Ningún Santuario Pt. 19
The apartment was dead center between the two stairwells leading back to the parking lot. There was nowhere to run. Martinez opened his door and motioned for me to follow him inside.
He switched on the light and tossed his keys on to the coffee table. The place was a dump.
“I’m between cleaning ladies,” he said in a tone that seemed oddly friendly and familiar considering our short but confusing history. “Grab a couple of beers out of the fridge, would you?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Like hell you don’t. A few months of court-ordered A.A. meetings and you’re coming off like Carrie Nation? Besides, your sponsor’s not likely to find out from his slab at the morgue.”
He had a point, so I went into the kitchen, grabbed two Coronas from the refrigerator and carried them back to the cluttered living room. Other than the missing screen, I couldn’t discern any other signs of someone having forcibly entered nor was Martinez acting like anything was amiss. The sun was setting, but Martinez suggested we go out to the balcony at the rear of the apartment to drink our beers.
There were two plastic deck chairs with a rusting wrought-iron table between them. We sat down and uncapped our beers and Martinez tilted the neck of his Corona towards mine. Finding him harder to read by the second, I returned the gesture and we clinked bottles.
“Cheers, Andrew. We’re just gonna drink and relax for a while.”
“Why do you think Arturo’s planning to show up here?”
“First of all, Arturo doesn’t plan anything. In his current state, he’s even dumber than he was when he was alive. He’s being guided by forces beyond his understanding and he’s powerless to resist them. Right now, I’m sure that he’s coming for me. And with you here, his arrival is all the more certain.”
“What he wants with me is a mystery I’ve been pondering every waking moment for months now. But you? Did he know you when he was alive?”
“No, but his people back in Mexico do. Arturo’s a distant cousin on my mother’s side. I never met him, but I keep in contact with family in Oaxaca who told me some things about him. I’m involved in this completely against my will, Andrew. Quite a while back, I was dispatched to his murder scene and…fuck it. The less you know, the better. Just expect him to show up at any moment and when he does, don’t do anything stupid. I have this all planned out.”
“Does your plan involve me getting out of here alive?”
Just as I asked the question, I noticed a storage closet to the left of Martinez’ chair, the door slightly ajar. As he drank, he kept a relaxed grip on his pistol in its unclasped holster.
“My plan involves me getting out of here alive. I don’t really give a rat’s ass about you, my friend. But I’d guess that anything I do to protect myself will benefit you, as well.”
Arturo burst out of the closet and swung his machete fast and hard into Martinez’ chest causing it to bounce off the Kevlar vest beneath his uniform. Martinez stood and aimed his pistol at Arturo’s forehead, squeezing off three rapid shots that sent his attacker stumbling backwards into the cluttered closet with a crash. Martinez stood over him and began speaking in rapid-fire Spanish while periodically making the sign of the cross with his free hand. I stood frozen against the railing farthest from the melee. Arturo had managed to sit up and was struggling to grab the gun from Martinez’ hand. They rolled out of the closet and toppled the small table, sending the beers crashing to the ground. Arturo was considerably larger than his opponent and his superior reach enabled him to push the blade into Martinez’ neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Arturo rolled on top of him as Martinez pumped another round into his face, which was now a blood-drenched mess, a section of yellowed cheekbone jutting through the skin. Undeterred, Arturo grabbed the machete handle with both hands and using all of his strength, brought it down just below Martinez’ chin, decapitating him. The head rolled slowly towards the railing where it came to rest, eyes wide open displaying his final moment of terror. Police sirens seemed to be approaching from every direction, but I couldn’t move. Arturo and I stood on either side of the balcony, predator and prey facing each other down. A sickening smile spread across his bloodied face, but he remained standing right where he was. He seemed to be relishing the moment, trying to make it last. Martinez’ gun was out of reach, but there was ample room to access the apartment through the open screen door. I took my chance and bolted inside just as a half dozen Santa Fe police officers burst through the door with guns drawn.