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Migel Anjel Mintegi Larraza > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2002 | Ibaizabal

The lawyer put the saucers down on the table. He then sat in his comfortable swivel chair, picked up a cup and after taking a sip, gazed at the detective intently. Only for a brief moment, because he put the cup down at once and began to speak in a somewhat sombre tone of voice.

-If I am not mistaken, you are involved in investigation work or something of that nature, aren't you? -he said.

-To tell you the truth I don't turn down anything, only in certain exceptional cases -Maiza told him the truth, as he reckoned the lawyer would know about his career-. To put it bluntly, I make a living mostly out of cuckholds and frauds. Out of cuckholds, especially.

-Not bad at all. In fact, the reason you are here is connected with certain external relations or, to put it another way, with a woman who is not my client's wife.

-So much the better, `cos I'd rather poke my nose into women's matters than into dirty bank accounts, much rather. Anyhow, I'm all ears.

-OK. Let's take it slowly and deal with the details before we get to the crux of the question. First of all, should you accept my offer, you would have to get going quickly and drop everything else you're doing. The work has got to be done as quickly as possible, I would say it is a matter of life or death. That is why your reward will depend on how long it takes you to complete the job: six thousand euros if you get it done in a week, and half if you go over the deadline.

-A tidy sum. At least to start talking. Anyhow, I can't say yes without knowing the details of the job, because the money could be a pittance. So, put your cards on the table and let's get down to business; that way we can get going quickly right from the start.

-You have to find a woman, an attractive blonde, stunning I've been told -he stopped to look at him.

-Blimey, that's a good start! Go on, can't wait to hear the details.

-But the problem is no ordinary one, not at all. It's serious, very serious, because that blonde has got to be found to get my friend and client out of Martutene prison. He's in a very tight spot and he could rot in jail if we don't find that woman. The reason is no laughing matter, because he's been charged with murder, murdering his wife, to be preciseā What do you think?

-What do I think? -he whistled in amazement-. Wouldn't want to be in his shoes. Charged with doing in the wifeā `course it's no laughing matter. And he's denying it, obviously, but hasn't got an alibi.

-You've hit the nail on the head.

-Needless to say, that woman is his alibi.

-Exactly. But we don't know where she is.

-That's to be assumed -Maiza began to fidget nervously in his armchair-. Well, tell me who she is and I'll get going right away, I'll leave no stone unturned till I find her.

Iturbide leant forward. He put his elbows on his desk, clasped his hands together, rested his chin on top of them, and looked at him gravely.

-The thing isā we don't know who she is -he said, after a brief moment of silence-. That's the catch!

The detective's jaw dropped. From the way the conversation had begun the twelve large banknotes looked as though they were within reach, but after hearing this last bit, he was beginning to have doubts. At best he'd have to be content with half of it. And even thatā What else did he expect? As usual that man wasn't offering him a cushy number, no one offers you a cushy number in this world, not even an idiot. So, it was clear that the difficulties in finding the woman would be on a par with the dough being offered, as long as they weren't any bigger.

-Brilliant! -he said disappointedly-. You'll have a photo, won't you?

-No, not even that.

Maiza was lost for words. Was the lawyer trying to pull his leg? What did that guy think he was? A magician? He was amazed. But the other guy looked at him impassively. Anyhow, he could tell from his face that he was not joking or pulling his leg; on the contrary, he was being dead serious.

-Your friend will be able to provide a more accurate description, won't he? There are masses of blondes; stunning ones, tooā lots, luckily.

-Naturally, my client will give you plenty of exact information about her, but that will have to be tomorrow morning.

-But he's in the nick.

-And about to go mad. But if you take on the job, you can go and see him at Martutene prison tomorrow, because they can have face-to-face visits.

He agreed. Of course. The job was not a piece of cake, but even in the worst case (the last thing the lawyer said had raised his hopes a bit), three thousand euro for finding a woman wasn't bad at all. Anyhow, double that amount was really attractive and it was definitely worth a week's hard work. Besides, since getting his detective's licence this was the first chance he had had to get his nose into something really big. With a dead body and all! Seen from all sides the offer was definitely attractive.

-I'd be grateful -said Maiza, once he had agreed-, if you could explain the case, if only briefly.

-I'll tell you briefly -Iturbide glanced at his watch-, I go to the gym three days a week and today is one of them.

-It shows -said Maiza flatteringly.

-No that much, I've been fitter before. As the years go by it gets more and more difficult to knock off the kilos you put on in winter. Anyhow, lets go to the crux of the matter.

-OK. But before we start, another question, perhaps rather a stupid one, not to say unnecessary: is your friend innocent?

-I regard him as innocent, without any doubt. Otherwise he must have been out of his mind that night. And I don't think he was. Because not even the most stupid guy in town would have used such a third-rate way of killing his wife.

-And this guy isn't an idiot, nor is he nuts.

-Not at all. Jaime Ostolaza, our man, is pretty smart, to tell you the truth. Anyway, he's been in danger of going round the bend ever since he was put in jail. That's why we're in a hurry.

-How did he get mixed up in all this?

-In a rather strange way. On Friday nights he was in the habit of going out for a few drinks. In pubs andā in clubs, too, to be precise. That Friday when the wretched incident happened he was in his usual bar after dinner when a blonde stranger came in. He said she was stunning. Then they started talking in the pub about this and that and ended up in the woman's apartment engaged in a different kind of conversation. And thenā then from heaven straight down to hell! Savouring the last bits of pleasure our man returned home just as it was getting light and found his wife dead in the living room with her throat cut. The sight made such a profound impact on him that a neighbour found him in deep shock pacing back and forth from his house out onto the landing like a madman. You won't have any problem imagining the rest.

-The police naturally didn't believe his story about the blonde.

-No way! One could believe the story, because the blonde wasn't something my friend had made up, far from it. Everyone in the café saw her come in and also talking to Jaime. But the rest lacks any firm base, because Jaime doesn't know who the woman is (nor do the witnesses, of course), nor where he went with her. Apparently they headed for Aiete; but he can't be sure about that. He doesn't remember anything particular about the apartment: there was nothing unusual in the living room or bathroom, just the bare minimum in each of them, just that. Anyhow, not taking any notice of the furniture comes as no surprise when you've got a luscious bit like that next to you. Jaime and the witnesses have said over and over again that she was stunning enough to drive one nuts.

-A delicious bait, irresistible, put there on purpose for your friend to swallow.

-Exactly. As you'll see tomorrow, he can't forget the night he spent with that blonde, despite everything that happened afterwards. The details on all this tomorrow. In the meantime, perhaps what you know now will help you make some preliminary reflections.

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