Buried Strangers

Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage Read Free Book Online

Book: Buried Strangers by Leighton Gage Read Free Book Online
Authors: Leighton Gage
Tags: Mystery
said were your friends.
    Ernesto took a cigarette and a pack of matches out of his breast pocket.
    “No smoking in here,” Tanaka said.
    “Then I’ll go outside.”
    He got up.
    Tanaka slammed a palm down on his desk.
    “No, you won’t,” he said and pointed at the chair. “You’ll sit right there until I tell you you’re free to go.”
    Clarice seemed startled. Ernesto wasn’t as easily intimidated.
    “You can’t—”
    His wife interrupted him. “Ernesto,” she said, “shut up.”
    Ernesto resumed his seat, crossed his arms, and stared out the window.
    Tanaka took up where he’d left off, this time directing himself exclusively to the woman.
    “As I was saying,” he said, “it often helps to go over every-thing again with a different interviewer. Sometimes we pick up small details that didn’t come to light the first time around. And small details can be of great significance. Let’s start again from the beginning. There are four of them, right? The father, Edmundo—”
    “Edmar,” she corrected him.
    Tanaka glanced at the first page of Lucas’s report. He picked up his pen, crossed out Edmundo, and wrote Edmar before continuing.
    “You see? Even policemen make mistakes.”
    “Even policemen,” Ernesto echoed, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
    Tanaka elected to act as if he hadn’t heard him. “The father, Edmar, the wife, Augusta, and their two daughters, Mari and Julia.”
    “Yes. Mari is Mariana. Everyone calls Julia Juju.”
    “And Edmar Lisboa is a stonemason, is that right?” He looked up from the report and waited for her to nod. When she did, he said, “This job he was offered, how did it come about?”
    “I already told that to Sergeant Lucas.”
    Tanaka sighed. He hadn’t overestimated the woman’s intelligence, or rather lack of it.
    “Senhora Portella, please. Forget Sergeant Lucas. Make believe you’re telling me the story for the first time.”
    “Oh, yes. I see. Well, Edmar was building a wall. A man came up, watched him work and then he said he was looking for a stonemason to work on a fazenda. He was offering good money. He was even offering a house. Edmar liked the coun-try. He was raised in the country. He only came here because he couldn’t get work back home in Pernambuco. You know how it is up there.”
    Pernambuco was a state far to the northeast, tucked in between Bahia and Ceará. Tanaka did, indeed, know how it was up there. Everybody did. No industry, great poverty, some cities with twice as many women as men because of mass migration southward to where the jobs were.
    And that’s why my town is filling up with a bunch of fucking Nordestinos like you and your friends, Tanaka thought. But he didn’t say it. Instead, he said, “So he took the job? Just like that? ” Tanaka snapped his fingers.
    She gave a little jump.
    Not only stupid. Nervous, too.
    She shook her head.
    “No,” she said, “Edmar isn’t like that. He said he’d have to talk to Augusta.”
    “He’s a pussy,” Ernesto said. “Guy has no balls at all. She pushes him around.”
    “Shut up, Ernesto,” she said.
    The way she said it reminded Tanaka of his wife, Marcela.
    Ernesto went back to looking out of the window.
    “So then what?” Tanaka asked, identifying just the least little bit with her husband.
    “The man came to talk to her.”
    “To your friend, Augusta?”
    Clarice nodded.
    “He showed her pictures in a book.”
    “What kind of pictures?”
    “Of the fazenda.”
    “And she bought the idea?”
    “She what?”
    “She agreed to go?”
    Clarice nodded her head. “She quit her job,” she said, “and Edmar quit his, and the man came to take them away. That was a week after his first visit. The street was too nar-row to bring the truck up to the house. We had to carry everything down to the corner. Once the truck was loaded, the family went in a van.”
    “So there was a truck and a van?”
    “That’s right.”
    Tanaka made a note. “And that was the last time

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