He raised his hands, screaming out in Spanish, “It was an accident, please, it was an accident!”
“Who are you?” I asked, my voice more steady than I felt.
“It was an accident,” he cried again. For a brief moment he took his frightened eyes off the gun and looked behind him, at the parking lot in the distance and the commotion that was gathering there. Soon they would be heading our way. “Is she all right? Please, please, the girl, is she all right?”
“No,” I told him, and pulled the trigger.
Because of the silencer, the sound of his brains and skull splattering on the window – a bright burst of red – was louder than the gun.
I quickly got back in my car and drove away. There was no time to stand around and figure out who the man was, if it was truly an accident or something else. Questions would come later, as they always did, only this time I’d be the one doing the asking.
I spent the rest of the day inside my hotel room, cleaning my guns and watching the local Puerto Vallarta news, trying to see if the accident would be mentioned. It was at the end of the segment when they finally reported on it. It was the usual shoddy shot of the serious reporter standing in front of the smashed gates to the parking lot. Alana, as it turns out, wasn’t killed or even critically injured. She had been admitted to the nearest hospital. The bigger part of the story was the part that had my hand all over it. It was that someone had caught up with the driver and shot him in the head. The news wasn’t sure whether this was a botched hit-and-run or vigilante justice.
I didn’t know what to think of it myself. One minute everything was going to plan, the next minute I was putting a bullet in the head of someone else, acting out of pure, untrustworthy instinct. That lack of control scared me. I hadn’t responded like that, so loosely, so foolishly, since my wife had been killed.
Regression was not a good thing in this business.
It was just after nightfall when my phone rang. I waited a beat, trying to read my gut before it got compromised by the voice on the phone. My gut was telling me to back out.
“Hello,” I answered.
“Hola,” the man said in that light tone of his. “I think we may have gotten our wires crossed here. I heard you were the best in the business. I’m a bit confused as to why you killed someone else instead of the woman you were paid to kill.”
“No time for pleasantries,” I noted.
“No,” the man said. “Not when she’s in the hospital and you’ve jeopardized this whole operation.”
I cleared my throat. “It was all lined up. Before I was even able to take my shot, she was hit by a fucking car. Everyone saw it. What was I supposed to do, still go through with it with everyone watching me?”
“That still doesn’t explain why you shot the driver.”
No, not really, I thought.
“I guess I lost my cool,” I told him.
“I didn’t think that was possible with you.”
“Maybe you’ve heard wrong about me.”
“They’ve called you soulless.”
“Maybe I’m getting tired of this game.”
“Ah,” he said. “The game, but not the money, hey?”
“Maybe money gets you killed in the end.”
“No, no,” he said. “Money is what gets other people killed. By you.” He sighed long and hard, and I tried to picture who this man could be. So, so familiar. And so, so wrong.
“Listen,” he went on, “I know things are more complicated now, but the job still has to go through.”