It’s Me – Chapter 2

I was taken from my mum when very young and given to an older lady ‘for company’. This person was poor and fed me little. She lived in one room and I was never let outside to gain the social skills required to get along with trees, streets, and those large moving objects that weigh more than I do and which would squash me flat if I ever went too close to them. I was a sickly kitten and caught something called cat flu, which I don’t remember hunting but managed to catch anyway. I was taken to a vet and needed some medicine. The lady couldn’t afford to pay and threw me at the vet, who caught me and paid for the medicine himself before handing me over to a cat shelter.

Well, you can probably guess the rest. Julian saw me at the shelter and thought that a Buddhist cat would fit the bill perfectly and so took me to adorn his house. He had obtained  another cat, a female cat called Gemma, a few weeks earlier from the same shelter.

I should tell you a little bit about Gemma, but not too much because I don’t want to stop you reading this book. I don’t want you to think, he’s exaggerating, cats aren’t like that, no cat could be so nasty, revolting, appalling, unfriendly, hideous, sneering, anti-social, villainous, and nasty again – all at the same time. Just a little bit about Gemma.

She’s a tyrant, she really is, she treats me with complete and utter contempt – me a Buddhist cat, me the kindest, neatest, friendliest, softest cat you could ever wish to meet. Me whose paws are always at 10-to-2 and pressed together touching each other, with no manspread as my mum taught me. I miss my mum.

Gemma is contemptuous of me, she says I am fraternising with the enemy when I purr if Julian or Marika strokes me. Or if I jump on their laps to find a nice place to sleep for sixteen hours or even sixteen minutes.

That’s enough of Gemma. For now.

I think she had some kittens when she was younger and they were taken away from her. Her previous family used to live in a house but when they moved to an apartment block, this place didn’t allow pets, not even cats, so they got rid of Gemma. She was rejected and she has taken that hard by the looks of it, but it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, but she treats me like it is. I was rejected too, we have that in common, we could talk about our common experiences, but we don’t.

I think I am a resilient cat, but I know I lack experience in life. When they brought me back from the cat shelter, I was in the human world and it was bright, noisy, and full of people saying ‘What a lovely cat, what’s his name?’. I came back on the public transit system in a cat carrier and it was cramped. I yowled the whole time because I lacked experience about what to do. I yowl when I’m upset and then when I am upset about my reaction, I yowl some more. I yowled a lot in those first few days. But at least I didn’t poo myself in public.

My mum would have been proud of me. I hope she still is. I wonder whether I could find her one day. I know orphan humans can look for their real parents and I will have to investigate whether felines can too. When I was brought to the house where I live now. I was let out of the cat carrier and couldn’t believe there were places to run to, other rooms, there was an outside through the windows. They even let me go out of the front door, into the outside world, and I miaowed with happiness as I scampered down the wet front steps into the long green stuff they call a lawn.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 50

“Inspector Sanchez,” said Chief Inspector Ramos of the Policia Nacional in Vigo, “can you come into the office, please?” Sanchez, Villa, and Ortiz had just set foot in the building after returning from Urzaiz station.

“Sir?” said Sanchez as she closed the door behind her.

“You’ve been chasing this assassin, this shooter from Santiago de Compostela,” said Ramos. “Well I have some news for you. He has turned up in Oporto, but it appears he is making for Braga. It’s almost like he’s on holiday this man, this tourist, so much so I’d like you to check the black and white film they sent from Oporto. Do you think that’s him? The images are from the railway station, Sao Bento station, the one with the tile work with scenes from Portuguese history.”

Ramos turned the screen towards her as he spoke.

Sanchez looked and saw a man carrying a plastic cup, a bag over his left shoulder. He sauntered around in full view of the closed-circuit cameras without a care in the world, admiring the tiles, and even looking up towards the camera on occasions.

“That’s him,” said Sanchez, nodding slowly. “Follow me, that’s what he’s saying. This is not like him – he’s been avoiding us until now and it’s as though he’s in a different country and has changed his behaviour. I don’t like this, it’s scary, it feels like he’s now after us.”

“Maybe he’s getting fed up with people following him and wants to force the issue,” said Ramos. “Anyway, I’ve arranged for you to meet with Inspector Pereira in Braga at 9 am tomorrow, outside the train station. You can take a car from our pool if you want.”

“I’ll take my car, if that’s okay,” said Sanchez. “It’s about an hour from here to Braga, isn’t it, sir?”

“I’d allow ninety minutes, just in case there are any problems. The number one tourist attraction in Braga isn’t in the city, it’s the Bom Jesus do Monte, with its staircase of the five senses, about three miles outside the city. I can almost guarantee he will go there, or he might already have been this afternoon, but my guess is he’ll go tomorrow morning.” Sanchez smiled and thanked the Chief Inspector for his advice. She could do with something to eat and drink, so after leaving the office she went out with Villa and Ortiz to have some seafood and wine before those two officers returned to Santiago de Compostela.

It’s Me – Chapter 1

Hello, my name is Freddie. I am a cat. I live in a house with another cat called Gemma and two humans called Julian and Marika. I am about 3 years old though I can’t remember how old I am exactly because I was taken away from my mum when I was very young and my dad had left home.

My mum used to whisper to me very gently how many days old I was when I woke up each morning. This was just after she told me that she loved me and that I must be brave at all times and always try my best.

I loved my mum and I miss her every day.

I can’t really remember which day is which and so this isn’t really a diary, because diaries have days – I read this in a book – and my diary entries would all be entered as today. I believe Buddhists believe we should all live in the moment – I read that in a book too, I read a lot – and so I must be a Buddhist cat, but I am not sure how I prove that to anyone. Perhaps if I leave all my chapter headings as ‘Today’ then this book will be found after I pass on and someone else will determine that the book was written by a Buddhist cat? Otherwise, I am not sure what to do? Do I have to obtain a certificate or pass an exam? I’m not sure. I can’t find any books which tell me this information.

I am really lucky there’s a library next door that allows cats to use the facilities though I’m not sure whether the library realises this quite yet. I can even use their photocopier to produce pictures of my rear end, which I think confuses them no little amount, and then they call in the repairman because they think there’s a fault with the copier, rather than a cat with a sense of mischief lurking behind the paper shredder enjoying their confusion.

To gain entry, rather than use the sliding doors at the front which I can only operate with a great deal of effort, there’s always an open window on the top floor and I can squeeze in there during the day when it’s open. I have to leave by 5pm before the slim lady librarian with the severe eyebrows, blue hair, and clothes covered in dog hairs closes it for the night.

She eats her lunch so meticulously that she never leaves me any scraps nor even a crumb. How mean is that? Doesn’t she know I am always hungry, not greedy, just hungry? And there are no mice in the library either, what kind of service are they operating for we felines?

Anyway, I will stop moaning – as Gemma calls it, she’s mean but more of that many times later – I can sense you’re wondering how did this Buddhist cat get into this state? How did I get to the pinnacle I operate at today? Well, you’ve come to the right place for an explanation, clever reader, how did you know?

Actually, to be fair, there’s not that much to it….

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 49

The history of Braga stretches back to the Iron Age, when a tribe called the Bracari first started a settlement here. In modern times, people regard Braga as the religious centre of Portugal with thirty-five churches in the city limits. I should prepare visitors for plenty of sight-seeing when walking around this lovely city about one hour’s train journey from Porto.

When you arrive at the train station, if you’re intending to see the Church of Bom Jesus then you should locate the bus stop for bus number 2, whose terminus is the amazing church and check the times – there is a regular service even on Sundays, which should tell you how popular this place is. The bus stop is close to the taxi rank at the front of the station.

To get to the city centre, head straight ahead and then turn right up Rua Andrada Corvo, which becomes pedestrian after the Porta Nova. On the right is the Cathedral, or Se, which was founded in 1070 on the site of a Moorish mosque. The only original part is the main door in the Romanesque style. The rest of the cathedral is slightly dour and not memorable.

I headed up Rua Sao Joao and came to the Capela dos Coimbras. Built in the 16th century and adjoining an 18th century church, this chapel has a Manueline-style crenellated tower adorned with statues. Nearby is a square with beautiful gardens and the ubiquitous town sign, large letters B R A G A designed for tourists to take pictures of. On the opposite side of the square is the Capela de Conceicao.

Behind this chapel stood my favourite building in Braga, the Raio Palace or the House of the Mexican, an 18th century residence with a rusticated Baroque facade covered in dark blue azulejos with three large doors, all painted blue. The window frames are in carved granite and the iron railings on the balconies are dark blue.

The Raio Palace was built between 1752 and 1755 and was fully restored in 2015 after the palace was used as a hospital until 2012. The palace now exhibits the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Braga’s (Holy House of Mercy) collection – paintings, sculptures, and sacred art. At the entrance, on the right, there’s a room dedicated to the objects used in the hospital.

I retraced my steps across the square and turned left, past the Igreja de Santa Cruz. This is a magnificent church that has twin towers, both with clocks. They built the church on the orders of the founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, Jerónimo Portilo. Building began in 1625 but was only completed in 1737, which is why there’s both Mannerist and Baroque architectural styles. The street Rua do Anjo is atmospheric and narrow, with many old buildings grouped together towards the Largo Sao Tiago, where I found the Pius XII Museum, housed in an old seminary – the Seminario Conciliar Sao Pedro Sao Paulo. They founded the museum in 1957 during the time Pius XII was Pope, the only connection between Eugenio Pacelli, Pius XII, and the museum I could find.

To the north of the cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace / Paco Episcopal, the largest building in Braga, built between the 16th and 18th centuries, that houses the municipal archive, a library, and part of the university. I headed past the palace along the Rua do Souto, which brings the visitor to the heart of Braga, the Praca de Republica, with the 14th century former keep, the Torre de Menagem.

The Chapel of São Frutuoso / Capela de São Frutuoso takes some finding if you’re walking. My advice is to follow the road signs from near the Church of Populo, rather than using Google Maps which takes you through a housing estate. This chapel is also known as the Chapel of São Frutuoso of Montélios or the Chapel of São Salvador of Montélios and is a pre-Romanesque chapel, part of a group of religious buildings that include the much larger Church of Sao Francisco, which were originally built by the Visigoths in the 7th century in the form of a Greek Cross. In 1944, it was classified as a National Monument and the chances are you’ll have the place to yourself.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 48

Suleiman stared at Arsalan and Ali with something approaching despair. Mohamed and Rashid had been gunned down in cold blood and Ali and Arsalan had done nothing to help their brothers.

“What should we have done?” asked Arsalan. “Start massacring the passengers on the train when our aim is to capture and kill one person?”

“You could have taken the passengers hostage until the assassin gave himself up.”

“The assassin wasn’t in his seat, the assassin wasn’t on the train, the assassin wasn’t in the Urzaiz station, and the assassin is now not even in Vigo, in fact he might not even be in Spain,” replied Ali. “We searched the train and then kept watch at the entrances. He tricked us. Again. He does this all the time.”

“I see, Ali, and what about that man you shot near Guixar, what did he do to trick you, other than to be wearing two or three items the assassin discarded before arriving at Guixar?” asked Suleiman. “He was pushing a shopping trolley full of empty bottles, why would our assassin do that?”

“I made a mistake,” replied Ali. “I know the assassin is a smooth operator, and I thought he had adopted that disguise to fool us.”

“Us,” roared Suleiman, looking around the nearly deserted car park where they were talking, “us? You mean you, you idiot, but anyway, luckily, our organisation goes beyond international boundaries, so we have friends in places keeping their eyes open, and not shooting everyone who looks a little like our assassin. You, Ali and Arsalan, can redeem yourselves, because I have some news for you. Our friend saw our assassin in Oporto, a couple of hours ago, ostentatiously admiring the tile work in Sao Bento railway station while gripping a cup of coffee – he likes trains, have you noticed that – before getting on a train to the city of Braga. He is in the guise of a holiday maker, but our friend reckons it is him, due to his height, build, and the length of his hair. I believe he will actually go to Braga and admire the Christian churches there – there are thirty-five within the city boundaries –  but the best known one is Bom Jesus do Monte, where all tourists go, around three miles outside the city. I want you two to go to Braga from here right now. Ali, stay in Braga and see if you can spot him, he will carry an orange bag, while you, Arsalan, have the honour of going to Bom Jesus and waiting for him there. Do not fail me and try not to shoot anyone else.” 

“And where will you be going?” asked Arsalan resentfully.

“Me,” said Suleiman gripping his gun inside his cloak, “I will go to Guimaraes, where I reckon our assassin will head next after Braga, almost certainly to Monte Penha on the cable car.”

“Assuming we don’t kill him first,” said Arsalan.

“Yes,” said Suleiman, trying not to adopt a sarcastic tone, “assuming you and the Sundance Kid, here,” he gestured to Ali, “don’t kill him first.” Suleiman spat on the ground and headed away towards his car parked on the opposite side of the car park. He didn’t offer Ali and Arsalan a lift to Braga.

They had to get there on their own.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 47

Maria Sanchez looked at the bodies of the two North African suspects. She had to admire the accuracy of both Sergeant Villa and Constable Ortiz in a crowded station. One passenger had a leg wound from a flying splinter of concrete, but apart from that the passengers and the people seeing them off escaped unharmed. With these two now gone, only three remained from the people based in A Coruna. 

Where had the assassin gone? When she saw the man running, she thought it might be him for a second or two. Then she realised he would not do such an obvious thing. He’d fooled the lot of them.  

They’d all come down to Urzaiz which probably meant the assassin left from Guixar. She might even have seen him that morning waiting at the station. Perhaps he was the man with the orange travel bag? No, that wasn’t possible. He wasn’t the type to draw attention to himself. If the assassin had been there, he would have kept out of sight.

Villa and Ortiz returned from their interview with an internal review team who always spoke to policemen who’d discharged a firearm when on duty. Their experience of firing live rounds had shaken them both.

“Where did our assassin friend go, Inspector Sanchez?” asked Ortiz. “He wasn’t in his seat.”

“It was a decoy, Constable, he probably left from Guixar, heading in the other direction, heading towards Oporto.”

“The trail has gone cold for us, then?” said Villa. “We won’t be allowed to continue with the investigation in Portugal, if that’s where he has gone.”

“We might, because we are trying to apprehend a suspect who committed a crime in our jurisdiction. I don’t believe we’d be able to arrest him, that would be the job of the Portuguese police, but we could tag along and liaise with them. I will speak to the Chief Inspector and find out what we can do, but first, we have to discover if he’s gone to Portugal. He’s so sneaky, he could have gone to France for all the proof we have right now.”

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 46

Chris Anderson had a brief scare at Vigo’s Guixar station. The Spanish lady police inspector appeared to recognise her. It had taken her a few seconds to realise the policewoman was only admiring the bag. She’d have to watch that in the future. The North African terrorist who’d arrived ten minutes earlier than the police hadn’t noticed her at all. He’d soon left and a couple of minutes later, Anderson heard some gunshots near the large rubbish bins where she’d left some of her clothes, or those of Kim Samuels, on her way to the station.

The train down to Portugal was not as comfortable as the ones she’d become accustomed to in Spain. The train was packed with mainly English-speaking tourists, including some from South Africa, journeying around the Iberian peninsula and who probably didn’t realise Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal thanks to General Franco and his desire to be in the same time zone as Nazi Germany.

In Vigo, Anderson bought some blue shoes with red patches on the heels and liked the feel of them. The shoes had small holes just above the soles, to allow the feet to breathe, which would be fine here in a warm climate, but back home they’d just let the rain in. Anderson felt on guard now, all the time, and so preferred watching her fellow passengers to reading her book.

She wondered what to do next. She only had one identity left, the one she would use on her return to the UK. This might cause a problem. Should she confront her pursuers or cut her holiday short and fly home from Porto and disappear?

She decided she couldn’t cut the holiday short as she’d promised to see the mission through to the end, that was her professional pride shining through. She wasn’t finished yet. If she was honest, Anderson wasn’t sure how many pursuers there now were. She presumed it was the colleagues of the men she’d killed in Santiago and the lslas Cies, people from the American secret service, and the Spanish police, helped by their colleagues in Portugal. The more the merrier. Confrontation it was.

The police would try to take her into custody, the Americans might try, and the terrorists wouldn’t bother, they’d kill her straight away. This was the expected behaviour.  Would any of these three groups kill any of the others? They might, which would help no end, if it reduced the number of people following her. She hoped no harm came to the police as they were only doing their job. 

Reluctantly, because it went against her training, she decided to make it more obvious where she was going, starting with her visit to Braga from Porto’s lovely old station of Sao Bento in a couple of hours’ time. She’d spend too long admiring the tiles in the station forecourt, buy a ticket from the ticket-seller in the station kiosk, and even buy a coffee from the cafe. What more could she do to help?

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 45

Maria Sanchez kept her siren off and parked out of sight of the station. She had already radioed her colleagues at the station to come and meet her on the road looking down on the entrance. It was 8:44 am.

Sergeant Villa and Constable Ortiz soon arrived, out of breath as it was an uphill walk.

“Have you seen anyone matching the description of the man we all seem to be hunting?” she asked.

The two men shook their heads.

“How about the people we expected to meet yesterday in A Coruna?”

“Yes,” said Ortiz, “a North African was walking along the platform looking through the windows and another boarded the train and took a seat in the middle carriage. I suggest we adopt a pincer movement on him.”

Sanchez nodded.

“It’s difficult to be sure,” said Villa, “but I think there’s one down there just inside the entrance facing towards the trains and another one at another set of exit doors down the side.”

“So perhaps four at the station,” said Sanchez. “That makes sense. Their leader is probably not here, but coordinating things from somewhere close by. We know one died in Santiago – the one stabbed in the neck, the other one killed that day only arrived via Algeciras five days ago – and the assassin killed another one out in the Islas Cies. That makes seven, which is the number supposed to be in the house in A Coruna. Let’s be careful. Villa, go down the side of the station and then check the outside of the train. Ortiz, come with me. We’ll search the train from opposite ends as you suggest, but before we do…”

Sanchez unlocked a box in the back of her vehicle and took out three handguns she’d requested for the operation in A Coruna the previous day. She handed out the weapons, having checked they were all loaded. Sanchez provided spare bullets. They concealed the weapons in the holsters in the small of their backs.

It was 8:48 am, ten minutes until departure. The police split up and walked calmly down to the station. Sanchez and Ortiz walked through the main entrance and Sanchez casually looked around as if searching for the list of scheduled departures.

There was a man where Villa had said, but she carried on to where the train to Santiago and beyond waited. She gestured to Ortiz to check behind her as she spoke to the platform inspector, requesting that the train not go anywhere until she’d given the all clear.

The inspector looked at her and nodded. He started to walk down to the front to tell the driver; he knew full well that radio communications could be intercepted.

Sanchez followed him, intending to search the train from the front. Ortiz hopped on at the back and started slowly meandering through the carriages, stepping aside to let people pass, and helping people with their luggage. 

Villa kept a low profile, checking all the people on the outside of the train. He hoped no one started shooting as there were many potential victims on the platform. He moved around to the other side of the train and saw one of the North Africans he’d seen earlier boarding. Villa ran over and followed him onto the train. The potential for hostage taking was huge. He hoped no one thought of this other than himself.

Ortiz saw Sanchez approaching and realised he should stop. This was the carriage where the North African had sat down. He was not there now. It was also the carriage where the assassin had reserved a seat. Perhaps he was in the bathroom. Ortiz had not seen a man matching the description of the assassin from Santiago in the rest of the train. He looked at Sanchez and shook his head. She shook her head. No sign of the assassin. No sign of the North Africans.

The station clock read 8:53 am.

In the carriage, the door of the bathroom slid open.

A man stepped out and ran out of the carriage door. Ortiz and Sanchez gave chase but stopped when they came under fire from another platform. They hid behind a roof support. The bullets ricocheted off the concrete and bystanders screamed, dropping flat to the floor. Whoever was firing was using a silencer.

Some shots rang out and the running man fell to the floor. Sanchez looked and saw Villa scurrying towards the body. Ortiz watched the platform where the original shots had come from and saw a man’s raised arm holding a gun. Ortiz fired a full clip into the area at the other end of the arm and the gun fell to the ground. Sanchez and Ortiz emerged from behind the support with their guns raised. There were no more shots.

A hundred yards away, Ali and Arsalan wondered how Suleiman would take the news that two more of his people were dead, shot by the police this time. There were only three brothers left. Ali believed he’d killed the assassin of two of his friends in Santiago and Islas Cies.

He’d met the man staggering along a back street near Guixar station, wearing the clothes Ahmed had told him about the day before when he’d phoned during the pursuit of the man to the Islas Cies. The man was drunk on his success of the day before and had become overconfident. Suleiman had wanted to check his claim and would be back soon with an answer.

Washington, Jefferson, and Adams watched the people being escorted off the Santiago train. None of them looked a likely candidate for their British assassin. There’d been a Spanish version of the OK Corral in between the platforms and those Spanish police appeared to be fine shots, judging from the bodies being examined, but not quite in the assassin’s class, however. He’d tricked them again.

Was he going to Santiago on the slow train from Guixar or heading down to Portugal, again from Guixar? The Americans would have to split up to find the answers to those questions. They decided the odds were 2-1 on Porto, so Washington and Jefferson headed that way, whereas Adams went up to Santiago. Back in Madrid, Mike Alvarez made a few calls, asking for the authorities in Galicia and northern Portugal to help his men with their enquiries.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 44

Inspector Sanchez had barely time to change before heading down to Vigo in the early hours of 25th August. A man’s body had been found in a small boat just off the Islas Cies by a fishing boat heading back to Cangas. The local police surgeon had provided a thorough overview of the condition of the body and had noted the lethal blow had been applied with an expert eye.

When Maria Sanchez read this, she knew who was responsible. Of the cell of people in A Coruna, two were now dead, leaving five who would search for the assassin. The police would have to be careful because these terrorists were armed and would not be afraid to use the weapons.

She dropped off Sergeant Villa at the Urzaiz station and carried on to Guixar station. She reckoned the assassin would try to leave Vigo straightaway after the attack, so he might have gone already, but police procedure dictated that thoroughness and leaving nothing to chance were paramount.

It was around 8:15 am as she entered the station. It wasn’t busy at this hour, just a few people waiting for the train to Oporto. Backpackers on a train odyssey, a man travelling light with a delightful orange bag and yawning loudly, elderly couples looking anxiously at their watches, and a few young people going to play a team sport were all waiting.

She walked over to the ticket counter and showed her ID to the ticket-seller who had two colleagues with him.  

“Good day,” she said, “I was wondering whether you sold a ticket to this man recently,” and she showed them a picture of the assassin taken from a CCTV camera near the Islas Cies ferry the previous day.

“I did,” said a woman, standing next to the seated ticket-seller. “He carried a black travel bag and looked windswept. It was yesterday afternoon, and he wanted a ticket on the faster train to Santiago de Compostela at 8:58 am.” The woman looked on her ticket ordering system and found the seat she’d allocated to the man. She wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to Sanchez.

“Thank you, and that faster train is from Urzaiz?” asked Sanchez.

“That’s right,” replied the woman.

“Has he done something wrong?” asked the ticket seller.

“He has,” replied Sanchez, “why do you ask?”

“Oh, you’re not the first to ask this morning,” replied the seller. “Someone from military intelligence wanted to know about him just ten minutes ago.”

“Military Intelligence? Did he have any ID?”

“They don’t carry any,“ came the reply.

“What did he look like, this man?”

“Rather North African, but with a good accent.”

“Thank you,” replied Sanchez and ran out of the station to her car. She radioed her colleagues to warn them that there was a lot of interest in the 8:58 am train to Santiago and to be on the lookout for potential terrorists in the area.

Sanchez watched a local police vehicle speeding past as she headed off, listening to a police radio report that someone had shot dead a homeless man near the city centre. Three men in a small car eager to discover the way to Urzaiz station followed her at a distance.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 43

Inspector Sanchez had barely time to change before heading down to Vigo in the early hours of 25th August. A man’s body had been found in a small boat just off the Islas Cies by a fishing boat heading back to Cangas. The local police surgeon had provided a thorough overview of the condition of the body and had noted the lethal blow had been applied with an expert eye.

When Maria Sanchez read this, she knew who was responsible. Of the cell of people in A Coruna, two were now dead, leaving five who would search for the assassin. The police would have to be careful because these terrorists were armed and would not be afraid to use the weapons.

She dropped off Sergeant Villa at the Urzaiz station and carried on to Guixar station. She reckoned the assassin would try to leave Vigo straightaway after the attack, so he might have gone already, but police procedure dictated that thoroughness and leaving nothing to chance were paramount.

It was around 8:15 am as she entered the station. It wasn’t busy at this hour, just a few people waiting for the train to Oporto. Backpackers on a train odyssey, a man travelling light with a delightful orange bag and yawning loudly, elderly couples looking anxiously at their watches, and a few young people going to play a team sport were all waiting.

She walked over to the ticket counter and showed her ID to the ticket-seller who had two colleagues with him.  

“Good day,” she said, “I was wondering whether you sold a ticket to this man recently,” and she showed them a picture of the assassin taken from a CCTV camera near the Islas Cies ferry the previous day.

“I did,” said a woman, standing next to the seated ticket-seller. “He carried a black travel bag and looked windswept. It was yesterday afternoon, and he wanted a ticket on the faster train to Santiago de Compostela at 8:58 am.” The woman looked on her ticket ordering system and found the seat she’d allocated to the man. She wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to Sanchez.

“Thank you, and that faster train is from Urzaiz?” asked Sanchez.

“That’s right,” replied the woman.

“Has he done something wrong?” asked the ticket seller.

“He has,” replied Sanchez, “why do you ask?”

“Oh, you’re not the first to ask this morning,” replied the seller. “Someone from military intelligence wanted to know about him just ten minutes ago.”

“Military Intelligence? Did he have any ID?”

“They don’t carry any,“ came the reply.

“What did he look like, this man?”

“Rather North African, but with a good accent.”

“Thank you,” replied Sanchez and ran out of the station to her car. She radioed her colleagues to warn them that there was a lot of interest in the 8:58 am train to Santiago and to be on the lookout for potential terrorists in the area.

Sanchez watched a local police vehicle speeding past as she headed off, listening to a police radio report that someone had shot dead a homeless man near the city centre. Three men in a small car eager to discover the way to Urzaiz station followed her at a distance.