His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 19
I stared out the window, watching mansion after mansion slip by as we crawled through the lanes of the subdivision. All of them were vaguely similar: manicured lawns, Acacia trees in the front yards, sprawling Spanish mission-style houses behind faux-adobe walls and wrought iron gates.
“It’s not my memory I’m worried about,” I muttered.
“Believe it or not, I am your friend, Jay. Jacinto doesn’t want to kill you. Not today. If he did, do you really think he’d have me bring you to his home?”
I exhaled, not realizing until then that I’d been holding my breath. Luis was right, though that did little to improve my mood. Jacinto Amaya was one of the Phoenix area’s most prominent crime lords. He ran a drug trade that distributed to much of the American Southwest, and he was reputed to traffic in people as well. Some said that he helped undocumented workers reach the States and then set them up with employers, taking a finder’s fee as well as a cut of the pay the laborers received. He also had a stake in Phoenix’s prostitution industry, from street level hookers to thousand dollar-per-night call girls. And, naturally, he controlled several legitimate businesses as well, most prominently the Chofi Luxury Hotels, which, as I understood, he had named for his eldest daughter and which had strong ties to Arizona’s growing tribal casino business.
I’m sure there were other components to his criminal empire that I was forgetting. But the drug trade was the most important by far; it brought in the lion’s share of his cash, and it accounted for the most brutal of his crimes. He had been implicated in more killings than I cared to count, most of them so clean, so professional, that we’d never been able to prove a thing, and most of them so brutal that no one was likely to come forward with evidence against him.
Paco steered us onto a cul-de-sac and followed it to the end, stopping before a broad pair of gates and another guard house. Amaya’s guards were a lot younger and a lot bigger than the guy who’d let us into the subdivision. They wore ballistic vests over their uniforms, which must have been stifling, even with the sun down, and they carried modified MP5s with laser sights.
One of the men came to the car and peered inside.
“Hola,” he said, grinning at Luis. “Quien es el gringo?”
“Fearsson,” Luis said. “Jacinto nos espera.”
The guard straightened and waved to the uniformed man. A moment later the gates began to swing open.
“Hasta luego,” the guard called, as he tapped a hand on the roof of the car.
Paco eased the car forward into the brick courtyard that served as Amaya’s driveway. We parked, and my three friends walked me into the house, passing another pair of armed and armored guards.
We passed through a foyer — tile floors, exposed beams, and a stylized crucifix that appeared to be made of ivory — into an enormous room with polished wood floors, more exposed beams, and some of the most beautiful Oaxacan folk art I’d ever seen.
A man stood at a bank of windows, which faced back toward downtown Scottsdale and encompassed a twilight sky that glowed with yellows, oranges, and pinks.
He turned at the sound of our footsteps and I halted midstride. He was dressed in suit pants and a matching vest, a blue dress shirt and a silk tie. His hair was shot through with silver and perfectly groomed, his skin was a soft olive. I thought his eyes were brown, and I had the sense that he was smiling at me, but I couldn’t be certain.
The magical blur of his features was too strong.
“Justis Fearsson,” said Jacinto Amaya, his voice a deep baritone, his words untinged by any hint of an accent. “I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time.”
He strode across the room, a hand extended. I gripped it, not yet trusting myself to speak. He put his other arm around my shoulders, leading me farther into the room. I could make out his grin now. It was unrestrained, and utterly sincere. I’d been in Amaya’s presence for no more than a few seconds, and already I could see what I never would have known from a police file or a newspaper article: this was a man whom others would follow, regardless of where he led.
“Would you like a drink, Jay? It’s all right if I call you Jay, isn’t it?”
“Yes, thank you,” I said, finding my voice and adding, “Mister Amaya,” as an afterthought. “Club soda, please. And Jay is fine.”
He nodded and began to fix my drink, but I noticed that he didn’t offer to let me call him Jacinto.
“I’m sorry to have sent Luis and his friends for you, but I wasn’t sure you would come if I merely requested that you do so. And I’ve been eager to speak with you.”
“There was a time, I believe, when you were eager to kill me.”
Amaya laughed, stepping away from the bar to hand me my drink. “Not really, no. You were never important enough to kill. Forgive me; I mean no offense. But I have far more dangerous enemies than detectives in the Phoenix Police Department. And once you left the force — forgive me again — but you were not someone to whom I paid much attention.”
I raised my glass in salute and sipped the soda water. “You and everyone else.”
“But that’s changed, hasn’t it, Jay?”
“You suppose,” he repeated with a chuckle. He put an arm around my shoulder again and steered me to a plush leather chair near the window. I sat, and he took the chair next to mine. Luis, Paco, and Rolon were still in the room, but Amaya seemed content to ignore them, and so I did the same.
“Killing Etienne de Cahors was no small thing,” he said.
I looked his way, raising an eyebrow. Cahors’s name had been in the papers as Stephen D. Cahors, and I’d only spoken of him by his true name to a handful of people.
My obvious surprise seemed to please him. “My resources within the magical world are as extensive as those outside of it.”
“Did you know who he was before he died?” I asked.
“No,” he said, without any hesitation or hint of pretence.
“What would you have done if you had?”
The smile sharpened. “An interesting question. I’m not in the habit of giving aid to the PPD. On the other hand, he was killing Latina women, and he was using dark magic to do it.” He fell silent, perhaps still weighing my question. “But you have me getting ahead of myself.”
“I didn’t know that you were a weremyste,” I said, placing my glass on the small side table next to me, and meeting his gaze. “That would have been handy knowledge back when I was on the force.”
He laughed again, showing perfect teeth. “Yes, I’m sure it would have been. That’s not something we tend to share with the general public, though, is it?”
“No, it’s not. Why am I here, Mister Amaya?”
His eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Why do you think you’re here?”
It hit me like an open-handed slap to the face, and I kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner. The plane, and the attempt on the life of Mando Rafael Vargas. In that instant I would have given a whole lot of money to see the color of Jacinto Amaya’s magic.
But I wasn’t sure how much I ought to say. Kona had brought me in on an ongoing investigation involving not only the PPD, but also several agencies of the Federal Government. She had faith in me, and in my discretion. I had a pretty good idea of what she’d think of me sharing what I knew with the leading drug kingpin in Arizona.
“I’m not sure,” I made myself say, realizing that his question still hung between us.
Amaya’s eyebrows bunched. “You disappoint me. Of course you know, or at least you know some of it.”
“Well, let’s assume for a moment that I do. You must realize that I can’t tell you anything about an ongoing investigation. The person who brought me in is trusting me . . .” I trailed off, because he was laughing. At me, most likely, which tended to piss me off. “Is something funny?”
“Who do you think you’re dealing with?” he asked, some of the polite veneer peeling away from the words. “Do you honestly think I need a PI to tell me what’s going on inside the Phoenix Police Department, or inside the FBI, for that matter?”
“Is that how you’ve stayed out of jail all this time?”
He went still, like a wolf on the hunt. But I heard Luis and his friends stir behind me. Amaya glanced back at them and put up a hand, probably to stop them from pulling me from the chair and beating me to a bloody pulp. When he faced me again, the pleasant veneer was back in place, though more strained than before.