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Home > Sands of Time(30)

Sands of Time(30)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Colonel Ramon Acoca walked up to the hapless Carrillo. "Yes. I'm very interested."

Carrillo gave the colonel his most ingratiating smile. "I'm glad you're here, Colonel. I'm on a mission for my church, and it's very important that I get to Barcelona as quickly as possible. As I tried to explain to these nice gentlemen, I am a victim of circumstances simply because I tried to be a good Samaritan."

Colonel Acoca nodded pleasantly. "Since you are in a hurry, I will try not to waste your time."

Carrillo beamed at him. "Thank you, Colonel."

"I'm going to ask you a few simple questions. If you answer truthfully, everything will be fine. If you lie to me, it will be very painful for you." He slipped something into his hand.

Carrillo said righteously, "Men of God do not he."

"I'm very happy to hear that. Tell me about the four nuns."

"I don't know anything about four nu - "

The fist that hit him in the mouth had brass knuckles on it, and blood spurted across the room.

"My God! What are you doing?" Carrillo gasped.

Colonel Acoca repeated his question. "Tell me about the four nuns."

"I don't - "

The fist slammed into Carrillo's mouth again, breaking teeth.

Carrillo was choking on his blood. "Don't. I - "

"Tell me about the four nuns." Acoca's voice was soft and reasonable.

"I - " He saw the fist being raised. "Yes! I - I - " The words came tumbling out. "They were in Villacastin, running away from their convent. Please don't hit me again."

"Go on."

"I - I told them I would help them. They needed to change clothes."

"So you broke into the store..."

"No. I - yes. I - they stole some clothes and then they knocked me out and left me."

"Did they say where they were headed?"

A peculiar sense of dignity suddenly took possession of Carrillo. "No." His not mentioning Mendavia had nothing to do with protecting the nuns. Carrillo did not give a damn about them. It was because the colonel had ruined his face. It was going to be very difficult to make a living after he was released from prison.

Colonel Acoca turned to the members of the Guardia Civil.

"See what a little friendly persuasion can do? Send him to Madrid and hold him for murder."

Lucia, Sister Teresa, Rubio Arzano, and Tomas Sanjuro walked northwest, heading toward Olmedo, stayi?? away from the main roads and walking through fields of grain. They passed flocks of sheep and goats, and the innocence of the pastoral countryside was an ironic contrast to the grave danger they were all in. They walked through the night, and at dawn they headed for a secluded spot in the hills.

Rubio Arzano said, "The town of Olmedo is just ahead. We'll stop here until nightfall. You both look as though you could use some sleep."

Sister Teresa was physically exhausted. But something was happening to her emotionally that was far more disturbing. She felt she was losing touch with reality. It had begun with the disappearance of her precious rosary. Had she lost it - or had someone stolen it? She was not sure. It had been her solace for more years than she could remember. How many thousands of Hail Marys and how many Our Fathers and how many Hail, Holy Queens? It had become a part of her, her security, and now it was missing.

Had she lost it in the convent during the attack? And had there really been an attack? It seemed so unreal now. She was no longer sure what was real and what was imaginary. The baby she had seen. Was it Monique's baby? Or was God playing tricks on her? It was all so confusing. When she was young, everything had been so simple. When she was young...

CHAPTER ELEVEN

eze, France

1924

When she was only eight years old, most of the happiness in Teresa De Fosse's life came from the church. It was like a sacred flame drawing her to its warmth. She visited the Chapelle des Penitents Blancs, and prayed at the cathedral in Monaco and Notre Dame Bon Voyage in Cannes, but most frequently she attended services at the church in eze.

Teresa lived in a chateau on a mountain above the medieval village of eze, near Monte Carlo, overlooking the Côte d'Azur. The village was perched high on a rock and it seemed to Teresa that she could look down upon the whole world. There was a monastery at the top, with rows of houses cascading down the side of the mountain to the blue Mediterranean below.

Monique, a year younger than Teresa, was the beauty in the family. Even when she was a child, one could see that she would grow up to be an exquisite woman. She had fine-boned features, sparkling blue eyes, and an easy self-assurance that suited her looks.

Teresa was the ugly duckling. The truth was that the De Fosses were embarrassed by their elder daughter. If Teresa had been conventionally ugly, they might have sent her to a plastic surgeon and had her nose shortened, or her chin brought forward, or her eyes fixed. But the problem was that all of Teresa's features were just slightly askew. Everything seemed out of place, as though she were a comedienne who had donned her face for laughter.

But if God had cheated her in the matter of looks, He had compensated for it by blessing her with a remarkable gift. Teresa had the voice of an angel. It had been noticed the first time she sang in the church choir. The parishioners listened in astonishment to the pure, clear tones that came from the young child. And as Teresa grew older, her voice grew even more beautiful. She was given all the solos to sing in church. There, she felt as though she belonged. But away from church, Teresa was inordinately shy, self-conscious of her appearance.

At school it was Monique who had all the friends. Boys and girls alike flocked to her side. They wanted to play with her, be seen with her. She was invited to all the parties. Teresa was invited also, but always as an afterthought, the fulfilling of a social obligation, and Teresa was painfully aware of it.

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