by Penny Dale
The wipers lazily cleared rain from the windscreen of the big Mercedes. Ruslan left the motor running, she’d find out soon enough that he had guessed what she was up to and he didn’t care if she saw him in the square. In fact he didn’t care about much, except for money all of the time and for sex and cocaine on a sometime basis.
The doors of ‘Exquisite by Allia’ opened and Luisa emerged. When she’d asked him if she could do some shopping and have some beauty treatments he’d agreed. He liked her looking good; he was going to do some business in Panama in a few days. Her looks could be very useful.
Then she’d said ‘Darling, would you mind if I’m late home? I’d like to go and see my mother.’
At the time he was distracted, concluding a deal with the Venezuelan security services. There was a lot of money involved and he didn’t trust them. He’d nodded ‘Don’t be too late.’
Later, the deal completed and the money safe in a Swiss bank account, Ruslan considered the sudden mention of Luisa’s mother. They’d been together for eight months and she’d never once alluded to any family, let alone her mother living in the same city. His suspicious mind started working. What was she up to? Who was she meeting?
It wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on her.
It was easy to watch her cross the square. Her magenta umbrella bobbed above her head, undulating slightly as her high heels accommodated the uneven cobbles. In the gloomy afternoon rain it shone like beacon, lighting up the grey square and protecting Luisa’s lovely face and immaculate hair from the weather.
She was heading towards the district where there were lots of bars and restaurants.
‘Her mother won’t live there’ Ruslan snarled to his empty car. ‘She’s meeting someone.’ He banged his fist on the steering wheel and began to think about what he’d do when she got home. He must be careful; he wanted her to look good for Panama.
His sadistic fantasies were halted by the realisation that the bright umbrella had stopped in the far corner of the square. Every day of the week and in all weathers a woman was there selling flowers. She did good business especially in sunny weather and on days when there was a wedding in the Town Hall. Ruslan briefly recalled his own sham marriage. Flowers, an obligatory kiss for the photograph and then his bride – what was her name? – whisked away forever.
Ruslan watched as the flower seller left her stall and walked towards the now distant umbrella, she appeared to be carrying a large bouquet of pink roses.
‘So what the hell are you doing leaving your pitch? Don’t you know there are criminals about?’ He smirked and watched with interest as the woman handed over the flowers without appearing to say anything and, as far as he could see, no money changed hands. He saw the woman return to her display and Luisa vanished into the steady rain, swallowed up by the hurrying crowd.
Out of Ruslan’s sight on the other side of the square Luisa was glad of the shelter of her umbrella. She wished she’d had some time to talk to her sister, they rarely saw each other. She didn’t want her unpredictable lover to know anything about her family. It was safer for them if he didn’t even know they existed. She’d had to tell him about her mother, otherwise he’d have been suspicious when she was late back from the salon. His controlling jealousy was frightening, but he could be generous, especially when she was ‘nice’ to his business contacts. Luisa had debts to clear, so she went along with his demands and irascible temper.
She pulled the umbrella closer to her head and reached into her bag, fumbling for her phone. Balancing bag, umbrella, roses and phone wasn’t easy but she managed a brief text.
‘Sylvie gave me roses for Papa; we’ll go to the cemetery together. Ruslan knows I’ll be late.’
Dry inside his Mercedes a red mist gripped Ruslan. No one cheated on him and got away with it. He revved the engine hard, reversed without even a glance in his mirror and accelerated the wrong way down a one-way street. The two-timing bitch deserved all that was coming to her. He’d find another babe to take to Panama. That gaudy umbrella wouldn’t be any protection from what he had in mind.