Chapter 2- Traffic, Jam and the Doughnuts
“I’m on the Second Circular, of course I’m goin’ to be late. He can wait. Just tell him I’m on my way.”
He hung up the mobile and threw it on the empty seat next to him. Every other second the beeping sound of a horn was heard here and there. He was surrounded by a sea of vehicles, nothing out of the ordinary in the busiest motorway known to man. Not a single car moved. Around him drivers and passengers chatted, singed, put on make-up, picked their noses, screamed at the traffic. The sun was rising and people were too busy in their travels to notice life around them. A pigeon flew past his windscreen and he absent-mindedly followed it. He was stationed between ‘The Cathedral’, one of the best-known Portuguese football stadiums, and the Colombo Shopping Centre.
He saw the billboard ahead and noticed that next to the already familiar face of some actress were the words 'BECAUSE SHE IS WORTH IT'. The thought crossed his mind as quickly as the pigeon, I know! In his mind's eye he could see her face. Smiling. Beautiful.
The BMW in front of him began to move forward. His old Ford Cortina was reflected in the car’s back windscreen. He wondered whether he still had time to turn around toward the Shopping Centre to buy her a gift. What excuse can I use? Her birthday's not for another three months. The BMW stopped again.
He looked around for a road to turn, but he was in the far left lane surrounded by a sea of cars. I'll just get her something from the cafe.
Fifteen minutes went by before the traffic started to clear. Finally!
He walked into the lift. The ground floor was practically empty, aside from Jenna, the receptionist. As soon as he walked into the four by four look alike space he could smell the perspiration stench spread by some of his colleagues. He pressed the number seven and stepped back to hold the handrail. He felt something stick to his finger. Damn it, Jones! Every time. This is not a f***ing bin or chewing gum wrapper!
"Hold the door. Hold the door! Hold the DOOR! Thanks. Mornin' Mascarenhas."
Her voice resounded sweet as condensed milk. The scent of Anais-Anais almost wiped out the previous stink. "Mornin' Silvia. You just came in?" She chuckled as the lift doors closed. "No, I've been here since eight. I'm guessing you did though?"
Mascarenhas looked at his shoes. Would you like a doughnut? No. I know you like doughnuts so I bought these… Too needy. I couldn't eat all of these by myself so I could share with… Oh, for cryin' out loud! Just say it!
He felt his cheeks burn like hot water on cold skin. "I, err, I have dough-doughnuts. I mean, would you like some doughnuts?"
"Sure. What are they? Plain?"
"Jam. Strawberry." He opened the box and watched as her soft hand reached for the sugar covered doughnuts and carried it to her mouth. She looked beautiful. Her shinny chestnut hair fell like a feather over her shoulders, almost covering her rosy cheeks. Her eyes were the same brilliant colour as her hair, her nose was cute and small, and her half full lips were of a soft pink, which was now smeared in red. He handed her a tissue, which she took with a smile.
"Hmm. These are good. Where'd you get them?" A female voice said in a monotone "Floor Seven." The doors opened and the smell of sweat and perfume mixed in with that of coffee, and the heat emanating from the machines made Mascarenhas feel as if he was exiting an airplane into the Dominican Republic. People and machines joined together to create a noise that was enough to drive anyone insane.
"The bakery around the corner. You want them all?"
"You're kidding, right? I couldn't. I would have to feed them to my cat. Mornin' everyone. Later M ‘n’ M."
"Hey, Marco!" Behind Mascarenhas was a man in his thirties who, short height aside, looked like a movie star. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, with a strong long bridge nose and a thin mouth. "Hey Teller. How's it goin'?"
"The boss wants to see you in her office. I smell new case…and doughnuts. I hate to ask but I haven't eaten anything this morning. Could I just-?"
"Yeah, yeah, here Teller. Take them home."
"Wow, thanks Marc-"
The floor was packed with desks on both sides. Men and women in suits walked from one place to another, busy as ants, moving from a desk to another desk to the coffee machine to the printer and back to their desks. Marco Mascarenhas walked through a corridor in the middle of the desks. At the end he could see large glass walls with a metal door in the middle. He knocked on the door and heard a voice from within. “Come in.” He opened the door and entered. Inside, sitting at her desk, was a middle-aged woman with blonde short hair, glasses with maroon frames at the end of her pointy nose. She wore a light pink shirt and diamond stud earrings. “You’re late.” He walked a few steps further and stopped behind the spare chair. “Second Circular, boss, you know how it is.”
“Yes, well, sit. There’s a new case. Apparently a young girl in her twenties was murdered at the Wonderland Hotel.”
Mascarenhas, sat in the chair opposite the woman, raised his eyebrows. “That’s one of the best hotels in Lisbon. There’s practically an employee for each guest. How did it happen?”
“Well, that’s your job, isn’t it? It’s what I pay you for. To find out how it happened. What, why, who.” The tone of her voice was constantly calm and soft, and her mouth always had a smile to offer. “Castro is at the scene already.”
He moved in his seat. “Castro?”
He saw her mouth twitch. “Yes, you’re working with him. Is that a problem?”
“No, not at all. I just thought-“
“Well, I did think about pairing him up with Silvia Loureiro when they came in earlier, but I thought there might be a conflict of interests. If you know what I mean?”
Another twitch. “Oh? I don’t know of anything.”
She rose from her chair. Her skirt was maroon and on her chair was a jacket of the same colour. “I assumed since they arrived together…”
He saw her searching his face for a reaction. He shrugged his shoulders. “Did they?”
“Yes, well.” She walked behind and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I figured you might want to get in the action. After all it has been a while. I thought you might want an opportunity to impress me.”
“Impress you, ma’am?”
“Professionally, of course. Now, off you go.” She removed her hand and he got up and walked towards the door. “And Mascarenhas, next time bring me a doughnut.” She pointed at the security camera, winked and turned to sit back down.