Just then, the money Morgan needs comes through the front door in the care of a 12-year-old boy wearing shorts, a Space Invaders T-shirt, and basketball shoes. His name is Pedro, and he is carrying a large black leather satchel. His uncle is with him. He has the characteristics of a killer. Emotionally he is on a knife’s edge of losing it. One of his eyes is twitching and the way he is jerking about screams that he is high and dangerous. The man is short, just over five-foot, and slim, which normally is not threatening. What is menacing is the pistol on his hip and the way his hand lingers close to it. As our eyes meet, his fingers brush against the gun. My gaze slides to the boy who is looking at his uncle with sincere devotion. Pedro wants to be a killer just like his wacko uncle.
Pedro is apparently of an age for learning the family trade. Setting his satchel down on the table he reaches greedily inside, takes out two black leather cases, and opens one. It is startling to see the boy abruptly handling a black automatic pistol. He hands it to Max, who drops out the magazine, checks the chamber by pulling back the slide then releases it and jams the magazine back into the pistol.
Max passes the pistol back to Pedro—the gun looks ugly in his small hands. Unexpectedly, he glares at me. Hostility leaps from those young eyes with such ferocity that the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stands on end.
Max has not missed the boy’s look, “Go ahead, Pedro, give it to him.” I look from Max back to Pedro—the gun is now pointing at my head—the barrel and Pedro’s eyes are huge.
I reach out to slap the barrel down, but not before, I hear the pistol’s hammer fall on an empty chamber. My eyes flick from the gun to the boy. He is surprised that the piece did not fire. Our eyes lock. Abruptly, he surrenders a grim smile. Pedro is embarrassed. He shrugs his shoulders as if it is all just a joke, but I know what just happened. It was a test for Pedro and a warning to me. He thought his gun was loaded—so did I, but the chamber was empty.
Pedro glances at Max, who is glaring at him. Instant fear flashes from Pedro’s eyes, but then Max laughs boisterously and, leans forward to ruffle the boy’s hair. Max cuts his eyes back to me, “This is one tough hombre.”
The praise dissipates the child’s fear. Pedro beams at the compliment as he looks to his uncle, who has moved. Rafa is now silently standing behind me—the pistol hangs casually in his hand, alongside the trigger his finger twitches.
I have heard of a twitchy trigger finger, to see one over your shoulder is unnerving as death brushes up against me.
I hear Scar Face snicker and know that other guns are eagerly ready. I am in a pack of predators that have brought live prey to their den for an adolescent killer’s playtime.
Pedro’s head swivels back to me, his young eyes cold and hard. He remembers that I am not family—I am game. Inside Pedro, there may be a lingering hint of the child, but that boy’s childhood is corrupted and all but gone. The toughened Pedro again sees himself as the predator.
Max claps his hands ending the tense moment. “Pedro,” he orders, “give Steve what you really brought him.”
The young outlaw reaches into the satchel and takes out a thick bundle of used bills. He can barely grip it with his child’s hand. He tosses the money onto the table as if it is nothing. He returns his attention to the pistol. Lost in a fantasy of bullets, the boy spins in his chair and puts an imagined burst into an enemy, “Burp, burp.” Pedro’s upper torso shakes as he imitates the shudder of the gun on full auto.
Our business finished, Max escorts me to the front door. Placing his hand on my back in a friendly way that is very intimidating, he says, “I can tell that Rafa likes you. Believe me that is a splendid thing. He appreciates your helping with his nephew and not getting overly excited about his little jest.”
I feel my knees go weak, Rafa? The little man standing behind me on a knife’s edge of putting a bullet in my head was Pablo Escobar’s #1 hit man! Killing is his macho moment. I could be in a body bag heading for a hole in the ground.
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