Kiko looked at Luis and saw he was starting to sweat. He kept staring at him, staring hard. Luis started shaking and then right as the tension became thick enough you could cut it with a knife there is a loud bang and Luis pitches forward dead, a shotgun blast splattering his blood on the door and stoop outside the room we were in.
Kiko and I both hit the ground. I slammed my feet against the bathroom door to keep anyone from coming in behind us. Prepared for a fight we were left stuffed full of adrenaline as we hear a vehicle peel out and race away. They left half the girls behind causing Kiko to swear under his breath and shake his head. It was an hour before Kiko stopped casing the motel and surrounding area in case the gang came back for what they’d left behind.
I could see Kiko’s frustration building and stayed silent so I wouldn’t become a target. I motioned to the other girls to do the same. A couple of them were used pretty hard but they’d already been that way when the gang had found them. I kept shushing the ones that looked like they were going to create some drama and got them into a room and washed up and doctored up with some of the sheets off the beds.
Another hour later Kiko finally dragged me back to the room we’d been in and ordered, “Pack up. Strap one of the guns on. We gonna have to walk to the meet up. You keep them others quiet. They stay quiet, we stay safe. We stay safe, we’ll get out of this in one piece.”
As I did as I was told I asked, “How are we going to get to this meet up before the others?”
Apparently with the promotion I was going to get to ask questions and actually get some answers when I asked them because Kiko said, “Those idiots? They don’t know where the meet up is … at least not the real location.
“How far?” I asked as I grabbed a holster from the pile I’d taken off the men I’d killed the afternoon before. Lack of decent sleep and unspent adrenaline played with my sense of time so it seemed both longer ago and shorter than it actually was.
Kiko’s response was to ignore what I was doing but tell me, “You don’t need to know the location yet.”
“I didn’t ask for the location, I ain’t stupido. I asked how far we gotta go to get there.”
“I ain’t in the mood for no mouth Chica.”
“I ain’t giving you any,” I responded. Before he could continue growling I told him, “We got no food, only a little water, and a couple of the girls barely got clothes on and one lost a shoe someplace and can’t find it. If we’re going to be moving fast for more than a couple of hours we’re gonna lose at least two of them. Better all-around to leave them here where they can’t slow us down and they have at least half a chance.”
I got a hard glare then he said, “We make decent time we should get there about midnight. Worst case we got another 24 beyond that before we get left behind.” In irritation he finally said, “Ten, maybe fifteen miles. But it’s through the commercial district you can see on the other side of the interstate.”
I nodded then got down to the business of taking care of the job I’d been handed. I looked at Luis’ corpse paying particular attention to his feet. The shoeless girl was too small to use his boots but my shoes would work for her. I took mine off and then stripped Luis of anything useful and took what I had to the room the girls were holed up in. Once I was let in I started passing out the bounty. When a couple objected because of the blood I said, “Shut it. I left the worst for the angels to haul Luis away with. You put this on willingly or I’ll put it on you and it won’t be so nice. You keep it on too or I’ll staple it on. We don’t need a lot of skin showing to attract attention. And you, Shoeless Wonder, put these on.” I threw my shoes in her direction.
The girl whined, “They don’t fit.”
Patience hadn’t been my biggest attribute in a long time and what little I had was running out quickly then an older girl said, “I’ll deal with this lot. You deal with Kiko.”
I knew her as one of the brassier girls that had been taken by the gang before me. Normally I had nothing to do with her – she liked to see herself as a ‘tough love mother earth’ type which I didn’t need – but if she could manage the girls she’d be useful. I warned, “Kiko ain’t foolin’. If any here can’t deal with a hard hike better tell me now so I can talk him into leaving them behind. He’s got expectations.”
In a hard voice she said, “They’ll move or I’ll leave ‘em on the side of road and out of their misery myself. Just handle the man.”
I looked at her and she at me and the deal was struck. We definitely understood what was at stake. That didn’t mean that I trusted her, or she me.
“Fine. I get the feeling from what Kiko ain’t saying that we’re gonna have to cross through unfriendly territory, maybe more than one, to get where we’re going. With luck those others that did a runner will make enough noise to draw any attention there might be in a different direction and keep it that way. But I ain’t counting on it.” Sighing as I felt trouble was likely but could see no way to avoid it I added, “Big problem, we don’t have no time for scavenging. I know the girls are going to wanna but there ain’t time for it. And in this area, you see something that looks too good to be true it probably is. I’ve seen those types of traps too many times. Got blindsided by one like that when an idiot in the group I was traveling with called over a couple of more idiots and set off some kind of booby. I was just lucky the border patrol that rounded up the survivors had a medic willing to take the time to pick the shrapnel out of my back.”
“Dayum Hermana, that story is almost as good as how I got picked up. We can swap war stories later though.”
Ignoring the fact that she called me sister I asked her, “What’s your name?”
“Barbarita … but call me Barb. And you?”
Since she looked the opposite of any Barbarita I’d ever met I just nodded and answered, “Noemi … but call me Emi.”
She gave a sly smile and said, “Two of us flying under the radar. Sweat.”
She and I walked a few steps away from the other girls. I positioned myself just in case she had a shiv hidden and meant to take me out. I wasn’t trusting the friendly she was putting off. She noticed and kept her hands in sight. “What’s the game?” she asked. “Kiko need us for mules? We meeting up with the rest of his crew?”
“Don’t know nuthin’ about no other crew. Don’t care right now. Might care later if things change. I’ll keep you in the loop so’s long as you keep to your word about keeping the girls in line. We can’t afford no mutinies or stupids like we’ve had the last couple of days. Everybody needs to keep their heads or we’ll all wind up dog food … or worse.”
Slowly she gave me the once over then said, “Right. You watch our backs, we’ll watch yours.”
Refusing to be pushed into more friendly than I was willing to feel I told her, “That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”
She nodded. “Supposed to. Will on my side. Yours?”
“Yeah. What about the remaining girls? I see that trouble make Deanna left with the other group.”
“She thinks she’s going to be top *****. That chick that calls herself Marigold has a shiv with her name on it if she tries.”
“Marigold was Dern’s girl.”
“Yep … and she had ideas if you get what I’m saying.”
“Oh yeah. Anyone left have ‘ideas’?”
“These ones? Nah. They are all subs no matter how they try and play it off.”
Knowing exactly what she meant I still foresaw a potential issue. “Problem with subs is they go with whoever is paying the bills.”
“Well right now Kiko is and he ain’t skipped a payment yet. We keep it that way there ain’t a problem.” Getting serious she said, “The questionable will fall in line or I’ll take care of ‘em to save trouble we don’t need.” She left me in no doubt she would too. Good. That’s one less job I would have to do.
“Fine. Kiko will likely have me bringing up the rear. He knows where he’s going, ain’t sharing the info yet, but stragglers he ain’t gonna tolerate. For some reason he’s interested in all of us being safe and I ain’t risking him changing his mind. And word to the wise Barb, I watched him snap a big man’s neck without even trying. We’ll need to keep tight and quiet and not tweak him. He ain’t got much patience.” I shrugged refusing to put into words any more than that.
“Yeah. I got that off him too. Are you and he …”
At that moment Kiko walked over and growled, “Stop yapping. We move. Now.”