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Fraudulent Fertilisation

Episode 74

Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapMar del Plata, Bosque Peralta Ramos
MAR DEL PLATA
Monday 19 February 1990

Adolfo Bernard was in his practice, visibly nervous. His right foot moved up and down, banging the floor in a rapid rhythm, while his left hand fiddled with his big moustache. He had been entrusted with a delicate, decisive task, to draft the fraud lawsuit against Juana Artigas and her accomplice Álvez. At exactly nine in the morning, the doorbell rang. Outside the door was Alicia Sandrelli, accompanied by Fernando Ridenti and Federico Lizter.

“Hello there,” said Adolfo, “I’ve just finished, I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything. I’ve included everything, even the tiniest details, I want the story to be quite clear.”

“Are you satisfied?” asked Federico.

“Yes, I think it’s consistent, but it sounds like a television soap opera. The judge will be surprised when he reads it.”

“I don’t doubt it,” assured Fernando. “Has Estela Cáceres already been to sign it?”

“No, any moment now,” said Adolfo Bernard. “And you, how are you, Alicia? You’re looking well.”

“Thank you, I’m trying to fix my mistakes, I don’t know what you’ll think of me.”

“I haven’t changed my opinion of you,” answered Adolfo.

“Was I bad from the beginning?” asked Alicia.

“Don’t be silly,” said Fernando, “let’s put masochism to one side for a while, eh?”

“You’re right,” answered the girl, “but I feel a bit ashamed being with you three, after what happened...I promise to shut up...”

“Right, Argentineans to work!” exclaimed Federico with a smile, “let me read the presentation.”

Approximately twenty minutes later, Estela Cáceres arrived; her face reflected the terrible tension she had suffered over the last few hours. She was pale and wrinkled, with big dark bags under her eyes. Evidently she had been unable to sleep. They all tried to calm her down by treating her well. They offered her a seat nicely and explained the details of the procedure. They had decided that Roberto Burán would act alone as plaintiff; Alicia and Estela would be no more than witnesses. The idea was to make Estela Cáceres sign a complete statement, so that later on she wouldn’t change her mind about telling the truth, which could happen if Álvez intimidated her.

Álvez’s secretary took the paper they wanted her to sign in trembling hands. She could hardly speak. Stammering, she said, “All... right. This... is... what I’d said.”

And she signed with a flourish.... Everyone looked at each other with relief: the fundamental step had been taken. They couldn’t achieve anything without that woman.

She looked at Fernando with anxious eyes, saying, “Doctor Ridenti, I have in my power the details of the apartment that Esteban rents; I made a photocopy of the certificate of community expenses. But beforehand, forgive me, I’d like you to keep your word. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but it’s important to me...”

“Of course, Estela,” acknowledged Fernando, who took a bundle of green notes out of his pocket and gave them to the frightened woman.

“Count them, Estela, just in case, although I’ve already checked the amount. There’s ten thousand dollars, as we agreed. Are you satisfied?”

“Yes,” answered Estela Cáceres, holding the money tightly in her hands, as if she was afraid of being robbed.

“Doctor Ridenti,” Estela continued, “if you manage to find the sperm, remember what you promised me, won’t you?”

“Of course,” said Fernando, “three thousand dollars more. Relax, you’ll get them... As long as you keep your word with us, there’ll be no problems.”

Adolfo couldn’t help interfering:

“The only thing we ask is that you tell the whole truth, that you collaborate with us as agreed. As friends, we’re very loyal, unless we’re betrayed we always will be. If we were swindled, we’d be dangerous enemies. That’s clear, isn’t it?”

Estela Cáceres started to tremble, her teeth chattered, her eyes filled with tears. In a voice choked with emotion, she whispered, “I’m... not... going to... betray you. I... swear.”

Fernando thought it was necessary to lighten the atmosphere.

“All right, Estela, don’t worry, there’s no need to be frightened of us... Understand that we’re defending an innocent man and trying to save a child. Our cause is just, don’t forget... You’ll have your prize, you can be absolutely sure. I’ll take you home... I don’t think you’d better go to work today. Álvez would realise something’s up, you wouldn’t be able to hide it...”

“And... what am I...going to... tell him?” asked Estela.

“That you’re ill,” answered Adolfo, “simple as that.” Don’t worry about anything else, Álvez won’t be able to harm you with sanctions. You’ll resign anyway as soon as we’ve done the search in his house. In the meantime, you should keep quiet, he mustn’t suspect anything. Remember you’ve got three thousand dollars to come, don’t do anything that would mean losing them. If he phones you, get your mother to answer. She should tell him you’ve got a sore throat, you’ve lost your voice, any pretext. Don’t talk to him, we don’t want to risk him noticing something strange in your way of expressing yourself; you’re very worked up, do you understand?”

Álvez’s secretary was still trembling, she was terrified of Adolfo Bernard, he had decided to be forceful and authoritarian. He considered a degree of pressure absolutely necessary so that she wouldn’t deny her statements at a later date. He knew the gynaecologist had a lot of influence over her, that she loved him in a sick way. Neither did he rule out the possibility that he might even offer her money. Estela Cáceres was the fundamental piece in their strategy, they couldn’t allow themselves the luxury of losing her. Before she left, Adolfo insisted:

“Excuse me, Estela, I want to underline something: is it clear that you mustn’t speak to Álvez?”

“Yes, Doctor,” whispered Estela.

“Good,” added Adolfo, “don’t forget, we’ll be watching you, for your personal protection, of course. We’ve hired a private investigator who’ll keep guard at your apartment. No one will be allowed to enter, unless you want them to. Don’t commit the imprudence of opening the door to Álvez or any envoy of his, understood?”

“Yes, yes,” answered the anguished secretary.

Fernando left with the woman to take her home. Federico Lizter and Adolfo Bernard would bring the lawsuit to the court, there Roberto would sign it and they would present it in court. They planned to hand it in to the judge themselves, so that no comments about the lawsuit could be leaked. Álvez was very well known, someone could warn him of what was happening. That kind of news usually proved expensive; any mistake implied the risk of failure and if Álvez found out, he’d make all the evidence disappear.

Translation: Peter Miller (© 2002)
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Copyright ©Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990
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Date of publicationOctober 2002
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
Permalinkhttp://badosa.com/n145-75
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