Señor Sierra Vargas did not come to meet her himself. Instead, he sent a car and driver for her, and then the man who had called Isabel opened the great wooden door, pulling on a giant bronze ring until the door swung slowly in. There he stood, dressed as a servant from another time, in black and red, his jacket buttons shining in the late afternoon light, his starched collar crisp white against his tanned skin. When he motioned her to enter, he did it with an old fashioned flourish, his feet tight together, his body slightly bowed at the waist.
“The Señor is expecting you, Señora,” he said in a low voice of respect.
Isabel used to be amused that people called her Señora, that her ruse had never been discovered. Over the years she had become so used to her title that even she had come to believe in the Italian marriage and the social acceptance it had provided. Now with Lita’s disappearance, she would have to deal with this new assault on her social standing. But not tonight. Tonight she hoped Señor Sierra Vargas had a plan to offer for finding Lita and getting her back.
“Gracias,” was all she said as she stepped into the great entrance hall, which once again impressed her with its grand scale. She wondered if Señor Sierra Vargas had required it to be so large for some reason. Was he trying to dwarf all who entered his presence? Or was it his wife who had wanted to make such an impression?
She followed the servant who led her to one of the rooms off the entrance hall, a man’s room with stuffed animal heads adorning the walls, leather furniture, dark wood paneling, huge windows with heavy drapes, a massive desk against one wall and bookcases from floor to ceiling packed with books of all sizes. At one side there was a bar with glasses already out, champagne chilling, a silver tray with small hors d’oevres carefully spaced with precisely the same distance from one to the next.
“Señor Sierra Vargas will be with you shortly,” the man said. “My name is Manuel. Is there anything I can get for you at this time?”
“Gracias, no,” said Isabel. She wondered what she was supposed to do alone in this room. She felt a vague sense of dread. She had thought about how to handle Señor Sierra Vargas and decided the best course was to put him off until Lita was safely back with her. Who knew how long that would take and what the outcome would be? Many things could stand in the way of Señor Sierra Vargas between now and that time, and perhaps he would have given up the idea he had harbored for so long that Isabel would one day come to him and surrender her independence. She sat gingerly on the edge of one of the leather couches to wait for him to arrive. Meanwhile she studied the book shelves. There was a large section that seemed devoted to history. American, Canadian, Mexican, Brazilian, Honduran, Argentinean, Peruvian, Chilean, Venezuelan . . . all the countries, in fact, in North and South America. Then there was a section with history books on Asia and another on Europe, and so on. She wondered if he had read them all and stood up, walked over to the shelves and began examining the books to see if they were merely placed there as decorative items or if someone had actually used them as they were intended.