Jonathan Woods

Nude Dancer Loses Her Head in Tapas Bar

Itztli loved life. He also feared the old gods. And the new.

His name in Aztec meant obsidian knife.

In the beginning, when he was three, his family crossed the Rio Grande by car over a bridge. The river flowed below them, brown and sluggish as an overfed python. On the American side they settled in Brownsville. Many aunts and uncles remained behind in Matamoros.

In his last year of high school, Itztli got his learner’s permit. Two months later his Tejas driver’s license. A week later he dropped out of school and began running blow up to Dallas. His cousin Alberto got him the job. Dallas was a credit card with no limit—all the blow you could sell and more. Itztli made a ton of money—designer shirts, a gold Rolex, a goosed-up Camaro V8 (black with deeply tinted windows), alligator boots. Oh, and a Glock 9mm tucked under the dash. In Brownsville between runs he spent his time trying to get Miranda, his high school sweetheart, to open her legs. Miranda had sworn to Jesus that she would be a virgin when she got married. What a pain in the fucking ass.

After a while he moved on from Miranda. There were lots of girls who wanted a badass boyfriend. But, alas, like Miranda they had all sworn to remain unviolated until their wedding night. Only the hookers offered cold solace; laughed at his inexperience. Held him afterward while he said his prayers and burned an offering.

On a Tuesday in February, a week after Itztli turned 21, Ryo called him into his office in the back of a certain garage (chop shop) on the Mex side of the Rio Grande.  Though it was a cool winter day, Itztli’s forehead and upper lip, caught in the overhead fluorescent lights, glistened with sweat.

Ryo: They tell me you’re doin’ good, kid.

Itztli: Yeah, sure, Mr. Ryo. Everything’s like copacetic.  

Ryo: I need you to do something special for me.

Itztli: You got it, Mr. Ryo.

Ryo: There’s two guys up in Dallas tryin’ to rip me off. 

Ryo drew the index finger of his right hand across his throat.  

Itztli: Permanent vacation, right Mr. Ryo?

Ryo: Don’t be a smart ass.

Itztli: Sorry, Mr. Ryo. I didn’t mean no disrespect.

Ryo waved his hand dismissively. Itztli turned to leave.

Ryo: Do it tomorrow. And take Rita with you.

Rita? A girl! Why did he have to take a girl along? But he didn’t say anything.

* * *

A white T-shirt tight across her distractingly verbose chest said in pink lettering: cute but unstable.  

That about sums it up, thought Itztli.

Garishly painted red lips, a mole (real or fake an open question) on her right cheek, jet hair cut in a short, jagged style with a white streak down one side, pock-marked skin, deep cenote eyes, a gold nose ring, a tiny green spider tat on her neck. And the weirdest thing, a black eyepatch with a red heart over her left eye. Itztli guessed 23, 24. Somewhere in there. The rest: black leather jeans, short French-looking boots (also black leather), a small backpack at her feet. She stared one-eyed at the drab winter scene flying by outside the Camaro an hour out of Brownsville, heading northeast along the coast before turning north toward San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. 

Itztli thought about asking her if she wanted to stop somewhere and fuck. But he was nervous and held off. What if she agreed? 

What if she pulled a gun out of her backpack?

Any way you looked at it, having Rita along for the ride was nerve-racking as shit. Maybe even scary.

Who was she? Why had Ryo sent her along?

With his teeth he pulled a cigarette from a crumpled pack of Kools, reached into his pocket for a lighter. He held the cigarette pack out to Rita.

She made a face and shook her head. When he lit up, she lowered the passenger side window. At 80 mph wind noise filled the Camaro like a heavy metal band.

Itztli: How do you know Ryo?

Rita: Family.

Itztli arched one eyebrow. The one Rita couldn’t see. Family!?

Itztli: Why’d he want you to come on this trip with me?

Rita: Fuck if I know.

Great, he thought. Here he was, sent to take out a pair of psycho scumbags up in Dallas. Ordered by the boss to bring some goth punk princess along to ride shotgun. A girl somehow related to the boss. Was this some kind of test?

Itztli: Do you know what Ryo wants us to do?”

No reaction. Itztli mashed out his half-smoked cigarette. 

Itztli: Snuff two assholes who’re fucking with Ryo’s business.”

Rita looked over at him. A smile snaked across her apple-red lips.

Rita: Well, it’s about time somebody told me what’s up. You ever kill anyone before, Itztli?”


Around Austin, after they stopped for Popeye’s fried chicken sandwiches and Cokes, Rita fell asleep. Her torpid body slumped sideways until her head rested against Itztli’s shoulder. She smelled herbal. It was dark when they rolled into Dallas’s southern suburbs and Rita awoke. Yawned.

Rita: Where are we?

Itztli: Just comin’ into Big D.

He realized her hand rested on his blue jean-ensconced cock. She gave it a friendly and unsolicited squeeze.

Rita: Let’s stop someplace. I’m in the mood for love. 

They took a room at a Hilton Garden Inn along the highway. It was the most incredible blowjob he’d ever had. The blowjob of a lifetime! Don’t stop. No, no, wait. I’m almost there. Ahhhhhhhh. Itztli wanted more. 

Rita: I can’t. I’m saving myself for my husband.

Itztli kept his cool. Went down on her instead of raping her. She fell asleep in his arms.

* * *

In the backroom office of the Vampire Tapas Bar & Strip Club, Itztli hung like a smoked Peking duck in the window of a Chinatown butcher shop. Arms tied together and stretched to the rafter above him; toes of his bare feet barely able to touch the tabletop. Blood bubbled from his mouth and down his chin. His flesh screamed from the kicks and blows.

OK, he’d fucked up. But where was Rita when he really needed her?

Through the blurred vision of one swollen eye, he could see the three of them sprawled around the table, passing a bottle of silver tequila back and forth, their 9mm pistols and bottles of Dos Equis displayed randomly on the tabletop.

Bandido #1: Amigos, I’ve got to get some shuteye, so let’s off this cabron.

Bandino #2: Sheeet, amigo. We got time for one more beer.

Bandido #1: Nah. Let’s just do him. Then it’s sweet dreams for me.

Fed up with all the back and forth and generally pissed off, Bandido #3 leaped to his feet and grabbed for his pistol. But before he could shoot Itztli, a bullet hole appeared in the back of his head. The bullet tore around the inside of his skull, wreaking life-ending havoc. He slumped to the floor. Two seconds later a pink-handled stiletto, pitched end-over-end, penetrated one of Bandido #1’s eyes and deep into his brain—turning life to mush. It really didn’t matter which eye—left or right. Dead was dead. Bandido #2, barely on his feet, took two bullets in the heart. As Rita cut Itztli down, Joan Jett’s ‘Do You Want to Touch Me’ pounded through the walls from the main club room. The nude dancer on the stage, writhing to the music and the flashing red, blue and white lights, appeared in Itztli’s head.

She looked exactly like Rita.

Meanwhile, on her way to the dressing room, another (less imaginary) nude dancer—Mayan features, heavy pagan breasts, shaved snatch—heard the gunshots. Stupidly she opened the door and stared dumbly at the three dead bodies. You don’t have to be very bright to be a nude dancer. 

Before she could scream, a machete sliced through her neck, sending her head sailing like a volleyball into the corner. Blood spritzed everywhere.

Itztli fell to his knees, mumbling nonsense to the gods. 

Rita wiped the machete blade clean and sank it back into its leather scabbard, retrieved the stiletto from Bandido #1’s eye and tapped Itstli on the shoulder. 

Rita: Come on blowjob buddy, let’s get out of here. Oh, and you owe me.

* * *

Next up, Rita’s story.

I was sent to convent school in Leon when I was 8 years old and left after high school. The nuns hated me. My father, Ryo, being an up-and-coming gangster. 

My mother (an 18-year-old prostitute) ran away shortly after I was born. She’s probably dead now. Fleshless bones in a hole in the ground, so you can’t see the needle marks on her arms. Ryo acknowledged his paternity and handed me to a wet nurse.

In convent school I was a regular fucking little rebel without a cause. A succubus. Over time I came to enjoy having my ass beaten black and blue by the nuns—absolutely amazing orgasms. I think the nun’s got off too. By age ten I had my own girl gang. So after that some low-level gang-member wannabe always took the fall for whatever shit we got up to. Unless, of course, I was in the mood for a hot bottom. 

I saw my father twice a year. The day school began and the day school ended. I never went home for holidays. Me and a couple of other girls stayed on at the deserted school. We smoked weed, read poetry aloud and watched horror movies. In the summer Ryo sent me to an estancia in the Yucatan. Life on the ranch fell into a routine, horseback riding, target practice with handguns and AK-47s, masturbating and fending off the horny vaqueros. I longed to be ass-whipped but none of them had the nerve. I was the daughter of a drug kingpin.

When I turned 18, my father wanted me to join the family business, which was now big business, having been merged into the Gulf Cartel.

I told him to go fuck himself and walked out.  

But I stayed in Matamoros and started taking classes at the community college in Brownsville. To pay for my little apartment I got a job as a nude dancer at a club on the coast highway south of town—cement blocks painted slime green and a flashing neon sign: GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS. 

It was a fun job. Great exercise. Good money. You had to be quick on your feet to avoid all the calloused hands grabbing at your tits and ass. And, OK, the management shook me down for 15% of my tips. But what’s a poor girl to do? I learned how to use a switchblade to fend off the psychos lurking outside when I left work, dreaming of kidnapping me back to their adobe-brick hovels for weird sex and torture. I stuck two or three, one bled out. After that, just the glint of the blade in moonlight sent them packing. The knife had a pink plastic handle. I kept it in my designer clutch along with my lipstick, eye shadow, car keys, tissues and the antique silver snuff box for my coke.

A few years went by like snapping your fingers. Then one day Ryo found out how I paid the rent. He dragged me out of the club and beat me to a pulp. That’s how I lost my eye. The club owner went into a shallow grave.

At age 22 I joined the family business. It was either that or another beating, which I didn’t think I would survive.

A couple of months later I met Itztli.

* * *

  In their room at the Hilton Garden Inn (not the one they’d stayed in coming up to Dallas, but another outside San Marcos, just south of Austin), Itztli sat on the bed and stared at Rita standing there, stark naked except for a pair of stiletto heels. A black bush (like a tarantula) level with his chest. Belly hard and flat. High breasts pointed and dangerous—one of them could have easily poked your eye out. Her underarms hairy and obfuscating in equal measure with her crotch. In the background floral wallpaper, an ordinary bedside lamp with a glass base. Everything just like in that famous ‘art’ photo by Helmet Newton except Itztli wasn’t wearing a suit. 

Rita stared back. Finally Itztli blinked and she got down on her knees and unzipped his fly.

But she again refused to let him to fuck her. Refused to engage in mutual coitus. 

Itztli: I love you.

Rita: You love what my mouth does to you.

Silence. The rumble of the ice machine down the hall.

Rita: I need your help.

Itztli: What’s up?

Rita: I want… I need to kill my father.

Itztli: And who might that be?

Rita: Ryo.


Itztli: You’re joking. Ha, ha. 

Rita: That he’s my father? Or that I want to kill him?

Itztli looked thoughtful. 

Itztli: If you’ll cohabitate with me, I’ll help you.

Rita: Cohabitate? You mean like get married?

Itztli: Yeah. And kids.

Rita: Wow! That sounds like a major, major, major commitment.

She gnawed on her lower lip as her brain blitzed and sizzled. Finally: 

Rita: Well, what the hey, you only live once. Right, blowjob buddy? It’s a deal.

They slapped hands.

* * *

Ryo sat alone in his chop shop office doing paperwork. Always the goddamn endless paperwork. He took another sip of small still mescal. His personal label.

His two bodyguards, Facundo and Angel, lounged out front, drinking Mexican 

Coca Colas and catching a few February rays. Their eyelids drooped. From behind a pot of red geraniums, a green lizard darted forth. Then retreated.

Rita stepped out of a shadow, touched the gun barrels of twin .38 Colt Cobra revolvers to the foreheads of Facundo and Angel.

Rita: Rise and shine, boys. And don’t make any quick moves.

Their eyes fluttered open, grew round with fear.

Itztli rolled them onto their stomachs and bound hands and feet with zip ties. Pressed duct tape over their mouths. Dragged them into the back of one of the garage bays.

Rita: Ready, baby?

Itztli nodded. They burst into Ryo’s office.

Ryo looked up, bemused, bewildered, nonplussed and bamboozled. Quickly he regained his suave coolness and, standing up, walked around his desk with a smile.

Rita: I hate you. You beat the shit out of me and put my eye out.

She shot him in both legs and both arms. Ryo lay on the floor, screaming bloody murder. Together Rita and Itztli heaved him faceup on the desktop.

Rita: Your turn.

Itztli drew an obsidian blade from his back pocket. He looked into Ryo’s eyes awash with fear and pain, then spat in his face. He tore open Ryo’s shirt, buttons flying, and with the obsidian knife cut out Ryo’s pulsing heart and held it aloft. Blood dripped down Itztli’s arms, stained his T-shirt scarlet.

* * *

Rita swiveled back and forth in Ryo’s ergonomic Italian leather office chair. Nice. Very nice.

Itztli appeared, pushing the two bodyguards before him, their hands still bound by  zip ties, mouths still taped shut. Their eyes bugged out as they took in the pertinent details:  Ryo’s corpse dumped in a corner like a piss-stained remnant of cheap wall-to-wall carpet, his now unbeating heart displayed on a Talavera pottery plate on the desk. Itztli ripped off the duct tape covering their mouths. (Ouch! Ouch!)

Rita (leaning back, feet on desk): OK babosos, your choices are: join Ryo in Hell or henceforth work for me. What’s it to be?

Facundo: You’re the boss, Rita.

Angel: That goes double for me.

Rita: Bueno. 

She nodded at Itztli.

Rita: You’ve met my fiancé, Itztli. He’ll be numero dos around here. I want you boys to spread the word to the rest of the gang. Rita and Itztli are the new badass jefes. 

Then she raised one of the .38s and shot Facundo in the forehead. 

Rita: Está claro, Angel?

Angel (between chattering teeth): Si, si, si!

* * *

Ryo’s and Facundo’s bodies were dragged out and tossed in a dumpster. The day was ending. Blood-red clouds streaked the western horizon. Neon lights blinked on outside the cantinas and taquerias.

In Rita’s (formerly Ryo’s) office behind the chop shop, Itztli watched Rita take off her clothes and lie languidly across the $8,000 Roche Bobois sofa residing against the back wall. She motioned to him with one finger.

Rita: You can fuck me now.

As Itztli began his assigned task, he mumbled a quick and dirty prayer to Xochiquetza, goddess of fertility. Rita stared impassively at an amoeboid stain on the ceiling. Should she have a full-blown Catholic wedding with 500 guests? Or should they just fly to Lake Tahoe for the weekend?

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