Authors: Carmen Amato
chair and tipped it back. A thin silver chain showed
inside the loose neck of the tee. His skin was smooth and his jaw was tightly
defined. He looked like someone who worked out a lot. And liked showing off the
“So Cruz, tell me
how you’re going to proceed,” he said, as if Rico and Silvio weren’t even in
the crowded office.
“We’ll set up a
hotline and get detectives out talking to everyone at his apartment building
and the hotel to see if we can piece together his last hour. He was apparently
close to his brother. We’ll talk to him as well. Look at his phone records to
see if we can find out who the late night caller was. Coroner’s report.
Forensics on his laptop. See if we get any prints off the boat.”
Obregon nodded and
straightened the chair. Even that simple movement belied grace and power and
focused intent. “This is how the investigation is going to go.” He pointed at
Emilia. “You’re appointed acting lieutenant. Do whatever you want with these
clowns”--he snapped his fingers at Silvio and Rico--“and the other cases you’ve
got but I want you to personally head the Inocente investigation.”
Both Silvio and
Rico froze as if they couldn’t believe what they’d just heard.
“Chief Salazar has
already been notified. You’ll report directly to my office every few days until
this thing is over.” Obregon indicated Villahermosa who’d stood by the door
unmoving during the entire conversation, like a large, menacing statue.
Obregon’s deputy was even bigger than Silvio, with legs the size of tree
trunks. Another former boxer, no doubt. “Villahermosa will be on call to assist
The tension in the
room was now tinged with menace. Emilia struggled to keep breathing normally.
“Cruz is a junior
detective.” Silvio’s voice was tight. “She doesn’t have the experience or the
seniority to be acting lieutenant.”
“Cruz has my full
support,” Obregon said.
“With respect,” Silvio
said. “We understand that. But she’s not the senior detective here.”
for your fucking opinion,” Obregon blazed. His eyes drilled into Silvio. “Cruz
is in charge as of now. Thanks for coming.”
pulled open the door and jerked his chin at Silvio and Rico. They both walked
rooted to the spot as her mind jumped around. Why had he chosen her? Did the
union have the authority to put her in this position?
to Villahermosa and the man left the office, too. And then it was just Obregon
and Emilia. He walked round the desk again and rifled through a few of the
papers on the desktop.
“The mayor has a
press conference tomorrow and she’ll want to say something about the Inocente
investigation,” Obregon said as he looked through the papers. “Be nice if you
could have this all wrapped up by then.”
Emilia felt as if
she’d been gutted. She forced a single word out around the tightness in her
throat and the dryness in her mouth. “Sure.”
She must have
sounded sassier than she felt because he looked up and laughed. “At any rate,
we’ll meet beforehand to review what you’re going to tell her. Let’s say
tomorrow 4:00 pm.”
He glanced at his
watch, an expensive-looking silver job with three knobs on the side. “That
gives you more than 24 hours to come up with something significant.”
Emilia licked her
lips. “I won’t even have the phone records by then.”
something for the press conference,” Obregon said nastily. “Some nice sound
bite about the diligence of the Acapulco police and how they’re sad but
“You want me to
say this to the mayor?”
“Inocente was as
dirty as they come.” Obregon turned his attention back to the overflowing
inbox. “You’re going to turn up a lot of bad things. When you do, you tell me
or Villahermosa. Not the other detectives and not the chief of police. You
don’t arrest anybody, you don’t get yourself shot, you don’t do anything. I’ll
take care of that part.”
hammered like a warning bell in her chest. “I think Silvio should be in charge
of this investigation. He’s the senior detective.”
“If you find that
the wife popped him,” Obregon went on. “And you know it beyond a shadow of a
doubt, go ahead and arrest her. Otherwise come to me first. Nobody else.”
“Did you hear what
I said?” Emilia said.
“I’m trying to
clean up the police in this state,” Obregon said as he plucked a folder out of
the box. As he flipped it open his hands knotted with veins, as if he had a lot
of practice clenching and unclenching his fists. “I’m sick of the corruption
and men like Inocente making deals with the cartels. People like him protect
their empires, feed it with drugs and private armies. When you find out who
killed Inocente we can probably roll up whatever cartel he was in bed with.”
“Why me?” Emilia
asked. She was talking to his bent head as if he couldn’t be bothered to look
her in the eye. The warning bell was deafening and Emilia knew she had to get
herself out of this situation. Silvio should have this job. Or Loyola. They’d
know how to deal with Obregon as well as how to conduct a major murder
investigation. “You heard what Silvio said. Almost all the detectives out there
are senior to me. There will be a lot of resistance. From all the other
detectives. Enough to keep the investigation from going forward.”
“So you’ll handle
it.” Obregon read something else out of the inbox.
Emilia slammed her hand down on the desktop to get his attention.
“Good,” he said,
finally looking up from whatever he’d been reading. “You’ve got a fire in the
belly. You get those detectives talking to everybody in that fucking hotel.
Everybody who lived near him. Whoever even heard of Fausto Inocente. And if the
boys don’t do what you say, shoot one of them. The rest will fall in line.”
He was serious.
“I don’t know who
you think I am, señor,” Emilia gulped. “But I’ve only been a detective for two
years. Mostly I’ve handled the crap cases. You need a seasoned investigator on
this one. Get one of the other detectives to be acting lieutenant.”
“You’ve made quite
a mark in two years, whether you know it or not. Recovering the Morelos de Gama
child was a big deal,” Obregon said.
“The media made it
out to be more than it was,” Emilia parried. “The case was handled in Ixtapa,
watching you.” He tossed the file onto the desk and regarded her. “Our girl
detective. You’re a hungry one. You want to get someplace.”
Emilia said. “Not this.”
“You’re the only
woman here.” Obregon’s glance was searing.
“This is because
I’m a woman?”
knows women are less corrupt.” Obregon came around the side of the desk and
Emilia resisted the urge to shrink away from him. “You do this or you won’t
even be able to be hired on as the lowliest
cop in any police
force in this state.”
He leaned down and
put his face close to hers. “You know he was corrupt. Up to his neck in shit.
Well, I’m the person putting an end to it in the state of Guerrero and you
don’t get to choose sides.”
move. It was hard to breathe. He smelled like leather and cigarettes and an
unexpected whiff of spicy cologne.
“I’ll be calling
you on this office phone so you’d better move in today.” Obregon stepped back
and ran an appraising eye down Emilia’s body. “And look good tomorrow. You want
the mayor to take you seriously.”
“I’m junior around
here,” Emilia said stubbornly. “You want a fast result, you get Silvio.”
whatever the fuck the I tell you to do.” Obregon’s voice was flat. “Maybe I
wasn’t clear enough for you, Cruz. If the union puts you and your mother out on
the street you won’t work as a whore in this town much less as a
So you show up and be nice to the mayor and tell her something clever for her
little television press conference. Inocente’s name and where the body was
found and how you’re working night and day to solve this terrible crime.”
They stared at
each other for a long moment.
The meaning of
You and your mother
struck home, as no doubt it was intended to do.
“I want doors on
the stalls in the detectives’ bathroom,” Emilia heard herself say. “And a
copier that works. And paper for it. And ink.”
The corner of
Obregon’s mouth twitched. “Anything else?”
“I’ll let you
know,” she said tightly.
Emilia a card. There were two cell phone numbers printed on it. “You only use
these numbers to get in touch with me,” he said.
Before she could
respond he pulled open the door and shouted “Attention.”
Obregon as far as the doorway. The detectives were all there, as was
Villahermosa. Obregon strode to the center of the squadroom, commanding
“Most of you know
me. I am Victor Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of
Guerrero.” He revolved slowly and most of the detectives stood a little
straighter as his eye rested on them for a moment, creating the same
malice-tinged tension he’d first brought into the squadroom. “As you know, Lt.
Inocente was found dead this morning. His death will be investigated as a
homicide by this unit until his murderer is found and dealt with.”
There was a low
sound of shuffling feet. Somebody coughed.
Obregon jerked his
chin in the direction of Lt. Inocente’s office where Emilia leaned awkwardly
against the doorjamb. “Detective Emilia Cruz will be acting lieutenant for the
duration and in charge of the investigation into Lt. Inocente’s death.”
Eyes swiveled to
Emilia. Rico was openly shocked as he sat on the end of his desk. Silvio’s face
was like granite. He was the only one who kept his gaze on Obregon.
acknowledge the stares. She kept her eyes on the ancient copier.
Several of the
detectives shifted uncomfortably in the silence. “One of our own has died,”
Obregon said. “And we will conduct a thorough investigation, find whoever did
this, and punish them according to the full measure of Mexican law.”
He nodded at
Emilia. “See you tomorrow, Cruz. Four o’clock.” His eyes revealed nothing.
Villahermosa walked out. As soon as the door shut behind them the squadroom
erupted into a bedlam of shouting.
Silvio fired his
gun into the ceiling and everyone went silent. A large overhead fluorescent
light made a sizzling noise and went out.
Lieutenant Cruz has something to say to us,” Silvio said mockingly.
Emilia had never
hated anyone as much as she hated Franco Silvio at that moment. She was still
in the doorway to
office and her mind was stuck on the
image of Obregon’s face close to hers, his voice laced with threat. Was Obregon
really so interested in cleaning out the
in Guerrero? Or was he
looking for a way to take over Inocente’s corrupt activities? Did he know about
the counterfeit money?
Either way, she
was sure he’d picked her because he knew she’d be out of her league. With her
in charge, the investigation into Lt. Inocente’s death would be unlikely to get
in the way of whatever agenda he was pursuing.
Emilia picked up
the dispatch clipboard from the corner of the desk and walked a couple of steps
into the squadroom to face the group. How many of these men had been involved
with Lt. Inocente and his shady activities? How many would help because they
felt it was their duty as police detectives? How many would actively impede her
simply out of spite?
how many would realize she was wholly unprepared? Silvio, certainly. Loyola and
Ibarra, too; the former was the oldest man and had once been a teacher while
Ibarra, an over-caffeinated chain-smoker was a quick thinker. Macias and Sandor
were both experienced and smart. Fuentes was probably the smartest, a slim
serious college boy who watched everyone and everything.
“As Señor Obregon
said, I’ll be acting lieutenant.” Emilia marveled at how calm her voice
sounded. “There’s going to be a lot of media attention, he says, so we want to
do this right.”
She took a deep
breath, clutching the clipboard tightly to disguise the fact that her hands
were shaking. The hostility in the room was nearly overwhelming. Silvio looked
furious, as did Rico. Fuentes looked at the other detectives, seeming to study
Castro sat on his
desk, noisily chewing bubblegum. His partner Gomez had a deck of cards in his
hands, shuffling them over and over. Loyola folded his hands expectantly while
Ibarra looked bored. Macias and Sandor were hunched together as if guarding a
secret. They were often together like that, when Sandor wasn’t complaining
about the copier or something else unlikely to ever be fixed, as if they were a
small detective force apart from the rest of them. They were also both college
Emilia checked her
watch as if she was brisk and efficient and not scared. Ideas from other cases
and what she knew of the various detectives’ strengths and weaknesses began to
bubble up. “We’re going to stay on track. Silvio can take the hotline and the
murder board. Fuentes, you go with Portillo for the hotel interviews. Talk to
all the guests before somebody checks out. Talk to their security, too.”
around and started looking at a notice from the
Bureau of Investigation that had been hanging on the bulletin board for the
last six months. Gomez’s cards fanned together with a snap inside the bridge of
Ibarra, you’ve got forensics. Fingerprints and computer, right?”
Emilia ground on.
“Macias and Sandor, you’ll hit the apartment building, see if you can find
somebody who saw him leave. Talk to the people who run the building’s marina.
Who was there last night. Who usually took out the Inocente’s boat and when.
How do boats get in and out.”
“Do they have
security cameras at the marina?” Macias asked. Silvio shot him a look.
“That’s a good
question,’ Emilia said. She silently vowed to someday thank Macias for taking
her seriously. “You’ll need to find out, see what they have after 10 pm.” She
looked at Gomez and
playing cards. “Gomez and Castro, check
out Lt. Inocente’s wife’s alibi. Said she was at a charity ball. I’ll give you
her ticket. We need witnesses, times she came and went. Who she was with.”
“Oh, yes,” Silvio
said to the bulletin board. “No doubt this is a domestic killing.”
“We’ll tie up all
the loose ends,” Emilia shot back.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll follow up
with the brother and talk to the coroner.”
cases?” Castro called out.
“I’ll check those,
too.” Emilia swallowed. She was surprised no one had walked out yet. “Start
asking questions of all your regulars, see if there’s anything. Get the word
out that we want tips from people who were around Punta Diamante last night
after 10 pm.”
“You think we got
snitches in that neighborhood, Cruz?” Gomez drawled. His cards ruffled
“Whoever got him
probably doesn’t live there,” Emilia countered.
turned and leaned against the bulletin board. “Anything else?” he asked
“I’ll need a
volunteer to help search Lt. Inocente’s office,” Emilia said. Her glance
flickered over the detectives, wondering if anyone had some crisp counterfeit
bills in their pocket. Maybe whoever volunteered had been in on
and was now worried that it would be
“I’ll do it,”
He shoved himself
off his desk and walked over to her. Emilia’s heart sank. He was the last one she
would have picked. Castro was a jerk, his head was as empty as a drum, and if
he was involved he’d know the bare minimum. Plus there had been that bathroom
fight. They’d barely spoken since and Emilia had always managed not to be alone
said. “Whatever we find you and Gomez can run down along with the wife’s alibi.
Names, addresses, business cards, whatever.”
kept the name of his killer in his desk drawer?” Silvio asked, a
hard edge of sarcasm in his voice.
“We’ll regroup at
6:00 pm as planned,” Emilia said, ignoring the jibe. “Until then I’ll be at the
brother’s and then at the coroner’s to get the autopsy report.” She looked
around the room again. The atmosphere still throbbed with hostility but there
was a new feeling of purpose as well. Might as well see how far she would sink
before she drowned. “Standing meetings at 9:00 am every morning for the
duration,” she said. “Any questions?”
rifled his cards into a tidy deck and slapped it on his desk. “You fucking
The room went
perfectly still. The fluorescent light gave another soft death rattle.
Emilia said, the blood pounding in her ears. “Back here. Everybody.”
Castro out of the way and slammed Lt. Inocente’s office door behind him. “What
the hell,” he said in a furious whisper. His face was vermillion. “I’m not your
partner anymore?” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that? Nobody made you a
“How much are we
going to learn if we just stick together?” Emilia whispered hotly from behind
the desk. Rico could be so boneheaded sometimes and she was suddenly
unaccountably angry at everything that had happened that day. “You
Which of these detectives was in it with Lt. Inocente? We need to mix it up,
see what they say when they’re tired or angry.”
“So you couldn’t
tell me your plan first?”
“When did I have
time?” Emilia waved her arms in frustration. “I didn’t ask for this. Obregon
and his goon just walked in here and bam, everything went upside down. You were
“All right.” Rico
inhaled and simmered down. “But why stick me with Fuentes? I got nothing to say
to a little kid like him.”
“Fuentes is all
right,” Emilia said. “He’s smooth. Let him talk to the snotty hotel guests.”
went up. “And what’s the deal about getting somebody to clean the office? Get
one of the fucking cleaners to box up all this crap and send it to his
penthouse in the sky.”
Emilia rolled her
eyes. “You know we have to look through it. Who is going to be worried about
what’s in this office?”
Castro’s going to tell you that he played lookout for Lt. Inocente?”
“I think Castro
volunteered because there’s something in this office he doesn’t want me to
find,” Emilia said, nearly at the end of her patience.
“Oh.” Rico stared
at her blankly and then blinked as he got it. “Okay. I get it.”
“Fuck.” Rico ran
an agitated hand through his hair and paced in front of the desk. He stopped
abruptly. “You feel good about Obregon?”
“No,” Emilia said
truthfully. “I don’t trust him. He said no arrests, that he’d handle that.”
“So he’ll make the
arrests?” Rico frowned.
said. “Unless I can prove the wife did it, I’m just supposed to tell him what
we find. No arrests. He’ll do that.”
“So he can pick up
whatever racket Inocente was in.”
Sometimes Rico got it.
“You could have
refused,” Rico said.
“I tried. Obregon
said I’d never work again,” Emilia said. “In the entire state. And you know he can
“Sure,” Rico said
and she didn’t know if he believed her or not. He gave her a sideways look.
“I’ll deal with Fuentes. But you should have told me first.”
Emilia sighed and
sagged onto the edge of the desk. “Sorry.”
Rico put his hand
on the doorknob and spoke with his back to Emilia. “When this is over, I don’t
know if we should be partners anymore.”
Emilia felt her
heart clench. “Don’t do this to me, Rico.”
He opened the door
and walked out.
Emilia sat behind
s desk and tried the drawers, just as Obregon had done. They were
still all locked except the file drawer at the bottom, which held sports
clothes and a pair of running shoes.
“Am I supposed to
help now, or what?” Castro said.
Emilia jerked up
to see Castro in the doorway, lanky in a rock band tee shirt and jeans. He had
a narrow Asian cast to his face and his jet black hair was pulled back in a
ponytail wrapped with a leather thong. Gomez hovered in back of him, gum
popping loudly, similarly dressed with a copycat ponytail, a stained Barcelona
team jersey and a scruffy beard that Emilia was sure he wore just to have more
testosterone on display than his partner.
“Beat it,” Silvio
said. He shoved both of them aside and came into the office. He slammed the
door and leaned against it with folded arms.
“So are you
fucking Obregon?” he asked.
said tartly. “Just in case somebody offed
and I wanted the
worst job in the world.”
“You been here two
years, Cruz,” Silvio snarled. “You don’t have the right to be in charge of
“I didn’t exactly
apply for the job, Silvio.”
“I’m not taking
orders from you,” he said.
together for once, Silvio,” Emilia said, trying to sound like Kurt Rucker on
the pier. “You know this is going to be a big deal. We can’t afford to mess it
“I never wanted a
woman detective in here.” Silvio was a big man and if he wanted to make her
feel trapped he was succeeding. “I’ll do everything I can to fuck you over
until you quit.”
help but laugh. “Tell me something I don’t know,” she said.
It wasn’t the
answer he’d expected and Silvio was momentarily lost for words.
Someone pounded on
the door. Silvio yanked it open. Castro stood outside. “Am I supposed to do the
office or not?”
into the squadroom. Emilia watched him grab up some papers on his desk and
leave. She wondered if he’d come back, if he’d set up the hotline and start the
murder board. Or was he on his way to tell a murderer that some fool
was in charge of the investigation and he was going to sabotage her, make sure
she never found out anything.
Before she could
really focus on that thought Castro said something and homed in on a small
refrigerator in a corner, all but hidden by chairs on either side of it. He
shoved aside the seating and pulled open the door. Emilia heard the clink of
“You want a
Castro held out a cold can of cola.
It felt strange to
take a dead man’s things but it was an unexpected offering. “Thanks,” Emilia
said. She popped the top. The soda was like heaven, cold and sweet and the
caffeine gave her a much-needed jolt of energy. “We’re going to have to call a
locksmith. All the desk drawers--.”
Castro took a long
drink from his own can, burped, set it down on the corner of the desk and
pulled out a small tool that looked like a combination between a pocketknife
and a screwdriver. In just a few minutes he’d opened all the desk drawers
except the top one. That had a different type of lock impervious to Castro’s
“You gotta drill
that lock out,” he said as he pocketed the tool and slurped from his can of
cola. “That’s not a standard lock.
The desk drawers
yielded little of value; gum, a dirty mug, a couple of copies of
, the usual office supplies. There were some pictures of the Inocente
family, snapshots from a vacation to Disneyworld, and a color copy of their
maid’s identity card. The photo in CeCe Hoya Perez’s
obviously been taken before her condition had started. She was attractive, with
skin that looked like creamy caramel.
about what would be found in her own locked desk drawer if anyone broke in and
looked: a log of unidentified serial numbers, a coupon for free drinks at the
Palacio Réal, the
binder, a prescription for an anti-depressant
from a doctor who had said to give it to Sophia if she ever had an “emergency.”