Pain and Pleasure by Callie Vincent
I'm staringdown the barrel of a gun right outside my apartment door and all I can think of is this birthday party I had when I was eleven.
My best friend Ricky and his parents helped plan it for me, while my mother was busy going on one of her many benders. I remember telling Ricky that year that I wanted a pink cake with sprinkles. The kind that looked like the one off the birthday episode of Barney that we watched when we were little.
They all surprised me with that party. They invited all of my friends from school, they got me a pinata, and his mom made the birthday cake I wanted completely from scratch. Everything was entirely perfect. Yet I remember when it was time to blow out my candles, I had one wish that was different from all the other years. I didn't wish for any presents, or even for my mom to sober up. I wished for my absent father. For the man that I never knew of. For the mystery guy who was nothing but an immature illusion in my mind my entire life.
I say it was definitely an illusion, and I was definitely immature for wishing that because the barrel of the gun that I'm staring into belongs to him. He looks different than in the photos I’ve seen of him, angrier somehow. His hatred radiates off him in waves and shakes me down to my core. I’m frozen like this, standing with wide eyes and sweaty palms, keeping my mouth shut like he asked.
Though, I expect myself to be a little more terrified than I actually am. Maybe the tumultuous relationship I’ve had with Dante was actually nothing but a prelude to this, a trial run for my fate in regard to this monster before me. This monster who made me.
His eyes are so dark that they are pretty much black. He looks fatter than he did in the pictures I found of him in Dante’s office a couple of weeks back, his belly protruding in his tucked in button up shirt, hanging over his belted suit pants. He wears a gold watch that has several diamonds lining the face and he smells of cologne and cigarettes. He has black hair that’s balding and a thick, black mustache that lines the top of his lips. It doesn’t do anything to hide the sinister smile that he has for me.
“I’ve been watching you for a long time, Esmeralda, but I think we both knew that, right?”
His voice is low and laced with a thick accent. I hate the way he says my name. I let Dante say my full name so much because it sounded great coming from his lips. When it came from my father’s mouth, it made me want to retch. I hold my tongue for a little longer, gauging his expectation for me to speak. He gives me a slow nod, initiating the okay for me to respond.
“I’ve been looking for you my entire life, Juan Carlos. Why show up here instead of my birthday parties?” I give him a small smile, trying to both call his bluff and mediate the situation. His gun is still pointed at my face after all. He laughs slowly at my comment, it holds no humor in it at all.
“I’m not one for cake and immature festivities, little girl. I think our first meeting was always meant to be private.” The barrel of the gun seems to grow larger, probably because it’s all I can stare at.
I’ve lived on this earth for twenty-one years and this is my demise, my end-all. The reason for my leaving will be because of my father, not my mother. Which would surprise me if I had known this a month ago, but it does nothing to me now. Though I have a little bit of fear residing in the pit of my stomach, my exhaustion from this new life takes over all else.
Just get it over with already.
“What do you want, Dad?”
* * *
“What do you mean you fucking lost her? She lives twenty feet away from the parking lot, how could you possibly let her out of your sight?” My voice is angry, as it should be. I’ve been in my car and on the phone with Sergio for under five minutes and I feel like my head is going to explode with frustration.
He had one fucking job.
“I had to keep a view of the lot, boss. Andrew hadn’t shown up yet.”
Since when did he give bullshit excuses?
“So why would you let her out of the car?” Silence echoes from the line.
“She’s impeding on our mission, Dante. The girl is a liability and none of our concern. Our main concern should be him and him alone.”
If I could punch him in the jaw right now, I would. He’s not wrong, but he’s also not right. Esmeralda is nothing but an imposition when it comes to my vengeance for my father, when it comes to my overwhelming desire to kill her father in cold blood. She’s also an interest for both him and me. She’s common ground, and even though I’ve wanted nothing more than to use her as leverage, I want to protect her above all else.
I also want to fuck her until dawn breaks and her voice is hoarse from screaming my name repeatedly.
“Regardless of what you think, she’s his daughter. She’s a link that can’t go missing and I’ve had her in my grasp for a fucking reason until you let your judgement get in the way of your duties.”
He was silent for a while. My GPS lets me know that I’ll be there in forty minutes at the rate at which I am speeding down the freeway.
“I need you to call back up and do a full perimeter sweep. You said she wasn’t in the apartment and her friend hasn’t seen her, so tear the fucking campus apart until you find her. Nobody goes home until she is home.”
“You got it, sir.” His voice is low. I know he is biting back more than what he is saying, but I could honestly give a fuck less.
I pull my handgun from my glove box and tuck it into my belt.
“Tell the men to be heavily armed. Your fuck up could have us meeting Juan Carlos a lot sooner than we originally anticipated.”
I end the call without waiting for his response, gunning it down the freeway and towards her campus. Thirty or so minutes go by and I am nearing her parking lot, taking in the several blacked out SUV’s that are parked in her complex. There’s a reason why I have men staged in several different spots in the city, it just wasn’t supposed to be for this reason. It wasn’t supposed to be because of her.
Before I call for anyone, I run up the stairs to her unit, banging on the door until Ricky opens it with a shocked expression on his young face.
“You! What the fuck have you done? There've been several strange men in suits scouring our place for Emmie when she’s supposed to be with you. Where the fuck is she?”
I brush past him and into the living room, hearing the click of the front door close behind me. It looks like her here, small and sunny. A little light that illuminates any shit surface or person that she touches.
“She’s missing because of you, isn’t she? That’s why she’s been acting so differently lately. Because you’ve done something to her.”
I don’t respond to him, just continue searching the apartment for any sign or clue that she might have for her location. He can’t have her yet, he just can’t.
“Answer me, god damnit!” Ricky shouts from behind me.
I sigh in annoyance before turning to look at him. He’s so young, this boy. Young and immature and so unlike Emmie that it baffles me that she’s been friends with him for most of her life. She’s wise for her age, you’d think he would be as well. I have zero confidence that he’ll be able to navigate our world, but I also have no choice because of her.
“I’m sorry to do this,” I say before approaching him and knocking the side of his head with my gun. He falls to the floor with a loud thump, unconscious immediately. I pull out my phone to dial one of my guards.
“I need you to come inside of Esmeralda’s apartment and keep watch on her friend. Tie him up and do something to quiet him if he wakes up. Don’t let him out of your fucking sight.”
“You got it boss.” I hang up the phone and leave as soon as my guard answers, walking out of the door and onto the staircase.
As I make my way down to the parking lot, I notice something shiny in the rocks beneath the staircase. As I get close, I see that it’s a set of keys on the rocks. Emmie’s keys. I pick them up and survey them, noticing all but one key is missing. The key to her mother’s house. I pull my phone out and dial Sergio.
“I need everyone to follow me to her mother’s house. Bring all the ammo that you have with you. Have the guard upstairs take her friend back to my house and watch him there.”
I hang up and put the keys in my pocket, switching them out for my car keys. I speed towards her mother’s house, a half an hour drive, give or take. It takes me twenty minutes and I pull up with my men behind me. The house is dark and the windows are boarded up. It’s been weeks since payments have been made, but the front door is wide open.
I approach quietly, my hand resting on the gun tucked into my belt. I wave for my men to draw their guns once we reach the doorway, checking the scene before we enter. It’s eerily quiet and smells of mold. No sign of life has been in this hell hole since we took them weeks ago, unless the sign of life is a sewer rat with a mustache that thinks he’s the son of God himself.
My men disperse. Two stay in the living room while the others walk to the kitchen and backyard. I make my way towards her old bedroom, kicking open every door in the hallway, but still coming up short. Once I’m at her bedroom door, I wave for Sergio to come behind me. Both of our guns are drawn as we kick the door open, expecting a scene before us, but we are only greeted with familiar silence.
Her room stays untouched, looking the same as we left it weeks prior. We walk further in to see if there are any clues sticking out to us, maybe more clothes taken or something left behind, but we are left with nothing. Nothing but frustration and a small bit of worry for the woman I allowed myself to feel for, the woman who started smashing away at my walls with a hammer the first moment she saw me.
I start throwing things in a rage, breaking dresser drawers and kicking away everything in my line of sight. My anger is red and it blurs everything before me. Sergio stays silent the entire time, which is a good thing. I can’t be held responsible for killing my late father’s assistant. He begins shuffling through papers that are scattered along her bed when the sound of footsteps stops us both in our tracks.
“If you’re looking for him, you won’t find him here.”
I turn around at her voice and stare at her large, green eyes. There, in the bedroom doorway, stands Esmeralda. Looking a lot calmer and a lot less terrified than I expected. Her arms are folded across her chest and a frown is set above her eyes, her full lips catching my gaze.
She’s alive. She’s alive and she’s here.
“Why are you still here, Dante?”
Her voice is a whisper and that’s all it takes before I start marching towards her, not giving a fuck if Sergio or any of my men are watching. I grab her chin with my fingers and look into the orbs of her eyes, bending down to do the one thing I’ve wanted to do most in the last twenty-four hours. I do the one thing that constantly lives in the depths of my mind: I kiss her.