The Nautical Chart

Free The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Book: The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte Read Free Book Online
Authors: Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Tags: adventure, Action
what will you and museum do with it?"
    "Once it's been completely reviewed and catalogued, I'll get reproductions for internal use. Then it will go to the museum's historical library, like everything else."
    They were interrupted by a discreet rap at the door; standing there was the commander Coy had passed in the exhibition hall. Tanger Soto excused herself and followed him into the hallway, where the two talked a few minutes in low voices. The new arrival was middle-aged and good-looking, and the gold buttons and stripes lent him distinction. Occasionally he would look at Coy with a curiosity not entirely free of suspicion. Coy did not appreciate the looks, or the broad smile with which the officer blessed the conversation. Like many members of the Merchant Marine, Coy was not fond of career Navy men. They seemed too arrogant, and they were forever inbreeding, marrying the daughters of other officers; they crammed into church on Sundays, and tended to spawn too many children. Besides, there were no battles now, no enemy ships to board, and they stayed home in bad weather.
    "I have to leave you for a few minutes," she said. "Wait for me."
    She went down the hall with the commander, who shot Coy a last glance before he left. Coy sat in her office, looking around; there was Urrutia's chart again, and then the other objects on the table, the print on the wall—"4th View of the Battle of Toulon"— and the contents of the glass case. He was about to sit down when, next to the table, his eyes caught the large easel with the thumbtacked documents, plans, and photographs. He walked over, with nothing in mind but to kill some time, and discovered that protruding from beneath the prints pinned to the upper half of the panel were plans of sailing ships—all were brigantines, he saw after glancing at the rigging. Below them were aerial photographs of coastal waters, and reproductions of antique nautical charts, as well as one modem chart. It was number 463A from the Naval Hydrographic Institute—Cabo de Gata to Cabo de Palos, which corresponded in part to the one in the atlas open on the table. What a coincidence, Coy thought.

    A MINUTElater she was back. My boss, she said. High-level consultations about vacation schedules. All very top secret.
    "So you work for the Navy?"
    'As you see."
    He was amused. "That makes you some kind of service-woman, then."
    "Not at all." The golden hair swished from side to side as she shook her head. "I'm classified as a civil servant. I took an examination after I got my degree in history. I've been here four years."
    She turned pensive and looked out the window. Then, as if she had something on her mind she couldn't dismiss, she went to the table very slowly, closed the atlas, and put it back in the case.
    "My father, though, was in the service," she added.
    There was a note of defiance, or perhaps of pride, in her words. That confirmed a number of things Coy had noticed: a certain way she had of moving, a gesture here and there, and the serene, slightly haughty self-discipline that seemed to take over at times.
    "Career Navy?"
    'Army. He retired as a colonel, after spending most of his life in Africa."
    "Is he still alive?" "No."
    She spoke without a trace of emotion. It was impossible to know if it upset her to talk about it. Coy studied the navy-blue irises, and she bore his scrutiny with no expression.
    "Which is why your name is Tanger. For Tangier."
    "Which is why my name is Tanger."

    THEYwalked past the Museo del Prado and the railings of the Botanical Garden in no hurry, then turned left and started up Claudio Moyano hill, leaving the noisy traffic and pollution of the Atocha traffic circle behind them. The sun shone on the gray booths and stalls stair-stepped up the street. "Why did you come to Madrid?"
    He stared at the ground He had answered that question at the museum, before she had even asked. All the commonplaces and easy pretexts had been exhausted, so he took a few more steps

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