Read Havana Noir Online

Authors: Achy Obejas

Tags: #Detective and mystery stories, #Noir fiction, #Anthologies (multiple authors), #Mystery & Detective, #Cuban fiction - 21st century, #Short stories; Cuban, #21st century, #General, #Havana (Cuba) - In literature, #Havana (Cuba), #Mystery fiction, #Cuban fiction, #American fiction, #Fiction, #Short Stories, #Cuban American authors, #American fiction - Cuban American authors

Havana Noir (8 page)

BOOK: Havana Noir
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“No, my love. I can’t understand how anyone would dare treat you in such a vulgar way. You’re right, as always. That girl on 23rd and Paseo is nothing but an ungrateful bitch. You do her a favor just by noticing her, which she surely doesn’t deserve, and look at how she repays you…Daddy, there’s no respect, no one has any moral values anymore. Our whole culture is in crisis. Do you know why? Because of globalization and neoliberalism.”

“Oh, well said. A better world is possible! Ha! Ha! But you know, you sarcastic bitch, these things would never happen if you were with me, at least now and then…Not because I can’t do it alone, of course—don’t ever think that, okay, bitch?—I don’t need you one twit! But the girls, if they saw a couple instead of just a guy…well, you know, they’d feel safer. Don’t you think? Oh yes! They’d all fall in the trap! Each and every one of them! Ha! Ha! C’mon, Momma, c’mon, don’t be so hard on me…C’mon, what’s the big deal with helping me out, huh? Look, just tell me whenever you want me to come by in the flying saucer and I’ll—”

“Please, stop that, for God’s sake. Don’t you get tired of that, baby? I’ve already told you a million times
yes
, I think it’s an genius idea; I’m going to go out with you one of these nights and do whatever you want…when I’m done with my work. What language do I need to use for you understand? Don’t be so immature, man.”

“Work, work, work! What an obsession! You’re going to burn out, Momma. Believe me, I’m serious. You’re going to go nuts if you continue like that. Absolutely nuts. Because that’s no way to live, working away in your cave like that. And anyway…what is your work?”

“Nothing important. Forget it. I’ve already told you: As soon as I’m done with this, we’ll go out together, we’ll go hunt bunnies. Do you think I don’t want to go? Of course I want to go. Hmm. Very much. Ted Bundy, you have no idea how much fun we’re going to have!”

“Bunnies? Mmm. I get hard just hearing you say it…So when the fuck do we get together?”

“Well, I don’t know…exactly. But I’ll let you know, don’t worry. Soon.”

Besides the business with the car, there were other discrepancies between the nurse’s story and the guy’s previous mischief. In the past, he’d never cared if anyone saw his face. He didn’t kill his victims to keep them from reporting the kidnapping, rape, and torture. He killed them
because
—because of hate, because of boredom, because of some atavistic blood thirst, or because of revenge, or because of power, or because whatever. The fact is, he always went out to kill. What the hell did he care if the passengers in his flying saucer got a good look at him? There was even the possibility that he actually wanted them to see him as he went about his infernal exploits, that he actually showed himself on purpose, as if he were saying, “This is me, yes, me, you piece of shit, so what? In the end—ha! ha!—there’s nothing you can do anyway,” or something along those lines.

For his part, he never said he was crazy during our conversations. To the contrary, he considered himself quite sane, and more lucid than most. He was capable of distinguishing between good and evil as well as I could, or as well as anyone, except that he preferred evil deliberately, just because he had the blessed balls to commit it—that’s how he said it—and he bragged about it without the slightest inhibition. According to his philosophy, there are two kinds of people in the world: the strong and the weak. The former (among whom he, of course, included himself) have every right, by virtue of their very strength, to destroy the latter whenever and however they choose. And if the written law didn’t sanction this, well, too bad; those laws were hypocritical and unjust and there was no reason to respect them. In any case, he was above any law. Why?
Because.
That’s why.

I remember I asked him one night what he considered the ideal parameters to catalog anyone as strong or weak. He said that I belonged to the weak group, of course, because I was female, but that, for the moment, he would spare my life because he got such a kick—oh, yes, such a kick! ha! ha!—out of my aimless arrogance, the utter lack of originality in my philosophical ideas (I fear I have never in my life generated even one solitary idea that could be considered philosophical, but, hey, why argue?), and my delusions of grandeur. Mine—that’s right,
mine
. Hmm. Honestly.

“Listen to me, you idiot,” he continued in his condescending tone, “and let’s see if you wake up. To
not
squash a cockroach like you with my foot every now and then is also within the power of the strong. This power thing really has its swing, I swear. Yes, because this way there’s a…a…how to explain it? Oh, I know—there’s a certain sense of…refinement. You know what I mean?”

“Oh, well, thank God,” I sighed in relief. “I’m so grateful for your refinement.”

“I don’t want gratitude, whore. As far as I’m concerned, you can shove it up your ass. And drop the sarcasm, okay? I’ve never liked sarcastic people!”

“Of course, of course. Me neither. Sarcastic people? Ufff!”

As if all this wasn’t enough to make me uneasy, there were other discrepancies between the guy’s usual behavior and the fateful encounter with the nurse. He was an absolute fanatic when it came to hygiene, one of those guys for whom a daily bath is an impossible-to-postpone religious ritual, and dirt, any kind of dirt anywhere on the body, is a horrible blasphemy, a mortal sin. So it seems to me unlikely that he’d smell like a dead rat, or that his breath would reek. He was also a supreme hypochondriac. He lived in fear of all sorts of viruses, bacteria, molds, parasites, and other infamous microorganisms with scientific names in Latin. I think he even dreamed of hordes of bugs attacking him. Whenever he got going about contagious diseases, he was impossible to stop. His fear of contagion bordered on pathological. That’s why he always used a condom during his nighttime adventures, sometimes two condoms, one on top of the other, so as not to have a mortal accident; he also wore latex gloves. The only thing left to do to reduce direct contact between himself and his victim was to wear one of those old diving masks, a diving suit, or a cosmonaut’s helmet. Perhaps it’s reasonable to ask how a lone rapist went about putting on all those artifacts (the condoms, the gloves) without the prisoner of the moment taking advantage of the distraction to escape. Hmm. Good question. The thing is, his methods have always been considerably more sophisticated than his last assault, which, when compared with the previous ones, was really pretty sloppy.

See, every time he got a girl—grateful and glad—to get in his car, the guy would take off. He would talk to her gently about some banality as he drove: their respective Zodiac signs (he was a Leo, or so he pretended), our shitty climate which gets shittier every year—although I suppose it can be very pleasant if you get around in an air-conditioned flying saucer—or a recent novel by Paulo Coelho, or some film by Almodóvar, President Chávez’s idiotic face, the most recent reggaeton hit’s grotesque lyrics, etc. The fact that his future victim thought she was safe gave this maniac untold pleasure. The asshole laughed to himself. Sometimes he’d even, ever so naturally, bring up the rumors about a serial killer who was loose out there somewhere. Of course, he didn’t believe such crap, he’d say, it was pure fiction put out by the Revolution’s internal enemies, mercenaries in service to the empire, out to terrify the people, disrupt order, and bring down Socialism’s achievements. After tossing out this tidbit, or something like it (he had talent for this sort of thing), he’d look over at the girl, smile, and assure her that, in any case, she was in no danger, since he was there to defend her, much like Don Quixote with his Dulcinea. And they’d go on driving happily through the Havana night. Until he braked abruptly in some dark and deserted alleyway. Fast as lightning, before the girl had a chance to recover from the surprise, he’d hit her on the head with a blackjack, knocking her cold. When she came to, she’d be someplace else, in a garage whose address I never found out, her hands and feet bound to a cot, and her life now pure hell.

So is there any similarity between this and the nurse’s story? Can anybody change their patterns of behavior—that is, their character, their personality—so, so much from one minute to the next? Well, in theory, yes. When it comes to human beings, I think that everything, or almost everything, is possible. In other words, anyone can give us a real surprise at any given time. But in practice, this is very unlikely, and even more unlikely when dealing with a serial killer. In general, they act in a very compulsive manner, which is why it’s possible to profile them, and from that, to determine within a certain margin of error their future actions.

In spite of everything, while I was there at Criminal Court #7 of the Provincial Court of the City of Havana, after the nurse’s testimony, I still waited anxiously to hear, or better yet, I
needed
to hear, that they’d also found the DNA from citizen Policarpo Meneses Landaeta, alias “The Beast of Macagua 8,” on the bodies of the other victims. And if not on all of them (the condoms and the latex gloves could make it difficult, if not impossible, to collect the genetic material), in at least one. But nobody talked about that. The forensic pathologist barely mentioned this, as if it were a mere detail. The prosecutor didn’t ask him about it either, which, in my opinion, meant his case against the Beast as a serial killer lost some of its weight, which is a kind way of saying it fell apart. The defense attorney could have easily used this to his advantage. He should have. But he didn’t. Why? Was he some sort of fool? Hmm. Who knows. From what I could tell, nobody in that courtroom was interested in bringing it up. Not even the judges, who never asked the forensic pathologist a single question. A hell of an omission in a trial in which you could practically smell the death sentence! I just wanted to get up and scream a stream of profanities. It’s not that I’m a great admirer of citizen Policarpo, that’s not it. I just think that everyone who’s been accused of a crime deserves the fairest possible treatment. Everyone. Even that light-skinned Negro with half a cell in his brain, if that. But I controlled myself. After all, who cares what I think? I left, totally dismayed.

I continue to be dismayed. Perhaps not as much as two months ago, when I shot out of the headquarters of the Provincial Court with my head a haze, or full of shit, which is more or less the same thing, and I was almost run over by a motorcycle while crossing Teniente Rey. Now I look both ways before risking my life to cross any street. But it’s not as if I have any peace of mind. No way. If only. Yesterday, during the day for God’s sake, I downed three meprobamates in a row and…nothing. I didn’t manage one wink of sleep! Isn’t this the kind of thing that makes you want to hang yourself? And the worst part is that I can’t stop thinking about the guy and his many facets that do not go together…I fear that’s not going to help me sleep but I can’t help myself.

There are times when I think that something terrible happened during that trial, something as sordid as the killings themselves, something that I don’t dare put into words…although deep down, I’m not sure. That I know of, there haven’t been any more crimes like those in Havana. Other crimes, yes. Like those, no. Of course, if I really think about it, that doesn’t prove much. It could just be coincidence. Maybe
somebody
went abroad, just for the season, with Daddy’s help. Or maybe he’s still here, lying low in his luxurious trench, waiting, like the great son of a bitch that he is, until they shoot someone in his place, to then reappear, with new vigor, to restart his nighttime doings. Or maybe he’s experienced some sort of traffic accident and might be, for example, dead, or comatose, with a leg in a cast, or his head cracked, or with any other variable that would make it impossible for him to drive. The more I think about it, the more possibilities I consider. It’s more maddening than a Rubik’s Cube. There are times when I scold myself, when I tell myself there was no conspiracy, that the trial was utterly transparent, that all this is nothing more than my own paranoia, that I’ve read too many books and I’ve seen too many film noirs, etc. The truth is, I don’t know what the hell to believe. There are times that I feel my head is just overflowing, that it’s blowing up like Cantoya’s balloon, and later exploding in a million pieces…Ufff! Horrible. If I go on like this, I’m the one who’s going to wind up in a coma. If only he would call me…

That’s it. The telephone. That’s the first word that comes to mind whenever I think of the convict. It’s clear that I won’t go visit him. If he’s waiting to see me, which I doubt, then he should wait sitting down. I don’t want any trouble. But maybe we could talk on the phone. Is there a phone on death row? I suppose there must be one, though there’s none listed in the directory. I’ve looked, and there’s nothing. A state secret. Perhaps I could find the number through some less orthodox route (c’mon, I wasn’t kidding when I said I was a warrior), and then call later, from a public phone far from the Naroca, so that I won’t be identified by those who are always spying, should they decide to trace the call. That little trick might work. But it still wouldn’t be citizen Policarpo who answers the phone. How could I get them to put him on? Hmm. I have no idea. I’m going to have to think about it with calm. I only need a half a minute with him, maybe less. Just enough time to see if I recognize his voice…or not. Whichever way it went, it would be a huge relief for me. What bothers me most about all this is the uncertainty, the doubt, the suspicion…But how in the devil can I access him or, more precisely, his voice? How? How? How? There was a period of time when I was brilliant and could come up with all kinds of schemes to get my way in all sorts of complicated situations. But now I think I’m getting kind of dumb because of the insomnia, since I can’t come up with a thing.

I don’t have anything to do tonight. The work I had—that part was true—I finished at the end of last month and sent it off. I’ve gone back to dying my hair ash-blond, which is my natural color. So I settle languidly into the couch in my studio, with just one light on, a couple of big pillows under my head, a whiskey on the rocks, a cigarette, and the phone close at hand. Meanwhile, Horowitz plays Rachmaninov very softly, as if caressing my ears.

BOOK: Havana Noir
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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