The Queen of the South
When he moved his head, the candles made patent-leather glints in his thick, stiff-combed hair. The years that had passed since he first came down from the sierra had refined his appearance and his manners, but under the handmade suits, the Italian ties, and the $500 silk shirts, there was still the campesino from the mountains of Sinaloa. And you could see that not just because of the norteno ostentation—pointed-toe boots, huge silver belt buckle, gold centenary medal on the keychain—but also, and especially, because of the eyes, which were sometimes impassive, sometimes distrustful or patient. They were the eyes of a race that for generations, hundreds of years, had been forced, time and time again, by a hailstorm or a drought, to start over again, from scratch.
    "Apparently they caught Chino in the morning and spent the day with him, talking.... From what the radio said, they took their time with him."
    Teresa could imagine, and it didn't take much effort: Hands tied with wire; cigarettes; razor blades. Chino Parra's screams muffled by the plastic bag or the strip of duct tape, in some basement or warehouse, before they finished him off and went for his family. Maybe Chino himself had ratted out Güero. Or his own family. Teresa had known Chino well, his wife, Brenda, and the three kids—two boys and a girl. She remembered them playing, running around on the beach at Altata, the previous summer: their warm little brown bodies in the sun, covered by towels, sleeping as they drove back in that same Silverado their father's remains had been found in. Brenda was a petite woman, very talkative, with pretty brown eyes, and on her right ankle she wore a gold chain with her man's initials on it. She and Teresa had gone shopping together many times in Culiacan—getting expensive manicures, buying tight leather pants, spike heels, Guess jeans, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera ... She wondered whether they'd sent Gato Fierros and Potemkin Galvez, or some other gunmen. Whether it had happened before or at the same time as they were coming after her. Whether they killed Brenda before or after the kids. Whether it had been fast, or whether they'd also taken their time with them. Pinche hombres puercos.
    She inhaled and then breathed out slowly, so that don Epifanio wouldn't see her sob. Then she silently cursed Chino Parra, after cursing that cabron Güero Dávila even more. Chino was brave the way so many that killed or ran drugs were—out of pure fucking ignorance, because he didn't think. He got into jams because he was fuck-stupid, unaware that he was putting not just himself but his whole family in danger. Güero had been different: he was smart. He knew all the risks, and he'd always known what would happen to her if they got him, but he couldn't care less. That fucking notebook. Don't read it, he'd said. Take it, but don't even look at it. Damn him, she muttered again. God damn him, pinche Güero cabron.
    "What happened?" she asked.
    Don Epifanio Vargas shrugged. "What had to happen," he said.
    She looked at the bodyguard standing at the door, AK-47 in hand, silent as a shadow or a ghost. Just because you'd traded in drugs for pharmaceuticals and politics didn't mean you didn't take the usual precautions. The other backup was outside, also armed. They'd given the night watchman two hundred pesos to take off early. Don Epifanio looked at the gym bag Teresa had set on the floor, between her feet, and then at the Double Eagle in her lap.
    "Your man had been tempting fate a long time, Teresita. It had to come sooner or later."
    "Is he really dead?"
    "Of course he's dead. They caught him up in the sierra.... It wasn't soldiers, or Federales, or anybody. It was his own people."
    "Who?"
    "What difference does it make? You know what kind of deals Güero was doing. He got caught playing both sides. And somebody finally blew the whistle on him."
    The cigar's ember glowed red again. Don Epifanio opened the notebook. He held it in the

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