Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico (Luis Gonzalo Novels Series)
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Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico (Luis Gonzalo Novels Series)

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by Steven Torres

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The fifth installment in the highly acclaimed Precinct Puerto Rico series

It’s Friday night when sixteen-yearold Luisa Ferré stumbles into Sheriff Luis Gonzales’ path—naked, battered, and so traumatized she won't say a word. Between partygoers and out of towners, it isn’t long before the list of suspects begins to grow.


The fifth installment in the highly acclaimed Precinct Puerto Rico series

It’s Friday night when sixteen-yearold Luisa Ferré stumbles into Sheriff Luis Gonzales’ path—naked, battered, and so traumatized she won't say a word. Between partygoers and out of towners, it isn’t long before the list of suspects begins to grow.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Bennett's prose is like stained glass: if you stare at it, you see things you missed.
Library Journal
Sheriff Luis Gonzalo of Angustias, Puerto Rico, helps recover the bodies of illegal Dominican immigrants washed up on shore near his sister-in-law's village. He can tell that one was murdered, but when he tries to coordinate with coroners and local police, he finds that the body has disappeared. As he pursues the matter, he receives warnings from a youthful photographer and threatening phone calls that lead him to suspect police corruption. This is a most promising start to a new procedural series that stars a dedicated, sensible "hero" in an almost quaint but decidedly unique locale. Strongly recommended for most collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After 15 years of routine police work and relative ease, veteran sheriff Luis Gonzalo gets hit from all sides, and all at once. Now that it's 1987, Puerto Rico's urban criminals have finally discovered Angustias, his sleepy little seaside town. The crime wave comes closest to home when Gonzalo's elderly father-in-law faces off against three young Dominican druggies who break into his house. Though he lands a few good whacks with his machete, the feisty 90-year-old ends up in the hospital. Ramirez, the town's slick, ambitious mayor, grants a request for three additional deputies, doubling the Angustias police force. Veteran deputy Emilio Collazo teams with stoic Nuyorican trainee Rosa Almodovar. Newcomer Iris Calderon, a beautiful computer whiz, is combustibly paired with loose cannon Hector Paredo. Gonzalo himself takes Abel Fernandez, a streetwise transfer from San Juan, under his wing. As it turns out, Gonzalo's eclectic new force, which provides increased opportunities and fresh challenges, comes not a moment too soon. When a boatload of dead Santo Domingans headed for illegal entry to the US washes up on the town's beachfront, some of the bodies bear signs of violence. The investigative trail leads to corrupt, ruthless cops and hard choices for Gonzalo-choices of the sort he never expected to face in sleepy little Angustias. A top-notch police procedural whose engrossing details create an authentic feel. Terse, deadpan prose, believable characters, and an offbeat setting add up to a promising series kickoff.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Luis Gonzalo Novels Series, #5
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

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Read an Excerpt


It wouldn’t make a difference, but Luis Gonzalo tried hard to slip into bed without waking his wife, Mari. He’d been working till midnight and with paperwork and reporting to the officer relieving him, it was now past two in the morning.

“Some judge called,” Mari said.

She didn’t turn to him or open her eyes. If he asked her a bunch of questions, she’d wake up for good, her night would be ruined, and so would the next morning. Possibly the rest of the week.

“I wrote a note,” she mumbled.

Gonzalo looked in the dark at the nightstand closest to his side of the bed. Nothing. He climbed back out of bed and went to the bureau at the far side of the room. Nothing. He turned to ask Mari where she’d left the note, but she was snoring lightly. Dead tired.

The note on the kitchen table was short: “Judge Eusebio Lopez. His chambers. Tomorrow. Eight A.M. Angry.”

Gonzalo slumped into a chair, read the note over several times, and tired to think what Judge Lopez would be angry with him for. He hadn’t had a case before that judge in a year or two. It had gone well.

He sighed. Being in San Juan at eight o’clock meant leaving the little town of Angustias at somewhere near six. It was only twenty miles if you drew a straight line on the map between the two cities, but there were no straight lines anywhere near Angustias in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Switchbacks and hairpin curves, yes. Straight lines, no. Twenty miles turned into fifty; and worse than that, much worse, was the enormous traffic jam that would most likely block the way. So bad, it had a name—El tapon de Bayamon. That could kill an hour just trying to get the last few miles into San Juan.

Gonzalo thought about going in to the precinct and making a few phone calls to at least seem prepared for meeting the judge, but that was silliness. His fellow sheriffs were all wiser than him and sleeping soundly.

It was close to three in the morning when Gonzalo got back into bed. He’d set the alarm for a few minutes before six. He’d leave without breakfast or a shower. This time Mari stayed in the land of dreams and rest. A minute later, Gonzalo joined her.

Gonzalo got to the judge’s door a few minutes after eight. He’d forgotten to factor in time for finding a parking spot and had to run just to make it that late. He had a notepad and pen in his hand. He would jot down notes about whatever the judge wanted from him. Any reasonable man would know he hadn’t had time to prepare in advance. At least, that was what he told himself.

He knocked and waited. Nothing. Another knock and a check of his watch. Okay, he was ten minutes late. That was substantial, but what purpose would it serve for a judge to call in a sheriff and then not wait even ten minutes? Like some juvenile game of “Gotcha.”

Gonzalo slid into the bench next to the judge’s office door and waited. Whatever else he did, Lopez eventually had to return to his chambers. Lawyers, bailiffs, judges, other sheriffs, criminals, victims, whole families rushed past Gonzalo as he waited. No one spared him more than a look. Certainly, no one was going to answer any questions.

By half past eight, the hallways had quieted a fraction. A little later, Judge Lopez rushed up to the doors of his office, a set of manilla folders under one arm, a briefcase under the other, a coffee in one hand and a set of keys in the other. He went straight to the door without looking at Gonzalo, got the key in, and balleted into the office without dropping anything. The door shut behind him.

A few minutes later, a lawyer Gonzalo had seen before but never worked with, went up to the door, briefcase in hand. The judge barked “Enter!” and the lawyer straightened his tie—already straight—put his hand on the doorknob, winked at Gonzalo, and went in.

Gonzalo tried listening at the door, but there was nothing to hear. It was back to waiting for a few minutes when another lawyer approached. Gonzalo hadn’t worked with him either, but he knew the man by reputation. Something Marquez. Ambulance chaser. Good at what he did. For a second, Gonzalo tried to think of what accident cases there might have been recently in Angustias, but nothing came to mind, and then, from behind Marquez, another man emerged—clean cut, maybe forty, in a suit and a wrist cast. The face was familiar. The name wasn’t coming to mind. They were admitted into the office without even knocking, as though the judge knew they were there without having to be told.

Then a stenographer. Young man with slicked-back hair ushered in by another young man, impeccably dressed—Lopez’s court clerk.

Fifteen minutes of murmuring in the office and then the clerk opened the door to beckon Gonzalo without a word, just a finger wag like you might use for a child or dog. The same clerk pointed out a chair, and Gonzalo took it. The judge studied papers, flipping back and forth. It was five minutes before he sat back, adjusted his glasses, and brought his hands together. Gonzalo could tell the man was controlling his anger.

“You arrested Mr. Reynaldo Matos on the third of last month?” the judge asked.

The one thing Gonzalo wanted to do more than anything was to shoot another look at the man in the cast and match the name that he now remembered very well to the face that was only vaguely familiar. He controlled himself. The stenographer was waiting.

“I would have to consult my notes to be sure of the exact date,” Gonzalo started. “But yes, I arrested a man by that name at the start of last month.”

“A traffic incident?” the judge asked.

“I was called out because Mr. Matos had parked his car in the middle of the road and gone to sleep. It was on a curve. Very dangerous.”

Judge Lopez nodded slowly, looked down at the papers again, shuffled through them, looked up, and readjusted the glasses. Lopez was bald with dark eyebrows and a dark mustache. His head looked a little too large for his body. The scowl on his face looked monumental, like a sneering pharaoh.

“And can you explain, Sheriff Gonzalo, how it is that with a simple traffic incident, the plaintiff here, Reynaldo Matos, had his wrist broken so severely that there are now three metal pins holding it together?”

Gonzalo knew exactly how the wrist was broken but the question confused him. He had written four pages, single-spaced at the time of the arrest he made, explaining everything. He assumed the judge had those pages in front of him in one of the files spread out on his desk.

“I broke it,” Gonzalo started.

“Ah-ha!” the ambulance chaser said. He pointed an index finger at Gonzalo, then up at the ceiling as though he were reminding Gonzalo that God was watching everything.

“I broke it when Reynaldo Matos pointed a gun at me,” Gonzalo finished.

“Oh,” the ambulance chaser said. The deflation was visible.

“What?” Judge Lopez asked.

Gonzalo decided to tell the story from the top, just as he had done in his report.

“When I got out to where Matos had parked his car—on a curve in the panoramic highway, blocking an off ramp—his windows were fogged up. I couldn’t see him too clearly. I knocked on the driver’s side window, but that didn’t wake him. Then I got out my baton and gave the window a couple more raps. Matos opened the door. I could smell alcohol, but I asked for license and registration. He leaned over to the glove compartment. At the same time, a delivery truck rounded the corner, almost hit me, blared his horn. I took my eyes off of Matos for a second to make sure I didn’t get hit. When I looked back, Matos had his handgun, Smith and Wesson, .38, aimed right at my belly. I reacted and smacked it out of his hand with my baton.”

Gonzalo was silent a minute. So was everyone else in the room. The judge closed his eyes a moment.

“I think that action saved my life,” Gonzalo added.

The judge nodded.

“You’re probably right,” the judge said. “But why wasn’t this in any report?”

Gonzalo fought the urge to shrug.

“I filed a four-page report detailing everything about the incident. I can produce my copy if it’s needed, but—”

Judge Lopez waved him off. He turned to the other lawyer in the room.

“Serrano, what about this report?”

The lawyer looked ready to cry. He adjusted his tie, made it even tighter around his neck, and wiped sweat—maybe imaginary sweat—from his right temple.

“I . . . I only got the case a few days ago, and—”

“And you didn’t have time to read four pages?”

“I . . . I thought the reason for the arrest . . . which is in the arrest report, of course . . . was not as important as the allegation of police brutality. You’ll agree, won’t you, that brutality cannot be tolerated.”

“Of course,” the judge said. “But who made the allegation of brutality?”

Serrano looked across the room at Reynaldo Matos and his cast.

Judge Lopez rolled his eyes about as far back as they could go, then turned to Gonzalo.

“You can go now, Sheriff Gonzalo. I hope this trip to San Juan hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience. I must now waste valuable time instructing an assistant district attorney on the fine point of law that not every person who gets arrested and cries abuse is telling the truth.”

Gonzalo stepped out of the office, and the last thing he heard as he closed the door behind him was the voice of the ambulance chaser saying, “How was I supposed to know?” and Mr. Matos asking, “I had a gun?”

The drive back to Angustias was almost soothing compared to the early-morning drive he’d taken. He took the curves of the hills easy, with the window rolled down and the breeze cooling him. It was ten in the morning. It wasn’t his shift, but he decided to look in on the deputy holding down the fort—he was new to the job and young and Gonzalo thought it would be a nice gesture. As soon as he pulled the car near the station house, he cursed his luck. There was a crowd out in front. That might be good for a restaurant or bakery, but it could only be bad news for a police precinct.

“What happened?” Gonzalo asked no one in particular as he tried squeezing his way through the knot of Angustiados.

A little old man whose name he couldn’t remember at the moment giggled at him, there was a scream from inside the station house, and Gonzalo entered.

The station house was so small that a glance told Gonzalo everything he needed to know. Past the three desks at the front were two cells with iron-bar gates and bare mattresses on narrow beds bolted to the concrete of the floor. In a corner of each cell, there were little metal commodes so low to the ground that anyone wanting to use them had to squat.

In front of one of the cells was the deputy, Hector Pareda, just twenty-one years old, handsome, but with an angry look and a hand on the butt of his sidearm. Inside the cell, Magda Herrera, a woman of about fifty though she passed for less, was sitting on the floor, sobbing.

“But why?” she shouted. “WHY? WHY? WHY?”

Gonzalo stopped himself from walking to the back and getting close to her. He could tell she’d had too much to drink. Hector looked at him, and Gonzalo waved his deputy over.

Hector came over, but he didn’t look happy about it.

“She was walking in the street with no shoes on, cursing people,” he said. “Drunk.”


“And I brought her in. Drunk and disorderly. She resisted.” He pointed to his uniform shirt’s torn pocket. “So I added that to the charges.”

Magda now had the mattress off the bed and was trying to throw it, but there wasn’t room in the cell for it to go anywhere. The cell had a small window to one side with bars over it. Someone’s face was pressed up against the bars from the outside.

“This is a circus,” Gonzalo said.

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to think. You and I have to live in this town and so does Magda. Her husband left her a couple years ago and now she drinks. To excess. Not every day, not every week. Maybe once a month. She doesn’t drive or even own a car, but when she drinks, she gets a foul mouth. And sometimes she forgets her shoes—cursing and walking barefoot aren’t illegal. Not even close. Essentially, you’ve arrested her for being drunk. Not acceptable.”

“Public drunkenness is—” Hector started but Gonzalo cut him off.

“It’s against the law. Sure. Fine. Are you really prepared to arrest everyone who gets tipsy in a public place? Christmas and New Year’s are going to be pretty busy if that’s what you’re planning. Not to mention every Friday night. And Saturdays. And Sundays. And the weekdays.”

“So I’m just going to let her go?”

“Well, first you’ll calm her down, then you’ll apologize, then you’ll take her home.”


“She’s old enough to be your mother, Hector. Putting her behind bars . . . That has shamed her. You have shamed her. Think. How is she supposed to look her neighbors in the face now that you’ve made her drinking troubles official, public business? She had a problem. You took that problem to a whole new level. She’s a lady. Treat her like one.”

“Getting drunk isn’t what a lady does,” Hector muttered.

Gonzalo pulled him up short. “Then how about this: You’re a gentleman. Act like one.”

It took both officers several minutes to calm Magda and get her to stop screaming and abusing the mattress. When she was ready to listen, Gonzalo explained it all to her.

“My deputy thought you were lost and disoriented. Maybe due to illness. He brought you here so you could be in a safe place until you were ready to go home. I think you took it the wrong way and thought he was arresting you. He wasn’t. Not at all. There’s not a single shred of paperwork that says you were ever anything more than our guest.”

This soothed her, even brought a smile to her face. She wiped away tears. When she was ready, Hector and Gonzalo both walked her to the only squad car and she sat in the front passenger seat as Hector drove off with her.

Gonzalo turned to the crowd and gave them the official explanation about his deputy’s mistake and Doña Magda’s understandable misunderstanding and overreaction. He wasn’t sure anyone in the crowd believed him, but they all listened. If they went home to tell tales, they’d have to end with his explanation, and that was alright by him.

Gonzalo went into the station house to clean up the cell. She had thrown the roll of toilet paper into the commode, soaking it. He picked up one of her earrings and put it in his front shirt pocket. Then he picked up the mattress and put it back on its metal frame. As he gave it a final adjustment, he was scratched by a loose bit of its wire border poking out of the cloth sheathing.

“This day just gets better and better,” he said to himself, and he was tempted to lie on that mattress and finally get some rest.

Meet the Author

STEVEN TORRES grew up in the Bronx, New York, but lived part of his childhood in a small town in Puerto Rico. He is also the author of The Concrete Maze and Message in the Flames.

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Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico (Luis Gonzalo Novels Series) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Angustias, Puerto Rico, town Sheriff Luis Gonzalo tells his young deputy Hector Pareda to enjoy his vacation time as he and his septuagenarian other deputy Emilio Collazo will work the beat. The two law enforcement officials make the rounds especially of the four parties reminding attendees to cause no trouble. After a long day, Luis goes to sleep when he and his wife are awakened by screaming. He races outside follows the shrieks to the nearby Ferre home where the sixteen years old daughter Luisa is outside hysterical, totally naked except for a sock and scratching at her breast. She is taken to a hospital where the nurse on duty confirms she has been raped. All circumstantial evidence points to her unconscious intoxicated father, Francisco. Luis arrests him, but continues to investigate seeking further proof that the dad did the crime. The latest Angustias police procedural is a superb tale with a great twist that shakes the sheriff, his elderly deputy, the townsfolk and readers. The key to the tale is the reaction of the townsfolk (including Luis and the teen victim's mother) who believe Francisco raped the daughter as the circumstantial evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he did. With a look back in time to the case in an era when DNA testing did not exist, fans will feel the sheriff's myriad of emotions as he works a horrific case. Harriet Klausner