reminded Silva of a traffic cop.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Are you telling me you expected the man to be sexually abused?”

“More than ‘expected,’ I counted on it.”

“Explain yourself.”

Silva looked out of the window. A buzzard was flying lazy circles over the roof of the Ministry of Culture across the way.

“I’m waiting, Mario.”

Silva narrowed his eyes, redirecting his attention to his boss.

“The other prisoners in that cell aren’t there by chance,” he said. “They’re all animals, just like Ercilio Nardoni, but they’re a different breed. They don’t go after children; they prey on other men.”

“If we treat felons the way you’re treating him,” Sampaio said, “there’s no difference between them and us. Frankly, Mario, there are times when I find these methods of yours revolting. You’re my Chief Investigator, not judge, jury, and executioner. The old days are gone. This is a democracy now. People, even the worst kind of people, have rights. Take a lead from the Americans.”

“If we had the Americans’ forensic capabilities, we might be able to use their methods.”

“All right, we don’t. And I admit we have to do some things differently, but it still doesn’t justify the torture of prisoners.”

“Not even in a case like Nardoni’s?”

“Not even then. I want you to-”

“I know the bastard’s lying,” Silva said, before his boss could complete the thought. “I just need his confession. Technically, we’re not laying a finger on him. What’s happening to Nardoni is being perpetrated by the other lowlifes in his cell. You have total deniability.”

“I’m not talking about deniability. I’m talking about what’s right. It’s demonic to put pressure on someone that way.”

“He’s a demonic man, Director. My intention is to leave him there until you specifically order me to return him to solitary.”

“Then I specifically order you to-”

“And before giving me that order, I’d like you to reflect on what he did. Not what I think he did, but what I am absolutely, positively sure he did.”

Sampaio stopped short, closed his mouth, opened it again, closed it again. The action made him look rather like a fish.

“You don’t have to remind me,” he said at last. “I remember well. But you don’t need his confession. You have evidence. You have photographs.”

Either Ercilio Nardoni, or his late roommate, Clovis Borges, always made Polaroid photographs of the faces of their terrified victims. They’d kept those trophies, along with the stuffed animals, along with the cotton panties stamped with cartoon characters and teddy bears, along with the little pieces of jewelry-rings just big enough for little girls’ fingers, crucifixes with chains just long enough for little girls’ necks.

“The photographs will be useless in court,” Silva said.


“Nardoni claims they belonged to Borges. He claims Borges did all the raping and all the killing. We can’t prove otherwise. They used condoms. They washed the corpses. The trophies were wiped clean of prints.”

“That confounded Borges,” the director said petulantly, “you shouldn’t have killed him.” There was a time when Sampaio would have said “goddamned,” not “confounded,” but not any more.

“Self-defense,” Silva said.

“I read your report.” Sampaio leaned forward and looked Silva in the eye. “But we’re alone in my office, Mario, just the two of us. Did Borges really threaten you with that pistol?”

Silva didn’t blink. “Of course he did.” He waited for the director to say something more. When he didn’t, Silva continued, “If Nardoni doesn’t confess, he isn’t going to be convicted, and if he isn’t convicted, he’s going to go out and do the same thing all over again. With that in mind, does your order still stand? Do you want me to take him out of that cell before he signs a full confession?”

The director finally said, “Leave him where he is. Let’s move on. There’s something else I want to talk to you about.”

He picked up a pencil and started to toy with it. Sampaio fumbled with pencils when he was about to say something his listener wouldn’t like. This time, he appeared to be going for the world record.

Silva braced himself.

“How can I put this?” Sampaio said, temporizing.

Silva glanced around Sampaio’s recently redecorated office. His boss had retained his big wooden desk and the two flags that flanked it. There was still a portrait of the president of the republic to the left of the window, but now it was lower and situated off to one side, ceding precedence to an image of Jesus.

Jesus held his right hand in the air, as if he were administering the Boy Scout oath. From Silva’s perspective, it looked like He was administering it to Nelson Sampaio.

The director was, of course, anything but a Boy Scout. The oath he’d set his sights upon was of an entirely different nature. For almost three years, Sampaio had been angling to secure himself a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, and now he’d hatched a scheme to do it. That scheme involved embracing a new religion; but for a man with as much ambition as Sampaio, that was no obstacle.

It hinged on a statistic: since the previous election, Evangelicals in Brazil had been multiplying like rabbits. They now formed a very significant voting bloc. Given a choice, Evangelicals voted for other Evangelicals, and there was no Evangelical running in Sampaio’s home district. With the election only five months away, the votes in Sao Paulo were still up for grabs. All Sampaio had to do was to declare that he’d been born again in Jesus-and make sure he made the announcement early enough to get the word out.

He’d already made the declaration.

Hence the redecoration of his office. Devotional plaques with excerpts from the Scriptures were a feature of the decor, beginning with the Ten Commandments and running through the Twenty-Third chapter of Luke: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Silva was studying the scrollwork around that one when his boss began to speak. “You know I don’t hold with people who apply political pressure for personal objectives, or to obtain favorable treatment,” he said.

Silva didn’t know any such thing. He regarded the statement as an outright lie.

“But this time,” Sampaio continued, “I’ll have to make an exception. Not for me, of course, but for the good of this department. Do you know Deputado Roberto Malan?”

“Not personally, no,” Silva said, “but I know of him. Isn’t he a deacon in your… uh, church?”

“A bishop, actually,” Sampaio said, “but that’s not the point.”

“So what is the point?”

“The point,” Sampaio said in a steely voice that implied he didn’t like Silva’s attitude, “is that he’s head of the Appropriations Committee in the Chamber of Deputies.”

“Ah,” Silva said.

The new budget was coming up for discussion. There were hundreds, probably thousands, of ways the pie could be sliced, and every head of every department in Brasilia was busily engaged in efforts to get a bigger piece of it. Sampaio was just like all the others.

“I see,” Silva said. “So there’s something we might be able to do for Deputado Malan, and in return he may look favorably on our budget proposal for the next fiscal year?”

“Exactly,” the director said. “You’re always talking about having more money to invest in resources. Look at this as a chance for us get some of those fancy forensic tools you go on and on about. One hand washes the other, you know.”

“What does Malan want?”

“His granddaughter’s missing. He wants us to find her.”


The director looked down at his desk, and then went back to fumbling with the pencil. When next he spoke, it was with a touch of embarrassment.

“Probably not,” he said. “Most likely, she’s just a runaway. She’s fifteen, and she’s done it before.”

Вы читаете Dying Gasp
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату