"Something Called a Burner " Mr Martínez Three
The full moon shone silver-bright in the cloudless night. All over the campo, lights from the fincas, villas and black-money palaces built over olive orchards in the boom years sparkled like paste jewellery on black nylon. The GC policeman said just ten years before only the stars lit up the night. The ghost-town Urbanizacion had the same name as the bigger of the two Sierras; Gorda, meaning fat. Rueda had parked the Seat as high up as he could, the ancient automobile just couldn’t make it right to the peak. Martínez knew about the building scandal around the building of Sierra Gorda. At the bottom, just above the valley, where they had started driving upward, was a tier of around twenty villas, some occupied, some not. The empty ones were pock-marked by peeling paint and stucco. Above these were miles of macadam-ed black-top streets with streetlamps that would never light and thistle-y plants growing through the sidewalks. And not a villa in sight, just empty plots and one or two with a half-built boundary wall crumbling onto one of those buckled and broken sidewalks.
At the top, with the car still in sight where they’d left it, next to the second to last street lamp, Martínez lit up and offered Rueda a Ducados. He took one and put it in his pocket. They both looked out over the Guadalhorce valley. Out to the west was Gorda’s little sister, Chica, meaning little, not skinny, it was too round for that. Anyway, the smaller Sierra was more of a monte, practically a colina. Martínez looked at the long strip of pot-holed road that connected the town they’d come from with next next white pueblo along. Not much traffic. There wouldn’t be until the discos on the coast closed their doors at five a.m.
‘What did it say, the message?’ Martínez said. Rueda took the cigarette out of his pocket, holding it up for a light.
‘I thought you’d ask me that in the car.’ Martínez lit Rueda’s Ducados with a plain Zippo. Rueda took a deep draw and blew the smoke through his nostrils up at the night sky, clouding the moon for the first time that night. Rueda went on,
‘You’ll never pass for a local, nobody ever has fuego, we expect everyone else to have a lighter or a match. We'll ask the camarero, the bar-owner, or the bank-clerk in front of the bank we just came out of. But always, we know the guiris will have one, whether they’re from Madrid or Massachussetts.’
‘I’m not from either,’ Martínez flicked his ash to the side, ‘I just like a smoke when I want one.’
‘And you wear a watch. People have phones. Phones that can do anything. Everyone has one, except you, Martínez.’
‘You can’t light a cigarette with a cell. ‘Sides, I do have one… I just never carry it.’
‘You’d think something called a burner could light a cigarette, Tio, no?’
By the time he’d finished speaking, Rueda was pointing a gun at Martínez. It hadn’t come from the armoury in the Comisaria de la Guardia Civil. It was an ancient revolver. A Webley or something. The gun looked like it had been hidden under a Franquista’s floorboards for decades. Maybe it wouldn’t go off accidentally.
‘I told you what the message said, it said ‘there is no message’.’
‘¿No hay mensaje? Like that?’
‘Pah! Por supuesto no, it was in English.’
He nodded at Rueda, ‘I just wanted to make sure.’
The policeman hadn’t been expecting the blow. With the Zippo clenched in his fist, Martínez hit the GC in the temple. He went down slow, like a bull in the ring, at the end of the show. Martínez rifled his pockets. Took out the car keys and cell-phone, then thumbed 1-1-2 before dropping the phone beside Rueda. They were coming. It was time to move and keep moving. Time to disappear. What was the alternative? He’d had enough, though, more than enough.
The stick shift moved like a spoon in a pot of grits, but he eventually got the ancient vehicle moving and pointed it down the hill, hoping to be in the valley before the emergency services turned up.