopping spree or stuck on a ferry boat heading in the wrong direction, I can’t. Something’s wrong. I’m not asking you for an analysis of what may or may not have happened. I’m asking you to light a fire under someone’s ass and help me find them.”

“I understand your frustration. Unfortunately, I simply do not have the resources to go searching for every missing person in Mexico. For all I know, your family could have flown to another destination.”

“Without telling me about it first? Do you know how ludicrous that sounds?” Steve took the passports from his pocket. He opened Leslie’s first, then Sarah’s, revealing the pictures inside the front cover. “Look at these. This is my wife and my daughter we’re talking about, not some punk teenagers lost on spring break.”

Bonitez glanced at the photos. He read the names from the bottom of the pictures and asked, “Your daughter’s name is not your own?”

“Sarah is my stepdaughter.”

“Have you considered the possibility your wife returned to her former husband?”

“No.”

“It happens.”

“Not to me. Not with Leslie. She hates her ex-husband.”

Bonitez sighed inwardly, wondering how he could dismiss the uppity gringo. Matters of diplomacy and of support for tourism were of far less importance to him than his Friday afternoon sexual relations with his youthful, energetic receptionist. “Senor Chambers I have a daughter a few years older than yours. If I were in your shoes right now I would be concerned as well. In a perfect system I would send every man in my department to look for them, but as I am sure you are well aware, our system is far from perfect. I am merely a servant. I have to work within the guidelines.”

“Fuck the guidelines! My family are American citizens.”

“Senor Chambers…”

Steve cursed the man under his breath. “You’re telling me you can’t do anything?”

“I am telling you I do not have the resources at this time. Violent crime runs rampant in Mexico City and spreads faster than the Mexican Government can control. My people are understaffed and overwhelmed. We receive more than a hundred reports a day about missing valuables or stolen passports. I have twenty-five reports alone on taxicab assaults. Some of these reports state the Mexican authorities are directly involved in the crimes.”

Steve heard the words coming from the bureaucrat’s mouth. Diarrhea of the brain, he called it. An ailment affecting those who have nothing better to do than fill the air with verbal dung. Viewing the world from the Assistant Deputy’s perspective offered no value. If anything, it detracted from his mission. “Can you at least explore the possibility they might have been arrested? For all I know they could be sitting in a Mexican jail somewhere.”

“It is possible. I will notify the Arrests and Detentions Office on your behalf and have them contact you if necessary.”

Steve composed himself and grabbed the reins on his heated temper. The more he spoke to Bonitez, the more he came face to face with the reality of his situation. There was little or nothing the American Embassy would do for him.

“Have you received any ransom messages or threatening phone calls?”

“Not yet.”

“A note of any kind?”

Steve felt his heart skip a beat. The room spun in circles. He’d thought of everything but the possibility of them being held for ransom—the possibility that someone kidnapped his family for personal profit. But why? We don’t have money.

“Senor Chambers?”

“I should get back to Cozumel.”

“To do what, Senor?”

“Whatever it takes.”

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