Ben stood where shed positioned him. The pavement had been
littered and swept and rained on hundreds of times since his daughter had lain
here. Each horn that blew, each motorbike that drilled by, took some of her with
it. He looked back along the diagonal to the headquarters entrance. The two
Civil Guards were hardly on alert; they chatted with each other, rocked back on
their heels, and cradled their guns idly, like something theyd been told to
hold on to for the duration of the day. He looked from them on another diagonal
to where that white car was parked. As far as those boys knew, it too could
carry explosives. It could wipe out Madeline Pratt and Ben Williamson where they
stood, or the vagaries of the blast could reach the Civil Guards and countless
others, instead, and leave the two of them unscathed.
"They didnt catch them, did they?" he said.
Madeline Pratt shook her head. "They have a phrase they use in
the press. Desarticular comandos, which means they disband a group of
four or five terrorists operating in Madrid. Another comando, or another
team, comes in from the Basque country to replace them. The authorities try to
pretend otherwise, but its not really a matter of a particular person and a
particular crime. . . ."
"Why?" he asked. "Why do they pretend otherwise? So they can
show that justice is being done?"
"Yes, you know . . ." and she forced herself to look at him out
of that desolate dead space around her eyes, "for society and especially for the
families, so that they can get some sense of"
He stopped her. She was going to say "closure" or something
equally cruel in its banal right-mindedness. "Closure" would have been a bomb
blast out of that white Seat, and it hadnt come.
He smiled at her. He wanted her to take away this smile and
study it, take it to heart. He saw her eyes widen and begin to glisten. She was
a tall woman, almost his height, and he could feel the shakiness in her knees.
"Go away," he told her. "Go back to your students. Its been long enough. Erase
Michelle Williamson from your mind."
When she wouldnt leave, he insisted. After shed taken a few
steps he called her back. "My daughter, when that car blew up, she was running
away from the blast, wasnt she? She was almost safe on first base."
When Madeline Pratt didnt know what to say, he dismissed her
entirely. He waved his hand in front of her face. She was so brittle-boned he
could have crunched her into a powder, except that she deserved better than
that, bereft of one of her most promising students through no real fault of her
Late that afternoon Ben Williamson sat in El Parque de Buen
Retiro watching the evenings promenade. He was off the main thoroughfare,
where, in addition to the promenaders, performers staged their mime and puppet
and juggling shows, beggars begged, and teenagers ran amok.
He was sitting in a formal garden of trimmed hedges and conical
bushes whose leaves had the metallic glossiness of holly. Along the axis of this
garden couples, mostly his age, walked arm in arm. It was quieter here. Behind
him was a basin where a single jet of water spouted. There was a stone gate down
to his left, imposing enough to be an official portal, and beyond it lay a
building belonging to the Prado Museum. Out of the ruckus of that main
thoroughfare, up to his right he heard guitar music competing with a violin and
human voices singing for their supper, all amplified, yet strangely remote. He
heard the delicate splash of the water in the fountain behind him and the
footfall on crushed stone of the deliberately pacing couples.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...