A group of three men trudged through the flying grit the best they could, coming from the small airplane that lay in the dust behind them. The desert around them was a swirling mass of sand in the strong wind striking them from seemingly every direction. It struck and stung the eyes of two of the men that walked through it, the two on the outside and slightly behind the first, both clad in designer suits and carrying briefcases. Those two men’s eyes watered profusely.
Their destination was in view; a black SUV parked a short distance ahead, though it was taking them much longer than anticipated due to the wind. The vehicle was sleek and black, with heavily tinted windows, and long, thin license plates that marked them as foreign. At the vehicle waited another two men, also well-dressed and also carrying briefcases. One turned to the other, who looked quite similar, placing a cigarette between his lips, lighting it, and opening his door.
“There they are. Let’s go.” He said, in a British accent.
But the third man, walking ahead of the first two, his dark eyes were as dry as the desert around him, and even held an odd sort of gleam. The skin of his eyelids and the skin below both of his eyes bore strange circular scars, his skin was darker than the others, as was his long hair that blew around him, and a smile curved his lips ever so slightly. He, too, carried a briefcase.
The two parties met some distance away from the SUV. The two sets of two men eyed each other nervously, and walked in closely so as to be able to hear each other. One of the men from the SUV yelled over the howling wind.
“The Arizona desert? You must be pretty paranoid.”
The dark-skinned man from the other side’s smile grew, as the wind died down to a gently whistling breeze, and both parties jumped away from each other, save for that same man, who stayed precisely where he was, right between them both.
“I did not wish for anyone to witness this. I pray you have honored your vow to come unarmed?” the darker man said in a full, resounding voice, slow and dignified.
The two men coming from the SUV took off their over coats and dropped them to the sand. Then their button-down shirts underneath. They continued this until they both stood there wearing nothing, and the dark man nodded his approval.
“Oi.” Said one of the two unclad men, in a thick accent. “What about your boys?”
The two men from the airplane followed suit, until every man but the darker one stood completely naked in the middle of the desert. Both parties eyed the briefcases nervously. The side from the SUV opened theirs; showing two massive amounts of cash, and sat them upon the ground. The second group opened their cases and showed a large quantity of white powder in small bags, and placed them likewise, on the ground.
“Now, now.” Said the other man from the SUV, eyeing the dark man. “Why is it our mediator is allowed to retain his dignity?”
“Because I refuse to be any part of this transaction.” The dark man said.
The effect this statement had on the other four men was startling. All four looked scared witless, but did not dare to make a move. They all pondered this statement, and its implications, eying the dark man nervously. All of their eyes darted about nervously. This never happened. The mediator made more than a fair cut of the take from both sides. You would have to be crazy not to take that kind of opportunity.
“I leave the business of white men, to the white men. In December of last year, your father was seized in London for drug trafficking.” The dark man said, locking eyes with the two men from the SUV, who were quite obviously brothers.
He then turned to face the men he escorted from the plane, stepping back out from in between the two parties and opening his suitcase before once more locking eyes with the two British boys.
“The men I came with provided the information that led to your father’s conviction.”
He then threw his open case on the ground, and within it was two guns, and with an unbefitting agility, he dove out of the way. All four men sprang for the weapons. One man from either side reached the guns at the same time. The British man raised his and shot the unarmed man from the plane, who fell sputtering, just before the other man with a gun killed both brothers in two shots.
From some distance away, there came a whistling sound, for a moment, in a stupor of trying to process what had just happened, the lone survivor thought that perhaps the wind was about to pick up again, and vaguely hoped that the wind would blow him far, far away from this place. But instead, a whirling tomahawk struck him dead center in the back of his head, and he fell to the ground, blood pooling by now around the forgotten briefcases of merchandise and money.
Smoke curled up into the night sky of deep, deep blue. The smoke rose from a fire built upon the sand to ward off the biting cold. More smoke swirled likewise, but it came from a pipe smoldering in the sand next the dark-skinned man from earlier. In his hands was a beaten acoustic guitar, from which came slow, mournful notes. Stuck in the ground beside him, was a bloody tomahawk, next to it were four scalps, and somewhere off in the distance, a coyote howled in perfect tune.
- - -
R.D. Ward is a dark fantasy writer and poet residing in Denton, Texas.
Labels: R.D. Ward