Home > Taming Cross(15)

Taming Cross(15)
Author: Ella James

I want to get to Carlos before she can tell him that I’m coming, so I get up almost right after she saunters off. Unfortunately, she senses me behind her and turns around with a coy smile, probably assuming I’m coming after her.

She waves at herself, as if displaying the merchandise. This is when I know I’ve definitely lost my game. I can’t even come up with something smooth to say. Instead, I hold my hand up and lamely shake my head, and the girl strides off, shaking her ass like she’s got a hula hoop around her waist.

I pass a cluster of American frat bros, heehawing and guzzling beer from a funnel. The old Cross would have stuck out just like them, so I feel grateful for my dusty clothes and sweat-rumpled appearance. Nobody seems to notice me as I cross the room.

As I duck through the curtain, the womanizing bouncer grabs my left arm from behind. I whirl around, snatching my arm away from him on instinct.

He holds his hands out like he meant no harm. “Two hundred,” he says smoothly.

I frown.

“Two hundred dollars.”

Is he serious? He doesn’t blink, so I pull the money out of my wallet and press it into his palm, and he waves me in.

“Carlos,” I say before he slips back onto his bar stool.

“Right there.”

He nods at one of half a dozen round tables, this one nestled in a shadowy corner, and I glance quickly around the room before I start over. It’s smaller than the bar and not quite as disgusting. It doesn’t smell like stale urine inside a beer bottle, and the lights are more than just bare bulbs. The girls swaying around poles on stage are nothing to scream about, but maybe I’m just not feeling the whole working woman thing these days.

I pick Carlos out before I get to the table. He’s sitting with three other men, and he’s the smallest one, but he’s wearing an expensive looking red silk dress shirt with a diamond-studded pin on the lapel, and the other men at the table are all listening intently as he speaks with broad hand gestures. His longish black hair is slicked back with gel, and he has the shine of wealth that no one else in this place has. Like he has his own personal strippers scrubbing him down in his Jacuzzi every morning.

I dread approaching the table, but I try not to make that obvious. When I’m within spitball-tossing range, I catch his eye. I step closer, placing one fist on their table—casual but firm. “Can we talk?”

I realize this might sound threatening, but I’m not sure how else to put it. To my surprise, he looks almost glad to see me. His eyes roll over my body, and I shake off the self-conscious feeling that’s new to me since the wreck.

He sends the men around him to another table near the stage, and as they leave, he motions for me to sit across from him. I take my time so he doesn’t notice my left hand.

Carlos lights up a cigarette then blows the smoke off to the right of us. “What can I do for you?” he asks me in English.

“I’m told you’re a man who can find people.”

Carlos smirks. “It depends on the people.”

“I’m looking for someone.” I heave a deep breath. “An American who’s been in Mexico for a year or two.” Based on the e-mails, I think Missy was sold the September before this past, making it almost a year and a half ago—but I don’t know that for sure.

“You think I can help you find this girl.”

I nod. “The girl I’m looking for is named Missy King. I’ve heard she’s at a church.”

My neck throbs around the fucked up vertebrae. I grit my teeth and ignore it, focusing on Carlos’s face. He seems to be considering what I’ve told him, with his palms pressed flat on the table.

“You know…I have heard that a little bird is staying with the Sisters at St. Catherine’s Clinic in Guadalupe Victoria.”

My heart leaps. Guadalupe Victoria is where Priscilla and Jim Gunn took Lizzy and me. “So you’ve heard of her? You’re pretty confident she’s there?”

He shrugs. “Most people have heard of this Missy. The Cientos Cartel is nothing to play with.”

I nod, trying to match my expression to his reverent one, but I’m too worked up. I tap my foot under the table. “Can you tell me anything about the convent?”

Carlos glances behind me, and then he slowly smiles. “Yes. You are never going to see it.” I grunt as I feel the air shift behind me, and something glass breaks over my head.

 

 

Merri

 

 

SOMETIMES I THINK about writing a book.

How to Wreck Your Life in Two Years or Less, by Meredith Kinsey.

As Wednesday afternoon shines hot and sunny down on the convent, and I do my paperwork for the last time, I can't help but think about what happened to me. What I did to myself, and what other people did to me.

How much of the blame is mine, I wonder. If I die tomorrow, will this fate be one I chose, or was it chosen for me? I remember the quandary from high school Sunday school class. Predetermination. If God knew our lives before he made them, how can a good and loving God choose only some people to be his chosen ones, the ones who go to Heaven when they die? And if he didn't choose, how is he all knowing? All deciding?

It just can't be.

I only know one thing for sure: I wasn’t chosen. There's no way I am. So if I die, I guess I'm on my way to Hell. It doesn’t matter how many Hail Marys I said here.

 

 

Cross

 

 

THE PAIN OF the blow shoots me up out of my seat. I round on the guy behind me as I reach into my pocket for the Taser. Before I can pull it out, the goon socks me in the jaw, and I see stars. I feel hands on my shoulders, the hardness of the bench under my ass. Something glints in the low light, and Carlos’s face is stretched into a big grin.

“Priscilla told me to expect you.”

I blink my eyes a few times, still clutching the Taser, and I realize the glint I saw was Carlos’s gun. He’s holding it out toward me, his hand resting on the table as he points the nose at my chest.

“You can come with me to meet Jesus, or I can kill you now.”

I cough a little, tasting blood. “You’d really kill me in the middle of a club?”

“It’s my cousin’s club.” He shrugs. “Sometimes people die here.”

My heart speeds up like I’ve been hit with an epi pen and I glance around behind me for the other guy. He’s gone.

I can’t see where, but I bet he’ll be back. For now, it’s just me and Carlos and his gun. I’m probably going to die here, I realize. Then an image of my last few months flits through my mind, and I vow that I won’t. I didn’t suffer all that shit to die in a sleazy Mexican strip joint.

Carlos is giving me his poker face, still pointing his gun my way, when I lunge forward and smash my Taser into his throat. As I move, I twist out of the line of fire, but his fingers jolt along with the rest of him; he never even pulls the trigger. He slumps face-first over the table, his gelled head landing in an ash tray.

I grab his gun, then glance around. No one seems to have noticed. The girls are still dancing. Men are still smoking, laughing, and cat-calling.

Carlos twitches once more.

Fuck.

I inhale, exhale. Focus on the feeling of the floor below my feet and try to ground myself, the way Akemi taught me during that long, long week when I first learned to meditate. Then I stick Carlos’s gun and its huge magazine into my pants and glance around again. No one watching me. Carlos is still twitching a little, moaning. He looks like he drank too much, not like I just shocked the shit out of him.

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