Baia del Placer Cantina
Cananea, Sonora, Mexico
November 15, 1913

The first man, wearing pilot’s leathers and little else but a union suit, nodded from his slouched pose at the table. “Phil.”

“Dean.” The second, dressed like a farmhand with a day’s sweat and a day’s stubble, drew back a splintered chair and dropped into it.

“I suppose you know that General Hill ordered me to kill you if we see you sputtering over Naco again,” Dean said. He raised a cloudy glass in a mock toast. “Those bombs you dropped didn’t kill anybody, but they scared the hell out of Hill and embarrassed him too. He’s not a man who likes to be surprised, scared, or embarrassed.”

Phil smiled. “And here I thought that was the whole point of the exercise.” The waiter shouted out his order, straight Chihuahua tequila, and he waved them over. “I offered to fly for Hill and Obregon too, you know, but they were paying by check and Huerta came through with cash. I’ve got orders to kill you too; you know Hill’s got at least one bird.”

“You mean, you lent them yours, and it came with a free pilot.” Dean sipped at his liquor, swirling it thoughtfully before swallowing. “You know, Phil, that’s an interesting proposition. How exactly does one kill someone in an airplane from another?”

Phil pulled a revolver from his waistband and thumped it onto the table. “That’s how, I’m guessing.”

“Well,” said Dean. “You could save yourself a lot of trouble right now.”

“Bah.” Phil swept up his tequila and took a drag, winching as it went down. “After all we’ve been through? From Panama through to here? Sooner or later people are going to figure out how to murder each other in those things, but I’d rather it wasn’t somebody I sort of liked that went down first.”

“Likewise,” said Dean. He pulled a hand out from under the table, revealing a cocked Webley. Lowering the hammer, he set it on the table next to Phil’s. “I reckon two smart fellows like us ought to be able to think our way out of this predicament, don’t you?”

“Take the money, don’t get fired, and don’t die?” Phil said. “In the cockpit or up against a wall?”

“Exactly. I think I have just the idea to make it happen, too, if you’ll order us another round of drinks and help me work out some of the practical points.”

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