Terrorists have taken over the Alhambra Palace, in new expat novel Song of Granada. With the Spanish tradition at its heart, Anne Sikking weaves a story of intrigue, compassion and fear. Here, the Olive Press presents the first of a two-part serialisation…
Above the Sierra Nevada David Garcia had closed his eyes but was far from sleeping. He had reviewed the files whilst sat in the departure lounge at JFK. The runway grey, the baggage handlers barely visible in a thin dawn with relentless drizzle, he had allowed himself to remember the last time he had travelled to Europe, before. Before Richard had died. Before the Twin Towers had been razed to the ground. Before he’d opened his mouth and spoken a viewpoint no-one wanted to hear.
What he had seen of Spain he scarcely remembered. Of course the Alhambra, who could forget that? And of course the strong Spanish Andalucian accent, so foreign to his own Cuban. But anything else was blended such that even he, a sharp observer, was hard pressed to distinguish one set of scenery from another.
And all the time Richard dying of thirst, begging for just one drop, and David desperate to get him to the UK where they could find a Chapter of AA that spoke English. And now here he was, set to go to Europe again, only this time on his own, all expenses paid, and not a pleasurable moment in sight.
Tiptoeing through the generalife in the Alhambra, Mary Stansfield noted the patterned pebble work, beautiful under her feet, as it dug up through the thin soles of her shoes. The cypress trees flanked her, the gentle sound of falling water caressed her ears. The promise of sun touched her back and shoulders. Something in the unexpected peace seemed unnatural.
As dawn was breaking, a huge bang had made her toss and turn on her sheets. Whether thunder or the backfiring of a vehicle she could not have said. Then all had fallen quiet again. In the end it was the deathly quiet of the dawn which had fully awakened her.
Despite the early hour, the sun was almost shining. A well rehearsed repertoire of Andalucian folk songs ought to have made her carefree. Even their Granadino hosts could not fail to be pleased with the programme highlighting works collected by Granada’s most famous son Federico Garcia Lorca. But as she continued along the paths she had a creeping anxiety. It was momentarily replaced by delight as she came across some of her choristers in a natural amphitheatre. Mary, thrilled to have the chance of a sound-check with no-one around, sounded a note on her tuning fork and raised her arms. On the upward stroke of her hand the men opened their mouths and sang. The noise filled the generalife.
Then they stopped, staring over her shoulder, and she turned and saw him for the first time.
He looked like death warmed up, and very, very angry.
Mario’s in New York was always a perfect haven. Unable to sleep, Commissioner O’Reilly had left home in the dark and taken his usual booth. He drank long and deep of his coffee, pleased García was already far away. He hated David Garcia, or rather Angel David Garcia. Angel. What sort of a man was called angel?
One, Garcia was a faggot. And O’Reilly hated faggots. He hated faggots because he believed that all of them were essentially afraid, and fear made them weak and malleable and unreliable. No policeman could want to put his life in the hands of a fellow officer whose common platform of belief could not be depended upon. He hated it that Garcia was a policeman, and worse, until 9/11, a popular one.
Two, Garcia was Hispanic. And O’Reilly hated Spics. But he was not afraid of them, either. By rights, O’Reilly, himself only a third-generation Irishman, should have felt camaraderie with Garcia. God knows the Irish had suffered the indignities of immigrant communities the world over. Yet he hated it that unlike the Irish, Spics could hide in language which in turn had safeguarded their culture, whereas the Irish had pretty much lost theirs, with only their surnames, and seething Irish anger to distinguish them.
Three, Garcia was a Catholic. And O’Reilly, being one himself, definitely did not hate Catholics. Nor was he in the least afraid of them. But he did hate the David Garcia type of Catholic. His daughter had wanted to know what the difference could possibly be between one type of Catholic and another. O’Reilly had avoided answering.
He did know the difference; he just didn’t want to tell her because it sounded ridiculous. The difference was colour. When he thought of the Catholicism of an Irishman, he thought green and white. When he thought about the Catholicism of the Italians or the Hispanics the colours he could see were yellow, red and gold. That was the difference. His Irish Catholicism was calm, controlled and pure. Theirs was running riot, irreverent. They had, what O’Reilly could only think of as heat. And he hated heat.
Finally, the one thing in the litany that O’Reilly found hard to articulate was that Garcia was quintessentially smart; saw, knew, ‘got it’, in a really unusual way. Until 9/11, that is, when he messed up big time. And that was what made it possible for O’Reilly to live with his hatred without it chewing him up from the inside. Garcia had made a big mistake, and now he was having to pay for it…