The temperature was already reaching 24 degrees centigrade as light broke on another Costa del Sol morning. The sky was clear, save two tiny dots of cloud vying for position in front of the, already fiery, sun. I had positioned myself in a safe corner of the sloping mountainside overlooking the beautiful lake of Istan, a few minutes from the fashionable town of Marbella and the glitzy port of Banus. This was a beautiful time of the day — not one that I saw very often — just after 7.30 am, and the sun was rising from behind me. The wildlife were still masters of all they surveyed and, waiting for the inevitable invasion of their tranquility by tourists, motor cars and locals going about their daily tasks. A short-toed eagle quartered the skyline, periodically hovering to study prey some 100 meters below. With the deathly silence of the surroundings not being disturbed, he dropped his wings and dived ground wards into the shrubbery and wild gorse, emerging triumphantly with a snake gripped in its talons and, soaring upward to its mountain hideaway, disappeared from view.
I had set up my tripod and placed my Canon. EOS safely on the adjustable screw mounting, so I could get a complete framed picture of the newly completed villa that belonged to a wealthy English client, David Lewis, who had instructed me to photograph his pride and joy. Why he should build such a beautiful house so close to the damn wall puzzled me, given the availability and space of the surrounding countryside. The sun was now well to the left of me, affording the opportunity to take a sun-drenched shot of the Andalucian designed, six bed roomed house. The crystal clear pool was already shimmering in the ﬁrst morning light and I knew these were the shots I wanted, before venturing closer than my present 300 meters, to capture the house in more close-up detail. I adjusted my 105mm lens, 60th/sec F4 and confirmed my depth of field, then, using the automatic motor wind, I took half-a-dozen shots adding a filter to enhance the pictures. As I finished the somewhat simple task, my friendly eagle re-appeared, its wings fully stretched, aiming towards its prior hunting ground, in the hope of repeating its previous success. As he hovered, awaiting his next quarry, I put on my 300mm mirror lens and gently pointed the camera toward this beautiful bird. Through the camera I could see that he was intent on his new found prey and was about to dive. I put my finger on the shutter and kept it there in the hope of following the majestic animal in its long dive, for its second helping of breakfast. But instead of hovering downwards, it seemed to move away in panic and across the blue Spanish sky, towards the safety of its cliff side hideaway. The noise that seemed to have disturbed it, was now approaching me. A rustle of bushes, a sharp snapping of sun burnt twigs, the dragging of substance against substance and, the eventual thud of dead weight on dry earth. I froze, riveted to my hillside sanctuary, feeling not unlike the eagle that had suddenly left, who appeared to be more aware of danger than I, and a cold sickening feeling ran from the centre of my stomach through my lungs, now taking painful gasps to take in much needed air; through my heart, pounding so hard that my ears hurt and, despite the hot summer’s morning, the sweat on my brow, the back of my neck and on my chest, made a shiver run down my spine. There, lying not a meter away from my camera case, was a beautiful, fair-haired young woman, around twenty five, her head tilted back looking up to where the bird of prey had been, with her long hair draping behind her like a waterfall over the rugged countryside. Her blue eyes were open, expressionless, staring coldly as the warm sun started to bathe her frozen brow. Blood was trickling from between her full incandescent red lips and her arched back making her pert young breasts force their way out from her torn maroon and dark yellow cotton shirt. Gouges from the rugged hillside caused the tanned body to leak blood droplets, as if the savage countryside had raped and imposed itself on their unsuspecting visitor. Her knees faced each other in an undignified pose, confirming that the fall had probably broken her legs and maybe even her hips. Not that she could feel anything. I had never seen a dead person before. I had often asked myself how I would react, should the occasion arise. Would I immediately rush to offer assistance? Would I look up to see the perpetrators if indeed there were any, or, would I look to see how she had fallen? Would I cry out in fear, or for help? I felt colder, I was frightened, I felt sick — I threw up!
The champagne corks popped, the waiters deftly poured their chilled contents into the crystal flutes of the invited guests. Others passed through the assembled crowds, offering freshly made canapés of smoked salmon, blue cheese and strawberry, individual tartlets of curried quails eggs, Spanish Jabugo ham and, a further array of tasty tit-bits, especially put together for the preamble of the celebratory dinner to be held at the fashionable and popular Marbella eatery ‘La Reserva’. The mixed crowd of businessmen, actors, entertainers, local politicians, senior Guardia Civil officers, local ex-pats of all nationalities and friends, were all there to celebrate the fact that I had now achieved ten years of living on the Costa del Sol. A feat in itself. I had not come here through crime, I had not lived here on crime, I did not come with millions and I certainly had not achieved millions. I had struggled to make a living as a photographer and had befriended a hotelier in my ﬁrst few years in Marbella which developed into a friendship culminating in a partnership and, the opening of ‘La Reserva’, which through his hard work, excellent food and service and, my meagre contribution as a PR and ‘people man’, had turned the operation into one of the Coast’s better successes. “Well done Philip, another great success and congrats on being here for ten years. God knows how you did it, especially as you actually had to work for a living.” I smiled, “Thank you, Alan, Sandra, it’s good to see you both, thanks for coming.” “Ah Phillip, you remember Marjorie my wife,” said the British Consul.
“Marjorie, you remember Philip Edwards?” “Of course, how are you Marjorie?” I said as I lifted her hand gently to my lips, “Brian has always managed to keep you hidden, you should insist that he shows you off more often.” A smile passed over my lips, one that was returned by the rather petite and attractive 50 year old, “He likes to keep me out of the way so as he can join you and your cronies for your ‘businessman’s’ lunches,” she replied, referring to our, normally, monthly gatherings, where we attempt to discuss everything under the sun and consume as much food and drink as humanly possible. “Hello Consul, I wonder if I could introduce you to my wife …” said an overbearing character as he passed our small gathering. I liked Brian Hurst, he had proven to be a good friend over the years. Always there to help, not just me you understand, but to all the Brits that had found themselves in a bit of a pickle with the local laws and authorities. A genial man who liked nothing better than to meet with his ‘flock’, down a few pints and, to be invited to say a few short words about life here, on the Coast that we all loved so much. “As long as they don’t keep drawing me on the subject of Gibraltar,” he would say, “ ’cause it’s such a hot potato, and half of them don’t want to hear what I have got to say anyway!” “You may be the guest of honour,” the voice broke my thought patterns as I turned to face my partner Paul Harrison, “ but I think you ought to do your bit. Announce dinner and get the buggers seated.” Paul was a charming man, in his early forties -— the other thing we had in common apart from a love of good food and wine — good looking and a ladies’ man. Happily married to an English girl he had met out here and, the proud father of two gorgeous daughters, four and six, he always managed to keep his admirers at bay. Many is the time that I was happy for a couple of his rejects to keep me company, as l was divorced from my Spanish wife of nine years, Maria Jose. She had taken our seven year old daughter, Carmen, back to England to be with her parents, who had an hotel in the Lake District, after an acrimonious split some two years before. We had met at the Lakes Hotel 12 years ago when I had been retained by a local PR company to put together a brochure for her parents’ hotel. At the age of 31, I had been struck down by ‘love-at-first-sight’. Her long dark hair, tied back, her full figure, perfect shape and deep brown eyes had made me draw breath on our first meeting. We had a whirlwind romance. Much against her Spanish father’s better judgment and her English mother’s wishes, I persuaded her to come to live with me in Spain, where I had always wanted to be, but where she had not lived since she was six years of age, 20 years before. It hadn’t worked. Fights and unnecessary arguments had all proven too much for both of us, so she returned to the UK and we saw each other very infrequently. We got on a lot better than before, probably because we didn’t see each other very often, but I still missed Carmen. I still saw her twice a year for her holidays and, there was never a problem about seeing her when I made my very infrequent trips to the UK. “Señores, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the roar of Paul’s ‘master of ceremony’ voice jolted me back to reality and, the realisation that it should have been me announcing “dinner is served!”
The assembled crowd took their places at round tables of eight, all dressed with fresh flowers and the exquisite silver that adorned our pure Irish linen cloths. Each guest had been allocated a table and at each place setting their name was written on the menu with Paul’s distinctive quill script. Once again we were to be treated to a gastronomic delight prepared by our talented kitchen and watched over with love and care by Paul, himself a brilliant cook, as frequent visits to his house had shown. A Parfait of Chicken Livers with a Redcurrant and Ginger Sauce and Toasted Brioche, preceded a Chilled Tomato and Red Pepper Soup garnished with Spring Onions and Sour Cream. A short break before one of the house specialties of Home-made Pasta Parcels filled with Langoustine and Crayfish Mousse on a Crayfish Sauce, a champagne sorbet to cleanse the palate before being presented with a Fillet of Veal in a Light Madeira Sauce with Fresh Basil and Pink Grapefruit and a side salad of mixed lettuces tossed sparingly in one of our herb dressings. A dessert of Tropical Fruits in a Tulip Biscuit on Three Fruit Puree’s completed a superb dinner. Pinord Chardonnay and Mindiarte Reserva from the Rioja accompanied the starters and main courses and a local Malaga Moscatel, Cartojal, was served with the sweet. Coffee, petit fours and liqueurs rounded off the evening. My partner was Sandy Tate a stunning Australian lady who had made some money in her home country as a TV producer and was over here looking at the possibility of ‘doing something’ in the same line. We had met at the launch of a new magazine some six weeks earlier. She was tall, leggy, well tanned with a slim figure and looks that belied mid thirties. Also on my table was Marjorie and Brian Hurst, and Doctor Peter Livingstone and his wife Sue. Looking around I saw so manyfaces, most of whom I had known since my early days in Marbella. Sitting with Carlos Jimenez, deputy head of the Guardia Civil, was my pal Gerald Peters.
Gerry had been down here about the same length of time as I had and had earned a reasonable living as a journalist, both locally and, as a stringer, for such respected publications as The News of the World and the Sun, back in the UK. “You may not like what I write, or who I write for,” he always says, “matter of fact neither do I sometimes, but it pays the rent.” His real desire was to write an exposé of the corruption that was reputedly rife in the days of the Gonzalez government. He was a rugged looking fellow in his late thirties with a great sense of humour and an insatiable alcoholic thirst which had caused many a quiet evening to turn into a debauched night on the town, culminating in chocolate and churros at the local fruit and veg market at sunrise. At the table next to them was Marbella’s deputy mayor, Arturo Sanchez, an astute businessman, brilliant at PR and a lover of his beautiful town, beautiful women and the corrida. To his right was Juanita (Jane) Mendez, the stunning looking 30 year old who was the Editor of “Marbella Marbella”, the newly launched glossy magazine for whom I took the Occasional picture. On the table next to the, temporarily redundant, ﬁre place, sat Chris Yeo and Julio Martinez, partners in Marbella’s top real estate agency based at the nearby ﬁve star hotel, Puente Romano. With them was Ricardo Cuevas, director of the local English language radio station, part of the country’s largest broadcasting and charity company, Onda Cero. Associates, business acquaintances and close friends all enjoying the evening splendour in this, one of the most beautiful towns, in one of the most beautiful countries, one could wish to be in. “And now ladies and gentlemen, our guest of honour Philip Edwards.” Paul’s rousing voice once again tore me away from my thoughts and brought me back to the task in hand to say a few words and thank everyone for coming. I rose to my feet accompanied by warm applause. “It is hard to imagine that ten years has passed so quickly, but it is heartwarming to see so many friends here to celebrate the anniversary of my stay in Spain, which, like many of us, I have always considered to be my home and I would like to thank especially, our Spanish hosts,” I acknowledged the gathered representatives of the country, “for making me and all of us, so welcome.” There was a ripple of applause accompanied by a typically British, “Here, here.” “And even though all of you are aware that this party was only designed by Paul so as you could part with more of your money,” — every guest had paid 15.000 pesetas for the privilege of dining with us this evening. Paul was always coming up with different ideas to create party nights that usually had a waiting list, as guests, old and new, tried to book tables, — they all laughed, “I do seriously thank all of you for coming and making this evening so very special. Here’s to the next ten years of growth, integration and friendship in our multi-national community,” I said as I lifted my glass to toast. Everyone stood and returned the salutation. As I sat down again I put my hand on Sandy’s, who was smiling warmly and I gently kissed her lips. I awoke as the sun crept through the thin gaps of the curtains causing the dust in the air to glisten and swirl like a child’s kaleidoscope. ‘Ten years on’ I thought, and such a far cry from the formative years of toil in the UK. The flat lands of Lincolnshire had been replaced by the hills and mountains surrounding the palm tree lined streets of Marbella. The narrow lanes of period terraced houses of Stamford were a contrast to the modern developments and luxurious villas of the Golden Mile. The oak-beamed ceilings and rustic charm of the George Hotel, replaced by young aspiring drinking spots and, traditional old Spanish bars and, ventas.
They had been good days. Boarding school, public school, not a great achiever, I had always wanted to be a jockey, but it was obvious by the time I was fourteen that I would never be the right weight and height, so I developed my hobby of photography until I became proficient. Rather than riding horses, I started taking pictures of them and created quite a reputation amongst owners and trainers. It was because of this, that my meeting with the legendary Josh Gifford resulted in me working with a colleague of his, who had a PR company in London. After some time travelling between London and Stamford I moved to the big city and started my career in earnest. But Spain was calling and my frequent trips to the coastline made me determined to live here. The meeting with Maria Jose was the final push I needed and within one year from then I had found a rented apartment and was off. And I hadn’t looked back. I rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, stretched, and ran my fingers through my sadly thinning hair. My mouth was feeling the wear and tear of last evening’s excess of Carlos Primero, I cursed myself for agreeing to photograph David Lewis’ house today. The alarm clock said 6.30 am and I looked at Sandy’s tanned body stretching half out of the bed with her long hair draping over the pillow toward the floor, and swore I could have gained an extra hour if only mutual passion had not overcome the need for sleep and recovery, on our return to my apartment on the Puente Romano Marina in the early hours of this morning. I showered, shaved and managed a quick expresso which dissolved the inevitable fur on my tongue, before brushing my teeth, mouth washing and putting on some Calvin Klein Eternity. Feeling like a completely new human being — it’s strange how the older you get, the less stamina you appear to have to cape with the late nights, early mornings and excess of alcohol, food and sex —- I slid into my pride and joy, a BMW 325i convertible, and headed toward the Istan road, for the ten minute journey, thinking how fortunate I was to be alive.
The stench of my own vomit was worsened by the excesses of the night before and, had the effect of making me even more nauseous. I turned toward the prostrate body in the hope that the whole event may have been an illusion caused by a mild hangover, but no, she was still there, and the smell of death was now apparent. The noise of her fall, and my retching, had caused the previously quiet countryside to come alive with the chatter of birds, as they fled from their overnight resting places. Recovering my senses and, feeling more akin to a frightened schoolboy than a mature, scared, man, I stepped carefully toward her. Why? Did I think she was suddenly going to turn and accost me, draw a knife or a gun? I placed my hand on her neck in the slim hope of feeling a faint throbbing that would indicate some life. But nothing. She was cold. I looked up the side of the hill trying to ascertain from which direction she had fallen and, probably foolishly, to see if I could see why. There was no shouting or panicking, indicating to me that she had been alone when she fell. Or maybe, she was pushed? I faintly heard a car engine, but it was no more ominous than any of the other vehicle sounds that were audible as the local villagers set off down the winding hillside road, to Marbella and beyond, to earn their daily bread. A hush had now once again fallen over the parched terrain and I sat there hopelessly at a loss. It was just after 8.30 am. I had been here for an hour. My mind went back to the warm sweet smelling body of Sandy lying next to me in the king size double bed, the fan oscillating gently above us, her urgent mouth finding every part of my body, draining me of my physical love, as we eventually drifted into a satisfied sleep. Remembering that same body stretched over the bed this morning and recalling my reluctance to attempt today’s task, made me even more aware of how I had wished this appointment had never been made. As if suddenly coming to some definitive decision and overcoming my fear and nausea, the fact that I was a photographer became first and foremost in my mind. I picked up my camera, changed the lens and started to photograph the young woman from all angles, without disturbing the body. I couldn’t believe my own motives, yet I knew that if I didn’t take those shots now, there would be a time in the future when I would regret it. I put my camera back into the case and withdrew my mobile phone, not as yet turned on to meet the demands of the day. Now it seemed that the pest that only appeared to disturb meetings with clients, or relaxed lunches with friends, was my only salvation from the unholy state that I found myself in this summer morning. I dialled the offices of the Guardia Civil. A number I knew well, but normally only used to confirm a dinner date, the venue for the forthcoming businessman’s lunch, or just to ask my friend if he was free for an after work drink. The phone responded quickly, “Diga!” said the efficient, if not friendly voice, at the other end. “Puedo hablar con el Señor Carlos Jimenez?” I asked somewhat nervously, “Quien es?” came the quick reply. “Soy Philip Edwards” I said, only to be answered with, “Lo siento señor, pero el señor Jimenez no esta in su oﬁcina en estos momentos. No ha llegado todavía. Quiere dejarle alguna mensaje?” Why wasn’t he there damn him? He always says he’s in work every morning by 8.00 am. Did I want to leave a message? How long would he be? Did he have a hangover? “Si”, I was thinking as quickly as possible, “Digale que me llame, por favor. Mi numero es, 908 959155.” She repeated my mobile number and I thanked her. I took out my electronic note book and looked for Carlos’ home number and quickly punched it in. The phone rang and rang and eventually cut off. I placed the phone on stand-by, thankful that the blasted thing even worked in this dense shrubbery and hillside. What should I do now. Call the ambulance? Pointless. Call the police? Better if I waited to speak to Carlos. Call Sandy? And say what. “Hi darling, I’m going to be a bit late for our lunch date, as I am at the bottom of a ravine with a blonde whose beautiful body is open for all to see, with two broken legs, perhaps a hip or two, and more than likely a broken back and neck.” I couldn’t carry her up the side of the hill, even if I’d wanted to. Why did you choose my bit of mountain to land? I’m only here to take some bloody photographs. The phone warbled and took me away from my selfish misery. “Hola! Philip, soy Carlos, que pasa amigo?” I suddenly felt a stirring of comfort, a friend on the end of the line who would surely be able to help me out of all this. “You won’t believe this my friend,” I said and started to explain the morning’s events. Eventually his worried voice said, “Don’t move, I will be with you in fifteen minutes.” Just after 9.00 am, I heard a voice shouting my name urgently. The usually smiling face of the genial deputy of the Guardia Civil was above me, his thick set figure bearing down. “Donde estas Philip?” he shouted. “Aqui, Carlos” I replied waving my hands. “Uno momento,” his voice reassuring me, as he and an assistant officer made their way down the somewhat precarious track.Treading carefully down the same path that I had negotiated nearly two hours earlier, the two uniformed men clasped at protruding branches and solid rocks. “What made you come down here in the first place?” grimaced the giant of a man as he put his huge hand on my shoulder. “To take a photo would you believe?” I said trying to smile. “What exactly happened Philip? Tell me every detail you can remember.” There was nothing much to tell him, but I went through everything, from me taking the pictures of the hovering eagle, to the phone call to his house, although omitting to tell him I took the pictures of the dead girl, thinking he would feel I was somewhat morbid and unfeeling. He barked an order to his colleague, who immediately got on the walkie—talkie and relayed some instructions. Carlos went over to the girl’s body and, without disturbing anything, studied the area and the crumpled form, with the eye of an experienced civil guard who had seen far worse in his earlier years in Madrid, a time he did not talk about much, unless you had managed to get him to consume the best part of a bottle of Chivas Regal. “I have called for a pathologist and scene of crime officers,” he said, mopping his brow, as the heat of the morning sun was now upon us. Sheltered from the little breeze there was, the temperature in our mountain hideaway was rising rapidly. “What are your movements for the rest of the day?” he continued. “Not a lot,” I replied. “I have to take some shots of Igor Metchnikov at about two, they are doing a profile on him, and then, I thought I might go to the restaurant for a snack with Sandy and to see Paul. Why?” “I will need to talk with you again and, so probably, will the crime officers. This girl did not fall, it is likely that she was thrown.” “How do you know?” I asked, my own fears now being realised. “Because the blood on the left hand side of her mouth is older and dryer than the blood on the right hand side of her mouth and her body, indicating that she was bleeding from her mouth before she fell.” I looked at him with some admiration. “Don’t worry my friend,” he continued, “I am no, how do you say, Sherlock Holmes, we will leave the correct conclusions to the experts. You may go now. I will contact you at the restaurant later today.” I picked up my case and started to walk back up the path. “Oh Philip,” his deep voice made me turn around, “I will need the film that is in your camera.” “What?” I said with genuine surprise in my voice. “I uh I only have photos of the house for my client” I fumbled, obviously lying. “And the photos of the eagle?” he said questioningly “and as one of the Coast’s leading photographers, you would not have left an opportunity like this,” he pointed to the prostrate body of the dead girl, “ to pass you by.” Defeated by a friend was a less painful experience than being discovered by an enemy, “Let me develop them,” I pleaded, “and I will give you the original negatives and the photos over lunch later – promise.” “Seguro?” I nodded, “O.K. Hasta luego.” I continued my climb upwards my legs feeling like lead and my hangover becoming worse rather than better. I stood at the top of the hill next to the familiar green livery on one of the Guardia Civil Nissan Patrols, surveying the scene and wondering why this should happen to me. I had been here for ten years and nothing like this had happened before, even when I was looking for an exciting picture. And I certainly would never have expected to be as close to the event as this. Two more Guardia Civil vehicles pulled up alongside me in silence, but with their lights flashing. Two plain clothes officers got out of the first car and a uniformed officer and a man in plain clothes with a black doctors bag, from the other. I greeted them, and pointed downwards. They all walked to where I had just emerged. I got into my car and drove in the direction of Marbella not sure whether I needed another coffee, a brandy or both. I decided on both and called into Kings, a local tapas bar and drinking hole frequented by “the media” asit was under the offices of both ‘Marbella Marbella’ and the Onda Cero Radio station. “Un cafe solo y un Magno por favor,” hoping the thick black coffee and the syrupy brandy would help me to recover. “Good morning Philip,” I looked up to see Jane Mendez in the doorway. With her short cropped blonde hair, tight 501’s and a light cotton blouse she certainly was a more pleasing sight than my morning had so far produced. “Great party last night. You look as if you’re either still celebrating or recovering.” I beckoned her to sit down and she ordered a decaffeinated coffee with milk. I could never see the point in drinking that stuff from a sachet when one needed the buzz that a good strong cup of real coffee gives. “When are you going to take the pictures for this month’s centre spread?” she asked. “I have an appointment with Metchnikov at two today, it should take me a couple of hours and you should have the prints tomorrow morning.” “Great,” she said beaming her full smile that lit up her eyes and crinkled her nose. She paused, “Philip, are you alright?” For what reason I am not sure, but I started to tell her all about my morning. Apart from Carlos, who I felt was slightly different, I was able to tell her all. When I finished I looked up at her and she said, “Christ, what a story!” “Trust you,” I said, a nervous laugh starting, “you can’t have the pictures though, Carlos needs them.” “When he’s finished with them, I’m sure we can have them back. Listen Philip, we have to keep an eye on this story. I’ll give Carlos a ring later.” “No Jane. Don’t let Carlos know I’ve told you anything. I’m seeing him later, I’ll sound him out then.” “O.K.,” she said getting up, “but keep me informed. Your coffee and brandy is on me.” I nodded some sort of thank you and decided I had to get back to the apartment to develop the film. I acknowledged the boys from the radio station as I left the busy bar and got into my car for the five minute drive home. As I arrived at the Marina, boat owners were starting to make ready their crafts for coast hopping or perhaps a longer journey to Gibraltar or Morocco. Sleek millionaire’s cruisers, elegant tall ships, standing with their naked masts erect, waiting to get out to sea, where the wind will take their mainsail, and blow it into a full white harness of energy, that will push the craft majestically across the Mediterranean, controlled only by the adept handling of the man at the tiller. Sandy opened the door, a towel wrapped around her and her wet auburn hair glistening in the shaft of sunlight falling in from the open terrace that looked over the port. I put my arms around her and kissed her long and hard trying to get back some of the warmth and love that my body had lost during the short morning. “What was that for?” she asked as we pulled apart, and I once again related the story. Leaving her somewhat aghast I went towards my darkroom to prepare the pictures. I hadn’t even finished my job for David Lewis, I would have to ring him later and arrange another time. “Philip,” I turned to see Sandy standing with her elbow resting on the door frame and her hand in her wet hair, “Jane’s right you know, this could make a bloody good story.”
The alarm sounded, dead on 7.00 am and, the gentle giant stretched his right arm outwards to deftly stop the grating ringing, his face still buried in the pillow of his huge, empty, bed. What little black hair he had left was matted to his head from a hot, close night. That, and something to do with two Pacharans too many from the night before. He pulled himself up from his bed, rubbed his baggy eyes and ran his tongue over his fur covered teeth. He opened the curtains and looked out over the countryside that surrounded his ﬁnca. The dry parched land craving water from the cloudless sky, a familiar feature of the past year. He went into the bathroom and stood under the powerful spray of his shower. Carlos Jimenez was 48 years of age and a high ranking officer in the Guardia Civil. In fact he was the deputy commander for Marbella and district. You couldn’t get much higher than that. He had lived in this house for ten years now. He bought it fifteen years ago when he was a sergeant in the civil guard in Madrid and he and his young wife, Marie Lollie, used to come to Marbella on their annual holiday. It was their intention to live here permanently when Carlos retired. Something he had intended to do when he was fifty. They had planted trees and shrubs knowing that when they were in full bloom, so would be Carlos and his wife. He had been trained with the special forces to tackle terrorist activities in the troubled north of Spain. ETA had long been a problem in that part, as the Basque country fought for independence from the rest of the mainland. He had always likened the problem to the pointless struggle in Ireland only not quite as bloody and evil. His promotion to captain had been greeted ecstatically by his family. He had never been a brilliant academic and, his parents were fairly simple folk, so, him achieving the dizzy heights of captain of an elite force that was treated with great respect among loyal Spaniards, was a matter of great pride to his father, who had lost a leg at the age of eighteen fighting for his King and country during Spain’s wretched civil war. His father had died soon after Carlos’ promotion and he could remember crying as they slid his flower covered coffin in to the wall, next to where his grandfather had been placed some 20 years earlier. The young captain saluted his father as the tears flowed down his cheeks. He swore he would never cry like that again. But how wrong he was to be. There had been a spate of terrorists attacks in Madrid especially aimed at Judges and politicians who were determined to stamp out ETA and its fanatical content. Carlos had already had to supply officers from his squad as bodyguards to leading members of the government. Their job was to check vehicles for hidden explosives and generally keep an eye on their charges. Every morning he would rise at 6.00 am and drive the short distance to his offices and barracks in the capital city. His wife worked in Corte Ingles, the massive department store group, who had huge stores in most Spanish major cities. She would drive her little Renault 5 — an ideal car for maneuvering around the packed, traffic jammed streets — and park in the staff car park before going to her perfume department, where she looked after a staff of six, on the designer section. She always used to come home wafting of the scent from half a dozen different perfumes as prospective purchasers would continually ask her to act as the ‘tester’. Carlos wondered why she ever bothered to put perfume on before leaving the house in the morning as she was sure to come home smelling completely different. She enjoyed her job, she was well respected by the staff and clients and popular with the management and everyone who came in contact with her. Her beaming smile, petite body and ﬁve foot something frame was in complete contrast to her husband’s bear like six foot two height and, girth that appeared to match. The April weekend had passed like most. They had gone out to dinner on Saturday night to their favourite restaurant the recently opened El Amparo in the Callejon de Puigcerda. A delightful, comfortably furnished room with a beamed ceiling, pink tablecloths and overhead lights and lots of plants. The maitre, Eduardo, greeted them warmly and brought two dry sherries to the table with the menus. Marie Lollie had chosen a Lobster Salad followed by Sea Bass with a Thyme and Tomato Compote and Carlos, Red Peppers Stuffed with Cod followed by Roast Lamb with Baby Garlics. They had a bottle of Viña Sol with the starters and a bottle of Faustino V with the main course. In truth Carlos had most of the red as he invariably did. Sunday was spent with friends at a local country venta after a horseback ride through the surrounding countryside. It took them a good hour to get there but the scenery was worth it, as was the food. Simple grilled shellfish and salads washed down with house wine from Navarra. That Monday was different as Marie Lollie had an extra day off owed to her, and Carlos’ mother and sister were coming over, as was Marie Lollie’s sister. They were going shopping and having a ‘girls’ lunch out. Carlos’ mother Maria Teresa loved these days out. She was frail now and didn’t get out very much, but when she was with her family she would do as much as she could to keep up with the other girls, especially at lunch time. Carlos was letting his wife borrow his car, a Citroen Pallas, so that the ladies could travel in comfort. No, he wouldn’t take the Renault, the sight of his bulk in the front seat was too much to bear and on the odd occasion he had used it, friends and colleagues had found it most amusing. He phoned the duty officer on Sunday night and arranged for a car to pick him up from home at 7.30 am to ferry him the half hour journey across town to his offices. The next morning he leaned over and kissed his wife gently on the forehead, broke a carnation from the bunch in the bedside vase and placed it on her pillow and left. It was the last time he would see her like that. She didn’t feel a thing. No sooner had the women settled themselves into the black Citroén and she had placed the key in the ignition, than there was a thunderous roar and simultaneous bang that shattered the peace of the suburban street. The bonnet of the car somersaulted backward and the passenger and driver’s doors were blown outwards by a huge ball of orange flame as black smoke billowed upwards. The boot was blown skyward as the fuel tank exploded at the same time. The heat caused the roof to bulge outward and the paint peeled, like burning skin. Any screams from the occupants were instantaneous and muffled by the holocaust of flames and twisting metal. Then, there was a strange silence. The cacophony of early morning bird song ceased as shocked starlings fled their havens, leaving the crackling of fire in the tree lined street, where the shrubbery stood scorched and shriveled and windows of nearby houses lay shattered. That hush of death was broken by neighbours who, after the initial shock, were leaving their homes to see what had happened. Children were screaming, women were crying and the men, who were not working that morning, ran toward the burning vehicle. But there was nothing that could be done. The heat was intense and the four women were incarcerated in their burning pyre. The phone on Carlos Jimenez’ desk rung for the umpteenth time in a morning that had already brought a bomb scare at Corte Ingles — thank God Marie Lollie isn’t working today he had remarked — an attempt on a circuit judge and a demonstration outside of the Parliament building where Felipe Gonzalez was holding a press conference. He picked up the receiver with the customary. “Diga me!” The voice of his duty officer made his stomach tighten and his heart pound. A feeling of nausea waved over him from his hot brow to his leather-boot clad feet. He sat rigid as a lump stuck in his throat. “Reports are coming in from our Lagasca station of a car bomb. A black Citroen, number of occupants unconfirmed, so far no reason for the attack …” the officer’s voice continued, but Carlos heard nothing. His mind was like a silent movie, pictures and images rushing past his eyes, people talking and laughing but no sound: He and Marie Lollie, dinner, walking, riding, laughing and crying. His mother, his father, his nephews, his family, his life, his loss, Their loss. Why God, why? By the time he had got to the scene the ambulances and Guardia Civil vehicles were already there. The fire department had extinguished the fire and all that remained was the blackened burnt out shell of twisted metal and the stench of burnt skin. His worst fears were confirmed and he could not move from the car. He leaned against the bonnet to support himself as he felt his knees quiver and his body weight double. Tears welled up in his dark eyes and he wanted to scream and wail and break his heart, but his pride and position made him hold in everything until he was on his own later that night when he cried like a baby. More than he ever thought possible. More than he hoped he would ever do again. He had been given compassionate leave. He had buried his wife, mother, sister and sister in law, all in three consecutive days. He had put the house on the market and was prepared to take his vacation in the ﬁnca in Marbella. He would put that on the market too and soon he would be rid of all the painful memories. The drive to Marbella was long. The A and C roads had not yet been replaced by Motorways. When he opened the door and the shutters to the rustic house, the sun drenched the table and chairs and, the house came alive with thoughts, smells and memories. He was reminded as to the reason for the purchase of their dream home and, there and then, decided to keep the house as Marie Lollie, he was sure, would have wished. It was over a solo dinner that night in Santiago’s on the Paseo Maritimo that he thought about the moves that could change his life and make him leave his sadness behind. One year later he opened the same door to the ﬁnca, but this time, for good. He brushed his greying black hair back and decided not to make his customary coffee, but to go to the local market bar on his way to work. He often popped in here as the coffee was good and he could get a croissant. He could never understand his fellow countryman’s obsession for bread with scraped tomato or garlic oil for breakfast; not when you could have a hot croissant with some butter and peach jam. Alfonso was there behind the bar, Ducados smouldering in his mouth, smiling through his wrinkled, weather-beaten skin, as he dispensed coffee, anis, coñacs, chocolate, churros and banter with farmers, market men, street vendors, policemen and housewives. The stories this room held. The life and passion of a friendly race that went back three generations all in one room. First world war, civil war, second world war, Franco, ETA, Bosnia, the socialists and now the spring cleaning mayor of Marbella Jesus Gil y Gil, all in one lifetime! He dipped the corner of his croissant into his thick dark coffee cut with a splash of milk and, browsed through a Diario Sur that someone had left behind.
He was going to be late for work this morning, he had a small hangover, a self-inﬂicted illness he acquired by eating and drinking with his ‘guiri’ English friend Philip Edwards. He didn’t have much time for the Brits in general. Come to think of it he didn’t have much time for most foreigners. They came to his country and imposed their way of life without trying to integrate, with their British bars, British food, English language radio and newspapers and a lack of effort in learning his language. They weren’t all the same though. Philip was a good sort, as was Paul and most of the people that were at the party last night. At least they spoke some Spanish. Some of them very well, and enjoyed the good things of life, as well as the local colour and traditions. He was due for a barbecue at his house soon. He would start on the list this weekend. He paid for his breakfast and decided to walk to the office. It would clear his head. “Buenos días jefe,” said the officer on duty as he walked through the door. “There has been a telephone call from a Philip Edwards, would you call him on this number,” he said passing Carlos a slip of paper. The scene of crime officers looked at the body as the pathologist confirmed that death appeared to be caused by suffocation and that the girl had sustained a blow to the left hand side of her face, prior to being thrown from the cliff top. There were no abrasions other than those caused by the roll down the hillside, implying that the girl was not thrown from a moving vehicle but rather dumped from the top. There was no identification on her. No jewellery, no bag, no obvious scars or marks and only an obscure label on the back of her cotton knickers. He would not place a time of death until after the autopsy, but confirmed that he didn’t feel she had been dead long as she was still relatively warm and her body muscles had only just started to relax and rigamortis had not started to set in.
He also stated that there was bruising to the inner thighs and vaginal area implying that forced sexual intercourse had taken place. She had probably been raped, but further examination would be necessary, before confirmation could be given. The scene of crime officers went to the top of the cliff to see if they could find any clues. There were mixed tyre tracks, that of the Nissan Patrol, the BMW that had just left and other indistinguishable marks. ‘And I chose this day to have a hangover,’ thought the Guardia Civil commander.