J O R G E C A S U S O
A streaker divides a community, changing the life of the detective on the case.
She's losing her powers, Police Detective Alex Camacho thought, as he watched Malena pore through her little green book in an effort to divine the fortune revealed in the pattern of sea shells she had just tossed. Det. Camacho said nothing.
After years of detective work, he could tell the large woman with the chubby face and kind sad eyes was probably thinking something along the same lines. She was hesitating, biding her time. He watched as she turned the pages.
Det. Camacho had been skeptical when he first walked into Malena's shop two years ago. The shelves were sagging with the weight of magic potions, votive candles and religious figurines. A few women, dark and middle aged, were watching a Spanish soap on an old television with poor reception perched on a shelf above an old cash register.
He had come, dressed casually, as a last resort on a case. Never one to believe without evidence he could see or touch, Det. Camacho respected the Afro-Cuban deities a few of his relatives still worshipped. Besides, there was no hard evidence in the case, and he felt there was no harm dropping into the small botanica on the main strip his cousin had recommended.
The "consultation" had worked like magic. A suspect was apprehended in the case following the tips Malena divined in the patterns of sea shells she tossed on the mat -- 0s for the shells that fell face down, 1s for those that fell face up. It would be the first of many times she would help Det. Camacho break a case.
But the last couple of visits, Malena had seemed tentative, and her consultations had resulted in few, if any, leads in a case so strange it was all anyone in the poor Latino suburb of LA seemed to be talking about. This was his big chance to climb the ranks before retiring, which meant a bigger pension and the recognition he deserved after 29 years on the force. Before his visit, Det. Camacho had received a call from the local paper, but without any progress on the case to report, he left the call unanswered.
Malena looked up from her book. He could see she was stumped.
"It's a woman," she finally said.
"But last time it was a man."
"I can only tell you what the shells say.”
"Did it say if he, or she, would be arrested?" Det. Camacho said.
"I'm sorry, no."
Det. Camacho was visibly disappointed.
"Anything else you would like to ask?"
Det. Camacho hesitated. "Is he committing a crime?" he finally asked.
Malena handed the detective a black pebble and a small, tan rock. He shook them in his hands, then stopped and waited as she tossed the twelve seashells down. He handed her the two stones he had separated in his hands. She used them to tap the seashells, then looked up, concerned.
"No," she said. "There is no crime."
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