Murder and the Dog - Chapter 1

Chapter 1 – THE HEADLESS BODY

A headless body was found inside a suitcase near Harlem. Two days later the husband was arrested. He killed the wife in a jealous rage, he confessed. Both victim and perpetrator, undocumented immigrants, had lived in New York for eight years. She was 29 and he 37. That was the extent of The Post’s report. Intrigued, Paul Ormaza picked up a Spanish-language tabloid. The headline blasted across the front page Brutal Murder in the Big Apple with the subtitle Body Found in Blue Suitcase, but offered no further specifics.

Ormaza called the precinct but was transferred to the answering machine of the detective in charge of the case. Ormaza will not wait, that same afternoon he visits Ricker Island Jail.  

What is he expecting to find? A Monster—only a monster was capable such butchery? A disfigured psychopath—the image TV has engraved on people?  No, Ormaza is not given to speculation, not that early in the game. Let fact guide him, he tells himself, and turns to the file, the squalid file he put together in the two hours previous to the visit. He pauses. He took a taxi to the Island prison east of Manhattan. It’s not a ride for tourists: it’s hot, humid, and cloudy, fortunately he taxi driver is discreet and a fan of Bach.  Ormaza recalls some lines from ta contemporary of Bach, the Venetian Casanova:  The reaction to deceit is contempt; to contempt, hate; to hate, murder.

The murderer widower awaits in the visiting room, enigmatically contained, like a puma, Quechua for mountain lion. He appears taller than his five feet, an optical illusion his long barrel torso creates. It’s typical to mountain folk; another characteristic is their physical strength. A former boss at the meatpacking plant where he once worked, a tall a very think Ukrainian remembered him carrying on his back 250-pound carcasses without breaking a sweat. “Fucking Indian was a Samson. Hard-worker, quiet, honest… People steal left and right. Everyday I catch some asshole slipping meet under his pants… Chiluisa never stole a sausage. I was sorry to see him go. He got a job in a Mexican restaurant, working twelve and sixteen hours, and then he cleaned offices in Queens. I knew he had a wife, never met her. He also had children back in his country.”

The couple, Jacinto and Rosa Chiluisa, rented a one-room basement apartment off Roosevelt Avenue. He left at five every morning and returned past one the following morning. She was up at three cooking tamales, empanadas and the bread she sold out of a garbage can they painted yellow, blue and red, the colors of the Ecuadorian flag. She had a spot near the subway. Compatriots on their way to work breakfasted on her products. “Come, have a piece of the old country before you go face this cold land,” one recalled her calling out in her Quechua contaminated Spanish. At ten she was back preparing the popsicles and sweet turnovers she sold to schoolchildren and their grandparents—mostly grandparents collected students at her parochial school.

“Grandparents are more indulgent,” says Jacinto Chiluisa, and he clarifies: “My wife didn’t learn Spanish until she was ten, but she was bilingual when she married me at age 14. It might sound absurd, but American evangelicals taught her to speak Spanish.”

Chiluisa looks up, as if he kept his memories hanging from the ceiling. Ormaza also looks up, imagining banana bunches hanging at the stores of his childhood, and a bunch of candles hanging, a multitude of moths surrounding a naked lightbulb.   

“Did she learn English?” Ormaza asks.

Chiluisa laughs.

Jacinto Chiluisa struck his wife twenty-seven times. Ironically the bronze sculpture he used she had found in the street. And then, pulling the wife close to the sink, he proceeded to cut off her head. He placed the severed head in a shopping bag and the body in the blue suitcase. The Chiluisas kept the suitcase under the bed filled with gifts for the kids left in the old country, and valuables, passports, the savings book, and photos that showed the kids as children.

Chances were, Chiluisa laments, if he ran into his children turning a corner, he will not recognize them.

“The oldest was nine years old when we left, now she is pregnant with her second child.”

It was a crime of passion, but, Ormaza thinks, finding the lover will not be easy.


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Spanish Version EL CRIMEN. El PERRO.

Table of Contents
 
Chapter 1 The Headless Body
Chapter 2 The Journalist is a Lothario
Chapter 3 The Dog's Name Is Cocu
Chapter 4 The Lover
Chapter 5 An Underworld with Dancers
Chapter 6 The Victim and History
Chapter 7 The Murderous Husband
Chapter 8 A Love Story
Chapter 9 Doubt
Chapter 10 The Homicide
Chapter 11 How did the Escape Plan Fail? 



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