They asked me to tell them everything I knew about Rico Sanchez. I was surprised, at first, at hearing such a demand. The name Rico Sanchez was, for me, little more than an echo, vaguely associated to my childhood.
‘It rings a bell’, I said to the agent. ‘I would bet I had a friend by that name, long ago, in my early years’
The man who appeared to be in charge, frowned and pointed to the suitcase his assistant was holding. It was the mix-mem, as people called it, a chemical compound capable of bringing back memories buried in the most hidden parts of our brain circuits. It has become common, these days, for extremely old people who can afford it, to take one or two of those pills when they have attacks of nostalgia in order to remember things of their past existence.
Life extension had allowed existence to be prolonged further than two hundred and fifty, in most cases. But it had also revealed that the human brain was incapable of recalling memories beyond one hundred years, until the Japanese invented the mix-mem.
Only ten minutes after taking the first pill, which I did willingly, for I knew it also improved other brain functions, the image of Rico was clear in my mind, though, it seemed to me like a legend, something not clearly identifiable as truth. The detective kept talking with his easy-going tone.
‘The precision age-scanner has identified you, as a boy, in these pictures Rico had among his belongings. And we need any help we can get to solve a very important enigma. Perhaps you could give us the key by looking at the images.’
Then they showed me some pictures and suddenly the doubts in my head cleared up.
Small and narrow is the world, and there I was as a kid; and there he was, besides me, Rico Sanchez, my best friend during childhood. His seven-year old boy face brought along a cascade of fresh memories, more than two centuries old.
One of the pictures showed Rico’s father tightening screws with a monkey wrench at the wheel of some old vehicle, his face stained with grease. Another one showed Rico’s family, all of them in their Sunday suit, promenading the streets of Barcelona. There was his mother, Dolores, whose egg biscuits I liked so much, and his lovely sister, Diana, a beautiful and sweet girl who, years later, became my first love.
An interminable train of images was now running through my mind and I couldn’t hold tears coming out of my eyes as I began to speak:
‘Rico and his sister Diana’, I said ‘We grew up together in the streets of Barcelona during the 1930’s. His father was a mechanic or a taxi driver. I lost contact whit him when we were…perhaps fourteen?’
Then I had to struggle a little to overcome my emotion and continued:
‘And what is this enigma, I may have the key to? I swear I haven’t seen Rico since, probably, 1950, and it’s now 2160, if I’m not mistaken’ Said I, and then added: ‘God in heavens, I haven’t seen him for two hundred and ten years! What key might I have? Couldn’t you be a little clearer? What kind of riddle are trying to decipher here?’
After a little pause and some hesitation, the agent said:
‘Your friend Rico Sanchez, wasn’t exactly an exemplary citizen. He was a spy, a double, triple, or who knows to what degree! He has been cheating big corporations by asking loans he never returned and escaping justice using the most refined legal tricks, practically since 2000. We suspect he is immensely rich. Not as much as the Martian tycoons, but the richest man on Earth, probably, and it’s all money stolen from insurance agencies and banks. We mean now to recover that money and give it back to their legitimate owners.’
‘I told you I haven’t seen him since 1950’ Said I, a little discomposed. How exactly do you expect me to help you recover the money?
‘The problem is’ continued the agent, ‘Rico has arranged his will in such a way that all that money will be transferred to charities and the companies will never be able to take it back unless we find evidence of his crimes, which is impossible, for he was extremely careful.’
‘And I wish you luck in that respect’ insisted I ‘But I still can’t see how I can help you’
‘There has to be something in these pictures that can help us unravel the mystery of his secret organization, especially the password to his accounts, which we believe to be the same for all of them. Surely it’s long, but it has to be something very simple, and we are at a loss how to proceed.’
I looked again at the pictures, one by one, very slowly. Meanwhile, the agent kept talking.
‘We have been following him for decades, here and in Mars. We believe he has been using a password that refers to his childhood, to his father, whom he loved so much. A moment before he died, he told us that he died happy because he had become his father’s pride’
‘His father’s pride?’ Asked I, as I couldn’t help my eyes opening wide.
‘Yes. That’s what he said’, confirmed the agent.
‘Gentlemen,’ I said, getting ready to fool them as best I could ‘I really have no idea what he may be referring to, but I promise I will think about it and call you back if something comes up’
‘Please’ said the agent ‘We only have two days before the will is made effective. The consortium is willing to be extremely generous to anyone that could help them.’
‘How generous?’ Was my question.
‘Very generous, indeed’ Answered the agent. ‘They are ready to give more than a Hextrillion marths, alongside a deed of property for a whole asteroid to anyone that can help them in the matter’
‘Then Rico’s fortune must be immense?’ Said I, affecting a coolness that I was far from truly possessing.
‘It’s all deposited in a myriad of those semi-legal no-follow accounts, in small Martian and Jovian banks, but it could reach a billion times the amount mentioned’
‘I promise I’ll do my best’ Lied I once again. And as the two detectives walked out of the room I thought of what Rico was always saying when we were friends. His father was an astonishing mechanic, the kind of man that could fix an engine with a loose strap and a button. Ha had bought almost at no price, and fixed an old Hispano-Alemana car, which inspired Rico a poem that run thus:
‘Con mi padre, mi madre y mi Hermana, montado en la vieja tartana, de marca hispano-alemana’
With the username Rico Sanchez and the above password, I went to a public computer terminal and signed in easily into a bank account in the Marineris Bank, and then smiled. Rico Sanchez had been my best friend in childhood and I felt admiration for his work. The question now was: what was better for an old bag of bones like me, to die filthy rich and owing a whole asteroid or to let a thousand charities be financed for the next two centuries?
The answer was clear.