She opened a folder on the nightstand and handed Angela a photograph of a dark-skinned woman holding a lighter-skinned girl in her arms. The photo was burned around the edges and missing the bottom half, as if someone had thrown it in a fire and then immediately regretted it. On the back, a note was written in Portuguese.
“It says, ‘Gaspar, your daughter is now three years old and she…’ and then it cuts off,” Simone said. “The thing is, I have no idea who they are. I’ve asked all my relatives and they don’t know either. I’ve searched the house from top to bottom, but I can’t find any other sign of them. I may have a half-sister out there somewhere, and the only person who knows who she is hasn’t spoken a word in months. So… will you help me?”
Angela glanced at Frederica.
“Yeah, I will,” she said, and turned to Gaspar. “Good morning, sir. Sorry for the intrusion.”
She stared into his eyes and opened the floodgates. His memories flowed into her mind in fragments, seen through a thick haze. She caught a glimpse of the woman from the photograph and followed the thread deeper into his mind.
The memory shifted and blurred into others. His wedding to Simone’s mother, a birthday party from his childhood, a retirement dinner at his job. Nothing followed a logical sequence of events in here. It was as if someone had taken a book and shuffled all the pages randomly.
She focused on strong emotions instead; passion, lust, shame, regret. A moment in time began to materialize, a memory coming together like a puzzle. The sound of music down the hall, the smell of cheap beer and sweat, the feeling of smooth skin and tangled limbs, and the sight of the woman, her sleeping face just inches away.
In the memory, Gaspar crawled out of bed and gathered his clothes from the floor. As he pulled everything on, a mirror on the nearby dresser caught his reflection. This Gaspar was middle-aged, no younger than forty, with dark hair and a mustache.
“Leaving so soon?” the woman asked in groggy Portuguese.