The town was nothing but black clouds and dust swirling around in an angry wind.
Eddie Parker had just rode into the small sleepy town of Sangria, north of Mexico city. His black Cadillac broke down just as he crossed the town line, luckily right in front of the bar and hotel. Across the street was a shop that sold antiques, the police dept. and a restaurant that was actually a a run down trailer. He noticed a statue that stood in front of the bar. A strange looking man, small, with a fat face, tiny eyes, goat-like legs, baring his teeth, grasping at the air with it's claws.
Parker was bothered by the image. Definitely.
Parker was tired. He took a shower and fell on the bed, a mattress made of stone, and found lucid dreams.
He was there in a strange town to do a job. A job for the Ganger family, tire kings in the automotive industry, and notorious family of thieves and murderers.
Parker met with the head of the family, Rudolf and his younger cousins, Spiro and Haskell. They met at one of the tire centers in Pittsburgh. Outside he could hear guys talking, and engines starting up and tires being removed.
“God, I hate coming to these shitholes,” Rudolf said.
Parker thought that was funny. Considering the old man owned about two hundred of these “shitholes” all over the U.S.
Rudolf shrugged, gestured to his cousins. “But what are you gonna do?” The old man was dressed to the nines, a homburg on his head and and glasses kept the bright sunlight out of his eyes. Every few seconds he would tap a white cane on the concrete where their metal chairs sat in an empty garage,
“Mr. Parker,” Rudolf said. “You have been a trusted associate of my family's for many years, now. I have a job for you in Mexico. I want you to even an old score. The details are in this envelop,” He took the manilla envelop from Haskell and handed it to Parker. Parker unhooked the metal button and peaked inside. There was a picture of an old man in a white suit.
“Along with your usual fee,” Rudolf shrugged again. “Of course you get a bonus if the job is done quickly and without public response. This man...owes me a life. My son, Domi,God rest his soul, went missing when I sent him to sangria to do business with this scum. He owes me his life. It took me thirty years to build the empire I have now, and thirty years to make reason with those that stand to gain nothing by his death. Do this for the family, me, and Domi.”
Parker smiled. He placed the envelop under his arm. “The job will be done with respect for the family, Boss.”
He jerked awake, arms flailing. Then there was the terrible stinging pain on his abdomen. Parker screamed, saw steam rising from claw marks across the inflamed skin. Markings of some kind. A symbol and Latin phrases. He pulled himself off the cot and barely made it to the mirror. Parker ran a finger across the fresh wound.
“Damn it. How did this happen?”
He searched the room, his Walther held tight in his hands. He found no sign of any one, or entry of any kind. But on the table beside the cot, he found a peso with those same markings on his midsection.
Parker sat wearily on his cot, the springs creaking underneath him. He ran a hand over his tired face. He looked at the alarm clock and saw two hours had passed by.
He was late. He was suppose to meet his guide in the bar downstairs at nine. The guide was to take him into the village of Peros a few miles from the town square in Sangria.
Parker quickly dressed. The blue suit, gray shirt, no tie. It was his death suit. He used it many times.
Out of the corner of his eye, Parker saw something. A blur of a small dark figure passing by him, trotting, or racing past him. He turned, saw nothing.
His mind was fucking with him.
Parker looked his hands. They were shaking. His heart was racing. Everything felt intense. This was an odd feeling before a job. He hadn't felt that since the first kill.
His first job was on a wife of a senator that was probing the gambling syndicate in Jersey. He followed her to a bar. She was meeting a guy there that was not her husband. Parker had watched them closely. An argument ensued. The man left.
So Parker picked up the Senator's wife. He slept with her. Hours later, he'd strangled her with her own stockings. That mysterious man in the bar went to jail for her murder. Turned out, he was the senator's campaign manager.
Funny how things work.
He left his room, stepped out on to the red carpet, gliding down the hallway as if he were floating on air. His eyes were transfixed on happenings in front of him. A woman and her sickly poodle sitting in the lounge, she was breaking off pieces molded bread on her stained slip and the poodle was eating them off her plump belly. A little boy was standing in a corner of the lounge holding hands with an old man who was an older version of the little boy. A bellhop walked by, grimacing, showing Parker his rotting teeth and black gums.
He was gliding past it all, right through the doorway of the bar.
Parker stood there, feeling the cool coming from the central air from a vent in the ceiling. The bar was nicer than the hotel. Everything was shiny and glimmered in the florescent lights. There was five people in the bar. Bartender who was spitting and compulsively wiping down the counter.
A fat man with no shirt on lay dead drunk across one of the tables. And a couple who were mooning over each other, holding hands, just looking intently into each others eyes. In the back, sitting at one of the tables, sipping a beer, was a young dark haired woman in a bright green dress. Her hair was in her face. She was caressing that beer glass.
Parker watched her. He felt his temperature rise, his hands wet with perspiration.
The bartender said something in Spanish. Parker walked over, sat at the bar. He clucked his tongue, rolled his eyes. Parker pointed at a sign for Tecate beer. The bartender nodded.
Parker took a piece of paper from his breast pocket and handed it to the bartender when his beer was brought to him. The bartender chuckled. He pointed to the man passed out on the table behind him. The bartender shook his head and gave the paper back. He walked away, chuckling.
“Great,” Parker said. “All I want is a guide and they set me up me with a guy that will end up choking on his own vomit. “
“I can take you where you need to go,” A voice said from behind Parker. It was the young woman from the back of the room. She was smiling, showing how poorly she'd put on her red lipstick. Parker noticed her hair was still covering the left side of her face.
“I don't know,” Parker said. “The firm I work for set me up with this guy. How do I know I can trust you? You won't roll me, steal my wallet?”
“And you think something like that wouldn't happen with him?” She pointed to the drunk who lay in dreamland. “I know Cucho. He couldn't find his dick if he needed to pee.”
Something about a woman who used phrases like that that turned Parker on. He laughed and nodded. “Okay, chickie. I'll give a hundred when we get to the village of Peros.”
“You buy me a meal for starters. Then we start out. And my name's not Chickie. It's Teresa.”
“Hey!” Parker yelled to the bartender. “Bring us something to eat!”
The bartender smiled, “Si,” He said as he walked away.
“Look,” Parker stood. “I gotta go to the toilet, okay? Be back.”
“I'll be here when you get back,” Teresa gave him a smile.
Parker flashed her a quick smile.
The bathroom was not a high priority, Parker could see that. The two stalls were missing doors. The last toliet looked like somebody dumped a case of Van Camps beans in the bowl. Parker thought he he was going to puke at the smile. But he held on.
He went to the urinal. There was no water and all signs point that it had been bone dry for eons. Parker sighed. He decided that this was just as good as any place to take a piss, and not flush. God knows, that damn thing would overflow and no way in hell was Parker going to get those alligator shoes wet he just bought.
He unzipped his fly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a blur of something dash behind him. He turned quickly. Nothing. Parker closed his eyes. Shit, he thought. I'm getting jumpy. He relieved himself in a hurry, dribbling on his trousers. He cursed out loud.
Parker heard breathing from behind. He drew his gun from the holster and turned. Again, there wasn't anyone there. “Get a hold of yourself---”
That was the moment he felt the sharp pain in his back. He had heard something that sounded like paper being ripped. Parker felt a warm sensation. And when he fell to the linoleum floors, he saw the blood slowly run from his left side.
He tried to make himself stand, he just kept falling. Out of nowhere, a peso coin fell to the floor beside his body. Soon he gave up on the idea of walking out of the bathroom. A black veil fell over Parker and his consciousness.
When Parker awoke, he was in a bed in a different room in the hotel. He saw Teresa standing by the open window, smoking, a slither of light from the streetlamp engulfed the features of her face. He tried to sit up, the sheets under him made a rustling noise.
Teresa jerked her head around nervously. She flicked her butt out the window. There was sparks from the lit end striking the window seal. “Please don't move,” She said.
In three quick steps, she was at his side, helping Parker to settle down. He grabbed Teresa and forced her to kiss him. It wasn't much of a struggle. He unzipped her dress and moved his hands inside to her breasts. She removed his hands, made him lay down. She stood and let the dress fall to the floor, stepped out of it. Slowly she stalked the bed. Parker waited in heightened anticipation.
“Geez...I feel like shit. Somebody knifed me.” Parker stated. “Man, I haven't been laid up like this since the Pinter family war a few years ago. Never been knifed.”
“You should rest,” Teresa eased him back on the pillows. “The bleeding may start again.”
Parker turned over on his right side. He saw the marks through the bandages. Three long claw marks. He gasped, sat up. “What the hell? Did I get attacked by a tiger?”
Teresa touched his shoulder, “Please...you'll hurt yourself worse.”
Parker saw the peso on the night table. He winced. “This is the second time I have been attacked.” He licked his lips. “I'm not even sure....”
“What?” Teresa was curious. She sat on the bed beside Parker. “What aren't you not sure about?'”
“No. I don't know...I'm not sure what I saw....but...in my room awhile ago..I saw a flash of something.... I was lying down first time....woke up and my stomach had these weird markings!” Parker showed her.
“I saw them. Very strange. I could read them...in Spanish....it is a warning,” Teresa rose from the bed. She went over to the night table and retrieved a cigarette from her handbag. She walked to the open window, lit it. “Were you half asleep?”
“ Maybe. No. I woke up from the pain from those markings. Then I saw one of those pesos. In the bathroom I heard breathing..sounded like a winded animal. Whatever it was, it was fast.” He thought a second. Then said, “A warning, huh?”
“You saw another Peso,” Teresa threw her head back and blew smoke from her tiny nostrils. The smoke curled, lingered in the air, then moved on through the window.
“Yeah,” Parker thought. He forced himself to a standing position.
“What are you doing?” Teresa scolded him.
“I need to get to Peros. Finish that job. Get me my shirt.”
“You want that hundred? Earn it. Guide me to Peros,” Parker said.
“It would be my pleasure,” Teresa tossed her cigarette out the window.
The car driven twenty miles north of Sangria was a model Parker did not recognize. It was boxy, an early 1980's model, and the paint rusted to it's primary color. But it ran good. Better than any car in recent memory.
“The man who sold it to me said it was made in Brazil,” Teresa told Parker. “ The factory made fifteen of them before going bankrupt. Or so he said. All I know it could be a Russian vehicle. I bought it cheap.”
They drove through a few miles of desert before they ended up in Peros. In the village, on the streets and around buildings, Parker noticed there were more of those statues like the one he saw in Sangria. He felt uneasy, weak.
“Are you okay?” Teresa put a hand on his clammy forehead. “My God, you are very sick...burning up!”
“I'm okay,” Parker pushed her hand away. “Keep driving.”
“We're here,” Teresa said.
The car pulled into a duty driveway of a huge stucco villa. It looked empty. Vines grew over the outside walls and over the roof. The grass was beginning of an amazonian jungle.
“I see he still lives alone,” Parker said.
“What are you going to do?”
Parker lowered his eyebrows. His small black eyes darted back and forth. “That's my business. Understand?”
Teresa breathed deeply. She nodded her head nervously.
“Stay in the car. Be out in a few.” Parker commanded.
He got out of the car gingerly, ambled toward the villa. It felt like a million miles away. Parker stopped at the front door, looked back at the car. Teresa was watching, but only casually. Parker smiled, saluted with a finger at his forehead. She scowled, waved back.
Parker turned the knob, the front door creaked open too easy. Way too easy. What's waiting for me on the other side? He eased it partially open. Peeking in, Parker only saw an old man sitting in a wheel chair, half-asleep. It was the man he was looking for. Parker drew his Walther from his holster and pushed the door completely open.
“I told him not to sleep with that witch,” The old man blabbered. “Malo ... muy malo ... el hombre de piedra, ahora.” The old man shook his head.
Parker put his finger on the trigger. “This is for Rudolf Ganger!”
It all happened in a flash. Just as Parker pulled the trigger, he heard a loud growl, and out of nowhere a small hairy man leaped on him, pulled him to the floor. The Walther went exploded, the bullet roared above the old man's head and struck the ceiling. Wood particled rained on the old man. The small man was strong. The creature pinned Parker down with its claws kneaded deep into him, bearing its sharp teeth. Parker screamed as the small man ripped flesh from his left cheek.
The old man babbled away as the small man devoured Parker.
Teresa walked in. She had a blanket in her hands. She watched for a minute as the small man finished his feeding. She walked over, covered the old man. “Keep this on you, amapola .”
She collected the third Peso by the body of Parker, added it to the other two coins. She handed them to the old man.
“I told him not to lie with you....very bad...sleeping with a witch.” The old man said.
“Domi,” Teresa called to the small man. He came running, jumped in her arms and immediately turned to stone. “But Amapola, he's such a good servant.”