If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don’t have it, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.

Ann Landers

Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
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Chapter 28
t was Tracy who suggested to Gunther Hartog that they meet in Majorca. Tracy loved the island. It was one of the truly picturesque places in the world. "Besides," she told Gunther, "it was once the refuge of pirates. We'll feel right at home there."
"It might be best if we are not seen together," he suggested.
"I'll arrange it."
o O o
It had started with Gunther's phone call from London. "I have something for you that is quite out of the ordinary, Tracy. I think you'll find it a real challenge."
The following morning Tracy flew to Palma, Majorca's capital. Because of Interpol's red circulation on Tracy, her departure from Biarritz and her arrival in Majorca were reported to the local authorities. When Tracy checked into the Royal Suite at the Son Vida Hotel, a surveillance team was set up on a twenty-four-hour basis.
Police Commandant Ernesto Marze at Palma had spoken with Inspector Trignant at Interpol.
"I am convinced," Trignant said, "that Tracy Whitney is a one-woman crime wave."
"All the worse for her. If she commits a crime in Majorca, she will find that our justice is swift."
Inspector Trignant said, "Monsieur, there is one other thing I should mention."
"You will be having an American visitor. His name is Daniel Cooper."
o O o
It seemed to the detectives trailing Tracy that she was interested only in sightseeing. They followed her as she toured the island, visiting the cloister of San Francisco and the colorful Bellver Castle and the beach at Illetas. She attended a bullfight in Palma and dined on sobrasadas and camaiot in the Plaza de la Reine; and she was always alone.
She took trips to Formentor and Valldemosa and La Granja, and visited the pearl factories at Manacor.
"Nada," the detectives reported to Ernesto Marze. "She is here as a tourist, Commandant."
The commandant's secretary came into the office. "There is an American here to see you. Señor Daniel Cooper."
Commandant Marze had many American friends. He liked Americans, and he had the feeling that despite what Inspector Trignant had said, he was going to like this Daniel Cooper.
He was wrong.
"You're idiots. All of you," Daniel Cooper snapped. "Of course she's not here as a tourist. She's after something."
Commandant Marze barely managed to hold his temper in check. "Señor, you yourself have said that Miss Whitney's targets are always something spectacular, that she enjoys doing the impossible. I have checked carefully, Señor Cooper. There is nothing in Majorca that is worthy of attracting Señorita Whitney's talents."
"Has she met anyone here... talked to anyone?"
The insolent tone of the ojete! "No. No one."
"Then she will," Daniel Cooper said flatly.
I finally know, Commandant Marze told himself, what they mean by the Ugly American.
o O o
There are two hundred known caves in Majorca, but the most exciting is the Cuevas del Drach, the "Caves of the Dragon," near Porto Cristo, an hour's journey from Palma. The ancient caves go deep into the ground, enormous vaulted caverns carved with stalagmites and stalactites, tomb-silent except for the occasional rush of meandering, underground streams, with the water turning green or blue or white, each color denoting the extent of the tremendous depths.
The caves are a fairyland of pale-ivory architecture, a seemingly endless series of labyrinths, dimly lit by strategically placed torches.
No one is permitted inside the caves without a guide, but from the moment the caves are opened to the public in the morning, they are filled with tourists.
Tracy chose Saturday to visit the caves, when they were most crowded, packed with hundreds of tourists from countries all over the world. She bought her ticket at the small counter and disappeared into the crowd. Daniel Cooper and two of Commandant Marze's men were close behind her. A guide led the excursionists along narrow stone paths, made slippery by the dripping water from the stalactites above, pointing downward like accusing skeletal fingers.
There were alcoves where the visitors could step off the paths to stop and admire the calcium formations that looked like huge birds and strange animals and trees. There were pools of darkness along the dimly lit paths, and it was into one of these that Tracy disappeared.
Daniel Cooper hurried forward, but she was nowhere in sight. The press of the crowd moving down the steps made it impossible to locate her. He had no way of knowing whether she was ahead of him or behind him. She is planning something here, Cooper told himself. But how? Where? What?
o O o
In an arena-sized grotto at the lowest point in the caves, facing the Great Lake, is a Roman theater. Tiers of stone benches have been built to accommodate the audiences that come to watch the spectacle staged every hour, and the sightseers take their seats in darkness, waiting for the show to begin.
Tracy counted her way up to the tenth tier and moved in twenty seats. The man in the twenty-first seat turned to her. "Any problem?"
"None, Gunther." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
He said something, and she had to lean closer to hear him above the babel of voices surrounding them.
"I thought it best that we not be seen together, in case you're being followed."
Tracy glanced around at the huge, packed black cavern. "We're safe here." She looked at him, curious. "It must be important."
"It is." He leaned closer to her. "A wealthy client is eager to acquire a certain painting. It's a Goya, called Puerto. He'll pay whoever can obtain it for him half a million dollars in cash. That's above my commission."
Tracy was thoughtful. "Are there others trying?"
"Frankly, yes. In my opinion, the chances of success are limited."
"Where is the painting?"
"In the Prado Museum in Madrid."
"The Prado!" The word that flashed through Tracy's mind was impossible.
He was leaning very close, speaking into her ear, ignoring the chattering going on around them as the arena filled up. "This will take a great deal of ingenuity. That is why I thought of you, my dear Tracy."
"I'm flattered," Tracy said. "Half a million dollars?"
"Free and clear."
The show began, and there was a sudden hush. Slowly, invisible bulbs began to glow and music filled the enormous cavern. The center of the stage was a large lake in front of the seated audience, and on it, from behind a stalagmite, a gondola appeared, lighted by hidden spotlights. An organist was in the boat, filling the air with a melodic serenade that echoed across the water. The spectators watched, rapt, as the colored lights rainbowed the darkness, and the boat slowly crossed the lake and finally disappeared, as the music faded.
"Fantastic," Gunther said. "It was worth traveling here j to see this."
"I love traveling," Tracy said. "And do you know what i I've always wanted to see, Gunther? Madrid."
o O o
Standing at the exit to the caves, Daniel Cooper watt Tracy Whitney come out.
She was alone.
Chapter 28
The Ritz Hotel, on the Plaza de la Lealtad in Madrid, is considered the best hotel in Spain, and for more than a century it has housed and fed monarchs from a dozen European countries. Presidents, dictators, and billionaires have slept there. Tracy had heard so much about the Ritz that the reality was a disappointment. The lobby was faded and seedy-looking.
The assistant manager escorted her to the suite she had requested, 411-412, in the south wing of the hotel on Calle Felipe V.
"I trust this will be satisfactory, Miss Whitney."
Tracy walked over to the window and looked out. Directly below, across the street, was the Prado Museum. "This will do nicely, thank you."
The suite was filled with the blaring sounds of the heavy traffic from the streets below, but it had what she wanted: a bird's-eye view of the Prado.
Tracy ordered a light dinner in her room and retired early. When she got into the bed, she decided that trying to sleep in it had to be a modern form of medieval torture.
At midnight a detective stationed in the lobby was relieved by a colleague. "She hasn't left her room. I think she's settled in for the night."
o O o
In Madrid, Dirección General de Seguridad, police headquarters, is located in the Puerto del Sol and takes up an entire city block. It is a gray building with red brick, boasting a large clock tower at the top. Over the main entrance the red-and-yellow Spanish flag flies, and there is always a policeman at the door, wearing a beige uniform and a dark-brown beret, and equipped with a machine gun, a billy club, a small gun, and handcuffs. It is at this headquarters that liaison with Interpol is maintained.
On the previous day an X-D Urgent cable had come in for Santiago Ramiro, the police commandant in Madrid, informing him of Tracy Whitney's impending arrival. The commandant had read the final sentence of the cable twice and then telephoned Inspector André Trignant at Interpol headquarters in Paris.
"I do not comprehend your message," Ramiro had said. "You ask me to extend my department's full cooperation to an American who is not even a policeman? For what reason?"
"Commandant, I think you will find Mr. Cooper most useful. He understands Miss Whitney."
"What is there to understand?" the commandant retorted. "She is a criminal. Ingenious, perhaps, but Spanish prisons are full of ingenious criminals. This one will not slip through our net."
"Bon. And you will consult with Mr. Cooper?"
The commandant said grudgingly, "If you say he can be useful, I have no objection."
"Merci, monsieur."
"De nada, señor."
o O o
Commandant Ramiro, like his counterpart in Paris, was not fond of Americans. He found them rude, materialistic, and naive. This one, he thought, may be different. I will probably like him.
He hated Daniel Cooper on sight.
"She's outsmarted half the police forces in Europe," Daniel Cooper asserted, as he entered the commandant's office. "And she'll probably do the same to you."
It was all the commandant could do to control himself. "Señor, we do not need anyone to tell us our business. Señorita Whitney has been under surveillance from the moment she arrived at Barajas Airport this morning. I assure you that if someone drops even a pin on the street and your Miss Whitney picks it up, she will be whisked to jail. She has not dealt with the Spanish police before."
"She's not here to pick up a pin on the street."
"Why do you think she is here?"
"I'm not sure. I can only tell you that it will be something big."
Commandant Ramiro said smugly, "The bigger the better. We will watch her every move."
o O o
When Tracy awakened in the morning, groggy from a torturous night's sleep in the bed designed by Tomás de Torquemada, she ordered a light breakfast and hot, black coffee, and walked over to the window overlooking the Prado. It was an imposing fortress, built of stone and red bricks from the native soil, and was surrounded by grass and trees. Two Doric columns stood in front, and, on either side, twin staircases led up to the front entrance. At the street level were two side entrances. Schoolchildren and tourists from a dozen countries were lined up in front of the museum, and at exactly 10:00 A.M., the two large front doors were opened by guards, and the visitors began to move through the revolving door in the center and through the two side passages at ground level.
The telephone rang, startling Tracy. No one except Gunther Hartog knew she was in Madrid. She picked up the telephone. "Hello?"
"Buenos dias, señorita." It was a familiar voice. "I'm calling for the Madrid Chamber of Commerce, and they have instructed me to do everything I can to make sure you have an exciting time in our city."
"How did you know I was in Madrid, Jeff?"
"Señorita, the Chamber of Commerce knows everything. Is this your first time here?"
"¡Bueno! Then I can show you a few places. How long do you plan to be here, Tracy?"
It was a leading question. "I'm not sure," she said lightly "Just long enough to do a little shopping and sightseeing. What are you doing in Madrid?"
"The same." His tone matched hers. "Shopping and sightseeing."
Tracy did not believe in coincidence. Jeff Stevens was there for the same reason she was: to steal the Puerto.
He asked, "Are you free for dinner?"
It was a dare. "Yes."
"Good. I'll make a reservation at the Jockey."
o O o
Tracy certainly had no illusions about Jeff, but when she stepped out of the elevator into the lobby and saw him standing there waiting for her, she was unreasonably pleased to see him.
Jeff took her hand in his. "iFantástico, querida! You look lovely."
She had dressed carefully. She wore a Valentino navy-blue suit with a Russian sable flung around her neck, Maud Frizon pumps, and she carried a navy purse emblazoned with the Hermes H.
Daniel Cooper, seated at a small round table in a corner of the lobby with a glass of Perrier before him, watched Tracy as she greeted her escort, and he felt a sense of enormous power: Justice is mine, sayeth the Lord, and I am His sword and his instrument of vengeance. My life is a penance, and you shall help me pay. I'm going to punish you.
Cooper knew that no police force in the world was clever enough to catch Tracy Whitney. But I am, Cooper thought She belongs to me.
o O o
Tracy had become more than an assignment to Daniel Cooper: She had become an obsession. He carried her photographs and file with him everywhere, and at night before he went to sleep, he lovingly pored over them. He had arrived in Biarritz too late to catch her, and she had eluded him in Majorca, but now that Interpol had picked up her trail again, Cooper was determined not to lose it.
He dreamed about Tracy at night. She was in a giant cage, naked, pleading with him to set her free. l love you, he said, but I'll never set you free.
o O o
The Jockey was a small, elegant restaurant on Amador de los Ríos.
"The food here is superb," Jeff promised.
He was looking particularly handsome, Tracy thought. There was an inner excitement about him that matched Tracy's, and she knew why: They were competing with each other, matching wits in a game for high stakes. But I'm going to win, Tracy thought. I'm going to find a way to steal that painting from the Prado before he does.
"There's a strange rumor around," Jeff was saying.
She focused her attention on him. "What kind of rumor?"
"Have you ever heard of Daniel Cooper? He's an insurance investigator, very bright."
"No. What about him?"
"Be careful. He's dangerous. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."
"Don't worry."
"But I have been, Tracy."
She laughed. "About me? Why?"
He put a hand over hers and said lightly, "You're very special. Life is more interesting with you around, my love."
He's so damned convincing; Tracy thought. If I didn't know better, I'd believe him.
"Let's order," Tracy said. "I'm starved."
o O o
In the days that followed, Jeff and Tracy explored Madrid. They were never alone. Two of Commandant Ramiro's men followed them everywhere, accompanied by the strange American. Ramiro had given permission for Cooper to be a part of the surveillance team simply to keep the man out of his hair. The American was loco, convinced that the Whitney woman was somehow going to steal some great treasure from under the noses of the police. iQue ridículo!
o O o
Tracy and Jeff dined at Madrid's classic restaurants--- Horcher, the Príncipe de Viana, and Casa Botín--- but Jeff also knew the places undiscovered by tourists: Casa Paco and La Chuletta and El Lacón, where he and Tracy dined on delicious native stews like cocido madrileño and olla podrida, and then visited a small bar where they had delicious tapas.
Wherever they went, Daniel Cooper and the two detectives were never far behind.
Watching them from a careful distance, Daniel Cooper was puzzled by Jeff Stevens's role in the drama that was being played out. Who was he? Tracy's next victim? Or were they plotting something together?
Cooper talked to Commandant Ramiro. "What information do you have on Jeff Stevens?" Cooper asked.
"Nada. He has no criminal record and is registered as a tourist. I think he is just a companion the lady picked up."
Cooper's instincts told him differently. But it was not Jeff Stevens he was after. Tracy, he thought. I want you, Tracy.
When Tracy and Jeff returned to the Ritz at the end of a late evening, Jeff escorted Tracy to her door. "Why don't I come in for a nightcap?" he suggested.
Tracy was almost tempted. She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Think of me as your sister, Jeff."
"What's your position on incest?"
But she had closed the door.
A few minutes later he telephoned her from his room. "How would you like to spend tomorrow with me in Segovia? It's a fascinating old city just a few hours outside of Madrid."
"It sounds wonderful. Thanks for a lovely evening," Tracy. said. "Good night, Jeff."
She lay awake a long time, her mind filled with thoughts she had no right to be thinking. It had been so long since she had been emotionally involved with a man. Charles had hurt her badly, and she had no wish to be hurt again. Jeff Stevens was an amusing companion, but she knew she must never allow him to become any more than that. It would be easy to fall in love with him. And foolish.
Tracy had difficulty falling asleep.
o O o
The trip to Segovia was perfect. Jeff had rented a small car, and they drove out of the city into the beautiful wine country of Spain. An unmarked Seat trailed behind them during the entire day, but it was not an ordinary car.
The Seat is the only automobile manufactured in Spain, and it is the official car of the Spanish police. The regular model has only 100 horsepower, but the ones sold to the Policía Nacional and the Guardia Civil are souped up to 150 horsepower, so there was no danger that Tracy Whitney and Jeff Stevens would elude Daniel Cooper and the two detectives.
Tracy and Jeff arrived at Segovia in time for lunch and dined at a charming restaurant in the main square under the shadow of the two-thousand-year-old aqueduct built by the Romans. After lunch they wandered around the medieval city and visited the old Cathedral of Santa Maria and the Renaissance town hall, and then drove up to the Alcázar, the old Roman fortress perched on a rocky spur high over the city. The view was breathtaking.
"I'll bet if we stayed here long enough, we'd see Don Quixote and Sancho Panza riding along the plains below," Jeff said.
She studied him. "You enjoy tilting at windmills, don't you?"
"Depends on the shape of the windmill," he said softly. He moved closer to her.
Tracy stepped away from the edge of the cliff. "Tell me more about Segovia."
And the spell was broken.
Jeff was an enthusiastic guide, knowledgeable about history, archaeology, and architecture, and Tracy had to keep reminding herself that he was also a con artist. It was the most pleasant day Tracy could remember.
One of the Spanish detectives, José Pereira, grumbled to Cooper, "The only thing they're stealing is our time. They're just two people in love, can't you see that? Are you sure she's planning something?"
"I'm sure," Cooper snarled. He was puzzled by his own reactions. All he wanted was to catch Tracy Whitney, to punish her, as she deserved. She was just another criminal, an assignment. Yet, every time Tracy's companion took her arm, Cooper found himself stung with fury.
When Tracy and Jeff arrived back in Madrid, Jeff said, "If you're not too exhausted, I know a special place for dinner."
"Lovely." Tracy did not want the day to end. I'll give myself this day, this one day to be like other women.
o O o
Madrileños dine late, and few restaurants open for dinner before 9:00 P.M. Jeff made a reservation for 10:00 at the Zalacaín, an elegant restaurant where the food was superb and perfectly served. Tracy ordered no dessert, but the captain brought a delicate flaky pastry that was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. She sat back in her chair, sated and happy.
"It was a wonderful dinner. Thank you."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. This is the place to bnng people if you want to impress them."
She studied him. "Are you trying to impress me, Jeff?"
He grinned. "You bet I am. Wait until you see what's next."
What was next was an unprepossessing bodega, a smoky café filled with leather jacketed Spanish workmen drinking at the bar and at the dozen tables in the room. At one end was a tablado, a slightly elevated platform, where two men strummed guitars. Tracy and Jeff were seated at a small table near the platform.
"Do you know anything about flamenco?" Jeff asked. He had to raise his voice over the noise level in the bar.
"Only that it's a Spanish dance."
"Gypsy, originally. You can go to fancy nightclubs in Madrid and see imitations of flamenco, but tonight you'll see the real thing."
Tracy smiled at the enthusiasm in Jeff's voice.
"You're going to see a classic cuadro flamenco. That's a group of singers, dancers, and guitarists. First they perform together, then each one takes his turn."
Watching Tracy and Jeff from a table in the corner near the kitchen, Daniel Cooper wondered what they were discussing intently.
"The dance is very subtle, because everything has to work together--- movements, music, costumes, the building of the rhythm...."
"How do you know so much about it?" Tracy asked.
"I used to know a flamenco dancer."
Naturally, Tracy thought.
The lights in the bodega dimmed, and the small stage was lit by spotlights. Then the magic began. It started slowly. A group of performers casually ascended to the platform. The women wore colorful skirts and blouses, and high combs with flowers banked on their beautiful Andalusian coiffures. The male dancers were dressed in the traditional tight trousers and vests and wore gleaming cordovan-leather half boots. The guitarists strummed a wistful melody, while one of the seated women sang in Spanish.
Yo quería dejar
A mi amante,
Pero antes de que pudiera,
Hacerlo ella me abandonó
Y destrozó mi corazón.
"Do you understand what she's saying?" Tracy whispered.
"Yes. 'I wanted to leave my lover, but before I could, he left me and he broke my heart.' "
A dancer moved to the center of the stage. She started with a simple zapateado, a beginning stamping step, gradually pushed faster and faster by the pulsating guitars. The rhythm grew, and the dancing became a form of sensual violence, variations on steps that had been born in gypsy caves a hundred years earlier. As the music mounted in intensity and excitement, moving through the classic figures of the dance, from alegría to fandanguillo to zambra to seguiriya, and as the frantic pace increased, there were shouts of encouragement from the performers at the side of the stage.
Cries of "Olé tu madre," and "Olé tus santos," and "Ands, anda," the traditional jaleos and piropos, or shouts of encouragement, goaded the dancers on to wilder, more frantic rhythms.
When the music and dancing ended abruptly, a silence roared through the bar, and then there was a loud burst of applause.
"She's marvelous!" Tracy exclaimed.
"Wait," Jeff told her.
A second woman stepped to the center of the stage. She had a dark, classical Castilian beauty and seemed deeply aloof, completely unaware of the audience. The guitars began to play a bolero, plaintive and low key, an Oriental-sounding canto. A male dancer joined her, and the castanets began to click in a steady, driving beat.
The seated performers joined in with the jaleo, and the handclaps that accompany the flamenco dance, and the rhythmic beat of the palms enhanced the music and dancing, lifting it, building it, until the room began to rock with the echo of the zapateado, the hypnotic beat of the half toe, the heel, and the full sole clacking out an endless variation of tone and rhythmic sensations.
Their bodies moved apart and came together in a growing frenzy of desire, until they were making mad, violent, animal love without ever touching, moving to a wild, passionate climax that had the audience screaming. As the lights blacked out and came on again, the crowd roared, and Tracy found herself screaming with the others. To her embarrassment, she was sexually aroused. She was afraid to meet Jeff's eyes. The air between them vibrated with tension. Tracy looked down at the table, at his strong, tanned hands, and she could feel them caressing her body, slowly, swiftly, urgently, and she quickly put her hands in her lap to hide their trembling.
They said very little during the ride back to the hotel. At the door to Tracy's room, she turned and said, "It's been---"
Jeff's lips were on hers, and her arms went around him, and she held him tightly to her.
The word on her lips was yes, and it took the last ounce of her willpower to say, "It's been a long day, Jeff. I'm a sleepy lady."
"I think I'll just stay in my room tomorrow and rest."
His voice was level when he answered. "Good idea. I'll probably do the same."
Neither of them believed the other.
If Tomorrow Comes If Tomorrow Comes - Sidney Sheldon If Tomorrow Comes