Ningún Santuario Pt. 16
Several clandestine sites scattered throughout the region of Oaxaca are thought to have a direct connection to the spirit world. Their existence is closely guarded by elder Santa Muerte practitioners because they are reserved for the tradition’s most secretive rituals such as the reanimation of the dead. As more and more residents left the area for better opportunities in the States, alternative means of channeling “sacred energy” had to be devised by the displaced adherents. The most common was to designate a child born outside the area a “conduit” in a ceremony performed directly after the infant’s baptism. One such ceremony was performed in 1971 in Tesuque, New Mexico. The child upon whom this ritual was performed was named Miguel Ángel Martinez.
Miguel’s grandmother had insisted that his baptism should include the additional rite. Having suffered much indignity at the hands of bigoted Americans since arriving in the States, she wanted to ensure that future generations of her family had the means to defend themselves. After contacting several priests in Oaxaca to advise them of her grandson’s status, she never spoke of it again, taking the secret to her grave.
Miguel was never told about his baptismal bonus. He had dreamed of being a cop from a very early age, and his grandmother always encouraged him to pursue that path, secretly pleased that it would make him that much more valuable to their people if and when the need arose.
At first, the signal didn’t make sense to Arturo. He kept seeing the face of a man — a police officer and a distant cousin living in Santa Fe. He had never met this person, but somehow he knew that they were, or rather had been blood relatives. Arturo stood in place as the signal grew more insistent until at last it overcame his meager powers of resistance. Picking up his paper bag from the ground, he stepped out from beneath the overpass and walked to the Greyhound Station on 1st and Silver where he purchased a round-trip ticket to Santa Fe.
Martinez awoke with a splitting headache to the sound of the alarm. He grabbed the bottle of Tylenol from the nightstand and popped two tablets into his mouth.
“Aagh…what the fuck? I wasn’t even drinking last night, ferchrissakes.”
He threw on his bathrobe, padded groggily into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. Settling uncomfortably into a chair at the kitchen table, his eyes fell on the papers spread out before him. He didn’t remember poring over this particular assortment of police reports and sundry pieces of evidence last night. Some of it wasn’t even familiar to him. He pulled a Marlboro out of the crumpled soft pack in the center of the pile of papers, stuck it between his chapped lips and lit it with the last match in the book that was wedged into the cellophane wrapper. Taking a deep drag, his eyes fell on a business card bearing the name of the Madrid Town Constable. He picked it up and stared at it for a long moment before letting out an involuntary gasp that caused his cigarette to fall to the floor.
“Oh fuck. Fuck no, fuck!”
Memories that did not feel like his own began to flood his mind. Burying a body behind the Mine Shaft Tavern under cover of night with the help of a congenially jaded bartender. An early morning drive to the banks of the Rio Chama to dispose of a pistol in its murky waters. A disquieting phone call from APD Headquarters.
“Shit! Oh, Jesus Christ, it can’t be!”
With a menacing glare at the framed portrait of his grandmother hanging on the living room wall, Martinez grabbed his cell phone from the coffee table and dialed furiously.
“Detective Leyba? It’s Sgt. Martinez. Listen, were either of the victims robbed?”
“Yes, robbed. Was any cash taken from that hippie’s girlfriend or his A.A. sponsor?”
“Not that I know of, although we didn’t find a wallet on the male victim, so I guess it’s possible. Neither of them were particularly well off — I mean, it’s extremely unlikely that money was a primary motive. Why do you ask?”
“Where’s that Guilden douche bag?”
“Andrew? No idea. I sent him home yesterday afternoon after taking his statement.”
“Call him up and tell him to come to HQ. I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Why? What the hell is this about, Martinez?”
“Just do it.”
Martinez got dressed and ran downstairs to his cruiser. He activated the siren and tore out of the parking lot, nearly clipping a Greyhound bus that was dropping off a passenger at the stop just outside of the Vista Alegre Apartment complex.