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Authors: Gabino Iglesias

Tags: #Crime

Zero Saints

BOOK: Zero Saints
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

A Broken River Books original


Broken River Books

10660 SW Murdock St


Tigard, OR 97224


Copyright © 2015 by Gabino Iglesias


Cover art and design copyright © 2015 by Matthew Revert


Interior design by J David Osborne


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Where the names of actual celebrities or corporate entities appear, they are used for fictional purposes and do not constitute assertions of fact. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.


ISBN: 978-1-940885-33-9


Printed in the USA.







A barrio noir







by Gabino Iglesias



Para Gabi, el niño mágico.





Roberto Roena

Stinky trunk – Fucked

La santa y afilada guadaña

Praying – Pupils invaded by darkness


Santa Muerte




I didn’t hear those pinches cabrones coming. They cracked my skull from behind. Probably expected me to drop like a sack of hammers, but the blow came with too much power and not enough finesse. You can’t just whack someone on the head and expect them to go down for good. Some folks have really hard heads. Now I knew mine was, and I had my iPod to blame.

I stumbled and covered up in case there was more coming. No vino nada. That was it. Someone grunted in surprise or frustration, loud enough for me to hear it over the music in my ears. El cencerro de Roberto Roena es mágico.

One hand grabbed my neck and kept me down. Three other hands darted in and crawled over me like nervous cockroaches. They pulled my gun from my waistband, fished my cell phone and keys out of my right pocket, and yanked the earbuds out of my ears.

With my skull unplugged, I heard a car pull up beside me. It purred like a large cat. I twisted my head a bit.


Blue paint.


Cholo rims reflecting the orange light of a nearby lamppost and six legs, two pairs in shorts and one stuffed in jeans. I wanted to break all of them.

The trunk opened and stayed low like a fat man doing pushups. They shoved me toward the back of the car with my head still down. I thought about taking a swing, trying to crack some huevos. That left two more, surely packing, plus whoever was in the car. Bad math.

The hinges of the trunk screamed like a fried egg under a spatula. The hands pushed me in hard. They slammed it shut.

My right knee cracked. White noise shot up to my brain. The trunk lid bounced back up with a groan that echoed my own. Hija de puta. I tried to curl into a fetal position. Not enough space to pull it off quickly. I hugged my knee and looked up, saw two guys for a second, their faces black masks in the scant light. One wore a white t-shirt. He leaned forward and tried again. With both hands.


It worked. Then, darkness. The car moved forward, but didn’t burn rubber.

My heart buzzed. I sucked in huge gulps of warm air. There was not enough oxygen for me in that trunk. My chest couldn’t expand properly. I was stuck, trapped, squeezed. Panic bit me. La mala muerte andaba cerca. These pinches mamones caught me slippin’. They had my piece. I was dead. Muerto y sin poder despedirme de mi vieja.

Then I remembered I was in Austin, not Mexico. Folks don’t get their heads blown off in the streets in Austin. Bodies aren’t hung from bridges or stuffed into suitcases and left on the side of the road. No one gets a box in the mail containing a severed head. Although most politicians deserve it, los narcos don’t kidnap them while leaving the office and put two full mags in their brains. Nah, this is a nice, civilized town full of wannabe artists, students, and hipsters. The only thing people fear in this place is getting their tongues burned at their favorite coffee joint. Plus, los cabrones that jumped me were brown. If they wanted me dead, I’d be dead. No hitting or kidnapping bullshit. That’s what los blancos do. Con nosotros, it’s a bullet to the brain y buenas noches. This was different.

I reminded myself to breathe, pay attention, focus.

I took another breath. It felt like something.

I closed my eyes and started praying to la Santa Muerte, mi divina guardiana, for protection and guidance.

Señora Blanca, Señora Negra, a tus pies me postro para pedirte, para suplicarte, que hagas sentir tu fuerza, tu poder y tu omnipotencia contra los que intenten destruirme.

I felt better, calmer, more aware of everything. I kept going, the familiar words pouring from my mouth and dragging some of the fear out with them.

Señora te imploro seas mi escudo y mi resguardo contra el mal, que tu guadaña protectora corte lo obstáculos que se interpongan, que se abran las puertas cerradas y se muestren los caminos.

The scythe was with me, la santa y afilada guadaña. It would keep other sharp things away from my neck, shield me from bad intentions and danger. Mi Santa Muerte had done it many times before and would do it again now. I had nothing to fear.

Señora mía, no hay mal que tu no puedas vencer ni imposible que no se doble ante tu voluntad, a ella me entrego y espero tu benevolencia...

I could finally take my first real breath. The trunk smelled like an old, rotting sofa. Something hard and pointy was pushing against my lower back. I tried to move, to uncoil a bit, but my shoulders were stuck. The car stopped. Probably a red light. A moment later, the vehicle turned a hard left. I’d parked on the corner of I-35 and 3rd Street. We were going south on Red River.

I breathed again and listened. Something obnoxious was punishing the car’s speakers with too much bass. Noise filled the trunk. The back of my head was on fire. A warm worm inched its way down my scalp. Sangre. In my crunched, sideways position, I couldn’t touch and check, so I tried to forget about it. My knee was still screaming.

Why was I here?

Between the pain, the discomfort, and the circus music, my brain refused to function properly. I thought hard about the last few weeks, months, but no reasons came. I didn’t owe any money. I was dealing from the door of The Jackalope, on 6th Street, and that was well within Zetas territory. To my knowledge, I hadn’t banged anyone’s girl.

It didn’t take long.

The car kept going, turning left and right way too many times for me to keep track or try to guess our destination. A few minutes later, we slowed down, stopped. The driver jerked the parking brake. Engine and awful music died simultaneously. My chest wanted to implode, swallow me, help me disappear. Del polvo venimos y al polvo vamos, but the bitch is not being able to become polvo painlessly when you need it most. I was a wounded animal, waiting.

Nothing happened for about half a dozen eternities. Then the car rocked a tad. Doors opened and slammed shut in quick succession. They popped the trunk. It jumped a bit, as if sick of being pressed against me. El sentimiento era mutuo. Then the banshee screamed. It was dark, but a lamppost half a block away threw some of what it had to offer our way, bathing us in yellowish light. Three goons stood there side by side, looking down at me. I looked back. Vestimenta de tipo duro que escucha mucho hip hop. Lots of ink. Heads thrown back, necks spread like angry cobras. They wanted to look menacing and were pulling it off. Two held guns. The guy on the left aimed his at my face. A black thing. Blocky. Looked like a 9mm in the dark. Ready to spit death. He held it sideways, like every pendejo who’s more worried about looking tough than hitting his target. The guy in the middle let his piece hang loosely by his side. He was the one rocking the jeans. Both cabrones looked comfortable with the situation. That made me uncomfortable.

Mr. Jeans brought his head down. His neck deflated. The shadows covering his face became ink. Tenia la cara cubierta de tatuajes. Seeing the tattoos was worse than spotting the guns or getting whacked in the head. The blackness covering his features sprouted ghostly tendrils that seeped into the night around us and made everything darker. Impossibly darker.

“Pa’ fuera,” said he said. His voice carried no inflection or emotion. He’d done this before.

I moved slowly, almost sat up. My knee wasn’t cooperating much. I slid out of the trunk with the grace of a newborn giraffe. Mr. Jeans turned sideways to give me some maneuvering space and grabbed my arm. He leaned in like someone would at a bar filled with loud music, even though the street was quiet.

“Now we go in the house...y te quiero calladito, maricón,” he said, squeezing my bicep, physically putting the accent on the last syllable of maricón.

He started walking briskly, pulling me along with him, ignoring my limp. I looked around. We were on a residential street. Small houses looking like shit. Dead front lawns. Peeling paint. Cracked sidewalk. Shitty cars. Yellow weeds and brown dirt where there should have been green. There was another goon sitting in the blue boat with the rusty trunk hinges. We were somewhere in East Austin.

One of the other guys closed the trunk behind us. I jumped. It felt like someone had stuck an icicle up my ass and poked my heart with it. Mr. Jeans grabbed me a little tighter, dug his bony fingers into my arm like an angry parent.

We walked up to a small, one-story house with fading blue paint on its walls and climbed two creaky wooden steps to a door. Mr. Jeans opened the door and walked in, pulling me into the dark behind him. The two monkeys followed. Someone flipped a switch. Se hizo la luz y se apagaron mi ojos.

Mr. Jeans let go of my arm. We stood in an empty living room. My three captors were looking at me, all red eyes, dilated pupils, and macho attitude. I blinked a few times, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the light. I glanced around at darker places. Small kitchen to the right, door to the left, dark hallway straight ahead. I came back to the three cabrones looking at me like I’d banged their mom.

Mr. Jeans had the most ink covering his features. I couldn’t make most of it out, a complicated mess of lines, signs, letters, numbers, and blotchy shit obviously done by a twitchy preso with a guitar string and more free time than skills. However, I could make out a 13 right above a hand making the devil horns on his neck and the letters MS covering a chunk of his forehead and left eye. Mara Salvatrucha. Fear gripped the back of my head so hard I stopped feeling the pain in my knee. La Salvatrucha le da pesadillas al Diablo. El Cartel de Sinaloa sometimes hires mareros to do the dirty work. I thought about my sister and felt death creeping up on me again. No me falles, Santa Muerte. I closed my eyes, pictured mi Santísima Muerte sitting on her altar at home, tried to feel her strength around me.

“We gonna go see Indio now. You no say nothing, hijueputa. You listen to him. I see you no pay attention… te haces el bravo, lo que sea, te meto una bala entre las cejas.”

His English was fucking atrocious. My guess is he kept using it for the same reason all new immigrants keep at it: he wanted to blend in. With a face full of ink, buena suerte con eso, huevón.

He used the gun to signal toward the hallway. The only guy who hadn’t shown me his gun was already heading that way. I followed him.

There was a door on the left at the end of the hallway, a thin line of light underneath it. Mr. No Gun opened the door, looked back, stood aside, nodded me in.

The room was small, the air thick with an acrid mix of weed smoke, sweat, and stale piss. Un tipo flaco sin camisa with coppery skin covered in tattoos stood next to a chair. He was holding a large knife with nasty teeth. Como el que usaba mi abuela para cortar el pan. His black pants were too short to be long and too long to be shorts. The shoes on his feet looked five sizes too big and they were vomiting their tongues like alley winos. He wore no socks. Surely that contributed to the smell in the room. His gun was tucked in the front. It had gold grips. I thought about grabbing the piece and shooting his huevos off and, for the first time in a long while, I almost laughed. Seeing the man in the chair stopped me.

His head was down, his arms and legs taped to the armrests and legs of the chair with duct tape. His hands had gone white from lack of circulation. Blood and saliva were mixing with the sweat that covered his chest and belly. They’d obviously worked him over for a while. He wore blue boxer shorts and nothing else. He’d pissed himself at some point. Next to the chair was a large white bucket. There was nothing else in the room. Los tipos no estaban ahí para quedarse. Mala señal.

Indio smiled, grabbed the dude on the chair by the hair and yanked back. A bloated, bruised version of Nestor Torres’ face came up. The left side looked a tad rough, but the right one looked like he had tried to get a kiss from a moving freight train. His eyes were in another dimension, showing more white than anything else. Whatever they’d given him had him flying somewhere between unconsciousness and outer space. A silver leach of snot coated his upper lip. His mouth hung open, drooling a gooey combination of saliva and blood onto his chest. I couldn’t spot any teeth in there. I was pregnant with fear, pero el pobre Nestor estaba peor que yo, ya estaba jodido.

“We asked little Nestor here to give your jefe a message,” said Indio. “He asked us who the fuck we were to be sending messages. So we showed him. Creo que ya lo esta entendiendo. Now I want to show you.”

Indio reached down and grabbed the index finger of Nestor’s right hand. He pulled it, placed the knife near the knuckle, and used it as a saw. He threw his entire skinny body into it, lifting himself on tiptoes to apply pressure. Two moves was all it took. The cartilage didn’t put up too much of a fight. Nestor tensed up a bit and scrunched up his face, but no sound came from his destroyed mouth. Indio held up the severed finger to make sure I got a good look at it and then threw it in the bucket. El dedo hit the inside of the bucket and then the bottom. Thud, thud. The two thuds were almost worse than the cutting. Then a loud crunch came from inside the bucket. It was followed by a second crunch.

Indio looked at me, pointed at my face with the bloody utensil. “Tell your jefe la Salvatrucha didn’t come here to play. We want to run things downtown entre I-35 y Mopac, de la MLK hasta el río. El resto es suyo. Sus mierdas de vendedores se pueden quedar si quieren, pero trabajando para nosotros. He can have the east side y todo al norte de la universidad. We supply everything and take un poquito de lo que se embolsilla. If his supplier in Dallas tiene un problema con eso, we can fix it real quick. Is a good deal, no?”

BOOK: Zero Saints
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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