Downstairs at the Alfonso XIII, Becker wandered tiredly over to the bar. A dwarf‑like bartender lay a napkin in front of him. “Que bebe Usted? What are you drinking?”
“Nothing, thanks,” Becker replied. “I need to know if there are any clubs in town for punk rockers?”
The bartender eyed him strangely. “Clubs? For punks?”
“Yeah. Is there anyplace in town where they all hangout?”
“No lo se, senor. I don’t now. But certainly not here!” He smiled. “How about a drink?”
Becker felt like shaking the guy. Nothing was going quite the way he’d planned.
“?Quiere Vd. algo?” The bartender repeated. “?Fino??Jerez?”
Faint strains of classical music were being piped in overhead. Brandenburg Concertos, Becker thought. Number four. He and Susan had seen the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields play the Brandenburgs at the university last year. He suddenly wished she were with him now. The breeze from an overhead air‑conditioning vent reminded Becker what it was like outside. He pictured himself walking the sweaty, drugged‑out streets of Triana looking for some punk in a British flag T‑shirt. He thought of Susan again. “Zumo de arandano,” he heard himself say. “Cranberry juice.”
The bartender looked baffled. “Solo?” Cranberry juice was a popular drink in Spain, but drinking it alone was unheard of.
“Si.” Becker said. “Solo.”
“?Echo un poco de Smirnoff?” The bartender pressed. “A splash of vodka?”
“?Gratis?” he coaxed. “On the house?”
Through the pounding in his head, Becker pictured the filthy streets of Triana, the stifling heat, and the long night ahead of him. What the hell. He nodded. “Si, echame un poco de vodka.”
The bartender seemed much relieved and hustled off to make the drink.
Becker glanced around the ornate bar and wondered if he was dreaming. Anything would make more sense than the truth. I’m a university teacher, he thought, on a secret mission.
The bartender returned with a flourish and presented Becker’s beverage. “A su gusto, senor. Cranberry with a splash of vodka.”
Becker thanked him. He took a sip and gagged. That’s a splash?