"Marvelous," continued Carmen. She was an avid fan of Grace Kelly, whom she was said to have resembled when she was young. "But don't try to distract me. How are you?"
He exhaled slowly and finished his coffee. The woman's gaze didn't falter: those blue eyes must have been true man-eaters. Carmen wasn't one of those old women who enjoy evoking the past, but thanks to Ruth, Héctor knew there had been at least two husbands ("easily forgotten, poor things," in Carmen's own words) and a lover ("a swine of the kind you don't forget"). But in the end there'd been one last one, who had secured her old age by leaving her that three-story building, in which she could live even better were she not saving one of the apartments for a son who'd left years before and never returned.
Héctor poured himself a little more coffee before answering. "I can't deceive you, Carmen." He tried to smile, but his exhausted expression and sad eyes ruined the effort. "Everything is shit. I beg your pardon. For a long time everything has seemed like shit."
Three short lines noted in black felt-tip pen on a yellow post-it note attached to a file of the same color. So as not to see them, Superintendent Savall opened the file and looked over its contents. As if he didn't already know them by heart. Statements. Affidavit. Medical reports. Police brutality. Photographs of that scumbag's injuries. Photographs of that unfortunate young Nigerian girl. Photographs of the flat in the Raval where they had the girls corralled. Even various newspaper cuttings, somevery few, thank Goddeliberately narrating their own version of the facts, emphasizing concepts like injustice, racism and abuse of power. He slammed the file shut and looked at the clock on his desk. Ten past nine. Fifty minutes. He was moving his chair back to stretch out his legs when someone knocked on the door and opened it almost simultaneously.
"Is he here?" he asked.
The woman entering the office shook her head without asking to whom the question referred and, very quietly, leaned both hands on the back of the chair facing the desk. She looked him in the eyes and spoke.
"What will you say to him?" The question sounded like an accusation, a burst of gunfire in six words.
Savall shrugged his shoulders, almost imperceptibly. "What I have to. What do you want me to say to him?"
"Martina . . ." He tried to be brusque, but he was too fond of her to get truly angry. He lowered his voice. "Fuck it, my hands are tied."
She didn't give up. She moved the chair back a little, sat down and drew it back up to the desk.
"What else do they need? That guy is out of hospital. He's at home, cool as can be, reorganizing his business while"
"Give it a rest, Martina!" Sweat broke out on his forehead and for once he lost his temper. He'd promised himself he wouldn't when he got up that morning. But he was human. He opened the yellow file and took out the photos; he scattered them across the desk like uncovered playing cards showing a poker of aces. "Broken jaw. Two fractured ribs. Contusions to the skull and abdomen. A face like a fucking map. All because Héctor lost his head and planted himself in this shit's house. The guy was lucky not to have internal injuries. He beat him half to death." She knew all this. She also knew that had she been sitting in the chair opposite, she would have said exactly the same. But if there was something that defined Sergeant Martina Andreu it was her unswerving loyalty to her own: her family, her colleagues and her friends. For her the world was split into two distinct groups: her people, and everyone else, and without doubt Héctor Salgado fell into the first. So, in a loud and deliberately disdainful voice, one that irritated her boss more than seeing those photos, she counterattacked.
Excerpted from The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill. Copyright © 2013 by Antonio Hill. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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