"A-Track" by Francois M., July 2012
Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.
AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.
Summary: Bottom line: Hundreds of people were injured as these storms pushed through Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. The hardest hit areas occurred in Alabama where strong EF-2 and EF-3 tornadoes formed north and south of Birmingham. Wind damage was the most common damage report, especially around Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
In a Texas police station, detectives Eric Gregg and Mike Hancock were showing photographs of a tornado impact to Jeff Rann.
"With the edge of the vortex still to the southwest, the corner of the roof suddenly gave way and the 30-year-old cottonwood trees that surrounded the house began to snap." Eric seated himself on the desk, extending his middle finger at the photograph. Jeff glanced at him quickly, unsure if it meant something else. "A powerful jet of air …", he chuckled at Mike, "… flowing into the tornado, began ripping at the house and the entire building vibrated as the unearthly roar grew steadily louder." He padded his hair. "At least that's what we've been told by Liz Hartley, … David's wife." Jeff watched photographs depicting ruined houses and barns. "One child even grabbed a prized locket from a dresser, while another gazed at the barnyard full of panic-stricken animals, another yelled for the dog." Eric stood up and paced towards the window looking at the street underneath. "The oldest stared in denial at her mother." He turned around as if on command. "The youngest just stood and cried."
He paused and Mike offered another pop to Jeff. Jeff thanked him and leaned back in his chair.
"The mother had but one thought …", Eric scratched his shaved facial skin, noticing a woman in red, fighting to hold onto her dog, "… that everyone head immediately for the small root cellar." Eric seated himself with a heavy thud. "The storm cave …", he exhaled and started to make some origami animals out of used paper, "… dug some distance from the house, was now out of reach behind a growing wall of flying debris." He checked on Jeff who was holding at least a dozen of photographs now. After what seemed like some secret sign to his colleague, Eric continued. "The root cellar was the only remaining refuge. The children went first, the mother grabbing each by the arm, and quickening their movement by a half-step."
"And David …" Jeff interposed, his briefcase resting upwards beside his chair.
"Well …", Eric threw out his tongue while making his origami bird, "… The father braced himself against the kitchen door. The last child was on the steps when the parents finally moved toward the cellar, but the first of the intense whirling columns had reached the house."
"So … how did he end up in Mexico then?"
"David wanted to bring their pet dog Stinky into the house and …"
"Left the kitchen area?" Jeff concluded.
"Correct." Eric glanced at Mike.
"And then … let me guess … the vortex sucked him in?" Jeff grinned, but Eric and Mike were still professionally serious. "No way!" Jeff could not believe the story.
"I've told you …" Mike leaned back in a victorious manner.
"You want to tell me that he's been … what … dragged for two hundred miles … then landed unscathed ... across the borderline?" Eric finally made his bird and then showed it to Mike. "No way!" Jeff was adamant about it. Both Mike and Eric kept silent" Daily traffic produced its noise outside.
After sergeant brought in some cookies, Jeff finally gave up.
"All right. Even if he survived such an extra-ordinary adventure …" He paused, looking for some secret signs among the detectives. There were none. "What made him commit murder?" Jeff took a cookie. "I mean ... a family man ... with no criminal record ..."
"Mexico is struggling to wage war against its ultra-violent drug traffickers." Mike folded his fingers and leaned on his desk, looking at Jeff. "More than 6,000 people were murdered in 2008, including innocent people, law enforcement officers and military men, as well as narco-traffickers themselves." He noticed that Eric was making yet another origami. "The gruesome conflict is spilling over into American territory into the lives of U.S. citizens vacationing south of the border. Mexico's drug war is in fact more threatening and bloody now than at any point in history."
Sound of creaking chairs made Jeff aware of that humming background sound that the air-conditioning unit produced.
"Mexico's army is often matched by the … narcos, who have access to military-grade armaments and munitions. They frequently use enhanced pickup trucks and SUVs in their drive-by shootings and other quasi-military operations, rather than the cumbersome vehicles used by Mexico's military that are supplied by the United States."
"And yet you were sure that David ended up on the Mexican side of the border?"
"Look here …" Mike tossed a report that glided over the smooth desk to Jeff. He picked it up. "Mexican family nourished him and help him heal. He had multiple fractures that were non-lethal."
"So … how come no one bothered to call the doctor … or … or the police?"
"Those who appreciate the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert know why …" Mike looked at Eric, but Eric was still occupied with his hobby like some school kid.
"You mean … they are … afraid to do so? …" Jeff gaped at Mike.
"Something like that …" Mike leaned back and played with his thumbs, looking at Jeff.
"And now that he's back in the custody of the US … Mexican government wants him back?"
"Yes." Mike stared at Jeff who examined some papers. "Generally there is no constitutional bar to the extraterritorial application of United States penal laws … but …"
"But … what?"
"But the death of Mariano Hermann Salivate stirred confidence in the local government …"
"But you said it was a self-defense? I mean … David was trying to get home, right?"
"Right." Mike concluded gravely and Eric stopped making origami animals.
"Any professional opinion on the matter of extradition?" Jeff looked at Mike and he tossed another official document to him. Jeff glanced at both of them, then started to read aloud.
"In determining whether a statute applies extraterritorially, we also presume that Congress does not intend to violate principles of international law." He paused, looked at Mike and then drank more water. "Thus …", Jeff scratched his nose, "… in the absence of an explicit Congressional directive …", there was a traffic jam outside and lots of cars started to honk, "… courts do not give extraterritorial effect to any statute that violates principles of international law."
"The principles of the international law …" Eric repeated as if the words had some magic sentiment in them. Mike nodded to Jeff to continue.
"In general …", Jeff paused as the sergeants brought in coffees, sugar bags and cream, smiling. "… International law recognizes several principles whereby the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction may be appropriate." Sergeant smiled once more and then left the room. "These principles include the objective territorial principle, under which jurisdiction is asserted over acts performed outside the United States that produce detrimental effects within the United States …", Eric slurped his still hot coffee and cursed silently, "… and the protective principle, under which jurisdiction is asserted over foreigners for an act committed outside the United States that may impinge on the territorial integrity, security, or political independence of the United States." Jeff placed the document on the desk and exhaled.
Mike added some cream into his coffee and used one of those cheap brown plastic sticks to stir it. He smiled gravely at Jeff.
"Since 2000, the Mexican government has successfully defended more than 400 Mexicans on death row in the United States."
"But didn't you say that David is supposed to serve his sentence in Mexico?"
"That's correct." Mike added some sugar. Eric drank some cold weather, trying cool his burnt lips. "Mexico is also bound by the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which bars countries who have abolished the death penalty from later reinstating it."
Jeff gaped in puzzlement to Mike.
"So … what is the problem then?"
"After a series of diplomatic talks due to the unbelievable story of how David ended up on the Mexican side of the border ..." Mike leaned back, letting his coffee cool off. "Our government has agreed for David to serve his sentence … here." "Instead of … in Mexico."
Jeff stared at the floor, then moved slowly his head up to face Mike's stern gaze.
"What a jinx …"
Eric drank some more water, touching his lips as if a wasp bit him.