She’s Coming For You – Chapter 24

Madrid: American Embassy – 21st August – Evening

 

One of the resident staffers at the embassy was in the office of Claudia Reyes. Mike Alvarez was connected with at least one of the security services of the United States of America.

“What do we know, Mike?” asked Claudia.

“We know that an American citizen, whose name I won’t reveal to you for security reasons, has been shot dead at almost point-blank range by a man of the Muslim faith, whom we believe was from North Africa.”

“And I heard that the assassin was killed too, along with an accomplice nearby, in two rather different ways,” replied Claudia, wrinkling her nose at the diplomacy of the question.

“Yes, the shooter had his skull smashed by a weight, taken from a table from a nearby outdoor restaurant. The weight was used to keep the umbrellas in place.”

“So, pre-meditated then, Mike. Those weights are heavy, we’re looking for a strong man here.”

“Agreed on both accounts. Whoever it was also knew how to kill people with a knife as the blade severed the spinal column, causing instant death. Two very clinical and sadistic murders.”

“A professional hitman then?”

“Agreed, which is why he’s flown the scene and does not want to come forward as the hero the media have portrayed him as.”

“He won’t be collecting the reward money either,” said Claudia looking at the notes Alvarez had given her. “Who is the guy, I mean I am not sure why you can’t tell me his name.”

“He’s been touring northern Spain with some of his buddies, places such as Pamplona, Burgos, Valladolid, and Leon. All on the train.”

“Wait,” said Claudia, “Burgos? On the train? When was he in Burgos?”

“I don’t know, I have just read the notes from the interviews, and these remarks were the back story on why they were in Spain. What’s special about Burgos?”

“It might be something and nothing, but an American tourist, James Adam, was attacked on the train there. I will ask Susan to double check this.”

Mike Alvarez nodded and waited while Claudia sent Susan del Piero a text and an email. Susan was out of the office at the moment.

“Do you think these terrorists followed them across northern Spain?” asked Claudia once she’d stopped writing.

“Could be, could be, not necessarily on the train, but watching at the stations, waiting for an opportunity to strike. There’s a whole network of them in this country, I am sure of it. It’s like the Reconquista in reverse.”

“So, Mike, what else can you tell me about the dead man? You can’t tell me his name, but is he famous or something, is there likely to be a backlash?”

Mike Alvarez smiled and readjusted his position in Claudia’s deliberately uncomfortable wooden chair. She offered people a choice – leather or wood – and it always interested her which option they chose.

Alvarez looked at her and said, “In these days, many people are famous for a short amount of time – the Warhol quote of fame for fifteen minutes is very true – but let’s just say this guy was infamous, for what, two hours maybe. And perhaps three or four times during the last two years, yeah, about that length of time.”

“What? Infamous for two hours, three or four times. Who is he, a traffic warden in Beverly Hills putting parking tickets on celebrity vehicles in the name of efficiency and strict interpretation of the parking laws? Huh?”

“No, he is, or was, a trophy hunter, someone seen smirking behind the carcasses of cute, dead animals. He had many death threats, but he wore them like a badge, never thinking someone would carry out their threat.”

“Are you saying these Muslim terrorists are animal rights activists who have taken down a trophy hunter? That doesn’t jive with me. I don’t believe many Muslims believe in animal rights.”

Mike Alvarez smiled and leaned forward onto her desk.

“You know what else doesn’t jive, Claudia, why a Muslim terrorist would kill just one tourist, when he could have sprayed the whole train with bullets.”

“Right, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a deranged lunatic.”

“This was a targeted attack, Claudia. Don’t tell anyone this, but the man who died was shot eight times in the head, eight times in the face, with a pattern that an ashtray could cover. I know he was close, but that is one hell of a marksman we have here.”

“That’s more in keeping with cleaving someone’s skull and severing the spinal column of another man, isn’t it?” said Claudia. “Maybe our hero isn’t the hero, but the man responsible for all three deaths and that is why he has not come forward, maybe he killed our fellow American.”

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 23

           Pat Walker was no more.

Kim Samuels looked back from the hotel mirror.

She had folded all the clothes worn earlier in the day inside a black plastic bag, placed inside her rucksack. This was in the cupboard in her room. It was like the matryoshka dolls Samuels had seen in Russia and its satellite countries, one way in which the relocation of people during Stalin’s time became clear in cultural terms.

Samuels smiled at herself. Her hair was a different colour and the sandals without socks made her look more like a pilgrim than an assassin. The footwear had also taken three inches off her height. She would discard the shoe supports in separate litter bins in the next few hours.

A thin jumper worn over a Lisbon T-shirt had replaced the travel jacket. Her last touch was to wear shorts with buttons on the pockets, which contained her new identity. She would burn the old passport on her trip to A Coruna the following day.

Samuels intended to continue on her holiday. The people searching for her would scour the train station, the bus station, and the airport, expecting her to make a getaway, but she wouldn’t be doing that. She’d liked all the cities she’d visited so far and she looked forward to deciding where she should go next, rather than following someone else’s itinerary. This would be true until she caught the train from Vigo down to Porto, when she would be back on her hunt.

Kim’s hotel had two entrances, and she used the side entrance this time, which led out into a narrow alley where it would be difficult for anyone to conceal their presence. She popped a sunhat onto her head and placed a cheap pair of sunglasses over the top, just to make herself appear like a tourist.

Samuels opened the door and looked up at the balconies with their green railings and potted plants. She saw no one watching, so she stepped out and turned left. It was time for Kim Samuels to walk around Santiago de Compostela. She was feeling hungry and thirsty and headed away from the hotel towards a bar recommended in the guidebook she clutched in her left hand.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 22

MASSACRE IN SANTIAGO

3 dead in bloodbath in pilgrimage city

Unknown hero saves tourists from mass slaughter near Museo do Pabo Gallego

All extremists will be hunted down and caught like rats says PM

Tourists need have no fear about their safety and security says mayor

An unknown hero was being sought by police this evening after single-handedly saving the lives of 46 innocent civilians on board the tourist train as it started to go up the steepest hill on its round trip of our pilgrimage city.

The man was described as being about six feet in height with fair skin and an athletic disposition. He killed two would-be Muslim attackers before they were able to impose their extremist views via the muzzle of an automatic rifle.

Hand grenades were also found, but none were used in the attack.

Our hero may be dazed or suffering from amnesia due to a blow on the head.

An American tourist was killed though there are conflicting accounts about how this accident occurred.

Extra security measures will be in place to reassure the expected influx of pilgrims over the next few weeks, many of them from Asia.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 21

The six men were watching the recorded footage sent from the phone of their leader as he filmed the impending attack in Santiago de Compostela. They watched as an unknown passer-by intervened and tried to stop their jihadi companion from fulfilling his intended destiny.

The footage ran out without it being clear what had happened, but there was bad news from the television. The news presenter said three people were dead, an American and two North Africans, which meant their leader and their marksman were now in heaven, but they had taken one of the opposition down.

“What do we do now?” asked the youngest. “We must get our revenge on whoever that is, who killed our brothers.”

The most senior of the jihadis, who had assumed leadership of the group, nodded. 

“You should take a picture of the man who did this and ask around the hotels in Santiago, so we can find him. You should leave now and take the train, it’s only twenty-five minutes. Find him before the police do. I will send an image to all our friends in Galicia, Asturias, and Portugal. They will contact me if they see this person and I will coordinate the hunt from here for now. Go! And don’t come back until we have hunted this infidel to his death.”

 

 

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 20

Santiago de Compostela – POLICIA NACIONAL – Report

Case Number: SDC-20190821-OO19                          Date 2019-08-21

Reporting Officer: M Sanchez                                      Prepared By: P Iniesta

Incident:

2 North Africans and 1 American have been killed on the Costa de San Domingo, though it is not clear at this time how many other people were involved due to the contradictory accounts provided by witnesses.

Detail of Event:

The Tren Turistico (2034BGW) was proceeding towards Costa de San Domingo at 3:30 pm when it was fired upon by a North African who shot an American citizen before being hit by a weight from a table. Another North African was found dead nearby with a hunting knife in his neck. It is not clear at this time who killed the 2 North Africans.

Actions Taken:

38 of 45 witnesses from the Tren Turistico have been interviewed. All customers and staff at the Porta do Camino Bar and Terraza do Plaza bar have been interviewed. Witnesses in the Praza do 8 de Marzo have not been interviewed as they all claim not to have seen anything. Officers will interview people on a city bus who witnessed the aftermath of the incident. The Policia Nacional will also put out a city-wide request for anyone who was walking down Costa de San Domingo from the direction of the Museo do Pobo Gallego to come forward.

Summary:

3 people killed, relevant embassies informed, witnesses interviewed, request for further information placed in local newspapers, on local radio, and on posters on streetlights in the immediate area.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 19

At 15:30, the Tren Turistico slows down to almost a crawl as it heads up Costa de San Domingos. From the wall of the Praza do 8 de Marzo, the passengers are only four feet away, an appropriate distance given that the man Pat Walker was about to kill with a knife was a hunter of wild animals in various parts of the world.

Walker was an expert thrower of knives in her day job, and she realised this was a great place to kill her prey. Walker had purchased appropriate knives from a hunting shop in Pamplona, plus a pair of ultra-thin gloves. She paid cash for the items. Walker was now sitting at the Porta do Camino Bar waiting for the time to tick over from 15:23 to 15:24.

She glanced over to her right at the Terraza do Plaza bar and observed two patrons, both facing away from her. Walker had changed her clothing and added a baseball cap. Another set of clothes and another hat awaited on her hotel bed.  She also had a black plastic bag and a new passport, a new identity, because in just over six minutes Pat Walker would be no more.

In the square opposite, some people had music blasting out while smoking pot and shouting at each other in that friendly way stoned people have. Everything looked good until Walker noticed a head bobbing up and down in the actual corner she wanted to use for her attack. Who could that be?

At 15:25 she walked to the square and glanced over to the corner. She saw the man from the train two days previously. He held a rifle. Walker had an idea. She went back to the cafe, put on her gloves, and untied a weight keeping the umbrellas stable on the outside tables. She picked up the weight in one hand and walked as nonchalantly as possible over to the square again, waiting for a bus to pass by before crossing the road.

Walker had a knife in her other hand, for insurance. She checked the Terraza bar and saw no one. The time approached 15:28. Tourist train 2034BGW came into sight. The man in the corner had eyes only for the train. Walker approached the marksman.

Suddenly, someone was trying to strangle her. Walker elbowed him in the stomach and then stabbed her assailant in the neck. The marksman stood up, about to open fire on the train. Walker hit him on the head with the weight.

The marksman crumpled onto the wall.

A North American voice shouted, “Great job, buddy.”

There was a hail of bullets in reply.

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 18

The interior of the cathedral was under renovation when I visited. This meant I couldn’t see the Portico de Gloria, the original west front dating from 1188, which lies immediately behind the new west front facing Obradoiro Square. The Portico is the culmination of Romanesque sculpture and is a precursor of the new Gothic style.

 

The Botafumeiro was also out of commission. This is the large incense burner, which swings in a thirty metre sweep from ceiling to ceiling across the transept. It’s original job was to fumigate the pilgrims attending mass, but now only incense is used.

 

The most sublime view of the cathedral is from the west in Obradoiro Square / Praza do Obradoiro towards the end of the day when the low levels of gentle sunlight bring out the warmth of the stone. The facade with its two great bell towers was created between 1738 and 1750 in the Churrigueresque style. On here, there are many statues of St James in the guise of a traveller on his way to Santiago.

 

To the north of the square is the Parador for Santiago de Compostela, housed in the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos. On the opposite side of the square from the cathedral is the Pazo de Raxoi / Palacio de Rajoy, a neoclassical palace dating from 1766.

 

The Praza da Inmaculada is to the north of the cathedral and is dominated by the Monastery of San Martino Pinario, a vast edifice which is now partly a hotel. The monastery also houses a church and a museum.

 

Nearby on the Praza das Praterias is the Museo das Peregrinacions. The first version of this museum was opened in 1951, but the modern incarnation really started in 2012. The original building holding the collection and the Casa Gotica or Gothic House now functions as the Museum’s administrative headquarters. The current building was formerly occupied by the Bank of Spain and was restored between 2009 and 2012 as the museum’s new exhibition centre.

 

This museum provides vast amounts of information on the history of the Camino and gives insights into other pilgrimage sights around the world. The church had a huge influence on the business benefits of the Camino.

 

Another lovely museum is the Museo do Pobo Galego. This is a folk museum, or ethnographic museum, with wonderful displays of traditional clothing such as straw suits worn by shepherds and examples of early machinery like hand-powered looms.

 

There are two outstanding features for me. The first is the unique seventeenth-century triple stairway. Each one takes people to different floors. The second is the Panteon de Galegos Ilustres which holds the remains of famous people from Galicia, such as the poet Rosalia de Castro and the writer and artist Castelao, who died in exile in Argentina in 1950.

 

This museum is on the route of the tourist train that leaves from in front of the western facade of the cathedral.

 

The Flying Weasels of Sierra Leone

Weasels are stealthy and cunning creatures. They know the best way they can achieve what they want. In Sierra Leone, weasels in the forest live almost exclusively in the trees and rarely venture down to the forest floor where their lives might be in danger. Weasels quickly worked out that to move from tree to tree could be problematical. Jumping from branch to branch might work sometimes, but not always, especially if distances were more than a few feet.

The weasels of Sierra Leone worked out a way of moving around the forest. They hitched rides on the backs of the larger birds such as woodpeckers, parrots, and crows. The birds didn’t enjoy having a passenger on board and tended to fly the shortest distance possible, but this suited the weasel as it invariably meant the weasel was in a tree he hadn’t visited before.

The weasels were very smart and didn’t steal eggs from the nests of the birds who had given them lifts, in the hope the bird would provide a ride to another tree in the future. The birds eventually realised this and gradually the distances the birds took the weasels began to increase. Some birds even waited for the weasel to finish his investigation of a tree before taking the animal somewhere else.

This taxi service provided by the birds to the weasels is unique in the world of nature and is an amazing sight. Although the weasels balance on the backs of the birds, they can in no way steer the bird in a particular direction; the weasel has to go wherever the bird is flying to. A bird ferrying a weasel also gives off a particular call, indicating to other birds that the bird is not being attacked and is not in any danger. These sounds and the spectacle of an animal being ferried around by a bird, adds considerably to the experience of visiting the forests of Sierra Leone.

 

She’s Coming For You – Chapter 17

The afternoon sun was high overhead as the two cars headed out of the port city on their way south along the AP-9 towards Cangas on the Ria de Vigo. The cars obeyed the speed limit and kept about two hundred yards apart, just in case the police developed an unhealthy interest in one car. There were two men in each. The female owner of one car was being entertained and distracted by two friends of the driver. The other owner would receive a phone call from the police early the following day, saying they had found his stolen vehicle burnt out in the northern suburbs of Santiago de Compostela.

They made good progress and arrived in Cangas at 8 pm. The four men selected a table near the beach in an almost deserted restaurant. They could discuss the phone call one man had received from Ourense at just before 7 pm, showing their friend, the marksman was on time and would wait for one car at 5 am in the appointed place. The other car would avoid Santiago altogether.

At 10:30 pm, the men left the restaurant, which was now almost full, and returned to the cars. They put on some black gloves and picked up some items. Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, the four men walked the fifty metres down to the harbour, past the bus station with its interestingly shaped roof and past the pier where the ferries set off for Vigo on the other side of the ria.

They unlocked the gate to the jetty where the small fishing boats docked with a duplicate key made for the purpose the week before on a reconnaissance mission.

The four men jogged down the jetty and selected the boat they knew they could take with a minimum of risk. They had brought two canisters of fuel in case they needed it. They would leave one canister for the owner, whose boat they were borrowing, and use the contents of the other to torch the car.

Almost silently, they paddled the boat out in the Ria de Vigo before firing up the engine and setting off to the Islas Cies. The tide was against them on the outward journey, and it took longer than expected to arrive at the cave. Shadows from the cliffs cast strange shapes on the water. The waves were splashing over the rock shelf, but the waterproof bags had done their job and all the guns and ammunition were bone dry.

The return journey passed quickly, apart from paddling the small fishing craft back into the harbour, which took some effort. After they moored the boat, the two drivers headed to the cars and brought them to the quayside. There they helped manhandle the bags into the cars. They placed a large plastic sheet in the boot of one car, so that none of the interior would get wet from seawater. They locked the gate and headed away from Cangas before stopping in a secluded spot near Redondela.

As one man acted as a lookout, the other three transferred most of the armaments and ammunition into the bag in one car. This car, now containing three men, headed around Santiago and returned to A Coruna, where the lady owner was asleep, exhausted by her evening’s entertainment.

The leader of the group headed into the city of St James to meet with his marksman at the pre-appointed time. The bag in this car contained an automatic rifle, five hundred rounds of ammunition, and six hand grenades. This would be more than enough for their first attack to be a complete success. With all their planning, nothing would now stop them from making a huge statement against the people who had prosecuted the Reconquista against their forefathers.

The Howling Rat of Brindisi

The Howling Rat of Brindisi is a semi-mythical creature connected with the legendary ability of St Francis of Assisi to talk to animals. Brindisi is a port on the east coast of Italy and has been receiving ships from all over the world for centuries. In olden times, each ship that berthed would inevitably disgorge a certain number of rats who would be anxious for shore leave after a perilous voyage across the sea.

Almost inevitably rats brought diseases with them. Most rats also brought a new strain of genes to add to the gene pool in Brindisi. The rats would breed and new characteristics would inevitably appear. Some rats, whose ancestors had come from the Black Sea, would be able to survive for weeks at a time without food, because their forefathers have survived the long trip from the Crimea on board ships that had little food for the crew let alone the rats on board.

Other rats would have sailed across from North Africa, a particularly rough and stormy trip, where the ship would be tossed around for days at a time by the savage seas. It was on voyages like this where baby rats had to be particularly vocal, so that their parents would find them again after going on a hunt for food. These baby rats learned to howl in a ghostly way, making the sailors believe their ship was possessed by evil spirits. This howling was effective because the sailors prayed to God for salvation rather than looking for the source of the noise. The sailors believed the spirits were of drowned sailors coming back to haunt them.

Some of the rats in Brindisi, those descended from North African rats, carried on this howling on dry land and used to howl whenever they were hungry, causing fear and loathing within the local human population. When hunting the rats failed, the local bishop of Brindisi asked St Francis to come to his city and talk to the rats.

St Francis obliged. He asked the rats to please stop howling. The rats said they were sorry, but they were only howling because they were hungry. The rats suggested to St Francis that the humans in Brindisi should throw food scraps into the fields to the west of the town at 6 a.m. in the morning. The rats would eat the food and they wouldn’t be hungry and then they wouldn’t howl. This is what the townsfolk did at the request of St Francis and sure enough the howling problem went away although the rats themselves remained and grew sleek on the food provided.