Ningún Santuario Pt. 8
A powder blue Mini Cooper pulled into the lot of Los Ojos Saloon looking like an alien vehicle among the array of mud caked pick-up trucks parked in the dirt. Stepping out into the blistering August heat, a young red-haired woman approached the entrance while buttoning her blouse to the collar to hide the modest portion of visible cleavage she’d been displaying.
She approached the bar and let out a sigh of relief upon recognizing the bartender.
“What can I get you, Ma’am?”
“Nothing, thanks. I was in here about a week ago and I lost a necklace. Has anyone turned it in?”
“Nope, not that I’m aware of. What’d it look like? I can go check the lost and found in back.”
“It was a small silver heart on a silver chain with an inscription on the back.”
“What’d it say?”
“My name. Marisa.”
“Let me go have a look, Marisa.”
She dropped her eyes to the floor as she waited for the bartender to return.
“Sorry, Ma’am. No necklaces. Are you sure you lost it here?”
“No, but this is the last place I remember wearing it. I might have dropped it outside. It’s okay. Thanks for looking.”
She could feel many sets of inebriated eyes leering at her as she exited the saloon, promising herself that she’d never return to this place as long as she lived.
Jim had asked me to meet him at a Tuesday night meeting at the Heights Club on Marble Avenue. Those in the local recovery scene spoke of this place as some sort of sobriety Mecca, but when I entered the meeting hall and sized up the crowd, I realized that the nearly standing-room-only logistics would ensure a less than interactive A.A. experience. To be honest, that was a relief as I really wasn’t in the mood for this tonight and I was happy to grab a seat on the fringes where I would be nearly invisible to the Big Book thumpers up front. I couldn’t locate Jim, but since I was already here, I opted to wait out the hour and rack up another signature for my probation officer.
My attention drifted in and out over the course of the meeting and from where I sat, I could barely make out a word that was spoken. Small mercies.
I snapped out of my reverie when I heard someone start to read the Promises, my long awaited signal that the meeting was wrapping up. Idly scrutinizing the unfamiliar faces sitting in the rows of folding chairs, I nearly fell to the floor when I caught sight of him. He was standing against the wall opposite me along with some other latecomers who had been unable to snag a seat. The familiar green John Deere cap perched atop his shock of greasy brown hair, he stared back at me, expressionless, while running a silver chain through his fingers. As the crowd stood for the Lord’s Prayer, I sidled out of the hall and hurried out to my car. In a panic, I repeatedly turned the key and was flummoxed that the engine wouldn’t turn over. “Fuck!” Pulling the ignition interlock cord out from under the seat, I blew into the mouthpiece until it beeped, started the engine and high-tailed it home. For the first time since moving to New Mexico, I locked my front door behind me before retrieving my bong from a Rubbermaid storage bin and smoking myself into oblivion.
Sgt. Martinez unconsciously shifted the piles of paper on his desk. This case was so pointless it was insulting, but it had fallen into his lap so he had to at least try to figure out who had murdered the filthy vagabond.
“Arturo Capella. What the fuck did you do to piss someone off so bad that they’d waste three bullets on your pathetic beaner ass?”
DNA tests on the body had uncovered some vital information, but nothing that gave a clue as to the perpetrator or a motive. Born in 1964 to an immigrant mother and an unknown father, Arturo grew up in the small town of Cuba. Martinez had subpoenaed his school records and found, unsurprisingly, that the boy was retarded and had a history of violence, including an incident in which he had slit a classmate’s throat with a pocket knife. The attack wasn’t fatal and hadn’t caused severe injury to the victim, so after a short expulsion, he was readmitted to the school system and placed in special needs classes where he finished out his obligatory education uneventfully. At the age of 16, he dropped out of school and it seemed that no further official record of the man existed from that point forward.
“You’re a big pain in my ass, Arturo. But I’m gonna find out who killed you anyway.”
More than once, I resolved to call Marisa and got cold feet before I could dial her number. What would I say to her? We hadn’t developed much of a rapport during our brief relationship and I certainly couldn’t explain that her breakup e-mail had caused me to reevaluate my feelings. Was that all it was? Did I suddenly find her more alluring because she didn’t want me? Employing considerable mental gymnastics, I convinced myself that wasn’t the case and decided to drive to her place to talk to her in person.
I pulled up to Marisa’s place on Night Whisper Road and parked, surveying the house from my driver’s seat. Her Mini Cooper was in the driveway and the front door was wide open. Stepping out, I noticed several trails of red on the concrete pathway leading to the porch. I bent down and placed a finger in one of the crimson blots; it had the consistency of freshly spilled blood.
Cautiously, I approached the entryway and poked my head through the open door.
There were larger pools of blood in the foyer and upon entering the living room, I was paralyzed by the scene before me.
Marisa’s arm hung from the sofa, blood dripping slowly from her fingers into a rapidly expanding puddle on the floor. She was lying face up, a look of unadulterated horror frozen into her still open eyes. Her torso had been roughly eviscerated, intestines and mangled organs hanging limply over the edge of the couch. I moved closer, placing my hand over my mouth, and saw an empty cavity where her heart had been. The arteries and connecting tissue had been shorn to facilitate the removal of the organ.
I inspected the room and found no signs of any foreign objects or discarded weapons.
While my heart attempted to hammer its way through my chest, I exited the house and lit a cigarette with great difficulty. Realizing that I would be unable to formulate a better plan of action in my hysterical state, I got back in my car and drove directly to APD Headquarters.