Our second story of the new decade is yet another return visit from a Futurismic fiction alumnus. We loved Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s “Maquech” enough to publish it back in 2008, and “Biting The Snake’s Tail” takes us back to an exotic and ecologically crumbling Mexico City… but this time it’s in a noir-ish near-future police story, where what you don’t see is even more important than what you do. Enjoy!
Biting The Snake’s Tail
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Cops don’t go into the alcazabas. They’ll do raids every few months and confiscate mod-drugs for the sake of the TV cameras, but they don’t care what happens in the alcazaba’s colorless alleys. The gang leaders have established their own code of conduct, so what happens in the alcazaba is the business of the people who live there and not of the outsiders circling and enduring these cities within a city.
That’s why it was so bizarre to see all those officers in their blue uniforms running around La Catrina. I bet they were also pretty surprised to see me there in full gear with Arkasha at my side.
Gonzalo hadn’t told me what was going on. All he said was I had to get to La Catrina fast. Therefore, I was wearing the exo and the helmet, just in case things were really nasty. Arkasha was an added form of insurance. It’s funny how many people will run at the sight of a large dog, but not of a gun.
Turns out everyone looked pretty calm. A bunch of curious people gathered near the entrance to the alley, but that was to be expected with all the uniforms marching through the area.
“Gendarme Soledad Bravo,” I said when one of the police officers greeted me.
“Yeah, Gonzalo said you’d be showing up,” he said with a wide, sunny smile and handed me his notepad so I could download into my own data carrier.
I retracted my double-visor as the information began to stream in.
“So what’s the deal here? What you got?”
“A mutilated woman. She’s the third one this month. We’re thinking serial.”
Mexico City has never been a breeding ground for serial killers. Kidnappings, robberies and gang violence, sure. People get killed for cold hard cash, not for kicks. Serial killers? That’s bizarre. It was not the kind of thing the SPS handles and the AFI is always busy with drug dealers. So when some weird ass thing, like a serial killer hits, its the PU who get to deal with it. With Ricardo on vacation and Jacobo looking into a prostitution ring in the Zone Rosa, I was chosen as the lucky one to pay the alcazaba a visit that day.
“A couple of teenagers called it in this morning,” the officer said as we walked towards the body, to the very end of the alley. “The heart was cut out. We found a part of it on the ground. We think he ate the rest.”
“The women before? Same thing?”
“The guy removed the liver of those two hookers,” the officer said, never wavering in his plastic smile. He looked like he was prepped for a TV close-up. Maybe he was. It looked like a pretty picture for the reporters on the crime beat.
“He nearly sliced her head off,” I muttered, bending down next to the corpse.
Deep gashes crossed the woman’s face and arms. Blood was spattered everywhere. She even had bite marks on her neck and shoulders, as if some wild animal had pounced on her.
“You’ve seen something like this before?”
“Near decapitations? Cannibalism? No,” I replied. Truth be told, I hardly had any homicide experience.
“Freaky. You’d expect their pimps would take better care of the merchandise. I’m damn near tired of having to get over here and scrape another chick off the ground. If he kills a fourth one, I swear …”
“I better go check her place,” I said, cutting him mid-sentence.
The police officer’s smile melted. He stretched out his hand and I returned his notebook.
When I exited the alley a homeless guy with a little cart full of bottles and cans spoke to me.
“You better be careful. The thing that killed that girl’s not normal.”
“Yeah? Who is?” I muttered.
“I saw it. It crawled up the side of the building and leaped from the roof to the other side of the street. It had claws but it didn’t have a face, do you understand? Better be careful,” the man said pushing his cart away.
“Yeah, better be,” I muttered and opened my umbrella for protection against the ever-dripping web of pipes criss-crossing the neighborhood.
“She wanted to be an actress, you know? Wanted to do soaps.”
“She was pretty,” I said, placing a photograph back on a shelf.
“Yeah,” Estela nodded.
The one bedroom apartment Maribel had shared was small, damp and dark. Her roommate Estela sat at a tiny table next to the only window smoking a cigarette .
“Did she work near Widow’s Alley?”
“She was not a prostitute, if that’s what you’re asking. She worked at a bar.”
I glanced up at Estela.
“A bar girl?”
“No. She was just a waitress. I mean it.”
I grabbed another photograph, this one of Maribel and a thin, young man sitting side by side.
“That’s Alberto, her boyfriend.”
“What’s he like?”
“Sick as a dog,” Estela said putting out the cigarette. “He’s got some kind of disease that keeps him indoors. Very, very serious guy. Maribel said he was born without a sense of humor.”
“Vivacious, happy girl. Loved to go dancing. Doesn’t sound like a perfect match.”
“She liked him. He’s nice, that’s what she said. But, you know, his father owns a pharmacy. Around here that means something.”
It meant money. In La Catrina it was probably the equivalent of dating the crown prince, specially for a bar girl with an apartment the size of a closet.
“I’m not saying she was a mean person. She was real nice to him.”
Estela rested both hands on the cheap, floral tablecloth and smoothed out some wrinkles.
“I always thought she was the lucky one. She had the looks, she had the boyfriend, and she was going to have the money. And now she’s dead and turns out I’m the lucky one. Isn’t that funny?”
She lit another cigarette, eyes fixed on a pink, peeling building only a few meters from her window.
My hand lay still against the switch. One thing was to ask me to leave the dog outside, but it was another one entirely to have a conversation in the dark. I think he figured as much because his voice softened.
“Sorry. I’m sensitive to bright lights. I’m sensitive to pretty much anything there is and I’m allergic to the rest. They think it comes from living in the alcazaba, you know? Being born and raised in this filth is not good for you.”
With the blinds closed and Alberto’s chair positioned at an odd angle I was unable to get a good look at him. All I could see was this dark lump in a corner. If I had known about this I would have brought the night vision goggles.
“You’re frowning,” he said.
“You can see me?”
“My eyesight and hearing are heightened. Part of the sensitivity.”
“Do you mind coming closer? I’m afraid my eyesight is crummy.”
“Is this better?” he asked, moving forward.
He was stick thin and with his hands neatly folded together he reminded her of a praying mantis. A scrawny insect-boy with dark circles under his eyes.
“I thought there’d be more of you.”
“Don’t you have a partner or something? How many people are handling the case?”
“I work alone.”
“It figures. Girls from the alcazabas aren’t worth much to the cops, hu?”
“I’m not a cop,” I said, tapping my wrist and initializing my recorder. “Did Maribel have any enemies you know of? Someone who might have wanted to hurt her?”
“Maribel was just a regular girl. She would go to work and she would hang out with me. She wasn’t in a gang or anything like that. She was good. Decent.”
“Her roommate said she worked at a bar.”
“Yeah. But not for long. We were getting married next summer. She wouldn’t have to work there anymore and she could come live with me. My dad said she could help out with the pharmacy downstairs.”
“How were things at Platinum?”
“She was an eighteen-year old working at a stupid club, what do you think they were like? The patrons sucked and the manager is a maggot. You know what working on commission means?”
“It’s a code word for prostitution.”
“Fernando Mora encourages his employees to work on commission. He was always on Maribel’s case because she wouldn’t go with the customers. Like I said, she was decent. She wanted to get married and have kids, not blow some guy in an alley.”
“So Maribel’s boss and Maribel didn’t get along?”
“He’s an asshole.”
“Did they quarrel?”
“Why do you even ask? All this stuff … It’s not like you’re really going to try and find the killer.”
“That’s my job: finding killers.”
The young man went back to his dark corner in the room.
“If you’ll excuse me I’m tired and I need to take some medication.”
I slid into the women-only subway car just before it left the station. A video panel advertising bulletproof tuxedos flashed into life followed by a psychic hotline and a Chinese-Brazilian restaurant. I leaned against the doors and considered listening to some music before slipping out my data carrier and flipping through photos of the dead women.
Looking at pictures of murders is not exactly the perfect prelude to dinner, but I say having tacos at a dubious stand outside the station doesn’t qualify as dinner. And you think better when you have a bite.
Most importantly, I couldn’t get the corpses out of my head. Better to gaze at a tangible photo than conjure ghosts.
I got off at Sevilla and walked a block towards my regular stand. At that time of the night the clientele was mostly prostitutes out to colonize the nearby streets and I squeezed myself between a woman in a metallic gold miniskirt and a six-foot Amazon who was probably a guy.
I leaned against the stand wielding a taco with one hand and the data carrier with the other. The report about Maribel wasn’t in yet. I put down my taco on the little blue plate the stand owner had given me and put on my ear-clip.
“Hey Alicia, what the hell? I’ve got squat on the last girl at La Catrina. Aren’t you supposed to do an autopsy?”
“Someone cut her throat. Big deal.”
“Sweetheart, I’ve got four gang members who just got torched near the Chinese Palace. Leave me alone.”
“You don’t want me going down to the morgue.”
“Stop being a bitch and maybe I’ll get your data over to you.”
“Stop being a smarty pants and maybe I won’t tell Gonzalo you’re stalling a priority case.”
It wasn’t a priority case. However, with so much going on and so many cases shuffled around Alicia wouldn’t know that. I heard Alicia sigh and mutter to herself.
“OK, in the morning you’ll get your report.”
“Is that all?”
“No,” I said magnifying an image on the data pad. “The other two women, you said the wounds were inflicted by an unknown bladed weapon. Can you give me anything more concrete?”
“I can give you my theory. Those aren’t ordinary scratches on their bodies. He was using several blades in unison. You ever see those old Freddy Krueger movies?”
“I figure he used something like that. Maybe he had several blades tied to his hands.”
“I more freaked out by the bite marks. He must have custom dentures and they’re sharp.”
“Razor teeth,” I muttered.
The woman in the gold skirt was walking away, drifting from the small pool of light provided by the taco stand and into darker streets. I thought of her stumbling into someone in the darkness; her body opened from neck to groin by the killer.
I hated the damn case. The murders were getting on my nerves. No wonder I didn’t do a lot of homicides.
“Bye,” I said and pulled the ear piece out.
When I got home I rummaged through my old piles of comic books and pulp stories. I had a big Tarzan collection. It had belonged to my great-grandfather. Tarzan wasn’t my favourite. When I was younger, I wanted to be the Phantom. It’s probably how I ended up in legal enforcement. Misguided dreams of colorful panels and speech bubbles.
I found the book I was looking for and showed it to Arkasha, who was sitting by the window in the living room, looking at the rain.
“Want a bedtime story?” I asked.
Arkasha raised his head, then returned to his regular routine of watching the water splatter against the glass.
“Suit yourself,” I said, heading for the little kitchen and the instant noodles. My mother said eating them every day would give me cancer. I was pretty sure we were all going to die of some horrible toxic shock. Probably brought by the rain, which slides day after day over Mexico City.
Mora wore a cheap blue suit and an expensive silk tie. He sat like a king commanding his court from across the table while a bleached-blonde girl poured me a glass of water. It was too early and the place was nearly deserted. Five teenagers coming for the opening of Wednesday’s tardeada danced together; fourteen year-old girls in glittery high-heels shoes and boys with retro ducktail hair styles.
“It’s too bad about Maribel, but you aren’t thinking I got anything to do with that, are you officer?”
“Maribel’s boyfriend said you and her didn’t get along.”
“That freak?” Mora chuckled and took out a cigarette. “Of course he’d say that. Look, I had nothing against her.”
“She didn’t want to prostitute herself. Isn’t that what you do with your bar girls? Sell them to your customers?”
The bar girl placed a frosted glass in Mora’s right hand.
“If my girls want to make some extra money that’s cool with me. I don’t force anyone to do anything.”
“So you weren’t angry at Maribel because she wasn’t sleeping with your customers?”
“No,” Mora said tapping his cigarette against an ashtray with his left hand. “I was angry at her because she wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. Spent too much time necking with that boyfriend of hers.”
I frowned. Mora downed his drink and motioned to the bar girl for another one.
“You’re OK with that?” he asked pointing at my water.
“I’ve got some fine tequila, authentic, non-synthesized agave.”
With a mod-drug to speed you up, get you running up and down the walls. I shook my head firmly.
“What about that other boyfriend?”
“He came here one night and saw Maribel. He came back and so on and so forth. She was sweet on him but I’ve got bar girls here to push drinks, not to sit down and talk with their boyfriends. It sets a bad example for the other workers. I told her to quit doing that stuff and she pulled a tantrum. End of story.”
“This other boyfriend, does he have a name?”
“You know where he lives?”
“Yeah. But I’m telling you he had nothing to do with this.”
“You sound very sure about that.”
Mora threw his head back, chuckling.
“That’s because Leech was on her tail.”
“There’s this guy, says he’s a healer. He sells remedies and leeches you. That kind of crap. Well, his number one patient and best friend is that loser, Alberto. He goes all the time to meet this quack.”
“And Leech was following Maribel around. Alberto was paying him to do it.”
“She told me herself. One night Leech came in here and Maribel was upset. She asked me to kick him out, so I did. Then she tells me he’s been following her around. It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”
I had never seen a live leech before. There were dozens of them in a glass tank right in front of me and they looked as unpleasant as they did in pictures.
“I wasn’t following her around.”
“No? You wouldn’t have been doing a favor to your best friend? He is your best friend isn’t he?”
Diego “Leech” Bernal pushed back his black-rimmed glasses with his index finger and shrugged.
“I know him since we were kids and my dad ran the shop. That doesn’t mean I’d be spying on Maribel for him.”
“Maribel was seeing another guy. Did you know that?”
“Did Alberto know?”
“He didn’t tell me anything. Hey, is that it? It’s past closing time.”
“Can I take a look around?”
“Because you’ve got knives hanging from your wall and you knew the victim, buddy.”
“What?” Diego said. “I don’t have knives.”
“What do you call that thing behind you?” I said pointing at a glass case with several cutting instruments on display.
His fingers drummed impatiently against the glass counter.
“It’s a lancet. I’ve also got scarificators and flams. I use them for medical procedures. I offer several treatments and bloodletting is one of them.”
He riffled through some drawers and took out a brass case. It contained an object with a large metal handle and a small blade.
“This is a lancet. You cut the vein and then you can apply leeches or collect the blood in a cup. It’s perfectly legal.”
I grabbed the lancet, turning it in my hands. A clock began to chime and Diego tapped his fingers.
“I do house calls after closing. I really need to go.”
“What’s over there?” I asked pointing at a yellow macrame doorway curtain.
I pulled the curtain aside and stood in a small room with a sagging couch, a table and some crates. A cherub smiled at me. He sat over the word “October.” It was supposed to be some kind of holographic calendar projection. Only instead of looking cute and life-like, the cherub hovered gross and fat against the wall.
“You forgot to change the page,” I said and walked out.
There’s no cars in the alcazabas. Too many squatters have built houses made of tin and rubbish, crowding the roads. The result is the streets are too narrow for cars to slip around most areas. Not that I owned a car. Still, I would have liked one that night. I would have rolled up the windows and buzzed out of there. It was raining, the sewers were overflowing and when I got to the station I saw it was flooded and they had closed it for the night. I had to walk another six blocks in a stinking river of garbage.
Arkasha started barking when we were only a block from the next station.
A noise, like something scrapping against a window, made me stop. The street we were walking through was very dark. Yet I thought I saw a shadow detach from the wall. It moved with a surprisingly quick, fluid motion, rushing towards me.
“Stop right now,” I said.
Arkasha was growling. I tossed my umbrella and pulled out my gun. The shadow had ceased moving. There was a flash of metal.
“Don’t,” I said, stepping forward. I pictured five identical blades in the darkness, a junkie high on mods and pressed my lips together.
When I reached the shadow, I realized it was a pile of garbage. There was no one there. But there had been. I was sure of that. I tightened my grip around Arkasha’s leash.
The bodyguard had a M9 Beretta and he flashed it at me like he was an idiot gunslinger in a cheap Western.
“Point that away,” I said.
I had hardly slept. I dreamt of a river of corpses and spent my morning going over my notes. I had three women who had been attacked by a fellow wearing some type of bizarre prosthetic teeth and nails. The killer was able to move as quickly as an Olympic athlete and I wasn’t any closer to closing this case. In short, I was in no mood from any bullshit from the hulking idiot.
“I’m gendarme Bravo,” I said. “I need to ask you some questions about Maribel Corona.”
The bodyguard was still giving me an evil look, but Ivan Zambrano nodded.
“We’ve got to make it quick. I’ve got class in half an hour.We’ll go to the solarium”
The hallways were filled with students, most of them in the company of one or two bodyguards. The solarium, in contrast, was deserted. Ivan leaned against a midget palm tree and pulled out a piece of nico-caffeinne paper from a slim silver case. His bodyguard stood behind him.
“So, what’s up with Maribel?” he asked, popping the paper into his mouth.
“You’re kidding me.”
“Shit,” he shook his head. “How?”
“Murdered. You were close to her, weren’t you?”
“We were friends.”
“Come on. I’m pretty sure you were more than that.”
“She wasn’t my girlfriend. We got together and had fun sometimes.”
“You did mind that she had a boyfriend?
“That guy?” Ivan sneered. “Why would I care?”
“Maybe you didn’t want to share Maribel.”
“Oh, boy. You think I killed her. She was just a pretty girl I met at a club, alright? I didn’t care if she had one or two or three boyfriends. Besides, she was going to dump him.”
“They were going to get married.”
“Yeah. Until she figured out what she was getting herself into.”
“I need a cigarette,” Ivan muttered grabbing another nico-caffine paper. “These fucking things taste like shit. The tuition is in dollars but there’s no smoking on campus, can you believe it?”
“Excruciating, I’m sure. What were you saying?”
“Hey, get my cigarettes from the car,” Ivan said without bothering to address his bodyguard. When the bodyguard hesitated Ivan turned around and tossed the silver case at him. “I’m with her, nobody’s going to gun me in the next five minutes. Go!”
After the bodyguard left Ivan moved towards the glass walls of the solarium, hands behind his back.
“I already knew she was dead. Mora phoned me. I just didn’t want Tadeo to tell my dad.”
“She wasn’t just a girl. She was my girl. But my dad … he kind of has to approve who I go out with so I didn’t tell anyone that it was serious.” Ivan looked down.
“I thought she was in love with Alberto. They’d been together for two years.”
“Have you met the guy? He’s sick. I’m not talking only about his health. He’s clingy. He’d phone her a dozen times during her work shift. When she didn’t give him her full day’s schedule, hour by hour, he got mad. He wanted her to spend every single moment with him, taking care of him.”
“So she decided she’d had enough.”
“Pretty much. I told her I was tired of my father and she told me she was tired of her life.”
Manuel used to investigate the femicides up in Tijuana. He spent several years with a task force, trying to figure out what happened to dozens of missing girls. He transferred to Mexico City, to Communications, before finally giving up on all of it and working as a private investigator for an insurance company. He tracked people down to make sure they weren’t faking their injuries. Recording after boring recording of sleazy con-artists.
I ambushed him outside of a restaurant, pushing my data pad into his face.
“I got a new case. It’s your area of expertise.”
He raised an eyebrow at me, shoving the pad away.
“I retired so I wouldn’t have to see this crap.”
“You ain’t never retiring. Take a peek. It’s not your usual husband gunning down his wife.”
“No, it isn’t.”
He slid his thumb over the pad, frowning. “What do you need to know?”
“Could I be looking at more than one man?”
“Likely. The guys we caught in Tijuana, it was mostly small groups operating together.”
“What kind of profile?”
“You could read my files, you know? What’s bothering you?”
“There’s a Tarzan novel…”
“Everything is a novel to you,” he replied, kneeling down to pat Arkasha’s head. The dog wagged its tail, happy with the attention.
“Tarzan and the Leopard Men. It’s a secret society; they get together to kill. It’s based on a true story. They mutilated their victims with knives, imitating a leopard. Then they ate the victim’s intestines. It was supposed to give them supernatural powers. The leopard’s strength and agility.”
“You think this is a ritual killing, like in your book.”
“The killings happen systematically, a month apart. The women are not raped. Injury to the body seems calculated. Look at the wounds …”
“Rather not,” Manuel said, giving Arkasha a final pat and standing up. “So?”
“It’s not your standard kidnap, rape, kill. I don’t think so. And I’ve never had a case like this before. This type of thing, it’s Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez shit. Not Mexico City. I have no idea where to go from here.”
“Nowhere you can go, that’s the whole problem.”
Manuel handed me the data pad. He was only three years my senior, but he looked considerably older in his gray suit with a black tie, hair parted at the left.
“It never stops. You get three killers, six more appear. Five of every ten murdered people up north are women. You keep finding murdered women, tortured women. It doesn’t stop and you can never go anywhere with it because there is no answer, there is no solution. You’re chasing the snake’s tail. Hand it over to another department.”
“Suit yourself,” Manuel said, raising his hand in a mock salute. “Don’t look for me again.”
Arkasha slept at the foot of my bed. I couldn’t sleep at all. I kept picturing the outlines of corpses. Thinking about the stories in the newspapers I skimmed every morning, carelessly turning the pages. Another dead woman in Ciudad Juarez. Another teenager disappears in Mexicali. A tide of death.
The phone rang.
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
I propped myself up, recognizing the voice. “Alberto?”
“I told him she was cheating on me and he said girls like that get what’s coming for them, but I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Who did you tell?”
He was sobbing. I was already slipping into my pants, grabbing the belt.
“I think Diego does things … I think Diego …”
More sobbing. Louder. I snatched the jacket from a hanger.
“Listen to me Alberto, I’m going to go over to your house, OK?”
“I think they know.”
The phone went dead. I picked my gun.
The power was out in La Catrina. No surprise there with the storm pounding the neighbourhood that night. I was wearing the night goggles and I had Arkasha with me, so I didn’t have much trouble finding Alberto’s home. No matter. I was too late.
He had cut his neck with a straight razor. When I phoned it in, Gonzalo responded with a cheerful hello.
“His buddy Diego was murdered tonight. Two for one,” he said.
I rushed down the stairs of Alberto’s building, back to the rain. Diego’s place was only a few blocks away. I hurried there, Arkasha running at my side.
Suddenly, Arkasha stopped and growled.
I saw a blur dashing to the left into an alley. I recognized its quick movement. With the night goggles on, I could make out the back of a man. Height. Approximate weight. He disappeared behind a pile of garbage and when I followed it, rounding the tall tower of refuse half-blocking the alley, he was gone.
He was very fast. Definitely mod-drugs. Maybe something else. Jacked up to the hilt with synths for all I knew.
My ear-clip buzzed.
“Yeah,” I muttered.
“Gonzalo’s asking if you’re ever getting your ass over here. He did a number on the leech guy.”
“I’m going there,” I said.
I pulled up my goggles and stared at the narrow alley.
“Case closed.” That’s what the file said. I shook the pad, thinking it had glitched. “Case closed” glowed in crisp red letters.
“Hey, Gonzalo,” I asked when we bumped into each other in the cafeteria, “I’m not done with the alcazaba killings.”
“The report is in, isn’t?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Doesn’t mean its closed. There’s a third guy. I’m going to get him.”
“Soledad, you’ve got more important nuts to crack. Did you see about the Russian implants we found in Tacubaya? It’s top priority. Killings in the alcazaba? Two out of three killers ain’t bad. Things will quiet down now and the alcazaba lords will be grateful, for a little bit.”
“You’re telling me to dump it.”
“I’m saying its not worth it. Homicides? You’ve got better things to do.”
“Why did you send me in the first place then?”
Gonzalo shrugged. I smirked.
“Makes you look like you care.”
“Soledad, come on,” he said smiling. “You’re top-notch. Just not for this kind of thing. If you think there’s some juice left in it pass it to someone else. Ricardo is back. He could grab it. Or try Jacobo. You get it?”
“Yeah, I get it,” I said.
I got it.
Didn’t mean I had to like it.
Arkasha sat watching the rain. When I got Arkasha, they said he was a hopeless case. Sometimes you do genetic tampering and you get a very smart dog. Sometimes you get a dog that is blind in one eye and has a mangled leg. But I liked Arkasha. He proved he could rise beyond his limitations.
I kept thinking about my limitations. I wasn’t a homicide kind of person, specially without any support. It wasn’t my type of case. Gonzalo was right. Plus, I didn’t even want to keep going through the case. I could see why Manuel quit the femicide task force. Defective muscular implants sounded so much more appealing.
Maybe I could shove the dead women in Ricardo’s direction. It wasn’t his thing, though. He liked meatier cases, the stuff that can you front page coverage. The murders in the alcazaba had been tiny stories, buried among bigger concerns.
As for Jacobo … hell, Jacobo knew even less about homicides than I did.
I slid the data pad from its case and stared at it. I had the height and bulk of the killer, I had a clue in the mod-drugs. Somewhere, there was a witness. Because there always is and because this guy had been sloppy, running around in the dark like a B-movie maniac. It wasn’t over.
I ticked a selection. The “case closed” switched to “ongoing.”
Nobody said I couldn’t do Tacubaya and handle the female killings on the side. I knew Manuel would laugh at that. It was a slippery slope. I’d seen what the task force did to him. Three years after he had quit, there were still photos of the missing women pasted on the walls of his home. His “hobby,” he told me, before he completely burned down and went to do insurance claims, looking a decade older and a life more tired. Snake eating its tail. He had warned me.
We were living in a novela negra, not a Phantom adventure. I had signed up for the Phatom: clearly delineated bad guys, strong-jawed hero and happy ending. You can’t always get what you want. If novela negra it is, novela negra it is.
I pinned my first photo on the wall.
Arkasha raised his head to look at me and I smiled at him.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia was born and raised in sunny Mexico but wound up in beautiful and rainy British Columbia through a strange twist of fate. She writes speculative fiction and her work has appeared or will appear in Fantasy Magazine, Shimmer and Zahir. You can find her online at silviamoreno-garcia.com.