(An Inspector Suasnavas case narrated by his friend Pérez the journalist)
I've decided to begin this saga of Inspector Facundo Suasnavas with the case that gave root to his immense and deserved prestige at police headquarters, the most discreet prestige that, naturally, wasn't communicated to the media nor, therefore, appraised in its true magnitude by the metropolitan society which Inspector Suasnavas has honorably and constantly protected.
I was at the !YA! newspaper where I serve as "High Priest of Information" in the daily struggle against corruption and obstructive, politically incorrect propaganda. It was ten o'clock in the morning and we were in the middle of preparing what would be the "Advice for the Home and Office" page. I was talking to Alonsito, the new assistant, without the least hint of bad intentions, when, from the entrance hall, I heard raspy whistling coming from a man not too accustomed to subtlety and weather-beaten by the sound exercise of the body and spirit. It was my friend, Inspector Facundo Suasnavas, a leader in the arduous struggle against corruption, an example of a fat citizen and officer of the law, not repressive, but scientific and democratic.
He was standing in the middle of the doorway of the editing room dressed in plain clothes; for a year he'd belonged to the Political Security Division and he no longer wore that uniform that fit him so well. At first sight you couldn't foresee the determined and illustrious man he was: his short, chubby appearance masked his inner feelings of citizenship, as a leader of multitudes, a helmsman during stormy seas, and a commander, like those from the prior wars and revolutions should have been. He was, in short, a man one could trust, for he exuded a virile serenity through every pore of his robust body. I quickly approached him.
"Pérez, old friend," he said, by way of a greeting, "my car is fucked up again and the son-of-a-bitch commissioner wants me to be at a location immediately. Lend me for a taxi."
At this point I should state that Inspector Suasnavas is a man of culture, whose mind had been forged at the Colegio Laico San Pánfilo in Totoranga and who completed his education in the highly distinguished Academia Marcial de la Policía in San Juan de Pullunga. In this last institution he had learned, from the frugal life he had to live there, a direct and unambiguous method of expressing himself. He didn't lack culture, and that's why I allow him to call me "wild shot" every now and then, a slur that refers to an embarrassing little problem of premature ejaculation that I have almost completely overcome, or "mariconcito," both epithets which would have woken my indignation under different circumstances.
"What do you think, Suasnavas, I'll take you myself."
"Wouldn't you have to close the page?"
"I'm the editor now," I explained.
It's not that I didn't want to fulfill my obligations, but the prospect of accompanying a fellow prodigy of deduction and brainwork during one of his cases was seductive. I couldn't resist the temptation of seeing the raw material of a feature article, a true reflection of the objective historical conditions of everyday drama.
"Well then, I accept," said the inspector. "But don't bring along that fag you were talking to, you old maricón."
He said this jokingly, although, naturally, I've always had great respect for alternative sexual choices and have only been to a gay bar twice. I ordered Alonsito to close the advice page and, minutes later, Suasnavas and I were driving toward southern Quito in my car, old and unworthy of an officer of the law like the inspector.
"Well, speed up, goddamn it!" he said, while he looked at the roadway very excitedly and in a panic, "can't you see that the commissioner is waiting for me?"
We bolted in between pedestrians and cars with the speed of a streak of lightning. The hair on my neck still stands on end when I remember the rapid passage that took us to what would be the first stage of one of Inspector Facundo Suasnava's deductive triumphs.
We arrived at an apartment building in southern Quito, an area of multifamily housing for middle-class people. No sooner did he step out of the car and his feet touch the ground than the inspector seemed to forget about me, his urgency to concentrate forcing him even to forget to thank me for transporting him. I respected the start-up of that stupendous deductive machinery that was his mind and, quietly, I watched him closely without him noticing.
We walked across the neglected gardens of the multifamily houses; they were in deplorable condition, to the point that I, in my haste, didn't notice a dog turd. I stopped for about five minutes to clean my shoe. I almost lost the inspector, but I was able to locate him by following the shouting with which Commissioner Toapanta, the formidable highest-ranking member of police headquarters, greeted him:
"Where have you been, you stupid prick piece of shit!"
The commissioner was a tall, strong, and virile man who conducted himself with harsh firmness, his doubtless humble origins notwithstanding.
"Look, Suasnavas," said the commissioner, after spitting on the floor of the corridor in front of an apartment door. "We've selected you to investigate this case because we know that you know how to obey orders."
"Yes, commissioner!" the inspector thundered in his masculine voice.
"I don't want any screw-ups with the fingerprints . . ."
"Nor any of that stupid foolishness about psychological analysis . . ."
"Nor any of that nonsense you were taught in the investigation course . . ."
"It was a suicide, that's what I want the report to say."
"Yes sir, commissioner!"
"And don't worry about the press or the idiots from Human Rights. They're not going to get near you. You know that our president of the republic, Hermes Dodero, supports us fully."
"That's correct, commissioner."
"Then, enter and take charge, inspector."
As the commissioner was walking away, he said to me: "Salute, goddamn it, or do you want to get locked up?" There's no doubt he had confused me with one of Suasnavas subordinates.
When the commissioner left, I was starting to understand the magnitude of the mission he had entrusted to Suasnavas: he should develop the investigation of that suicide based solely on his formidable deductive skills, without the aid of any otherwise fallible techniques of detection. The commissioner's orders that the press shouldn't be informed, a decision that affected me in the very core of my being as a democratic journalist, was understandable to me in the context of a national emergency situation, because nothing else could justify similar behavior by a man like Inspector Suasnavas, a democrat of such magnitude that, knowing that I had studied in Cuba, would often tell me: "Pérez, wild shot, that Fidel sure has balls, commanding for forty years and no one dares to talk back to him. My respects, goddamn it!"
I entered the apartment, the scene of the crime. As I was vomiting, I realized that the job of explaining this as a suicide was going to be monumental because the body was lying around in pieces all over the living room. Seeing the head on top of a cushion, each leg on a different chair, the torso on top of the center table, and the arms tied together and hanging from a door handle, was a tremendous blow to my stamina. Luckily, I had eaten very little breakfast that morning.
When I recovered, I directed my attention toward Suasnavas who, as masculine and brave as he is, was concealing his emotions perfectly through a mask of simulated revulsion and feigned retching of disgust. Suasnavas had already examined the body and was preparing to conduct further searches. Meanwhile, an auxiliary police officer was telling him:
"The dead person's name is Jonás Escobar, he's a professor of literature, thirty-nine years old, single. He's suspected of being a collaborator with some subversive organization, although nothing was ever proven, no weapons possession, no pamphlets, nothing. In the apartment we found many books and other suspicious objects, letters from a woman who lives in Madrid and a postcard from a friend mailed from Paris containing a poem:
Not because you're crying today, will you cry tomorrow, the lyre remained silent in your hands today, perhaps the Muse will awaken proud, and Apollo won't pull the bow forever.
We suspect that since it's a man who is writing to him and refers to crying, the deceased had maricón, I mean homosexual, tendencies, inspector."
While he listened, Suasnavas was walking around the apartment, confident and looking at everything quickly and closely. It was a large apartment, that's true, but it was decorated in very horrible taste: the carved furniture wasn't covered by that pretty plastic which would have made it look so good; there were some large mirrors with steel supports which would have looked lovely with the type of shiny frames that look like gold; I didn't see flowers, not even those divine plastic ones; and as for paintings, there was only a black one, titled "El Guernica," by a painter who must be very important, an impressionist I think (at least I was quite impressed upon seeing that dead bull and deformed little child . . .).
The inspector stopped in the bedroom, opened a box that was on the nightstand, and, after removing two of the three rings that were inside, handed the third ring to the auxiliary police officer, who accepted it with a knowing look. No doubt the inspector wanted the rings analyzed separately. He placed the two rings in his pocket and continued his investigative process.
The meticulous detective work was proceeding without any setbacks when, suddenly, a television crew lead by a reporter arrived; my colleague recognized me, but he pretended he didn't, and I don't know why. The reporter was well groomed, tall, and had an enormous back. He entered the apartment neatly attired and, barely over the threshold, took off his jacket, loosened his tie, and messed up his hair. He positioned himself in front of the camera and in this fashion began:
"This is Juan Manuel Luján, your reporter, Televista Informa. Alerted by a few neighbors in the area, we've immediately arrived on the scene. We find ourselves in apartment 3B of the Multifamily Divine Child of Atocha apartments, in southern Quito, where, as far as we can see, a horrible crime has been committed. The images we're about to show are very graphic, so . . ."
At that moment two things happened: the cameraman (a very ugly mestizo) started to vomit, while the reporter demanded: "Just film, stupid, this has to get out immediately on the lunch hour newscast," and then, the four rank and file police officers who were accompanying Suasnavas pounced on the cameraman, the reporter, and a young man who had come along with them to carry the cables. As the officers restrained them, the inspector asked:
"Who authorized you to enter, gentlemen?"
"We're the press and the people have the right to know. It's a right recognized by the constitution."
The reporter was very arrogant, which contrasted with the serene and generously forgiving attitude of Inspector Suasnavas.
"Shut up, pendejo," murmured the helper who carried the cables, twenty-one years old, light-skinned, with beautiful eyes and glasses. "They're from the Political Security Division; I told you that we shouldn't enter."
Inspector Suasnavas, complaisant, gestured that they should be released. Afterward, the cameraman went to the bathroom to continue vomiting.
"Better," said Suasnavas, laughing at the manifest weak will of the cameraman. "By special order of the supreme high commissioner, no photographs or filming. You can only have the report we're going to issue."
"And can't you advance me something?" asked the reporter, observing with fascination the inspector's confident look, in which I think he perceived an uncommon man, which he was.
"It was a suicide," said Suasnavas, "that's what the report that I'm going to hand in immediately at headquarters is going to say."
"But it's in pieces," almost screamed the young man who carried the cables. "And it looks like he was tied by his wrists to the doorknob. They must have tortured him or something."
Inspector Suasnavas looked at him with sympathy, the way one looks at a rebellious child, and said:
"Remove these stupid pricks and that kid. Make sure you teach them a lesson about acting like wiseasses."
While the film crew, who had completed their very justified mission so poorly, was being forcibly removed, Suasnavas saw fit to explain the case to me, undoubtedly a case worthy of the best articles in the Urban Report section of !YA!:
"A suicide. It's better for you, Pérez, if that's what appears in the newspaper tomorrow. There's no doubt that this is a clear case of mental disorder. Obviously, the victim is bisexual, which is confirmed by the sentimental correspondence he was maintaining with both a man and a woman abroad. Mental pressure brought him to his fatal decision."
"But, how did he kill himself like that?" I asked, amazed by Susasnava's powerful deductive skills.
"But that's quite clear, Wild Shot, that business about going around with men and women . . . these pigs, they get that sickness . . ."
"No, pendejo. What is it? Schizophrenia, split personality, multiple personality. It's something like that. And you, be careful that you don't go sneaking around with young men; you can see what happens to them afterward."
"Of course!" I concluded, ignoring Suasnava's witty remark while I grasped the brilliant deductive process in all its magnitude. "That's why he killed himself that way, in parts."
It was a clear case of schizophrenia brought to its final consequences. The perfection of Suasnava's detective work was worthy of recognition, as I said, by police headquarters. In !YA! (through my diligent intercession, of course), only the death by suicide of a dangerous homosexual was reported, and I returned to the advice page.
This wouldn't be the only time that I would accompany Inspector Suasnavas during his prodigious investigative processes, but for now I'll continue to write about the one I've titled The Heroic Saga of Inspector Suasnavas. I plan to infiltrate the Urban Report section in this manner, and thereby modestly achieve immortality, like Doctor Watson would with the chronicles of Detective Holmes. I will remain immortal, in the memory of future generations of the Fatherland, as Pérez, the journalist.
"El Suicidio Reticente" copyright © by Santiago Páez. Translation copyright © 2006 by Harry Morales. Published by arrangement with the author. All rights reserved.