International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:THE
Purple Maiden - - Chapter Three - Wrong Wreck
MV Franconia, off the Cies Islands, Galicia. June 1999.
weve got a passenger who needs hospital treatment. Name of
John Fetworth, age 78. Ive got him in sick bay at the moment,
under observation with a suspected attack of angina. The Chief
Medical officer aboard the cruise ship had just finished applying
an emergency oxygen supply to one of the passengers travelling on
the return voyage to the United Kingdom. Captain Sylvester Brent
acknowledged the report and immediately sent a message to the shipping
agents asking for an ambulance to be available on arrival.
Juan Jose Mauro,
widower, was the present Managing Director of the Jesus Mauro &
Sons shipping agency in Vigo, an establishment set up by his grandfather
and granduncle over a hundred years earlier to cater for the British
merchant shipping companies that operated between the United Kingdom
and South America. The constant transport of beef, wheat and other commodities
in a northern direction by the British ships and the flow of Spanish
emigrants to the promised lands of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina in
the other fed the financial and physical growth of one of the oldest
commercial establishments in Galicia. As the regular passenger routes
began to fade because of competition from air travel and container shipping,
a new lucrative business took is place. Cruise ship travel was born.
The agency had other equally important responsibilities with the United
Kingdom. Due to the longstanding ties with Britain, the head of the
Mauro family had always acted as British Vice Consul. It was not surprising
therefore, that when the British Foreign Office, after centuries of
consular representation, closed the consular office and the career representative
retired, Her Majestys Government decided to appoint the existing
head of the travel agency as the Honorary British Consul to continue
offering consular service in the region. Since 1984 Juan Jose had carried
out these duties. However, he was also reaching retirement age and the
only successor to the firm was his younger daughter Yolanda. His two
sons had taken different professional paths that had nothing to do with
shipping. The agency was at an historical crossroads, staring at its
Sr. Mauro, weve got a sick passenger arriving on the Franconia.
Ive taken care of the usual arrangements. His secretary
handed Juan Jose a note with the details including the ships arrival
time: the following morning at 08:00. I hope that daughter of
mine could get her act together once and for all! thought Juan
Jose, as he looked at a photograph of Yolanda that stood out among the
other items on his desk. Her weekly postcard from Falmouth was clipped
to its frame. Youre nothing but heartburn!
He went over the personal details of the passenger and then picked up
the phone. He dialled the British Consulate in Madrid. It was not a
Freddy, sorry to bother you, but Ive got another passenger
thats hit the deck. Hes from the Franconia and
is travelling on his own. Name is John Fetworth, bachelor. Has a sister,
Janet in a town called West Byfleet, Surrey. Juan Jose would normally
hand back the information that included passport number and other details
of any sick passenger to his secretary for the records in Madrid. At
the same time he would phone the hospital to find out about the patients
snap shot condition and if possible speak to the next-of-kin.
In John Fetworths case, it would be taken up by the Foreign Offices
Spanish desk in liaison with Madrid so that his sister could be briefed
directly by London whilst Juan Jose monitored the situation with the
hospitals doctors. OK, Juan Jose, whats his present
condition? asked Freddy, the Madrid Vice-Consul. Hes
still in intensive care, but stable. Doctors have stated a 70%
positive rating. Freddy knew exactly what that meant, Ill
take it from here, keep me informed as usual. They hung up.
St. Edmonds Explorers Ltd. was not on Corporal Quirogas
list. After searching through all known companies and vessels with criminal
records or links with drugs that Sergio had registered over the last
twelve months, this particular and assumed British company drew blanks.
A proud character, and not wishing to appear ignorant before his boss,
Sergio continued to rack his brains knowing that he was running out
of time. If this is a legit company, it wouldnt be on the
list, would it? He thought, but then why would the boss
want info on it? Colonel Lobeira was hard on his staff including
the brilliant ones. Favoured yes people and never took no
for an answer. Sergio took the plunge. He walked straight into the colonels
office, Sir, do you have more information on the English outfit
that I should know about? It worked. The colonel looked up at
Sergio from his desk and picked a folder out of a drawer and handed
it to him. The cover had the crest of the Spanish Navy. It was stamped
with the word Confidential right across the middle. Im
glad you asked, Corporal. Shows initiative! You wouldnt have found
anything because theres no drug connection. The Colonel
went on, theyve got some sort of a diving contract that
involves our navy. Theyve rented a local fishing boat at Carnota
village. Commander Ortiz down in Villagarcia asked me to check them
out just in case. Keep it low key. No need to arouse any suspicion.
They could be as clean as a whistle. Thats all corporal!
Sergio walked out of the room, bastard!
He spent the next two hours studying the details of St. Edmonds
Explorers diving contract, its penalty clauses included. It was
all there and above board. The time period, the price tag, the weekly
dive details back to Commander Ortizs offices. He then pulled
out the location coordinates where they were meant to be working and
walked over to a map of Galicia that hung in the main office. He took
a pencil and pinpointed the 50 or so kilometres of coastline where the
U-boat was supposed to be sunk. It was the area across the entrance
to the bay of Muros and Noia less than a 100 kilometres away from Santiago.
The more he mulled over the project the more he became discouraged.
Sergios natural suspicion began to wane, drug trafficking seemed
out of the question. What a waste of bloody time! he thought.
Still intrigued, he tried another hunch.
Sergio called one of his contacts in the Voz de Galicia
newspaper based in Corunna. He used his personal mobile where he kept
his confidential numbers. Berto? Hi. There was a pause.
After a couple of reciprocal greetings, no, Im not in the
office! Alberto, an old time school buddy of Sergios was
always nervous whenever his friend called for information. I cant
tell you over the phone
its not dangerous. No drugs
involved! Sergio asked him to check in the archives of the newspaper
for any historical news on U-boat movements during WWII off the coast
of Galicia. The number is U- 532, date November, 1944. Two
hours later, Alberto was back to Sergio on his mobile, sorry,
nothing in our archives, amigo! Thanks amigo, I owe you
one. They hung up.
Sergio went back to his office muttering, this whole project stinks!
In his mind, the basic information, despite the skimpy historical records
in the contract was flawed. They didnt coincide with anything
that dealt with the war in the North Atlantic. He couldnt research
further into the actual U-boat without going back to the Navy and that
would mean going above his boss head. Whos really
behind this anyway? he thought. A shiver trickled down his spine
as he made another phone call; this time to the autonomous governments
department of culture.
During the many skirmishes between the British, French, Dutch and Spanish
navies in the early XVIII century along the coast of Europe hundreds
of ships on either side were either sunk by gunfire or by gale force
winds and heavy seas. Some were eventually found and accurately recorded
and others were on the still missing sections of the history
books. Those along the coast of Spain were under the protection of the
Spanish Heritage laws and any exploration activity to discover or to
salvage a historical wreck required specific permission from the government.
Sergio had spent days going through the government records in Santiago
studying the fate of dozens of wrecks in the vicinity of the Southern
coast of Galicia. Most of those involved in the famous Battle of Rande
in the Vigo Bay were well recorded although never actually found. The
magnitude of the search and the endless hours prodding through volumes
of information was beginning to wear him down. He was also neglecting
his main task of keeping up the records of the constant drug activity
in the region. Colonel Lobeira eventually called him into his office,
shouldve called you off the job some time ago, Corporal.
No use wasting any more time on those divers. Yes Sir.
Sergio closed the office door behind him.
Taken off the job he asked for a weeks holiday.
College of Arts.
Stan looked around the lecture room. There were 34 students in total
from three different groups, two postgraduate and the other a fulltime
Bachelors degree course.
Good morning! My name is Stan Bullock and Im from the Coastguard
Agency. Youll see from your program that Im here to
bore you for a couple of hours on the great world of ocean safety and
other shipping niceties. He paused for a moment and added seriously,
I know it may seem odd and may in some cases
aiming and the younger ones,
totally irrelevant, but I must
emphasize that in a small town like this, and with the number of students
passing through each year, many of whom come from the interior of their
respective countries, the local authorities are keen that you are all
aware of the dangers of any sport or activity related to the sea.
Once he delivered his introductory warning, Stan swung into a personally
prepared short seminar that not only covered the entire subject matter
with eloquence yet flowed with the ease of a professional television
program including image projection, sound and verbal commentary. He
started with a short reference to the history of Cornish shipwrecks
and salvages, followed with two similar presentations of his work as
a coastguard. He ended the first session before the coffee break with
a synopsis of modern day communication amenities that helped reduce
the danger in todays shipping world. When you return, Ill
introduce you to a colleague who is a volunteer in the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution. Hell explain about our coastal safety codes
as well as shore discipline, particularly during stormy weather.
As he was replacing all his papers into a briefcase, one of the students
approached the desk, remember me?
Yolanda Mauro, her long hair tied in a bun was dressed in a green frock
that displayed small arrays of printed white flowers held together by
a tight white belt around her waist. She was wearing dark glasses. Stan
just smiled acknowledging her presence as yet another student. As he
turned off his portable and his mind switched off the remnants of his
lecture, the sound of her voice slowly sank in. Yolanda took off her
glasses and stared at him. Stan purposefully blinked, Yes! The
Cheshire Cat! The singing and hollering Spaniard! For a moment,
neither uttered another word. A true proud young Latin she felt hurt
the night Stan rudely walked away from her table at the pub without
warning, yet a certain spark of attraction had been fired within her.
Stan finally broke the silence and said half-heartedly, do I owe
you an apology? Yolanda ignored his remark, do you dislike
He was caught off guard. The tone of her voice was defiant. Stan had
dealt mainly with the Spanish fishermen that were either contacting
his agency or those that were brought in by the Navy for questioning
suspected of breach of British law. He had even taken a crash course
in the language to communicate with them despite the fact that he had
never been to Spain. This was the first ever contact with one of their
women folk. And a real cracker! He thought. Lost for words
he retorted sarcastically, ever heard of the Merchant Shipping
Act? Yolanda was taken aback. Her bewildered anger took over again,
I dont know what the hell youre talking about!
She began to walk away. Stan stepped in her path, holding up both his
arms, OK! Youre right. He slowly smiled and in broken
Spanish continued, peace offering? This time he was honest
and Yolanda picked up the message. The ice was broken.
fishing village, Galicia.
Whats up, hijo? Why the sudden break from work? asked
his mother as she was chopping onions and preparing the evening meal.
Sergio said nothing. She paused for a second, whipped her hands on her
apron and walked over to where he was sitting. He continued to stare
into space. Well? He looked up at her, a mixture of sadness
and anger were written across his face. He still kept silent. Ever since
his father died in a nasty car accident, caused by a drunken driver
when Sergio was only fourteen, his mind had been set in pursuing a career
in the arms of the law. His mother at first was concerned because of
his obvious obsession in vindicating his fathers death, yet on
graduation day from the academy the tears of joy were there joining
all other parents proud of their offsprings future career in the
civil guards. I thought youve got what you wanted? Whats
wrong then? Sergio got up and was about to leave the room without
a word as his mother changed her tone and raised her voice, stop
right there! Ive had enough of your brooding! He gave in.
A Galician mother, widowed prematurely was a strong deterrent to the
combination of his self-pity and pride. He turned and embraced her.
Its just that Im sick of sitting at a computer all
day and just turning out statistics and reports for the other guys to
take the glory! His mother listened quietly as Sergio continued
to unwind, Ive been at it for 4 years now; even asked to
be transferred to active duty. Zero response! He told his mother
all about the latest case his boss had asked him to check out and how
he thought that he was on to something when he was asked to forget they
existed. All they can think about is the drug problem. It
was at that moment that his mother changed her tune and came up with
a suggestion that would alter the course of his work.
How long are you going to be on leave? she asked. Another
couple of weeks, he answered, why?
The rain had been pouring down on the village for several days due to
unusually cold and wintry weather for the time of year. Although the
St. Edmond Explorer divers had been unable to continue with their diving
they kept their work schedule active piecing together the collection
of artefacts that they had successfully retrieved from the XVIII century
Spanish wreck. Weve got another couple of months left before
the contract runs out, said Percy Robertson optimistically adding,
that gives us one to find the coins and another to you know
what. Eric Fuller was busy on the computer checking the structure
of the wreck for the umpteenth time, picked up Percys comment,
Im not so sure well be able to make it! Weve
covered too small an area. The Lady is a monster.
Nigel McNeill, the leader of the team burst out, OK then. What
do we do? Pack it in, get paid by the Spaniards for finding bugger all,
which incidentally amounts to only 20% and go back to oil rigs?
At that moment, Corporal Sergio Quiroga burst through the front door,
everyone on the floor! Now! Youre all under arrest!
Janet Phillips, Conservative MP for Devon South received and urgent
phone call from her secretary during a parliamentary recess in London.
Ms. Phillips, a Mrs. Robertson from Torquay has just called saying
that her husband and two colleagues were arrested some weeks ago in
Spain. They were doing some work for the Spanish government, doesnt
understand how they could have got into such serious trouble. Says she
cant get through to them and is pleading for our help. Thought
you should know right away. Janet was not due to go back to Devon
for another week, taking advantage of a short holiday before the summer
tourist season. Her in-tray was usually full of citizen complaints whenever
she returned home from London. She knew this could be serious otherwise
her secretary wouldve waited for her return. Do you have
any other information, Susan? Her secretary filled her in with
Freddy Walton at the British Embassy in Madrid continued to rant and
rave about British politicians meddling in consular affairs as he spoke
to his counterpart in Vigo. Weve now got a bloody MP on
the act about those guys caught poaching off Muros. Can you check and
see what the latest info is Juan Jose? Ive even got the Ambassador
in on the act. Juan Jose was taken aback. He had reported the
arrests of all members of the St. Edmonds Explorers a month ago and
had visited the civil guards station at Noia prior to their transfer
to one of the Galician prisons near the town of Teixeiro where they
were presently being held awaiting the judges decision on a trial.
He had been able to obtain an English-speaking lawyer to represent them
and as per standard procedure closed the file and left the rest up to
Madrid. The families of all divers had already been contacted and informed
of the Spanish judicial procedures. Theoretically, no more could be
His mother was right. Use that instinct of yours, hijo. If you
suspect something is wrong why dont you check it out? She
had said that night. Sergio spent the next week keeping a daily watch
on the divers activities. It wasnt until the eighth day
that he realised that something was wrong. The divers were about fifteen
miles off shore and had not moved for days. In his mind they had obviously
found something. It was then that he decided to check out the bungalow
where they were staying. Making sure that they were away, despite knowing
that he was acting illegally, he took a chance. He broke into the dwelling.
Sprawled out on a large table in the kitchen was the evidence he was
looking for. There were dozens of items and artefacts taken from a shipwreck
from the XVIII century. The irony is that their poaching had confirmed
the discovery of the Lady of Mercy. However, none of the
suspected treasure of silver or gold had been found.
Corporal Sergio Quiroga, at first reprimanded had subsequently been
highly praised by his fellow agents for his personal detective work.
The downside was that Colonel Lobeira sent him back to his IT system
to continue to update the drug rogues database. What
a waste, thought Sonia seeing the disillusioned look on Sergios
face as he switched on his networking to enter more information on the
latest hauls on the Galician coast
Routine as usual until the case filtered out into the British press.
© James Skinner September 2009
1: A Crude Awakening
Hotel Babilonia, Vigo. (June 2009)
Pedro was drying off in the shower when his wife came bursting into
the bathroom. Theres a woman outside screaming...'
Chapter 2: Dangerous trawling
It was Wednesday, just past 09:00 and although the weather was
cold and rainy, there were no signs of a storm within hundreds of miles
south of the Cornish coast. Mayday! Mayday! Help! Sinking! Maruxa!
this is captain of Maruxa! Mayday
Extract from his novel about the Falkland's War
The Goa File Part
The CIA connection
Published in full by Cyberwit December 2006
Purim Code (Oct 2008)
USA has blown your cover. Your position at risk. Return to base
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