The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Preview of Coming Attractions, 1

The fourth volume in my South American mystery novel series, "The Matador Murders", is complete and ready to publish this summer, pending a few more rounds of editing, and formatting of the front matter.  For those of you who’ve visited this blog and might be interested, this is a preview of coming attractions.  There may be some minor changes between this and the final version.

In this installment of the series Roger and Suzanne are back in Montevideo after being summoned from Los Angeles by a late night phone call.  One of their friends is suspected of murder and needs their skills as detectives to help clear him of the charges.  Life for Roger, and especially for Suzanne, is more complicated these days as they now have an infant son, Robert.  The three of them, accompanied by Robert’s nanny, Bruce, fly to Uruguay and the game is afoot.  Before long we have our heroes directly in the middle of a gang war, off for a quick trip to Chile to learn all about the local crime scene, and meeting some unlikely allies in their mission.  The book has lots of action, a good whodunit storyline, guest appearances by several old friends and by an old enemy from previous books in the series, "The Ambivalent Corpse" and "The Surreal Killer", and occasional opportunities for sightseeing and eating regional specialty foods.  I hope you all have as much fun reading this novel as I had writing it.  A short excerpt from the current draft of the book follows:
                                             Chapter 1.  Adios to a crooked cop

Early that day, Jose Gonzalez, in his usual role as a detective on the Montevideo police force, had a loud and highly acrimonious argument with his partner.  Martin Gonzalez, the partner, was proud of two things.  The first was that he and Jose were not related despite the common surname.  The other was that he was the ranking half of the partnership and could say whatever was on his mind with no real fear of the consequences.  Martin was in fact a Detective Lieutenant and the officer with the second highest ranking in the detective division after his Captain, fortuitously not named Gonzalez. 
Probably half of the detectives on the Intendencia de Montevideo Police Force heard the argument, even if none of them were able to hear enough of the words to know what the argument was all about.  The loud voices penetrated through the closed door of the small office shared by the two Detectives named Gonzalez, and it was obvious that they disagreed strongly about something. 

On the other side of the door Martin was saying to Jose, loudly and forcefully, “You are a lousy liar and a corrupt cop, a dirty crook and a disgrace to the police force!”

“You can’t prove that,” was the loud reply.  “If you could, we wouldn’t be having this argument.”

“You know, and I know, that you’re crooked.  That’s enough for me.  Get out of here, and stay out of my sight till I’m able to get you reassigned and get myself a new partner.”

Jose opened the door and left the room.  With the door open, everyone heard Martin’s last words to Jose and more than a dozen reported them, more or less verbatim, to the Captain after they learned of Jose’s death.

In one form or another, they all reported that Martin Gonzalez said, “You’ve stolen your last peso from the public you’re supposed to serve.  I’m going to see that you never do it again!”

Meanwhile, Jose left the police station, walked a few blocks to a convenient bus stop, and hopped on an untraceable bus to ride to the street where his next meeting was scheduled.  Jose, whose second deadly sin after greed was vanity, admired himself as he sat on the bus.  The suit was well tailored for his slight frame, the shoes were made from real Argentine leather rather than the cheap imitation junk from Brazil, and his hat made a fashion statement more than it just covered his head.  The bus came to his stop and he pushed the button to alert the driver and stepped off the stairs from the now open back door.  He walked anther careful couple of blocks after ensuring nobody was following him by bus or car, and entered an apartment house almost exactly 15 minutes late for his appointment.  If anything, he was early by Uruguayan social custom, but he knew that Carlos would already be at the apartment waiting for him with his payoff for services rendered.  In this particular case the service rendered was to lose the contents of a police file, which would throw a major monkey wrench into the trial of an important local drug dealer.

Jose got off of the elevator and rang the correct doorbell.

Carlos Cavernas opened the apartment door and gestured Jose Gonalez to enter.  Jose was slim, medium height, very well dressed---what would have been called dapper a few generations ago---with a fussily trimmed mustache, dark brown hair, and brown eyes.  He was quite obviously Spanish in origin.  Carlos was much heavier, squat and built like a fire hydrant, clean-shaven, and sloppily dressed in brown corduroy trousers and a gray seaman's cable sweater.  He followed Jose into the apartment, shut the door, and led his colleague into the adjacent living room, stooping to pick up a white envelope from a coffee table in front of a long brown sofa.  He passed the envelope to Jose, who looked inside, riffled the thick stack of cash to estimate the amount, and put the envelope into the breast pocket of his expensive woolen sport jacket.

"It's not enough any more for all of the stuff you're asking me to do," Jose told Carlos.  "I need a big raise, say about 50%!"

Carlos pulled out a small pistol, which he pointed at Jose.  "That's the wrong answer.  My orders were to give you the money and thank you if you just took it, but to officially terminate the relationship if you tried to get cute and ask for more.  I've been looking forward to your decision.  I hate cops."

He shot twice.  A third and fourth eye sprouted on Jose's head as he fell to the floor, obviously dead.  Carlos bent over the body and removed the envelope with the cash, which went into one of his trouser pockets.

"Thank you very much, Senor Gonzales.  I think that is the first time you have ever given me anything.  I am pleased that your only gift to me is such a generous one."

The detective's pistol disappeared into another pocket and Carlos was ready to go.  He checked the scene to make sure nothing important had been left behind and walked to the front door.  Doorknobs were wiped clean of fingerprints, as were any other surfaces he might have touched.  After an elaborate ritual with locks and keys, he walked down the stairs and out of the building onto the street completely unobserved.  He walked to his car, parked unobtrusively several blocks away, and drove off.  

Chapter 2.  An early morning telephone call

The telephone woke us up with its incessant ringing at 5 AM on a Saturday morning.  Suzanne had just fallen back asleep after Robert’s regular demand for a 4 AM feeding, so I got up to answer the phone.  The connection was lousy, but I could make out Eduardo Gomez’s deep voice on the other end of the line.

“Roger, is that you?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied.

“I’ve got some bad news to share.  Somebody murdered Martin Gonzalez’s partner, Detective Jose Gonzalez, last night.  The local cops have no idea who did it.  I think that Martin is their primary suspect.  There don’t seem to be any forensic clues, there were no witnesses, and we seem to have a classic locked door mystery to solve.  I was wondering if you wanted to come down here to Montevideo and give me a hand trying to solve this case and keep Martin of jail.  I think I’m really going to need your help on this one, since I’m under orders to keep a low profile around here.”

“What are you doing in Uruguay and how did you get involved in a murder case so far from your home in Paraguay?”

“It’s a long story.  I’ll tell you when you and Suzanne get here.”

“Not Suzanne.  She’s nursing an infant and can’t travel that far away from home.  It has to be just me this time.  I’ll figure out what needs doing here, do it, and make reservations to fly down there as quickly as I can.  I can probably be there Tuesday morning.  Will that work?”

“Nursing an infant, eh?  Congratulations.  Tuesday morning should be OK.  I’ll either meet your flight at the airport or you’ll find me visiting Martin in the Montevideo jail.  Or, for all I know, I might be in there with him.  Can I assume the usual American Airlines flight to Montevideo by way of Miami will be the one you plan to fly on?”

We completed our arrangements. I got Eduardo’s cell phone number so I could reach him if things went wrong on my end and crawled back to bed to try to get a couple of more hours of sleep.  I fell asleep reflecting on how much change had occurred in our already chaotic lives with Robert's birth.  Among other things I missed was the intimacy we had shared as a couple, which had fallen victim to the constant fatigue of round the clock feedings and diaper changes, and the passing of the ritual of a pun or bad joke as we went to sleep every night, also a victim of chronic fatigue and now unmatched bedtimes.

The next morning, after the usual chaos of feeding Robert and a diaper change, I told Suzanne about Eduardo’s call and my promise to fly down to Montevideo to help our friends out.  That’s when I got my second surprise of this young day.

“Whoa, Roger.  You’re a married man now, with family and responsibilities.  You can’t just leave us here and fly halfway around the world because someone tells you they need you.  Robert and I need you.  If you have to go to Montevideo, book three seats in Business Class and we’ll all go.”


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