Johnny Madrid was good looking -Tomas was right about that. Just broadening into his height, he walked toward my house with a confident strut, spurs jingling. He smiled when he saw me standing at my gate, a cocky smile that was close to a smirk. He touched the brim of his hat with a gloved hand and nodded at me.
“Señora.” There was a chuckle in his voice as if he’d just heard a joke only he understood.
He stopped in his tracks and his smile got bigger. He looked me up and down, taking in my low cut blouse, my expensive shoes, and the emerald necklace I wore to match my eyes.
“That’s right.” His voice was soft, amused. “Who are you?”
“Pilar Medina Reyes. I have a message for you.”
Suddenly his face was cold as ice. He waited.
“Be careful, Johnny Madrid. You have an enemy in this place.”
As quickly his smile returned and his light eyes danced in apparent amusement. “That the message?”
I nodded, curious at his response.
He laughed and shook his head. “I got enemies in lots of places.”
He looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Well, Pilar Medina Reyes, I got your message. Go tell whoever it is you’re workin’ for that you did real good.”
With that he touched his hat once again and sauntered down the boardwalk to the bordello. He pushed the door open as if he owned the place and disappeared inside.
I gave his message to Tomas while we lay together that night. “You were right,” I told him. “Madrid is good looking. He’s also very sure of himself.”
“He’s a kid,” he answered. “He thinks with his prick.”
“How far do you want me to go?” Tomas loved me, in his way, but he had no qualms about sharing my favors if it got him what he wanted. I, in turn, loved Tomas. In my way.
He waved a hand aimlessly. “Do whatever you need to do.” He rolled over to go to sleep; he always slept with his maimed hand shoved underneath his pillow.
Johnny Madrid was ripe for the plucking. He had made a name for himself up on the border; he had no family; and when he wasn’t working he spent most of his time in bordellos and bars. The attention of an experienced woman such as myself was a drug to him.
I told him how beautiful he was, how dangerous he was, how lovely he made me feel. I doled myself out to him in just the right amount to make sure he thought of nothing else but me. I taught him how to treat me like a lady, how to make love to me, how to make me laugh. I encouraged his intoxication with me to take over his life.
When he asked me who I was working for I told him nothing. I withheld my affections if he got angry. He’d storm away; I simply waited until he returned. He always returned. Knowing I was keeping a dangerous secret from him made me even more exciting to him.
Johnny Madrid moved into my little house a couple of weeks after we first met. He told me he loved me a few weeks after that. I told him I loved him, too. And I did, at that moment. In my way.
We spent most of each day together. He had a little money, and I had a little more, and our needs were few. We slept late, ate when we were hungry, took long walks, went riding, and made love in every way and place we desired. He was a virile young man, and insatiable. I shaped him into the lover I wanted him to be.
And we talked. I don’t believe he had talked to anyone about anything other than the most basic of subjects-what to eat, how much to pay for something. After a while he found his words, and we began to talk about ourselves. I didn’t have to lie to him as much as I simply had to remember not to mention certain things. To my surprise, he preferred to speak English.
He admitted to wondering how long he would live in his chosen trade. He was beginning to realize, and seemed surprised to feel regret, that he was not likely to ever marry or have children. As our intimacy grew he began to hesitantly envision a future for himself, and to include me in it. He asked me what trade a man like him might succeed in. He even asked what business a woman like me would want her husband to engage in.
I believe he truly loved me. If I possessed a conscience it would have been a difficult thing, because he treated me very well, not at all like most of the men I had known. Although as I enticed him into my web he was full of himself, with time he changed. He began to show a touching concern for my feelings. He was still a boy and self-absorbed…but there was a tender part of him that a woman who was really capable of love would have appreciated, would have nurtured.
When I first began to withdraw from him he got angry. Then he pretended not to care. When he caught sight of me flirting with another man he came up to me and simply smiled over my shoulder at my prey. That man would soon catch the coldness under Johnny’s smile and disappear. Sometimes I laughed and went back to him. Sometimes I got angry at him spoiling my fun. My lack of predictability began to bother him. We argued. He never hit me, not even when I slapped him. His efforts to placate me, to win me back, would have softened a weaker heart than mine.
When I kicked Johnny out the boy was devastated. Several days later I begged him to take me back. His pride made him refuse me at first, but my oh so restrained tears wore him down until at last he took me back in his arms; then I took him back to my bed. Our lovemaking that day was exceptional.
That evening I sent him away on some pretense. When he returned he found me with Tomas, naked and panting in my bed. Johnny Madrid said my name, one time, softly. I met his eyes boldly, wordlessly, while Tomas laughed.
“You see, boy, there are ways to ruin a man besides using a gun.” And Tomas waved the stump of his right hand, the hand that Johnny Madrid had shot away a year ago.
Johnny held my gaze for a second, then turned on his heel and left. I heard him stumble once in the hall; then he was gone.