For the next days, Daniel loafs around the city hoping for news of Bea. One day he visits her university and questions the students, who say she hasn’t come to class in several days.
Bea’s abrupt disappearance mirrors Penélope’s, and calls to mind the fact that many people, like the caretaker Daniel once questioned, never even knew of her existence at all.
Finally Daniel calls Bea, even though it’s dangerous to phone the Aguilar home. Mr. Aguilar answers the phone and swears that he’s going to “beat your brains out” and that Bea will have to “pay for what you’ve done.”
Like Penélope, Bea’s disappearance turns out to be a punishment for disobeying her father and taking an illicit lover. It’s disturbing that Bea’s life so much resembles Penélope’s, since Daniel has just discovered Penélope’s death.
Daniel feels guilty for not having protected Bea better. He feels that he has always let others take the fall for him, as when he watched while Fumero beat up Fermín. On his way home, he realizes the same police officer who had restrained him during Fermín’s beating is now following him again.
Daniel views the ability to control events and protect those around him as essential to becoming a man. His recent failure to do so reminds him to what extent he’s still a powerless child.
In the evening, without telling Mr. Sempere, Daniel and Fermín walk to a café, immediately noticing that a policeman is following them. At the café, Fermín bribes the waiter to tell the policeman that Inspector Fumero has urgently requested his presence, and the man leaves immediately.
Physically weak and a fugitive from the law, Fermín seems powerless. However, he’s very competent and shrewd in combatting his enemies, showing Daniel that there’s more than one way to be a man.
Fermín tells Daniel that he met Fumero when the inspector was working for the anarchists and Fermín for the government, right before the Civil War. Then, Fermín was working for the party in charge, but after Barcelona fell to the Fascists, Fermín was branded a criminal and arrested. Fumero tortured him with a welding torch until he informed on his superiors, and Fermín feels guilty about their deaths to this day.
Fermín’s guilt about the past is very similar to the guilt Daniel is feeling currently. Neither man was at fault for the misfortunes of their friends, but both feel ashamed of the fact that they couldn’t control what happened or exercise power over the situation.
Daniel comforts Fermín and tells him he shouldn’t feel guilty about informing under such terrible circumstances, and Fermín says he credits the Semperes with turning around his life.
While they’re far from a traditionally powerful or wealthy family, the Semperes’ empathy and kindness emerge triumphant as the best way to combat trauma and resolve the past.