Turncoat

I grimaced as I followed the young man into the palatial mansion. The man couldn’t be older than seventeen, and his scrawny frame looked barely capable of handling the scratched and battered AK-47 in his hands.

Even inside the house, with banks of air conditioners likely running at full steam, the oppressive tropical heat still left me sweating in my suit. The fabric was light, but I reached up and loosened my tie by slipping a finger in between it and my collar. My feet felt uncomfortably damp in my leather shoes.

We came around the corner, and there he was, lounging in an armchair, holding a glass of some dark liquid in one hand and smiling up at me through flat eyes. “Ah, the turncoat arrives,” he greeted me, grinning fiercely.

“Gonzo Salazar,” I replied back, giving him a professional’s nod.

Setting down his glass, Gonzo sprang up to his feet, beaming at me from beneath dark, bushy eyebrows like two caterpillars crawling across his face. “So! Let me get a look at you!” he said, stalking around me like a tiger circling a terrified rabbit.

“And of course, you didn’t think to bring any guns into my house, did you?” he asked offhandedly. “I don’t look kindly on guns, you know.”

I held open the flaps of my jacket, revealing a distinct lack of weaponry. “Doesn’t seem to bother your child soldier over there,” I said, nodding towards my armed escort.

Salazar chuckled. “I don’t look kindly on any of my men, either,” he told me. “Now, tell me, what made you come here to betray your precious American government?”

I looked back into the flat eyes, set deep into a smiling face. Keep it simple, I reminded myself. This man’s killed hundreds, maybe thousands. And I can’t expect much help out here in rural Colombia.

“I’m sick of fighting a battle I can’t win,” I tried, but Salazar just shook his head, wagging a finger at me.

“The truth,” he said lightly. His fingers twitched, and suddenly, he held a knife, the blade glinting as he spun it around. “Don’t try to lie to me, or I’ll cut off your balls and feed them to you.”

I swallowed as I watched that knife twirl through the air. “The money,” I said hoarsely. “You know shitty the CIA pay is?”

“Oh, I do indeed,” he nodded. “And you’re tired of living the lawman’s life?”

I nodded, a little easier now that I could see that he understood my intentions. “Fighting for the American Way is tough when I can’t get laid off of it, can’t retire from it, can’t have any time for me, you know?” I said, still watching that knife. I knew from my files on Salazar that he was very good with knives.

Salazar chortled. “Ah, yes. And they fight a war that they cannot hope to win, of course,” he said. “I understand that you worked for Diego, before the CIA found his facility and torched it? Eh?”

“That was in spite of my attempts to warn him,” I spoke up quickly, feeling a new burst of sweat break out beneath my cheap suit. “I told him they’d use firebombing, but he insisted that his new anti-air guns could blow the Colombian turboprop planes out of the sky.”

“And?”

I sighed. “And the CIA sent jets, just like I told him,” I finished. “Diego was an idiot.”

“Ah, finally! An American who speaks the truth!” Salazar laughed. He lowered the knife a little, leaning in towards me. “And what truths can you tell me about my facilities, then?”

I leaned in towards him as well, conspiratorially dropping my voice. “As it turns out, you’re in danger. There’s an assassin coming after you.”

“Assassin?” he scoffed. “The CIA, they do not use assassins.”

“No, they don’t,” I agreed. “But the Zaras, in Mexico? They do.”

Salazar blinked at the unexpected mention of the Zaras, and I struck.

My hand flashed out, cracking at his wrist. The knife he’d held slipped from suddenly nerveless fingers, falling into my own hand.

I spun my hand, like throwing a frisbee, and the knife buried itself to the hilt in the throat of the soldier standing a couple of paces away. He collapsed with a gurgle, the AK tumbling from his hands as he tried vainly to stop the blood spurting from his severed carotid.

Salazar recovered quickly, dancing back as he snapped his fingers. Another knife dropped out of his sleeve and into his waiting hand.

I didn’t let him bring it up to bear. I lunged towards him and hit him in the nose with my elbow.

“Aargh!” Salazar stumbled backward, his shattered ruin of a nose gushing blood. I darted back, out of range from that wildly flailing knife in his hand. “You asshole! You mother fu-”

My hand closed on the dropped AK. I pulled it up and, one handed, blew out most of the drug lord’s intestines and spine.

Grimacing, I wiped my hand off as I set the rifle back down on the ground. The thing felt positively greasy. I looked around for a minute, and then slipped my hand into my jacket pocket, digging out my phone.

“This is Castor, with the CIA,” I said, once the voice at the other end of the number I’d dialed picked up. “Salazar is gone. I need an extraction.”

“Chopper inbound,” the voice replied tonelessly. “He buy it?”

“Yeah. Nothing like a disgraced CIA agent selling his services to appeal to these guys.” I hung up and tucked the phone away, heading upstairs towards the roof of the mansion.

Up on the roof, where I had a better signal, I fished out another phone, a different one. I again hit the call button, waiting patiently as I listened for the approaching thunder of the chopper.

“Yeah, it’s done,” I said, when the connection picked up. “Assassination complete, just as you requested.”

“Covered?”

“Yeah, the CIA’s coming in to sweep it now,” I said. “It will look just like a CIA op from the beginning. No sign of the cartel’s involvement.”

“Good. Payment will be transferred.” The voice at the other end hung up.

I hefted the second phone in my hand, and then tossed it off the roof as my ears caught the whop of a helicopter’s blades. I grinned to myself as I waited.

Indeed, my words to Salazar had been true. The CIA paid shit, but the cartels offered much better compensation.

Why not have the best of both worlds?

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