Authors: Alli Sinclair
Wincing at her touch, Salvador moved away and said gruffly, âYou shouldn't be here.'
âAs if I wouldn't.' She rested her hand gently on his forehead where a large amount of blood had congealed. Turning to face Raul, she narrowed her eyes. âI assume this is Federico's work.'
Salvador adjusted his position on the floor, his expression one of pain. âYou should sit down, Katarina.'
âI'm fine standing.' She rested the painting against the wall and her gaze travelled from one man to the next. âWhat happened?'
âIt doesn't matter.'
âYou're joking, right? You look like you've been beaten to a pulp and your wife is worried sick because you haven't been home.'
âI can't go home, not for the moment, anyway. Federico knows where I live and I need to stay away from him in case he tracks me down. Claudia's safe for the time being, although I'm going to need your help.'
âI asked you to leave things alone.' She didn't like lecturing, but she'd warned Salvador to let things be. âYou've done yourself out of a job.'
âI'll survive and I'm not so sure you'll want to be working for Federico for much longer, either.' Salvador and Raul exchanged glances.
âEnough with the secrecy.' She crossed her arms.
âAll right.' Salvador ran his battered hand through his hair. âSo I'd suspected something was up with you a while ago. Subtle changes in your steps, a happier demeanour â¦ little things that only someone who knew you well would notice. At first I thought it was because we were out of the
and finally earning money then I suspected it was being with Raul againâ'
âBut we only talked about that last night.'
âKatarina,' Salvador gave her a warm smile, âdo you think I am blind? I wanted you to believe this because you opened up a little and I was happy to see this. But the letter â¦' He sighed. âThat letter set off fireworks of worry about you. Yes, I did go snooping in your room but I did not leave it in a mess. When I found nothing I suspected Federico had preyed on you and recruited you for â¦ something.'
âWhy Federico?' she asked, her heart pounding. How could she be so naÃ¯ve as to think she could keep something this major from Salvador?
âWhy not? It was you he wanted in the
and he only took me on because you wouldn't come otherwise. Up until last night, I'd thought it was because he believed your dancing would bring in the crowds but with the discovery of that letter and you being so evasive, it made me wonder if Federico had singled you out and gotten his claws into you for his own nefarious needs, or maybe on behalf of the Lobo Brothers.'
âTheir support of Franco isn't any secret.'
âI am aware of this.' Salvador rubbed his rib gingerly. âRaul has told me what you've been doing.'
She opened her mouth but Raul interjected. âYou need to hear him out, Katarina.'
Salvador nodded his thanks and said, âI know your heart is in the right place and your reasons for doing this are far from questionable.'
âI â¦' She held her head in her hands. âI'm so, so sorry for putting you and Claudia and the baby at risk.'
âWe cannot change what is. What you need to know is when I looked in Federico's office I found something far worse than your letter.' Salvador nodded towards Raul who reached into the bag beside him and pulled a small notebook tattered around the edges. He handed it to Katarina, who opened the first page, her eyes adjusting to the low light.
As she flicked through the pages she recognised Federico's distinctive handwriting that listed her name, along with Raul's, Salvador's and every other member of the
, as well as some of the audience members who attended on a regular basis. Underneath the names, in perfectly round writing, were descriptions of what they did on particular dates and, most disconcerting, notes about anti-Franco sentiments that had been uttered within Federico's earshot. She flicked through the pages and came to a section describing Katarina's dance steps in detail.
âWhy would he do this?' Her hands shook and the pages rustled.
âWhy do you think?' Salvador pointed at Federico's writing. âAre these the moves you were instructed to do by your fictional flamenco teacher?'
âYes,' she gulped. âHow could he have written them down in such detail? I dance them so quickly.'
âIncredible memory,' Raul said. âHe's always had it.'
âWhy the notes, though?' Katrina closed the book and dropped it on the floor like it was a hot coal. She turned to Salvador as he retrieved the book. âWon't he notice it missing?'
âThere were many, many notebooks, so I doubt he'll realise it straight away. I had to grab at least one to show you and Raul because obviously this is of great concern to everyoneâespecially you two.'
âBut he couldn't have any idea about what we've been doing, right? Besides, we're his drawcard. Why would he turn in the people who make the company money?' Katarina asked, fear swelling in her belly.
âThe Lobo Brothers,' Raul said, shaking his head.
âWhat about them?' she asked.
âI've been doing some digging because I suspected Federico's cantankerous moods had something to do with his relationship with them. After all, they bankrolled Federico's dream of owning a dance company and nothing comes for free.'
âWhat did you find?' she asked.
âNot as much as I wanted to. That was another reason I was with Federico this morning. He'd hunted me down because he wanted to plant this story about Salvador and he thought I'd buy it. I planned to use that opportunity to put my feelers out about the Lobo Brothers as well. Unfortunately, you interrupted us.'
âI'm sorry. I was intent on finding Salvador.'
âYou couldn't have known.' Raul breathed heavily through his nostrils. âWhen you showed up I'd just asked him what the Lobo Brothers wanted in return.'
âHe was so angry.'
âI know. When we worked together years ago he never lost his temper, always looked out for others. He had great zeal for promoting flamenco and making sure its rich culture didn't fade into oblivion. That's why he jumped at the chance of taking on this dance company.' Raul shook his
head. âWhy he would associate with Franco supporters is beyond me.'
Katarina tilted back her head and stared at the rotting beams. Bringing her eyes level with Raul's, she asked, âHe's making notes and passing the information on to the Lobos, isn't he?' She nodded towards the book in Salvador's hand. âCan I have another look?'
Salvador handed it over and she scanned the pages again. The Ruiz family â¦ Maronna family â¦ Rodriguez family â¦ âAll these audience members he's listed are known anti-Franco supporters. Ernesto Ruiz was arrested only last week and accused of treason and Henri Maronna was arrested three weeks ago.' A gasp caught in her throat. âOh god, Federico wouldn't.'
âI'm afraid he already has,' said Raul.
âBut why? Surely he wouldn't turn in the greatest patrons of his theatre? And if he's done it to them what would stop him from doing it to his own cast members? Although isn't that shooting himself in the foot?' A bolt of fear zapped her.
Raul said, âThere are always other dancers willing to take our place at a moment's notice. The audience may not like it at first, but they'll keep coming regardless. The theatre has made its name, now.'
âIs the theatre a front?'
âI don't think it started out that way but who's to say the Lobos aren't getting more money for passing on information?'
âAnd who's to say Federico isn't?' Bitterness came out with every word Salvador uttered.
âThis is not good.' She rested her back against the wall, the cold stones biting through her thin coat. âSo if they're passing on information, it's only a matter of time before they dig further.' Nausea swelled in her belly. âThey're going to find out about our connection to the Maquis, aren't they?'
âIt's not a possibility, it's a definite,' said Raul.
âBut you're his friend! How could he turn you in?'
âFriendship counts for nothing in this day and age.' Raul stared at the wall.
âI'm so sorry, Raul.' Even though she and Raul had set out to do the right thing by the people of their country, it had now come at a horrendous cost.
âThere's something else you need to know.' Raul paused, dark shadows covering his face. âLast night I heard a ruckus when I was rehearsing so I went to investigate. I thought perhaps someone had broken in, but when I got close to Federico's office I could hear him yelling at Salvador and it broke into a physical fight.'
âWhy didn't you stop them?' she asked.
âThings have been tense around here, so I thought they were just blowing off steam. I followed Salvador out to tell him Federico would get over it but that was when Salvador showed me the notebook he swiped when Federico wasn't looking.'
âYou knew all of this last night, yet you didn't tell me?' His lack of faith in her hurt.
âI needed time to figure it out.' He drew his lips into a tight line.
âBut we made â¦' She didn't finish the sentence, not wanting to let Salvador in on her most private moments with Raul. Forcing herself to continue, she said, âThen Federico met you at the markets. To tell you what?'
âTo tell me about Salvador's supposed trashing of your room. He brought me back to the theatre to show me, but when I followed Salvador last night I noticed your room hadn't been touched. I knew then Federico was lying and he'd messed up the room before he found me.'
All this information was hard to take in but she needed to grab it and store as much as she could. For months they'd relayed messages undisturbed and it had lulled them into a false sense of security. And that had now been dramatically destroyed by a man who they'd thought was neutral.
âI'm guessing he trashed my room because it would turn me against Salvador and I'd stay with the company. How could he have possibly known Salvador would want to look in my room for any reason?' Clapping her hand across her mouth, she said, âDid he hear us talk about the letter?'
âAbsolutely not,' Salvador said. âPerhaps catching me in his office gave him the idea to trash yours and blame me. Who knows what his reasons are. All I know is that I have to lie low until this blows overâif it ever does.'
âI don't understand why he would go to these lengths to oust Salvador and keep me. After all, he makes lists about what I do, he â¦ oh, dear
Lordâkeep your friends close and your enemies closer.'
âThere's no need to hit the panic button yet but I'm guessing somebody in the Franco camp knows something's not right within the company. That's probably why the Lobos have Federico on the job.' Raul placed his head in his hands. âHe's got himself in a hole and I really don't think he knows how deep this goes.'
Katarina wiped the thin layer of cold perspiration from her forehead. âBut we don't know for sure what he's doing this for, right? Maybe it's some strange habit he has, maybeâ'
âStop, Katarina,' Raul said. âWe all know what this is and now we have to find a way to deal with it.'
Charlotte exited the lift of St Thomas's Private Hospital, her head barely registering that her feet were back on Australian soil. Her heart, however, knew the sorrow of leaving Mateo behind in Granada. She walked up to the nurses' station and, before she had a chance to ask one of the staff, Steve popped out of nowhere.
âYou look like rubbish.'
âThank you for the most special welcome back,' Charlotte said and lightly punched her brother in the arm. âWhat do you expect after spending a kazillion hours in the air? I wanted to see Abuela now so I've come straight from the airport.'
âI can tell.' Steve sniffed.
âVery funny. So how's she doing?' They walked towards Abuela's room and paused outside the door.
Steve gave a slow shake of the head. âShe's not going up or downâthat's the mystery. We should have seen some development one way or the other. As we know, though, Abuela is toughâ'
âAs old boots.'
Steve offered a sad smile. âDo you want me to come in with you?'
Charlotte shook her head. âThanks but I think this needs to be done one on one.'
âSure. I'll call Mum and let her know you're here.' He whipped his phone out of his pocket.
âAway on business.'
âWhat a surprise.' She didn't bother hiding the sarcasm.
Steve shrugged and had already dialled their mother's number. He turned and ambled down the hallway as he chatted on the phone.
She stepped through the door, not sure what to expect. Abuela slept peacefully, the fading light of day casting a grey shadow over her. Tiptoeing to the side of the bed and quietly sitting on a chair, Charlotte lightly held her grandmother's hand, practising the speech she'd rehearsed in her head during the long, long hours she'd had to think on planes and while waiting at airports for connections. Figuring out what to say to Abuela had also been an excellent way to keep her mind off saying goodbye to Mateo. Although she'd tried to insist on making her own way to the airport, he'd done a great job at convincing her to let him drive. She'd checked in her bags, complete with the purchased art supplies, and she and Mateo had shared an awkward goodbye. There were so many unspoken words between them and neither were entirely sure what this departure meant.
âAbuela,' Charlotte whispered, feeling a little woozy from lack of sleep. Perhaps she would have been better having a shower first but looking at Abuela now, more ashen and thin than the last time she'd seen her, Charlotte knew coming straight to the hospital was the right decision.