Main fanfic page

This fic is unfinished and is likely to continue to remain unfinished. My apologies!

Prologue: The Kindness of Strangers
October 2004

The door opened with its normal flip-bang, and she smiled to herself. It used to startle her, the way the door slammed open like the person behind it had somewhere to be and no time to waste. By now she had gotten used to it. She turned her head, looked through the slats of wood, and saw the lithe frame of her neighbor take three quick strides over to the fence and tap his cane on the fence.

“You out here? I heard your door open, so don´t bother trying to lie.’

She laughed to herself, picking up her pack of cigarettes. “You know, for someone that has to rely on the kindness of strangers, you sure are a rude fucker.’

“I´m not Blanche DuBois,’ he said curtly, lowering his cane to the grass beside him and leaning on it lightly. “Besides, relying on the kindness of strangers isn´t what one would call the smart way to go. Relying on their stupidity, maybe. Relying on their selfishness, for sure. Even relying on their ingrained propensity to sell anything, and anyone, out to save their own asses. But not on their kindness.’

“Optimistic is a word no one would use to describe you,’ she said, lighting her cigarette and leaning back in her chair to look at the sky. “So what today? Jester or Marlboro?’

There was a pause, the sound of fingernails that needed to be cut tapping on the top of his cane. “Jester, and make it tight this time, last time the fuckin´ cherry dropped in my lap.’

“Well you could roll it yourself…’

“Just fuckin´ roll it, Angel,’ he said in that roses-laced-with-thorns voice of his.

“If my husband knew you called me Angel, he´d have your ass.’

“Doubt that, sweetcheeks,’ he said, the creak of a chair sounding as he lowered himself cautiously into it. “Don´t let the glass convince you I don´t still see everything.’

“I have a question,’ she said, pulling out the pouch of tobacco and a pack of rolling papers. “You get your groceries hand delivered every week, why never cigarettes?’

“That´s what you´re for,’ he said listlessly. Looking through the slits she saw his face tilted up towards the sky and wondered what it would be like to not have to close your eyes to block out the blinding sun.

“Your personal cigarette bitch,’ she muttered with a grin. “Never thought I´d be that.’

“Hey, you´re the one who titled yourself that,’ he said with a shrug in his voice. “I wouldn´t have used those words; I would have said cigarette consigliere.’

“A rose by any other name…’


“You ever going to tell me your real name?’ she asked, raising the rolled cigarette to her mouth and sealing it. “´Cause it´s not Robert Callandro.’

“What makes you so sure it isn't?’ he asked, and she could just barely hear the smile in his voice.

“One, you´re not Italian. Two, it´s too boring; which is something you´re not.’

“What makes you so sure I´m not Italian? Maybe my mother was Irish and my father Italian -- recessive genes and all.’

“Okay,’ she said, getting up and walking over to the fence and watching him lie on the lawn chair. “Was he Italian?’

His grin widened. “No.’

“Also,’ she said, leaning against the fence. “One day I go to bed and no one lives next door… next day I wake up to find you in the backyard of my once unoccupied neighbor´s house, bangin´ around with your stick.’

“I had to move quickly,’ he said with a noncommittal shrug. “Under the cloak of night is my milieu.’

“Uhuh,’ she said dubiously, lighting the cigarette and passing it through the slats.  “To your left, about a foot,’ she said, directing his hand to latch onto the non-burning end of the cigarette.  “I say a man who moves by cloak of night moves that way because he´s hiding.’

“Well what about you, Angel,’ he said, bringing the cigarette to his mouth and taking a deep inhale. “What´s a good suburban wife like yourself doing giving her cigarettes to this mysterious, out of nowhere, neighbor of yours?’

“Boredom,’ she said, settling on the arm of her chair.

“Boredom, and intrigue,’ he added. “And your husband will be home in ten minutes, so you might want to get inside and check your chicken curry.’

She smiled, no longer surprised at his seemingly psychic ability to know the time. “How´d you know it was chicken curry?’

“Sniff the air, darlin´,’ he said. “It positively reeks.’

She laughed as she stood up. “You know, Bobby, if you ever get tired of eating hot pockets or whatever it is you eat, you could join us for dinner.’

He laughed.  “Be careful or I might take you up on that one of these days.’

“Unlikely,’ she said, stretching and walking around the chair to the sliding glass doors.

“True again.’

“You really ought to leave the house, babe,’ she said, opening the door and pausing before going in. “It´s a whole world out there.’

“Seen it all,’ he said quietly. “Nothing more to see, even if I did have my eyes back.’

Part 1: I Shot a Man in Reno
November 2003


He´s off his rocker, Banks!

Charlie, listen --

No, off it, I tell you.  He´s gone insane.

He hasn´t. He´s eccentric, I´ll give you that, but not insane.

The fucker´s had his eyes ripped out and all he´s done for the past two hours is laugh about it!

That´s how he operates!

Well he´s off his rocker!

Listen, Charlie. He looks insane, he sounds insane, but Sands has the most agile and methodical brain I´ve ever seen.

Methodical?  You mean maniacal!

Listen --

No you listen, Banks, I want him out.  He´s through.  Done.

You don´t understand, he´s our best agent down there --

Was, Banks.  How good do you think he´ll be when he CAN´T SEE?

Better than half the agents you have on your bankroll, Charlie.



Without eyes?


He´s insane; he´s off his nut; he´s got no redeemable qualities.

He doesn´t need to, Charlie.  That´s not what he does.

He´s a representative for the CIA, Banks.  He needs to be fucking trustworthy.

 Right, ‘cause all us spooks are trustworthy.

How are you so certain that this hasn´t done him in?  He´s had his eyes gouged out for Christ´s sake.

Ask him.

Ask him?

Yeah.  Ask him.


You´re the one with the doubts, not me.

Sands had just enough time to settle back in his chair, and affect a nonchalant but amused expression before the two agents reentered the room.  He turned his head towards what he knew was the bigger man, and smiled toothily at him.  “Unconvinced of my abilities?’

The taller man cleared his throat.  “It´s not that I think you weren´t a good agent, Jeff…’

“My friends call me Jeff; you call me Sands.’  There was a pause, and Sands felt his body tense up.

“Sands, then.  I´m just concerned that you don´t have your wits about you after what you´ve been through--’

“They´re eyes,’ Sands said softly.  “The average human has five senses, and sight is only one of them.  I had six though, so all this has done is make me even with the rest of you.’

“Six?’ the taller man said, his voice questioning.

“Yeah, motherfucker, six,’ Sands said, gritting his teeth.  “Smell, touch, sight, taste, hearing, and,’ he paused, sitting up and facing the direction of the taller man.  “Intuition.’

The man scoffed.  “Intuition,’ he said dubiously.

“You´re six feet tall, maybe six foot one.  You have soft hands so chances are that though you´re in the CIA, you´ve probably got a desk job.  One of those cushy jobs where you push pencils around, not guns.  You´ve got a weak grip, though, so chances are it´s better that you don´t have to fire a gun. You´d probably puke if you ever did -- ’

“That´s enough Sands -- ’

“Shut up, Banks,’ Sands said, clenching his jaw.  “You think you´re better than us field guys, and you´d really rather not know what exactly it is we do, cause that means you get to go home to your wife -- who´s blonde, I´d guess, you seem like a blonde kind of man -- and say you do good things for this country.’

“Sands,’ Banks barked.

“Oh, and you really ought to brush your teeth after eating onion rings; your breath stinks to high heaven.’

“How did you know that?’ the taller man asked, the scrape of metal on concrete letting Sands know he´d sat down.  “Did Banks tell you my name?’

“I don´t give two shits what your name is, sweetheart,’ Sands said with a grin.  “And anyway, you´ve been with me the whole time, when did Banks have time to tell me your name without you knowing it?’

“Intuition,’ the man said again.  “That wasn´t intuition, that was deductive reasoning.’

“True,’ Sands said with a smile.  “´Cept how´d I know your wife was blonde?’

“How did you know that?’ the man asked, sounding astounded.


“This is only the tip of the iceberg, Charlie,’ Banks said, the smirk obvious even to Sands.  “The man´s ability to read people has nothing to do with sight; it´s simply not something I´m willing to throw away over a couple of empty eye sockets.’

“So are my capabilities reestablished, Charlie?’ Sands asked with a grin, imagining how ashen the man´s face had probably become.

“We´ll see, Mr. Sands,’ the taller man said in a slightly mollified tone.  

“Good then,’ he said, nodding, and patting his pockets for a moment.  “Any of you lovely gentlemen have any cigarettes?’


“Still look like a fuckin´ freak.’

“You don´t, Jeff,’ Robert Banks said in a kind tone, resting a hand on Sands´ shoulder, allowing it to slip off as the younger man jerked away from him.  “Can´t even tell.’

Sands laughed, loud and harshly.  “Ever watch Colombo, Robert?  Peter Faulk?  Good actor, good detective -- in the context of the show, anyway.  Still never trusted that fuckin´ eye of his, though.  Always lookin´ the other direction. And he´s only got one glass eye.’

“Well since when did you give a shit if someone trusted you?’ Banks asked with a laugh, taking a seat and patting the one next to him loudly for Sands to sit next to him.  With a few awkward shifts of his feet Sands navigated his way around Banks´ feet and sat next to him.  “Look, Jeff… it´s not that bad…’

“I don´t trust him,’ he said quietly, leaning his head in closer to Banks, waving his consoling comments away with the flick of a wrist.  “That Charlie fucker -- what´s his last name?’

“Paris,’ Banks said quietly.  “And keep your voice down, his goons are sitting across the aisle.’

“Yeah,’ Sands said, nodding his head.  “I know.  I´d smell that Calvin Klein rip off cologne Stone Cold Steve Austin wannabe´s wearin´ across the Mojave Desert.’

Banks snickered to his right, turning his head so he was close enough for Sands to feel his breathe on his cheek.  “I don´t trust him either.  That´s why I´m here.’

“Paris,’ Sands muttered, his mind whirring a mile a minute.  “It doesn´t ring a bell.’

Banks nodded, forgetting that Sands could no longer see the nonverbal affirmation.  “He´s not been in our department long.  They transferred him a couple of months ago.’

Sands sat back slightly, raising an eyebrow.  “That´s interesting.’

“Don´t worry about Paris,’ Banks said, patting Sands on the knee and looking over at the two heavily armed goons across the isle.  “We´re smarter than him.’

Sands snorted.  “My dog´s ass is smarter than him.’

“You don´t have a dog,’ Banks said with a smirk.

“Exactly,’ Sands said, grinning.  “So what´s the skinny… what´s going down now?’

“We´re flying to the border, and then you´re going back in,’ Banks said.

Sands frowned.  “That easily?’  When Banks didn´t respond his frown deepened.  “Not that easily.’

“You´ll have a partner.’

“Fuck that.’

“Jeff -- ’

“No, fuck you, have a partner,’ Sands said with a bark of a laugh, settling back in the chair and closing his lids over his newly implanted glass eyes.  “Sheldon Jeffrey Sands has no partners.’

“Listen, I realize you find it hard to trust people, but -- ’

“It´s a wonder why -- who is it?’

Banks sighed.  “Coltrane.’

“Fuck me…’ Sands whispered, swiveling non-seeing eyes towards Banks.  “One of Paris´ guys?!’

Banks nodded again, sweeping a few fingers through his graying hair.  “The fact is you need someone to be your eyes, Jeff.  This guy has no input, he´s got no authority.  He´s just your eyes -- ’

“Eyes that´ll stab me right in the fuckin´ back, Banks,’ Sands growled, digging his nails into his legs.  “I´ll go on my own, thank you very much.’

“Your going back into Mexico was conditional, Jeff,’ Banks said, his tone growing annoyed.  “And that was the only condition they´d agree to.’

“Right,’ Sands said slowly, a ghost of a smile forming.  “Right, so he´s my eyes, but also; also he´s *his* eyes.’

“I would assume, yes,’ Banks said, resting his head back in the chair and closing his eyes.  “Anyway, Mexico is a dangerous place, Jeff, never can tell what´ll happen.’

Sands laughed lightly.  “That´s true.’

“And well, sometimes communications do go down,’ he said with a shrug.  “Might be that something´s happened, and no one gets word of it till months later.’

“And by then, I´ve become accustomed to the lay of the land, sightless though I am…’

“Right,’ Banks said, peeking an eye open to look at the lazy grin on Sands´ face, and smiling to himself.  

“You´re a beautiful man, Robert,’ Sands said in an affectionate tone.  “If I didn´t think you´d shoot me in the gut for it, I might kiss you.’

“All I´d have to do is keep in your blind spot,’ Banks said blandly.  “Which is now all over the place.’

“Oh,’ Sands said, his jaw dropping open.  “Below the belt, man.  I´m in a fragile state right now.’

Banks laughed, standing and rifling through the overhead compartment.  Sitting back down he opened two cellophane packages.  “Two days from now you´re back on your beat… you sure this is what you want?’

“Want,’ Sands asked, turning his head towards Banks and grinning lopsidedly.  “Don´t know about want, but it´s what I know.  It´s what I do, and it´s what no one does better than me.’

“Get some sleep, Jeff,’ the older man said, throwing a blue blanket over Sands´ legs.  “Need your wits about you.’

“A fucking partner,’ Sands muttered, pulling the blanket up to his chin.  “Send a blind man into Mexico with nothing but a fuckin´ spy for the man in charge that no one trusts; if I didn´t know you better I´d say you were sending me in for my death sentence.’

“Good thing you do then,’ Banks said, pulling his own blanket up over his knees and folding it over his lap.


We apologize for the delay, gentleman… we´ll be on our way as soon as we´ve remedied the problem--

“The turbulence didn´t seem that bad to me,’ Sands said, his hand holding onto Banks´ outstretched elbow lightly as they walked through the terminal.  “Certainly not bad enough to warrant replacing an engine.’

“Well,’ Charlie Paris said in a jolly tone.  “Looks like we couldn´t have picked a better spot to fall on hard times fellas. Reno ain´t half bad, last time I checked.’

“Yeah,’ Sands said.  “It´s real perty, all the sparkly lights, and buxom gals, and playing the Craps table.  ‘Cept if you´re blind.  Then you´re pretty much up shit creek without a sequined paddle to your name.’

“Oh, shut the fuck up, Sands,’ Rick Coltrane snarled, placing a hand in Sands back and shoving him forward a bit.  “Pick up the pace.’

“Sorry, Stretch,’ Sands said in a friendly tone.  “I didn´t realize I was holding back the swine from their trough.’

“You´re a fuckin´ riot,’ Coltrane said before stepping around him, his bulky frame causing Sands to misstep and jab an elbow in Banks´ side.

“I just love my new seeing-eye dog,’ he gushed to Banks.  “Can I keep ‘im Pappa, can I, can I?’

“I think we´ll eat something,’ Paris was saying to his men, his jovial tone having begun to grate on Sands´ nerves about 500 miles back.   “How does South Western sound to everyone?’

“Original,’ Sands said.  “Us being in the South fucking West.’

“Why not Mexican… might as well get started early,’ Coltrane said.

“Good plan,’ Paris said, clapping his hands together.  “We´ll rent a car and -- ’

“Wait, wait, hold on,’ Banks said, his voice ringing authoritatively through the group.  “We have no idea how long this engine problem is going to take, why are we leaving?  For all we know it could take 15 minutes.’

“Well, Robert,’ Paris said, laughing along with his two men.  “The plane´s departure relies on us being here, so us not being here just means they´ll have to wait, doesn´t it?’

Banks looked at him with his eyebrows pinched together and then at Sands.  “Hungry, Jeff?’

“I could go for some Puerco Pibil,’ he said, licking his lips.  “Been a solid month since I had it.’

“Mexican it is,’ Paris said.  “Johnson, go rent a car and meet us in front of the airport.’

Johnson nodded like the good puppy he was, and strolled towards the car rental section of the airport as Paris led the men to the outer doors.  As soon as they reached the warm salty air Sands reached into his pockets and grabbed a cigarette, lighting it up and taking a rather large inhale.  Letting it out he smiled to himself, adjusting his dark sunglasses so they fit more securely over the bridge of his nose.  “I´ve missed this climate.’

“Are you fucking kidding me,’ Coltrane said, the bitter tone making Sands smile even wider.  “It´s fucking sweltering here.’

“Better get used to it, sweetcheeks,’ Sands cooed, tapping his cane on Coltrane´s leg quickly three times.  “Mexico´s this times about ten.’

“What´s your plan, Charlie?’ he heard Banks say quietly to Charles Paris.  He hadn´t noticed Banks leaving his side, but judging from the wind and the quietness of their voices they were about ten feet away.


“You´re up to something. This isn´t engine problems, is it?’

Paris´ weasely laugh made Sands grit his teeth to cover the tingle he felt ring down his spine.  “Hey, I know next to nothin´ ‘bout jet plane engines; that turbulence was a bitch back there.’

“I make more waves when I jump in the deep end of the pool,’ Banks retorted, his tone hard and suspicious.

“Well maybe the plane wasn´t up to regulation,’ Paris said with another laugh.  “Jesus, Banks, what´s got your underwear wound so tight?  Think of it as a slight detour.’

“Through what?’ Banks said, his voice closer to Sands, and then right next to him.  “I think I trust Saddam Hussein more than him,’ he said under his breathe to Sands.

“I *know* I do,’ Sands said back with a grin.  “But hey, my belly´s hungry, and it´s about to get fed, so who am I to complain?’

It was another cigarette till Johnson and the car showed up, and a two-cigarette car ride, so Sands figured it was about an hour since they´d departed the plane by the time they reached the restaurant.  The air in the restaurant was blessedly cool, which was a change to the dives he´d eaten in while in Mexico.  The menu was the same though, and that was a good thing. The last thing he wanted was for someone to try and read it to him like an ineffectual child.

Luckily the Puerco Pibil was lackluster and a little too tough. Sands found it unlikely he´d be able to get away with killing a cook under the watchful eyes of Paris and his goons.  That, and Banks might be more on his side than anyone, but chances were he wouldn´t approve either.  Plus, he´d probably wind up shooting a pot before he shot the cook -- that rattling just wouldn´t do in a town like Reno Nevada where the cops were restless.

He filled up on the dish despite its shortcomings, and was working on his third shot of Tequila, when he realized something was bugging him.  He wracked his brain and tried to remember if he´d forgotten anything, only to realize there wasn´t really anything for him to remember anyway.  Certainly not his belongings, they were still in Mexico.  Finally he tuned back into the conversation, and realized he should have been listening to the monotonous meatheads to begin with.

“Four months,’ Johnson was saying.  “That´s when Sheila started showing on our first.’

“Well Karen´s 8 months, and it was barely a pouch at 4 months,’ Coltrane was saying.  “She kept wondering if she should go to the doctor, but all her friends told her it was normal for women´s first times to show late.’

“My wife looked like a whale by 5 months,’ Paris said with a laugh.  “Then again, she just used the baby as an excuse to get away with eating those Devil´s Chocolate Sin things.’

“Huh,’ Sands said into his shot glass, his eyebrows pinching together.  “So then she´s due in November?’

“Yeah,’ Coltrane said, almost wearily.  “December 18th.’

“Interesting,’ Sands said, kicking his leg to the left, jolting Banks back into the conversation.  “Seems like the wife should be raising holy hell with you for agreeing to transfer to Mexico for the foreseeable future -- her being 8 months along.’

“Oh, uh…’

“She understands, I´m sure,’ Paris said dismissively.  “How´s your pork?’

“Mediocre,’ Sands said, his face still turned towards Coltrane.  “She understands?  Doesn´t seem like something a wife would understand, her husband missing the birth of their first born.’

“No, Karen´s not like that,’ Coltrane said, his laugh sounding like a proclamation of nervousness to Sands´ ears.

“I´d think all women are like that, when it comes down to it,’ Sands said, smiling.  “Seems like a natural reaction to want the father there for the formative months at the very least.’

“Karen´s unnaturally supportive,’ Coltrane said stiffly.

Sands nodded and smiled.  “Good,’ he said, shifting his chair back and standing.  “Please, don´t stand; I´m just relieving my bladder.’

“Sit,’ Johnson said with a deadly quiet tone.  “Now.’

“A man can´t take a piss without permission,’ Sands said, laughing.  “What are you -- ’

“Shut the fuck up,’ Johnson said.  “Charlie?’

“Yeah,’ Paris said with a sigh.  “I was hoping to wait till after we´d eaten, but he´s a little too quick for that.’

“Paris, what the fuck -- ’ Banks was cut short by a reverberating bang that made Sands heart jump in his throat, and his ears ring in the aftermath.  The sound of silverware hitting the floor, followed shortly by a thick thunking sound on the wooden table made his stomach turn.  

He reached out a hand to clutch onto Banks´ arm, intending to check his pulse, but realized there was no need as he felt a sticky and mushy substance beneath his fingers instead.  “Well,’ he said, his hand sliding down Banks´ side slowly as he tried to control his breathing.  “That was abrupt.’

“Yes it was,’ Coltrane said, and the sneer on his face was as vibrant in Sands´ mind as if he could actually see it.  “We´ll be more gentle with you if you prefer.’

“How kind,’ Sands said with a fake smile as his fingers closed around what he hoped was Banks´ pistol.  Just as his stomach turned for the last time he yanked it out, puking on the ground beside him while catapulting himself out of his chair in a way that could have been deliberate or reactionary.

The sound of the trio laughing was all he needed and he aimed up through the table, hitting at least one of them before they realized he wasn´t unarmed anymore.  His left hand grabbed onto his own pistol, and he stood with a yell, shooting at any noise that was made, including the sound of breaking glass in the far right corner.  The waitress´ death was regrettable, but not enough to make him stop firing until there was nothing but silence, and his unsteady breathing.

His ears perked and his fingers itchy, he reloaded his gun first and then his former boss´ before walking around the table.  He kicked at Coltrane´s head with the edge of his boot before reaching out, and feeling for the body on the table.  Feeling Paris´ short spikey hair, and coming away with a wet and sticky hand, he nodded in satisfaction. He then continued on to the groaning man on the floor, stepping unapologetically on his hand and grinning down at him.

“Engine problems huh?  Thought it was weird you didn´t have to consult any directions to get here.  Figured maybe you´d been here before, but I guess I gave you a little too much credit.  Oh well,’ he said with a shrug, pointing the gun down at Johnson as he began to pitifully whine.  “Tell me one thing before I blow your fucking brains out.’

“Fuck you.’

“No,’ Sands said, shaking his head slowly.  “That´s not what I want to hear.’

“Fuck -- ’

“Nooo,’ Sands said, grinding his boot heel into the goon´s hand.  “Still not what I want to hear.’

“What the fuck do you want to hear?’ the man yelled, his voice breaking.  By the sucking sound Sands guessed he´d hit him somewhere in the neck area.  It really was a wonder the man was able to talk at all.

“How far up does this go?’ he asked, as though asking for directions.  “Is this a private sort of thing, or is this orders from on high?’

“I follow orders from one man,’ the man wheezed out.  “I don´t know whose orders he´s working on.’

Sands nodded.  “Good enough,’ he said, pulling the trigger in the direction of the voice, wrinkling his nose as he felt a wet glob of something hit his jeans leg.  Turning he held his gun up, finger no longer on the trigger.  “Hello?  Anyone here?’

“Don´t shoot, please,’ came the voice of an older woman.

He smiled at her. “Ma´am, this wasn´t my idea, honestly.  Kill or be killed though. So, ya know.  I just want to know how long ago it was you called the cops.’

Part 2: Lady Came from Baltimore
December 2003

He sat in the car a little longer than the cabbie expected him to.  Sands could picture the confused look he was getting, as the seat creaked from the man´s sudden turn.  “You getting out?’
Sands nodded slowly, reaching in his pocket and pulling out his wallet.  “How much?’
“$53,’ the man snarled, clearly impatient to be on his way.
“Oh, now,’ Sands said with a smile.  “You sure about that?  ‘Cause I happen to know the ride from Columbia to the part of Baltimore we´re in is around 25 miles.  And by my calculations, at the price of $1.40 a mile, that would be more along the lines of $35.  Give or take maybe $5.  You wouldn´t be trying to gouge the blind man, would you?’
He heard the driver swallow, and breathe out slowly.  This was precisely why he´d even bothered to tell the driver he was blind; just to see, to test his integrity.  “$38.00, Mr. Johnson.’
“Thank you,’ Sands said in a friendly tone, smiling at him and handing him 2 of his specially folded $20 bills.  “Keep the two bucks, pal.  Buy yourself another hoagie.’  He gathered his duffle bag of clothes, and slid over to the door, pausing and facing the cabbie again.  “Now, just so I don´t look like too much of a fool, is it a straight walk from here, or am I to cross the street?’
The cabbie paused before answering.  “Maybe I should walk you to the—“
“No, no, that´s quite alright,’ Sands said, holding up a hand.  “Just a few guiding points will be fine.’
“Well,’ the cabbie said, his voice uncertain, perhaps feeling guilty for trying to dupe Sands into paying more than was required.  “It´s pretty straight forward, but there´s a couple steps once you get to the porch.  You´re directly in front of the walkway though.’
“Thank you,’ Sands clipped out, climbing out of the car and slamming the door behind him.  When the cab didn´t pull away immediately he waited a moment and then turned around and felt along the door till he found the handle.  “Did I forget something?’
“No, I—“
“Fuck off then,’ he gritted, slamming the door again, then tapping his cane along the grass until he found the opening to the walkway.  
Keeping the cane hovering slightly above the ground, he quickly strode up the sidewalk, satisfied as he finally heard the cab screech off down the road.  The cane warned him of the first step and, after the four that followed, he was standing in front of the door, wishing the cabbie hadn´t left.
He raised his cane slightly and rapped on the door at knee level. Then he stepped back, ready to fend off any attack he might receive from the recipient of the unexpected mid-afternoon visit.  The door opened, and he heard an audible gasp followed by a low curse. He felt a hand grab a hold of his arm and yank him unceremoniously inside.
“Why didn´t you call me?’ she hissed at him. The shuffling around him sounded hurried. She was probably shutting the curtains, and locking the door several more times than most houses required.  “I´ve been wondering when you´d show up here.’
“Babycakes,’ he cooed, smiling where he thought she might be.  “You´ve missed me?’
“Fuck off, Jeff,’ she said, her voice shaky.  “Your face is on all the wires.  Bulletins out for your arrest.  Dead or alive, they don´t care.’
He laughed, surprising her into stopping her racing around and facing him.  “Not surprised by that.’
“I was,’ she said softly.  “I knew you were fuckin´ nuts, but I didn´t know you were that stupid.’
“Do you think there´s a chance I could get a spot on the couch,’ he asked with a smile.  “Have a feeling we´re about to have a doozy of a conversation.’
She grabbed his arm roughly, and nearly threw him the two feet to her couch, before taking a deep breath, and sitting next to him.  He could picture her reaching up to run a hand through her hair, and licking her lips.  She always did that when she was taken off guard in front of someone she could trust.  That is, if she still trusted him.
“Do you want a beer?’ she finally asked, sounding a little calmer.
“That would be wonderful,’ he answered with his most charming smile.
“Don´t work that charm on me, Jeff.  I´m immune, remember?’
He laughed.  “I do.  Now, the beer?’
She returned a moment later with two already sweating beers, and he swallowed the rich dark amber of the Killians down with reverence.  “Always did have excellent taste in beer, Jules.’
“Why´d you do it?’ Julia asked, the shifting of the couch indicating that she was settling back in it.  It was a good sign for Sands, showing that she was at least not completely wary of him.  At the moment, anyway.  She was quick as a cat though, and he knew she´d have her claws in his balls faster than two shakes of a lamb´s tail if need be.
“What are they saying?’ he asked, feeling for the table in front of him, then allowing her to guide his hand a good six inches to the left of where he´d been aiming.  
“Agent Sheldon Jeffrey Sands,’ she started, that familiar sarcastic radio announcer voice she liked to use bringing a smile to his face.  “Considered armed and dangerous.  Responsible for the shooting deaths of four federal agents.’
“Four?’ Sands said, his eyebrows rising.  “Ah, that´s right.  Banks.’
There was a silence and he shifted his hand slightly to be ready to catch her arm should she move to hit him.  “Why Robert, Jeff?  Why would you kill Banks?’
He shook his head.  “You disappoint me, Jules.’
“I do?  Why do I-- forget it.  Did you kill Banks?’
He tried not to let his surprise show, but as she´d always been so observant when it came to his facial expressions, he knew he probably failed.  “No,’ he said quietly.  “I didn´t.’
She sighed, leaning forward and taking his hand in hers.  “Your big beautiful brown eyes are gone,’ she said softly.
“Replaced by cold, impersonal glass,’ he said.  “Which I don´t think fit quite correctly.’
She laughed, reaching up and resting her fingertips on his sunglasses.  “May I?’ she asked, removing them only when he nodded his head.  “Well, they´re still brown anyway.  That´s less disconcerting.’
He turned to face her, and allowed himself to wish that he had his eyesight back for just one moment.  “You believe me?’
She laughed slightly, her body close enough for her breath to tickle past his ears.  “You wouldn´t have had the balls to show up on my doorstep if you´d killed Banks.’
“My balls I still have, thank Christ,’ he muttered, reaching out again and grabbing his beer bottle in one try.  
“Did you learn nothing about becoming involved with fellow agents, Sands?’ she said, the smile in her voice the only hint to him that she was kidding.  He could picture her expression in his mind though; mouth quirked up on one side, eyes glittering with amusement, tongue running over her teeth.  It had been five years since he´d seen her, and he still had every reaction of hers memorized.
“We weren´t involved,’ he said brusquely.  “Neither of us thought it was anything more than a convenient arrangement.  Two brains better than one to mind-fuck Mexico into submission.’
“Except you got mind-fucked,’ she said, and he knew she was about to laugh.  
“How much do you know?’ he asked, furrowing his brow.  
“I know that Ajedrez was Barillo´s daughter, a fact that the AFN would really rather not have gotten out.  I know that her body was found in the middle of the street, a bullet in her stomach.  I know that you claimed her death as your doing, and I know that it was Barillo that took your eyes,’ she said.  “I just figured one and one makes two and that you were sleeping with her.’
He smiled slightly, shrugging.  “Because I killed her, that means I slept with her?’
“Because she´s gorgeous, that´s why you slept with her.’  She leaned back on the couch and let her hand rest on his forearm, fingers lightly running over the fabric of his leather jacket.
He set his beer down again, reaching up and taking off his jacket, tossing it somewhere to his right.  “How was I supposed to know she was Barillo´s daughter?’ he asked, laughing lightly.
She sighed, sitting up, and then standing, kicking at his feet.  “Think you can stick tight for 20 minutes?’
He tilted his head up towards where she stood, frowning.  “Going somewhere?’
“When you showed up I was just about to take a shower,’ she said stepping around him.
He leered at her as he stood, noting that she didn´t move away when he put his arms around her waist.  “Can I join?’
“Five years ago, yes.  Now?  Not on your life,’ she said, the smile in her voice twisting at something inside of him.  She swatted him on the butt and stepped away from him.  “Stay away from the windows, don´t use my phone, and if you want anything-- just wait till I get back.  Don´t break anything.’
“Can I at least turn on the TV?’ he asked, sitting down and resting his cane by the side of the couch.  
“Remote´s on the same table as your beer,’ she said, her voice already drifting towards the door.  “When I come back you´re telling me everything, right down to what the gun smoke smelled like.’  
“Yes ma´am,’ he said, smiling to himself.  Same old Julia; quick-tongued, blunt, and unapologetic.  No wonder she´d been the only women in the past ten years he´d even come close to loving.


Julia Garver had been on the first team he´d been assigned to, when he´d gotten out of basic training for the CIA.  They were both in the psychological analysis field, and were to work as part of a group on a practice operation.  Really it was just to test their skills, but Sands and Julia were competitive as hell, and started nipping at each other´s heels right off the bat.  She had a killer smile and pretty blue eyes, all built into one of the most innocent looking faces he´d ever seen.  If you looked past that though, she had an almost computer-like mind for analysis and a drive that was second only to Sands´.

The sexual attraction was there almost from the start for him, but she never appeared interested.  He learned later that her dismissive attitude had a lot to do with being a female in a predominately male field, on top of being one of the younger agents on the team of five.  The first hint he had that she was interested in anything except beating his ass into the ground was a month after their training operation was over, when he ran into her at the grocery store.

He hadn´t planned on starting any kind of relationship with her; he´d had far too many bad experiences with women by that point.  She turned out to be pretty suited to him though; she was just as weary of emotional entanglements as he was.  That first night they had sex, she´d kicked him out of the bed merely twenty minutes after they were done, smiling around a cigarette, and handing him his pants.  Her dismissal of him worked the opposite though, and made him almost determined to get her to succumb to his charms.
They wound up staying together for two years, and despite many fights never really had too many bad days of it.  She was the only person he´d ever divulged any of his past history to, and even then it wasn´t much. He hadn´t let himself become emotional in the telling of them, but he felt like she probably knew his vulnerabilities, despite his caution.  She had an innate ability to read his eyes and, no matter how many ways he tried to hide his true inner self from her, she rarely fell for any of them more than once.  

In 1998 he´d fucked up though.  He´d been assigned to a four-month operation in Puerto Rico, met a glorious looking woman, and slept with her on several occasions.  When he got home he´d felt guilty and, when he tried to act like nothing was wrong, she´d figured it out on her own.  The sorry part was that if he´d told her about it, they probably would have worked through it.  She had no tolerance for lies and deception though, and by the time he found out she knew, her heart was closed off to him.  That was the first time he told her he loved her, as she was throwing him out of her apartment, and she´d laughed in his face.  

He´d gone back to his pattern of fuck-‘em-and-leave-‘em more or less immediately after the breakup, and almost managed to forget what it was like to have someone to be there for him on a daily basis.  The instability of the bachelor´s life was what he was more comfortable with anyway.  Two years with her didn´t cancel out the earlier years of his adult life, and it was easy enough to convince himself he hadn´t been all that happy with Julia anyway.  At least, during the day it was easy to think that.

He dreamed of her sometimes though, much to his chagrin.  They hadn´t had the kind of whirlwind romance the movies loved to portray, but it had been a good relationship.  At night, he was forced to admit to himself that he´d probably never find someone so suited to him as her.  It was rare to find someone whose quirks worked so well with his.  Julia had known when to push him, and when to leave him alone, and she´d loved him in an almost effortless way.  That much he knew for sure, and that was probably her biggest flaw in his eyes.  

When she returned she flopped on the couch beside him, and he heard the flick of a lighter. He tilted his face to hers.  “Any chance you´ve got another one of those lying around?’

She handed him hers, and lit another for herself.  “I checked the wires, there´s no mention of you having been spotted since November 16th,’ she said.  “Even blind, you´re good.’

He nodded, inhaling deeply on the cigarette.  “Good.’  He waited for the inquisition to start, and when it didn´t he raised his eyebrows.  “Go on, I know you´re dying to.’

She laughed, blowing the smoke past his face.  “Why are you here?’

“´Cause you´re here.’

He could just picture the dubious look on her face, her eyebrows arching up almost comically.  “Am I really the only one you´ve got?’

He shrugged.  “Had Banks –- till they blew his fucking brains out.’

There was a moment of silence, and he knew she was remembering their boss, the same man that had been in charge of their operation the first time around.  “How did that happen?’ she asked quietly.

“Forget about it, Jules,’ he said, waving a dismissive hand.  “It happened.  I killed them.  It´s done.’

“You scare me, Jeff,’ she said quietly.  “You´re different.’

He shook his head.  “No, I´m the same.  It was when I was with you that I was different.’

“Well then I preferred you that way, because this guy´s for shit,’ she said, a smile in her voice despite the harsh words.  “And that´s a lie anyway.  Don´t forget I knew you before then too. You´re colder now then you were even then.’

He waved his cigarette around, and waited for her to provide him with an ashtray, tapping the ashes off before returning it to his mouth.  “What the fuck did you expect?  Roses?’

She laughed.  “Not from you.’

“Smart girl.’

“Hungry?’ she asked.

“I can´t stay here,’ he said in lieu of an answer.  “I wasn´t even going to stay this long, but the mental pictures of you all pink and wet in the shower were so damn nice.’


He laughed, shrugging as if to say ‘what else is new?´  “Can I help it if it still affects me when I think of how you looked--’

“Alright, enough,’ she said, laughing again.  “Why are you here?’

“I need you to find someone for me.’

She was nodding, he was almost sure of it. “Who?’

He took a final drag from his cigarette, then snuffed it out in the ashtray and pushed it away.  “A man that can help me reinvent myself.’

“Let me help you,’ she said.

“You are helping me, Jules,’ he said softly, smiling.

“Bullshit,’ she spat out, her voice quiet but cutting.  “I´m CIA, I know how to hide people; it´s what I do.  Let me hide you, Jeff.’

“No,’ he said with a quick shake of the head.  “Just help me find this man.’

“You don´t trust me,’ she said with wonder, and not just a little bit of hurt.  “That´s what this is.  You don´t trust me.’

He laughed at that.  “I trust no one.  If I could trust, though, you´d probably be on that list.’


“Yes, probably.  The fact of the matter is I can´t allow myself to trust anyone, not at a time like this.  You´re CIA, and right now I´m enemy number one in the CIA.  It´s not safe for me to trust you, and it´s not safe for you to be trusted by me.  If you hide me, you know where I am, and they´d come for you.’

“No they wouldn´t,’ she insisted.  “We haven´t seen each other in years, they´d have no reason to…’

“You think the CIA didn´t know we were involved Jules?’

“Then they also know why we ceased to be involved,’ she said through gritted teeth.  “For all they know I hate you.’

“And for that matter, that´s all I know.’

“Fuck you Jeff.’

“Just look him up, Jules… please?  This is for the protection of both of us.’

“Fine,’ she said, the hurt still present but overshadowed by annoyance.  “What´s his name?’

He smiled at her, reaching over the table to grab her hands in his, bringing them to his lips and kissing them.  “Thanks, Querida.’

“The name,’ she asked, her voice turning professional.

“Jorge Ramirez, retired FBI agent.’

“FBI,’ she snorted.  “Me you won´t trust, but the fucking FBI you will?’

“I know things,’ he said quietly.  “I know things that he wouldn´t want others, especially the FBI, to know about.’

“Ah,’ she said.  “Bribery.´

“What else, Babycakes?’ he asked, his smile broadening.


The familiar three sharp knocks followed by a palm slapping the door let him know it was Julia at his hotel room, but he still leveled the gun at her as he swung open the door.  “Are you alone?’

He heard her sharp intake of breath, and imagined the shock on her face.  It almost made him smile.  “Yes.’

“Were you followed?’

“No,’ she said, the shock wearing off and her temper flaring.

“Did you tell anyone?’ he said, his grip on the trigger lightening slightly but not disengaging completely.

“For fuck´s sake, Jeff, will you stop pointing that thing at me?  I´m alone, I wasn´t followed, and I told no one.  You´re safe.’

Lowering the gun to the holster on his hip he nodded and opened the door fully. Then he closed it behind her.  He walked away from the door and back to his bed, flopped on his back, and propped his head up in his arms.  “Just checking.’

“Asshole,’ she grumbled, crossing the room and sitting on the bed opposite his.

“No such thing as too careful, dollface,’ he said, smiling.

“You sure this is the guy you want, Jeff?’ she asked.  “He was a little too easy to find.’

“12 hours and she´s already found him,’ he said, raising an eyebrow.  “So I was right about Texas?’

“Right down to San Antonio,’ she said.  “Unlisted, but easy enough for a cunning gal like me.’

“Always were cunning, darling,’ he said with a smirk.  “Unfortunately, cunning only gets me so far when all I can manage is to call 411.’

“Speaking of,’ she said. There was the sound of papers rustling around, and then an odd plastic on plastic clicking rang in his ears.  “I got you a present.’

“For me?’ he said, sitting up.  A lightweight notebook computer was placed in his outstretched hand and he frowned.  “What am I--’

“It talks,’ she said, cutting him off.  “I got you headphones, and I´ll show you how to use it, but it´s pretty user friendly.  Hook a cell phone up to it, and you can even use the internet.’

“Ah,’ he said, a smile spreading.  “Technology is a wonderful thing.’

“Also,’ she said, grabbing his hand and placing something around his wrist.  “A watch.  Press the button on the bottom left, and it tells you what time it is.’

He laughed lightly, running his fingers over the cool metal on his wrist.  “You´re too good to me.’

“I know.’

“I would have gotten around to getting these for myself eventually, but I was more concerned with making it out alive first,’ he said, settling back on the bed.  “How much do I owe you?’

“Consider it your birthday and Christmas presents for the past five years,’ she said, sliding up on the bed to settle in next to him.

He shifted his head to the right and kissed her hairline, breathing in her Pantene scented hair.  “Thank you,’ he said softly.  “And Jules?  I do trust you.’

She sighed, running her hand up his arm, and leaning her head against his shoulder.  “I know.  I overreacted earlier.  I´ve just been worried about you.’

He felt something very akin to regret start to wash over him, and stood quickly, clearing his throat.  “You want a drink?’ he asked, walking over to the refrigerator.  “I´ve got… well, I´m not even sure.’  He laughed, picking up the first bottle and opening it he sniffed.  “Smells like JD, I believe.  Plus, it´s square.’

He was startled when the bottle was taken out of his hand. He heard it being set back in the fridge, and moved as she closed the door.  He felt her hands come up to rest on his hips, and heard her take a deep breath.  When her lips touched his, he was surprised even though he´d suspected it was coming.  “What are you doing?’ he whispered, his hand coming up to lace though her blonde hair.  It was still long, to the middle of her back, which was the same length he´d always loved on her.

Instead of an answer she kissed him again, and this time he kissed her back, one arm snaking around her waist and pulling her closer to him.  She tasted the same as he remembered; coffee and cigarettes and maybe a hint of peppermint.  She´d gained a few pounds over the past five years, probably about one for each, but he expected they fit her.  She´d always been a little on the thin side.  He dropped his hand from her hair and down her side, his thumb grazing over her breast, and had to swallow past the panic he felt building in his throat.

“We have to stop,’ he said, pulling his head back and resting his forehead to hers.

“Why?’ she asked, running her hands up his chest over what he thought was his white ‘ass or grass´ T-shirt.  There was a tear in the tail of the shirt, which had always bothered him until now.  

“I´m leaving tonight, Jules,’ he said, breathing out slowly through his nose and, determinedly stepping back from her.  “We can´t start—“

“I always thought we´d have a second chance,’ she said softly.  Her voice had an odd twinge to it, the way it did when she was holding back tears, and it made him want to hit his head against the wall until it cracked.  “But when you leave, Jeff… I´m never going to see you again, am I?’

He shook his head no, chewing on his lip.  “You should probably go.’

She sighed, and he heard the shuffle of her feet on the carpet, and the creak of the bed as she sat back down on it.  “Never thought you´d be the type to pass up free sex.’

He laughed, shrugging.  “Learned my lesson on that one, maybe.’

She snorted.  “Doubt it.’

“Temporarily anyway,’ he said, cautiously stepping back over to the bed, placing a hand on her shoulder to guide himself to sit next to her.  “It´s not that I don´t want to…’

“No,’ she said with another sigh, lying back on the bed behind him.  “You´re right.’

“Unfortunately,’ he mumbled to himself.

“So was it Ajedrez that taught you the lesson,’ she asked quietly.

“Jules, don´t do that.’

She laughed.  “Do what?’

“Ask about women I´ve slept with, that´s about rule number one about ex-lovers.  Don´t discuss other conquests.’

She grabbed the back of his shirt, and pulled him down next to her, resting her head against his.  “She was too pretty,’ she started.  “Women that pretty are always dangerous.  They make you start thinkin´ with the dumb stick.’

He laughed, shaking his head.  “You´re that pretty.’

She laughed, swatting at him.  “You lost your chance to fuck me tonight, Sands,’ she said.  “And that´s not true.’

“You were to me anyway,’ he said, actually meaning it.

“My purse, the side pocket, there´s a computerized address book.  Ramirez´s number and address is in it,’ she said, dismissing him with her usual ease.

Sitting up he reached over to the end of the bed, fingers scrappling about until he brushed one of the straps of her purse.  Pulling it up, he dug in the side pocket until his fingers closed around a small rectangle keypad.  He pressed a button and heard a metallic sounding voice telling him to enter his password.  “What´s my password?’

“Fuckmook,’ she said, the hint of a smile in her voice.  “Your favorite curse word, at least in ´98 it was.  The letters are the same as a computer keypad – and my number is in there too.  Just in case.’

“Thanks, Jules,’ he said, leaning forward and kissing her forehead quickly before lying back down and pulling her to his side.  “I wish--’

She laughed, her hand resting lightly on his chest.  “Don´t,’ she said softly.  “That´s not your style.’

“You´re right, it´s not,’ he said, folding his hands on his chest and closing his eyelids.  “In lieu of that, how about you tell me about this computer you´ve bought me.’

October 2004

“Ya know, Nancy, I really am surprised your husband approves of you coming over here all by your lonesome,’ he said, stepping back to let her enter his house.

She laughed, walking towards his kitchen.  “Why´s that?’

“I´m a handsome man, sugar,’ he said, jumping up onto the barstool at he counter.  “Intriguing, even you said it.’

She let her eyes travel the length of his body and laughed at the broadening of his smile.  “I´m not denying that.’

He nodded.  “Never have been a liar, Nance,’ he said.  “Good of you to keep that habit up.’

“Oh, now you don´t know that,’ she said, setting the casserole dish down on his counter and playing with the ends of the saran wrap.  “Maybe I´m just a good liar.’

“Nah,’ he said, lifting his hand and feeling on the counter to touch the casserole dish.  “Did you bring me a treat?’

She nodded and laughed at her own stupidity.  “Yes,’ she said.  “The chicken curry you smelled earlier.’

“Ah,’ he said, bringing his hands up and rubbing them together.  “Indian cuisine.’

“Did you want some now, or do you want me to put it in your fridge,’ she asked.

“I´ll have some in a minute,’ he said, reaching over to where her hand lay and tapping her wrist.  “Cigarette?’

She laughed, flopping a pack of Marlboro Lights on his counter.  “Keep them, they´re yours.’

He picked up the pack, twacking it soundly against the heel of his hand.  “You´re really too sweet to me, you know that,’ he said.  “I might just have to repay you one of these days.’

“Yeah,’ she said.  She turned around and walked over to his sink, wrinkling her nose at the dirty dishes piling up in it.  “Do you not know how to wash dishes, or is it just that you find some kind of comfort in rotting animal flesh?’

He laughed.  “I´m not *that* sadistic,’ he said.  “But I figure, they give you a whole set for a reason.  And I´m only one person.’

She reached over and turned on the water.  “So you just let it pile up until they´re all used,’ she asked.  “That´s disgusting.’  She looked over to see him frowning, a lighter lifted to light his cigarette but unlit.  “What?’

“Are you doing my dishes,’ he asked, his voice soft and as close to shock as she´d ever heard it.

“Yeah,’ she said, picking up the dial soap and slopping it over the plates before picking up the scrub brush.  She looked over at him and saw him finally spark the lighter to life and light his cigarette.  “It´s called doing a favor, Bobby.’

“I´m not used to favors,’ he said quietly with a shrug.  “Usually means someone wants something in return.’

“I give you cigarettes for free, and you´re fine with it.  I come over here and bring you dinner atleast once a week, and you´re fine.  I do your dishes and you´re not?’

He smiled and ducked his head and she found herself smiling at how young and innocent that made him look.  “I don´t know,’ he said.  “That´s just so… domesticated.’

“I´m a housewife,’ she said, turning her gaze back to his dishes and picking one up to scrub.  “It´s what the title calls for.’

He snorted.  “You´re not *my* housewife,’ he said.  “You´re Gary´s.’

“Our dishes are done,’ she said.  “And Gary´s watching football, which I find interminably fucking boring.  I brought you leftovers, and now I´m doing your dishes.’  She shrugged.  “Shut up about it.’

“Well yes ma´am,’ he said, laughing and grinning.  

She was halfway done when she was startled to feel the warmth of his body behind her, causing her to splash water over the side of the counter.  She felt his hand rest on her waist and his lips rest on the side of her neck briefly.  

“What the hell…’

“Thanks, Nancy,’ he said softly, swatting her soundly on the butt before picking up a dish from the sink.  “This one of the clean ones?’

She breathed deeply through her nose and resisted the urge to spray him with the maneuverable water nozzle.  “Yeah.’

His grin widened.  “Then I do believe it´s Chicken Curry time.’

Part 3 : Breaking Bread
January 2004

There was a steady clip-clop of feet and a jaunty whistle that cut off abruptly when it rounded the corner to where Sands stood leaning against the wall.  A muttered ‘puta madre´ was uttered followed by a backtracking of steps.  “What the fuck are you doing here?’

“Now is that any kind of way to greet an old friend,’ he said, his smile as lazy as his position against the wall.  “Having a good day?’

“I was.’

“I hope the past tense isn´t because of me,’ Sands said, placing a hand to his heart.  “I come in peace.’

“What the fuck are you doing here,’ the older man repeated.

Sands´ grin widened and he held up a finger.  “So, Jorge, the way I figure it is you got your guy-- which is partly my doing, by the way-- and since that´s the reason you went to Mexico anyway, you´ve come back home to the place of ‘Remember the Alamo´ t-shirts and Rangers baseball… am I right?  That is the reason why you went there, isn´t it?

He heard Jorge clear his throat and wondered just how long it was going to take this man to recover from his shock.  “I heard you were on the lam from the CIA.’

“We´re not talking about that just yet, Jorge,’ Sands said in a tisk-tisk tone of voice.  “I asked you a question.  I mean, you said you moved to Mexico to relax, some retirement time in the homeland.  As luck would have it, it just happened to be in the same territory Barillo operated in, didn´t it?  And it would be a funny ol´ world if that was just coincidence in my book.’

“I didn´t plan it,’ Jorge said, his voice still hedging.

“Sure, sure,’ Sands said, nodding, hooking his thumbs through is belt loops.  “See, you probably got there-- probably not that town, but one near it maybe— and heard Barillo was operating out of Culiacan and said, hey, while I´m here.  Might as well, right?’

“How did you find me,’ Jorge growled, his hand grabbing Sands´ shoulder and pushing him to the side, the jangling of keys in a lock ringing into the tension filled air.

“Your landlady is a lovely old woman,’ Sands said, his tone still conversational; a stark contrast to Jorge´s rigid and angered one.  “Saw me fiddling around, feeling on all the doors for their numbers, and offered to help me find number 20.  A peach of a lady, really.’

The door opened and Sands stepped in just before Jorge had enough time to shut the door in his face.  “No,’ Jorge said, sighing defeatedly and shutting the door, locking at least three locks before continuing.  “How did you *find* me?’

“Oh, you mean in good ol´ San An-tone?’

“Yes,’ came the hissed answer.

“I have my ways, friend,’ Sands said, waving his cane idly around.  “You have chairs in here?  My poor dogs are barkin´.’

“There´s a hotel down the road, I´m sure they have extremely comfortable chairs.’

“Thanks for the suggestion,’ Sands said, smiling as his cane hit wood.  Stepping forward he grabbed the back of a chair and pulled it out.  “This´ll do for now, though.’

He heard Jorge mutter a curse again and a rifling sound of papers and cabinets being slammed.  “Are you thirsty,’ Jorge asked, clearly a man of manners despite his reticence to be talking to a CIA agent on the run; least of all Sheldon Jeffrey Sands.

“Oh, you´re so sweet,’ Sands said.  “Parched actually.’

The sticky creak of an old refrigerator door opening was followed by two glass bottles clinking together.  One of the bottles was set on the table in front of him and he reached out and twisted the cap off with the tail of his shirt.  “Ah, Corona,’ Sands said after the first sip.  “Shit of a beer really, but I think I rather developed the palette for it in Mexico.’

“I heard you lost your eyes that day,’ Jorge said, pulling out a chair and dumping its contents onto the tabletop before sitting down.  “Explains the curse I received for saying ‘see you around´.’

“Oh, you didn´t know that,’ Sands asked, taking down half the remainder of the beer in the next sip.  “I thought you were being facetious.’

“As despicable as you are, I wouldn´t have wished that on you.’

“No,’ Sands chided, laughing.  “Just my death.’

Jorge huffed out an amused snort of air.  “Can´t say you wouldn´t have deserved it.  You did a lot of back stabbing that day.’

“Not just that day,’ Sands said, holding up a finger.  “Give credit where credit is due, Jorge.  I stabbed many a people´s backs for quite the few years before I got my eyes gouged out.  As far as percentages go, I´m still in the green.’

“Depending on how you look at it.’

Sands nodded.  “But doesn´t everything depend on how one looks at it?’

Jorge heaved a labored sigh again and shifted a few papers on the table.  A classic sign of discomfort, Sands noted.  “What are you doing here, Sands?’

“We´ll get to that,’ he said, leaning forward and propping his elbows on the table.  “What I´d like to know is why you came back here?  Why not stay in Mexico?’

“No point,’ Jorge said, his tone still guarded.  “My family was back here, and you weren´t entirely wrong that Barillo was a deciding factor for my location in Mexico.  With him dead--’

“Ah,’ Sands said, his grin widening.  “So I *was* right.’

“Subconsciously, yes, I must have picked the region I did because of Barillo.’

“Isn´t the subconscious a bitch,’ Sands said, shaking his head ruefully.  “I prefer to operate on the conscious level.  Bullhockey to the sublevels, deal me straight, know what I´m saying?’

“You are a strange little man, Sands,’ Jorge said, his tone just vaguely amused.

“What was it, the bullhockey,’ Sands asked, raising an eyebrow.  “I am fond of the less oft used words.’

There was a pause and the creak of Jorge´s chair as he leaned back in it.  “Are we done with the bullshit pleasantries,’ he asked finally.

Sands laughed, setting his now empty beer bottle down on the table and scooting his chair in.  “I need something from you.’

Jorge laughed at that; a short snort of a laugh.  “A favor?’

“If you´d rather call it that,’ Sands said.  “I´d call it calling in an I-owe-you.’

Jorge laughed again quietly.  “I owe you nothing.’

“I handed Barillo to you on a silver platter,’ Sands said.  “Without me, the bastard would still be tuggin´ on your short-n-curlies till the day he finally drove you insane.’

“I owe you nothing,’ Jorge repeated, his voice leaving no room for argument.

This was Sands though, and Sands would argue with a brick wall if he felt it could serve him.  “Then we´ll call it a ‘you´ll do this for me if you know what´s good for you´ sort of situation.’

Jorge sighed, the kind of labored sigh you give when you see no way out of a no-win situation.  Sands had heard that sigh from too many people to count, and it was something he´d grown to enjoy.  “Just what power do you think you have over me?’

“I´m sure the FBI would be very interested to know it was one of their own that killed Barillo in Mexico.  They seem to be under the impression it just happened in the mayhem of the Day of the Dead fiasco.  Imagine how surprised they´ll be.’  The pregnant pause told Sands he´d hit his mark with the man.  “´Course, there´s no reason for them to know that, is there Jorge?’

“I was retired by that--’

“Oh, do you really think that´ll matter to them,’ Sands asked with a grin.  “The government doesn´t like for their people to go off their map, my friend.  Heck, they´ve even tried to kill me, and I was operating out of their handbook.’

There was a pause and the tapping of fingers before Jorge finally spoke again.  “What do you want?’

“Want?  Oh, a nice Tequila.  Perhaps a massage, my bones seem to be creaking almost these days.  I could go for a nice Seniorita as well, but that´s just extra.  A good bed.  Motels don´t have quality ones, it seems.  Lumpy, you wake up with cricks in your neck.’

“From me,’ Jorge clarified.  “What do you want from me?’

“Ah,’ Sands said, nodding his head.  “From you, what I need is a new identity.’

“I don´t know what I could do for you there,’ Jorge said.

“You´re FBI, man,’ Sands said.  “You do this stuff.’

“Ex-FBI,’ Jorge said, his voice hardening again.  “Retired.’

“As I said back in Mexico, Jorge, no one is ever truly retired.’

“I can´t promise you I´d be able to get it,’ Jorge said, his voice halting as he thought.  “What do you need?’

“Well, I don´t need a passport,’ Sands said, laughing.  “People seem to be under the impression all they need is a passport to get out of this country, but you and I know better, don´t we?  They´d see me comin´ a mile away.’

“So then just an ID,’ Jorge asked, his voice bewildered.

“Basically.  Also, though, a birth certificate.  A bank account.  Credit cards.  A history for the computers.’

Jorge laughed.  “You expect me to get you the whole treatment?’

Sands nodded, smiling and reaching into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes.  “Don´t bother with the ashtray, I´ll just use my empty bottle,’ he said, lighting it.

“I´d prefer it if you didn´t smoke in my house,’ Jorge said, his tone showing that he already knew his wishes were of no concern to Sands.

“I´d prefer it if I had my eyes back, but them´s the breaks, pal,’ Sands said with another quick smile.  “Also, do you have extra blankets and pillows?

Another pause.  “I do.  Why?’

“Great,’ Sands said.  “Because I´m going to stay here while you get my new identity together.’

Jorge laughed.  “You don´t seriously think I´d allow you to stay with me, do you?’

Sands nodded.  “I´m running low on cash, Jorge,’ he said in a voice that called for pity.  “I can´t access my bank accounts, not even the ones not controlled by the CIA, until I´ve disappeared a little better than I have now.  Plus, I´m tired of those lumpy Motel 6 beds.’

“I don´t have the room,’ Jorge said, almost as if he´d already given up hope of dissuading Sands.  “I´ve only got one bed--’

“Oh, that´s so kind of you,’ Sands said, taking a deep drag from his cigarette.  “I´d be willing to share your bed with you if that´s what you´d prefer, but I was only asking for the couch.’

The silence that ensued stretched until Sands´ cigarette was almost done.  “The couch will have to do,’ Jorge said, the pathetic tone of his voice almost making Sands feel sorry for him.  



The sound of a quiet clattering in the kitchen wakes him up, and pressing the button on his watch tells him it´s only 8am.  He swore to himself and sat up, wishing he could glare at Jorge.  “What the fuck are you doing up at 8am on a Sunday?’

“It´s Monday,’ Jorge´s said from the vicinity of the kitchen, and Sands could swear there´s amusement sprinkled somewhere in there.  “And I apparently have some errands to do today— for you, actually.  Unless you´d rather I wait--’

“No, no,’ Sands said, sinking back on the couch and covering his face with a pillow.  “Just… be fucking quiet!’

The pillow was lifted from his head a few minutes later and Sands affected the most agitated scowl he could before Jorge said anything.  “There is food in the fridge,’ Jorge said, the amusement unmistakable this time.  “The square container is Spaghetti.  Homemade.’

“Well aren´t you just Sara fucking Lee,’ Sands growled.  “Can I go back to sleep now?’

“As you wish,’ Jorge´s voice floats back at him from a distance, followed by the shutting of a door.  

He tried to fall back asleep, but his brain was already in operation mode now and it was pointless.  He sat up and angrily kicked the blanket Jorge must have thrown over his body in the middle of the night and planted his feet squarely on the ground.  Mumbling to himself he reached in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes and belatedly realized he should have had Jorge pick him up another pack.

Lighting one of the three he had left, he stood up and fumbled his way over to where Jorge told him the remote was last night and picked it up.  He´d never been the television watching type, but it was Monday morning and he had no eyes, so what the fuck?  He skimmed around until he heard actual voices instead of the screechings of mind-numbing cartoons and listened for only a second before shutting off the TV again.

He opened his notebook computer and tried to find something to do on it, but all he wound up doing was typing gibberish on a blank page of what he thought was Microsoft Word.  When he had the computer read it back to him every other word was fuck and a computer just doesn´t put the right connotation on the kinds of sentiments he was trying to convey in it.  He wound up turning back on the TV and leaving it on the first channel that didn´t make his teeth grind.

He found Telemundo around the time that one of it´s myriad of soaps came on and let it stay there just for nostalgia´s sake.  Ajedrez had been a fan of Spanish soap operas, which would be a conundrum if the joy she derived from them had been anything other than the pure idiocy of it.  She used to lay with her torso over his legs when his ear was attached to a cell phone and cackle at the melodrama unfolding before her eyes.  

The women always cheated, and the men always cried, and she used to tell him that this was what reality television really was.  Men, she said, have always been and always will be the weaker sex.  Sure the women make more of a show out of it, but they´re the ones at the end of the day to pull the shit together.  He´d agreed with her, because she was naked and a tiger in the sack, but also because it gave him less of a headache to agree than to argue with someone as single minded as her.

When he felt the anger boiling to a melting point he changed the channel and lit another cigarette.  It´s not that he had trusted her, it´s that he had thought he´d given her enough promises of a brighter future for her to at least wait until after they´d collected their treasure before stabbing him in the back.  Or the eyes, as it wound up being.

He found it didn´t take long to become a couch potato when one didn´t have his sight.  The drone of the voices lulled him into a nap around midmorning, and he woke only long enough to retrieve the spaghetti from the fridge to eat for lunch at 1.  He fell asleep again after General Hospital went off, and didn´t wake until he heard the jangling of keys in the door.

“You know something, Jorge,’ he said as Jorge entered the den.  “Reality TV makes much more sense blind.  The insanity fits then.  Par for the course.’

“Your ID will be ready tomorrow,’ Jorge said, walking closer to him in the den.  “The history and the bank account will take a week.  The credit cards are up to you.’

“No, no,’ Sand said, shaking his head.  “That won´t do.  Credit cards by normal process take up to a month.  I need one now.’

The couch shifted as Jorge sat next to him.  “That´s not my problem.’

“It actually is,’ Sands said, turning his face towards him and staring at him with unseeing eyes.  “Remember?’

Jorge sighed and sank back into the couch.  “Would it have killed you to put the empty spaghetti container in the sink?’

“Yes,’ Sands said, nodding his head.  “It would have killed me.  Literally.’

With a groan the older man stood, picking up the container and bringing it into the kitchen.  The water ran for a few moments before Sands heard the clanging of pots and pans and decided to follow him in there.  He only banged his shin once on the way, on the doorjamb, and kept the stuttered fuck confined to the whisper level.  

“Whatcha makin´,’ he said, leaning against the doorjamb.

“Empanadas,’ Jorge said softly, and Sands could already smell the browning onions and garlic.  “Do you like Empanadas?’

“Fine by me,’ he said, shrugging.  “Beggars can´t be choosers, right?’

Jorge laughed.  “I think perhaps that saying doesn´t apply to you.’

Sands found himself laughing at that, surprised to be actually amused.  “Not really, no.’  He stepped forward, sitting at the table.  “I actually do like Empanadas though.’

“What did you do all day,’ Jorge asked, the scraping of the spatula on the pot making Sands´ mouth water.  He hadn´t realized he was hungry again until just now.

“Oh ya know, rifled through your drawers, found all your guns.  Jerked off in your shower.’

He expected Jorge to be aghast but all he got was a slight chuckle.  “Watched TV, huh?’

“Yeah,’ Sands said, disturbed by the slightly defeated tone his voice had taken on.  Clearing his throat he pursed his lips together.  “You ought to think of investing in digital cable, friend.  57 channels and nothin´ on.’

“More like 97 channels,’ Jorge said, the sizzling just beginning on the stove.  “And I have no need for digital cable.’

“But that´s where all the porn is,’ Sands said.  “A lonely man like yourself needs to have porn at his beck and call.’

Jorge laughed again.  “I have no need for porn.’

Sands snorted.  “Every man has a need for porn, Jorge.’

Jorge was silent for a moment and Sands smiled victoriously to himself.  “There is the video store, Sands,’ he said quietly, the smile just hinted at in his tone.  “And a VCR.’

“Well all right, Jorge,’ Sands said, his smile widening.  “Perhaps he´s not the prude I thought he might be!’

“Perhaps not.’

“And hey,’ Sands said, spreading his hand and grinning in Jorge´s general direction.  “Maybe we´ll rent us a few ass-flicks and have us a circle jerk while I´m in town.’

Jorge made a snorting sound and Sands found he was liking the sense of humor Ramirez had.  “Though, perhaps I am the prude you thought I was.’

“Pity,’ Sands said, drumming his fingers on the table top.  “So what´s the story on my ID and history?  I was still shaking the cobwebs from my head when you told me.’

“They will take a week,’ Jorge repeated as the sizzling faded as he picked up the pot of steaming stuffer.  “I don´t know what I can do about the credit card, except perhaps to get you one of the prepaid ones at Walmart.  As you said, those take up to a month to acquire otherwise.’

“There´s no way you can get one from your cronies?’

“I´m operating as an ex-agent,’ he said, his tone almost regretful.  “There´s only so much I can do without bringing undo attention to myself.’

Sands sighed, drumming his fingers on the table again as he thought.  “I suppose that´ll have to do,’ he said.  

There was a creak and then a metallic scraping and then the creak again.  He heard the refrigerator door open once again and was surprised to have a cold beer pressed into his hand.  “Corona,’ Jorge said, taking a seat beside Sands.  “So, Sands, tell me.  Bullshit posturing aside, why am I helping you?’

Sands opened the beer with his shirt tail and frowned.  “It´s called bribery, Jorge--’

“I am not doing this out of bribery,’ Jorge said, that smile back in his voice.  “The things you think you have to hold over my head are not enough to sink me.  Tell me why I´m helping you.  Why I, Jorge Ramirez, should help you, Sheldon Jeffrey Sands.’

Sands´ mouth lifted slightly into a half smirk.  “Been doing your research, have you?’

“I have,’ Jorge said.  “Tell me.’

“Because I will die if you don´t,’ Sands said bluntly with the slightest shrug of his shoulders.  “Because if you don´t, I don´t have much of a hope for surviving more than maybe a few more months.’

He heard Jorge grunt, and imagined him nodding his head.  “And why does your life mean anything to me,’ he asked finally.  “Why did you pick me?’

“Because you´re a decent man, Jorge,’ Sands said softly, chewing on his lip.  “Because I knew that whether you liked me or not, you would not send me to my grave.’

“Okay,’ Jorge said, resting a hand on Sands´ shoulder as he stood.  “But don´t threaten me again, and do not bullshit me.’

“Yes sir,’ Sands said, smirking.  “No bullshit.’

All feedback much appreciated!
Read Comments - Post Comment