El 24 de Septiembre, 2008
Emilio Sánchez was taking a risk and he knew it. If this idea bombed, not only would the station terminate his show, but he would be out of a job himself. It had been a godsend receiving the strange video. Expert examination had shown it to be genuine and he had the prefect person to send. No doubt the boy was wondering at his good fortune. That was the biggest joke. Antonio Esposito had no idea why he had been chosen and thought Sanchez had picked him on merit.
Every employee was given a background check and with Esposito they had hit the jackpot. If the video and stories of the village were even half-true, they would have a show which would be unforgettable.
He laughed again. The audience wanted paranormal? He would give them a real-life experience.
It had been a strange night. The paramedics had checked his grandmother over and pronounced her perfectly fine. She had insisted on calling Tia Maria and they had stayed huddled in her bedroom for about an hour. When his aunt came out, she held a cloth-covered book in her hand.
“Read it.” Was all that she had said. Then she had hugged him tightly and left. His grandmother had smiled when he entered, held his hand and stared at him.
“Read the diary,” she had said, “and God be with you.”
She had fallen asleep, his hand clutched tightly. This morning his aunt had returned, hugged him again and pressed a set of rosary in his hands before he left.
He saw the sign for a service station ahead of him and pulled off the Highway. Two and a half hours was enough. Time for a coffee, a snack and a cigarette.
Like all such places it was functional. The central bar had stools next to it and there was an array of small wooden tables. To one side was a glass-walled areas for the smokers. Toni grinned and placed his order. When the waitress had left, he pulled the book out of his holdall and lit a cigarette. He liked surprises and this proved to be such. Whatever was in here was at least important to his grandmother and judging by the looks he had seen on her and his auntie’s face, a secret. By experience he knew that family secrets were a let down. His grandmother often spoke of village life and the shame people suffered for their transgressions. He had yet to be shocked by any of it.
Browned pages faced him, their sides covered in a shaky hand. He gulped his coffee, drew on his cigarette and read.
My Dearest Isabella
I am writing this journal with the knowledge that no letter of mine will ever reach you. At least this way, it feels as though I can talk to you and perhaps some day we can read this and laugh. Although, right now, there is little to laugh at.
It is cold here in the mountains. We have been hard-pressed by Franco’s forces and are in retreat. The weather though is not responsible for cold I have deep in my bones and my heart .I have seen and done things, my Darling, which I find hard to live with. Human nature can be base and this forced withdrawal has brought out the worst in us. Stories reach us of atrocities carried out by the Italians fighting with Franco. These tales only seem to fuel the fires buried within each and every one of us.
You know of the Church and their lies. Perhaps though, you do not know of what we do. Village by village we send a message. The priests and sisters are the physical manifestation of that message.
Yesterday our Sargeant, Emilio, made sure that all were aware of the price of our defeat. The old priest was made to climb the main street on his bent, arthritic knees. As a penance. His faith was strong. He made it to the top. We all laughed to see the mighty Church humbled. Then the shooting began. One in five of the villagers were killed in front of the priest, including a nun. The rest had to dig a shallow grave. I stopped laughing.
Emilio would here no pleas and the priest was buried with the rest. I only wish this War will be over soon, before I become someone else. With you and Irene waiting for me, I have hope…
Toni looked up from the journal. Irene? His grandmother? The signature was unknown. Who was Juan Antonio Rodriguez? August nineteen thirty-seven. That fit.
He turned more pages and saw the handwriting change. There were at least three styles. At random, he flipped the journal. Here, this one. Nineteen eighty-six?
We need to find her. Tomorrow He will be here again and this time it will be me. The village has agreed. Everyone will leave before the evening is over. I am too tired and too old….
He checked the date, the twenty-fourth of September. Their show would be on the twenty-sixth. Two more pages and he found the entry.
They have all gone. The village is deserted. I know He will come. Every year is the same. There is nothing that we or the Church can do. They have tried. Our only option is to find Irene. How though can we found one lost in the Guerra Civil? It is impossible.
It is cold. Freezing. The Fog is here. As they said. I can see the light. Hear laughter. He is here…
It was the last entry. Who was his Grandmother and what did this have to do with Pueblecito?
His cigarette had burnt down to the butt. He stubbed it out and closed the journal. The clock on the wall told him he was late. Toni gathered up his cigarettes and placed the journal back in his holdall. This would have to wait until later. The next stop would give him just enough time to read the preparatory notes from Sanchez. Rosa Benitez was waiting for him Santander. This was important, right now.
“It’s Emilio. Emilio Sánchez.”
“Hi. What can I do for you?”
Sánchez looked at the open file in front of him. He needed to be careful.
“Our man will be arriving soon. He knows just enough.”
“Don’t worry. You can rely on me. This broadcast is as important for me, as it is for you.”
“You know what to do?”
“Yes. The priest is organised, as is the film crew. By tomorrow evening the village will be empty, so Esposito will have little chance of finding out what we’ve planned.”
“Good. Make sure it stays that way.”
He hung up the phone. Everything was going strictly according to plan.
SDIV El Juego Chapter Thirty Part Three
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