Thursday, March 24, 2011

Selena's first day at the DEA

Hola, it's me again, Selena. Johnny asked me about my early days with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago, since he's working on the third mystery in his series and needed some material. So I shared this:

On my first day working in the DEA office in Chicago, I wore a black blouse with a scoop neckline to show my best pearls, a stylish gray suit with a black belt and coral Christian Dior high heels, with my freshly oiled P226 SIG Sauer holstered on my hip. A girl’s gotta have accessories.

When my supervisor, Del Bragg, called me to his cubicle, I was SO ready to break down doors and snap on cuffs like they’d shown me in the Academy.

“There’s something important I need you to do,” Bragg said in a somber voice.

“I’m ready, sir,” I said, straightening. My silver hoop earrings jangled.

“Good. Follow me.”

He pushed away from the desk, brushed past me and marched past the other cubicles to the entryway, heading for the elevator. I followed him, chin and spirits high. At last I was on my way to be fitted with a jump suit and body armor so I could be assigned to a Task Force. It might even be Team Five-One-Six, suiting up in the corner and snapping 9 millimeter magazines into their service pistols for an op near New Comisky Park, or so I'd overheard. Surely they’d need my Spanish, sin duda.

Bragg stopped short at the secretary’s station and planted his hairy knuckles on her desk.
“Laura, I want the files purged this week,” he said brusquely. He issued orders that the bottle-blonde woman – wearing too much mascara, if you ask me -- jotted down on a memo pad. When Bragg looked at the ceiling once to recall an instruction, Laura glanced at me, rolled her eyes and primped her lipsticked mouth with a here-we-go-again face. I shrugged in simpatía. Bragg finished his list and said “Got it?”

“Got it, sir,” Laura said.

“Good,” Bragg said. “I know you and Selena will work well together. Hop to it, girls.”

He spun around, tapped me on the fanny and bustled out the door.

The air rushed out of my lungs. My Spanish blood boiled.

Just then Team Five-One-Six hurried past me, strapping on holsters, pulling on baseball caps, shouldering Kevlar vests. ‘Scuse me. Heads up. You trust dis informer, Rocko? Sure, I flipped him. They were heading for street work.
Without me.
Laura tore the top sheet from the pad. “We’d better get going, dear.”

I squeezed my fists, regaining control. “Be right with you.” I said something else in Español under my breath that I shouldn’t share here.

I returned to my desk, the Christian Dior heels sounding like sharp reports from my pistol. I locked away the SIG; no need for my piece while sorting through old files. I shrugged off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves, and spent the rest of the day on my hands and knees with cardboard boxes, a shredder, and Hefty trash bags.

Late in the afternoon Bragg checked on our progress.

“Hey, Selena,” he gruffed, pointing to my hip. “Where’s your piece?”

I blew away a strand of hair from my face. “I put it away, sir.”


“In my desk drawer.”

He aimed a finger at me, pistol-style. “The manual says an agent shall have his weapon in his possession at all times. Now go get it. Don’t. You. Ever. Forget. It. Again.”

He said it loudly enough so that others poked their heads above cubicle walls to see what was going on. Cheeks burning, I stood, brushed off my sore knees, and strode to my cubicle ignoring every eye that followed me.

For the rest of the week, I rifled through files with a useless gun knocking at my hip.

Then they parked me in the Money Laundering Unit. I felt insultado, muy avergonzado, after all the training I had. When I complained to my brother Francisco that night, waving my hands in frustration, he said that’s where women belong, in the laundry, and I almost slugged him.

But as it turned out, esté gracias a Dios, it was training I needed for the dangerous case I took on long after I left the DEA and became an insurance agent, when I got involved in a shocking life insurance scam that – well, that’s the subject of SPECTER, Johnny’s next book, and I’d better not talk about it.