Part Two: Chapter Eleven

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Meeting in the park gives their whole operation a strange, serene quality. Parents push their children on swings, while older teens kick soccer balls back and forth across the grass thick with fallen leaves. In the midst of the chirp of birds and sanguine squirrels, a cherry red Ferrari 456 slides into a parking spot.

Atlas, Mary, and Christopher (who they have already taken to calling Max II) approach the car but stay ten feet away as Santiago Martinez and his three beefy henchmen pull themselves out of the low vehicle. Atlas counts the gun and knife holsters on each of the bodyguards: nine in all. Santiago himself seems unarmed, and wears a black suit instead of his men’s matching gray muscle t-shirts. Their shaved heads reflect the sun, as do their well-oiled arms.

“Show me my father,” Mary demands as soon as Santiago steps within hearing distance.

“Such a feisty one,” Santiago says in his flirtatious accent. “Always making demands.”

“I said show him to me,” she says again.

Santiago waves a finger, and one of his henchmen opens the Ferrari’s trunk and pulls out Mr. Williams. Bruises and scrapes dot his face, but other than that he seems unharmed. He wears an old professor’s tweed jacket and mismatched khaki pants, both of which are filthy.

“Now my daughter,” Santiago demands.

“Max,” Mary says to Christopher, “go get the girl.”

They all watch as Christopher struggles to pull the now-conscious Esperanza from the van. She kicks him in the shin and tries to run, but Christopher grabs her arm and ends up being pulled five feet before he gets his captor under control. Mary takes Esperanza’s arm and takes her to Santiago herself.

“I didn’t tell them anything, Papa,” Esperanza says. She seems desperate for his attention, but also cringes at the sound of his voice. Atlas would too, if his father was a dangerous criminal.

“I know, hija preciosa.”

“On the count of three,” Mary tells the henchman holding her father. “One. Two. Three.”

Mary unties Esperanza and releases her into Santiago’s arms, while the henchman shoves Mr. Williams to the ground at Mary’s feet. Startled, Mr. Williams looks around at the Mexican bandits and his strangely-dressed daughter and blinks a few times, as though trying to clear a bad dream from his memory.

“You’re going to pay for what you’ve done,” Mary says to Santiago.

“Oh really? And who’s going to make me? You?”

“No,” Mary says, her face taking on the look of a warrior about to go to battle. “My friend Max. Now!”

On cue, the real Max, invisible with the help of Jordan’s machine, uses his poisonous pen to take out the henchman standing on Santiago’s right. The henchman on his left freezes and crosses himself, before also toppling onto the grass face first.

“They have the device,” Santiago shouts to his one remaining man. “Get them!”

Mary catches the last man by surprise as he violently shakes his head back and forth like a startled horse while looking for Max. She throws him to the ground like a felled tree, and with one blow to the head, knocks him out cold.

Santiago reaches for one of his assistant’s weapons, but Mary gets a gun to his head first. Somehow, she manages to do all of this while not sweating or getting winded.  “Don’t move,” she says in an iced voice. “It would be such a shame to have to kill you in front of your daughter, especially after such a touching reunion.”

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