He had done what he had to do, but that didn't mollify the contempt he was now feeling for himself.
"You should have distanced yourself from those schemers when you had the chance, Isabel."
"You only have me. When I knew who you really were, I warned the others. You and your boss won't be able to reach them."
The man lit a condescending smile.
"You'll tell me where they are."
"I will not."
"I can assure you that you will, Isabel," predicted the man in a dire voice, and, turning toward Andrés, he added, "That is if you ever want to see your son again."
The boy observed the scene without understanding what was going on. His face was boiling red from the cold.
The rising wind carried on it the music of an incoming train. The train to Lisbon. The gradually lessening noise of the wheels on the rails came through the fog. There was a pause and a whistle, like the deep sigh of a runner stopping after great exertion.
"Let's go, Mamá, it's our train," said Andrés, taking his mother by the hand and pulling. She didn't move or take her eyes off the man.
Then he leaned down beside the boy. On his face was a broad, beneficent smile that struck at Isabel's very soul.
"There's been a change of plans, Andrés. Your mamá has to take a trip, but you are going back home. Your father is waiting for you."
The boy looked at the stranger with confusion, and then his gaze shifted back to his mother, who was looking at him anxiously.
"I don't want to go home. I want to go with my mother."
"That's not going to be possible. But I think your father has a very big surprise for you... a real Japanese katana!"
Like a sudden clearing in the forest, the boy's face lit up. He was struck dumb with astonishment.
"You mean it?"
"Absolutely," assured the man. "I wouldn't dare lie to a samurai."
Andrés's face filled with pride.
They walked toward the car at the station's entrance. Andrés sank his feet into the snow, leaping in a race to get home before anyone else, shouting with joy. Isabel's feet dragged, followed closely by the man, who kept his eyes glued on her.
"What is going to happen to my son?" she asked him suddenly, before getting into the car.
"He will be a happy boy who'll grow up remembering how lovely his mother was... or a poor lunatic locked up for life in a miserable insane asylum. It depends on you."
The car left the station with a slow, jagged murmur beneath a sky wrapped in cellophane. In the backseat Isabel held Andrés tightly, as if she wanted to stick him back inside her to protect him. But the boy pushed away her embrace with a selfish gesture, asking that man to drive faster... faster. He was finally going to have a real samurai katana of his very own.
Copyright © 2011 by Víctor del Árbol. Translation Copyright © 2012 by Mara Faye Lethem
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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