THEY’D MET LAST NIGHT for the first time and now, mid-morning, they were finally starting to let go a bit, to relax, to trust each other. Almost to trust each other. Such is the way it works when you’re partnered with a stranger on a mission to kill.
“Is it always this hot?” P.Z. Evans asked, squinting painfully against the fierce glare. The dense lenses of his Ray-Bans were useless.
“Usually is hotter,” Alejo Díaz replied, his English enriched by a luscious accent.
“You’re shitting me.” The month was May and the temperature was around 97. They were in Zaragoza Plaza, the picturesque square dominated by a statue of two stern men Evans had learned were generals. A cathedral, too.
And then there was the sun … like burning gasoline.
Evans had flown to Hermosillo from outside D.C., where he lived when he wasn’t on the road. In the nation’s capital—the nation to the north, that is—the temperature had been a pleasant 75.
“Summer can be warm,” Díaz admitted.
“Warm?” Evans echoed wryly.
“But then … You go to Arizona?”
“I played golf in Scottsdale once.”
“Well, Scottsdale is hundreds of miles north of here. Think about that. We are in the middle of a desert. It has to be hot. What you expect?”
“I only played six rounds,” Evans said
“In Arizona. For me to only play six rounds … I thought I’d die. And we started at seven in the morning. You golf?”
“Me? You crazy? Too hot here.” Díaz smiled.
Evans was sipping a Coke from a bottle whose neck he’d religiously cleaned with a Handi-wipe before drinking. Supposedly Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, was the only city in Mexico that treated its water, which meant that the ice the bottles nestled in was probably safe.
He wiped the neck and mouth again. Wished he’d brought a miniature of Jack Daniels to use as purifier. Handi-wipe tasted like crap.
Díaz was drinking coffee, to which he’d added three or four sugars. Hot coffee, not iced. Evans couldn’t get his head around that. A Starbucks addict at home and a coffee drinker in any number of the third-world places he traveled to (you didn’t get dysentery from boiled water), he hadn’t touched the stuff in Hermosillo. He didn’t care if he never had a hot beverage again. Sweat tickled under his arms and down his temple and in his crotch. He believed his ears were sweating.
The men looked around them, at the students on the way to school, the businessmen meandering to offices or meetings. No shoppers; it was too early for that, but there were some mothers about, pushing carriages. The men not in suits were wearing blue jeans and boots and embroidered shirts. The cowboy culture, Evans had learned, was popular in Sonora. Pickup trucks were everywhere, as numerous as old American cars.
These two men vaguely resembled each other. Thirties, compact, athletic, with round faces—Díaz’s pocked but not detracting from his craggy good looks, reflecting some Pima Indian in his ancestry. Dark hair both. Evans’s face was smoother and paler, of course, and a little off kilter, eyes not quite plumb. Handsome too, though, in a way that might appeal to risk-taking women.
They were in jeans, running shoes and short-sleeved shirts, untucked, which would have concealed their weapons but they weren’t carrying today.
So far there was no reason for anyone to wish them harm.
That would change.