It was dusk by the time the taxi Frances had hired to transport her from theairport finally swept inside a cobbled courtyard and drew up in front of asimple yet impressive white building fronted by a massive old oak door.'El Palacio de Rocio,
!' With an indolent wave the driver indicatedthe building once used as a hunting lodge by Spanish aristocracy but whichwas now the headquarters of scientists attached to a nature reserve made upof miles of undisturbed heathland and stone-pine woods that attractedinnumerable bird species pausing to rest and feed during their migrations toand from Africa, sometimes lingering all winter and remaining to breed.'Thank you
gracias . . .!' she amended, scrambling hastily from the back seat when the gum-chewing driver made no move to assist her to alight. Hehad emphasised his resentment at being forced into absenting himself fromfrequent and consequently more lucrative fares by stowing her one largesuitcase at her feet instead of placing it inside the boot, and as she beganstruggling to manoeuvre its awkward bulk over the sill the sound of asavage imprecation directed at the driver shot her bent spine erect.'Languido paseante, muevate! De prisa!'When Frances's startled head jerked upright to connect with an audiblecrack against the roof of the taxi a further spate of Spanish invective, toorapid for her to follow, erupted from the man who began hurrying down thesteps towards her.