Posted by Barbanne on July 25, 2000 at 00:24:17:
In my cut off denim shorts, open toed sandals and pink halter top and with a bit of work on my makeup, I can still turn heads.
But in my blue Policia Nacional uniform with my belt fully loaded with handgun, cuffs, baton and radio and all that stuff and with my cap pulled down, the guys say I look like a tiny battle cruiser, all armed up and looking for something or someone to sink.
A little brown and blue battle cruiser.
See, I am a Mulata, not an ebony goddess like the Negras and not white and Spanish looking like the Criolla, nope, just a little, brown, Mulata half breed.
Brown Mulata half breed Policia Nacional investigator. What you guys would call a detective sargento.
The hotel El Rio dos Flores is not one of the best hotels here in Ascunsion, not the sort of touriste hotel that most visitors use, more a second rate flea pit in the back streets off of Avenida Peru.
I walked into the lobby, belt clattering like a castanet. The peeling wallpaper set the tone and the smell of stale booze, imperfectly cleaned toilets and unwashed people was powerfully convincing. A greasy, pony tailed clerk looked up from where he was thumbing through a tattered copy of a magazine with pictures of the sort of American beauties whose overly obvious assets made the rest of us women feel inadequate.
"Which room?" I asked.
He hoicked a thumb upwards. "two oh one." His eyes returned to the glossy flesh in front of him.
I went up the stairs, two at a time. When I am anxious I tend to hustle and I get anxious when my caudillo tells me that a touriste has been murdered here in Ascunsion and I better bring him the killer by tonight or else. Or else I will be back on prostitute duty by tomorrow. Standing on street corners showing my legs and waiting to be mugged is my least favourite policia work. My clattering hardware announced my imminent arrival and I heard a voice from above say "Here comes Chicky boys. Better look sharp."
Chicky, that's me. Actually they started calling me Chicquita but in a short time it became Chicky. I don't really mind, they are a good bunch of guys and I know its a form of endearment said without rudeness or condescension. My real name is Isabella Harrison de Reyes, Isabella, my father called me that after Queen Isabella of Spain, just before he jumped into Bahia de Ascunsion and drowned himself in a fit of drunken melancholy. That was when I was two. Harrison, my Mama loved American movies and American Hollywood movie people and she named me that after her favourite film star. No matter he was a man, de Reyes is a famous old family name but we are just mas baja media una clase, middle class of the lower variety.
"Hi Chicky!" Renaldo called out as I burst puffing into the room. He was dusting for prints. "'lo chicky," said the others and went on taking photographs and collecting hairs and fibres and stuff and bagging it. I waved hello.
The smell was unmistakeable. Blood, coppery, hot, and urine, tangy and fetid.
The room was shabby, with a wardrobe cupboard for clothes, two bedside tables, one with a lamp that had long ago been fashionable, a recliner chair, television set and a double bed. Off to the left was a door leading to an ensuite bathroom. The door was partly open and light was spilling out. Light in the main room came from a circular fluorescent ceiling fitting in a peeling chromed frame. The carpet was rust coloured and the chair upholstery and bedspread were done in matching orange and black patterned fabric. The spread and the top bedclothes were pulled down and the undersheet and pillows looked out of place in their newness and whiteness.
The body was sprawled out on her back on the bed.
She was tall and she was honey blonde and she was Americano.
She had on panties and a bra in a milk coffee coloured french lace. They looked very expensive. I could only dream to own such underwear, it would cost me a month's salary. She had no stockings or panty hose but dangling from her feet were pale brown high heels, also very expensive and, like her underwear, not readily obtained, if at all, in the shops of Ascunsion.
Her legs were spread and the crotch of those expensive panties were stained with the contents of her bladder, recently released. One arm was lying down with its cupped hand resting on her groin and wearing a gold Rolex watch and the other was lying out and off the bed, a small pistol clutched tightly in the hooked fingers. There was a bullet entry wound in the right side of her head just behind the temple and a bigger exit wound on the left of her head. A spray of blood and brains had made a vee shape on the pillows pointing back to where it had come from.
She had been extremely beautiful although now, wearing a wide eyed look of surprised outrage as though she deeply resented a room full of people seeing her dead in her underwear, she looked petulant and defeated. She looked like she had been a class act and certainly not the sort of woman who belonged in the El Rio dos Flores.
The policia doctor straightened up.
"How long?" I asked.
"Three, maybe five hours."
I turned to Renaldo. Sargento Renaldo. We go back a long time.
"Who is she?"
"Nothing. Nobody. What you see is what there is. Nothing in the wardrobes, nothing in the cupboards, nothing in the drawers, not even any stuff in the bathroom. No luggage, no record of arrival, nada, zip!"
"So what have we got?"
"By the looks of her she's American. And the one thing we know for sure she's muerto! The underwear, the Rolex, its all expensive stuff. I mean really expensive, not what my wife can afford on my salary."
"Me either," I broke in. "you won't even see me dead in that stuff so she's ahead of me there, but does that make her American, couldn't she be English, German something like that?"
The shoes are from a shop in Texas. Labels inside the heel, you can see it from here. The gun's a Walther PPKS.32acp, chrome plated. I'm no ballistics expert but I reckon the bullet's out of that gun for sure."
"Have we got the bullet?"
He held up an evidence bag with a misshapen lead lump inside it.
"Dug it out of the wall."
"What do you think Chicky. What's your gut impression?"
"Its all too perfect, besides who checks into a hotel in their underwear to blow their brains out. And doesn't even register."
"So its murder?"
"Reckon so and the first thing we need to know is, who is she?"
The Instituto de Medicina Legal is a run down building in the south end of town and the morgue would probably not be allowed as a public toilet in America.
There amongst the entrenched smells of formalin, body fluids and death, muerte, I stood beside Doctor Hernandes looking at the now nude body of the American woman. The autopsy was just finished and she hadn't been sewn up yet. Her face had a stupid look from the fact that most of it still sagged down from the top where she had been scalped to get inside her head. The ragged Y incision gaped slightly where it had been pulled together and flapped back into place. Her breasts were skewed and their brown caps pointed in entirely different directions.
Doctor Hernandes bent over the small folded piece of paper, tweezers in hand.
"Sargento de Reyes, this is the item we found in the dead woman's stomach." He nodded at the nude and sliced up corpse. "I thought you should be here when we look at it as I feel sure that she," another nod, "swallowed it when she felt endangered. And she had good reason to feel so endangered as we can see from her present condition. So this item had to be hidden from those who killed her and I am sure she was killed, it was not suicide."
"I think so too, but why are you so sure doctor?"
"Powder marks on her face and fingers are not consistent with her wound."
We both stooped forward. The doctor used the tweezers to unfold the piece of paper. It was marked and blurred by being in the woman's stomach and exposed, even only for a short time, to her bile juices and acids. It was a draft on the Banco de Panama for twenty million US dollars and the name on it was C Skabon. Written in pencil on one side were the words;
Co Twenty Kilos
"What does it mean?" He asked.
"That's why I am the detective doctor, can I take this."
I bagged the note and said farewell to the doctor and left him supervising the sewing up of his naked and dead customer. She would go into deep freeze while we found out who she was. She must have been someone's daughter, someone's girlfriend, wife, mother.
C Skabon! Oh I knew him all right.
Christopher Skabon, the Australian zillionaire financier and property developer who had left his own country in a hurry as his business empire collapsed under the burden of debt and the funds to rescue it left with him. His wealth had assured him he would be welcome here in this country for which he had thoughtfully provided himself with a passport before the extent of his fraud was revealed in his country of birth.
I returned to the office and checked records.
Skabon had come to Ascunsion six months previously with untold wealth but thought to be in excess of a billion dollars US. He had bought a plantation north of the city in the jungle region and had effectively dropped out of sight. I thought maybe I should see how he had settled in. Billions US, I thought and pulled a few crumpled guarani from my own pocket and looked at it ruefully. What must such wealth be like? With that you could do anything. Who was the dead woman and why did she get dead. Who tried to make it look like suicide and why so amateurish?
Yes a visit to our newest billionaire citizen was definitely called for.
That evening I told Renaldo I would be out visiting in the morning. I brought him up to speed on the bank draft found in the dead woman and the connection with Skabon.
"Want help?" he asked.
"No, I think low key to start with."
"Well don't hesitate to call for help if anything goes wrong. the cavalry is waiting."
"Hey I'm named after Indiana Jones."
I drove north in my unmarked car.
As I climbed into the low hills mist surrounded the car. It became heavier and I had to slow to a crawl until I turned off toward the river. Then as I travelled a little used rural road it became thin enough to cause no problems at all. Skabon's place was about an hours drive from the city. Using my map I found the entrance and turned onto an unsealed driveway. Half a kilometre up that I was stopped by a huge rusting pair of gates set into stone pillars. The plantation had been a relic from the Spanish colonial days and had lain disused for several years before Skabon had bought it and reputedly spent millions restoring it. I remembered seeing a spread in the home style section of the weekend paper showing the elegantly witchy Mrs Skabon standing amongst furniture and furnishings from dreamland looking out through french doors to a pool of heroic proportions.
I got out of the car and clanked over to the gate.
I peered through it. The driveway continued between walls of jungle into the distance. I could just see at the end of it a gigantic two storey house of Spanish colonial design. Stuccoed, weathered, stained by tropical rainstorms and covered in ivy and liana. It seemed to be sitting in a bed of hibiscus and other flowering plants.
I felt I had company and turned to see that the shadows under the trees had detatched themselves and had become a dozen or so girls in black combat gear. Black tee shirts, black fatigue pants, boots, belts and enough arms to start a war. I recognised AK47's and Uzi's and I also recognised that about six of them were pointing at me. I slowly produced my shield and flipped it open. "Sargento del Reyes, Policia Nacional. I'd like to see Senor Skabon."
"I'm afraid that's impossible."
I turned and my heart went skipitty skip. I hoped the heat spreading in my groin wasn't showing on my face. He was a good thirty five centimetres taller than me, slim, built, and handsome beyond belief. Blonde, blue eyed and devestating.
"And why not?" I tried to act in control while my hormones were making a schoolgirl out of me.
"He's not here. Can I help Sargeant."
"And you are?"
"Mr Skabon's head of security. Grimes, Peter Grimes." He smiled and my knees buckled.
"Are you all right sergeant?"
"Girls!" he gestured and the black shadows melted away.
"What was it about sergeant?"
"Do you know this woman Senor Grimes?" I showed him the morgue photo of the unknown corpse.
He took it and studied it.
"I'm afraid not. Who is she? She doesn't look well."
"That's because she's dead. When will Senor Skabon return?"
"Please tell him I shall wish to speak to him."
"Of course sergeant."
I turned and walked away. Muevete!!! Move it!!! I exaggerated the normal swing of my hips. Don't move it unless you wanna use it girl, my Mama used to say.
I wanna use it Mama I wanna use it BAD!
I felt his eyes on my ass all the way back to the car. As I climbed in he waved.
That night I sat in my room, barefoot, tee shirt and shorts, watching TV and having lewd thoughts about Pedro Grimes. An old US sitcom was boring my tits off when the doorbell rang.
I got up and opened the door.
"Sergeant!" He said. Smiling at me and holding flowers.
"Senor Grimes." My hand flew up instinctively as I felt sure my bra-less nipples had pushed my tee shirt out noticeably. My panty-less groin started to tingle.
"May I come in?"