“What is this?” said Marcos, looking at the form. He was still sitting behind that giant and likely bulletproof desk, without a clear shot from the silenced PB pistol in my briefcase. The wire around its trigger was already starting to cut into my skin in the lush Veracruz heat.

“International Solutions, LLG?” Marcos continued. “No, no, this invoice is no good. It has to be countersigned.” He slapped the paper down on the desk. “Do you take me for a fool? I want to see the Interior Minister’s signature on this before I pay a cent.”

“My apologies,” I said as evenly and coolly as I could manage. “With your leave, I will take the document back and return it with the proper signature.”

“Don’t apologize,” Marcos said. “Just get it done. And send someone else next time, or we might just decide to make you pay for wasting our time.”

I started circling the desk, but before I had made it more than a handful of steps, Marcos lunged forward and drove a dagger into the wood–and judging by the many similar holes, not for the first time.

“Stay back,” he said. “I don’t like strangers getting too close.”

“Of course.” I gestured at the paper. “Then, would you mind…?”

With a grunt, Marcos lifted himself partly out of his seat and reached across the desk to scooch it my way. For a moment, and only a moment, he was unprotected by the desk.

It was now or never.

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