"A couple of days before it all happened I'd have said he was a calm man. Never raised his voice. Efficient. Stubborn but patient. A good cop . . . Thorough, sleuth-style. But suddenly, boom, his mind clouds over and he goes wild. Left us all dumbfounded, to tell the truth. We've enough bad press without an inspector losing his head like that."
He was right about that, Leire said to herself. She took advantage of her companion's silence to ask: "What happened? I know the gist, I read something in the papers, but" "What happened was he lost it. No more, no less." In this respect the guy seemed to have a firm opinion with no hesitation.
"No one says it out loud because he's the inspector and all that, and the super is very fond of him, but it's true. He beat that guy half to death. They say he turned in his resignation but the super threw it back in his face. He did order him on a month's 'holiday' until the air cleared. And you know the press haven't fed on the subject. It could have been much worse."
Leire took another sip of coffee. It tasted strange. She'd kill for a cigarette but she'd decided not to smoke her first one until after lunch, at least another four hours away. She breathed deeply, to see if filling her lungs with air killed the nicotine cravings. The trick half worked. Her companion threw his plastic cup in the recycling bin.
"I'll deny everything I've said if need be," he said, smiling. "You know, all for one and one for all, like the musketeers. But there are things that aren't right. Now I've got to go: duty calls."
"Of course," she nodded, distracted. "See you later."
She stayed a few moments, remembering what she'd read on the subject of Inspector Salgado. In March, barely four months previously, Héctor Salgado had coordinated an operation against the trafficking of women. His team spent a year tracking a criminal gang that made a living bringing in young African girls, principally Nigerians, to fill various brothels in Vallés and Garraf. The younger the better, of course. Those from the East and South America had gone out of fashion: too clever and too demanding. Clients were requesting young, frightened, black girls to satisfy their basest instincts, and the traffickers found themselves more able to control these illiterate, disoriented girls, taken out of extreme poverty with the vague promise of a future that couldn't be worse than the present. But it was. Sometimes Leire asked herself how they could be so blind. Had they ever seen one of their predecessors come back, having become a rich woman, capable of lifting her family out of misery? No: it was a flight forward, a desperate route down which many were pushed by their own parents and husbands with no choice. A journey, certainly tinged with a mixture of excitement and suspicion, which ended in a nauseating room where the girls learned that hope was something they couldn't afford. No longer was it about aspiring to a better life; it was about survival. And the pigs manipulating thema network of criminals and former prostitutes who had ascended in the ranksused all means available to make them understand why they were there and what their new, repugnant obligations were.
She felt a vibration in her trouser pocket and took out her private mobile. A red light flashed, signalling a message. On seeing the name of the sender a smile crossed her face. Javier. Five foot eleven, dark eyes, the right quantity of hair on his bronzed torso and a puma tattooed diagonally just below the abs. And to top it all, a nice guy, Leire said to herself, as she opened that little envelope. "Hey, I just woke up and you're already gone. Why do u always disappear without saying anything? We'll see each other tonite and tomorrow you make me breakfast? Miss you. Kisses."
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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