the pilot and tells him to go outside.
    The pilot does, with a parting glare to me that makes it clear I haven’t made a new friend. Great. One more enemy to add to the list. I shoot Culebra a look that says this better be worth it.
    When the door closes, Ramon parks his butt on the corner of the table and closes his eyes. For a moment. When he opens them again, they no longer focus on me but have that intent look of someone gazing inward to a place of shadow and pain.
    He speaks, slowly, as if translating from his native language into English as he goes. “I had a son. Antonio. Only fifteen.”
    I think he’s also speaking slowly because he’s choosing his words carefully, so I will understand. With an effort, I push away my suspicions, clear my mind to listen.
    “He was a quiet boy. A good student. He attended the same school as many of the sons of government officials. One of these boys, Rójan, was a . . .” He pauses, looks to Culebra. “Matón.”
    “Bully,” Culebra says.
    I nod.
    “One day he and several others found my son alone in the schoolyard. They told him he was to be their ‘bitch’ and knocked him to the ground. They opened their pants, urinated on him.” Ramon rubs a hand over his face. Refocuses to continue. “He tried to fight back, punching and kicking. But there were five of them. They said he needed to learn respect for his betters.”
    Another quick intake of breath. “The other boys held my son, pulled his pants down while Rójan, the poquenõ bastardo , raped him.”
    Ramon’s voice catches, then turns cold. “My son was humiliated, his self-esteem destroyed. He didn’t come to me. He knew Rójan was protected by his powerful family and would not suffer for his actions. So he withdrew. The shame built up inside him until he could no longer endure the pain. Within a month, he took his own life.”
    Ramon draws a deep breath, wipes his eyes with the back of his hand. “He left a note. Apologizing to us, his family, for what had been done to him. As if it had been his fault. As if he had shamed us. He apologized .” He spits the word, his face hardening with rage. “I knew I had to avenge my son. At first, I wanted to kill Rójan’s father. But then sino —” He looks to Culebra again.
    “Fate,” Culebra replies.
    “ Sí. Fate intervened. A few weeks after we buried Antonio, I was walking in the woods near our home. I heard a young woman crying. I found a couple lying in the shade. The boy was on top, but they were not making love. The girl was fighting and sobbing and begging him to stop. Her blouse was torn, her skirt pushed up around her waist. She was being raped. When I realized who the boy was, I was consumed by a fury that turned my blood to fire. It was Rójan.”
    Again he stops, composing himself, crossing his arms tightly across his chest, drawing deep breaths.
    In spite of my suspicions, I am spellbound by his anguish. I understand it. I’ve lived it twice. Once, when I was made vampire through an act of rape. Again, when I found out my niece Trish was being abused by men who paid her mother to make videos of their sick acts, robbing a young girl of her innocence. All I could think about was exacting vengeance. I see the same hatred in Ramon’s eyes now.
    Culebra reads the emotions running through my mind. His eyes catch and hold mine. This is what he wanted me to hear—to understand.
    I glance away to Max. His face betrays no emotion. He has heard Ramon’s story or one like it many times before. I know in spite of the indifference he projects, his gut is churning the same as mine, the same as Culebra’s. I also know he will do everything he can to exact justice for Ramon and his son. I know it because in spite of how I feel about him personally, Max is a good man.
    Culebra touches Ramon’s arm, nods at him to go on.
    Ramon unfolds his arms, his shoulders relax a little, his back straightens. “I grabbed Rójan off the girl, held him while the girl got

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