“I don’t know what happened. One moment she was there and the next she wasn’t.” A man said hesitantly. He was standing in the middle of a brightly lit room and he was not alone. Another man stood at the door behind him and a few feet away another leaned against the wall; seated before him on a larger, almost throne-like, seat was a guy who was clearly the leader. His clothes were good quality and he was impeccably groomed; his long hair slicked back into a pony tail that was laced with grey and his tanned skin was marked with small pox scars. The man who sat before him knew he was in danger of losing his life; he ran his hand nervously through his short hair and his sweat soaked into his t-shirt. Failure was not something Diego reacted well to and he was suddenly wishing he’d decided to run instead of returning to explain why the child had not been delivered as had been ordered.
“Samuel, don’t worry.” Diego spoke with a heavy Spanish accent as he stood up. “She was a scared child… of course she would hide. I would not want her if she was easy to catch.” He said reassuringly as he walked towards the other man. Samuel nodded eagerly; not saying anything as the gratitude shone in his eyes. Diego smiled at him, “Besides I know you’ll do better.” He said as he walked past him and paused at the door. Samuel nodded eagerly, turning to face him, “Si, senor!” He said gratefully as he rubbed his hands together. Diego nodded and the man next to him opened the door; right before he walked out he glanced at the man leaning against the wall. As the door closed behind him a sudden scared shout was cut short by the echoing retort of a gunshot.
Diego turned to the man who had followed him out of the room, “Get me a car. I’m going myself to find this girl.” He ordered and watched as the man nodded and hurried away. He sighed, he should’ve known better than to send someone else in his place to perform such a delicate task. There would be some major pain in store for a lot of people if he was unable to salvage the damage done by his lackeys and retrieve the girl. He thought blissfully over the idea of having at least one person trained to the max that could stand as his second, reinforce his orders and be trusted to carry out the more delicate assignments. After a few moments he broke out of his thoughts and walked out of the room; it was time to see what he could do about finding himself a child.
“Mama… no me dejes!” (Mama… don’t leave me!) A young girl sobbed as she desperately shook the blood soaked body of a woman that lay sprawled out in the dirt. The child trembled; she couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years of age as her hands shook and fat tears rolled down her chubby cheeks. Blood stained her hands, clothes and face; her black hair was matted with blood that was not her own. Bodies lay scattered all around her; the huts of the village crackled and crashed as fire ate away at their supports. Each body was riddled with bullet wounds and not one person was alive as the toddler went from body to body desperately trying to understand why everyone she knew who’d been alive and warm just a few hours ago now refused to acknowledge her.
It wasn’t until she came to an open area in the center of the village that she seemed to break inside. She found every single child that had lived in the village; from younger babies to mid teens, each one shot in the head execution style. Her body violently shook and she stumbled backwards as the horror of the sight seemed to overwhelm her. She turned and stumbled forward as she made her way back to the one place that was still normal. Past a thicket of trees not even a hundred yards away from the hut she had lived with her parents was the pasture where all the villagers kept their horses. Inside the fence were several of the large animals but she went to one specific one.
A large bay mare waited patiently for the blood soaked toddler to come closer; she snuffed in alarm at the smell of death that clung to her but nonetheless she stayed still as the little girl climbed in between her front legs and huddled there in a shaking ball. A curious whinny sounded and the mare swung her wise head around to glance at her own offspring; a large colt whose dark coat was unbroken by any white. The mare snorted and shook her head as the colt kicked up his heels and pranced forward to investigate the little girl who usually brought him treats.
The child was still sobbing bitterly as she clung to the mare’s legs; she didn’t respond when she felt the colt nuzzle her shoulder curiously; instead crying harder. She’d seen the men approaching in their cars and had felt frightened; as was her habit she had fled into the pasture even though she knew it terrified her parents for her to be in such close proximity of the large animals. The sounds of gunfire and screams had scared her so much that when the men had wandered into the pasture she had hidden in the brush; further shielded from view by the mare’s large bulk as she seemed to stand guard in front of her.
Diego walked through the massacre that his men had made of the village without even a thought of remorse. He poked one of the bodies with the toe of his boot before wandered down further towards the pasture. One of the men had mentioned the horses there and, as an equine enthusiast himself, Diego saw no harm in checking out the now ownerless stock. His entire appearance was calm and dignified as he walked over the blood soaked earth to the fence and when he looked in he felt a thrill of elation. A little girl was huddled between the front legs of a large horse. Her clothes were torn and dirty and she was covered in blood as she cried. He climbed over the fence and slowly made his way to the trio; his hands held out as if he were approaching a wild animal. The mare looked up at his approach and snorted; her tail swishing as her ears pinned back. The colt, forever playful, pranced forward curiously sniffing at the newcomer while the little girl looked up in sudden terror and stared straight into the eyes of the approaching man.
Her eyes were a clear, startling silver with cat-like pupils that seemed to cut into and through his soul. Diego froze, he was unable to move as a cold numbness crept over his limbs and made it impossible for him to look away. He stared wide eyed into her eyes until the colt, tired of being ignored, suddenly rammed into him and knocked him to the ground. The fall effectively broke eye contact and he found himself suddenly feeling warm again and able to move.
“Hola, bebe.” He said quietly as he righted himself and came a little closer. Lire shifted her position to move back further under the protection of her mare, “Mi mama…” she cried softly as she watched the strange man who kept coming closer. Diego knelt a couple of feet away and kept a wary eye on the mare as he held out his hand,
“I’ll take care of you now, amor mio, you can come stay with me.” He said soothingly as he waited for her response. Lire looked up at her mare and then slowly toddled forward until she placed her hand in his.
“Y mis caballos? Noche…” (And my horses? Night…” She suddenly asked; her voice was comically young yet she had no trouble pronouncing the words for the most part. When she called for Night the colt came forward and shoved his nose into her tiny arms; she clung to him and broke out into a fresh bout of tears. Diego sighed and pulled her away, hugging her close as he awkwardly patted her back,
“No llores… Tambien se vienen con nosostros.” (Don’t cry. They’re coming too.”) He promised fervently and turned to carry her out of the pasture. Suddenly he paused; the bodies were still scattered throughout the village and he didn’t want to take her through it again; so with that thought he set her down. Lire’s feet had just touched the ground and she was making her way back into the shelter provided by the mare. Diego watched her moved forward and marveled at the way she walked; way to coordinated for a normal toddler of her age. He straightened up and took out his phone and made a call; his voice was curt and assertive as he ordered a truck and trailer and his car to be brought to his location in rapid fire Spanish. He then sat next to the mare and, even though Lire remained behind her legs, she listened to every word he said as he reassured her and comforted her until, when the cars arrived, she came out and curled her fragile body against his chest.
Diego held her close; feeling her tremble and shake and for the first time he felt himself softening as protectiveness flared to life in his chest. He still felt no remorse for having ordered the death of her family and village but he did vow never again to allow such damage to happen to her. She was his for the rest of her life and he would use her talents to their outmost potential. It was with these thoughts that he carried her to his car where one of his men waited with a blanket and some food and drink while the others started loading the mare and colt into the trailer. He watched her as she huddled in the back seat; her silver eyes watching everything that happened and he reached over to ruffle her hair, for now on she would have whatever she wanted, he would make sure of that.