I draw my sword once more and hold the tip against his throat, not a trace of humor in my expression now. The man’s Adam’s apple bobs against the blade.
“Bastardo. Fucking asshole. I’ll kill you for this.”
His threats might have more impact if he wasn’t whispering. He still thinks he’s going to get out of this without any consequences. “Why are you not screaming for help? Afraid to shout and wake the chief of police?”
The man just glares at me, the whites of his eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
“Or are you worried about drawing the neighbors to their windows?” I press the blade against his throat, drawing a thin line of blood. “Because they’ll recognize you, won’t they, Police Chief Martínez?”
Martínez’s face goes slack with shock.
“Photographs. Stained clothing. Ropes. They’re all on their way to police headquarters in Madrid,” I tell him. “To an officer who can’t be bribed.” I lean close and whisper, “Like I can’t be bribed.”
Above his head, I carve a mark into the post, as fast as lightning. Then I salute him ironically and saunter away. Come morning, the townspeople will find their chief of police tied to a post outside his own home, a sign dangling from his cold, pathetic genitals that reads VIOLADOR. RAPIST. Above his head will be three slashes. The letter Z.
I melt into the shadows for the very last time, and the Black Fox, as Spain has known him these past fifteen years, is no more.
Two months later
“To us, mi amor.”
Valeria holds out her wine glass to me, and the ruby red liquid flashes in the midday sun. I smile broadly, toast her, and take a mouthful of wine.
“To us,” I agree warmly. I cast my eyes over my new wife. She’s forty-three, a divorcée, and a handsome woman with a crown of thick chestnut hair. Her cheekbones are high and angular and her wide mouth proud. We met at the opera in Madrid; or rather, I was passing by and saw her in a gold, floor-length gown. Framed in the doorway, she dripped elegance and beauty, but that’s not what had me following her inside.
I knew that this was the woman I had to marry.
I felt…nothing for her. I’ve held women in my arms, going through the motions and saying all the right things in the hopes that love will spring forth. Always, my heart remains empty. It’s been many years since I sought out or pretended to feel love. It causes too much pain for everyone.
With Valeria, I don’t have to pretend, and the relief that she doesn’t mind almost feels like happiness. I watch her as she lifts her toy poodle, Blanca, into her lap and makes kissy noises on top of her head. She’s more affectionate with her dog than she is with me.
A moment later, Valeria checks the slim gold watch on her wrist, and her expression hardens. “She’s late.”
We’re waiting for Valeria’s eighteen-year-old daughter to join us. Lolita. She’s been tucked away at boarding school in Switzerland these past months and I’ve never met her. Now she’s finished high school and she’s coming home. I glance around the square, trying to spot a younger version of my wife. The medieval village of Segova sits among sandstone hills and vineyards. It’s peaceful and wealthy. Atop the hill, at the end of three miles of winding road, sits my wife’s castillo.
Valeria regards me uncertainly, pursing her perfectly painted red lips. “Are you sure you don’t mind that Lolita is coming to live with us?”
“It’s a large castillo, and it’s more her home than mine. Of course I don’t mind.”
“You say that now, but…” Valeria hesitates, and then finishes in a rush, “My daughter can cause problems.”
“Oh?” I want to smile, imagining the petty sort of problems an eighteen-year-old schoolgirl might cause.
Valeria takes a fortifying sip of wine. Under her breath, as if she’s ashamed, she whispers, “Lolita is a liar. She makes things up. Harmless little things, usually, but as she’s grown older, the lies have become more dangerous.”
I feel a prickle of unease travel down my spine. “What sort of lies?”
“We wrote to each other weekly. Lolita kept me updated with her progress at school and she told me how well she was doing this year and that her marks were excellent. When I got her report card, I found a very different story. She failed most of her classes. I don’t know what she’ll be fit for, now. And she—” Valeria breaks off, clenching her hands in her lap. “She tried to seduce two of her professors.”
My confidence of a few moments ago evaporates. I wanted a peaceful life, and now it sounds as if I’ll have a little troublemaker on my hands.
“I don’t know where I went wrong with her,” Valeria confesses. “I failed her somehow. She barely knew her father before he died, so it must be all my fault.”