Row put down the binoculars and rubbed his eyes. He’d been squinting into the sun all day. He rolled over, shut his eyes and just breathed. They weren’t going to move again in the next few hours, only now he’d have to find somewhere he could keep an eye on the whole compound. They could easily walk out the back of the camp while he was sitting watching the front.

He was tired. He was aching from all the running he’d done, the crawling in the dust, the hiding. His knees hurt from the way he’d had to walk all day, rolling his weight on loose stones, praying the fucking things would stay put and not give him away.

Tired of their conversation too, what snatches he’d caught. Bunch of pinheads with no discipline and no sense, shouting their mouths off every chance they got. He made his slow way back down the rise, cursing the sharp stones that scraped at his skin. But hey, better a few scratches than getting shot in the head.

When it was safe to stand he did so, stretching, arching his back until his spine clicked. Felt good, much better. He’d had enough of crawling around, spitting up sand and grit. Stuff got in his teeth, stayed there for days.

“Report,” Sy’s voice crackled soon as he’d got the line.

“They’ve reached a settlement. Pissy little place. They went in. They ain’t come out.”

“Settlement? No settlement on my map.”

“So? It’s not on your map. It’s there. I can see it. Well, shit ok, I can’t now. But it’s there.”

“You scrambled the line?”

“Course I fucking did!”

“All of them in there? No stragglers.”

“Not that I saw. But Sy, where they going to be wandering off to, out here? They’ve been moving as a group.”

“Any indication how long they’ll stay in this settlement? I want the figures Row. I got your signal down, how far away are you?”

“Quarter mile South South East from where I am.”

“Nothing there. No wait. Satellites showing heat and there’s mineral deposits. Maybe what they’re there for. See any mines?”

“What am I? No I don’t see no mines.”

“Right. We want numbers. Men, women and children. Estimate. Gray will come around and meet you.”

“Shit. Why?”

“Don’t argue, unless you want to waive your fee on this. You just stay put. When he gets to you report to me.”

“How am I going to do a head-count if I have to stay put? I’m going to be all around here.”

“Look, for fucksake, I don’t give a toss how you find each other. You just do it. I’ll patch him into your signal. Jesus Row. You’re seriously giving me a headache. I’ll expect to hear from you both within twenty-four hours. Don’t call me before then. Not unless the whole thing blows up or you kill Gray or he kills you. And I’m not far off hoping that’ll happen. Praying for it!”

Row cut the connection.

He thought of the money. It sounded like a sweet deal. Follow some guys around for a few weeks, report what they did to that asshole Sy. He hadn't counted on the heat and the dirt and the nasty scuttling critters that bit him in the night. Maybe he should have held out for more.

The End

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