Ningún Santuario Pt. 10
A week later, Detective Leyba called me back to HQ for additional questioning. I walked up the steps to the police station with my little construction paper Diego Huerta figure in hand, mentally reviewing what I had decided to disclose about my encounters with Marisa’s murderer.
We met in the detective’s office which, though musty and cramped, was a vast improvement over the draconian atmosphere of the interrogation room. His tone was relaxed and far less accusatory than it had been on the day of the murder, so I proceeded to tell him about the night I found the Santa Muerte figure pinned to my front door and how he had shown up at the saloon, the AA meeting and outside of my apartment. Not wishing to arouse the detective’s skepticism, I omitted from my account his recurring presence at various gas stations on Route 66 during my move out west, as well as the day he appeared on the mountain – an occurrence I no longer attributed to the effect of hallucinogens. I had left the chain with the locket at home because I thought the fact that it was in my possession might be unduly incriminating. Before I was dismissed, he called in a sketch artist who scribbled furiously on his pad while I described the distinguishing features of my stalker. The end result was a near-perfect likeness that would be distributed to the officers in the precinct.
Detective Leyba thanked me for my time and said he’d be in touch. He seemed to believe that he had plenty to go on now and that apprehending the suspect was just a matter of time. I wasn’t nearly as optimistic.
Sgt. Martinez pulled his cruiser into the Vista Alegre apartment complex and sat behind the wheel staring blankly at his front door for several minutes. Finally, he let out a sigh, exited the vehicle and let himself into his dreary one bedroom rental.
He changed into a T-shirt and sweats, grabbed a Bud Light from the refrigerator, sat down on the threadbare sofa and turned on the TV. KOAT Action 7 News was in commercial break; Martinez flicked a Marlboro out of his crumpled soft pack and popped it between his lips. As he searched for matches amidst the clutter on the coffee table, an image on the TV screen caught his undivided attention.
It was the image of a composite sketch of a murder suspect in Albuquerque. A middle-aged man of Mexican descent with a haggard countenance and grey eyes beneath a green corduroy cap bearing the John Deere logo. He listened intently as Shelly Ribando recounted the details of the gruesome murder of a young girl a week prior, found disemboweled in her home in Northwest Albuquerque. An acquaintance of the victim had given the description of this man who had been following him for several weeks before the homicide, suspecting that the gory execution had been performed as a warning for the suspect’s primary quarry.
It was Arturo. There was no doubt in his mind. His maternal grandmother had been a proponent of voodoo-infused Catholicism so he was quite familiar with the ritual practice of raising the dead, though he had never known it to actually work. Speaking aloud to deflect the sense of foreboding suddenly bearing down on him, Martinez muttered, “Well, fuck. Revenge from the grave, eh, Capella? Now there’s a twist I didn’t expect. This case just got a hell of a lot more interesting.” He spit the unlit cigarette onto the table and grabbed his cell phone.
“Detective, this is Sgt. Martinez from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department. I’ve been working a homicide case for the past few months and I think it might be related to the death of that young lady over in Skies West. Yeah. How so? I think it might be better if I drop by the station tomorrow and tell you about it in person. Yeah. Right. Okay. I’ll come by in the morning.”
He drained his beer in one long swallow, rose from the couch and retrieved the entire six pack from the fridge.
The wind kicked up a maelstrom of sand from the vacant lot but the lumbering figure walked unfazed into the gritty cloud without bothering to shield his eyes. He crossed the cracked asphalt until he reached a fence at the far end of the lot. First tossing over the heavily laden paper bag he’d been carrying, he then scaled the fence and landed with a thud in someone’s backyard. It was after midnight and the only light coming from the residence was that of a small outside fixture by the sliding glass doors. Bending down, he retrieved a large machete from the bag and moved toward the house. A narrow alley led from where he stood to the front of the home, affording him a view of the trunk of a huge cactus bordering the driveway that confirmed he was at the right place. Returning to the rear of the house, he tucked the blade into a belt loop and quietly slid the glass door open.