The remembered voice of Drill Sergeant Goric drove its remembered patter into Jacquelyn's thoughts, guiding her movements into rhythm. Her feet, once brought back to the confines of her combat boots, adapted quickly to the pace and strain of her walking. Sunlight flashed between adobe edifices and blurred along the edges of her sunglasses, and though she had her black hair tied into a loose ponytail, the blazing heat still battered any skin left uncovered by the shadow of her cap. Even the lightest of clothes left her sweating.
R. Scott Cody had disappeared to an area far removed from the range of automobiles or anything else the police could roll in on. Jacqui's car was somewhere in Mexico City, and she could feel stones and garbage being driven deeper into the dirt road under her heels. A long hike, certainly, but she'd been through worse, and she had more important matters to think about.
Two years ago, she had been lying on the couch in Cody's Colorado home after finding out that one of his dealings with the government had gone wrong. She'd come in an attempt to get the man to turn himself in.
"You can't understand what I'm facing if I stay," he'd protested though it hadn't been much of a protest, more of a rationalization, for himself and for Jacqui. He had stroked her hair and said, "Verstehen," in his perfect German. His shoulder had dipped slightly as he chuckled.
"Hmm?" she'd inquired, lifting her head from where it lay on his shoulder.
"Verstehen," he'd repeated, the words smooth, and Jacqui had reveled in the sound. "To walk a mile in one's shoes."
"I certainly know you well enough."
Cody had smiled again. "Baby, you don't want to walk my life. My boots are much more expensive than the price of your shoes."
She'd looked at him quizzically, then at the corner of the room where the new red heels he'd bought her as a gift before his departure were still resting in their white box.
"I still don't think it's much of a challenge," she'd quietly replied, scratching Cody's chin. It hadn't looked as if he'd shaved in a few days, then, and she had wondered briefly if he thought to mask himself that way.
"You could try, but even if you did try to walk those miles, you'd never get there today, or tomorrow, even." She remembered that his voice dropped then, sadder than she'd heard from him before. "I'll be gone, come sunset."
"Where?" she'd asked without looking at him, because she'd been angry and ashamed at the influx of emotions with every glance at his eyes.
"Mexico," he'd said in a voice which conjured up hope, the smell of fresh clay, paper skeletons dancing over their namesakes' graves, and the way a bright sun over an afternoon siesta would feel to a free man.
She shook her head gently to recover her thoughts from where they'd drifted. Cody had been too protective, forgetting to tell her about exactly what would happen when his pursuers found out that he was gone. In the process she'd been made to walk great distances in his shoes--to understand, to succeed, to escape. The position of defender hadn't come easily, and while she wasn't a fugitive, she had paid the price of being Cody's confidante, with interest.
Since he had given her an approximation of his location and had asserted it was too far, Jacqui had been walking. Though she hardly looked like any of the natives, the police cast only cursory glances at the eyes hidden behind the sunglasses, and a break in the dry, level landscape made her forget everything but Cody's voice. Quickening her pace to a jog, she crossed the dusty ground in only a few strides.
Jacqui pounded on the door and shifted upon hearing the noise of footsteps. The face revealed by the door as it receded was a familiar one, weathered by sunshine and hardship.
"A mile's jaunt," she declared.