Ramon pulled his large hat lower on his head as he crossed the cobbled streettoward the gathered men. The storm, unusual for springtime Barcelona and theMediterranean coast, had been robust, starting early this morning with lightning andthunder. He avoided several puddles that had accumulated during the storm even whilekeeping his eyes sternly focused on Miro. As he reached the other side of the street mostof the men backed away, intimidated somewhat by Ramon’s tall, lean body. Althoughonly 17, he was nearly two meters tall, at least a head taller than any of the older men,and he walked with an easy athletic grace. Only Miro stood his ground.“You know, Miro, it’s true, my mother was a widow when my father married her, but since my grandfather disinherited her, she was hardly rich. But now I understandyour choice of career. You butcher everything, even your insults.”This time the laughter was genuine. “He’s got you there, Joao,” one of the other men joshed. Miro’s grin had turned sour but the other men’s general levity broke thetension, a couple of them clapping Ramon on the back. “Good one, Ramon, you’veinherited Gabriel’s sharp tongue, that’s certain.”Ramon ignored them and ducked into Ferrier’s entrance, removing his hat andshaking off the rainwater. As his eyes grew accustomed to the gloomy interior of the bar,he noted the group of young men he’d come to meet talking conspiratorially at a table inthe far corner. At the only other occupied table, against the wall to his right, a large,round man slept, his head on his arms, slumped over the table. A glass, half full, sat nextto another empty glass on the table. Some people start the day early, he thought.Cosette, Ferrier’s daughter and the bar’s serving girl, bent over the sleeping man.Ramon’s pulse quickened when he saw her. She was not quite his age but she had hadthe responsibility of helping her father ever since her mother had died when she was 8years old. As a result, she was far more serious than other girls Ramon knew from thestreets, and, he thought, far more beautiful. With a shake of her head, she picked up theempty glass and headed his way with a disapproving look on her face.