The Great Escape by Jay Goodman

I’ve been hitting you all with some pretty heavy stuff, lately, so Iwanted to take a break and tell you one of  the funny stories from my life ofadventure. Thinking about the many tales I could relate, I decided to tellyou about one of my near misses, where the law had me red-handed, butthrough nothing but a miracle, I would not only get away, but do so in away it’s almost comical. 

Let me explain first of all, that I’ve had a very unusual upbringing.Some have called me a “Yanxan” or a “Texikee” because I was half Yankee,half Texas. My Dad’s side of the family were from Ohio and New York,while some of my Mom’s family lived in deep South Texas, on a ranchnear  a town called Penitas in the Valley. It’s right on the Mexican border, afew minutes away from McAllen and Mission.

My Grandfather had a 1,000 acre ranch- a beautiful place. There wasso much for a kid to do on this place, and I learned a lot there.Unfortunately, not everything I learned was  was good. Growing up on theborder, I saw how much money could be made in the drug business. MyDad, who was a decorated WWII veteran, started teaching me to fly planesat a very early age. If memory serves, I was about five. So, by the time I wasa teenager, I was already flying all over different parts of Mexico bringingweed back to the States. 

My Grandpa had been doing business with peoplein Ciapas, Michoacan and Guadalajara. I have always loved Mexico andeverything about it- the music, the food (by the way, Mexi can food is NOTjust burritos and tacos), the old churches, and the love Mexican peoplehave for friends and family.  Their culture is rich.

Anyway, one Friday morning some years ago, I get a call from theson of a man who did a lot of business with my Grandfather. I knew thisman most of my life, and I felt I could trust him. It just so happened that hewas close to Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen. He told me thathe was doing some business with some people there, and he’d gotten stuckwith ten kilos of coke.

He wanted  to know if I’d take them off his hands,because he didn’t want to leave them with the guy he was doing a dealwith.  He told me if I’d take them, he’d give me a great price, $5,000 a key.At that time I could sell that same kilo of coke in New York for $35,000. So,ahem, how could I possibly let down such a good friend of the family? Ofcourse, I told him I’d take the dope. He gave me directions to his hotel andthe room number.

I decided to take my oldest boy who was a teenager himself at thattime. We drove down to the south side of Reynosa to this little run-downhotel where I met up with my contact. As soon as we were in the room, Icould tell he’d been there a few days. There were a lot of empty bags andbeer bottles strown around. He was in a hurry, too. He gave me this biggym bag with the coke.

He said he was sorry for calling me out of the bluelike that, but promised to explain more later on. With that, he took off outthe door.  When he’d left, my son and I started cleaning up the place a littlebit, removing all the trash to a dumpster outside.  I also grabbed a toolbox Ikept in the back of my truck, because I was planning on staying for a fewhours, and I didn’t want to get it stolen. Little did I know at the time, butthat little toolbox would save our bacon.

It was still early, sometime around noon or 1 o’clock.  I came up witha plan to sneak back into the U.S. with the ten kilos of cocaine. Sice it wasFriday, all of the high school and college kids who came across the borderFriday night to party would be driving back into the States by thehundreds after the clubs in Mexico closed down for the night.

I decided towait until then and try and drive back with all that crowd. There would betoo many cars and people for the agents to check everyone, and they’d bepassing a lot of people on through. They didn’t want to mess with all thosekids who’d been partying all night. In the mean time, since it was still midday,I suggested to the boy that we take a nap and kill some time. I didn’twant to be sleepy later on when I’d need to be alert. We turned on the TV tokick back for awhile.

Another thing I’ve always loved about Mexico is their version of soapoperas (novelas). My God, they have the most beautiful women you couldever dream of, and believe me when I say they don’t care about beingpoltically correct down there with the way they dress. They’re trying toshow off their bodies. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve always thankedGod for Mexican women. Now, I don’t want to speak for anyone else, butI’m pretty sure my son feels the same way!

Anyway, we soon fell asleep. We woke up at around 6 o’clock, andwe’d been up for about thirty minutes or so when the phone began to ring. Ipick it up, and to my immense surprise, a man identifying himself as apolice officer tells me he knows I’ve been staying there for a few days andthat I have drugs in the room. He gave me a choice. I could come outpeacefully, or he and his men could come in NOT peacefully. Several timesin this conversation, he used the word “kill”, so I told him, “Look, I’ve gotchildren in this room. I don’t want to let my kids see me get busted, so justgive me a few minutes, and I’ll come out when I get them situated, okay?”He said that I’d made a good decision.

After hanging up the phone, I went straight to the back wall of theroom where there was this big mirror hanging. I took it off the wall, anddecided to look for the pipe chase- a cat-walk type hallway all hotels havefor running the plumbing. I listen at the wall, and could hear peopletalking, so I knew that way wasn’t any good. I went to the bed and climbedup on it and started checking the ceiling. My boy was watching me like ahawk. I told him to get the toolbox and hand me the screwdriver out of thetop. As soon as it was in my hand, I was stabbing away at the plaster.

I dug a hole in the ceiling big enough for my hand to fit through, and startedripping away the pieces with my bare hands. I’d lucked out and dugthrough a spot where the spacers were far enough apart that we couldeasily fit through the hole. Like a madman, I started trying to get throughthe floor above us, and I was going fast until I hit the carpet. By now, myheart was up where my throat was supposed to be, it was beating so hard,but my son, to my surprise, was cool as a cucumber.

I finally clawed a hole big enough for me to stick my head up through the floor. As soon as I sawthe room was empty, I pulled back and helped my son climb up into theroom. Next, I passed the bag up. After all, we’d gone through all thistrouble. No sense leaving the money behind! Now, here I am ready to jumpup through, and the phone rings once more.

Again, I answered the phone. This time, he must have used the word“kill” at least ten times. I told him, “Come on, I’m just trying to get my kidsto go to sleep so I can come out with no problems. I don’t want them to getscared and run out and get hurt.” To my amazement, the narco said he’dgive me just a few more minutes. I prayed to God that would be all I’d need.When I climbed up in the room, my son said, “Dad, look! There mustbe 30 or 40 cops out there!” He was peeking out the window. I never evenwent over to look.

I went straight to the mirror and ripped it off the wall. Istarted jabbing through the plaster with the screwdriver as soon as I couldget at it. We quickly dug through to the pipe chase. As  soon as we were inthere, we started kicking out our way through the wall of the room in backof us, facing the rear of the hotel. Entering the room, I walked over to thewindow and peeked out. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I didn’t see asingle cop car or narco anywhere. I guess since they knew exactly wherewe were supposed to be, there’d been no need to surround the place. Wesimply walked out the door, down the stairs. We strolled to a store severalblocks from the hotel.

I asked the owner of the little store there  if he’dmind giving us a ride to McAllen. I told him I’d pay him $200 up front andanother $200 once we got to Texas. He didn’t think twice. He closed upshop and we got into  his car and started driving. We had to go by the hotelto get to Texas, and we could all see nothing but cops all over the place.Now, the shopkeeper seemed a little nervous. To stop any problems beforethey started, I told him, “Look, mister, I’m not trying to get you in trouble.How about I give you another $200 to make this worth your time?” Hesmiled and said, “Okay, senor! I was bored and needed to get out the storefor a while anyway.”

Now as we approach the border, it’s my turn to get nervous. I knewwe’d be trying to cross now without the cover of  the young people I’d hopedwould be coming back across the border that night. Not only that, but Ididn’t know if the border agents had been alerted to the situation backat  the hotel room. Looking at my son, I could see he was nervous, too, andthis wouldn’t be any good once we were at the crossing checkpoint. As wepulled up, I told him, “Look, just keep smiling, and start laughing like I justtold you a joke  or somethig.”

I was going to tell them we’d been in Mexicovisiting our family. We might not have had all the kids, but the crossingwas still busy, thank God. It was near a hundred degrees, and the agentswere busy with an 18-wheeler they had pulled over to the side. We pulledup to this booth and the shopkeeper rolled down his window. My boy and Istart laughing and joking- and secretly praying to the high heavens. Turnsout, this agent actually KNOWS the shopkeeper! They start shaking handswith each other and asking how each of the other’s family is doing. I waselated. I just kept my mouth shut and watched the magic.

 After what seemed like forever, the agent took a look at us and askedhis friend who we were. “Oh, these are some friends that I’m driving backto Texas. You better be careful, I think they’re a couple of banditos!” As hesaid this,  he started laughing, and we all started laughing- even the agent.They exchange a few more pleasantries and finally  shake hands as theagent tells us, “You’re free to go. Have  a safe trip!”

Back on the road again, we could feel all the tension melt away in aheartbeat. We’d made it out of the trap at the hotel without so much as ascratch and we still had the kilos of cocaine to boot.

My son looked over at me and said, with big round eyes of sincerity,“My God, Dad, you’re a f—ing GENIUS!” I couldn’t help but laugh and said,“Yes, son, there’s a little bit of truth to that statement!” We both busted outlaughing again.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez