JULY 2008 – ACAPULCO, MEXICO
Unlike most Majikans, I was twenty eight years old before I teleported for the first time. It was a surreal experience, fading out in a dingy alley of Mexico City and flying through space and time, weightless and untethered from reality, then finding myself materializing on a beach in Acapulco. I’d like to say I appeared in a puff of smoke like some ethereal goddess, but in reality I found myself sprawled belly first across a sun lounger, my short dress hiked up around my knickers, probably resembling a drunken gringa who’d downed too many margaritas.
I lay there for a moment trying to get my bearings. An insistent ringing had started in my ears and a strange numbness pulsated through the right side of my body. It felt as if half of me had completed the flight while the rest was stuck in transit. I pushed up and onto my knees and looked around. I appeared to be on the main stretch of beach. Ahead of me, the Pacific Ocean lapped in gentle waves at the shore, while rows of grass huts dotted the sand around me. This had to be Acapulco Bay; I recognized it from the old Elvis movie my mother had loved when I was a kid. Thinking of my mother made me smile, then I remembered why I was here.
With rubbery limbs, I stood, feeling the world spin. I shook it off and turned around to where I assumed the road was. I didn’t have a watch but the fading warmth of the sun told me I only had a couple of hours of daylight left. The headquarters for a vampire drug cartel was not somewhere I wanted to be once nightfall came. I opened my hand to check the address on the slip of paper clutched there. I needed to get moving.
Five minutes later I was squeezing into the cramped backseat of a 1980s green VW Beetle taxi. The driver had a toothpick clamped between fleshy lips and he wore a baseball cap pulled low over his face with a tangle of black curls escaping out over his collar. I could not see his eyes behind his dark shades but he radiated a gentle energy that made me relax. I smiled and passed him the address. In an instant I felt his fear assail my senses in a whirl of black cold air. He threw the paper at me and pointed to the door. “No, no, no voy.”
Looks like I definitely had the right address.
I considered my options. I could force him to take me but hurting a harmless taxi driver was not the kicks I was looking for, and my empathic senses could feel he had children; his love for them and the joy they brought leaked from his very being. In the land of Plato o Plomo – where the drug cartels routinely offered money or a bullet, this man needed the money. Reaching into my dress, I removed a stash of American dollars from my bra and threw them on the front seat.
“Por favor, senor.”
The driver raised his head to look at me in the rear view mirror. He was now gnawing at the toothpick like an agitated bunny. I put my hands together as if in prayer, pleading. He shook his head, but stole a glance at the cash. I imagined he was quickly adding it up. From memory I had about US$200 on me, and that was going to be a helluva tip.
Finally, he muttered something under his breath and scooped up the notes, shoving them into his shirt pocket. With a crunch of the gears we were off, and I gripped the edge of the vinyl seat to avoid sliding around as we took off at breakneck speed and veered into a sea of traffic. I didn’t bother to search for seatbelts. I knew there’d be none.
We drove along the main esplanade, before turning off and entering a labyrinth of skinny streets that wound up a hill like spaghetti. As the VW heaved itself up the hill, the houses grew in size and opulence, the addresses coming further apart. I caught sight of a sign for the famous La Quebrada divers and still we kept climbing.
The cab slowed at the corner of a dead-end street, the driver pulled over to the right hand side and pointed at a white stone wall that had to be at least ten feet high. It ran the entire length of the street with two watch towers at each end and solid iron gates. He parked the car, leaving the engine running. “Aqui.”
I sat there and stared. Not only did the property look large enough to house an army, but it sat on the bluff of the mountain so one side dropped away to the ocean far below. How the hell was I going to do this without back-up? Seconds later, I was standing on the cobblestones and, without so much as an Adios, he was off in a cloud of jerking black smoke.
The road was absent of people, even the watch towers, which I found odd. Maybe there was no need to bother with gun toting border patrols when you housed God knows how many vampires inside. I bent down to pretend to check my boot heels while I covertly scanned the fence line for security cameras. Again, nothing that I could see. The lack of security was making me uneasy, there had to be a catch. Not for the first time it occurred to me that I was being set up. It didn’t matter – they had my sister. I would save her or die trying.
I reflected on how different this would be if I had my old team with me. I was not used to solo missions, and while I knew I could more than handle myself with any normal humans, a coven of vampires was a whole other thing. The thought made me notice the sun was starting its slow slide into the ocean. I was running out of time.
I decided the section of wall nearest the cliff was my best point of entry since it appeared to have a tree on the other side. It might help hide me from prying eyes. I stood still, closed my eyes and focused on gathering all the energy I had stolen in the past two days. It was depleting now, but hopefully I still had enough for the task ahead. I opened my eyes and exhaled, then took a fast run up and catapulted myself up the wall. I felt myself lift off and visualized flying to the top and landing with ease. That didn’t happen exactly, but my land near the top, fingers digging into the stone, did allow me to kick and drag myself up the last section.
Once I hit the top of the wall, I maneuvered behind the curtain provided by the tree and a towering trellis with thick Mexican Creeper vines all over it. I peered through the foliage and my confidence plummeted further. The grounds were enormous. There was a main house, an imposing Spanish style villa, the kind that has as many bathrooms as bedrooms; a guest house or servants’ quarters and a garage that was as big as a small family home. And men everywhere. They may not have been positioned in the watch towers but a huddle of armed guards were sitting and drinking at a cluster of tables in the distance, and at least three patrolled the front of the main house with weapons slung across their shoulders.
I felt the unfamiliar feeling of panic rising from deep in my gut and barreling up towards my throat. I drew a shaky breath and dropped my head into my chest, the beat of my heart loud in my ears. I had to pull it together. There was no team coming. No Council. Just me. I would have to be enough.
I took the opportunity to sit with the energy of the property for a moment. I closed my eyes and drew a deep breath, in through my nose and out through my mouth. The sounds were the first thing I noticed. A low hip-hop beat played in the distance, not quite drowned out by the caw of the seagulls as they flew overhead. Then came the scents. Fresh sea salt hung in the air and there was dope being smoked in what I assumed were the garages to my right. It was mixed with sweat and chili and fried food. Was that the guards quarters maybe? There was a definite buzz of energy coming from that direction.
I visualized my feelers expanding further afield and caught the distinct sickly, metallic scent of blood mixed with perfume and soap. A familiar vibration near my heart told me that my sister was definitely still alive and most likely being kept in the main house. I tried to hone in on a more exact location, but feelings of dread, hopelessness and resignation were practically rebounding off the walls, and the smell of blood kept putting me off. It seemed to be everywhere. There was something else too. Like a cancer eating up every living cell within 200 yards, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Death lived here. Literally.
Gunshots rang out. I jumped involuntarily and slipped further behind the trellis. I saw a man had risen from the tables and was throwing beer bottles into the air while another couple of his pals tried to shoot them. Imbeciles. More gunshots were followed by laughter and smashing glass. I hoped they ended up shooting each other.
Some movement caught my eye. Two men were walking from the garages, a teenage girl between them. One held onto her arm as they ushered her across the circular driveway and towards a side door of what I assumed were guest quarters. She appeared to be no more than 16 and so thin, her legs were like sticks poking out from beneath the loose smock dress she wore. She was clearly of Indian descent with long black hair that hung heavy down her back. The anger rose inside and my fingers itched to suck the life out of someone. I didn’t have to guess what they were going to do with her.
It’s impossible to save every wretched soul and I knew better than to try, but today the waves of terror coming off the girl assaulted my senses, making it impossible to turn away. I justified that the men could know where Simone was being kept so paying them a visit wasn’t off mission exactly. The thought made me feel better.
I waited for them to disappear inside the building before climbing down the trellis and slipping in amongst the vines and trunk of the tree. I waited a beat to see if any of the guards in sight were looking my way and when the coast seemed clear, I made a beeline after the men and the girl. I breathed a sigh of relief once inside the door, it was too soon to have my cover blown. I found myself standing in a long corridor with two doors on each side. For a building with such an opulent exterior, the inside was basic. Tiled floor, drab walls and busted lights in the ceiling. Obviously this was for cartel grunts more than guests.
I closed my eyes and threw out sensory feelers, trying to see if there were people behind each door. Luckily, the place seemed to be empty except for behind the door furthest away on the right hand side. The girl was in there, and if I wasn’t mistaken, there were the two men I’d seen, plus one more.
I moved in to put my ear to the door. Music was playing – Eminem. I grimaced, I hated rap music. I could also hear the shuffle of feet and a low desperate sob. My resolve strengthened. Taking on these guys was going to be a pleasure.
I might be supernaturally gifted but I wasn’t bullet proof, so I thought for a moment, trying to decide on a plan. I needed the men together and distracted. I ran through options in my mind, then hiked my dress a little higher, tousled my hair and knocked on the door.
I felt the mood on the other side waver and change course, heartbeats accelerated and a long 30 seconds later the door opened, just a crack. I smiled and peered through the narrow slit in the door, hoping I looked like the entertainment.
“Jesus sent me for the party.”
There was always someone called Jesus around.
One bleary eye in a slack unshaven face darted back and forth, then focused on me. Interest flickered and then came the yellowing smile. I stepped back when I heard the lock jangle. The door opened.
The man couldn’t be much more than twenty. His hair was black and frizzy and his eyes bloodshot. He had a squat build, was well muscled and wearing faded denim jeans that were half unbuttoned, showing brief glimpses of pubic hair. Not that I was staring, but some sights will always get your attention.
“Where is Jesus?”
He must have seen my eyes drop because he grabbed his crotch, leering. “You want some?”
Another man appeared at the door. He was older, heavier, darker skinned, dressed in low slung sweatpants with his belly hanging over the top. Both men had chests that were almost hairless. I couldn’t see the third man, but behind them a teenage girl cowered on the floor, crying and pulling her torn smock dress down to cover her nakedness. I averted my eyes and smiled, “He’s coming. He thought you’d like to meet me first.”
The younger man looked at his friend. “Cesar, look what we got here.” He turned back to me and his eyes travelled down my body, taking in the short dress and ankle boots.
Cesar studied me, doubt flickering in his eyes. “Bit old to be one of Jesus’ girls.”
I could see Cesar was going to be a problem. I kept smiling while I tried to sense the location of the third man, but the adrenalin coursing through my body was distracting me. I could feel the dark Vipera side of my nature rising up, itching to get out.
The third man popped into view, exiting what looked like the bathroom. He was doing his jeans up and his scattered energy told me he was stoned. This was my chance.
I took a step into the doorway. “You’re right. I’m here for the girl.”
The young man’s eyes widened and he turned to look at his friends. There was a second of silence then the three men burst out laughing.
The young man’s lip curled. “You high, bitch?”
”Give me the girl, answer a couple of questions and I’ll walk away.” I am a born liar.
“Walk away?” The third man rolled his eyes and turned away, apparently bored. “Get her in here, Lupe. She’s loca.”
Lupe gave me crazy eyes and shuffled from foot to foot, shaking his shoulders like he was doing a boxer’s warm up. “Nah. Come on gringa, let’s see what you got. You wanna hit me?”
I shifted into a fighting stance. He laughed, thought it was hilarious.
“Enough.” Cesar pushed Lupe out of the way and stepped in close, his chest inches away from mine. “I think you better come in, chica. You might stay pretty that way.”
Swinging my wrist out wide, I gave him a hard shove with the palm of my other hand, then moved into a roundhouse kick to knock Lupe down. Cesar looked surprised but not scared. He thought that was all I had, which was exactly what I wanted. While he was distracted, I stepped in close and brought my hands up to press against both sides of his head.
His eyes widened the second I touched his skin. I hadn’t bothered to suppress my power at all. He shook like he was being electrocuted. I felt the rush, my energy flooding in, attacking his life force, pulling it up and out of his head. Initially I had only planned to incapacitate him, but looking at the girl, so scared and broken, I decided cretins like him didn’t deserve mercy.
I threw all the power I had into his mind, held on and sucked until he started gasping for breath, eyes bulging, arms flailing at his sides. The end was coming, his heart pounding through its last desperate beats. I closed my eyes and drained his life force, feeling my skin tingle and the charge roll through my body. I relished the incoming shot of energy and tried not to think about the inevitable emotional confusion and nightmares that would come. Everything we steal comes at a price and what I do is no exception.
I let go when I felt he was gone and watched his body collapse, lifeless at my feet. I looked over at his friend and flexed my fingers, feeling my whole body come alive. “You want some?”
Lupe, the hairless runt, moved onto his hunches and shuffled backwards like a crab into another room. He slammed the door with his foot and a moment later I heard a deadbolt click into place.
I was alone with the girl and the third man. Except for the dead Mexican at my feet.
Photo by mnd.ctrl