It Begins in Miraflores, a Colonia of Lima
I flew into Lima during the evening, which was tricky as there was an
11 p.m. curfew due to the tense political situation. Fortunately, my flight arrived before 9 p.m. After I reached the bed and breakfast, Winnie’s husband had to return to the airport to pick up another couple whose flight arrived around 10 p.m. As Winnie and I became somewhat acquainted over a cup of tea, I noticed her fidgeting while she continually glanced at her watch.
“What’s wrong, Winnie?” I inquired.
“My husband should have been here by now. I’m concerned that the flight may have been late and he may not be able to make it home before the 11 o’clock curfew.”
“What happens if he doesn’t?”
“The military police can shoot him,” she answered in a flat tone of voice. “And the others, too,” she added. Rising from her chair abruptly, she grabbed a large piece of white cloth on a table near the door.
“Where are you going, Winnie?” I asked in an alarmed voice. It appeared that she was headed toward her car.
“I am going to wave this white cloth out my car window and try to intercept my husband and our guests. If the military police see the white flag, they hopefully won’t shoot.”
“Oh, my,” I replied quietly, not knowing quite what to say. “Well, good luck. I hope that it works.”
Winnie’s plan to rescue her husband and the new guests did work, though the intensity of that evening left everyone involved exhausted. If I had imagined a peaceful vacation away from the turmoil of Colegio Americano politics, my first evening in Lima eliminated any such ideas. Then again, who wants peacefulness when Mystery is patiently awaiting the arrival of your young heart?
The Prodigal Son
After staying only one night, I became acquainted with Winnie’s unique family, particularly her children. Reyna was a flight attendant for Aero-Peru, and she happened to be at the house for a few days between international flights. Tall, fair-skinned, with dazzling curls framing her high-cheekbones, Reyna was a classic beauty who obviously favored the English side of the family. One of Winnie’s sons, Eduardo, dropped by vicariously to chat with the family. He owned a natural foods restaurant with his wife, Maria. Francisco, another of her sons, was away studying at a university in Argentina. However, it was Winnie’s eldest child, Miguel Angel, who most fascinated me. Although he wasn’t in Lima, the manner in which family conversations hovered furtively around his supposed disappearance was notable.
“He left his wife and children in Lima about a year ago,” Winnie informed me as we sipped our Earl Grey tea. “Before that, he left a woman and child in Spain.” She paused a moment, and looked out the window behind me. “He told us he was going to Cuzco, but I haven’t heard from him for almost a year. The last we knew he was playing in a musical group at a local pena. Do you know what a pena is, Corina?”
“I’ve been to a few of them in Ecuador. They play folk instruments and start rather late at night, don’t they? Sometimes there’s poetry, but I’ve only heard the music. Is Miguel Angel a good musician?”
“He’s maravilloso! Mi hijo is so talented, but Corina, I have a favor to ask of you.”
Then she handed me a thin, white envelope, and told me a very strange tale.
The History of the Silver Ring
I have always thought that my two weeks in Cuzco was like a Gothic tale gone Latino, with me playing a reluctant Catherine to Miguel Angel’s turbulent
Heathcliff. As I stood there, Winnie proceeded with her story about an antique silver band that was sealed inside the envelope. Apparently Miguel Angel had first purchased the ring at a flea market in Cuzco as a gift for his novia. According to Winnie, the ring had some special attraction, apart from the mysterious figures carved all around the band. In fact, when Miguel Angel began to wear the ring, having long forgotten about the novia, one day she simply took it from him.
“¿Por que me llevaste el anillo?” he asked her, a little indignantly.
“Porque me gusta,” she answered with a coaxing smile. And from that point on, the silver ring stayed on Winnie’s slim, white index finger.
That is until her other son decided to study at a Trappist monastery in Argentina.
“This was truly a strange experience for me,” Winnie continued. “I had always wanted one of my sons to become a priest, and was so proud of Francisco.” Her face was beaming as she described how her son came to study in Argentina. “So, when Francisco got ready to leave, I asked him what he would like as a present. And he said that he wanted the ring. This puzzled me, as I never considered my son to be very materialistic. However, I went to my bedroom and returned with the ruby ring, which is a family heirloom. Francisco looked at the ring and laughed. ‘No, Mami, not the ruby,” he said. ‘I want that ring!’ And then he pointed to the silver ring on my finger.” Winnie’s face became dreamy, as she drifted into some private place within. “I just don’t understand it. Miguel Angel asked his brother to give him back that ring for years, and he always refused.. Now, all of a sudden, Francisco has sent it to me, to be returned to his brother. And I don’t even know where he is!” She snapped back into the present, and grabbed my hands. “ I don’t know why, but this ring is important, Corinne. I put it in this envelope, sealed, but should it come open, you must please promise to put the ring on your own finger. And bring it back if you don’t find my son. But I pray that you do because I am worried sick!”
I stood there, looking at Winnie’s beautiful face—she had dark brown hair, with a reddish tint, and clear skin lightly sprinkled with freckles. But it was her eyes that held my attention. Winne’s preoccupation for her son was emanating straight from her heart into those lovely, sapphire eyes, pleading with me to take on this serious mission. In that moment, the Mystery, which had been waiting patiently since the moment I stepped foot in Lima, won me over: my path was set.