“That bastard ‘Snake’ caught his wife with a guy and he ripped the guy’s dick off with his fucking bare hands.” I say, leaning forward, resting my hands at the edge of the table. “Then that psycho raped his own wife, torturing her to death.”
“What’s the date?” Ricardo asks as he opens the file, enlarging the pictures inside ‘murders’ category.
I frown deeply at his words. I’m not sure but if my memory is right I think Lester told me it was three years before I landed in Lompoc.
“Four years ago more or less, maybe five.” I answer, feeling my heart beating faster just thinking about that freak. “I think her name was Celeste or Celine, I’m not sure.”
Ricardo clicks on the main menu. There’s a database to make the search easier. So he types the surname we already knew, ‘Mathews’. After a couple of seconds, a picture appears and Ricardo enlarges it.
Mathews, Celeste Maria. 26th November 2001.
I swallow hard against my sudden nausea. There she is, ‘Snake’s’ wife, or what that psycho left of her once he was done. What Snake did to Hanna is nothing compared to what he did to his own wife. The autopsy report is attached. Celeste Maria Mathews was six months pregnant when she died. Fucking bastard!!
“What does the ‘Snake’ nickname stand for?” Sean asks as he narrows his eyes, looking at me.
“The motherfucker has a big cobra head tattoo covering all of his back.” I whisper absently, feeling my blood boiling in my veins as a vision of Snake’s tattoo pops inside my mind.
Ricardo pulls out the CD and getting to his feet, he leaves the room, returning a few minutes later with ‘El Padrino’ in tow. Without saying a word, he extends his arm, gesturing for the drug lord to take a seat at the table where Francis’ laptop is still open.
‘El Padrino’ narrows his eyes in suspicion but obliges. Then Ricardo pulls out from his cargo pocket another CD. This one is smaller and as soon as I see it I recognize it. It’s the CD in which big dark guy recorded Snake’s files. The ones he made a copy of for Hanna before destroying the entire system. I had forgotten completely about that fucking CD.
Ricardo asks Sean to leave us alone with ‘El Padrino’ and once the DEA agent leaves the room; Ricardo inserts the CD, clicking a file inside the main menu. It’s a video file. I close my hands in fists so tightly I feel my nails digging into my skin. Then he pulls out a small earphone and connecting it to the laptop, he hands it to ‘El Padrino’. The drug lord takes it, inserting it in his left ear, the one less damaged.
Ricardo looks at me, his eyes flickering to mine as his face shows an expression I never saw before, ever. Pain.
“I’m sorry, Dom.” He whispers, sighing hard and reluctantly he presses play.
As if in slow motion my eyes turn to the screen and all of a sudden time stops around me as soon as that video starts playing. There’s no sound, not that I need it. The images recorded are clear enough to figure out.
The Ice Queen is nowhere to be found, that heartless mask was gone, her indomitable will overpowered hours before, leaving just Hanna to face her terrifying fate alone.
I don’t feel my heart beating and I’m not even sure if I’m breathing at all. The only thing I know for sure is that my soul is dying with every second that video runs showing Hanna and Snake inside the room.
It was one thing to see the marks that marred Hanna’s body; it’s a whole different thing to see how each and every single one of them was made. It was one thing to see my woman crying, but it’s a something else entirely to witness how the light in Hanna’s beautiful eyes is extinguished in minute after endless minute of painful agony.
The fear in Hanna’s eyes is killing me silently, ripping my heart from my chest. Those green eyes with grayish sparks around the pupils are pleading for mercy even though she knows that fucking psycho won’t show her that. It’s not even pain or anger what those images are causing me. It’s a deep sense of powerlessness that is destroying everything in me at its slow, lethal pace.
I swallow hard, feeling an invisible fist twisting my heart viciously as I notice silent tears falling down my cheeks. My blood is not running through my veins anymore and I find myself pleading silently for him to stop. I feel my body shaking violently and the only words that echoed inside my brain over and over are ‘please, stop hurting her’.
I glance at Ricardo, blinking through my blurry vision and I find him staring at the screen. His hands are closed in fists, his knuckles white under the fierce pressure.
Ricardo turns his head and we lock eyes with each other and what I see in those dark cold eyes is hurting me as much as what I’m seeing on that screen. Ricardo’s gaze is mirroring Hanna’s and mine. The pain, the anger, the powerlessness and the hopelessness. But they are also showing something else, just like in our eyes; Hanna’s and mine. Tears.
A deadly silence lies upon the room, dragging us to a place where we didn’t chose to go but we needed to. I’m not mad at Ricardo for making me go through this living hell. I know only too damn well that he had no other choice. I know how Ricardo feels right now because it’s exactly how I feel. And even though Ricardo Montenegro wasn’t seeing something he hadn’t saw before, this time it wasn’t the eyes of the cold assassin, but the eyes of Richie, the older brother.
Hanna is Richie’s weakness, his only weak spot. It’s not Elaine, not even Alejandro and Marcos. They all came later, once he had gone through hell and back on more than one occasion. They came to his life when Richie was already Ricardo Montenegro. But that homeless kid Richie has been living within him the entire time because Hanna has been the one keeping that kid alive and kicking. With every word, every kiss, every hug, every single show of affection and love. And that homeless kid is the one staring at my eyes with tears in his eyes.
No wonder William was able to manipulate him through Hanna. That old lawyer has been making a living of using people’s weaknesses and every single human being has them, even Ricardo Montenegro. William couldn’t reach the assassin, but he sure as hell reached the kid.
‘El Padrino’ lifts his hand, removing the earphone and he presses the stop button. The video ran only five minutes; that was all that he could take. Then he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, covering his face with his hands as he lets out a ragged sigh.
I don’t know how ‘El Padrino’ feels right now, but I suspect he won’t be the same man anymore. No matter how much shit he saw over his life, or how many people he ordered tortured to death because they dared to cross him, there’s no way this old man is going to sleep again after seeing what he saw on that screen.
“It was a summer day and Ramón took her to La Hacienda because my son wanted for me to meet her in person. Back then Ana Ma…Hanna was only two years old.” ‘El Padrino’ whispers and his voice shakes slightly. So he pauses for a few seconds and after clearing his throat, he goes on. “She got out of the car, shouting ‘abuelo’ and ran to me, throwing her little arms around my neck, holding me tightly and then she kissed my cheek.”
The drug lord pauses anew, taking a deep breath, exhaling the air slowly through his nose.
“Every single person around were scared to death of Miguel Angel Felix Arellano and they didn’t even dare to look at ‘El Padrino’s’ eyes directly…but that little brave girl jumped into my arms without a second thought and kissed me…it was the first time but also the last time I saw her. One week later Sheila took Hanna with her, vanishing forever. Then a couple of years later the DEA arrested me, five months later my only son died in a car accident on his way back from visiting me in prison.”
Then he stands on his feet and turning around he looks at me.
“Nobody knows this but I’m very sick, Dom and I’m not going to last much longer.” I narrow my eyes slightly, holding his gaze as he elaborates. “I’ve been fighting a lost battle against the only enemy I can’t defeat. I’ve lost count how many times someone tried to kill me over the years, but cancer will be the one raising victorious. Isn’t it ironic?” He chuckles coldly, shaking his head and then he goes serious in a heartbeat. “You are a man of honor, Mr. Dominic Alfredo Toretto and even though I suspect you don’t need them, you have my blessings. I know you will make sure Hanna is loved the way she deserves.” ‘El Padrino’ adds, offering me his hand.
I shake it, squeezing lightly. He’s right, I don’t need his blessings but that doesn’t mean I’m going to disrespect him. My dad taught me better than that. I don’t owe this man shit, neither does Hanna and it’s not that I give a damn about his approval of my relationship with her.
However, looking at his eyes I realize something I never thought before. ‘El Padrino’ is a drug trafficker, responsible for countless deaths and sure as hell his business is his life. But he’s also a lonely old man who lost every single person he loved and he’s not expecting anything else from life.
“I’ll do my best, sir.” I reply as he grins lightly, bowing his head in a gesture of respect. Then he releases my hand and his expression hardens as his eyes turn cold, reflecting an emotion I recognize in a second flat, betrayal.
‘El Padrino’ turns his head, locking eyes with Ricardo and when he speaks his voice sounds as serious as a heart attack, all trace of emotion gone.
“I want the heads of every single one that knew about this betrayal, Ricardo. I don’t care what you have to do but I want them all dead before the sun goes down tomorrow.” He says coldly. “You tell me what you need; I’ll make sure you have it.”
Ricardo knits a brow, looking at him. “What about the rest of the Zetas?” Ricardo asks, tilting his head to one side. “You gave that motherfucker an entire army, Miguel.” His voice sounds cold yet tinted with anger.
“And I will take it away.” ‘El Padrino’ replies firmly. “I told the Cuban and I’m telling you now, Ricardo. I may be sick and old, but I’m still the one ruling the roost here and if ‘Snake’ has an entire army, I have the Mexican military.”
At the drug lord’s words Ricardo narrows his eyes in suspicion. “Are you going to start a bloody war just to avenge Hanna’s honor, Miguel?” Ricardo asks, fixing his gaze on him.
“No time like the present to start making amends.” ‘El Padrino’ answers as he pulls out a small envelope from his jacket, returning his attention to me. “It’s hard to find out that the ones you thought were your family have been betraying you for years.” He says, handing me the envelope. “Trust always your instincts, Dom.” The drug lord adds and with that he turns around, heading towards the door, leaving us alone.
I frown deeply at his words as I glance at Ricardo. In response big dark guy narrows his eyes as he pads to my side. Slowly I open the sealed envelope, pulling out an old black and white picture. I blink a little, puzzled at first because I don’t even know what I’m looking at. I turn the picture over and there’s something written down on it.
In the picture there are three men. Two are dressed in US military fashion and the other is naked, tide up to a chair. They all look as if of they were in their twenties. I frown in puzzlement as I look back and forth between the picture and Ricardo.
“What’s this shit?” I ask him, feeling my guts all of sudden screaming at me once more. “Who are these fuckers, man?”
Ricardo grabs the picture, giving it a closer look, and after a moment, he starts muttering obscenities in Spanish, grunting as his jaw tightens, causing his neck muscles to tense almost painfully. And when he speaks his voice sounds full of disgust like the very words taste like poison.
“It seems that our sweet dumbass lawyer is in fact a scary intelligence officer, Dom.” Ricardo hisses as he looks at me.
What…? My eyes widen completely. No way. No fucking way.
“What the fuck are you talking about, Ricardo?” I ask him, frowning deeply.
In response, Ricardo raises the picture to my eye level, pointing with his finger to one of the military guys.
“Let me introduce you to Pale Horse spec ops lieutenant William Porter playing God with crank phones and bamboo skewers when he was twenty fucking something and he was part of the Operation Phoenix CIA fuckup in Laos, Vietnam.”