Laura had stopped in at the market to pick up some tulips to brighten up
her mood. They stood, relentlessly proud in their jam jar on the oak table
in the late afternoon sunshine. No-one, however, was in any mood to
comment on them. In fact, given the animosity in the room it as a wonder
they didn’t droop.
“They promised me Proficiency! Ha! All afternoon I’ve been teaching
kindergarten English. I hate this, Laura. The little brats are dropped off at
four o’clock and their mothers don’t pick them up till five thirty. During
that time I have to keep them from tearing the posters off the wall. As
if that wasn’t enough, they don’t want to learn English. They don’t want
to learn anything. One of them even peed on the floor! Señora Whatsit
didn’t even seem to care. ‘Just keep them happy, all the time’. That’s what
she told me. Can you even believe it? It’s all about making money and
that’s it. If I could I’d quit right now.”
“Then quit,” said Laura who was fighting the tears from her own eyes.
“Yeah? Then how are we going to pay this exorbitant rent?”
“I don’t know. I don’t care. Leave me alone,” she said and fled to the
bathroom locking the door.
What the hell is going on? thought Felix as he threw his raincoat around
* * *
The Parque Santa Susana was almost deserted. Felix ignored the children
and the old men as he walked along the pathways. He ignored the views
of the cathedral. He ignored the sunset.
Something is not right, he thought.
But what? And why?
* * *
Laura’s tutorial was cancelled. There was no explanation. Just the yellow
post-it note which said: “Sorry. Something has come up”. She spent the
afternoon distractedly doing research in the library, but couldn’t help but
feeling that there was something else calling her attention. But she couldn’t
think what that might be.
As the light was fading she stopped into the Hostal Suso for some
chiperrones and pimientos de Padron. She made them last, watching the
tourists and the pilgrims pass by, some of them with maps in their hands
from the nearby tourist office. One or two came in the door of the hostal.
Life used to be simple, she thought. Was it really less than a year since she
and Felix had made love here for the first time at the end of their Camino,
knowing that next door Kieran and Miranda were doing the same?
Rather than go straight home, which was only a few metres away, she
stopped into Encontros Bookshop. But the vast majority of the books
were in Castellano and once more she felt totally overwhelmed at the
task before her. Everything she needed for her research was in a language
which seemed so alien to her that she wondered how on earth she was
going to learn to read it, let alone come up with an original thesis. Modern
Santiago loved its unapologetic bishop even if his contemporaries had not,
and she was an interloper, and a foreign one at that.
“Who am I to take on one of Spain’s great Churchmen?” she thought, or
did she say it out loud to the weighty copy of the Spanish biography in her
hands. Question unanswered, she left just as the doors were being closed.
“Buenas noches,” she said.
Laura was still reluctant to go home. Instead she propped herself up on
a pillar beside the tourist office and closed her eyes. What’s happening to
me? She thought. This had been her dream and the scholarship had made
it a reality: go to Santiago, study at the university there, produce some
brilliant mind opening work. Finding Dr. Callaghan here was just the
icing on the cake. Now all she could do was to try to keep the tears from
It was just after 9:15 according to the cathedral bells. There was no-one
about. There was a certain peace to the city after all had locked up and
gone home, and Laura despite her internal confusion allowed herself to
feel those ancient streets wash over her. The spring night was still cooler
and as she walked towards her apartment door besides the closed gift shop
it became colder still. Then, as though a switch had been somewhere
thrown, the peace vanished, vacuumed into the drains below. Laura had
to stop herself from giving in to an impulse to ward off the chill, brush off
the clammy feeling which was growing like mould on her skin. She fought
off a sudden loss of breath as though having exhaled she was unable to
inhale again, putting her hand, fingers stretched wide open, in front of her
to ward off unseen danger. The other she clasped to her chest.
And then she heard a voice. An insistent voice. A strident voice. One she
could not ignore.
It said: “Run! Run before it’s too late!”
* * *
Felix was unable to open the door. There was a weight against it on the
inside, propping it closed. A heavy shove and the weight gave way falling
against the handrail of the stairs.
“Laura, sweetheart! Whatever is the matter? Laura talk to me, for God’s
sake: you OK?
“They’re trying to kill him! I saw him run.”
“What? Who? Laura. Talk sense.”
“What? Which bishop? Do you mean the Archbishop of the Diocese . . .
“No! Diego Gelmirez!”