The Services of Security of “Santa Isabella,” that parched and brutalized island satrapy, are notoriously efficient. But Manuel Andrada, who came to me in Boston, was the exception to this cold, deathly rule. He had known only failure and frustration since leaving home on a mission for which he was the least qualified, the most unsecretive “special agent” conceivable. He who so implausibly claimed to represent the National Library and Archives—and in fact did represent them, as well as the dreaded Services of Security—simply looked like a prize-fighter. Or like a man who might, with luck, prove a successful sentry for a warehouse or docks in that burning Caribbean capital. This was in fact the exact opinion later formed of Andrada by Miguel Rubinez, traveling overseer of The Protector’s special agents.
Yet this was the man sent to treat with exile intellectuals for the unpublished writings of “the late Justo de Villamayor.” He turned up at my Boston apartment on a hot spring afternoon, wearing a hairy and homemade brown winter suit buttoned tight. There were obscene bulges near the armpits. These signified a large revolver and an equally large wallet containing all the documents necessary for survival in Santa Isabella. Manuel Andrada: a scarred and feverish apparition! His black hair might have been cut by following the edge of a bowl, except for the deep sideburns. A thick white gash ran above the right eye for over an inch, then cut down through the brow. A knife directed at the eye in mortal anger must have struck the skull instead and been repelled by its savage hardness. This was the emissary of the National Library—whose burning lusts would leave behind such an absurd trail.