About the book:
This is the story of Durruti, a fearsome and influential name of the underworld. He is in the business of car theft and related activities typical of his circle. But there is one principle in all his dealings: order—everyone is to abide by his rules; law enforcement and policymakers, with whom he has a nonnegotiable pact, should not go off script, lest the criminal harmony be disrupted. Yet this harmony is broken, and this unstoppable spiral of violence unfolds before us to witness.
Eugenia Almeida uses roman noir codes to build a fictional world where corruption and crime permeate every layer of society. With a sharp writing style and a flawless command of orality, she weaves a big story by connecting a series of small events that lead up to consequences that get out of control, building a plot that could unfold in any Argentine city.
Junkyard mirrors many of Argentina’s problems: corruption and violence, cases of score-settling, and crime. Moreover, Almeida uses a language that matches the themes in the book: street slang and Lunfardo argot used by rogues reflect her masterful pen.
“They were tryin’ to be cocky. Off they went. As if they owned the place. So, tell me. Tell me, what was I supposed to do? Two assholes get wasted and decide to go muggin’. Just like that. And they are strapped. And they kill. What did ya want me to do? I thought this was the right thing to do. I couldn’t let them get off the hook. Others would’ve joined them. These guys were provoking you. I had your back.”
Durruti lights a cigarette.
“So, you were protecting me.”
“I’m damn sure you get it.”
“I didn’t ask for nothing.”
“Yeah. But I reckoned someone had to scare the shit out of them. To get them to understand.”
“But you didn’t scare the shit out of them, Noriega. You shot ‘em up. In their digs. Now you’ve fucked me up.”
“If we hadn’t punished them, they’d still think they’re loose to do as they please.”
“And they weren’t the only ones, it seems.”
“Something had to be done.”
“That’s my call. When did you start making the calls? Huh?”
“You were not around.”
“Ya know I meant well.”
“I know. Otherwise, you’d be scattered all around the neighborhood. Now, tell me how I’m gonna fix this.”
“There’s no need. It’ll be hushed.”
“Hushed? Quite the mess you’ve made.”
“But it’s over now. The kids are dead.”
“And what do ya think the cops are gonna do?”
“I dunno. You talk to them.”
“I have to talk to them, uh? And what should I say? That the dumbass working for me kills two guys and leaves them in a house three blocks from the junkyard?”
“Well, no, but you can settle matters with them.”
“Noriega, we can only make this work if we lie low. Can’t believe you still don’t know this. Now, because of your comedy stunt, we’re all in a big mess.”
“Calm will be restored.”
“Not out of thin air.”
“It drives me nuts when you speak in the plural.”
The man in the shirt raises his hand and thrusts his open palm right before the other man’s eyes.
“Come on, smartass. Tell me how to fix this. Remind me of what you said. You put the house in order, to let everyone know better than to mess with us? Answer me.”
“No, no, no. Think now. What should I do with you? What’s the message I’m supposed to send the rest? That anyone can bypass me, and I’ll just watch?”
“I didn’t bypass you!”
The man takes a step back, afraid that Durruti might be waving his hand not only to shoo a fly away but also to grab his gun.
“Tell me. What should I do?”
“Hang on. Let’s talk.”
Noriega is now sizing time and space. Calculating if he’ll be able to run to the street before he’s reached by a bullet.
“But you know what? To do business, one has to learn how to restrain oneself. This is why I’m holding back. You’re gonna leave. Now. No stopping at home. You’re gonna leave, and I don’t wanna see your face again. Never. I suggest you flee the country. If you stay, then go far away. And be careful not to cross paths with me again. I’d gladly bust a cap in your ass—that’s a feeling I’ll always have. Fuck off. Leave no trace. No emails, no letters, no phone calls, nothing at all. Disappear. Those two assholes go stealing without telling anyone. And then they do some people in. And then you kill two more. I have to keep out of sight for I dunno how long. I’m gonna make myself clear—that’s the only reason why I won’t kill you right now. I want to keep it quiet. Leave.”
They come to tell him that the dealers are nervous. That nobody understands what happened to the Funes boys; they’re scared. Laucha is here spreading the neighborhood scuttlebutt—everyone’s scared stiff, but nobody knows why.
“We should tell ‘em something.”
“So, today’s the day everyone wants to lecture me on how to do things.”
Laucha lights a cigarette and waits. He knows that’s his main task at work. To wait. Durruti takes the last sip of mate and stands up. He leans over the huge yard, full of dismantled cars. He huffs and puffs. Nene is still with the boy, sitting on a pile of bricks.
“We’ll have to go underground for a while.”
Laucha nods while trying to figure out what Durruti is looking at in the yard.
“Does your nephew keep going to the soccer sandlot?”
“Tell him the cops are pissed off ‘cause they got their dough slashed, so they went on a shooting spree to unwind.”
“It’s gonna get even worse. They’re going to try to knock someone down.”
“Tell ‘em I won’t have it. If someone tries something I didn’t ask for, they’ll have to move to another province.”
“Shouldn’t we say we did it?”
“But we didn’t do it, Laucha! Noriega isn’t us!”
“I know. But what if we just say so to scare them?”
Durruti takes his eyes off the yard and looks at the man sitting in his office. He stares at him. He doesn’t say a word. He walks to the door, opens it, and stands right next to it.
That night, in the dirt sandlot, seven or eight skinny guys smoke and drink beer in the dark. One of them has already said that they’d better stay put, not do anything foolish, that, apparently, Durruti has gone mad about what happened, that the cops are killing people for the hell of it, and that this is gonna be a clusterfuck. He asks them to lie low. The others listen and nod silently. They know the Funeses did something they shouldn’t have; they know the cops kill just for the sake of it; they know Durruti is a heavyweight; they know for now it’s best not to repeat his name. They distribute the little packages. They stuff them into their pockets, their coats, their shoes. After midnight, each of them goes to cover his area. Laucha’s nephew walks across the vacant lot.
Translated by Mariel Kozynski Waserman - Edited by María del Carmen Propato