Excerpt from Eagles Hunt Wolves: An appointment in Seville
Thousands of brightly lit paper lanterns adorned the tent city beneath the swaying shade of cooling stretched canvas. The colours blended in a kaleidoscope of hues with hot bolts of late afternoon sun seeking gaps in the gaily adorned fabric. Loud cheers from the Plaza de Toros de Maestranza told the revellers the first of the bull fights had already begun.
Eva Molenaar adjusted the aperture of her Leica to its widest setting and smiled. The two beautiful young Spanish girls, in traditional flamenco dress, smiled back; dappled in the shadows. Eva captured them at just the right moment. The girls flounced into the nearest caseta, where thrumming guitars and rhythmic claves blended with the songs and chants of the festival goers.
Eva was dressed in a white blouse nipped into long pleated corduroys and incongruous-looking combat boots. She carried a knapsack with more cameras, a notebook and journalist’s permit, stamped by the local police chief. Parked just outside the Real de la Feria was her motorcycle; a fire-engine red Moto Guzzi which had taken time to master. The panniers contained cameras, rolls of film, maps and a change of clothes; she had an appointment in a café later that evening. Eva moved through the crowd like a ghost. Her lush russet tresses were bound up with clips and a black velvet ribbon. She wasn’t wearing make-up or jewellery, yet her grey, green-flecked eyes glinted beneath her lashes. She watched a group of children, nut brown and stripped to the waist, sprint off chattering to dive into the cooling Rio Guadalquivir. She recalled the little heartbeat she had carried for a few weeks before miscarrying. Its father, the man she lost in the depths of the Rhône in the city of Lyon. She was still young, there was time enough yet.
As she rolled her film on, calculating how many shots were left, Eva looked up to study the light. The warm breeze, the smells and sounds of life being lived at full tilt all around, made her close her eyes and breathe in, giving her pause. She planned to return here after her rendezvous to dance and drink until dawn with the Feria de Abril revelers. She walked the length of the tent city, stopping to sip from cups dipped into buckets of wine. She relished the flesh of oranges, iced gazpacho and spicy chorizo gladly proffered by vendors. Eva accepted a light from a dashing young man in a tight black bolero jacket who was leading a breath-taking grey horse to the parade. They both stood proudly for their photograph. A loud roar rose from the bull ring, followed by a reverential silence; the first toro bravo had been slain. The bells from the cathedral tolled matins as Eva circled back for her motorcycle.
Under the gaze of two teenagers idly smoking cigarettes, Eva retrieved a heavy black embroidered wrap and a black lace veil from the Guzzi’s panniers. It was hard to tell which the young men lusted after more; her or the bike. She tossed them a few pesetas to keep an eye on it; the prospect of pleasing her might just keep them from stealing it themselves, she thought.
The searing heat of the stone streets forced her to seek the shade of the trees and late afternoon shadows, their coolness, a summer shower.
Stooping slightly and pulling the wrap about her veiled head, Eva entered the café where she was to meet a former comrade - nom de guerre ‘Spassky’.
At one table sat four men playing cards. Other men leaned or sat against the wall, smoking. She was the only woman in the café and they brazenly sized her up in her misshapen weeds. On the walls, beneath the pulsing fans, hung black and white photographs of matadors, some with signatures dashed across them. Peppered between the pictures were bull-fighting posters. Over the bar, the stuffed head of a bull glowered glassily out at the clientele. Beneath it, a hunchback bartender in a vibrant silk shirt cleaned a beer glass absently. A radio blared out what Eva assumed to be the bull fight. Two men at the bar hissed and tore up chits. They handed cash to the hunchback; his grin was a gnarled, gold-flecked maw. With his eyes he directed Eva to a separate room at the far end of the bar.
Sunlight slashed through a high window across the table and floor. A thin, middle-aged woman sat at the end of the table. She had let her hair go grey and wore it pinned severely back. Her left eye was covered by an ornate eye patch. Eva had never known her real name. They had travelled from France into Spain during the civil war to settle old scores.
Eva sat down and settled her wrap about her shoulders. A waiter came in with a young boy in tow. He waited for his cue.
“Dos cafes con leche y lo del siempre,” said the woman. They bowed and left.
“Still have that stiletto the French whore gave you?” she asked.
“Lost it in Argentina,” replied Eva.
“Given up killing krauts?”
“Only the rapists. We’re at peace now.”
“The war isn’t over, child,” Spassky replied.
The waiter and the boy returned. The waiter was carrying a tray with a bottle of brandy and a long-handled coffee pot. The boy carried the milk and a bowl of olives. They set them down and with a bow, left.
“Hernandez, the hunch-back, is a good guy, he’s loyal to the party; we can talk freely.”
“Thank you for contacting me,” said Eva.
Spassky lit a cheroot. The heat of the room, the smoke and the smell of the brandy made Eva remove her veil and shawl. She loosened a button on her blouse.
“You look a little sadder, child?” said Spassky.
Eva sipped the coffee and poured the liqueur into it.
“I’m luckier than most.”
“It wasn’t easy, your request. I have a contact with the French Communist Party. The person you are looking for was hard to find.”
“I just need to know if he’s dead,” replied Eva.
“He was alive when the Resistance pulled him out of the river in Lyon. But when they found out he was German, they handed him over to the local communists.”
Eva stared ahead intently. For some reason, she didn’t want Spassky to see her cry.
Spassky tapped her ash into the saucer deliberately.
“He was swapped for a French prisoner and sent to Moscow.”
Spassky’s English acquired a Russian burr on the vowels.
“He’s as good as dead then.”
Spassky leaned forward.
“He’s alive as far as my contact knows. A year ago, the Central Committee in Moscow emptied their prisons of German POWs. Some big project. Very hush-hush. Most came out of The Butyrka prison. If he’s alive, he’s either there or on the move.”
Eva sat frozen for a moment, her thoughts a myriad of images – bullets, shouting, spotlights, her lover falling into the river. He was alive. Without any contact for nearly three years, she had hardened her heart to him being dead.
It complicated things.
“Thank you,” she said.
Eva produced a small folded envelope. She handed it to the woman.
Spassky opened the envelope on her lap. Inside were two uncut diamonds.
“I cannot accept this, child.”
“Please. Please take them,” urged Eva.
Spassky sighed. Then nodded.
“Speaking of krauts, I’ve jotted down these directions. You might want to let your British contacts know there are three
U-Boats moored on the far side of Huelva, in the Gulf. Arrived a few days ago – they’re code-named The Nina, The Pinta, and the Santa Maria. German officers, German crews, blabbing to the local putas.”
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