Read The Rodriguez Affair (1970) Online

Authors: James Pattinson

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The Rodriguez Affair (1970) (13 page)

BOOK: The Rodriguez Affair (1970)
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Juanita was still there. She was standing perfectly rigid with her back pressed hard against the right hand wall and staring in front of her as though petrified.

Cade spoke to her. “Juanita.”

She did not move, did not look at him. She might not have heard.

He followed the direction of her fixed, unwavering gaze and noticed for the first time what she was staring at. It was something in the snake pit. He walked to the edge of the pit and looked down.

One of the wheels was buckled and the chair was lying on its side half in one of the shallow pools. Gomara seemed to be curiously twisted; the back of his head was in the pool but the water did not quite cover his face. His mouth was open, and one might have imagined that he was crying out in terror or agony, except that there was no sound coming from his lips. There were no snakes
near him, but Cade could see some of them moving sinuously not far away.

How long, he wondered, had Gomara been in the pit? That he was dead was certain; but from what cause had he died? From the fall, from snake venom, or from something else?

He turned his back on the pit and went to Juanita. He saw now what he had not noticed before: in her right hand, which was hanging down by her side, she was holding a small automatic pistol. It had probably been in her handbag. The handbag was lying on the floor.

“You’d better give that to me,” Cade said.

Again it was as though she had not heard. He took her hand and eased the gun from her fingers. She made no resistance.

He lifted the gun to his nose and sniffed. Nothing. He took the magazine from the butt and examined it. It was full. The gun had not been fired. He dropped it into the left-hand pocket of his jacket.

“What happened?” he asked.

She did not answer. He gripped her shoulders and shook her. “Juanita! Answer me. What happened?”

It was like someone waking from a deep sleep, a dream, a nightmare perhaps. Her eyes gradually lost their fixed stare and her body its rigidity. She looked at Cade as if only then becoming aware of his presence.

“Roberto!”

“What happened, Juanita?” he repeated.

She shuddered. “I meant to kill him. That is why I came.”

“That is why you brought the gun?”

“Yes.” She looked at her right hand. “It’s gone. Where is it?”

“I’ve got it,” Cade said. “But you didn’t kill him. The gun hasn’t been fired. So what happened?”

She was becoming calmer. She frowned slightly, as though trying to marshal her thoughts.

“He was afraid. When I told him who I was and why I had come he was afraid. When I pointed the pistol at him he tried to get away. He turned the chair; one wheel went over the edge; he tried to save himself but could not. He fell in. The snakes. Oh, God, the snakes.”

She lifted a hand to her eyes as though to shut out some horrible sight Cade put his arm round her shoulders and waited for her to recover.

Then he said: “Why should he have been afraid when you told him who you were?”

“I recognised him. I had traced him here but I could not be certain until I saw him. Then I knew. You know who he was, don’t you?”

“Carlos Rodriguez.”

“Yes. Carlos Rodriguez.”

“But why—”

“There was a girl who was found dead in Rodriguez’s swimming-pool. A girl he had seduced, corrupted, killed. A girl only eighteen years old.”

“Isabella Martinez.”

“She was my half-sister.”

N
ICHOLAS
M
ARCOS
G
LAVIGERO
of the San Borja police was a large plump man with a gentle, slightly wheezing voice and somewhat protruding ears. He had a dark, smoothly-shaven face with eyes set so widely apart and so poorly aligned that it seemed not at all improbable that he might have been capable of seeing in two directions at once. And that, for a police officer, might have been a very useful ability.

“There are then, Sañor Cade, three dead people at the house of Señor Gomara?”

“Yes,” Cade said.

Clavigero sighed. He had a comfortable office with two electric fans which stirred the air even if they did not cool it very much. It was apparent to Cade that if he had been at all able to justify such an action he would undoubtedly have despatched some subordinate to investigate the matter. But three bodies—that was rather too many. He sighed again and lifted his heavy bulk from the chair in which it had been seated. He was sweating gently in spite of the fans.

“We will go to the house of the unfortunate Señor Gomara?” he said. “You, Señor Cade, will please accompany me.”

The Citroen was standing in the shade of some trees outside the police-station, a square concrete building with a flat roof and white walls. Cade had already taken Juanita Suarez back to the Phoenix and had left her in the care of Señora Torres. He had told the Señora that Juanita was not feeling well and the Señora had promised to look after her.

“You must go and lie down, señorita. I will bring an aspirin and a cooling drink. It is the heat no doubt. So very hot it is.”

Juanita thanked her. Cade believed she was still suffering from the shock of Gomara’s peculiarly unpleasant death. He had told her nothing about Delia and José. Time for that later.

“We will go in the police car‚” Clavigero said. “No need for you to waste petrol, Señor Cade. On the way we will go over your story again—in detail.”

The police car was a big Ford, not very new, rather beaten up, like a suspect after questioning. Clavigero and Cade sat in the back and a sergeant sat in the front with the driver. The sergeant was a silent, morose sort of man with extraordinarily large hands and feet. The driver looked about fifteen years old, but that seemed hardly probable.

Cade went over the story in detail.

“You are an Englishman, Señor Cade?” Clavigero said.

“It is on the passport.”

“Yes. So it is. I was merely stressing the fact. So,
as an Englishman, what are you doing in San Borja?”

“l am a journalist I am writing a story.”

Clavigero chuckled softly. “You will have plenty of material, it seems.”

“That is not the kind of story I write.”

“So?” Clavigero seemed a trifle disappointed. He had perhaps been anticipating world-wide press coverage of the crime with his own name in the headlines. “And what were you doing at Señor Gomara’s?”

“I had an interview with him yesterday. He invited me to come again.”

“And Señorita Suarez?”

“I invited her to accompany me.”

“I shall of course need to question her later.”

“Of course.”

“And you did not, Señor Cade, in fact speak to Señor Gomara today?”

“No. When I saw him he was already dead.”

“But Señorita Suarez spoke to him?”

“Yes. It was while she was with him that he accidentally fell into the snake pit with his wheeled chair.”

“Accidentally,” Clavigero said. “Yes, of course.” He sighed. “Accidents will happen.”

 

The Mercedes was standing a short distance back from the gate. Cade had had to move it before he could open the gate to let the Citroen through. The gate was still open; there were no enemies for Gomara to keep out now.

Clavigero told the driver to stop by the stable. “We will look first at this man José Rivera.”

It was the first time Cade had heard José’s surname.
He supposed Clavigero would make it his business to know a thing like that

Cade went first through the wicket, then Clavigero, then the sergeant The driver stayed in the car. There were flies on José’s head. The knife was still sticking in the door, the baulk of timber that had broken the bolt of the loose-box was lying where it had fallen, but the horse had not returned.

Clavigero wheezed and sweated a little. He looked at José; he looked at the loose-box and at the knife; he looked up at the loft.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I see.”

There were dark stains on the floor where the horse’s hoofs had carried some of José’s blood. The sergeant pointed them out gloomily.

“I have seen them,” Clavigero said. He looked at Cade. “You are fortunate to be alive, señor. That beam, that knife, either might have killed you.”

“I know,” Cade said.

“This Rivera was a very violent man. Perhaps it is fitting that he should have come to a violent end.”

“He was certainly violent.”

“Let us go to the house,” Clavigero said.

 

The front door was closed. Cade had closed it before leaving. He had found Andres and the other servants and had told them to let no one in until the police arrived. Not that there was likely to be anyone to let in. They had all seemed stunned; he was not sure that they had understood what he had been saying.

Clavigero did not trouble to ring the bell. He opened the door and walked in. The others followed.

“I will look now at the woman‚” Clavigero said.

They climbed the stairs. They went into the room where Della was lying on the bed. The sergeant looked at her and seemed more morose than ever.

Clavigero sighed again. “Yes, I see. And this was exactly as you found her?”

“Yes,” Cade said.

“Why did you come to Señorita Lindsay’s bedroom?”

“I had looked in the other rooms.”

“You were searching for her?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I wished to speak to her.”

Clavigero gazed at the gir’s face. “That is understandable. She was very attractive. Such a pity. It is always a tragedy when the young and beautiful die. There can never be too much beauty in the world.”

 

When they went into the snake room Clavigero sweated even more. He took out a handkerchief and dabbed his face and chin. He walked to the edge of the pit and looked down at Gomara.

“We shall have to get him out of there.”

“There are snakes,” the sergeant said. He seemed afraid that Clavigero might order him to go down and lift Gomara out. “Venomous snakes.”

“Nevertheless, the body cannot be allowed to remain there. That is out of the question.”

“Andres would do it,” Cade suggested. “He has a way with snakes.”

Clavigero nodded to the sergeant. “Go and fetch the old man.”

The sergeant went away.

Clavigero said: “There is no mystery here, I think. It is quite evident to me that the killing of Señorita Lindsay was a crime of passion.”

“You think so?”

“I am certain of it I have dealt with such affairs before. The woman was Señor Gomara’s mistress. José desires her. It is natural; he is a man. She spurns him, laughs in his face perhaps. He is a servant, a menial, and she will have nothing to do with such a fellow. He goes to her room, consumed by desire. She is as we saw her, choosing a dress perhaps. The sight of her thus inflames him. He tries to embrace her. She resists, smacks his face perhaps, calls him names. In a fit of uncontrollable rage and jealousy he draws his knife and stabs her. He hears your car horn and runs out of the house, hoping to send you away until he can dispose of the body. You insist on being allowed to come in.” Clavigero paused and looked hard at Cade. “That is one point that puzzles me. Why did he let you in?”

“I persuaded him,” Cade said. “He was reluctant, but Señor Gomara had given orders that I was to be admitted at any time. And José could not have expected that I would go to the bedroom.”

He had not told Clavigero about the revolver. That was one detail he felt it unnecessary to reveal. He had not mentioned Juanita’s small automatic either.

“I see,” Clavigero said. “Yes, that seems all perfectly clear. We shall, of course, test the knife for fingerprints. You did not touch it?”

“No.”

“Then I feel certain that we shall find only José Rivera’s prints on it”

He seemed highly pleased with himself. Perhaps it gave him a sense of achievement to have cleared everything up so quickly and efficiently. It would be a credit to the San Borja police department.

“And Señor Gomara?” Cade asked.

Clavigero shrugged. “An accident, as you said. An invalid in a wheel-chair; such men should not have snake pits without walls round them. Sooner or later it was bound to happen.”

 

When he got back to the hotel Cade went straight up to Juanita’s room. He knocked gently on the door and heard her voice, a little startled, it seemed.

“Who is there?”

“Robert. May I come in?”

She opened the door herself. She was obviously glad to see him, but she looked tired, as though the events of the day had drained the vitality from her.

“Roberto.”

He closed the door and kissed her. “It’s all right,” he said. “The police are accepting Gomara’s death as an accident. There’ll be no trouble. I’m afraid you’ll have to answer a few questions.”

She looked worried. “Questions?”

“They’ll want your version of what happened. Just tell them you were talking to Gomara and he accidentally sent the chair over the edge. That is what happened.”

“Yes. That is what happened.”

“Don’t say anything about your gun. Or mine.”

“I won’t,” she said.

“And there’s something else you’d better know; something that happened out there.”

She seemed to brace herself. “What else happened?”

He told her about Delia and José.

“Oh God‚” she said. “You might have been killed.”

“But I wasn’t.”

“Promise me you’ll never do that again.”

“Do what again?”

“Go chasing a murderer.”

“It’s not something I make a habit of doing,” Cade said.

Earl Johnson was in the lounge when Cade went down. Johnson ordered drinks and piloted Cade to a seat where they would not be overheard.

“Some very strange rumours are floating around,” Johnson said. “Maybe you know something about them.”

“What kind of rumours?”

“That Gomara is dead for example. That Della Lindsay and José are also dead. That you and Juanita are rather deeply involved.”

“Innocently involved,” Cade said.

“Naturally. Like to tell me about it?”

“I don’t know whether I should.”

“I saved your life, Rob.”

Cade told him.

Johnson thought it over. “I don’t think my clients are going to like this very much. I kinda got the impression they wanted him alive. They wanted to deal with him themselves in their own way.”

“We can’t all get what we want”

“That’s true. And they can’t blame me. I didn’t kill the guy.”

“Nobody killed him. He was bitten by a snake.”

“That’s also true. And he had it coming to him. If anyone deserved to be snake-bitten he did.”

“You’ll be pulling out now, I suppose?”

Johnson nodded. “Nothing more for me here now.”

“Nor me,” Cade said.

“Let’s drink to that.”

They drank.

BOOK: The Rodriguez Affair (1970)
12.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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