was a friend who’d just dropped by for a chat. “Why don’t you come over here and sit down next to me?”

“I’ll stand. Why don’t you put down that club?”

“I’ll hold on to it, thank you very much.”

“Why didn’t he do it? Rape me, I mean.”

“That would be like owning a candy store and eating your finest chocolate. The Goat is a businessman. He saves the best for his customers.”

“But I’m not the best. I’m not anything.”

“No, querida, of course you aren’t. You know that, and I know that, but the customers don’t. They think you’re something special because you’re a virgin.”

“And The Goat-”

“Knows better. The Goat has had plenty of virgins. Nowadays, he doesn’t even like virgins.”

“But his customers do.”

Roselia nodded.

“It’s the idea that appeals to them. That, more than the fuck. They all want to be the first, the one they think you’re going to remember. They’re willing to pay through the nose for the privilege. In this business, querida, you’ll never be more valuable than you are right now.”

“How does he-”

“Do it? He holds an auction. The bidders are mostly the kids with rich fathers. It’s a prestige thing for them, coming up with the money to be the first and bragging about it later, like they won a race or something. Stupid, I know, but that’s the way the little bastards think. And you can stop looking at me like that. I don’t make the rules. I’m just telling you the way it is.”

“Who would even want me?” Marta said. “Who would want me when I look like this?”

She pointed to the bruise on her cheek.

“They don’t care about your face, querida. They care about what’s between your legs. Anyway, that bruise is your own fault. The Goat was reasoning with you, trying to get you to see his side of it. Then you had to get snotty. You tried to kick him. You tried to bite him. What did you expect him to do? Stand there and suck it up? You made him lose his temper. By the way, he told me to tell you no hard feelings.”

“No hard feelings?”

“Not on his part. It wasn’t personal. Just business.”

Marta snorted, and gave Roselia a look that would freeze water. “You lied to me,” she said. “You lied to both of us.”

“Yeah,” Roselia said, “I lied.” She didn’t seem to be in the least embarrassed. “Mostly, I just tell the girls I have jobs for them in hotels and restaurants. But I knew that wouldn’t work with you and your friend. You had too much class. I still can’t figure out why you were sleeping on that beach. Want to tell me?”


“Not even if I tell you where your girlfriend is?”

Marta thought about it. “Then, yes,” she said. “You first.” Roselia stared at her for a long moment as if she was reflecting on the benefits of honesty.

“Okay,” she said at last. “The Goat sold her.”

“Sold her? Sold Andrea?”

Roselia nodded.

“Almost every new girl we get tells us she’s a virgin. They think it will protect them. It doesn’t, but we always check.”

“What’s that got to do with Andrea?”

“She wasn’t a virgin, so there wasn’t going to be any auction. Then, too, she was too old for-”

“Old? Andrea’s eighteen.”

“Yeah, like I said, too old. Men come to us for the younger girls. It’s our specialty, so to speak. Your turn. Why were you sleeping on that beach?”

Marta took a deep breath. “My parents locked me up,” she said. “They didn’t want me to see Andrea again, said I was too young to commit myself. And Andrea’s parents didn’t approve of our relationship. They wouldn’t let us stay at her place.”

“So you ran away, and you had no place to sleep except for the beach?”

Marta ground the sole of her sandal into one of the dead cockroaches on the floor and nodded.

“And now you’re wishing you’d stayed home,” Roselia said. Marta looked up and met her eyes. “No,” she said. “I’m wishing you’d left us alone.”

“Too late for that, querida.”

Roselia’s smile had a sharp edge.

“Not too late,” Marta said. “The cops are looking for me, and when they find me-”

Roselia laughed out loud.

“What a little dreamer you are,” she said. “You’ve been gone for a couple of months. By now, the cops have forgotten all about you.”

Marta shook her head.

“They haven’t, and they won’t. They’ll keep looking, because my grandfather will make sure they keep looking.”

“And who’s he? The President of the Republic?”

“He’s Roberto Malan.”

She expected Roselia to look shocked, but Roselia gave her another one of those smiles.

“Malan the big-time deputado?”


“And I’m Princess Diana,” Roselia said.

“I’m not kidding.”

“Me neither. That whole business about me being killed in Paris was a lie. Dodi and I have an apartment on the square in front of the Teatro Municipal, and after you’ve been auctioned off, maybe I’ll let you fuck him. Meantime”-she got up and fished her keys out of her pocket-“you’ll be sitting here playing with yourself, eating bread, and drinking water. Pound on the door when you change your mind.”

“I’m not going to change my mind.”

“Oh, yes, you are. Believe me.”

This time, Marta didn’t say a word when Roselia got up to go. She was damned if she was going to let the bitch know she was starting to cry.

Chapter Five


Aspirant Jan Bentinck was twenty-two and in his third and final year at the police academy. The current stage of his training involved a series of one-on-one sessions with an experienced officer. When Bentinck’s instructor told him he’d drawn Piet Kuipers, he also told him it was a stroke of luck. Kuipers was thought to be the best investigator in the whole Korps Landelijke Politiediensten and known as a man who enjoyed sharing his knowledge.

Kuipers worked out of a cramped space in the headquarters building on the Elandsgracht. His tiny cubicle had only one redeeming feature: a window with a view over the canal and the busy Nassaukade.

Kuipers offered Bentinck coffee, then began a lengthy lecture into which the investigator wove examples from past successes. But when he saw the young man’s eyes glazing over, he took pity upon him.

“What I’m about to tell you is confidential. You’re to keep your mouth shut on this one.”

“Ja, mijneer,” Bentinck sat up straighter in his chair. Kuipers had his full attention.

“The bomb that blew up that tram took a postal truck along with it.”

“I saw the pictures in De Telegraaf, mijneer. Mail was all over the street.”

“It was, and much of it was recovered. Among the stuff gathered up were a number of envelopes, each

Вы читаете Dying Gasp
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату