A Trip Down South

“We all change,” I reply, repeating his words back to him before slowly squeezing his hand. He doesn’t jerk away from me this time, but instead runs his thumb over the back of mine.

He takes a deep breath before meeting my eyes. “I have to know. It was never real, was it? You never loved me? You used me.”

I hold his gaze, so he knows I mean every word. “I use everyone.”

San Pedro Garza Garcia. A beautiful city in Mexico and one of my first stops since my recent incarceration. It’s a beautiful city with buildings reaching towards the sky that would make my family jealous. Not only that, it is one of the wealthiest cities in Mexico. With its luxury shopping malls, the companies that reside here, and the mountain range that surrounds it, it’s beautiful. But like anything with beauty, it holds its secrets. It is named after one of my more notorious friends, Alejandro San Pedro. His family owned this area long before I came along, although meeting me definitely helped his rise to power. But that is a story for another time. Right now, time is of the essence. 

I form outside a large gated mansion, my heels clicking on the pavement as I take in my surroundings. Water dances from the fountain, a statue of a woman holding a bowl in the middle. I roll my eyes. It’s so overdone. You would think the man is not used to having money. Several black SUVs line the driveway near the entrance. I make my way past them, stopping for a moment to check my reflection in the mirror. I use the tip of my thumb to wipe the edge of my lip where my lipstick ran. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat, okay? I tousle my hair once more to the side and adjust my sunglasses. I wear an off the shoulder, red long-sleeve blouse and matching red pants with white heels. My style has definitely improved since Tartarus. I will be damned if I ever wear something that costs less than a few grand again. 

A hard object pokes the back of my head, pulling me from my thoughts. In the reflection of the tinted window, I see the tip of the assault rifle come into view. I turn slowly. The man holding the gun yelling, asking who I am and how I got here. Several others flank him, carrying the same type of artillery and wearing overdressed vests. Well, I guess I am not going to do this quietly. 

*************

I kick the large bedroom door open and throw another one of Alejandro’s guards onto the floor near his bed. Alarms blare behind me as I walk fully into his room. I step over the dead guard and look around. The room reminds me of a mausoleum. The same colors as the outside of the mansion, beiges, browns, and golds fill the area. There is a large bed in the center, with four bedposts that nearly reach the ceiling. An old man sits in the middle, resting against the pillows, lines running from his arms to connect to machines that beep. 

“Really? Alarms now? Tsk, tsk, old friend. You have changed,” I say, stopping in the center of the room and folding my arms. 

“And you, Carińa, have not aged a day.” His voice is raspy and tired. He is not the same man I remember from long ago. 

“Are you going to turn those off?” I ask, waving my hand behind me. “Or shall I kill the rest of your entourage?” 

He laughs, which seems to send him into a coughing fit. I can hear the fluid in his chest from here and know he has some mortal heart defect. Pity. He reaches over to the large bedside table, takes out a small device and clicks it once. The alarms cease and my growing headache eases. 

“Better.” I form onto his bed, sitting close to him. He doesn’t move or budge, nor do I expect him to. He and I go way back. A blink for me, but looking at him now, an eternity for him. “So what’s it been, old friend? A few decades for us? You seem so weary.” 

“Is this what we do now, Carińa? Small talk?” 

“We can.” I smile slowly as I dance my fingertips up his arm toward the line that runs medication to his veins. “You know I prefer to do this the easy way over the hard way.” 

“You left me, the project, and everything we worked for sixty-three years ago. Now you are back? For what? Information? Money? No, I know you never needed that, and I know,” he pauses, waving to himself, “you’re not here for sex.” 

I tilt my head back, laughing before I hop up and walk around the room. It’s true. I have a reason for my visit. Although, a small part of me wondered what happened to my little mortal crime boss over the decades. My hand runs over pictures of his family. Smiling images of a woman with hair as dark as mine, surrounded by two older boys that resemble them both. 

“I never pictured you with kids. I thought with all the shit you got involved in, you’d be long dead by now.” 

“Sorry to disappoint.” He coughs, his mortality showing. 

“Actually, I’m elated, old friend.” I place the picture down, turning to smile briefly. “I have missed you. You seem so very different from the young mortal I met and trained to kill.” 

“Yes, I guess we all change. Well, except for the immortal.” 

I nod, picking up an expensive diamond bracelet and inspecting it before setting it down. “I am surprised that you never sold all the little secrets I told you to the highest bidder.” 

“No one would have believed me. I guess they will now, given you all aren’t so hidden any longer.”

“Maybe you should have sold the information. That’s another thing I taught you. Don’t you remember? Always look out for yourself.” 

He doesn’t respond, just stirs in his bed. 

“You were right, way back then, when I left you,” I start as I turn back toward him. “I wanted power, revenge, and I was blinded by it. You helped me achieve something, just like I helped you. I got closer to killing all those who had wronged me, and you, my dear friend, had all the money and power you could drown in. Which given your new setup, I say you did.” I raise my hands toward the mega-mansion around us. “You know I lost and rotted in a Hell prison for a thousand years before I was freed. I could tell the minute I showed up, and your dying heart didn’t skip a beat. You can’t lie to me. You never could.”

He doesn’t reply, but the look in his eyes tells me yes. Alejandro has his hands in numerous illegal activities that would turn the stomach of some of the most hardened criminals. True, his reputation has only increased in his old age, but that’s a part of the game. The further down the rabbit hole you go, the deeper shit gets. 

I stop right beside him, and he turns to look at me. “So then you know why I am here.” 

He nods once. “There has been talk. That once you got free, you would be looking for the old ones. The ones who you let out.” 

“Tell me what you know,” I reply, my voice soft as l run my hand slowly through his greying hair. 

“I can give you the location of a man. Someone who works more closely with the type of people who know, but that’s it.” He moves away from me. “After this, we are done. Don’t come back here again.”

I pat the side of his face before nodding. It is the least I can do. Leave him alone permanently. He will be dead in a year, at most. A part of me hurts at that, but it is what mortals do. They live, they die. I sigh, sitting on the edge of the bed once more. If I am not going to see him again, I at least want him to have some closure, I suppose. After all, he was my friend at one point in time. 

“You helped me a lot. Back when I found you, you were nothing but a wannabe thug with dreams of running your family’s empire.”

“And you were a deranged goddess set on ending yours.” He smiles briefly.

“We all change,” I reply, repeating his words back to him before slowly squeezing his hand. He doesn’t jerk away from me this time, but instead runs his thumb over the back of mine.

He takes a deep breath before meeting my eyes. “I have to know. It was never real, was it? You never loved me? You used me.” 

I hold his gaze, so he knows I mean every word. “I use everyone.” 

He nods once before removing his hand from mine. “I thought so.” 

Sighing, I get up from the side of the bed as his monitors continue to beep. I know he will deliver on his end. If one thing is certain, Alejandro doesn’t say things he does not mean. Besides, if I don’t get the information I want, he knows I will be back and a lot less pleasant. I stop right at the doorway as a thought runs through my head, and I turn. 

“You know, all these pictures, and you haven’t even asked about your wife.” 

He smiles slowly, and it is every bit as cold as he means it to be. “You taught me a lot of things. Don’t get attached, was one of them. Don’t you remember? You and your new lover should be careful. They know about him. Everyone does. Everyone you used and fucked to get where you are. You have a weakness now, Carińa.” His smile fades as a somber look crosses his features. “And they will use it.” 

I don’t move for a second, although it feels like my heart dropped. I know my eyes probably lit up at his declaration. They always do when I am angry, feel like I am in danger, or my emotions are heightened. Fuck. I let out a shaky breath, trying to control my temper so I don’t just kill my only lead and oldest friend. But if he threatens who I know he is threatening, I will end his family line now. How could I be so stupid? I almost destroyed Europe. Of course, they would be watching, and if Alejandro knows, then everyone I had ever pissed off knows too. Fucking great.

“Send me what you know, Alejandro, and I promise I won’t come back and ruin everything you worked so hard for. Your family included.” 

“There’s the Carińa I remember.” 

The mansion shakes for a moment as I let loose a little of my ruin power so that he knows I am not playing. His head turns, watching the monitors keeping him alive glitch for a second and dust fall from the cracking ceiling. I slowly evaporate into a cloud of black smoke, leaving his room and Mexico, before he has a chance to look at me again and see the worry spread across my face. 

Atë (Amber Albright)
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