On the Edge

Free On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes

Book: On the Edge by Rafael Chirbes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rafael Chirbes
Tags: psychological thriller
seems to me that he looks at me out of the corner of his eye when he says this, or is that just my paranoia?
    Justino returns to the charge:
    “Exactly, the self-made man. All those films from the 1950s and 1960s—or even today—all contain that same poisonous hidden message. The Kennedy saga, the Obama story. Pedrós was always so keen on all that freedom of the individual crap, about will power and hard work, the winner burning his excess energy at the gym or on the tennis court, and he encountering other alpha-males, who help him make his way thanks to a spider’s web of influences they call synergies. Sure, he was very ambitious, but there was that touch of the mythomaniac, the fantasist: he was just too much in love with himself, the butterfly, the show-off.”
    “And the times were ripe for men like him,” says Bernal sagely.
    “Yes,” says Justino, “but not everyone fell into the trap.”
    Of course they didn’t, and our Hannibal Lecter is no show-off. Justino’s no butterfly—more of a moth. He moves among the shadows of the night, where evil lurks and where his succubi have their beds, the laborers who stoke our nightmares with filthy coal. Justino covers up, dissembles, hides. His life is a mystery, you have to decipher the meaning slithering about beneath his words, he’s the oracle of all things murky, the sibyl of the unsavory: he conceals the truth with lies and conceals lies with half-truths. You always have the feeling that he’s deceiving you; if he says it’s a nice day and points up at the sun, you can be sure this is merely a diversionary tactic so that you won’t notice what’s going on down below. And he takes every precaution and successfully fends off the tax people—he’s a past master at hiding any so-called “signs of ostentatious living”—but we all know that he leads a secret life and that, in the shadows, he lives far beyond his theoretical means. I’m not talking about the watches and chains he wears, or the fact that his wife looks like a walking jewelry shop: those are mere trinkets, the equivalent of the finger pointing at the sun; I’m talking about land transactions, property transfers, estates registered in the name of nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law, his retired mother- and father-in-law who both have Alzheimer’s or senile dementia, poor defenseless stooges whose signatures he has forged and who, even in their wildest meanderings, would never dream they were the owners of apartments, business premises, import-export companies, orange groves and building sites like the ones they possess thanks to Justino: underhand deals that you hear others mention only obliquely and sotto voce. And then there are the occasional disappearances, the mysterious periods spent in limbo, trips you know nothing about but which—as I said—you imagine to be to some spa to cure his arthritis or to an exclusive clinic to control his hyperglicemia or his high triglyceride levels, trips that his enemies say are time spent in prison or on journeys to some dangerously borderline country (Thailand, Colombia, Mexico) to coordinate the transport of illegal substances and about which his vanity will eventually lead him to spill the beans one night when he’s had a couple of drinks and you’re alone with him and he’s telling you about a wife-swapping club in Paris ( you didn’t take your wife, did you , I asked, and he replied: Don’t be an idiot, where she’s concerned I have exclusive rights ), or a place in Miami (ah, wonderful, chaotic Miami, so popular with wheeler-dealers up to no good) where at the reception desk, you have to leave not just the money for the ticket, but all your clothes (yes, even your underpants, he laughs, adding with a touch of vulgar humor, and your jockstrap: your wallet and your watch are put in a safe with a secret code), and only then can you go over to the bar and order a whisky or a glass of champagne and, finally, enter the spa, the main room with

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