The air was dry–bone-dust drifting on a desert draft. A storm was coming, you just couldn’t see it yet.
I could hear an engine–distant but closing. The angry sound broke a stillness the desert was reluctant to give up.
A Border Patrol agent looked like he was cruising main on Saturday night, one hand on the wheel and one arm out the window–low and slow, The mud caked SUV stopped rolling and a red dust cloud wafted across the sun.
“What you boys doin’ out here?”
Grit ground in my teeth and I spat. “Taking pictures.” I held up my camera.
“Nice night for it,” he said. The sun was setting, but it wasn’t night yet. “Best be careful.”
The way he said it, I wondered if I should call my attorney. I nodded, not agreeing, just nodding.
“Ghosts,” he said, shaking his head like I knew what he was talking about, “don’t leave no tracks.” He looked down at the dirt and I couldn’t see his eyes. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
He continued to study the sandy ground for a long moment. Then he looked up. Our eyes met.
“Watch yourselves,” he said.
A coyote howled in the distance.
“Ghosts,” he said again. He tipped his hat and the SUV lurched forward. Tire tracks appeared where tires used to be and a new dust cloud buried their trail.
As the SUV disappeared into the desert, the sun touched a mountain and set the sky on fire. Quiet fell on falling dust.
My friend came out of the brush with his camera and tripod.
“What was that about?”
I thought I knew, but I wasn’t sure. I could hear movement in the brush. Footsteps, maybe.
“Ghosts.” I Pressed the cable release on my camera. The mirror popped up and the shutter opened. The sound was louder than I remembered. “They like to cross the border after dark.”
Lightning flashed on the horizon. The sound of a distant jet called from above. The coyote howled again.
We stayed there taking pictures until long after the light was gone.