On April 18, " Gift for the Storm", book 3 of the sensational Bastan trilogy, by the talented Basque writer Dolores Redondo.
The book takes us again to the small village of Elizondo on the banks of the Bastan River. Life seems to be returning to normal, but Amaya feels that the danger has not passed. And she turns out to be right again. The police received information about the suspicious sudden death of a newborn girl. Suspicions arise that the baby was strangled, the father makes an attempt to steal the corpse, and the great-grandmother connects the tragic event with an ancient local legend about the evil demon Inguma, who has come to claim his next victim.
Dolores Redondo was born in 1969., studied law, but achieved phenomenal success in the field of literature. The Invisible Guardian is her debut novel - an impressive amalgam of psychological thriller, crime story and legend, and marks the beginning of a trilogy whose rights have already been sold in over 30 countries worldwide. In Spain, Dolores Redondo and the Bastan series achieved a triumph unparalleled in the last ten years. The adaptation of the novels is entrusted to "NadCom Entertainment" - producers of the film adaptations of the books by Stig Larsson, Camilla Lekberg and Henning Mankel.
The lamp on the cabinet cast a warm pink light into the room, which took on other shades of color, filtering through the lampshade with exquisitely painted fairies. From the bookcase, a whole collection of stuffed toys watched with glittering eyes the intruder, who silently studied the peaceful face of the sleeping baby. Listening intently to the soft chatter of the television in the next room and the snoring of the woman dozing on the sofa under the cold glow of the screen, he looked around the bedroom, dwelling on every detail, fascinated by the moment, as if it would help him make it his own., to remember it forever, to make it a treasure to be enjoyed forever. With some mixture of impatience and composure, he imprinted in his mind the delicate patterns of the wallpaper, the framed pictures, the bag of diapers and the baby girl's clothes, and fixed his eyes on the cradle. A feeling close to an alcoholic intoxication came over him, and he felt sick. The baby was sleeping on its back, dressed in plush pajamas and wrapped around the waist in a floral quilt, which the intruder pushed aside for full view. It sighed in its sleep and a thin trickle of saliva flowed from its pink mouth, leaving a wet mark on its cheek. The fluffy little hands raised on either side of the little head trembled slightly before standing still again. The intruder sighed as well, and for a moment a wave of tenderness washed over him, for no more than a second, but enough to fill him with pleasure. He picked up the stuffed toy sitting at the bottom end of the swing like a silent sentinel and could almost feel the care with which someone had placed it there. It was a white polar bear with small black eyes and a bulging belly, with an incongruous red ribbon around its neck hanging down to its hind paws. The intruder ran his hand gently over the head of the toy, felt its softness, lifted it to his face and buried his nose in the fluffy fur of the belly to inhale the sweet aroma of a new and expensive thing.
He noticed how his heart was beating fast, how his skin was moistened and covered with sweat. In a fit of rage, he angrily peeled the bear from his face and resolutely placed it over the baby's nose and mouth. Then I just pressed.
The hands moved, darted towards the sky, one of the little girl's fingers touched the intruder's wrist, but a moment later the child seemed to fall into a deep restorative sleep, the muscles relaxed, and the starfish palms fell on the the sheets.
The intruder peeled off the toy and stared at the child. There were no signs of suffering, except for a small red spot on the forehead, between the eyes, probably caused by the bear's nose. But the face had already faded, and the feeling of standing in front of an empty vessel intensified as he brought the toy to his nose again to inhale the baby scent, now enriched with the whiff of a departed soul. It smelled so good and sweet that his eyes welled up with tears. He sighed gratefully, straightened the bear's ribbon, and put him back in his place at the bottom of the swing.
Suddenly he sped up, as if he realized that he had taken too much. He only turned once. The light from the bedside lamp drew a compassionate glow from the eleven pairs of eyes of the remaining stuffed animals, who watched him in horror from the bookshelf.
For twenty minutes, Amaya sat in her car and watched the house. With the engine off, the steam on the windows and the heavy rain outside blurred the outline of the dark shuttered facade. A small car stopped in front of the door, and a young man got out of it, who opened an umbrella, while at the same time leaning towards the instrument panel, from which he took a notebook, glanced at it and sent it back. He went to the trunk of the car, opened it, took out a flat package and headed for the house. Amaya caught up with him just as he was ringing the bell.
– Excuse me, who are you?
– “Social care”, we bring him lunch and dinner every day – replied the young man and pointed to the nylon-wrapped tray in his hand. - He cannot go out and there is no one to serve him - he explained. "Aren't you his relative?" he asked hopefully.
– I'm not – answered Amaya. – District Police.
– Ah, he said, losing all interest.
The youth rang the bell again and, approaching the threshold, shouted:
– Mr. Yanez, I'm Mikel, from Social Care, remember? I bring you the food. The door opened before he could say the last words. In front of them appeared Yanes' ashen face.
– I remember, of course, I didn't lose… And why the hell are you shouting so much? I'm not deaf either - he answered with a frown.
– You are not, of course, Mr. Yanes – the boy smiled, pushed the door and passed the old man.
Amaya reached for her badge to show him.
– There's no need, Yanes muttered as he recognized her and made way for her to enter.
He was dressed in velvet pants and a thick sweater, and on top he had pulled on a plush robe, the color of which Amaya couldn't make out in the meager light that filtered through the half-open shutters and was the only light in the house. She followed him down the hall to the kitchen, where the fluorescent light flickered twice before finally turning on.
– Oh, Mr. Yanez! – shouted the young man again. – You didn't have dinner last night! – Standing in front of the open refrigerator, he took out and put in packages of food wrapped in transparent foil. "I'll have to make a note of that in my report, you know?" If the doctor scolds you later, don't be mad at me.
He spoke as if a small child was standing in front of him.
– Mark it wherever you want – Yanes snapped.
– Didn't like the hake with sauce? - Without waiting for the answer, the boy continued: - For today I leave you chickpeas with meat and yogurt, and for dinner - omelette and soup; for dessert - pasta. He turned and placed the dishes with the untouched food on the same tray, bent under the sink, tied the small garbage bag, which seemed to contain only wrappers, and started for the door. At the entrance, he stopped next to the old man and spoke too loudly to him again:
– Well, Mr. Yanes, that's it for today, have a nice day and see you tomorrow.
He nodded to Amaya and left. Yanes waited until he heard the door slam before speaking.
– How did you like it? As he lingers a lot today, he usually doesn't stay for more than twenty seconds, he wants to get out even before he's in - he said, turning off the lamp, leaving Amaya in the dark, and headed towards the living room.
– This house makes his hair stand on end and I don't shave him, it's like entering a cemetery. The brown plush upholstered sofa was half covered by a sheet, two thick blankets and a pillow. Amaya guessed that Yanez slept there, and in fact, a large part of his daily life was spent on that couch. He noticed crumbs on the blankets as well as a dried yellowish stain, most likely from an egg. The old man sat down, leaning back against the pillow, and Amaya looked him over carefully. It had been a full month since their last meeting at the office because, due to his age, he had been placed under house arrest pending the case. He looked emaciated, and the stubborn and incredulous expression on his face was even more distinct, and gave him the appearance of a deranged ascetic. His hair was still cut short and he was clean-shaven, but his pajama top was showing under his robe and sweater. Amaya wondered when he hadn't undressed her. It was very cold in the house and she knew the feeling of a place that had not been heated for days. Opposite the couch was a dead fireplace and a fairly new TV with the sound off, rivaling and winning the contest with the fireplace, its icy bluish glow illuminating the entire room.
– May I open the covers? – asked Amaya and went to the window.
– Do what you want, but before you go, leave them as they were.
She nodded, opened the wooden sashes and pushed the shutters out to allow the meager Bastan light to flood the room. Then she turned to him and saw that he had his full attention on the TV.
– Mr. Yanes.
The old man stared at the screen as if it wasn't there.
– Mr. Yanes…
He looked at her distractedly and a little displeased.
– I would like to…” she continued, pointing to the corridor, “I would like to look around.
– Go, go – he waved his hand. – Watch whatever you want, just don't mess around; the policemen left everything upside down when they left, it took me a lot of work to put everything back in its place.
– I understand…
– I hope you are as careful as the policeman who came yesterday.
– Did the police come yesterday? – Amaya was surprised.
– Yes, very kind boy, he even made me coffee with milk before he left.
The house was only on one floor and besides the kitchen and living room there were three more bedrooms and a rather spacious bathroom. Amaya opened the lockers and scanned the shelves, which were lined with shaving supplies, a roll of toilet paper, and some medicine. In the first room, the master bedroom took center stage, apparently unslept in for quite some time, covered in floral bedspreads to match the curtains, slightly bleached where the sun had warmed them for years. Knitted tablecloths on the dressing table and bedside tables enhanced the impression of traveling back in time. A room beautifully furnished in the seventies, probably by Yanes' wife, and which the old man had kept intact. The vases with artificial flowers in incredible colors evoked in Amaya the feeling of unreality in the cold and uncomfortable tomb-like rooms of ethnographic museums.
The second room was empty except for the old sewing machine under the window and the wicker basket next to it. He remembered it well from the search report. Still, he peeled it back to see the scraps of fabric, among which he recognized the brighter, shinier version of the bedroom curtains. The third room was the children's room, as it had been called during the search, because it was just that: the room of a ten or twelve-year-old boy. A single bed covered with a clean, white quilt. On the shelves - a few books from a children's series that she remembered reading, toys - almost all construction kits, ships, planes, and a long line of metal carts without a speck of dust on them. Behind the door - a poster of a classic Ferrari model, and on the desk - old textbooks and a deck of cards with football players attached with rubber bands. He picked them up and noticed that the rubber was dry and cracked and that it had imprinted itself permanently on the bleached cardboard. He returned them to their place as he mentally compared the memory of Berasategui's apartment in Pamplona with this icy cold room. The house had two more rooms: a narrow wet room and a closet full of firewood, where Yanes had made room for his gardening tools and two wooden crates without lids that displayed potatoes and onions. In one corner, next to the outer door, there was a gas boiler, which remained unlit. Amaya took a chair from the dining room table and placed it next to the screen in front of the old man.
– I want to ask you a few questions.
The old man reached for the remote that was lying next to him and turned off the TV. He looked at her silently with that expression of anger and bitterness at the same time that had made Amaya peg him as an unpredictable person the first time she saw him.
– Tell me about your son.
The old man shrugged.
– How was your relationship?
“He's a good son,” Yanez replied too quickly. "He was doing everything a good son could be expected to do.
– Like for example?
This time he had to think.
– Well, he gave me money, sometimes went shopping, brought food, things like that…
– I have other information. Word in the village is that after your wife's death you sent him to study abroad and that he hasn't set foot here in years.
– He studied, studied hard, completed two majors and a master's degree, now he is one of the most prominent psychiatrists in his clinic…
– When did he start visiting you more regularly?
– I don't know, maybe a year ago.
– Has he ever brought anything other than food, something to hide here or ask you to hide elsewhere?
– Are you sure?
– I looked around the house – she said and looked around. – It's very clean.
– Gotta keep her like this.
– I understand, you keep her like this because of your son.
– No, I keep her like this because of my wife. Everything is as it was when she left us…” His face contorted into a grimace of both pain and disgust, and he stood there for several seconds without making a sound. Amaya realized she was crying when she saw the tears rolling down his cheeks. - I managed only this, I failed in everything else.