That was how many paces it took to patrol each side of the building. Two years of sentry duty meant he had walked the circuit thousands of times. There was a lot of time to think while working and, given his nature, that usually meant worrying about one thing or another. But even when his mind was otherwise occupied, he still subconsciously counted off the steps. He went over his checklist of current troubles. Maria had been unwell lately but she refused to visit the doctor, saying it was a waste of money. His eldest boy had been staying out later and later and he suspected his son was falling into bad company. More mundanely, as was usually the case, he was struggling financially. The younger children badly needed some new clothes and, once again, there was a problem with the starter motor on his truck.
Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty. Turn the corner.
Roberto appreciated what he had. From his early days, scrabbling to make a living in the nearby Mexican border town of Conchillo, to the last couple of years working for El cártel de Zaragosa, there had been many reminders of how hard life could be. Some of the things he had seen were better forgotten. Sentry duty might be tedious but it provided for him and his family. His wife did not like him working for the cartel. She had reluctantly agreed only after he had pledged to limit his participation to guarding the compound outside town. The truth, however, was that all of them sometimes had to participate in the punishment of those who crossed the cartel. He hated the deception, but who could afford to pass up the chance of a steady wage?
Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen.
Patrol was the worst part of the night shift. At least if you were inside, you had company and even the chance to catch up on some sleep. Outside, you spent most of the time alone, pacing your circuit. He didn’t enjoy the violence; he never strutted around as some of the younger men did, infused with the sense of power that came with their brutality. Where he did find common ground with them was on the pointlessness of this monotonous work. Two pairs of men were assigned to each four-hour shift. One pair patrolled the perimeter fence, while the other took care of the building. The extensive security didn’t take into account the absence of any threat to the cartel: the dual strategy of intimidation and corruption had worked. Night after night, all this wasted effort.
Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.
Of course, the amount of effort expended could be disputed. While Roberto’s cautious outlook never allowed him to shirk work, others were less conscientious. Saul was on duty with him tonight. The traits that made Saul such a good drinking partner were not suited to the repetitive task at hand. He always tried to get by with the minimal amount of effort and, had it not been for an influential relative within the cartel, he wouldn’t have lasted long. Saul felt his mission was to get drunk and to get laid as often as possible. Life’s too short for worry, he said. Despite their basic differences, Roberto enjoyed his carefree co-worker’s company.
Fifty-four, fifty-five, fifty-six.
Maybe he could get Goyo to come over tomorrow morning. His neighbour had worked as a mechanic briefly and might be able to resurrect the vehicle. As for Juan, he would sit down with the boy, talk to him as an equal, and convince him that these friends were not the kind he should have. Maria, though, would be more difficult; her stubbornness was renowned, but he would win her over.
Seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven.
Roberto was almost at the corner when a patch of darkness detached from its surroundings and moved languidly toward him. “So how many beers did you have tonight?” he asked, laughing.
It happened slowly, like a dream where you are unable to wake up. He felt his head being pulled forward and could not muster the strength to resist. What was Saul doing? This kind of horseplay wasn’t funny, and the grip at the back of his neck hurt. A dull impact hit him just above the chest, and he felt himself being dragged down as if by a heavy current. Roberto’s legs buckled, and the figure followed him to the ground. He felt the hot breath on his face and caught the smell of mint. The strong grip slowed his descent, breaking his fall, for which he felt strangely grateful. He tried to speak, but there was no sound except a soft rasping. That wasn’t him, was it? The hand on his neck tightened. Then he heard something being torn.
WINNER THE JOHN MURRAY SHOW / RTE GUIDE / KAZOO COMPETITION
A brutal conflict unleashed.
Who stands to win?
A bloody massacre at a Mexican heroin refinery; a Miami-bound freight ship hijacked for its cargo of illegal narcotics; the ruthless assassination of a Kosovar drug lord – a war has erupted between two drugs superpowers.
As DEA Agent Diane Mesi investigates she becomes convinced that the conflict is being orchestrated by an unknown third party. But she is marginalised by her colleagues and her judgement is challenged at every turn. Only if she can expose the truth will she be able to stop the violence and save her career.
Michael Larsen is an ex-soldier and hired mercenary who has been contracted to fuel the conflict at every opportunity until it destroys both sides. As he battles his own demons, he hopes that by directing the violence he will attain some measure of redemption.
But neither Mesi nor Larsen know the full extent of the forces at play or of what is truly at stake. As they each pursue their own resolution, the violence escalates and they become increasingly vulnerable to the dangers that stalk them.
Incitement won the John Murray Show / RTE Guide / Kazoo Competition from over 500 entries.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – R
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