The Buenos Aires Quintet

The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán

Book: The Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán Read Free Book Online
Authors: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán
try to compensate for being unable to move her body, and rove desperately around the room. She cannot make anything out. The gloved hand of one of the motorcyclists is pressing a screwdriver to her throat. Then she hears a voice from the far side of the sheet.
    ‘Alma? Do you remember my voice? It’s me, the Captain, Alma! We meet again. The world turns and turns, and here we are again. We’ve arranged everything so that you can forget what’s happening. And we’ve stripped you naked so you’ll remember what happened in the past. You were lucky. Your sister died. Poor Berta: she was so sure she could change history and all she did was lose her life! But you spent a few months in prison and then years of golden exile.’
    ‘My baby!’
    ‘Your baby?’
    ‘My niece.’
    ‘She’s disappeared, unfortunately, but I’m sure she’s in better hands than yours or her mother’s.’
    Alma tries to look down at her body, seeking out the feeling of freezing cold that has invaded her, but the screwdriver point jabs into her neck, and the impotent fury in her eyes gets her nowhere.
    ‘Where is Raúl Tourón?’
    Alma wants to say something, and swallows, finding it hard to get the words out. Finally she says in a broken voice:
    ‘I don’t know’
    ‘I believe you, Alma. Do you remember how we became friends? How often my voice consoled you in those difficult times? I believe you, Alma. Perhaps you know what Tourón is looking for? Who is he looking for? His daughter? Me? Who am I?’
    ‘I don’t know. I don’t know!’
    Alma has raised her voice, and suddenly the screwdriver breaks her skin and a drop of blood appears. Alma bites her lip, and expresses all her despair through her eyes.
    ‘I believe you, Alma. I believe you. I’ve always believed you. But listen carefully to what I’m going to say to you. If Raúl Tourón does get in contact with you, hang the blouse we’ve taken off you in the window – just the blouse. What colour is it, Alma?’
    Alma tries to remember. The hand of one of the motorists thrusts it in front of her eyes.
    ‘It’s blue. Light blue. Sky blue on a fine summer day. Sky blue, the same blue as you’re going to see in a few seconds. Remember, put the blouse in the window. That’s all, Alma. Goodbye. See you soon.’
    The shadow figure disappears, and Alma waits for the sheet and all it stands for to fall to the floor. Then a towel covers her face, stealing reality from her instead.
    Pascuali stares lengthily at Font y Rius’ horrified face. The psychiatrist appears to have suffered a momentary paralysis which prevents him moving backwards or forwards, from thinking or talking.
    ‘You stated you came here looking for a report. What report is that?’
    Slowly, Font y Rius lifts his eyes to Pascuali, who is standing next to the legs of the dead man, which are dangling from the laboratory bench as if counterbalancing his head and arm, still plunged inside the tank full of rats.
    ‘It’s an old story’
    Pascuali is on the point of saying something but hesitates, waiting for Font y Rius to emerge from the depression that hangs heavily in the air of the room.
    ‘We’re the only ones here. You can talk.’
    Font y Rius starts to speak, at first overcome with emotion, but gradually recovering his calm.
    ‘It all happened twenty years ago. We were already one year into the military government and what had at first seemed like just another routine coup had clearly turned into a “dirty war”. We heard news of all the atrocities being committed. Torture. Disappearances. I wasn’t really involved, but my wife, my sister-in-law, Raúl and Roberto decided to draw up a detailed report on mental and physical resistance to pain and brutality. They had been working on it for years. They knew everything about pain in rats so they drew up a comprehensive list of situations. They looked at every possible variable that could help resist interrogation. The report was meant to be kept a complete

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