Wandering the streets of Rubacava, memories flood Domino's head. The last time he was here, he wasn't the only thing that was different. He remembered the city as bright, and brilliant. Not up to the standards of Hector's El Marrow, but certainly full of potential. Walking past the Blue Casket, a smile played on his lips. Oh, the memories he had of that place. Awful poetry, bad drinks and secret lust hidden in the back office. What was her name? Olivia? What a girl! Not long term, never anything more than passion and lies, but she was a distraction, and several times he had stolen away for a cruel parody of love on her reclining chair.
Remembering this, he feels almost guilty. As if he were cheating on the one man he had ever loved. Is it possible to love someone without knowing you love them? Or did he know, but lie, always, to himself; to Hector and to everyone he met? Did he seek cure for his lovesickness, pretending he did not know the cause and so instead treated the symptoms? Is that why half- if not all- the pleasure from that room at the back of the club came not from Olivia herself, but the feeling of disobedience. As if his job for Hector included the lovesickness. The man who is so insecure as to take over the land of the dead is easily insecure enough to need someone who secretly, but obviously, worships him, and who he can deny even a scrap of love time, and time again. Whatever reason why, they had been good times hidden in that club with that girl.
Perhaps, just perhaps she was still here. Hector may be dead, but the determined criminality he had inspired still survived, here and there. There were secret underground clubs of remembrance and plot, several of the mobs he had began were still going, and in people who used his philosophy, Hector would forever remain.
Sentimental and overly poetic, perhaps, but it was still true. Domino himself was only truly made who he was when Hector had found him, and he had heard Olivia herself had loved (Ha! Like that woman was capable of love! Thinks Domino through his cloud of jealously) Hector for a while, a key role in the fight against Manny. So if she is still there, still alive, she would surely be glad to see Hurley, her old enemy of an enemy.
But the door is locked, and the windows were dark, and the sign on the door says Closed for the Foreseeable Future.
The lift next to it has a padlock on a door, but it has rusted away so much, even in his sorry state, it is easy for Domino to break it open.
And so up he rides. He is not yet ready to face Calavera's Café, for he can not yet believe that he is close-oh, so close- to discovering his arch enemy. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as he has always believed, and he is not nearly angry enough yet.
And so he walks the long, lonely path to the Cat Races.
Maxamino, he thinks, Maxamino. Domino has been here many times before, normally on business- (Hector had associates that reached far and wide, and someone needed to deal with them. It had been so easy for Domino to drop in on the way to the End of the World.) but sometimes the fact he had this business meant he could get great odds when he felt like a gamble. Or just like getting rich. It all depends on how you look at it.
He climbs the stairs down to the lift that leads to the high roller's lounge, and walks right in. Business is bad, by the look of things, but there still seems to be enough money in conning people to keep going.
It was years, of course, since he was last here. He remembers that night, in full-colour detail, because he dreamed that night. He had dreamed of Hector. It wasn't every night, back then; when Hector had danced through his mind- he had still dreamed other dreams. But what dreams! Of sunrises, and scented nights, and dancing, and velvet, and eyes, and Love. Of Hector. And yet, still Domino had lied to himself. Now, when the dreams come heavy each night, and are no longer wonderful. Now the dreams are hard and unbearable, and now he wishes they would go (but still loves them like he loved Hector, and knows he would miss them were they to go) Domino can not believe he didn't realise.
The Lounge is deserted, with only a waiter sitting on one of the red velvet seats as he puffs on a cigarette. He does not look up at Domino, who reflects that this waiter looks as if he has given up all will to live, or at least to serve drinks.
So he walks into the office, where Maxamino, looking extremely stressed, and rather thinner than Domino remembers.
"Well, hello. Domino Hurley. I can't say I was expecting you."
"Expect the unexpected. That's my motto. Or one of them."
"Death is fairly an unexpected event, but I suppose you come to expect it after the twice time."
Domino laughs, a forced, sarcastic laugh, and speaks, although the words feel as cruel and rough as sandpaper as he speaks them.
"And not only our own deaths. I was very surprised that Hector died at all. I would have thought he was far too rich to be killed even in the Living world. And now…"
"Yes, I heard. We are all very sorry for the death of Hector, as well as the death of a comfortable business arrangement." With a forced, bored, sincere tone, the capitalist sounds almost as if he is reciting from a book. The Dead Businessman's Handbook, perhaps? His tone lightens when he says,
"I must say, though, death has changed you. Whether it is Hector's or yours, though, I cannot tell."
"Yes, people have told me that. More cynical, less bigheaded, and definitely more depressed. But my first death changed me too." As did the first death of Hector, he silently adds, meeting that man for the first time certainly changed me. He is torn by the memory.
"But you did not come here to talk about little, and if you did, I don't have time. Since the closure of our little business agreement, I have lost a major source of profit, and the cat tracks are less popular too. I lost my best lawyer to lies a little while ago, and until I can afford to hire another one, I am stuck with incredible amounts of complicated, difficult, paperwork. So, what are you doing here?"
Domino's head races through a million lies in a second. A million answers. Some plain cynical, some outlandish lies, some close- too close- to the truth.
In the end he just says, "I'm looking for Calavera."
Maxamino looks surprised by this. Of all the things he expected, this was not it.
"He's gone, long gone. Last I saw him, he was talking about something to do with my girlfriend- my late ex-girlfriend now- and-"
"Olivia's dead? I mean- dead mark two?"
The sad, stressed, depressed, businessman sighs.
"Yeah. Sprouted, by one Salvador Limons. I went hunting for him, but he's sprouted too. They're both flowers in Hector's garden now. Literally. Somehow they were just outside the mausoleum when it happened."
Maxamino shudders, but Domino hardly notices. He is deep in thought. Maxamino loved her, he thinks, and Hector did too. She loved none, but pretended to. I loved Hector, but pretended to love no-one. Maxamino- something in him has died, and all because his love was not returned, like me. The loved ones died, and we, the unloved, the abandoned, the neglected, are still here. Looks like it is love that lets you die, and not fight against it. Looks like its happiness that stops you from coming back.
Manny, he thought. Manny was loved, and it seems he is happy, living a legend. But he cannot think that, cannot let that man get away even in his imagination. He is dead, perhaps, sprouted on his way Out, or perhaps he made it Out, and was burned in the fire everyone knows waits for you through the temple gates. But probably, almost definitely, Domino told himself, Manuel Calavera is hiding in the Casino that bore his name.
He had killed Hector. He is too good for death at the hands of anyone who would have been even slightly merciful, and that, Domino knows, leaves him.
Hector could have killed him properly, were he alive.
But he's not, he's dead, he's double dead, he's dead mark two, he's flowers, he's gone, he's a garden.
Domino Hurley, the depressed, cynical man who was no closer to happiness than when he was a big-headed go-getter, fights tears, as he has a thousand times since Hector's death, and as he had never done before, whether alive or dead.
Although Maxamino is saying something, something about Calavera being long gone, Domino runs from the room. He is angry, oh so angry, and he wants blood on his hands. Preferably Manny's, but he'd settle for anyone's.
He runs across the bridge and pounds up the stairs, ignoring the complains from his leg that hurts like a battle wound.
And he remembers all those things he has blocked out of his memory for so long. His hard childhood, his painful first death, and his second, with Calavera's angry hateful eyes glaring into his face. He remembers first meeting Calavera, and remembers realising that man, that immature, inferior man had stolen a case- and therefore a word of approval from Hector- from him. He remembers seeing Manny with Mercedies, and feeling a burst of fresh, blood-red hatred- for he loved her, and she him, and they would get a happy ending while Domino had to be contented with hoping and wishing, always wishing, that the man he loved would smile at him.
He remembers looking at Meche, and thinking, I should kiss her, or rape her, or hurt her, just to give Cally something to be angry about. He never had. Light psychological torture, perhaps, and hard work, but nothing else.
He remembers seeing weak little Calavera be beaten by him a million times, but that one time Manny had fought back, and won, was more than payback for that. And then…
He had murdered the person Domino loved.
For this Domino is the most angry about. Angrier than the fact Calavera had killed him, angrier than the fact the weakling that was Manny was seemingly happy, and famous. He is unspeakably angry for this, and that is why, when Domino reaches the top of the Casino, having searched it frantically, and looks over the decaying city of Rubacava, he does not speak.
He screams into the night sky, into the emptiness for all or none to hear, and he removes the gun he holds in his pocket with two bullets in it, and raises it to his head, and…
He is happy, or as close to happy as he had ever been.
Love had killed him, the same love that had saved his enemies, and the same love that
And the next morning when, by the harsh daylight, the police come across the body, they find a gun with a single bullet in it. The bullet that had never reached its target, the head of Manuel Calavera.
But there was another bullet, lying in the garden that is now Domino Hurley, that had.