Ana Maria looked forlornly into the Calle 8 that was bustling with activity. There were always people coming in and going out of the numerous auto parts shops on the road. Only half of them came for auto parts. Duvan used to say that one can buy anything from groceries to narcotics from these cleverly concealed shops. Of course, most of them were genuine. One had to know which shops moved what.
A faulty tube light blinked inside her one-room apartment, intermittently illuminating the occupants. Her two-year-old daughter, Nidia, slept soundly on a blanket on the floor. Her son, Alejandro was outside working.
The sound of the TV being unmuted broke her reverie and she turned to face her visitors. As expected, it was Walter who was now engrossed in an old fútbol game. He was a 6’2” unit of muscle and raw power. His head was oddly shaped, as if there was a permanent lump on the right side. Duvan used to joke that Walter’s mama, under the influence of alcohol, had dropped him on his head when he was a child. Walter spoke little and grunted a lot. He was good with knives and his bare fist. Ana Maria lived in perpetual fear of him even when Duvan was around.
Andres had positioned himself at the entrance, leaning on the door. He was a slim man, who always took care of his appearance. Duvan used to say that Andres combed his hair more than any woman in a day. He was wearing a custom fitted black suit with a wine red shirt. Andres talked a lot, joked a lot and laughed a lot. But his eyes never did as much as smile.
Little Nidia suddenly woke up and started crying.
Andres coughed and looked at his mother, Valeria, an intimidating seventy-year-old woman. Valeria limped towards the child, picked her up and started making soothing noises.
‘Such a precious child, Ana Maria. I’m sure you are proud!’
‘Si Mama! I was not expecting you today.’
‘Por supuesto, mi niña! Andres was very busy at La Piscina and poor Walter – he had una cita con Rodrigo,’ Valeria sat on the ragged couch and started bouncing Nidia on her knees.
Ana Maria shivered. Andres had come all the way from his brothel at Bogota’s most notorious red light district – La Piscina, and Walter had obviously been instructed to break some fingers.
Valeria coughed, ‘Agua, por favour.’ She accepted the glass of water from Ana Maria and fixed the younger woman with a look that would have frozen fire. ‘Donde esta Alejandro? I heard he can drive un moto!’
Ana Maria understood. She knew fully well the purpose of their visit. That was the main reason she had sent Alejandro out.
She had no other choice. Especially after her husband, Duvan was killed by the Police while running heroin for Andres. The police had seized the heroin. It did not matter to Valerie and Andres that Duvan had died working for them. All they cared was that Duvan had managed to lose 2 kilograms of high quality heroine. They had debts to repay and Valerie made sure she collected every last Centavo.
“Forget Alejandro, Mama! I start at La Piscina tomorrow”, she said with determination. She didn’t care how many men she had to sleep with to repay Duvan’s debt. But these vultures will never get their talons on her son.
In the next street, Alejandro was busy painting the door of an auto parts store. He would be paid 200 Pesos by the owner for the job. The shop owner had offered an extra hundred if Alejandro could drop a packet at La Piscina after finishing painting the door. Alejandro hoped his mother would be proud of him