The Blind Man of Seville

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The Blind Man of Seville

   

ROBERT WILSON

   The Blind Man of Seville


   

   For JaneandMick and José

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   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio Presidente, Los Remedios, Seville

   It had started the moment he’d walked into that room and had seen that face.

   The call had come at 8.15 a.m. just as he was preparing to leave home — one dead body, suspected murder and the address.

   Semana Santa. It was only right that there should be at least one murder in Holy Week; not that it would have any effect on the crowds of people following the daily convergence of quivering Holy Virgins on board their floats en route to the cathedral.

   He eased his car out of the massive house that had belonged to his father on Calle Bailén. The tyres rattled on the cobbles of the empty, narrow streets. The city, reluctant to wake up at any time of year, was especially silent at this hour during Semana Santa. He entered the square in front of the Museo de Bellas Artes. The whitewashed houses, framed in ochre were silent behind the high palms, the two colossal rubber trees and the tall jacarandas, which had not yet flowered. He opened his window to the morning still fresh from last night’s dew and drove down to the Guadalquivir River and the avenue of trees along the Paseo de Cristóbal Colón. He thought he might be approaching contentment as he passed by the red doors of the Puerta del Príncipe in the baroque façade of the Plaza de Toros, La Maestranza, which was about to see the first bullfights in the week leading up to the Feria de Abril.

   This was as close as he got to happiness these days and it held firm as he turned right after the Torre del Oro and, leaving the old part of the city behind, crossed the river, which was misty in the early-morning sunshine. At the Plaza de Cuba he veered away from his regular route to work and headed down Calle de Asunción. Later he would try to recapture these moments because they were the last of what he’d thought, until then, had been a quite satisfactory life.

   The new and very young Juez de Guardia, the duty judge, who’d been waiting for him in the pristine, white-marbled entrance hall of Raúl Jiménez’s large and expensive apartment on the sixth floor of the Edificio Presidente, did try to warn him. He remembered that.

   ‘Prepare yourself, Inspector Jefe,’ he’d said.

   ‘For what?’ Falcón had asked.

   In the embarrassed silence that followed, Inspector Jefe Javier Falcón had minutely scrutinized the surface detail of the Juez de Guardia’s suit, which he decided was either Italian or a leading Spanish designer, someone like Adolfo Dominguez, perhaps. Expensive for a young judge like Esteban Calderón, thirty-six years old and barely a year in the job.

   Falcón’s apparent lack of interest decided Calderón that he didn’t want to appear naive in front of the forty-five-year-old Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de Sevilla, who’d spent more than twenty years looking at murdered people in Barcelona, Zaragoza, Madrid and now Seville.

   ‘You’ll see,’ he said, with a nervous shrug of his shoulder.

   ‘Shall I proceed then?’ asked Falcón, maintaining proper procedure with a judge he’d never worked with before.

   Calderón nodded and told him that the Policía Científica had just been let into the building and that he could go ahead with his initial observations of the scene.

   Falcón walked down the corridor leading from the entrance hall to Raúl Jiménez’s study thinking about preparing himself without knowing how it was done. He stopped at the door to the living room, frowned. The room was empty. He turned to Calderón who had his back to him now, dictating something to the Secretaria del Juez while the Médico Forense listened in. Falcón looked into the dining room and found that empty, too.

   ‘Were they moving out?’ he asked.

   ‘Claro, Inspector Jefe,’ said Calderón, ‘the only furniture left in the apartment is a bed in one of the kids’ rooms and Sr Jiménez’s complete study.’

   ‘Does that mean Sra Jimenéz is already in the new house with the children?’

   ‘We’re not sure.’

   ‘My number two, Inspector Ramírez, should be here in a few minutes. Send him straight through to me.’

   Falcón proceeded to the end of the corridor, suddenly conscious of each footstep on the polished parquet flooring in the empty apartment. His eyes were fixed on a hook on the bare wall at the end of the corridor under which was a square lighter than its surrounds, where a picture or mirror had been hanging.

   He eased his hands into a pair of surgical gloves, snapped the cuffs against his wrists and flexed his fingers. He turned into the study, looked up from his cloudy latex palms to find Raúl Jimenéz’s terrible face staring at him.

   And that was when it had started.

   It wasn’t a question of looking back at that moment and realizing later that it had been a turning point. The change was not subtle. A difference in body chemistry has a way of making itself immediately felt. Sweat came up inside his gloves and at a spot high on his forehead just out of the hairline. The taut pattering of his heart stopped him and he began to find oxygen in the air difficult to come by. He hyperventilated for some seconds, pinched at his throat to try to encourage a better intake. His body was telling him that there was something to fear while his brain was indicating otherwise.

   His brain was making the usual dispassionate observations. Raúl Jimenéz’s feet were bare, his ankles secured to the chair legs. Some furniture was out of place, at odds with the rest of the room. Indentations in the expensive rug, Persian, showed the normal position of the chair. The lead to the TV/video was stretched taut because the rolling cabinet was some metres from its normal position by the wall socket in the corner. A ball of cloth, which looked like socks tracked with saliva and blood, lay on the floor by the desk. Windows, double-glazed, were shut, curtains drawn back. A large soapstone ashtray sat on the desk, full of pinched stubs and whole, clean filters which had been broken off from the cigarettes whose pack lay alongside, brand name Celtas. Cheap cigarettes. The cheapest. Only the cheapest for Raúl Jimenéz, owner of four of the most popular restaurants in Seville, with two others in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto Santa María down on the coast. Only the cheapest for Raúl Jimenéz in his ninety-million-pesetas apartment in Los Remedios, overlooking the Feria ground, with his celebrity photographs hanging on the wall behind his leather-inlaid desk. Raúl with the torero El Cordobés. Raúl with the TV presenter Ana Rosa Quintana. Raúl, my God, Raúl with a carving knife behind a jamón which had to be a top quality Pata Negra because he was flanked by Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, who was looking completely appalled at the cloven hoof pointing at her right breast.

   Still the sweat didn’t stop but appeared elsewhere. Top lip, small of the back, trickling down to his waist from his armpit. He knew what he was doing. He was pretending, persuading himself that it was hot in the room, that the coffee he’d just taken … He hadn’t had any coffee.

   The face.

   For a dead man it was a face with presence. Like El Greco’s saints whose eyes never left you alone.

   Were they following him?

   Falcón moved to one side. Yes. Then the other. Absurd. The tricks of the mind. He pulled himself together, clenched a latex fist.

   He stepped over the taut lead from the wall to the TV/video and went behind the dead man’s chair. He looked up to the ceiling and let his eyes fall on to Raúl Jiménez’s wire-wool hair. The back of the head was matted thick, black and red, from where he’d rammed his head repeatedly against the carved coat of arms on the chair back. The head was still secured to the chair with flex. Originally it must have been tight but Jiménez had gained some slack through his struggle. The flex had cut deeply into the flesh beneath his nose and had ridden up until it had bitten into the cartilaginous material of the septum and it had even sawn through that to reach the bone of the bridge. The nose was hanging off his face. The flex had also cut into the flesh over his cheekbones as he’d thrown his head from side to side.

   Falcón turned away from the profile only to see the full frontal in the blank TV screen. He blinked, wanting to close those staring eyes, which, even in reflection, penetrated. His stomach leapt at the thought of the horror images that had forced a man to do this to himself. Were they still there, burned on to the retina, or further back in the brain in some cubist digitalized state?

   He shook his head, unused to these wild thoughts interfering with his investigative coolness. He moved around to confront the gory face, not quite full on because the TV/video cabinet was up against the man’s knees, and, at this moment, Javier Falcón came up against his first physical failing. His legs would not bend. None of the usual motor messages could get beyond the roiling panic in his chest and stomach. He did what the Juez de Guardia had advised and looked out of the window. He noted the brightness of the April morning, remembered that restlessness as he’d got dressed in the shuttered dark, the uneasiness left after a long, lonely winter with too much rain. So much rain that even he had noticed how the city’s gardens had burgeoned to the density of jungle, to the richness of an abundant botanical exhibit. He looked down on the Feria ground, which two weeks from now would be transformed into a tented Seville crowded with casetas, marquees, for the week-long session of eating, drinking fino and dancing Sevillanas until dawn. He breathed in deeply and lowered himself to meet Raúl Jiménez’s face.

   The terrible staring effect was produced by the man’s eyeballs bulging out of his head as if he had a thyroid problem. Falcón glanced up at the photos. Jiménez was not bug-eyed in any of them. This was caused by … His synapses shunted like cars crunching into each other nose to tail. The visible ball of the eye. The blood down the face. The coagulation on the jaw line. And these? What are these delicate things on his shirtfront? Petals. Four of them. But rich, exotic, fleshy as orchids with these fine filaments, just like fly-catchers. But petals … here?

   He reeled backwards, his feet kicking at the rug edge and the parquet flooring as he fell over the television lead, yanking the plug out of the wall socket. He crabbed on the heels of his hands and feet until he hit the wall and sat legs splayed, thighs twitching, shoes nodding.

   Eyelids. Two top. Two bottom. Nothing could have prepared him for that.

   ‘Are you all right, Inspector Jefe?’

   ‘Is that you, Inspector Ramírez?’ he asked, getting up slowly, messily.

   ‘The Policía Científica are ready to move in.’

   ‘Send the Médico Forense down here.’

   Ramírez slipped out of the doorframe. Falcón shook himself down. The Médico Forense appeared.

   ‘Did you see that this man had had his eyelids cu—his eyelids removed?’

   ‘Claro, Inspector Jefe. The Juez de Guardia and I had to satisfy ourselves that the man was dead. I saw that the man’s eyelids had been removed and … it’s all in my notes. The secretaria has noted it, too. It’s hardly something you’d miss.’

   ‘No, no, I didn’t doubt that … I was just surprised that it wasn’t mentioned to me.’

   ‘I think Juez Calderón was about to tell you, but …’

   The bald head of the Médico Forense rolled on his shoulders.

   ‘But what …?’

   ‘I think he was in awe of your experience in these matters.’

   ‘Do you have any opinion about the cause and time of death?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘The time, about four, four-thirty this morning. The cause, well, vamos a ver, the man was over seventy years old, he had been overweight, he was a heavy smoker of cigarettes which he preferred with the filter removed and, as a restaurateur, someone who enjoyed a glass of wine or two. Even a young and fit man might have found it difficult to sustain these injuries, that physical and mental distress, without going into deep shock. He died of heart failure, I’m sure of it. The autopsy will confirm that … or not.’

   The Médico Forense finished, flustered by the steadiness of Falcón’s look and annoyed by his own idiocy at the end. He left the frame, which was instantly reoccupied by Calderón and Ramírez.

   ‘Let’s get started,’ said Calderón.

   ‘Who called the emergency services?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘The conserje,’ said Calderón. The concierge. ‘After the maid had …’

   ‘After the maid had let herself in, seen the body, ran out of the apartment, and taken the lift back down to the ground floor …?’

   ‘… and hammered hysterically on the door of the conserje’s flat,’ finished Calderón, irritated by Falcón cutting in. ‘It took him some minutes to get any sense out of her and then he called 091.’

   ‘Did the conserje come up here?’

   ‘Not until the first patrol car arrived and sealed off the crime scene.’

   Was the door open?’

   ‘Yes.’

   ‘And the maid … now?’

   ‘Under sedation in the Hospital de la Virgen de la Macarena.’

   ‘Inspector Ramírez …’

   ‘Yes, Inspector Jefe …’

   All exchanges between Falcón and Ramírez started like this. It was his way of reminding the Inspector Jefe that Falcón had moved down from Madrid and stolen the job that Ramírez had always assumed would be his.

   ‘Ask Sub-Inspector Pérez to go down to the hospital and as soon as the maid … Does she have a name?’

   ‘Dolores Oliva.’

   ‘As soon as she is sensible … he should ask her if she noticed anything strange … Well, you know the questions. And ask her how many times she turned the key in the lock to open the door and what exactly were her movements before she found the body.’

   Ramírez repeated this back to him.

   ‘Have we found Sra Jiménez and the children yet?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘We think they’re in the Hotel Colón.’

   ‘On Calle Bailén?’ asked Falcón, the five-star hotel where all the toreros stayed, only fifty metres from his own … from his late father’s house — a coincidence without being one.

   ‘A car has been sent,’ said Calderón. ‘I’d like to complete the levantamiento del cadaver as soon as possible and get the body down to the Instituto Anatómico Forense before we bring Sra Jiménez up here.’

   Falcón nodded. Calderón left them to it. The two Policía Científica, Felipe in his mid fifties and Jorge in his late twenties, moved in murmuring buenos días. Falcón stared at the TV plug lying on the floor and decided not to mention it. They photographed the room and, between them, began to put together a scenario, while Jorge took Jiménez’s fingerprints and Felipe dusted the TV/video cabinet and the two empty slipcases on top. They agreed on its normal position and the fact that Jiménez would usually have been watching it from a leather scoop chair whose swivel base when lifted revealed a circular mark on the parquet. The killer had incapacitated Jiménez, swivelled the leather chair, which was unsuitable for his purposes, and moved one of the high-backed guest chairs so that he could shift the body in one turning movement. The killer had then secured the wrists to the arms of the chair, stripped the socks off the feet, stuffed them in Jiménez’s mouth and secured the ankles. He then manoeuvred the chair by pivoting it on its legs until he achieved the ideal position.

   ‘His shoes are under here,’ said Jorge, nodding to the footwell of the desk. ‘One pair of ox-blood loafers with tassels.’

   Falcón pointed to a well-worn patch on the parquet in front of the leather scoop. ‘He liked to kick off his shoes and sit in front of the TV rubbing his feet on the wooden floor.’

   ‘While he watched dirty movies,’ said Felipe, dusting one of the slipcases. ‘This one’s called Cara o Culo.’ Face or Arse I.

   ‘The position of the chair?’ asked Jorge. ‘Why move all this furniture around?’

   Javier Falcón walked to the door, turned and held his arms open to the forensics.

   ‘Maximum impact.’

   ‘A real showman,’ said Felipe, nodding. ‘This other slipcase has La Familia Jiménez written on it in red felt-tip and there’s a cassette in the machine with the same title, same handwriting.’

   ‘That doesn’t sound too horrific,’ said Falcón, and they all looked at Raúl Jiménez’s blood-streaked terror before going back to their work.

   ‘He didn’t enjoy the show,’ said Felipe.

   ‘You shouldn’t watch if you can’t take it,’ said Jorge from under the desk.

   ‘I’ve never liked horror,’ said Falcón.

   ‘Me neither,’ said Jorge. ‘I can’t take all that … that …’

   ‘That what?’ asked Falcón, surprised to find himself interested.

   ‘I don’t know … the normality, the portentous normality.’

   ‘We all need a little fear to keep us going,’ said Falcón, looking down his red tie, the sweat tumbling out of his forehead again.

   There was a thump from under the desk as Jorge’s head hit the underside.

   ‘Joder.’ Fuck. ‘You know what this is?’ said Jorge, backing out from under the desk. This is a chunk of Raúl Jiménez’s tongue.’

   Silence from the three men.

   ‘Bag it,’ said Falcón.

   ‘We’re not going to find any prints,’ said Felipe. ‘These slipcases are clean, as is the video, TV, the cabinet and the remote. This guy was prepared for his work.’

   ‘Guy?’ asked Falcón. ‘We haven’t talked about that yet.’

   Felipe fitted a pair of custom-made magnifying glasses to his face and began a minute inspection of the carpet.

   Falcón was amazed at the two forensics. He was sure they’d never seen anything as gruesome as this in their careers, not down here, not in Seville. And yet, here they were … He took a perfect square of ironed handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed his brow. No, it wasn’t Felipe and Jorge’s problem. It was his. They behaved like this because this was how he normally behaved and had told them it was the only way to work in a murder investigation. Cold. Objective. Dispassionate. Detective work, he could hear himself in the lecture theatre back in the academy, is unemotional work.

   So what was different about Raúl Jiménez? Why this sweat on a cool, clear April morning? He knew what they called him behind his back down at the Jefatura Superior de Policía on Calle Blas Infante. El Lagarto. The Lizard. He’d liked to think it was because of his physical stillness, his passive features, his tendency to look intensely at people while he listened to them. Inés, his ex-wife, his recently divorced wife, had cleared up that misunderstanding for him. ‘You’re cold, Javier Falcón. You’re a cold fish. You have no heart.’ Then what is this thing thundering away in my chest? He jabbed himself in the lapel with his thumb, found himself with his jaw clenched and Felipe looking up with fish aquarium eyes from the carpet.

   ‘I have a hair, Inspector Jefe,’ he said. ‘Thirty centimetres.’

   ‘Colour?’

   ‘Black.’

   Falcón went to the desk and checked the photograph of La Familia Jiménez. Consuelo Jiménez stood in a floor-length fur coat, her blonde hair piled high as confectionery while her three sons cheesed at the camera.

   ‘Bag it,’ he said, and called for the Médico Forense. In the photograph Raúl Jiménez stood next to his wife with his horse teeth grinning, his sagging cheeks looking like a grandfather and his wife, a daughter. Late marriage. Money. Connections. Falcón looked into Consuelo Jiménez’s brilliant smile.

   ‘Good carpet, this,’ said Felipe. ‘Silk. Thousand knots per centimetre. Good tight pile so that everything sits nicely on top.’

   ‘How much do you think Raúl Jiménez weighs?’ Falcón asked the Médico Forense.

   ‘Now I’d say somewhere between seventy-five and eighty kilos, but from the slack in his chest and waist I’d say he’s been up in the high nineties.’

   ‘Heart condition?’

   ‘His doctor will know if his wife doesn’t.’

   ‘Do you think a woman could lift him out of that low leather scoop and put him in that high-backed chair?’

   ‘A woman?’ asked the Médico Forense. ‘You think a woman did that to him?’

   ‘That was not the question, Doctor.’

   The Médico Forense stiffened as Falcón made him feel stupid a second time.

   ‘I’ve seen trained nurses lift heavier men than that. Live men, of course, which is easier … but I don’t see why not.’

   Falcón turned away, dismissing him.

   ‘You should ask Jorge about trained nurses, Inspector Jefe,’ said Felipe, arse up in the air, practically sniffing the carpet.

   ‘Shut up,’ said Jorge, tired of this one.

   ‘I understand it’s all to do with the hips,’ said Felipe, ‘and the counterweight of the buttocks.’

   ‘That’s only theory. Inspector Jefe,’ said Jorge. ‘He’s never had the benefit of practical experience.’

   ‘How would you know?’ said Felipe, kneeling up, grabbing an imaginary rump and giving it some swift thrusts with his groin. ‘I had a youth, too.’

   ‘Not much of one in your day,’ said Jorge. ‘They were all tight as clams, weren’t they?’

   ‘Spanish girls were,’ said Felipe. ‘But I come from Alicante. Benidorm was just down the road. All those English girls in the sixties and seventies …”

   ‘In your dreams,’ said Jorge.

   ‘Yes, I’ve always had very exciting dreams,’ said Felipe.

   The forensics laughed and Falcón looked down on them as they grovelled on the floor, rootling like pigs after acorns, with football and fucking fighting for supremacy in their brains. He found them faintly disgusting and turned to look at the photos on the wall. Jorge nodded his head at Falcón and mouthed to Felipe: Mariquita. Poof.

   They laughed again. Falcón ignored them. His eye, just as it did when he looked at a painting, was drawn to the edges of the photographic display. He moved away from the central celebrity section and found a shot of Raúl Jiménez with his arms around two men who were both taller and bigger than him. On the left was the Jefe Superior de la Policía de Sevilla, Comisario Firmin León and on the right was the Chief Prosecutor, Fiscal Jefe Juan Bellido. A physical pressure came down on Falcón’s shoulders and he shrugged his suit up his collar.

   ‘Aha! Here we go,’ said Felipe. ‘This is more like it. One pubic hair, Inspector Jefe. Black.’

   The three men turned simultaneously to the window because they’d heard muted voices from behind the double-glazing and a mechanical sound like a lift. Beyond the rail of the balcony two men in blue overalls slowly appeared, one with long black hair tied in a ponytail and the other crew cut with a black eye. They were shouting to the team eighteen metres below who were operating the lifting gear.

   ‘Who are those idiots?’ asked Felipe.

   Falcón went out on to the balcony, startling the two men standing on the platform, which had just been raised up a railed ladder from a truck in the street.

   ‘Who the hell are you?’

   ‘We’re the removals company,’ they said, and turned their backs to show yellow stencils on their overalls which read Mudanzas Triana Transportes Nacionales e Internacionales.

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio Presidente, Los Remedios, Seville

   Juez Esteban Calderón signed off the levantamiento del cadáver, which had uncovered another piece of baggable evidence. Underneath the body was a piece of cotton rag, a sniff indicated traces of chloroform.

   ‘A mistake,’ said Falcón.

   ‘Inspector Jefe?’ questioned Ramírez, at his elbow.

   ‘The first mistake in a planned operation.’

   ‘What about the hairs, Inspector Jefe?’

   ‘If those hairs belonged to the killer … shedding it was an accident. Leaving a chloroform-soaked rag was an error. He put Raúl Jiménez out with the chloroform, didn’t want to put the rag in his pocket, threw it on the chair and then dumped Don Raúl on top of it. Out of sight, out of mind.’

   ‘It’s not such an important clue …”

   ‘It’s an indication of the mind we’re working against. This is a careful mind but not a professional one. He might be slack in other areas, like where he got the chloroform. Maybe he bought it here in Seville from a medical or laboratory supplies shop or stole it from a hospital or a chemist. The killer has thought obsessively about what he wants to do to his victim but not all the details around it.’

   ‘Sra Jiménez has been located and informed. A car will drop the kids at her sister’s house in San Bernardo and bring her on alone.’

   ‘When will the Médico Forense do the autopsy?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘Do you want to be there?’ asked Calderón, weighing his mobile. ‘He said that he was going to do it immediately.’

   ‘Not particularly,’ said Falcón. ‘I just want the results. There’s a lot to do here. This film, for instance. I think we should all watch the La Familia Jiménez movie now before Sra Jiménez arrives. Is there anybody else from the squad here, Inspector?’

   ‘Fernández is talking to the conserje, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘Tell him to collect all the tapes from the security cameras, view them with the conserje and make a note of anybody he doesn’t recognize.’

   Ramírez made for the door.

   ‘And another thing … find somebody to check all the hospitals, laboratories and medical supply shops for chloroform sold to odd people or missing bottles of the stuff. And surgical instruments, too.’

   Falcón rolled the TV/video cabinet back to its normal position in the corner of the room. Calderón sat in the leather scoop chair. Falcón plugged the equipment back in. Ramírez stood by the dead man’s chair, which was wrapped in plastic, ready to be taken down to the Policía Científica laboratories. He murmured into his mobile. Calderón ejected the tape, inspected the reels, put it back in and hit the rewind button.

   ‘The removals men are still here, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘There’s no one to talk to them now. Let them wait.’

   Calderón hit ‘play’. They took seats around the room and watched in the sealed silence of the empty apartment. The footage opened with a shot of the Jiménez family coming out of the Edificio Presidente apartment building. Raúl and Consuelo Jiménez were arm in arm. She was in an ankle-length fur coat and he was in a caramel overcoat. The boys were all dressed identically in green and burgundy. They walked straight towards the camera, which was across the street from them, and turned left into Calle Asunción. The film cut to the same family group in different clothes on a sunny day coming out of the Corte Inglés department store on La Plaza del Duque de la Victoria. They crossed the road into the square, which was full of stalls selling cheap jewellery and shawls, CDs, leather bags and wallets. The group disappeared into Marks & Spencer’s. The family group were shown again and again until two of the three men were stifling yawns amidst the shopping malls, the beach gatherings, the paseos in the Plaza de España and the Parque de María Luisa.

   ‘Is he just showing us he did his homework?’ asked Ramírez.

   ‘Impressively dull, isn’t it?’ said Falcón, not finding it so, finding himself oddly fascinated by the altering dynamics of the family group in the different locations. He was drawn to the idea of the family, especially this apparently happy one, and what it would be like to have one himself, which led him to think how it was that he had singularly failed in this capacity.

   Only a change in the direction of the movie snapped him back. It was the first piece of footage where the family didn’t appear as a group. Raúl Jiménez and his boys were at the Betis football stadium on a day when, it was clear from the scarves, they were playing Sevilla — the local derby.

   ‘I remember that day,’ said Calderón.

   ‘We lost 4–0,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘You lost,’ said Calderón. ‘We won.’

   ‘Don’t tell me,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘Who do you support, Inspector Jefe?’ asked Calderón.

   Falcón didn’t react. No interest. Ramírez glanced over his shoulder, uncomfortable with his presence.

   The camera cut to the Edificio Presidente. Consuelo Jiménez on her own, getting into a taxi. Cut to her paying the taxi off in a tree-lined street, waiting some moments while the car pulled away before crossing the road and walking up several steps to a house.

   ‘Where’s that?’ asked Calderón.

   ‘He’ll tell us,’ said Falcón.

   A series of cuts showed Consuelo Jiménez arriving at the same house on different days, in different clothes. Then the house number — 17. And the street name — Calle Río de la Plata.

   ‘That’s in El Porvenir,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘This is the future,’ said Calderón. ‘I think we have a lover here.’

   Cut to night-time and the rear of a large E-Class Mercedes with a Seville number plate. The image held for some time.

   ‘He doesn’t move his plot on very well,’ said Calderón, reaching his boredom threshold quickly.

   ‘Suspense,’ said Falcón.

   Finally Raúl Jiménez got out of the car, locked it, stepped out of the street lighting and into the dark. Cut to a fire burning in the night, figures standing around the leaping flames. Women in short skirts, some with their suspenders and stocking tops showing. One of them turned, bent over and put her bottom to the fire.

   Raúl Jiménez appeared at the edge of the fire. An inaudible discussion ensued. He strode back to the Mercedes with one of the women following, stumbling in her high heels over the rough ground.

   ‘That’s the Alameda,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘Only the cheapest for Raúl Jiménez,’ said Falcón.

   Jiménez pushed the girl into the back seat, holding her head down as if she were a police suspect. He looked up and around and followed her in. The frame held the rear door of the Mercedes, shadowy movements beyond the glass. No more than a minute passed and Jiménez got out of the car, straightened his fly and held out a note to the girl, who took it. Jiménez got back into the driver’s seat. The car pulled away. The girl spat a fat gob on to the dirt, cleared her throat and spat again.

   ‘That was quick,’ said Ramírez, predictable.

   More night-time footage followed. The pattern was the same, until an abrupt change of scene put the camera in a corridor with light falling into it from an open door at the end on the left. The camera moved down the corridor gradually revealing a lighter square on the wall at the end with a hook above it. The three men were suddenly transfixed, as they knew they were looking at the corridor outside the room where they were sitting. Ramírez’s hand twitched in that direction. The camera shook. The suspense tightened as the three lawmen’s heads surged with the horror of what they might be about to see. The camera reached the edge of light, its microphone picked up some groaning from the room, a shuddering, whimpering moan of someone who might be in terrible agony. Falcón wanted to swallow but his throat refused. He had no spit.

   ‘Joder,’ said Ramírez, to break the tension.

   The camera panned and they were in the room. Falcón was so spooked that he half expected to see the three of them sitting there, watching the box. The camera focused first on the TV, which, at this remove, was running with waves and flickering but not so much that they couldn’t see the graphic performance of a woman masturbating and felating a man whose bare buttocks clenched and unclenched in time.

   The camera pulled back to a wide shot, Falcón still blinking at the confusion of sound and expected image. Kneeling on the Persian carpet looking up at the TV screen was Raúl Jiménez, shirt-tails hanging over his backside, socks halfway up his calves and his trousers in a pile behind him. On all fours in front of him was a girl with long black hair, whose still head informed Falcón that she was staring at a fixed point, thinking herself elsewhere. She was making the appropriate encouraging noises. Then her head began to turn and the camera spun wildly out of the room.

   Falcón was on his feet, thighs crashing into the edge of the desk.

   ‘He was there,’ he said. ‘He was … I mean, he was here all the time.’

   Ramírez and Calderón jerked in their seats at Falcón’s outburst. Calderón ran his hand through his hair, visibly shaken. He checked the door from where the camera had just been looking into the room. Falcón’s mind bolted, didn’t know what it was looking at any more. Image or reality. He started, went on to his back foot, tried to shake his vision free of what was in his head. There was someone standing in the doorway. Falcón pinched his eyes shut, reopened them. He knew this person. Time decelerated. Calderón crossed the room with his hand out.

   ‘Señora Jiménez,’ he said. ‘Juez Esteban Calderón, I am sorry for your loss.’

   He introduced Ramírez and Falcón, and Sra Jiménez, with mustered dignity, stepped into the room as if over a dead body. She shook hands with the men.

   ‘We weren’t expecting you so soon,’ said Calderón.

   ‘The traffic was light,’ she said. ‘Did I startle you, Inspector Jefe?’

   Falcón adjusted his face, which must have had the remnants of that earlier wildness.

   ‘What was that you were watching?’ she asked, assuming control of the situation, used to it.

   They looked at the screen. Snow and white noise.

   ‘We weren’t expecting you … ‘ started Calderón.

   ‘But what was it, Señor Juez? This is my apartment. I should like to know what you were looking at on my television.’

   With Calderón taking the pressure, Falcón watched at leisure and, although he was sure he didn’t know her, he at least knew the type. This was the sort of woman who would have turned up at his father’s house, when the great man was still alive, looking to buy one of his late works. Not the special stuff, which had made him famous. That was long gone to American collectors and museums around the world. This type was looking to buy the more affordable Seville work — the details of buildings: a door, a church dome, a window, a balcony. She would have been one of those tasteful women, with or without tiresome wealthy husband in tow, who wanted to have their slice of the old man.

   ‘We were watching a video, which had been left in the apartment,’ said Calderón.

   ‘Not one of my husband’s … ‘ she said, hesitating perfectly to let them know that ‘dirty’ or ‘blue’ was unnecessary. ‘We had few secrets … and I did happen to see the last few seconds of what you were watching.’

   ‘It was a video, Doña Consuelo,’ said Falcón, ‘which had been left here by your husband’s murderer. We are the three officers of the law who will be running the investigation into your husband’s death and I thought it important that we saw the film as soon as possible. Had we known that you would be so prompt …’

   ‘Do I know you, Inspector Jefe?’ she asked. ‘Have we met?’

   She turned to face him full on, her dark fur-collared coat open, a black dress underneath. Not someone to be inappropriately dressed for any occasion. She gave him the full force of her attractiveness. Her blonde hair was not quite so structured as in the desk photograph but the eyes were bigger, bluer and icier in reality. Her lips, which controlled and manipulated her dominating voice, were edged with a dark line just in case you might be foolish enough to think that her soft, pliable mouth could be disobeyed.

   ‘I don’t think so,’ he said.

   ‘Falcón … ‘ she said, feeling the rings on her fingers as she looked him up and down. ‘No, it’s too ridiculous.’

   ‘What is, may I ask, Doña Consuelo?’

   ‘That the artist, Francisco Falcón, should have a son who is the Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de Sevilla.’

   She knows, he thought … God knows how.

   ‘So … this film,’ she said, turning on Ramírez, sweeping her coat back and fitting her fists into her waist.

   Calderón’s eyes flashed across her breasts before they locked on to Falcón over her left shoulder. Falcón shook his head slowly.

   ‘I don’t think this is something you should see, Doña Consuelo,’ said the young judge.

   ‘Why? Is it violent? I don’t like violence,’ she said, without unfixing Ramírez from her gaze.

   ‘Not physically,’ said Falcón. ‘I think you might find it uncomfortably intrusive.’

   The reels of the video squeaked. It was still playing. Sra Jiménez picked up the remote from the corner of the desk and rewound the tape. She pressed ‘play’. None of the men intervened. Falcón shifted to catch her face. Her eyes narrowed, she pursed her lips and gnawed at the inside of her cheek. Her eyes opened as the silent film played. Her face slackened, her body recoiled from the screen as she began to realize what she was watching, as she saw her children and herself become the study of her husband’s killer. When they reached the end of her first taxi ride, to what everybody now knew was 17 Calle Río de la Plata, she stopped the tape, threw the remote at the desk and walked swiftly from the room. The men tossed silence between them until they heard Sra Jiménez retching, groaning and spitting in her halogen-lit, white marble bathroom.

   ‘You should have stopped her,’ said Calderón, pushing his hand through his hair again, trying to shift some of the responsibility. The two policemen said nothing. The judge looked at his complicated watch and announced his departure. They agreed to meet after lunch, five o’clock in the Edificio de los Juzgados, to present their initial findings.

   ‘Did you see that photograph on the end there by the window?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘The one of León and Bellido?’ said Calderón. ‘Yes, I did, and if you look a bit closer you’ll see there’s one of the Magistrado Juez Decano de Sevilla in there, too. Old hawk eyes, Spinola, himself.’

   ‘There’s going to be some pressure on this case,’ said Ramírez.

   Calderón chucked his mobile from one hand to the other, slipped it in his pocket and left.

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio Presidente, Los Remedios, Seville

   Falcón told Ramírez to interview the removals men — specifically to ask them when they arrived and left, and whether their gear was unattended at any stage.

   ‘You think that’s how he got in?’ asked Ramírez, the man incapable of just doing something.

   ‘This is not an easy building to get into and out of without being seen,’ said Falcón. ‘If the maid confirms that the door was double locked when she arrived this morning, it’s possible he used the lifting gear to get in. If it wasn’t then we’ll have to scrutinize the closed-circuit tapes.’

   ‘That takes a lot of nerve, Inspector Jefe,’ said Ramírez, ‘to wait in here for more than twelve hours.’

   ‘And then slip out when the maid came in to find the body.’

   Ramírez bit his bottom lip, unconvinced that that sort of steel in a man existed. He left the room as if more questions were about to turn him back.

   Falcón sat at Raúl Jiménez’s desk. All the drawers were locked. He tried a key from a set on the desk, which opened all the drawers down both sides, while another opened the central one. Only the top two drawers on either side had anything in them. Falcón flicked through a stack of bills, all recent. One caught his attention, not because it was a vet’s bill for a dog’s vaccinations, and there had been no evidence of any dog, but rather that it was his sister’s practice and it was her signature on the bill. It unnerved him, which was illogical. He dismissed it as another non-coincidence.

   He went through the central drawer, which contained several empty Viagra packets and four videos. From their titles, they seemed to be blue movies. They included Cara o Culo II, the sequel to the video whose slipcase had been left empty on the TV cabinet. It occurred to him that they hadn’t found the porn video that was showing on the TV while Raúl was with the prostitute. He shut the drawer. He began a detailed inspection of the photographs behind him. He thought that Raúl Jiménez might have known his father. He was, after all, a famous painter, a well-known figure in Seville society, and Jiménez seemed to be a celebrity collector. As he worked his way from the centre out to the edges he realized that this was a collection of a different order of celebrity. There was Carlos Lozano, the presenter of El Precio Justo. Juan Antonio Ruiz, known in the bullring as ‘Espartaco’. Paula Vázquez, the presenter of Euromillón. They were all TV faces. There were no writers, painters, poets, or theatre directors. No anonymous intellectuals. This was the superficial face of Spain, the Hola! crowd. And when it wasn’t, it was the bourgeoisie. The police, the lawmen, the functionaries who would make Raúl Jiménez’s life easier. The glamour and the graft.

   ‘Did you find who you were looking for?’ asked Sra Jiménez from behind him.

   She was out of her coat, wearing a black cardigan and leaning against a guest chair. Her eyes were pink-rimmed despite the make-up repair.

   ‘I’m sorry you saw that,’ he said, nodding at the television.

   ‘I’d been warned,’ she said, taking a packet of Marlboro Lights out of her cardigan pocket and lighting one with a Bic from the desk. She threw the pack on the desk, offering him one. He shook his head. Falcón was used to this ritual sizing up. He didn’t mind. It gave him time, too.

   He saw a woman about the same age as himself and well groomed, maybe over groomed. There was a lot of jewellery on her fingers whose nails were too long and too pink. Her earrings clustered on her lobes, winking from the nest of her blonde helmet. The make-up, even for a repair job, was heavily slapped on. The cardigan was the only simple thing about her. The black dress would have worked well had it not had a hem of lace which, rather than bringing grief to mind, brought sex awkwardly into contention. She had square shoulders and an uplifted bust and was full-bodied with no extra fat. There was something of the health club fitness regime about her, the way the straps of muscle in her neck framed her larynx and her calf muscles were delineated beneath her black stockings. She was what the English would call handsome.

   She saw a fit man in a perfectly cut suit with all his hair, which had gone prematurely grey but belonged to a class of person who would never think of returning it to its original black. He wore lace-up shoes and the tightness of the bows led her to believe that this was someone who rarely unbuttoned his jacket. The handkerchief in his breast pocket she assumed was always there but never used. She imagined that he had a lot of ties and that he wore them all the time, even at weekends, possibly in bed. She saw a man who was contained, trussed and bound. He did not give out, which may have been a professional attitude but she thought not. She did not see a Sevillano, not a natural one anyway.

   ‘You said earlier, Doña Consuelo, that you and your husband had few secrets.’

   ‘We should sit,’ she said, pointing him into her husband’s desk chair with her cigarette fingers and pivoting the guest chair round with some dexterity. She sat quickly, slipped sideways on to one of the arms and crossed her legs so that the lace hem rode up her calf.

   ‘Are you married, Inspector Jefe?’

   ‘This is an investigation into your husband’s murder,’ he said flatly.

   ‘It’s relevant.’

   ‘I was married,’ he said.

   She smoked and counted her fingers with her thumb.

   ‘You didn’t need to tell me that,’ she said. ‘You could have left it at “Yes”.’

   ‘These are games we should not be playing,’ he said. ‘Every hour that goes past takes us an hour away from your husband’s death. These hours are important. They count more than the hours, say, in three or four days’ time.’

   ‘You’ve separated from your wife?’ she said.

   ‘Doña Consuelo …’

   ‘I’ll be quick,’ she said, and batted the smoke away from between them.

   ‘We are separated.’

   ‘After how long?’

   ‘Eighteen months.’

   ‘How did you meet her?’

   ‘She’s a public prosecutor. I met her at the Palacio de Justicia.’

   ‘So, a union of truth hunters,’ she said, and Falcón searched her for irony.

   ‘We are not making progress, Doña Consuelo.’

   ‘I think we are.’

   ‘I might be satisfying your curiosity …’

   ‘It’s more than curiosity.’

   ‘You are reversing the procedure. It is I who have to find out about you.’

   ‘To see whether I killed my husband,’ she said. ‘Or had him killed.’

   Silence.

   ‘You see, Inspector Jefe, you’re going to find out everything about us, you’re going to dig into our lives. You’re going to strip down my husband’s business affairs, you’re going to probe his private life, uncover his little uglinesses — his blue movies, his cheap whores, his cheap … cheap cigarettes.’

   She leaned over and picked up the pack of Celtas and threw them across the desk so that they skidded into Falcón’s lap.

   ‘And you won’t let me alone. I’ll be your prime suspect. You saw that horrible thing,’ she said, waving at the television behind her.

   ‘Number 17 Calle Río de la Plata?’

   ‘Exactly. My lover, Inspector Jefe. You’ll be talking to him too, no doubt.’

   ‘What’s his name?’ he asked, getting out his pen and notebook for the first time, down to business at last.

   ‘He is the third son of the Marqués de Palmera. His name is Basilio Tomás Lucena.’

   Did he detect pride in that? He wrote it down.

   ‘How old is he?’

   ‘Thirty-six, Inspector Jefe,’ she said. ‘You’ve started before I’ve finished.’

   ‘This is progress.’

   ‘Did she meet somebody else?’

   ‘Who?’

   ‘The public prosecutor.’

   ‘This isn’t …’

   ‘Did she?’

   ‘No.’

   ‘That’s hard,’ she said. ‘I think that’s harder.’

   ‘What?’ he asked, instantly annoyed with himself for snatching at her bait.

   ‘To be dumped because she would rather be alone.’

   That slid into him like a white-hot needle. His head came up slowly.

   Sra Jiménez looked around the room as if it was her first time in it.

   ‘Were you aware that your husband was taking Viagra?’ he asked.

   ‘Yes.’

   ‘Did his doctor know?’

   ‘I imagine so.’

   ‘You must have been aware of the risks for a man in his seventies.’

   ‘He was as strong as a bull.’

   ‘He’d lost weight.’

   ‘Doctor’s orders. Cholesterol.’

   ‘He must have been very disciplined.’

   ‘I was disciplined for him, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘I should have thought as a restaurateur, with all that food around …’

   ‘I hire and run all the staff in the restaurants,’ she said. ‘They were threatened with the sack if they gave him so much as a crumb.’

   ‘Did you lose many?’

   ‘They are Sevillanos, Inspector Jefe, who, as you probably know, rarely take anything seriously. We lost three before they understood.’

   ‘I’m a Sevillano.’

   ‘Then you must have been abroad for a long time to learn your … gravity.’

   ‘I was in Barcelona for twelve years and four years each in Zaragoza and Madrid before I arrived back here.’

   ‘It sounds as if you’ve been demoted.’

   ‘My father was ill. I asked to be transferred to be close to him.’

   ‘Did he recover?’

   ‘No. He didn’t make it to the new millennium.’

   ‘We have met before, Inspector Jefe,’ she said, stubbing out the cigarette.

   ‘Then I don’t remember.’

   ‘At your father’s funeral,’ she said. ‘We are talking about Francisco Falcón.’

   ‘You couldn’t believe it before,’ he said, thinking: Let’s see how this changes your tune.

   ‘Was that who you were looking for in the photographs?’ she asked, and he nodded. ‘You wouldn’t find him there. He was not Raúl’s kind of celebrity. He never came to any of the restaurants. I doubt they knew each other. I went to the funeral because I knew him. I own three of his paintings.’

   He imagined his father with Consuelo Jiménez. His father had liked attractive women, especially if they bought his stupid paintings … but this one? Maybe that would have interested him. The showy, slightly tacky dresser with a razor tongue and a well-honed intuition. The usual crowd who bought his paintings always tried to say something ‘intelligent’ about them, when there was nothing intelligent in them. Consuelo Jiménez wouldn’t have done that. She would have found something different to say to his father, perhaps made a personal observation, even attempted a small perception, which most people, standing under the fierce reflection of his colossal fame, would never have dared. Yes. And his father would have risen to that. Definitely.

   ‘So you were completely involved in your husband’s business affairs?’ he said.

   ‘What happened to his house on Calle Bailén?’

   ‘I live in it,’ he said. ‘And you would know if your husband had any enemies.’

   ‘On your own?’

   ‘Just as he did,’ said Falcón. ‘Your husband … he must have trodden on people on his way up to the top. There are probably people out there who would …’

   ‘Yes, there are people out there who would gladly see him dead, especially those he’d corrupted and who are now free from the weight of their obligation.’

   She flicked a derisory fingernail at the functionary end of the photograph gallery.

   ‘If you know something … it would help.’

   ‘Ignore me. I’m being facetious,’ she said. ‘If there had been any corruption I would not have known about it. I ran the restaurants. I designed the interiors. I organized the flower arrangements. I made sure the produce for the kitchens was of the highest quality. But, as you can probably imagine, even without knowing my husband, I did not make contact with a single peseta of real money, nor did I deal with any of the powers, legal or otherwise, who let Raúl build, who licensed him, and who made sure there were no … unforeseen circumstances.’

   ‘So it is possible that …’

   ‘Very unlikely, Inspector Jefe. If something goes wrong in that department the stink soon gets into the restaurants and nothing reached my nose smelling that bad.’

   Falcón decided he’d let this woman run free for long enough. It was time she understood what had happened here. Time she stopped looking at this as a news item that didn’t affect her. Time to bring her inside.

   ‘Your husband’s body is undergoing an autopsy at the moment. In due course we will have to go to the Instituto Anatómico Forense for you to identify the body. You will see for yourself that your husband’s murder was extraordinary, more extraordinary than any I have seen in my career.’

   ‘I saw the killer’s little production for myself, Inspector Jefe. To spy on a family like that you would have to be profoundly disturbed.’

   ‘You happened to see the last few moments of the video when you first arrived. Perhaps you were not aware of what you were looking at,’ he said. ‘Your husband was entertaining a prostitute in here last night. The killer filmed it. We think that he may have got into this apartment much earlier, around lunchtime, using the removals company’s lifting gear, and that he was hiding in here, waiting for his moment.’

   Her eyes widened. She grabbed for the cigarettes and lit up, spanned her forehead with her hand.

   ‘I was here yesterday afternoon with the children before we went to the Hotel Colón,’ she said, on her feet now, pacing the length of the desk.

   ‘We found your husband sitting in the twin of that chair,’ said Falcón, not taking his eyes off her. ‘His forearms, ankles and head had been secured with flex. He was barefoot because his socks had been used to gag him. He was being forced to watch something on the screen, something so horrific to him that he fought with all his strength not to see it.’

   As he said this it occurred to him that it was only half true. The on-screen horror might have been the start of it, but what made Raúl Jiménez writhe convulsively was coming round in agony to find that a madman had cut his eyelids off. After that he’d have known there was nothing to lose and he’d have fought like a dog until his heart gave out.

   ‘What was he being forced to watch?’ she asked, confused. ‘I didn’t see …’

   ‘What you saw had a certain amount of horror for you personally. Being stalked is creepy, but it’s not something that you would fight to the point of self-mutilation not to see.’

   She sat down straight in the chair, knees pressed together like a good little girl. She leaned forward, grasping her shins, holding herself in.

   ‘I can’t think,’ she said. ‘I can’t think of anything like that.’

   ‘Nor can I,’ said Falcón.

   She drew on the cigarette, spat out the smoke as if it was disgusting. Falcón searched for any hint of pretence.

   ‘I can’t think,’ she said it again.

   ‘You have to think, Doña Consuelo, because you have to go over every minute that you spent with Raúl Jiménez plus everything you know about his life before you met him and you must tell it all … to me and then perhaps between us we can find the small crack … the …’

   ‘The small crack?’

   Falcón’s mind went blank. What crack was he talking about? An opening. A chink. But into what?

   ‘We might find something that will give us an insight,’ he said. ‘Yes, an insight.’

   ‘Into what?’

   ‘Into what your husband feared,’ said Falcón, losing his thread.

   ‘He had nothing to fear. There was nothing frightening in his life.’

   Falcón reined in his thoughts. His fear? What was he thinking of? What was this man’s fear going to tell him?

   ‘Your husband had certain … tastes,’ said Falcón, fingering the pack of Celtas. ‘Here we are in one of the most prestigious apartment buildings in Seville, or at least they were fifteen years ago …’

   ‘Which was about when he bought it,’ she said. ‘I never liked it here.’

   ‘And where were you moving to?’

   ‘Heliopolis.’

   ‘Another expensive place to live,’ said Falcón. ‘He has four of the most well-known restaurants in Seville attended by the rich, the powerful and the celebrated. And yet … Celtas, which he smoked with the filters broken off. And yet … cheap prostitutes picked up in the Alameda.’

   ‘That was only a recent development. No more than two years … since … since Viagra became available. He was impotent for three years before that.’

   ‘His taste in tobacco probably goes back to a time when he had no money. When was that?’

   ‘I don’t know, he never talked about it.’

   ‘Where does he come from?’

   ‘He never talked about that either,’ she said. ‘We Spanish don’t have such a glorious past that his generation would choose to wallow in it.’

   ‘What do you know about his parents?’

   ‘That they’re both dead.’

   Consuelo Jiménez was no longer maintaining eye contact. Her ice-blue eyes roved the room.

   ‘When did you and Raúl Jiménez meet?’

   ‘At the Feria de Abril in 1989. I was invited to his caseta by a mutual friend. He danced a very good Sevillana … not the usual shuffling about that you see from the men. He had it in him. We made a very good pair.’

   ‘You would have been in your early thirties? And he was in his sixties.’

   She smoked hard and trashed the cigarette. She walked to the window where she became a dark silhouette against the bright blue sky. She folded her arms.

   ‘I knew this would happen,’ she said, mouth up against the cold glass. ‘The digging. The turning over. That’s why I wanted something from you first. I didn’t want to spew my life into the police machine, the one that encapsulates lives on a few sides of A4, the one that doesn’t have space for nuance or ambiguity, that doesn’t see grey but only black or white and really only has an eye for black.’

   She turned. He shifted in his seat, trying to get the light to catch her face. He turned on the desk lamp and began a reappraisal of Consuelo Jiménez in this warmer light. Perhaps the initial toughness she’d shown was what she’d learned from being with and working for Raúl Jiménez. The dress, the jewellery, the fingernails, the hair — maybe that was how Raúl Jiménez wanted her and she wore it like armour.

   ‘My job is to get to the truth,’ he said. ‘I’ve been working at it for over twenty years. In that time I … and police science, have developed hundreds of techniques for helping us get to the provable truth. I’d like to be able to tell you it is now an exact science, that it is actually scientific, but I can’t, because, like economics, another so-called science, there are people involved and where people are involved there’s variability, unpredictability, ambivalence … Does that answer your concern, Doña Consuelo?’

   ‘Maybe after all your job is not so different from your father’s.’

   ‘I don’t understand.’

   ‘Forget it,’ she said. ‘You were asking me about my husband. How we met. Our age disparity.’

   ‘It just struck me as unusual that an attractive woman in her thirties should …’

   ‘Go for an old toad like Raúl,’ she finished. ‘I’m sure I could think up something suitable about the emotional and economic stability of the mature man, but I think we’ve come to an agreement, haven’t we, Inspector Jefe? So I’ll tell you. Raúl Jiménez pursued me relentlessly. He cornered me, pressured me and begged me. He broke me down until I said “Yes”. And having spent months avoiding that word, in fact saying “No, no, no”, once I’d said it … it untangled me.’

   ‘What was there to untangle?’

   ‘I imagine you’ve known disappointment,’ she said. ‘When your wife left you, for instance. How old was she, by the way?’

   ‘Thirty-two,’ he said, no longer resisting her digressions.

   ‘And you?’

   ‘Forty-four then.’

   She sat in the leather scoop chair, crossed her legs and swivelled from side to side.

   ‘As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not a Sevillana,’ she said. ‘I’ve lived with them for more than fifteen years but I’m not one of them. I’m a Madrileña. In fact I come from a pueblo in Extremadura, just south of Plasencia. My parents left there when I was two. I was brought up in Madrid.

   ‘In 1984 I was working in an art gallery and I fell in love with one of the clients, the son of a duke. I won’t bore you with details … only that I became pregnant. He told me we couldn’t marry and he paid for me to go to London for an abortion. We separated at the Barajas Airport and the only time I’ve seen him since is in the pages of Hola! I moved to Seville in 1985. I’d been here on holiday. I liked the city’s alegría. Four years later and not much alegría, it has to be said, I met Raúl. I was ready for Raúl. Disappointment had prepared me.’

   ‘You made it sound as if he was crazy about you. You’ve had three children by him. You seem to enjoy your work. Your choice in finally accepting him must have, as you said yourself, simplified things.’

   She went to the desk, ripped through the drawers until she came to a pile of old creamy-coloured black-and-white photographs which she shuffled through rapidly, choosing one, which she held to her chest.

   ‘It did,’ she said, ‘until I saw this —’

   She handed him the photograph. Falcón looked from the photograph to her and back again.

   ‘If it wasn’t for the mole on her top lip you wouldn’t be able to tell us apart, would you, Inspector Jefe?’ she said. ‘Apparently she was also a little shorter than me.’

   ‘Who is she?’

   ‘Raúl’s first wife,’ she said. ‘Now you see, Inspector Jefe, once a Consuelo always a Consuelo.’

   ‘And what happened to her?’

   ‘She committed suicide in 1967. She was thirty-five years old.’

   ‘Any reason?’

   ‘Raúl said she was clinically depressed. It was her third attempt. She threw herself into the Guadalquivir — not off a bridge, just from the bank, which has always struck me as a strange thing to do,’ she said. ‘Not snuffing yourself out with sleeping pills, not savagely punishing yourself with slashed wrists, not diving into oblivion for all to see, but throwing yourself away.’

   ‘Like rubbish.’

   ‘Yes, I suppose that’s it,’ she said. ‘Raúl didn’t tell me any of that, by the way. It was an old friend of his from the Tangier days.’

   ‘I was brought up in Tangier,’ said Falcón, his brain unable to resist another non-coincidence. ‘What was your husband’s friend’s name?’

   ‘I don’t remember. It was ten years ago and there’ve been far too many names since then, you know, working in the restaurant business.’

   ‘Did your husband have any children from that marriage?’

   ‘Yes. Two. A boy and a girl. They’re in their fifties now or close to it. The daughter, yes, that’s interesting. About a year after we got married a letter came here from a place called San Juan de Dios.’

   ‘That’s a mental institution on the outskirts of Madrid in Ciempozuelos.’

   ‘As any Madrileño would know,’ she said. ‘But when I asked Raúl about it he invented some ridiculous story until I confronted him with a direct debit to the same institution and he had to tell me that his daughter’s been an inmate there for more than thirty years.’

   ‘And the son?’

   ‘I never met him. Raúl wouldn’t be drawn on the subject. It was closed. A past chapter. They didn’t speak. I don’t even know where he lives, but I suppose I’ll have to find out now.’

   ‘Do you have a name?’

   ‘José Manuef Jiménez.’

   ‘And the mother’s maiden name?’

   ‘Bautista, yes, and she had a strange first name: Gumersinda.’

   ‘The children were both born in Tangier?’

   ‘They must have been.’

   ‘I’ll run it through the computer.’

   ‘Of course you will,’ she said.

   ‘Did he ever talk about his Tangier days … your husband?’

   ‘Now that was a very long time ago. We’re talking about the early forties and fifties. I think he left there shortly after independence in 1956. I don’t think he came straight here but I can’t be sure. All I do know was that by 1967, when his wife killed herself, he was living in a penthouse in one of those blocks of flats on the Plaza de Cuba. They were new then.’

   ‘And near the river.’

   ‘Yes, she must have looked at that river a lot,’ she said. ‘It can be quite mesmerizing, a river at night. Black, slow-moving waters don’t seem so dangerous.’

   ‘What do you know about your husband’s …?’

   ‘Call him Raúl, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘Raúl’s personal and business relationships between, say, the death of his first wife and your meeting in the Feria in 1989?’

   ‘This is ancient history, Inspector Jefe. Do you think it’s relevant?’

   ‘No, I don’t, just background. I have to learn a life in a morning. I have to establish a victim in his context if I’m to have a chance at discovering motive. Most people are killed by people they know …’

   ‘Or thought they knew.’

   ‘Exactly.’

   ‘The killer knew us, didn’t he? The happy Family Jiménez.’

   ‘He knew about you.’

   Out of nowhere her face crumpled and she started crying, burst into wracking sobs and collapsed forwards on to her knees. Falcón moved towards her, unsure how to act in these situations. She sensed it and held up her hand. He held out a box of tissues, hovering like a bad waiter. She slumped back into her chair, panting, her eyes black and glistening.

   ‘You were asking about his personal and business relationships,’ she said, staring off out of the window.

   ‘He was forty-four when his first wife died. I can’t believe he went twenty years without …”

   ‘Of course there were women,’ she said savagely, angry now, possibly at him for his curiosity and his uselessness. ‘I don’t know how many there were. I imagine lots, but none of them lasted. Quite a few of them came to look at me … the winner of Raúl’s devotion. Most had their nails dipped in spite, ready to scratch. You know how I dealt with them, Inspector Jefe? I gave them the satisfaction of thinking me a silly little tart. You know, a little bit cursi, twee. It made them happy. They were superior. They left me alone after that. Some of them are friends now … in the Seville sense of the word.’

   ‘And business?’

   ‘He didn’t start the restaurants until the tourist boom in the eighties when people found there was more to Spain than the Costa del Sol. It was a hobby to begin with. He was very sociable and he didn’t see why he shouldn’t make money out of it. He started with that one in El Porvenir for his rich friends, then the one in Santa Cruz for the tourists, likewise the big one off the Plaza Alfalfa. After we married he added the two on the coast and last year we opened that one in La Macarena.’

   ‘Where did the money come from in the first place?’

   ‘He made a lot of money in Tangier after the Second World War when it was a free port. There were thousands of companies there in those days. He even had his own bank and a construction company. It was an easy place to get rich then, as I’m sure you know.’

   ‘I was very young. I have no memory of the place,’ said Falcón.

   ‘He started a barging company here in Seville in the sixties. I think he even owned a steel-pressing factory for a while. Then he got into property and went into partnership with the construction company Hermanos Lorenzo, which he pulled out of in 1992.’

   ‘Was that amicable?’

   ‘The Lorenzos are regular clients of the restaurants. We used to take the children to their house in Marbella every summer until Raúl got bored.’

   ‘So since the death of his first wife and his daughter going insane you don’t think there’s been any major disturbance in Raúl’s life?’

   She remained silent for some time, staring out of the window, her foot nodding, the shoe working loose from her heel.

   ‘I’m beginning to think that Raúl was the quintessential Spaniard, maybe the quintessential Sevillano, too. Life is a fiesta!’ she said, and held her hands out in the direction of the Feria ground. ‘He was as you see him there in the photographs. Smiling. Happy. Charming. But it was a cover, Inspector Jefe. It was a cover for his total misery.’

   ‘An antidote, too, maybe,’ he said, not agreeing with her, thinking that he was Spanish, too, and he didn’t consider himself miserable.

   ‘No, not an antidote, because his alegría didn’t counteract anything. It never remedied his essential condition which, believe me, was one of abject misery.’

   ‘And you never got to the root of that?’

   ‘He didn’t want me to and I didn’t want to. He quickly discovered that while I was the visual replacement of his wife I was not her clone. Having pursued me relentlessly, he totally failed to love me. I think, in fact, I made him even more miserable by constantly reminding him of her. Still, he kept his side of the bargain, I’ll say that for him.’

   ‘What was that?’

   ‘He absolutely didn’t want any more children and I very much wanted them. I said I wouldn’t marry him if he wasn’t going to give me children. So we … copulated, I think that’s the right word, on the three occasions necessary. He only just made it for the youngest. Those were pre-Viagra days.’

   ‘And so you found Basilio Lucena.’

   ‘I’m not finished about the children yet,’ she said, snapping. ‘Having said he didn’t want children, he then completely doted on them and was incredibly, obsessively protective of them. He was security mad. He made sure they were picked up from school. They never walked around alone. They never even played unsupervised. And have you seen the front door to this flat? That was put in after the last one was born. There are six steel bolts within the body of the door, which by five turns of the key are driven into the wall. We don’t even have a door like that to the office and there’s a safe in there.’

   ‘Who normally locked the door at night?’

   ‘He did. Unless he was away and then he’d call me at one or two in the morning to make sure I’d done it.’

   ‘Would he have locked it if he was alone?’

   ‘I’m sure he would have. He was always going on about making it routine so that it would never be forgotten.’

   ‘Did you ever ask him about this unusually obsessive behaviour?’

   ‘I was touched he cared so much about the children.’

   Ramírez called him on his mobile. He’d finished with the removals men. It had taken some time to break them down, but they’d finally admitted that they went for lunch leaving the lifting gear in place because they had one more chest of drawers to bring down. They’d said that the gear wouldn’t work without the truck engine running, but the platform went up on rails, which was as good as a ladder. Once they’d brought the chest of drawers down nobody went back into the apartment. Falcón told him to join Fernández viewing the CCTV tapes with the conserje and hung up.

   ‘I’d like to talk about Basilio Lucena,’ he said.

   ‘There’s nothing to tell.’

   ‘Did you have any plans?’

   ‘Plans?’

   ‘Your husband was an old man. Didn’t it occur to you …?’

   ‘No, it didn’t … ever. Basilio and I have a nice time together. It involves some sex, of course, but it is not a great passion. We don’t love each other.’

   ‘I was thinking back to that duke’s son you mentioned earlier.’

   ‘That was different,’ she said. ‘I have no intention of developing my relationship with Basilio. In fact, I think this might even finish it.’

   ‘Really?’

   ‘I should have thought that you, with a famous father, would know how the eyes of society will come down on me. There will be talk and malicious thinking not dissimilar to the suspicions that you are paid by the state to have. It will all be idle … but vicious, and I will protect my children from that.’

   ‘Is it you or your husband who has the enemies?’

   ‘I am perceived as undeserving, as a rider on my husband’s coat-tails, as someone who would have failed in life were it not for Raúl Jiménez. But they will see,’ she said, her jaw muscle tensing in her cheek. ‘They will see.’

   ‘Were you aware of the contents of your husband’s will?’

   ‘I never saw him sign one, but I knew of his intentions,’ she said. ‘Everything would be left to me and the children and there would be some provision made for his daughter, his hermandad and his favourite charity.’

   ‘What was that?’

   ‘Nuevo Futuro, and the particular part of it that interested him was Los Niños de la Calle.’

   ‘Street children?’

   ‘Why not?’

   ‘People support charities for reasons. A wife dies of cancer, the husband puts money into cancer research.’

   ‘He said that he began contributing after a trip to Central America. He was very moved by the plight of children orphaned by the civil wars in those countries.’

   ‘Perhaps he himself was orphaned by the Civil War.’

   She shrugged. Falcón’s pen hovered over his notebook where the word putas was underscored.

   ‘And the prostitutes?’ he said, punching the word out into the room. ‘You haven’t seen the section of the video where your husband is filmed frequenting the Alameda. He could have afforded better in less dangerous surroundings. Why do you think …?’

   ‘Don’t ask me why men go to prostitutes,’ she said, and, as an afterthought, ‘… his misery, I should think.’

   ‘And you can’t shed any light on that.’

   ‘People will only talk about those things if they want to, if they know how to. Something that could make my husband that wretched was probably buried so deep that he didn’t know it was there any more. It was just his condition. How would you start talking about something like that?’

   Consuelo Jiménez’s words induced a trance in Falcón. His mind tumbled back over those first hours of the investigation and he hit that fear again, the surge of panic. He was on the walk down the corridor, the double walk, because it was his and the killer’s same strides towards that blank wall with its empty hook lit by the light from the horror room. Then the face, and the eyes in the face, and the terrifying relentlessness of what they’d seen.

   ‘Don Javier,’ she said, which snapped him back to reality because she hadn’t used his rank.

   ‘Please excuse me,’ he said. ‘I was lost. I mean I was elsewhere.’

   ‘It didn’t look like somewhere I would want to be,’ she said.

   ‘I was just running over some things in my mind.’

   Then you must have seen some terrible things. You said yourself, about Raúl’s murder, the most extraordinary of your career.’

   ‘Yes, I did say that, but this wasn’t anything to do with that,’ he said, and found himself on the brink of a confession, which was not, he thought, a place the Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios should ever be.

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio Presidente, Los Remedios, Seville

   He offered her a car. She turned him down and said she’d make her own way to her sister’s house. He asked for her sister’s details just to keep the pressure on, and reminded her that he would pick her up later to go to the Instituto Anatómico Forense for the identification of the body. He wanted to interview her then, once she’d been shocked out of any residual complacency by the sight of her husband’s dead body. He asked her to think about anything unusual in Raúl’s business or personal life in the last year and told her to call the restaurant to get the names and addresses of the three people who’d been fired for feeding her husband against orders. He knew they would be dead leads, but he wanted to induce a fear in her of his thoroughness. They shook hands at the door of the apartment; his were damp, hers dry and cool.

   Ramírez followed him back into Raúl Jiménez’s study from the hall.

   ‘Did she do it,’ he asked, slumping into the high-backed chair, ‘or have it done, Inspector Jefe?’

   Falcón turned his pen over and over in his fingers.

   ‘Any news from Pérez at the hospital?’ he asked.

   ‘The maid’s still out cold.’

   ‘And the CCTV tapes?’

   ‘Four people unidentified by the conserje. Two males. Two females. One of the females I would say is the whore, but she looks very young. Fernández has taken the tapes down to the station and we’ll get some digitalized printouts to show around the building.’

   ‘What about people leaving the building by alternative exits? The garage, for instance.’

   ‘Neither of those cameras are working. The conserje called the technicians this morning but they still haven’t arrived. Semana Santa, Inspector Jefe,’ he explained.

   Falcón gave him the names and addresses of the fired employees and told him to have them interviewed as soon as possible. Ramírez left. Falcón picked up the photograph of Raúl Jiménez’s first wife — Gumersinda Bautista. He called the Jefatura and asked them to run a check on José Manuel Jiménez Bautista, born in Tangier in the late 1940s, early 1950s.

   He sat back with the other photographs, flicked through the nameless people. He came across a shot of Raúl Jiménez on the deck of a yacht. He was barely recognizable. No hint of the toadiness to come. He was handsome and confident and stood as if he knew it, hands on hips, shoulders braced, chest puffed out. Falcón brushed his thumb over that chest, thinking there was a speck on the photograph. It stayed and on closer inspection looked to be some kind of wound to his right pectoral near the armpit. He flipped it over — Tangier, July 1953 was written on the back.

   His mobile rang. The police computer had come up with a Madrid address and telephone number for José Manuel Jiménez. He took them down and asked after Serrano and Baena, two other officers from his group. They were off for Semana Santa. He ordered them to be sent down to him at the Jiménez apartment.

   Instead of reviewing his notes and planning his next assault on the cultivated defences of Doña Consuelo Jiménez, who, he couldn’t deny it, was still his prime suspect, he found himself reaching for the sheaf of old photographs. There were some group shots, again from Tangier, in 1954 according to the dates on the back. He looked over the faces, thinking that he was trying to find his father in there until he realized that he was concentrating more on the women and was wondering if his mother, who’d died seven years after these photographs were taken, was amongst these strangers. He was fascinated at the prospect of finding a shot of her he’d never seen, in the company of people he’d never heard of, in a time before he was born. Some of the faces were too small and grainy and he decided to take them home and look at them under his magnifying glass.

   He took a cigarette from the pack of Celtas, sniffed it. He hadn’t smoked for fifteen years. He’d given up when he was thirty, on the same day he’d terminated his relationship of five years with Isabel Alamo. She’d been heartbroken, not least because she’d assumed their private talk was going to be a marriage proposal. In the ghastliness of that memory he broke off the filter, picked up the Bic and lit the cigarette. It was horrible even without inhaling and he set it down on the ashtray. He leaned back in the chair as his mind shot back to another memory back in Tangier on New Year’s Eve 1963. He was standing by the stairs in his pyjamas, waist height to all the leaving guests, who were going down to the port for the firework display. Mercedes, his second mother, his father’s second wife, picked him up and took him back upstairs to bed. This smell was in her hair, Celtas; somebody must have been smoking the same brand at the party. There were still plenty Of Spaniards in Tangier in those days, even though the really good times were long over. Mercedes had put him to bed, kissed him hard, squeezed him to her bosom. He left the memory at that point. He never took it forward from there because … he just didn’t. He was interested to find that this new smell could take him back to that time. Normally he only ever thought of Mercedes when he came across Chanel No.5, her perfume of choice.

   A knock at the door brought him back. Serrano and Baena stood in the corridor.

   ‘You were quick,’ said Falcón.

   The two men shuffled in, uneasy with their boss who they assumed was being sarcastic. They’d been forty minutes.

   ‘Traffic,’ said Baena, which solved the problem both ways.

   Falcón was mystified by the sight of the cigarette reduced to an ash snake in front of him. A glance at his watch left him stunned to find that it was past eleven o’clock and he’d achieved nothing. He checked his notes to see when Ramírez had timed the removals men’s lunch break and ordered Serrano and Baena to go out on the streets to try to find a witness who’d seen someone, probably in overalls, climbing up the lifting gear to the sixth floor of the Edificio Presidente.

   Sub-Inspector Pérez called saying the maid, Dolores Oliva, had finally come round. She wouldn’t speak until she had a rosary in her hand and throughout the interview she fingered a key ring of the Virgen del Rocío. She was convinced she had come into contact with pure evil and that it might have found a way in. Falcón tapped the desk. It was always like this with Pérez. The academy and eleven years in the field had not been able to break down his need to tell a story in a report. It took eight minutes for him to reveal that Dolores Oliva had opened the door with five turns of the key.

   Falcón cut Pérez off and told him to get down to Los Remedios as soon as possible to work the apartments in the block with the print-outs of the unidentified persons from the CCTV tapes. The prostitute had to be identified and found, too. He hung up and saw that there was a message for him from the Médico Forense saying that the autopsy was complete and a written report was being typed out. He thought for a moment about whether he should let Consuelo Jiménez see the body in its full horror and decided that it would be better to keep the eyelid removal as police information only. He called the Médico Forense back and asked him to make the body clean and presentable.

   He arranged to pick up Consuelo Jiménez from her sister’s house in San Bernardo and went down to his car calling Fernández and telling him to make contact with Pérez to work the apartments.

   It was fiercely bright outside after the darkness of the apartment and nearly warm. It was always the same around Semana Santa and the Feria, a most ambiguous time of year. Neither hot nor cold. Neither dry nor wet. Neither religious nor secular. He got into his car and threw the sheaf of old photographs on the seat. The one of Gumersinda, Raúl’s first wife, was on top. It was a formal shot and she was staring earnestly into the camera, but it was Consuelo Jiménez’s words that came to mind: ‘He totally failed to love me.’ Two bizarre thoughts clashed in his mind, squirting adrenalin into his system, which made him start the car and pull out without looking. Tyres squealed. A muffled shout of ‘Cabrón! reached him.

   He made a U-turn and crossed the river over the Puente del Generalísimo. The port railway tracks streamed beneath him and the cranes formed a guard of honour down to the massive Puente del V Centenario, which rose out of the urban mist. His thoughts burgeoned as he headed northeast past the Parque de María Luisa and he desperately wanted that cigarette he’d let burn to ash in Raúl Jiménez’s study. What had come into his mind were the words of his wife, Inés, whom he, too, had failed to love: ‘You have no heart, Javier Falcón,’ and this had been entangled with the sight of Gumersinda, a woman from his mother’s era, which had made him think of his blood mother, Pilar, and then his stepmother, Mercedes. All these women, immensely important to him, he now thought he’d somehow failed.

   The idea was so new and peculiar it made him quite desperate to be active and unconscious.

   He sat at the traffic lights, his fingers jittering over the steering wheel, muttering: ‘This is madness’ because this did not happen to him. He did not have random inexplicable thoughts. He had never been by nature a day-dreamer. He had always been calm and methodical, which characteristics could not be applied to him now. From the moment he’d seen Raúl’s terrible face there’d been something no less cataclysmic than a genetic mutation. His mind was flooding with uncomfortable memories, sweat welled up from his forehead and dampened his hands, his concentration was shot. He hadn’t even got this investigation under control. He hadn’t checked the windows and doors out on to the balcony in the Jiménez apartment. First steps. And that business with the TV, yanking the cord out of the wall and not mentioning it. It was unprofessional. It was not him.

   He cruised up Calle Balbino Murrón right to the end, to a building that overlooked the soccer pitch in the Colegio de los Jesuitas. He put the photos in the glove compartment. Consuelo Jiménez came out on her own before he reached the house. A child, probably the youngest, stood in the window. She waved and the boy waved frantically back. It saddened Falcón. He saw himself in the window, left behind.

   They set off, cutting across the main arterial roads going into the centre of town. She looked straight ahead, not taking much in beyond the glass.

   ‘Have you told the children yet?’ he asked.

   ‘No,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to tell them and then leave them to go to the hospital.’

   ‘They must know something is wrong.’

   ‘They see I’m nervous. They don’t know why they are with their aunt. They keep asking me why we aren’t in the house in Heliopolis and when is Daddy going to bring the present he promised.’

   ‘The dog?’

   ‘You can be quite impressive, Inspector Jefe,’ she said. ‘You don’t have children, do you?’

   ‘No … ‘ he said, wanting to fill that out somehow.

   They continued in silence, heading north towards La Macarena.

   ‘How is the investigation going?’ she asked, polite, distant.

   ‘It’s early days.’

   ‘So you only have the obvious motive to go on.’

   ‘Which is?’

   ‘Wife wants to get rid of unloving older husband, inherit his fortune and disappear with younger lover.’

   ‘People have killed for less.’

   ‘I gave you that motive. There’s no one who could have told you that Raúl Jiménez didn’t love me.’

   ‘What about Basilio Lucena?’

   ‘He only knows that Raúl was impotent and that I have physical needs.’

   ‘Do you know where he was last night?’

   ‘Ah, yes, of course. It would be the lover who would do the deed,’ she said. ‘You’ll meet Basilio and then you must tell me what you think he’s capable of.’

   They passed the Basilica de La Macarena and a few minutes later pulled up by an austere grey building on Avenida Sánchez Pizjuan that housed the Instituto Anatómico Forense. A crowd of people were gathered outside the doors. Falcón parked up inside the hospital barrier. Consuelo Jiménez put on a pair of sunglasses. The crowd were on them as soon as they got out of the car, Dictaphones pointing. Loose words blasted out from the cacophony and cut like shrapnel — ‘marido’, ‘asesinado’, ‘brutalmente’. Falcón took her by the arm and pushed past them, got her through the door and slammed it behind him.

   He walked her through the corridors to the office of the Médico Forense, who took them to the viewing room. The official pulled back the curtain and, beyond the glass panel, lit from above, lay Raúl Jiménez under a sheet that was pulled down over his chest. Two candles burned by his head. His eyes, clean of blood, stared up at the ceiling. There was nothing in them. The back of his head, previously matted with gore, had been washed clean. The nose had been miraculously reattached and the scarring from the flex on his cheeks had gone. The old wound to his right pectoral, seen in the photograph, now looked like the worst thing his body had suffered. Consuelo Jiménez formally identified the body. The curtain was closed. Falcón asked her to wait while he had a short discussion with the Médico Forense, who told him that Raúl Jiménez had died at three in the morning. He had suffered a brain haemorrhage and heart failure. There was an extremely high level of Viagra in his blood. It was the doctor’s conclusion that the increased blood pressure and high degree of distress combined with the clogged condition of the victim’s arteries had caused Raúl Jiménez to more or less internally burst. He gave Falcón his official typed report.

   They ran the gauntlet to the car and rather than go back through the barrier, which was blocked by the journalists, he headed through the grounds of the faculty and out past the main hospital building on to Calle de San Juan de Ribera.

   ‘They should have closed his eyes,’ said Consuelo Jiménez. ‘You cannot be at peace with your eyes still open, even if they don’t see anything.’

   ‘They couldn’t close his eyes,’ he said as the traffic lights released them to turn left on to Calle Muñoz León.

   He drove past the old city walls and found a parking space in the busy street. Sra Jiménez clung to the roof grip, her knuckles whitening, her face already beginning to shrink from the words that she knew were coming her way. The worst of his career.

   He told her how it was, with no soft focus, giving his own appalled version. Yes, it had been the worst of his career. There were scenes he’d had to ‘process’ which perhaps sounded worse — walking into an apartment in a high-rise block in an urbanización on the outskirts of Madrid, four dead in the sitting room, blood up the walls, two dead in the kitchen, needles, syringes, tinfoil floating on gore and, in the bedroom, a child whimpering on a soiled cot. But that was all expected horror in a culture of brutality. The torture of Raúl Jiménez was something he could not be objective about and not just because he was sensitive about eyes, which were so important to his work. It was how the killer’s punishment of his victim had worked on his own imagination. It terrified him, the notion of the sheer relentlessness of reality, the lack of visual respite. As Sra Jiménez had noted, not even in death could he be seen to enjoy the big sleep but had to lie in eternal, wide-eyed horror at man’s capacity for evil.

   Sra Jiménez had started crying. Really crying. This was no dabbing at the mascara but a bawling, retching, snot-streaked breakdown. Javier Falcón understood the cruelty of police work. He was not the man to comfort this woman. It was he who had put the images in her head. His job, the point of his job at this moment, was to observe not just the veracity of the emotional display but also to perceive the opening, the crack in the carapace where he would jam in his lever. It had been his conscious tactic to get her in a car, in an enclosed bubble in a busy street with nowhere to go, while an indifferent world crashed by, oblivious to the enormity.

   ‘You were in the Hotel Colón last night?’ he said and she nodded. ‘Were you alone after your children had gone to bed?’

   She shook her head.

   ‘Was Basilio Lucena with you last night?’

   ‘Yes.’

   ‘All night?’

   ‘No.’

   ‘What time did he leave?’

   ‘We had dinner in the room. We went to bed. He must have left by two o’clock.’

   ‘Where did he go?’

   ‘Home, I suppose.’

   ‘He didn’t go to the Edificio Presidente?’

   Silence. No answer, while Falcón looked into the structure of her face.

   ‘What does Basilio Lucena do for a living?’ he asked.

   ‘Something useless at the university. He’s a lecturer.’

   ‘What department?’

   ‘One of the sciences. Biology or chemistry — I can’t remember. We never talked about it. It doesn’t interest him. It’s a position and a salary, that’s all.’

   ‘Did you give him a key?’

   ‘To the apartment?’ she said, shaking her head at him. ‘Meet Basilio before you even …’

   ‘How do you know I haven’t?’

   Silence.

   ‘Have you been in touch with Basilio Lucena this morning?’ he asked.

   She nodded.

   ‘What did you tell him?’

   ‘I thought he should know what had happened.’

   ‘So that he could prepare himself?’

   ‘You might think, Inspector Jefe, if you saw Basilio Lucena on paper that he was an intelligent man. He is certainly educated and sophisticated. But his intelligence is very finely tuned to a narrow waveband and his sophistication admired by a small clique. He has been made lazy by the lack of challenge in his job. His house and car have been paid for by his parents. He has no dependants. His income allows him an irresponsible lifestyle. He isn’t somebody who’s ever had to think on his feet because most of the time he’s lying down. Is that the profile of a murderer?’

   Falcón’s mobile rang. Pérez made an elaborate report on the unidentified people picked up by the CCTV cameras. Two positive identifications, one negative, and the girl they assumed to be the prostitute had been referred to Vice. He told Pérez to follow up on the girl and asked Fernández to go through the apartments again over lunchtime.

   The moment with Consuelo Jiménez had passed. He pulled out into the traffic, did a U-turn and headed west to the river. He glanced at his hostage to see how her thoughts were progressing. He sensed a crisis point, began to have that feeling that this could all be over before his first meeting with Juez Calderón. That was how this work went in his experience. All over in twenty-four hours or they went into months of long, bleak slog.

   ‘Are you taking me back to the apartment?’ she asked.

   ‘You’re an intelligent woman, Doña Consuelo.’

   ‘Your opportunity to flatter me has long passed.’

   ‘You spend your life amongst people,’ he said. ‘You understand them. I think you understand the demands of my job.’

   ‘That you have to be so disgustingly suspicious.’

   ‘Do you know how many murders there are in Seville every year?’

   ‘In this city of joy?’ she said. ‘In this city of handclapping in the streets, of cervecitas y tapitas con los amigos. In this city de los guapos, de los guapísimos? In this godly city of the Holy Virgin?’

   ‘In the city of Seville.’

   ‘A couple of thousand,’ she said, tossing the number up into the air with her ringed fingers.

   ‘Fifteen,’ he said.

   ‘Back-stabbing is metaphorical murder.’

   ‘Drugs account for most of those murders. The remaining few come under the heading of “domestic” or “passionate”. In all of those murders — all of them, Doña Consuelo — the victim and the perpetrator knew each other and in most cases they were intimate.’

   ‘Then you have an exception, Inspector Jefe, because I did not kill my husband.’

   They went through the underpass by the old railway station at the Plaza de Armas and continued along the riverside on the Paseo Cristóbal Colón past the Maestranza bullring, the Opera and the Torre del Oro. The sun was bright on the water, the high plane trees in full leaf. It was no time to be confessing to murder and spending a lifetime of springs behind bars.

   ‘Denial is a very powerful human condition … ‘ he said.

   ‘I wouldn’t know, I’ve never denied anything.’

   ‘… because there are no doubts … ever.’

   ‘I’m either a liar or completely deluded,’ she said. ‘I can’t win, Inspector Jefe. But at least I always tell myself the truth.’

   ‘But do you tell it to me, Doña Consuelo?’ he said.

   ‘So far … but perhaps I’m changing my mind.’

   ‘I don’t know how you persuaded your husband’s old flames that you were a silly tart.’

   ‘I dressed like one,’ she said, tinkling her fingernails. ‘I can talk like one, too.’

   ‘You’re an accomplished actress.’

   ‘Everything counts against me.’

   Their eyes connected. His soft, brown, tobacco. Hers frozen aquamarine. He smiled. He couldn’t help liking her. That strength. The inexorable mouth. He wondered what it would taste like and shot the thought straight out of his head. They crossed the Puente del Generalísimo and he changed the subject.

   ‘It’s never occurred to me before what a Francoist little corner of town this is. This bridge. This street is named after Carrero Blanco …’

   ‘Why do you think my husband was living in the Edificio Presidente?’

   ‘I thought most people were following the Paquirri fashion.’

   ‘Yes, well, my husband liked los toros, but he liked Franco even more.’

   ‘And you?’

   ‘He was before my time.’

   ‘Mine, too.’

   ‘You should dye your hair, Inspector Jefe, I thought you were older.’

   They parked up. Falcón called Fernández on his mobile, told him to go to the Jiménez apartment. He and Sra Jiménez took the lift to the sixth floor, nodded past the policeman at the door. They paced the empty corridor towards the empty hook, that double walk still snagging in Falcón’s brain. They sat down in the study and waited in silence for Fernández to arrive.

   ‘Just run your pictures past Sra Jiménez, please,’ he said. ‘In order of appearance on the CCTV tapes.’

   Fernández counted them out, each one getting the negative from Consuelo Jiménez until the last one when her eyes widened and she blinked the double take.

   ‘Who is that in the picture, Doña Consuelo?’

   She looked up at him, entranced, beguiled as if it had been magic.

   ‘It’s Basilio,’ she said, her mouth not closing.

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio Presidente, Los Remedies, Seville

   How to play this? Falcón resisted the temptation to run his fingers up the edge of the desk like a concert pianist in full flourish. He rested his chin on his thumb, tensed his jaw and brushed his cheekbone with a finger while the adrenalin flashed down his arteries. This was it, he thought. But how to make it come out? Separate or together? He felt inspired. He decided on the cockpit approach. Throw them in together, let them flap and cut, peck and stab.

   ‘Sra Jiménez and I are going to El Porvenir,’ he said to Fernández. ‘Contact Sub Inspector Pérez and help him find the prostitute. Tell him we’ve identified the unknowns from the CCTV tapes.’

   Sra Jiménez crossed her legs, lit a cigarette. Her foot wouldn’t keep still. Falcón went into the corridor to call Ramírez on his mobile. He wished he liked him more.

   Ramírez was bored. He’d taken on the fruitless task of interviewing the fired employees himself and, so far, after two had come up with nothing other than they were glad to get away from Sra Jiménez. Falcón watched her while Ramírez blew off steam. She was clicking the fingernails of her thumb and forefinger, playing things over in her mind. Falcón briefed Ramírez and gave him Basilio Lucena’s address, told him to get down there and be ready to maintain the pressure on the two protagonists.

   Falcón took Consuelo Jiménez back across the river to 17 Calle Río de la Plata. The traffic was heavier around lunchtime. The joggers were out in the park; girls with their hair tied in ponytails bobbed along beyond the railings, gay in the sunshine. These moments of police work were fascinating to him — driving along while a suspect endured some massive internal struggle between denial and truth, between acting out the lie or embracing the relief of retribution and absolution. Where did the impulse come from that started the body chemistry into a decision of such magnitude?

   He turned right up Avenida de Portugal behind the high towers of the Plaza de España. The building which had been the centrepiece of the ‘29 Expo was so normal to him that he wouldn’t have noticed it except, on this day, with the red brick against the blue sky and the explosive greenery all around, it amazed him. It brought back a memory of his father throwing himself out of his seat as they watched Lawrence of Arabia on television to point out that David Lean was using the building as the British Embassy in Cairo.

   ‘You can talk if you like,’ he said.

   She started out aggressive and pulled back after the first syllable. She found a lipstick in her handbag and reshaped her mouth … nicely.

   ‘I’m as curious as you are,’ she said, which unnerved him.

   They parked down the street from the house. No Ramírez. Falcón took out the autopsy report and read it through, blinking in the detail. The instruments used, the technical know-how demonstrated, the chemicals and solutions evident on the victim’s clothes — all reaffirmed his suspicions.

   A car pulled up alongside. Ramírez nodded and parked up at the end of the street. He walked back down, through the gateway and rang the bell to number 17. Lucena opened it. There was a discussion. Ramírez showed his ID card. He was let in. Minutes passed. Falcón and Sra Jiménez got out of the car, rang the bell. Lucena came to the door, harassed. He walked straight into Falcón’s eyes and caught the blue flash of his lover’s. The fear was unmistakable, but of what Falcón wasn’t sure. They went in, the man definitely crowded out in his own living room with the pressure of three pairs of eyes on him. Falcón positioned himself next to the television set, which had a video camera connected to it. Ramírez stood by the door. Lucena sat down on the edge of an armchair. Sra Jiménez occupied the sofa opposite, looked at him out of the corner of her eye, crossed her legs and set her foot nodding.

   ‘We’ve already established from Sra Jiménez that you were with her last night,’ said Falcón. ‘Can you remember when you left?’

   ‘It was about two o’clock,’ he said, running his hand through his thin, brown hair.

   ‘Where did you go after leaving the Hotel Colón?’

   The foot stopped nodding.

   ‘I came back here.’

   ‘Did you leave your house again that night?’

   ‘No. I went to work this morning.’

   ‘How did you get to work?’

   He faltered, stumbled over the beginner’s question.

   ‘By bus.’

   Ramírez took over and tied him in knots about bus routes. Lucena clung to his lie until Falcón quietly put the print-out from the CCTV tapes into his hands.

   ‘Is that you, Sr Lucena?’ he asked.

   He jiggled his head in nervous affirmation.

   ‘What subject do you lecture in at the university?’

   ‘Biochemistry.’

   ‘So you’d probably be working from one of those buildings on Avenida de la Reina Mercedes?’

   He nodded.

   ‘Very close to Heliopolis, where Sra Jiménez is moving to?’

   He shrugged.

   ‘In your faculty would it be easy to get hold of such a chemical as chloroform?’

   ‘Very easy.’

   ‘And saline solution and scalpels and cutting scissors?’

   ‘Of course, there’s a laboratory.’

   ‘You see those figures in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture … what do they say?’

   ‘02.36. 12.04.01.’

   ‘Who were you going to see in the Edificio Presidente at that time?’

   He pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezed his eyes shut.

   ‘Can we talk about this in private?’ he asked.

   ‘We’re all interested parties here,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘Twenty-five minutes after you entered that building Raúl Jiménez was murdered,’ said Falcón, who saw now that Lucena, rather than considering him as a persecutor wanted him as a friend. It was the woman he feared.

   ‘I went to the eighth floor,’ said Lucena, throwing his hands up.

   An unexpected answer, which had Ramírez reaching for his notebook.

   ‘The eighth floor?’ said Sra Jiménez.

   ‘Orfilia Trinidad Muñoz Delgado,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘She must be ninety years old,’ said Sra Jiménez.

   ‘Seventy-four,’ said Ramírez. ‘And there’s Marciano Joaquín Ruíz Pizarro.’

   ‘Marciano Ruiz, he’s the theatre director,’ said Falcón.

   Lucena nodded up at him.

   ‘I know him,’ said Falcón. ‘He’s been to see my father, but he’s …’

   ‘Un maricón; said Sra Jiménez, deep-voiced, brutal.

   Ramírez, like some mugging comic actor, took a quick step back, stared down at Lucena. Falcón used his mobile to call Fernández, who told him that there’d been no reply from the Ruíz apartment when he’d called that afternoon.

   ‘He’s not in today,’ said Lucena. ‘He dropped me off at work and went to Huelva. He’s rehearsing Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre.’

   The air thermals changed in the room. Sra Jiménez charged out of her chair before there was any chance of intervention. Her hand swung back and made nasty contact with the corner of Lucena’s head. It wasn’t a slap, more of a thud. All those rings, thought Falcón.

   ‘Hijo de puta,’ she roared from the door.

   Blood trickled down the side of Lucena’s face. The front door slammed. Heels split the paving stones.

   ‘I don’t get it,’ said Ramírez, more relaxed now that the woman was out of the room. ‘Why were you fucking her if you’re a …’

   Lucena took a packet of tissues out, dabbed his forehead.

   ‘Can you just explain that to me?’ said Ramírez. ‘I mean, you’re one or the other, aren’t you?’

   ‘Do I have to put up with this imbecile?’ Lucena asked Falcón.

   ‘Unless you want to spend a long time down at the Jefatura, yes.’

   Lucena got to his feet, put his hands in his pockets, walked to the centre of the room and turned to Ramírez. His weakness had been replaced by an aristocratic, vindictive smoothness of the sort employed by fops who’ve been asked for the satisfaction of a duel.

   ‘I fucked her because she reminded me of my mother,’ he said.

   It was a calculated offence, which had its desired effect of shocking Ramírez, who Lucena could see was from a different class to his own. The Inspector was from a conservative, working-class Sevillano family and lived with his wife and two daughters in his parents’ house. His mother was still alive and living with them and when his father-in-law died, which would be any week now, his mother-in-law would join them. Ramírez balled his fist. Nobody talked like that about mothers to him.

   ‘We’re leaving now,’ said Falcón, gripping Ramírez by his swollen bicep.

   ‘I want to get … I want to get the phone number of the other maricón,’ said Ramírez, the words bottling in his throat. He wrenched his arm away from Falcón.

   Lucena went to the desk, slashed a pen across some paper and handed it to Falcón, who manoeuvred Ramírez out of the room.

   Outside the Calle Río de la Plata was moving as slowly as the river through Buenos Aires. Sra Jiménez was down at the end of the street, her rage bristling in the sunlight. Ramírez was no less angry. Falcón stood between them, no longer the detective, more the social worker.

   ‘Get Fernández on the mobile,’ he said to Ramírez. ‘See if they’ve found the girl yet.’

   Lucena’s door slammed shut. Falcón headed down the street to Consuelo Jiménez thinking: Was that the sophistication you were talking about that so entranced you? What are we now? Where are we? This society with no rules of engagement.

   She was crying, but from anger this time. She gritted her teeth and stamped her feet in humiliation. Falcón drew alongside her, hands in pockets. He nodded as if agreeing with her but thinking: This is policework — one moment on the brink of cracking the case and packing up early for celebratory beers and the next back on the street wondering how you could have been so facile.

   ‘I’ll run you back to your sister’s house,’ he said.

   ‘What did I do to him?’ she asked. ‘What did I ever do to him?’

   ‘Nothing,’ said Falcón.

   ‘What a day,’ she said, looking up into the perfect sky, all serenity a long way off, beyond the stratosphere. ‘What a fucking day.’

   She stared into the mash of tissue in her hand like a haruspex who might find reason, clarity or a future. She threw it in the gutter. He took her arm and turned her towards the car. As he helped her in, Ramírez said they’d found the girl from the Alameda and were taking her down to the Jefatura on Blas Infante.

   ‘Tell Fernández to interview that last employee that Sra Jiménez fired. Pérez should leave the girl to sweat until we get there. I want all reports filed at four-thirty before we go to see Juez Calderón at five.’

   Falcón called Marciano Ruíz’s mobile and told him he would have to come back to Seville to make a statement tonight. There was a protest from Ruíz, which was followed by a threat from Falcón to arrest Lucena.

   ‘Are you calm?’ he asked Ramírez, who nodded over the roof of the car. ‘Take Sr Lucena down to the Jefatura and get a written statement out of him … and don’t be rough.’

   Falcón led Lucena out of his house and put him in the back of Ramírez’s car. They all left. Falcón hunched over the steering wheel, muttering in his head as the tyres hissed down Avenida de Borbolla. Everybody was mental today. Some cases did this. They grated too much. Normally the child cases. The kidnapping followed by the wait and the inevitable discovery of the abused body. This was the same … as if something terrible had been added to the excesses of the human experience and had subtracted something greater which could never be replaced. The daylight would always be a little dimmer, the air never quite as fresh.

   ‘Do you see a lot of this?’ asked Sra Jiménez. ‘Yes, I suppose you do, I suppose you see it all the time.’

   ‘What?’ said Falcón, shrugging, knowing what she meant, not wanting to get into it.

   ‘People with perfect lives, who see them destroyed in a matter of … ‘

   ‘Never,’ he replied at the edge of vehemence.

   That word — ‘perfect’ — hardened him and he remembered her earlier words which had flayed his ‘perfect’ life alive: ‘I think that’s harder. To be dumped because she would rather be alone.’ He felt cruel and fought the urge to retaliate: ‘I think that’s hard … to be dumped for a male lover.’ He filed it in his mind under ‘Unworthy’ and replaced it with the thought that maybe Inés had ruined women for him.

   ‘Surely, Inspector Jefe …’ she said.

   ‘No, never,’ he said, ‘because I’ve never met anybody with a perfect life. A perfect past and a pristine future, yes. But the perfect past is always brilliantly edited and the pristine future a hopeless dream. The only perfect life is the one on paper, and even then there are those spaces between the words and lines and they’re rarely patches of nothing.’

   ‘Yes, we are careful,’ she said, ‘careful of what we show to others and of what we reveal to ourselves.’

   ‘I didn’t mean to be so … intense,’ he said. ‘We’ve had a long day and there’s more to come. We’ve had some shocks.’

   ‘I can’t believe I’m still such an idiot,’ she said. ‘I met Basilio in the lift of the Edificio Presidente. He was probably on his way down from the eighth floor. I didn’t think. But … but why would he … bother to seduce me?’

   ‘Forget him. He’s not important.’

   ‘Unless he’s given me something.’

   ‘Take a test,’ said Falcón, more brutal than he intended. ‘But start thinking too, Doña Consuelo, about who could possibly have a motive for killing your husband. I want names and addresses of all his friends. I want you to remember, for instance, who it was who told you how much you resembled the first wife. I want Raúl’s diary.’

   ‘He had a desk diary in the office which I kept up. He threw away his address book when he got his mobile phone. He only spoke to people on the phone anyway. He had no use for paper and he always lost pens and stole mine.’

   Falcón did not remember a mobile phone. He called the forensics and the Médico Forense. No mobile. The killer must have taken it.

   ‘Any other records?’

   ‘An old address book in the office computer.’

   ‘Where’s that?’

   ‘Above the restaurant off the Plaza de Alfalfa.’

   He handed her his mobile and asked her to arrange for him to pick up a print-out in half an hour.

   He dropped her outside her sister’s house in San Bernardo just after 3 p.m. Ten minutes later he parked up by the east gate to the Jardines de Murillo and continued on foot, half running through the crowded streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, where tourists gathered for the Semana Santa processions. The sun was out from behind the clouds. It was hot and he was soon sweating. The air in the enclosed streets smelt strongly of Ducados, orange blossom, horseshit and the vestiges of incense from the processions. The cobbles were spattered and slippery with candle wax.

   He stripped off his mac and cut down the backstreets he knew from the few times he’d managed to attend the English classes he kept paying for at the British Institute on Calle Frederico Rubio. He came into the southeast corner of the Plaza de Alfalfa, which was packed with all the tribes of the world. Cameras nosed at him. He sidestroked through the crowd, trotted up Calle San Juan and was suddenly carried forward by a crush of people surging down Calle Boteros. He realized his mistake too late, saw the procession coming towards him, but couldn’t break free of the herd. They bore him onwards to the flower-decked float, which had just negotiated a difficult corner and was now beetling forward under the power of the twenty costaleros underneath. The Virgin, demure beneath her white lace canopy, was shimmering in the intense sunlight, while incense from the burners shifted this way and that in the thermals of the street, filling his head and chest so that air was difficult to come by. The drums from the band behind the float beat on, hammering out their portentous rhythm.

   The crowd shoved forwards. The paso bore down on their awestruck faces, the Virgin towering above them, her whole body shuddering from right to left under the straining costaleros. Earsplitting, discordant trumpets suddenly blasted out the passion. The sound in the confines of the narrow street reverberated inside Falcón’s chest and seemed to open it up. The crowd gasped at the glorious moment, at the weeping Virgin, at the height of ecstasy … and the blood drained rapidly from Falcón’s head.

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Calle Boteros, Seville

   The paso veered away. The high Virgin’s pitiful eyes moved off, fell on others. The crush slackened. The final blast of the trumpets ricocheted off the balconies. The drums beat out to silence. The costaleros lowered the float from their shoulders. The crowd clapped at their feat of engineering. The procession of nazareños in their high-pointed hats put down their crosses, rested their candles. Falcón held on to the handle at the back of an old woman’s wheelchair, a hand on his knee. The old woman was waving at one of the nazareños, who’d lifted the flap of his hood. He smiled, revealing the normal human being beneath, nothing more sinister than a bespectacled accountant.

   Falcón loosened his tie, wiped cold sweat from his face. He pushed through the edge of the crowd, staggered through the files of nazareños. The people on the other side parted for him. He found some pavement and bent his head to his knees, felt the blood thump back up his cerebral cortex, refresh his brain.

   Haven’t eaten all day, he was thinking, but he knew that wasn’t it. He looked back at the paso, the Virgin staring off down the street, unconcerned with him now. Except, this was it … she had been. For that moment, for that fraction of a second, she’d got inside him, filled him out. It had been an experience he could nearly remember having had before, but he couldn’t quite get to the memory of it. It was too distant.

   He found the office above the Jiménez restaurant, picked up the print-out and drank a glass of water. He left the old city, avoiding all processions. He drove down to the river and crossed over to the Plaza de Cuba feeling empty and hungry. He stopped at a bar on República Argentina and bought a bocadillo de chorizo, which he ate too quickly so that it stuck in his chest, the crust as hard-edged as the pain of loss, which was odd because he hadn’t lost anyone since his father died two years ago.

   The Jefatura was on the intersection of Calle Blas Infante and Calle López de Gomara. He parked at the back of the building and made his way up the two short flights of stairs to his office, which had a view over the ordered ranks of cars. His office was spartan with not one personal item in it. There were two chairs, a metal desk and some grey filing cabinets. The light came from a neon strip above his head. He did not hold with distractions at work.

   There were thirty-eight messages for him and five were from his immediate superior Jefe de Brigada de Policía Judicial, Comisario Andrés Lobo, who was no doubt reacting to pressure from his boss Comisario Firmin León, whose relationship with Raúl Jiménez Falcón had noted from the photographs. He went straight to the interrogation rooms, where Ramírez was standing over Basilio Lucena, holding his fist as if he wanted to punch him. He called Ramírez out, briefed him on the interrogation strategy for the girl and told him to send Pérez down. He went in to see Lucena who looked up and went straight back to writing his statement.

   ‘What you said to Inspector Ramírez back there …’ Falcón started, the nastiness of that line still bothering him.

   ‘Any student will tell you that lecturers react very badly to morons.’

   ‘Was that all it was?’

   ‘I’m surprised you’re concerned, Inspector Jefe.’

   He was, too, and wondered if he was making a fool of himself.

   ‘I doubt my mother was ever as good in bed as Consuelo, if that’s what you were wondering,’ said Lucena.

   ‘You’re a confusing man, Sr Lucena.’

   ‘In a confused age,’ he said, waggling his pen at Falcón.

   ‘How long had you been seeing Sra Jiménez?’

   ‘A year or so,’ he said. ‘That was the first time I’d been back to the Edificio Presidente since we met … Such is my luck.’

   ‘And Marciano Ruíz?’

   ‘You’re as curious as the Inspector, aren’t you?’ he said. ‘I’m easily bored, Don Javier. Marciano and I see each other when my ennui peaks.’

   Pérez came in, told Falcón which room the prostitute was in and took over.

   The girl was sitting at a table smoking while she stacked and unstacked two packs of Fortuna. Her hair was cropped unevenly on her head as if she’d done the job herself without a mirror. She stared at the dead TV screen straight ahead of her, blue eyeshadow, pink mouth. A blonde wig hung off the back of an unused chair. She wore a tartan miniskirt, a white blouse and black boots. She was tiny and still looked of school age, but the depravity she’d seen on her extended truant was worn into her dark brown eyes.

   Ramírez turned on the tape, introduced her as Eloisa Gómez and announced himself and Falcón.

   ‘Do you know why you’re here?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘Not yet. They said it was a few questions, but I know you guys. I’ve been here before … I know your games.’

   ‘We’re different to the usual guys,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘That’s right,’ she said, ‘you are. Who are you?’

   Falcón shook his head a fraction at Ramírez.

   ‘You were with a client last night …’ said Falcón.

   ‘I was with lots of clients last night. It’s Semana Santa,’ she said. ‘It’s our busiest time of the year.’

   ‘Busier than the Feria?’ asked Ramírez, mildly surprised.

   ‘Without a doubt,’ she said, ‘especially the last few days when everybody comes from out of town.’

   ‘One of your clients was Raúl Jiménez. You went to see him last night in his apartment in the Edificio Presidente.’

   ‘I knew him as Rafael. Don Rafael.’

   ‘You’d met him before?’

   ‘He’s a regular.’

   ‘In his apartment?’

   ‘Last night was maybe the third or fourth time in his apartment. Normally it’s the back of his car.’

   ‘So how did it work this time?’ asked Ramírez.

   ‘He called the mobile. My group of girls bought three mobiles last year.’

   ‘What time?’

   ‘I didn’t take the call. I was with someone else … but it must have been midnight. The first time.’

   ‘The first time?’

   ‘He only wanted to speak to me, so he called again around twelve-fifteen. He asked me to come to his apartment. I told him I was making a lot of money on the plaza and he asked me how much I wanted. I told him one hundred thousand.’

   Ramírez roared with laughter.

   ‘That’s Semana Santa for you,’ he said. ‘The prices are ridiculous.’

   The girl laughed too, relaxed a notch.

   ‘Don’t tell me he paid that,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘We settled on fifty.’

   ‘Joder.’

   ‘How did you get there?’ asked Falcón, trying to settle it down again.

   ‘Taxi,’ she said, lighting up a Fortuna.

   ‘What time did it drop you off?’

   ‘Just after half past twelve.’

   ‘Anybody around?’

   ‘Not that I saw.’

   ‘What about in the building?’

   ‘I didn’t even see the conserje, which I was glad about. There was no one in the lift or on the landing and he let me in before I rang the bell, as if he’d been watching me through the spy hole.’

   ‘You didn’t hear him unlock the door?’

   ‘He just opened it.’

   ‘Did he lock it once you were inside?’

   ‘Yes. I didn’t like that, but he left the keys in the door so I didn’t protest.’

   ‘What did you notice about the apartment?’

   ‘It was almost empty. He told me he was moving. I asked him where and he didn’t answer. Other things on his mind.’

   ‘Talk us through it,’ said Ramírez.

   She grinned, shook her head as if men the world over were all the same.

   ‘I followed him up the corridor into his study. There was a TV on in the corner with an old movie playing. He took a video out of the desk and loaded it into the machine. He asked me to wear a thick blue skirt which came down to my knees and a blue jumper over my blouse. He told me to tie my hair in bunches. I was wearing a long black wig,’ she said. ‘He preferred brunettes.’

   ‘Did you see him take a pill?’

   ‘No.’

   ‘You didn’t notice anything strange apart from the place being empty?’

   ‘Like what?’

   ‘Anything that made you feel nervous?’

   She thought about it, wanting to help. She held up a finger. They leaned forward.

   ‘He wasn’t wearing any shoes,’ she said, ‘but that didn’t exactly make me panic.’

   They slumped back in their chairs.

   ‘Hey! It’s your fault. You’re making me see things where there’s nothing.’

   ‘Keep going,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘I asked him for my money. He gave me some five thousand notes which I counted. He picked up the remote and a porno movie started up on the TV. He took off his trousers. I mean he dropped his trousers and stepped out of them. And we got down to it.’

   ‘What about the windows?’ asked Ramírez.

   ‘What about them?’

   ‘You were facing the windows.’

   ‘How do you know?’

   ‘He assumes you were facing the windows,’ said Falcón.

   ‘The curtains were drawn,’ she said, suspicious now.

   ‘So you had sex with him,’ said Ramírez. ‘How long did it last?’

   ‘Longer than I expected.’

   ‘Is that why you turned round?’ asked Ramírez.

   The brown eyes hardened in her head. These were not the usual games.

   ‘Who are you?’ she said.

   ‘Inspector Ramírez,’ he said, dry as fino.

   ‘We’re from the Grupo de Homicidios,’ said Falcón.

   ‘Somebody killed him?’ she asked, her head switching between the two men, who nodded.

   ‘The person who killed him was in the apartment while you were there.’

   She wrenched the cigarette from her mouth, puffed hard.

   ‘How do you know?’

   Ramírez had prepared the tape earlier and clicked the remote so that the screen was instantly filled with the empty corridor, the bare hook, the light falling from the study doorway while the soundtrack blared the mixture of the two fake ecstasies. The hairs came up on Falcón’s neck. The girl was transfixed. The camera turned the corner and she saw herself kneeling in front of Raúl Jiménez, who was staring up at the screen while she confronted the curtains. As her head turned, the camera toppled back into the darkness.

   The girl knocked her chair back flat and paced the room. Ramírez returned the screen to black.

   ‘That is very weird,’ she said, pointing at the screen with her cigarette fingers.

   ‘Did you notice anything?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘I don’t know whether you’ve put things into my head, but I do remember something now,’ she said, closing her eyes. ‘It was just a change of light, a shadow wobbling. In my business that’s what I’m frightened of … when the shadows move.’

   ‘When darkness has a life of its own,’ said Falcón, the words out unsupervised so that Ramírez and the girl checked him for oddness. ‘But you didn’t react … to these shadow moves?’

   ‘I thought it was something in my head and anyway I think he reached his moment about then and that distracted me.’

   ‘And afterwards?’

   ‘I cleaned up in his bathroom and left.’

   ‘Did he lock the door behind you?’

   ‘Yes. The same as when he locked it the first time. Five or six turns. I heard him take the keys out, too. Then the lift came.’

   ‘What time was it?’

   ‘I don’t think it was much after one o’clock. I was back in the Alameda with another client by half-past one.’

   ‘Fifty thousand,’ said Ramírez. ‘That’s a good hourly rate.’

   ‘It might take you a while before you could earn that amount,’ she said, and they both laughed.

   ‘What’s your mobile number?’ asked Falcón, and they both laughed again until they saw he was serious and Eloisa rattled it out for him.

   ‘So,’ said Ramírez, still good-humoured, ‘that seems to be everything … except I’m sure she’s left something out, aren’t you, Inspector Jefe?’

   Falcón didn’t react to Ramírez’s brutal game. The girl looked away from him and back to where she’d suddenly felt the threat.

   ‘I’ve told you everything that happened,’ she said.

   ‘Except the most important thing,’ said Ramírez. ‘You didn’t tell us when you let him into the apartment.’

   It took a few seconds for the implication of that mild statement to penetrate and then her face went as hard as a death mask.

   ‘I thought you were too good to be true,’ she said.

   ‘I’m not good,’ said Ramírez, ‘and nor are you. You know what the guy did — the one you let into the apartment? He tortured an old man to death. He put your Don Rafael through some of the worst suffering that we’ve ever come across in our police careers. No, it wasn’t just a shot to the head, not a knife in the heart, but slow, brutal … torture.’

   ‘I didn’t let anyone into that apartment.’

   ‘You said he left the keys in the door,’ said Falcón.

   ‘I didn’t let anyone into that apartment.’

   ‘You said you saw something,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘You made me think I saw something, but I didn’t.’

   ‘The light changed,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘The shadows moved,’ said Falcón.

   ‘I didn’t let anybody in,’ she said slowly. ‘It happened just as I told you.’

   They terminated the interview just before 16.30. Falcón sent Ramírez off with the girl to find a policewoman to supervise a pubic hair match with the Policía Científica. As they left he heard Ramírez talking to her as if she were an old friend and they were heading for a cervecita except the words were different.

   ‘No, I tell you, Eloisa, if I was you I’d drop the guy, drop him like a hot rock. If he can kill a guy like that he can kill you. He can kill you without feeling a damn thing. So you watch yourself. You get any suspicions, any doubts, you give me a call.’

   Falcón went to his office and called Baena and Serrano to see if they’d found any witnesses outside the Edificio Presidente. None. Few people around. Shops closed. Most of the locals in the centre of town for the processions.

   He hung up, cracked his knuckles one after the other, a habit that Inés had loathed but it was an unconscious act, something he did to steady his brain. It had made her writhe.

   Falcón called Comisario Lobo, who told him to make an appearance in his office. On the way to the lift he saw Ramírez and told him to get the paperwork ready for the meeting with Juez Calderón. He went up to the top floor. Lobo’s secretary, one of those minimalist Sevillanas who reserved all her extravagance for after office hours, sent him in with a flick of an eyelash.

   Lobo was facing the window, hands behind his back, doing knee bends while he took in the greenery of the Parque de los Príncipes across the street. He was short and stocky with large, hairy agricultural hands. He had a bull neck and grey, industrial hair. He’d always worn heavy black-framed glasses from a lost era until last year when his wife had persuaded him into contact lenses. It was an attempt at image improvement which had failed because his eyes were the colour of mud and the lack of frames had made his nose look more hooked, revealing more of his brutal face than most wanted to see. He had thin lips, which were only two shades darker than his cumin complexion. He looked more criminal than most of the people in the holding cells, but he was a good manager and a direct talker, who always supported his officers.

   ‘You know what this is about?’ he said, over his shoulder.

   ‘Raúl Jiménez.’

   ‘No, Inspector Jefe, it’s about Comisario León.’

   ‘He was in the photographs in Jiménez’s study.’

   ‘Who was he in bed with?’

   ‘They weren’t those sort of …’

   ‘I’m joking, Inspector Jefe,’ said Lobo. ‘You probably saw a lot of other funcionarios in those photos.’

   ‘Yes, I did.’

   ‘Did you see me?’

   ‘No, Comisario.’

   ‘Because I’m not in them, Inspector Jefe,’ he said, walking quickly to his desk.

   They sat down; Lobo clasped his hands as if about to crush small heads.

   ‘You weren’t here at the time of the 1992 Expo?’ he said.

   ‘I was in Zaragoza by then.’

   ‘A very different situation existed here at Expo ‘92 than at the Barcelona Olympics. There, I’m sure you will recall, the Catalans made a profit. Whilst here, the Andalucians made a staggering loss.’

   ‘There was talk of corruption.’

   ‘Talk!’ roared Lobo savagely. ‘Not just talk, Inspector Jefe. There was corruption. There was so much corruption that if you weren’t making millions it was an embarrassment. Such an embarrassment that those who hadn’t managed to stuff their pockets went out and hired Mercedes and BMWs to make it look as if they had.’

   ‘I didn’t realize.’

   ‘And it wasn’t just the locals. The Madrileños were down here in force, too. They could see a certain attitude was prevailing. A slackness. A lack of attention to detail that could be financially exploited.’

   ‘How is this relevant ten years later?’

   ‘Do you remember how many people were brought to book over that?’

   ‘I don’t recall, Comisario.’

   ‘None!’ said Lobo, whacking the desk with his clasped hands. ‘Not one.’

   ‘Hermanos Lorenzo,’ said Falcón. ‘Construction.’

   ‘What about them?’

   ‘Raúl Jiménez had a business relationship with them, which terminated in 1992.’

   ‘Now you’re beginning to understand. Raúl Jiménez was on the Expo de Sevilla Committee. He was on the board of directors responsible for the development of the site. Hermanos Lorenzo was not the only construction company he was connected to.’

   ‘I’m still not sure how this can be relevant to his murder nearly ten years later.’

   ‘Possibly it isn’t. I doubt there will be any connection. But you’ll be stirring up the shit pot, Inspector Jefe. Nasty things will come to the surface.’

   ‘And Comisario León?’

   ‘He doesn’t want any unpleasant surprises. You must tell me if you come across “sensitive” information and … no leaks, Inspector Jefe, or we’ll all be broken on the wheel.’

   Another reason why Lobo’s men liked him was his unique ability to help them understand the seriousness of a situation. Falcón got up to leave, headed for the door knowing that there was something else, that Lobo always liked to spring things on his men as they were leaving. It made a more lasting impression.

   ‘You probably thought, with all your experience in Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid, that your application to a second division murder city like Seville would be well received.’

   ‘I don’t take anything for granted, Comisario. Politics plays its part in every appointment.’

   ‘I had to work very hard on your behalf.’

   ‘Why did you do that?’ he asked, Lobo unknown to him before he arrived.

   ‘For that very unfashionable reason that you were the best man for the job.’

   ‘Then I thank you for it.’

   ‘Comisario León was a great admirer of the tenacious talents of Inspector Ramírez.’

   ‘As am I, Comisario.’

   ‘They keep in touch, Inspector Jefe … informally.’

   ‘I understand.’

   ‘That’s good,’ said Lobo, suddenly cheerful. ‘I knew you would.’

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Edificio de los Juzgados, Seville

   ‘I think Eloisa Gómez let him in,’ said Ramírez as they crossed the river.

   ‘Baena and Serrano haven’t got anybody outside the Edificio Presidente,’ said Falcón. ‘And I prefer that scenario to the killer climbing up the lifting gear and hiding in the apartment for half a day, even though it was empty apart from a short visit from Sra Jiménez. Was the girl scared?’

   ‘Didn’t say a word to me after we finished the interrogation.’

   ‘Does she believe us?’

   ‘Who knows?’

   The Edificio de los Juzgados was next to the Palacio de Justicia, just opposite the Jardines de Murillo. It was well past five o’clock when Falcón and Ramírez parked up at the back of the court building. Falcón, who hated to be late, wanted to break the comb that Ramírez was putting through his black, brilliantined hair into ten little pieces. His murderous glare had no effect on the Inspector, who considered that they were early and his coiffure a priority — there could be secretaries about.

   The two men in their dark suits, white shirts and sunglasses went to the front of the dull grey building — the monochrome of justice in the garden city. They put their briefcases through the X-ray machine and showed their ID. The place was quiet; almost everything happened in the morning. They went upstairs to Juez Calderón’s office on the first floor. The building was dark, even grim, on the inside. Nothing pretty about justice even when it was good and true.

   Ramírez asked about Lobo and Falcón told him that pressure was already coming down from Comisario León and mentioned the corruption angle. Ramírez looked bored.

   Calderón was not in his office. Ramírez slumped in a chair and played with a gold ring he had on his middle finger which was set with three diamonds. The ring had always bothered Falcón, too feminine for the mahogany muscularity of Ramírez.

   ‘We’re going to have to make something of that time-wasting maricón, Lucena,’ said Ramírez brutally, ‘or we’re going to look like incompetents in our first meeting with the new boy.’

   Falcón let his eyes ripple over the book-lined room. Ramírez stretched out.

   ‘You know, I think even if you fuck both women and men, that deep down you’re a maricón,’ he said.

   ‘Even if it was just a one-off?’ said Falcón.

   ‘It’s not something you can experiment with, Inspector Jefe. It’s in your genes. If you can even think about it … you’re a maricón.’

   ‘Let’s not get into this with Juez Calderón.’

   The young judge arrived at a quarter to six, sat at his desk and got straight down to business. He was now in the role of the Juez de Instrucción, which meant that he had ultimate responsibility for the direction of the case and bringing the necessary evidence for a conviction successfully to court.

   ‘What have we got?’ he asked.

   Ramírez yawned. Calderón lit a cigarette, chucked the pack at Ramírez, who took one. They smoked while Falcón wondered how these two men had got to know each other … until he remembered the football. Betis losing 4–0 on the day the killer shot his movie of Raúl and his sons. Where did that ease come from? He tried to remember if he’d ever had it. He must have done and lost it somewhere in his youth when his work had become too serious, or perhaps he’d become too serious about his work?

   ‘Who’s going to begin?’ asked Calderón.

   ‘Let’s start with the body,’ said Falcón, and gave a resumé of the autopsy.

   ‘How did he think the eyelids were removed?’ asked Calderón.

   ‘Initial incision by scalpel, and the cutting done by scissors. He thought it was a good job.’

   ‘And we think this was done to force him to watch something on the television?’

   ‘The severity of the self-inflicted wounds would suggest that the man was horrified by what had been done to him as well as what he was being forced to watch,’ said Falcón.

   ‘I’d go along with that,’ said Calderón, unconsciously fingering his eyelids. ‘Any thoughts on what the killer showed him?’

   Ramírez shook his head. No room for that sort of conjecture in his hard cranium.

   ‘I think we only know our own worst nightmares, not those of others,’ said Falcón, trying not to be patronizing.

   ‘Yes, I hate rats,’ said Calderón cheerfully.

   ‘My wife can’t be in the same room as a spider,’ said Ramírez, ‘ … even if it’s on television.’

   The two men laughed.

   ‘This is something a little stronger than a phobia,’ said Falcón, stuck in the schoolmaster role. ‘And conjecture isn’t going to help us right now, we need to concentrate more on motive.’

   ‘Motive,’ said Calderón, nodding the task into himself. ‘You’ve spoken to Sra Jiménez?’

   ‘She gave me her motive for killing her husband or having him killed,’ said Falcón. ‘Their marriage was not successful, she had a lover, and she and the children would inherit everything.’

   ‘The lover,’ said Calderón, ‘did you speak to him?’

   ‘We did, because he was recorded as entering the Edificio Presidente about half an hour before Raúl Jiménez was murdered. He’s also a lecturer in biochemistry at the university.’

   ‘Opportunity and expertise,’ said Calderón.

   ‘As well as access to chloroform and lab instruments,’ said Ramírez, so that Calderón had to check him for irony or stupidity.

   ‘So?’ asked Calderón, hands open, waiting for the obvious.

   Falcón gave him the bad news that Lucena was on his way up to Marciano Ruíz’s apartment on the eighth floor.

   ‘I know that name,’ said Calderón. ‘Isn’t he a theatre director?’

   ‘And a well-known mariquita,’ finished Ramírez.

   ‘I don’t understand,’ said Calderón.

   ‘He was fucking them both,’ said Ramírez. ‘He said he was fucking her because she reminded him of his mother.’

   ‘What’s all this about?’

   ‘Lucena was trying to offend Inspector Ramírez,’ said Falcón.

   ‘But not you,’ said Calderón smoothly. ‘Are you going to arrest him?’

   ‘First of all, I don’t think these people are stupid enough to walk into the security cameras … ‘

   ‘Unless they’re being very intelligent and subtle about it,’ said Calderón. ‘For instance, we never see the lover in the Familia Jiménez movie, do we? We only see his address.’

   ‘You’re forgetting the prostitute, Eloisa Gómez,’ said Falcón. ‘If Lucena was the killer he would have been in the apartment, filming her having sex with Raúl Jiménez as we saw on the movie. The girl was taped leaving the building at three minutes past one and was back on the Alameda at one-thirty. Basilio Lucena was still in the Hotel Colón with Sra Jiménez. I’ve worked on the timings to see if it’s still possible, and it is, but highly improbable.’

   ‘Well, that was nearly exciting,’ said Calderón. ‘When did Lucena leave the building?’

   ‘No record,’ said Falcón. ‘He says he left in the morning with Marciano Ruíz.’

   ‘Why no record?’

   ‘The camera links in the garage had been cut,’ said Ramírez, which was news to Falcón. ‘According to the Policía Científica they were severed with pliers.’

   ‘So that was the way in?’ asked Calderón, trying to get through to more interesting information.

   ‘It was definitely the way out,’ said Falcón. ‘The problem, though, was not just to get into the building without being seen, but to get into the apartment as well. Raúl Jiménez was very security conscious. He always locked his door, which needed five turns of the key — and that was confirmed by the prostitute, who heard him while she was waiting for the lift.’

   ‘So how did the killer get in?’

   Falcón gave him the theory of the lifting gear on the back of the Mudanzas Triana removals truck. Calderón played with that idea in his head.

   ‘So he gets into the apartment, which admittedly is empty, but he hides in it for twelve hours and he’s even brought his video camera with him to record Raúl Jiménez with a whore? That doesn’t sound …’

   ‘If that was the case, I don’t think that part of it was planned,’ said Falcón. ‘I think he did that in a moment of arrogance. He wanted to show us that he’d been there all the time. If he hadn’t filmed them we’d have known much less. We’d probably still be wasting our time with Basilio Lucena. So we can thank the killer for that small slip, along with the forgotten chloroform rag, because with each of these mistakes he’s telling us something about himself.’

   ‘That he’s an amateur,’ said Calderón.

   ‘But an amateur with nerve,’ said Falcón, ‘He’ll take risks and he likes to tease.’

   ‘Psychopathic?’

   ‘Driven and playful,’ replied Falcón. ‘With not a lot to lose.’

   ‘And some surgical expertise,’ said Ramírez.

   Falcón gave him the second scenario — Eloisa Gómez letting in her lover or low-life friend to kill Raúl Jiménez.

   ‘Nothing was stolen,’ said Ramírez. ‘The place was practically empty, so the only reason for getting in there was to kill Raúl Jiménez.’

   ‘How did she stand up to the interrogation?’

   ‘She toughed it out,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘You’ll go back to her though, won’t you?’ said Calderón.

   In the quiet that followed their nods Falcón gave Calderón a short report about his discussion with Lobo on the level of corruption in the building of Expo ‘92 and Raúl Jiménez’s involvement. He mentioned the warning he was given by the Comisario.

   ‘If there’s corruption associated with this murder I have to be free to talk about it,’ said Calderón, eyes alight, suddenly the crusading judge.

   ‘You are, of course,’ said Falcón. ‘But there are some sensitive issues here and important people, who, even if they’re clean, might not like the associations. You remember who was in those photographs from your side: Bellido and Spinola, to name two.’

   ‘It’s ten years old, anyway,’ said Calderón, idealism instantly doused.

   ‘That’s not so long to hold a grudge,’ said Falcón, and the two men looked at him as if he might be holding several simultaneously.

   Falcón gave a report on his conversation with Consuelo Jiménez and handed over the print-out of the address book, mentioning that the killer had stolen Raúl Jiménez’s mobile. Calderón ran his finger down the list. Ramírez yawned and lit another cigarette.

   ‘So what you’re saying,’ said Calderón, ‘is that despite that terrible scenario the killer left in the apartment, despite all the interviews and statements so far … we actually have no definite leads?’

   ‘We still have Sra Consuelo Jiménez as the prime suspect. She is the only one with defined motive and she has the means to execute it. Eloisa Gómez is a possible accomplice to a murderer acting on his own.’

   ‘Or not,’ said Calderón. ‘The killer could still be paid for by Sra Jiménez and, if that’s the case, I’m sure she wouldn’t want to draw attention to herself by giving the killer his own key. She would have told him to find his own way in.’

   ‘And he’d use the prostitute or the lifting gear?’ asked Ramírez. ‘I know what I’d do.’

   ‘If he used the girl to get in why would he film her?’ asked Calderón. ‘That doesn’t make sense. It makes more sense the other way round — to show us how brilliant he is.’

   ‘There’s possibilities and improbabilities in both scenarios,’ said Falcón.

   ‘Do you both have Sra Jiménez down as a serious candidate for having her husband killed?’

   Ramírez said yes, Falcón no.

   ‘Which way do you want to take the case, Inspector Jefe?’

   Falcón cracked his knuckles one by one. Calderón winced. Falcón didn’t want to have to come clean just yet about what his instinct was telling him. He needed more time to think. There were enough extraordinary things about this case already without him suggesting that they take a look at what had happened to Raúl Jiménez in the late 1960s. But he was the leader and as such he had to have the ideas.

   ‘We should work on both scenarios and on Raúl Jiménez’s address list,’ he said. ‘I think we have to maintain a presence in and around the building to try to find a witness who will corroborate one theory of the killer’s entry and possibly give us a description. We need to interview the removals company. And we should keep the pressure up on both Consuelo Jiménez and Eloisa Gómez.’

   There was no argument from Calderón.

   They were driving back to the Jefatura on Blas Infante. Ramírez was at the wheel. As they crossed the river to the Plaza de Cuba, the advertisement for Cruzcampo beer triggered a sudden parched quality to the Inspector’s throat. He wouldn’t mind one, he thought, but not with Falcón. He wanted to drink with somebody more convivial than Falcón.

   What do you think, Inspector Jefe?’ he asked, jerking Falcón out of his reflection on how awkward his first meeting with the young judge had been.

   ‘I think more or less what I said to Juez Calderón.’

   ‘No, no, I don’t think so,’ said Ramírez, tapping the steering wheel. ‘I know you, Inspector Jefe.’

   That turned Falcón in his seat. The idea that Ramírez had the first idea on how his mind worked was nearly laughable to him.

   ‘Tell me, Inspector,’ he said.

   ‘You were telling him things while you were thinking something else,’ replied Ramírez. ‘I mean, you know that going through that address book is going to be as big a waste of time as, say, interviewing those kids that Sra Jiménez fired.’

   ‘I don’t know that,’ said Falcón. ‘And you know that the basics have to be done. We have to be seen to be thorough.’

   ‘But you don’t think there’s a connection, do you?’

   ‘I’ve an open mind.’

   ‘This is the work of a psychopath and you know it, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘If I was a psychopath and I enjoyed killing people, I wouldn’t choose an apartment on the sixth floor of the Edificio Presidente with all the complications it-entailed.’

   ‘He likes to show off.’

   ‘He’s studied these people. He’s got to know his target. He’s been specific,’ said Falcón. ‘He will have seen them visiting their new house. He will have seen the removals people coming to the apartment …’

   ‘We need to talk to them first thing tomorrow,’ said Ramírez. ‘Missing overalls, that sort of thing.’

   ‘It’s Viernes Santo tomorrow,’ said Falcón. Good Friday.

   Ramírez pulled into the car park at the back of the Jefatura.

   ‘Motive,’ he said, getting out of the car. ‘Why are you taking the bitch out of the frame?’

   ‘The bitch?’

   ‘Those boys I spoke to, the ones who were glad to get away from Consuelo Jiménez, they didn’t have a good word to say about her personally, but professionally, they said she was brilliant.’

   ‘And that’s unusual in Seville?’ said Falcón.

   ‘It is for that kind of woman, the wife of a rich husband. Normally they don’t like to get their hands dirty and they’ll only talk to the Marqués y Marquesa de No Sé Que. But Sra Jiménez, apparently, did everything.’

   ‘Like?’

   ‘She washed salad, chopped vegetables, cooked revuel-tos, waited at table, went to the market, paid the wages and kept the books, and she did the talking and the greeting, too.’

   ‘So what’s your point?’

   ‘She loved that business. She made it her business. The new place they opened in La Macarena — that was her idea. She made all the drawings, supervised the building of the interiors, decorated it, found the right staff — everything. The only thing she didn’t touch was the menu, because she knows that people go there for the menu. Simple, classic Sevillano dishes done to perfection.’

   ‘You sound as if you’ve been there?’

   ‘Best salmorejo in Seville. Best pan de casa in Seville. Best jamón, best revueltos, best chuletillas … best everything. And reasonable, too. Not exclusive either, although they always keep a table for the toreros and other idiots.’

   Ramírez shouldered through the door at the back of the Jefatura, held it open for Falcón and followed him up the stairs.

   ‘Where are you taking me on this?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘How do you think she’d react, say, if her husband decided to sell the business?’ asked Ramírez, which stopped Falcón mid step. ‘I didn’t bring it up in front of Calderón, because I’ve only got those two boys’ word for it.’

   ‘Now I’m glad it was you who talked to them,’ said Falcón. ‘What did I just say about the basics?’

   ‘You still won’t get me to work through that address book,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘So these boys saw Raúl Jiménez talking to somebody?’

   ‘Have you heard of a restaurant chain called Cinco Bellotas run by a guy called Joaquín López? He’s young, dynamic and he’s got good backing. He’s one of the few people in Seville who could buy and run Raúl Jiménez’s restaurants tomorrow.’

   ‘Any connection between him and Sra Jiménez?’

   ‘I don’t know.’

   ‘That’s a very elaborate plan. Elaborate and gruesome,’ said Falcón, continuing up the stairs, toeing the outer door to his office. ‘Ask yourself this question, Inspector: Who could she possibly have found, and what kind of payment would it have taken, to persuade someone to do all that preliminary filming, get into an apartment like that and torture an old man to death?’

   ‘Depends how badly she wants it,’ said Ramírez. ‘There’s no innocence there, if you ask me.’

   The two men looked out of the window of Falcón’s office at the diminishing ranks of cars in the darkening evening.

   ‘And, look, the other thing,’ said Falcón, ‘whatever the killer showed Raúl Jiménez was for real. He didn’t want to see it, which was why the killer had to cut …’

   Ramírez nodded, sighed, his brainwork done for the day. He lit a cigarette without thinking or remembering that Falcón detested smoking in his office.

   ‘So what is your angle, Inspector Jefe?’

   Falcón found that his focus had shortened. He was no longer staring out over the emptying car park but was looking at his own reflection in the glass. He seemed hollow-eyed, vacant, unseeing, even sinister.

   The killer was forcing him to see,’ he said.

   ‘But what?’

   ‘We’ve all got something that we’re ashamed of, something that when we think of it we shudder with embarrassment or something worse than embarrassment.’

   Ramírez stiffened beside him, the man solidifying, his carapace suddenly there, impenetrable. Nobody tinkered inside Ramírez’s works. Falcón checked him in the glass, decided to make it easier for the Sevillano.

   ‘You know, like when you were a kid, making a fool of yourself with a girl, or perhaps being cowardly, failing to protect somebody who was your friend, or a moral weakness — not standing up for something you believed in because you could get beaten up. These sorts of things, but transferred to an adult life with adult implications.’

   Ramírez looked down at his tie, which was about as introspective as he’d ever been.

   ‘Do you mean the sort of things that Comisario Lobo warned you about?’

   This struck Falcón as brilliantly deflective. Corruption — the manageable stain. Machine wash, rinse and spin. Forgotten. It’s only money. All part of the game.

   ‘No,’ he said.

   Ramírez drifted towards the door, announced that he was packing it in for the day. Falcón dismissed him via the glass.

   He was suddenly exhausted. The massive day settled on his shoulders. He closed his eyes and instead of the thought of dinner, a glass of wine and sleep, he found his mind still turning, spiralling around the question:

   What could be so terrible?

   Thursday, 12th April 2001, Javier Falcón’s house, Calle Bailén, Seville

   Javier Falcón sat in the study of the large eighteenth-century house that had belonged to his father. The room was on the ground floor and looked out through an arched colonnade on to a central patio, in the middle of which was a fountain of a bronze boy up on one toe with one leg trailing and an urn over his shoulder. When the fountain spouted, water came out of the urn. Falcón only ran it in summer when the trickle of water could delude him into thinking he was cool.

   He was alone in the house. The housekeeper, Encarnación, who had been his father’s housekeeper, left at 7 p.m. which meant that he never saw her. The only evidence of her presence was the occasional note and her habit, annoying to him, of moving things around. The plant pots on the patio would suddenly be arranged in a different corner, small pieces of furniture would be removed to reappear in different rooms, effigies of the Virgen del Rocío would occupy previously vacant niches. His wife, his ex-wife, had been a great promoter of change, too.

   ‘We could make this room your snooker room,’ she’d said. ‘We could put a humidor there for your cigars.’

   ‘But I don’t smoke.’

   ‘I think it would be nice.’

   ‘And I don’t play snooker.’

   ‘You should try.’

   These stupid conversations drifted back to him as he sat at his desk with his magnifying glass. Not the ridiculous antique Sherlock Holmes affair his wife had bought him for a birthday, which was too absurd for the Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios. This was a magnifying glass mounted on a perspex box that also shed light on to whatever he was observing.

   He was going through the photographs he’d taken from Raúl Jiménez’s desk. In front of him, leaning against a framed photograph of his mother holding him as a baby, flanked by his then seven-year-old brother Paco and five-year-old sister Manuela, were two other photographs side by side. The first was another shot of his mother, who was sitting on the beach with the wind in her hair, wearing a swimsuit and holding a bathing cap covered with rubber white-petalled flowers. It was her favourite informal photograph. On the back was written Tangier, June 1952. She had been twenty-five years old and it was impossible to believe, looking at her there, full of vitality, that she only had nine more years to live.

   The second photograph was of his father — black hair swept back, a small pencil moustache, his nose too big for his young face, the mouth of a sensualist and the eyes. Even in black and white, the eyes were extraordinary. They looked as if they were used to seeing clearly over great distances and any received light would glow in the irises, which were green but turned to amber close to the pupil. In his eighties, after the first heart attack had weakened him, those green eyes still managed to hold the light in them. They were the eyes you’d expect an artist of his stature to have — observant, piercing and numinous. In the shot his father was wearing a white dinner jacket and a black bow tie. On the back was written New Year’s Eve, Tangier, 1953.

   Falcón worked his way through the Jiménez photographs, furious at the poor quality of the prints. He wondered why the hell he was doing this. He had a habit of working tangentially, but this was absurd. There was no connection to the case. What difference would it make if he did see either of his parents in these photographs? What if they were in Tangier at the same time as Raúl and Gumersinda Jiménez? So were 40,000 other Spaniards. As he built the argument against his illogical muddling so his fascination grew and it occurred to him briefly that he might just be getting old.

   The yacht photographs, which were just shots of Raúl Jiménez’s new toy, didn’t interest him until he came to one of the harbour full of boats and people partying on the decks. Jiménez and his wife and children were in the foreground. They looked happy. His wife was waving with the two kids over her knees giggling. Falcón shifted the magnifying glass up and along through the other boats lined up behind Jiménez’s. He stopped, slid back to a couple on the deck and dismissed the likeness. He carried on and then returned to the couple and realized why he’d dismissed them. It was his father and he was leaning on the ship’s rail of a yacht, much larger than Raúl’s. He was with a woman whose face he could not see properly but who had blonde hair. They were kissing. It was a quick, private moment that the Jiménez photographer had inadvertently caught. He checked the back. Tangier, August 1958. Pilar, his mother, would still have been alive. He looked at the blonde woman more closely and was stunned to find that it was Mercedes, his father’s second wife. He felt nauseous and pushed the magnifying glass away. He pressed his palms into his eyes. That’s what happened when you went off on a tangent … you came across unexpected truths. It was the whole reason he did it.

   The phone rang — his sister on a mobile in a packed bar.

   ‘I knew I’d find you at home if you weren’t at work,’ said Manuela. ‘What are you doing, little brother?’

   ‘I’m looking through some old photographs.’

   ‘Hey! Come on, grandpa, you’ve got to learn to live a little. We’re here in La Tienda for the next half-hour, come and have a cervecita with us. Then we’re going to dinner at El Cairo. You can come there too, if you bring your walking stick.’

   ‘I’ll join you for the cervecita.’

   ‘You do that, little brother. And one thing. One very important condition … ‘

   ‘Yes, Manuela?’

   ‘You’re not allowed to say the word “Inés”. OK?’

   She hung up. He shook his head at the dead phone. Manuela’s bad psychology. He put on his jacket, straightened his tie, checked his pockets and found Raúl Jiménez’s son’s address and telephone number. It was Viernes Santo tomorrow. The holiday. He tried the number just on the off chance. José Manuel Jiménez picked up the phone. Falcón introduced himself and offered his condolences.

   ‘I’ve already been informed,’ he said, about to put down the phone.

   ‘I just wanted to talk to you about —’

   ‘I can’t speak to you now.’

   ‘Perhaps we could meet tomorrow … for a short talk. It would be important for background detail.’

   ‘I really don’t see …’

   ‘I would come to Madrid, of course.’

   ‘There’s nothing to be said. I haven’t seen my father in years.’

   That’s the point. I’m not interested in now.’

   There’s really nothing.’

   Think about it overnight. I’ll call again in the morning. It won’t take long and it would be a great help.’

   Jiménez stammered and hung up. Falcón knew the man was a lawyer but he hadn’t come across as one; too uncertain and unconfident. He turned off the lamp and went out on to the patio. He breathed in the cool night air and the near silence, as the workings of the city arrived at a faint roar in this dark and hollow centre of the house. He stretched, opened his chest and arms, and saw among the arches of the gallery above the patio what Eloisa Gómez would have called, ‘the shadows move’. He sprinted up the stairs, digging in his pocket for the key to open the wrought-iron barred door at the top. He strode the length of the gallery to the next wrought-iron door, which led to another stretch of arches outside his father’s old studio. It was empty. He moved back to the arch where he thought he’d seen the movement and looked down into the patio. The water in the fountain, flat and black as a pupil, stared up to the sky. Just tired, he thought, and squeezed his eyes shut.

   He left the house, stepped out through a small door cut into the massive wooden-and-brass riveted gates, which were the entrance to his oversized home on Calle Bailén. Too big for him, he knew it, and too grand for his position, but each time he thought of selling it he quickly foundered on what it would entail. First of all, he would have to do what he should have done as instructed by his father’s will — clear out the studio and incinerate everything. Burn the lot, right down to the last rough sketch. He couldn’t do it. He hadn’t done it. He hadn’t even been back into the studio since his father died nearly two years ago. He hadn’t even unlocked that last wrought-iron door in the gallery.

   His father’s lawyer had died three months after the reading of the will, and Paco and Manuela didn’t give a damn. They were too engrossed in their own inheritance — Paco’s bull-breeding finca at Las Cortecillas on the way up to the Sierra de Aracena and Manuela’s holiday villa in El Puerto de Santa María. They hadn’t had the same relationship with their father that he’d had. He’d spoken to him almost every day since the first heart attack and, once he’d started working in Seville, if they didn’t go out for lunch on Sunday they would at least meet for a fino just to get him out of the house. They’d nearly recaptured that same level of intimacy as when he’d been a boy in the early 1970s. He was the only child left after Manuela had decamped to Madrid to study veterinary science and Paco was installing himself on the farm after his recovery from a severe goring in the leg which he’d suffered as a novillero in La Maestranza bullring in Seville. The injury had ended any hope of a career as a torero.

   Falcón headed down the narrow, cobbled street canyons to the bar on Calle Gravina. It was a converted mercería, still with the old scales on the counter. People were spilling out on to the street with their beers. Manuela was with her boyfriend deep in the crowd. Falcón squeezed through. Men he barely knew gave him un abrazo as he went past, strange women kissed him — Manuela’s friends. His sister kissed him and hugged him to her gym-worked body. Alejandro, her boyfriend, whom she’d met on the rowing machines at the club, handed Javier a beer.

   ‘My little brother,’ she said, as she’d always said since they were small, ‘you look tired. More dead bodies?’

   ‘Only one.’

   ‘Not another gruesome drug slaying?’ she said, lighting one of her foul menthol cigarettes, which she thought were better for her.

   ‘Gruesome, yes, but not drugs this time. More complicated.’

   ‘I don’t know how you do it.’

   ‘There can’t be many of your friends who could imagine that someone as beautiful and sophisticated as Manuela Falcón could have been up to her shoulder dragging out stillborn calves.’

   ‘Oh, I don’t do that any more.’

   ‘I can’t see you cutting poodles’ toenails.’

   ‘You must talk to Paco,’ she said, ignoring him. ‘He’s very stressed, you know.’

   ‘The Feria’s his busiest time of year.’

   ‘No, no, not that,’ she whispered. ‘It’s the vacas locas. He’s worried his herd has been infected with BSE. I’m testing the whole lot for him, off the record.’

   Falcón sipped his beer, ate a slice of sweet and melting jamón ibérico de bellota.

   ‘If they bring in official testing,’ she continued, ‘and they find one animal with the disease, he has to slaughter the whole herd, even the ones with 120-year-old bloodlines.’

   ‘That’s stressful.’

   ‘His leg’s bad. It always is when he’s stressed. He can hardly walk some days.’

   Alejandro put a plate of cheese in front of them and Javier instinctively turned his face away.

   ‘He doesn’t like cheese,’ explained Manuela, and the plate was removed.

   ‘Your name came up today at work,’ said Falcón.

   ‘That can’t be good.’

   ‘You vaccinated a dog for someone. It was a bill.’

   ‘Whose dog?’

   ‘I hope he paid you.’

   ‘You wouldn’t have found a signed receipt if he hadn’t.’

   ‘Raúl Jiménez.’

   ‘Yes, a very nice Weimeraner. It was a present for his kids … they’re moving to a new house. He was due to collect today.’

   Falcón stared at her. Manuela blinked at her beer, put it down. This happened rarely, that real murder slipped into a social situation. Normally he would entertain, if asked, with tales of detection, his idiosyncratic approach, his attention to detail. He never told how it really was — always laborious, at times very tedious and interspersed with moments of horror.

   ‘I worry about you, little brother,’ she said.

   ‘I’m in no danger.’

   ‘I mean … this work. It does things to you.’

   ‘What?’

   ‘I don’t know, I suppose you have to be callous to survive.’

   ‘Callous?’ he said. ‘Me? I investigate murder. I investigate the reasons why these moments of aberration occur. Why, in the heart of such reasonable times, such heights of civilization, we can still break down and fail as human beings. It’s not like I’m putting down pets or slaughtering whole herds of cattle.’

   ‘I didn’t know you were so sensitive about it.’

   They were so close he could smell the menthol from the cigarettes on her breath, even over the sweat and perfume in the bar. This was how it was with Manuela. She was provocative and it was why her boyfriends, selected for looks and wallet, never lasted. She couldn’t keep up the fluttering femininity.

   ‘Hija,’ he said, not wanting this, ‘I’ve had a long day.’

   ‘Wasn’t that what you said was one of Inés’s accusations?’

   ‘You said the forbidden word, not me.’

   Manuela looked up, smiled, shrugged.

   ‘You hoped I’d been paid for vaccinating that poor man’s dog. It struck me as hard-hearted, that’s all. But perhaps you were just being … phlegmatic.’

   ‘It was a small joke in bad taste,’ he said, and then surprised himself by lying. ‘I didn’t know the dog was a present for the kids.’

   Alejandro stuck his magnificent jaw line in between them. Manuela laughed for no reason at all, other than it was early days and she was still keen to make her man feel good about himself.

   They talked about los toros, the only topic they had in common. Manuela enthused over her favourite torero, José Tomás, who was, unusually for her, not one of the great beauties of the plaza but a man she admired for always being able to bring some tranquillity to the faena. He never rushed, he never shuffled his feet, he would always bring the bull on with the face of the muleta, never the corner, so the bull would always pass as dangerously close to him as possible. Inevitably he would be hit and when this happened he always picked himself up and walked slowly back to the bull.

   ‘I saw him on television in Mexico once. He was hit by the bull and it tore his trouser leg open. The blood was running down his calf. He looked pale and sick, but he stood up, got his balance, waved his men away and went back to the bull. And, the camera showed it, there was so much blood running down his leg that it was filling his shoe and squirting out with every step. He lined the bull up and put the sword in to the hilt. They carried him straight out to the infirmary. ¡Que torero!’

   ‘Your cousin, Pepe,’ said Alejandro, who’d heard that story too many times, ‘Pepe Leal. Will he get a chance in the Feria?’

   ‘He’s not our cousin,’ said Manuela, forgetting her role for a moment. ‘He’s the son of our sister-in-law’s brother.’

   Alejandro shrugged. He was ingratiating himself with Javier. He knew that Javier was Pepe’s confidant and that, when work permitted, he would go to the plaza on the morning of the corrida to make the bull selection for the young torero.

   ‘Not this year,’ said Javier. ‘He did very well up in Olivenza in March. They gave him an ear from each of his bulls and they’ll invite him back for the Feria de San Juan in Badajoz, but they still don’t think he’s big enough for the Feria de Abril. He can only sit around and hope for someone to drop out.’

   He felt sorry for the boy, Pepe, just nineteen years old, a great talent, whose manager could never quite get him into the first category plazas. It was nothing to do with ability, only style.

   ‘Fashion will change,’ said Manuela, who knew that Javier felt responsible for the boy.

   ‘He’s convinced he’s too old to get anywhere now,’ said Javier. ‘He looks at El Juli, who seems to have been with us for decades and who’s only a couple of years older than him and he loses heart.’

   Alejandro ordered three more beers from the barman. Manuela was giving Javier her raised eyebrow.

   ‘What?’ he asked.

   ‘You,’ she said. ‘You and Pepe.’

   ‘Forget it.’

   ‘Remember what the guy wrote in 6 Toros last year.’

   ‘He was an idiot.’

   ‘You’re closer to Pepe than his own father. All that business he does in South America and he won’t even go and see his son when he’s performing in Mexico.’

   ‘You’re being sentimental, like that journalist was,’ said Javier. ‘I only ever help Pepe with his bulls.’

   ‘You’re proud of him in a way that his father isn’t.’

   ‘You’re not being fair,’ he said, and then to change the subject: ‘I came across a photograph of Papá today … ‘

   ‘You need to find yourself a woman, Javier,’ she said. ‘It won’t do, you going through all the old albums.’

   ‘This was a shot I found in Raúl Jiménez’s study. He was in Tangier around the same time. Papá didn’t know he was being photographed.’

   ‘Was he doing something unforgivable?’

   ‘It was dated August 1958 and he was kissing a woman …’

   ‘Don’t tell me … she wasn’t Mamá?’

   ‘That’s right.’

   ‘And you were shocked?’

   ‘Yes, I was,’ he said. ‘It was Mercedes.’

   ‘Papá was no angel, Javier.’

   ‘Wasn’t Mercedes still married then?’

   ‘I don’t know,’ said Manuela, waving it all away with her cigarette. ‘That was Tangier in those days. Everybody was as high as a kite and fucking everybody else.’

   ‘Can you try and remember? You were older. I wasn’t even four years old.’

   ‘What does it matter?’

   ‘I just think it might help.’

   ‘With Raúl Jiménez’s murder?’

   ‘No, no, I don’t think so. It’s personal. I just want to sort it out, that’s all.’

   ‘You know, Javier,’ she said, ‘maybe you shouldn’t be living in that big house all on your own.’

   ‘I did try to live there with somebody else, who we can’t mention.’

   ‘That’s the point. Old houses are crowded and women don’t like sharing their living space unless they choose to.’

   ‘I like it there. I feel in the centre of things.’

   ‘You don’t go out into “the centre of things” though, do you? You don’t know anywhere that isn’t between Calle Bailén and the Jefatura. And the house is far too big for you.’

   ‘As it was for Papá?’

   ‘You should get yourself an apartment like mine … with air conditioning.’

   ‘Air conditioning?’ said Javier. ‘Yes, maybe that would help. Clear the air. Don’t the latest models have a button on the side that says “past reconditioned”?’

   ‘You always were a strange little boy,’ she said. ‘Maybe Papá should have let you become an artist.’

   ‘That would have solved everything, because I’d have been so broke I’d have had to sell the place as soon as he died.’

   The rest of Manuela and Alejandro’s friends arrived and Javier drained his beer. He excused himself from dinner through a barrage of fake protest. Work, he said, over and over again, which few of them understood as they were well cushioned from the hard edges of daily toil.

   At home he ate some mussels in tomato sauce, cold. Something left for him by Encarnación, who knew that he couldn’t be eating properly without a woman in the house. He drank a glass of cheap white wine and mopped the sauce up with some hard white bread. He wasn’t thinking and yet his head seemed to be full of a sense of rushing. He thought it was his mind unwinding after the day, until he realized it was more of a rewind, like a tape, a fast rewind. Inés. Divorce. Separation. ‘You have no heart.’ Moving to this house. His father dying …

   He stopped it. There was an audible thump in his head. He went to bed with too much happening in his body. He slammed into a wall of sleep and had his first dream, that he could remember, for some considerable time. It was simple. He was a fish. He thought he was a big fish, but he could not see himself. He was fish; aware only of the water rushing past him and a scintilla in his eye, which he closed on, which instinct told him he should close on. He was fast. So fast that he never saw what he instinctively pursued. He just took it in and moved on. Only … after a moment he felt a tug, felt the first rip of his insides, and he burst to the surface.

   Awake, he looked around himself, astonished to find that he was in bed. He pressed his abdomen. Those mussels, had they been all right?

   Friday, 13th April 2001, Javier Falcón’s house, Calle Bailén, Seville

   He was up early; the jitteriness in his stomach had gone. He spent an hour on the exercise bike, setting himself some arduous terrain on the computer. The concentration required to break through the pain barrier helped him map out his day. This was no holiday for him.

   He took a taxi to the Estación de Santa Justa, and drank a café solo in the station café. The AVE, the high-speed train to Madrid, left at 9.30 a.m. He waited until 9.00 a.m. and called José Manuel Jiménez, who answered the phone as if poised for it to ring.

   ‘Diga.’

   Falcón introduced himself again and asked for an appointment.

   ‘I’ve got nothing to tell you, Inspector Jefe. Nothing that would help. My father and I haven’t spoken for well over thirty years.’

   ‘Really?’

   ‘Very little has passed between us.’

   ‘I’d like to talk to you about that but not over the phone,’ he said, and Jiménez didn’t respond. ‘I can be with you by one o’clock and be finished before lunch.’

   ‘It’s really not convenient.’

   Falcón found himself surprisingly desperate to talk to this man, but it had to be out of police time. He went in harder.

   ‘I’m conducting a murder investigation, Sr Jiménez. Murder is always inconvenient.’

   ‘I cannot shed any light on your case, Inspector Jefe.’

   ‘I have to know his background.’

   ‘Ask his wife.’

   ‘What does she know about his life before 1989?’

   ‘Why do you have to go back so far?’

   This was ludicrous, this battle to speak to the man. It made him more determined.

   ‘I have a curious but successful way of working, Sr Jiménez,’ he said, just to keep him on the phone. ‘What about your sister … do you ever see her?’

   The ether hissed for an eternity.

   ‘Call me back in ten minutes,’ he said, and hung up.

   Falcón paced the station concourse thinking of a new strategy for ten minutes’ time. When he called him back he had a chain of questions lined up like a cartridge belt.

   ‘I’ll expect you at one o’clock,’ said Jiménez, and hung up.

   He bought a ticket and boarded the train. By midday the AVE had delivered him to the Estación de Atocha in central Madrid. He took the metro to Esperanza, which seemed auspicious, and it was a short walk to the Jiménez apartment from there.

   José Manuel Jiménez let him into the hall. He was shorter than Falcón but more powerfully built. He held his head as if ducking under a beam or carrying a load on his shoulders. As he spoke his eyes darted about under cover of some heavy, dark eyebrows, which his wife was not keeping under control. The effect, rather than being furtive, was deferential. He took Falcón’s coat and led him down a parquet-floored corridor, away from the kitchen and voices of family, to his study. He walked leaning forwards, as if dragging a sled.

   The study had several overlaid Moroccan rugs that covered the parquet floor up to an English-style walnut desk. Lining the walls to the window were the bound books of a lawyer’s workplace. Coffee was offered and accepted. In the minutes he was left alone, Falcón inspected the family photographs sitting on top of a glass-fronted cupboard. He recognized Gumersinda with her two young children. There were none of Raúl. There were none of the daughter beyond twelve years old. The other photographs were of José Manuel Jiménez’s family through the ages culminating in two graduation photographs of a boy and a girl.

   Jiménez came back with the coffee. They manoeuvred around each other as Falcón found his way back to his seat and Jiménez got behind his desk. He clasped his hands; his biceps and shoulders swelled under his green tweed jacket.

   ‘Amongst some old shots of your father’s I came across one of my own father,’ said Falcón, going for the tangential approach.

   ‘My father was a restaurateur, I’m sure he had lots of photographs of his customers.’

   So he knew that much about his father.

   ‘This was not amongst the celebrity photographs …’

   ‘Is your father a celebrity?’

   It was a chink he had not wanted opened, but maybe, as Consuelo Jiménez had shown, revealing something of oneself could lead to surprising revelations from others.

   ‘My father was the painter Francisco Falcón, but that was not why —’

   ‘Then I’m not surprised he wasn’t on my father’s wall,’ Jiménez cut in. ‘My father had the cultural awareness of a peasant, which was what he was.’

   ‘I noticed he smoked Celtas with the filters broken off.’

   ‘He used to smoke Celtas cortas, which were unfiltered but better than the dry dung he told us he had to smoke after the Civil War.’

   ‘Where was he a peasant?’

   ‘His parents had land near Almería, which they worked. They were killed in the Civil War and lost it all. After their deaths my father drifted. That’s all I know. It’s probably why money was always important to him.’

   ‘Didn’t your mother …?’

   ‘I doubt she knew. If she did, she didn’t tell us. I really don’t think she knew anything about his life before she met him and my father wasn’t going tell her parents until he’d got her.’

   ‘They met in Tangier?’

   ‘Yes, her family moved there in the early forties. Her father was a lawyer. He was there, like everybody else, to make money after the Civil War had left Spain in ruins. She was just a girl, eight years old maybe. My father appeared on the scene a bit later … some time in 1945, I think. He fell for her the moment he first saw her.’

   ‘She was still young wasn’t she? Thirteen years old?’

   ‘And my father was twenty-two. It was a curious relationship, which her parents were not happy about. They made her wait until she was seventeen before they let her get married.’

   ‘Was it just the age difference?’

   ‘She was their only child,’ said Jiménez. ‘And I doubt they were impressed by his lack of family background. They must have seen what base metal he was. He was flashy, too.’

   ‘He was rich by then?’

   ‘He made a lot of money over there and he enjoyed spending it.’

   ‘How did he make his money?’

   ‘Smuggling, probably. Whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t legal. Later he got into currency dealing. He even had his own bank at one stage — not that it meant anything. He got into property and construction, too.’

   ‘How do you know all this?’ asked Falcón. ‘You were barely ten by the time you left and I doubt he told you very much.’

   ‘I pieced it all together, Inspector Jefe. That’s the way my mind works. It was my way of making sense of what happened.’

   Silence came into the room like news of a death. Falcón was willing him to continue, but Jiménez had his lips drawn tight over his teeth, steeling himself.

   ‘You were born in 1950,’ said Falcón, nudging him on.

   ‘Nine months to the day after they were married.’

   ‘And your sister?’

   ‘Two years later. There were some complications in her birth. I know they nearly lost her and it left my mother very weak. They wanted to have lots of children, but my mother wasn’t capable after that. It affected my sister, too.’

   ‘How?’

   ‘She was a very sweet-natured girl. She was always caring for things … animals, especially stray cats, of which there were plenty in Tangier. There wasn’t anything you could … she was just … ‘ he faltered, his hands kneaded the air, forcing the words out. ‘She was just simple, that’s all. Not stupid … just uncomplicated. Not like other children.’

   ‘Did your mother ever recover her strength?’

   ‘Yes, yes, she did, she recovered her strength completely, She …’ Jiménez trailed off, stared up at the ceiling. ‘She even became pregnant again. It was a very difficult time. My father had to leave Tangier, but my mother could not be moved.’

   ‘When was this?’

   ‘The end of 1958. He took my sister and I stayed.’

   ‘Where did he go?’

   ‘He rented a house in a village up in the hills above Algeciras.’

   ‘Was he on the run?’

   ‘Not from the authorities.’

   ‘A bad business deal?’

   ‘I never found that out,’ he said.

   ‘And your mother?’

   ‘She had the baby. A boy. My father mysteriously appeared on the night of the birth. He’d come over secretly. He was worried that something would go wrong, like the last time, and she wouldn’t survive the birth. He was …’

   Jiménez frowned, as if he’d come up against something beyond his comprehension. He blinked against the interfering tears.

   ‘This is very difficult ground, Inspector Jefe,’ he said. ‘I thought that when my father died I would be pleased. It would be a relief and a release from … It would signify the end of all these unfinished thoughts.’

   ‘Unfinished thoughts, Sr Jiménez?’

   ‘Thoughts that have no ending. Thoughts that are interminable because they have no resolution. Thoughts that leave you forever hanging in the balance.’

   Although these words were recognizable as language, their meaning was obscure and yet Falcón, without knowing why, understood something of the man’s torment. Hints prodded his own mind — his father’s death, the things left unsaid, the studio uninvestigated.

   ‘It may just be our natural state,’ said Falcón. ‘That in coming from complicated beings who are unknowable, we will always be the carriers of the unresolved and further compound it with our own irresolvable questions, which we in turn hand on. Perhaps it is better to be uncomplicated like your sister. To be uncluttered by the baggage of previous generations.’

   Jiménez drilled him with animal eyes from under the brush of his brow. He fed on the words from Falcón’s mouth. He pulled himself up, cleared the intensity from his face.

   ‘The only problem there …’ he said, ‘… in my sister’s case, is that her lack of complexity gave her no system, no potential for reordering the chaos after the cataclysm hit our family. She lost her tenuous link with a structured existence and thereafter floated in space. Yes, I think that’s what her madness is like … an astronaut disconnected from his ship, spinning in a massive void.’

   ‘I think you’ve run ahead of me.’

   ‘I have,’ he said, ‘and I know why.’

   ‘Perhaps we should go back to your father fearing that your mother might not survive the birth.’

   ‘What I was thinking then, what I was confronting was the surprising memory, in view of later events, that my father was profoundly in love with my mother. It is something that even now I have a great difficulty in admitting. As a boy, when my mother died, I could never believe that of him. I thought he had set about breaking her.’

   ‘And how did you come to that conclusion?’

   ‘Psychoanalysis, Inspector Jefe,’ he said. ‘I never thought I would be a candidate for that quackery. I’m a lawyer. I have an organized mind. But when you’re desperate, and I mean full of despair, so that all you see is your own life collapsing around you, then you admit it to yourself. You say: “I’m nuts and I’m going to have to talk it out.”’

   Jiménez levelled this explanation directly at Falcón, as if he’d seen something in him that needed attention.

   ‘So what happened to your mother and the baby?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘My mother needed some days to recover. I remember that time very well. We weren’t allowed out of the house. Servants were told to say nobody was at home. Food came in secretly from neighbours’ houses. Some armed men, who normally guarded the construction sites, were installed across the street. My father paced the floor like a caged panther, stopping only to look through a crack in the shutter if he heard something in the street. The tension and the boredom were there in equal measure. It was the start of the family madness.’

   ‘And you never found out what it was your father was afraid of?’

   ‘At the time I was a kid, I didn’t care. I just wanted to avoid being bored. Later … much later, I thought it was important to find out what it could have been that had driven my father to such lengths. So, thirty years after the event, I thought the only person to ask would be him. It was the last time we spoke on a personal level. And this is the magic of the human brain.’

   ‘What?’ asked Falcón, jumping in his seat, as if he’d missed the vital moment.

   ‘If we have something in there that we don’t like we bypass it. Like a river that’s tired of flowing around the same loop again and again, it just cuts through and joins up with the stretch of river beyond the loop. The loop becomes a small disconnected lake, a reservoir of memory which due to lack of supply eventually dries up.’

   ‘He forgot about it?’

   ‘He denied it. As far as he was concerned it had never happened. He looked at me as if I might be insane.’

   ‘Even with your mother dead and your sister in San Juan de Dios?’

   ‘It was 1995 by then. He was married to Consuelo. He was in a different life. The past could have been as distant to him as … a previous existence.’

   ‘Were you surprised by Consuelo?’

   ‘Her appearance?’ he said. ‘My God, I was stunned. It made my flesh creep. I burnt the photograph he sent of their wedding.’

   ‘So you got no help from your father?’

   ‘Only that what I thought I needed to know was unimportant. There was nothing in my father’s world, as far as I could see, that he could have possibly placed more value on than the life of a child. The admission was in his silence, in his flat denial, in the whole expression of his life … this marriage to his wife’s lookalike …’

   ‘Wouldn’t that have been torture?’

   Jiménez gave a derisive snort.

   ‘If you could call the comfort of a beautiful woman a punishment … then, yes.’

   ‘You think he wiped the slate clean and started a new life?’

   ‘My father was an instinctive animal. The passages of his mind were not those of a normal human being. To be as successful a businessman as he — and I know because I work for some very successful men myself — you can’t think like ordinary people … and he didn’t.’

   ‘You’ve lost me again. Maybe you’re thinking too fast.’

   Jiménez leaned across the table, jaw set.

   ‘Don’t believe for one moment that I don’t know what I’m doing,’ he said. ‘I have never spoken about these things before to anyone, other than the man who teased apart the knot in my brain. And you know why? Because I wouldn’t dream of infecting my wife’s peace of mind with such terrible things. They would blacken our home and we’d be left stumbling around in the dark.’

   ‘I’m sorry,’ said Falcón.

   Jiménez held up his hand in apology, realized he’d been too grave. He sat up and opened his shoulders.

   ‘We left Tangier at night. No suitcases, just the clothes we stood up in and my mother’s wedding dress and jewellery. Everyone at the port had been prepaid. We didn’t show any documents. There was a moment when it looked as if we were going to be stopped, but more money appeared and we got on the boat and sailed away. We picked up my sister in the village above Algeciras and started our lives as gypsies.

   ‘There was never any sense of danger. My father never again paced the floors, but as soon as his instinct told him to move on … we moved on. We normally went to large towns or cities. We spent some time here in Madrid, but my father detested Madrid. I think Madrid made him feel provincial, reminded him of who he was.

   ‘We arrived in Almería at the beginning of 1964. My father was running a couple of coasters from Algeciras to Cartagena, but he got a chance to build a hotel on the front in Almería so we moved there. My father seemed to like the idea of settling down. He must have thought that five or six years running was enough, that the world moves on, that fat grudges waste away without the nourishment of revenge. He was wrong. This is why I thought it was important to know what he’d done to make the people he’d offended so implacable that they would never stop trying to track him down. And I have to admit it would still interest me, even though I’ve tamed my fascination with the irrelevance of it.’

   ‘Why?’

   ‘I think it would help me to gauge what a monster he was.’

   Falcón shuddered, split by the contradictory emotions of Raúl Jiménez being a monster and a memory of his own father playing at being one. What terrible slavering faces he pulled as he devoured him. His father had no inhibition because there was little in his world that demanded personal control and several times Javier had worn a toothmark embedded in his back for days.

   ‘Are you all right, Inspector Jefe?’

   He hoped he hadn’t been pulling one of his father’s huge-tongued, gargoyle faces.

   ‘Unfinished thoughts,’ he said.

   ‘Where were we?’

   ‘Almería, 1964,’ said Falcón. ‘You didn’t mention how your mother took all this moving around.’

   ‘As far as her health was concerned, she was fine. If she was unhappy she didn’t show it to us or to him. There was no such thing as wives having a say in those days, anyway. She just got on with things.’

   ‘Your father was building the hotel?’

   ‘I should tell you about Marta at this stage. You remember what I said about how she loved to care for things?’

   ‘Cats.’

   ‘Yes, cats. Once we left Tangier she transferred all that on to Arturo. My mother could have left Arturo’s upbringing to Marta. She did everything for him. He was her life. It’s curious, isn’t it? Marta never had dolls. They were bought for her, but she never took to them. She was more fascinated by living things. Strange, don’t you think, for someone so uncomplicated?’

   ‘Perhaps she didn’t have a developed imagination.’

   ‘Possibly. Imagination is a complex thing, but then so is life.’

   ‘She probably wasn’t reading anything into it.’

   ‘I used to wonder what went through her mind.’

   ‘And you don’t any more?’

   ‘She barely said a word for the first twenty years. Then something remarkable happened. Over the years the staff have changed there. It’s a sign of the times that not many young people want to become mental health workers and so those jobs are being filled by immigrants. In María’s case there was a Moroccan boy who came in with a kitten he’d found and something must have clicked in her. She became animated. It must have brought back the early days, the houseboys and the cats.’

   ‘She spoke?’

   ‘Not words. She articulated something, nothing intelligible. She hadn’t used her vocal cords for decades. It was the start of something though. There’s been little progress since then. She doesn’t “say” anything to me when I go there. Maybe I’m too powerful a reminder of the original trauma.’

   ‘Did her doctors know what that trauma was?’

   ‘Not until three years ago, and not the full story.’

   ‘Three years ago?’

   ‘When I could even approach talking about it myself. They’d been asking me who Arturo was. She’d got that far. And I referred them back to my father, who denied that there had been anybody of that name in family circles, which was not true. My mother’s father was called Arturo. Did I tell you they died?’

   ‘No.’

   ‘The year before Arturo was born, both my mother’s parents died within three months of each other. She had cancer. He had a heart attack. I think it must have been why my mother was prepared to risk having another.’

   ‘What did you tell Marta’s doctors?’

   ‘My psychoanalyst clarified everything for them later in a letter, but at that stage I told them he was a younger brother who’d died.’

   “Which he had done,’ said Falcón, ‘hadn’t he?’

   ‘I suppose in your line of work you are quite conversant with the nature of pure evil,’ said Jiménez.

   ‘I’ve come across bad things and mad things, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever come across “the nature of pure evil”. Everything that I’ve investigated has been criminal and therefore comprehensible. Once you start talking about evil then we are on metaphysical ground.’

   ‘And that,’ said Jiménez, ‘is beyond the remit of the Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de Sevilla?’

   ‘I’m not a priest,’ said Falcón. ‘Had I been, it might have helped, because your father’s murder was the most shocking of my career. When I saw his face and realized what had been done to him I was aware of being in the presence of something very powerful. I am normally quite dispassionate in my work, but this affected me. It’s not something I would want my superior officers to know about.’

   Jiménez sat sideways in his chair, one leg crossed over the other. He flexed his hand open and shut. Falcón thought he might want to know what had happened to Raúl, but didn’t want to ask.

   ‘The evil mind has a deep understanding of human nature,’ said Jiménez, after some moments. ‘It is a mind quite happy pottering about amongst revenge and betrayal, nurturing them. It knows instinctively where and how to strike and reach the very heart of … things. They didn’t kill my father, which would probably have been just. They didn’t rape and murder my mother or my sister or me, which would have been unjust and cruel. They did the one thing that they knew would successfully tear my father’s family apart. They took Arturo. They just took him one day and we never heard from him or them ever again.’

   Jiménez blinked rapidly, lost in the vast wasteland of his incomprehension.

   ‘You mean they kidnapped him?’

   ‘On the way to her school Marta would always take Arturo to his. On the way back she would pick him up. One day he wasn’t there and he wasn’t at home either. We scoured the town while my mother called my father at the site. He was six years old. Still a baby really. And they took him.’

   Jiménez stared up at his family photographs as if their richness was tainted by this poisonous memory. His bottom lip trembled. His Adam’s apple leapt in his throat.

   ‘Didn’t the police get anywhere?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘No,’ said Jiménez, the word coming out like a ghost’s breath.

   ‘Normally when a child goes missing …’

   ‘They got nowhere, Inspector Jefe, for the simple reason that they were given no information.’

   ‘I don’t understand.’

   Jiménez leaned across the desk, which creaked; his eyes bulged from his head.

   ‘My father reported the abduction, told them it was a mystery, and within twenty-four hours we had left Almería,’ said Jiménez. ‘I don’t know whether it was because he was terrified that these people might strike again or whether it was his way of avoiding difficult questions from the authorities, or both. But we left Almería. We spent two weeks in a hotel in Málaga. I was with Marta, who retreated into herself and never spoke another word. My mother and father were next door and the screaming … the tears … My God, it was terrible. Then he moved us all to Seville. We rented some apartment in Triana and then moved into the Plaza de Cuba later in the year. My father had to go back to Almería a few times to wrap up his business and make an appearance in front of the authorities, and that was the end of Arturo.’

   ‘But what did he say to you, the family? How did he explain it and his bizarre reaction?’

   ‘He didn’t explain it. He just used his volcanic anger to make us understand that we should all forget Arturo … that Arturo did not exist.’

   ‘And the kidnappers — are you saying there were no demands …?’

   ‘You haven’t understood, Inspector Jefe,’ said Jiménez, pushing his pleading hands across the table. ‘There were no demands. That was their price. Arturo was their price.’

   ‘You’re right. I don’t understand. I don’t understand any of it.’

   ‘Then you are in our club. My dead mother, my mad sister, me, and now you,’ said Jiménez. ‘In that move between Almería and Seville we lost all trace of Arturo. No evidence of him arrived with us. All photos, his clothes, toys, even his bed. My father rewrote family history and left Arturo out. By the time we moved into the apartment in Plaza de Cuba we were like the living dead. My mother stared out of the window all day, looking in the street below, jumping at the glass whenever a small boy appeared. My sister maintained her silence and had to be taken out of the school she’d just been put into. I stayed away from there as much as I could. I lost myself … with new friends, who would never know me as the boy who’d had a younger brother.’

   ‘Lost yourself?’

   ‘I think that’s what happened to me. I had a strange inability to recall anything before I was fifteen. Most people have memories as far back as three or four, some even as far back as babies in their prams. I had nothing distinct, just vague hints, shadowy forms of what I’d been … until a few years ago.’

   Falcón tried to remember his first memory and couldn’t get much beyond breakfast yesterday.

   ‘And you have no idea why your father made this devastating decision?’

   ‘I assume it was something criminal. A serious investigation into Arturo’s abduction would have necessitated major revelations, which presumably would have ruined my father … probably put him in prison. It obviously had something to do with that ugly business in Tangier. There may have been a moral angle to it as well, appalling behaviour of some sort, which might have turned his wife against him. I don’t know. Whatever, my father must have reasoned it out in his own peculiar way, that Arturo would have been in North Africa or certainly in a ship bound for North Africa within hours of his abduction. He must have weighed it up, in his monstrous mind, that the police would have no chance, that he would have no chance.

   ‘The kidnappers’ message was clear. This is the price for what you’ve done. And now this is your choice: come after him and ruin yourself or accept this heavy price and continue. Don’t you think that the perfection of this terrible choice is in the nature of pure evil? They were saying, Do you want to embrace good or evil? If you are a good man you will come after your son, you will do everything in your power and it will ruin you utterly. You will end up living in exile or prison. Your family will be destroyed. And … this is the horror of it, Inspector Jefe, still you will not get Arturo back. Yes, that was it. That’s what I worked out. They forced him to embrace evil and, having done it, he had to resort to the devil’s means to survive. He persuaded himself and us that Arturo did not exist. He stamped him out and us with him. He forced us to cope with the loss in his way and he destroyed everything. His wife and his family. And this must have been his final calculation: given that Arturo is lost, that my family will be destroyed whatever I do, then what would I prefer?’

   Jiménez held up a hand, weighed it, lifted it high and said:

   ‘The feathery lightness of moral goodness?’

   He brought the other hand up and sent it crashing to the desk:

   ‘Or the golden weight of power, position and wealth?’

   Silence while both men contemplated the unevenness of those scales.

   ‘I thought,’ said Falcón, through the leathery hush of the book-lined room, ‘that we’d outgrown the age of tragedy, an age where there could be tragic figures. We no longer have kings or great warriors who can fall from such heights to such depths. Nowadays we find ourselves admiring screen actors, sportsmen or businessmen, who somehow lack the stuff of tragedy and yet … your father. He strikes me as that rare beast … the modern tragic figure.’

   ‘I just wish the play had not been my life,’ said Jiménez.

   Falcón stood to leave and saw his coffee cold and undrunk on the edge of the desk. He shook Jiménez’s hand for longer than usual to show his appreciation.

   ‘That was why I had to call you back,’ said Jiménez. ‘I had to speak to my analyst.’

   ‘To ask permission?’

   ‘To see if he thought I was ready. He seemed to think it was a good idea that the only other person to hear my family story should be a policeman.’

   ‘To act on it, you mean?’

   ‘Because you would be bound by confidentiality,’ said the lawyer seriously.

   ‘Would you prefer that I didn’t talk to Consuelo about any of this?’

   ‘Would it serve any purpose other than to frighten her to death?’

   ‘She has had three children with your father.’

   ‘I couldn’t believe it when I heard.’

   ‘How did you hear?’

   ‘My father dropped me a line whenever one appeared.’

   ‘She had to force him into it. It was a condition of their marriage.’

   ‘That’s understandable.’

   ‘She also told me that he was obsessively security conscious. He installed a very serious door in the apartment and made it his business to lock it every night.’

   Jiménez stared down at his desk.

   ‘She told me something else which should interest you …’

   Jiménez’s head came up on a very tired neck. There was a trace of fear in his eyes. He didn’t want to hear anything that might demand more revision of his newly constructed view of events. Falcón shrugged to let him off the hook.

   ‘Tell me,’ he said.

   ‘First, she believed her gregarious restaurateur husband, with his collection of smiling photos, to be a man in the grip of abject misery.’

   ‘So it did get him in the end,’ said Jiménez, with no satisfaction. ‘But he probably didn’t know what it was.’

   ‘The second thing was a detail of the will. He left some money to his favourite charity, Nuevo Futuro — Los Niños de la Calle.’

   Jiménez shook his head, in sadness or denial of the fact, it was difficult to tell. He came round to Falcón’s side of the desk and opened the door. He walked his sled-dragging walk down the corridor. Had he walked differently before his analysis? thought Falcón. Maybe he’d been stooped then, as under a weight, and now at least the baggage was behind him. Jiménez produced Falcón’s coat, helped him into it. A single question rocked in the balance of Falcón’s mind. To ask it or not?

   ‘Has it ever occurred to you,’ said Falcón, ‘that Arturo might still be alive? Forty-two years old he’d be by now.’

   ‘It used to,’ he said. ‘But it’s been better for me since I achieved a sense of finality.’

   Friday, 13th April 2001, the AVE Madrid-Seville

   Even this AVE, the late one, which wouldn’t get into Seville until after midnight, was full. As the train shot through the Castillian night, Falcón brushed the crumbs of a bocadillo de chorizo from his lap and stared out of the window through the transparent reflection of the passenger opposite him. Thoughts trickled through his mind, which was tired but still racing from the intrusions he’d made into the Jiménez family.

   He’d left José Manuel Jiménez at 3 p.m., having asked if he’d mind him visiting Marta at the San Juan de Dios mental institution in Ciempozuelos, forty kilometres south of the city. The lawyer warned him that it wasn’t likely to be a productive meeting but agreed to phone ahead so that he’d be expected. Jiménez had been right, but not for the reasons he’d thought. Marta had had a fall.

   Falcón came across her in the surgery having a couple of stitches put in her eyebrow. She was ashen, which he supposed could have been her normal colouring. Her hair was black and white, wound up and pinned in a bun. Her eyes were set deep in her head and their surrounds were charcoal grey with large purple quarter-circles that reached the top of her cheekbones. It could have been bruising from the fall, but had a more permanent look to it.

   A Moroccan male nurse was sitting with her, holding her hand and murmuring in a mixture of Spanish and Arabic, while a female junior doctor stitched the eyebrow which had bled profusely, spattering the hospital-issue clothing. Throughout the operation she held on to something attached to a gold chain round her neck. Falcón assumed it was a cross, but on the one occasion that she released it he saw there was a gold locket and a small key.

   She was in a wheelchair. He accompanied the nurse as he pushed her back to the ward, which contained five other women. Four were silent while the fifth maintained a constant murmur of what sounded like prayer but was in fact a stream of obscenities. The Moroccan parked Marta and went to the woman, held her hand, rubbed her back. She quietened.

   ‘She always becomes agitated at the sight of blood,’ he explained.

   The Moroccan’s name was Ahmed. He had a degree in psychology from Casablanca University. His good nature and openness iced over visibly when Falcón showed him his police ID.

   ‘But what are you doing here?’ asked Ahmed. ‘These people don’t go out. They’re permanent residents, barely capable of the simplest of things. Beyond the gates is as good as another planet to them.’

   Falcón looked down on Marta’s salt-and-pepper head, the white pad over her eyebrow, and an immense sadness broke inside his chest. Here was the real casualty of the Jiménez story.

   ‘Does she understand anything of what we say?’ he asked.

   ‘It depends,’ he said. ‘If you talked about C-A-T-S, she might react.’

   ‘What about A-R-T-U-R-O?’

   Ahmed’s face settled into a bland wariness, which Falcón had seen before in immigrants under police questioning. The blandness was to minimize any irritation in the officer, the wariness to combat intrusive questioning. It was an attitude that might have worked with Moroccan police, but it annoyed Falcón.

   ‘Her father has been murdered,’ he said quietly.

   Marta coughed once, twice and the third was followed by a stream of vomit, which pooled in her lap and dripped to the floor.

   ‘She’s in shock from her fall,’ said Ahmed, and moved away.

   Falcón sat on the bed, his face level with Marta’s. Vomit clung to some hairs on her chin. She was panting and not looking at him. Her hand still held the locket. Ahmed returned with new clothes and cleaning equipment on a trolley. He screened Marta off. Falcón sat across the room to wait. Under her bed was a small, padlocked metal trunk.

   The screens were pulled back and Marta reappeared in new clothes. Falcón walked with Ahmed as he pushed his trolley.

   ‘Have you ever talked to her about Arturo?’

   ‘It’s not my job. I’m qualified, but only in my own country. Here I am a nurse. Only the doctor talks to her about Arturo.’

   ‘Have you been present?’

   ‘I have not been in attendance, but I have been there.’

   ‘What’s her reaction to the name?’

   Ahmed performed his cleaning tasks on automatic.

   ‘She becomes very upset. She brings her fingers to her mouth and makes a noise, a kind of desperate pleading noise.’

   ‘Does she articulate anything?’

   ‘She is not articulate.’

   ‘But you spend more time with her, maybe you understand her better than the doctor.’

   ‘She says: “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my fault.”’

   ‘Do you know who Arturo is?’

   ‘I haven’t seen her case notes and nobody has seen fit to inform me.’

   ‘Who is her doctor?’

   ‘Dra Azucena Cuevas. She is on holiday until next week.’

   ‘What about the kitten? Wasn’t it you who brought in the kitten and she started …?’

   ‘There are no cats allowed on the ward.’

   ‘The locket round her neck, and the key — is that the key to the trunk under her bed? Do you know what she keeps in there?’

   ‘These people don’t have very much, Inspector Jefe. If I see something private, I leave it for them. It’s all they have apart from … life. And it’s amazing how long you survive if that is all you have.’

   That was Ahmed. A perfectly intelligent, reasonable and caring individual, but not an expansive one, not in front of authority. He had irritated Falcón. He tried to picture him as the blackness ripped past the window of the AVE, just as he had done José Manuel Jiménez, whose tormented features were pin-sharp in his mind. He failed because Ahmed had done what all immigrants seek to do. He’d blended in. He didn’t stand out. He’d merged with his drab, grey surroundings and disappeared into modern Spanish society.

   The trickle of these thoughts stopped as he found that the transparent reflection of the woman opposite was returning his look. He enjoyed this: to stare at his leisure as if he was doing nothing more than admiring the hurtling night. The flickering of sex started up in him. He had been celibate since Inés had left. Their sex had been nearly riotous in the early days. It made him pull at his collar to even think of it. Eating outside on the patio and Inés suddenly coming round to his side of the table and straddling him, tugging at his trousers, pushing his hands up her dress. Where had all that gone? How had marriage snuffed that out so quickly? By the end she wouldn’t let him look at her dressing. ‘You have no heart, Javier Falcón.’ What was she talking about? Did he watch blue movies? Did he fuck prostitutes while watching blue movies? Would he stamp out the existence of his own child? And yet … Raúl Jiménez still had, yes, the comfort of a beautiful woman. Consuelo, his consolation.

   The woman opposite was no longer meeting his eye in the glass. He turned to her real face. There was a small horror there, a minor pity as if she’d perceived the complications of a mid-forties man and wanted none of it. She dived into her handbag, would have liked it to swallow her whole, but it was a little Balenciaga number with room for a lipstick, two condoms and some folding money. He turned back to the glass. A small light hovered in the blackness, remote, with no other in sight.

   He slumped back exhausted from the endless cycles of thought, not of his investigation but of his failed marriage. That always induced some internal collapse as soon as he came up against the wall of Inés’s words: ‘No tienes corazón, Javier Falcón.’ It even rhymed.

   It was the new chemistry in his brain, he decided later, that had given him his first new thought about Inés, or rather a realization about an old thought. He wasn’t going to be able to move on, he wasn’t going to be able to flirt with a woman in a railway carriage until he’d proved to himself that Inés’s words were wrong, that they did not apply. It hit him harder than he’d expected. There was even a jolt of adrenalin, which should have meant fear, except that all he was doing was sitting in the AVE roaming around his own head, which contained the uncomfortable notion that she might be right.

   He drifted into sleep, a man in a silver bullet train speeding through the dark to an unknown destination. He had the dream again of being the fish; of flashing through the water with fear driving his tail as the visceral tug slowly tore through him. He came awake thumping his head into the seat. The carriage was empty, the train in the station, crowds of passengers pouring past his window.

   He went home and watched a movie without taking anything in. He turned off the television and collapsed unfed and unsettled into his bed. He dipped in and out of sleep, not wanting to have the dream again but not wanting to be awake with an anxious world outside his walls. Four o’clock brought him round into a permanent dark wakefulness and he worried about the new chemicals in his brain, which might alter the balance of his mind, while the wooden beams in his vast house groaned like other less fortunate inmates in a distant part of the asylum.

   Saturday, 14th April 2001

   He got up at 6 a.m. unrested, his nerves jangling like keys on a gaoler’s ring so that he actually started thinking about keys in the house and where they were, the ones that would open his father’s studio. He went to the desk in the study and found a whole drawer full of keys. How could there be so many doors? He took the drawer up to the wrought-iron gate that locked off the part of the gallery in front of his father’s studio. He tried them all, but none of them worked and he walked off, leaving the drawer there on the floor, the keys spread out.

   He showered, dressed, went out, bought a newspaper, the ABC, and drank a café solo. He checked the death notices. Raúl Jiménez was being buried today at eleven o’clock in the Cementerio de San Fernando. He drove to the office, checked the voice mail on his mobile, which was all from Ramírez.

   There was a full turnout of all six officers from the Grupo de Homicidios, which was not usual for a Saturday before Easter. He briefed them on the outcome of the discussion with Calderón and put Pérez and Fernández into the Feria ground opposite the Edificio Presidente, Baena in the streets around the apartment block, and Serrano on working up a list of laboratories and medical suppliers who might have had an unusual sale of chloroform or missing instruments. The four men left. Ramírez stayed, arms folded, leaning against the window.

   ‘Any further thoughts, Inspector Jefe?’ he asked.

   ‘Did we get a statement from Marciano Ruíz?’

   Ramírez nodded at the desk, said there was nothing new in it. Falcón read it through only to avoid having to tell Ramírez about his trip to Madrid and the Jiménez family horrors. It had to have more relevance to the murder or Ramírez would start undermining him, and he’d find other officers looking at him sadly as the guy who’d started a murder inquiry by going back to an incident of thirty-six years ago.

   ‘I went to see Eloisa Gómez yesterday afternoon,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘Did you get anything out of her?’

   ‘She didn’t offer me a free blow job, if that’s what you mean.’

   ‘Not after what you did to her yesterday,’ said Falcón. ‘Did she crack?’

   ‘She’s not going to talk to me even if she did do it, and now she’s scared.’

   ‘You were getting on so well,’ said Falcón. ‘I thought you were going to ask her home.’

   ‘Maybe I should have been more patient,’ said Ramírez. ‘But, you know, I really thought she’d let him in and a hard verbal shock might do the trick.’

   ‘We’ll start the day with Mudanzas Triana,’ said Falcón, moving along. ‘Then we’ll go to the Jiménez funeral with a video camera and film the mourners. We’ll check those mourners off against the address list and follow up with interviews. We’ll build a picture of his life.’

   What about Eloisa Gómez?’

   ‘Pérez can pull her in again this afternoon. That’ll be nearly forty-eight hours since she was with Raúl Jiménez. If she was an accomplice, the killer will have made contact by then and that might have changed her mental landscape.’

   ‘Or her entire landscape,’ said Ramírez. ‘For the worse.’

   Ramírez picked up the video camera and drove them to Mudanzas Triana, who were on the Avenida Santa Cecilia. They spoke to the boss, Ignacio Bravo, who listened to their theoretical scenario with unmoving eyes behind puffy lids while smoking one Ducados lit from another.

   ‘First of all, it’s impossible,’ he said. ‘My workers are —’

   ‘They signed a statement,’ said Ramírez, dead bored, handing it over.

   Bravo read the document, flicking ash in the vague direction of a miniature tyre that enclosed an ashtray.

   ‘They will be fired,’ he said.

   ‘Talk us through your arrangement with Sr and Sra Jiménez,’ said Falcón. ‘You can start with why they wanted to move during Semana Santa, which must be the busiest time of year for a restaurant.’

   ‘And not cheap for removals. Our rates double. I explained it all to her, Inspector Jefe. But we couldn’t do it the next week when her restaurants were closed because. we’re all booked up … as is everybody else. So she paid her money. She didn’t care.’

   ‘When did you first take a look at the job?’

   ‘I went there last week to see the layout, the quantity of large furniture, the number of packing cases needed, all that stuff. I called her the next day to tell her it would be a two-day job and gave her a quote.’

   ‘A two-day job?’ said Ramírez. ‘So when did you start?’

   ‘Tuesday.’

   ‘Which would make it a three-day job.’

   ‘Sr Jiménez called to say he didn’t want his study moved until Thursday. I told him it would cost even more than double and that we could do the job in the time. He insisted. I don’t argue the point with rich people; I just make sure they pay. They’re the worst …’

   He trailed off when he saw the look from the policemen.

   ‘How many people knew about the change from the original arrangement?’ asked Falcón.

   ‘I see what you’re getting at,’ he said, unable to get comfortable. ‘Of course, everybody had to know. It involved changing all the jobs around. You don’t think that one of my men is the murderer?’

   ‘What’s intriguing us,’ said Falcón, leaving Bravo’s suspicion to hang in the air, ‘is that, if our scenario is correct, the murderer must have known about the change in the arrangement. He must have known that Sr Jiménez was going to stay an extra night and be on his own. He could only know that from Sr Jiménez himself or from here. When did you confirm the job with Sra Jiménez?’

   ‘Wednesday, 4th April,’ he said, flicking through his diary.

   ‘When did Sr Jiménez make the change?’

   ‘Friday, 6th April.’

   ‘Had you already assigned a work team for the job?’

   ‘I did that on the Wednesday.’

   ‘How do you do that?’

   ‘I call my secretary, who informs the depot foreman, who writes it up on a whiteboard downstairs.’

   Falcón asked to speak to the secretary. Bravo called her in: a small, dark nervous woman in her fifties. They asked what she’d said to the foreman.

   ‘I told him that there’d been a change, that Sr Jiménez didn’t want the study to be touched until Thursday morning and that a small bed should be left in the kids’ room.’

   ‘What did the foreman say?’

   ‘The foreman made a coarse remark about what the bed would be used for.’

   ‘What does he do with that information?’

   ‘He puts it up on the whiteboard in red to show that it’s a change,’ she said. ‘And he posts the comments about the study and bed in a separate column.’

   ‘He also types it on to their worksheets,’ said Bravo, ‘so there’s two ways they can’t forget. They’re not very gifted people in the removals business.’

   The three men went down into the depot and looked at the whiteboard, which contained all the information for all jobs in April and May but with the Jiménez job still open. The foreman came out. The secretary was right, he looked the sort who kickstarted the day with a couple of brandies.

   ‘So everybody in this depot would know of the change to the Jiménez job?’ said Falcón.

   ‘Without a doubt,’ said the foreman.

   ‘What’s the security like here?’ asked Ramírez.

   ‘We don’t store anything here, so it’s minimal,’ said Bravo. ‘One man, one dog.’

   ‘During the day?’

   Bravo shook his head.

   ‘No cameras either?’

   ‘It’s not necessary.’

   ‘So you can just walk in off the street through the back there from Calle Maestro Arrieta?’

   ‘If you wanted to.’

   ‘Any overalls gone missing?’ asked Ramírez.

   Nothing had gone missing, nothing had been reported. The overalls were all standard issue with MUDANZAS TRIANA stencilled on the back. It wasn’t a difficult thing to copy.

   ‘Anybody been in here who shouldn’t?’ asked Ramírez.

   ‘Just people looking for work.’

   ‘People?’

   ‘Two or three guys a week come in here and I tell them the same thing. We don’t recruit people off the street.’

   ‘What about the last two weeks?’

   ‘A few more than usual trying to get some money together for Easter and the Feria.’

   ‘Twenty?’

   ‘More like ten.’

   ‘What did they look like?’

   ‘Well, fortunately they were all short and fat, otherwise I’d have a job recalling them all for you.’

   ‘Look, funny guy,’ said Ramírez, getting his finger out, ‘somebody came in here, picked up some information about the job you were doing in the Edificio Presidente and used it to get himself into an apartment there and torture an old man to death. So try a little harder for us.’

   ‘You didn’t say he was tortured to death,’ said Bravo.

   ‘I still don’t remember,’ said the foreman.

   ‘Maybe they were immigrants,’ said Ramírez.

   ‘Some of them might have been.’

   ‘Moroccans, maybe, who work for no money.’

   ‘We don’t employ —’ started Bravo.

   ‘We heard you the first time,’ said Ramírez. ‘I didn’t believe you then. So, look, if you want a quiet life with no visits from Immigration, then start thinking, start remembering who’s been in here since last Friday and if you saw anyone taking a particular interest in that whiteboard.’

   ‘Because,’ said Falcón, nodding at the foreman, ‘you’re the only person we’ve met who’s probably seen this killer, talked to him.’

   ‘And you know … that’s something the killer might start thinking, too,’ said Ramírez. ‘Buenos días.’

   Saturday, 14th April 2001

   ‘He was right — Sr Bravo,’ said Ramírez. ‘It’s too obvious a connection but the killer could be one of his workers.’

   ‘But only if the second scenario, where Eloisa Gómez lets the killer into the apartment, is the correct one,’ said Falcón. ‘If he got in using the lifting gear he’d have been missing from work in the afternoon. We’re going to have to interview every worker and put more pressure on the girl.’

   Конец ознакомительного фрагмента.