Still - it paid well, not that Ronon Dex needed a lot these days. More importantly, it kept him moving. Never sleeping in the same place twice let him forget about the townhouse in old Savannah, just off Montgomery Street. Living there had made his commute to nearby Ft Stewart an hour each way but Melena loved the area and that was enough for him. Most of the year she could walk the six blocks to St Joeseph's where she worked as a pediatric nurse.
Truth be told, he was happy to have her live there, away from the base and reminders that his position in SPECOPS kept him out of the country in far less desirable places far too much. Melena had known he was a member of the elite in-country squad of Rangers when they met, not believing the long-haired man had been military even after he'd explained they grew their hair and some wore beards to blend in on missions in the drug countries of South America. She had loved him anyway, despite the long absences, the dangerous missions and her pacifist world view.
That was over - that life, the house on Montgomery, Melena, his life as a Ranger had all ended seven years ago on a mission gone bad. Deep in the jungles of Columbia, a well-connected drug cartel had slaughtered most of his team, taking the two survivors and chaining them to the floor of a poorly constructed hut. After a few weeks of torture and deprivation, they let the other man go - an Ammunitions Specialist like himself but with less than two years in the program. They followed him into the jungle after a five minute head start, returning an hour later in a decidedly celebratory mood, re-enacting their chase with animated hand gestures, harsh, loud voices and exaggerated slaps of acclaim.
When it was his turn, he rushed pell-mell into the growth, leaving the impression of a terrified, disorganized panic as he left the encampment. The first man to discover how wrong that image was did so within a few hundred feet of camp. He turned away from the group to relieve himself, lighting a cigarette as he urinated loudly. Ronon left his lifeless body to fall forward into the wet leaves.
The second man Ronon recognized from the haphazard torture sessions inflicted on the prisoners at the guards' whim. He fell back looking for his confederate and Ronon snapped the man's neck for his charity. The last of them was the drug-lord's son, gutted with a knife Ronon had taken from the previous smuggler. He'd attempted to make it to the camp and safety but underestimated his quarry's skills and Ronon left him on the path leading to the gate mortally wounded, his blood darkening the ground beneath him.
It took Specialist Dex two weeks to stagger across the border into Peru where he was taken to the Embassy.
"Sit down, son," the pudgy faced diplomat had said. "I don't know how to tell you - "
He shook his head hard, clearing the memory. He'd left the Embassy on a C-130 that landed at Hunter Army Airfield just before midnight, driving the hour back to his home after refusing offers of accompaniment or chaperone. The yellow police tape was gone, plywood hammered over the shattered windows, long black trails of smoke still licking up the side of the building. When he finally walked away he left behind everything, the car, the house, the memories. He faded into the muggy Savannah night and disappeared without looking back. There were plenty of ways for a man like himself to earn a living staying off the radar…the jobs he took funded his systematic devolution of the cartel that had created him by destroying everything he loved - his team and Melena.
He exhaled slowly, centering himself, the electronic door lock clicking as the card was slid inside. No one had seen him enter the high-floor suite and there would be no record, the floor's camera long since disabled. In the pricey, busy Brazilian hotel, it might be hours before an underpaid security guard in the basement noticed it wasn't working. The door opened accompanied by a deep-throated laugh and the muted footsteps of a few trusted companions moving throughout the carpeted room before leaving again, taking position outside the door.
He waited. An hour passed, then another. He waited until the soft snores evened out and then waited longer. He was in no hurry tonight. Four hours into his vigil he removed the access panel in the ceiling of the closet and slipped down into the room. The closet door, oiled to silence earlier, slid open wide enough to let him step through, crossing the room to the king-sized bed.
The first cut sliced cleanly through both skin and vocal chords, leaving the drug-lord choking on his blood and looking oddly surprised while he did. Ronon gutted him over his silent protest, using the same knife he'd used on the man's son seven years ago and leaving it buried in his chest. He rinsed and dried the long-sleeved gloves in the bathroom, pulling them off and wrapping them with the towel before pocketing the whole bundle. He hoisted himself back into the ceiling, working his way across the crawl space to the corner where another access let him drop into the 41st floor stairwell. He re-entered the hotel on the thirtieth floor, knowing it would be late into the morning before the body was found.
The sky was beginning to lighten from indigo to deep blue when he reached the cove - a short swim later he was pulling himself aboard a small sailboat. He slipped the harbour on the morning tide with no record of his ever having been in Brazil. A metal box and 60 lbs of weight carried his clothes, shoes, the gloves and the towel four miles to the bottom of the Atlantic off the coast of Uruguay several hours later just as one of the guards broke open the hotel room door to find his boss.
Ronon would hear the news in a port in Argentina, the local station reporting in gruesome detail how the murder remained unsolved despite the local gendarme's best efforts. He paid for his purchases - fuel, canned goods, rice and some fresh fruit - from an American ex-patriot who volunteered how he'd come south during the Vietnam War and never left.
"Which way are you heading?"
Ronon glanced through the shop's plate glass window out into the harbour.
"East," he answered honestly.
"I'm not sure yet, depends on how the wind blows."
"Good riddance, I say," the shopkeeper shifted topics, angling his chin at the small TV on the counter. "World could stand to lose a few more of that kind, if you ask me. Need anything else?" His attention was back on Ronon.
"Nope," Ronon smiled without any trace of joy or amusement, "not a thing."