Title: Talking To a Strange Man|
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Summary: A bit of cooperation between two former agents. Sequel to Moonshine
TALKING TO A STRANGE MAN
There were things on the floor, clothes, crumpled
paper, pizza boxes and empty bottles - anything but the phone. He dug through
the trash, his teeth aching with the annoying 'Toreador' melody. Finally the
sound got louder and Sands grabbed the small box, throwing the lid open.
"Sitting alone and brooding?" The voice
sounded like they'd parted five minutes ago. Like there was nothing more
natural than calling him. But then he should've expected that - after all, it
was the phone he'd given Jorge Ramirez one day - the phone he returned Sands
after everything was over.
"Imagine me rolling my eyes at your astounding
"Ha-ha, you almost tricked me."
He sat on the floor, his head pressed to the back of
the bed, stretching his legs carefully. His body minded flopping down on the
knees and making all the rest harsh motions while he had been searching for the
phone. And what for? For the sake of listening to Ramirez' irritating voice?
Sands couldn't believe he'd just done something so stupid.
"What about a drink? To celebrate the spectacular
cooperation between FBI and CIA."
"Don't tell me they did something with your
ears as well, Sands."
"I'm taking medicines, Ramirez, I can't
drink," he said in a condescending voice.
"Don't be a killjoy. I'll pick you up at six
The last words were wasted, the phone groaned and
died in his hand. No wonder, he didn't remember when he'd charged it last time
- and now he couldn't find a charger for his life. So, he just threw it -
where, according to his guess, the window was - and since he didn't hear a
crashing sound, he must've been right.
* * *
The world refused to stop swaying. The rail under
his hand was slick with sweat - it should've been stable enough to help him
walk down the stairs but Sands wasn't sure it worked quite this way.
And Ramirez' voice was as annoying as always.
"And you look like shit."
"I thought you'd say 'Long time no see' or
something equally amusing."
He snorted. Next time, sure. He didn't know what he
was doing here *this time*.
"Where are we going?"
"Oh, just behind the corner. Half an hour of
walk and we're there. I thought you'd appreciate some fresh air."
Bastard. There was another sound, accompanying
Ramirez' chuckle - a strange, quiet, hasty breathing - making Sands stop and
listen. He should've heard it earlier, if not for the ringing in his ears and
the attempts to walk like nothing bothered him at all.
"Who's there with you?"
"It's Billy Chambers' little dog," Ramirez
said softly. "Remember him?"
"No, the dog, you idiot."
"Vaguely. I was somewhat distracted then."
"I call him 'Boy'."
"God. Just hear it sighing."
"He suffers with imperfection of the
"I can't believe you drag this thing
They couldn't really walk for half an hour but it
certainly felt like this, to his legs.
"Here, we've come."
"It's Tony's. I've been here. You couldn't
choose a nastier place, could you, Ramirez?"
"Next time, when you invite me, you'll
"You can start waiting for my invitation."
"Why? It's not like you have anything else to
do. Do you want to look at the menu?"
"Chili con carne and tequila with lime."
"Wait, I can't believe it. Not your
"Things happen." Sands shrugged. "I
think I've lost my taste for puerco pibil."
"But not for tequila."
"No. Nothing can make me lose taste for
"Fine. Then roasted lamb ribs for me. And some
chopped beef for the Boy."
"Don't tell me you're going to feed it on the
"It is him, not it."
He hadn't known it was so hard to eat in public. One
more thing from about a thousand things that he hadn't known. Like shaving or
finding matching socks. Shooting was easier.
"So, what are you doing?" A shot of
tequila was easy. Lighting a cigarette - he'd done it enough times not to fret
about it. And his voice sounded casual enough.
"Retired, what else? Totally, fully retired. No
unfinished business, no unpaid debts. Nada. A former FBI agent for real
now. I deserve some rest."
"So." Sands breathed out the smoke, trying
to make rings out of it, but he didn't know if it worked. "What are you
doing here then? Your good deed of the day?"
Not only Ramirez' voice was annoying, his laughter
was even more maddening.
"Yes, why not?"
Chili was like ashes in his mouth, he didn't feel
spice at all. He forced himself to take another forkful of rice.
Fuck you, Ramirez. What do you want from me? I know
what I want. Not to *look* at your smug face and listen to your inanities.
The movement was a slightest draft against his face,
fingers catching a strand, pulling it out of his mouth. Then tucking it behind
his ear. Sands froze, aware of the fingers very close to his glasses. He'd kill
Ramirez if the man dared... Only he himself could touch his face, sometimes
couldn't stop from learning the new landscape of his eye-sockets with his
Ramirez' hand moved and Sands caught it, grabbed the
"Keep your hands to yourself, you old
The hand jerked a little and then went still.
"You surprise me. I might be a faggot but what
makes you think I'm interested?"
"Your friend might have liked it but I
don't." Sands pushed the hand away and it retreated, Ramirez' silence
following. Good; let the bastard know his place. He lit another cigarette,
still in silence. One could expect anything from Ramirez, even taking offence,
even saying that his partner was a hundred times better man than Sands - which
was probably true, it was easier to be a better man than Sands.
"Yes, why not. Since you've invited me."
* * *
"And then we return, and I start writing a
report, and Carlos looks over my shoulder and asks: 'A gun? What gun?'"
"Do you know, Ramirez? I heard this story first
when I was seventeen."
He heard Ramirez laugh, the sound accompanying Ramirez'
steps on the quiet street. And whether tequila acted as an analgesic or he'd
just got less rusty, but Sands found the walk even enjoyable. Almost like just
walking with your eyes closed, for fun.
"Oops." A hand caught his elbow steering
him somewhere to the right.
"I told you to keep your hands away from
"You remind me of it so often that I start
thinking you want to achieve an opposite result. But by all means walk into
that dog poo next time."
"There are too many dogs around."
"Oh, it was not my Boy, for sure."
There was something pacifying in Ramirez' ability to
say meaningless things. Because it meant that Sands couldn't ask anything he
would regret later. For example, how really dark it was. Or whether there was
the moon. Or what the fuck it was all about. He took out another
"Looks like it's your place."
"I know, Ramirez, I'm not an idiot."
"Well, I just tried to let you know delicately.
So much for my troubles. See you next time?"
"In your dreams."
Ramirez laughed. Sands thought he could get used to
this laughter. And to the sighing dog as well. It was bad. Get used to things,
like your eyes, for example, and see where it brings you.
He listened to Ramirez turn on his heel and walk
away, his steps clear and unhurried, then came up to the door, opened it... and
knew at once something was wrong.
Sands didn't need to see to know it - the utter
silence that made him feel like something was crawling along his spine - such
silence that he could hear the softest humming sound of the burning spiral in
the lamp above his head. It was like a slight breeze touched his hair - very,
very cold on a hot evening. He flexed his fingers, ready to yank the gun from
the holster - and yet he knew that his motions were so obvious for those who
watched him - like he was an actor on the stage. And before he got the gun in
his hand, before he even reached for it - he would hear the shots.
Or maybe, if he was lucky, he wouldn't even hear
them, just fall with half of his head blown off.
So, that was what he was waiting for.
My name is Sheldon Jeffery Sands and I kill them. I
shoot and I see them die. Well, no more, apparently.
And then the shots came. But a split second earlier
something slammed against him, breaking him on the floor, grinding him down,
and the shots were everywhere, above him, around him, glass breaking, and the
heavy breathing body over him didn't let him move.
"Where are they?" He tried to twist from
under Ramirez, taking out the gun. Suddenly it was very silent, and a hand
covered his mouth, an elbow pushing him down.
"Keep still." Ramirez' words were softer
than a whisper. "Do you think I have nothing else to do but to direct your
Sands could feel them - more than one man, hiding.
Someone possible was dead but others were not, probably upstairs, ready to
"What are we waiting for?"
"Do you think I know? Someone's broken the
Sands wanted to laugh. Clever thing, now they all
"I wonder who dislikes you so very
much..." Ramirez whispered and it was not quite a question. His breath was
very close, nearly touching Sands' lips, and he suddenly thought he didn't mind
it. The last intimate touch he had remembered was the bitch kissing him.
Anything was better than that.
"As soon as you're down there are always people
who think that you don't deserve to live," he said sententiously.
And then in silence the sound came, at the door,
soft whimper and scratching on the wood, and the shots started again, and now
he was ready, listening to the sounds, imagining them like flashes in the
darkness. Someone yelled, and another, and a body fell on the floor, falling
between the stairs, with a heavy thump.
Then there was nothing. Ramirez didn't let enjoy the
quietness for long.
"Come on." A hard hand grabbed Sands'
wrist, dragging him up onto his feet. "I bet there will be others in a
moment. Good boy."
"No, my Boy, you fool."
The dog sniffed loudly. Ramirez yanked his hand.
Sands felt the cool air of the street on his face and realized his glasses were
"Come on, can't you move faster?"
"I can't. I got two bullets through my legs a
"Do you talk to your dog?"
"My Boy never whines."
"Where are we going to?"
"Right now? Somewhere where they can't shoot us
like practice targets."
Why did you come back? Sands didn't ask that. He
wasn't sure Ramirez would answer.
"It's a wonder what people sometimes drag
along," Ramirez muttered, tugging him.
Sands felt being pushed somewhere, to a porch,
pressed to the wall, and he could feel Ramirez' body against his, and a bit of
smooth, hot, velvety fur of the dog. He recognized the familiar smell of the
gun in Ramirez' hand - hot metal and oil - heard a soft click, and raised his
"I think you've just fucked up your peaceful
"Do you think I'm not aware of it?"
Ramirez sounded both sarcastic and angry, and Sands
stifled laughter. He leaned back against the wall, waiting, listening to
"At the count three," Ramirez whispered,
his voice tight.
If anything, Sands thought, the moon wouldn't bother