"Papers, please."

Milo lurched out of his nap as the van geared down. They were slowing for the Guatemalan border crossing. Lenore stepped on the brake pedal and pads squealed on their respective, highly polished brake drums. The body was rough, but the van had been fleet maintained, and at least the steering and stopping equipment was still in top shape.

Right at the front of the dusty little queue were a couple of old trucks, one piled with chicken crates, that had curious, beady-eyed heads sticking through the slats at all angles, the other overloaded with hay bales. On the gravel just ahead of the van were an old Chevrolet with cardboard where the left rear window should have been, and a newer Ford Comet with one front fender so smashed that the wheel underneath shouldn't have turned.

Milo glanced in the van's side mirror and absently registered a couple of other vehicles rolling up behind them. Ahead were guards in khaki fatigues, some absently fingering well-worn M16s slung from their shoulders, as their comrades moved systematically towards the van.

Lenore called to Armand, who obediently trundled forward on his little legs, and crawled up onto Milo's lap. He rubbed his eyes against the dazzle of sun pouring in through the huge windshields. She cast a sidelong glance at Milo.

"You got a passport?"

Milo shook his head.

"Any money?"


"We're gonna need it to get through here. If you have enough you shouldn't need the passport."

There was a guard on either side of the van, just to the front of them now. The vehicle ahead pulled slowly away, and Lenore pulled the idling van slowly forward to where the Comet had been, stopping well short of the yellow barricade across the lane.

"Buenas dias, senorita. May I see your papers, please?"

"Muy bien, gracias. Si."

Lenore had them ready to pass through her window. The border guard took her passport and visa.

At that moment a small red scooter inched past the passenger side of the car behind the laundry van, and disappeared from the van's big square mirrors as it snugged in directly behind their bumper. The border guard glanced right, seemed to notice something, then disappeared around the back of the van too.

A couple of minutes went by, then the guard came out of the blind spot sporting a broad grin and stuffing something into the shirt pocket of his fatiques as he handed Lenore's paperwork back to her. He waved a casual hand at the little building, shouted, and the barricade arced rapidly skyward.

"Id todo recto. And please drive safely. Welcome to Guatemala!"

Lenore, relief well concealed, grinned and blew the guard a saucy kiss, then threw the truck into gear.

Suddenly mildly curious about what the guard had done behind the van, Milo studied his rearview mirror as she pulled ahead. All he could see as they crossed into Guatemala was a vibration-blurred image of a slight figure in a grubby trenchcoat, back studiously turned, standing beside a scooter smoking.