We make our way through the lush forest with Ricardo a few feet ahead of us. I can’t get rid of Francis’ words about Reynaldo’s deal with Santos regarding Crystal. I have seen what that sick Italian did to Sara. Who knows what he has already done to the little girl.
We’re not sure if Santos is still around though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he already split as soon as the DEA showed up. At the end that bastard has an arrest warrant hanging over his head and if the DEA catches him, they would likely extradite him to any of the countries he’s wanted.
Ricardo comes to a stop, crouching down as he gestures for me to approach. I do and my eyes widen. It’s one of ‘El Padrino’s bodyguards. He’s dead, someone took his eyeballs out. Damnit!
Ricardo grits his teeth as he curses under his breath and then we hear a sound, like someone stepped on a dry branch.
I look at Ricardo and his dark eyes are flashing that one word I have learnt to recognize in a second. Death. I can’t stop the sudden shiver that runs up my spine, watching his cold gaze. Big dark guy takes a deep breath, inhaling deeply as he closes his eyes for one second, snapping them open as soon as we hear that same sound once more.
Slowly Ricardo gets to his feet as he motions for us to stay quite. Francis opens his mouth to speak and in one fast move Elaine clasps her hand against his mouth, preventing the kid from making a single sound.
We hear it again and I swear this time it sounded closer. Ricardo pulls one of his shivs out and turns his head to look at me mouthing ‘don’t move’ and with that he heads towards the side where the sound came.
I watch him disappear through the undergrowth moving silently, deadly, like a predator in search of its prey as I let out the air I’ve been holding. I glance at Elaine and she’s crouched, her hand still tightly pressed against Francis’s mouth. Her eyes are wide open and she’s looking around. Even though Elaine is on guard, she seems relaxed and I wonder how many times she’s found herself in a similar situation.
After a moment Ricardo returns, consciously making his steps heard as he shakes his head ‘no’. Whoever was around obviously isn’t anymore. Shit!
Gracefully Elaine gets to her feet, stretching her thighs as she releases Francis, glaring at him as she mutters under her breath a string of obscenities.
Ricardo grins upon hearing his wife and shaking his head, he turns on his heels, resuming the march until we reach the large tile floor that surrounds the guests’ house.
Lights can be seen from where we are standing and my soft hair rises and my guts twist almost painfully. I’ve got the feeling it’s already too late. Then all of sudden we hear Hanna screaming ‘no’ at the top of her lungs.
In a flash, Ricardo and I cross glances and at once we rush in the direction of the house. I head directly to the front door as Ricardo changes course, heading to the back.
I stop dead in my tracks as I storm inside the house, finding the fucker who killed Fabio standing there, a shiv in his hand.
“Where’s Hanna?” I bark out, pointing my gun at him.
In response, the fucker narrows his eyes, gesturing with his head upstairs. Then he spins around in time with Ricardo, showing at his back.
Ricardo stares at him and slowly the guy moves back. “There’s no one else inside the house other than the girls and ‘El Padrino’.” He says with a heavy Mexican accent. “Santos is at the guard house.” He adds as he sheathes his shiv.
I frown slightly at his words and Ricardo’s lips spread that evil smile as they look at each others eyes. Big dark guy doesn’t ask if he already killed Santos because he knows this fucker wouldn’t deprive Ricardo Montenegro the pleasure.
I move past him, heading towards upstairs and when I reach the end I see ‘El Padrino’ leaning against the wall, his head lowered. I narrow my eyes in suspicion as I hear Hanna’s voice coming from one of the rooms. She seems to be talking with Crystal but she’s speaking so lowly that I almost can’t make out what she’s saying.
‘El Padrino’ raises his head, locking eyes with me for a second and then he looks at Ricardo. “I know you will make sure this never happens again, Ricardo.” He says coldly. “I will deal with Santos’ family.” And without saying another word he heads downstairs.
Hanna sniffs softly as she rocks gently Crystal’s battered body back and forth, whispering under her breath over and over ‘not again’, in a never-ending chant. Hanna’s hands are shaking as she strokes Crystal’s hair tenderly, soothing her.
Crystal looks like a broken doll in Hanna’s arms. She has been beaten nearly to death and several cuts are visible on her arms and legs. Her beautiful face shows bruises and her lips are bleeding.
With the little strength the girl has, she grabs Hanna’s shirt in her fist, swallowing. “I don’t wanna die, Hanna.” Her voice is just a ragged whisper that sent shivers up my spine. “I’m scared.”
Hanna shut her eyes for a second, forcing back her tears. She’s not gonna cry, at least not now.
Crystal’s words cause a vision of Jesse dying in my arms to spread in my mind. The kid said those exact words to me and all of sudden I find myself fighting back tears of rage. Why the hell do all the innocents have to end up dying before their time? Fuck!
“You don’t have to be scared, Crystal.” Hanna whispers softly as she keeps stroking her hair. “I’m here with you, honey, and I’m going to stay with you, baby girl.” She says as she takes Crystal’s hand in hers.
“Hanna…” Crystal breaths, blinking slowly as a new whimper passes her lips. “Am I going to turn into an angel?” She asks weakly.
I shut my eyes, cursing silently. Crystal’s just a kid. This shouldn’t be happening. She’s so young and so innocent even if she had seen more than she should have over her life.
“Of course, baby girl.” Hanna whispers, forcing a smile to spread on her lips. “You’re gonna turn into a beautiful angel, with wonderful silver wings.”
“Like your little baby?” Crystal replies weakly, her smile widening. Hanna nods ‘yes’ eagerly, biting her quivering lips hard.
“That’s right, baby girl.” Hanna breathes, swallowing hard. “Just like Dominic.”
I glance at Elaine from the corner of my eye and her lips are trembling badly. Her eyes are sparkling with unshed tears that she’s fighting back with all her will to not let them fall. Her gaze is fixed on Hanna and Crystal and her hands are closed in fists, gripping Ricardo’s shirt so tightly that her knuckles are white.
Ricardo bends his head, whispering something in her ear, causing Elaine to close her eyes for a second. Unnoticed tears roll down her cheeks as she listens to whatever Ricardo is saying. Then she opens her eyes again and Ricardo releases her.
Elaine takes a deep breath as she pads to the table. There’s a small black case. I watch in complete silence as Elaine gets ready an overdose of heroine with such reverence I’m finding it hard to breathe. After a few minutes, the dose is ready and without even looking at us, Elaine walks to Hanna and Crystal, kneeling at their side.
Ricardo looks at me for a second, sighing hard and then he looks away, tightening his jaw hard enough to make the muscles of his neck tense almost painfully.
I have spent a lot of time side by side with Ricardo and I have learned to read his features, and I know he already decided how Santos will die tonight.
“Hey, baby girl,” Elaine’s teary voice makes me look back at them. “Let’s try those beautiful silver wings, love.” She adds as she taps the girl’s arm gently causing Crystal to chuckle softly at Elaine’s words.
A small hiss in pain escapes Crystal’s trembling lips as Elaine injects her with an overdose that will put a fast painless end to her existence. Hanna squeezes Crystal’s hand tenderly as she locks eyes with Elaine mouthing a ‘thank you’.
In response, Elaine smiles sadly as she pulls out the syringe, throwing it to the side. Then she bends her head, kissing Crystal’s forehead softly and with that she gets to her feet, storming out of the room. Ricardo curses under his breath and in one second, he’s going after her.
Hanna pulls Crystal to her chest, hugging her with such tenderness that I feel my heart clenching painfully and pressing her lips to her forehead in a much similar way that Elaine did, she whispers, “sweet dreams, my angel.”
Crystal’s lips spread in a wide smile as she closes her eyes one last time and through her lips passes a soft sigh.
I swallow hard past the lump in my throat, forcing my voice out. “Hanna…” I whisper under my breath, blinking away my blurry vision.
Hanna turns her head, meeting my gaze and what I see causes my heart to stop dead as I feel my soul dying. Her beautiful eyes are cold, dead. No trace of life in them. No feelings. Not even pain or anger. There’s nothing. Her gaze is so cold that it sent shivers up my spine, making me shudder fiercely.
Hanna will kill Reynaldo and I won’t get in her way.