Author Notes: Read Chapter 5 before continuing. Drug/Alcohol/Violence warning. I apologize for the big block of exposition in this episode.
The address turned out to be an abandoned mine in the foothills,
a small shack outside the entrance of the mine having the faintest hint of a light coming through the dirt encrusted windows. When I reached the door to the shack it was locked, but that was no obstacle for me, and I was fairly sure it wasn’t meant to impede me. Inside was a wooden table with a thick layer of dust illuminated by a weak candle’s flame, and within the dust was drawn an arrow, pointing down towards a plain throw rug on the floor. I made sure the door to the shack was locked behind me before I took the small candle and lifted the carpet, revealing a trap door which I descended, knowing at the bottom I would find Mr. Morales waiting for me, and I only hoped for his sake that he had answers for my questions.
We had both seen better days as we could tell by each other’s reaction. The first time I met Miguel Morales he had been impeccably neat, well groomed and wearing only the finest tailored suits. Now he had tattered and well-worn peasant clothes, and was in desperate need of a shave and haircut. I was certainly no easier on the eyes, with a rather motley scraggle of hair of my own and my traveling poncho covered with whatever dirt was not already on my face and hands. As my eyes adjusted to the dim underground lighting of my meager candle and a slightly brighter lamp set on the floor, Mr. Morales offered me a shabby crate as a chair while he slumped on the ground, his head resting back against the rock wall.
”I owe you an apology, Javier. All of…this…could have been avoided if I had listened to you all those years ago.” His voice was weary and tired, easily the weakest I had ever seen the man.
”It’s not healthy to think that way Mr. Morales, you could drive yourself mad dwelling on all the mistakes of your life. There was no way to know things would have turned out this way.” When he heard that, the old man’s head drooped down, and I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like he was beginning to cry.
”I’m so sorry Javier, if I could go back and do it over again, I never would have set you up!”
”What are you talking about Miguel? What do you mean you set me up?” My voice raised and I was leaning forward on the crate as he began to shake more noticeably, and I didn’t want to miss a word of his explanation.
”You never wondered how Armando got away when the police were up your ass before you even knew it? Didn’t find it curious that a man with no particular sense of stealth got away when you, our best agent, were apprehended without a fight?”
Of course with twenty years to contemplate I had wondered what had really happened. I certainly couldn’t trust my memory for a true account of what happened, I was so bitter towards Mondo that I had convinced myself I was over-implicating him. Mr. Morales could tell this was all passing through my mind.
”You were too good to be caught that easily Javier. Plain and simple.” He took a deep breath as he prepared to tell me a story he had been hiding for over two decades. “When you first came to me after your training, telling me that Armando had changed, he had already visited me and told me the same thing about you. He convinced all of us, the heads of the family, that you were too dangerous to keep around, willing to sacrifice the family for your own interests. Your last mission was a trap, and one that almost didn’t work, though I thank God it did, or else I certainly wouldn’t be here today to tell you the story. The police were supposed to have caught you before you even reached the mansion, and the security was on high alert for your presence. Had you stepped foot inside the house, Armando would have shot you the moment you turned your back to him. As I’m sure you remember, you were sent to rot your life away in prison, and without you to stop him, Armando began his rise to power. He was shrewd and calculating, and above all, patient. Slowly but surely he turned the heads of the family against each other until we were killing each other off in mistrust. It shames me to admit I killed many of the men I once considered my brothers, all on the basis of lies. I realized too late what Armando’s game was, and by then there was only one thing I could do. I used the last of my connections to get you released from prison, and then I had to disappear before Armando could realize what I had done. He fears you, Javier. He knows you can bring him down.”
At this point, Mr. Morales had stopped weeping and was looking at me like he was waiting for an answer to an unasked question. For me it had been a lot of information to take in all at once, to realize that the person I once thought was my best friend had not only betrayed me, but an entire organization of swindlers and murderers.
”What do you expect me to do? Being a Ghost was the shortest part of my life at this point. I know more about being a farmer, or even playing music for God’s sake. I’ve been rotting for twenty years and now you want me to find and kill a mob boss? It seems to me like you could have found a younger man for that Mr. Morales.”
”Well you don’t have much say in the matter really Javier, you’ve already agreed to take this job for me, remember? Now if I could have found anyone who could hold a candle to you, I would have considered them, but we’ve only got one shot at this, and I’m not going to risk that on anyone but you. Plus, we have one small advantage: we know where Armando is, but he has no idea where we are.”
”We know where he is?”
”He considers it to be the place where he took his first steps toward his new position of power, which is why he’s so fond of the place.”
”Of course…El Charrito.”
”Of course. Now look Javier, I know you might not want to be a killer anymore, but you have to accept that you are unnaturally good at being an assassin. This is your last job, either you’ll succeed and you can retire to whatever life you choose, or you’ll be killed. There are not other options for you, you can’t run from your fate anymore.”
Read Chapter 7