The Redeemer: Maria

The Redeemer: Maria

red eye

Just a tale about revenge with some gratuitous violence.

Maria walked into her family’s kitchen amongst the chaos of their morning routine. Her Papi was sitting at the table with the Laredo Morning Times spread out in front of him. His graying hair and beard hid his massive grin as well as his favorite Hawaiian shirt hid his great belly.  His attention was on his feisty wife, Anna-Marie, who standing over a pan of sizzling eggs was joyfully shouting over the morning AM traffic report and waving her IPhone toward him with the latest picture of their nephews. Maria’s fiancé Danny was on the other side of the kitchen leaning against the refrigerator enjoying the scene with a cup of coffee in hand. He was dressed in slim blue jeans, a short sleeve black button down over a white tee and a million dollar smile.

His eyes went to her as she walked toward him and as always he slightly lost his breath at the sight of her. She was short like her father but had her mother’s stunning blue eyes and long straight black hair which she tied in a ponytail. She had been a star swimmer and gymnast in High School which gave her an athletic build and an unusually fast pace.

“Good Morning mi amor.  I thought you’d sleep all day! “ Danny said.

“Not today Danny. I’ve got to give a present our study results to the Docs today and need to call and see how my dress is coming. Only two weeks left until our wedding!” She said with a smile followed by a kiss.

“Danny have you ordered your tux yet?” asked Anna-Maria while pointing her spatula at him.

“Uhh, no not yet. Soon!”

“Tell you what. I’ll pick you up from the garage today and we’ll run to the shop before dinner” said Maria.

“Si, that would be perfect!” said Danny.

“Maria, sit down and have some breakfast,” said her mother poking the spatula toward her.

“Oh no thanks Mom, today I’m starting a cleanse.”

Her father looked up from his paper his eyeglasses at the tip of his nose.

“Cleanse?” he asked eyes bouncing to everybody in the room.

“Yes, Papi. A bride needs to be fit and healthy for her wedding,” she said with a sweet smile.

“How about drinking two cups of coffee then instead of drinking the space food?” said Papi.

“Oh Papi!” Maria said with a smile as she patted him on the shoulder on the way to the fridge to retrieve the ingredients for her shake.

Papi then looked at Danny sharply. “Danny, let’s get down to the shop. We’ve got to finish that Beamer this morning.”

“Sure Papi, no problem,” said Danny.

They both got up to leave and Maria followed shortly after making her shake and packing her things. Anna-Marie watched them go through the screen door with a smile and started cleaning up the kitchen. She would be needed down at the family auto shop soon as well.

Maria’s ride to the lab was as ritual driven as events in the kitchen. She started by reviewing her list of daily work tasks which today revolved around presenting clinical data to the hospital’s research chiefs to justify her group’s study on the connection between genes and macular degeneration. She wasn’t worried as this was a long-standing validated project but it was important to her to manage the project well and ultimately move the work forward towards a cure for the disease. She then moved on to her wedding tasks which include a follow-up call on her dress and a couple of emails to make sure the venue was all set as well as the other vendors. She mentally added making sure Danny was following up on his end as well with a sigh. This could be the hardest thing!

Danny arrived at Miguel’s Auto Body about fifteen minutes before Papi did which was typical. Papi liked to stop to buy coffee for the mechanics and maybe a donut or three for him. This was great as it gave Danny time to get things to order and clean up any messes before the boss got there. He suspected Papi knew this which was just another hint at how good he was at running the shop and managing people. Papi had run this business for thirty years and it had put Anna-Marie and Maria through college as well as employ and train many of the neighborhood kids to be mechanics, detailers and in Danny’s case a manager and future owner.

He walked through the central office into out into a large busy multiport garage. There were many cars in various states of repair and a half dozen mechanics moving about.  Business was being carried out as usual and there appeared to be no crisis to jump into.

“Andy! How’s that Beamer coming! Boss is gonna want to know! ” he yelled as he looked at a jet black BMV with a pair of legs hanging out of an open driver side door.

“Um ok. Still having an issue getting this panel back on but detailing and tint done.” bellowed a voice from the car.

“Ok. Pick up around noon. Give me a few and I’ll come take a look,“ Danny replied as he walked back into the office.

Maria’s day went fast.  Her presentation with the chiefs barely stretched the scheduled hour and nobody seemed to have any objections or criticisms beyond the usual budget concerns. Once clear of that meeting she was able to get back to the laboratory where her group was working diligently for a Friday morning. She spent the rest of her workday in her office completing paperwork, lab management tasks and making the calls she needed to her wedding vendors. She finished a little early so made her way to the University track for a good run. She could then pick up Danny after.

Danny’s day at Papi’s shop was slow and problematic. Papi had arrived with coffee and donuts as did Anna-Maria an hour later to help get the office in order and start processing the week’s receipts and pay the bills.  The computer systems went down mid-morning due to a kicked plug and then there was an issue with one of the lifts causing a pickup to be stuck above the floor for an hour until a repairman was able to fix the lift’s hydraulics and free it. It set the garage’s work back several hours and had Danny, Papi, and Anna-Marie scrambling until lunch.  The good news both Danny and Papi could dive under hoods and behind sprayers to help. The bad news is without their oversight it caused several key responsibilities to slip.

Paulo sat in his Charger at the intersection of the worst blocks on the US side of Laredo. His tinted window was wide open and his tattooed arm with a cigarette in hand dangled out as his mirrored sunglasses reflected at least five successful crimes being carried out in his name on the streets in front of him. His car engine rumbled as his free hand was on the wheel but not far from the black Beretta pistol on the seat next to him. His head bobbed slightly as his speakers thumped out the music flowing through them.

He picked up his cell phone and called a contact called Tigre.

“Yes,” replied somebody on the other end.

“Let’s go get Capo’s car,” Paulo said and then promptly hung up.

Three gang soldiers then emerged from a building a block down the street several moments later swaggering toward Paulo’s car.  The lead thug wore black Adidas running pants and a blue tank top that loosely covered his muscled frame. Tiger tattoos decorate the left and right sides of his shaved head and his eyes were covered by mirrored sunglasses. A single toothpick poked from his gold grilled mouth. The second thug was much older with greying jet-black hair and goatee. He wore black jeans and dress shirt separated by a large silver belt buckle with a matching pistol handle besides it. His polished black boots pounded the pavement as he moved forward with purpose. Finally, a lumbering giant picked up the rear with the dead-eyed glaze of a weed-induced high. He wore a backward ballcap, disheveled blue jeans and black tee shirt with a faded white skull on it. His left hand carried a large bag and the right gripped a worn aluminum baseball bat.  They arrive at his car several moments later and Paulo moved over to let the weightlifter drive and the other two get in the back.

“Weren’t we supposed to pick this up earlier today, Paulo?” asked the powerlifter.

“Yeah Tigre. They called earlier and said it might be a little late,” replied Paulo.

“Capo’s not gonna like that,” replied Tigre.

“Eh don’t worry about it, Homey. Capo’ll be alright,” the Giant replied pulling out a glass pipe.

Paulo then put the car into drive and they headed across the city to Miguel’s Auto Shop.

Danny had finished up his last car and was walking back to the office when he came across the BMW Andy was working on that morning. Not knowing what had happened he decided to poke his head in and as he had feared the panel was still sitting there on the passenger seat.

“Shit!” he said out loud.

“Anybody seen Andy?” Danny asked outload.

“Left a half hour ago,” a mechanic said walking bye on her way out for the day.

Danny got out of the car and looked at the time on his phone. Maria wasn’t due for another hour so he could probably finish this in time. The customer hadn’t showed up yet which is good as they aren’t the types to be understanding if things weren’t finished. He quickly walked back toward the tool bench looking for the right tool needed for paneling. If he could just bang this out and get things right no harm would be done.

Maria was approaching the final lap of her run around the university track and quickly transformed into the competitive athlete she once was.  Her mind opened allowing all the stresses in her life to come boiling to the surface. Anything big or small that was going wrong, had gone wrong or will go wrong was right there. Every person that had tried to wrong or hurt her was now visible to her mind’s eye. It enraged her and she used it and her fury erupted as she pumped her arms and legs as hard as she possibly could bursting into a hard final sprint around the track. It was her release and it felt great.

The Redeemer heard her on its dark plane. The girl had reached out and it had felt her rage and fury as if it was its own. Its hands balled, muscled arms tensed and jaw clenched as it saw the injustices in her mind’s eye.  She wanted to strike out and burn them all to the ground. This thought excited it.

Maria felt the surge of burned rage give way to something deep and dark in her mind. Slightly panicked she quickly brought her focus back to reality and crossed the finish line ramping down into a slow jog. The rage and darkness subsided as she put it behind her and she made her way back toward the gym and showers.

Maria sat down in her car after the shower and a change. She felt great as stress and weariness of the day had given way to the surge of energy that a good workout gave her. Her high school soccer coach had taught her to use life’s challenges as her rocket fuel and she always did on the last lap. She did wonder though if it would give her a heart attack one day as well.

It was now time to pick up Danny and go look at tuxedos.

Danny was having trouble with the panel. He had been at it for twenty minutes and still couldn’t get it to sit on the dash frame correctly.

“Danny! Time to close up shop. You ready?” yelled Papi from the office.

“Almost, just need a few!” replied Danny.

Paulo pulled his Charger into a parking space in front of Miguel’s and jumped out with Tigre.  The other two soldiers got out of the back of the car and then jumped into the front. The sun was nearly down and traffic had picked up slightly delaying them. The good news was the red neon open sign was still lit in the window next to the door so they walked in and walked up to the desk. Paulo impatiently banged on the bell at the counter that separated a waiting area from an office.

“Coming!” said a female voice from the office.

Anna-Marie emerged from the office behind the counter with a smile on her face.

“Hello,” she said.

“Olah! Here to pick up my car” said Paulo impatiently.

“Name?” she replied.

“Rodriquez, it’s the BMW,” said Paulo pointing through the office window to the car being worked on in the center of the garage.

“Ah, one second!” Anne-Marie replied with a friendly smile.

Anne-Marie walked toward the garage to see about the car.

Maria pulled her Honda to the curb in front of the shop.  She was hoping Danny would be there but it wasn’t the case.  Looking through the front window she could see a couple of customers speaking with Mama at the counter. Knowing that Danny probably couldn’t leave until they were finished she grabbed her cell phone and started thumbing through her work email.

Anne-Marie walked to the driver’s side to see Danny’s legs still hanging out of it as he was trying to manipulate a panel to the dashboard.

“Hey Danny, the customers are here to pick up this car.”

“Ah ok. Thanks Mama. I’ll take care of it.”

Danny climbed out of the car and walked toward the office while wiping his hands on a towel that had been hanging on the open door.  As he caught sight of who was at the counter his stomach dropped just a bit. They were bad news.

“Hello. I’m Danny and I’ve been working on your car. The tinting and detailing are done but I’m having a hard time getting a panel back on. You can wait if you’d like or come back tomorrow if it works better for you.”

“You’ve had the car for days. It needs to be done now.” Paulo said with a slightly raised voice.

Papi came walking in from the garage.

“Sorry for the delay. Sometimes the manufacture strips the fasteners which make it difficult to get the panel back on.  Give us a few minutes and we’ll get it done,” Said Papi trying to defuse the situation.

“Would you boys like a Coke? I’ve got some in the fridge. I’ll get them for you. Sit down and relax for a few.” said Mama with a smile.

“Bitch we want our car, not coke.” Tigre said aggressively.

Anne-Marie and Papi glared but Danny instantly replied. “Hey watch your fucking mouth!”

“Why?” Tigre replied while reaching for something tucked in his pants behind his back.

“You gonna do something about it Punto!” he said grinning as his hand swung back to the front revealing a modern pistol.

“Whoa T!” said Paulo putting an arm in front of him and then turning toward him. “They don’t need to see that!”

As Paulo turned back toward the counter he was instantly blinded and thrown backward by the wooden counter exploding out at him with a roar. He hit the lobby floor hard and his arms and legs stung from many small wounds. Looking over at Tigre he saw that he had been bowled over as well as had many small cuts all over him. He was rolling over with gun in hand.

Maria was just finishing a mail when she heard a large explosive crash and the sound of glass breaking. Looking over at the shop the glass front door and windows seemed to have been blown out and she could see dust and smoke coming from the lobby. She jumped out of the car phone in hand rushing toward the shop. She noticed two men had jumped from the car and were rushing to the shop as well.

Danny looked up after his hand released the trigger of the double-barreled shotgun that had been fastened to the underside of the counter under the register. He had reached over and fired both barrels at them when the smarter one had turned. The counter in front of him had shattered and wooden splinters had blown the bangers over and shattered and windows beyond.

Danny looked over at Papi relieved that the danger had passed but Papi wasn’t looking his way. Shifting his attention back to lobby he noticed the thugs were now slowly getting back up and both had guns in their hands.

Papi grabbed Anna-Marie as pushed her towards the door to the garage and Danny leaped to the standing remains to find the box of shells.  As Papi’s hand touched Anna-Marie and Danny reached the counter the thugs fired. Bullets from the semi-automatic weapons tore into their bodies. Anna Marie and Papi fell in each other’s arms and Danny was thrown back into the wall behind where he slid down the wall leaving a trail of blood.

“What the fuck!” Paulo yelled looking over at the people they had just gunned down.

“Crazy people man!” said Tigre pulling a small pellet from a wound on his face.

The other two thugs entered through the shattered door guns drawn and glared at Paulo as they processed what had just gone on.

“You two. Car’s back there in the garage,” Paulo said pointing.  “Get it out and drive it home.”

“T come on. We need to burn this place.”

Turning toward the door they noticed a beautiful young woman standing in the doorway.

Maria’s brain was trying to process what she was seeing. She had rushed in behind the two men and was stopped cold by the site of her family’s bodies and the bloodstained wall. Danny was bloody, slumped against the blood-smeared wall lifelessly staring out of the shop. Streams of blood seemed to still be coming from numerous wounds on his torso and neck. Her parents were on the floor together huddled in a growing pool of blood on the floor.

“Hey!” somebody shouted.

She suddenly found herself able to move and saw two of the thugs move toward her guns in hand.

A voice in her head said “Run!”

She turned and dashed as fast as she could out the doorway angling quickly to the left to not give them a straight shot.

Paulo saw the girl run and he raised his gun to fire but was answered by the clicks of an empty ammo clip. He stopped quickly to reach into his pocket searching for another and heard T’s weapon fire a few shots that struck the corners and went off into the neighborhood behind. The two others then passed by them rushing out the door with guns raised.

Maria ran to her car in seconds flat, opened the passenger door and dove in head first. She swore as her ribs were bruised by the hard center panel but rolled quickly to get her feet near the break and gas pedals.  Two gunshots rang out and the windshield above her head was holed and the window at the rear shattered. She quickly pressed the button of the key less starter, pushed the stick to drive and thumped her foot on the gas. She heard two more shots and felt two thumps on the car but she felt the car accelerated away and heard many more shots.  She kept low in the seat and pointed away from the shop and then popped her head up higher when she didn’t hear the gunshots anymore.

The two thugs emptied their magazines at the speeding car in vain. The girl was quick and their shots had failed to hit anything vital on the car or her to slow her down.  They watched helplessly as the car sped away.

Two seconds later Paulo and T came running out of the lobby reloaded guns in hand.  Hearing alarms going off up and down the street Paulo shouted,” Let’s go! Get Capo’s car and burn this fucking place to the ground!”

The Charger and BMW left the garage four minute later. The bodies were left where they lay and a hot gasoline fire now blazed in the garage which would quickly engulf the shop well before the police and fire department arrived.  Neighbors had seen and heard the commotion and even called the police but hid in place when gunshots rang out. The culprits had gotten away unseen.

Maria was still shaking from the adrenaline rush as her car screeched to a halt in front of the small police station. She fell out of the driver’s door and then dashed through the double set of doors into the arms of an older police officer walking out.

“You’ve got to help me! They’re after me!” she shouted as she grabbed him by both his shoulders.

“Hold on young lady,” he said looking at her.

“Here come with me.” the officer said as he turned her toward the long hallway into the station.

Detectives Tyson and Strauss arrived at Miguel’s Auto Repair as the fire department was still busy trying to put the flames out. Two fire engines were in front of the smoldering building. The first had its ladder up with firemen spraying down on the structure and the other had a couple of long hoses strewn from it where two teams of firemen were spraying into the garage. Two police patrol cars sat out front with flashing red lights on while several police officers were standing about talking to citizens. Two ambulances also sat nearby with their rear doors open with filled body bags on gurneys in the rear.

One of the officers looked up at the detectives approached and walked toward them.

“Evening Detectives. We’ve got three confirmed homicides and likely arson and larceny. The deceased who have been identified as the owners Miguel Vasquez, his wife Anna-Marie Vasquez and manager Danny Garcia were found with multiple gunshot wounds in the lobby.  The bodies were moved at the request of the fire department but photos were taken prior to them being moved.  Witnesses heard gunshots and cars speeding away an hour ago however no identification of the cars or people have been made.  The scene is secured and we’re gathering information from neighbors now.”

“Thanks, Officer” replied Detective Tyson while squinting toward the now steaming lobby.

“Any weapons found at the scene?” asked Detective Strauss.

“None. The front counter looks to have been blasted away and the rear of the office was riddled with bullet holes. I’m guessing a shotgun wiped out the counter but the small caliber stuff was definitely multiple small caliber pistols. Guessing some bangers tried to rob this place and it went sideways. It’s a real shame, the neighbors thought highly of these folks.” replied the officer.

Suddenly all three looked toward a parked police car as an Officer was yelling to them and waving them over.

“Detectives! Central just radioed. Looks like an eye witness just walked into the Parker substation!”

“Ok!” yelled Detective Strauss. He then looked at the Officer in front of them.

“Thanks Officer, please keep the scene as secure as possible and continue collecting statements. Forensics should be here shortly to at least start on the bodies until the fire is out.

The two detectives then walked to their sedan, got in and started their drive to the substation.

Maria sat in a wooden chair next to the older police officer that had brought her in. His name was Officer Allen and he had quickly brought her to a paramedic who examined her and treated the many small cuts and bruises she got in the retreat. He then had sat her down in the wooden chair next to his desk, given her a glass of water and taken her statement. He then had rushed off to another part of the station house to get people to her father’s garage.

She wearily looked up as he returned.

He put his hand gently on her shoulder and said. “Ok honey. Things are going to be ok. The police and fire department are already there and some detectives are coming to speak with you. It’s important that you talk with them so they have a good chance of catching the criminals. Please try and remember everything you can. It’s important.”

“Ok, thank you Officer Allen,” Maria said with tears in her eyes.

“I’ll be back again in a few. Do you want anything?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Thank You.”

Maria closed her eyes as Officer Allen walked away.

Three desks away a young slick-haired detective in a crisp white Oxford shirt and black tie had been listening to the whole thing. As soon as Officer Allen had walked out of the room he picked up his cell and texted a brief message to an unknown recipient. He then went back to a report that should not have taken more than an hour to complete.

The Vine was a popular club in downtown Laredo. People from all walks of life visited its neon covered dancefloor nightly to socialize, drink and do other things.  The papers said the building seemed to have a pulse of its own when the crowds were in dancing to the next up-and -coming deejay.  It was a success.

Luis “Capo” Saluzar had owned the place for well over a year and it had helped him gain greater notoriety than the small time pimp and drug dealer he was.  It was his pride and joy and he intended to keep it that way. He didn’t get to where he was being stupid.

He started down from the one-way office window to the air side of the dance floor and could see his nephew Paulo fidgeting nervously at a table with a drink in front of him.

Paulo was his nephew and a fuck-up. He had style but no brains. He had taken him into his crew reluctantly at the urging of his sister and regretted that decision every day since. Paulo made poor decisions and even worst friends.  This is why they were all in this situation.

Luis knew there was trouble by the way Paulo and his fuck-up crew rushed into the club in a panic. His heart dropped when Paulo told him the story and the fate of the Vasquez’s. He had grown up with Miguel, always used him to fix his cars and never had a problem with him. He also was a solid citizen which Luis always told his crew to steer clear of. Messing with solid citizens brought down a lot of heat from the cops but also the neighborhoods. He didn’t fucking need that and this was a problem that needed to be solved immediately.

Luis contacted the right kind of friend at the police department and learned that Miguel’s daughter, Maria, had turned up at the police station as a material witness. Given the story he just heard from Paulo she was likely the girl that had escaped.

He ordered Paulo and his crew to go over to the Vasquez home and kill Maria before she could do anything. He hated killing Miguel’s kid but he didn’t get to where he was making bad decisions like his nephew. He also let Pablo know if he fucked this up somebody was going to find him and his friends in a burning building.

Maria’s mind wandered. She had a brief flashback of the shop, Danny’s body and then her retreat. She suddenly felt very guilty about running. She then thought about her Mama and Papa’s smiles and then felt like she was out of breath as the vision of their bodies in the pool of blood came to mind. She then thought about the killers. She could see each one of them and felt a surge of rage build up. She wanted them to die. She would take each one apart piece by piece. She could see herself doing it. She had the bald one against a wall, his head in her hand and she was slowly pushing a long knife into his face.

“Maria!” came a voice from darkness.

Maria shook and opened her eyes and Officer Allen was standing there with a man and woman whom she guessed to be detectives from their dress.

“This is Detectives Strauss and Tyson. They’re here to help. Please go with them,” said officer Allen.

“Hi. I’m Patricia Tyson and this is Dan Strauss. I know this is the worst day of your life but we need to ask you some questions to try and catch the people that did this.”

“Ok,” Maria said as she got up and followed.

“Good luck Maria. We’ll get them,” said Officer Allen as Maria walked away.

The Redeemer smiled as he felt Maria leave once again. Her rage satisfied it and it could still feel the dark energy she had radiated. It would have her soon. It then looked at the small devil sitting next to it, grasped its head with a mighty claw and squeezed exploding it in a great splash of gore.

Maria and the detectives spent the next couple hours walking through events of the day. Every retelling grew the incredible sadness and grief she was feeling in her heart and the adrenaline and shock gave way. They went through a number of photos of possible perpetrators but she was unable to match any picture with those that were at the shop. She finally reached a point of exhaustion.

“I can’t do this anymore. I need to go,” she said wearily looking at the Detectives.

“Understood.” said Detective Tyson. “I’ll give you a ride home. Please rest for the night and we’ll be bye tomorrow to talk about what’s next.”

“Ok, thank you, ” replied Maria.

They all walked back into the central office. The Detectives went back to their desks and collected their things while Maria watched. They then made their way out of the office and out of the station.

The young slick detective with the white Oxford shirt was still at work. He was leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk while talking on his desk phone. As they walked he bye his eyes followed them and once they passed out of the room he pulled out his cell phone and started texting.

Detective Tyson and Maria pulled up to an empty Vasquez house a short time later. The old white Cape was dark with the exception of the kitchen and front door lights which Papi always liked to keep on. The neighborhood itself was dark and most lights were out as people had gone to bed for a night. A light wind blew against the care shaking it just a bit and a nearly full moon gave a glow to everything.

“Are you going to be okay, Maria?”

She looked at the Detective for a second and replied. “Yes.”

“Get something to eat and some sleep. I’ll be by around 10 tomorrow to pick you up. If you remember something or just need somebody to talk to here is my card. My cell number is at the bottom. We’ve also asked for a few patrols to drive bye although I’m sure the criminals are in hiding or running as fast as they can.”

Detective Tyson got out of the car with Maria and they walked to the front door. Maria fumbled with her keys and then opened the door allowing Tyson to step though first.  Detective Tyson stepped through and before she could reach for the light she saw a blur of movement to her left and then felt a crushing blow from above. She felt nothing after.

Maria watched as the detective stepped through the door and was swiftly struck by a baseball bat swung from above. Tyson’s head and neck bent at an awkward angle and she crumbled to the floor prone with blood pouring from a vicious wound at the top of her head.

Maria was about to scream when a familiar bald muscled thug stepped from the front hallway, bloody bat in hand. He reached out and grabbed her forcefully by her hair and pulled her into the hallway. Two others were there as well who she vaguely recognized. One was dressed in all black and the other was a familiar looking giant.

She then let loose gut-wrenching scream hoping the neighbors would hear.

“No you don’t!” is what she heard in reply and then felt herself being thrown toward the kitchen at great force and speed. She saw she was spooling toward the stove, felt the painful impact of her head striking it first, heard a ringing and then nothing.

Tigre and his two companions looked down at Maria.

“Ok Amigo, let’s kill this bitch and torch the place,” said the large one looking down.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we can have a little fun first!” said the older leather dressed thug.

Tigre smiled. They did have the night and this girl was beautiful.

Maria could feel the rage flowing through her. Her family and Detective Tyson had been violently murdered and she knew she was about to be as well.  She should be scared but she wasn’t. She was angry and she wanted to make them pay, make the world pay, burn it all.

She opened her eyes and she was not in the kitchen. Fact where she was nowhere she had ever seen or been before. The walls were made of blacked stone and to her left was a great fireplace that sheltered a crackling hot fire. In front of that fire facing it was a great muscled female form sitting in a chair back to her.

Maria rose from the floor and the form swiveled on its chair facing her.

Maria stopped in shock as the form appeared to be Maria but not exactly.  She had Maria’s face, hair and gait but was it much larger with muscled arms and her fingers were sharpened claws. This beast grinned at Maria exposing a vicious set of white gleaming vampiric fangs and blood-red pupils that it seemed to look right through Maria with. It seemed demonic; something out of the stories Mama would read her as a child.

“Hello Maria,” the Demon said.

“I can give you what you want.“

Maria’s mind was spinning. She first questioned if it was a hallucination and then if she had died and gone to hell but there was something familiar about the way it made her feel. She felt the surge of energy of something powerful. It felt like it was coming from her, not the demon.

She got up and walked toward the demon and as she did she felt that power surge with every heartbeat. The demon moved toward her and they embraced. It felt warm, comforting and the then the world seemed to explode in that instant.

Maria opened her eyes once again and she was in the kitchen against the stove. She knew she should be hurt but felt a great surge of adrenaline flow throw her. She could see three pairs of feet of her adversaries and heard one of them say something about having fun with her. This made her very angry.

Tigre was walking toward the girl to get her up when her eyes appeared to open and she jumped up from the ground landing in a crouched stance in one lightning fast action. Her face looked that of a warrior instead of a scared girl and her eyes were a bright red. This confused and enraged him.

“Oh so she’s gonna put up a bigger fight, huh?” Tigre said as he blitzed Maria.

Anticipating his low tackle Maria jumped high with legs spread allowing him to charge underneath head-first into the oven with a loud thud.  She then allowed gravity to do its work landing hard on his back driving him downward face first into the floor.

Tigre responded slowly but then spun himself with great force which threw Maria off him.

They both rose and then faced off across the kitchen from each other.  Maria’s back was against a counter with no place to go. Her hair was a little disheveled but she was smiling hands up ready to go. Tigre was across from her blocking the door with his companions behind him. His nose was bloodied and he was missing two teeth in front. He was wheezing and snarling at her like a rabid dog.

“Tigre looks like this bitch has your number.” the stoned giant said out loud. The man in black laughed out loud.

“I don’t think so, amigo.” said Tigre.

He then grabbed a small steak knife that was in the sink next to him and once again charged at Maria.

This time she quickly reached behind her and grabbed a knife in each hand from the butcher’s block on the counter behind her, turned and ducked just in time to avoid Tigre’s first sideward slash from left to right.

She answered by then jabbing him in the lower gut with both knives which bloodied his shirt. He looked down to see what she had done and then up as both here blades buried themselves to the hilt at the base of each side of his neck. She then ripped them back out spraying the wall, kitchen, herself and his comrades with his blood.  His lifeless form dropped to the floor into an expanding pool of blood.

“You fucking devil!” the giant stoner shouted as he came at her swinging the baseball bat Tigre had used to brain the detective. Maria felt a sting on the right side of her body the aluminum bat struck her side. The blow should have shattered the ribs of anyone Maria’s size but Maria wasn’t even stunned. She quickly slashed across the top of his wrists with both knives causing him to drop the bat. Releasing the knives she then reached back and grabbed the open griddle on the counter and slammed it down over his exposed head while slamming it shut.  Bone, blood and brain erupted from it as the thugs head fractured instantly. His limp and lifeless form dropped to the floor adding to the blood and gore already on the floor from Maria’s first victim.

She then turned to the final thug to see he had pulled a silver pistol out and was pointing at her.

“You get the fuck away from me sister!” he fearfully said.

“You’re not getting out of this,” she said with a grin.

The thug began to pull the trigger as he leaned back to run. However, as he did so the gore-filled griddle slammed against his gun causing both to spin off to the side.  Before he could get his wits back about him Maria was already on him delivering a powerful kick to his midsection which threw him back into the hallway across the body of the Detective.

He shook his head and twisted to rise. As he turned to look back toward the kitchen Maria was right in front of him, pointing the silver pistol right at him.

“Where are the others?” she asked.

“Don’t kill me. I’ll tell you anything!” he pleaded.

He told her everything including their employer, Paulo’s name and the name of the club he was waiting for them at. She smiled and then shot him in the face covering the wall behind him with brains and blood.  She then walked casually upstairs to get ready. She had the perfect dress!

Maria stepped out the cab in front of the Vine and walked toward the entrance.

A large bouncer stood at the door and had just let a couple of fools in when he saw a beautiful Mexican woman walking towards him. She was short and had the build of an athlete. Her face was oval, lips cherry red with eyes that seemed to match. She was wearing a red party dress and her long flowing pitch black hair was tied at the top but then flowed down over her neck and shoulders to the front of her. She walked with the grace of a cat and she seemed to be looking right at him as she walked up and stopped inches from him. She smiled and he swore he could see fangs in her mouth but was too stunned to think more about it.

“One please,” she said.

“You are beautiful!” he said.

She gave him a seductive smile and opened a small clutch and pulled out the cash for the cover charge.

“Oh don’t worry about that. Save it for your first drink.” the bouncer said.

“Thanks.” Maria said as she walked by giving him a small peck on his cheek as he opened the door to the club for her. He smiled at the kiss but also notice his cheek felt like it was burning a little bit. With a shrug, he turned and went back to managing the door.

Maria surveyed the club as she walked in. In front of her was a filled neon dance floor that seemed to change color with every pulse of the speaker. The thick crowd moved to the beat and gave off the heat and smells of perfumed bodies in motion.  A tall female DJ dressed in black leather bodysuit twisted and turned as she manipulated her records and boards on a platform overlooking the floor.  To the right, several neon-lipped bar tenders at a neon- lighted bar were hustling to meet the demands of a crowd shouting their orders. To the left was a series of tables, mostly occupied with people drinking and reveling over the events on the dance floor.

Maria walked on to the dance floor and began dancing with the crowd but looking around the room as she did so.

A young blonde in a tight white dress pushed closed to her and writhed seductively next to her. She then twisted, pushed close and said in awe “how’d you do that to your eyes?” Maria showed a toothy grin and then swatted the girl away as if she made of paper machete.

The girl’s trajectory carved a lane through the crowd and her broken form slid into some tables beyond. Maria watched and then noticed Paulo sitting at one of the tables staring sheepishly at her. Maria eyes seemed to set aflame as she felt the rage once again course through her veins.  She launched herself at Paulo with a high athletic leap and landed on the table in front of him crushing it down.

Paulo looked into the face of the demon and could see his doom. He reached around to grab the pistol he had tucked in a shoulder holster but Maria quickly slashed down with her now sharpened claws tearing three viscous wounds into his chest and knocking his reaching arm away. She then grabbed him by his face with the other claw, lifted him off the ground and squeezed as hard as she could.

Luis jumped up to look out his office into the club as he heard a great commotion coming from the dance floor. He could see the crowd was now frozen in place as they first watched a woman in red first slash his nephew with something and then palm his head like a basketball.  The crowd then screamed and his heart skipped as Paulo’s head seemed to pop in her hand spraying the room with gore. There were screams from the crowd and a tremendous rumble as they rushed to get away.

Luis ran over to his phone and hit the button to call security. “Get out there. A woman in red just killed Paulo!”

Luis then opened his front desk drawer and grabbed a semiautomatic pistol from it and then opened up a side drawer were he grabbed several magazines for it. He then rushed toward the door of his office that leads to a stairway to the floor below.

The large bouncer manning the door had heard the commotion but before he could open it to look the doors burst open with a rush of customers screaming and trying to get out. He didn’t know what was going on until his headset came to life with Luis’s dire message. He then put his shoulder down and bulled his way through the onrushing crowd.

The bouncer pushed through the final group of people and could see the beautiful woman in red he had seen earlier standing over a headless body to his left. She was covered in blood and gore and as she turned toward him her red eyes seemed to be shimmering like open flames.

She sneered and bolted toward him. He swiftly pulled out his 45 caliber pistol from its holster and felt and heard the explosion of firing three rounds at her which connected and blew her body to the back of the room into the utility doors with a resounding crash.  She then crumpled to the ground like a broken doll.

The bouncer then approached gun in hand to make sure she was down. She was lying on her side against the doors.  He reached out his foot to roll her body over. As soon as his leg touched her side her arm shot out grabbing his leg lifting with intense speed and strength sending him sprawling backward landing skull first on the floor.

Maria looked over at the fool she just flipped and then leaped on his prone form like a panther. He was attempting to bring the hand cannon he had blasted her with around but she quickly pinned that arm down and began punching him in the face as hard as she could with the other. It took three punches until she felt his skull shatter.

She then got up and could feel her body getting numb. She looked down and could see the bullet holes in her chest which were now streaming blood. She couldn’t see the greater exit wounds in her back which were bleeding even more profusely. She didn’t know that several organs were damaged and bleeding internally. Maria did understand though, she was dying.

She looked at the exit sign above and pushed the doors open in front of her exposing a darkened utility room in from of her.  She made her way forward for a few feet and then a door to her left immediately sprang open and an older man emerged with a gun in hand.

Luis saw Maria as he opened the door but before he could raise his weapon she charged and hit him with the force of a pro linebacker. He felt the pain of his ribs and vertebrae cracking when his body hit the utility box on the wall behind him. He slid to the floor he gasped trying to catch his lost breath. He looked up and saw that his attacker was down on a knee as well and the floor around here was pooling with blood rapidly.  He could also smell gas coming from the now ruptured pipes behind him. He started to both reach for his dropped gun and stand.

Maria looked up and the man was now up on one arm with the other hand grasping the weapon he had dropped.  Behind him was the jagged wreckage of some pipes which were now spewing gas into the room.  She leaped up at him once more and he in turn raised his pistol and fired.  The world then erupted in fire, pain and then darkness for both.

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