So this idea just randomly popped into my evil, evil, evil brain the other day. And the scenario played in my head all that day. Vividly. And I am still not certain if this counts as a better outcome than what happened with the film or a worse one. You'll have to be the judge of that. But it is bittersweet.

Here's a warning though. Poison doesn't do nice things to the human body. And this story will be a bit more graphic about those effects than what happened in the Disney film. Unlike in the original versions of events, unconsciousness won't strike quite as soon… If you are squeamish, this may not be the best story for you. You may be happier with one of my other "Coco" stories instead.

El Camino a Casa

The train car rattled slightly over the tracks, joining the percussion of the steam engine pulling him closer and closer to Santa Cecilia and home. It wasn't the first-class compartment, but the bench felt relatively comfortable. He should have theoretically been able to sleep during the ride. He would be home by morning and he didn't want to be drowsy when he finally saw Imelda and Coco after months away. Sleeping would be the best use of his time. But unlike the other train rides where the sounds worked like a lullaby, the motion only seemed to unsettle Héctor's stomach slightly.

Maybe it was just guilt that left him feeling faintly nauseous. He knew from the start that his decision to leave would upset Ernesto. Héctor knew that his friend wanted this for their entire lives, the two of them playing music for so many people and making them happy. But plans change. And so do priorities. They weren't children anymore. The ideas of children rarely match the realities of adulthood.

And it wasn't just the two of them now. They weren't alone, no one else except each other. Héctor had a wife and daughter that depended on him and he needed to put them first. He needed to be there for them. He missed them so much.

Imelda didn't even want him to leave in the first place, the two of them arguing over it. He told her how Ernesto promised that the income from the tour would let Héctor properly provide for his family. But Imelda stated that they would find a way to manage without it and that the Ernesto's planned tour was too far and too long to be away from them. And that was before his friend kept extending it. He could only imagine her reaction when his later letters reached her, explaining that he would be gone even longer than originally planned.

In the end, she was right. Even if the money from their performances would help his family, he was finding the cost to be too great. He couldn't stay away from his family any longer and he certainly couldn't write any new songs when his inspiration was back home. Héctor knew that he had to leave.

Ernesto's reactions to the news was extremely mixed. It wasn't the first time that Héctor brought up the possibility of going home before the tour was over. He'd been missing Imelda and Coco almost from the start and it had only grown worse as the months kept multiplying. And yet every time that he tried to discuss it with his friend, Ernesto would either change the subject or plead and coax him into staying "just one more performance." But this was the first time that Héctor refused to be dissuaded, even buying a ticket ahead of time in secret so that he would have a solid and tangible reason to no longer delay his return. And once it was clear that Héctor would be leaving no matter what Ernesto said or did, his friend's behavior became a bit more difficult to predict.

At first, Héctor saw the expected frustration and desperation, his friend imploring him to stay and acting as if everything would fall apart in his absence. As if Ernesto didn't have the talent, charisma, and stage presence to succeed on his own. Which was crazy since Héctor knew it was well within his capability. But then Ernesto calmed and grew more reasonable, reassuring his friend that he understood his reasons and offered to send Héctor off with a drink. The fact that he might be able to depart with his friendship intact was more than he could have hoped.

But that wasn't the end of it. Ernesto offered to walk him to the train station and everything seemed fine then. When they reached their destination, however, his friend started dragging his feet and trying to slow him down. Ernesto began asking if he felt all right, saying that Héctor didn't look so good, suggesting that perhaps he should wait until morning, and simply doing his best to delay Héctor with increasing force in his voice. Right before he stepped on the train, Ernesto even grabbed his arm and practically snapped that Héctor shouldn't leave yet. If it wasn't for the other people at the station, it might have degenerated into another full-blown argument.

He knew this was rough for Ernesto now, but he would understand someday. Whenever he found a woman to share his life with and started a family, Ernesto would feel the exact same way. No matter what dreams that they might have discussed growing up, family changed everything. Ernesto would hopefully forgive him in time. As long as their friendship remained intact, they could fix this.

Héctor shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position as his stomach churned and almost ached. Whenever Ernesto finished the tour and came back to Santa Cecilia, they would talk and work everything out. This wasn't permanent. Maybe he could write some new songs for Ernesto to perform as an apology for leaving early. If he came up with something inspired and good enough, Ernesto would probably forget the argument completely and would simply be happy to have a new song to perform for the crowds.

He shifted again, grimacing as he moved and tried to ease the increasing discomfort. The nausea didn't seem to be getting any better. Which was strange because the jostling of the moving train shouldn't be bothering him this much and he felt perfectly fine when he got onboard. He felt fine for a while after they started, but now he didn't feel so great. And his stomach was starting to shift from general discomfort towards pain. It took Héctor a moment to realize that his hand was unconsciously digging into the fabric of his charro suit in response to the worsening sensation.

"Hey, you all right there?" asked a man from the neighboring bench.

There weren't a large number of passengers onboard the train, traveling at the late hour. Mostly those going long distances. But there were a few other people in the compartment. Including a tired man who was blinking blearily at Héctor.

With an expression of growing concern as he peered at him, the man said, "You're not looking so good, amigo."

"I'm fine," he said, giving his current traveling companion a reassuring smile. "I think I just ate something that didn't agree with me."

As he spoke, Héctor realized that made far more sense than it just being a guilty conscience about leaving his friend suddenly. True, that guilt had been bothering him all afternoon and evening. He barely ate much of the chorizo from dinner, his thoughts too turbulent. At least their performance didn't suffer the same way, the idea of going home immediately afterwards exceeding his guilt and leaving his music filled with more life than he'd managed in almost a month.

But apparently that small amount of chorizo that he managed to eat wasn't a wise idea. Hours later and it was clearly rebelling against him. At least he didn't eat more of it. Otherwise he would probably feel even worse.

A sharp spike of pain sprang up from gut into his throat, making him wince before the sensation settled back in his stomach. Maybe Ernesto wasn't worrying over nothing after all. Maybe he saw a sign of this approaching illness. Maybe he was trying to make Héctor stay out of concern for his well-being. Maybe that's why he seemed so agitated at the end, trying to force him to remain for his own good.

Noticing his wince of pain, the man asked, "Are you certain?"

". I guess that chorizo wasn't the best meal in Mexico City," Héctor said, trying to lighten the mood. "But I'm fine. Once I'm home in Santa Cecilia, everything will be fine."

The thought of being home with his family again made Héctor feel a little better. Imelda would probably yell at him for being gone so long, but the bite in her words would be tempered by her relief to see him again. And she would eventually forgive him, wrapping her arms around him and kissing Héctor after months apart. Her warmth and love would be worth any anger she turned against him over his absence with only those letters to comfort her. Coco would fling herself at her papá, giggling and talking excitedly about everything that he'd missed. He would sing cheerful and loving lyrics to both of them, staring at their smiles and reacquainting himself with their every detail.

Once he was home and resting in his own bed, he would feel better. He would shake off this illness and then he would make up for all the time that he'd missed out on. He would be with his girls again soon.

Another stab of pain shot through his abdomen, a quiet hiss slipping between his teeth. Nausea washed over him, stronger than ever. The sensation sent a shiver across his body. Héctor leaned forward in his seat, eyes pressed closed.

"Amigo," called the stranger. Héctor pried his eyes open to meet his concerned expression. "Are you sure that you don't need something?"

Trying to ignore the way his stomach churned, Héctor said, "Maybe… see if there's a bucket or something onboard? I…" He swallowed, fighting the nausea that lurched with the same rhythm as the rattling train. "I don't want to make a mess if this gets worse."


Glass scattered across the hotel room as the thrown tequila bottle shattered against the opposite wall. A shot glass swiftly followed as he snarled wordlessly in fury. He wasn't even certain who he was angry at: himself or his friend. No, it was the younger man who was to blame. Not himself. The violent temper tantrum lasted only a few moments before he reined it in. The destruction remained relatively contained, but his thoughts and emotions continued to rage.

Everything was ruined. Ernesto had seen it coming, like a train heading towards a cliff. Héctor had been slipping away since the tour started. No, it had been happening for longer than that. He'd been losing his friend since that woman caught Héctor's eye and started twisting his thoughts around. But with each passing day, it grew more and more difficult to talk Héctor into continuing the tour. Ernesto knew that it was only a matter of time before they passed the point of no return. Héctor was going to betray him. He was going to turn his back on their dream. Ernesto knew it was coming and hated it.

Part of him hoped that Héctor would see sense. He never wanted things to spiral down to this point. He wanted his friend to listen again. He never wanted to harm the younger man, his closest companion from childhood. But tonight Ernesto watched his dreams and fortune pack up a suitcase and try to abandon him. And to protect his future, Ernesto fell back on the half-planned strategy that he'd conceived in the late hours of the night when doubts and fears whispered in the dark.

To achieve his dream, he would seize the moment and do whatever it took to make it real. He would sacrifice anything for his dream. That was the mark of a true success. He was the one brave enough and strong enough to do what was necessary to achieve his goal.

And if Héctor was that cost, if it meant giving up someone who would betray and abandon his friend in his time of need, then so be it.

But it didn't work. Ernesto ran a hand through his hair, teeth clenched in frustration. His plan didn't work.

Arsenic in the tequila should have been enough to stop Héctor. Those cheap mystery murder novels made it seem so simple. Some rat poison in the drink and it would be over. But by the time they reached the station there wasn't any sign of it affecting the younger man. And Héctor boarded the train, carrying his songs away and leaving Ernesto with nothing. It was a complete waste.

He gave Héctor poison. He tried to kill him. He tried to murder his best friend. He knew that it was a necessary crime to reach his goal; the ends justify the means. But he failed and was left with nothing. Ernesto betrayed his best friend and it didn't even end up helping him in the end.

No. Ernesto didn't betray him. Héctor did it first by trying to abandon him. Ernesto was just trying to salvage what Héctor tried to destroy.

Glass crunched underfoot as Ernesto paced back and forth. What was he supposed to do now? Whether or not the poison did anything at this point, Ernesto was stuck with the same problem now. There were scheduled performances and Héctor's songs were growing further and further with each passing moment. He was alone, abandoned, betrayed, and left with nothing. A familiar and treacherous thought whispered in his head.

I can't do it without his songs.

Ernesto sank down on the edge of the bed. Maybe this was his punishment for trying to kill his best friend. He bought the rat poison over a month ago. That dark and ruthless plan that came to him in the middle of the night should have been ignored. It did him no good in the end and left something uncomfortable nipping at the edges of his thoughts.

He shook his head sharply. No, he wasn't wrong. It didn't work, but Héctor pushed him into this situation. He wouldn't have done anything if the younger man simply listened. And it wasn't like it actually killed him. Héctor left with his songs, going back to that woman and child so that he could squander his talents. And he was dragging Ernesto's future down with him.

But Ernesto refused to let that happen. So the poison didn't work and the songs were gone. This wasn't over. He could figure it out. He wasn't going to let it slip away. He would get what he wanted in the end.

There was a small gap in the scheduled tour in about a month, one that he originally intended to fill with another performance. But Ernesto could use the time to slip back to Santa Cecilia. Whether Héctor ended up being affected by the arsenic later or not, Ernesto could pay a visit. It would give him a second chance to get those songs.

Until then, he could perform other songs. Popular and well-known songs, ones that he learned long ago. They probably wouldn't draw the crowds like the new and original songs that Héctor wrote, but it was only for a month. And he might be able to make up for the older songs with a stellar performance and some theatrics.

A month. He could make it work for a month. And then he would get what he deserved. He sacrificed so much for this chance and he would get what he needed. He sacrificed what was left of his friendship with Héctor, even though the younger man had already thrown it aside when he chose to abandon and betray Ernesto.

He would get those songs. He would get the fame and admiration that he deserved. He'd earned that much. Nothing would stop him.


Bent nearly in half and clutching the borrowed coal pail from the front of the train, Héctor fought the urge to retch again. His head rested against the cool edge of the metal container as he panted tiredly and tried to ignore the smell of the bucket's contents. The bitter taste still filled his mouth. And even after all that, his stomach felt like it was being twisted into knots and carved up by knives.

If the chorizo was responsible for his increasingly intense illness, then hopefully the worst of it had passed now. It took a while for the nausea to reach a state he couldn't resist, but the bucket eventually served its purpose and kept most of the mess from staining his charro suit. But quite some time had passed since he ate and there couldn't be much left in his gut, so he should start feeling better soon. This would pass.

He felt the rattling of the train on the tracks shift slightly, growing slower. Héctor tried to raise his head to look. The timing wasn't right. It was still too dark outside, though he could see the lights of the station. It was too early for this to be home.

"Not Santa Cecilia yet, amigo," said the man in the neighboring row. "It's just another stop."

His fellow passenger, Diego, had given up his attempts to sleep. He was also Héctor's current favorite person on the entire train. He'd managed to talk to the train conductor about finding the empty coal pail and overall seemed rather invested in Héctor's current condition. Of course, there wasn't much to otherwise distract the man. There were only a few people in their train car, the closest ones who were awake occasionally glancing at Héctor like Diego did. It was only natural that the man who recently evacuated the minimal contents of his stomach would draw the most attention.

"A few more hours and we should be there," continued Diego. "Then maybe you can sleep off the rest of your illness at home."

"Home sounds wonderful," Héctor said quietly, cringing at the pain that seemed to rip and tear through his stomach. "I've missed home. I've missed them."

Imelda.

Coco.

He would see them soon. He kept reassuring himself of that important fact. A few more hours and he would be back home. He would apologize for leaving for so long and everything would be fine. For the long minutes where the train remained still in the station, Héctor rested his head on the cool edge of the bucket with his eyes pressed shut. His mind kept focusing on his wife and daughter, trying to ignore his body's reactions to the illness.

When the train jerked forward a little, preparing to continue the journey towards Santa Cecilia, the movement sent a new spike of pain from his abdomen that seemed to jolt through most of his body. It was sudden and violent as lightning in a storm. Héctor curled around the bucket, trying to make himself as small as possible. Wave after wave of nausea kept coming.

Something was wrong. And it wasn't getting better like he hoped. Héctor didn't want to admit it, but he felt like he was getting worse. He didn't know if it was truly the chorizo or some other form of illness, but it clearly hit hard and fast.

His stomach abruptly lurched sharply, too strong for him to fight it. Héctor managed to raise his head just enough to ensure that he aimed for the bucket as he vomited again. There shouldn't be much left, but he kept retching as his body rebelled. It continued for far too long. Even when there was nothing left, Héctor found himself trying to heave. And it only made everything hurt worse.

When he finally stopped, Héctor slumped tiredly on the bench. Panting and shivering, he kept his eyes pressed closed and tried not to move. The bitter and foul taste of bile clung to his mouth like a thick coating after all that.

But there was also the taste of copper…

A cold wave of dread crept up his spine as Héctor forced his eyes open. It was too dark to make out any details about the bucket's contents, not even the first hints of dawn reaching the sky. But reaching up to his lips, some of the wetness stuck to his fingers. The sticky warmness, the smell, and the coppery taste were enough to identify the substance even if he couldn't see much more than a darker color.

"You feeling any better or worse, amigo?" asked Diego.

"Worse," Héctor mumbled, his voice sounding rough from his previous retching. "I think it's getting worse."

He couldn't ignore his growing fear any more than he could ignore the sharp pain in his stomach. This was serious. There was no denying or brushing it off as a minor detail.

Panting and gasping, Héctor struggled against both the panic and pain gripping him. He wasn't a doctor. He only knew some common sense and basic medical knowledge. But everyone knew that vomiting blood was a very bad sign.

Home. Héctor gritted his teeth stubbornly. He was going home. No matter how sick he might be, he needed to get home. There was a doctor in Santa Cecilia. Whatever was wrong with him could wait until he was with his family. The doctor could look over him then. He just needed to deal with the pain and nausea until then.

He could manage that. Héctor knew he could handle it, even with the taste of bile and blood in his mouth. It couldn't get much worse. There was no possible way that he could feel worse within a few hours. And as long his symptoms didn't get much worse, he would be fine.


The morning sun streamed down as the train pulled into the station, Diego climbing to his feet almost before it came to a full stop. He gestured towards another of the few passengers in the train car, silently requesting help. It wasn't Diego's stop, but he'd already exchanged a few whispered words to the conductor and the train would be delayed at the station a little longer than normal. It wasn't much time, but it should be enough for one act of charity and kindness before Diego would need to continue his journey.

Diego would never be able to face his mamá ever again if he turned his back on someone so clearly in need.

Over the course of the night, the young musíco had grown from being perfectly fine when he boarded to a pale, shaky, and weak scarecrow of a man. The occasional pain had grown into constant agony that seemed to be trying to consume him, too intense for him to even try to hide. He looked like something fished out of the river or dragged from a ditch. The young man, Héctor, kept trying to throw up even after there was nothing left. And Diego couldn't ignore the blood in the bucket now that the sun was up.

As the other recruited passenger grabbed Héctor's suitcase and guitar case, Diego tried to help the young musíco to his feet. Héctor tried to uncurl from the tight ball on the bench, trying to stand to stand. He honestly tried, his teeth clenched tight as he struggled with his illness-induced weakness. But his sense of balance seemed to be suffering just as much as the rest of him. In the end, Diego was forced to sling the man's arm over his shoulders to support his weight while Héctor's free hand clutched desperately at the fabric of his charro suit

It was hard to move the tall and skinny figure. He seemed to be nothing but long limbs and bony angles, one that kept trying to curl up as he clutched at his stomach. And every movement seemed to produce another wince or hiss of pain.

"I know it hurts, amigo," said Diego. "But you're here. You're in Santa Cecilia. We'll get you to a doctor and he'll take care of you."

As they stumbled off the train, Héctor asked, "Imelda? Coco?" His voice was exhausted and strained. "My family?"

"Someone will find them and let them know where you are," assured Diego. "Let's just worry about you for right now."

Whatever the ill man intended to say in response, it was cut off as he nearly collapsed from another sudden spike in the level of pain. Héctor's fingers dug into the fabric of his clothes as he nearly bent in half, the tense whimper slipping out as he cringed. Only Diego's grip kept him on his feet.

Last night, the man seemed fine as he climbed on the train. Now, he was in complete agony and looked like someone with one foot in the grave.

"Doctor! We need directions to a doctor!" shouted Diego, startling the early morning risers.

Shocked and curious voices responded, but none of it was useful. And while Héctor might know where a doctor would live in his hometown, he was in no condition to answer any questions. He seemed to be struggling to hold onto consciousness through the pain.

"Is that Héctor? Héctor Rivera?" a voice in the growing crowd asked, a little louder than the rest.

"He needs a doctor," said Diego. "Tell me which way. And someone find his family."


Mornings were always busy the last few months, Imelda preparing her small work space for the day's work before rousing her daughter and younger brothers with breakfast made from whatever they had available. Afternoons were also busy, filled with taking orders and delivering them as more and more people realized that the shoes crafted by the woman with the absent husband were better than the ones created by the increasingly-sloppy Señor Iglesias. Her evenings were not much better, the woman working late into the night to finish the shoes on time. Her fifteen-year-old brothers tried their best to help, literally sneaking out of their parents' house in the middle of the night in order to run away and join their disowned sister while her husband was gone, but they were still learning and Imelda did most of the work. Spare time was a luxury she barely remembered.

She had little choice other than to be constantly working. Her newly-established business was still young, a fluttering and floundering thing that depended on word-of-mouth to draw in hesitant customers. And while she'd learned the basic skills and techniques for the craft and even figured out a few tricks to make the shoes better, Imelda could admit to being slow. She was inexperienced and speed would come with practice. But it meant that the business she started when Ernesto dragged her husband off months ago only brought in a small amount of money so far and she needed to supplement it with what her husband sent back from their dumb tour. Perhaps her shoes would be enough to support them someday, but not yet. Without both sources of income, Imelda knew that she wouldn't be able to care for her small family.

So as she, Oscar, and Felipe sat at the table with Coco, the excited girl talking to the pair and distracting them as their food grew cold, Imelda mentally went over her plans for the day. Running a business and raising a child took a bit of coordination.

Her brothers could help Coco get ready and watch over her during the morning, but she needed them to pick up a delivery of leather that afternoon. She could let them take the girl with them, but their hands would be full on the way back and Coco had a tendency to wander if not closely watched.

It would be better for Coco to stay with her mamá while they ran that errand. She could keep the girl busy by having her help clean up the scraps and showing how she put shoes together. Besides, Imelda enjoyed spending time with her daughter, no matter how busy she might be.

"Coco, finish your breakfast," Imelda said, her tone not concealing her distracted state of mind. Not even looking at them, she picked up her own empty plate from the table and carried it over to where the other dirty dishes waited. "Oscar, stop making those faces at Felipe. And Felipe, don't stick your tongue out at Oscar. Try to set a better example for your sobrina than that."

"She's better at that than Mamá," whispered Felipe, no doubt impressed that she could predict their actions without looking.

"Or worse," Oscar said with a slightly teasing tone. "You're no fun."

"I'm too busy for fun right now," Imelda said distractedly, setting the breakfast dishes to soak until later.

"You're trying to sound grumpy now. Just wait until the next letter shows up," Oscar said. "He always knows what to say to put you into a good mood."

His voice a little quieter and annoyed on her behalf, Felipe muttered, "Unless the next letter says the tour is being extended. Again."

A familiar frown sliding into place, Imelda's shoulders set themselves stubbornly and she plunged her hands into the water. It wouldn't hurt to scrub a little now. It would save herself some work later. She attacked the old food stuck on the smooth surfaces. Her hands almost ached from the pressure that she was applying.

She didn't want him to leave. She repeatedly asked him not to go. She assured him that they had enough money and that it wasn't worth him disappearing. She told him that they would figure something out, that they would manage as long as they were together. She wanted him to stay. She and Coco needed him.

But Ernesto could always coax him into almost anything and it proved true once more. After several shorter trips to the various neighboring towns, the pair of musícos left for a tour that was supposed to last a few months and would go all across Mexico. Imelda wasn't happy about it and she made certain to let her displeasure over the extended absence be known. But Ernesto wanted this. If it wasn't for the Revolution, he probably would have risked it years ago. Ernesto wanted the tour to happen. And wherever Ernesto led, her husband was certain to follow.

But the promised length of time had come and gone. And it seemed as if every new letter, though filled with apologies and poetic assurances of how much he missed his family, contained another excuse about how the tour needed to continue just a little longer. It was getting harder to be reasonable and understanding about the delays. It was growing harder to trust that it would end.

Imelda wasn't naïve. And she wasn't deaf to the words of their neighbors. She knew that traveling on the road and visiting the big city offered temptations that Santa Cecilia couldn't match. Temptations that her parents always warned that an orphan musíco would succumb to without hesitation and made him unsuitable for marriage, leading to Imelda and later the twins cutting ties with their stubborn and uncompromising family members. Temptations that Ernesto would eager embrace and encourage his best friend to enjoy.

Stubbornly scrubbing, Imelda clenched her teeth. She knew her husband. She trusted him. She loved him. That's why she married him against her parents' wishes and when he had so little to offer at the time. He was worth Mamá and Papá's disapproval. But a lifetime of friendship meant Ernesto held a strong influence on him. And where Ernesto led, her husband was certain to follow.

Imelda hated to even consider it, but it would be too much to hope that Ernesto wouldn't try dragging the younger man into some "fun." And the longer they were gone, the more likely that Ernesto would convince him to indulge in the less moral opportunities available so far away from Santa Cecilia. He was never good at standing up to Ernesto and no one else would ever know.

And no matter how much she wanted to trust her husband's loyalty and how she tried to shove those dark suspicions down, Imelda couldn't completely ignore the unpleasant possibility. A small whisper in her mind warned that perhaps he kept writing about extending the tour because he no longer wanted to come home. And she hated that whisper. She hated that any part of her could doubt her husband like that. But the longer he was gone and the more excuses filled his letters, the more that she wondered… what if?

"Mamá?" called Coco, drawing her out of her thoughts and furious scrubbing. Imelda glanced at her daughter. "Papá will be home soon, right? You said it'll be my birthday soon. He'll be back then, right? Papá is coming home?"

Something deep in Imelda's chest twisted sharply at the far-too-familiar question. Every time their family received a letter from anyone or they mentioned the man even vaguely, Coco would ask when her papá would be back. It wasn't too bad when he would only leave for a week or two at most. But this tour hadn't been easy for any of them. And Imelda hated the look of disappointment when she couldn't give her daughter the answers that she wanted.

Trying to keep her voice even, Imelda said gently, "Míja…"

Loud, frantic, and almost violent pounding at the door startled all of them and cut off Imelda's words. Her surprise quickly morphed into shock. How dare they? She didn't care how badly they needed customers. If they couldn't be polite enough to wait for her to actually start for the day, if they couldn't let her spare a few precious moments in the morning with her family, then they would just have to put up with wearing Señor Iglesias' shoes.

When the forceful pounding didn't stop and didn't even slow, Imelda squared her shoulders and marched towards the door. She was not at anyone's beck and call. They would learn some respect even if that meant testing the quality of her newest boots' heels on their skull.

But whatever sharp words that she might have used died on her tongue as she flung open the door. Fist still raised from his frantic knocking, Martín García was panting heavily and holding the door frame for support. He lived at nearly the opposite end of Santa Cecilia and, judging by the sweat and wind-tossed hair, he'd just ran that entire distance. That combined with the wide-eyed and almost desperate expression sent an icy chill into her guts that Imelda couldn't explain or ignore.

"Señora Rivera," Martín managed to say through his exhausted panting. "You must go to Dr. Ramírez's home. Immediately."

The icy chill sharpening into something that she began to recognize as dread, she asked. "What is it? What's happened?"

"It's your husband."

Héctor.

She didn't ask anything more. Not even when her husband returned or what happened to him. Or why she needed to hurry to the doctor. The small handful of words and the urgency in his voice were enough. Questions could wait. Worry and dread shoved aside all higher thoughts. Imelda needed to move.

"Oscar. Felipe. Get Coco taken care of and follow," she ordered, knowing the pair would have been eavesdropping and would obey.

She shoved down her concerns, worries, half-formed fears, and general confusion. She needed to focus only on immediate concerns. And that would be reaching Dr. Ramíerz's home as quickly as possible.

Something was wrong. Something was wrong and it had to do with Héctor.

Imelda didn't hesitate after delivering her orders to her brothers. She didn't even wait for a response. She was already hurrying down the street.

Well, on the one hand, Héctor made it back to Santa Cecilia a lot sooner than he did in the movie. On the other hand, he's not doing that great at the moment.

Educational factoid time! Acute arsenic poisoning has a lot of unpleasant symptoms and can start up between 30 minutes and two hours of ingestion. These may include (among others) garlic odor, vomiting (including vomiting blood), abdominal pain, cramping muscles, dehydration, cardiac problems, vertigo, shortness of breath and fast breathing due to acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock, convulsions, coma, and eventually death.

So yeah, Héctor was lucky that in the film that he lost consciousness fairly quickly and missed out on the worst symptoms of being poisoned.