“Rafael Dominici fell in love with Maria de Los Angeles Martinez-Alba, a beautiful woman with skin the color of pearls and eyes the color of diamonds. Everyone knew her as La Españolita, the little Spaniard. But things being as they were in the Dominican Republic, Trujillo got what he wanted. He claimed Maria for himself and threatened to end Dominici if he ever showed his face again.”
“That’s when he migrated to Puerto Rico,” Francisco concluded.
“Here we are, twenty-two years later, and Dominici dies in the name of love,” Gabriel added.
“A fool’s endeavor,” Francisco scoffed.
“The only thing worth living for, and dying for, is love,” Gabriel shrugged, and drank from his glass.
“How do you know he wrote this letter for Maria? Her name isn’t written anywhere on it.”
“It doesn’t have to be when you know the whole story,” Gabriel’s back straightened.
“Then how would one know to deliver the letter to the intended recipient?”
“My guess is that the letter wasn’t supposed to be mailed to Maria in the Dominican Republic.”
“Then what is the purpose of writing the letter if she’ll never see it?”
“I didn’t say she’d never see it. I simply stated that it wasn’t meant to be delivered by traditional means.”
“Quit being coy with me,” Francisco snapped.
Gabriel leaned in close and motioned for the inspector to do the same. After a moment’s pause, he obliged.
“Have you ever heard of the Labyrinth of Love Letters?” Gabriel whispered conspiratorially.
“It’s an urban legend!” Francisco scoffed and his back straightened.
“Are you sure?” Gabriel tilted his head.
“What evidence do you have to the contrary?” Francisco demanded.
“The evidence is in your jacket pocket.”
“This is evidence of a murder.” Francisco pulled the letter out of his pocket and held it up between them.
“I beg to differ, my friend,” Gabriel insisted.
“All right, I’ll play along, spill.” He placed the letter between them.
“According to legend, the Labyrinth of Love Letters is a place where the transients of forbidden love leave missives for their star-crossed amours. One will leave the letters for their lovers to find at another time, and so their exchange remains hidden from the prying eyes of gossips and cynics.”
“In other words, a place that encourages people to commit infidelity,” Francisco rolled his eyes and took another drink.
“You’re not a romantic, my friend,” Gabriel waved a finger. “Forbidden love doesn’t necessarily equate to infidelity. For example, two people from divergent social classes can be in love but forbidden from being together.”
“Perhaps, but that doesn’t prove this place even exists,” Francisco blinked as he prepared to take another sip from his drink.
“How do you know it doesn’t?”
“How do you know it does? Have you ever seen it?”
“Its entrance is only revealed to someone involved in a forbidden affair.”
“How convenient,” Francisco’s vision blurred, and he blinked again.
Umberto returned with another round of drinks.
“Umberto, mi amigo, can you believe the stuff this guy comes up with?” Francisco pointed a lazy hand at Gabriel.
“I’ve read his serialized stories on the back page of the Sunday paper. Pretty good stuff!” Umberto shrugged.
“I suppose one must have quite the imagination to do what you do,” Francisco turned his glazed eyes back to the writer.
Umberto cleared the table of the empty glasses and returned to the bar.
“We must deliver the letter!” Gabriel insisted.
“I’m not going to the Dominican Republic!” Francisco protested.
“I’m not referring to the Dominican Republic. I’m saying we must deliver it to the Labyrinth of Love Letters.”
“That’s a fool’s errand, Gabriel, and besides, it’s evidence in a murder investigation.”
“Which you stole from the scene of the crime.” Gabriel interjected. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but since it was never logged into evidence when the scene was processed, the chain of evidence has been compromised and can’t be used in court.”
“That’s for the purposes of prosecution,” Francisco countered. “I don’t need to prosecute the perpetrator of this crime. I merely need to catch him. I’ll let the lawyers sort out the details later.”
“How can you connect him to the murder without the letter as evidence?”
“There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” Francisco smirked and downed his drink at once.
Gabriel watched the inspector sway in his seat. Clearly the effects of the alcohol washed over his companion. It was only a matter of time before the darkness of drunken slumber overtook him. He merely needed to wait a little longer, and once Francisco passed out, Gabriel would steal away the letter. He had no idea where the Labyrinth existed. He had no clue where to even begin his search, but he believed in his heart it existed. Not only did he want to find it, but he needed to find it. Knowledge of it was one thing, but to actually walk through its fabled corridors and peruse the shelves stuffed with secret declarations of eternal fidelity was too great an opportunity to pass up. Not only that, but it would make for a great story once he found it.
“Tell me, Gabriel,” Francisco’s speech slurred. “Why do you want to believe this labyrinth exists? Why do you want to find it? Do you have a secret love?”
“No secret loves for me, my friend,” Gabriel swirled his drink in its glass. “Let’s just say I believe in good karma. When you help others in matters of love, Cupid finds you.”
“Be careful, Gabriel. You know what they say about good intentions paving the road to Hell.”
“Love is not Hell, Francisco. Hell is when you’ve kissed heartbreak and tasted the purest of pain.”
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