They came together, commissar and coroner, with the pockets full of chips and cards. In their car we escaped to the bar of Clear, who ushered us into a corner, served the coffee, left open a bottle of cognac and, at the end of her shift, wished us good evening.
—Let’s talk about the Mayor —I suggested, taking care of the booze.
—A polyglot —the commissar said, proud of himself.
—He enjoyed a duodenal ulcer —the coroner distributed the chips and dealt the cards on the small oak table—. Multiple trauma. Blowup of spleen and liver. Fracture of the atlanto-axial joint.
—That means he banged his nape —translated the commissar.
—He died about ten hours ago. Just one or two, before we found the body. Had eaten tortilla and a hamburger.
—Didn’t get dessert? —I wanted to know.
—He was forty-two and, apart of Mayor, was an anthropologist —the commissar said and lit a cigar—. It has been found with him a chicken sandwich, a bilingual dictionary, Portuguese-Chinese, a fishing permit, eleven hundred dollars, two thousand real and a medal of Santa Barbara.
—Anthropologist and believer? It doesn’t seem very credible.
—I think he was superstitious —said the coroner—, especially considering he was also an alpinist.
—In a briefcase in his car we found some pictures of mountains and glens that we fail to recognize, and a geological report of the concession you pursue.
—That complicates things —I said; and I raised the bet, they call it, and I asked for two cards.
The coroner gave me, without knowing it, the two steps that I lacked for a modest straight, but a winner one.
—How can a professional of the heights, have a beginner’s slip —said the coroner; and the fish bluffed without even a wired pair. I raised his bluff and he checked out—. That is the question.
—It is and will be an accident until proven otherwise — the commissar said; he called my bet and presented his hand: a paltry two pair sevens up.
—But let’s suppose for a moment that this is a murder —I pointed; cashing up the pot and pouring myself another draft.
—Then you will be my main suspect —said the commissar, crossing her arms and leaving the cigar in the ashtray.
—For that of the murderer always returning to the scene —the coroner said; and handled the cards to me.
—I believe it was just a sad accident —I declared solemnly; shuffled the cards, the commissar cut, and I dealt again.
—What were you doing this morning between six and nine? —the commissar asked me; bullying my blind bet.
—Fornicating —I lied; calling his bluff.
—Not a bad alibi.
We keep playing till late, until the conversation, the bets and the cognac languished. Then they took me back to the hotel and I climbed heavily the stone steps. I entered my wood cell and I took off the clothes. From what could I observe, Clear had the bad habit of sleeping naked.
To compensate, I supposed, she also enjoyed the good praxis of leaving early. I had woken up late, almost at ten, and it was hot. Forced to leave Alcatraz that morning I recomposed my suitcase, took a shower, and, when it was noon, I left the bastille and walked the four blocks to the plaza where I tried to find a no-pizza restaurant. In a confectionery on the corner of the petit Manhattan, people enjoyed the heat drinking cold beer on the sidewalk; some parishioners were staring at me: it should call their attention an outsider, at that hour, with a suitcase in tow, or just to see a being activated after noon.
I envied, while it terrified me, that stillness, that serene nothing, capable of swallowing a man and still be what it was, nothing. A farm truck crossing the town ever and anon, a beer in the square, gossip and siesta.
I took my time to eat, drink two coffees, a tot of whiskey and to cremate some cigarettes outside the front door of the regular restaurant. I returned to the Internet cafe of the day before and again I found it empty. The same cashier greeted me.
No mood for long statements, or just interpretations. I connected the laptop, opened Outlook to check the company’s e-mails and the logogram’s website of the Chinese mining company, and I was a couple of hours taking care of different issues with no major complications. No sight of the teenagers. Next I went back to the main square. I needed a taxi.
—Leaving already Mister? No bus at this hour.
The same cab driver who picked me up from the bus terminal the morning of my arrival. I though he had indulged himself with vermouth, cheese and olives, for the way he shifted a toothpick from one side to another of the mouth, with the dexterity of dog that is not to release a bone even when it’s bare.
—I’m going to the brothel.
He remained silent, trying to unravel the reasons for my trip.
—At this hour?’
He seemed satisfied, slowly nodded and drove apathetically around the square, passing by the petit Manhattan and the confectionery, exhibiting to half the town, taking the coffee, sitting there, the passenger who was carrying.
—Salesman of what?
The question sounded insolent.
—Condoms and fresh cheese —I replied not to treat him as obtrusive.
The red light stopped us in the corner. We had made our full circle around the square, and were exactly where I had boarded the car.
—Is it all there? —he said with a nod and a grin to my bag, and did not wait for the green light to show his hostility, pulling away as if competing in Formula One.
In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).