The sun was going down.

At least, the man called Sands was pretty sure it was. Leaning heavily against the stucco wall of a building, he gingerly probed the bullet wound in his bicep with a gloved finger.

It's difficult to examine one's injuries when you've got no eyes.

Cursing under the cover of his shallow, fast breathing, he rocked his head back against the wall. For the first time in a very long while, the anger against the world that had burned like a white hot flame in his heart was absent. His life was nearly over, and he knew it. He didn't know whether a bullet out of the gathering darkness would end it quickly, mercifully, or whether he would bleed slowly to death in this dusty, deserted street.


The thought of the word brought the slightest of bitter smiles to his lips. No mercy for the wicked. Even less for the innocent. That was the way the world worked, he knew. Maybe, if he was lucky, a survivor from Barillo's cartel, or Marquez's army, or even someone who had fought for El Presidente might find him before too long. If he was really lucky, there'd be a bullet in his skull before the night was out.

He slid partway down the wall, trying to sit, but pain from the gunshot wound in his leg made him nearly black out. Slowly, agonizing inch by agonizing inch, he eased back into his former leaning/standing position. Silently, he prayed for the killer he knew should be coming for him. The pain was unendurable.


Agent Sands of the CIA was not a religious man. In fact, he was a cold-blooded murderer, adulterer, liar, and manipulator. But at that very moment, he sincerely believed his prayers had been answered. He heard the click of a gun's safety being released, loud in the silent street.

"Aren't you going to run, Senor?" asked a throaty female voice with an elegant Mexican accent.

"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not," he retorted. "I'd hate to run the risk of you missing what you shot at. Neither of us would want that."

"You are so sure of what I want, then?" the woman asked. Her voice sounded closer, but he hadn't heard her move.

"Fairly," he replied. "I shot you. I'm reasonably certain they could repaint that entire courtyard with the blood you lost, so it stands to reason you'd want revenge, if indeed, as it seems, you're still alive."

"Senor, I believe this is what Americans call a 'case of mistaken identity'. I assure you that that you have never met me, let alone attempted to kill me," the woman said with great finality.

"No?" he answered bitterly. "That's too bad. I was hoping I had, so that you might return the favor."

She laughed, and asked, "Is this how you want to die, Senor? By my hand, in an empty street, with no one to hear or care? Is your life worth so little in your sight, Senor?"

Sands sneered, and said, "Sight makes very little impression on me at the moment." He waved a hand in front of his face, taking in the dark sunglasses and the blood that still oozed down his cheeks, jaw, and neck with a sweeping gesture. Under the cover of the movement, he reached across his body with his good arm and yanked out his handgun, pointing it vaguely at the place where he thought she stood.

She laughed again- from a totally different location. He adjusted his aim as best he could. "Going to shoot me, Senor?" she asked. "How will you hit what you cannot find?" He snapped off a shot, but there was no answering scream.

Something brushed his cheek. He gasped and brought the gun to bear, but someone- the woman -snatched it from his grip and, to his great surprise, returned it to its holster at his hip. "El hombre que llora las lágrimas de sangre," she observed, stroking his face with cool, delicate fingers.

She brushed the tips of two fingers over his lips. He could taste his own blood on them. Then she pressed herself lightly against him and kissed him, almost experimentally. He neither responded nor resisted.

Drawing back, she said, "I do not know, Senor, if today is the luckiest or unluckiest day of your life, but I do know that you will live through it, and possibly even through tomorrow as well."


"Porque, posiblemente, I believe you deserve a second chance at life," she replied.

"Sure," he drawled. "More like you need me for something. I'm willing to bet I'm worth a few thousand pesos to someone or other by now- the cartels, maybe. So is the price greater for me alive than dead, or what?"

"All in good time," she said. "For now, you must trust me." She eased his uninjured arm over her shoulders and slid her arm around his waist in a rescue-carry. "Come, my home is not far from here."

"And if I refuse?" he asked.

"You're in no shape to refuse," she observed. "But if you are inclined to try, I assure you that I have ways of making you cooperate."

"Such as?"

"I suspect it would hurt a great deal to be shot... say... here," she said conversationally, and made it quite clear exactly where she meant.

Sands swallowed, and muttered, "Ok, well, I'm just going to freak right out."

"Save your strength," she advised, sounding amused, then added ominously, "You're going to need it."