La Cucaracha

15

Ningún Santuario Pt. 15

Sgt. Martinez hung up the phone and let out a groaning sigh. He hadn’t expected something like this to result from his decision to share information about Arturo with APD. Until now, the possibility hadn’t even crossed his mind. What fucking detective goes off on a tangent like that, picking up a side investigation into the family history of a suspect based on the account of some cop with a hand-me-down belief in the supernatural?

Aside from a few tight-lipped bar patrons and a clueless local constable, there had been no witnesses to the unceremonious disposal of the corpse. Martinez had taken Alfonse’s pistol, wiped it clean of prints, and driven north of Nambe in the wee hours of the morning to dispose of it in the Rio Chama. Dead asshole, no witnesses, case closed.

Except that Martinez had kept the case open all this time, disclosing to no one in the department that his prime suspect had died. He’d been very thorough in explaining to the elderly law enforcement go-between in Madrid that he was to tell no one what had happened at the Mine Shaft that night…and he reinforced the importance of this gag order by slipping ten crisp $100 bills into the constable’s breast pocket with a nod and a wink.

Martinez wasn’t heartless. When he had seen the sketch of Arturo in connection to such a gratuitous and senseless murder as that of the young woman in Albuquerque, his immediate decision to contact Leyba about what he knew was motivated by a real sense of sympathy and a desire to procure justice for the victim. Hell, considering the nature of what he had to tell, he’d put his very reputation on the line by placing that call. Leyba understood that from a professional standpoint. But what he didn’t know was that Martinez had also put his life on the line by placing that call.

********************************

When I got to Jim’s place just before 7:00, the cul-de-sac was choked with police cars and ambulances, flashing sirens making the quiet little enclave resemble a rave in progress. A white van with the word CORONER emblazoned across the side in large black letters told me all I needed to know. Heart racing and eyes welling up with tears of sadness and confusion, I did a k-turn and headed straight to police headquarters to fill the detective in about what had happened even before his own men had a chance.

Detective Leyba listened intently and allowed me to tell my story without interruption. This time, I decided to divulge my entire history with the entity that was on a mission to kill everyone I knew, including the initial encounters on my trip to New Mexico and the incidents at Sandia Peak and the Heights Club meeting. Much to my surprise, the detective just nodded and urged me to continue.

“Mr. Guilden,” he responded, “you and I are on the same page about this guy, believe it or not. I know you took a risk by telling me what you just did, and I appreciate that. Another cop might have ordered a urinalysis to figure out what kind of pharmaceuticals could induce such vivid hallucinations in a voluntary witness…but I believe you’re telling me the truth.”

He opened the file folder on his desk and pulled out the cardboard figure of Diego Huerta, dangling it between his thumb and forefinger.

“This, Mr. Guilden, has become a vital piece of evidence in this case. You told me that a friend of yours had explained its significance to the community of Santa Muerte practitioners across the border, and judging from your t-shirt, I’m guessing that you learned a thing or two about the tradition from Breaking Bad. But this was no misplaced cartel warning. Down in Oaxaca, there are still quite a few people who perform a ritual to raise the dead for the purpose of avenging injustices. As crazy as it sounds, I think this creep that’s been trailing you and offing your friends is above ground as a result of Santa Muerte. Any idea why he’s after you?”

“No. Not a clue. Like I said, the first time I saw him, I was hundreds of miles east of here in a Texas convenience store. I handed him money, he handed me a pack of smokes. Not a word was spoken between us.”

“Hmm. Kinda rules out mistaken identity. Listen, until we get this sorted out, I can have a cruiser park outside your apartment overnight, keep an eye on things.”

“I’d appreciate that,” I replied, surprised at my own enthusiasm for having a cop surveille my residence on a nightly basis.

“I’ll be in touch, Andy. Go home and get some rest.”

**********************************

Arturo sat against the concrete wall of the Central Avenue underpass, waiting for another signal. In between the prompts that invaded his mind to plot his next course of action, he just waited, unable to interact with people or make decisions of his own free will. He listened to the roar of tires overhead as a cockroach scurried from beneath a leachate-saturated piece of cardboard. Arturo brought his fist down upon the insect and lifted it to his mouth, savoring the hard crunch of its shell and the feel of fresh innards on his tongue.

 

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