The Anarchist Detective (Max Cámara) (4 page)

‘Ernesto, I’ve never stopped running from here. I’m out of it, and doing all right.’

Yago slapped him on the arm and walked round to the other side of the desk, picking up the second glass of coffee and downing it in one.

‘You sure?’ he said, lowering himself into his chair.

Cámara sat down on a low sofa, lifting his feet and putting them on Yago’s desk.

‘I heard you had a bit of trouble.’

‘Is that why you kept me waiting? On the phone to Valencia?’

Yago shrugged.

‘Look, Max, you were arrested tampering with a crime scene.’

‘Well, your officers didn’t really give me a chance to explain myself.’

‘I know why you were there,’ Yago said. ‘And it’s all going to be OK, but of course I’ve got to make some enquiries. There’s got to be some paperwork here, even if it’s so I can see my old schoolmate again, give him breakfast, a pat on the back and send him on his way.’

He opened the palms of his hands, as though asking forgiveness.

‘You know how this works.’

Cámara finished the croissant and leaned over to grab a
madalena
, dipping it into the dregs of his coffee.

‘So how much did they tell you?’

‘Indefinite sick leave. The Bodí case. You made Homicide. I’m happy for you.’

Cámara pulled a face.

‘All right. “Happy” might not be the right word for it. But your career’s looking good. Valencia – that’s a big city.’

‘I haven’t been back for a few months,’ Cámara said. ‘Been in Madrid.’

‘Looking for something else?’

Cámara shook his head.

‘I don’t know. Looking and not looking. Trying to think about it by not thinking about it, if you see what I mean.’

‘Wondering whether to go back at all. Whether it’s all worth it. Everyone goes through it at some stage. Like some kind of natural law.’

‘I killed someone,’ Cámara said. ‘Shot him. The murderer.’

‘The councillor in the Bodí case. Yeah, it was on the news.’

There was a pause for a moment before Yago spoke again.

‘You did the right thing. The man was a monster – he was running away.’

‘That’s what I tell myself,’ Cámara said. ‘And it sort of works.’

‘Is there anyone?’ Yago asked. ‘A woman? A wife?’

‘In Madrid. Recent thing. We’ll see how it goes.’

‘Well, some things haven’t changed then. But it helps, you know, even if it isn’t for ever. You never were a settling sort, but they say it’s good for your health. Especially for men. A long-term relationship gives you another two or three years, they say. Patricia and I are still going strong.’

Cámara smiled.

‘You’re still together?’ he said. ‘That’s wonderful. But then with you I’d say I’m not surprised at all. How long have you been together? Since school, right?’

‘I was eighteen, she was seventeen. Twenty-five years.’

‘Kids?’

‘Nah,’ Yago frowned. ‘One of those things.’

‘And she’s followed you around all this time just for love?’

‘I was in Seville at first, after Avila.’

‘Must have been the last time we saw each other.’

‘There for seven or eight years, then I made inspector and moved to Madrid. Which was where I stayed until a couple of years ago. Then this came up and I jumped. Patricia always wanted us to come back one day.’

‘So she’s happy?’

‘I could have stayed,’ Yago said. ‘Forwarded my career some more.’

‘But now you’re head of the
Policía Judicial
’ – the investigating police – ‘for the whole of Albacete,’ Cámara said. ‘I saw the sign on the door. That’s not bad.’

‘It’s fine,’ Yago said. ‘I won’t be going any further, though. But I did it for Patricia’s sake. Like you said, she’s been following me around all this time, and I promised we’d come back home as soon as we could.’

‘But still, you wonder sometimes about how much higher you could have climbed.’

Yago wrinkled his nose.

‘It’s history. The point is I’m here now, and in a position to help out my old mate in his hour of need.’

‘I didn’t know being made a commissioner gave you superpowers.’

Yago wheezed a laugh.

‘Shut up, you bastard. You want some more coffee?’

‘Yeah,’ Cámara drawled. ‘Why not?’

The two of them eyed one another conspiratorially as a junior member of staff was called to bring them some more breakfast.

Perks of the job, Yago mouthed silently to Cámara as fresh cups and croissants were brought in.

‘You’re just trying to convince me that police work is a cushy job,’ Cámara said once the door had been closed again. He leaned over and sank his teeth into the pastry. ‘And you may be succeeding.’

Yago smiled.

‘Aren’t you going to have one?’ Cámara asked. ‘You look a lot slimmer than you used to be. You were always a bit overweight.’

‘Between you and me,’ Yago said, ‘the doctor’s put me on some pep-up pills.’

Cámara raised an eyebrow.

‘Dip in my energy levels. Fatigue, working too hard. I don’t know.’

‘Responsibility?’

‘Maybe. Or just getting old. But anyway, these pills keep me ticking along better. And one of the side effects is a bit of weight loss.’

‘Magic pills? Sounds like a nice doctor.’

‘And they make you hornier as well.’

‘Sounds like a
really
nice doctor.’

‘I’ll introduce you to him.’

‘So that’s why Patricia’s happy to be back home.’

Yago put his coffee cup on the desk and stood up, flexing his legs a little.

‘So why are you back here anyway?’ he asked. ‘Albacete can’t be that bad if you came all this way from Madrid.’

Cámara told him about Hilario’s stroke.

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t realise.’

He took a deep breath and sighed, reaching into a drawer for a form.

‘Makes sense, though, I suppose.’

From the other side of the desk, Cámara remained silent.

‘Look, I’m going to have to say something,’ Yago said. ‘I think it makes sense to spell it out. Just tell them.’

He began writing on the form.

‘Chief Inspector Max Cámara, of the Valencia Homicide Group and currently on indefinite leave, was arrested on suspicion of tampering with a crime scene near the industrial quarter on the night of
28
th October. He admitted that he had acted in error and was subsequently released without charge.’

Cámara closed his eyes as Yago continued.

‘We believe it is pertinent to add that Chief Inspector Cámara’s current circumstances mitigate any unintended wrongdoing in this case, owing to a grave and sudden family crisis which has impaired – no – temporarily impaired his judgement.’

Cámara was about to say something, but stopped.

Yago paused to look at him, then started writing again.

‘Furthermore, the nature of the crime scene – a murder of a young woman – gives extra weight to excusing the chief inspector, as the location, victim and MO of the murderer are all very similar to a murder that took place in this city over thirty years ago: that of Concha Cámara, Chief Inspector Max Cámara’s sister.’

Yago scribbled a signature and glanced up. Cámara had opened his eyes, but was looking away.

‘There,’ Yago said. ‘That should do it.’

FOUR

IT WAS STILL
quite early in the morning, and a dusty breeze was playing with the leaves in the plane trees as he walked away from the Jefatura. The hospital was ten minutes away; he needed to get over, to check on Hilario, and to relieve Pilar. She would be annoyed that he hadn’t shown up the night before, but he knew she wouldn’t leave the patient on his own. Some sweet words, perhaps a kiss on her cheek, and all would be forgiven.

Yago had wanted Cámara to meet Diego Jiménez, his head of Homicide and the inspector in charge of the murder case. They were working on the assumption that Mirella Faro, the girl whose body had been found in the rubbish container, had been taking drugs: the forensic team had found needle marks on her arms, and the area was known as a spot for dealing.

Inspector Jiménez appeared competent and thorough enough, Cámara thought, the steady sort happiest when dealing with something straightforward and routine. They didn’t get many murders in Albacete, thank God, but at least when they came in they were easily categorised into the usual varieties: wife killings, revenge attacks, or, as in this case, drug related. Some kind of
ajuste de cuentas
, Yago and Jiménez both agreed – a settling of scores. The poor girl was probably just some unlucky pawn in a bigger struggle. Jiménez was already liaising with his colleagues in Narcotics, and they had some leads.

We’ve got some leads. It was the kind of line Cámara himself had been forced to use on occasion. Usually when he didn’t have a fucking clue where to start.

Medium height, balding, his remaining hair turning grey, a moustache, bit of a paunch developing. Mid-fifties perhaps. Jiménez was a middling sort of middle-grade police officer. Let’s just hope his case turns out to be of the middling sort as well, Cámara thought.

A magpie was cackling somewhere in the branches overhead, and for a moment his attention was diverted as it dived down in front of him and swooped over the road before finding a perch on the rooftop of a yellow-brick block of flats opposite, sending a small group of sparrows flying off in a flurry.

Of course he himself had his doubts: there was too much oddness about the case. Why strip the girl and leave her in the rubbish? That wasn’t just murder; that was a statement. And perhaps a settling of scores could explain that in some way. Or was it a serial killer? Too much time had passed, but the similarities with the murder of his sister Concha, over thirty years before, were obvious.

Or at least for him. But attacking, raping, strangling, stripping and finally dumping an adolescent girl in the rubbish was perhaps an MO that wasn’t so rare or extraordinary: there was a basic structure there, one that could arise spontaneously at almost any time and in any place.

Except that this wasn’t any place: Mirella Faro had been found in almost the same spot where he himself had found Concha back then. Just an eleven-year-old kid trying to help out as search parties made up of neighbours, friends, policemen and even their off-duty colleagues scoured the city looking for the girl who’d gone missing three days before. A fifteen-year-old just didn’t do that in
1977
. Not in Albacete. Something must have gone badly wrong. They hoped that they could find her in time, but already fear was growing stronger in them. Cámara remembered his mother’s face, pale and tight like a screwed-up fist. Perhaps she already knew by then that Concha was dead.

And so attention had started moving out to the wasteland areas around the city centre. Only a handful of the new apartment blocks had been built by that stage, yet areas of land had been divided up for more to come, some already with streets, pavements and street lighting, waiting for the builders to move in and start laying their concrete. In the meantime boys kicked balls around, weeds grew, and people dumped their rubbish on corners. When they turned to look for Concha there, the fear was already turning to anger.

A friend had tagged along, one of the other kids from Cámara’s street. Ernesto Yago was one of those boys who wanted to break the rules like the others, but never quite had the courage to pick up a stone and throw it at a window. But Concha’s disappearance had disturbed him, and he’d been at the flat for much of the time, staying with Cámara, not saying a lot, playing cards with him on his bedroom floor, watching television.

The two of them broke away a little from the main group when they reached the outskirts of the city. Yago wanted to show Cámara an ants’ nest he’d seen there a few days before. They grabbed a couple of sticks and started poking at it, watching the black creatures wriggle up towards their hands before shaking the sticks clean. A few yards away the searchers were using sticks to beat away the weeds, looking for clues, anything. Concha had been wearing a blue denim dress the last time anyone had seen her. Even just finding that, or a scrap of it, could prove useful.

Cámara got up from the ants and started swishing away himself at the long grass, his eyes focused down on the ground, but his thoughts were elsewhere: the mournful, fearful sadness rose and fell in him at will, it seemed. And he hated the moodiness that now gripped at his feelings, his behaviour.

Yago fell in at his side, and they flicked a path through the wasteland, moving this way and that as the inclination took them. The other seekers were further away now, while in front of them was a fly tip. Broken tiles lay scattered around their feet, crowned with rusting, dirty household goods – a fridge with no door, metal railing shelves bent; an armchair with faded geometrical patterns and loose stuffing. It lay on its back. Yago climbed the pile of rubbish and kicked at it, watching it roll down on to the unused pavement at the side. It landed on its feet and he went to sit on it, grinning as though assuming a throne.

‘You’ll get flea-bitten, idiot,’ Cámara said, kicking away at the other detritus at his feet.

And it was then that he saw her hair, dusty and stiff-looking as it lay mingling with the broken pots and empty cans of tuna. Nothing moved, and he tried to speak, but couldn’t. Yago had understood at once, and came bounding over from the chair.

‘Where?’ he said.

Cámara pointed down with his foot; it was the best he could do.

Yago had started at once, reaching down and pulling away the loose cardboard, rubble and shredded plastic bags that covered her face. Her eyes were closed, her features discoloured and misshapen, but there was no doubt who it was.

‘Step away,’ Yago said. ‘We shouldn’t touch it.’

He waved to the other searchers silently.

‘This is a crime scene.’

Years later, at one of the last times they were together before leaving the Avila academy, they admitted to each other that it had been the moment they both had become policemen.

Arriving at the hospital, he took the lift up to Hilario’s floor. There was a different person at reception, glasses perched on her nose as she dialled a phone number. Cámara walked past and down the corridor to Hilario’s room. The door was closed; he opened it and walked in.

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