Rod walked slowly down the street, rifle resting in the crook of his arm. His white cap kept the glaring sun off his head and his khakis were loose linen, but sweat still poured down him, making his face slick. It was a bad day. It had been a bad night.
San Pedro, they said it was called. A small village in the desert, it looked the same as all the others they'd rolled through, square mudbricks set between decaying metal frames, clumps of crumbling concrete stuck to them. The place had already been blown to hell and back several times by the time they turned up, by the look of it. Any building higher than ten foot was nothing but a shell, and most people lived in makeshift scraphouses or tents.
He had no idea why their buyers wanted it, but it wasn't his job to ask questions. He was just there to do as he was told and earn his cut. Which for him - a dog, as they liked to call them - meant standing around with a gun and looking scary. He wasn't trusted with the big jobs yet.
The real killers had already been and gone. Shelled the town and left in their trucks, on their way to the next one. Men like him were brand new and most had no idea what they were doing. But they looked exactly the same, and the folk who lived there didn't know any different.
They'd already seen enough to behave themselves.
He made eye contact with a man peering out his window. A scruffy man with a black beard and dark, thinning hair, his eyes were flat and expressionless. He shut the window and moved away.
Rod felt nothing. He was only doing his job. Had to make money.
The short briefing they'd been handed before said there were roughly six hundred people here. In truth he reckoned it was half that. Most had probably fled before they arrived, which Rod didn't mind. If they had any brains they'd all have gone. Would have made his job easier. But people grow attached to places. Or they have nowhere else to go.
He watched as another dog was thrown out of a house. A middle-aged man was half-crying, half shouting at him. The soldier got back to his feet and pointed his gun at the man. He jabbed the barrel at him and shouted, making demands.
The man cried more, but eventually gave up. He fell to his knees as the soldier entered the house and slammed the door behind him.
Rod kept walking, said nothing. He was only doing his job.