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Home > Sands of Time(28)

Sands of Time(28)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"My name is Lucia Car - Roma."

"Are your parents alive?"

"My father is."

"What does he do?"

"He was a businessman. He's retired." She thought of how pale and wasted he had looked the last time she saw him, and a pang went through her.

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"Two brothers."

"And what do they do?"

Lucia decided she needed all the help she could get. "They're priests."

"Lovely."

The catechism went on for three hours. At the end of that time, the Reverend Mother Betina said, "I will find you a bed for the night. In the morning you will begin instructions, and when they are finished, if you still feel the same, you may join the order. But I warn you, it is a very difficult path you have chosen."

"Believe me," Lucia said earnestly, "I have no choice."

The night wind was soft and warm, whispering its way across the wooded glade, and Lucia slept. She was at a party in a beautiful villa, and her father and brothers were there. Everyone was having a wonderful time, until a stranger walked into the room and said, "Who the hell are these people?" Then the lights went out and a bright flashlight shone in her face and she came awake and sat up, the light blinding her.

There were half a dozen men surrounding the nuns in the clearing. With the light in her eyes, Lucia could only dimly make out their shapes.

"Who are you?" the man demanded again. His voice was deep and rough.

Lucia was instantly awake, her mind alert. She was trapped. But if these men were the police, they would have known who the nuns were. And what were they doing in the woods at night?

Lucia took a chance. "We are sisters from the convent at avila," she said. "Some government men came and - "

"We heard about it," the man interrupted.

The other sisters were all sitting up now, awake and terrified.

"Who - who are you?" Megan asked.

"My name is Jaime Miro."

There were six of them, dressed in rough trousers, leather jackets, turtleneck sweaters, canvas rope-soled shoes, and the traditional Basque berets. They were heavily armed, and in the dim moonlight they had a demonic look about them. Two of the men looked as though they had been badly beaten.

The man who called himself Jaime Miro was tall and lean, with fierce black eyes. "They could have been followed here." He turned to one of the members of his band. "Have a look around."

"Si."

Lucia realized that it was a woman who had answered. She watched her move silently into the trees.

"What are we going to do with them?" Ricardo Mellado asked.

Jaime Miro said, "Nada. We leave them and move on."

One of the men protested, "Jaime - these are little sisters of Jesus."

"Then let Jesus take care of them," Jaime Miro said curtly. "We have work to do."

The nuns were all standing now, waiting. The men were gathered around Jaime, arguing with him.

"We can't let them get caught. Acoca and his men are searching for them."

"They're searching for us too, amigo."

"The sisters will never make it without our help."

Jaime Miro said firmly, "No. We're not risking our lives for them. We have problems of our own."

Felix Carpio, one of his lieutenants, said, "We could escort them part of the way, Jaime. Just until they get away from here." He turned to the nuns. "Where are you sisters headed?"

Teresa spoke up, the light of God in her eyes. "I have a holy mission. There is a convent at Mendavia that will shelter us."

Felix Carpio said to Jaime Miro, "We could escort them there. Mendavia's on our way to San Sebastian."

Jaime turned on him, furious. "You damned fool! Why don't you put up a signpost telling everyone where we're going?"

"I only meant - "

"¡Mierda!" His voice was filled with disgust. "Now we have no choice. We'll have to take them with us. If Acoca finds them, he'll make them talk. They're going to slow us down and make it that much easier for Acoca and his butchers to track us."

Lucia was only half listening. The gold cross lay within tempting reach. But these damned men! You have lousy timing, God, and a weird sense of humor.

"All right," Jaime Miro was saying. "We'll have to make the best of it. We'll take them as far as the convent and drop them, but we can't all travel together like some bloody circus." He turned to the nuns. He could not keep the anger out of his voice. "Do any of you even know where Mendavia is?"

The sisters looked at one another.

Graciela said, "Not exactly."

"Then how the hell did you ever expect to get there?"

"God will lead us," Sister Teresa said firmly.

Another of the men, Rubio Arzano, grinned. "You're in luck." He nodded toward Jaime. "He came down to guide you in person, Sister."

Jaime silenced him with a look. "We'll split up. We'll take three different routes."

He pulled a map out of a backpack and the men squatted down on the ground, shining flashlights on the map.

"The convent at Mendavia is here, southeast of Logrono. I'll head north through Valladolid, then up to Burgos." He ran his fingers along the map and turned to Rubio, a tall, pleasant-looking man. "You take the route to Olmedo up to Penafiel and Aranda de Duero."

"Right, amigo."

Jaime Miro was concentrating on the map again. He looked up at Ricardo Mellado, one of the men whose face was bruised. "Ricardo, head for Segovia, then take the mountain route to Cerezo de Abajo, then to Soria. We'll all meet at Logrono." He put the map away. "Logrono is two hundred and ten kilometers from here." He calculated silently. "We'll meet there in seven days. Keep away from the main roads."

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