***Fee-Nix Bar, Las Vegas, NV***
Victoria Flores tossed down another shot of Clase Azul. It was his one splurge. The dressing room was in total chaos. Half a dozen performers, some in full drag, others in various states of undress, cried, moaned, or screamed. Perhaps he should be more upset than he was. But unlike most of the other performers, Vegas had never been Vic’s objective. It was merely a temporary stop on the way to…
Justice? Revenge? Indeed, most people would call it the latter. It wasn’t like he had been close to his family. From the moment his mother had caught him playing around with another boy, things had gone downhill. When his tio, the priest, had not been able to scare him straight with god’s eternal damnation, she had tried various potions and spells from her curanderos’ friends.
Of course, gay was gay. But growing up homosexual in Mexico was never easy. Its machismo culture did not welcome such deviants. Being a younger son in a powerful family had been both a blessing and a curse. He certainly had not faced the risk of physical violence and even death that many other openly homosexual men did. But neither was he accepted by his family or community.
He had escaped to Zona Rosa in Mexico City when he was just sixteen. That freedom was one thing his family money and name had bought him. Over the last quarter of a century, he had drifted from place to place, all the hottest spots on the scene. Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Rio, Cancun, Oaxaca, and a few in the US.
His friend Clive had been begging him for years to bring Victoria to Vegas, but Vic had no reason until a couple of months ago. Now, this gave him the perfect opportunity he’d been looking for. The border was closed. So no one would demand he go home. And since the Fee-nix was closed now, too, he had an excuse to move on.
He’d start with Houston. He did not dare attempt to see his only remaining family. He had not seen his oldest brother since he left for Mexico City twenty-six years ago. Hell, he had not seen his mama in more than a decade. Not since she begged him to give up his life, come home, and make babies. Vic shivered at the mere thought. In the end, she had done as she and Diego always did – thrown money at the problem.
According to Tio Manual, all the family’s assets and accounts had been frozen. Not that he would know. Not only had he never touched the money in that account, but he had not used that name in a dozen years. Of course, there was probably an arrest warrant for Martin Garcia, if nothing else than as a material witness, wanted for questioning. But that man was dead. Or as good as.
The only contact he had with his family was Roberto. He rubbed his chest right between the fake double-D silicon boobs. Vic might have let it all go if not for Roberto. Diego had always been a cruel and entitled little prick. If it had not been for their middle brother Jose, he might have carried scars. But Jose was dead. Had been for more than a dozen year. Now, mama and Roberto were too.
Only Diego, Tio Manual, and he were left of both the once-great Sanchez-Garcia family. Diego was loco, and even if he weren’t, he’d spend the rest of his life in jail. Tio Manual had retired to some monastery to pray for the souls of his sister and nephew. That left only him to exact the revenge they deserved. Well, that Roberto did.
His youngest brother had been just a toddler when Martin ran away. He probably would have left sooner if not for the adorable little baby that mama and papa had late in life. All of them had been raised by la niñera, but at least Consuela Sanchez-Garcia had occasionally visited the nursery when her older sons were little. She did not with Roberto. She had wanted a little girl. And simply could never forgive his brother for being a boy. Vic understood that feeling. She could never forgive him for being gay. But he had no more control over that than Roberto had over being born male.
Mama had always thought he and Roberto were weak. But Roberto had been smart, very smart. He had instinctively known to keep his ambitions from his mother and older brother. Maybe that was why the kid had sought him out? The chance to have familia that you could be yourself with?
Dark black streaks marred Victoria’s outrageous make-up. How long had he been crying? He had shed no tears at their funeral. It was Tio Manual’s final act as the village priest – to bury his sister and nephew. It was the only time that his priestly tio had not condemned him for dressing in drag. Of course, no one recognized him. They had not seen Martin Garcia in over a quarter of a century. Hell, many of them probably did not even know that there was another hermano.
Vic knew things were bad when he began to think more in Spanish than English. He had learned to speak the language in school, of course. But it was not until he ran away that he had realized what a valuable skill it was. More than half his lovers had been Americanos.
“Fuck,” he studied the woman in the mirror. And Victoria was a woman. The other half of his soul. Though he had never realized that when he was whipped for occasionally dressing up in his mother’s clothes, jewels, and make-up.
He wasn’t trans, though. He had considered that long and hard. He liked being a man. A gay man in particular. He had never had any desire to live as a woman full-time. And certainly not to… Vic shivered at the very thought. He often thought of Victoria as his twin, that unborn daughter Consuela Sanchez-Garcia always wanted so much. A nagual, a shapeshifter, another being that lived inside of him.
Of course, he owed her everything. It was Victoria that had enabled him to live free of his family all these years. And it had all began as a dare. His lover at the time, an older Americano, and he spent almost every night at the famous at La Nueva, the hottest gay club in Zona Rosa. When they announced a renowned drag queen would be performing and hosting an amateur night contest, his lover had pinched his cheek and challenged his ‘pretty boy’ to enter it. Not only had he entered, but he had won. And made an enemy of that other famous drag queen, because…well, Victoria was more woman than she would ever be.
That had necessitated his first visit from his mother. She would not have ‘her’ son parading around so flamboyantly on stage for all the world to see. But he was stubborn. He was not giving up his lifestyle or the high of fame he had discovered as Victoria. He had not even hesitated to cut ties with his familia, to become Victoria Flores – Victory Flower. It had become his legal name. And when he was not on stage, he was simply Vic.
He sighed as he stared at the woman in the mirror. Lost in his thoughts, he had used a wipe to remove all traces of make-up from the right side of his face. They weren’t as young or as pretty as they once had been. Vic had found it harder and harder to attract the type of lover he preferred. He could not even remember how long it had been since he had gotten laid. Aging for gay men was just as challenging as it was for some woman, maybe worse for someone like him – that ‘pretty boy.’ But the man in the mirror was neither.
Even the woman was beginning to show her age, especially around the eyes. How much longer could he expect to remain a headliner? Even here, the name Victoria Flores was not the only one on the marquee. He looked over at the pretty blond, Sunny Meadows. He knew he should be jealous, except he couldn’t be. She reminded him so much of the man he had once been. With one difference. Sunny was trans. She performed as a means of saving for gender reassignment surgery. Other than that, she was all alone in this world, as he was. Her family had disowned her, too.
She must have noticed him staring, “So, what are you going to do?”
“The same thing I always do. Get behind the wheel and move on. And you?”
She shook her head, and a couple of tears ran down those still smooth cheeks, “I don’t know. If I stick around, wait this thing out, it could eat up all my savings. But where else would I go?”
Vic considered offering the woman the chance to come with him but thought better of it. He did not need that kind of entanglements right now. Not with where he was going or what he had in mind. “Maybe you could go ahead and have the surgery? You could use the time to recover and begin your new life somewhere else when this is all over.”
Sunny half-smiled, “I wish. But I’m still thousands away from being able to afford it. And that does not even take moving into consideration.”
“Have you thought about what you’ll do next?” Though the definition of female impersonator had expanded beyond the domain of gay males like himself, he knew that was not the life that Sonny from Kansas wanted. This was never anything more than the means to an end for her.
“I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. I used to wait tables. I have no problem doing that and drifting like you have. At least until I find someplace, that feels like home. Or someone… Someone who’ll love me for who I am.”
There it was. Wasn’t that the bottom line? What everyone wanted? Man, woman, or other. Gay, straight, bi, or ace. No matter the color of your skin or how much was in your bank account. But Vic knew that was harder for people like them. Of course, post-surgery, he’d bet that Sunny could pass. But the girl had too much integrity not to share her secret with someone she cared about.
He’d once thought he had integrity too. That he was better than his family. He had lived his life on his terms. Without any financial assistance from them. He had not carried their name or their violent heritage into his new life. Until now. But didn’t he owe Roberto that?
Vic finished removing the thick make-up from the other side of his face. He took off the silicon breastplate. Technology had come so far in the past quarter of a century from those tissues he used that first night in La Nueva. One good thing about this damned thing, though it weighed a ton, the breastplate meant he no longer needed to shave or wax his chest.
Sunny, of course, had implants already. And the hormones had already begun to soften her voice, and electrolysis meant she did not need to shave right before performing.
Something caught Vic’s eye. One of the stacks of twenty-dollar bills. After talking with Tio Manny, he had decided to err on the side of caution. Those accounts in the name of Martin Sanchez-Garcia were already frozen. Even if there was no reason to believe the authorities would connect Martin and Victoria, he could not take that risk. He had worked too damned hard for every peso of that money. And none of it had come from them.
He could not risk it. He had cleared out most of his accounts in Mexico City and converted them to American dollars after confirming with Clive that Victoria would perform for a year at the Fee-nix in exchange for a visa. Of course, this virus was ending all of that early.
Hell, he should probably lie low. All of it would be too fresh in their memories. Revenge was a dish best served cold, or so the saying went. But what else would he do? No, he’d head first to Houston. Then that Sebida place. They would pay. All of them. The half-sisters he had only heard of and their men who had killed his baby brother. That US Attorney too. Losing Jose to a DEA raid had been bad enough, but Roberto too?
No, he would show mama. He might not be the straight babymaker she wanted, but he would avenge Roberto’s death. He had made that promise as they lowered his brother’s casket into the grave.
Maybe that was why he had grown so close to Sunny. She was almost the same age as Roberto. And just as pretty. Though hers was the blond beauty that her name bespoke and his brother had been darker.
What the hell? He had more than he could ever use. With this plan, he would end up like the rest of his family, either dead or in prison. He passed two stacks of the bills to Sunny under the table. “Do it. Live your happily ever after.”
Her blue eyes widened as she recognized what he pressed into her hand. She shook her blond hair that she had let grow out these past couple of months. “I can’t. We don’t know how long this thing might last. You might need it.”
She was right. Vic added a stack of fifties and another twenty to it. If he was going to end up dead or in prison, it felt good to know that the money he had worked so hard for would make a difference to someone. He pressed those too into her hands and closed her fingers around it. “I’ll be fine. I have plans.”
And it was true. He did have. Even if revenge was not something that Victoria Flores ever imagined she would seek. Perhaps Martin Sanchez-Garcia was not as dead as he thought or as weak as his mother said.
Vic pulled a t-shirt over his head before leaning down to hug the young woman, “Promise me you’ll do it, Sunny. Promise me that you’ll live happily ever after.” For us both, he silently added as his friend turned and kissed his cheek with a nod and more tears.
He forced himself to pick up his duffle bag filled with everything Victoria required. Then he stopped by Clive’s office for a final farewell to his former lover. The man tried to give him more money. Though he had been as generous as he could be in the situation with all his performers, Vic knew these places were hurting financially. “If you absolutely insist, give it to Sunny.”
“I’ll take care of her too. I want to lure my headliners back when this is all over.”
Vic did not disabuse the man of the fact. But he knew that neither of them would be returning to this place. He hugged and kissed his friend, whispering, “Add that to whatever you’re giving her.”
Whether the man would or whether he would keep it did not matter. Money had never mattered to Vic. Only the freedom that it bought him. The freedom to live his life as he wanted. Ironic that this plan might cost him that very freedom. But he owed it to that innocent baby he had rocked to sleep hundreds of times when las niñeras left Roberto alone to cry himself to sleep.
Vic was smiling and thinking of that when he opened the stage door into the employee parking lot the club shared with the Bigalow next door. All hell had broken loose, it seemed. He was about to close the door as the big goons beat the crap out of some poor woman. But one of them noticed him, and he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
Maybe mama hadn’t been so loco about that profecía after all. He was coming to terms with the fact that he might be the third son she lost to the blood curse. But he had thought he would have that vengeance first. But maybe not…