That’s how I came to be sitting on the back bumper of the Pinto wagon with the gate up, in dubious shade. The day was hot, nearly one hundred, with an oceanic heaviness to the air that is unusual for California. Brassy blue sky, cougar colored grass, pale dusty live oaks throwing dark pools shade. I was fifty yards from the nearest tree. Under that tree was a forest green pickup. In the back of the pickup, Ed was waiting with a rifle. Further up the valley, Barton sat on a folding chair outside the panel truck with a rifle across his knees. I had talked Cabral into waiting inside, out of sight.
Davis arrived in a Lincoln Town Car. It pulled up in a swirl of dust and lurched to a stop. A lean young black man got out from behind the wheel. Despite the heat, he was wearing a 49ers windbreaker to cover his gun. He left the motor and air conditioning running and walked over to me. He circled the Pinto, looking in. I let him. Then he said, “Step away from the car.”
I knew why, but it was not the right time to let him think he could give orders.
“You want this meeting or not?”
Not needing to push the point, I walked away with him about twenty feet.
He looked at me, and looked over my shoulder to where Ed had his rifle half raised. It was a touchy situation, and he was feeling it. He said, “I gotta search you.”
I nodded and he did a quick and efficient frisk. Then he said, “Wait here,” and went back to report that I wasn’t armed or wired.
In this slow, deliberate unfolding of negotiations, there was plenty of time for fear. Here was a man whose son I had killed. No matter how this meeting came out, I had business with him that would not be completed soon or easily.
The young man came back and said, “We are going to drive over by that tree. You walk over, okay?”
“No. You want to chose a spot where we won’t have a microphone planted. That’s all right. I expected that. But not out of rifle range.”
“Don’t try to talk for yourself. You’re just an errand boy. Go ask your boss.”
“Look man . . .”
I spoke over him. “Don’t waste my time. Just trot on back over there and relay the message.”
He didn’t like it, but he took it, because he was an errand boy. A tough errand boy. He wasn’t scared of me. He might be scared of Davis.
I scrubbed my hands up over my face, pushing the sweat back behind my ears. My clothes were wet through and the sun was relentless. The driver got back in and drove up. The window on the back right went down with a low, electric whine and I got my first look at Cameron Davis. more tomorrow