All the Love in the World - Karina Halle

The dead body was starting to stink.

One glance behind me at Luisa told me she could smell it too. The distasteful curl of her beautiful lips, her delicate nose scrunched up. You would think that being the wife of a cartel leader would have prepared her for the pervasive scent of death, but apparently this wasn’t the case today.

I look over at Vicente, sitting in his car seat beside her. Head lolling to the side, eyes closed, mouth open. A twinge of pride flows through me as it always does when I look at my son. Now there’s a real man. He might only be two years old, but murder and mayhem don’t disturb him anymore than missing out on a nap does. He’ll be a fine leader one day.

Providing Luisa doesn’t spoil the living shit out of him, I think to myself. Luisa is a natural at motherhood. She really is. Her nurturing tendencies have made her so intuitive to Vicente’s every need, and her generous personality means he’s been given his every want. But, honestly, she coddles him, just a little. I know he’s only a toddler and everything, but one day he’ll have to rise up and lead and he can’t do that while sucking his thumb.

I give my wife another glance. She’s now staring out the window with big eyes at the passing scenery. The rough mountainous road up to the cabin has been filled with enough switchbacks to make one queasy, and I know that, coupled with the smell of the dead body in the back, has made her look a little green.

As long as I can deliver on the snow, I know she’ll be okay.

This whole thing was her idea, anyway.

Not the dead guy. No, that always just happens.

We landed at the private airstrip outside Monterrey just a few hours ago and were immediately whisked off in a private, supposedly bullet-proof SUV. There’s the driver, whose name I’ve already forgotten, then Diego, my right-hand man. They’re in the front seat.

I’m in the second row, with Evaristo, my left-hand man.

In the back row are my nauseated wife and my sleeping son.

All year Luisa has been harping on me to have a proper Christmas for Vicente. Last year, well, I wasn’t even around because of a deal I had to go take care of at the last minute (it’s not like the other cartels respect the holidays), and she was deeply upset that I was absent for the baby’s first Christmas.

This year I promised Luisa I’d do what I could to make it memorable. That didn’t mean having a lavish dinner at our compound in Sinaloa. No, that wouldn’t do. It wasn’t enough. Luisa is my queen and a queen deserves only the very best, even if it’s slightly dangerous and wildly inconvenient.

So, I did what I could do. I bought a cabin in the mountains outside of Monterrey, one of the few places where it snows in the winter. Made arrangements to fly there on our private jet.

We all knew the risks in this. Every time we leave the compound it’s a risk. We are one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico. A million people wish me dead, and there are more than enough capable of carrying it out.

Hence the dead body in the trunk.

We hadn’t driven that far when we were ambushed by a pair of trucks that pulled out from behind the trees. Men got out, machine guns blasting. Not the most subtle approach, that’s for sure. Sloppy and irritating as fuck.

They aimed at my SUV and Luisa screamed and, for whatever reason, little Vicente didn’t even cry.

The SUV held up.

They only fired for a few moments anyway, until the car in front of us, more of my heavy men, got out, rolled out some tear gas, gassed those fuckers and slit their throats.

I hate having my men to all the dirty work, though.

Which is why, despite Luisa’s protesting, I got out of the car, grabbing a knife and a gas mask from the sleeve behind the seat. It’s probably supposed to hold magazines or some shit, but I have different requirements when I’m being driven around.

There was one asshole, who tried to escape the tear gas, writhing on the ground. I needed him alive. That’s how this whole thing works.

I slipped on the mask and stalked toward him as he crawled away. One of my heavy men were going to shoot him, but I told him to wait.

I picked the guy up