Sands never had to kill anyone himself; not if he didn't want to. Others would do the dirty work for him, if he set up the right players, the right pieces. No, killing was just a hobby. A habit, you might say; he liked the rush. Adrenaline was his drug of choice. He could stop any time he liked.
But knowing what made people tick, now that was his talent; he was a natural. Making them explode was his art. He loaded them like guns, aimed them at his targets, watched them go off.
It was easy, once you knew the trick: that everyone has a weakness. A blind spot. A breaking point. For El Mariachi, it was his dead wife and daughter. For Agent Ramirez, it was his dead partner. It all boiled down to love and hatred, really. Those were his favorite flaws to exploit, love and hatred and the desire for revenge. They ran the deepest and were the easiest to predict. These things made men into puppets, and Sands was the puppeteer. He pulled the strings and watched them dance.
Yes, everyone had their weakness. For some it was revenge; for others, it was pride, or greed, or fear.
For Sheldon Jeffrey Sands, CIA, that weakness was a woman.
Ajedrez had been a very big mistake. Beautiful, treacherous, ruthless. He should have known she could not be trusted; she was entirely too much like himself. But that, of course, was what had drawn him to her in the first place. The recognition, and the danger. She had filled his veins with adrenaline like a good kill, like a well-executed coup de etat. They had never told one another their first names.
She smelled like blood and gunpowder; she tasted like cinnamon and ashes.
Everyone had their moment of weakness. He had trusted her; but that moment had passed. It was her turn now, and he knew her weakness as surely as he knew his own. Arrogance. Overconfidence. She thought she had him by the short-and-curlies, thought she held all the strings. Thought he'd never put a bullet in her belly even as she kissed him.
Love. Hatred. Revenge.
You really never saw it coming, did you.
She must have been too astonished to shoot back, to finish him. He'd expected her to, almost hoped that she would. But he heard only her small gasp, and then her fall, and he knew she was dead. She was dead, and he was still alive.
I throw shapes. I set them up, I watch them fall.
His knees giving way, he collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The adrenaline ebbed, and as it did, the pain flooded through him. His thigh, his knee, his arm, his eyes. Oh my Christ, my eyes... Pain was everywhere, like air. Like darkness. He let it take him, until it was all of him. His whole world.
Everyone had their blind spot, Sands thought. Hell, as of today, he had nothing but.
He thought about dying. The Agency had left him here in the dust of Mexico to do just that, he knew. They'd cut him off already, cut their losses. No one would come for him; there was no back-up. Just himself, and his own blood mixing with the dust, and the taste of ashes.
Then, out of the darkness, faint but growing closer, came the sound of a bicycle bell.
And Sheldon Jeffrey Sands knew suddenly that today was not his day to die.