"My lady, I don't understand--"
"This is yours, is it not?" Doña Matilda held the silver ring up to the light. The scroll design on each side resembled the canopy of a tree. A clear, square-cut faceted diamond topped it.
Geraldo nodded, "Yes, but--"
"What was it doing in her room?"
"I don't know, Milady. I've never been there."
"Even to visit?"
He scowled and replied, "No, I would never go there uninvited. I do have some sense of courtesy."
"Of course." Matilda's voice dripped sarcasm. "So a ghost took your ring and left it in my granddaughter's room."
"I don't believe in spirits, Milady. Someone must have taken it to her."
"Why would someone do that?"
"To frame me. I can think of no other reason."
Matilda laughed, high and bitter. "My granddaughter had been in seclusion, Geraldo. No one has visited her."
"There must have been maids, servants, ladies--"
"No one, Señor. No one. She wouldn't even see me, her grandmother." Matilda stared at the ring, turning it round and round in her tiny fingers. "As you can imagine it, she died in squalor. My little Raquela, dirty and disheveled like a street rat, and cluching your ring."
He shook his head. "I had nothing to do with her death, Doña. True, my ring had been missing for some time.I even sent my squire to the barrio to look for it."
"So if it was not you, it was your squire. Bernardo, isn't it?"
"I cannot believe he would kill Raquela--"
"Have you asked him?"
His tone was ironic. "Do you honestly think I'd ask him, 'Oh, by the way, did you murder Doña Matilda's granddaughter?'"
"You would have, if you'd cared enough."
"Dios," he snorted. "She pushed me away, not the other way around. She asked me to leave her alone and I honored her request. As I said, I have a sense of courtesy."
Matilda shrugged. She regarded the ring with new interest. "Then you would allow me to question your squire."
"Certainly, Doña. I'm also curious at what he has to say. As for my ring--"
She looked up at him, her dark eyes glittering in the light. "I believe I'll hold onto this a little while longer, Señor. After all, it is evidence."