Reuben stood at the window, holding a cup of café crema. A watery yellow sun filtered into the apartment.He looked down into the street. A senior executive from the Ford motor plant lived in a Spanish villa across the street. Two bodyguards had been hired to protect him and they sat side by side on the wall, smoking cigarettes, their pump action shotguns resting in the crooks of their arms.
'I may be home late tonight,' Reuben said. 'I have a meeting with some bankers from Indamex this evening. I'll probably take them to dinner.' He kept his face turned away for the lie.
'We hardly see you these days.'
'I have a bank to run.'
Gabriella sat down on the sofa to feed Eva. She looked tired; she had been up all night with Simone, as usual. He wondered if there were ever two twins more unalike. All Eva ever did was sleep, all Simone ever did was yell. 'Will you call me?' she said.
'Sure. I'll try not to be too late.'
He went into the bedroom to finish dressing. It was cold today, so he slipped on a tan camelhair coat. He picked up his briefcase.
Gabriella gave him a wintry smile when he came out. Did she suspect? 'Have a good day.'
He kissed her on the cheek. 'Goodbye, caro.'
He went downstairs, got into his car. It was not in his nature to lie easily. Tonight, he promised himself, would be the last time.
She will never be as beautiful as my Gabriella, Reuben thought, as she took off her clothes and slipped into bed beside him. No one will ever be as beautiful as Gabriella; but this is what I need right now.
She straddled him, took his face in her hands and kissed him. He lay there, let her do what she wanted, miserable at his own deceptions. When she pulled him on top of her, he gripped the wrought iron lattice of the bed and rode the waves of his own need, his hands bunched into fists, and as soon as it was over he rolled away from her and bunched the pillow in his fist and wanted to scream.
'What's wrong?' she whispered. 'Reuben, what is it?'
He couldn't help it, he had to have this. A man has needs. She reached around him, stroked him, kissed his back, his shoulders, his neck. It's all right, Reubenb, she whispered, over and over. It's all right. Por Dios, now he wanted her again! Hating himself, he watched this other man, this stranger, do it to her a second time and then he collapsed into a seamless sleep.
Usually he woke within a few minutes, showered and dressed and drove home. But on this night he slept the sleep of the damned.
The twins woke Gabriella just before three o'clock for their feed. She stumbled from the bed, still half asleep. She would often wake in the middle of the night and feed both twins in the dark and not even remember the next morning. But tonight something made her switch on the bedside lamp.
Reuben's side of the bed was empty.
The twins were crying, more urgently now. Keep calm, Gabriella. She got up and warmed their bottles in the kitchen. Eva had been sick with a fever, and the doctor had prescribed some medicine to bring down her temperature and help her sleep. She mixed a few drops in her bottle and laid her down in her cot. Within minutes she was asleep again. It was Simone, as usual, the fussy one, who would not settle.
Gabriella sat with her on the sofa, gentling her back to sleep.
Try not to think about Reuben. Try not to think about what he's done.
She heard the scream of brakes in the street below. Simone woke up and started crying again.
'Shh, baby, shhh,' Gabriella crooned to her.
She heard the crack of plastic explosive. They had blown out the lock on the building's security door. It made her start and Simone thrashed her arms and legs in fright.
She rushed to the window. There were two cars slewed across the street, their headlights on. Ford Falcons, standard issue for the police. An armed man was lounging on the bonnet of one of the cars.
She felt a cold stab of fear. No, they must have come for someone else.
She heard boots on the stairs.
She looked at the clock. Ten past three.
Someone was hammering on the door. Simone screamed even louder. Gabriella snatched up the telephone, her hands shaking.
Reuben woke from a black sleep. A telephone was ringing somewhere in the house.
Carmen groaned and rolled out of bed. He heard her stumble into the other room and grope for the receiver in the dark.
Reuben heard her say, 'Shit,' very softly, and then, to him: 'It's Gabriella.'
'What?' Reuben turned on the bedside lamp. It took a moment for him to remember where he was.
Por Dios. Look at the time!
'It's Gabriella!' Carmen repeated, her voice shrill.
He threw himself out of bed, snatched the receiver out of her hand. He could hear one of the twins screaming in the background. 'Gabriella?'
'Reuben! The police are here!'
He rubbed a hand across his face. Perhaps he was dreaming this. 'What?'
He heard shouts and a loud crash in the background, like someone was trying to kick in the door.
The line went dead.
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