Susan Del Piero, a staffer dealing with medical questions at the American Embassy on Calle de Serrano in Madrid, took the call at 9:20 am, Spanish time. She jotted down the details of the five-minute conversation on her I-Pad, and when the hospital had rung off she went to see her boss, Claudia Reyes.
“Claudia, do you have a moment?” Susan adjusted her glasses as she spoke, a nervous tick she was trying to stop, but it kept resurfacing in times of potential stress.
“Sure,” said Claudia, smiling at Susan, “is there a problem?” Claudia was thirty-five, and now she was in Spain she enjoyed wearing stylish clothing that brought out the dark hues of her Mexican heritage from the south of Texas.
“I think there might be,” replied Susan, slipping into the black leather chair opposite Claudia. “I received a phone call from a hospital in Burgos. The Spanish inspector on the train coming from Pamplona found an American citizen unconscious in a washroom on the train. His name is James Adam, from Vermont, and he has serious head injuries on account of someone smashing his face repeatedly against the rim of the toilet. Mr Adam has not regained consciousness.”
“Is this a terrorist attack in any way?” asked Claudia.
“It is at least a hate crime,” replied Susan. “Mr Adam was travelling around Spain, minding his business, and he gets knocked into the middle of next week. He had been volunteering as a translator in Barcelona.”
“We are always trying to help people and this is what we get by way of gratitude,” snorted Claudia. “It’s terrible – we should let these countries sort themselves out and not be kind to them in any way.”
“Mr Adam spoke to no one on the train from what other passengers told us, but he had a big Stars and Stripes on his backpack, so there’s no doubting his place of origin.”
“Yes, some of our citizens could do with toning it down and not ramming their nationalistic agenda down other people’s throats, but they shouldn’t end up unconscious in the bathroom of a train.”
“Should I head up to Burgos and wait for him to regain consciousness?” asked Susan.
“Not yet, if you can get the Closed-Circuit TV footage from Burgos station for the people who got off the train there. Once he regains consciousness, it would be good to have some descriptions of potential suspects. I think the attacker got off the train there rather than risk being associated with the crime by staying put. Sounds like we have someone with anger issues.”
“Thank you, Claudia. I’ll write up the notes from the phone call and from our conversation and put them in the system. I’ll request the footage of the station platforms and forecourt from RENFE and see if we can find the attacker. He won’t get far.”