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Sunday 8 May 2016

Processionary Penitents - part 2 of 2


Part 2 of 2 
- continued from yesterday

Nik Morton

“I hope I don’t need to draw you a picture, Señor Saura?” I adjusted the tinted spectacles on my nose, shifted in the leather armchair, leaned forward and stroked my false moustache. “You want me to arrange the substitution of a more favourable copy of your building plans, correct…?”
            His small close-set eyes glared. “Of course I do!” He was thin, impeccably dressed in a charcoal grey suit, sitting on the edge of the sofa. “That’s why I’m here!” We were alone in the lounge of a safe house I’d used before. Spartan furnishing – a lounge diner with two armchairs, the sofa, a small dining table and four chairs, a sideboard and wall sconces for most necessary additional lighting. There were two small bedrooms and a bathroom. “That’s why I’ve brought the money – all five thousand euros!”
            “Well…” I waved an arm, shrugged dismissively, as if I didn’t really care about money, but felt that it was expected in this kind of transaction. “A consideration, no?”
            Saura closed his eyes; his eyeballs moved under the lids, as if he was calculating the money, a euro at a time. He ran a hand over his face, opened his eyes. “Very well.” He ground his teeth together. I wondered if he would rather grind down those who opposed him and his schemes; grind them into the earth.
            “You should have been more thorough with your plans, señor. Then this unsavoury transaction would not prove necessary.”
            “More thorough? Why? We’re talking about townsfolk, little people. Their silly schemes are a piffling trifle to me!”
            “But you took on the work, no?”
            “I regard it as pin money. I can draw up the appropriate plans in an hour or so – and charge them for two days’ work!” He slapped the chair arm. “Now, important work for the council, that takes precedence every time!” He chuckled. “For that, I might make the effort to check my figures, confirm the stress points and so on! But for the little people, they don’t pay me enough to do that. Not nearly enough! They should not have raised that denuncía against me. I am a professional!”
            “Of course. I quite understand.” I felt like grinding my fist in his face then. He exhibited a certain arrogance that I’d witnessed in a number of so-called professional men.
            He pulled out a silk handkerchief, wiped his brow. “So, Señor Santos, when can you arrange for the switch?”
            “That fast?”
            “I thought it best for our man to act promptly for you...” I held out my hand.
            He removed a brown paper envelope from his breast pocket, passed it over. Such envelopes had become a cliché, yet were still used.
            I opened it and scrutinized the contents, counted the notes.
            He growled, “It’s all there!”
            “I don’t doubt it.” I continued to count it, marking aloud each thousand, ensuring that my actions were in plain view of the concealed camera.
            With his own words, he was the architect of his fall from grace.
Next day, Saura was found entirely cocooned in architect’s plans, all fastened tightly with adhesive tape. In his chrysalis, his feet in a wicker basket, he dangled above the pavement, the rope secured round his waist and attached to a pulley on the balcony above.
            He resembled a giant nest of processionary caterpillars. Their white lacy cocoons cling to fir trees any time from January through to April, depending on the weather. To begin with they’re moths’ eggs; when they hatch, the larvae feast on the pine needles then, as caterpillars, crawl down the tree to the ground, marching in single file, nose to tail, in search of somewhere to dig underground and pupate, until the end of the summer, when they emerge as moths. Their very fine hairs are particularly nasty, causing rashes, itches or serious inflammation and allergic reactions. Unwary dogs have choked with swollen throats. As hairy caterpillars, they seem immune to prey; as pupae, they’re lunch for the Hoopoe; and as moths they’re feasted on by bats. I wasn’t sure which stage Saura was in, dangling there, but I anticipated that he’d be devoured by the press and the courts.
            Señora Barrantes, the elderly lady in black, leaned over her balcony and laughed, clapping her hands at the sight. The two Guardia Civil officers in attendance were not so amused. Pinned to the architect’s chest was a note, which stated that Saura had paid a bribe for someone to steal the building plans from the courthouse; it also advised that a copy of the secretly filmed meeting was with the press.
            Later that day, the word spread, the video going viral. The newspaper Información broke the story, complete with a link to the video of the bribe. This wasn’t the first time the newspaper had promulgated a sting operation and, judging by the corruption still prevalent, I didn’t think it would be the last.
            Kidnapping is against the law; there are no mitigating circumstances. However, I feel that where law-breakers are concerned, since they don’t respect the law, they don’t always deserve its protection. Once I’d seen Saura to the door, out of view from the camera, I applied a strangle-hold, his windpipe in the crook of my elbow; it only took eight seconds to render him unconscious; I was careful not to exceed that time as death could result. I prefer this for the less dangerous ungodly; the dangerous ones, I have no qualms about hitting or squeezing the carotid artery – again, with care, as this too can be fatal.
            When he was suitably wrapped for delivery, I bundled him in his car.
            Despite his small stature, it hadn’t been easy to suspend him there in the early hours, after the festival lovers had finally retired. First, I had to clamber on to the roof of his vehicle to reach the dangling rope, and then I heaved him up and made sure he was safely secured. Only then could I drive off. I’d worn gloves throughout this phase. I abandoned the car outside his villa.
I knocked on the Quinto door and it opened almost immediately. “Come in, come in, Señor Cazador!” The old man hastened me into the lounge, pointed to the television screen. I was in time to see Saura shouting that he was “a professional”.
            “He is finished! My wife will have satisfaction!”
            I fished out the five thousand euros. “You can probably make use of this, too. Small compensation for the distress that man has put you through.”
            His eyes watered. Pride vied with common sense as his hands wavered, and then he took the money. “Gracías, Señor Cazador.”
            I nodded at the TV screen. “I don’t think Saura is ever going to make it in Hollywood.” I pointed to the rack of a dozen or so DVDs on the sideboard. “Stick to legal movies, with happy endings like this one.”

“Mr Santos, it’s good of you to make it,” said Franco Roldan, opening his villa’s front door. He was dressed like a movie star, multi-coloured short-sleeved shirt, white slacks, tan pumps. His hair was thick, curly and dyed auburn. He held out a hand.
            We shook and he ushered me inside, and said to the goon at the door, “Back to your post, Rico!” Rico was one of two armed men; three bikini-clad women lounged by the swimming pool, sipping cocktails, but didn’t seem fazed by the sight of the sentries with their Star Z-84 sub-machine guns slung over their shoulders.
            Roldan led me along a tiled passage, the walls adorned with modern art, though I use the “art” word loosely. Art is a matter of taste – and Roldan’s was all bad.
            “I’m not the last to arrive, am I?” I queried, allowing a little anxiety in my tone.
            “No, no, we have Nico still to come. Then we can haggle about distribution, no?”
            “I’m not particularly good at haggling,” I said.
            “No matter. I will ensure that all of my associates do well out of this business.” We entered and he gestured at a table where five men and a woman sat. A couple looked Eastern European, the rest Latin. I knew three from Ministry of Interior mug-shots. I detected a little tension as introductions were made.
            I sat at the table, laid my Samsung Galaxy mobile phone in front of me.
            “Are you expecting a call?” Roldan asked.
            “No. But it serves as my burglar alarm.”
            Roldan turned to the others. “His burglar alarm!” He laughed. “He is worried about being burgled!”
            A couple of the men laughed too; the others either didn’t seem amused.
            Nico arrived and I noticed that the tension in the room eased.
            “Right, let’s get down to business,” Roldan said. “My factory is producing two thousand DVD copies a day. A-list movies, acquired from good sources.” He opened his laptop, clicked a couple of keys, and swung it round to show us the screen.
            He was right; this was the latest film, just released in the US; good quality. I suspected that those gathered here wouldn’t like the ending, though…
            “Where is your factory?” Nico asked.
            “A carpet warehouse?”
            “Seems like a good cover,” I observed.
            At least Roldan got the joke, smiling thinly. “Quite.” He then reeled off his outlets, his couriers and the days when stocks would be replenished. He was a good organizer, and very thorough.
            After we’d agreed our roles, I asked, “Can you guarantee your source of films?”
            Roldan nodded. “Emil is very reliable. He has a number of insiders he can call upon.”
            “Good.” That was all I required. According to Seb, suspicions had rested upon a guy named Emil Chapman in California. This was the proof they needed. Idly, I switched off my phone’s voice recorder app, and then fingered the auto-dial.

Two shots were fired outside. Roldan stood and exclaimed, “What the hell…?”
            I retrieved from my ankle holster the lightweight Colt Officer’s ACP LW automatic and levelled it at all eight of them. “You can try to rush me – the magazine only holds six cartridges.”
            Nobody moved.
            “Very sensible.”
            Seconds later, Seb entered alongside a Civil Guard Lieutenant.
            “You seem to have everything under control,” Seb said.
            I nodded. “The details you want are on my phone.”
            The Guardia Civil, the National Police and the local police had raided the villa en masse, Seb accompanying them. The women in bikinis scampered out of the way as armed lawmen scaled the walls, wounded the two sentries, skirted the swimming pool and burst into the lounge. They found me with the guilty parties. The entire operation was filmed by the Guardia Civil.
            Roldan and his cronies were read their rights and handcuffed. “Your days are numbered, Santos!” Roldan grated.
            “At least they won’t be under lock and key,” I said. This wasn’t the first death threat I’d received in my disguise; I felt sure it wouldn’t be the last.
            The haul from the subsequent search was considerable: eight hand-guns, two machine pistols, four kilos of cocaine, a hundred illegal DVDs, four laptops, €40,000 and two stolen cars. As well as the incriminating information about the illegal outlets and sources both here in Spain and in California.
            Under heavy armed guard, Roldan and his cronies were led out of the villa, in single file procession, and loaded into the back of two Civil Guard Mercedes Sprinter wagons.
            I eyed Seb. “That’ll be the last procession he’ll be in for some time.”

* * *
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014
If you'd like to read more Leon Cazador tales, 
Spanish Eye can be purchased here

Through the eyes of Leon Cazador, half-English, half-Spanish private investigator, we experience the human condition in many guises.

This collection covers twenty two cases, some insightful, some humorous, and some tragic. The tales evoke tears and laughter, pleasure at the downfall of criminals, and anger at arrogant evil-doers.

Sometimes, Cazador operates in disguise under several aliases, among them Carlos Ortiz Santos, a modern day Simon Templar; he is wholly against the ungodly and tries to hold back the encroaching night of unreason. Cazador translated into English means hunter. In his adventurous life he has witnessed many travesties of justice; he is a man driven to hunt down felons of all kinds, to redress the balance of good against evil.

Leon Cazador fights injustice in all its forms and often metes out his own rough justice. It's what he does. Through the eyes of Leon Cazador, half-English, half-Spanish private investigator, we experience the human condition in many guises.

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