The assassin Giamonti could hear his quickened heartbeat pulse through an artery next to his left ear, another small clue that he was aging out of his profession. Here at the top of his climb, he cooled down, gulping fresh air while he looked across the sere desert early morning landscape to the distant shimmering horizon. Not a tree in sight, only yuccas and saguaros barely touched by the rising sun.
How could anyone live in this desolate place, he wondered, squinting cruel grey eyes against the sharp daylight. Brown, everything brown, everywhere. Giamonti was not the type of person to see nuances of color in the great outdoors, although his outdoor life had marked him permanently. Deep lines radiated from eyes to his salt and pepper hair, to deep furrows above thick black brows, and down along darkly weathered cheeks to merge with dual wrinkles like commas bracketing a narrow, mean mouth.
A stolen power and light utility van sat far below him at the base of the transmission pole. Before starting his climb, Giamonti had donned the full array of protective garb stored in the van, including an insulated jumpsuit and gloves and requisite hard hat. The extra weight added more strain to his arms, back, and legs during the climb. He felt trickles of sweat begin to moisten his belt line as the sun climbed higher. The heavy image-stabilized binoculars swayed from their strap, pulling against his neck muscles, and a slight sense of urgency made him shift in the climbing harness. The bosses wanted visual proof fast and offered a time-sensitive bonus that diminished hour by hour. Plus, he was ready to get the hell back home where dry hot air didn’t suck all your insides out. He resented that he was shooting only photos. He worried that the bosses thought he was losing his edge as a marksman. Giamonti’s worries, however, would soon be gone.
The drawn-out squeak and crisp click of first an opening and then closing door sounded faintly but clearly through the dry desert air. Show time, Giamonti thought. He peered quickly through the binoculars down into the protected back yard of an adobe cottage halfway down the block, then let the glasses fall back against his chest. It wouldn’t be wise to be seen peering into folks’ yards.