“I’m not a miss. I’m not a shot of potential and a glass of failure. I’m still here, ain’t I?”
Marquez tilted his head and shaved a bit of hair off of Jamie’s chine. The machete was sharp.
“I don’t think that’s the best idea to push on us, vato. You got some people angry. We invested in you.”
Jamie pulled at the zip ties that held him fast to the concrete pillar. Abandoned parking garages were the worst place for this sort of thing. You could practically feel all of the bodies stashed around.
“Then it’d be a big waste to off your investment, don’t you think, Marky? Come on, let me talk to Jefe.”
Marquez leaned back and scratched his chest with the butt of his blade. Flies buzzed around, even in the shade. They were attracted to the sweat.
“I don’t know, guero. He’s pretty busy.”
“He’ll want to talk to me.”
“Oye! Ya estan terminado con el hoyo?” Marquez had turned and was yelling to his partners. They raised their shovels and shouted back from the sun-baked earth outside of the protective shade of the dusty parking structure.
They were just about finished with the grave. Great.
Marquez turned back to Jamie.
“Yeah, I think he won’t want to talk to you, seeing as how you’re a dead man. Dead men is scary, vato. He don’t want to talk to you.”
“Look… I may know something about the diamonds.”
That got his attention. One eyebrow rose.
Marquez looked over his shoulder and shouted back to his associates.
“Espera un momento!”
He looked back to Jamie.
“Then why didn’t you turn them in, estupido? At the end of the job like you said?”
Jamie avoided his gaze. His reply was cut off as Marquez continued speaking, jabbing his machete toward his chest.
“You said that the protection showed up and you couldn’t get the diamonds out of the compound. You said you dropped them.”
“I may have dropped them off instead of just dropping them. They’re in a safe place.”
Marquez looked left, then right. He folded his arms, the machete sticking menacingly out of one side. He stared at Jamie; Jamie stared at him.
“Just take me to Jefe- I can straighten this all out.”
“That was a lot of diamonds, my friend, but Jefe is no puppy mutt criminal, vato. He has experience. He’d rather have fear and trustworthy men than a big score. I take you to him, he slit your throat himself.”
Great. The “stash the stolen goods” part had gone beautifully. The “get away from the cartel that wants to kill you” part, not so much.
“Where are they?” Marquez asked, letting his head roll around like he wasn’t interested, but his eyes betrayed him.
“Close. I told you already.”
“Tell me where they are.”
“So I can make you happy before I die? No thanks.”
Marquez glanced over his shoulder again. His assistants were starting to wonder what the holdup was. Marquez took a step closer to Jamie, his blade raised.
“That’s a shame, vato. I really like to be happy.”
Jamie watched as the blade fell. And his arms were suddenly free. Marquez stooped down and cut away the zip ties from his feet as well.
“I also like to be rich,” he said under his breath. He glanced up at Jamie with an understanding in his eye. There was a tacit accord between them.
“Amigos! Yo voy al otro lugar para matarle. Aqui alguien quizas oyera sus gritos. Regresare.”
Marquez took Jamie roughly by the crook of his arm, keeping the machete at his throat.
“We’re going to get into the truck, and you will tell me where we go. If you do something stupid, I kill you. Ok?”
“Whatever you say, Marky.”
The walk to the beat up truck was a tense one. Jamie marveled at their vehicle when they finally reached it. For as much money as these guys had, he would have thought they might drive nicer cars. Not on the job, he thought, realizing why. Nice cars were conspicuous. When you drive into the desert to kill somebody, you take the beater.
Jamie did as he was told. The car door slammed, and the dirt and sand flew up into the air, making Jamie cough. The driver’s side door opened, and Marquez slid in, sheathing his machete.
“Let me see your hands.”
“Why would you want to-”
“Tus manos, tonto! Give me your hands!”
Jamie did as he was told. A pair of handcuffs clicked into place around both hands, snaked through a handle on the dash.
“Thanks. These feel great.”
“Just be happy you can feel at all, guero. Your life is in a delicate place, I think. Everyone wants you to die.”
“But not you.”
Marquez hit the gas and the truck tore out onto the dusty, abandoned road, putting new tracks in the sand. He smiled.
“I want you to give me the diamonds. After that, no me importa.”
“Your compassion is touching.” Jamie fidgeted with his cuffs. They were fixed tightly, and the handle they went around was surprisingly strong. Jimmying free did not seem to be an option. “Turn left here.”
It was a quiet ride, just dust, occasional directions, and the beating, blistering heat. As they neared a cave, Jamie sat up suddenly.
Marquez gave him a glance, then braked. He shut off the truck.
“The diamonds are here?”
“In that cave there. You walk in about thirty feet, then look around for a stack of three rocks. It’ll be on your left. The diamonds are buried underneath that, only about six inches down.”
Marquez repeated the instructions to himself, then nodded. He opened his door and started to get out.
“Hey!” Jamie said, holding up his cuffed wrists as best as he could. “Aren’t you going to uncuff me?”
“What for? I know where they are now, yes? What do I need you for?”
Marquez slid his machete out of its sheath as he cautiously approached the cave’s entrance. Jamie shouted after him.
“You took me out here to kill me, then? Right after you nabbed the goods?”
Marquez disappeared into the blackness, but his voice carried out.
“Si, vato! Que otro? Estupido…”
Then, there was a gunshot, and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Jamie leaned back in his chair. A second later, a dark-skinned, slick-haired hombre in a bulletproof vest and shades stepped out of the cave, heading toward the truck. The vest had the letters “FBI” printed across the front.
“Hey, thanks, Carlos,” Jamie said, sitting up again.
“Don’t mention it. That clown pulled a freakin’ machete on me.”
Carlos took Jamie’s hands and rotated them, trying to see what kind of cuffs held him. He kept talking.
“We thought you were a miss. A shot of potential with your first assignment, and then a big ol’ tumbler full of failure.”
“I’m still here, ain’t I?”