He pulls the door open and walks down the hallway, toward a room that I don't think I've even bothered to go into before. It's right beside the doors that lead to the terrace. Another set of double doors. A red curtain hangs over the windows from the inside so no one can see what the room has inside.
He looks me over once before reaching above the doorframe and pulling down a key. When it’s unlocked, he grips one of the door handles and steps right in.
I expect to see something dangerous in here. Something bad, like a vat of acid with body parts in it, more weapons, or even a collection of skulls.
It's a normal room, similar to his galería, only smaller, and no canvases to paint on, but there are paintings hanging on the wall. All of them look the same.
Dark. Red. Horrifying.
There are some of men that look like Draco, only older, with colder, dead eyes. Actually, now that I notice, they are all of the same man. He’s wearing different clothing in each one. Looking in different directions. Some with a mustache. Some without.
"This is where I keep my . . . darker works of art," he announces, voice heavy and deep.
I step past him, scanning each one thoroughly. The dark paintings with the red obviously prove to be blood by the way it's splattered and aggressively enhanced.
But the man—the same man? I just don't get that one . . . that is until I come across one painting that has the man, but his face is demolished. There are red slashes all over his face, red dripping from his empty eye sockets. His mouth is hanging open in disbelief, as if he’d just seen a monster before losing those eyes.
"Who is he?" I whisper without looking back. I can't pull my gaze away. It's such a terrifying portrait. Almost too real. Definitely gruesome enough to cause nightmares.
"Thiago's dad?" I inquire.
I look back, and he bobs his head slowly. "You pick up on things well."
"Why does he look like this here?” I point at the portrait. “All cut and mutilated?"
"Because the way he looks there is exactly how he looked the last day I laid eyes on him.”
My eyebrows bunch together as I finally face him, begging for details without words.
He swallows thickly. "When my father died and I was sent back here, to Mexico, my mother let my uncle, Manuel, stay here with us. I was only seventeen, didn't know much at first—well, not as much as I'd wanted to—but I knew it would come. I was still naïve to it all, thinking things would get better for Mamá and me. They didn't. They only seemed to get worse while he stayed here to ‘care’ and ‘provide’ for us."
"How?" I ask.
"Because he was an abusive, dirty, ignorant hijo de puta that didn't deserve to live. While he was here, I was young. I was weaker, which made him assume that I was also dumber. I was still hurting from the loss of my father, so I was quiet, and he thought the quiet would be my ruin. Mother sympathized, but she couldn't get through to me back then, but only because I wouldn't let her. I figured she couldn't understand because she wasn't there. I witnessed that murder first hand. I was there, unable to do anything but watch and run." He pushes a rough hand through his messy hair, glaring at the painting of his uncle Manuel now. "He stayed with us for about a year. At first he was quiet. Calm. But I know now that he was only studying us. Our schedules. Calculating our moves. Thiago stayed here as well. His mother had recently passed, so he was quieter then, and slightly reserved. Still a shit talker, but he mostly kept quiet. He was close to me, though. That was back when he actually had some damn sense—when I could trust him to have my back.
“Anyway, around the fifth month or so of Manuel’s stay, he started to show his true colors. I didn’t grow up around that man. Hardly knew a thing about him. Mamá trusted him to handle what was left of my father's cartel. I know she only did it so we could continue to live in the lifestyle we had, but I really wish she wouldn't have. He only wanted to steal what my father built, take all the money, and leave us with nothing. I noticed it beforehand, his dirty ways, so I scheduled meetings with the men we had left. Some were still loyal to the Molina family, and still getting paid, thanks to my father’s accountant, and Lion, too. I remembered how things were run, what he made them do on each day of the week, the runs and pick-ups. I told them moving the drugs wasn't going to stop just because my father was gone, and neither was the money. We needed it.