'Who are you?' she asked.
'It's time to go,' Cámara said. 'You can carry on outside.'
From behind, Cámara could feel the eyes of the guests on him, wondering if he was capable of solving their little crisis. In front, the demonstrators decided it was time to increase the noise levels again, and the cacophony started afresh, the whistling piercing his ears like needles. Yet instinctively he could tell, as he watched them jumping and waving their arms, stamping their feet to the sound of the drum, that they had not come here seeking any more than this - a minor discomfort, a show of strength, despite their limited numbers. Their intention was to embarrass and annoy, not cause a fight or a riot.
He raised his voice.
'I'm a policeman. I want you to leave.'
The girl gave him another quizzical look.
'Policeman? So what are you doing here standing up for these murderers?' She pointed at Ramírez and his son. 'You should be locking them up.'
There was a surge in the group as she spoke, a lurching, unconscious step forwards. Cámara put out his arm and held them back. They felt his strength, like a rock. It would be difficult to get past this one.
'I need you to leave,' Cámara repeated, his voice lower this time. 'Now.'
A shout came from the back, while two of them took up their whistles once again, but the girl with the dreadlocks remained silent, flaring her nostrils as she looked into Cámara's eyes. Moments passed and neither moved, but then, with a slump of her shoulders, she sighed. The others began to read the signal and started backing slowly, very gradually, away.
A final cry of defiance, until there was just the girl left, and a young man standing beside her; he was taller than the others, with a slim, muscular build. He grinned mockingly at the people in the bar, then turned and walked out into the street, leaving the girl on her own. She cast a disgusted eye about the room, and turned to Cámara. Tilting her head up, she blew him a kiss, then spinning round she swept her arm out over one of the tables nearby, sending glasses and cutlery crashing to the floor, before running out to join the others. Cámara felt a powerful reflex in his leg, a desire to lunge after her and pull her in. But he held back, his jaws tight, fists clenched. The stand-off was over. Peace, albeit of an uncertain kind, had been restored.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he saw the barman holding out a glass of brandy for him.
'You might want this,' he said.
The owner of the bar sauntered over, all smiles now the crisis had been resolved.
'We're indebted to you, Chief Inspector.' And he held out a cold damp hand to shake. '
Tonight is not the night, but those sons-of-bitches need teaching a good lesson, if you ask me,' the owner said.
Cámara returned to the main group, many pressing forwards to pat him on the back. He nodded and smiled, cursing that it would be more difficult now to leave unnoticed.
The woman with the highlighted hair was the first to break the newly found bonhomie.
'I've just called Blanco on his mobile,' she said. 'He's not answering. He should have been here by now.'
She looked over at Cámara, and this time he remembered who she was - Alicia Beneyto, a journalist on the local newspaper El Diario de Valencia.
'I'm just wondering if he's having difficulties getting here,' she said. 'Perhaps the demonstrators have put him off. Would it be a good idea to call for backup, Chief Inspector?'
All eyes were back on Cámara. He'd saved them once. Now it seemed he was expected to pull their missing guest of honour out of a hat as well.
Before he could say anything, the door from the street opened again and in stepped a Policía Local - a municipal policeman - his dayglo jacket flapping in the breeze just above the hilt of his revolver.
From Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster. Copyright ©2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of Minotaur Books.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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