|The City Prologue: Riverside
Author: Guede Mazaka
Somewhere, people are crying.
It doesn't matter.
Somewhere, people are screaming.
But in the city of Los Diablos, no one gives a damn. Girls swing with girls and boys, boys run after breasts and dicks, and in the end, everyone ends up in the gutter.
"Fuck that." Rain was still dripping down Sands' face. It stung the cuts and bruises on his face, trickled scum between his lips. His tongue was too thick, wallowing in the swollen tenderness of his mouth, and the soles of his shoes were ripped to hell and back from running thirty blocks of dock.
He had one bullet left. Classic case of marooning translated to the big city, but damned if he was going to waste lead on himself when he could string up at least one more greasy zoot-suited bastard.
The warehouse timbers creaked like death's own footsteps, heavy and vibrating the world. His hands were going numb, and if someone didn't show up in a few minutes, he would have to drop his gun.
Someone did show up. Herself in midnight black, sashaying her rifle through the door as if she-well, shit, she did own the place. Through Daddy dearest, of course. "Sheldon?" Ajedrez trilled. "Hope there's no hard feelings. After all, you did get the job done, and we did give you a hell of a bonus."
"All I asked you to do was track down a certain musician for me." From the other end, Barillo swaggered in, pinstripes glowing spidercracks in his suit, cane swinging alongside his huge pistol. "You're lucky I didn't cut off your balls then and there when I found out what kind of shit had propositioned my daughter."
"It's okay, Father." Like the rat-tat-tat exchange of machine guns. Their heels clicked in unison, better than any line of dancers. Sands forced his fingers to curl around his gun and clawed the fuzzy anger out of his mind so he could concentrate. Which to shoot. Which-
--soft clatter behind him, and he spun to shoot the fucker diving off the crate pile. Another followed, firing wildly-heat suddenly blazed through Sands' arm and leg. He crumpled, then lunged up when the gloating fool got too close and wrenched that shitfucker's head completely around. But then he was too late for Ajedrez's approach.
Hard slam into his head, making his teeth rattle down his throat, and then unforgiving hands were yanking him to his feet. His wet hair flopped in the way, blocking his view of Barillo's shark mouth. "Do you realize how much shit you've just brought down on yourself?"
His voice sounded high and tinny in the gargantuan echoes of the warehouse. Weak, and they heard it, too. Ajedrez patted his cheeks, then slapped him and laughed when he tried to bite her. "Don't be stupid, gringo."
"New York will kill you." Sands thrashed his head about and managed to get the hair out of his face. His vision was too sharp, too clear, like someone had ratcheted up the magnification on a scope. Faces bent and blurred. "Fuck. So will D. C."
"We have understandings with New York and D. C." Barillo shoved up Sands' chin with the cane head, which sliced more blood out to drip unseen onto the floor. The bullets in Sands' arm and leg were slowly turning those limbs to pure lead, which dragged and screamed. "Caprizzo was not pleased to learn you were playing him for your agency. Likewise, they seem to more than happy to sell their agents off."
"Agents?" Sands choked down bile and blood and felt it roil his stomach. He was going to slaughter every single one of them-they dared think they could treat him like a footsoldier, like a fucking pawn-
"Frederick Abberline," Ajedrez filled in. "He was running the investigation into the Lent massacres, and he was getting rather close. But we need El alive, and Abberline, apparently, is the last straight-arrow in the force. Or was."
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Only colleague he hadn't pissed off.
"You know what you're worth, Sheldon?" Her voice had gone soft again. Caressing like a snake wrapping around an ankle. "Free shipping for a year. And a guarantee that D. C. doesn't have to track down local Communists themselves, because the Reds will all be dead."
Then he fell to black, choking on his last howl.
Fred inhaled till his eyes wanted to pop, then breathed out and whacked the files onto his superior's desk. "But he's there! I'm certain of it!"
The other man sighed and dropped his head into his hands. "Didn't you learn anything when Sergeant Godley got transferred to D. C.?"
On the wall, the shadows were crawling. Merging into a huge, swooping-
Fred fell quietly, without a sound. His wrists and ankles were bound, and then his slumped body was unceremoniously tossed over a shoulder, while a bulging envelope simultaneously found its way onto the desk. The man sitting there didn't move to pick it up, or to watch. He sighed again. "I really did like you, Abberline. Never gave me much trouble up till now. But you just wouldn't play the game."
The two nighttime visitors to the office paid him no attention as they swiftly exited the building and slipped into their big enameled-black hulk of a car. Abberline went into the backseat, they went up front, and in less time than a showtune, they were pulling up to a deserted stretch of riverfront. While they were dragging Fred to the edge, he began to stir. The two men hurried up their pace, but he awoke much faster than expected and caught on to their intent.
"Get-off!" He suddenly twisted backwards, too hard for them to hold on, and fell sideways into the mud. They'd tied his hands in front of him, so he could crawl, but after a few seconds of scrabbling, someone grabbed him by the waist and slung him into the water. Which was shocking cold, slamming the breath out of him, and too deep for his feet. He treaded water as best he could and made for shore. His toes touched ground at the same time his face was shoved underwater.
Foulness immediately swirled up his nose and battered at his clenched lips. A blow, only slightly slowed by the water, hit him in the kidney, and then in the stomach. In reflex, his mouth opened. He choked and attempted to spit the flood back out, but it kept coming, stretching out his throat and filling him with-
dark eyes over chains from the guitar to him and wounded hand offering
--burning gasp and the white vision seared into his retinas retreated to reveal the muddy bank clutched in his fingers, dirt oozing up between them. People whispered around him, pounded the water out of his belly and then he was hauled up into another car, gag stuffed into his mouth. His mind was still trembling with realizations and understandings, and so he almost missed the body huddled into the other corner of the spacious seat.
"Who the hell are you?" came a thready whisper.
Fred's jaw dropped, and he garbled something into the gag. Sands' head went up, bloodstained blindfold turning this way and that-
seen too much far too much they used to blind commoners that even glimpsed noblewomen
fucking no no no don't oh god kill you cut you to pieces and eat you alive
christ god can't see half now and they're coming for the other one oh god oh god oh god
--rag bindings scraped over Fred's face as Sands felt out the features. "Abberline?"
Muffled affirmative. The other agent made a noise like a crying chuckle and buried his head into the wet clinging folds of Fred's shirt. Behind him, the car door was slammed shut and the driver's door briefly opened to allow a green-eyed girl into the front seat. She cast a cool look back at the two men, then started the car and drove off towards the bleached moon.
Dean peeked into the room, carefully noted the two men forcibly ensconced in the large bed, then turned back to Miguel. Who had come so close that his heat was scorching Dean through three layers of clothing. "You put them in his room? And are those his clothes they're wearing?"
"Also his torn-up shirts that we're using as bandages." Large hands slid around Dean's front, locking him back into the other man. Miguel nipped at the resulting shiver and licked around the earpiece of Dean's glasses. "It'll be easier if they're already used to his things."
"You're imprinting them, you mean." Dean let go of the door and reluctantly leaned back into the touches, which were knowing and clever and implacably arousing. "Why two?"
"Three, actually." G glided out of the shadows, a woman's shawl dangling from her hand. "She just got home."
Miguel leaned over to draw a kiss from her, then tucked Dean into his side and pulled the door shut on Abberline and Sands. He looked thoughtful as he escorted them back to his private rooms. "You remember my third cousin Carolina?"
Dean nodded, wrapping his fingers around Miguel's watch-chain. A palm skimmed up and down his side, occasionally dipping to cup his buttock. "What about her?"
"She's had a crush on El for years, but Domino and Campa and Quino…so I thought I'd finally introduce her to my famous relative." As he spoke, Miguel produced cigarettes, holder and lighter, which he dexterously manipulated with one hand until a smoking red tip dangled insolently from his lip. He started a little, then glanced at Dean and G. "Did I ever tell you about the Lent massacres?"
"No." She was leaning into his other side, and her hand tangled with Dean's in the chain.
"El and Bucho…you know who they were. Their father was odd-took their mother back to Mexico before El was born, and kept them there until they came here by themselves, already killers." Miguel took out his holder and put it between Dean's lips for safekeeping while he opened the door to his office. "That's why we don't know what their real names are. Parents dead, which they never talked about-but Bucho ended up heading what's now Barillo's organization, and El nominally in this one, back when it was under Uncle Ramirez, God rest his soul-" Miguel briefly crossed himself "--He mostly went his own way, but then he and Bucho got into a fight over Domino, and she died. They wrecked the entire city. Got most of both gangs killed before El shot Bucho in the head and went back to Mexico."
Miguel backed Dean up against the wall and spoke the last few words directly into Dean's ear, voice like a feather stroking down the nerves. He swung G around next to Dean, then kissed both of them, hard and deep and much, much too slow. "But we're both back in business now," he told their gasps. "Which leaves me with a bit of a problem, since Barillo is much more subtle than Bucho. I need my cousin back."
"So they're all…bait?" Dean thought he said it, but his attention was really in other directions. Like the fingers undoing his shirt.
"Incentive," Miguel corrected. "Back when he ran with Domino, Campa and Quino, no one ever could tell who El was really fucking. So I'll let him choose for himself."