The Englishman and the American stood staring at the cling-film wrapped bundles of dollar bills that filled the oil drum.
“Cartel drug money,” muttered Rufus.
“Fill your boots,” grinned Kevin.
The guys went back to the trucks and returned with the women and as many empty bags as they could muster; back-packs, sports bags, bicycle panniers all quickly filled with cash that seemed to be all in the $20 denomination. They re-buried the drum; pulled up a pair of sage bushes, pulling them behind as they tried to mask their footprints as they went back to the vehicles. A quick count revealed about $3,000,000, stashing that amount in the trucks proved more difficult. Kevin was anxious to get going, his military training reminded him of his vulnerability; wide open position in enemy territory, they needed a safe haven and quickly.
The Brits fancied Belize while the Americans preferred to return to the US; reasoning that home turf would be safer than a tropical jungle state. It was the parting of the ways for the foursome; after struggling up the loose surfaced track, they hit the newly paved Highway 5; the Mack turned north, the Leyland Daf headed south. They hadn’t noticed anybody watching them, the whole time they had been off-road, but crucially, they had not noticed the game camera attached to a Saguaro cactus that overlooked the burial site.
The Americans didn’t reach home soil that day; they pulled into Pete’s Camp and parked well away from the other campers. Rufus was keen to hide the $1,500,000 before the border and fortunately the fire rescue truck had plenty of storage compartments; even so he finished off by stuffing wads of notes through the recessed ceiling lights into the cavity between the roof and headlining. Customs officers often ask if you have more than $10,000 in cash when you cross the border; Rufus would just have to lie. There would be an inspection at the military checkpoint just north of San Felipe and possibly again at Mexicali but the truck was so different from everything else that most inspections were guided tours rather than some over-enthusiastic contraband search.
When it came to hiding the cash in the Leyland Daf; Kevin chose the classic, tried and tested hiding place: inside the spare wheel. The overland expedition truck carried two spares, mounted on a purpose built rack across the back of the living quarters and they were raised and lowered by their own electric winch. One tyre full on banknotes still left a usable one full of air. The Brits headed south and searched for an isolated spot away from Highway 1; a beach at the end of a rough dirt road where they could work in peace.
If you have a flat tyre on a busy highway; no one stops to help. Start messing about with a spare wheel in the middle of nowhere and somebody will rock-up and offer to help. Kevin had dropped down one of his spares and deflated the tyre when a German registered MAN TGM13-290 appeared over the horizon and made a bee-line for the Leyland Daf. Gunther jumped down, offered his hand and free advice on tyre inflation.
“All fixed, just need to air it up,” lied Kevin, “ Gabby, fetch a couple of beers for our European friends.”
“ You have air-line? No. I have air-line.” gushed Gunther.
Kevin had met this sort before; ultra friendly, ultra helpful and they always assumed you knew nothing. He had learned the hard way; don’t argue, let them have free rein and don’t make it into a competition. Kevin let Gunther pump-up the tyre and helped him re-install it on the back of the Leyland Daf. After an evening of German hospitality; Gabby and Kevin knew the life story and all about the world-tour of Petra and Gunther. It was past midnight before they were in bed, alone together for the first time since the Germans arrived.
“What the hell are we going to do with the money now?” asked Gabby.
“ Christ knows. Just wait until they bugger off and try again, I suppose.”
“But they know we are heading for the ferry at La Paz and so are they. What if they want to buddy-up?”
“That could be to our advantage; let them lead the way. Safety in numbers and all that. Just got to find another place for the money.”
Gabby and Kevin spent most of the night stuffing the mattress with banknotes after carefully cutting out sections of memory foam. They soon found out they would never again have a comfortable nights rest.
Meanwhile back at Coco’s Corner, an all-black Cadillac Escalade turned off Highway 5 and descended the dirt road; it was the fortnightly visit to the game camera. The third stop on a six stop tour.