Raymond Greywolf kept his head down as he sneaked into Garcia’s kitchen. The girl had not known much about the compound itself, only the village, cantina, and the house on the grounds where the others were kept. The cantina was no longer of any interest, now that Bebe had escaped.
Of course, the little house on the grounds was their primary target. But they needed more information, especially when. When would be the best time to help Mercy, Grace, and Rose escape. He would try to get a message to them, if nothing more than to reassure the women.
But this was about getting the information they needed. He and Rex had argued, but this made perfect sense. Few people noticed servants, especially at events like this when extra help was brought in. While he was not Latino, his Native American blood ran as thick on both sides of the Great River. Once upon a time, it had meant nothing. These boundaries of the white men.
No, this plan made the most sense. Jack was the only other one that might have gone unnoticed. While he was younger and fitter, his nephew would have had to rely upon his sense of hearing and sight. Ray could count on other senses to obtain the information they needed.
But it was not that simple. He had known this would be difficult, but even he had underestimated the power that fear and blood would have on his mind. Almost five decades. He had been fighting this darkness for nearly five decades. Since Jane’s accident.
Those in his community who understood these things believed he was some miracle. But he was just a stubborn old man. In the beginning, he had held on for Raine. Their daughter was little more than a baby when her mother died.
He was determined that she would not lose her father too. He knew what it felt like to be an orphan, though he and Joe had not really been. He would not have his child grow up in foster or group homes as he had. Not that he had done a perfect job with his only child.
His search for answers, some way of holding back the darkness, had consumed him. He had become so absorbed by his journey that he had lost sight of what truly mattered. Until it was too late. The day Raine left for college, he had thought of ending it all, but by then, those books, legends, and mysteries beckoned to him.
What only Rex understood was how hard it was to hold on. How the darkness still beat at his mind and soul. Every moment of every day for so long that he barely remembered her face. He kept it all at bay by immersing himself in his studies and limiting his time around other people. Their thoughts always beat at him. He wore them like heavy armor that weighed him down.
Never more so than this moment. He had never, not even in the dozens of protests in which he had participated over the years, felt such evil. And racism was vile. But here, it was greed, murder, and fear. Even those innocents among these dark souls throbbed with fear.
Ray clenched his hands at his side as an old woman looked at him. Her grandsons. She feared for the boys. The Garcias used them to control her, but even more, she worried about the day they would become men and the Fate that awaited her innocents. “Take this,” she passed him a silver tray laden with food, most of which he did not recognize.
He nodded his head and dropped his eyes but noticed her making the sign of the cross. He followed others to the open gardens that were the center of the villa. There were dozens of people, mostly men, milling about. Many wore guns. It was easy to pick them out. The main party gathered around the patio.
Diego Garcia smiled, his arm wrapped around a dark-haired and petite woman. But her beauty hid only hatred and madness. How had such a man never realized that his greatest enemy slept in his bed every night? The woman was a threat. Not merely to her husband, but their plan as well.
Death clung like a robe to the older man that Garcia spoke with. Ray could not tell which was more potent, the violence or cancer.
But there was no doubt when it came to the woman beside him. Consuela Sanchez-Garcia was the evilest creature he had ever encountered. Her memories beat at him. Fratricide, patricide, even infanticide, nothing was beyond this woman. Not if it stood between her and power. She would do anything, had done much. She lifted her head and looked around. Her soulless eyes seemed to linger in his direction.
Ray dropped his head and turned his back, offering the platter to a group of men nearby. He forced deep breaths in through his nose and out through his mouth. He focused on calming his heart. The woman was human, without gifts of her own. Yet tainted with dark magic. That meant somewhere nearby, there was another. Did it sense him through her?
He could not leave, abandon the plan now. He had work to do. He noticed the tall, young man and fragile looking woman-child that stood by the fountain. She drew him closer. Her light the only source of goodness in this place. Ray passed the food around as he made his way closer to the couple.
“Please, Connie, I need your help.”
She nodded her head, her big eyes looking at the man. But she did not see him, not the real man that lived beneath the handsome façade. “Of course, Roberto, anything. What do you need?”
“My father is dead.”
The girl frowned and placed her hand on his arm. Ray knew that she should have felt the evil in the man, but she chose not to. “I’m sorry. We’ll put the wedding off, of course.”
Roberto Garcia shook his head, “No, Constanza. The wedding must go ahead as planned.” It was greed that motivated his words, not love. “No one else knows yet.”
“What? I don’t understand. How can your mother not know?”
“My sister has been caring for him. Now that he is dead, there’s no reason to keep her around. My mother and brother will kill her.”
The girl frowned, “Your sister? Why would your mother kill your sister?”
“My half-sister. My father’s daughter by another woman. Connie, I need your help to keep my mother busy, so I can sneak Mercy out of here.”
“Of course,” the girl was trembling and on the verge of tears as the man leaned down and kissed her forehead.
“Everything is going to be fine, I promise. Once your father is dead, we will control the cartel.”
“And we’ll disband it, promise me, Roberto. No more drugs or prostitutes. No more bloodshed. We’ll take the money and invest in legitimate businesses like you promised.”
“Of course, just like I promised.” But Ray felt the truth.
At least, he intended to go through with his promise to help Mercy Reynolds escape. But what about the McBrides? Bebe? Was he only telling this woman what he wanted her to know this time too?
“How will you get the woman out?”
“Tomorrow, during the wedding. There will be only a handful of men left to guard this place. Everyone else will be at the church. I will sneak her into the trunk of one of the cars. Her boyfriend is in the village. I will get word to him somehow.”
It was the information that they needed. Ray knew better than to trust this man to keep his word; he could not be relied upon. Tomorrow morning during the wedding they would make their move. Perhaps send Rex to get the women out. But one horse would not be enough. He would need to join his grandson.
Could he? It had been more than a decade since he had walked in another skin. He knew that he still could. But such things required strength and stamina that a septuagenarian did not have. Especially if it meant carrying a load on his back. But what choice did they have?
A priest approached the couple. The woman bowed her head. “Bless me, Father.”
The older man smiled, “Constanza, my child, I cannot do what the good Lord already has.” He turned towards the young man, “Roberto, I would hear your confession, nephew.”
“Now? This is a party, Tio. I hardly think this is the time.”
“Nonetheless, I doubt that there will be enough time tomorrow morning for your confession. I will see you in the chapel in half an hour.”
The young man wanted to argue. He did not believe in anything except money and power. Those were his gods. But he knew that going against this man would raise suspicions not only with his mother and brother but with the girl and her father. “Fine.”
The girl leaned up and kissed his cheek, “Thank you, Roberto. I am glad that Papa chose you. There is so much good that we can do together.”
Ray had heard enough. His mind and heart worried for the woman. She was pure. Or as pure as someone of this earth could be. She meant well. Her sins were of omission. She saw only good in others. Especially this man. But wasn’t that the way of young love?
He turned back towards the kitchen. Ray hoped that he would be able to sneak out and back to the others. He had almost made his escape when he heard voices down the dark hallway. They called to him. This was important. He knew that somehow. And Raymond Greywolf had long since stopped questioning that how.
He hid in the shadow of a doorway. Consuela Garcia knelt before an altar with candles and photographs. Her oldest son stood to the side. “What did you want, Mama?”
The woman reached out her talons and grabbed the black cotton shirt the man wore. “Please, I beg you to reconsider. The girl is young. She could give us the babies we need. Perhaps even a daughter as her mother gave Dominguez.”
“How many times do I need to tell you, Mama? I have a wife.”
“Anna? How many miscarriages have that woman had? Not a living baby, not one in almost three decades. You need children. Sons to carry on.”
The man held up his hand, “Enough, Mama. This conversation is over. I love Anna. From the moment I saw her, I knew she was the only woman for me. Let Roberto and Constanza have the babies. Isn’t that the point of this marriage? To combine our families? We’ll control nearly a quarter of Mexico.”
“Roberto is weak like his father. He will breed weak sons on the girl. Think, Diego, those children could be yours.”
“No, Mama. I have told you too many times. I will not divorce, Anna. Even if Tio could get me an annulment from the church. I love my wife.” He turned and walked back to the garden.
Ray slunk deeper into the shadows, became one with them. He would give it a couple of moments before following the man. His heart pounded even faster as the woman turned and whispered, “You can come out now.”
He feared that the woman had somehow detected his presence. Would it be better to reveal himself? Play dumb, an old man who had gotten lost. He understood far more Spanish than he spoke. But perhaps if he played ‘touched?’ Women like this were superstitious. Maybe he could use that?
Then he noticed the figure in white robes appear from a closed doorway. “You heard?”
“You have it? There is no other way now.”
The man passed something to her, though Ray could not see what. “It won’t work immediately. Not like the other. This will take time.”
“How much time? The wedding is tomorrow morning.”
The figure shook his head, “Not that much time. Minutes. At most an hour. It will look like she had a sudden heart attack. She is young, and that might raise suspicions with your son, but only the most advanced technology will be able to detect the poison.”
The woman laughed, “Anna never had a heart. Not where it comes to my son. Diego never saw through her, but I did. Thank you, Jesus.”
“De nada, Senora.” The man held out his hand and helped her to her feet. “When will you use it? Tomorrow before the wedding?”
Consuela shook her head, “No, if it can take that long to act, I don’t dare wait. What if the girl married Roberto? No, tonight. It is best if I use it now. I am sure that the men will not mind if we women slip away from the party.”
Ray did not dare tarry. Whatever else was said, it was best if he was not there when these two walked down the hall. He was not sure that he could mask his presence from the man. Curandero. And a powerful one too.
He quietly left his hiding place as they chatted. He sighed with relief and looked over his shoulder as he stepped into the light on the patio. He turned and ran directly into the woman. Pain stabbed his head and his heart. Hatred this deep had an evil all its own. The blood of her babies cried out to him. So much blood.
But beneath that, he felt her pain too. The woman-child that was not unlike the other one. But this one had not had the luxury of seeing the good in her husband. No amount of love or passion could ever wipe the stains of her family’s blood from his hands. Ray’s heart broke for that young woman. A prisoner in her marriage for most of her life.
But no more. She had a plan. And it beat at his mind. This woman’s hatred could destroy everyone. And everything.