Martín finally goes to the doctor to get his headaches checked out. After only a few days of tests, the doctor informs Martín that he has a brain tumour. I guess back in those days they diagnosed everyone much quicker. Martín asks the doctor what treatment plan in available.
I saw his despairing look as he realised I had not wanted to understand what he was telling me. I nodded once more, fighting the tide of nausea that was beginning to rise up my throat. The doctor poured me a glass of water from a jug and handed it to me. I drank it in one gulp.
There is no treatment, and the doctor informs Martín he has maybe nine months to live. Martín returns home and tries to write, but cannot find any inspiration. He resigns himself to the fact that he is never going to write another instalment for City of the Damned.
Ignatius B. Samson had been left lying on the rails in front of that tram, exhausted, his soul bled dry, poured into too many pages that should never have seen the light of day. But before departing he had conveyed to me his last wishes: that I should bury him without any fuss and that, for once in my life, I should have the courage to use my own voice.
Funny how dying focuses your mind on what you really want. Even Cristina couldn’t inspire him to get the courage to write for himself, but now that he knows he will be dead in nine months, he finally forges his own path.
He burns the pages of the manuscript he has written so far and the following day he goes to the office of his publisher to tell them the happy news that they will no longer be able to make money off him. Right. That will go over well.
Barrido, one of the publishers, tries to be reasonable.
‘Martin, sit down and tell me what this is about. There’s something worrying you, I can see. You can be open with us – we’re like family.’
Pardon me if I don’t believe that.
Lady Venom and Escobillas nodded with conviction, showing the measure of their esteem in a look of spellbound devotion. I decided to remain standing. They all did the same, staring at me as if I were a pillar of salt that was about to start talking. Barrido’s face hurt from so much smiling.
This passage with the publishers is actually quite funny. The characters are so bizarre, they are almost caricatures, but somehow it works to convey the idea that they are just greedy, soulless men.
Martín explains that he does not want to write any more stories under the name Ignatius B. Samson, telling the publishers that Ignatius committed suicide by stepping in front of a tram. Barrido is still trying to be reasonable and suggests that Martín takes nine months off from being Ignatius to write a novel of his own, bearing his own name. Martín knows of course that he won’t be alive in nine months, so that suits him very well.
He starts right away, working on his book and Vidal’s book at the same time.
I would write especially for Cristina, to prove to her that I too was able to pay the debt I had with Vidal and that even if he was about to drop dead, David Martín had earned himself the right to look her in the eye without feeling ashamed of his ridiculous hopes.
Of course we have to drag Cristina into this. And I don’t really understand how writing his own book is paying off the debt he has with Vidal, isn’t polishing Vidal’s book pay off enough? Or is that the debt?
Martín is a bit more organised this time and has his groceries delivered by the grocer’s daughter. He doesn’t pay her much attention, but does tip her a ten-céntimo after each delivery.
Cristina has stopped coming by as well, so I guess Martín can now fully concentrate on writing his own book. Martín finds out that Cristina’s father has suffered an aneurysm and she has gone with him to a sanatorium.
Vidal comes by and they chat a bit about Manuel. When Martín asks about Vidal’s novel, he says,
‘I think it’s going to be something big,’ he said. ‘After all those months I thought I’d wasted, I reread the first fifty pages Cristina typed out for me and I was quite surprised at myself. I think it will surprise you too. I may still have some tricks to teach you.’
I don’t think so, poor, misguided soul. I still maintain that Vidal must have noticed that the writing wasn’t his own.
Vidal drinks too much wine and becomes a bit contemplative.
‘There are some things I’ve never told you, David. Things that perhaps I should have told you years ago…’
I let a moment go by. It seemed an eternity. Whatever Vidal wanted to tell me, it was clear that all the brandy in the world wasn’t going to get it out of him.
‘Don’t worry, Don Pedro. If these things have waited for years, I’m sure they can wait until tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow I may not have the courage to tell you.’
I realised that I had never seen him look so frightened. Something had got stuck in his heart and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
Of course Vidal doesn’t unburden himself and we now know that there is some deep secret that Vidal is carrying around. Things are becoming more intriguing.