"Hi Yo, Silver!*" [Mr Martinez Fifteen]
Martinez took the casco out of the bike pannier and put it on before taking the pillion. The Yamaha might have been old but the helmets weren’t. The bike surged away using nearly all of its ninety horses. Margarita’s voice sounded weird over the bluetooth connection,
¡Arre, Plata, adelante!* Where to, Toro?’
‘‘Don’t call me that, or I’ll say “quien lo sabe?”’
‘You’ve got me for an hour, two max, if you pay the rate for the extra.’
‘Let’s take the A-6 to Moncloa. Exit 8b.’
‘I’ll let you know.’
Latino FM blasted into his ears. Nossa, music for young girls, not someone Margarita’s age. Maybe it was a punishment, maybe the audio was only piped to Martinez’s helmet.
On the approach to the exit, Margarita’s voice cut off a wall of reggaeton that had had Martinez near to leaping off the pillion seat and taking his chances.
‘Where now, Chico?
‘Take the switchback, we need to be on the other side of the freeway.’
‘Had enough culture? Or are you going to talk to me?’
‘We’ll talk when we get there, you need to head for Café Hipodromo on the Avenida de Valdemarin, but -’
There was no answer but The Gypsy Kings bellowing out Bamboleo as loud as they could.
Martínez barely recognised The Hipodromo. The sign outside had changed. The neon wrote HIP in the black madrugada sky. The word gastropub would be all over Trip Advisor too, by the look of it. It was still the only bar within walking distance of El Centro. Martínez doubted that anyone working for the Spanish Government would ever go again. Just 15 minutes from The National Intelligence Centre. Martínez hadn’t been there since before his ‘retirement’. ‘Disappearance’ might have been more accurate. Escobar had vanished. Along with the secret of his name. In his place was Martínez. The Hipodromo might have become “hip”, but it was closed. It was only three a.m. Perhaps it was under new management. Maybe real hipsters had moved in, put craft beer on tap. No-one could drink that for too long, the place probably closed at ten in the evenings now.
Margarita was still astride the FZR-600. Helmet off. Hair still shampoo-ad perfect. She was smoking, but hadn’t offered Martinez one. ‘Hmm… just leaving you here am I?’
‘Up to you. I’ve got an appointment.’
‘Really? Someone’s going to turn up here to see you? Now?’
‘They will after you call them.’
‘Who says I will?’
‘Five hundred euros.’
‘They talk loud, I can almost hear them.’
‘Use the burner. You can toss it when you go, make sure you put some miles on the clock before you do.’
Martínez wondered if she’d say what burner, but she didn’t. She wasn’t greedy, though.
‘Six would be loud enough. Who am I calling?’
Martínez reeled off the number, she looked away for a few seconds, memorising the number perhaps.
‘What do I say?’
‘Two things. Escobar. And then, “There is no message”.’
The woman shrugged, climbed off the bike and went to stand under the neon sign. The pink light showed her age, more or less. A lucky forty-five or an unfortunate thirty. Martínez watched her thumb in the number and wait for the pick-up. She gave the “no message” message and switched the phone off.
‘Who answered?’ Martínez said.
‘Figures.’ He handed over the two large bills. She held up the notes to the neon.
‘Don’t know why I did that. I’ve never handled a quinientos before, could be as fake as your name.’
‘They call them ‘cinco gambas’ in Colómbia.’
‘I’ll dump the cell, and I’ll come back.’ She gave a crooked smile
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Margarita.’
‘You can call me Rita, Dulce.’
The bike roared off into the dark. Someone was keeping it running sweet. Probably Rita.