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chapter 13
Falcon was on the run. Or, perhaps,  in flight was a better way to put it.
One foot in front of the other. That was his mantra. Had to keep moving. The
night air was cold, but he didn t feel it. In fact, he was sweating heavily
beneath his layers of clothing. He was wearing everything he owned two
T-shirts, a sweatshirt, a windbreaker, and his winter coat. The layers did
more than fight the cold. He was a veritable walking suitcase, packed up and
moving on to a more hospitable corner of the uncivilized world. He knew he
would never see his car again. Going back to the river was not an option.
Standing still was a luxury that he could ill afford. He had to keep moving
farther and farther away, until his legs gave out and he could travel no more.
What was that saying just because you re paranoid, doesn t mean they re not
out to get you? Maybe it was time to leave Miami. Maybe even the country. But
The money. His Bahamian safe deposit box held more than enough to take him
anywhere he wanted to go. True, he had vowed never to touch it. Many times
over the past several months, he had even tried to give it to the rightful
owner. The fact that Swyteck had been able to withdraw ten thousand dollars
for his bail, however, told Falcon that his offer had been rejected and that
the money was still sitting there. Unless Swyteck stole it. He wouldn t do
that, would he? Ha! Who could resist that temptation? There was absolutely no
risk of ever being caught.
Where s my money,Swyteck?
What money?
The cash in the safe deposit box.
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There was no cash in that box.
I had two hundred grand in there!
Yeah,right. Tell it to the police ,pal.
 Damn you, Swyteck! You stole my money!
Falcon was cutting through a parking lot behind an all-night restaurant, and
he noticed a woman headed toward her car. The expression on her face told him
that his little tirade directed toward his lawyer had indeed been audible. The
woman quickly found her keys probably some pepper spray, too and jumped inside
her car.
Gotta get off the streets, he told himself.Go someplace they can t find me.
The alley led him behind another restaurant, past a noisy tavern. The
Dumpster looked like a good place to relieve his bulging bladder, but someone
had beat him to it minutes earlier.
 Son of a bitch, he said, stepping out of it.
He continued down the dark alley, though he was suddenly thinking abouther
again. He didn t dare say her name, not even to himself. Even with all his
extra clothing, he felt naked without his necklace of metal beads. He was
without any protection whatever. Part of him realized that he didn t need it;
she was gone. The other part the loudest part, the part that was speaking to
him now told him that she would never leave, that he could never have enough
The alley grew darker with each additional step. On either side were the
unadorned backs of buildings a bar, a drugstore, a Laundromat. A half-block
ahead, the lights from Eighth Street were a glowing dot in the darkness, like
an oncoming locomotive. The walls were cinder blocks painted beige and white.
Every door and window was covered with black security bars. If he narrowed his
eyes, Falcon could almost see one set of hands after another gripping those
iron bars, hands without faces nameless faces that were linked inextricably to
the secret prison cells of his past. Those were memories that he battled every
day. But with the barred doors and windows all around him, his mind carried
him back to a place where demons roamed, a time so long ago. A quarter-century
was an eternity; a quarter-century was yesterday. It all depended on how
closely he was being followed by the Mother of the Disappeared.
 PRISONER NUMBER THREE-ZERO-NINE, the guard said in Spanish.
The prisoners did not move. There were nearly seventy-five of them, men and
women, crowded into a room that could have comfortably accommodated no more
than two dozen. Whether asleep or awake, most of them sat on the floor with
their heads down and their knees drawn in toward their chests. Others lay on
one side, curled into a fetal ball, trying to deal with various pains that
made it impossible to rise even to a seated position. Many were from the
nearby university students, teachers, or staff in their twenties or thirties.
The oldest was a union leader in his sixties. The most recognizable was a
journalist from a major newspaper. A few were teenagers who had gone missing
from local high schools. Some had been imprisoned for months; others, just
days. None had bathed since their detention began. No prison garb was issued.
They wore whatever they d happened to have been wearing when they were plucked
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from their home or place of work and hauled off to prison. For many, a
short-sleeve shirt or cotton blouse was not nearly warm enough for an unheated
cell. The inmates were not told the exact location of the prison. They had no
visitation rights; no phone calls or correspondence with loved ones; no
television, radio, or contact of any kind with the outside world. They ate
stale bread or a disgusting gruel that smelled like rotten cabbage. Some days,
they ate nothing at all. Complaints, however, were never uttered. No talking
of any kind was allowed not to guards, not to other prisoners, not to oneself,
not to anyone, ever. Violators were punished severely.
 Prisoner number three-zero-nine, the guard repeated, his voice taking on an
edge. He was a bulky man, broad-shouldered but bulging around the middle, like
a heavyweight boxer who had gone soft. The thick, black hair on the back of
his neck and forearms had earned him the nickname El Oso the bear. It was not
a term of endearment. Nicknames among the guards were a necessity. No one went
by his real name.
A middle-aged man rose slowly and started toward the door. He took short,
reluctant steps, walking on the balls of his feet, as if unable to place any
weight on his arches or heels. He stopped at the bars, never looking the guard
in the eye.  She is not feeling well, he said softly.
The guard grabbed him by the hair, jerked him forward, and slammed his head
against the bars.  Are you prisoner three-oh-nine?
The man grimaced. A rivulet of fresh blood trickled down his forehead.  No.
 Did anyone give you permission to speak?
 Then sit down! El Oso said as he shoved him to the floor. His angry gaze
swept the cell, then settled on a woman huddled in the corner.
 Three-zero-nine. Here.Now! 
No one moved. Then, just as El Oso was on the verge of another outburst, the [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]