Matteo admired himself before a full length magnifying mirror, naked.
“It’s working so well. I haven’t even used sunscreen for years, maybe decades. Heck, I probably don’t need to jog. Look at this naturally fit body,” he said.
::What a life you are living, mijo. The inside of this trailer is looking fancy, too, thanks to what an excellent reader you are. But you still haven’t listened to me.
“Then again, jogging’s when I get to scout for fresh blood. Perdoname, I amlistening. I said it before — the timing isn’t right.”
::In twenty years ‘the timing isn’t right’? You just need one woman. No mas un mujer! The supplies you need to capture her have already been delivered. I saw you toying with them last week.
“You know, the girls wake up the next morning with very little memory, or the few times I went overboard, the body is found quickly and forgotten. I’ve survived this long, I must be doing something right. A missing person case is probably more dangerous for me, if you think about it.”
::I have one, brand new just popped up, que no tiene Mist. She could vanish without a trace.
“Pues, can I just, can I just keep things the way they are right now? What’s the rush? Life is good.”
::Change is inevitable, mi amor.
“Well then, what if I do get her and I do lock her up in a cage… and then she got away? Then my cover is blown! For good!”
::It’s because the one that I found — she resembles your little crush from what, seventy years ago. She’s older, too. Nobody will miss her.
“Que ‘little crush’? You’re crazy. I can be more safe, you know. I don’t even need to set up dates through the physicals, which could somehow be tracked. I’ll do things the old-fashioned way.” He tried to keep himself from thinking about what it would be like to meet Concha again, after all of these years. Would she be impressed by how well he dominated other women? Flattered at how he could discard them all in a heartbeat for her company?
::That’s not que estoy diciendo. You’re going to get caught.
“I’ll prove it. I can date without your help.”
The AI was quiet the entire night at Franky Espada’s, refusing to give him tips on potential targets. Nevertheless, right at closing time, Matteo found himself in a familiar position — leaning over a young woman, one stiff arm against the wall, supporting his weight directly over her shoulder.
She alternated her gaze directly into his eyes and then at the floor, oblivious to everyone else closing tabs and filing out of the bar.
“Yeah, I I’d like that,” she said.
A man dressed in a untucked button-up shirt, tight around his waist placed his face between them. “You in line, ese? For the toilet?”
“Que?” Matteo didn’t take his eyes off her. “No, no. Go ahead — there’s no line.” He relaxed his arm, and moved his weight around to begin to escort her out of the bar and into the field out back.
“Hey, man. I don’t think this is the men’s restroom. You sure?” The man said this while sticking his face between the pair.
“Look, buzz off,” said Matteo.
The man came into Matteo’s view much more clearly now. Small of stature, but with a solid, wrestler’s kind of musculature. He was older than his voice let on.
“Take this outside, or what? I don’t think you need to be bothering that girl, right there.”
“Chingado. Who in the fuck was talking to you, kid?” Matteo set his shoulders to face the man now. In that moment, the woman’s friend stepped out of the bathroom and grabbed her by the hand, leading her out of the bar.
“I’m talking to you,” said the stranger.
“Fucking Christ. You don’t know what you just did. I really needed to talk to that girl. Yeah, let’s go outside, then, cabron,” said Matteo. He may look young, but he had a world of experience and pent up rage for anyone coming between him and his next blood meal.
“Listen to me. I just saved you. Walk with me,” said the man.
“You may have just killed me, actually, pendejo,” said Matteo.
“You’re going to get caught if you keep up ese chingadera,” he replied.
Matteo was stalking behind the man, now, pupils wide as stones, ready to make something bleed. “And what do you know about anything I’m doing, buey?”
Outside the air was unusually cool, the night unusually quiet. The women sped off in the last car to leave the parking lot.
“You don’t recognize me, do you, Matteo?” the man said.
“How’d you know — ”
“Soy Dillo,” the man spoke.
Matteo looked for the hints of dimples, the laugh lines on his face. “Hijo de puta!”
He swung hard at Dillo’s head, his feet sinking a bit into the damp ground. Dillo dodged by drawing closer to Matteo, shifting to hug him from behind and finally locked his elbows under Matteo’s armpits, with his thick hands splayed across the back of Matteo’s head.
“Escuchame. Escuchame. I didn’t kill her,” said Dillo.
Matteo spit. “She was my only family, you fucking psychopath.”
“Hey, hey. Let’s not not get into detail about who is the real psychopath here. I’ll say it one more time. It wasn’t me. It was the Rangers. I know eres un ‘dud’. They wanted you and your mom dead, ok?” Dillo’s eyes were wide as saucers. “You of all people should know this. The Rangers, they frame people, a lot of people, me included, a lot,” said Dillo.
“Why wouldn’t you do something about it?” Matteo tried to break free by contracting his abdomen, but Dillo proved immovable.
“Hahaha. What? I’m going to stop the Rangers? Alone? Come on, Matteo. Ya no eres joven. You’re a man, right? You know better. It makes perfect sense. They give me a reputation I can use, I profit.”
“I’ll fucking kill you,” said Matteo.
“You won’t. You’ll die. And you know what’s better than dying? Getting rich,” said Dillo. “I have seen where you’re living. Not safe.”
“Threatening me now? Let me go,” said Matteo.
“Alright. But let’s take a walk. Just like I said five minutes ago before you insisted on making us break a sweat. A walk.”
Matteo relaxed, and they began on the path along Roosevelt Avenue.
“Dejame decirle. You have a well-hidden lab. And la ria.”
“La ria, la ria, malaria,” Dillo rolled the r’s in a way Matteo was jealous of.
“And if I did?”
“So, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but it seems like the immortals are all white, on the north side,” said Dillo.
“I haven’t been paying attention porque no me importa nada del north side.”
“Well it’s not that white people are immortal in their genes. They just got their hands on the medicine easier, you know, cause tienen plata. What we need is to make a lot of malaria. I got a guy who has mosquitos. We just need to have some volunteers infected… maybe living in your lab. I know you have multiple trailers, now. They get a few bites every few days, then I go and sell the bugs to people.”
“I’m not going to work with you. Ni en un millon de anos,” said Matteo.
::Idiota. This solves your problem.
“Physicals are done, man. Unless you are smart enough to sell genes and play that game, there is no Byte left to be made in swapping old information. And we’d be selling for reasonable prices, para la gente que conocemos.” Dillo almost sounded like a politician. Maybe he had aspirations.
“Get the fuck out of here, man. Anyway, not everyone wants to live forever. Especially Matholics,” said Matteo.
“So, what? You’re real smart. You can design the bugs to make nic, or anything else, caffeine. It’ll get them hooked.”
“I said get the fuck out of here, man,” said Matteo.
“Well, as a dud, you’re still worth about half what my plan would pay that first two weeks. Rangers are still looking to clean you putas up. There can’t be too many left. And if tell them you’re the pendejo that’s been going around killing girls, I might get even more, come to think of it,” said Dillo, scratching the stubble on his chin.
::Take the deal, mi amor.
“We just gonna need some volunteers, you know anyone?”
::Tell him, yes! Si sabes una mujer. The older one — I am tracking her right now. Te prometo it will work out. And once she’s locked up in your home, who knows, maybe you both will fall in love. It won’t even be difficult to keep her around. She will do so, willingly. I would… if I had a body.
Matteo pulled at his waistband and cracked the bones in his neck. “Yeah. I do. I’m going to need a few days, but I’ll catch her.”