"And no one remembers the girl?" asked Héctor bitterly. A poor defense, but it was the only one he had.
"Let's see if you get this into your head, Salgado." To his regret, Savall had raised his voice. "As far as we know, there wasn't the least contact between Dr. Omar and the girl in question after the flat where the girls were kept was taken apart. We couldn't even show there was any beforehand without the girl's word. She was in the center for minors. Somehow they managed to do . . . that . . . to them."
"I know the facts, chief."
But the facts didn't manage to convey the horror. The intensely panicked face of a little girl, even in death. Kira wasn't fifteen, didn't speak a word of Spanish or of any language other than her own and yet she'd managed to make herself heard. She was slight, very slim and in her smooth, doll-like face her eyes shone, a color somewhere between amber and chestnut that he'd never seen before. Like the others, Kira had taken part in a ceremony before leaving her country in search of a better future. They called them ju-ju rites, in which, after drinking water used to wash a corpse, the young girls offered pubic hair or menstrual blood, which was collected before an altar. They then promised never to report their traffickers, to pay the supposed debts incurred by their journey and generally to obey without question. The punishment for whoever did not comply with these promises was a horrible death, for her or for the relatives she'd left behind. Kira suffered it herself: nobody would have said so fragile a body could contain so much blood. Héctor tried to block the image from his mind, that same vision that at the time had made him lose his head and go in search of Dr. Omar to extract every bone from his body. That individual's name had come up during the investigation: in theory his only function had been to attend to the girls' health. But the fear betrayed by the girls on hearing his name indicated that the doctor's duties went further than purely medical attention. Not one had dared speak of him. He took precautions and the girls were brought to his clinic individually or in pairs. The most he could be accused of was of not asking questions, and that was a very weak accusation for a witch doctor who ran a squalid clinic and tended to illegal immigrants. But that wasn't enough for Héctor; he'd chosen to lean on the youngest, the most frightened, with the help of an interpreter. All it had achieved was that Kira said, in a very quiet voice, that the doctor had examined her to check whether she was still a virgin and in passing he'd reminded her that she must do what those men said. Nothing else. The following day, her child's hand took up a pair of scissors and made her body a fountain of blood. In Héctor's eighteen years in the police force he'd never seen anything like it, and he'd seen a lot: from junkies without a healthy piece of skin to inject into, to victims of every type of violence. But nothing like this. A macabre, perverse sensation emanated from Kira's mutilated body, something unreal which he couldn't put into words. Something belonging to the realm of nightmares.
"Another thing," Savall continued, as if the previous point had already been agreed without argument. "Before being reinstated, you have to attend some sessions with a force psychologist.
It's mandatory. Your first appointment is tomorrow at eleven. So do what you can to appear sane. Starting with a shave."
Héctor didn't protest; in fact, he already knew. Suddenly, and in spite of all the good resolutions he'd made on the long flight back, he didn't give a shit about any of it. Any of it except the bloody pig's head.
"Can I go?"
"One moment. I don't want statements to the press, not even a hint of one. As far as you're concerned, all of this is ongoing and you have no comment. Have I made myself clear?"
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...