“Shut your mouth!” he said, then sighed and looked at her again. He seemed tired. “Damn kids, probably going out clubbing, you know?”
The policeman opened the refrigerator door and pulled out an energy drink, then walked back to the front of the store. The teenagers were muttering to each other, the one who had been handcuffed still repeating the bit about his lawyer father. The policeman who had spoken to her told them they were headed to the station. They protested, and then came the expected bribery. Once they had their money the cops undid the teen’s handcuffs, bringing to an end the evening’s performance.
The cashier, sitting behind the partition, returned to his TV watching as soon as the policemen and the teenagers left the store.
Atl waited for a couple of minutes, grabbed an energy drink, and dumped it in her shopping basket before standing in front of the cashier and shoving a few bills beneath the opening in his partition. She didn’t bother waiting for him to give her her change.
She walked outside, rubbed Cualli’s head, and glanced around her. The street was empty. She was fine.
But she needed to make a damn move before she ended up like Mother and Izel. Now.
“Come on,” she told the dog.
Rodrigo walked faster, scanning the lines outside the Zona Rosa’s nightclubs. It was close to midnight, he had a headache, and he needed a cigarette.
It was the kid’s fault.
Rodrigo had never felt like a stereotypical Renfield—or, the way the low-class assholes who couldn’t speak English pronounced it, Renfil. Yes, he’d seen how the young vampires treated their assistants and no, not all of them were nice to them. But Godoy was classy, he did things properly. And yet … Rodrigo was educated, refined, effective, and still Mr. Godoy felt the burning need to send his son with him, a vampire who had more teeth than he had common sense. Godoy trusted Rodrigo. But maybe not that much.
Mr. Godoy insisted that someone from the family needed to go with the crew, making it sound like Rodrigo was a toddler instead of a grown-ass man. And when things turned sour in Guadalajara, Junior would not be left behind. Rodrigo had not wanted to bring Nicolás, El Nick, to Mexico City, not only because it was a pickle to smuggle a vampire into Mexico City, but also because he found the little prick insufferable.
Then, to top it off, La Bola—who was huge, but not too bright, one of the younger goons who got along well with Nick—had not been watching the boy as he’d been told and now Nick was roaming around the Zona Rosa on his own. Ten vampire subspecies and Rodrigo had one of the most dangerous in his hands. Not to mention Nick was young. He could get into all kinds of trouble. He often did. But they weren’t on their home turf; the rules of the game were different.
Rodrigo bumped into a man handing out leaflets advertising “seven dancing semi-virgins” onstage, and pushed him aside. The Zona Rosa had been famous as a gay area and many gay clubs still remained, but since the late ’90s a good chunk of it had transformed into Little Seoul, with a multitude of Internet cafés, restaurants, and clubs geared toward Koreans, dominating streets around Florencia. There were also a few men’s clubs, some fancier than others, and a lot of nightclubs, both Korean and Mexican, several of them adorned with a rainbow flag, which identified them as GLBT-friendly zones. It was fashionable for certain heterosexual Mexico City youths to dance at the GLBT clubs, though the Korean ones were not popular with outsiders.
The Zona always looked a bit in decline, ever since the ’80s, its luster lost when massage parlors began replacing art galleries. The wealthier, more fashionable people danced in Polanco or Santa Fe, and they gave these old clubs—which were frankly a bit seedy—a wide berth. But the kids from nearby colonias did not know any better, other clubs were far away, and they couldn’t have gotten into El Congo even if they wanted to, so they lined up for the clubs at the Zona, where few bouncers checked IDs, merry and ready for a night of partying.
Neon signs burned bright, flashing white and red and green. The themes of the clubs were wildly different. One going for the Wild West, another attempting a spaceship, the third a kitsch pink. Rodrigo crossed a street, avoiding two Cronengs who were asking for spare change. He elbowed through a gaggle of teens.
Rodrigo finally spotted him. Nick was chatting with a girl who was standing in line outside a cheap club called Bananas, complete with a glowing neon blinking banana to signal its location.
“Nick,” Rodrigo said.