Cadging meals and sleeping in flophouses, Pascual has shed his past in the teeming portside alleys of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. While he has begun to find something like peace of mind, the man who broke the covert world of international terrorism wide open cannot entirely escape his memories. Alcohol can help him forget, but it can’t banish the shadow of Katixa, the one terrorist agent he did not betray—and whom he has no hope of ever seeing again. Or so he thinks.
Like a nova exploding in Pascual’s cosmos, Katixa bursts back into his life. On the run from both the police and a terrorist band of Basque nationalists from whom she’s appropriated a suitcase full of kidnapping cash, Katixa arrives with five million francs, a one-way ticket out of Spain, and a plan that includes Pascual. And when Katixa professes her love for him, Pascual’s better judgment doesn’t stand a chance. To save Katixa’s life and perhaps redeem his own, Pascual dusts off his old professional skills in the perilous arts of subterfuge and deceit. Again, the lying has begun, with the crying and dying yet to come.
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The night Katixa reappears, exploding like a nova into Pascual's cosmos, there is Handel at the Palau. Pascual is in the cheap seats; under the metastasizing plaster and the blister of coloured glass, an architect's fever-dream, a German chamber orchestra has reached the Allegro moderato in the Water Music, and Pascual's eyes are closed because this passage is his life. Beneath the strings and the oboes and the horns stalks the solitary bassoon, inexorable, pitiless. Pascual fears the obbligato like death but it is the most beautiful thing he knows.
Afterward, at the head of the Ramblas, Pascual is almost happy. He has enough pesetas left in his pocket to drink tonight; tomorrow something will turn up. Pascual can feel winter coming; soon the crowds will thin, the tourists will go and the Ramblas will belong to those who live here. Gypsies are drinking at the Font de Canaletas. Pascual drifts seaward down the gentle slope, scanning, waiting: knowing that sooner or later everything will happen and everyone go by.
He is lean and pale, with the tread of a cat and the hungry look of the wolf; there is something in the dark eyes, the long face unshaven for two days, that discourages even the forward German girls from approaching him with their uncertain Castilian and half-folded maps. Beyond that it is hard to say what people see; ask a Catalan and he will say Pascual is Castilian or even Andaluz, something about the eyes that suggests he has long squinted into the sun; ask an Andaluz and he will say Catalan. In Rome he has passed for French; in Beirut once he was taken for Americanand almost shot for it.
Pascual draws black tobacco smoke deep into his lungs, blowing it up into the cool sea air that is beginning to stir the leaves of the plane trees. When the Ducados run out he will have to cadge. He passes the open-air tables of the Café de la Opera under their awnings, meets the gaze of a ripe blonde in a long dress until her eyes flick away warily, walks on. Past the Opera, where the slope begins to level off and the crowd to thin, where the most obtuse tourist begins to step warily, Pascual is nearly home.
The Glaciar under the arcades at the top of the Plaça Reial is full of smoke and laughter, and the dark throbbing backbeat of Moroccan sha'bi. Pascual slides in next to Baltasar at the bar. Baltasar is ebony made flesh, long limbs and a smooth black face with big cow eyes. "There was an Arab at the pension, looking for you," says Baltasar, shoving a beer along the marble countertop toward him.
"Certainly an Arab. I know an Arab when I see one." Baltasar's Castilian is fluent but with a drumbeat accent. He and three companions came to the pension some months ago, political refugees from Equatorial Guinea. The Ajuntament pays the widow Puig a monthly rate to lodge them. One of Baltasar's companions limps badly and Baltasar has been known to wake in the night screaming.
Pascual ponders. "Did he mention money?"
"No. I told him the morning is the best time to find you at home. He said he'd be back."
"Let's hope," says Pascual. "Otherwise I don't eat tomorrow."
"Something can always be arranged." Baltasar haunts the Ramblas and the Plaça Reial; he knows everyone and will buy the occasional drink. Pascual believes him to be a merchant of illegal substances on a modest scale. He and Pascual are partners in penury, exchanging cigarettes and petty loans.
The barmaid slaps Baltasar's change on the bar in front of him. He blows her a kiss. "She toys with me cruelly," he says as she moves away, soft curves and black curls. "I am in love with her."
"It's in the air tonight," says Pascual. Pascual prefers Handel but in spite of himself the music has aroused him. He has been watching a table where three women sit smoking, a blonde, a redhead, and a pale northern brunette. German? Dutch? Irish? Female and aware of their power, in any event. Pascual watches the redhead go up the stairs to the WC, round hips working in faded denim.
"Viñas had no luck, but then maybe they're waiting for someone younger," says Baltasar.
Pascual laughs. "Or someone with two duros to rub together." Viñas sits in defeat by the door, nursing his beer, sketchpad on his knee. He catches Pascual's eye and shrugs, casting a comic look of longing at the women.
"I believe the field is open for you," says Baltasar.
Pascual watches the women smoke. He watches the redhead come back down the stairs. He remembers women from other nights, other bars. "Tonight I don't have the stamina," he says. "Go and work your African charms on them."
"No, my heart belongs to Eva," says Baltasar, eyes following the barmaid.
It is nearing midnight and Baltasar has business elsewhere. When the beer is finished Pascual crosses the plaza to sneak out through a narrow lane into the Gothic Quarter. The streets are narrow and empty; Pascual is tired. These black granite walls have been here since Ferdinand and Isabella were in knickers. There are echoes here. Music and beer have washed Pascual up on some far shore but the echoes make him wary. The occasional Moroccan cutthroat can still be encountered in the dark streets beyond the Plaça Reial. Pascual has lost wallets and been beaten senseless. He has no prejudices except against moros late at night in the lower Gothic Quarter.
The echoes in the Carrer Avinyó are not echoes. Pascual has his key out as he approaches the door, casting a glance over his shoulder. There is a figure there, head down and hands in pockets. Pascual very nearly walks on in search of brighter lights; unlocking the door would be an invitation. Fatigue spoils his judgment. As the man draws close enough for Pascual to make out the North African features, the face of an oversized and undernourished boy, he decides that this shambling moro is harmless, as fagged as he is. Pascual unlocks the door and pushes. His last backward glance coincides with the rush of feet. The moro is no longer shambling and now the knife is glinting in the lamplight. Pascual tries to slam the door shut but his weight cannot compete with the momentum of the charge. The door bursts inward and Pascual finds himself pinned against the wall at the foot of the stairs, the blade at his throat.
The only light comes from outside; Pascual can just see the whites of frantic eyes and the shine of greased-back hair. "Tranquilo," says the moro.
Pascual has done this before. "You too," he says. "Tranquilo. Who reaches for it, you or me?"
In answer the pressure on the knife increases. It is a twitch or an evil thought away from drawing torrents of blood; Pascual can feel his jugular pulsing against the blade through a layer of tender skin. He is very still, hands well away from his body, as the Arab's free hand probes. He has just found the wallet in Pascual's hip pocket when he freezes; a third party is moving in the dark with a rustle of clothing.
There is a click and a faint hiss and then light: a sizzling, crackling sound as blue flame shoots up the back of the moro's head. He jerks away and the little hall is eerily lit as a sputtering blue halo crowns his head. The knife clinks on the floor and his hands are beating at the flames as he slams back against the door, bellowing. A foot comes out of the darkness and kicks him into the street. Pascual has not moved but through the doorway he can see as the moro runs, bouncing off stone, screaming, a beacon in the night.
Pascual lets his arms fall to his sides. The cigarette lighter has gone out but Pascual registered a face behind it: female. All he can see is a pale face in the dark, coming closer. Pascual stiffens with alarm and raises his hands again to ward off the attack but it is too late; she is on him.
Still primed for mayhem, Pascual is ill-prepared to respond to a woman's tongue in his mouth. Her hands are on either side of his jaw, fingers in his hair, her body pinning him to the wall. After two or three seconds his blown circuits begin to register wonder. As the kiss begins to ease, softening from hungry to tender, the nova explodes.
She draws back just far enough for her breath to caress his lips. Stunned, Pascual impels her back toward the door, until lamplight falls on her face. "You," he manages in a hollow whisper.
"Me. I need five minutes."
Black eyes gleam in the lamplight. "Give me a five-minute lead and come to the Meridien, on the Ramblas. Room 317. Here's your key card." She slides a rectangle of plastic into his shirt pocket. Before Pascual can react she is through the door and gone; he can hear her heels tap-tapping away on the cobbles.
Pascual feels a shock so foreign it takes him a moment to recognize it as joy. Of all the things that could happen tonight, this one has happened: Katixa has found him.
Excerpted from Lying Crying Dying by Dominic Martell. Copyright © 1998 by Dominic Martell. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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