Home > All the Crooked Saints(8)

All the Crooked Saints(8)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Here was a thing she wanted: to have two gold teeth where no one could see them but she would know they were there. Here was a thing she feared: having to fill out forms before medical appointments of any kind.

Eduardo was the most handsome of the Costas, which was saying a lot, but he was not so handsome that people would stop him on the street to thank him. The Costas were cowboys and bred quarter horses for the rodeo. The Costas and their horses were all fast and charming, and could turn on a dime faster than you could say ¿Qué onda? They were also very good at what they did, and neither the Costas nor their horses would ever kick a child. Eduardo wore clothing even fancier than his wife’s—bright red cowboy shirts to match her lips and tight black pants to match her hair and blocky fleece-collared leather coats to emphasize her shapeliness.

Here was a thing he wanted: for singers to pause in their singing to laugh during a verse. Here was a thing he feared: cats lying on his face and smothering him while he slept.

Judith and Eduardo took stock of the scene as they pulled into the compound. The enormous wood-covered Mercury, the Italian American perched on top of it, the square silhouette of Pete inside, the slobber of dogs drawing picturesque arcs across the diorama.

“Ed, do you recognize that car?” Judith asked.

Eduardo removed his cigarette to say, “It’s last year’s Mercury Colony Park in sunburst yellow.”

Judith said, “I meant, do you recognize the man on top of it?”

“Then you should have said, ‘Do you recognize the man on top of it?’”

“Do you recognize the man on top of it?”

Eduardo framed Tony DiRisio with his headlights as he approached—Tony shielded his eyes—and peered closely. “No, but I like that suit.”

One of the dogs had just gotten ahold of the left sleeve of the aforementioned white suit, and Tony, accepting discretion as the better part of valor, allowed the dog to have the entire coat rather than his left arm.

“It’s just like Mama to leave them out here,” Judith said angrily.

“I bet she’s making one of those flowers.”

“Don’t talk about her,” Judith said, even though she had been about to say the same thing herself.

The Chevy nosed up beside the Mercury. It was just high enough that Eduardo Costa and Tony DiRisio were now eye to eye. Eduardo honked his horn to startle one of the dogs off the hood of the Mercury. Then he removed the cigarette from his lips and gave it to Tony.

“Hola, traveler,” Eduardo said.

Judith patted her hair and leaned into the conversation. “Are you here for a miracle?”

Tony sucked the cigarette, then flicked it at one of the dogs. “Lady, it would be a miracle to get off the roof of my car.”

Eduardo leaned out of his window and called into the Mercury, “Are you here for a miracle, mi hijo?”

Pete started. “I’m here about a truck.”

“He’s here about a truck,” Eduardo told his wife.

“Papa should shoot these dogs,” Judith replied.

“Bullets are too afraid to hit them,” Eduardo observed.

He took his time lighting another cigarette and smoking it as they all watched him. Then he kissed his wife, stroked his mustache, opened the door of the truck, and jumped lightly out, his sharp cowboy boots raising dust as he landed. Antonia’s dogs turned to him. An owl hooted. A creature howled from inside one of the distant cabins. The moon smiled cunningly. Then Eduardo hurled down his cigarette butt and began to run. Man and dogs flew across the yard into the dark.

The Costas are known for their bravery, and for their smoking.

In the quiet left behind, Judith climbed from the truck. She was very nervous, but she did not show it as she walked over to the Mercury with a sway that matched her beauty. “Let’s get you men a place to sleep and we can see about— Beatriz! What are you doing lurking over there?”

Beatriz was not lurking. She was standing motionless and observant in the deepest of the shadows beside her mother’s house, so silent that even Antonia’s dogs had not known she was there. She had been waiting for her opportunity to climb back into her bedroom, but Judith, with the uncanny intuition that sisters sometimes have, had seen her there.

“There are no beds,” Beatriz told Judith. “None of the pilgrims have left since you did.”

“No beds! Impossible!” Judith had not been back to Bicho Raro in months.

“It’s true,” said a voice from within the long stucco building. This was one of the pilgrims. They were always eavesdropping, as the forbidden lives of the Sorias were very interesting to them. They had been listening to the exchange outside just as much as the other Sorias had been, and now this voice floated out of the building in a way that seemed ghostly to Pete and Tony. It added, “The floor is available, though.”

“Don’t talk to me!” Judith snapped to the unseen pilgrim. Although this statement seemed unfriendly to Pete and Tony, her exhortation was actually colored by fear. All of the Sorias treated the pilgrims with caution, but Judith was more than cautious—she was frightened of them. This was one of the reasons Judith had moved away as soon as she’d gotten married and had not returned before now. She could not take the tension of living alongside them all day and all night long.

Beatriz said, “Michael’s building a lodge, but it’s not done.”

“A lodge?” Judith was nearly overcome imagining an entire lodge full of pilgrims. “We are not a hotel. Fine, fine! These men can have the miracle and go on their way or sleep on the floor! Which of you wants to be first? The father or son?”

“Lady, just how old do I look?” Tony asked. “I only met this kid today.”

“I’m just here about work, ma’am,” Pete said quickly. He had been listening to this conversation with growing certainty that Tony had come here for a very different reason than him. He felt he needed to distance himself from it in case it was illegal.

“Work?” echoed Judith, with considerable confusion. “No miracle?”

“Not for me, ma’am.”

This captured Beatriz’s notice. People who came to Bicho Raro in the dark of night were always either a member of the Soria family or in search of a miracle. Here was this stranger, however, and he was neither. She interjected, “You aren’t a pilgrim?”

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