222 • pearls around the neck
at the dried fruit stall. I came closer, as if hypnotized, and stopped behind her. When I heard her voice,
my eyes welled up with tears. I swear! My love crushed my pride, Peña. I wanted to bury my nose in her
neck but I merely managed to utter her name: “Magdalena.” She turned around and when she saw me
her face lit up. We walked towards the Mount of Olives and we sat on my jacket. I threw pebbles in the
water and she kept eating walnuts, not stopping nor offering any either. Suddenly, I took her in my arms
and I kissed her desperately, throwing myself upon her, but she begged me to stop. Yes, she was going
to leave with me now, she swore. Could I ever forgive her for not having had the guts, she begged, could
I still forgive her, and even if I couldn’t. We started making plans again but I was very much alone, you
know, to succeed with such an undertaking. So I went to Don Septimo’s forge and I told him everything.
“You can count on me, you know that Currito, for anything,” he said. We agreed that he would go to
Magdalena’s under the pretense of fixing roofing tiles, early the following Thursday. And that’s just what
he did. A half hour later, I also went there, as we’d agreed. Joaquín had gone away, for some business,
Magdalena had told me. I had parked my car a block away in order not to arouse suspicion and I tucked
my gun in my belt, under my jacket. No, I didn’t think I would use it but it’s never superfluous, Peña.
The garden door was open and behind it Magdalena was waiting for me. “Come in, Curro. As I told
you, Joaquín won’t be back before lunch time,” she assured me. Yet, we’d barely entered the house that
we could hear the clinking of keys. The door opened and then: “Magdalena, Magdalena, where are you?
Answer me!” It was Don Septimo who answered: “Madam has gone out, Don Joaquín.” he said to him.
- What are you doing here, Septimo? Joaquín asked.
- Madam had me called in to fix the fence.
- Where did Madam go?
- Run some errands.
- Errands, at eight thirty in the morning? Are you quite sure, Septimo?
- That’s what she said. She said: “I’ll walk slowly but I’ll still be at the market early.”
- Clemencia is the one who goes to the market on Mondays, and today’s Thursday, as far as I know.
Are you lying to me, Septimo?
He started giving him an earful and kept yelling at him and then we heard a terrible noise. Magdalena
and I were crouched against the wall, behind the living room’s armchair. I made signs to tell her not to
move and then I tip-toed to the dining room. When I got there, Don Septimo was lying under the table,
covered in glass shards and blood. “You son of a bitch, I screamed, you killed that poor old man.” At that
moment, Magdalena appeared. When he saw her, Joaquín rushed towards her, brandishing Septimo’s
hammer, as if I didn’t exist, as if I wasn’t pointing my gun at him. I had no choice but to pull the trigger,
sending a bullet in his leg, another one in his chest, and another one in his head until he finally dropped
Very quickly the neighbors arrived, and then two police cars and an ambulance. The ambulance staff
removed the body. A police officer escorted Magdalena upstairs. Another handcuffed me; he placed my
gun in a plastic bag and there you have it, I landed in here, no communications allowed. They just gave
me the authorization to contact a lawyer, provided I knew one. So, I wrote to Magdalena and asked her
to look for your mother so that she would give us your address so that I would be able to send you my
letter. And she must have done so since you are here, but I haven’t heard from her.
I killed Joaquín, Peña, but he had just killed Don Septimo and if I hadn’t stopped him, he might have
killed Magdalena too. It’s quite clear. You go speak to her. You will see that I haven’t lied to you. You’re
already leaving? Yes, it is late, I understand. Pack your things, then, while I write a short note for you to
give to my darling if you see her. No, thank you, I have some paper and an envelope here: a true privilege.