Raymond Greywolf knew that he should have sneaked out already. At the very least, for long enough to send a message to the others. But he could not afford to let either woman out of his sight. He kept to the shadows mostly, a half-empty tray of food that had lost its freshness. Men just shook their heads when he held it out.
This situation was more volatile than they had imagined. Kidnapping, human trafficking, and drug cartels were terrible enough. Those had hubris and avarice at their heart, and you could count on that to control men’s actions. But two women who hated one another as deeply as Consuela and Anna Garcia were a thing of legend that brought down whole kingdoms.
He watched Diego Garcia smile and kiss his wife’s hand. How could the man not see the look of utter disgust beneath the beautiful mask the woman wore? But he knew that was the problem. Men often only saw that which they wanted to in their true loves.
His throat tightened. Had he been any different with his Jane? Almost half a century and her rejection of his other still seeped like an open wound. He had thought they had time. That she would mellow over time. But Fate had not been so kind.
It was not Fate that planned murder this night. But two women. The older woman stood as well, leaning down to kiss her son’s cheek. What would the man say if he knew that his mother planned to kill the woman he loved? If he knew of the number of babies that woman had aborted? Most before he even knew she was pregnant.
The quiet young woman stood. She was the reason Ray stayed. It would be all too easy for this innocent to get caught up in these women’s plans. He could not let that happen. Though he was not a fan of the religion she professed, he recognized her gifts. There was an innocence about the girl that went deeper than her sheltered upbringing, a purity of spirit that he feared would be tested before dawn.
The women moved off down that darkened hallway. The candlelight cast shadows on their faces as they passed. Then the old woman stopped and opened a door. She ushered the others in and started to pull the door closed. He was right behind them. He had not moved that quickly in many years. He had not until that moment thought he still could.
Ray risked everything to place one of the napkins over the lock. The door slid mostly shut, but the locking mechanism did not catch. Though he feared the consequences, Ray knew that he did not dare crack the door too soon. He could not risk being discovered, especially not by Consuela Garcia. The woman had far more blood on her hands than either of her sons, including fratricide and patricide. Killing her daughter-in-law was inconsequential to this woman.
Anna Garcia was another matter. Murder did not come easily to this woman. Even now, she was acting out of desperation. All hope extinguished with the death of the one last link to her past. Even then, she could not bring herself to strike out directly at the person she hated most. Instead, she sought to hurt her husband by destroying the woman who had born and nurtured him.
Constanza Dominguez sat quietly with her head down as the old woman poured glasses of wine. Ray smiled as he noted the glasses were different colors. So, the woman wished to make sure she did not kill the wrong daughter-in-law. That should have been a relief, but it wasn’t.
Consuela walked back to the others, passing them the drinks. “To new alliances. Long life and many babies.” The older woman lifted her glass to Anna, but her dark eyes sneered at her daughter-in-law as she spoke.
“May you never know the pain of loss,” Anna’s smile and toast were genuine.
The youngest woman did not speak. She barely looked up as she nodded her head. “Come now, child. I know that you did not plan to marry, but surely my son cannot be that bad?”
Anna moved closer to the girl, squeezing her hand. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”
Constanza looked up at her with a weak smile, “Thank you. I am certain that I worry over nothing.”
Anna stared into the younger woman’s eyes until massive tears trekked down her face leaving a black trail in their wake. “At least, they did not force you to marry the man you watched kill your whole family…”
The older women’s eyes met, and this time there was no pretense, only pure hatred. “My ten-year-old brother. Your son killed my ten-year-old brother. Then he forced our priest to marry us so that his rape was sanctioned by the church. That his child would be legitimate.”
The younger woman drew back, her eyes filled with horror as she shook her head. “No, tell me that isn’t true?”
Consuela Garcia smiled at her, “Those were different times, my child. You have nothing to worry about. Your father, Diego, and I worked hard on these negotiations. Everything will be fine.”
“And what happens if she doesn’t produce the grandchild you want, Consuela? Will you try to poison her too? Once her father is dead, of course. Does that man plan to kill him after the wedding?”
“Anna, enough. You are talking old history and rubbish. This is about the future. Connie’s future,” she lifted her glass. “Salud.”
Anna’s gaze met the older woman’s. Ray knew that he should reveal himself before she drank from her glass. But he seemed frozen in some bad nightmare. His cries stuck in his throat; he could not even warn her. But the smile on her beautiful face told him that he did not need to. Anna knew as she lifted the glass and drained it in a single gulp.
“I would tell you to plead with your Papa not to go through with this marriage. But we both know that our father’s love goes only so far. The irony is that my father would have handed me over to his worst enemy to save my brothers’ lives. But that wasn’t good enough revenge for these murderers.”
“Consuela, did you know my brother Ernesto wanted to be a priest? Like your brother, Manuel? He wanted no part of our family’s crimes against god. Only to pray and do good deeds. He thought that he could erase some of their evil from this earth. Is that why you wanted to take holy orders, Connie?”
The young woman shook her head, “I never knew my father. Not until he came to the convent for me. I just want to serve god.”
Consuela smiled and reached over to place her hand over the girl’s. “There are other ways of doing that, child. Even the church recognizes that being a good wife and mother is a calling, too.”
“Yes, bringing more murderers into this world is a high calling, indeed.” Color had drained from Anna Garcia’s face. Was it her words? Or was the poison in that glass acting already?
Constanza shook her head, “No, it won’t be like that. Roberto says we can invest my father’s money in legitimate businesses. That our children won’t grow up like…”
“My youngest son’s promises are of no consequence. This alliance is not about Roberto.”
“No, it’s about you and Diego, isn’t it? Grabbing for even more money and power.” The woman coughed and fell back onto the velvet love seat.
Constanza reached for her, “Are you okay? I can get the doctor. Papa always travels with a doctor.”
Anna smiled and brushed her hand across the woman’s cheek, “No, I don’t want a doctor. I want you to know the truth. To see these people for what they are. That’s all that matters, now.”
She turned back to the older woman, “Will you kill your own son, too? I can’t imagine that Roberto will want to just step aside so that Diego can marry his fiancée. How else would you ensure that her father went along with your plan to switch grooms? I would ask if my husband knew of this, but I know better. He would never agree to this.”
Anna laughed, and blood trickled from the corner of her red lips, “You see, my best revenge of all is that my husband loves me. Or as much as a monster can love.” She lifted her eyes to Consuela’s, “Your plan will fail. He won’t agree.”
“Diego will do what his Mama says. Just like he always has. My oldest son is not weak like his father or brothers. He knows the importance of this marriage to our family. Diego won’t have any other choice.”
“But I will,” Constanza stood and faced the old woman.
Consuela Sanchez-Garcia laughed, “No, you aren’t strong enough. The church ruined you. But I won’t allow my father’s empire to be passed on to weak, spoiled little brats. At least one of their parents will be strong. Diego is strong. He always has been.”
Anna laughed, “You know nothing about your sons. You never did. Losing me will drive Diego insane, just like your father. And you know why? Because I have sewn those seeds of insanity myself. For three decades, I have been his ‘perfect’ wife.”
“Yes, after those first rapes, I wanted nothing but revenge and death. I planned it a thousand times. How I would hide a knife and slit his throat while he slept, then I would kill myself with that same knife. But I couldn’t do it. Maybe I’m weak too, but I could not do it. I could not bring myself to murder him in cold blood. Because then I would be no different than he was. Than you are.”
“Shhh, don’t talk. Let me go for Papa’s doctor.” Connie was crying as she dropped to her knees next to the woman.
Anna brushed the young woman’s hair back from her face and wiped the tears from her cheek. “No, this is what I want. It’s the only way I’ll ever be free of these people.” Tears appeared in her dark eyes as she winced in pain, “If I had ever dared to allow my babies to live, I wanted a daughter just like you. But I couldn’t take that risk. That they would be like her…”
Connie gripped the woman’s hand tighter as she cried harder, “Go for your doctor now. It’s too late anyway.”
Ray felt his chest tighten. He could not afford to be found out. But neither could he allow this young woman to be caught up in whatever was to come. He stepped back as she pushed the door open. Consuela Sanchez-Garcia sat in a high-back ornate chair just watching as the other woman writhed, perhaps in pain or maybe a seizure. His mind told him to go to the woman, but his spirit said this one was the reason he was here.
He reached for her arm and pulled Constanza Dominguez into the shadows. His hand covered her mouth, “Shhh, I won’t hurt you. But you need to get out of here. Now.”
He turned her face so she could look at him, perhaps see the truth, that he meant her no harm. His mind caressed hers and knew the moment that she decided not to cry out. “Come. I will get you out of this place of death.”
“No, I have to go. Get Papa’s doctor for her.”
He knew it was pointless to argue, and honestly, he did not want to anyway. If there was any hope that Anna Garcia could be saved, he owed her that. “I will go for the doctor. You need to get out of here.”
“Where? Where can I go? They’ll find me. Bring me back here.” He felt the panic rising in the young woman. She had remained calm as she watched the other women battle, but now she was losing it.
Ray brushed her mind with peace. “Go. The little house across the garden. Do you know it?”
She nodded, wide-eyed but holding on to some sanity in the chaos of death and destruction. “Go. Now.” He shoved her aside as he screamed out a warning. “Help…”
Perhaps he should have turned and followed the girl, but he did not. Instead, he sank behind the door, watching through the cracks.
Three men with guns drawn raced down the dark hallway. Diego Garcia was right behind them. Ray prayed they did not notice that the door would not go back any further as they burst into the room.
Consuela sat calmly drinking her wine as her son rushed to his wife’s side. Ray had thought the woman was dead when she stopped contorted, but Anna opened her eyes when her husband lifted her, “What happened? I’ll get a doctor.”
The woman shook her dark head and, with her words, plunged a knife deeper than she had ever dreamt possible, “No, Diego. It’s too late.”
“No,” the man screamed with great tears streaming down his face. He looked about the room, “Where’s the girl? She did this? I’ll kill them all.”
Anna smiled as she looked over at her nemesis. “No, Connie didn’t do this. She has gone for her father’s doctor. You know who did this, Diego.”
He shook his head as he watched his wife struggle for each of her dying breaths. “Yes, your mother. She did this. You know I’m telling the truth.” More blood ran down the corner of her mouth, staining her lips even darker red than her lipstick. But neither could cover the blue.
He drew her tighter into his arms and held her possessively as he wailed. There was a look of pure triumph on her face as she stared across at her mother-in-law and drew her final breath.
“What is going on here?” The old man shoved against the door so hard that Ray felt the knob buried in his groin. Four other men followed behind Rafael Dominguez. His eyes searched the room, “Where is my daughter? Where is Connie?”
“She’s fine, Rafael,” Consuela smiled at the man. “Connie has gone looking for your doctor. My daughter-in-law had a heart attack. Anna was always weak. That’s why she lost so many babies.”
“Lies, it’s all lies,” Diego Garcia laid his dead wife back on the cushion. His eyes filled with hate as he looked at his mother as if seeing the woman for the first time. “You killed her. You killed her because you want me to marry the girl. Isn’t that right, mother?”
Rafael looked between the man and his mother. “I will find my daughter. We are leaving. Obviously, there can be no wedding now. Not when you are mourning your wife.”
Consuela rose from her chair as if realizing, at last, the flaws in her plan, “Rafael, this is just a misunderstanding. My son is distraught. This alliance is to both our goods.”
“Perhaps I have been hasty. I liked the boy. He is bright. His plans are solid. But this…” His hands trembled as he waved them around the room. “I want no part in this. And I certainly do not want my daughter ending up like…”
No one noticed as the old woman lifted her arms from her side where they had been hidden in the folds of her dress. She fired the gun so quickly that all the man could do was stand there in shock as the red stain spread across his white shirt.
The woman turned to the three men that had entered with her son. “Find the girl.”
The four men with Dominguez knelt next to the man. One applied pressure as a dark, almost black liquid soaked the floor beneath them. The man was likely dying. He was even too weak to speak at that point. But the look that passed between him and the men required no words. While the one continued to apply pressure to the wound, the other three drew their weapons.
Ray knew better than to stick around. These were not blanks on a Hollywood set. These were men accustomed to killing. He slammed the door shut and slipped down the hallway past that alter. The front door flew open and more killers ran inside. Ray pressed himself into the shadows and waited for the men to go past, then he backed towards the still-open front door.
It was the opposite direction from that little house where the women were being held, but there was no way he could make it down the hall, across the patio and gardens to them. He had to trust the Great Ones that the others would reach the McBrides, Mercy, and the girl.