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by Matt Mattila

It was an easy enough deal.

Twenty five grand, cash, for the boxes with guns. It wasn’t the first time the girl had done this, no matter how young she looked. She’d been on both sides. She’d held the boxes and the metal suitcase full of cash. She’d held the SMGs just like the guards, theirs trained at the ground now but ready to mow on down before anyone could blink. She was the best at this. She could outfight them tooth and nail.

Most of all she was beautiful enough the other side got distracted by adolescent daydreams. She had the soft face, bright eyes, petite body with natural ample curve that left any man begging on hands and knees just to have her. Her looks were a weapon. She was a new standard of negotiation. No matter how heated it got no one wanted to shoot the cute girl.

She strutted up front, father’s boys behind her, guarding the three trucks with their liftgates open, loads of crates visible. Everyone had a gun in their hand except for her. She stashed hers in the small of her back. If she couldn’t get to it in time there was always the sniper on the hill.

The Mexicans pulled up in big box SUVs, jet black, blue headlights giving the desert sand an otherworldly glow. All three stopped at the same time and threw dust, like they’d spent a week practicing this. Twelve doors opened. Twelve men all had guns. The skinny one with the burly moustache and three piece suit walked up to her. He hid his ink under his clothes. His face was pudgy but his eyes were hard, cold, calculating.

Eyes flashed from man to man. The Mexican boys hung rifles on their sides. Fingers flirted in and out of trigger guards.

The case was cuffed to his wrist. He swung it on his palm and held it flat like a waiter.

“How much?”

This was American soil. She asked in English.


She took the two steps up, ran her hands through the stacked wads. All 100s, brand new, blue ribbon glaring in the sunset.

“Alright,” she called, “it’s good.”

The case thudded shut and fell back to his left side. A rifle slid across the sand and tapped the back of her heel.

“How many?” he asked. The accent slipped out.

She pulled a fútbol move and flicked it his way. He grabbed it and lifted it. Pulled the slide back, popped the empty clip, peered down the sight.

He swung it too fast. The kid on the hill had a bad angle. He was new.

The kid flinched and 200 feet below him the Mexican’s hand disappeared.

She hit the deck. Buried her face in the soil. Choked on it. The flashes, the bangs, the screams.

The silence.

It took three seconds to turn the desert valley into a bloodbath. The Mexicans crumpled on their cars, blood on sand.

She dug the handset out of her ass pocket and slammed the talk button down.

“What the fuck was that, John!” she screamed. “What the fuck, I told you he was gonna check it!”

She let go, held breath, heart racing, trying to avoid the panic. The wind and the car door chime were the only sounds that greeted her.

“Answer me, fuckhead!”


She howled like a banshee and threw the radio into the dunes. There were too many holes in the cars. No way in hell were they drivable.

She fished in her pocket for a handcuff key and got to work on the case. The metal motherfucker was heavy. She slid it off and snapped it on her wrist and walked back down the dust road.

She forgot about their sniper.

Matt Mattila has had his short fiction published in Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter before he turned 19 years old. Moonlighting as a third-shift restaurant host, he spends his time trying to come up with a pen name weirder than his real one. You can find him on Facebook and Tumblr.