I saw him as soon as I came in the door. He sat at the bar, his arm bent at the elbow, clutching his cheap Mexican beer, staring up over the bottles of spirits behind the bartender to the glowing television screen above.
It was when I saw the tattoo that my body screamed for me to turn and I run. In that horrifying split-second I imagined that this is how a deer in the headlights of an oncoming Mack truck must feel; terrified but immobilized, knowing that something horrible is coming and coming fast but unable to move or resist or change the inevitable doom barrelling down upon it.
He turned to face me, slowly, so slowly, and the recognition washed over his face even slower than he’d turned. It was like he was expecting me. Slowly he stood, his giant swarthy form commanding the space around the bar stool. I was petrified. My heart screamed for my body to run but my legs were jelly.
When he looked into my eyes it all came flooding back: I saw the green leaves of the tall trees swaying in the humid jungle breeze, the angry cries of men beneath the din of automatic rifle fire, the explosions, the limbs flying clouds of power and dirt and gore, and the blood. Oh God, the blood. And I saw him floating above it all, not as he was now but as when he’d been then with that long black cloak flowing downward, untouched and unaffected by the bullets whizzing through the air, and his face a bleached skull of death, and his bony fingers outstretched, his hand pointing down from up above in that cloud of smoke. At me. Letting me know he was coming for me.
He smiled a wicked smile, showing all his teeth. “It’s been a long time, but we both knew this day would come,” he said. “Sit down, and share one last drink with me.”
I could only obey.