1 – Bravado
Diego Rivera was facing the ocean and could actually see the place they were going to rob from his parking stall. It was a restaurant built on pylons over the water, yet it was inside the main pier complex, kind of in its own man-made cove. The name Sinbad‘s flashed in neon, contrasting to the darkened sky of the Pacific Coast.
He was in the outermost parking lot of the Redondo Beach Pier in Los Angeles County. Redondo Beach was a peaceful city of about one hundred thousand people and they didn’t get the big city crime here—usually. A comforting thought to Diego, as it meant their police department would be unprepared.
The area was mostly filled with rich white people, and as far as Diego was concerned, when he thought of rich white people, the skin whitened on his hands as he over gripped the steering wheel, unconsciously choking them. Rich white people had never done anything but look down on him.
At five foot seven and a hundred and forty pounds, Diego Rivera had the body of a man wrapped in copper wire. After doing a three-year stretch in Avenal State Prison for strong-armed robbery, Diego also wore the obligatory teardrop tattoos that his gang required, one for each year he had been in. He looked in the mirror at his slicked-back hair and stern features and he even scared himself, well figuratively.
He looked at his watch. It was ten forty-five and the restaurant closed in fifteen minutes. He could see the upper parking lot that served the restaurant directly. It was a niche parking lot tucked way back from the main pier. So was Sinbad’s Restaurant for that matter. If one wanted to go there, one either walked from the main pier or parked up top in their small lot. Of course, one could park where he was and walk over, but he hadn’t noticed a single person do that in the last two days. Apparently all those fat and spoiled white people he hated were too lazy to walk up a flight of stairs to eat a meal.
He picked this spot for several reasons. The first of which was that he had disabled all the cameras two days beforehand. He simply spray-painted over them with black paint. After two days, no had come to repair them yet. The second reason was that the exit from this lot had many more escape possibilities than the pier’s main entrance, which actually headed up toward the town’s police department.
He climbed the stairs to the upper parking lot that served Sinbad’s. Stopping at the top of the staircase, he surveyed the whole lot. There were less than thirty cars total, which was just about how many they estimated there would be. They’d been watching the shifts and decided that Thursday was the night to do this. Diego lit a cigarette and took a puff. He knew better than to leave the butt, the cops could even snag you from a dropped butt nowadays.
He wore a baseball hat when he got out of the car, and he was an expert at dipping it to hide his tattooed tears. As soon as people observed the tears on his cheek, they couldn’t be any more terrified of him.
Diego knew where the cameras were on this level, too, but found it too risky a move to disable them in the open like he had the others. Instead, when the authorities reviewed the tape, they just would be looking at a nondescript medium build man in a hoody and jeans, wearing a baseball cap. He also had one more secret weapon that he would put on before the heist. He tapped his pocket and felt the bulge of his bandanna. Diego extinguished the smoke and stuck the butt in his back pocket, the warm afterglow noticeable to him through the denim of his jeans. It also brought the other object in the pocket into his thoughts—his stiletto.
Outside the main entrance he surveyed for any potential interference. Once the robbery started, he would take anyone who wandered up as a hostage. Inside his hoody pocket were ten zip ties and a Glock nine-millimeter handgun that he had no compunction about using if provoked.
Suddenly, from inside he heard a woman scream and he knew it had begun. Then he saw one of his gang violently ushering a female out from the bathroom. The plan was to start in the bathrooms and kitchen so no cell phone enthusiast could ruin their party. He saw the front entrance was clear and he focused on the area in front of the restaurant. So far their luck had held. No new patrons or couples were walking by that might straggle in at the wrong time. As he was looking to the left, the front door suddenly flew open and a white male in a business suit burst through the entrance way. He was trying to make it to the short set of steps that lead to the upper parking lot.
Diego was very quick to respond and before the man even reached the first step, the butt of his Glock found a nice resting spot on the man’s skull. He quickly zip tied the man’s limbs like a spider incapacitating its prey. He realized now that the action might have been caught on some camera for future review, but thankfully he had placed the bandanna on just before he’d heard the scream.
He pulled the thirty-something runner back to the restaurant and opened the door. Once he threw the puto through the entrance, he could hear all the fun. The first thing he heard was a woman whimpering and one of his gang yelling at her to shut up. That brought a smile to his face. The man he’d knocked out started to come to, so Diego obliged him with a nasty second lick from the butt of the Glock, this time on the temple, and Diego was sure this businessman would rise no more tonight.
He looked up in time to see a man jump up and protest. He was a white male who looked to be about sixty. Diego could tell he was some sort of big shot by the way he was telling them they had better run now, because there was no way in hell they were getting away with this.
Diego looked around the restaurant. As the night waned, the restaurant had closed every other dining area except one, so his four men had no problem covering the fifteen or so tables that were still occupied. Diego saw Rosie react to the objecting man in a way that made him so proud. Ever since he’d killed her boyfriend in a knife fight, she had done nothing but impress the fuck out of him at every opportunity. Rosie wanted a real man to lead her, and when her boyfriend said the wrong thing to a real man, Diego killed him immediately.
At first, the pompous man in the restaurant didn’t get why one of the waitresses was screaming at him, telling him to shut his fucking face or she would cut his heart out. But when she actually picked up a steak knife and made a move for his overbearing ass, he sat down, just as instructed, his face flush and his white hair falling down on his profusely sweating and red forehead.
Diego was a ghost; no one had seen him come in. He knew he was being derelict in his door duty, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of his woman at work. His gang was removing the patrons’ items as well as those of the restaurant. Only the Manager and the kitchen staff were not in on their heist. So from a patron’s point of view, the world must have gone upside down when it was the staff that robbed them at a fine restaurant in Redondo Beach.
Rosie didn’t relent when the guy sat down, she kept pointing the knife and uttering things like, “You think you’re special, Motherfucker? You’re not special.”
Diego was just about to turn to go back when it happened. A patron in the corner table with his date sat up and shot the gang member closest to him. He immediately got the drop on the other three as they were watching Rosie. He was yelling “RBPD,” and Diego had one opportunity before the hombre moved forward and the central planter blocked him. He raised the Glock and fired, hitting the cop in the head and killing him instantly. His body fell straight to the ground and Rosie let out a banshee-like scream as she flew across the room and started stabbing the fallen man repeatedly in the chest.
The cop’s date screamed bloody murder. In fact, she wouldn’t stop screaming. Diego ran across the room and pointed the gun at her, but she wouldn’t stop. He raged, “SHUT UP,” as a nearby couple, sitting with their nine-year-old daughter looked on in horror. While the cop’s date continued her wailing, Diego made eye contact with the terrified mother. She screamed as well and blanketed her child in a human shield as her husband pleaded with him not to shoot them.
Diego was suddenly dealing with too many things. Even though he was a hardened criminal, he had a hard time concentrating when too many things were happening at once. That was why he included Rosie in in the first place; she had a cool head in a crisis. But he should have noticed that she hadn’t slept in a few days. That was a mistake. He had the cop’s date screaming, the people pleading, and Rosie repeatedly stabbing the cop he’d just killed, creating a cacophony of sound and images that he couldn’t deal with. On top of that, his gang was looking to him for leadership.
First, he pistol-whipped the cop’s screaming date, right on the side of the face. She fell whimpering. Then he walked over to Rosie. She was a mess. Covered in blood and angry, he could see she had been up a long time by the maddened look in her eyes. Any time Rosie had been up for too long and something happened, it sent her to the irrational place. Diego was the only person Rosie wouldn’t kill on sight.
The horrified patrons watched as Diego approached her. She instinctively clawed at him as he reached down, partially removing his bandanna by accident. Not being in a position to barter, Diego knocked her out with a single punch to the top of the head. She fell right in place, but as he bent down to pick her up, his bandanna fell off.
Using the ball cap to shield his face he scooped her up, but he never saw the little girl peeking through her mother’s arms at the man who just killed a police officer in the line of duty, but if he had, he would have known that she would never be the same again because of him.
Diego bolted out, carrying Rosie as if she were a rag doll, and he never said a word as he ran by the remaining gang members. They knew the plan, no man left behind. He had no idea which member of the gang had been shot by the cop as they wore bandannas as soon as the robbery started, but one thing he knew, the heat was going to be on for a while over this.
* * *
Mitch Ziegler was heading home after class. He was not a student, he was a Homicide Detective for the Redondo Beach Police Department who just happened to teach a community college report writing class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Mitch was a tough teacher. These A.J. (Administration of Justice) students had some lofty ambitions, but no one knew better then Detective Mitch Ziegler that unless one could articulate one’s actions into a coherent and legible report, then even the best law enforcement officials would fail. So he was tough because he had to be tough.
It wasn’t too often that his phone rang from the Watch Commander at night, so he was more than curious. Redondo Beach had had three homicides in the previous year and they were all domestic in origin.
Lt. Bass said that there was a 187 at Sinbad’s, but there was something shaky in his voice that indicated something else was wrong. Then he made it clear as to why—there was an officer involved in the incident and he was the victim. Before they hung up the phone, Lt. Bass let him know that it was Dennis Windman who was shot trying to break up a robbery.
Mitch knew Dennis, as they were both officers in a small police department, but he was not close to Dennis the way his partner, Skip, was. Skip made friends everywhere, but Mitch was much more close to the vest when it came to letting people see his cards.
At some point, one had to let someone into his or her life and for Mitch Ziegler it turned out to be Skip Wiley. Skip was also an Army Vet, and they clicked as soon as they met. Soon they were inseparable, but both with distinctly different looks and styles.
Mitch was bald, but not ungraciously so, rather bald in a dignified way. At least that was how others framed it. He usually donned a black cap and wore a light colored beard that was still without grey in it. At six-feet tall, Mitch had a chiseled frame that was created by hard work and determination.
He and Skip would meet in the workout room at 0530 every morning before their shift started at 0700, and they worked hard at lifting weights and being cut.
Skip was not bald. He actually had long light-brown hair and got to wear jeans, t-shirts, and Dockers to work. He looked like he belonged at the beach, and for a reason, as he was the Vice and Narcotics Detective. Not having many homicides in Redondo, Mitch actually worked a duel role for the department and helped Skip on drug cases and raids, and vise versa when Mitch needed help. There was only one department that had two cops, and that was Juvenile.
Mitch knew Skip was close to Dennis and he wasn’t halfway to the crime scene when his phone lit up with “Skip.”
Mitch answered, “Bad news travels fast.”
After a small silence, Skip answered, “Where are you?”
Mitch caught the red light at Pacific Coast Highway and used his lights and siren to get through before answering, “I just came onto PCH from Artesia, should be there in ten minutes. I still can’t believe this. What did you hear?”
Skip answered, “Rosen was first on scene, says a hysterical patron claimed the staff robbed them. Sounds like some kind of an inside job.”
Right as Mitch approached Pier Avenue and PCH his light turned favorably green, yet some idiot girl on skates was still going to go for it, so Mitch hit her with his lights and she retreated to the curb, visibly upset. She was a striking blonde wearing a flattering two-piece bikini and Mitch decided he would forgive her for the middle finger now being thrust at him. He chided himself, leave it to the male mind to get distracted even heading to a murder scene.
He returned his attention to Skip who was still on the line, “Okay, I will keep you in loop. And Skip, I know Dennis and you were close, so I’ll make sure this one counts.”
Mitch Ziegler became a homicide detective because murder was the big one. Homicide was the permanent crime to temporary situations and it just set off his sense of righteous indignation. It was the inequity of the act that ate at him the most. It was not only the fact that someone took another’s life, but it was also for all the people left behind to try to pick up the pieces of their lives. The victim’s life was the only thing they really had, and someone who was not authorized removed it.
As far as Homicide Detective Mitch Ziegler was concerned, The Almighty was the only one authorized. In his humble opinion, everyone deserved to die when it was his or her respective times, not when some asshole decided it was a good time to pull a trigger based on their own fucked up view of things.
He turned right onto Torrance Boulevard and drove the quick quarter mile to the pier. The turnoff for Sinbad’s was a single turn that broke off before the main parking garage and weaved its way through a series of offices and boutiques until it came out at Sinbad’s parking lot. It was a single lot that lay on top of the main lot below. The main lot below ran all the way down and culminated in a multi-level garage that was the border of Sinbad’s niche lot.
There to greet him was Lt. Cameron. Brent Cameron was the lieutenant assigned to the Chief of Police. That was the best way to describe his position, as most lieutenants were assigned divisions, which meant they had a captain over them, but not Brent Cameron. In many ways, he had more power than the captains, as they were thought of as mostly figureheads near retirement, while the lieutenants did all the work.
Their police department had an interesting dynamic, as they were big city, being a suburb in Los Angeles, but the way the department was run was more like a small town PD.
One thing was for sure, and that was that all police departments were political in nature, and Lt. Cameron was not someone to ever get on the wrong side of. He was a shorter man of five foot seven, blond curly hair, handsome, with round glasses that provided him a very educated and sharp appearance. As far as Mitch knew, it was not a façade. Lt. Cameron was on the move and he ruthlessly climbed the ranks way faster than any of other lieutenants currently employed at RBPD.
Mitch knew that all eyes were on him and the good lieutenant would have no compunction throwing him under the bus if the opportunity arose. Chief Sheehan would be waiting to get the full breakdown, and he would be looking to Lt. Cameron for the answers.
Mitch greeted him accordingly, “Good evening, Lieutenant.”
Lt. Cameron responding with, “We’ve had tight control of the scene; there has been very little contamination. We’re getting statements, but preliminarily it looks like the entire serving staff was part of the hold up team, everyone aside from the manager and the kitchen staff. We have the manager and he doesn’t look to be involved, but we also have something else.”
Mitch had to ask, as the information was not offered, “And what would that be, Sir?”
“A precocious child saw our shooter’s face when his mask came undone. She’s with Steffi right now seeing what they can come up with.”
Mitch knew that the lieutenant was referring to Steffi Parker, their sketch artist, but he had one question, “How old?”
Lt. Cameron conceded, “She’s nine years old.”
He could see the disappointment on Mitch’s face, but his reply was, “That’s better than a five-year-old.”
He followed Brent to the small staircase that led to the front entrance of the restaurant. It was there the lieutenant began the breakdown and re-creation of the crime scene as best he knew it. “There are two cameras behind us in the parking lot. Lieutenant Meyers is here as well, and he is looking at the videos as we speak, but as you can see by the blood on the stairs, at least part of this happened in the parking lot.”
Lt. Meyers was the lieutenant in charge of the detective bureau and he had not been out on any of the past murder scenes that Mitch had investigated. He looked for Lt. Cameron to continue after they both put on shoe covers and Mitch made the first notes of the investigation. Then he pulled out his video camera. Although they would be photographing extensively afterward, a preliminary video was a good way of showing the overview of the crime scene. Mitch liked to videotape before he did anything else, as it provided an easily understandable viewing medium that showed the crime scene and the location of evidence initially.
The videotaping of crime scenes was not often used in court, but Mitch had come to believe in them as he often used them to refresh his memory before going to court on cases that happened months before. Even if the tape was not used, it had value.
He and Brent walked into the restaurant and immediately they found copious amounts of blood pooled near the registration desk. Brent commented, “When Rosen got here, all the patrons were out of the restaurant except one WMA [white male adult] sprawled right there.”
Mitch made more notes and continued taping. Both men were experts at not disturbing a crime scene, and fortunately Rosen used his head and had touched nothing, once he’d found the gravely injured victim.
Even though the victims claimed the bad guys were all gone, Rosen got some backup and they cleared the building as the major crime scene it was. Meaning no tampering of the evidence trail, and making sure there were no surprise robbers hiding in the building and becoming a threat to the crime scene investigators.
They moved forward into the restaurant. The bar was to the right and a planter ran along the left, dividing the bar from the window tables with an ocean view. There was a break in the planter, which was a path from the bar floor down to the dining tables. Although the building had been cleared, Mitch had his hand ready to draw his forty-caliber Smith and Wesson out to defend himself from a sudden attack. Such an attack had happened to him three years before and he had never completely gotten over the shock of it.
If you turned to the immediate left from the entrance, you would go straight to the tables of the dining area, or you could climb the two steps up into the bar area, traverse it, and go into the dining area that way. That was the way Brent was leading him, through the bar. He added, “Dennis is over here. I don’t know if anyone told you, but he was here with his girlfriend, Janice. He had just popped the question not five minutes before.”
Mitch stopped at this. He looked at Brent, “She told you this?”
He nodded and said, “Yes.”
Mitch needed a second, as that was some disturbing news he was not ready for. He needed to compartmentalize it before he moved on, finally realizing that this might have been the saddest thing he had ever heard in his life . . . what kind of a world am I living in?
Brent continued, “I got here as she was being loaded into the ambulance, still clutching her ring box and crying hysterically. She said Dennis shot one of them, but then someone shot him from the other side of the restaurant.”
Mitch thought for a second and then answered, “So one of them is outside watching things. Suddenly our WMA comes bursting out the door making a B-line for the lot, and his car. Then our lookout cracks him one on the noggin and down he goes, leaving the blood on the stairs.”
Mitch taped the area extensively for the next five minutes before speaking again. The camera’s sound had been muted before they entered, but that was not why he was silent. He was just being reflective. “So then he has a need to bring our WMA in out of the cold. Which puts him right in the thick of things in here.”
They walked forward and down into the dining area where Dennis Windman lay dead in the aisle, a probable entry wound in his left temple.
Mitch continued to tape record and then addressed Brent, “So Windman must have assessed the situation and was comfortable that he had the drop on them and then chose to make his move. Problem is, he gets blindsided from our lookout guy in a place he was not supposed to be, inside the restaurant.”
Dennis also had a disturbing number of stab wounds all over his chest and as Mitch was inspecting them more closely, Lt. Cameron added, “His fiancée, Janice, said they carried off the guy Dennis killed. Apparently, the girl gang member who was stabbing Dennis over and over again would not stop until one of the gang knocked her out to get her to stop. Then they carried her out, too.”
Mitch took that in and then carefully walked into the dining area a little further. There he discovered a blood pool. It was not a large pool of blood at all; in fact it was no bigger than one of the bread plates he could see on the table. So that meant Dennis was able to shoot him through the heart.
Mitch spoke to Brent, “This was a very organized job, but thanks to Dennis, we might get a lead as to who this perp was.” He looked at Lt. Cameron and broke character for one moment, “Did he make the right call here, Sir? Should he have pocketed that instinct to get the drop on these guys? Surely he had to have seen enough of these scumbags identifying information that we would have rounded them up. Do you think he was playing hero too much?”
Although Lt. Cameron was not a warm and emotional person when it came to the job, he also knew that it was his responsibility to sense when people under his command were in need of some answers, even if they weren’t official. He responded with a sincerity that told Mitch that everyone has layers, even Brent Cameron. “He made the right call. We can’t be second-guessing ourselves out here, Detective, as he could not have known that their lookout had come inside the restaurant. You can clearly see from the probable trajectory that if Dennis had taken even one step forward, then the planter prevents the shot.”
Lt. Cameron looked toward where the shot had probably come from and said, “Mitch, hindsight can be used to prevent the same thing from happening in the future, but let’s face it, sometimes these situations come down to the smallest minutia and we can train until we are blue in the face, but fate is fate.”
Mitch took in the lieutenant’s words, but did he believe that? Did he believe that this was fate? Mitch knew that Lt. Cameron was devout, and he did not want to insult his faith by saying what he really thought, so he replied, “I guess so, Sir.”
The CSI team was already at work at the entrance. It would be a long night and hopefully that blood was not the only clue they would find before they were through. After hearing the story of how Dennis got those stab wounds, he was certain that they would find some residual DNA from the female stabber on Dennis’s body. All it would take is a hair, a drop of blood, anything so he could lock these animals up forever.
He and the lieutenant went out the front entrance and took off their shoe covers, placing them in evidence bags in case they picked up a hair or useful fiber. Together they went over to the command center. Actually it was a pier management office that they had appropriated, and they came in just as Steffi Parker was finishing the sketch and leaving the room with the little girl and her parents.
Knowing what the little brown-haired girl had been through, they did not dare to ask her any questions. Steffi had been talking to the girl while she was sketching and Shirley Iverson had been there the whole time to record it.
Shirley Iverson was the Juvenile Sergeant for Redondo Beach and she was nearing the end of her career, sporting shockingly white hair nowadays. That did not mean that she was one foot out the door, though; in fact, it was just the opposite. Shirley was a fierce protector of any child’s rights. And she loved Steffi because she had a degree in child psychology, allowing the two of them to be simpatico in situations like this.
The father nodded to the two of them as he picked up his daughter and left, the mom following with a vacant glaze in her eyes that showed she was in shock of sorts. If nothing else, she was in shock as to how a late dinner after a movie turned into something that they would never be able to erase from their minds. And that was why Mitch did this job. If he could bring closure to this, then maybe they could start to heal themselves, knowing one less monster was loose on the streets. In this case, it would be a gang of monsters.
After the family left, Mitch asked the magic question, “How much did she see?”
Steffi gave him a knowing look and flipped the sketch so he could see it. Mitch Ziegler was looking face to face with his monster, and he could tell by the teardrops that the number of suspects just dropped perceptibly on this case.
He looked deeply into this sketch of this hardened and dangerous man and knew without a doubt that their paths were going to cross—even if it were the last thing Mitch ever did.
2 – Rebecca
Rebecca Rubio looked out over the vast Gulf of California. She was sitting on her couch drinking tea, looking out her bay windows at a small fishing boat that was meandering out for the day, the sun in the eastern sky barely breaking the horizon, meaning they were late getting out.
She knew this for certain as her dad had run such a boat and he was always gone before the first light; her dad and her brothers, it was an entire family enterprise. They were all gone; it was just her nowadays, an old woman living by herself on the bluff outside of town.
She’d been alone for a long while now, but once upon a time her life was filled with a house full of family and happiness. She had a large family, with several brothers old enough to be parents. Sadly, one by one, she’d watched them all die off—some naturally, some not so naturally.
Down the hill about a mile sat the town of Loreto. Once upon a time, it used to be just a fishing village where a few large families lived and prospered, the Rubio’s being the most prominent. Nowadays things were different, though, people had come in large numbers and fishing was not the main commerce anymore. But it had been an incredible place filled with fishing, families, and love. Then . . . the curse changed everything.
The woman who had lived in this house before her was Felita, and she was the village’s previous Curandera. If someone got a boil or broke a bone, Felita would fix them up, and in exchange, she never had to buy the fish they brought in or a blanket that she needed; she was provided with what she needed to survive.
It was a nice arrangement until the day she got injured on the docks by two quarreling men, men who had been drinking and knocked over some crates on her.
Because the people of the village were responsible, they took ownership and cared for her, but eventually that help tapered off and they left the old woman to fend for herself with the hope she would decide to move to town, which would be easier for them. Tragically, her response was to put a curse on the village and soon thereafter the deaths started.
Rebecca sipped her tea as she watched the fishing boat disappear from sight, the sun breaching the eastern sky a little more, sending shimmering glints of light off the gulf. She was up early because she was expecting visitors today, something she had not had in a very long while—years in fact.
Her niece, the daughter of her brother, Alex, was coming. Alex was the brother who was closest to her in age and was also the one that was with her the day that everything changed.
On that day long ago, she and Alex had been chasing their dog and trespassed onto this very property, a place they were not allowed to go. It looked scary for sure, with the wooden fence in disrepair and the house in near shambles. It needed a paint job and a repairman to fix the shutters; two plants were out of control on either end of the Spanish style house, with parts of the tiled roof already swallowed up. The yard was windswept, with small sand dunes covered in ice plant. If they didn’t already know a witch lived there, they would have just expected it was a place where a witch lived. There was a fenced in area that had once been a garden, but it was long ago abandoned by this time, Felita being too old and frail to maintain it.
They should never have gone in; but they were children, so they carelessly ventured in, chasing after their dog. Their undertaking soon took a bad turn as Alex, as usual, was not paying attention. The grass was high on the southwestern side of the property and Rebecca could not see his head over it, so she had no idea he had headed toward the edge of the bluffs. It wasn’t long before she heard a scream, as Alex had haphazardly walked over the edge of the sandy cliff and was clinging onto some weeds, in peril of falling a good twenty-five feet to the ground below.
Rebecca quickly went to his rescue, but it wasn’t long before both of them needed to be rescued—and it turned out their savior was the near crippled old woman with a cane, she came to know as Felita, the Curandera.
Once saved, Alex ran off without saying thanks—and if she too had run, she would not be living here today. But she didn’t run, she politely stayed and thanked the old woman who saved them, the woman who was also responsible for the curse that had killed so many—including her own father.
What she didn’t know that day was the old woman, Felita, had a power that had been given to her, and that power was something that needed to be passed on before she died.
Felita taught Rebecca that the power came from long ago, from a Jesuit Monk who was exiled here. She also taught her why it had to be passed on—that it was a gift from God and at some point, mankind was going to need it to survive.
The monk taught her that not anyone could receive the gift and only the holder would know when and to whom to pass it on. The old woman Felita promised to stop all the deaths if Rebecca would become her apprentice, and of course, even a small child faced with such a decision would carry the burden of others and willingly go into servitude for the greater good and safety of those she loved.
So that’s what she did; she served the old woman until Felita passed a few years later. She was handed the torch and became the next Curandera for the village.
The village was no longer a village; it was a town. And now no one was coming to her any more. Doctors and hospitals came, along with the new type of Curanderas, the ones with special powers to remove all of one’s money from them. People did not want to hear what she had to say because it oftentimes required for them to make sacrifices they did not want to make. Before long she was obsolete and alone.
The one connection she had was to Alex, her younger brother. He had moved to El Norte when they were in their twenties, he soon obtaining citizenship and owning a restaurant.