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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ZOMBIES/BLOOD/FIGHTS - Excerpt: 'Sword of the Angel' delivers on all levels

Bowie V. Ibarra

The latest title from (The shortened and official website of features everything this blog is dedicated to:  Zombies, Blood, and Fights!
Here's the synopsis:

Espada del Angel was the greatest luchador who ever graced the squared circle in Mexico, the birthplace of lucha libre. His matches filled arenas, and his trophy cases are filled with the masks of defeated foes.

When he retires, he grooms his son to carry his mantle into the future, securing his legacy as one of the greatest in lucha libre history. His son goes on to perpetuate his father’s tradition of lucha excellence as Espada del Angel, Jr.

But as times change, the perception and respect for lucha libre by aficionados fades. Mixed martial arts takes its place as the premiere combat sports style of the new millennium. Espada del Angel, Jr., then faces a philosophical and personal dilemma: should he continue to excel at his sport, or should he retire to prevent further tarnishing his father’s legacy under extreme criticism and ridicule?

As he reaches a crossroad in his spiritual quandary, the greatest terror the world has ever seen sweeps the streets: The zombie apocalypse!

Will Espada, Jr. be overrun along with his fans by the zombies assaulting the city that is the home of his latest matchup? Or will the sinister plague be leveled and the people of the city defended by the Sword of the Angel?
And now, exclusively on the blog, here's an excerpt of the opening pages of 'Sword of the Angel'
 Published by arrangement with the author
 This book is a work of fiction.  People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
 Copyright 2013 Bowie V. Ibarra and  All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.

For all the fans of lucha libre: past, present, and future.
For El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras, and all the luchadors who uphold the sacred masked tradition of lucha libre.
For Dr. Wagner, Jr.  Your IWGP title match in Japan against Koji Kanemoto was one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen.
For Marlowe Downing.  Thank you, Masked Gringo.
For my cousins Albert and Stanley (d).  Thank you.
For Rainstorm Press, Holly Kasprzak, and Deedee Davis:  Thank you.
For Permuted Press and the now-defunct Library of the Living Dead: Thank you for giving me a chance.
For Bo Woodman:  Thank you, and I owe you a beer.
For ‘Big’ John Flores, Dean Arnall (d), and Gordon Downing (d):  Thank you for providing positive strong male role models for myself and your sons, my friends.
But especially for Valeriano T. Ibarra, my late father.  I miss you, dad.  You tried to teach me the right path.  I regret not spending more time with you, listening to you, and following your example on how to be a good husband, father, friend, community leader, and a gentleman when you were around.  I’ve lost my way, but I am thankful that you instilled in me the value of never giving up, and to always keep fighting no matter how insurmountable the odds.  I’m still working to be half the man you were to your family, friends, and work colleagues.  I just wish I had that time back.  Thank you for being there for me. 
Rest in peace.
¡No me toque, vieja fea!
            The muscle-bound masked wrestler who insulted the old woman raised his hand as if he were going to slap her; she was trying to hit him with her purse.  The old woman had no problem insulting the evil luchador as he walked the aisle to the ring.
            ¡Pinche baboso!” she shouted at him as he walked to the ring in the middle of the packed house in Arena Mexico.  The chorus of boos resounded around the large facility in the heart of Mexico City.  Drunken insults and vulgar hand gestures were flung in the direction of the big man as he climbed into the ring.  He shouted back at them and returned the gestures.  He was the rudo, after all.
            Though a majority of the fans were shouting against the green-masked luchador with fierce opposition, there was still a segment of the crowd cheering for him.  Banging on drums and blowing horns near a sectioned-off portion of the audience were the fans of the rudos.  They wore shirts and headbands with slogans like 100% Rudo or Rudo por Vida.  The rudos were the bad guys, and Calavera Verde was definitely the bad guy.  The fans would toot their horns or bang their drums in staccato three times before chanting ‘Ca-la-ve-ra’!  Then they would bang the drums three more times before saying ‘Ver-de’.  Then they’d repeat it.  The energy was intense.
            It was especially intense for a young boy sitting in the front row right by the ring.  The child was nearly six years old, sitting next to his beautiful mother.  He held a soda in his hand, and a tiny muñeca in his other hand.  The boy trembled with fear as the masked menace taunted the people in his seating area, including his mother, who responded with a dismissive wave and an equally rude taunt.
            ¡Cayete lo sico, baboso!” she shouted.  Her name was Gema, and she was the epitome of Mexican beauty.
            On the young boy’s head was a mask, ready to be pulled down over his face.  The mask was white, with shimmery material that ran from the forehead over the eyes, and down between the eyes forming a point at his chin.  Silver shimmering rays emanated from the sword above the eyes near the hilt, and below the eyes, crossing his cheeks.
            It was a very special mask to the boy, the same mask of the opponent Calavera Verde was about to face.  The mask belonged to the man who was not only the boy’s hero, but was much more than that.
            “Stand up, Esteban,” said his mother in Spanish.
            It didn’t take long for Esteban to obey his loving mother.  He rose to his feet, climbing on the chair.  As the music for Espada del Angel hit, Esteban pulled down the mask over his face.
            His father’s mask.
            Esteban cheered as his father broke the curtainline.  The arena was rattled by the massive cheer from the thousands in attendance.  Flanked by two beautiful Mexican female escorts, Espada del Angel strode to the ring.  The fans applauded, reaching out to him for the opportunity to touch his hand, to touch his mask.
            Espada broke from the escorts to move to a fan who was wearing his mask.  He held the fan by his head, joining their foreheads together.  It was as if he were transferring power to the fan.  Or, perhaps, gaining strength from the supporter.  His mask was a powerful sacred totem, and its image could be seen throughout the arena.  Kindred spirits united with their high priest.
            The escorts stopped near the end of the aisle to the ring.  Espada broke ranks from them and proceeded around the ring.  He greeted fans with a touch of his hand as he walked around the ring.  But he stopped and spent an extra moment with an elderly lady at ringside.  Virginia Gomez had been following lucha libre, but especially Espada del Angel, for decades.  She was his biggest fan, and Espada showed a moment of respect to her before going on his way. 
Esteban watched his father work the ringside fans.  A smile crossed his face, and true joy filled his heart.  He swelled with pride.
Then Esteban shivered with fear as Calavera Verde ran to the edge of the ring.  The ghoulish fighter shouted at Espada.
But Espada held his ground, turning to Calavera Verde and giving him an earful right back.  The crowd cheered, pointing and laughing at Calavera. Esteban chuckled.  His father was using ‘grown-up’ words, and it made Calavera back off.
Then, it was the moment Esteban had been waiting for.  Espada del Angel, the masked hero to most everyone in the arena, much of Mexico, and throughout the world, was walking to him.  He was more than just a hero to Esteban.
Espada del Angel was his dad.
Espada tenderly took his son by the head, and moved his forehead to his son’s.
“I love you, son,” he said in Spanish before turning to his wife and kissing her on the lips.  A true machista.
The fans cheered at the luchador’s pride for his family as the fighters turned to enter the ring.
Within moments, Espada took off his cape with a flourish.  The ring announcer was in fine form as he introduced the luchadors.
Esteban was nervous.  Calavera Verde was strong, and had been beating up his opponents for weeks on end.  His father had stood up to the foe when the villain had threatened one of his friends, Aguila Blanco.
This would be their first meeting.  Esteban knew his dad could tie the monster in knots on the mat with the science of lucha libre.  Espada del Angel was one of the best técnicos Mexican lucha libre had ever known.
But Calavera Verde was Espada’s equal when it came to the tactics of a rudo.  Calavera gouged, scratched, and cheated his way to victory.  Espada del Angel was strong, but he was going to be challenged by this big man in one of the signature 2 out of 3 falls matches of lucha libre.
When the bell rang, the crowd cheered with excitement.  The foes locked up in the middle of the ring, grappling with each other for an advantage.  For every move, a counter.  For every counter, a shift in strategy.
For the next ten minutes, the two exchanged holds, wearing each other down when the action escalated.  Esteban cheered, trying to give power to his hero, his father.  A series of high-flying moves was exchanged.  Espada del Angel was close to victory when the referee was momentarily out of position and Calavera Verde struck Espada del Angel with a kick to the crotch, doubling the hero over and stealing a pinfall.  It was a foul that would have given Espada a disqualification win if the ref saw it.  But he didn’t, and Calavera was proving the efficient rudo.
Esteban tried to get the referee’s attention, along with most everyone else in the arena, but was ignored.  He was crushed and felt like crying.  It was frustrating to see his father doing so well and fall short with such a cheap tactic.  He booed and shouted with his mother and the rest of the fans.  Calavera Verde taunted the audience and took it all in with gleeful pride.
The bell rang for the second fall, and Calavera went after the still-hurt Espada.  After only a few cruel moves and strikes, Calavera taunted the crowd before trying to pin Espada.  But to his surprise and to the joy of all the fans, Espada reversed the maneuver, locking in a quick pinfall for himself.
Esteban jumped for joy into his mother’s arms as they both cheered the much-needed win along with the entire arena.  The relief was palpable, and with the match tied 1-1, the third and final fall would declare the winner.
Espada rolled out of the ring, taking the much-needed moments between falls to recover.  As Calavera tried to argue with the referee that Espada had pulled his trunks, Espada walked to Esteban, still in his mother’s arms.
As Espada kissed Esteban on the head, Esteban shouted in Spanish, “Go get him, dad!”
Espada stepped back in the ring and the match started again.
And once again, the two grapplers went at it: Calavera Verde with a sense of desperation, Espada del Angel with a sense of determination.
The two Mexican warriors put it all on the line in a test of skill, strength, and will.  Espada attacked with high-flying topes and scissors holds from his arsenal.  Calavera responded with backbreakers and strikes.
Before long, Espada hit Calavera with a spectacular throw, leaving the rudo stunned on the mat.  As Calavera rose to his feet, Espada scaled the turnbuckles to the top.
“Fly, daddy,” shouted Esteban in Spanish.
As Espada stood tall on the top rope, he held his hands in front of himself, as if wielding a sword.  He then slowly raised his hands over his head, building anticipation for his signature finishing move.  The crowd cheered as Calavera wobbled to his feet.  They knew what was coming.
Calavera Verde turned around to see Espada taking flight like a soaring eagle.  Jumping high into the air, Espada cut a graceful picture of the beauty of lucha libre.  With his arms extended, his descent was smooth.  His targeting, precise.
Turning sideways in mid-air, his body smashed against Calavera Verde’s chest.  The momentum of the flying body attack knocked the exhausted Calavera Verde to the mat.  The crashing fall on his back and the weight of Espada del Angel completely knocked the air out of him.  With no energy to kick out, Espada covered Calavera’s arms and secured a leg.  The crowd, including Esteban, counted with the referee, “¡Uno, dos, tres!
Esteban jumped for joy into his mother’s arms as they joined the chorus of ecstatic applause that rattled Arena Mexico.  The referee raised the hand of Espada del Angel as the announcer called out his name as the victor.
            After the referee released his hand, Espada del Angel ran to the ropes.  He waved to Virginia, who was sweetly blowing kisses to him.  He then signaled to his wife and son to approach the ring.  Holding young Esteban, his mother brought him to his father.  Espada once again grabbed his son’s masked head and placed his forehead on his.
            “I love you, son,” he said in Spanish.
            Then, Espada returned to the center of the ring to salute the fans.
            “Mama, why do the people love papa so much?” asked Esteban.
            “Because, mi’jo,” she began, “In him and in his mask lies hope.  He is the hope of the people.”
            Esteban looked back with sincere adoration at his father.

            It was a week after one of Espada del Angel’s greatest triumphs, and Esteban was still proud as a peacock.  His father had a show in Monterrey, and Esteban was watching it live on television.
            “Mama, papa’s about to be introduced,” he said.  He took a seat on the beanbag chair holding his Espada del Angel and Calavera Verde toys as he watched the interview.
            “So, Espada, that was a great victory over Calavera Verde last week,” said the announcer in Spanish.
            “Yes, it was,” said Esteban’s dad.  “He was a strong opponent.  He was also a very dirty fighter.  But with my superior skill and science, I was victorious.”
            Esteban beamed with pride.
            “Is there something you’d like to tell all your fans?”
            “Yes.  To all of my fans, I want you to know that you give me my strength to fight for you.  Every time I go to the ring, my fans always help me through my fight.”
            “That’s fantastic,” said the announcer.
            What neither of them saw was Calavera Verde sneaking up behind the two with a steel chair.  But everyone in the live audience and everyone watching at home could see, including Esteban.
            “Mama!” shouted Esteban in a panic, pointing at the television.  “Mama!”
            His mother ran in fear to the room where Esteban was watching TV.  They watched in horror as Calavera Verde smacked Espada right across the back with the steel chair, knocking him to the ground.
            “No!” shouted Esteban, embracing his mother.  Already, tears of fear and anger began to race down his cheeks.  He was helpless to help his father.
            As the crowd in the arena shouted and boo’d the heinous act, Calavera wound up and smacked Espada three more times.  Each time, Esteban shouted “No!” with a bitter sadness.
            One of Espada’s friends tried to help him, but was smashed across the face by the chair.
            “Don’t look, mi’jo,” said Esteban’s mother as Calavera dropped the chair on the floor.  Calavera lifted Espada off the ground and put his rival’s head between his legs.  The announcer tried to stop the rudo, but was shoved to the ground for his efforts.
            “Please,” whispered Esteban’s mother, simmering with anger.  “Somebody stop this.”
            Calavera heaved Espada up against his body.  Espada’s head was lined up over the chair.  The crowd cried out in terror as Calavera raised a leg before using his other leg to hop up in the air.  Espada’s head was driven into the steel chair.  The weight of his own body seemingly pile-driven onto his neck.
            “No!” shouted Esteban’s mother as she watched the gruesome scene play out.
            Though she thought she was shielding Esteban from the horrible attack, he was peeking.  And he saw the whole ruthless assault on his father play out.
            Then, Calavera Verde picked up the microphone the announcer had dropped.  He then stood over Espada.
            “You think you’re better than me, Espada?  You think your fans are going to save you now?  I hate you, Espada.  You’re a piece of trash, and I’m going to take out the trash.  I want to put you away forever.  I challenge you to a mask vs. mask match.  I want to end your career, take your mask, and kick you out of here.”
            “Calavera will pay, mi’jo,” said Esteban’s mother.  Don’t you worry.  Calavera will pay for this outrage.”
            They both watched as a medical crew attended to the injured Espada.  They placed a brace around his neck and slowly lifted him onto a stretcher.  They secured his head to the backboard with a strap. 
            Esteban wiped a tear from his eyes.  He looked at the toy Calavera Verde in his hand and threw it at the wall.
            “See,” shouted Calavera Verde at the audience.  “See your hero?  He’s broken.  He’s a broken man.  And I destroyed him.”
            Calavera threw the microphone to the ground and began to walk away.  He started taunting the crowd, who gladly jeered him.  The fans even started throwing cups, trash, even batteries at him as he pointed and laughed at all of them.
            Vete, mi’jo,” said his mother.  “Go to your room.”
            She lifted up Esteban by his hand.  He looked at the television one last time as he followed her command.  The medical officials were checking on the neck brace and moving him out of the arena.
            Then, something amazing happened.  Espada waved his hand, calling for the microphone.  When one of the crew saw him signaling for it, they responded.  The person picked up the microphone and handed it to him.
            “Calavera!  Listen to me now, you bastard.  You made a big mistake.  You insulted me.  You insulted lucha libre.  But most of all, you insulted the people.”
            The crowd cheered as Espada paused before declaring, “I accept your challenge.  ¡Lucha de apuesta! Mask vs. Mask!”
            “Oh, my God,” whispered Esteban’s mother.
            Esteban stood wide-eyed, too.  Both of them knew the deep implications of a Mask vs. Mask match.  The winner would hold the mask of the loser as a trophy forever.  The loser would be forced into retirement and have his name, birthplace, and birthday revealed to the world, forever destroying his persona.
            Esteban gulped.
            By the end of the evening, Esteban and Gema found out what hospital Espada del Angel was in and were able to make contact with him.
            Esteban desperately wanted to talk to his father, but Gema had to speak with the love of her life first.  He couldn’t hear his father, but he could figure out what was being said by what Gema was saying.
            “How are you?... When will you be out?... Oh, fantastic.  We’ll have the house ready for you… Mi amor, do not fight him.  Do not… AmorAmor, por favor.  I will not allow you to fight Calavera… No!”
            Esteban could hear his father shouting on the other end of the line.
            “But you’re hurt, amor.  He’s going to…”
            More shouting from a distant hospital bed.
            Then, penitence.  “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… Mi amor, mi vida, I’m sorry… I love you.”
            She started to sob.
            “I love you and… I don’t want you to be hurt.. .I know… I know… I know, and I love you, amor.”  Gema wiped a tear from her face, twisting the phone cord in her hand.  Esteban handed her a tissue to wipe her runny eye liner.  “You are my love, my life.. I know, but I get scared when I think how you might get hurt… okay… okay.. My heart and my arms wait for your return, papi… okay.”
            She then turned to Esteban, handing him the phone.  “Your father wants to talk to you.”
            Esteban’s heart beat like a drum.  He readily took the phone from Gema and placed it against his ear.
            “Hello, mi’jo.”
            Esteban’s heart was filled with joy and a sense of relief when he heard his father’s voice.  He actually sounded pretty good.
            “Papa, are you okay?”
            “Yes, mi’jo.  I am fine.”
            “When are you coming home?”
            “Very soon, mi’jo.”
            “Papa, please don’t fight Calavera Verde.  Please don’t.”
            “Ay, what kind of son am I raising?”
            The question stunned Esteban.  Before he could answer, his father continued.
            “What have I taught you about life, mi’jo?  About what happens to anyone who lays a hand on you?”
            “I must defend myself,” Esteban answered.
            “When?” asked his father.
            “All the time,” said Esteban.
            “Every time.”
            “But papa,” pleaded Esteban.  “You are hurt.  He will hurt you again.”
            “Stop right now, Esteban,” shouted his father from the other end of the line.  “You are sounding like your mother.”
            It hurt to hear his father say those mean words.  But he knew he was right.  He wanted nothing more than to be big and strong like his father, both physically and mentally.  It hurt, but he had to listen.
            “If you want to be a man, son, then you must grow up and fight for your honor.  Do you understand?”
            “Yes, papa.”  A tear was falling down Esteban’s cheek.  He wiped it away quickly and defiantly, trying to fight his fear and replace it with the courage his father was trying to instill in him.
            “Calavera Verde insulted you.  He insulted your mother.  And he insulted my mask.  He challenged me for my mask, mi’jo.  You know what that means?”
            “Yes, papa.”
            “I was challenged, and I can never back down.  No matter how big or how small.  It is what a man does.  He faces challenges head on, no matter the cost. ¿Me comprendes?
            “Yes, papa.”
            “I love you, mi’jo.  But you’re not going to grow into a man with a strong mind if you let fear rule your heart.”
            Esteban nodded solemnly as he let the power of his father’s words sink in.

            It wasn’t long until those words were put to the test.  News spread of his dad’s injuries, but so did the ridicule.
            “Hey, Esteban.  Is your dad still hurt?” yelled Manuel in Spanish, one of Esteban’s least favorite kids at school.
            “Yeah. Are you going to cry?” said Beto, Esteban’s second-to-least favorite kid at school.  His Spanish was worse than his hygiene.
            Esteban scowled at them, then he took a moment before walking away.
            “Don’t cry, Esteban,” said Beto, running up beside him.  “It’s all fake anyway.”
            Exactamente,” Manuel exclaimed.  “Why are you crying?  Your dad’s not really hurt.  It’s fake.”
            Esteban wanted to run away from the teasing, the ridicule.  They were wrong, and they knew it.
            But that’s when his father’s words came back to him.  It was the very words he spoke to Esteban only days before:  A man faces challenges head on, no matter what the cost.
            Esteban stopped in his tracks, gulping.  He turned to face his rivals.
            “Hey, you leave my father alone!” shouted Esteban.  The shout took Manuel and Beto by surprise.
            Manuel hesitated before shouting back.  “Well, look at you, standing up for…”
            But he didn’t even finish the sentence when Esteban cracked Manuel in the mouth.  The surprise shot took Manuel completely by surprise.  It split his bottom lip as he fell to the ground on his ass.
            Esteban stood, just as stunned as the boys were.  He looked at his fist with amazement.  “Wow,” he muttered in surprise.
            Before he could savor the glory of the attack, he was tackled to the ground by Beto, who clumsily tried to strike Esteban before they both got back to their feet.
            The two sides stood apart from each other.  A newfound respect was reforming the bitter relationship.
            “We’re going to get you back,” said Beto.
            “Whenever, cobardes,” said Esteban.
            The boys scurried off to another part of the playground, leaving Esteban alone.  The kids who had gathered for the skirmish walked off.
            “Hey, Esteban,” came a voice from behind him.  “Are you okay?”  It was one of his friends.
            “Fine,” he said.
            Esteban was frightened.  He didn’t want that kind of retaliation.  But he somehow felt different.  Even Beto’s threat felt empty, as if he were only saying it to save face.
            He knew one thing for sure, though.
            Acting on his father’s words made him stronger.

            The arena was filled with electricity as Espada del Angel and Calavera Verde gave it their all in their high stakes lucha rumble, one fall to a pinfall, or submission finish.
            For close to fifteen minutes, the two exchanged holds.  The advantage bounced back and forth between the bitter rivals.
            Esteban was very upset.  Calavera Verde had responded to Espada’s scientific wrestling by fighting dirty, smacking Espada’s head into the steel turnpost.  Espada’s blood began to stain his white mask in red.
            But the ultimate insult was Calavera tearing at Espada’s mask.  A portion of the mask was ripped open near his eyes, revealing a bloody portion of his head and hair.  It wasn’t looking good for Espada del Angel.
            Esteban’s mother held him close as Espada gained an advantage.  Calavera lifted Espada up in the air for a powerbomb throw, but Espada took control of the move by locking his legs around Calavera’s head and swinging himself toward the mat.  The pendulum motion sent Calavera tumbling headfirst to the mat.  Dazed, Calavera rose to his feet only to be met with a  flying headbutt that smacked him right on the chest and knocked him back to the mat.  The tide had turned.
            “Go, papa!” shouted Esteban, cheering in a rising fury with the rest of the crowd.  This was Espada’s big chance.
            With Calavera rising from the mat, Espada kicked him in the solar plexus, doubling the reeling rudo over.  Throwing one of Calavera’s arms around his head, Espada put one of his own around Calavera’s before heaving him up vertically into the air.  As Calavera’s feet reached heavenward and his head aligned with the canvas below, Espada fell to this own back to drive Calavera’s head into the mat with all the weight of his own body. 
Calavera lay flat on his back on the mat.
            Quickly rising back to his feet, Espada did not waste a second scaling the turnbuckle to the absolute delight of the fans and his son.  It was as if Espada were a conductor of a classical orchestra as he raised his hands to signal his finishing move.  Calavera slowly rose from the mat to his feet.  His destiny was about to pass.
            As his hands rose to the pinnacle above his head, and the fans reached the height of their frenzy for him, Espada took flight.  Esteban and the fans held their breath.
            It might have been the highest Espada had ever flown.  With his arms spread, the arc of his flight was filled with the true grace and elegance of a master of lucha libre.
            Having taken flight, Espada had committed, and there was no turning back as Calavera quickly rolled out of Espada’s flight pattern.  The crowd gasped in shock as Espada crash landed on the mat, missing his intended target completely.
            The sound of his body crashing to the mat made Esteban and his mother cry out in fearful anguish.  The entire crowd felt the same way as they watched Espada writhe in pain on the mat.
            “Please, papa,” shouted Esteban in Spanish, “Please get up!”
            Calavera sat in a corner, gripping his neck and shoulder.  Then he turned to Esteban and his mother, rising slowly and leaning over the top rope.  He shouted at the family.
            “I’m taking your father’s mask!”
            “No!” shouted Esteban and his mother.
            Virginia, the old woman, prayed for Espada, gripping a rosary in her hands.  She held those hands to her head, closing her eyes tight.
            Like a cruel street thug, Calavera moved to the injured Espada and began to stomp his solar plexus and head.  Pointing to Esteban, he mocked Espada again.
            “Look at your father now,” he shouted, kicking and stomping Espada.
            “No!” shouted Esteban.
            “Get up, amor,” cried Gema.  “Get up!”
            Calavera lifted Espada off the mat and dragged him to the middle rope.  He draped Espada’s neck and arms on the rope, choking him mercilessly in front of his family.  The crowd knew exactly what he was doing to Espada’s family, and began to throw things at the rudo.
            “Your man is finished,” Calavera shouted at his rival’s family, laughing.  He fish-hooked Espada before tearing at his mask again.
            Esteban began to weep for his father.  The beating Espada was taking was completely unneccesary.  He was finished.  The crowd howled with disgust.
            Calavera led the stumbling Espada to the center of the ring, taunting the angry crowd all the while.  Bottles were littering the ring.  A triple-A battery struck his chest.  Calavera simply pointed at the crowd and laughed.
            Calavera threw one of Espada’s arms over his neck while placing one of his over Espada’s.  He then gave the audience a thumbs-up, signaling the start of his finishing power move:  The Gravedigger Screwdriver.
            Everyone in the arena (apart from the rudo fans) cried out in a panicked frenzy as Calavera flipped his thumb down.
            “No!” shouted Esteban over and over again.  His mother would not watch.  She turned her head away.
            Virginia watched in sadness.  Her hands remained together in faith, like a votive statue, holding out hope.
            Like a miracle, before Calavera could execute the power move, Espada fell to the mat and rolled to his back, bringing Calavera to the mat with him.  With all the science of a pure técnico, Espada hooked Calavera’s legs with his other arm and a leg.  Wrapped tight as if in a ball, Espada rolled Calavea on his shoulders.  The rudo struggled to be released from the scientific pinning maneuver, but was locked in place skillfully by Espada.
            The ref started the count.  It would be considered slow by all standards.  The crowd counted along with every slow slap to the mat:  ¡Uno!  ¡Dos!  ¡Tres!
            At the three count, Espada broke the hold as the victor.  The entire arena exploded in ecstatic joy.
            And just like that, Espada avenged the dishonor placed on him, his family, his fans, and his mask.  He stumbled to a corner, catching his breath, and looking to his family.  He waved at his wife, signaling her to come over.
            “Come here, Esteban,” she said, lifting up her son with strength and elegance, even in heels.  They moved to the corner.
            Espada leaned through the ropes and kissed his wife on the lips before kissing his son on the forehead.
            “I love you both so much,” he whispered to them.
            “I love you, too,” they both replied as he rose to his feet to the cheers of the crowd.
            In the ring, Calavera was making a fuss to the referee.  It was all in vain as Espada demanded Calavera to remove his mask and reveal his identity.
            Officials and athletic commission members stepped into the ring as well as an announcer.  Calavera tried to use the transition to escape, but Espada quickly pulled him back by the trunks.
            Espada moved to the announcer and took the microphone, talking in Spanish.
            “It’s time, Calavera.  It’s time to remove your mask.”
            Calavera hesitated, then tried to leave again to a chorus of boos.  Esteban clinched his fists and teeth in frustration.  ¡Cobarde!” he shouted.
            Virginia was outside the ring, pointing and shouting at him.  Calavera glared at her, yelling right back when Espada grabbed him by the arm.  Spinning the heel around, Espada punched Calavera about the face.  Calavera quickly submitted, cowering in the corner and holding up his hands.  Esteban could hear him crying out, “Stop!  Stop!”
            It was time for vindication.  Calavera now had to relinquish his mask.
            Espada led Calavera to the center of the ring and shouted, “Remove your mask now!”
            Calavera reached behind his head and started to untie his mask.  The Boxing and Lucha Commissioner entered the ring.
            Esteban’s heart leapt.  It was the utter humiliation Calavera deserved for attacking his father.  Justice was to be served.
            As the commissioner handed Calavera Verde’s secret identity to the ring announcer, Calavera tried to leave one last time.  But Espada reached out to him and grabbed him by the now-loosened mask.  With one strong yank, he removed the mask from Calavera’s head.
            Outside the ring, Virginia’s eyes widened, seeing the face of the hated rival for the first time.  She clapped with joy, watching the triumph play out.
            Calavera stumbled out of the ring, humiliated, as the ring announcer read the card the commissioner handed to him.
            “Ladies and gentlemen, I have in my hand Calavera Verde’s true identity.  His name is Humberto Cuevas Gutierrez.  He was born in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato on February twenty-sixth, 1968.”
            Esteban jumped for joy, moving from his seat and taunting the disgraced Calavera Verde.
            “Haha,” laughed Esteban, pointing at Calavera.  ¡No vale nada, payaso feo!” he shouted, calling him an ugly clown.
            ¡Callete lo sico, pinche carbón!” shouted Humberto, walking up the ramp in disgrace.
            Mi’jo,” shouted Espada to his son.  Esteban turned to see his father signaling him to the ring.  Ven,” he said, signaling for him to approach.
            Along with his mother, Esteban dashed to the ring.  Climbing up on the apron, his father reached over the ropes and pulled his son into his arms.  He handed Esteban the mask.
            “Another trophy for our family,” said Espada.
            Esteban waved the mask at the retreating and humiliated Humberto to the wild applause of the crowd.

            Esteban and his mother sat with anticipation in Espada’s locker room.  Espada’s trainers were having cigarettes in another corner of the room when they all heard the members of the press begin to call out Espada’s name.  Camera flashes could be seen from under the space in the doorway.
            “Papa,” shouted Esteban, jumping from his seat.
            In mere moments, his father opened the door and walked in, followed by his manager.  They quickly closed the door before the press could come inside.
            As the door was locked, Esteban ran to his father and jumped.  Wrapping his arms around his father’s neck, the boy was embraced with paternal love.
            “I’m so proud of you, papa.  You beat him.”
            We beat him, mi’jo,” said Espada.  “I couldn’t have done it without your support.”
            Esteban embraced his father again.  “I love you, dad.”
            “I love you, too, mi’jo,” said Espada, carrying his son to a chair.  He sat his young son on his lap, looking into his boy’s eyes.  Into his own eyes.
            Then, he said, “I want you to understand this, mi’jo.  One day, when you have committed yourself, when you have trained, and when you are ready, you will wear this mask.”
            Incredulous, Esteban’s eyes widened with joy.  A smile spread across his face.  “Really?”
            “You have to, mi’jo.  One day, I will not be able to fight like this anymore.  My body and my mind will be too old to compete.  This is a young man’s sport.  Someone will need to carry on the tradition of our mask.  That someone is you.”
            Esteban gulped.  The weight of that future responsibility suddenly struck his soul with power, with excitement, and inspiration.
            “On your 13th birthday, you will begin training if continuing our family legacy is what you want to do.”
            “I do,” said Esteban.  He reached up and touched his father’s mask tenderly.
            In spite of the mask, Esteban could see the pride swell in his father’s eyes.
            “One day,” said Espada, “you will wear this mask and be the hope of the people.”
Find out where the rest of the story goes as the legacy of Espada del Angel moves forward in 'Sword of the Angel' in paperback or Kindle today!
Follow the adventures of El Aire in the comb sports series, 'Pit Fighters'.  'Pit Fighters: Baptism by Fire' and 'Pit Fighters: Double Cross' are combat sports-themed books that features fights from the early days of MMA, and plenty of underground money fights.  You've got to check them out, and they're available on Kindle or paperback today.
BOWIE V. IBARRA is the author of the 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from Permuted Press and Simon and Schuster.  His latest story, 'Tejano Star and the Vengeance of Chaplain Skull' is a Tex-Mexploitation superhero story in the tradition of 'Machete' and 'Black Dynamite'.  Get it in paperback or Kindle today.


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