They were driving across the desert once again, Hal Dixon behind the wheel asking questions and Nick explaining the results of their trip from the back seat. The SUV’s headlights swept through the darkness while Jessie poured coffee from his thermos into Hal’s cup on the console.
Hal thanked him and glanced into his rearview mirror at Dane who was pinched between Nick and Matt like deli meat. “You see what you’ve done kid?”
Dane was doing his best to keep his eyes open but losing the battle. He was safe now and the drama of the past twenty-four hours mixed with the relief of escaping a death sentence had overtaken his body. His head was dropping with each bounce of the suspension system over the dips in the desert terrain.
Nick elbowed Dane. “Hey, someone’s talking to you.”
Dane murmured, “I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”
Nick leaned his head back and sighed. “It’s amazing what people will do for money.”
“Greed,” Matt said resting his head against the window, looking like he was about to nod off.” “That’s what it is. Greed.”
“Hey kid,” Hal said. “What were you going to do with the money anyway?”
“I was going to buy a car.”
Matt shook his head. “You could make seventy-five cents an hour doing prison laundry. That’ll add up after a decade or so.”
“What?” Dane’s face exploded into a look of shock. “Prison? What did I do? You know I was forced to do it.”
“That’s a good story,” Nick said. “I’d stick with it.”
Dane pouted. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean you’ll be arrested and tried for acts of terrorism.”
Dane searched the inside of the SUV as if someone there could help him. Jesse was banging a flashlight against his knee to get it to work, when it sprung to life and shined directly onto his face.
Dane’s eye’s popped open, but he remained perfectly still. Jessie glanced back at him for a moment, then turned and put the flashlight back into the glove compartment.
Dane nudged Nick with his elbow.
When Nick looked at Dane he saw the wide-eyed kid staring at Jesse. Dane leaned into Nick’s ear and whispered, “That’s him.”
“Stop the vehicle,” Jesse said from the front seat. He had his pistol out and aimed at Hal.
“Oh crap,” Nick said.
“I told you,” Dane blurted. “That’s the guy I saw in your book.”
“Yeah,” Nick said. “You were right.”
“No one ever believes me.”
Nick let that one go.
Hal slowed the SUV to a stop. With a deep exhale, he said, “Jesse, how could you?”
“I’d give you a hundred thousand reasons why.” Jesse grinned, tapping on the interior lights.
“Greed,” Matt muttered from the back seat.
“Yes,” Jesse said. “A way to take care of my family without working sixty hour weeks and being too tired to play with my kids. That’s why. Now, put your hands on your head.”
Everyone in the car complied.
“Good,” Jesse said. “If anyone takes their hands off their head I will end this.”
“Are you going to let us go?” Dane asked with a quiver in his voice.
Nick answered for him. “No, Dane. He’s going to have to kill us because we know his identity.”
Jesse retained a smug grin.
Dane turned to Matt and said, “Do something.”
Matt shrugged. “I’m a good draw, but I’m not Superman.”
Dane was antsy, wiggling his torso while keeping his hands firmly on his head. “Why are we waiting here?”
“We are waiting for the Reynoso execution squad,” Jesse replied, giving a quick glance out the front windshield.
“Isn’t it worth something that Matt didn’t kill your boss?” Nick said.
“Sure,” Jesse said, turning the pistol toward the group in the back seat. “In return I’m going to let you live long enough to know that the Uranium you discovered was only the first ten percent. The other ninety percent—“ he glanced at his watch, then continued, “is going to dock in Puerto Vallarta in less that ninety minutes.” A beautiful craft by the name of the Familia Reynoso. Catchy name, huh?”
“I told you,” Dane said. “How come you didn’t believe me?”
Matt rolled his eyes. “Really?” You feel you have a credibility issue?”
“You told them what?” Jesse asked.
“Wait,” Dane said. “You told me he was an FBI agent. You lied to me.”
“It happens,” Nick said, ignoring Jesse’s request.
There was a flicker of light on the horizon, bobbling up and down with the contour of the rough desert floor.
“Well, no matter now,” Jesse said, “here comes my team.”
“But why would you lie?” Dane pleaded. His eyes glistening up. “Why? I told you it was him.”
“We believed you,” Matt finally answered.
Jesse looked at Matt with an inquisitive expression. “What did you believe?”
The headlights grew stronger, winding around the cacti and shrubs as it drew closer.
“He picked your face out of a book of Border Patrol Agents,” Matt said. “That’s how we suspected you were working with Reynoso.”
The charging headlights came to a skidding stop directly in front of their SUV. A black Ford Explorer sat behind a cloud of desert dust floating across its headlights. All the doors opened and four men wearing FBI windbreakers jumped out of the vehicle with their pistols out. They spread out and crouched their way toward the Border Patrol SUV.
Jesse looked at Matt who took his hands down from his head and said, “Sorry Jesse. We’re the FBI. We don’t always play fair.”
Jesse’s face turned into a snarl and he pointed his pistol at Matt and pulled the trigger. A click. He pulled and pulled with no success. Then he looked at his gun as if it were betraying the laws of physics.
Hal yanked the gun from his partner’s hand and said, “I am so very disappointed in you.”
The doors flung open and a voice commanded them to get out.
Jesse’s face turned soft. As he was pulled from the vehicle, he looked at Hal with a childlike innocence and said, “I’m sorry.”