GENRE: YA Historical
Manila, Philippines, 1909
Lucito opened the mansion door to a gaunt stranger in police garb. Behind him, other policemen stood in a v, their backs to the evening street lamps and their faces in shadow.
"Is this the Garcia residence?" the man asked.
"It is," Lucito said. "How may I help you, Officer?"
"Inspector Sulpicio Paredes." He handed Lucito a card. "Here to see Maria Estrella Garcia."
It said "Policia de Sanitario" – the dreaded Health Police. The Garcias' head-servant re-read it to make sure, then stole a look at the policemen. One held a pair of handcuffs. The others carried rifles. Lucito composed himself, then said, "I'm afraid she is unavailable."
"Already in bed, at this hour?"
"Oh, no, Officer! She is hosting a ball here. For her seventeenth birthday."
"No wonder this blasted street is congested," the inspector muttered.
"Perhaps," Lucito suggested, "you'd like to speak with her father, Don Jaime, first?"
"Her seventeeth birthday, is it?" When Lucito nodded, the inspector said, "Very well."
"If you will please wait here." Lucito began to close the door, but the inspector jammed the butt of his rifle in the opening.
"My men will wait outside," he said. "I will wait inside."
In the mansion's ballroom, Maria Estrella Garcia -Maristella to her intimates - smiled to herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Pancho Villanueva watching her across the dance floor. She had successfully eluded him for the last hour. It served him right for being late.