The last urgent “clack” of latches on window shutters echoed down the narrow street of Las Palomas as Simone approached the couple. No one in this small Mexican village wanted to claim witness to the encounter about to take place once again on this soggy street in their neighborhood. So, they closed their shutters, drew thin curtains together, and counted the minutes, waiting for it to be over. Sometimes these face-to-face meetings would not end so well. They knew.
Simone looked all the part, the typical tourist. She even carried a folded map in her hand so as to look like she was seeking out some out-of-the-way art gallery or curio shop. To the casual bystander or fellow tourist, she appeared to simply be strolling down the lane, enjoying a lazy vacation day. To a trained eye, however, there were too many clues present that she was more than just a young gringo girl on holiday.
Her denim jacket hid the holster of the Glock 9mm strapped alongside her body. As she walked, her left arm didn’t swing – a sure sign of her KGB bodyguard training years before. This was to ensure she could access her weapon in an instant and bring it to bear quickly on any would-be assassin. Walking in the middle of the street gave her equal options for escape, either right or left, if she were threatened with capture, or worse. Even her tennis shoes were chosen over the typical sandals worn by most tourists here in the sweltering Mexican village. Were she to need to run, they would certainly aid in her in hastily navigating the slick streets and low porch rails crisscrossing the village.
There they were, walking down the street. The Mexican couple too showed they were no amateurs to this ritual. He walked right next to his partner, eyes shaded by cheap sunglasses. They followed similar protocol by walking in the center of the street. The woman carried a bag identical to Simone’s but held it in her hand by her side. This would allow her to toss it to her partner quickly in the event something went wrong with the exchange. It would not be to their advantage were she to be shot dead on the street, the bag still draped over her shoulder and him trying to wrest it from her in the ensuing gun battle.
The street was silent except for the sound of their dampened walk towards one another. About ten yards separated them when the woman shouted nervously “Eso esta lo suficientemente cerca! (that’s close enough)”.
Simone stopped casually. She did not like this woman barking at her.
“Fine.” Simone replied matter-of-factly. She was not going to reply in Spanish just to make it easier on them. She was in control. Simone was always in control.
The woman raised her chin “You bring it with you? It is in your purse, yes?”
“Maybe.” Again, Simone was not going to play by their rules.
The man, now obviously irritated, shot back “Toss it over here. Now!” he pointed at his feet.
Simone slowly took the bag from her shoulder, all the while eyeing them both, unblinkingly. She held it by the strap in front of her.
“This ain’t free, my friend.” she stated calmly. “Perhaps you brought what I need.” She nodded at the bag being firmly held by his partner.
The woman, growing jittery shouted “Do as he says! Throw the bag over here!”
The stakes were high in this game of cat-and-mouse. Month’s of negotiation, price haggling, and the details of this exchange preceded this moment, and yet, the outcome was never certain. Greed has a way of clouding one’s logic, even when you are an emissary of a government or agency. Sometimes, it prevents the weak and larcenous from doing what they are supposed to in these hand-off’s.
Not Simone. She had played this game too many times before. She always came away with “the goods”, the payment for the “product”. That’s why she was still alive and her bosses kept her busy. It’s also why she was so cool and collected with the couple standing awkwardly before her, now obviously becoming agitated at her belligerence.
Simone looked on, keenly aware of every movement, every twitch of the woman’s cheek. She turned her focus to the man. Yes, his sunglasses shielded his eyes and therefore his intentions, yet it also made him the target of Simone’s laser-like attention. She wasn’t worried about the woman any longer. Her tell-tale signs of fear assured Simone she was no threat. It was obvious she was just the “mule”. She was simply there to carry the bag, probably some down-on-her-luck whore the man had lured with the promise of a quick few hundred pesos for her part in this play. She was therefore, dispensable. Even if the woman were to do something foolish, Simone’s reflexes would clearly overwhelm any clumsy move she would make against her. But the man? No, he was the hand-picked by his bosses too. He was there because he had done this before – and had walked away.
Moments passed. Simone’s heartbeat remained slow and steady. She could now see beads of sweat forming on the man’s forehead, the first sign of his growing fear. The woman took a step forward, tried to look menacing and started to shout “Listen, bitch! You better…”.
She didn’t even complete her sentence as the man grabbed her around the throat with his one arm, pulling her in front of him, the other reaching behind him. Simone saw the chrome plated magnum swing around from behind him where it had been hidden in his belt.
Before he could even raise it to aim, Simone had pulled her Glock from it’s holster, grabbed it with both hands, aimed, and pumped two bullets, a “double tap” into the man’s forehead. Again, KGB training had allowed her to act instinctively, deliberately and with lethal results.
The woman, now splattered with bits of brain, bone, and blood, froze. For a moment, the man remained standing, expressionless, his arm still locked around the woman’s neck. Without moving her head, her wide eyes looked over at her former partner. oh mi santo dios
“Oh, mi Santo Dios!” she exclaimed. “Mi…Santo…Dios!” she repeated in disbelief at what had just occurred.
Simone instantly swung the Glock down to where the end of the barrel was centered on the woman’s chest. “You have three seconds to toss me your bag.” she said calmly. The woman, still in shock, didn’t know what to do.
“Wha…what?” she asked sheepishly, her voice cracking.
“You’re not a part of this.” Simone offered.
The woman clutched the bag ever tighter.
“I…I don’t…”. she stuttered.
The man was lying next to her at her feet, blood traveling lazily in small rivulets in the mortar of the brick-laden street.
“Two.” Simone cocked her head to one side as if to say “Come on now, lady, you don’t want to do anything stupid.”
It’s then she noticed the woman’s left foot turn, ever so slightly. Simone knew what this meant. She was going to run.
“Damn.” Simone whispered under her breath. She pulled the trigger in quick succession, this time placing two holes in the woman’s breastplate, one in her forehead. The woman looked confused for a moment, looked down at her chest, then back up at Simone. She collapsed on the street next to her partner, letting out an anguished sigh as she hit the street.
Simone pulled back the front of her denim jacket and slid the Glock back into its holster. The snug fit satisfied her as she let go of the lapel.
The street smelled of gunpowder as little wisps of steam rose from the bullet holes in the couple lying motionless in the street. Simone didn’t even look around as she approached the couple sprawled in front of her. She knew no one would dare cast their gaze on these proceedings lest they too get the “three-tap treatment”. She casually picked up the bag the woman had dropped next to her and slung it over her shoulder next to bag she had brought. Being identical, they looked as one. No one would suspect otherwise. No need to leave her bounty with this now dead couple.
Simone turned and began walking back up the street. She strolled along the right side of the quiet neighborhood street now, a small breeze freshening the thermite smell previously filling the air. She held up the map, looking intently at the maze of streets and notable visitor attractions marked in red.
“Um, I wonder where there is an art gallery around here?” she asked herself. As she walked, she smiled as she began to hear latches clack and the creaking of shutters opening behind her. Soon, she disappeared down an adjoining brick-clad street, looking all the part, the tourist.
Writers' workshop and writing group