Operation Jacinto (I): The Secret

Jacinto is an elderly man who every day, impeccably dressed and in silence, stops at the window of the residence where he lives, as if he wants to know something outside. When his secret is revealed, an operation is launched to get Jacinto out of the residence.

Rodrigo Palacios presents us with the first part of his series Operation Hyacinth.

***

“Escape from the residence?” Martial asked, more annoyed than curious. He was bald and stern-eyed, like the bad guys in the movies.

In front of him was Amparo, waiting for his answer from that dark blue gaze. She was called Amparo Ohitos. Martial had lost count of the number of times he had tried to take her to the orchard, but to no avail. They were both eighty-three years old, but he was still nervous around her.

“Why the hell does Jacinto want to run away from the residence?” he insisted.

– Lower your voice! Amparo scolded him and moved closer to him, within kissing distance before turning her head to whisper in his ear.

Then he said to her: Jacinto’s secret. The one no one else knew. The reason why every day he went to the same window of the living room of the residence and stared out at the street. Always at the same time. Always with the same face of a closed puppy that no one wants to take for a walk. They had tried to get all the sisters out of her one by one. But nothing. Jacinto didn’t let him go. Until Amparo stood next to her and started insisting. And I’m wrong. The woman was refractory. Finally he told her. And Ohitos remained silent as the rest of the inhabitants watched from their respective positions expectantly.

Everyone saw Amparo pat him on the shoulder, which shook Jacinto’s emaciated body, always dressed in a suit, as if prepared for the coffin.

“We’re helping you, man!” -Tell him. They heard it anyway.

And so now Amparo was trying to lure Martial into the cause.

“You know about these things,” she said as if accusing him. To draw up plans, etc. Like when he was in Franco’s secret police.

Martial frowned. He had enough to put up with his son’s disappointed looks. Ever since he found out about it, he treated him with obligation, more than respect.

“Why didn’t a nurse come with you?” Martial asked.

“Would you like?” Amparo asked, leaning his chin forward.

Martial understood the double meaning of the question. He spoke of Jacinto and of them too; of what Martial would be capable of doing for Amparo if he had any chance.

“No,” she admitted, looking around the room, if only to escape the prying eyes of Little Eyes for a moment.

The calendar on the wall said it was Thursday. They will have to do it tomorrow. A bit rushed.

He sighed, realizing there was no way out, and muttered a tentative plan.

“You must take the key to the door that leads from the garden to the street.”

“That’s what you and I do,” she interrupted, tapping his chest with her open palm.

“I don’t know,” he hesitated, still thinking about it. Jacinto wears one of those watches that tells the sisters where he is at all times.

“We’ll take him away!” Amparo responded at full speed.

-We can not. An alarm will sound.

-Then?

“Then we need sparksAmparo, milk! Martial replied, losing patience.

-What is this?

Martial shook his head, feeling trapped by the woman’s determination. I wish she had been so anxious to get out of that church with him instead of marrying that dim-witted Cipriano who had nothing but a farm and a little grace.

“A guy who knows wires,” he explained. Ricardo may deserve us.

“Ricardo Models?” she asked. Do not worry…

Everyone disliked Maketas. He spent the day locked in his room, with his tin soldiers and miniature battle tanks. He only went out to play dominoes. Sometimes.

“It will also require a gaiter,” Martial added.

-What?

“Someone bring things from outside the residence,” he said. That’s what Fermín is good for.

Amparo waved his hands in the air, pretending the conversation was going on too long.

“Well, come on, whatever you see,” he accepted with the same haste as if he had to go to the bathroom. Which one should we start with?

***

Amparo watched the entrance to Ricardo Macetas’ room as Marcial entered. She found him hunched over his small modeling table, lit by a table lamp and surrounded by darkness. He was short, stout, and had curly hair, now less thick than before.

-What do you want? Ricardo clicked dryly out of the corner of his eye.

“Good day to you too,” said Martial.

“You don’t come to see me except to play dominoes or pick my nose,” added Moquette. I’m guessing it’s the latter.

“No, Richard! Martial calmed down. It’s nothing like that. I need your help.

The modeler dry-brushed the matchstick-sized skirt of a Scots warrior.

-With what? -I am asking.

“We’re helping Jacinto.”

Ricardo’s face was wrinkled until he heard that name. She put the brush in a bowl of water and wiped her fingers on a towel. Curiosity was eating away at him inside, like everyone else.

“You already know?” he asked, intrigued. The secret?

Martial nodded and hurried a few steps towards him. He leaned down and whispered the information. Then he pulled his face back to see her reaction. The same thing Amparo had done to him, but without any sensuality.

“Don’t bother me…” muttered Ricardo, unable to believe it. Is that why you look out the window every afternoon?

Martial shrugged and rubbed his hands, already hurrying in case a nurse was coming.

“And who are you helping?” Models asked.

“Amparo and I, for now,” he said. But I want to wind up a few more.

“WHO?”

“Jolin, a few, Ricardo!” What else does it give you! Martial complained, clearing his throat and glancing outside. Amparo indicated with a gesture that he had to cut short. Are you enrolling or not?

Maketas puffed out his cheeks as he blew, restless.

“But what do you want us to do?” He hesitated, drumming his fingers on the table.

“Jacinto is wearing one of those watches they find,” Martial explained hastily. You know how to open pots.

-Y?

“To open it and see how we can kill it.”

Richard bit his lip.

-I do not know…

– Don’t you know that?

“That I can’t open the watch without him taking it,” Ricardo defended himself. But when you take it down, the sisters will be alerted. And they will come looking for it.

“Understood,” agreed Martial, “but imagine being able to open it.” What do you need to stop it working?

Maketas narrowed his eyes, thinking quickly.

“It’ll be a matter of creating a short… I’ll have to make a welder, for starters.”

“A welder?” But what about men? Were can I get it?

“No, milk!” Ricardo rejected and beat his chest angrily, trying to defend his words. I’m doing it myself! I need a lighter and a clip. Can you get this?

Martial did not expect such a direct answer and therefore reacted slowly.

“I guess so,” he said. I’ll talk to Fermin.

“But listen: I need time,” Maketas hastened to clarify. You have to give me fifteen minutes. At least.

Martial winked at him and reached out to pat him on the shoulder, something he himself would not have expected to do with Ricardo.

“Understood,” he said. I’m telling you!

Marcial left the room and stood as close as possible to Amparo, taking advantage of the fact that he had to.

“He’s aiming!”

***

They found Fermin, the Watcher, in the living room in the afternoon, sitting at the domino table and waiting for his companions.

“Is your girlfriend paying attention to you yet?” Fermin blurted out as he saw them arrive, looking at them over his glasses. He had thick gray hair that was still brushed on the road, and slanted eyes, perpetually incredulous.

Amparo merely shook his head and left them alone until Martial approved his friend’s statement with a shake of his head.

“Look, you’re a bastard…” he said, sitting down in the next chair.

“Are you playing today?” Fermin asked, a little surprised.

-No. I need you to bring me two things for tomorrow.” Then he thought about it. Three little things.

“Uy madre…” muttered Fermin, looking around. Many things are these… Shoot.

Martial counted them, marking the fingers of one hand with the other.

“A lighter, a clip, and some pills.”

Fermin frowned.

“What pills?”

Martial pointed to something hidden under the table.

These tablets. the blue ones

Fermin began cynically.

“You don’t have a choice…” he stated with a subtle attack.

“Can you or can’t you?”

“The clip is easy, I have a few,” replied the Getter. I also have pills. But only two.

“I have one left.”

“Lighter is complicated, you know.”

The whole residence knew about it. On the third floor they had a pyromaniac: Josefa, the Fires. He took one of the candles in the chapel and lit the curtain in his room. After two minutes, smoke started coming from the corridor. God was armed. Firefighters, police and SAMUR entered. And all this before the release of the building has been completed. The next day, the picture in the newspaper shows a line of elderly people walking out into the street in the smoke, their faces tortured by the sound of sirens.

Since then, anything that could cause a fire was banned.

“Sister Mayte smokes,” added Fermin. Maybe we can slide the lighter. I’ll ask Pilar…

“I don’t know who Pilar is,” Martial told Fermin, “but take this from me and I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

Just then, Ricardo Macetas sat down in another chair.

-Okay. Have you told him about Jacinto yet? -I am asking.

Martial glared at him.

“You’re a screamer, Ricardo!”

Fermin flashed a smile of satisfaction.

“Is this for Jacinto Ventanas?” he asked. He opened the box of dominoes and dumped them on the table. Well, I won’t lift a finger until you tell me the secret.

Martial leaned back in his chair and looked at Amparo, who was by the table with the chess stretcher and who was now wide-eyed, implying that he did not trust Fermin. But Martial knew there was no other way to go on, so he snuggled up to Gethera and told him.

Fermin was about to smile again, but something caught his attention at the entrance to the room. They all turned to see Jacinto arriving, as he did every afternoon, with his slow gait and series of repetitive gestures. Fermin looked at him with more attention than usual; what Martial had just told him made sense of something he had previously described as eccentric.

Jacinto walked all the way to the window and stopped. He put his hand on the glass, something he had never done before, as if he knew he must be even sadder today.

“Who is Pilar?” Martial asked.

“The one in room four.”

“The missing one?”

“He’s not absent, he just does.”

-Are you sure?

“Yes,” said Fermin. Pilar can help us.

“Perfect,” agreed Martial. So, the operation is underway.

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