Leire stared at her mobile for a moment. That was that with Javier. The boy was charming, no doubt, although he wasn't exactly a spelling whiz. Nor very mature, she thought, looking at her watch. What's more, something about that message had set off an inner alarm she recognized and had learned to respect, a twinkling flash that went off when certain members of the opposite sex, after a couple of nights of good sex, started asking for explanations and saying they felt like "taking hot chocolate to bed." Luckily there weren't many of them. The majority accepted her game without problems, the healthy no-strings sex that she laid out openly. But there was always someone like Javier who didn't get it. A pity, Leire told herself, as she tapped out an answer at top speed, that he belonged to that small group of men. "Can't tonight. I'll call you. By the way, tonight has a 'g' and 'h' and no 'e,' remember that. See you soon!" She re-read the message and in a fit of compassion she deleted the second part before sending it. An unnecessary cruelty, she reproached herself. The small sealed envelope flew through space and she hoped that Javier would know to read between the lines, but just in case she put the mobile on silent before finishing her coffee.
The last gulp, already half cold, turned her stomach. A cold sweat soaked her forehead. She breathed deeply a second time, while thinking she couldn't delay any longer. This morning nausea had to have an explanation. This very day you'll drop into the pharmacy, she ordered herself firmly, although deep down she knew perfectly well there was no need. The answer to her questions lay in a glorious weekend a month before.
She came back to herself slowly and some minutes later she felt strong enough to return to her desk. She sat down in front of her computer, ready to concentrate on her work, just as the door of Superintendent Savall's office was closing.
The third man in the office might intend to earn his living as a lawyer, but if he were to be judged by his eloquence and capacity for expression, the future before him was a little gloomy. In his defense, he wasn't in a comfortable position, and neither the superintendent nor Héctor Salgado was making it any easier for him.
For the fourth time in ten minutes, Damián Fernández wiped away sweat with the same wrinkled tissue before answering a question.
"I already told you. I saw Dr. Omar the night before last, around nine."
"And did you communicate the proposal that I made to him?" Héctor didn't know what proposal Savall was speaking of, but he could imagine it. He threw an appreciative glance at his boss, although anger shone in the depth of his eyes. Any deal in that bastard's favor, even in return for saving his neck, left his stomach feeling hollow.
Fernández nodded. He loosened the knot of his tie as if it were strangling him. "Every word." He cleared his throat. "I told him . . . I told him he didn't have to accept it. That you had very little on him anyway." He must have noticed the rage rising in the superintendent's face but he justified himself immediately. "It's the truth. With that girl dead, nothing links him to the trafficking . . . They can't even accuse you of malpractice when you don't pretend to be a doctor. If they locked you up for that, they'd have to lock up all the fortune-tellers, quacks and holy men in Barcelona . . . the prison couldn't hold them all. But," he hastened to say, "I emphasized that the police could be very insistent and, since he was already recovering from the assault," and saying that word he directed a rapid and nervous glance toward Inspector Salgado, who didn't turn a hair, "maybe the best thing would be to forget the whole thing . . ."
The superintendent inhaled deeply.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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