“And I told you to keep digging. Everybody has something to hide. You, him, even me. I want to know what Pluma’s hiding. Is that so much to ask?”

Sampaio was a believer in using the powers of his office to forward what he considered to be good causes, and foremost among all good causes was the continued advancement of Nelson Sampaio.

Romeu Pluma had the ear of the minister. He’d been whispering into it, questioning Sampaio’s competence and criticizing his effectiveness. And, even worse, he’d been ex-pressing those same opinions to the press. Pluma was quoted as being an “unnamed government source,” but that didn’t fool Sampaio. He always knew who was out to get him. He desperately wanted something to hold over the press secre-tary’s head, and he expected Silva to get it for him.

“With all due respect, Director, the children in that ceme-tery deserve-”

“There you go again,” the director said, cutting him off. “You remind me of Vulcano.”

The director owned a fazenda where he raised cattle. He didn’t do it for the money. It was more in the nature of a hobby, and it was an activity that interested him far more than apprehending criminals. Vulcano was his prize bull. Comparing Vulcano to Silva was as close as Sampaio ever got to paying him a compliment.

“Just like you,” Sampaio explained, “Vulcano is always charging off whenever he gets wind of something he thinks is threatening his territory. But you’re not a street cop any-more, damn it! You’re my chief inspector for criminal mat-ters. You’ve got people to do the legwork.”


The director held up a hand. “What’s more important? That damned cemetery or your investigation into the back-ground of that filho da puta Pluma?”

Silva looked at his lap.

“Exactly,” Sampaio continued, as if he’d successfully made his point. “The corpses will wait. Pluma won’t. The bastard makes me look bad every chance he gets. If he has his way, I’ll be out of this job right after the election and that, as I don’t have to remind you, is less than two months away.” Sampaio glanced at the huge desktop calendar where he’d penciled in a countdown to election day. “In fact, it’s only fifty-two days. Forget the cemetery. Or let your buddy Arnaldo handle it.”

“I need-”

“Or get that hotshot nephew of yours, whatshisname?”

“Hector Costa.”

“Yeah, him. Get him to work on it.”

“He’s already working on it, Director, but he needs all the help he can get.”

Sampaio showed no sign of having heard him.

“Pluma is an ex-journalist for God’s sake. All those guys smoked marijuana or used cocaine at one time or another.”

“I hate to be insistent-”

“Which you’re being.”

“-but I feel that we have to go. How about if we leave tonight and we’re back in the office on Monday morning? Will that suit you?”

The director stared at Silva for a while.

Silva didn’t blink.

Finally, Sampaio said, “That’s two round-trip tickets plus hotels, plus per diem. It’s gonna cost at least three thousand Reais. Don’t you think we have better things to spend our money on?”

“We can economize on the hotels,” Silva said. “I’ll stay with my sister. Arnaldo has family in Sao Paulo. He can stay with them.”

“And you can take the midnight flight. It’s cheaper.”

“Alright. We’ll take the midnight flight.”

“Deal,” the director said, and reached for his pen.

Chapter Three

At eleven o’clock on the following morning the pre-vailing smells in the corridor of the Sao Paulo morgue were of formaldehyde, tobacco smoke, and putrefying flesh, mostly putrefying flesh.

“They’re in here,” Dr. Gilda Caropreso said, stopping at a heavy metal door, “and so is Yoshiro Tanaka. He’s been wait-ing for you gentlemen.”

“Who’s Tanaka?” Hector asked before Arnaldo or Silva could.

“The delegado titular of the precinct in which the bodies were found.”

“How come he showed up himself? How come he didn’t just send one of his homicide detectives?”

“I’m told that he takes a personal interest in the murders that occur in his district,” she said, assessing Hector out of a pair of gray-green eyes.

Considering the years she would have needed to get a medical degree, and the postgraduate work required to qualify as a pathologist, Dr. Caropreso had to be-Hector did the calculation in his head-almost as old as he was. But she sure as hell didn’t look it. If he’d passed her on the street, he might have taken her for a teenager, twenty or twenty-one at the most. He dropped his eyes to her left hand. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.

“You’re going to find it a little warm down here,” she said. “I’m afraid the lack of air-conditioning only makes it worse.”

She wrinkled her nose-and a most attractive little nose it was, Hector thought.

The “it” she was referring to was the smell. On a stainless-steel table next to the door, there was a jar of what appeared to be petroleum jelly. Dr. Caropreso picked it up, took a dab of the contents on her right forefinger, and spread it above her upper lip.

“May I?” she said, removing another dab and pausing in front of Hector.

“Please,” Hector said.

Even before her finger got anywhere near his nose, he took in the strong smell of camphor. She applied the jelly, focusing on his upper lip. His eyes watered. He blinked-and could have sworn she blinked back.

Arnaldo reached over, took a dab of the jelly and applied it with the practiced gesture of someone who’d done it a hundred times before. And if it was taking the young doctor a lot longer to perform the service for him, which it was, Hector wasn’t about to complain. When she finally finished, he glanced at his uncle, a man who didn’t miss much, and flushed.

Silva was looking back and forth between the two of them. Without missing a beat, Dr. Caropreso met the older man’s eyes and offered him the jar.

“Perhaps you’d better apply it yourself, Chief Inspector. Your mustache. .”

She left the rest of her sentence unfinished and pulled a pair of rubber gloves out of the pocket of her white coat.

Silva smeared some of the jelly between his nostrils, care-fully avoiding his mustache. He was a tall man, who gave the impression of being even taller because he held himself erect, as if he were trying to maintain contact between his neck and the back of his collar. That day, as on every other workday, he was dressed in a gray suit. Despite the lack of sar-torial variety, Silva invariably looked dapper, as if he were expecting to have his picture taken, which-as he was Brazil’s top cop-it often was. His most striking feature was his eyes. They were jet black, just like Hector’s.

Dr. Caropreso finished putting on her gloves and depressed the steel lever, opening the rubber seal on the door. The stuff under Hector’s nose was supposed to over-power the smell of death, but it didn’t. Some of the corpses in the room were far too ripe for that. He’d need a bath after this. They all would. A short man with oriental features looked up from one of the coffins that covered the floor and came toward them with an outstretched hand. He offered it first to Silva.

“Your reputation precedes you, Chief Inspector. I’m Tanaka, Policia Civil.

Silva shook his hand and introduced Arnaldo and Hector. “This is Agente Arnaldo Nunes, temporarily attached to our headquarters in Brasilia.”

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