El 23 de Septiembre, 2008
The door swung back, smashed into his knuckles and spilt hot coffee over his hand.
“You’re a complete disaster, chaval.”
“Yeah, right. That’s me.”
Antonio, Toni, Esposito, placed the tray carefully on the table top. He was careful not to slop any of the still warm liquid onto his friend’s desk. Javi was editing some video material and would not be happy if his expensive equipment was affected.
“Sanchez is looking for you.”
Toni grunted and passed a hastily wiped cup across.
“What does he want. The guy doesn’t even know I exist.”
“Right, Mr. Invisible. That’s why he has everyone chasing your tail. You’d better get your arse up there.”
Pearls of sweat broke out on Toni’s forehead. This won’t be good.
“You got any idea what he wants? Forget that, how would you know.”
He saw Javi shake his head in disgust and stare at the screen. There was a strange indistinct shape on display there, typical of their usual fare. They worked for the hottest paranormal show on Spanish television. Well at least it had been until recently. Sanchez had been sucked in by three college students and panned by critics. This room had been installed with an excessive expenditure of company funds. The computer imaging software used, checked for frauds. It also enhanced poor shots and gave them a better idea of what they were looking for. Only last week they had uncovered yet another attempt to scam them, this time from a rival TV station.
“What you got there?”
“This, should you wish to accept it, is your next assignment. It came in anonymously three nights ago and Sanchez is pinning all of his hopes on it. He believes it’s genuine and you, my lucky friend, will be heading up the live broadcast.”
Javi stood up and pushed Toni towards the door.
“Don’t keep him waiting any longer. I’m sure he’ll explain everything.”
The lift rattled its way upwards. For a high-tech company, El Ocho always amazed him. Ever since Sanchez’s arrival, cost-cutting had become a strange mantra. Top floor offices were expensively decorated, yet the rest of the building looked as though it came straight out of an eighties film set. He took the stairs for the last two floors, only the express lift went that far.
As he emerged from the exit, he heard raised voices. The door was open to the Main Office and Toni could see three bodies. There was the unmistakable shape of Sanchez, accompanied by two others. One, an unknown woman and the other a small, elderly man. It was the latter who was shouting, his words clear and distinct.
“You are a fool! This is not something you can take lightly.”
Whatever Sanchez was about to reply, was interrupted by Toni’s timid knock.
“Esposito! Get your butt in here. Where the hell have you been?”
Before Toni could answer, Sanchez turned away.
“Thank you, professor. We’ll give your opinion due consideration.”
It was a clear dismissal and the disgruntled academic pushed past Toni, leaving only Sanchez and the unknown woman in the office.
“Come in and shut the door.”
Toni did as he was told. Silence greeted his entrance. He shuffled his feet and waited for the bomb to be dropped. It was common knowledge that there were cut-backs being discussed and he thought it more likely he would be fired, than offered a prime job.
“What do you know about Pueblecito?”
“Well you’ve got three days to become an expert. We’ve got a live show to do from there and you’re in charge.”
The woman smiled and then held out her hand.
“I’m Rosa Benitez. I run an independent film company in Cantabria. My local team will be supporting you.”
It had been a strange meeting. Sanchez had quickly outlined the assignment and handed Toni a slim file of background material. Javi had given him a copy of his video work and Rosa Benitez had agreed to meet him in Santander the next day. He had been given the rest of the day off to pack a suitcase, as well as cash and the keys to a rental car. That only left him with one more thing to do.
As he entered his flat, he could smell cooking. He lived with his Grandmother in the centre of Madrid and he needed to make sure that she was taken care of. Not that he would explain it that way. She was an extremely proud and independent woman. At seventy-six years young she insisted on running the household. The flat was spotless, even though it was cluttered with a lifetime of memories. Sepia-coloured photographs adorned the entrance hall, a shrine to lost family members. As he entered the kitchen, he dipped his fingers in the small cup of holy water which nestled beneath an icon of La Virgen. Irene Esposito was a practising catholic and she took it seriously. Toni had grown up with her little rituals and at twenty-six years old, often felt he was still a small child in her presence.
She was a striking woman, small and fine-boned. Her hair was swept back severely from her head and caught in a tight bun. He had never seen her wear anything else but the one piece black dress. Still mourning his grandfather after all these years.
“Toni.” She cried, holding her arms wide. He kissed her once on each cheek and hugged her tightly. His grandmother had been the one constant in his life after the death of his parents in a car crash. She had taken him in over ten years ago and made sure that he had grown up properly.
“I need to go away for a couple of days with work.”
“Ooh. Somewhere nice?”
“Don’t know if it will be nice. I will be on the television though.”
She laughed in excitement and hugged him again.
“I told you,” she said, “it was only a matter of time.”
Her confidence had helped him pursue his goal of being a television reporter. She had never doubted him.
Toni broke off a small piece of bread and dipped it into the sauce she was making. His grandmother swiped at his hand playfully.
“I called Tia Maria, she says you can stay with her whilst I’m away.”
“Rubbish,” she replied. “She’s older than I am. I have no intention of looking after her. I’ll be fine right where I am. Where are you going?”
“A small village in Cantabria, called Pueblecito. We’re doing a …”
He stopped at her cry. With one hand clutched against her chest she had sunk to the floor and her mouth moved soundlessly.
SDIV El Juego Chapter Thirty Part Three
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