Read Barcelona 03 - The Sound of One Hand Killing Online
Authors: Teresa Solana,Peter Bush
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Action & Adventure, #International Mystery & Crime
Teresa Solana has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Barcelona, where she also studied Classics. She has worked as a literary translator and directed the Spanish National Translation Centre in Tarazona. She has published many essays and articles on translation and written several novels she prefers to keep in her drawer.
The Sound of One Hand Killing
is the third in the Barcelona series featuring twin private detectives Eduard MartÃnez and Borja “Pep” MasdÃ©u. The first,
A Not So Perfect Crime
, won the 2007 Brigada 21 Prize and was followed by the bestselling
A Shortcut to Paradise
Also available from Bitter Lemon Press
by Teresa Solana:
A Not So Perfect Crime
A Shortcut to Paradise
OF ONE HAND
Translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
BITTER LEMON PRESS
BITTER LEMON PRESS
First published in the United Kingdom in 2013 by
Bitter Lemon Press, 37 Arundel Gardens, London W11 2LW
First published in Catalan as
Edicions 62, Barcelona, 2011
Bitter Lemon Press gratefully acknowledges
the financial assistance of the Arts Council of England
The translation of this work was supported by
a grant from the Institut Ramon Llull
Â© Teresa Solana, 2011
English translation Â© Peter Bush, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced in any form or by any means without
written permission of the publisher
The moral rights of Teresa Solana and Peter Bush have been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs, and Patents Act 1988
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
Typeset by Tetragon
For my cousin Margarita,
“You know the sound of two hands
clapping; tell me, what is the sound of
Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku
When the Agency told him his next posting would be to Barcelona, Brian was all smiles. He was ecstatic. Yippee! They were finally sending him to a European city, a city with a more than decent climate and nightlife. Not that he could complain â unlike most of his colleagues, he'd only taken nine years to secure a desirable operating base. His tour of duty in far-flung, exotic spots had started to drag.
First there'd been the four years he'd languished in Singapore, dripping with sweat in the humid heat of its streets and freezing his balls off in its bars and restaurants, not to mention the dire boredom he'd endured while rubbing shoulders with cohorts of business executives, doctors bingeing at lavish congresses and swarms of students of English. As he spoke French they'd then sent him to Dakar, and after that to Marrakesh where he'd been holed up three interminable years, suffering from the stifling heat in a dingy flat where the air conditioning broke down every other week. Nonetheless, his time in Marrakesh had been a big improvement, particularly after he'd got to know Charlotte, who had a smattering of Arabic and knew the bars and dives in the city where you could drink alcohol. However, that bitch had it taped and didn't live there the whole year; come June, when the city turned into an oven
unfit for tourists, she headed back to California and said goodbye until October. Now he'd probably never see her again, not that it really bothered him. The news of his move to Barcelona had exceeded all expectations and amply compensated the need to bid a final farewell to Charlotte and their drunken nights of wild sex. Anyway, she'd made it clear from the start that she wasn't making any commitments and he'd done the same.
When he got to Barcelona, he was surprised to discover that most people spoke in a language that vaguely reminded him of Italian. Sure, everybody spoke Spanish as well, and most people were considerate and addressed him in that language when they detected his foreign accent, but a few insisted on using that other language he didn't understand and scolded him for not learning it. After making the effort to learn Spanish at the Cervantes Institute in Marrakesh, Brian had neither the time nor the inclination to start studying Catalan. Even so, within a few months he'd started to grasp enough of the local lingo not to have to ask them to repeat everything in Spanish, and in fact everyone spoke English in the circles in which he moved: he didn't need either Spanish or Catalan.
With its streets teeming with tourists, its beaches and endless bars, Barcelona was a different world, where he felt at home; and that was odd, because he hailed from Philadelphia. Obviously he was forced to pull his finger out in Barcelona: unlike Singapore, Dakar or Marrakesh, the city was a hive of activity, and his boss wasn't happy with second-hand information. In that sense, it was very different from his other postings, where secret agents knew each other and had everything well under control. Barcelona saw a constant turnover of personnel and it was difficult to tell the people you could trust from those who would try to get one past you at the first opportunity. Not
that he was complaining. For the first time ever, life was beginning to look like what he'd imagined when, at the age of twenty-eight and armed with a degree in sociology, he'd decided to catch a flight to Langley and knock on the Agency's door. He'd finally made it to Europe, every secret agent's dream destination. All he needed now was the Aston Martin and a white tuxedo.
John's phone call both surprised and delighted Brian. He had no idea John was in Barcelona. When John said he'd come on routine business and suggested going for a beer or two â meaning a night on the tiles â Brian said yes straight away. John had offered to drive by and pick him up, and he'd readily agreed. He arrived punctually, and Brian reflected how highly unusual that was for him. He said he was dying of thirst, and Brian, though famed for his meanness, could be hospitable when he wanted and offered him a beer. He was in the kitchen opening the fridge and touching the bottles to find an ice-cold one when he heard John say, “I'm sorry, lad. Nothing personal.”
Before he could turn round, he knew what was coming, not that he had a clue as to why. What the fuck had he done wrong? It would be futile to try to reason with John: orders are orders and John was a true professional.
“Did they tell you why?” he asked.
“You know they never do. It's easier this way. I'm very sorry.”
The first shot hit its target between his eyes. The others to his chest were simply to finish the job off properly: it wouldn't have been the first time someone had survived a shot to the head and lived like a vegetable for the rest of their days. That had never been the case with John's assignments, but he would have regretted fouling up with his mate Brian. They may not have been the closest of friends, but they'd enjoyed their moments in Singapore.
What a pity, thought John as he left the flat, Brian couldn't show him Barcelona now and he'd have to put himself into the hands of city cab drivers if he wanted a drink and a quick romp between the sheets before heading off to the airport.
“Hey, you still in bed?” I yelled at Borja when he finally picked up the phone, sure he'd say that he was.
“Mmmâ¦” came his sleepy reply.
“Get a move on or we'll be late. Remember we said twelve.”
“Can't you go by yourself?” he growled. “I feel deadâ¦”
“Jump to it,” I insisted, trying to sound authoritarian. “I'll come to collect you in an hour's time, so get up and under that shower right away.”
I imagined him struggling with his silk sheets and groping his way to the bathroom, like he did when he was a kid, and could only smile. It's Monday, and on Mondays, when there is no urgent business, Borja and I never go to the office. As far as we are concerned (or rather, as far as Borja is concerned), the week begins on Tuesday, at worst Monday night, if something pressing requires our immediate attention. My brother reckons that Mondays are good for nothing, except rest, which is why he spends Mondays loafing around, while I give a helping hand at home and do a shop.
However, we'd agreed to meet a client in the office at twelve, and that meant Borja had to forgo his Monday day of rest. He might like to grumble, but, as things stood, in the midst of an economic crisis that, in my case, was expressed in distressingly red digits at the bank and threatening calls from the late-payment department, we
couldn't risk my brother's hedonistic habits losing us a customer.
I'd been up since a quarter to eight and hadn't stopped in all that time. Luckily, that week I was responsible for preparing the mid-morning snack and taking Arnau to school (I hate it when it's my turn to wake up the twins, make sure they don't spend three hours in the bathroom prettifying themselves or watch they don't hit the street dolled up in some fancy outfit or other), and, on my way back, I had to pop into the supermarket and stock up on packs of water and milk. Right then, I was doing the washing-up in the kitchen while Montse was in and out of the bedrooms, making beds and gathering up the dirty clothes before shooting off to work. Her Alternative Centre for Holistic Well-being was also suffering from the crisis, and that morning she and her partners had a meeting with their bank manager to try to negotiate a loan to avoid the closure of their source of livelihood.
“Don't raise your hopes. The banks haven't turned on the tap yet,” I warned her.
“You and Borja better get some work, right?” she retaliated. And while she grabbed her bag and painted her lips red in front of the hallway mirror, she added with a deep sigh, “But this time, make sure you don't get yourselves into deep water!”
“Of course we won't!” I retorted in an offended tone. “I give you my word.”
I kissed her on the cheek so as not to smudge her lipstick and wished her the best of luck, though I was sure the guys at the bank would act ruthlessly and refuse any help that wasn't accompanied by a lengthy list of draconian conditions in the purest
Merchant of Venice
fashion. While I was thinking about what we'd do to survive the crisis started by those very same institutions that were now sinking us,
and deriving sad consolation from the fact that many were worse off than ourselves, I warmed up my second cup of coffee in the microwave and idled in front of the TV until it was time to go and meet my fraternal business partner.