The beads of sweat on Sante’s pale face betrayed his anxiety all too clearly. The guard next to him couldn’t help but chuckle as the lift began a slow descent.
“Don’t worry, amigo. We’ll be watching you all the time.”
“How nearby will you be?”
“In the next room. Anything happens, we’ll be in there faster than you can say ‘Hasta la vista, cabrón!’”
The lift shuddered to a halt. The grimy doors opened to reveal a grey passage, gloomily lit by the occasional lamp. The stark white surfaces couldn’t have contrasted more with the grimy dregs of society that they hid within.
Sante played around with his tie knot. The suit was a bad idea – the way it clung to his skin from the sweat was too itchy for comfort. Perhaps... no. He had enough to worry about already.
Go in, get the interview, and get out – preferably in one sane piece. That was all he had to do. He shuddered as he took his first step out of the lift.
The number of people he had sent through the gates of hell could easily populate a small country. The scars on his weathered face were brimming with diabolical stories, tales of terror inflicted both on and by him. The man was a legend to his pursuers, and a myth to the rest of the world.
How he had been captured, how he was reduced to a shabby man in chains sitting across the table from him – these were the questions Sante wished he could ask from the Maestro of Malice.
“Buenos días, Senõr Marko Muerte. My name is Sante Hernandez. I was asked to interview you on behalf of Reader’s Digest. I hope you are comfortable?”
The grave eyes had flickered on hearing Sante’s introduction. They were now peering into Sante’s soul, almost trying to suck it out through his trembling lips.
“Sante...Hernandez? Mmmm...do I look ‘comfortable’ to you?”
That voice. That chillingly calm voice. It was the last sound many a powerful person had heard before their cold-blooded demise. Sante hoped he wasn’t next in line.
“Your most famous victim was the Australian PM Mick Atkinson. What was it like to kill such a popular, even iconic figure of the people?”
“Atkinson was NOT my most famous victim.”
“Some groups have noted that many of your victims, regardless of their levels of fame and fortune, were people with dubious morals and intentions. Was this something you considered when choosing your victims?
The dark eyes flashed briefly. The sharp nose inhaled.
“ALL my victims were corrupt and devious! They were playing with the lives of innocent people as though they were meaningless pawns, ready to be sacrificed for some selfish greater purpose. I was doing the world a favour that no one else could! All those so-called icons that I’ve murdered, they were pathetic pendejos with far too much power in their hands. I may have killed thousands, but by doing so I have saved millions from suffering! And yet, they call me a monster! A MONSTER! Hijos de putas!”
Sante’s lungs stopped working for a few minutes as the echoes rang in his ears.
“It has been rumoured that you have a family still living. Is this true?”
The icy glare lifted after a tense few seconds.
“My wife, she was una senõra perfecta. She was my lifeline when the world had cast me out to rot. She gave me a son before she was killed in a gang war. And he...”
Marko Muerte spat onto the floor.
“My son was – IS an absolute disappointment. He ran away when he found out about my work, and began a new life in the big city. I pray that he can someday redeem himself, but I am on death row. By this time tomorrow, he will be forever scorned by the father he abandoned.”
Sante felt his insides squirm with fear.
“That will be all, Senõr Muerte. Mucho gracias. I hope you will find peace in the afterlife.”
Sante nervously held out a hand, clearly having second thoughts about this act of politeness. Marko grunted to himself before gruffly shaking it. The chains on his wrist clanged ominously. Sante was out of the room, leaning against the door and breathing heavily soon after.
Marko Muerte escaped the next day.
The world woke up to news so shocking that several notable public figures suffered heart attacks soon after. The media was treated to a field day. Several countries in Latin America had declared a State of emergency. Activist groups both for and against the Muerte murders were spurred on by a renewed rush of adrenaline.
Sante was trying to calm himself down while watching a harried reporter on TV:
“...it appears that Marko Muerte was able to break out of his cell somehow, abduct and then impersonate a security guard and essentially walk out of the prison scratch-free, leaving a trail of unconscious bodies in his wake. Prison authorities are refusing to comment on the matter...”
Sante remembered the last image he had of the Maestro of Malice: the wrinkled face, bushy and unkempt, glaring as icily as ever. But this time, there was a faint hint of something else. Something... strange. A grin, maybe? A twinkle in those murky eyes?
Sante poured himself a Tequila Slammer. As he brought the fizzing cocktail to his lips, he murmured:
“I hope I have redeemed myself, father.”