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The International Writers Magazine:

The Stiff      
Piotr Wesolowski


Inspecting the body of the stiff are Inspector Gayos: Tito, his assistant; and Morelos, the police photographer. The body was washed out on the northern-most part of the peninsula, an extension of el Malecon. The three, spiting and cursing, pulled it out of the man-made cove, which was once a jetty used, supposedly, for the towboats. Here it floated for days, judging by its decay, trapped between two crumbled walls sticking out of the water.
The body, it has been observed, is not damaged. Often, in similar cases limbs are missing – legs, arms, etc. – devoured by the marine life – sharks and barracudas.
            ‘He drowned just off shore,’ notes Tito ‘He would’ve been gone with the currents otherwise.’
Gayos nods. The man’s features are not recognizable. His face, just like the rest of his body, is decomposed.
            ‘The autopsy will be pointless,’ Morelos comments, ‘Should I take more shots?’ he asks.
            ‘Of what? Of that? What for?’ He pauses, ‘What you did is enough.’

Gayos suspects a murder, or at least a foul play, an accidental death, a manslaughter. Men, and black men in particular - and the stiff is, or at least was  black; although this still has to be ascertained – get into all sorts of fights in these parts, they get violent. That’s what Gayos believes. He thinks that could be the case – a Saturday night brawl in one of those bars off San Lazaro. A push. A shove. A fist, and a knife and a body to dispose of.
‘Who found him?’ Gayos asks.
            ‘An old man and his grandson,’ Tito replies.
            ‘How?’ How did they find him?’
            ‘Fishing, they said.’
            ‘Here? It is not allowed.’
            ‘They’ve been already fined, boss. All right?’
            ‘Yes, that’s fine. Who the hell needs this trouble?!’
            ‘Right, boss. Two or three days more and all this crap would have dissolved, not a trace left.’
            ‘Did you call the hospital, Tito?’
            ‘Morelos did.’
            ‘They won’t take him. They say what for?’
            ‘And the morgue?’
            ‘They’ve got their hands full.’
            ‘We’re stuck. What do we do? Have we checked the missing persons reports?’ Gayos asks.
            ‘We have. All the reported missing are girls, young girls. And a prostitute in her twenties,  twenty-one or something, reported missing by her friends, putas tambien.’
‘No missing men, eh?’
‘Not one, sir.’

Gayos lights a cigarette. He is upset. He’s not cut out for this type of stuff. He’s into other things: contraband, illegal trade of antiques. Just a week, or so, before, he made a spectacular arrest, broke a Mexican ring of black marketers smuggling pre-revolutionary artifacts out of the Island, and to the States, or Canada. Gayos hopes for a citation, an order. But he is sick to his stomach now; the dead body’s stench revolts him, he pukes. Tito offers him a kerchief. It is scented; it smells of expensive perfumes. 

What to do? They all wonder. The hearse won’t come, not for a long while anyway. They have a problem. Gayos is expecting a call: a Hungarian national is seeking to recruit young Cuban girls to pose for him nude. Gayos has a few leads.  Morelos would rather be home. He’s a man obsessed. He is jealous of his wife. One day, he has a duplicate key cut. He quietly unlocks the door, flings open the door, rushes in. His wife stands by a wide-open fridge, innocent, fully dressed and all, with a head of sickly lettuce in her hands. He sits at the table, mad. She gives him a stare.
            ‘I got hungry,’ he says.
            ‘Tu eres cabron, you are an idiot, ’ she replies.
Tito is gay, delicate. The sight of of the dead man, his scrotum inflated with water, his penis shriveled, no face. What a shame! He certainly was a handsome man, he thinks, and ho, too, would rather be home. So, yes, they have a problem.

They decide: Tito will talk to the old man, and his grandson as well. He will explain that the case is top secret. And that the deceased man was an American spy. They should not, mustn’t in fact, talk about the stiff at all, not even to the old man’s wife. Too late; she knows already. Well, that’s too bad. But then she mustn’t  ….. She has spoken to the neighbors. Tito talks to the neighbors next.  Nobody needs trouble.

Morelos pulls the dead man’s body a few yards up, towards the end of the end of what once was a jetty. The upcoming tide will wash it away, hopefully far and for good.  Morelos will open the camera. He wants to remove the film and expose it, destroy the evidence. The years as a cop had taught him lessons. The camera’s empty. He’d forgotten to load it.
Gayos will write the report: ‘Following on a tip from an undisclosed source -  an anonymous caller - we (the three) proceeded to investigate. The tip turned up to be bogus. No body has been found.’ ‘This,’ he will continue, ‘is particularly distressing as calls like this one, pranks really, increased of late in number. Police are wasting their time, and on top of that, ‘ he will rant, ‘we’re all losing respect in the eyes of the public.’ This is to be condemned and he, Gayos, in his address to his superiors, will call for tougher measures, but he’s not sure against what.
© Piotr Wesolowski March 2010

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