Senor Roldan was sitting behind his desk at Escortes Belen congratulating himself for deftly sidestepping the Guardia’s newest pathetic attempt to trap him. Having an officer fake a German accent and request a girl for the night‑it was entrapment; what would they think of next?
The phone on his desk buzzed loudly. Senor Roldan scooped up the receiver with a confident flair. “Buenas noches, Escortes Belen.”
“Buenas noches,” a man’s voice said in lightning‑fast Spanish. He sounded nasal, like he had a slight cold. “Is this a hotel?”
“No, sir. What number are you dialing?” Senor Roldan was not going to fall for any more tricks this evening.
“34‑62‑10,” the voice said.
Roldan frowned. The voice sounded vaguely familiar. He tried to place the accent‑Burgos, maybe? “You’ve dialed the correct number,” Roldan offered cautiously, “but this is an escort service.”
There was a pause on the line. “Oh . . . I see. I’m sorry. Somebody wrote down this number; I thought it was a hotel. I’m visiting here, from Burgos. My apologies for disturbing you. Good nigh—”
“Espere! Wait!” Senor Roldan couldn’t help himself; he was a salesman at heart. Was this a referral? A new client from up north? He wasn’t going to let a little paranoia blow a potential sale.
“My friend,” Roldan gushed into the phone. “I thought I recognized a bit of a Burgos accent on you. I myself am from Valencia. What brings you to Seville?”
“I sell jewelry. Majorica pearls.”
“Majoricas, reeaally! You must travel quite a bit.”
The voice coughed sickly. “Well, yes, I do.”
“In Seville on business?” Roldan pressed. There was no way in hell this guy was Guardia; he was a customer with a capital C. “Let me guess‑a friend gave you our number? He told you to give us a call. Am I right?”
The voice was obviously embarrassed. “Well, no, actually, it’s nothing like that.”
“Don’t be shy, senor. We are an escort service, nothing to be ashamed of. Lovely girls, dinner dates, that is all. Who gave you our number? Perhaps he is a regular. I can give you a special rate.”
The voice became flustered. “Ah . . . nobody actually gave me this number. I found it with a passport. I’m trying to find the owner.”
Roldan’s heart sank. This man was not a customer after all. “You found the number, you say?”
“Yes, I found a man’s passport in the park today. Your number was on a scrap of paper inside. I thought perhaps it was the man’s hotel; I was hoping to return his passport to him. My mistake. I’ll just drop it off at a police station on my way out of—”
“Perdon,” Roldan interrupted nervously. “Might I suggest a better idea?” Roldan prided himself on discretion, and visits to the Guardia had a way of making his customers ex‑customers. “Consider this,” he offered. “Because the man with the passport had our number, he is most likely a client here. Perhaps I could save you a trip to the police.”
The voice hesitated. “I don’t know. I should probably just—”
“Do not be too hasty, my friend. I’m ashamed to admit that the police here in Seville are not always as efficient as the police up north. It could be days before this man’s passport is returned to him. If you tell me his name, I could see that he gets his passport immediately.”
“Yes, well . . . I suppose there’s no harm . . .” Some paper rustled, and the voice returned. “It’s a German name. I can’t quite pronounce it . . . Gusta . . . Gustafson?”
Roldan didn’t recognize the name, but he had clients from all over the world. They never left their real names. “What does he look like‑in his photo? Perhaps I will recognize him.”
“Well . . .” the voice said. “His face is very, very fat.”
Roldan immediately knew. He remembered the obese face well. It was the man with Rocio. It was odd, he thought, to have two calls about the German in one night.
“Mr. Gustafson?” Roldan forced a chuckle. “Of course! I know him well. If you bring me his passport, I’ll see he gets it.”
“I’m downtown without a car,” the voice interrupted. “Maybe you could come to me?”
“Actually,” Roldan hedged, “I can’t leave the phone. But it’s really not that far if you—”
“I’m sorry, it’s late to be out wandering about. There’s a Guardia precinct nearby. I’ll drop it there, and when you see Mr. Gustafson, you can tell him where it is.”
“No, wait!” Roldan cried. “The police really needn’t be involved. You said you’re downtown, right? Do you know the Alfonso XIII Hotel? It’s one of the city’s finest.”
“Yes,” the voice said. “I know the Alfonso XIII. It’s nearby.”
“Wonderful! Mr. Gustafson is a guest there tonight. He’s probably there now.”
The voice hesitated. “I see. Well, then . . . I suppose it would be no trouble.”
“Superb! He’s having dinner with one of our escorts in the hotel restaurant.” Roldan knew they were probably in bed by now, but he needed to be careful not to offend the caller’s refined sensibilities. “Just leave the passport with the concierge, his name is Manuel. Tell him I sent you. Ask him to give it to Rocio. Rocio is Mr. Gustafson’s date for the evening. She will see that the passport is returned. You might slip your name and address inside‑perhaps Mr. Gustafson will send you a little thank you.”
“A fine idea. The Alfonso XIII. Very well, I’ll take it over right now. Thank you for your help.”
* * *
David Becker hung up the phone. “Alfonso XIII.” He chuckled. “Just have to know how to ask.”
Moments later a silent figure followed Becker up Calle Deliciasinto the softly settling Andalusian night.