The sun is slowly but leisurely rising at the horizon and a new day is breaking, oblivious to us. Ricardo and I have been sitting here at the back porch of Mona’s place in complete silence for I don’t even know how long with just the company of our own thoughts and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Ricardo has been smoking non-stop, cigarette after cigarette with his gaze fixed in a spot somewhere at his feet and from time to time he has been letting out grunts cursing under his breath.
The first thing he did it was to phone ‘Golden Sun Resort’, that old people’s home where we visited that freak John Smith aka John L. Lee. That old fucker was the first one that told us about the fucking Pale Horses and Operation Phoenix, but he was also the other soldier that appeared in that picture.
The nurse that picked up the phone us told Ricardo that the old fucker died a couple of weeks ago of a heart attack. Whatever. I didn’t need to make too many calculations. The fucker died a couple of days after he talked to us. It figures.
The words of Mr. Smith have been echoing faintly within my mind since I saw that fucking picture.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Pale horse black spec. ops lieutenant William Porter.
I close my eyes, gritting my teeth so tightly that my jaw hurts as I force myself to keep breathing through my nose.
My gaze slides down to a spot between us, at the empty bottle of Jack Daniels we killed. Ricardo has been using as an ashtray. At this point the bottom is filled with butts.
“I can’t fucking believe how he has been fooling all of us, man.” I whisper absently, looking down at my lap. “Even my dad.”
“Who says he fooled your dad, Dom?” Ricardo retorts angrily as he puts his cigarette out. I snap my head up, staring at him as if he sprouted a third eye. “Thought your dad died in a car accident, bro.” He adds seriously, turning his head, locking eyes with me.
At his words I stiffen completely, narrowing my eyes as once again I feel my blood freezing cold within my veins.
“What are you saying, Ricardo?” I seethe through clenched teeth, barely restraining myself to not beat the shit out of him right here right now.
Ricardo’s gaze hardens as his eyes flicker to mine. “You told me they were close friends since they were kids. Why are you so sure that your father didn’t know anything about that shit, huh?”
“If my dad would have known William had been torturing women and kids in Vietnam just for the hell of it he wouldn’t have allowed him near us, ever. Not in a million years.” I hiss, closing my hands in fists as my nostrils flare open.
“And that’s why he killed him.” Ricardo whispers, holding my gaze.
“Come on, Dom, think about it.” Ricardo says, tilting his head to one side. “Trust your instincts, bro.”
I open my mouth to say that he turned crazy but all of sudden my mind goes back to that meeting and how William was staring at me, almost as shocked as I was as soon as Reynaldo showed up married to Hanna.
“I saw his damn face too, Dom. The Cuban fucked him good, marrying Hanna, because I bet he had another candidate in mind. That fucking lawyer wanted you and no other, bro.” Ricardo explains, never taking his gaze off mine. “I bet your dad’s car accident was everything but an accident, Dom.”
My eyes widen completely as I think about Ricardo’s words and that shit about heart attacks and car accidents. That’s how the fucking CIA gets rid of those that are in its fucking way.
I frown deeply, reliving the day that my dad died. He was coming up in the pro-stock circuit. It was the last race of the season and he was coming into the final turn when that bastard Kenny Linder tapped his bumper and put him into the wall at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. No way!
I shut my eyes tightly as a vision of my dad burning to death pops within my brain as my own screams echo at the same time. Back then I was sure he was the one screaming but later the people told me that I was the one screaming; that my dad died long before the tank blew.
Oh My God! No fucking way!
“But…but why?” I screw up my face, rubbing my forehead. “My dad was his best friend, man; his best fucking friend. William was always there…each and every single event that meant something for us he was there… Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving…every single fucking meaningful date since I was born…” I trail off, feeling drained all of sudden.
“And that fucker was scheming the entire damn time, plotting and waiting for the perfect chance to set in action his fucking plan, Dom.” Ricardo says as a heavy sigh escapes his mouth. “I wonder if your dad found about it and that’s the reason why he had that unexpected accident even though Antonio Toretto was a hell of a racer.”
I look at him, making a supreme effort to stay cold but I can’t. No matter how hard I try I just don’t seem to find the strength to even think straight anymore. My mind is torturing me with painful visions and memories of William playing with me when I was a kid while my dad was cooking.
Mia putting ribbons and pins and all that shit in his hair and my dad and I making jokes, laughing our asses off watching them.
William and my dad drinking Coronas, laughing and joking while sitting in the back yard.
William standing at my dad’s side, the day my mom died, his hand resting on my dad’s shoulder, offering his best friend his support.
I shut my eyes tightly, cursing silently relieving the day I buried my dad.
William was standing at my side. I was holding Mia as she cried disconsolate, watching the casket being lowered. I looked at William, fighting tears of anger and pain back. I didn’t want to cry in front of people, pretending to be a tough guy. Then, he reached his hand, squeezing my shoulder as he spoke.
‘Your dad was an honorable man, Dominic. You never forget that, son.’ And I saw how silent tears were rolling down along his cheeks and I couldn’t restrain my own tears anymore.
I snap my eyes open, grunting as I feel an unbearable anger grabbing a hold of my guts causing nausea to rise faster than I thought possible. The vision at the corners of my eyes blurs slightly; the air being knocked out of my lungs with such force I lean forward, puking what little of Mona’s meal I took. Fuck!!
I shut my eyes tightly; panting hard through my nose, swallowing the bitter taste of betrayal as that fierce rage grows stronger, almost blinding me.
I notice a hand squeezing my upper arm and I turn my head slowly, finding myself face to face with Ricardo. He’s not smiling or grinning. His brows are slightly furrowed and his eyes are flashing me with a mix of concern and understanding.
A ragged sigh escapes my lips as I swallow hard, shaking my head ‘no’ in response to Ricardo’s silent question. He sighs hard, tapping my shoulder and then he gets to his feet, entering the house.
I’m not fucking okay but I gotta put myself together before I end up losing all trace of sanity. I need to stay cold because we are not done yet. I gotta get a grip of my pain and my anger, forcing them under control because now it’s time for us to start scheming, plotting and planning.
Ricardo returns a couple of minutes later with two Coronas in his hands and a cigarette hanging from the corner of his lips. He takes a seat at my side, handing me one. I frown slightly watching how he’s sipping from the bottle, hissing softly in disgust.
“I thought you said Corona was pussy shit.” I say, looking at him. In response, the corner of his lips tugs with a slight smirk as he lit his cigarette up.
“May as well start to get used to it if we’re gonna stick together for the long ride.” Ricardo says as his grin widens a little. “You don’t like old Jack.” He adds shrugging his shoulders like it’s not a big deal as he blows the smoke through his nose.
I can’t help it and my own lips spread in a crazy grin I didn’t even think I still had in me, much less at this very moment. Last time I grinned like this, even thought I was dying inside, the fucker sitting at my side was that coyote Vince and we were drinking a toast for my dad after his funeral.
“To Antonio Toretto.” Ricardo says solemnly as he lifts his bottle of beer, holding my gaze. My own grin dies on my lips as I swallow hard pass the sudden lump on my throat.
“To Antonio Toretto.” I say in a thick voice, toasting with Ricardo. And with that we take a long gulp of our Coronas.
I sit in silence again, recalling what I do know once more, trying to put some order in my chaotic thoughts as I keep sipping from my beer.
So that was William’s better plan. I bet that was one of the reasons why the old lawyer introduced my dad to ‘El Padrino’. I bet William wanted to know what the drug lord thought about my dad, and once he made sure my family met his expectations, he set in motion his fucking plan. However, William was leaving many things out of control because there sure as hell was a lot of shit that could go wrong.
What if Hanna and I never met or if we met but we didn’t get along? How was he going to be sure we were made for each other? Back then we were kids and Hanna was still living with that motherfucker her stepfather. It was impossible for William to anticipate the events. He sure as hell could control some of them, manipulating us but still…
“What if Hanna wouldn’t have lost the baby?” I whisper, raising my head, looking at Ricardo. He sighs hard, locking eyes with me.
“All that bastard needed was an heir to claim ‘El Padrino’s legacy, Dom. As long as a DNA test proved Hanna was the mother…” Ricardo trails off, frowning deeply. My jaw tightens in anticipation of his explanation as he elaborates. “You know as well as I do that Lompoc is not a joke, bro. Many things could happen within those fucking walls. You would probably have never made it out of that shit hole.” He says as his expression hardens, his eyes smoldering with that deadly cold spark. “And Hanna would be dead by now.”
Ricardo’s words make me think about that fucking psycho ‘Snake’ and what the fuck he has to do in all this shit.
“I’m thinking about what a piece of timing it was that fact ‘Snake’ was transferred from one cell block to another a few months before this shit started and how as soon as I was released that freak was released as well.” I say, desperately forcing my brain to push aside visions of Hanna being tortured. At my words, Ricardo narrows his eyes in suspicion. “I know that bastard ‘Snake’ has no brains and I bet that motherfucker is at the end of the chain of command.” I add, frowning deeply.
Ricardo grits his teeth, grunting. “Snake has been following orders since the beginning that’s for fucking sure, but not from whom we thought, Dom.” He mutters under his breath. “And that’s why even though that fucker Bilkins had given him the order to kill Hanna, he didn’t do it because Bilkins wasn’t his paymaster.”
I don’t need anyone telling me the answer to that shit.
“William.” I hiss, shaking my head. Ricardo nods ‘yes’.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill was the one training ‘Snake’ judging by what that fucking picture shows.” He says as he put his cigarette out, dropping it inside the Jack Daniels bottle. “That shit is 100% Kubark style. It’s the CIA MO. It’s a behavioral pattern.”
My rage comes full force and before I realize it I’m closing my hands in fists tightly as a deep growl passes my lips.
“So William ordered ‘Snake’ to torture Hanna?” I ask through clenched teeth, narrowing my eyes but somehow it didn’t sound as a question at all.
“That or ‘Snake’ changed his plans along the way just like the Cuban.” Ricardo replies coldly but his voice sounds tinted with something else that causes me to lock eyes with him. “I wonder how Miguel got that picture.” He says absently as he rubs his chin, narrowing his eyes completely.
I close my eyes unable to keep pushing aside the images recorded on that fucking video anymore. Ignoring them is not going to make them vanish. Hanna’s eyes pleading with ‘Snake’ to stop are dragging me to an abyss of living agony and before I can stop myself I’m shivering violently, forcing one more time the air to pass through my lungs.
“It will hurt like a bitch, forever, Dom.” Ricardo’s voice makes me snap my eyes open, blinking tears of anger and pain. “You gotta find a way to live with it, man or it will destroy you in a second flat.” His voice is low, cold and yet sad.
“I…I don’t know how to fight this anger back.” I whisper raggedly, swallowing hard as I lean forward, the heels of my hands pressed against my eyes in a lame attempt to stop the tears. “I keep seeing Hanna’s eyes pleading for help and…and I wasn’t there…” I whisper my voice faltering.
“I wasn’t there either, Dom.” Ricardo replies as he sighs heavily.
I sniff, swallowing hard as I raise my head, looking at him. Ricardo’s gaze is fixed on a spot only he can see and his eyes are sparkling with frozen tears even though he’s radiating danger all over.
“I made her a promise once.” He whispers all of sudden as he chuckles sadly. I blink, watching how one stray tear rolls down.
I sniff again, cleaning my tears with the back of my hand, staring at him. Ricardo grabs his beer, sipping as his gaze hardens.
“I looked at her eyes and I said ‘Princess, I do promise you that I won’t let any other fucker lay a hand on you again’, and she believed my words…” He pauses and rising his head, he looks at me. “Don’t let her think she’s not worth your love because I broke my promise, Dom.” Ricardo pauses anew, sighing hard. “We can’t change the past, bro, but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Hanna pulls me to her, holding me tightly as I bury my face in her neck, inhaling deeply in her scent. Lilacs and cinnamon.
I told her what Ricardo and I found about William and the suspicions that he was behind my dad’s car accident. Now that I finally said those words aloud they don’t seem a crazy suspicion anymore but a scary reality.
I didn’t say shit about that fucking CD and what Ricardo had found recorded on it. No point in making her relive those horrible days in which Snake tortured her all over again. However I suspect she knows but her gaze is so cold right now I’m not sure.
I sigh hard as a vision of Hanna’s eyes holding my gaze while gently rocking Crystal’s lifeless body spreads in my mind. Her gaze was mirroring Ricardo’s. I figure Hanna promised Crystal she would protect her and she failed in her task, just like Richie.
Damn! I should be the one comforting her after what she went through but here we are and I’m the one being comforted as she rocks me gently. Whispering against my ear that everything will be fine someday and that we will learn to live with the painful memories.
I shut my eyes, tightly, forcing back fresh tears as her sweet hoarse voice keeps caressing my soul, soothing my pain.
I don’t even dare to open my mouth to speak; afraid I won’t be able to find the right words to express how I feel because she’s with me. So slowly, I tilt my head back, locking eyes with her. I may not be able to find the right words but I can always let her take a look at my eyes because Hanna is able to read my very soul.
In seconds, Hanna’s eyes narrow slightly as a tiny smile tugs the corners of her lips. It’s a sad smile but even though her gaze is cold I can read clear as a sunny day what she’s not saying aloud either.
We love each other with everything in us and even though we are still far from being able to enjoy a little bit of peace, we are going to stick together for the ride. No matter what, we are not parting ways when all this shit is done. We won’t be alone again because we have each other to help us get through every new day.
And when our nightmares come to hunt us in the darkness, dragging us to that unbearable abyss of desperation and hopelessness, we will reach for each other, just like now and we will be sure to survive another day.