Acts of kindness are rewarded, right? That depends on one’s definition of reward. Mark Robinson conducted an act of kindness. He flew a lady Dentist, Lourdes Contreras and her twelve-year-old sister Prudencia, from Mazatlán, to La Paz in his airplane. Above the Sea of Cortez Lourdes said they lived in a fishing village north of La Paz. Prudencia had a deformed face. Lourdes had saved money for Prudencia’s surgery. Every Saturday for five years she took a bus into La Paz. She sang in cabarets. Later she sang jazz with Mark Robinson and his business partner, Flaco Sanchez. Robinson tickled piano, Sanchez blew a soft trumpet.
Twice weekly Robinson flew lobster and squid to San Francisco; he usually returned the next day. When Mexican Federal police shut down drug traffic hidden on airliners, bound for California, things turned ugly. Traffickers surreptitiously loaded freight on private aircraft headed for California. Robinson and Sanchez were almost killed on takeoff with an unknown load. Robinson, furious, out of control, identified the men to police. A week later Robinson returned to find Sanchez almost dead in the hospital. They relocated to Mulege. It was perfect, Lourdes and Prudencia lived there. Sanchez recovered from his injuries, but he nagged and goaded Robinson into flying Lourdes and Prudencia to San Francisco through the “Calexico bypass.”
On a moonless night, critically low, beneath a covert radar shadow, they crossed undiscovered into California.
DEA officers Jim Bartley and Rogelio Chavez installed a concealed transponder in Robinson’s plane.
Robinson took the ladies to Dr. Ralph Musicant, a reconstruction specialist. The altruistic Musicant kept a small clinic for charitable cases. Sanchez found a cottage to rent. Robinson discovered a new market for abalone. Their fortune increased. In Mulege, an eighty-seven-year-old Bostonian, Father Bernard Gannon, insisted that Robinson fly other needy children to the good Dr. Musicant. Robinson and Sanchez were intercepted by Bartley and Chavez. “Keep this up, pal and we’ll pop you.” The officers warned them of opposing drug cartels. “They’ve got men looking for you two. Each thinks you’re flying drugs for the other. Robinson asked for help; Bartley handed him a .45 pistol. “Watch your back, pal.”
Weeks folded into months. Prudencia’s long procedures gradually became successful. Robinson returned the other children to Baja. One night, returning from a gig, Robinson Lourdes were shot at by a drive-by motorcyclist. Bartley and Chavez were following. They shot the suspect then arrested him. Lourdes begged Robinson to return them to Mulege. Their aircraft was down for a new engine. “As soon as it’s finished,” Robinson promised.
Lourdes was kidnapped. If they were to see her alive, Robinson and Sanchez must fly twelve-hundred kilos of cocaine across the border. They pleaded with Bartley and Chavez.
“We’ll follow in our helicopter,” Bartley assured.
“You’ll get us killed,” Robinson yelled, “it’s just business. We give him what he wants, he gives her to us. Back off!”
They delivered, but a firefight followed. What followed was not exactly a reward for kindness.