Smoke Screen

smoke

Ningún Santuario Pt. 18

Andrew pulled into the underground parking garage of the John Hancock Center and flashed his parking permit at the attendant. Backing into a space near the elevators, he rested his head on the steering wheel and wondered how he could possibly pull off an ad presentation to the executives from JetBlue Airlines after the string of sleepless nights he’d had. For the past few weeks, he had been haunted by memories of a boy he’d known in grammar school back in his hometown of Cuba, New Mexico. A retarded Mexican boy named Arturo Capella that had attempted to slit his throat the day after Andrew had taunted him in the schoolyard, this long-forgotten figure from his past started appearing to him in visions and dreams — as a young boy brandishing a switchblade knife and as a disheveled adult peering at him through two sunken grey eyes beneath a green corduroy cap.

To Andrew, Arturo had symbolized everything he despised about his upbringing in the rural desert town and the last time he had even thought about him before two weeks ago was when he sped past the Cuba town limits on his way to Chicago with middle finger extended in a symbolic farewell to those he left behind. That was twenty years ago. But now it seemed as though Cuba had tracked him down, and what it seemed to be telling him was that justice had yet to be served for his cruel treatment of a poor disabled child. With a deep sigh, he grabbed his briefcase, exited the vehicle and trudged toward the elevators. A colleague was on his way down and gave Andrew a nod. “Good morning, Mr. Guilden.” Andrew let the doors slide shut without returning the pleasantry.

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

We made it to Santa Fe in less than 45 minutes, Martinez having maintained a clip of nearly 100 mph for the entire trek up I-25. He cut the siren as we rolled onto the Cerrillos Road exit ramp and merged into the mid-afternoon traffic. Neither of us had spoken a word for the entire drive, but now my chauffeur broke the silence.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Andrew. Do you understand?”

I remained silent.

“I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you’re not a fan of cops. Am I right?”

“Right.”

“Yeah, guys in their forties who still wear their hair in a ponytail usually aren’t. That’s alright. I don’t like guys in their forties who still wear their hair in a ponytail, so I guess we’re even. Hell, you even got a front row seat to a cop killing, so maybe the day hasn’t been all bad, right?”

I knew that this conversation couldn’t be leading anywhere good, so I continued to meet his words with silence while he rambled on.

“Andrew, that detective was asking some dangerous questions — the answers to which could cost me my reputation and my livelihood. I don’t suppose he was a bad guy, but we do what we must to survive. Do you smoke?”

“Yeah.”

Martinez reached under the dash and pulled out a soft pack of Marlboro Blacks, tapping two cigarettes out and handing one back to me. I stuck it between my lips and when we came to a red light at Airport Road, he leaned over and lit it for me. We made a left turn and for a few miles, we rode on smoking in silence.

“We’re going to my place, Andrew. We’re gonna go to my apartment, have a beer and wait.”

This felt like a safer opening, so I asked, “Wait for what?”

“For the Rapture, Andrew…c’mon. Use your head. Who do you think we’re waiting for?”

I again opted to ignore his question.

“For Arturo Capella.”

He paused as if waiting for my reaction but he’d need to give me more information if he expected some sort of recognition.

“The fucking zombie that’s been killing your friends? Stalking you all over Albuquerque? I would have guessed you were familiar with this gentleman.”

“We aren’t on a first name basis.”

Martinez chuckled at that. “Yeah, you kind of are, from what I understand. He didn’t show up at your apartment a couple of weeks ago and call you to the door?”

“Yeah. I guess I forgot to ask him for his business card.”

“He left you that, too. The little menacing paper doll that was left on your door is the Santa Muerte equivalent of a calling card. And Santa Muerte is the reason he’s even above ground right now. Arturo died months ago at the hands of his brother. But his people back in Mexico thought it important to bring him back…to kill you, apparently. I’m not even gonna bother asking you if you knew him when he was alive, because Leyba covered that already. The only thing I can surmise is that it’s a case of mistaken identity and someone similar to you — in appearance or maybe name — should have been the real target. This will probably remain a mystery, nor is it very relevant since he’s already been given his marching orders from south of the border.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Let’s just say I had a crazy grandma and leave it at that.”

We pulled into an apartment complex on Zepol Road and parked. Martinez got out and opened the back door, gesturing for me to follow him up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Walking a few feet behind him as he fumbled for his front door key, I noticed that the screen had been removed from the small kitchen window to the right of the entrance. I took a long drag from my cigarette and scanned the landing for all possible routes of egress while wordlessly letting him pass through the door.

8 thoughts on “Smoke Screen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s