International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Ist Chapter
1: A Crude Awakening
Hotel Babilonia, Vigo. June 2006
was drying off in the shower when his wife came bursting into the
bathroom. Half dressed and taking deep breaths on each word, she
muttered, theres a woman outside screaming
the corridor. Unhooking the hotel bathrobe, he rapped it around
his shoulders and without hesitation rushed towards and opened his
chambermaid was standing in front of the opposite room, half leaning
against her cleaning material trolley hollering at the top of her voice.
Hes dead! she kept shouting, over and over again in
regular overtone spasms. Pedro pushed her to one side, swung the door
wide open and looked inside. A man, in his underwear was hanging from
the ceiling lamp. It was an early Monday morning; the tourist season
had just started.
Stan Bullock, Honorary British Consul in Vigo was attending the annual
consular conference in Madrid when he received a call on his mobile
from his secretary at the Mauro shipping agency where he worked. Morning
Sir. A police officer, Felipe Garcia from the Taboada station just called.
I told him youre in Madrid. He says a Brit was found dead in a
hotel room; says youve got the number.
OK, thanks. Ill take if from here. Stan would normally
allow his staff to take down any particulars, but when he was out of
town he preferred to deal direct with any matters involving a Brit in
distress. Checking his emergency numbers he was soon on to the station
asking agent Garcia for further details.
Two hours earlier, he had been in the middle of a heated discussion
about the future reorganization of the worldwide British consular network
that included Spain; one of the largest in the world. All consular reps
from around the country were present. Two staff from London was explaining
the new procedures.
As an outcome of the Tsunami disaster in December, 2004, that ripped
across a vast area of the Pacific Far East, whereby many British citizens
were victims of the tragedy, several Conservative MPs had asked for
an enquiry into the failure of the British consular system in dealing
efficiently with each case and accused the government of neglect in
basic assistance. As it so happened, the first government representative
on the scene was an Honorary Consul. The result of the investigation
was an extensive document that covered the whole of the overseas diplomatic
representation with a particular section on HCs. The outcome resulting
from the recommendations was a complete overhaul of the system that
included identifying responsibilities, streamlining administration,
reducing costs and above all, reorganizing the network with a view to
harmonizing the system. In other words, a one size fits all!
This is just not on. You cant just put all worldwide consular
posts into a common basket and expect us to dance to the same tune!
Stan was outside the main conference room during the break, and sharing
a coffee with Vice Consul Freddy Walton, a twenty-five year veteran
at the Madrid office, who was Stans point of contact. Sign
of the times, Stan, he answered. Come on Freddy; as an example,
theyve just been lecturing us on the importance of cutting out
sector reporting, as I call it and condensing all cases
into statistical numbers, besides, they also want us to register and
divide all phone calls into two columns on a bi-monthly basis; profitable
and non profitable! For Christ sake! Profitable and non profitable!
Its a load of crap!
Freddy was worried about his job, as part of the restructuring could
also mean job losses as well as replacements. He agreed with Stan but
was hesitant to comment. London wants profit and loss accounting
on all our work. Its natural that they need to focus on where
the money is coming from and how its being spent. Welcome to diplomatic
globalization! OK. Great! But they also expect us to look
after some holiday Brit whos fallen out of a tree and broken his
leg, make sure hes
No Stan, interrupted Freddy, tongue in cheek, you
know full well that once you know the guys in good medical hands,
a phone call to his mum would solve the problem, and let his family
take if from there.
Stan insisted, profitable or non profitable? He was continuing
with more rhetoric when he was advised of the tragedy at the Vigo hotel.
Two police cars and an ambulance were soon at the scene. Four police
officers joined a team of paramedics that made their way to the second
floor of the hotel. Clear the area! Stand back everybody,
said Lieutenant Garcia as he moved the now gathered crowd away from
the room. It had not taken long for other residents and most of the
hotel staff to rush to the scene of the tragedy. The lieutenant looked
around the mini-mob and picked on a young suit-and-tie executive, are
you from the hotel?
Yes Sir. Im the duty counter clerk. Ive already called
the manager and hes on his way.
Good. The lieutenant then entered the room, looked at the
hanging corpse for a few seconds and then pulled out his notepad in
routine police fashion. Two of the other police were ushering the onlookers
to return to their rooms or down to the lobby and under no circumstances
to leave the hotel. Before they began to move, the lieutenant went out
into the corridor and hollered, has anyone touched anything?
There was a general shaking of bemused heads. OK, carry
on. He went back into the room, pulled out his mobile phone and
called the duty magistrates office.
Fred Simmons returned to the Lisbon docks after his usual afternoon
round of the local shops before setting sail up to Vigo, the last leg
of the journey. This time round the Purple Maiden was catering
for only two paying passengers, Francis and Mavis Perkins, a young thirty
plus couple from the Midlands, venturing on their first yachting trip
away from the Southern coast of England. Jerry Fulton, Freds partner
had taken them on the usual tour of the citys attractions before
settling for a seafood delight at Rio Couro, one of the
lesser known restaurants in the Portuguese capital, just opposite the
Cathedral. It was 15:30 and all four members had returned to the yacht,
the Perkins were down in the cabin, Fred and Jerry were unfolding the
sail covers and checking the rest of the deck when Fred pulled Jerry
to one side and said, take care of the Perkins. Im up to
the clubs bar for a beer. Ill be back in half an hour. Last
chore, remember? He left the yacht, made his way to the clubhouse
bar, ordered a beer and settled at one of the seaside tables overlooking
the harbour. Two sips and three olives later, he was connecting his
laptop to the clubs WI FI system, and opening his Outlook Express for
any final e-mails before departure. There were ten messages in all;
confirmation from the Vigo Yacht club for berthing facilities, one from
the office back in Falmouth with a new list of passengers, several spam
and the important confirmation from their third partner, Glen Richards.
Lieutenant Garcia walked around the body, looking at but not touching
it, whilst his assistant took a set of photographs from different angles
in the room. Garcia had a habit of mumbling to himself when taking routine
notes of events such as deaths by misadventure. Lets
see, only worn garment, his underwear, looking at the head he
went on, used a curtain cord, cut off with a knife. Wheres
the knife? He began searching the bedroom, all the time mumbling
away as he scribbled on his pad. Clothes neatly folded, bed unturned:
un-slept. Lets see, what have we here? A copy of the Economist
was lying amongst the hotel bumph on the main table. Meanwhile, his
assistant was searching through the room furniture. Officer Fernandez
hollered from aside the open wardrobe, sergeant, theres
a briefcase and a laptop in here; permission to check it out.
Go ahead. He took both out and placed them on the bed, opened
the briefcase and looked inside. Three credit cards, several copies
of a brochure on sea travels called Maiden Voyages, a mobile
phone, several sets of copies of e-mails neatly clipped together under
port headings, pens, paper clips, stapling machine and finally the all
important identification document; a British passport.
Here you are Sir, said Fernandez as he handed the lieutenant
the document. He opened it and looked inside. As usual he mumbled as
he read, Glen Arthur Richards. Born: St Austell, England; 4th
January, 1972. He turned to the back of the passport, Sarah
Rose Richards. Address: Nš 16, Larkin Lane, Penzance, Cornwall. UK.
Lieutenant Garcia gave the passport back to his assistant, opened his
mobile and dialled his headquarters number. Rosa? Call Mauros
shipping people and tell them that theres a dead Brit here in
Hotel Babilonia. Theyll know what to do.
Stan was on his way to Chamartin railway station to take the night sleeper
back home to Galicia. His meetings had ended at five oclock and
he had spent the last four hours browsing around the centre before making
his way north. Freddy had taken care of informing the British Foreign
Office with the personal details of the Brit found dead in the hotel.
Lieutenant Garcia had not given any further details over the phone other
than those regarding his death. Stan had never handled a possible suicide
and was not looking forward to the following days ordeal. Dont
worry, Freddy had said, police will take care of everything.
Just make sure the next of kin are looked after. Thats the hard
part. Theyre bound to be flying out no sooner they find out about
the poor sods demise. Stan was also concerned with the Caledonia
coming in on her regular cruise stop prior to returning to Southampton
with over 3000 passengers on board. He had to go straight to the docks
from the railway station once he got back in the morning. Trust
my bloody luck! he thought as he continued to amble around the
station bookstores and cafes.
According to the register, this Englishman was here for three
days. Did anybody call or meet up with him? Lieutenant Garcia
was with the hotel manager in his office. The search in the bedroom
had finished, most guests were allowed to go about their business whilst
the police were awaiting the arrival of the duty magistrate. The
only time we saw him with anybody was yesterday lunchtime. He had a
drink with two others at the bar, I think they were locals. The
manager went on to say that Glen Richards had been out most of the days
and only returned to his room in the late evening. Yesterday was an
exception. He was about to continue with his enquiries when magistrate
Consuelo Pacheco arrived. Ms. Pacheco, weve got a foreigner
this time, said Lieutenant Garcia, looks like a suicide
case although we didnt find any note or anything. There are no
signs of foul play. The ambulance is waiting for your go ahead. Ah!
Ive spoken to the Consul, but hes in Madrid. Back tomorrow.
Ms. Pacheco was satisfied. It did not take long for her to order the
removal of the corpse to be sent to the local morgue for an autopsy.
The police went back to the station to write up the report.
Dont get it, Jerry. Glens in Vigo. Dont even
understand his e-mail. Take a look. Fred handed him the printout.
It read: Im at the Babilonia, room 359. Bad weather this
year; harvest has been lost. They were still on the deck when
Mavis Perkins came up from the cabin. Any problem? she asked?
Within an hour they were sailing north towards Vigo.
When Stan arrived at the Vigo railway station, he walked up to the newsstand
to purchase the local paper. The news of the death was in the left hand
corner of the front page. He skipped through the pages searching for
the section with the full report. There were no photos, just a few lines
suggesting a suicide and that the police were still checking it out.
Thank God for that, he thought, at least the press
is not making a meal out of it! He hailed a cab and headed straight
for the port. It was 07:45 and the Caledonia was due to
dock in 15 minutes. Once on board, Captain Reynolds gave Stan the usual
documents plus the ships log for countersignature confirming satisfaction
with all routine docking activities handled by the agents staff.
He just flipped through the front page checklist before signing both
copies. Fuel and water: OK. Pilot: OK. Wharf and gangway procedures:
OK. Immigration and customs: OK. Passenger movement: None. Stan
would normally have a coffee with Captain Reynolds and discuss any off
the cuff business that needed attention. Not this time. Ive
got to get back to the office, Captain; urgent business. He began
to perspire heavily as he walked down the gangplank and across the docks
towards his office. Stan had second thoughts. He made an unexpected
The Taboada police station was just around the corner from the Mauro
shipping agency. Instead of reporting back to his office, Stan headed
for the station. The Caledonia can wait, he
thought, shell be around all day. It was already 09:00
and the entrance was crowded with immigrants and Spaniards queuing to
renew or receive new ID cards. There was a third line of foreigners;
all awaiting appointments with the authorities, hoping for legal residence
permits. Stan knew his way around as he had visited the police on several
previous occasions to interview delinquent Brits. The renewal of his
local residence permit had been one of them. He made his way through
the melee and managed to make the elevator half way down the corridor.
Lieutenant Garcias office was on the 3rd floor. The Lieutenant
is not in yet, Sr. Bullock. He wont be long. Stan thought
for a moment and then smiled at the young secretary, hes
round the corner isnt he. She smiled back.
Stan found Garcia at the counter of the Centenario coffee
shop. The place was chocker full of the morning cafelito
mob, all eating and munching their daily breakfast of coffee and churros.
Most were deeply immersed in the bars freely available daily newspapers.
Garcia was checking the sports page of the Faro de Vigo;
the local rag as Stan sat down beside him. He looked up, Sr. Bullock!
What a surprise! Thought you were in Madrid. He put the paper
down, sorry about the dead man. Sad case when people take their
own lives. The corpse is at the Nicolas Peña Hospital for the
autopsy. Stan said, Im waiting for a call from Madrid
as theyre in contact with the family. He was still a bit
nervous but determined to find out more, Lieutenant, how do you
determine that it was
? I mean
Garcia smiled as he
interrupted Stan in his mid-sentence, instinct first Sr. Bullock,
investigation next. Suicide notes, hundreds of scientists with rubber
gloves turning the room upside down only appear in the movies. Unless
the forensic find anything unusual with the body, its a clear
case of suicide. Lieutenant Garcia nevertheless assured Stan that
all possible angles of the investigation would be concluded and, no
stone will be left unturned, he said, remember, Sr. Consul
that we have all the deceaseds belongings. Once the funeral arrangements
are dealt with his relatives will have to sign off the register at the
magistrate before disposal. More bureaucracy, Im afraid.
More headaches for me, thought Stan, still not sure of the
procedures. He was about to leave when a call came through on his mobile.
It was Freddy from Madrid advising him that London had forwarded NOK
flight details. According to the e-mail, a Sarah Richards would be on
flight IB578 arriving Vigo around 13:00.
The following day, Stan was at the airport with his driver holding up
the usual identification card with Sarah Richards printed
in large letters when a middle aged woman dressed in scruffy jeans and
blue polo neck jumper appeared through the exit gate. Her only luggage
was a small green rucksack hung over her shoulder. Ms. Richards?
Im Stan Bullock the consul; very sorry to
the bullshit! Im not Sarah, my name is Joan Flashman, she
interrupted. Far from bereaved, the woman looked worried and nervous,
yet went straight to the point, your London people briefed us
on procedures but left the details to you; so, what next? A startled
Stan thought, where do I start? Before he could answer Joan
cleared the mystery, its OK. Im from Glens office.
He and his sister have been estranged for years. He has no other family.
Need to clear this up as soon as possible. Stan was not quite
sure how to take the icy reception, nevertheless, without uttering another
word, he escorted her out into the car park and once in the car ordered
the driver to head for the funeral parlour. As they were exiting the
motorway into town, Joan suddenly asked, can we stop at the yacht
club first? It wont be a moment.
Late that evening, and just before the sun was settling down amongst
the Cies Islands at the entrance to the Vigo Bay, the Purple Maiden
was making her last tack into the southern channel opposite the town
of Baiona en route to the Vigo Yacht club. Lovely sight; always
enjoy the view of this magnificent estuary when the sun settles,
said Fred as he was describing the history of the area to his two passengers.
Jerry was busy sorting out the papers before helping the rest to bring
down the sails and ready for motoring into the last leg of the journey.
To think this whole area was an enormous battle field 200 odd
years ago; hundreds of navy ships from Europe battling it out at the
end of the bay! Fred was used to the historical lecture that he
and Jerry took turns in describing to their paying passengers every
time they neared the end of the voyage. The Battle of Rande,
pointing at the huge bridge over the actual spot of engagement, cost
the Spaniards and the French the loss of their fleets. Somewhere out
there, again pointing at the islands still showered by the sunset,
is a fortune to be had in gold bullion. The young Perkins
were all ears as Jerry finally revved up the yachts diesel two
miles from the club.
What are the familys wishes regarding the remains of Mr.
Richards, Ms. Flashman? asked the funeral parlour manager as he
handed her an initial set of papers to sign, the consul will take
care of the repatriation documents later. Joan Flashman had brought
the appropriate power of attorney authorising her to deal with the body
including the retrieval of Glens belongings at the magistrates
office. They would prefer cremation and local burial as soon as
possible; any problem? In the usual diplomatic manner the manager
enquired about payment as there was no indication of insurance or other
means of reimbursing the costs. Whats the total bill please?
asked Joan. The manager began to rummage through the documents and fiddle
with a hand calculator when Joan added, Ill be paying in
cash, is that OK? She turned and looked at Stan, when the
ashes are ready, please take them and scatter them across the bay, is
there anything else that needs my presence? Ive got to catch the
evening flight back to Madrid for some unfinished business! Without
another sign of either grief or feeling and as the manager handed the
receipt, Joan pulled out a wad of 200 Euro bills and paid the cost in
The Purple Maiden had pulled alongside the visitors
birth allotted to them at the yacht club and whilst Jerry was securing
the sail covers assisted by the Perkins, Fred headed for the clubhouse
to formally present their credentials of arrival. He made his way up
to the yachting directors office on the second floor. He showed
the secretary his and the others passports in the usual manner.
She immediately looked at the identity sector of each passport, looked
up at Fred and said, a lady just left this envelope for you, Mr.
Simmons. Said it was urgent and that you should be given it right away.
Your wife wants to know where the hell youve been!
said Penelope, Stans secretary as he finally got back to his office.
It was gone seven-thirty in the evening and the Caledonia
had left over an hour ago. Its been a hell of a day! Hope
you calmed her down as usual. Without a word, Penelope pulled
out an envelope and handed it to her boss. The concert starts
in an hours time.
Hardly a week had gone by since Stan had scattered the ashes of Glen
Richards remains over one of the local beaches when he received
the unexpected visit of a Corunna based Civil Guard, Sgt. Sergio Quiroga.
He was in his office preparing for the visit of another cruise ship,
the Fountain of the Sea. Good morning, Sr. Consul,
remember me? Stan recalled the face and then smiled, yes!
Sgt. Quiroga, from the coast guard sector of the Civil Guards; the case
of the drowned yachtsman two years ago. What brings you to Vigo?
Just a hunch, Sr. Consul, just a hunch.
Its the suicide case a week ago. A Brit with no known reason
for visiting Vigo is found dead in his hotel and his case is closed
by the local authorities without any further due. Stan was puzzled
at first and then inquisitive as curiosity took over. Without
sounding rude, Sgt., whats it got to do with the Civil Guards?
Sgt Quiroga went on, some authorities are quick to get rid of
foreigners who suddenly die on their patch. The tourist trade is too
important for them to be embarrassed by a death, especially of those
persons who commit suicide. Stan followed the argument through
with the Sgt. confirming the details of the investigation until it suddenly
dawned on him, how did this case come into the hands of the Civil
Guards up north anyway? The Sgt. explained that he read the news
in the papers and that the name of the Brit rang a bell. He then asked
for the police report. Seeing the odd look on Stans face, he clarified
that access to confidential information between different sectors of
the countrys security agencies is quite common. If a department
feels that an incident or event needs further checking just in case
it may relate to other criminal investigations the authorities in question
are quite happy to hand over any details of a particular case. No
different to your country, Sr. Consul or between our countriess
police, dont you agree? OK, I give in; so why dont
you come to the point and whats it got to do with me anyway? Ive
got no legal bind in this or any other similar type case; you know that.
Sgt. Quiroga hesitated for a moment, looked behind him to make sure
both men were not within hearing distance of a third party then turned
and said, I think that your Brit, Glen Richards did not commit
suicide! Stan, although taken aback answered nervously, Why?
Did you not notice anything odd with the deceaseds belongings?
No of course not. Youre not a cop!
Go on, said Stan. The report had said that Richards had
hung himself with one of the curtain cords yet there was no knife in
the room. The second clue was that he was due to leave the next day
yet there was no sign of an airline ticket. He could have rented
a car, wandered off to another city, who knows what he intended to do!
said Stan. Agree. Sgt. Quiroga smiled, I did some
of my own research and checked on any previous visits to Spain by a
Mr. Glen Richards. Guess what? He has been in and out of Galicia several
times over the past two years, always between May and September.
Holiday season? uttered Stan sarcastically.
Sgt. Quiroga ignored the remark, there was one other piece of
evidence that the police overlooked; a holiday brochure titled Maiden
Stans apprehension began to turn. I looked it up on the
Internet. Its a round-trip yachting business that includes runs
down to Lisbon from Falmouth in the UK. The page lists among others
two large yachts, the Purple Maiden and the Crimson
Maiden. They alternate on the run. Sgt. Quiroga went on,
names of Directors in the business: Fred Simmons, Jerry Fulton
he hesitated slightly, Glen Richards.
Both men stared in silence until the sergeant once again broke the ice
with the final sting, remember the case I mentioned earlier?
Yes, go on.
It was the name of the yacht, the Purple Maiden that
struck a chord. Sgt. Quirogas last check was with the Finisterre
Coast Guards who looked up the log of mayday signals in
2004. The Maiden had sent out a man overboard
on July 4th, 2004. Three weeks transpired before the body was washed
up on the beach. Stan had issued the clearance papers for the repatriation
of the body in line with local procedures. The Purple Maiden
had eventually returned to Falmouth and the investigation was taken
up directly between the UK Maritime Agency and the Spanish Maritime
authorities. It had been reported as a case of misadventure.
Coincidence? said Sgt. Garcia. Silence for a few seconds
until he added, I need to dig deeper and need your help Sr. Consul.
Stan did not answer; he just scratched the side of his nose.
© James G. Skinner. June, 2009.
jameskinner at cemiga.es
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
The Goa File
Extract from his novel about the Falkland's War
The Goa File Part
The CIA connection
Published in full by Cyberwit December 2006
The Purim Code
USA has blown your cover. Your position at risk. Return to base immediately
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