Ningún Santuario Pt. 11
“Pleasure to meet you, Detective.”
“Thanks for coming in, Sergeant. Any help I can get in apprehending this guy is much appreciated.”
“Well, you might want to hold on to your gratitude until you hear what I’ve come to tell you. I’m quite certain it’s not the kind of information you normally gather for a murder investigation.”
“Help yourself to a cup of coffee, Martinez. Just brewed. I’m all ears.”
Arturo’s world had lost its palette of color. Everything he saw was as grey as his parched, dead pupils. Images came into sharper focus as they were needed to guide him to his destination, then retreated back into an undefined background to make room for the next guidepost. Vague memories from a life that seemed to have been lived by someone else drifted in and out of his consciousness. A white schoolboy straddling his supine body on a playground landing punches to his face and abdomen while a crowd of children gathered around and shouted “Retard!” A large, imposing man who called him “La Abominacion” leveling a revolver at him and squeezing the trigger three times. His mother singing him hymns in Spanish while he rested his head in her lap and felt a momentary reprieve from the horror of his existence. But he didn’t remember much else about that existence and he wasn’t even sure it had anything to do with the instinct-driven predator he had now become. Wordless signals from an unknown source guided him here, there, told him who to kill and who to spare. Arturo didn’t understand any of it – didn’t understand what he was doing or why he was doing it – and would have been incapable of understanding it even if someone were to explain it to him. Now this invisible source urged him to step inside the pitch black interior of the house and slide the door quietly closed behind him. He paused and awaited another signal.
“Have you ever heard of Santa Muerte, Detective?”
“You mean that Mexican voodoo shit? Yeah, I’m familiar.”
“Good. I’ve been working a murder case involving a homeless man who looked identical to the composite sketch of your suspect.”
“You mean you’re after the same guy?”
“No. I mean that the guy you’re after is the victim in my case.”
“You’re right, Martinez. I should have withheld my gratitude. What the fuck are you trying to tell me?”
Arturo’s eyes adjusted to the dark as he made his way quietly down the narrow hallway to the master bedroom. Peering inside, he studied the sleeping couple in the bed and removed the machete from his belt loop. The man stirred, coughed, turned over onto his side and resumed his quiet monotone snoring. The woman was laying face down, her breathing inaudible. As the room came into focus, Arturo noticed a small handgun on the night table at the man’s side of the bed. When he looked at the man, the woman became insubstantial, spectral. Likewise his perception of the man when he focused his attention on the woman. His phantom guide directed his attention to the man and his position on the bed, particularly his right arm in relation to the gun on the table. Arturo stepped silently to the bedside and gazed down at his unconscious prey.
“His name is Arturo Capella. A more nondescript specimen of human waste you’ll be hard pressed to find. His mother immigrated to the States from Oaxaca back in the Fifties along with her son, Alfonse. Alfonse was an asshole…probably still is. He’s the main suspect in Arturo’s murder. He’s also a drunk who raped his own mother when he was 20 years old. That resulted in a pregnancy which resulted in Arturo. So Arturo’s father is also his half-brother…and as I said, most likely, his murderer.”
“Lovely. Keep talking.”
“Arturo’s family members back in Oaxaca are notorious practitioners of Santa Muerte, particularly the rituals performed to raise the dead. When a relative dies at another’s hand, they invariably pray over the grave until they are satisfied that he or she will return from the dead to exact revenge. La Familia will not suffer indignity without retribution.”
“So you’re telling me that my suspect – this Arturo, as you seem so certain – is a zombie. A zombie brought back from the grave to…what? Kill some random Gringo girl in Albuquerque? Chase some east coast hippie around the Duke City for shits and giggles? Even if I were able to accept your premise, Martinez, I’d still be devoid of a motive. What’s your take on his relation to my murder victim and her douchebag ex-boyfriend?”
“No idea. When I responded to the murder scene out on Route 14, he was wearing a green corduroy John Deere cap. There was a machete lying on the floor of his makeshift dwelling and his arm was positioned in such a way that I could tell he was reaching for the weapon to defend himself from his attacker. So his choice of head wear and weaponry is shared by your suspect. His facial features – particularly the eyes – were so identical to what I saw in the sketch on the news last night that I had to suspend all disbelief in the supernatural and admit to myself, as crazy as it seems, that my victim and your suspect are one and the same.”
Arturo lifted the blade in a slow arc until it was horizontal to the sleeping man’s neck and brought it down in one fluid motion. On contact, the man coughed and his eyes popped open to see Arturo standing above him. He flipped over, waking the woman who began screaming incoherently. Holding one palm over the bleeding flesh wound on his neck, he managed to grab the revolver from the bedside table and aim it directly at Arturo’s heart as the blade retraced its upward arc. He squeezed the trigger and the report echoed off the walls of the house. The bullet hit Arturo in the chest and he fell backward but retained his grip on the machete handle. Swinging the blade downward, Arturo missed and plunged it into the mattress as the man pulled the trigger again, this time hitting him directly in the forehead. Arturo turned and staggered into the hallway as the man followed him and fired three more shots whose impact pushed him back to the rear door by which he had entered. The woman was in the hallway screaming hysterically as his pursuer shouted “No blood! There’s no blood!”over and over. On Arturo’s forehead, a black hole with gun powder residue at the raised skin of the perimeter was the only visible effect of the direct head shot. The man fired his final bullet which narrowly missed Arturo and shattered the sliding glass door behind him. Arturo stumbled through the broken glass into the yard. By the time his pursuer stepped outside, the mysterious interloper had seemingly disappeared into thin air.
“Look, Martinez. I do appreciate the fact that you came all the way down here to tell me your intriguing little horror story, but what exactly did you think I could do with such a fucked up theory? It’s not the kind of information that…well, I’m not even sure it’s information.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Leyba. Maybe I just needed to hear myself tell it in order to realize how insane it is. Let’s keep this meeting between us, huh?”
“You bet. Say hi to the boys in Santa Fe for me, okay?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Detective. I was never here, remember?”
“Right, Sergeant. Watch out for them zombies.”