difference between fat and muscle, Lituma. A fat woman is pure lard. A plump woman is pure muscle. Tits that are pure muscle—that’s the best thing in the world! Even better than this stewed kid of Doña Lupe’s. Don’t laugh, Lituma, it’s the God’s honest truth. You don’t know about these things, but I do. A big, muscular ass, muscular thighs, shoulders, hips: isn’t that a lovely dish to set before a king? God almighty! That’s the way my baby back in Talara is, Lituma. Not fat, but plump. A woman who’s pure muscle, goddamn it. Just what I like.”
Lituma laughed because it was his duty to laugh, but Doña Lupe remained serious throughout the lieutenant’s discourse, scrutinizing the two of them. “She’s waiting,” thought Lituma, “probably as nervous as I am.” When would the lieutenant get going? He acted as if he had all the time in the world. And he just never gave up talking about the fat love of his life.
“You might well be wondering how it is that I know Doña Adrianita is plump and not fat. Does that mean I’ve touched her? Just here and there, Lituma, just here and there. Quick feels. It’s dumb, I know it. And you’re right to think it. But the fact is that I’ve seen her. There it is, now I’ve told you my biggest secret. I’ve seen her bathing in her slip over on that little beach behind Crab Point where all the Talara women go so the men won’t see them. Why do you think I disappear all the time at about five in the afternoon with my binoculars? I tell you I’m going to have coffee over at the Hotel Royal. Why do you think I climb up that point by that little beach? What else, Lituma? I go to see my honey bathing in her pink slip. When that slip gets wet, it’s as if she had nothing on at all, Lituma. God almighty! Get out the fire extinguisher, Doña Lupe, I’m on fire! Put out this blaze! Now that’s where you can see a plump body, Lituma. That hard ass, those hard tits, pure muscle from head to toe. Someday I’ll take you with me and show you. I’ll lend you my binoculars. Then you’ll really get cross-eyed. And you’ll see how right I am. That’s right, Lituma, I’m not jealous, at least of enlisted men. If you behave yourself, I’ll take you out to the point. You’ll be in heaven when you see that Amazon.”
It was as if he’d forgotten why they’d come to Amotape, goddamn it. But just when Lituma’s impatience had reached its limit, Lieutenant Silva suddenly fell silent. He took off his sunglasses—Lituma saw that his eyes were bright and incisive—cleaned them with his handkerchief, and put them on again.
He calmly lit a cigarette and began to speak in honeyed tones: “Excuse me, Doña Lupe. Come on over here a minute and sit down with us, will you? We have to have a little talk, okay?”
“What about?” Her teeth were chattering, and she was shaking so much it was as if she had malaria. Lituma realized that he, too, was trembling.
“About Palomino Molero, Doña Lupe, what else could it be? I wouldn’t talk with you about my sweetie over in Talara, my little chubby, right? Come on, sit right here.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about.” She sat down like a robot on the bench the lieutenant had pointed to. She seemed to have shriveled and gotten thinner than before. “I swear I don’t know who that is.”
“Of course you know who Palomino Molero is, Doña Lupe.” The lieutenant was no longer smiling and spoke in a cold, hard tone that caught even Lituma off-guard: “Okay, now we’re going to find out what happened.” Lieutenant Silva went on: “You remember him, Doña Lupe. The Air Force guy they killed over in Talara. The one they burned with cigarettes and then hung. The one who got a stick shoved up his backside. Palomino Molero, a skinny kid who sang boleros. He was here, right where we are now. Now do you remember?”
Lituma saw the woman open her eyes and her mouth, but she said nothing. She stood there like that, her