|Chemisty 3: Fifty Pesos
Author: Guede Mazaka
"For a mariachi fuck, fifty pesos!"
Was he worth fifty? Once upon a time, there was a woman that thought so.
As always when he remembered Carolina, his heart first soared into the sun and then, blinded, slammed itself against unchangeable memory. Phantom blood dried in the phantom tire tracks as he dragged himself along…but this was not the time for such matters. He shook his head and came forward, keeping to the shadows as he pushed his way through the crowd. That was easy, in such a place as this, where they shone the red lanterns proudly. One eye kept on the tallest mariachi entertaining the crowd, he finally emerged on the other side of the room. Lorenzo, wooing for the night as usual.
When the boy-really a boy, too stupid to know not to be his friends, finished his set, he was waiting. Swung himself out of the corner and grabbed a thin wrist, pinning the peso-leaking hand to the wall. Money that was worth something only in this ruined country, where generals and rats played god, and the dried bones of their victims could only grin mindlessly. But Lorenzo looked surprised-stunned and happy, to see him. Grabbed him back, and hugged him like a girl-child. "When-" the younger mariachi started, but was cut off by his own joy.
Stupid, stupid boy, with his soft dark eyes and women's lashes, blinking so guilelessly over a pretty mouth. Carolina would have curled hers into a harder smile, still welcome but always wary for those behind. But-and admitting it was another bullet tearing in his gut till Judgment Day-she couldn't watch for him anymore. "Still fucking around?" he asked, not-quite-taunting.
Carolina's would-be replacement smiled mock-apologetically, half-shrugging, tossing out some excuse. Well, he knew this song. It was all he had left to play now; Marquez had seen to that, and the oil-slick CIA agent, shifty as sand dunes, had let the last shovelful of dirt fall. "I'll take my turn now," he hissed, dragging them both into the backrooms.
"For a mariachi fuck, fifty pesos!"
It was the usual crowd, a mix of men desperate for the gyrating strippers and of women desperate for the singing guitarists. He picked out one girl, plump and certainly not the prettiest but with that extra gleam that marked out a high tipper, and leaned in close, giving her a private serenade. Ended it with a long, soulful kiss. Lorenzo tasted spices and meat, ran his tongue over chipped and decaying teeth. He liked the rottenness; it was honest. He wasn't, but he prided himself on being straightforwardly exploitative. Nothing like the politicians who couldn't even confess to a priest their tricks.
Earlier in the morning, Lorenzo had seen a looming devilish phantom out of half-remembered childhood nightmares, all black and white holes where eyes and face should be. He'd started and whipped around, only to find a man preparing for Dias de la Muerte. Still, bad magic.
Someone seized his wrist as he was leaving at the end of his set, and Lorenzo's entire body began to tense up, but then he recognized the face and abruptly sagged back. Holy Mother and Her blessed child. "When-" he gasped, completely floored, and then his breath choked his words. Still alive, still alive. Still handsome and whole, and with that old grace that numbed Lorenzo's fingers like tequila and women never did. But-Lorenzo looked closer-he was wrong, after all. He knew those black eyes, blacker than the void Lorenzo sometimes woke screaming from, blacker than the dark shadows that prowled around his partner, now mostly drunk off his ass and always dangerous. Muerte.
"Still fucking around?" El Mariachi, one-man destroyer of cartels and towns, legend of Mexico, demanded, in a smoky-rough rasp that managed to set Lorenzo's back and prick up. Lorenzo shifted his shoulders, tossed the dead an offering, slipped into his woman-chaser mask to buy time. Dead-Carolina and daughter dead, Marquez alive, El dead walking. Not an auspicious list. But why was he here then, still pressing Lorenzo against the wall, instead of back hiding in whatever coyote den he'd found?
"I'll take my turn now," the skeleton growled. Lorenzo blinked away the bones and suddenly found himself facing his old friend, wounded and so near death the scavengers were already tearing at him. There was the width of an E-string between almost and forever, though. He knew that spark, almost-ashed out, he saw in the eyes before him. Red like blood set in black like guns and bullets. Well, Lorenzo liked those better than the women he fucked, so he let El Mariachi drag him off. He'd had fun in this dive; now it was time to play for the devil.