Outside of Logroño, La Rioja, Spain
Ibargaun - Family estate of Mendoza de Txibas
Manuel grabbed the vase, it looked old and expensive, made of some heavy, dark-fired ceramic of a deep maroon. Why the fuck not? He lobbed it at the wall to his left, which was covered in some thick, rich-looking tapestry, and it smashed satisfyingly. A scream died in a crushed throat as Teo was finishing up with the housekeeper. The crusty, wizened old bitch had broken Teo's nose when he had first snatched at her. She had invited them in for water or wine, but had been so fucking arrogant and bold when she announced that "Master Garaile" was not in residence, but she would kindly tell him that they had enquired after him, thank you very fucking much. Well, Teo's fists and feet had wiped that smirk off of her face, he guessed, not that she'd have any teeth to smirk with, anymore.
The old, shuffling butler went quickly and quietly with a bullet to the chest, his eyes staring up at the frescos on the ceiling in blank surprise. The cooks and assistant housekeeper only screamed a little, but fell where they were with one to the head each. After that, they got to trashing the place. Toro's instructions had been explicit - fuck his world up, destroy, scatter, make him afraid. Strange, though, that he didn't want him just dead, it would have been so much easier. But, he had been mucking up Toro's affairs recently, and ignoring requests for a meeting...too great an offense for a jefe to ignore. And what Toro really wanted out of the guy, why he'd even bother TALKING, Manuel didn't know, but, it wasn't his job to ask, was it?
They had spent the past two weeks doing their homework and researching their target. There were no photos of him, so, they had to go by some vague descriptions. Señor Garaile Efraín Mendoza de Txibas...by the village talk, tall (but that was relative, over here), always well-dressed, and he could supposedly knock a bull down at ten feet with his stare...the poor little townies were frightened of him. Nobody'd say why, but, as Toro said, power was in perception.
The job had to be done right, otherwise they'd be screwed. They'd cut the security camera lines only moments before getting to the gate, so close the guard wouldn't have even been able to call the cops. The alarm company would be notified, but, out here, average response time was well over an hour, plenty of time to work. They had been smooth enough to let the guard at the gate lower his alert level. He was even easier to take out than the housekeeper, and they propped him up just right to make it look like his was watching, but the knife wound at the top of his spine wasn't visible unless you turned him around. The car was stashed by the guardhouse, just out of sight. El Toro didn't expect them to avoid notice altogether, but, they at least couldn't lead it back to him. He had enough connections with the Spanish government to bail them out of any real trouble, but, they couldn't make it obvious. Maybe they'd leave some ETA graffiti somewhere on the walls, or steal a few things to make it look like a believable burglary.
The place was real swank, marble floors, expensive wood for the furniture, a little gold or a jewel here or there in a statue or two, but, it was understated. The way that Toro, everyone in NYC, and the whole damned syndicate around the globe referred to "the Basque" you'd have thought he had everything, even the can, made of gold. Manuel had been in his share of mansions, both guarding and for jobs, and he'd seen some stuff that was out there, but, maybe old money was different. This place sat above a huge vineyard, one of the largest in all of fucking Spain...so you knew the guy was loaded. One thing that did pop out about the manse was the white marble fountain out front, facing the drive...it had a damn wolf on it, just staring down at the arriving guest. Fucking creepy was what it was, as the thing's eyes seemed to follow whoever was in front of it.
He and Teo went to the furniture next, and were dumping a table and all its plates and silverware onto the floor, directly in a pool of the butler's blood, when Manuel caught the purr of a car's engine in the drive. Out for a week on business, my ass...lying old biddy paid for it, though.
"Teo, we've got friends!"
Teo gave a half-grin and wiped at the blood under his nose, smoothing his mustache, as he always did when he was about to go to work. He drew his Sig, racking the slide. Manuel pulled his own back out, kissing the barrel for good luck. They trotted towards the big teakwood doors and down the steps as the occupants of the vehicle had exited.
The car was a sleek, black Mercedes of a model that Manuel had never seen in an SUV, recently polished. The guy coming from the driver's side, a hired gun if Manuel had ever seen one, was trying to get a piece free at his side and going to duck behind the engine block when Teo's shot got him between the eyes. The other had been opening the rear door when Manuel double-tapped and landed both in the dude's chest.
As they rushed the SUV, Teo took over, pointing his Sig at the occupant and commanding him, "¡Manos arriba! ¡Manos arriba! ¡A menos que quieras perder tu cabeza, coño!" Hands up! Hands up! Unless you want to lose your head, cunt!
The passenger stepped raised his hands and stepped out, broad shoulders filling the doorway of the SUV. He was, sure as hell, NOT what Manuel had been expecting. He had been sure that the guy would be some stubborn old codger, easily frightened and unintimidating. This guy was fucking huge, taller than him and Teo by nearly half a foot, and, in his neatly tailored, pitch-black suit, probably worth more than two or even three of Manuel's cut of jobs, looked like the had the build of a middle weight boxer.
A pair of ice-blue eyes flicked between Manuel and Teo, but, the idiot was un-fucking-afraid. The deep voice that addressed them was equally calm, with an aristocratic, Castilian accent, "Caballeros, bienvenidos al Valle Oscuro...I would invite you into the comfort of my home...but, I see you have already taken that liberty."
"We have, Basque, and you need to see our...redecoration." Teo moved around to the Basque's back and pressed the barrel of the gun to his neck, right below the tie that held back a thick tail of dark, wavy hair that ended between the guy's shoulders,"Now, move."
Teo shuffled him forward, and he didn't argue. It surprised Manuel that he didn't fight, at least a little...with his size and build, and the rest of his appearance, the hair, and the short, dark beard, he looked more like a fucking lumberjack than a "vintner" and aristocrat. Only a few greys in the beard...must have inherited the place, rich jota. His own dad had worked himself into an early grave trying to keep his seven kids and wife alive, and these culeros just lazed around and had money fall on them day and night.
They marched him up the steps and into the house, stopping at each of the bodies. When there wasn't a reaction to the first four, Teo grabbed the fucker by his ponytail and forced his eyes to the butler.
"¡Mira, coño! ¡Ya ves lo que pasa con ellos quienes desafían al Toro!" You look, cunt! Now you see what happens to those that defy the Bull!
Not even a twitch, "Sí, ya los he visto."
Who is this fucker? Is he really just so cold and rich he can buy new help whenever he pleases?
Teo snorted in disgust. He hated these pampered, prissy fatcats as much as Manuel. They'd have fun before they left. They couldn't kill him, of course, but, they could do several things that would put the fear of fucking God into him, if dead bodies wouldn't. They shoved him out to the patio, tiled in white marble, with several shading awnings for the hottest parts of the day. A table at the terrace's rail had two ewers and a set of cups placed on it. Probably done by that damned housekeeper before they did her.
The view of the vineyard spread out for miles upon miles, over hills and into the "Dark Valley". The vines twisted up their guides, sporting lush fruits of every kind of grape that Manuel could name. Enough gasoline to get the blaze started, and the whole damn thing would go up like a Roman candle. If this cold fish wasn't fazed by losing his people, maybe losing his livelihood would at least make him squirm and squeal. And it would give Manuel some fucking satisfaction.
Teo pushed the big man forward, "Siéntate, cabrón."
Obligingly, the jota sat, still as calm and frosty as you please. He kept his hands visible, but rested them on his knees as he propped his right foot up on his left knee, leaning back nonchalantly against the padded seat at the table. His eyes, intent, steady, were creeping Manuel the fuck out. No anger, no fear, no hate...what was wrong with this dude? Was he going to try to buy them off and planning his little spiel? Or was he too stupid to be afraid?
Then, another shock, he spoke in perfect English, indicating the ewers and cups, "Would you gentlemen care for a drink?" After they gaped like fish for a minute, he continued, the accent almost British, still somewhat Spanish, but with something like a Scotsman's lilt, "No? Then, perhaps you shall not mind if I do."
When Teo only sneered, he went and poured himself a cup of wine, a very dark red, nearly as dark as heart's blood.
Teo retrained his Sig on the big fucker's head, "Might as well, it'll be the last damn stuff from this place you'll have for a long fucking time."
"I see...pity, that." He took a long sip, but kept his eyes on them. "You are Americans, are you not? So, who did I offend across the ocean so that they would dare send assassins to invade my home?"
Who the fuck does he think he is?
Teo snarled at Mendoza, "You've interfered with the business of Martín Antonio Hernandez de Santa Cruz, jota, the fucking Bull of New York! We're here as a warning...fuck with El Toro, and you'll get the horns."
The smile was full and white, and didn't reach his eyes, "Ah...clever." He took another sip, then leaned forward, unbuttoning his suit jacket. It wasn't a trick of fancy tailoring, he was lean in the waist. The only break in the unrelieved black of his outfit were the thin silver stripes in his dress shirt and the silver buckle on his belt, worked into a strange shape of a staring eye. "So...what is the remainder of this 'warning', if I may ask?"
"We'll burn your fucking vines up, coño. We've already taken out all of your staff, so, you'll have nothing. If you do this shit again, El Toro will have you offed after a slow, painful torture, which he'll make sure lasts a week, at the very least."
The Basque seemed unimpressed, "Well," he stood suddenly, and began slipping off his jacket, "That shall not do."
"Sit the fuck down, asshole!"
Despite Teo nearly shaking the gun in his damn face, he moved without hurry, hanging the jacket on the back of the chair. He finally sat back down, and once again, propped his foot up and went back to his wine. After a few more sips, he unbuttoned the cuffs on his shirt, and began to roll up the sleeves to his elbows.
Manuel, trying not to seem too interested while keeping to Sig on the bastard's chest, noticed another surprise. He's got ink...what the hell...?
From his elbow to the edge of his left hand, a long sword was tattooed. It was a funky looking one, the top edge of the blade just barely curved, but the lower bowing out in the middle, then sweeping back to taper near the hilt, which was nearly to the guy's knuckle. He also finally noticed the eye tattooed on the back of the fucker's hand, nearly identical to the one on his belt. They weren't crude like prison ink...it was their near perfection that was giving him the fucking heebies. That, and Mendoza had seen where Manuel's eyes had gone, and the bastard actually grinned.
Jesus, he's creeping me out. Two guns, he acts like they're not there. Eight dead on his property, and he just walks by them.
He had killed plenty in his time. He didn't keep count, like some did. He figured, if he could forget them, then maybe God would, too, if he confessed and repented enough. He counted himself hard. He would pull the trigger, smash bones, split cheeks, do whatever to terrify, break and goad, without a problem. But...this guy was just fucking weird...was he crazy?
Just what I need, a loon.
Apparently, the cup was drained, because Mendoza filled it again. After the next drink, he tapped his fingers on the cup, as though considering what he was going to say next. He then fished in his shirt pocket, producing a flat tin for cigarettes. He took a brown jacketed cigarette, offering the tin to both Teo and Manuel. When they just looked at him, he snapped it shut and replaced it in his shirt pocket.
When he spoke, despite the impediment in his mouth, the voice was no less commanding, no less arrogant, "I am afraid, gentlemen, that I cannot accept what you are about to do," smoke, smelling of cherries and cloves, curled out from his mouth and the nostrils on that long, straight nose. Wait...how did he light that? "The last times when someone invaded my home, I killed them, horribly. So, forgive me," the cherry on the cigarette flared bright red, "but I see no reason to do any differently this time."
Something was wrong...something was happening. A dark cloud drifted over the bright afternoon sun, and a distant, rolling thunder echoed, maybe a few miles off. Terror was worming its way into Manuel's guts...and that was always his sign to get out.
"Teo, something isn't right here...."
"The fuck, Manny? What's eating you?" He pushed Manuel on the shoulder, "Make with the fucking gasoline and let's torch this fruit's fields. Maybe that'll give him something to think about before getting lippy again."
Ash flicked off the cigarette, the ember burning fast, "No, your friend understands...something of it. You two, unbeknownst to your comandante, have stumbled into the Devil's den. And, unlucky for you, the Devil was home."
He moved so fast, it was a blur of black to Manuel. But Teo's gun went off, and Manuel fired, double tapping instinctively. They hit him, Manuel knew the bullets had, but still, he kept coming, wrapping one of his huge hands around Teo's face, the other around the opposing shoulder, and he wrenched them each in different directions. God, the sound was awful. And then, Teo was down, his head turned around at an impossible angle, and the big man snatched Manuel's gun in one hand and put the palm of other into Manuel's chest, sending him backwards. It was like getting hit by a small car. He lost his air, and he immediately ached with the pain of the strike.
Trying to breathe, his brain fuzzed and he watched as the Basque stripped the magazine from the Sig and popped the bullets out one by one. In another motion that made Manuel think that he had to be hallucinating, he racked the weapon and threw it to the floor, breaking the grip, slide and body, also cracking the gleaming white marble with the force.
He watched Mendoza, now believing himself crazy. He had to be. The cigarette smoke billowed from the big man's mouth and nose like a dragon's breath. And, where his eyes were icy before, Manuel could see flames burning now.
"Now, footsoldier, you have a cellular phone I presume?"
Manuel, too scared to lie, nodded. The Basque stepped over to him, and reached down, hauling him up. Oh, God, that's where I shot him...why is it already healed?
He was pulled up level with Mendoza, feet lifted off of the ground. Smoke lashed his face, and the man's voice was a rumbling hiss, "You will call your comandante and tell him that you have succeeded, in whatever colorful fashion you choose. And you will tell him all about how I capitulated and begged forgiveness. Then, you will end the conversation, and you and I will speak of where you stayed, how you found me and by what means you came here." He was carried, and dropped into the seat at the table, "And then...you will die."
Something was wrong with Mendoza's arm...smoke was also coming from it...and he turned away as Manuel began fishing his phone out of his pants pocket. He had to think of something, he had to tell Toro somehow....
Just as he was wildly planning, Mendoza whirled, and the tip of a fucking sword was leveled at Manuel's nose. It was just like the blade tattooed on the Basque's arm...where did he get a damn sword? How did he hide that? He didn't have anywhere to fucking put it on him.
"In case you believe that you will covertly alert your jefe, make no mistake, I will make you suffer if you dare try to speak of this to him. I know far more of pain that you have ever dreamed, young man...and I can make you scream and beg for me to end you. Obey, and I might make your death a swift one."
His hands were shaking on the phone. This wasn't supposed to happen. Who WAS this guy? Then, just as he was about to drop the phone, flames began to creep up the sword....
"Are you the Devil?"
The laugh, the only response he got to his question, was awful.