(This is a departure from what I usually write, and it's work that I'm writing here first, and for my own consumption second. If they seem brief, it's because that is my intention. Let me know what you think?)
The blast separated Tyrone from his horse, hurtling him through the air. This wasn't entirely accurate, for the blast wasn't all the big. And the only one who'd separated him from his horse . . . was his horse. None of that, though, was on his mind. What was on his mind was What the fuck! Choicer words came to mind an instant later, as he made hard contact with the desert scrub, his horse galloping off.
Already, he was scrambling to his feet, clutching his hat to his head. He half-sprinted, half-stumbled toward a small, steep-sided gully to his left, and away from the outcrop of rock and brush where the pendejo who threw that cherry bomb was likely hiding.
As he leapt into the gully, tumbling into the soft sand, he reflected that he was going to miss that stupid horse. Not because it was a very good horse; the fact that his ass had just been intimately acquainted with the rocky Arizona desert was ample proof of that. It was mainly because the horse was running off with his God-be-damned rifle, leaving him alone with some no-good pendejo.
There was a crackling, echoing chatter and sun-baked clay rained down on him.
"Shit," he snarled, under his breath. He struggled up the gully, to a bend choked with debris. If he stayed down there, the most anybody would ever see of him again would be a few coyote-picked, bleached, bones. There was more cracking, his assailant had a semi-automatic rifle.
Tyrone clawed at the holster at his side, snatching his Glock free. It was his granddad's Glock, seventy-five years old and made back in the days when they didn't cost six months wages, nor were built in France by Pan-Islamic Socialists. He dove behind the brush, squeezing the trigger, and his dusty derelict sent a few shots back in the direction of the rifle-fire, immediately sprinting in the direction of gentler slopes.
He struggled up the embankment, cactus spines ripping at his shirt and skin, sandy soil threatening to pull him down again. He made it to the top, and was off at a dead run for an outcrop of boulders, pausing for only the briefest of moments to consider the irony in that statement.
Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpsed his assailant. He looked tanned, and the bulk of his upper body fairly screamed I'm wearing body armor!
"Fuck me," Tyrone growled. As if in reply, his assailant opened fire again. There was a moment of sphincter-clenching terror as a near-miss tugged at his hat, followed by a thunderous silence.
He wheeled around, his side slamming into the boulder. He caught sight of his assailant, who was standing out in the open, gazing stupidly at the stovepiped shell in his rifle's breech. His Glock came up at the same time he caught his breath, and he opened fire. His assailant staggered back, dropping his rifle. He dropped his aim, and blood blossomed down the front of his assailant's trousers.
The silence that followed was broken only by his own labored breathing and thundering heart. His Glock's slide was locked back, but his assailant was down, bleeding onto the Arizona desert. He slammed home a fresh magazine, hurrying over to his assailant's side. That damned firefight was could probably be heard all the way down in Mexico and he wasn't going to bet that the pendejo didn't have friends. Cattle rustlers never worked alone.
The barrel of his pistol was aimed squarely at the man's face. His assailant was gasping for breath, already looking pale. He wouldn't have long.
"Where the hell are your friends," Tyrone growled. The tanned man looked up at him, a sneer coming to his face.
"Fuck you, nigger."
"Shit, what are you doing so far west," Tyrone swore, looking at his assailant again. He wasn't Mexican. He was white, just deeply tanned. That made him from the drought-ravaged wreckage of the deep South.
Just then, he recovered from the shock of recognition, but it was too late. His assailant had closed his eyes and only the ravens would open them again.
"Shit, shit, shit," he swore. He pulled open the dead man's vest, frisking him for a wallet, something that'd identify him. All he found was a faded, hand-written letter, which he shoved into his pocket, and a wad of cash . . . near-worthless greenbacks. He definitely wasn't Mexican.
He scooped up the man's rifle, and the spare magazines the man had on his belt. It was a beat-up old Ruger Mini-Thirty . . . just like the one his horse had run off with . . . just like the one his partner on this God-be-damned cattle drive carried.
He took a few unsteady steps back, sitting down on a boulder, his body starting to painfully remind him that he'd been thrown from his horse. His mind was screaming at him to run as fast and as far as possible. A lone cattleman was a dead cattleman, but he was two days from the closest friendly town by horse.
Absentmindedly, he cleared the jam, cradling the dead man's rifle. There were a few birds calling from somewhere nearby and he started to relax. He had time. He grabbed the dead man by the collar, pulling him into the brush. He then made his way over to the large outcrop of rock and brush he'd seen the dead man emerge from. Behind it, a lean-to had been built, and there was enough deadwood for a day or two of campfires.
"Damn," Tyrone said, spying a backpack. This definitely wasn't a random raid. Fucker had been waiting for at least three days, with enough water to last for a week. He whistled softly, he was a California cowboy, and today, he really hated his fucking job.
"So where the fuck is my money?" Felipe shouted. Half to make himself heard over the wheezing and clanking of the apartment's elderly A/C, and half because the mousy-haired man cowering on the couch was really pissing him off.
"It's here, it's here," the man said, thrusting a briefcase across the table, trying not to stare at Felipe's pistol. "It's all here!"
Felipe opened the briefcase, and spat with disgust as he slammed it shut again, throwing it in the man's lap. "Do you think I'm some stupid puta, amigo? The deal was that you pay me in goldbacks, or pesos . . . you know, real money. Not your fucking play-money!"
The man on the couch seemed to shrink even further as he stammered. "I . . . I . . . I couldn't find anyone who'd buy that many greenbacks. I . . . I . . ."
"What do I look like to you, amigo," Felipe said, his voice growing soft as he jabbed his pistol at the man. "That ain't even half the money we agreed on. You meet your quota or we roll you up; a deal's a deal, comprende, amigo?"
"Yes, yes, yes," the man on the couch babbled, the barrel of Felipe's pistol was uncomfortably close.
"You know what, amigo," Felipe said with a sneer. "I don't think you do. I think you and your boys think we're fucking around." He stood up, taking a step back. "Allow me to teach you a lesson."
"Oh God," the man whimpered. It was the last thing he said. A .380 is a small cartridge, but in the tiny apartment it thundered. Felipe marveled at his handiwork, then holstered his pistol. He pulled a playing card and a marker from his pocket. It was a joker card, and he drew an X through the character, dropping it on the dead man. Hopefully, the message would get across. Otherwise Felipe and his associates would just melt back across the border and spread rumors that the local crime bosses had designs on the railroad.
Felipe picked up the briefcase. Fortunately the dead man had the decency not to bleed on it. Money owed was money owed, even if it was in worthless greenbacks. It would be inconvenient, but laundering money was child's play. Los Familias would get their pesos.
He stepped out of the apartment, smirking at the old women who were falling over themselves to get out of his way. Uncle Sam and Sacramento both were far, far away and the Army and the Border Patrol were more suspicious of Yanquis than they were of Mexicanos. Los Familias were the real power of the desert Southwest.
There was a sudden warm spot on his wrist. Felipe gestured and spoke into the air.
"Talk to me," he said.
"You got it done?" A voice in his ear asked.
"Si, but the shithead thought we were clowning around. Maybe they'll send someone smarter next week."
"Maybe we'll send someone smarter next week too, asshole. Shoot too many gringos, and they're going to forget that extortion comes with protection. Then what?"
Felipe shrugged. "They're Americans," he replied, his tone dismissive. "Always plenty more where they came from." And that was true. Things weren't any better in Mexico, but what work there was paid in pesos . . . real money, and for an American who could never hope to buy himself out of the fields, or the reconstruction gangs, or the coal and shale mines . . . real money was seductive.
"Don't forget that there's plenty more Mexicans too, asshole. Get to the drop-off and fix your attitude, comprende?"
"Yeah, fuck you too," Felipe replied, gesturing again. The microchip in his wrist stopped feeling so warm. Manuel wasn't any higher on the food-chain than Felipe was, and all he was was talk. And Felipe knew, better than anyone else, that talk was cheap; as was life.
Last edited by GrandMasterTerwynn on 2008-06-24 09:12am, edited 5 times in total.