Precinct Puerto Rico: A Luis Gonzalo Novel, Book One

Precinct Puerto Rico: A Luis Gonzalo Novel, Book One

by Steven Torres

NOOK BookFirst Edition (eBook - First Edition)


Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Near Rincón, Puerto Rico, 1987.
Even a tropical paradise may have its little murders.

In his years as sheriff of Angustias, a small town nestled in Puerto Rico's mountainous heart, Luis Gonzalo has seen his share of violence. People kill for love and money in Angustias just as they do anywhere else. But it is during a visit to his wife's family in the seaside town of Rincón that Gonzalo encounters his greatest challenge.

A midnight call brings Gonzalo to a beach where bodies are washing ashore, victims of a shipwreck, victims of the illegal traffic in humans from the Dominican Republic. When he discovers evidence that the shipwreck was no accident, that the ship's captain was murdered, Gonzalo's life is threatened. When he discovers proof that Puerto Rican police were involved in the deaths of the illegal immigrants, the lives of his wife and children are threatened. The murder of one of his deputies brings Gonzalo no closer to the bottom of this mystery-- a mystery no other law enforcement agency wants to help him solve.

The first in a series of police procedural mysteries featuring Luis Gonzalo and the citizens and cops of Angustias, Precinct Puerto Rico: Book One is a brilliant beginning to a continuing story from a long overdue locale.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429981880
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2007
Series: Luis Gonzalo Novels , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Steven Torres was born in the Bronx, New York, but spent part of his childhood in Puerto Rico. Several members of his family lived in small towns there, not unlike Angustias, the setting for the Precinct Puerto Rico series. He studied at Hunter College in Manhattan and is currently completing his doctorate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He and his wife, Damaris, live in New York City.

Steven Torres was born in the Bronx, New York, but spent part of his childhood in Puerto Rico. Several members of his family lived in small towns there, not unlike Angustias, the setting for the Precinct Puerto Rico series. He studied at Hunter College in Manhattan and is currently completing his doctorate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He and his wife, Damaris, live in New York City.

Read an Excerpt


The beachfront town of Ramona, ten miles north of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, is one of the closest points on that island to American soil. Many inhabitants swear it takes only binoculars on a clear day to see the western coast of the island of Puerto Rico and freedom from economic despair. In fact, some say the binoculars are unneeded if one climbs a palm tree; with the sun at just the right angle, Puerto Rico appears as a spot of dark haze on the horizon. The image is an illusion of course. Puerto Rico is a hundred miles away, and, if they see anything, it is one of the many tiny islands in the Mona Passage between the islands. They probably don't even see these.

The town itself is tiny if compared with New York or San Juan or any other city that would find its way onto a map. A row of shacks lines the beach. Another row of shacks lines up behind the first; another row behind that one and the town is complete. Is there a store? Certainly. Is there a vendor of cooked foods? Yes. Fried fish, baked clams, broiled crabmeat, Pepsi almost cold are all available in a small bodega/bar housed in one of the shacks on the beach. The store refuses to identify itself with a sign of any kind, and we won't impose upon it. Suffice to say that the only thing kept refrigerated is beer, and the most expensive items kept in stock are the fishing gear kept for the odd gringo who happens to stumble to this part of the island.

In this store, on this morning, two men sat at one of two small tables in close conversation. It was only just after dawn, but one of the men, in his forties but looking older and with three days' growth of stubble on his chin, had a half-finished beer bottle in his hand and a finished one sitting at his elbow. The other man was young and clean shaven; in fact, it appeared as though he had shaved only half an hour before, and he wore what may have been his neatest clothes — unlike his partner, his clothes were pressed and clean and he did not stink.

"So you understand what you have to do?" The drinker asked and raised the bottle to his lips waiting for a reply.

"Sure. I pilot the ship to Rincón. I go straight to the lighthouse. I bring the ship as close to shore as I can, then everybody wades in. I guess I turn around when they are safe on land?"

"Why wait for that? If the Coast Guard is out, you'll have to drop them and go. The beach there is calm. Trust me. Just take them to the right of the lighthouse; hard right. Then go around to the left of it. I'll be there in a dinghy with a flashlight. Then you get the other half of your money. You understand?"

"Yeah. Nine. The last pier. Fourteen passengers, they all go below decks. Raul will be there to show me the way. I got it."

"Great. See how easy?"

"Yeah, but ..."

"But what?"

"Are you sure you'll be there with the money?" The young man asked this in an even lower voice than he had been using.

The older man took the bottle from his lips slowly.

"Let me ask you a question. Didn't you come to me looking for this job? Didn't you say you needed the work? You needed the money. I'm trusting you with the ship. You should trust me with the money, okay? Now don't talk about it again. There are a lot of guys on this island who would do this for a lot less."

The young man was ashamed he had asked the question and afraid because he knew how easily he could be replaced. The drinker finished his beer, staring at the young man all the while.

"What kind of experience did you say you had?" He asked.

"I was with the Coastal Patrol for six years. I then went into fishing with my father. I did this for two years. But my father died. My uncle inherited the boat, and he has three sons. I work for him from time to time, but only when he pities me. I'm good at this. I can pilot a larger ship than this."

There was pride in the way he said all this, and the older man looked at him more closely. He wondered if any of what he heard was based in truth. He had hired a dozen men for this type of job over the years. All of them said they had been in the navy or Coastal Patrol or captains of their own ships. After they got to the ship, they all needed to be told how to turn the engines on; they all needed just a few pointers on how to steer the vessel. One had even spent five minutes revving the engine, trying to pull away from the dock without having untied the ship. This one seemed like he might actually know how to pilot the ship and so he watched him until the young man became nervous.

"What?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing." The older man answered. "Just be there at nine. The last dock. Raul will give you the first half of the money and whatever instructions you need. Now go to sleep. It will be a long night for you."

The young man got up and gave the table a sharp rap with his knuckles, making the same sound an auctioneer uses to conclude a sale or a judge does upon pronouncing sentence. What had been sold at that moment, what the penalty was, remained to be seen. The young man walked out. The other man ordered a third beer.

For the young man, home was one of the shacks a hundred yards inland from the beach. The one room was large but spare, though it contained all he had in the world. When he walked in, his infant daughter was sleeping soundly in a worn-out crib in one corner of the home; his wife was making coffee. Normally he would have come up from behind her to embrace her, but he felt ashamed of what he was about to do. He knew the American government opposed people who crossed their borders. In fact, he was sure they considered thesmuggling he was about to undertake a crime. He wondered what his government thought of the issue. His guess was that they didn't think of it at all. Probably they were glad to be rid of a few hungry mouths. Still, though he was about to do a service for his country, he didn't feel like holding his wife.

He threw himself into a hammock and used a foot to rock himself gently.

"Did you get any work?" his wife asked.

There was no intent to pressure him with these words. If he had just come in from work, she would have asked how his day was in just the same tone. But in some men, the best men, any reminder of their joblessness is a painful thorn in their heel. Today he had an answer.

"I'm going in to work tonight — deep water fishing." He said laying his forearm across his eyes.

"How deep?" she asked.

"Listen Isabel. I haven't worked in more than three weeks and that last job didn't do anything for my pocket. I'm working for an Americano ..." He lied. "He said he would pay me twenty dollars for every hour. Twenty American dollars. If he wants me to take him to Africa, that's where we're going."

Isabel was quiet for a moment and brought his coffee.

"How long will you be gone?"

"Well, I don't know, but I think I should be back by tomorrow night or the next morning at the latest. If it's going to be later than that, I'll try to radio someone to get in touch with you, okay?"

"Don't worry about me, Marcos. Worry about yourself. Take care of yourself.

Sometimes Americanos promise a lot but don't pay."

Marcos held up a hand.

"Don't even think about that. This one has money. He's going to give me some before we leave. He said two hundred and fifty American dollars up front. If I get a chance, I'll bring it over before we go out to sea."

"Good. We can use the money."

"Well, don't hold your breath. If he's in a hurry, you won't see anything for a day or two, you understand?" "We can hold out until then." Isabel answered.


Marcos slept in fits until six that night. He rose from the hammock less rested than when he had lain down. He dressed in his best clothes, a white shirt and beige pants he wore to church. He shaved again though the hair on his face had hardly had time to emerge from his skin. He ate a simple dinner of local viands and codfish, then left the house after pacing nervously until eight.

"But you'll be very early." Isabel pointed out.

"That's good. If there's anyone there they might be able to pay me something and give me time to get the money to you."

With a kiss for his wife and one for his daughter, he left the shack and walked briskly the few hundred yards to the last dock on the beachfront. He was nervous and wanted to work off some of his excess energy before meeting Raul.

Raul was short and skinny with dirty, sweat stained clothes. There was a greased baseball cap on his head, and his shirt was open to the navel. The bones of his chest were plainly visible. He waved to Marcos as he approached, and Marcos stepped to him and shook his hand firmly.

"You're early." Raul said.

"Your jefe said he would leave some money with you for me. I was hoping —"

Raul held up a hand and reached into a rear pant pocket.

"Toma. Here it is." Raul handed Marcos a dirty, sealed envelope.

Inside the envelope there was fifty dollars and a note of explanation:


I had to get back to Puerto Rico. It was an emergency. I owe you $450. Don't worry. You'll be paid when you meet me over there. Take care of the ship.

Marcos burned. He was expecting another two hundred dollars in the envelope. Fifty American dollars were substantial, but they were not a trophy to bring home to his wife. He felt embarrassed and shoved the money into his pocket.

"Is something wrong?" Raul asked, though Marcos couldn't help thinking the shriveled little man was part of the deception.

"I was expecting more in the envelope," Marcos said as coolly as he could.

"Oh. I don't know what to say. I have five dollars. Does that help? El jefe will pay me back. But, hey, if he doesn't pay you, you can always keep the boat."

The old man held out a crumpled five dollar bill.

"Forget about it. Let's just get to work. Where's the ship?"

"Right here. Don't tell me you're blind." Marcos looked around. There was a ship right next to him, but it wasn't the beautiful, new ship he had been shown in the morning.

"What's this?" he asked.

"That's it. El jefe said he had shown you the boat." The little man took off his greasy cap and scratched his greasy hair.

"He showed me a boat this morning, but not this old thing," Marcos replied.

"Oh. He probably showed you La Princesa — that's his boat — I mean for his own use. This he just uses once in a while. It's bigger. There are a few more passengers. He said you told him you could handle a bigger boat —"

"Then he has to pay more money."

"That I don't know about. You have to speak to el jefe about that. Still, this is a good boat."

"It doesn't look so great."

"Ah, but the engine is the heart of the boat. The heart. I fixed it myself. Get in; turn it on; see for yourself."

The little man gave Marcos a nudge towards the boat with a filthy elbow.

Marcos climbed aboard and went to the helm. Every instrument, every gauge and knob was cracked and dirty except for a few which were missing altogether. The fuel gauge read full, which was a relief. The captain's chair was torn and wobbly when he sat in it. He brought both hands to his face. He could hardly believe he was about to take the boat out into deep water when he did not feel safe while it was tied to the dock.

"It's a good ship if you treat her right. It'll get you across to Puerto Rico and back without a problem, I guarantee it as a man. On my mother's grave I tell you this."

"I'm gonna do it no matter what. I need the work."

"That's the way to think about it. Now, since you're already here, why don't you just rev her up a little and take her out now; it'll get you home a little earlier."

Marcos laughed.

"Shouldn't I wait for the people?" he asked.

"What people?"

"The passengers."

"They're already locked up below decks."

The little man hopped down to the hatch leading below decks, took a padlock off and opened it. A hand shot up and clutched at the deck. The little man stepped on it, and it was pulled back.

"Todavía no," he said. "Not yet."

From the quick glimpse into the hull, Marcos saw parts of about eight or nine people huddled closely together.

"How many are down there?" he demanded.

Raul squinted up toward the sky.

"Twenty-two?" he asked as though Marcos had a better idea.

"Twenty-two?" Marcos repeated. "How many people does this ship hold?"

"What do you mean? Legally?" Raul answered.

"Forget it. Let me get out of here. The ship is stocked with all the safety equipment I need?"

"Like what?" Raul asked.

"Life jackets, for instance."

"Sure. Here's yours."

Raul got a life jacket from a locker near the captain's chair and presented it to Marcos.

"What about the others?" Marcos asked.


Marcos pointed at the hatch.

"Them? Don't worry about them. They have jackets."

"Can I see?"

"Better if you don't open the hatch until you get to Puerto Rico. Some of them get drunk. Some of them get afraid. If they get out of there, you'll never be able to control them. Trust me. Keep the lock on the hatch until you get near the lighthouse, then let them swim to shore. Believe me. I've done this a dozen times. Now get going. You were here early, but it's almost nine now."

Raul made his way back to the dock as Marcos primed the engine. It didn't sound bad at all, which was a relief, and he couldn't see below decks where a half-cup of water filtered through the hull as soon as the ship hit its first wave.

A few minutes later, as the boat entered the open waters of the Caribbean, Marcos looked back towards the town of Ramona. He wondered if any of the lights now growing dim were the lights of his home. He wondered if his Isabel was looking back at him at that moment, and he raised his hand to wave just in case. He had never left home before with so many fears, so he quickly turned his back on his home and stared out to sea toward Puerto Rico. He never touched either shore alive again.


It wasn't that he was opposed to change. Luis Gonzalo, the sheriff of Angustias, often welcomed it.

When his budget was increased and he was told his force was going to be doubled with three new officers, he was ecstatic. When the mayor of Angustias explained with some trepidation that the government of Puerto Rico was now going to require that they install a computer with a modem, that they needed to get a "fats" machine, Gonzalo was a little wary but not unwilling to believe the gadgets might help. It was 1987, and he knew the drug dealers, the sin vergüenzas who had only recently found Angustias on their map, had high-tech equipment. If it was good for them, he wanted to know how it worked.

But everyone knew he drew the line at remodeling and enlarging the stationhouse. With only one cell, with room for only two desks, there was a desperate need for more space. He had resisted this change for a dozen years. On this particular issue, he could not be made to see reason; all he could see was that an expansion of the existing facilities meant tearing down walls and interrupting his work. This, he could not accept, so this time he was not given the choice. When he came in to work shortly before noon on the first Thursday in February, there was a wall already made into rubble, sitting in the back of a dump truck.

Gonzalo controlled his first impulse. He wanted to rush at the workers, to make them stop. He wanted to demand to know who ordered this ... this abomination. Actually, for a moment perhaps too short to be worthy of note, he wanted to take out his gun and start shooting indiscriminately. He repressed all these feelings. Instead he folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against his car, staring at the workers removing bits of debris that used to be the wall where his bulletin board had hung for nearly two dozen years.

There were ten men with twenty eyes, and not a single worker could spare Gonzalo a glance. When he found his gaze could not whither them or stop them or make them disappear, he walked past them and into what was left of the station house.

Inside, two of his deputies were sitting on one of the desks that had been pushed up against the far wall.

"Where are the chairs?" he yelled over the noise of a handheld jackhammer someone had just turned on.


Excerpted from "Precinct Puerto Rico"
by .
Copyright © 2002 Steven Torres.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews