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Home > Sands of Time(20)

Sands of Time(20)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Lucia looked at her with new eyes. She's the one to keep an eye on, Lucia thought. Aloud she said, "Sister Megan is right. Let me order for you, Sisters."

She ordered sliced oranges, tortillas de patatas, bacon, hot rolls, jam, and coffee.

"We're in a hurry," she told the waitress.

Siesta ended at four-thirty, and the town would be waking up. She wanted to be out of there before someone discovered Miguel Carrillo in the dress shop.

When the food arrived, the sisters sat there staring at it.

"Help yourselves," Lucia urged them.

They began to eat, gingerly at first, and then with gusto, overcoming their feelings of guilt.

Sister Teresa was the only one having a problem. She took one bite of food and said, "I - I can't. It's - it's surrendering."

Megan said, "Sister, you want to get to the convent, don't you? Then you have to eat to keep up your strength."

Sister Teresa said primly, "Very well. I'll eat. But I promise you, I won't enjoy it."

It was all Lucia could do to keep a straight face. "Good, Sister. Eat."

When they had finished, Lucia paid the check with some of the money she had taken from the cash register and they walked out into the hot sunshine. The streets were beginning to come alive, and the stores were starting to open. By now they have probably found Miguel Carrillo, Lucia thought.

Lucia and Teresa were impatient to get out of town, but Graciela and Megan were walking slowly, fascinated by the sights and sounds and smells of the town.

Not until they had reached the outskirts and were heading toward the mountains did Lucia begin to relax. They moved steadily north, climbing upward, making slow progress in the hilly terrain. Lucia was tempted to ask Sister Teresa if she would like her to carry the package, but she did not want to say anything that might make the older woman suspicious.

When they reached a small glade in the highland, surrounded by trees, Lucia said, "We can spend the night here. In the morning we'll head for the convent at Mendavia."

The others nodded, believing her.

The sun moved slowly across the blue sky, and the glade was silent, except for the soothing sounds of summer. Finally, night fell.

One by one the women stretched out on the green grass.

Lucia lay there, breathing lightly, listening for a deeper silence, waiting for the others to fall asleep so she could make her move.

Sister Teresa was finding it difficult to sleep. It was a strange experience lying out under the stars, surrounded by her sisters. They had names now, and faces and voices, and she was afraid that God was going to punish her for this forbidden knowledge. She felt terribly lost.

Sister Megan too was having a difficult time getting to sleep. She was filled with the excitement of the day's events. How did I know that the friar was a fraud? she wondered. And where did I get the courage to save Sister Graciela? She smiled, unable to keep from being a tiny bit pleased with herself, even though she knew such a feeling of pride was a sin.

Graciela was asleep, emotionally drained by what she had gone through. She tossed and turned, haunted by dreams of being chased down dark, long, endless corridors.

Lucia Carmine lay still, waiting. She lay there for almost two hours and then quietly sat up and moved through the darkness toward Sister Teresa. She would take the package and disappear.

As she neared Sister Teresa, Lucia saw that the nun was awake on her knees, praying. Damn! She hurriedly retreated.

Lucia lay down again, forcing herself to be patient. Sister Teresa could not pray all night. She had to get some sleep.

Lucia planned her moves. The money taken from the cash register would be enough for her to take a bus or a train to Madrid. Once there, it would be simple to find a pawnbroker. She saw herself walking in and handing him the golden cross. The pawnbroker would suspect that it was stolen, but that would not matter. He would have plenty of customers eager to buy it.

I will give you one hundred thousand pesetas for it.

She would pick it up from the counter. I would rather sell my body first

One hundred and fifty thousand pesetas.

I would prefer to melt it down and let the gold run in the gutter.

Two hundred thousand pesetas. That is my last offer.

You are robbing me blind, but I will accept it.

The pawnbroker would eagerly reach for it.

On one condition.

A condition?

Yes. I misplaced my passport. Do you know someone who can arrange a passport for me? Her hands would still be on the golden cross.

He would hesitate, then say, I happen to have a friend who does things like that.

And the deal would be done. She would be on her way to Switzerland and freedom. She remembered her father's words: There is more money there than you could spend in ten lifetimes.

Her eyes began to close. It had been a long day.

In her half-sleep, Lucia heard the sound of a church bell from the distant village. It sent memories flooding through her, of another place, another time...

CHAPTER EIGHT

Taormina, Sicily

1968

She was awakened every morning by the distant sound of the bells of the Church of San Domenico, high in the Peloritani Mountains surrounding Taormina. She enjoyed waking up slowly, languorously stretching like a cat. She kept her eyes closed, knowing that there was something wonderful to remember. What was it? The question teased at her mind, and she pushed it back, not wanting to know just yet, wanting to savor the surprise. And suddenly her mind was joyously flooded with it. She was Lucia Maria Carmine, the daughter of Angelo Carmine, and that was enough to make anyone in the world happy.

They lived in a large, storybook villa filled with more servants than the fifteen-year-old Lucia could count. A bodyguard drove her to school each morning in an armored limousine. She grew up with the prettiest dresses and the most expensive toys in all of Sicily, and was the envy of her schoolmates.

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