Sunday, January 11, 2009

Flecha Caída

...This was what Oscar had to work with, and so far it wasn’t much. He stood for a moment, taking in the sadness of the place. And, truth be told, listening. If the boy wanted to tell him something, if the killer was going to let something slip, he would be ready to hear it, though it might come in low whispers like a breeze rattling the sage leaves, an inadvertent burst like a shout in a dream. The silence of the overheated room was broken by a trapped fly bouncing against the streaky windowpane, the occasional whoop of a duded-up tenderfoot.

He looked over at Elmer. The man was sweating, mopping his forehead with a red bandanna he’d drawn from his hip pocket, his dark hair stringy and thinning across the pinkness of his scalp. What do you think happened? Oscar asked. Uh, the man stuttered. Only thing I can think is, it was some—one of these Mexicans. The Indians are all drunks, on a Saturday night, one of them takes out a knife after they’ve all piled out of a bar at closing time—but the Mexicans, you look in their eyes you see all kinds of calculated meanness, yes sir. A white man can’t understand why they do what they do. Oscar turned away, thinking Elmer didn’t look so white himself—Italian, maybe. So the management wanted to pass this off on a handy scapegoat. He wouldn’t be getting much help from them—that they knew of, anyway.

They heard a door slam downstairs and a woman’s brassy voice calling, Hey, who’s here? She was starting up the narrow wooden stairs just as the two men appeared. Oh—it’s you, she said, looking up at them.

It was his client. She wore a tiered calico skirt with a silver concha belt around her waist. If you looked close, you could see fantastical creatures stitched into the soft, worn leather of her boots. An old Indian had made them for her. Her blouse was stained under the arms, and her curls, unnaturally red, were piled on top of her head. Her name was Jane Riordan. The dead boy was her nephew.

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