Look at me you worthless scum. I know it was you. I’ll pull off your teeth one by one until your tiny eyes beg for mercy…Then I’ll keep going.
We stood in shock, speechless. They had forced the driver’s door, soiled la Chichona and stole Marco’s backpack. Besides all his belongings, his backpack contained rare and valuable medicine against Malaria. He was on a one-year world trip. It was all he had.
I had been angry since my work agreement got terminated. First my job, now my home. The anger was clustering into a cold lethal energy, the kind that makes people plot murder. I wanted to crucify the culprit and watch him rot. I wanted justice.
Sergeant Ismael brushed off the incident like the dandruff on his black uniform. “Not my jurisdiction”, he said. He called for the department police and three youngsters arrived in the night to examine the crime scene. They scanned the van inside out, using high-tech gear straight from an episode of CSI. It was impressive . . . They found nothing.
We needed the chief inspector to draft a report. An old man showed up, late and feeble on his legs. His breath spoke before him. He scribbled a few lines on what looked like a used tissue, sometimes pausing to argue with his demons. That was the chief inspector. We turned to the young cops in dismay. They were scanning their boots.
The next day we had the report. It stated that Marco and I accused a certain Leonardo Querida, recently released and active member of the “Maras”, the most ruthless gang in the world. This whole business stank more than the inspector’s breath. Facing such incompetence, we demanded to review the security cameras. Sergeant Ismael said they already had but we didn’t budge. I was looking for a confrontation. Someone to lash my anger at. Someone who wasn’t a member of the Maras.
We watched black and white footage of Playa El Tunco for the entire week. Our anger triggered by the sergeant’s inability to press pause at the right time. The only satisfaction we found came from their misery; the Germans have a special word for that. We forced those lazy bureaucrats to do their job, for once. It was no justice but made for a consolation prize. Schadenfreude.
It happened on Saturday at 12:34 am. A skinny guy with a peculiar gait walked by the van three times. He sneaked between the door and the wall and forced La Chichona open. The police knew him from his walk. Sergeant Ismael said they would raid his house the next morning. It had been a week. Marco was desperate. The robbery had changed him. He needed to believe in something, anything. For the first time, I saw Marco’s emotions take over his cold, flawless logic.
I was cleaning the trunk in the main street when I saw him. The same skinny silhouette I watched for hours on camera. He was worn out, maybe forty, and wore a moustache too big for his face. As he peaked inside the van, our eyes met. My nails thrust into my palms, shaking. I wanted to tie him up and pull out his teeth with pliers, until his moustache turned red, until he confessed, until he absorbed my anger. Monstrosity distorted my face. He knew that I knew. He gave me a faint smile, and walked away.
Marco and I accepted we will get no justice, not with that police. They were a sad joke. Sergeant Ismael looked like the notorious Sergeant Garcia from Zoro, and was as useless. Though they wore their uniforms neat, the high-tech gear and heavy artillery was just for show. The ones who use them are not lazy. They do not show off. No wonder the Maras were running the country.
Resignation crept by on turtle feet. We accepted we will have no justice, not in El Salvador. Yet we kept rehearsing those sadistic destructive thoughts, hoping they would bring us peace. They never did. Marco left for good, sour and wary at the world. I stayed, consumed by hate, resentful and lonely. Nothing good comes out of anger.
I saw the criminal again. Often drunk, curled up under a bush in the dusty back alleys of El Tunco. Alone with his sins, forgotten by his victims, his moustache the sole reminder of a long-lost dignity. One day I stopped at his feet. He looked up. Our eyes met. I gave him a faint smile, and walked away.