IT IS THE NEXT MORNING AFTER HER ARRIVAL IN SPAIN. JANNET HAS HURRIED OUT FOR A quick breakfast meal, and she returns to shower and dress in her rooms at the apartment hotel. She is reading a book and waiting for the expected knock on the door.
There is a knock, a few minutes later, and Mari Belen opens and enters before Jannet is half way across the room. The two stare at each other. Jannet is standing in a stiff manner. And it is Mari Belen who elects to close the short distance between them. She embraces and kisses the younger woman, who finally relaxes her awkward stance.
“None of us are getting any younger, especially me.” Mari Belen comments in a soft and reassuring manner. “I hope you did not mind me breaking the ice.”
“Thanks for taking the lead. I know that we have become very close, emotionally, on Skype but now we are actually, in person.” Jannet returns, she is still a little anxious and a bit uncertain.
“But now in person, we’re fine. Right?” Mari Belen adds convincingly.
“Right!” Jannet smiles. This time she is more confident.
“So, how about a welcome to Madrid present?” Mari Belen suggests and she walks to the front door, which is still slightly ajar, and retrieves a huge rectangular box. “This is a much larger-sized monitor for your Skype sessions with your clients back in the states. From what I recall, from our conversations, the sessions start this very week, on Tuesday? Today is Sunday, so we can set this up and test it for Tuesday. Afterwards we can hang out?” Mari Belen is dragging the large box into the apartment rooms.
“Sounds good.” Jannet begins to help her with the unpacking of the outsized electronics box. “Thanks for the thoughtful gift. And sorry, I do not have a present for you.”
“You’re my present, girlfriend.” Mari Belen holds the box securely as Jannet lifts up the large item from above.
The plan for the 1st week in Madrid has three parts, according to Mari Belen. Mari Belen will work her regular schedule of very long shifts, starting at 8.00 or 9.00 in the morning. She works normally on Tuesdays through Saturdays. Secondly, Jannet will join her at the end of the work day for a late dinner, a sleepover, and an early breakfast the next morning. And thirdly, Jannet would spent the rest of the day, after breakfast, on her own, after Mari Belen departs for work. She will spend time at her apartment hotel rooms, or exploring Madrid, or on Skype sessions.
There will be a planned visit to Toledo, which is only an hour southeast of Madrid, to visit Mari Belen’s parents and other relatives. Mari Belen has relatives in Madrid and Toledo and she is planning to inform them about her new friend as soon as possible. She has been very reluctant and very careful about discussing her private life, with her family, in recent years. This has created some amount of distance between her and especially her parents and her brother because they have a pattern of only begrudgingly approving of her romantic partners.
There are other plans. Next week, Mari Belen has applied for leave and the two women will travel to the Northwest coast of Spain, primarily to San Sebastian and to Bilbao for vacation. This Basque region of Spain is one of Mari Belen’s favorite parts of the country.
This Sunday and Monday, before the work week commences, Mari Belen wants to work on various minor home improvement projects and Jannet is eager to assist. Mari Belen lives in a modest one-room apartment in a small renovated apartment building.
On the Sunday afternoon, the women have made two trips to the home improvement store already. They have enjoyed a friendly light day of work, cleaning, arranging, and chatting. Jannet is dressed in all white, that is, a t-shirt, painter pants, and black/white converse low-tops tennis shoes. Mari Belen has on a medium blue t-shirt, blue overalls with thin shoulder straps, and light brown construction boots. Jannet’s medium brown almost shoulder-length hair has been braided, by Mari Belen, into four large braids. Mari Belen’s severe bobbed-cut black hair, which is normally an inch or so above her shoulders, has been pulled back into one small ponytail.
The women are laughing, when the doorbell rings. They are expecting a delivery from the home improvement store, BriCor, and they stride casually to the front door of the apartment. There is not a delivery man at the opened door but rather it is her family assembled at her front door.
Now present, at the entry to her apartment, are her parents, her sister and her two adult daughters, and her brother and his wife and their child. The eight enter the apartment and quickly settle into the living room. This is a surprise visit, on the part of her family, but they appear to be the ones who are surprised for the moment.
“Quien es? La trabajadora?” Her father is the first to speak. As Mari Belen launches into a lengthy although carefully composed explanation, she clarifies that Jannet is not a worker but that she is her new girlfriend. In the meanwhile, Jannet slips from the living room and locates her overnight bag. She quickly renews and redresses herself, she has changed her hair and she adds a little blush makeup, and in five or six minutes she silently returns to the living room. She has on a medium gray thin long-sleeve t-shirt, gray leggings, and black ballet flats. She gives Mari Belen a quick side-glance and then she joins the conversation. As she formally introduces herself to each person present, Mari Belen slips from the living room to engage in a complete change and makeover. Jannet’s Spanish is serviceable and she tries to be pleasant and to respond to everyone’s questions cheerfully. She emphasizes the initial professional context of the interactions between the two women. This seems to impress everyone. However, several minutes later, she is thrown off-guard when someone comments that she looks like a teenager and consequently someone else asks if she has finished university. Fortunately, Mari Belen has returned and she takes over the Q&A.
“Jannet is 34 years of age, she has a Masters in Mathematics and she teaches, for her career, at a community college in the state of Oregon, in the United States. If it is easier, you could simply think of her as my close friend.” Mari Belen intones in rapid Spanish. The woman is now sporting her typical severe hair style and she is wearing black jeans, a black sweater, and black/white converse high-tops. Her brother, who is the youngest of the three siblings, casually comments about the abundant supply of readily available men in Greater Madrid.
“I prefer Jannet and I had wanted to present her to you in advance but regardless, in all honesty, I do want to acknowledge that we have a relationship. But perhaps we could discuss this over a late lunch?” Mari Belen strategically suggests to the assemblage.
They walk en-masse several blocks to a popular restaurant. The parents are in their early 70s and in good health. The sister, Margarita, is mid-40s and divorced, she and her two daughters relocated to Madrid from Toledo eleven years ago after the divorce. The two daughters are Lara and Lavina, both in university. The brother, Cristo, is in his early 40s and lives in Toledo with his wife, Lyjanis, and their young boy child Santiago, who is not school-aged yet.
Lara and Lavina immediately break the awkwardness, of the abrupt introduction of Mari Belen’s new girlfriend to the family, by walking arm in arm with Jannet to the restaurant. They speak in perfect English, though with a slight pleasing Castilian accent, and they have numerous sociable questions about the United States, which is a country that the two young women hope to visit someday.
Jannet has memorized everyone’s names but she has reverted to using the generalized designations that Mari Belen uses. She uses the familiar and comfortable appellations of papa, mama, hermano, hermana, primo, prima, and so on, and she is exactly mimicking Mari Belen’s protocol. However, with Lara and Lavina, and the boy child, Santiago, she resorts to using their first names.
The conversation and questions progress comfortable and the arrival of copious amounts of food does enhance the overall ambiance. Mari Belen has automatically ordered for Jannet, for which Jannet is grateful since the menu is a bit bewildering to her.
“Oh my god!” Jannet exclaims in English. “What is this?” And everyone at the large table explodes with laughter and wonderment. Jannet is responding to her anonymous meal.
“Huevos Rotos. Do you like them? Es la comida typical de España.” Lavina explains, easily bouncing between the two languages. “Basically it is over-easy eggs on top of potatoes, with a wonderful sauce and spices, there are many variations to this basic recipe. That one, in front of you, includes a thin-sliced ham. You only break the yolks when the dish is served.”
Jannet listens and eats with great interest.
Jannet’s initial Madrid schedule: the first two days were off days for Mari Belen, a Sunday and Monday, and they were a whirlwind for Jannet. She spent all day with her now new girlfriend and her now official girlfriend and she also spent a bit of time with Mari Belen’s family. The ensuring Tuesday through Saturday, Jannet is on her own for part of the day, and subsequently she joins Mari Belen for evenings, overnight, and the following early mornings.
Jannet has reviewed the schedule of appointments for consultations with Sara Jean, during her tenure in Madrid. Much to Sara Jean’s surprise, Jannet vetoes two of the appointments in advance. She cites that one of the appointments is connected to an ongoing police investigation and she only wants to be involved with police work in Spain and not in the United States. The second cancellation is because she feels an unusually edgy vibe about the proposed consultation, so she would rather not do it. Sara Jean indicates hesitantly that she will cancel the two appointments and she will proceed to call all of the next individuals on a growing waiting list.
On Tuesday, about 10 minutes before the start of a consultation, Sara Jean is further astonished when Jannet inquires again about the consultation costs for patrons, and of course she had already volunteered not to accept any salary.
“The costs are now $65 per session, and all of the proceeds are for the PAG operational budget. That is nearly a thousand dollars total for one short week, this could generate a few thousand a month, and it will definitely help us to reach our fundraising goals.” Sara Jean states enthusiastically and with political polish.
“I believe that this would be too much. $50 a session is more reasonable.” Jannet insists but she states it in an even-toned manner.
“People are willing to pay the $65, as a matter of fact, they already have. Besides, why are you behaving so obstinately? Normally you are the easiest going person in the world.” Sara Jean retorts, standing her ground.
“Listen, if you charge $50 per sessions and I do not receive anything, the organization will still receive 100%. So you can refund the difference. You can also do a follow-up, with clients, by providing everyone with a brochure about the organization and I believe that the brochure has information on how to make additional contributions to the organization.”
“Fine, fine, fine!” Sara Jean growls, none too happy but nevertheless she is giving in. “And would like fries with that order, Ms. Russman?”
“No thanks.” Jannet chuckles. “And listen, my motives are to make this process reasonable for everyone who might be interested.” There is long pause of silence and then Jannet continues. “And also I am now ready for the first consultation.”
The consultations proceed quickly each of the three initial days. Jannet listens carefully to each person’s interest or aspiration or concern. She allows herself to fall into a light trance, it is in the light trance that she sees images and other past or present or possible future events that are relevant to the client. She receives feedback information from a variety of sensorial mechanisms; information that she relates back to client.
In general, she senses that the clients are quite satisfied with the quality of the response content in regards to their questions and concerns; and with the recommendations of supplemental resources and strategies. Sara Jean, on the other hand, is still a little unhappy that Jannet had pulled rank on her concerning the consultation fees. She decides to be a little snarky on Tuesday and Wednesday towards Jannet but she retreats back to her normal self by Thursday when she realized that her attitude is regrettably immature.
“This has been an excellent first week. Thanks. And Jannet, I want to apologize as well for my attitude, which has improved by the way.” Sara Jean states with complete sincerity. “I am only trying to maximize the revenue for our organization but I do now realize that perhaps I overstepped a bit.’
“No problem. And there is not anything else until next week, right? Are there any organizational concerns?” Jannet inquires with earnestness.
“Yes.” The woman hesitates for one long minute. “If you have heard rumors concerning you and me having a girlfriend status, ignore them, ok.”
“Why would there be rumors since I am out of the country with my actual girlfriend?” Jannet counters with a surprised demeanor.
“Well, maybe because sometimes I stay in your apartment, since I have a key. You see it is still a little busy for me, in the afternoons and the evenings, at my little accounting partnership firm on East Burnside. So sometimes it is easier for me to crash at your apartment, during the week, since I am downtown between the PAG offices and my accounting firm offices east of downtown and especially since I live up near North Portland in University Park. Anyway, some of our gossiping PAG membership are making assumptions that are not true because in reality we are just close friends and nothing more.”
“So did you do anything to dissuade the rumor?” Jannet is concerned but low-key. “No, wait a minute and never mind Sara Jean, there is no need to answer that question. Although when I gave you a key, to my apartment, but I did not think you would actually stay there. Anyway, it’s no big deal. I know that, at times, you are working 12 to 14 hour days during the week, between your accounting firm and the PAG organization, especially during the months of March, June, September, and December. And I think you are a great person for shouldering all of that.”
Jannet continues after several seconds of consideration. “I think, however, that I have a quick solution. On the website there are a few photos of me with no caption, and the photos are on the web page associated with the consultation services. I will e-mail a photo of myself and Mari Belen to you to also post, with the other photos. Do not include a caption. I think anyone interested will figure it out. Ok, Sara Jean. Problem solved?”
“Yes, ok that is very good solution. And sorry, once again.” Sara Jean concedes. She regrets the complications that have arisen because of this circulating but inaccurate PAG rumor mill but she believes that the soon-to-be posted photo of Jannet and Mari Belen should probably clarify the erroneous assumptions.
It is a rainy day, Sunday in mid-May, when Mari Belen and Jannet carpool with Mari Belen’s sister and her two young adult nieces, in an SUV, to Toledo Spain. Toledo is a very old and historic city, and according to historical records, settled in pre-roman times. Despite its recognition as a major tourist destination, nationally and internationally, it has a modest population of less than 100,000 residents. Its unemployment rate is a little better than most of country, which is presently experiencing high unemployment levels. Toledo has a robust tourism industry.
They carpool directly to her parents’ catholic church of choice for midday mass. There is a wonderful home-cooked el almuerzo in the early afternoon at the large family home, where the parents reside. Everyone is expected to help with or to contribute to the preparations in some manner. Jannet dutifully stations herself in one corner of kitchen, peeling and cutting and chopping.
Mari Belen notes that her brother and his little family are polite towards Jannet, but not particularly warm. Her parents are formally gracious and cordial, but it is her sister and her nieces who are perfectly friendly and very kind, as always, towards her American friend. In the early evening, there are thoughtful farewells and then a quiet return trip to Madrid, in the SUV.
Mari Belen and Jannet embark upon a road trip to Northwest Spain. It is four and a half hours to San Sebastián. The city, on the coast, is unbelievably scenic, light and airy, and they spend a 24-hour period there. The highlights of San Sebastián, from Jannet’s perspective, are the monumental Aquarium complex and a rather scary although exhilarating ride on the Funicular Railway, which is an old-fashioned elevated rail car system in the hills.
Afterwards, it is one hour, or so, to Bilbao, which features the famous Guggenheim Museum. In Bilbao there is another 24-hour stay. Bilbao is an intriguing mix of modern, traditional, and industrial influences. Jannet finds herself quite drawn to the city. But quickly there then is a return back to Madrid, it is about a four-hour drive from Bilbao to Madrid.
Overall it is quite a whirlwind tour and a tour that Jannet would like to repeat, at a much slower pace, in the future. Nevertheless, both cities were splendid, Bilbao is especially impressionable, for Jannet, because of its vast array of architectural styles which range from contemporary to very traditional, and its muscular elegance, and its mix of heavy industry activities and structures; there is a large river and lots of shipping activities. Additionally, the novel experience of the many stunning vistas, when motoring through the interior areas of Northwest Spain, is also exciting.
The road trip is furthermore a great success for another reason. It does allow the two women a 24/7 and close-quarters contact period. This is their first occasion of physical intimacy, as well, which both women find to be quite intoxicating. The comfortable dynamics of the physical and emotional intimacy between the two women prove to be mutually satisfying.
The trip does become a pivot point for the two women and although Mari Belen takes the lead in almost every instance of the rapid three-day sojourn, she does additionally display an openness to Jannet’s input and questions. In reality, Jannet feels a little like a fish out of water because almost everything is new and unfamiliar to her, therefore she is grateful for Mari Belen’s initiative. Their personality types, Mari Belen’s type A or assertive type or goal-oriented type and Jannet’s type B or relaxed/receptive or process-driven type, seems to complement each other, as if they are perfectly balanced and complementary positions on an interior designer’s color wheel.
This road trip occurs within the confines of a three-day period and Jannet is surprised that Mari Belen has not requested more leave time. However, Mari Belen confesses that she had previously taken another three or four leave days, during the past month, and that she needs to return to work.
Incidentally Jannet had informed Sara Jean that she would not be available for consultations this present week, because of the road trip, but of course now there are reservations for consultations already scheduled for following week. Jannet mentally reviews the reservation list for the upcoming week and requests Sara Jean to cancel the second appointment on the Wednesday of following week because she has some internal misgivings about the client.
A typical work day for Mari Belen, Carlos Jon, and Umberto involve a substantial amount of research and a considerable amount of interviewing of potential suspects and witnesses. The three-person team are seasoned and patient professionals. They have well-honed interviewing skills which include an enhanced ability to read the body language and micro-facial expressions of their interviewees. The team is assigned cold cases, by their supervisors, and the review of these cold cases could warrant a formal reopening of a particular case if there is new evidential information to support it. There is normally an internal departmental time restriction set of about two or three months, for the review of cold cases, with extensions granted if justified, and the team has to develop and validate evidential materials that would be presented to the Court of Inquiry, La Comisión de Investigación. The development of the evidential documentation is coordinated with the team’s legal member and with the two administrative staff members. The Court of Inquiry would make a determination or recommendation on the validity of the evidence in pursuant of the initiation of a formal criminal or civil case, which could then be presented to a higher court.
The team is required to log or to participate in a certain amount of professional development hours per month. Usually for the three investigators, the professional development is a strenuous mandatory physical training and/or psychological consultations, but the team has also logged some hours with profiling experts, from the National Police, in order to improve their investigative skills, as well.
The team, today, is taking a break by having a quick lunch of sandwiches and coffee, in a nearby green space, close to their police department building on Calle Miguel Angel. The three are approached by a woman, who begins to address Mari Belen, in English.
“Good afternoon. I am sorry to invade your privacy, especially during your lunch period. My cousin has advised me that I should identify myself to you.” The woman begins; the three investigators pull their attention to the woman.
“And your cousin is?” Mari Belen asks in full police-person mode.
“Janneta Luna Russman. Jannet.” Tess is speaking and she is addressing Mari Belen. “I believe she is an occasional confidential informant for your investigative team. And she has become a personal friend to you, as well, Ms. Miramartes, yes?”
“And you are?” Carlos Jon interrupts.
“Tess. My name is Tess Aja-Conn. Here is my identification.” Tess produces a United States passport, which Umberto accepts, and he reviews the interior pages, and photographs it before returning it to the woman. Mari Belen initially notes that Jannet’s cousin, Tess, exhibits a distinctive quality of spoken voice; she has a musical intonation and cadence that is much more masculine than feminine, and her delivery is in low-volume whispery tones.
Carlos Jon and Umberto commence to question Tess concerning her general life details. Carlos Jon questions in English while Umberto questions in Spanish and Tess responses perfectly in both languages. During the conversation, Tess’s attention and posture is directed towards the two men while Mari Belen carefully observes. Periodically, out of politeness, Tess turns towards Mari Belen, to include her, and then back again to the men. Mari Belen notices an odd countenance, which befalls the woman, especially when the afternoon light falters for a moment because of a passing cloud, or passing clouds, far overhead. It has been a partly cloudy day and the temperatures are warm. Mari Belen cannot fail to notice that the woman, Tess, seems to elicit an unaccountable visage, an ancient or timeless countenance, as the daylight illumination now happens to fall in a certain manner over the cityscape. This mysterious somewhat regal countenance could be easily dismissed or overlooked if an observer was not of a tenacious or meticulous nature. Mari Belen observes that Tess does indeed truly resemble Jannet but that she is taller, thinner, and paler in skin tone; and that she appears to a few years older than Jannet.
“These days I do primarily volunteer work for a few different NGOs based in the states so I travel around quite a bit. I have a permanent address with Jannet, for correspondence and for a place to keep things and so forth. I am traveling back to the states for the present and I do have a bit of a brief layover, today in the community of Madrid, before I have to rush back to the Adolfo Suárez.” She shakes hands with the two men and then turns to Mari Belen. “You have made quite an impression on my little cousin, Ms. Miramartes. Thank you for being her friend.” Tess lightly kisses Mari Belen on the right cheek and the left cheek and she turns to walk briskly away.
One minute later, Mari Belen proclaims that she wants to find out more information about Jannet’s cousin. However, this proclamation produces reactions of deep frowning on the faces of her two police partners. It is Carlos Jon who call for an El Descanso. El Descanso, or a break or a time out, has become an informal team communication device when one member of the team wants to express an opinion in a confidential and non-retaliatory context within the team setting. This device has been used, for some time, within the 8-member cold case team setting, during meetings, with some surprising results.
Umberto reminds Mari Belen that there has already been extensive and somewhat unauthorized surveillance that has occurred concerning Jannet and that any additional background investigative work of any kind, or of anyone connected with Jannet, might be interpreted as a massive and unwarranted invasion of privacy. He expressed further concerns because Mari Belen had not yet communicated to Jannet about the extent and the nature of the surveillance into her life and into the lives of her family and friends; especially since that surveillance could be considered extremely invasive. Carlos Jon adds that Mari Belen’s motivations have become too personal and that she needs to inform Jannet of her actions.
“¡Informarle e informar a su ahora!” Umberto cautions which greatly annoys Mari Belen but she does acknowledge and she does respect the advice offered by her police partners.