The Whole Enchilada
By Charlotte Banchi
Published by Xlibris
January 2002; 1-4010-2734-2; 313 pages

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The Whole Enchilada by Charlotte Banchi1

"Happy Birthday, Daddy. We're both one year older today." More than half of Del Harren's thirty-one birthdays had been acknowledged in this place. Ever since The Wall's dedication in 1982, Del and her mother, Margaret, made the pilgrimage to Washington D.C. each February third. She pressed fingers to her lips, then touched the familiar letters etched in the polished black granite, tracing the name of a father that died before she'd been born. Her silent homage was repeated all along the V-shaped Vietnam Veterans Memorial as other visitors performed their own personal rituals. By days end the base of the wall would be buried beneath mountains of photographs, flower bouquets and miniature American flags.

Last February Del's ten year-old daughter, Patti Sue, had paced off the two sections of the black granite wall then pronounced each to be "Exactly 246 feet and 8 inches long". When the girl asked why it was so big Del had replied, "Because they needed lots of room to list 58,000 names of the dead and those missing in action."

In the distance she watched as grandmother and granddaughter slowly mounted the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. Patti Sue's red coat added a bright spot of color to the overcast day. Del considered joining them, but knew nothing would be resolved. Earlier in the day she and her mother had staged their
annual quarrel as the older woman aired her all too familiar complaints. This year Margaret Harren opened a new can of worms by suggesting Del and Patti Sue move back to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Del hadn't been home for ten years, and most likely all hell would freeze before she stepped across the city limits again. How could she explain to those she loved the most the odd twisting path she'd traveled? How could she justify the years of running and hiding from everyone, including herself?


With a regretful sigh she turned away and moved in the opposite direction. As she exited the car park, the dark clouds that had threatened rain all morning finally opened up, crying the tears Del refused to shed. Because of the sudden storm, the street traffic had slowed to a crawl, and it took her twice as long to reach the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Driving across the Potomac, heavy sheets of gray rain obscured her vision, and she finally abandoned city streets for the Capitol Beltway. Once or twice around the loop should give her enough time to get her emotions under control, then she'd meet up with her family at the hotel.

The annual treks to D.C. were becoming more and more difficult. Each February she worried over the close proximity of the FBI training center in Quantico, Virginia. But if Del were to be completely honest she'd admit the FBI wasn't the crux of the problem. The true problem, and what made it so hard, were all the memories these visits unearthed. Afterwards, it always took her weeks to get her head straight. Weeks to forget where she'd come from. Weeks to forget the person she'd once been. Del shoved The Texas Tornadoes: Four Aces tape into the deck, hoping the upbeat music could exorcize her demons.

"Met her in a border town, We proceeded to get down

She turned me on, I dropped the telephone.

Moonlight hits the Rio Grande, Every touch of her hand,

It makes me high, Like the fourth of July.

A bad bandito came into town, Man I'm gonna hunt that gringo down.

But these words keep ringin' in my head.

A little bit is better than nada,

Sometime you want the whole enchilada.

But little bit is better than nada,

A little bit or nothin' at all."

"Hell yes," Del shouted to the rain splattered windshield. "I want the whole enchilada. Plus the sour cream and guacamole. But I always end up with nada."

The semi jackknifed less than forty feet in front of her sedan. She tried to swerve, but the tires hydroplaned on the rain soaked road and she rammed into the truck head on.

Copyright 2002 Charlotte Banchi
Reprinted with permission. (back to top)


Del Harren wants the whole enchilada. After ten years of evading the law she has a second chance to make things right. She has a new face and a new name, however, both belong to another woman.

When she discovers her plastic surgeon Augustus Cain's dark secret, it puts her at risk. He is using his surgical skill to create replicas of his love obsession, Rachel Logan. Del is his third attempt—and perfect. When she contacts the original Rachel to warn her about Cain, Del ends up her protector. Convincing her double to join her they flee the east coast. Del instinctively knows Cain will pursue them and chooses their New Mexico battle ground with great care.

Del's homecoming is bittersweet. Forced to keep her identity a secret because the man she loves, County Sheriff Payton Claymore, has vowed to kill her on sight, the role playing becomes more difficult as he becomes romantically attracted to her alter-ego, Rachel Logan.

When Cain ups the ante in his murderous quest, old friend's lives hang in the balance.

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A New Mexico native, Charlotte Banchi lives in Southern California with her husband, Michael.

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