The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel

The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Read Free Book Online

Book: The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
seconds I sat there, on the bed I’d shared with Bea just a few hours earlier. I slipped the letter back in the envelope and when I stood up I felt as if I’d just been punched in the stomach. I ran to the bathroom sink and threw up that morning’s coffee. I let the cold water run and splashed my face. The eyes of a younger Daniel whose hands were shaking the first time he had caressed Bea gazed back at me from the mirror.

11
    When I returned to the bookshop my father shot me a questioning look and glanced at his wristwatch. I knew he must have been wondering where I’d been for the past half-hour, but he didn’t say anything. I handed him the keys to the basement, avoiding his eyes.
    ‘But weren’t you going to go down to fetch the books?’ he asked.
    ‘Of course. Sorry. I’ll go right away.’
    My father looked at me askance.
    ‘Are you all right, Daniel?’
    I nodded, feigning surprise at the question. Before I’d given him a chance to ask me again, I headed off for the basement to collect the boxes he’d asked for. The way down was at the back of the building’s entrance hall. A metal door with a padlock, set beneath the first flight of the main staircase, opened on to a spiral stairway descending into the dark and smelling of damp and dead flowers. A small row of light bulbs, flickering anaemically, hung from the ceiling, making the place look like an air-raid shelter. I started down the stairs and, when I reached the basement, groped about for the light switch.
    A yellowish bulb lit up above my head, revealing the outline of what was really just a junk room with delusions of grandeur. Rusty old bicycles with no known owner, worthless paintings covered in cobwebs and cardboard boxes piled up on rotting wooden shelves created a tableau that did not invite one to hang around any longer than was strictly necessary. It wasn’t until I gazed at the sight before me that I realised how strange it was that Bea should have wanted to come down here instead of asking me to do it. I scanned that maze of household junk and wondered how many more secrets she had hidden there.
    When I realised what I was doing I sighed. The words from that letter were seeping into my mind like drops of acid. I made myself promise that I wouldn’t start rummaging in boxes, searching for bundles of perfumed envelopes from that creep. I would have broken my promise seconds later had I not heard someone coming down the steps. I raised my head and saw Fermín at the foot of the staircase, staring at the scene with a look of disgust.
    ‘Smells like a corpse and a half here. Are you sure someone hasn’t left the embalmed body of Merceditas’s mother, among crochet patterns, in one of these boxes?’
    ‘Since you’re down here, you can help me take up the boxes my father needs.’
    Fermín rolled up his sleeves, ready to get started. I pointed at a couple of boxes with the Vértice label on them and we took one each.
    ‘Daniel, you look even worse than me. Is anything wrong?’
    ‘It must be the basement vapours.’
    I left the box on the floor and sat on it.
    ‘May I ask you a question, Fermín?’
    Fermín also put his box down and used it as a stool. I looked at him, ready to speak, but unable to pull the words out of my mouth.
    ‘Trouble in the boudoir?’ he ventured.
    I blushed when I realised how well my friend knew me.
    ‘Something like that.’
    ‘Señora Bea, blessed is she among womenfolk, is not in a mood for battle, or, on the contrary, she is all too willing, and you can barely offer the minimum services? Do bear in mind that when women have a baby, it’s as if someone had dropped an atom bomb of hormones into their bloodstream. One of the great mysteries of nature is how they don’t go crazy during the twenty seconds that follow the birth. I know all this because obstetrics, after free verse, is one of my hobbies.’
    ‘No, it’s not that. At least as far as I know.’
    Fermín gave me a puzzled look.
    ‘I must

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