Skeleton In The Closet

14

Ningún Santuario Pt. 14

Jim pulled out of the Mesa Club parking lot in Rio Rancho and took Southern Boulevard to Unser, slouched low in his seat as he made his way back to Albuquerque. Another court ordered newcomer had approached him at the meeting and nervously asked him if he would be willing to sponsor him as he attended his requisite 90 meetings in 90 days — the kid even said it just like that, perhaps not realizing the recovery faux pas of implying to an apparent die-hard 12 stepper that you’d sooner get a full frontal lobotomy than attend A.A. meetings for the rest of your life.

Jim had accepted, of course. He always did. This was, after all, the only social venue he had left since his divorce and the more people he sponsored, the stronger his ruse became. No one suspected someone who so willingly gave of his time to perform “service work” of being anything short of a dedicated Friend of Bill W.

He swung into the driveway, exited his Jeep and went inside. Drawing the blinds on the front windows, he entered the kitchen and opened the upper cabinet above the refrigerator, tossing aside the hand towel hiding his dirty secret and grabbing the bottle of Absolut. With a sigh, he poured the vodka into a tumbler two inches shy of the rim, opened the fridge and topped it off with a splash of Ocean Spray cranberry juice. Returning the bottle to the cabinet and arranging the towel back over it, he grabbed his drink and fell hard into the La-Z-Boy recliner facing the television in the living room. Raising the glass to his lips, he savored the slow burn as the first sip made its intrusive way down his throat and a delicious warmth spread from his gut to every nerve ending in his body. He leaned back with a smile and turned on the TV.

Suddenly, a metallic scraping noise from the front porch caught his attention. Taking no chances, Jim carried his drink into the kitchen and hid it in the pantry before going to the front door to investigate. He pulled aside the blind on the window to the left of the porch and scanned the cross-section of the outside entryway visible from this vantage point. Seeing no one there, he opened the door and stepped onto the tattered straw welcome mat.

As he shielded his eyes from the descending early evening sun and looked out over the lawn, a man stepped out from behind a porch pillar and swung a large machete directly into his abdomen. Jim doubled over as the dead-eyed attacker pulled the blade back with a sickening wet sound of contracting viscera and swung it in a high arc that landed dead center into the top of his scalp. As his body crumpled in a scarlet heap, the last sound he heard before darkness overtook him was Andy’s ringtone on his cellphone in the breast pocket of his blood-drenched shirt.

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

Martinez had just sat down at his desk when the phone rang.

“Yeah.”

“Sergeant, this is Detective Leyba.”

“What’s up?”

“Well, quite a bit, actually. When you were here last week, you told me that the primary suspect in the murder case you’ve been working was the victim’s brother, right?”

“That’s right.”

“Alfonse Capella?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Be honest, Martinez. How much effort had you really put into this case before you saw the sketch of our suspect on the news?”

“A shade less than the bare minimum. Securing justice for homeless scumbags isn’t exactly a high priority around here.”

“Clearly. After our chat, I did some investigating of the Capella clan myself. Turns out Alfonse shot himself the same night he murdered Arturo.”

“Well, case closed, then, right?”

“No. I need you to come down to HQ again the first chance you get. As fucked up as it sounds for me to say this, I’m convinced you were right.”

“About what?”

“Arturo Capella murdered that young lady. And it seems he’s just getting started.”

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