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Fraudulent Fertilisation

Episode 72

Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapMar del Plata, Bosque Peralta Ramos

Fernando got up quickly to greet the new arrival. Estela Cáceres was very well dressed. He tried to be nice to her.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Cáceres; I’m Fernando Ridenti, please have a seat. What would you like to drink?”

“Thank you, a coffee please, you can call me Estela.”

After ordering three coffees, Fernando went on.

“Estela, you know very well what’s happening to Roberto Burán... Relax, anything we talk about will remain between ourselves. Nobody else is going to find out, unless you expressly authorise it. We need you, an irreparable injustice is going to be committed unless we do something... You are our only hope...”

“I heard about what was happening,” said Estela. Alicia told me the details, I already knew a bit... It’s horrible, I’m frightened because Álvez is capable of taking revenge and hurting me. I’m terrified, if he finds out what we’re talking about, he could kill me. I’m honest, as you know, Alicia, I felt a special attraction for Esteban Álvez, in a way, he still attracts me. But now, what I most feel is panic, I’d like to disappear from the city. Lately he’s like a lunatic, it must be because of the trial. He’s nervous, his character is bad, he treats me despotically, he almost hit me a few days ago. He’s worse than ever, I think he’s capable of anything.”

“Listen, Estela,” said Ridenti, “we need your help, the only way you can be safe is to unmask both Álvez and Juana.”

Estela Cáceres’s face clouded over.

“That woman’s creepy, she’s got him bewitched, she always made fun of me...”

“When she’s got money she’ll make more fun,” said Fernando. “She’ll have a life of plenty thanks to Roberto Burán. She’ll ruin the kid’s life. Are you going to let her?”

“It’s nothing to do with me,” Estela Cáceres answered, defending herself. “Don’t ask me the impossible. I agreed to come because Alicia begged me, but I told her clearly that I would dare give a statement: in the end, I’ll be the victim.”

“Why the victim?” asked Fernando.

“Because I’d be left out of work, and who knows what Esteban would do to me; he’d get revenge some way, I’m sure.”

“But, Estela!” exclaimed Alicia, “How can you go on working with him? I don’t understand.”

“I maintain my mother, she’s very ill, I can’t allow myself the luxury of losing my job. I’ve tried to find another job, but it’s very difficult... It’s a total crisis, you can’t get anything. I can’t resign until I’ve got something safe.”

“Listen, Estela, if I solved your economic problem, would you collaborate? Please, don’t get the wrong end of the stick, I’m not trying to bribe you; I’m simply offering to compensate you for the detrimental effects of helping us. It’s logical. If you help us we’ll be enormously grateful and you’d be doing wonderfully good work. What’s more, if our approach is successful, if we get the child away from Juana, you won’t have any more money problems... I promise....”

“All right, I’m grateful for the offer, I can’t reject it, but how do I know you’ll get the child away from her? What if you don’t? What will happen in the meantime? I can’t tell mum to wait for her food, nor my stomach, nor the landlord of my apartment when he asks for the rent. I can’t risk everything, I’m sorry...”

“Wait, Estela, don’t rush. If you make a statement, we’ll assure your economic peace of mind. How many dollars a month do you earn in the practice?”

“More or less a hundred and twenty,” said Estela Cáceres. “Hardly enough to get by. Wages are rock bottom...”

“Well, I’m prepared to advance you a considerable sum, how about ten thousand dollars?”

Estela Cáceres was dumbstruck, she couldn’t believe it: that represented almost seven years’ work for her.

Fernando Ridenti had changed his style; normally he would have haggled, even if it was only for pleasure, but on this occasion he could not allow himself to fail, what was at stake was priceless. She stammered, “Really? Would you give me that amount? That changes things... And it would be an advance? Would there be more money later on?”

“Look; Estela, I’m being honest with you, we need your help and we’ll compensate you well. If we manage to get the child away from Juana, there’ll be ten thousand dollars more. You have my word of honour, and also Roberto Burán’s. You know he’s a rich man, so am I, we won’t go back on our word. You’ll even have unconditional and permanent allies in us, you’ll never be short of work. But you must collaborate without limitations, the information must be useful. If it isn’t, it’s not worth wasting time and effort. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?”

At this point in the meeting, Estela Cáceres was shaken; her ambition awoke when she understood that she had a chance to improve her life.

“They’re offering me fourteen years’ wages for doing justice,” she thought. “I could prevent Juanita managing to swindle Doctor Burán and becoming rich illicitly. That bitch deserves nothing less than jail. This vengeance will be nice: she won’t make fun of me ever again. As for Esteban, I must accept that I’m nothing to him, the best thing that could happen to me is not to see him again. I must think of myself and mum...”

“What do you think, Estela? I’m waiting for your answer,” said Fernando.

“I would accept,” said the secretary to Alicia and taking her hand. “But will you make sure they fulfil what Mr Ridenti is promising me?”

“Don’t doubt it for a moment,” answered Alicia, “you needn’t worry at all... I answer for Fernando and Roberto too, they’re both honest men. I would be so grateful if you helped us... If you do, I’ll always be your unconditional friend, I swear.”

Fernando got to the point.

“Tell me, Estela, what do you know? Explain it to me specifically. Alicia told me something about a letter she wrote, did you find out about that?”

“No, I know about that because she told me, I hadn’t listened to anything about the letter. To be honest, I couldn’t hear much, but I think it was enough. There are two fundamental things, Álvez keeps all the documents in a safe behind an old painting. I know where the key is. What’s more, I’ve got a duplicate.”

“How did you get it?” asked Fernando.

“One afternoon when Esteban had gone out, a few days ago... He had gone on a trip to Villa Gressel, I took advantage to get a copy done. Alicia had already spoken to me and I thought it could be useful.”

“Did you open the safe?” asked Alicia.

“No, I didn’t dare, but if he’s got something of yours it must be there. I tell you because every time he’s given an important paper, he hurries to hide it there.”

“It’s very little,” said Fernando, “it’s not enough for us. We need more, something which refers to the swindle. You said there were two fundamental things. What’s the other?”

Translation: Peter Miller (© 2002)
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Copyright ©Ricardo Ludovico Gulminelli, 1990
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Date of publicationOctober 2002
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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