I’m waiting five miles from anywhere down a dirt road in the Sonoran Desert. It’s cold and dark. Only the blush of light to the north gives me any sense of direction: Merrill’s place and Tucson. No sound. I’ve come to accept that the desert can cancel sound for miles around me. I can’t sit. Not risking sitting on a snake or a bush with deadly stickers. I stand and wait. And then I’m fooled. Is that the crack of a tire on the rough road that I came on? An engine? Or a growl of some coyote or angry mountain cat pissed that I’m in their night territory.
I hold my breath to stop the whoosh of air deafening me. No. Nothing.
I turn, making a thunder with my shoes. And now I’m sure a sound is coming toward me. Light, not quite sure, but then headlights. I turn toward it. Nothing for me to do now but face it.
Faster than my brain could record the vision turned solid. I’m alert to the point of passing out with the truck stopped in the middle of the track, lights on, and the silhouette of the guy named Miguel. We’ve met. His side kicks are most likely in the truck ready to leap out and kill me.
“Dunn, got the money?”
I wonder why I hadn’t take anyone’s advice. Not the detective, not Juan whoever the fuck he was. Not Jellie’s. Just me here. Flesh. A bullet can rip through me and in an instant I’m dead. Heart can’t beat with a hole in it.
I lift my chin. “Got five thousand here in the bag. You can come and get it. Used bills, small, mixed. I know the game.” I don’t but TV has educated me in this.
“Ten, Dunn. You stupid. Ten.”
“Down payment. Got any bones to show me?”
He moves closer, still only a black silhouette against the blinding light. These are desert high beams. Drug running high beams.
I back up a few steps to leave him room to get the bag. I’d love to have filled the bag with dynamite to blow him up on touch. But that’s the movies and this is real. My bet on bringing half the ransom, or is it blackmail or just a simple scam. My bad bet. But he steps up to the bag and kicks it behind him. A fellow rat scurries from the truck, grabs the bag and scurries away.
“Dunn, you stupid fuck. I said ten.”
“People know I’m here. If I don’t show up back in Tucson, they’ll notice.”
“You threatening me?”
“Just playing the long game.” Did I actually say that?