A black government-issue SUV drove down a dusty highway in New Austin. The stretch of road was in a sparsely populated area of the desert state, and the vehicle was alone on the road. At the wheel was Deputy US Marshal Keith Higgins.
The tall African-American man had been in the Marshals Service for the last 8 years. Before that, he had worked for nearly a decade as a police officer in Liberty City. A lifetime before that, he had been a full back on his college football team. Back in his college years, Higgins had designs on playing in the NLF. Unfortunately, the pro scouts didn't think he was up to the challenge of playing with the big boys. He didn't regret the path his life had taken, however. He enjoyed hunting down the worst, most dangerous criminals in the country.
Next to him sat Darryl Markham. He and Higgins had been partnered up for the last 18 months. Considering that one was a black man from New York that worked to earn everything he had and the other was a white guy from West Elizabeth who had come from a privileged family, the two got along reasonably well. They had the same taste in movies (any action movie with kick ass special effects), rooted for a few of the same sports teams, and their wives and kids got along well.
The last person in the vehicle sat in the back, and was wearing handcuffs and leg shackles. His name was Hector Maldonado. The 33 year old Mexican-American had become the Escalera Drug Cartel's representative in the United States. For the last four years, he had helped to smuggle tons of marijuana into America. He had also bribed law enforcement officers, ordered the deaths of several dozen of the cartel's enemies, and had laundered millions of dollars in dirty money. Now, he was under arrest. Two nights before, a team of DEA agents and US Marshals had stormed his mansion in Plainview and had led him out in handcuffs. This morning, he was being transported across the state to the Federal courthouse in Armadillo for his arraignment.
"What the hell is this?" Higgins asked as he looked out the windshield at a large extended cab pick-up truck blocking the road. Behind the truck, a man stood waving his hands at the SUV. Higgins slowed the vehicle, and pulled it over to the shoulder. Higgins glanced over at Markham, and Markham immediately knew what the look meant. His partner was silently saying "Watch my back." The two got out of their vehicle, and walked toward the man on the road.
The short Hispanic man smiled at the marshals. "Thank you for stopping. My truck just died on me. I have no idea what's wrong."
Higgins signed. He wasn't supposed to stop for anything, but he needed to get this truck out of the road before he could go any further.
"We're going to have to get this vehicle out of the middle of the road sir," Higgins said. "After that, I'll radio the state police to send someone who can assist you further."
"You mean you can't help me?" the man asked incredulously.
Higgins flashed the man his Marshal's star. "Sorry, sir. We're on the job right now. We can't stop for anything"
The man turned to Markham, who stood several feet behind Higgins. "Can YOU help me?"
Markham pulled out his service weapon, and pointed it at the back of Higgins' head. "Yeah, I think that can be arranged."
Higgins turned to see his partner pointing a gun at him. "Darryl, what the hell, man?"
Markham gave his friend and partner a tight smile. "Sorry, Keith. This ain't nothing personal. It's just business." Markham was the best shot in the Marshals Armadillo field office. When he pulled the trigger, there was no doubt that he would hit his target. This time was no exception. His Glock barked once, and Keith Higgins fell dead with a small bullet hole between his eyes.
Darryl Markham reached down and grabbed a set of keys off of his dead partner. He moved to the back of the SUV, and removed the handcuffs and leg shackles from Hector Maldonado. The drug lord stretched as he jumped down from the vehicle, then laughed and ran up to the man who had blocked the road with his truck.
"Thank you, brother!" he said as he embraced the shorter, younger man. He then turned to Deputy US Marshal Darryl Markham. "And thank you, friend. Your help will not be forgotten."
"You'll get the money in the account, right?" Darryl asked nervously. "Just like we agreed."
"Yes, yes," Maldonado said as he reached down toward Higgins and grabbed the dead man's firearm from its holster. "The $500,000 will be transferred to the bank in the Cayman Islands tonight, my friend."
"What are you doing?" Darryl asked as he watched Maldonado steal his partner's weapon. He brushed his hand against his own weapon, afraid that he was about to be betrayed.
"Don't worry, amigo." The other man said. "You don't expect my brother to roll out of here without a piece, do you?"
Darryl laughed. "No. No, I guess not." The three men laughed for a second. As Hector Maldonado laughed, he raised the weapon, and fired twice into Darryl Markham's chest. The deputy marshal fell to the ground.
Markham felt like he had been slammed in the chest with a sledgehammer. With blurry vision, he stared up at the men who had promised to reward him handsomely for his cooperation. They had promised a half a million dollars. Markham had it all planned out. After helping them, he would fly down to Mexico, then charter a boat to the Cayman Islands. He would have it made. He wouldn't have to put up with his wife and kids anymore, and never have to worry about working. He dreamed of spending his days in a bar sipping tropical drinks and flirting with the local women.
Instead, he was lying on the side of a desolate desert highway drowning in his own blood. He could see Hector Maldonado and his brother staring down at him.
"Why," Markham coughed. He could feel the blood flowing out of the corners of his mouth and down the side of his face.
"I couldn't let a lose end like you live," Maldonado said. Markham could barely hear the drug lord. It sounded like he was a mile away. His vision was getting blurrier, but he could see Maldonao raising Higgins' gun again. The barrel was inches from Darryl's face. Then everything went black, and Darryl Markham never saw or heard anything every again.