# Proaza trilogy, book I
“Forbear to sleep the nights, and fast the days;
Compare dead happiness with living woe;
Think that thy babes were sweeter than they were,
and he that slew them fouler than he is”.
William Shakespeare (Richard III)
1. The wisdom of the seagulls
The seagulls took flight only to return and hurl themselves at whatever was keeping them busy. They came from the salt marshes and the reeds, crying frantically as they swooped down. Agent Quintana knew of their characteristic voracity so he assumed that only food could be driving them to act that way. It was usual for the seagulls to go for their sustenance to the band of earth encircling el Mar Menor and the five volcanic islands sprinkled throughout it. Since they don’t dive, they limit themselves to eat only what brushes the surface of the water, devouring the refuse from the ports and beaches. Too much food available to be fighting for it, Quintana thought.
-Why do you stop, Quintana? -Jimenez asked.
-Those seagulls are making me nervous.
-You know the Sargent does not want us to go beyond the windmill.
The police did not usually transit the dirt roads going into the wetlands because, as a rule, the Seprona motorists patrol the entire La Manga, including the accesses to the Salinas and Arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar, to the North of Lo Pagan.
-Look at how excited those birds are- Quintana tapped on the windshield with his finger, pointing at the marshes - Don’t you think there are too many?
-It must be a dead dog.
-We should take a look- he said, turning off the radio.
Although Jimenez was not thrilled, he drove the patrol car off the asphalt, rolling slowly down the dusty road. It was seven in the morning and the Villananitos Beach was silent and deserted and so were the Mud Baths. The only sounds that could be heard came from the frantic seagulls and the wheels of the patrol car as they crushed the gravel. When the car stopped, some of the seagulls flew away; unenthusiastically, the bolder ones took flight only when the agent got closer.
At first sight, all he saw between the black algae was the usual detritus: Empty bottles, plastic bags, newspapers, and food scraps. Most of it was food. Shaking his head in disgust, he thought it was a good thing that the seagulls gulped it all down. He stood at the edge of the marsh, cursing, put his hands on his waist and craned his neck to peer into one of the conduits leading from the Salinas to the Mar Mayor; the impact of what he saw almost knocked him backwards.
-What is the matter, Quintana?
But Quintana was unable to answer. After inhaling deeply, he forced himself to look again, cautiously this time, although he already knew what he would see. The Sargent had radioed the description of Susana Monton, a girl who, by three o’clock in the morning, had failed to return home from the movies. His partner, already on alert, got out of the car and moved toward him slowly, attempting to conceal his unease. The body that was submerged in the salt marshes, obstructing the conduit, was that of a young girl. The corpse was covered in marks that looked like bird pecks and the arms were outstretched in a gesture of unknown significance to the policeman. The descriptions coincided: Slim, wearing jeans and a camisole under a yellowish, long sleeved, blood stained blouse. Jimenez clenched his fists and bit his index finger, conjuring the pain of the bite to have a more natural reality to hang on to as he looked ahead. As a mouthful of salty, fresh air flooded his lungs, he gradually regained control. A few meters in front of him, there was a head, covered in flies. The matted, long blonde hair and the two earrings on the right earlobe coincided with the description of the missing girl.
Still dizzy, he walked toward the car. With a shaky hand that would barely obey him, he connected the radio and informed the Sargent about his findings.
The patrol from Seprona took seven minutes to get to the lagoon; the SUV from the Civil Guard arrived in eighteen minutes and cordoned off the area with the usual white plastic tape cautioning in green letters:
DO NOT TRESPASS CIVIL GUARD DO NOT TRESPASS CIVIL GUARD
While photos were taken and all possible clues numbered, so that they could later be properly inventoried, the ambulance and the court van arrived. In no more than an hour the Salinas de Coterillo were bustling with uniforms, white coats, and inspectors in plain clothes, taking notes and whispering to each other in between the crackling of the radios.
The agents moved with extreme care in order to avoid destroying possible evidence. One of the inspectors from the Forensic Science Division, wearing white overalls, squatted next to the open carrying case that contained his kit. Carefully and methodically, he collected hair, blood, saliva and other secretions and packed them in bags that he then sealed hermetically. He proceeded to place bags over the girl’s hands, safeguarding any evidence that could later be found under her nails; he also lifted some of the footprints and searched the ground carefully for cigarette buts. When it seemed he had finished, he stood up, took off his latex gloves and while holding a cigarette between his lips, started mapping the site where the events had occurred.
The last one to arrive was Luzon, the forensic pathologist, a mature, tall, man with slightly hunched shoulders. He had a pale complexion and his hair was abundant and black, peppered with silver at the temples. The doctor greeted the judicial group, and the lieutenant from the Civil Guard; Luzon only stopped to talk to the judge of instruction; as he spoke to him, he took out of his pocket a case and out of the case a pair of glasses that he then proceeded to meticulously clean. Once he was satisfied with the pristine lenses, he cleared his throat, attempted unsuccessfully to frighten the flies away and, with studied parsimony, initiated the examination of the corpse.
Luzon knew that he was being closely observed by all present. They were all following each of his precise, science steeped movements; he studied the wounds, looking for ecchymosis, hemorrhage or fatty tissue in order to determine whether they had been inflicted before or after death. Without rushing, he turned on his recorder and whispered his initial impressions into it, loud enough so that the audience could hear certain fragments of what he was saying. Thus, they learned firsthand that the body was in the first stages of rigor mortis, that cadaveric spasm showed the posture of the victim at death, which had occurred between three and four in the morning, that there were no contusions and that the decapitation had happened after the girl was already dead. That is all, ladies and gentlemen, that is all for the moment: “Until we proceed with the autopsy and identify any other inflicted harm that might have left material imprints on the corpse and can report on any internal or external lesions we find, with due specificity”.
Only then was the corpse moved. The stretcher bearers, with their dramatically serious faces, placed the body inside of a black bag, lifted it on to the stretcher, adjusted the leather belts around it and slid it into the ambulance, which drove away, its howling sirens proclaiming an urgency that no longer existed. After the patrols issued the initial reports, they received communication letting all know that the murderer had already been apprehended. The driver of the tractor that regularly raked the beach had found him sleeping in the children’s area, reeking of beer and covered in blood. The terms “suspicious” and “presumptive” were not mentioned at any time.
It was Monday, a sunny Monday at the end of June in Lo Pagan, a quiet fishing town, home to a little over three thousand inhabitants. During summer, Lo Pagan turned into the touristic area of the municipality and the population multiplied; few regions, after all, could boast a salt-water lake, crystalline, tranquil and not too deep, located right next to the Mediterranean Sea. Like every year, the newspapers were already touting an impending heat wave. High Season was just about to start in Mar Menor, and everybody wished that something as inopportune as a murder could be quickly forgotten.
- Author: Rafael Estrada
- Translator: Guadalupe López
- Subject: Modern and contemporary fiction
- Gender: Black Novel
- Age range: Adultos
- No. of pages: 298
- Distributed: by Babelcube, Inc
- ISBN: to be confirmed