room, and rags, and brushes and new brooms. The centre of the room was occupied by a large wicker basket.
‘What have we here?’ Lucio lifted the lid.
‘Let’s have a look.’
We moved, covetous, into the wheel of light that the lantern projected. In the sawdust lay the crystalline spheres of filament light bulbs.
‘They’re not blown?’
‘No, they’d have thrown them away,’ but in order to be sure I examined the setting of the filaments. They were intact.
We were robbing avidly in silence, filling our pockets, and when that didn’t seem enough for us we grabbed a cloth bag which we also filled with bulbs. To stop them clinking, Lucio put sawdust into the gaps.
There was an enormous protuberance in Irzubeta’s trousers round his stomach, he had so many light bulbs hidden there.
‘Look at Enrique, he’s pregnant.’
The remark made us laugh.
We withdrew prudently. The crystal pears tinkled like little bells sounding in the distance.
When we stopped in front of the library, Enrique extended an invitation:
‘We should go in and look for books.’
‘And what are we going to use to open the door?’
‘I saw an iron bar in the shed.’
‘You know what we should do? We’ll pack up the light bulbs and because Lucio’s house is the closest he can take them there.’
The rascal muttered:
‘Shit! I’m not going alone… I don’t want to end up in the clink.’
Behold the sinful outlines of a rascal! His collar button had come undone and his green tie was halfway down his torn shirtfront. Add to this a hat with the brim facing backwards, his face dirty and pale, his cuffs folded down over his gloves, and there you have the impudent image of this cheery masturbator attempting to reinvent himself as a house-breaker.
Enrique, who had finished organising his light bulbs, went off to find the iron bar.
‘Enrique’s a clever guy, right? Sending me out as bait all by myself.’
‘Don’t make stuff up. It’s only three blocks from here to your house. You can get there and back in five minutes.’
‘I don’t like it.’
‘I know what you don’t like… it’s no news that you’re too easily excited.’
‘And what if I do run into a cop?’
‘You beat it; what are your legs for?’
Shaking himself like a wet dog, Enrique came in, holding the iron bar.
‘Give it to me, you’ll see.’
I wrapped the end of the iron bar in a handkerchief, then stuck it into the crack under the door, and then saw that instead of pushing towards the floor I should push in the other direction.
The door creaked and I stopped.
‘Push a bit harder,’ breathed Enrique.
I pushed harder and the alarming creaking noise sounded again.
‘Let me do it.’
Enrique’s push was so energetic that the simple creaking noise broke into a dry crack.
Enrique stopped and we all froze… stupefied.
‘What a brute!’ Lucio protested.
We could hear our terrified breathing. Lucio involuntarily turned the lantern off and this, added to the initial fear, returned us to our initial watchful state, without daring to move, our hands stretched out and trembling.
Eyes bored into the darkness; they seemed to be listening, gathering all the insignificant sounds that roamed the space. A sharp hyperaesthesia seemed to expand our hearing too, and we stood like statues, our lips parted, waiting.
‘What shall we do?’ Lucio murmured.
The fear broke.
I don’t know what inspiration made me say to Lucio:
‘Take the revolver and go and watch the stairs, down below. We’ll get to work.’
‘And who’ll wrap up the light bulbs?’
‘So now you care about the bulbs? Go on, don’t worry about them.’
And the charming rake disappeared after throwing the revolver into the air and catching it with the air of a cinematic apache.
Enrique cautiously opened the door to the library.
The atmosphere became filled with the smell of old paper, and by the light of the lantern