By the morning of Monday, May 21st, even Mendez is “convinced that they were all going to die.” The men have begun to consume cactus and drink their own urine in an attempt to stay hydrated. Accounts of the ordeal from this point on vary greatly. Either Mendez called the group to a meeting, or the group had a meeting and then brought their demands to Mendez. Either way, all agreed that they were doomed if Mendez did not strike out on his own in an attempt to find help or water. Mendez first told the group he would go alone, then insisted on taking his partner, Lauro. Whether the group “pressed their money on him and asked him to get water, a vehicle, and a driver,” or whether Mendez demanded or extorted money from the men, he took somewhere between seventy and three hundred U.S. dollars for his own journey and departed, instructing the men to wait in one spot for him to return.
As the third day of the journey breaks, it seems all hope is lost. The men are disoriented, dehydrated, and in pain, and though what is about to happen to them is very important, the survivors will struggle to remember the sequence of events. Whatever happened—wherever the blame may or may not lie—Mendez took his pollos’ money (being careful to accept only U.S. dollars, not worthless pesos) and left them for dead.
The men wait for Mendez’s return, tormented by heat, thirst, and pain. Before 9 a.m., the temperature is in the nineties. By the afternoon, the men have begun to feel it is obvious that Mendez is not returning to them, and once again strike out northward on their own. Dogged by mirages and violent, frightening hallucinations, the men stumble through the desert.
Mendez and Lauro, meanwhile, are making good time on their own journey north. Urrea speculates that the two of them knew the walkers would be dead by the time they reached help, and planned to save only themselves, thinking that they had already done all they could.
Though it is unclear whether Mendez really intended to find his walkers help or whether he intended to abandon them and save himself, his actions were the same regardless of intent: he left his men behind with no real regard for their lives.