Eric was dead.
Maggie had been cleared of all charges in his death, but she didn’t feel as safe as she had at first. Her spring semester of school was not as heavy as her fall semester, so she decided to take some gun courses at a local shooting range. If she was honest with herself, she was more interested in Shep’s offer to come work with him than she was willing to let on to Mateo.
On her drive home from school one afternoon, she decided to give Shep a call. As always, he picked up on the first ring.
“Hey, Sis. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, it’s all good. I just wanted to run something by you. I’m considering your offer to join your team, and I’m also going to take some gun classes for my own peace of mind. I wondered if you had any thoughts on what guns I should learn, and whether you still want me to work for you.”
“Hell yes, I want you to work for me. You need to train on a couple of different types of guns. I doubt they’ll have automatics. I’d have to work with you on that. The main gun would be a Glock.” He gave her a short list of other handguns. “Be sure to let me know when you’ve passed your classes – and go ahead and get a permit for a Glock.”
“Sounds good. I know I’ll feel safer having a gun. I’m still a little paranoid, and Mateo doesn’t make me feel very safe.”
“One piece of advice, Maggie – don’t tell anyone about your classes… and don’t let anyone know you have the gun. Call me when you pass. It shouldn’t take you long.” The line went dead.
Soon after, Maggie started taking courses at her local gun range. By the time she’d taken three classes, her instructor was unsettled by her proficiency, given she was a nineteen-year-old college student. She explained she had taken some gun courses in the US but had never gotten to finish. He gave her a completion certificate and submitted a permit for a Glock for her.
When she called Shep back so soon after, he just smiled to himself. He was not surprised that Maggie was a prodigy at shooting. During the sting with Eric, he had noted her sixth sense and natural affinity for this kind of work. He told her that when he called her for a mission, it would be short notice and she would have to leave quickly. She assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. Mateo was so distracted with his schoolwork, and soon he would be working – he would barely notice her absence.
Mateo had been very preoccupied this semester, to the point where he often snapped at Maggie when they saw each other – which was infrequent, with their schedules. Maggie tried to ignore the growing knot in her stomach. With her family being so busy, she had very little help in planning the ceremony and had to pick her dress and Mateo’s ring herself.
Although she was having doubts, she still loved Mateo, and he would always apologize to her for his rude demeanor the next time she saw him. She was concerned, however, because he was missing shifts at work. When Oscar questioned her, she would cover for him and say he had an exam or mandatory study group, even though she had no idea where he was.
The truth was, Mateo needed Maggie but was not happy leaving his former ways behind him. He was trying to spend as much time as he could living the lifestyle he was accustomed to before the wedding and the move. Felipe had been trying to get Mateo to confess his unfaithfulness to Maggie, but Mateo laughed at him. “Maggie would never believe you over me. Tell her whatever you want. It will fall on deaf ears,” was his answer to Felipe’s pleas.
Mateo had decided that once Maggie was his wife, it would be her duty to please him. If she refused, she would suffer the consequences and he would find a willing whore who would please him. Maggie and Felipe had made their peace, and she had forgiven him for giving Eric her location, but their relationship was still tenuous. He had approached her half a dozen times during the months before the wedding to talk to her – but whatever it was he wanted to say, he always lost his nerve; he would make a mundane comment about the restaurant and walk away. Maggie was always too busy to pay much attention.
She finished her sophomore year a little earlier than Mateo. He had to do a couple of extra projects to graduate with his class. Once Maggie finished and had time to concentrate on the wedding, it didn’t take long for her to realize that Mateo was not as smart as she had first thought. It nagged at her, but she pushed it off as pre-wedding jitters and anxiety.
She was grateful when Mateo graduated with a job and the wedding day finally arrived. She wanted all the stress and doubts to be over. The wedding was beautiful and the reception at El Torero with all the family – and of course, Shep, Celeste and Graham – left Maggie feeling happy for her future in Milan with Mateo.