"And did you convince him?"
"I think so . . . Well," he corrected himself, "the truth is that he just said he'd think it over. And he'd call me the following day to give me an answer."
"But he didn't."
"No. I called his clinic yesterday, various times, but no one answered. That didn't surprise me. The doctor doesn't take calls while he's working."
"So you decided to go to see him first thing this morning?" "Yes. I had to have an answer for you, and well . . ." he hesitated, "it's not as if I have much to do these days."
Not for the foreseeable future either, Savall and Salgado thought in unison, but they said nothing.
"And you went. About nine."
Fernández nodded. He swallowed. "Pallor" was too poetic a word to describe the color of his face.
"Do you have any water?"
The superintendent exhaled.
"Not in here. We're almost finished. Continue, Señor Fernández, please."
"It wasn't even nine. The bus came immediately and"
"Get to the point, please!"
"Yes. Yes. What I was saying was that, although it was a bit early, I went up anyway and when I went to knock on the door, I saw it was ajar." He stopped. "Well, I thought I could go in; at the end of the day, maybe something had happened to him." He swallowed once more; the tissue came apart in his hands when he tried to use it again. "It smelled . . . it smelled strange. Rotten. I called him as I went toward his office, at the end of the corridor . . . That door was ajar as well and . . . I pushed it. Christ!"
The rest he'd already described at the beginning, his face distorted, before Héctor arrived. The pig's head on the desk. Blood everywhere. And not a trace of the doctor.
"Just what we needed," muttered the super as soon as the nervous lawyer had left the office. "We'll go back to having the press biting us like vultures."
Héctor thought the vultures were hardly biting, but he stopped himself commenting. In any case, he wouldn't have had time because Savall picked up the receiver and called an extension. Half a minute later, Sergeant Andreu was coming into the office. Martina didn't know what was happening, but she guessed by her boss's face it was nothing good, so after winking at Héctor by way of a greeting, she got ready to listen. If the news Savall gave her surprised her as much as it had them, she hid it well. She listened attentively, asked a couple of pertinent questions, and left to carry out her orders. Héctor's eyes followed her. He almost started on hearing his name.
"Héctor. Listen carefully because I'm only saying this once. I've risked my neck for you. I've defended you to the press and the brass. I've pulled out all the stops to bury this business. And I'm on the verge of convincing that guy to drop the charges. But if you go near that flat, if you intervene in this investigation even for one minute, I won't be able to do anything. Understood?"
Héctor crossed one leg over the other. His intense concentration showed in his face.
"It's my head on the chopping-block," he finally said. "Don't you think I've a right to know why they are cutting it off?"
"You lost it, Héctor. The same day you came to blows with that swine you gave up your rights. Now you're facing the consequences."
The thing was, Héctor knew all this but at that moment he didn't care. He couldn't even manage to repent: the blows he'd showered on Omar seemed to him just and deserved. It was as if the serious Inspector Salgado had regressed to his youth in a Buenos Aires barrio, when disagreements were resolved by punching each other to shit at the school gates. When you'd go home with a split lip but say you'd been hit in the face playing football. A burst of rebellion was still pricking him in the chest: an absurd, break-my-balls thing, decidedly immature for a cop just turned forty-three.
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."
- PW Starred Review
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