Hammer Spade-Book Seven
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Paperback-266 pages-$20.00 plus shipping
This story begins where The Long Shooter ends. Hammer is alone on a desert mountain in eastern Chile. He is making his way back to Iquique in Margot Fisher’s old pickup. Hammer is shaken to the core by the events of the past day. He has left Lady Margot Fisher and Pablo Aguilera in unmarked graves on a desolate Andean holy mountain.
Reviewed by Rina Hutchinson
Alston has once again created an intricate web of characters and events that capture the reader and hold him/her for the duration of the story. In this book, we see Hammer and his team act as an efficient machine to complete the job Lady Margot Fisher started before her tragic death.
We meet familiar characters who have touched us in previous books and new characters who seem unpredictable but who prove their mettle in their unflinching actions.
Once again the terrain of South America is explored and described in a way that allows one to see them as if there and it adds to the authenticity of the story.
E. B. Alston has captivated readers with Hammer Spade and has not let his readers down. This book is no exception. It is worth the read.
I saw a surprising number of men in sombreros standing beside road signs as I got closer to Iquique. I felt better when I saw a sign that read, ‘Iquique 10 km.’ At last I saw man wearing a wide brimmed, black sombrero and a black serape leaning on the 5 km sign. When I pulled over, he opened the passenger door.
“Give me a name,” he said.
“Fisher,” I replied. “Give me a number.”
“Get in,” I said.
He slid into the passenger seat and extended his hand. “N. O. Hart,” he said.
I shook his hand. “Hammer Spade.”
“Lonely out there isn’t it?”
“It has been for the last few hours.”
“Bad about Lady Fisher.”
“It’s been tough.”
“You must have liked her.”
“She was a remarkable woman.”
“She was a legend in the business.”
He directed me to a warehouse in the industrial part of town. He called somebody on his cell phone as we approached a non-descript concrete building. “We’re one minute away,” he said.
I saw a big rollup door open and he directed me to drive inside. As soon as I stopped the pickup, three people stepped out of the shadows. I recognized Clover and Oscar Aguilera. The third person was a strikingly attractive woman. Clover shook my hand and introduced me to Isabela Salazar.
Raúl Fuente had a mistress in Urubamba named Guadalupe Garza. Urubamba in the Incan Quechua language means "Flat land of Spiders." He had ensconced her in an upscale apartment on the colorful Avenida La Salle which was within walking distance of the plaza. Unlike most in that human melting pot called South America, Guadalupe was pure Inca and she was proud of it. She respected the Inca pantheon and disdained the “Christian myths” as she called them. She had attended UCLA on a tennis scholarship and met Raúl during a tournament with Texas Tech. They had a brief fling during the tournament and she returned home to Urubamba after she graduated. She worked in a succession of jobs, including teaching, and continued to play tennis.
When Raúl settled in Urubamba to start his business he moved his family there. One of the reasons he moved to Urubamba was its proximity to Machu Picchu which was his place of escape from the cares of the world. When he was troubled he spent many healing hours among the ancient ruins dreaming of the heroic times before the Europeans came.
His American wife hated Urubamba and Peru and everything else in South America. She soon sunk into drug addiction and alcoholism. Raúl had kept playing tennis and it was inevitable that he would meet Guadalupe again. They rekindled their affair and, as Raúl’s success grew, he set her up in a luxury apartment with a cook and a maid. Guadalupe was not a pretty woman but she was trim, athletic and well groomed. Her eyes were her most attractive feature. They gave her a poetic “dark-eyed-glance” if she was in a romantic mood.
Guadalupe was trustworthy and Raúl could confide in her. She was the only person in his life that he trusted. They were not in love. Neither of them was capable of loving anybody. This arrangement was congenial to her because it allowed her leisure and enough money to play tennis all over the world. It was a deal for Raúl too, because he could speak freely around her and she gave him sex.
They were having dinner one evening after playing two sets of tennis when Raúl’s guard interrupted them and whispered that Menendez was at the door and wanted to speak to him.
“Menendez?” Raúl asked. “Where is Castro?”
“Menendez says Castro is dead.”
“Bring him in.”
Then Raúl ordered the cook to set another place at the table.
The guard ushered a small, thin, wiry man into the dining room and motioned for him to sit at the table.
“Have you eaten?” Raúl asked Menendez.
Menendez shook his head. Raúl piled some food on his plate and poured him a glass of wine.
After the man had taken a sip of wine, Raúl asked, “What happened to Castro?”
“He was killed by an American.”
“What about Jorge and Milo?”
“They are dead too.”
“Did the American kill them?”
“The American hid when Jorge and Milo went by and came back onto the trail about the time Castro arrived. The American was quick with his gun and killed Castro. Then he killed Jorge and Milo when they ran to assist Castro. The American does not miss when he shoots.”
Raúl sighed dejectedly. “What took you so long to get here to tell me this?”
“The American pushed the Suburban down the mountain and I had to walk for two days before I could get something to drive.”
“Did you get a good look at the American?”
“Yes, I was thirty feet from him when he pushed to the Suburban over the cliff. He is a big, strong man.”
“Why didn’t you shoot him?”
“Castro did not give me a gun. I hid from the American because I am not a brave man.”
“Would you recognize him if you saw him again?”
“Yes, I have seen him in a newspaper.”
“You have? Where?”
“I read where he threw a Frenchman into a river in Paris. He was with a goddess.”
“You and your gods and goddess crap. I don’t want to hear any more about gods and goddesses.”
Menendez pulled a folded, tattered page from a newspaper and handed it to Raúl. “Here’s his picture with the goddess.”
Raúl opened the paper and looked at a picture from Le Monde. It showed a scene beside the River Seine with a man standing beside a very pretty woman. The caption below told of an incident where the bodyguard of a fashion model, whose stage name was Venus, had tossed a member of the paparazzi into the river for taking a photograph of him. His name was Hammer Spade.
“Goddess!” Raúl scoffed. “She’s a fashion model, you fool.”
Menendez stood his ground. “Señor Hammer Spade is favored by the gods.”
Fuente sat staring out the window at the cloudy sky. It was a dreary day and he was in a dreary frame of mind. Two thirds of his operation was gone. For all he knew, someone, maybe it was this Hammer Spade, was planning to attack Antonio next.
He called Antonio.
“Raúl here,” he said when Antonio answered.
“What do you want?”
“You should take extra precautions for the next few weeks.”
“Figueroa and all of his men were attacked and killed a week ago and I have lost all contact with Córdoba.”
“Who killed Figueroa?”
“I do not know but I suspect an American named Hammer Spade had something to do with it.”
“What about Ronaldo Saavedra and Arturo Santos?”
“I don’t know anything except I cannot speak to or find them.”
“Both of them were fools. Maybe they have stolen your money and customers and went out on their own.”
“At first, that’s what I believed. Now I don’t. I suspect that Mr. Spade did it.”
“Where is this Mr. Spade?”
“His business manager in America knows but she wouldn’t tell my friend in Colombian intelligence.”
“With your permission, I will send Ángel and Rodolfo to America and make his business manager tell them where this Mr. Spade is.”
That was the first positive suggestion Fuente had received, “Do it!” he said.
Then Fuente had a second idea. “This Mr. Spade has a girlfriend who is a famous fashion model. She is said to be madly in love with Mr. Spade. Send two of your men to follow her. If she visits him, your men will kill them both when they are together.”
“I will send Raúl Castedo and Ronny Peñaranda.”
“Excellent!” Raúl was feeling better already. “After you get the information we need, kill his business manager too. Kill everybody in his office.”
“What is this famous fashion model’s name?”
Antonio whistled. “This Mr. Spade has excellent taste in women.”
“No matter. Kill them both! I will not be happy until you call to tell me that your mission is accomplished.”
After they hung up, Fuente glanced out the window. The clouds were breaking up and sunlight bathed the eastern mountains. This was an omen. He felt more relaxed than he had in many weeks.