small yard. I tell you this now, but I’ve never told anyone else. I
entrust this information to you, Florencio.”
Sergeant Maldonado shifted in his chair nervously, again.
“Our walk took all night and part of the next morning. Paquita
did not know how to walk to a new place, and I had to show her.
And the harder work of disguising her, of making her into an-
other cow, that was something, and it started right away. I used
co=ee to stain her hide, and di=erent things to make the black
spots look di=erent, grease and oil at first, then later some paint.
I kept it up for many years. Every morning, I made her up more
than I did myself.”
Sergeant Maldonado was smiling, and then let out a laugh.
“Well,” continued Clotilde, “Cayetano came by later to check
on things and then kept coming over, the same way as if noth-
ing had happened and he and Miguel were still looking for each
other, but he found only me. A year later, one day, he came over
as usual, but it was di=erent. I think it was di=erent. We had
some co=ee. It was early afternoon, and he happened to be on
my side of his world. I asked him in and we looked at each other,
for a very long time. It was not more than that, but it was some-
thing strong. What we did not do is what we did. I was a young
widow, as I said, and what we did not do was a very big thing to
do— that is, thinking it was so strong that it stayed in the air. It
was not the first time, not exactly. After that, though, he did not
want to take the cow back at all. And he never brought Paquita
“Ah,” was all that Sergeant Maldonado could think of to say.
He was glad, for once, that she did not stop speaking.
“But I have lived in fear all this time. You see how it has made
me so quiet all these years. My fear was not of Cayetano com-
ing to get the cow, but that something would happen to him,
and that someone else would find out about Paquita—his wife,
Guillermina, most of all. You know Señora Belmares, I think?
Who doesn’t. Nobody would want her to find out — I think you
understand that. Nobody would want her to find out for so many
reasons. But more than that, I feared for Cayetano himself, in
that losing him now would be like losing a second husband. He
had taken care of me that much.”
“Ah,” said Sergeant Maldonado again, repeating himself.
“SO THERE YOU HAVE IT, Sergeant Maldonado. Two crimes.
The first is that I need to report that Paquita is missing, but I
cannot, as you understand. That, after all, is the second crime,
though it happened first. As I have no Paquita, you know, every-
body, well, nobody will say that I do—so that to claim her I
would be admitting to more than will be helpful, don’t you
think?” Doña Clotilde did not wait for his answer. “There is the
little matter of a brand, after all, which the co=ee stain will keep
covered for only so long, and only then from the eyes but not the
hands, which will feel it easily.”
“A brand, then?” asked Sergeant Maldonado. This was unfor-