Week 5, Wednesday noonish, Garcia compound near Torreon, Mexico
Mercy was not sure what to say to the woman. So, she merely waved her hand to the round stone wall upon which she sat. The woman gave what might pass as a smile as she sat down.
Anna Garcia was hauntingly beautiful, especially for a woman her age. Only this close could Mercy see a few strands of pure white at the temples. Otherwise, her long straight black hair parted to the side and fell to about mid-black. While not model thin, the woman was svelte with enough curves in the right places.
Yeah, she could see what Diego saw in her. Except for those cold, lifeless eyes that seemed to suck the light and life from everything near her. Mercy could not stop the shiver.
“I am Anna, your brother’s wife,” the woman spoke softly in Spanish.
“I know, and obviously, you know who I am as well.”
“Si, I had hoped to speak to you before, but you were always so busy with Ignacio. Is the girl helpful?”
Mercy frowned in surprise that the woman seemed to know so much about her and the situation. Her half-brother did not seem the type to confide in a wife. She nodded her head slowly and mumbled, “Si.”
“I am glad. I’m sure it has not been easy all these weeks, having full responsibility for a man you did not even remember. When Roberto brought the subject up over dinner last night, I did all that I could to convince Diego that it was a good idea.” There was bitterness in her laugh as Anna continued, “I suppose I don’t need to tell you that Consuela was against the idea.”
“I can imagine.”
“Si, it is not just her hatred for you and your family, of course. She equally dislikes the girl. She fears her control over Roberto.”
The woman glanced towards the main house and lowered her voice, “Neither of you are safe from the woman. It is just a matter of time before she tries to get rid of you both.”
Anna turned back to face her. What she saw in the depths of those dark eyes frightened Mercy even more than the lifelessness had. It was hatred. Pure, unadulterated hatred.
“Do not eat or drink anything she offers you.”
Mercy thought about that orange tree. “What do you know?”
“Nothing specific. But I know that the man she consults is, how do you say it, limpias.”
“A white witch? But isn’t that supposed to be good?”
“Most, yes. But not all are. That man is evil, darkness. Still, he claims to be a cleanser. He performs rituals to clean evil spirits. But that same darkness is where he draws his power.”
Mercy remembered the weird altar that she had noticed when they first arrived. The candles, photos, and flowers were all arranged perfectly, like the altar in Brad’s church. But who kept such things in their homes? Not that she would put anything past that woman.
Then there were the ‘medicines’ that the man brought, supposedly to make Ignacio better, or at least more comfortable. But look what it had done to the orange tree. Was it really that far off to believe that Consuela would use him to kill her. But why Bebe? Weren’t they making money off… She did not even want to think about it.
“Curandero? That’s just superstition…”
“Do not be so quick to dismiss what you do not understand. There is always more to this world than what we see. But even if you cannot believe that, know this, there are plants and herbs, going back hundreds and thousands of years. Before modern medicine, some of them have even are manufactured into modern medicines. But these plants, they can do powerful things. Stop pain. Heal. Birth control. Abortions. And yes, even death. If you know the right combinations. That man does.”
Though Mercy knew it was hypocritical for her to dismiss this woman’s beliefs, after all she had seen. Hell, after her own experiences and this new sense she seemed to possess. A sense that Anna Garcia set off.
“How do you know so much about it?”
“Let’s just say that if I did not have knowledge of my own, Consuela would have killed me, too. But that is not what I want to speak with you about. I need your help, and in exchange, I will help you and your man escape when the time is right. The girl, too, if she wants to go.”
“Why? Why would you do that for us? Why would you risk your marriage, if not your life, to help strangers? I can get the whole evil mother-in-law thing, but why would you betray your husband?”
The striking woman seemed to transform before Mercy’s eyes into some caricature of a madwoman. Her face contorted, and that hatred in her eyes amplified. She spat on the ground at her feet, “My husband, bah! I wish he had killed me that day alongside my father and brothers. I begged him to, you know. It would have been more merciful.”
“Can you imagine what it is like to be sixteen, protected your whole life, and have your home invaded by murderers and rapists? To watch them execute your Papa and older brothers? Maybe I could have survived that, maybe. But when they took me and my ten-year-old brother Ernesto into the gardens. That was the first time I saw your brother.”
Mercy had been wrong. Those dark eyes were not lifeless and cold. They were perhaps the most expressive she had ever seen. Filled first with hatred and then with a pain that she could not even comprehend, that made her want to look away, but she was powerless to do so as the older woman continued the story.
“Do you know the first words I ever heard out of the man’s mouth?”
Mercy noticed that she never referred to her brother as Diego but ‘that man.’ Then again, she understood that. She could not bring herself to think of him as her half-brother. Any more than she could call Ignacio Garcia, her father. And while she had felt the man’s abandonment and stigma of bastardy all her life, that was nothing compared to the depths of trauma this woman was describing.
“He looked at his men and asked why they had not killed Ernesto, too. When one man said he was just a little boy, that man raised his gun and shot him in the head. Right in front of us. Then he turned the gun on my brother. I begged and pleaded, but…”
The woman suddenly seemed to realize how much she had revealed. Though those dark pools swam with unshed tears, Anna said no more as she dropped her head, staring at her hands. That was when Mercy noticed the deep scars. On her wrists. Her chest tightened as she attempted to fathom even a bit of that level of heartache.
“Then, to be forced to marry that man. For him to touch you.” Anna spoke so quietly that Mercy strained to hear her words. But there was no denying the way the woman’s whole body convulsed. The garden was silent. It seemed not even the birds dared to sing in the presence of such sorrow.
Mercy, too, was lost in her worst fears. What would they do if they could not escape? Worse, what if something happened to Will? What if he was already dead? She felt panic and pile rising. She barely managed to turn her head away from the woman as she spilled the contents of her stomach at the foot of that ancient tree like an offering to long-forgotten gods.