A good torturer, if you pardon my expression, knows the value of anxiety. Often the anticipation of pain is a more effective motivator than actually hitting someone. Think about good horror movies – the less you see the monster, the scarier it is. El Seño knew what he was doing; he didn’t have the compound stormed immediately, instead letting us wait and sweat the impending assault.

Undoubtedly he knew everything that was in the house, and knew that almost none of it would help us. A few steak knives wouldn’t be much use against trained (or even untrained) cartel goons, once our bullets ran out. He would throw a few waves of cannon fodder our way, the young and inexperienced among his crew not to capture or kill us but to make us use our resources – ammo and our nerves. Stress does a lot of nasty things to the body, and while it can be a lifesaver in short bursts, spending an hour or more amped up and on edge will really drain someone.

Can’t say I fault the big guy’s methods, all things considered. He was patient and careful – two attributes which had served him very well in his rise to power. It meant he was a long-term, strategic thinker, trying to cover all the angles. It would take some creative and unexpected angles to put him on his back foot.

Provided we survived the night, of course.

It would have been easy for him to rig the estate with explosives – we saw enough in his various weapon stashed around the country – but Gaz and I both knew he would make our involvement here a spectacle, something worthy of front-page news. It would be hard for him to stoke regional distrust of the USA if he didn’t have bodies to prove we were here in the first place. They’d come at us with bullets, not rockets.

I suggested shooting, or at least disabling, the ground’s large flood lights, but Gaz shook her head. While turning them off may make it easier for us to escape, it’d be far more likely to help the innumerable cartel soldiers coming in. At least with the lights on we could see where they were coming from. What can I say, she tends to take the long view while I’m focused on breaching doors and clearing rooms.

With a quick recon around the house, it proved true to our suspicions – it wasn’t storing spare body armour, weapons, or anything else that would be useful for the impending assault. It had plenty of side rooms and narrow hallways, but if we were relying on those to save our skin, the battle was already lost. We agreed that the best course of action was to funnel people through one entrance and limit our own exposure.

I don’t think El Seño cared much about the protective measures we’d take while we waited for the attack; in his mind that we would fall was a firm eventuality and anything we tried would just delay the inevitable. He did give us enough time to push couches against the tall windows, prop the fridge against the front door, anything that would make it at least a touch harder to get in from any direction save the back. Gaz had a claymore mine handy but we didn’t deploy it – another last-stand party favor we may need later.

As much as I wondered how a man like Seño could have any more soldiers to send at us – considering the number we’d neutralized just to get into the mansion, let alone in our countless raids across Bolivia – I realized that he had been sowing discord among the populace for some time, years perhaps, before making his move to usurp the government. Bolivia had some eleven million people in it, and while most wouldn’t be interested in taking up arms, maybe a quarter of a quarter of that would be swayed to his side. Napkin math estimates mean he could have had more than a half a million people in his employ, at least before Gaz and I arrived.

Our meager preparations complete, we had little to do but wait – whether El Seño would call in his dogs immediately or after hours of anxious standoff remained to be seen. I genuinely hoped it would be the former – if I have down time I’d rather spend it sleeping than worrying that someone was going to come through the door to kill me.

Using the large second-floor windows as an observation deck, Gaz quickly ran back to cover – they were scaling the walls.

At least it’d be over soon, one way or another.