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89 guardian angel the house had several bedrooms. I asked which of them I wassupposedtosleepin.Shetookmetoabedroomthatwasclosetohers. I sat on the bed, tested the mattress. “No good, it’s too soft. It’ll kill my back.” I tested the mattresses in all the bedrooms until I found a firm one. “This one’s good. You got a shirt I can use? I forgot to bring anything to sleep in.” The woman came back right away with a white shirt. “This is the largest I have. I just wore it once, does it matter?” I thanked the woman and said good night. I put on the shirt, smelled the scent in the fabric, a mixture of clean skin and perfume. I looked for a position for sleep. My back hurt. I had a lot of broken and badly healed bones scattered around my body. The woman knocked on the door so softly that I nearly didn’t hear her. “Yes?” “It’s me. I’d like to speak to you.” “One moment.” I put on my pants and opened the door. She was wearing a robe, and a woman in a robe always reminds me of 90 | Rubem Fonseca my mother. In fact, the only thing I remember about my mother is the robe. “You’re too far away; I don’t feel protected. I can’t sleep. Can’t you go to the room next to mine? We can take the firm mattress from this bed and exchange it for the other one.” I took my firm mattress to the bedroom next to hers. I sat on the bed. “I think everything’s all right now. I can sleep on this. Good night.” “Good night.” Icouldn’ttakemorethantenminuteslyingdown.Thepaininmyspine increased. I got out of bed and sat in an armchair that was in the room. Another knock on the door. “What is it?” “I heard a noise in the garden,” she whispered through the door. “I think there’s someone in the garden.” I put on my pants. Opened the door. She was still in her robe. “It must be your imagination. You’re very nervous. Where in the garden ?” “In the magnolia grove. There aren’t any lights there, and I had the impression that I saw a light going on and off.” “You have a flashlight?” “Yes.” The woman gave me the flashlight. “Be careful. I’ve told you the horrible things that have been happening with me, haven’t I?” “You ought to go to your apartment in the city.” “It’s worse there. I had to disconnect the telephone because of the calls inthemiddleofthenight,threateningme.Andtherearepeoplefollowing me in the street. Here, at least, there are bars on all the windows, and the doors are metal. Take the revolver.” “It’s better if you keep the revolver. Lock the door. And don’t go looking out through the window.” It was a large country estate. A lawn with flowerbeds ringed the house. In the middle of the grass, a swimming pool. In the rear, the caretaker’s 91 | Guardian Angel house and the garden. The rest of the estate was woods and large trees, which made the night even darker. Stone benches were scattered among the trees. I sat down on one of them, in the magnolia grove. I waited, with the lit flashlight on the bench. Sonya emerged silently from the darkness and sat down beside me on the stone bench. “Did you leave the revolver where she could see it?” “I left it in her hand. I’m following your plan.” “Listen to this noise,” Sonya said, taking a recorder from her purse and turning it on. It sounded like the moan of someone dying. “Doesn’t it sound like a ghost?” “You two are lucky there’s no dog here.” “There was. We poisoned it. Jorge poisoned it. When’s she going to use the revolver?” “She’s scared to death, let’s wait a bit. Who’s Jorge?” “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” “Why do you want the woman dead?” “That’s none of your concern.” “I’m going back to the house. Turn off the moans. That’s enough for now.” “Don’t forget our agreement,” Sonya said. “This has to be taken care of within three days. If she’s still undecided, you put the bullet in her head yourself.” I went back to the house. The woman opened the door, holding my revolver. She was...


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