The brochure stated: “A holiday in Spain at a luxury villa for two”.
But there had been no mention of the visitor who wished to share the couple’s food and accommodation, and he certainly wasn’t there for sun and relaxation.
It was September 1980 when Daniel and Isabel arrived at the villa in their open-top MG sports car. By now it was late evening, completely dark, and the car’s headlights brushed across the white stone walls of their idyllic house in the country as their car swung into the driveway area. They had travelled a long way and their blood-red MG had gathered a considerable layer of dust on the journey, and so had their suitcases which were strapped to the boot-rack at the back.
They were clearly well-to-do; an attractive couple in their mid-forties. They eased themselves out of the small car, legs stiffened by the journey, and brushed themselves down. Daniel was easily 6 foot 2 with a strong athletic build and a shock of dark-brown hair which he slicked back. He wore a dark velvet sports jacket, a checked shirt with a stylish cravat, and his thick trouser-belt tightly wrapped around his beige chinos which perfectly complemented his polished leather shoes.
Isabel looked elegant in her dark blue skirt and sapphire-blue open-neck blouse. Her short-ish red hair was perfectly trimmed and her eyes gleamed in the darkness. Daniel banged the bonnet of the MG with his strong hands. “Well done!” he loudly declares, congratulating the car for getting them both there safely.
“I hope there’s an iron” Isabel queries, coquettishly, in her middle-class voice of refinement.
“A bath and a good night’s rest!” Daniel bellows across the courtyard, with his deep and confident cultured voice resonating off the villa walls.
Outside the villa, they both stand next to their car while the crickets chirp away in the distance, in the still night-air.
“Lovely” says Isabel, head back, sensing the cool air.
“Jasmine!” Daniel declares enthusiastically.
“We’re in Katana” Isabel corrects, “it’s tobacco plants”
“Let me introduce you to the grapevine … at last” Daniel announces with a sweeping gesture. Isabel plucks a grape straight off the nearby hanging vine and takes a bite. Her lips curl down and she involuntary screws up her attractive face at the sour taste. She stares at the bitten grape in her hand.
“I told you that I was flustered when that policeman blew his whistle at me …” she says.
“That cost us another 30-miles at 90p a gallon” Daniel accuses her with good nature.
“Here’s the keys, Isabel dangles them in front of him, “come on, let’s get inside”.
Daniel unlocks the villa front door and they both walk inside. Isabel carries a lightweight straw holdall inside with her.
Moving through the front door they switch the inside lights on. They’re both now standing is a large tiled-floor kitchen with rustic tables and old-style kitchen presses and surfaces.
“The kitchen!” Daniel declares, hands on hips, while he struts around casually taking in their rented accommodation, “…converted farmhouse, circa 1920, Ernest Hemingway is supposed to have worked at that window …” he drones on in his strident voice, slightly questioning, as if he is quoting from the brochure as he scans around.
Meanwhile Isabel is transferring the contents of her straw bag onto a big wooden table and looking, over her shoulder back at him, approvingly. She appears to be enjoying her man’s presentational patter. All part of the experience; the adventure. She giggles a bit, and he joins in, with a self-satisfied look on his strong-jawed face. His controlled smile makes him look handsome; her wide grin lights up her face and she becomes quite glamorous with her white and even teeth. And then her smile momentarily disappears and is replaced by a mock-frown. With a sniff she says “a bit damp isn’t it?” - that screwed-up disapproving face again.
“Or romantic …” he replies, while caressing her shoulders from behind. He must be about 6 inches taller than her anyway. He gets rewarded with a wide-eyed smile. A smile of class and refinement.
While Isabel is still unpacking her bag they both notice a notepad on the table. Daniel picks it up and reads out loud the hand-written message.
“Welcome, we hope you enjoy your stay…”
Daniel looks around, and says, “I should hope so, the money we are paying …”
The note continues: “… Mercedes, a local girl, comes in every morning at 10, or approximately 10 …”
“What constitutes local?” Isabel asks in her posh voice, slightly laughing. Daniel, still with his cravat and jacket on, raises his arms above his head and fully stretches. “Whacked?” Isabel asks.
“Hmm… yeh … tired. Drive all night they say, but not me” Daniel slurs.
“Hmm, well we’re here safe and sound, that’s what matters” Isabel gazes at him. “Three miles to the local village, I’ll believe Mercedes when we see her…”
“Mercedes? Spanish name?” Daniel asks.
“Who knows” Isabel replies as she opens the door of the fridge to put some food in from her bag.
Outside the villa - out of the darkness - a portly, and short, man appears in the lit forecourt and walks quickly and directly up to the louvre wooden shutters at the side of the building and tampers with the latch. Inside, the now relaxed couple are wandering around, arm in arm, exploring the other rooms of the property, entirely unaware of the mysterious man outside who’s wandering around.
As they both stroll around the inside of the villa they seem impressed by the big central fireplace in the living-room area. Although Isabel points out a missing light bulb and dusty surfaces. “Call reception!” Daniel says, only half-jokingly. Daniel picks up an ashtray to closely examine the cigarette stubs it contains. Isabel notices the wooden window-shutters and comments that they should keep out any mosquitoes.
And now they’re in the bedroom with its cosy and authentic old-style solid furniture. Daniel releases his full weight and flops backwards onto the bed making it creak a bit under the strain. His head is just about touching the wrought-iron headboard while his still-shoed feet are falling off the bottom. He stretches his arms out wide and reveals a thick and ornate gold bracelet on his left wrist. Isabel nears the side of the bed, and open-bloused, leans over Daniel, showing off her hour-glass figure. And then she sits on the edge leaning over him. She kisses him on the forehead. He strokes her cheek gently.
Daniel suddenly leaps up from the bed and quickly moves to the window and grabs the shutters and rattles them, nearly taking their hinges off.
“Listen”, he says …”
Standing by the shuttered window, which he’s now swung open, Daniel says, with a smile, “Listen …you won’t hear that in West Bridgeford”.
“Echoes of a thousand sea shells?” Isabel politely responds in her polished accent as she sits on the bed.
“Oh, don’t make me laugh” his grin widening as he stands next to the window.
There is silence in the outside darkness, with just the wind whispering in the trees, in a slight breeze. After his very short rest on the bed Daniel seems to have found a new lease of energy. “Hey, should I unpack the car?” he asks, but it isn’t really a choice he is giving her, more in a manner that he is informing her of his next action.
“Yes, go on, I’ll make up the bed” Isabel replies somewhat wistfully, looking away from him, lost in her thoughts. She looks at him directly, “Four-teen whole days, maybe more?”
Standing at the open bedroom door, Daniel points at her commandingly, with a knowing-look in his eyes. “Maybe …” He has a “we’ll see how we get on” expression. She looks thoughtful again, head down a bit, making no eye-contact with him.
Outside the villa, a heavy-set man with closely-cropped light-grey hair, wearing a scruffy sky-blue T-shirt, is fiddling with the car keys which have been left in the ignition of the MG. Daniel is walking out of the front door into the forecourt, flicking back his smooth dark-brown hair. The grey-haired mystery-man ducks down sharply when he spots Daniel exiting the doorway. Daniel pauses, just outside the open door, and grabs a grape off of a close-by vine. He bites it. His face immediately turns sour to match the taste he is experiencing. Hmmm, not to worry, he shrugs.
Daniel then quietly hums to himself in a relaxed way as he makes the few steps towards the car. He stretches his long arms down into the open-top vehicle and starts to gather some things, from the back seat, to bring inside. Meanwhile, stocky grey-haired man is hiding behind a nearby bush, unseen, and he’s closely monitoring Daniel‘s every move.
In the bedroom, Isabel is singing a tune to herself, pleasantly, while dutifully making up the bed. On the wall behind her, next to the window, is a gold-framed picture of the distorted face of a rather serious-looking man in a brown border-mount, Van Gough style, positioned just above a dark-oak bedside cabinet and mirror. Both are lit softly by a floral-patterned white table-lamp with a plain, frilled, white cotton shade.
The light-oak shutters of the window have a white net overhang and thin net curtains which are swished to the left side of the window frame. Daniel appears from behind the shutters, he pulls them open from the outside, and hands through their suitcases which he’s un-strapped from the car.
“Come on Daniel”, Isabel hurries him, “We have to shut the window, the midges are biting”. She enunciates her words and pronounces “biting” to make it sound like “bye-ting”. Her educated elocution gives her an air of authority, as she stands, one hand on hip, letting the breeze caress her flame-red hair. Daniel responds to this by speeding up his gait.
“Here we are, love, shove ’em over there, we’ll unpack them later” Daniel quickens his step back and forth from the car and this activity, under the direction of Isabel, seems to bring out his Northern accent a bit. Or maybe he’s just bushed. Isabel grabs a case through the window, puts it down inside, and then moves swiftly back to the window, deftly closes the glass, and turns the latch to lock the panels. She spins round, quickly and gracefully, and heads out of the bedroom.
Outside Daniel is removing the elasticated hooks from the remaining case strapped on the car. Isobel is now in the bathroom arranging their toiletries. She suddenly stops moving and stares at the wash-hand basin.
“Daniel …” she says, some concern in her voice.
“Yeah” he replies gruffly as he walks into the bathroom to join her. Isabel is staring at the basin and taps. “There’s blood in here, look, on the sink”
They both stare at the sink, with unease in their eyes. “Oh, great … and a half-smoked fag …” Daniel utters, looking appalled. “Wait to we get back, they’ll hear about this, dirty bastards”. Daniel looks angry and this reflects in his tightened tone of voice. He puts his arms, protectively, around the shoulders of Isabel; his big hands holding her. “Don’t you touch it love” his accent becoming stronger, “I’ll sort this” he gently sweeps her away from the blood, and out of the door of the bathroom.
“I’ll get you some tissues …” Isabel offers. Daniel has a mean look on his face and he scans around the bathroom. He leans forward and touches the blood on the rim of the sink with his fingers, “Luxury Villa” he mutters, with contempt. He walks over to the bathroom window, looks at it closely, and realises the window is not that secure, or strong. One of the panes of glass is broken and there is broken glass on the tiled floor. “Lonely Villa … we’re sitting ducks” he mutters under his breath. He gets some tissue paper and thoroughly wipes the blood from the sink rim and flushes it down the toilet. Isabel comes back in to the bathroom. “Don’t come in here without your slippers on” he exclaims.
Isabel comes back again, this time prepared with a brush and pan set. She squats down and begins sweeping up the fragments of glass from the floor. Daniel strides out of the bathroom, pauses at the door, looks down at Isabel, who is crouched. “It’s a great start, isn’t it?” he says indignantly.
Isabel finishes sweeping up the glass from the bathroom floor and stands upright. She looks at the window, and then at the sink. Her face shows worry and her shoulders are hunched forward and tight. Daniel is back outside, bringing in some baskets and boxes from the car. Isabel meets him at the outside door.
“Where are they keys?” she asks him, sounding a bit anxious.
“In the lock” he points at the door reassuringly.
They’re both now back inside. Isabel is very deliberately locking the door but she has lost her composure. “Hey…” Daniel tenderly strokes her chin, then places his hand softly around the back of her neck, “you alright?”
“Hmm” she replies unconvincingly, with her wide eyes looking up at him.
“Forget it” Daniel says, in a comforting tone. He gently sweeps her away from the front door, with his arm around her waist, and into the sitting-room, “a big belt of duty-free booze and bed” he suggests with self-assurance.
Outside, creeping around the corner of the building, and into the light, is a stocky man, in a scruffy blue T-shirt. He’s got close-cropped silver hair and his face looks toasted, as if he has been lying in strong sun for a week. There is a calculating look of trouble in his eyes.
Inside, Daniel and Isabel are unpacking their cases in the bedroom and chit-chatting about franks and pesetas and what they might need.
“First thing in the morning” Isabel promises, tiredly, as she folds her clothes from the case onto the bed.
“How far’s the sea?” Daniel asks, as he peers into his own case.
“About forty metres it said”
“How far’s that?” he sounds slightly irritated, or impatient, as if this is genuinely confusing him.
“About 40 yards … is it? Her voice trails off. She doesn’t sound confident. There is a slight bit of tension as Daniel looks at her with a serious expression. And then they both laugh, and the tension evaporates.
“God, we’re ignorant” he jests.
When they both laugh together, their faces warm, and their rapport becomes apparent. They have just remembered they are on holiday. Here to enjoy themselves. With a big smile on her face Isabel picks up a garment with a coat-hanger inside of it, “Why did you bring a suit?” she gently teases him.
“Well, I thought we might have a night out at the local cantina” he stands his ground with a twinkle in his eye, pretending to be piqued, but all the time smiling. He starts to wave his hands about and snaps his fingers, “a bit of Spanish champagne, flamenco …”
“Where’s the telephone?” she asks.
“Kitchen” he replies.
At this point, the tall and strong Daniel, who can sometimes quickly switch to serious-mood unexpectedly and become overbearing, still wearing his jacket and cravat, fishes out, from a case, a pair of her colourful floral panties. He holds them across his crotch, stretches them out with his big hands and, putting on a silly voice, raises his eyebrows and declares “I’ll never get into these”.
Isabel cracks up. She’s completely disarmed, her head cants, and she coyly laughs out loud and flashes him a sparkling smile.
“What do you want a phone for?”
“I left the number with Kate … just in case” Isabel says. She turns around slowly, with eyes looking in the distance, towards the front door, “Listen ….”
“Oh, don’t start …” he sounds annoyed. He’s cut off sharply. There are five rapid, and urgent-sounding, loud knocks on the front door. They both freeze for a moment, with wariness in their eyes. Then Daniel breaks into a slight smile. “It’ll be one of the neighbours, popping in to say olé ”. Daniel takes a few big steps across the bedroom, heading for the front door.
“Neighbours?” she queries, cautiously.
Daniel strides forward “All right, maybe a motorist in trouble …” He is just about to walk out of the bedroom when she grasps his arm and stops him. Daniel is standing, in profile, framed by the open bedroom door, with his head just about touching the top of the door frame. She looks up at him, seriously.
“Don’t go” she says, with pleading eyes.
“What?” he replies, with a measure of potential defiance in his manner.
Her voice goes up a pitch, and she lets go of his arm, and makes a short sweeping gesture with her hand, “Pretend there’s nobody here”. She mean what she says, and he picks this up, but does not show her that he is in the mood to comply to her request.
“C’mon, every light in the house is on” he says incredulously, while making a broad circular motion with his arm extended. He strides out to the hall, she follows and grasps him by the shoulder from behind.
They hear three more impatient bangs on the outside door …
He stops and turns around, grasps the back of her neck, lightly, and reassuringly, and looks directly into her eyes, with a warm grin on his face. Then he spins around and heads assertively towards the front door.
“Daniel, be careful” there is apprehension in her tone.
“Three to one it’s a blond” he jokingly retorts.
“In Spain?” she says nervously.
Outside the door stands a stocky man, with short greyish hair, in a tatty blue unbuttoned-at-the-neck shirt, with his head slightly leaning, as if he is listening intently. Isabel blocks Daniel, right at the inside of the front door, and looks up at him with a final plea. “It could be the burglar?”
“Well, he’s been here once, why would he come back?” Daniel dismisses her pleading eyes with his own nonchalance.
Daniel opens the front door. They both stare incredulously at the stocky man.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” the man outside whispers.
“What?” says Daniel. He then gathers a bit of composure. “Eh…eh…no …nein” he stammers.
Illuminated by the light projecting from inside, the heavy-set man, standing outside the front door, tilts his head, slightly, to one side and casually places a thick arm and elbow on the stone door frame.
In the warm glow of the tungsten-lighting his shirt appears to be more of a vivid purple colour. The neck of his lightweight cotton shirt has three buttons undone and is wide-open revealing some chest hair and his short, thick, neck. The skin on his face and neck is scorched-brown right down into his shirt where it meets an abrupt line of lighter skin just at the v-shape at the top of his barrel-like chest. His small round ears are burnt-looking. In this light there are hints of mousy blond streaks in his otherwise steely-grey short hair.
The German-speaking man must be around five foot eight inches, or thereabouts. He has the physique you’d expect to see in an Olympic weightlifter-type, and he stands at the doorway, leaning on the wall, with calm self-assurance, in contrast to Daniel and Isabel who are stiff and straight and staring at this stranger, wide-eyed in disbelief, of his presence at their door at this late hour.
The German has a short, coarse, darkish stubble across his mouth area and chin. There is a deep gouge-like scar on his right temple which looks bloody, and only just beginning to heal, and he has other scuffs and patches of dirt on his cheek and forehead. He looks like he’s been in a recent fight perhaps. His gaze is steady, and his eyes are piercing light-blue.
“Hablas español?” the man outside asks, almost as if he is going through his own internal check-list.
Daniel struggles, “No…naw … hablo … eh ... English” he emphasises the last word, while leaning his head forward, lifting his voice in volume, and raising his eye-brows in a gesture of enquiry. Isabel stands next to Daniel, at the door. He’s a clear head taller than her and she seems to be about the same height as their late-night visitor. She keeps a steady gaze on the scruffy-looking man. “English!” Daniel repeats louder, in an undisguised irritated tone. The visitor replies by muttering something unintelligible in German. Daniel looks bemused and scratches his forehead, “Ah, wonderful …” he trails off. “Here we go …”
The expression of their late-night visitor seems to be subtly changing to one of impatience.
“What do you think he wants?” Shelia’s question to Daniel, while she continues to stare at man at the door, cuts shrilly through the night-air. She looks at the man on their doorstep as if he has crawled out from under a rock, or a maybe even a bush.
“Feel free to ask” Daniel announces in an exasperated tone while gesturing with a palms-up motion towards the man outside their door.
“Telephone?” Isabel curtly asks the visitor, in manner as if she is talking to someone who is perhaps feeble in mind. Their visitor shakes his head in a resigned way as if to indicate that it is perhaps a stupid question he is being asked. The stocky man’s eyes narrow, his head leans more, and his eyelids almost close, as if he might just fall asleep there and then.
“Eh … telefunken?” she tries, getting desperate by now. The short man’s eyes immediately snap open and become bright and alert with opportunity. “Yah” he nods his head in a way as if to say “now they get it”. A slight grin appears on their visitor’s face. Daniel, Isabel, and the scruffy man all let out a stifled laugh in unison.
Daniel now perks up. “You see … you’re a genius” he patronises Isabel. “One telephone call coming up …” Daniel turns his back on the man at the door and gestures him inside. Isabel gives the visitor a subdued, but friendly smile.
Their visitor takes a few steps inside. Isabel closes the outside door, locking all three in. The rough-looking man doesn’t press forward. He stops and looks back at her as she locks the door, and then he moves his head slowly from side to side and scans around, gauging the territory.
“Oi!” Daniel’s loud shout echoes from a distance as he stands wielding the handset of a white telephone. His chin is raised and he is demanding the attention of the stocky man. Directly behind Daniel, standing on top of a dark wooden cabinet is a small crucifix with Jesus on it. Daniel has his left elbow resting on the cabinet, nearly knocking over the crucifix, and he is waving the phone handset at their visitor. “Telephone!” he shouts at the man.
The man spins round in the direction of the shouting. His short-sleeved shirt has a lot of scuff-marks on it. He completely ignores Daniel and, instead, lunges forward and grabs an open bottle of red wine from the nearby table. He raises the bottle to his lips, throws his head back, and starts to guzzle down as much as he can. They both look on, appalled.
Next the man grabs some food off the table and greedily stuffs it into it, like a hungry animal. He raises the bottle to his mouth again in an attempt to finish it off and, at the same time, glares back at Daniel in a defiant manner.
Daniel’s hand drops and goes limp on the handset. He puts the phone down, and with a deep frown on his face, slowly, and cautiously, walks towards, but carefully around, the drinking-man. Isabel walks sideways and circles the man, from the other side, while keeping her distance. She, too, looks shocked by the man’s brutish behaviour. She shoots a glance at Daniel, who’s now moving forward. She touches his hand to keep him from going any further. “Let him have it” she says gently, showing patience.
The man takes another generous swig straight from the bottle. Isabel only lasts another second before she changes tack completely. “Get him out, Daniel, I don’t like him, he smells”. Her face now shows contempt.
Daniel takes a tough approach. He leans over close to the man who is stuffing their food down his face and guzzling their wine in large gulps. Their visitor is leant forward now, over the food table, and is eating and drinking as much as he can get down, in a bit of a feeding-frenzy. “Ok, c’mon Fritz, we’re tired” he says in a stern tone. Daniel is commanding and uncompromising, and Isabel stands back, looking impressed.
The eating-man looks up, momentarily, and glances briefly at each one of them in turn, then, head down again, he continues with his feasting. Isabel is also in close now with a scowl on her face. “Tired, bed, casanda, fatigué, stanco …” Daniel forcefully rapid-fires his words and tries to communicate his message in frustration.
“He won’t understand that Daniel, that’s Italian“, Isabel scolds her partner thinking maybe he is losing impetus.
Daniel is becoming more frustrated by the eater’s non-compliance and so he resorts to visual language. He tilts his head, just a few inches from the man’s face, and puts his palms together and then places his hands to his cheek to demonstrate a person sleeping, and he also makes crude snoring sounds while glaring directly at the man eye-to-eye. The man ignores him. Daniel loses patience and puts his hand on the man’s shoulder and attempts to shove him away from the table. The eater looks up, grabs Daniel by the wrist, and demonstrates much superior strength and will. He eyeballs Daniel with a steely stare. Daniel now looks scared. He knows he has underestimated this intruder, and the realisation has come as a shock to him.
The strength saps from Daniel’s arm. The intruder effortlessly places it back into position at Daniel’s side, almost as if Daniel has become a mere manikin that can offer no resistance. “He must be the burglar?” Isabel tentatively suggests, while looking at Daniel’s taken-aback face. Her own face is distraught, her shoulders are hunched inwards, and there are dark shadows of weariness beginning to form under her eyes.
“Then what is it that he wants?” Daniel answers her, speaking slowly and deliberately, in a low pitch, while keeping his gaze firmly on the man in the stained shirt, who has crumbs of food over his face. Daniel carries on, “If he wanted something, why didn’t he just take it, why come back …”
Quick as a flash, almost like a skilful stage-magician, the intruder moves fast, grabs a sack from his feet, and whips out of it, a large and limp white chicken, still with its feathers intact. He dangles it by the legs in front of them.
“What the …” exclaims Daniel in surprise. The stocky man quickly strides forward with his dangling chicken and chooses to brandish it at Isabel. She instinctively shrinks back, and crouches defensively, trying to get away from the dead chicken.
“I don’t want it” she cries shrilly, in her aversion to the object being waved in front of her face.
“Essen” the intruder says in German. “Essen!” he repeats insistently, while flapping his hand about with impatience and pointing at the chicken, which Daniel has taken and is holding at arms length from himself.
“I know what he wants” Isabel states, in a disapproving tone, while glaring at the uncouth man. With a sigh and a bit of huffing and puffing Isabel steps away towards the food cupboard, her head darting from side to side as she scans the selection of spices on the shelves.
“Wha … what do we do?” Daniel stutters, while still dangling the chicken, by its legs, as far away from his body as his long arms will stretch. Isabel comes back over from the food cupboard carrying several tins in her arms.
“Prawns” she says, “Tomato soup?” she tries, “Supper?” she emphasises, showing the man what is on offer from the pantry. Her refined vowels makes the word soup come out as “sooop” and supper as “su-pah” in contrast to the impatient grunting coming from the German-speaking hungry man they have inside their villa this late evening.
The Germanic man has no time for etiquette or choices. With increasing impatience he makes stabbing and pointing gestures at the chicken and repeats aggressively, “Essen!”
The dangling chicken starts to wriggle in Daniel’s hand, to his dread. It’s still alive. “Ca … can you do it? he asks Isabel, uncertainly, with a stammer.
“You mean kill it?” she replies questioningly, staring down at the chicken, hanging upside down, in Daniel’s hands. “Don’t be mad” she mutters under her breath, then she pauses for a second. “Would you?” she looks at Daniel. He doesn’t offer her a confirmation.
Isabel, now gathering more composure, grabs the chicken from Daniel. She bravely steps forward and confronts the German with the dangling chicken. “You kill it” she commands him, while staring directly into his eyes and showing no fear. “You!” she affirms forcefully. She follows this with a tightened-lip, chin-up, expression of determination, and steady gaze. “Morto!” she exclaims at him.
He leans back, puts his hands behind his back and sniggers. Squeaking noises are coming from the chicken. The man takes it off of Isabel. He grabs the chicken fiercely, and without taking his eye off of her, he violently rips its head clean off, with a sardonic smile. The chicken screeches. Isabel screams, and puts her hand over her mouth. She spins around in a fit of hysterics and shouts “Get him out of her for God’s sake!” Daniel grabs her by the shoulders to comfort and calm her.
They both put the chicken down onto newspaper. “Hope it poisons him” Isabel says with venom.
“How do we start?” Daniel questions her, showing no confidence.
“Pluck it” Isabel replies curtly.
“What, just pull ‘em out?”
“What else” she says.
“Eh … sh .. shouldn’t we hang it, or something?” he says nervously.
“That’s game …” she retorts, with disdain, “… who cares”. They both pluck away at the chicken on the spread-out newspaper lying on top of the big kitchen table. “I’ve eaten my last chicken, I’ll tell you that” Isabel comments. At the other side of the kitchen the gunman is waving his pistol about, keeping an eye on them, but also rifling through some drawers, and putting some items into his pockets. The stocky German stealthily glides over to the front door and is satisfied that it is locked. He then backs away through an arch and into the sitting-room, doing a bit of exploring.
“It’s got something on its feet” Isabel notices as they continue to pluck away at the chicken. Daniel holds up what appears to be a large, and tarnished, gold cross attached to a long chain. Nervously Isabel whispers “That was around some farmer’s neck a few hours ago …”
“What …? ” he mumbles while examining the thick chain and cross closely.
More anxiously, and with raised pitch in her voice, “Do you think he’d have something like that, he’s a killer; he’s a murderer!” she is starting to shriek. Daniel raises his hand up, showing his palm to her face …
“Now, calm down, calm down” he repeats, while intensely meeting her widening eyes with his grimacing face. “Let’s just do what he says, and he’ll go away and leave us ...”. She utters a scoffing-laugh with no humour. “ … eat his damn chicken and go” Daniel continues but now with doubt in his voice which is starting to quaver noticeably.
The German walks back through the kitchen archway, toting his gun; he eyeballs them, keeping them in line. He struts around with a swagger, relishing his power. He’s grinning, and can’t help licking his lips, as he continues to look around for items that may be of value to him.
An idea seems to occur to him. He takes a few quick steps towards the cabinet next to the phone table. On top of the cabinet is a wooden crucifix on a stand. The wooden cross, depicting Jesus, is on a base and it stands about a foot high. He opens up the cabinet door and puts the telephone inside it.
The German takes out a small key from his pocket and locks the wooden cabinet door with the telephone he’s put inside. Isabel, still wearing her sapphire-blue blouse with some dignity, has her head down, getting on with the task she has been allocated, and is concentrating on plucking the chicken.
Daniel has his head up, staring over towards, and observing, their impudent intruder, with an indignant, tight-lipped, expression on his face. He still has his jacket on, and the cravat, but he now looks tired and drawn, and shadows have formed under his eyes.
Isabel raises her head up. Her eyes look glazed and surprised, as if she has just woken up, only to discover she is in a nightmare that she thought was a dream. The swaggering man, slowly walks away, with his back to them momentarily, tucking his Luger pistol into his jeans. He struts in the manner of a cowboy in a low-budget western.
“He … he … he’s not so big Daniel” Isabel whispers, timidly, to her neckerchief-wearing partner, with stammering desperation in her voice. She continues, stuttering her words, “If … if … if we both have a go at him …” she trails off as her confidence wanes. “….we could hit him over the head or something!” her voice getting stronger, and projecting with more clarity.
Daniel looks at her with incredulity, “The way he handles himself, that gun?” His face indicates: no way; bad idea.
“And if he has killed …” Daniel goes on, “ …there is no point at stopping at one” Daniel, puts his head down, and doesn’t meet her eyes. She returns him a judgemental look that says “is he weakening under pressure?”
“C’mon …” Daniel cajoles her, “…let’s get on with this”. He’s still not meeting her eyes.
Meanwhile, in the bedroom, the German is sitting on the edge of the bed, next to their open, and only partially unpacked, cases. He is helping himself to the contents of a small can of food, scooping it out with his fingers and slurping it back. Every now and then he wipes his hands on his purple short-sleeved T-Shirt.
Even although he keeps wiping them on his chest, his hands are still quite messy, and so he casually glances over his shoulder to find something to clean them up with. He picks something at random out of one of the cases nearby, and makes to wipe away the food off of his hands. He pauses because he notices that he is actually holding a white frilly negligee. In his right hand he has an open tin of soup; and so with his left hand, he slowly brings the garment up close to his face and stares at it thoughtfully. He then quickly snaps out of his train of thought and casts the garment aside.
While their unwelcome guest is having his cold soup in the bedroom, Daniel has taken the opportunity to examine some kitchen cutlery, including some big sharp knives, which are lying to the side on a nearby shelf. He looks thoughtfully at them, as if formulating an idea.
“Found something?” Isabel asks expectantly, with an even and steady voice. And then Daniel spots the front door keys which are lying, above him, on top of the dresser. He moves rapidly, grabs the keys, waves them at her, and rushes to the front door with Isabel, running, and meeting him at the door.
Daniel puts the key in the lock and frantically wiggles it about. Isabel looks up from the lock to see a Luger pointing at Daniel’s head from about ten feet away. Daniel is still playing with the door-lock and doesn‘t notice their guest has returned. She nudges him with her elbow. Daniel slowly looks up to find the German waving the gun in a circular motion in his right hand, anti-clockwise, to indicate that they should both get away from the door and move back into the house.
The German then steps forward, puffing on a cigarette, hanging from his lip, and stretches out a palms-up left hand to Daniel who drops the keys he has into it, losing possession of them.
In a single motion, the German deposits the regained keys into his left trouser-pocket, and with his right hand, still holding the gun, and followed by support from his left hand, he rattles the front-door vigorously and checks that it is still securely locked.
Their guest now stands just a few feet away from them both. He glares at them disapprovingly. In a flash of movement, he spreads his arms wide, while still puffing on his cigarette. In a swift move he pushes Daniel back, with a jolt, using his gun-hand; with his other hand he roughly sizes Isabel by her right arm. He swings round, and sweeps her back with him, like a rag-doll, pulling her forcibly into the archway in a manner that could easily have ripped her lady-like arm right out of the socket.
Having, literally, been swept off her feet, Isabel, now unbalanced, glances back at Daniel with fearful and pleading eyes. The German has adopted a mean look, which he directs at Daniel. He has a firm grip on Isabel, a fag hanging from his mouth, and his Luger is pointing directly at Daniels face. The German man’s expression says: “don’t mess with me or you’re dead”.
As the thuggish man forcibly pulls Isabel back through the archway, that leads from the kitchen to the large sitting-room, Daniel shouts out in a stressed voice, “Where are you going, where are you taking her?” demanding an immediate answer.
The German waves his gun, rapidly back and forth, between Daniel and the half-plucked chicken, still lying on the table, that Daniel is standing next to. The thug’s intense glare gets wide-eyed and meaner, he shouts “pronto, pronto!” instructing Daniel to get on with the task.
Daniel freezes, his body rigid, and he tensely stares back at the gun-man, who has a pistol trained on him. Isabel, still being fiercely gripped, manages to regain some composure; she breaks the spell by reaching her hand out towards Daniel, and in a strong voice of command, she locks onto Daniel’s eyes and instructs her partner “Do as he says Daniel”. Isabel’s face shows fear but her tone is conciliatory and calming. Daniel steps back, his posture relaxes. He has a bewildered look of resignation on his face as the other two disappear out of site. Daniel, now head lowered, limply starts to pluck the chicken again, but with a dazed look in his eyes.
Isabel has been taken to the bedroom, and made to sit on the bed. The guest has decided to have a bit of a brush-up and some personal grooming, and so he puts on the radio and listens to some light classical music while he shaves, with an electric razor, using the ornate oval bureau mirror to view his chin. He has a sniggering grin on his face while he enjoys his shaving, while keeping an eye on Isabel, in the mirror-reflection. He gently caresses his Luger, which is sitting on the bureau with him. Isabel looks on, at this performance, uneasily.
In the kitchen, Daniel has done a lot more plucking, and now wields a large, and sharp, knife which he is about to use on the chicken. He raises the knife up, then pauses, mid-strike. He stares at the big knife in his hand, contemplating.
Meanwhile, in the bedroom, the man finishes his shaving, rubs his chin with satisafction, and puts the razor down, then he stands up. While looking at Isabel he crosses his hands over, grabs his shirt, and pulls it up over his head and off. Isabel’s unease increases. Her eyes widen and her lips perceptibly quiver.
Underneath his shirt the man’s skin is quite pale, in contrast to his dark and shiny burnt face. He grins away, and looks quite ridiculous, standing there, with his shirt off, in this way. He then proceeds to put one of Daniel’s clean and ironed shirts on, with a sense of pride, but doesn’t button it up. He keeps grinning at her, as she sits on the bed.
He moves his hands down towards to the zip of his trousers. Isabel takes a gulp. Her head starts to tremor a little. Half-unzipped he swaggers over close to her and places his groin at her face-level. He still has that disconcerting grin on. He enjoys watching her squirm for a while, and then zips up his trousers and buttons up his new light-brown shirt.
The German tucks his newly-acquired clean shirt into his trousers and fastens his trouser-button above the zip. Gentle classical music is still playing away on the radio, sitting on a table, to the side. He looks down at Isabel and sniggers away, mocking her, and getting pleasure from her distress. Isabel fidgets on the bed, her taught shoulders twitching, as she looks up at him, while maintaining a steady gaze.
Daniel enters the bedroom with a white bucket in his right hand, and a worried expression, as he gauges Isabel’s eyes. The German spins round quickly, “Yah?” he asks abruptly, annoyed at this intrusion into his private moment with Isabel.
Daniel thrusts the bucket forward to almost touch the German and exclaims “Keys?” The German is narked, and spits some terse words back which are impossible for Daniel to understand. Daniel also looks irritated and raises his voice an octave. He transfers the white plastic bucket to his left hand, and with his right hand, Daniel makes a key-turning motion with an outstretched arm. “Keys, for the kitchen?” Daniel repeats, waving the bucket about.
The German reaches into his left trouser-pocket and pulls out some small keys. He dangles them at Daniel, who tries to take them, but as he does so, the German snatches them back, out of his reach, and gives Daniel a look that says “don’t try anything clever”. He then, ceremoniously, relinquishes the keys to Daniel.
Isabel is now sitting more upright in her posture and Daniel’s eyes swing to her, and away from him. Isabel’s lips tighten with concern, as if she is trying to suggest something to Daniel with her eyes. Daniel turns and walks out of the bedroom door with the keys and the bucket. Isabel watches him leaving the room with a look that indicates that she is worried that he might actually try something stupid. Or maybe that he didn’t get the message in her eyes.
The German spins back around again, and stands with both hands on his hips. He looks at Isabel, in a pitying way, and utters a humourless, sniggering, laugh. But he does it in a way as if he is just being friendly.
At that moment, a serious-toned broadcasting-voice, interrupts the light background music. The German’s expression flips to concern. He moves quickly over to the radio and puts his ear to it, listening intently to what is being said, in a language that is not English.
As the uncouth man, in his fresh shirt, sits on the bed, leaning forward, listening attentively to the radio broadcast, Isabel is now standing upright behind him, keeping quiet and still. Her face is alert with opportunity.
The ill-mannered guest has the tips of his fingers brushing against his lips, and his ear close to touching the radio, as he blocks everything else out to concentrate on what the broadcast is saying. Isobel senses a momentary advantage over him and she has her eyes on the gun which is lying behind his back, in the middle of the bed. She takes a fleeting glance at him, then quickly to the gun, and decides to make her move. She leans forward slightly, preparing to pounce.
Daniel has opened the front door with the door-keys, given to him, and wanders outside with his white bucket. He cautiously walks over to the MG and sees that the car-keys are still in the ignition. His thoughts say he has been presented with his own opportunity. But the German has a hostage, of course, with him in the bedroom, as his insurance-policy, otherwise he would not have been stupid enough to have given the house keys out on temporary loan. And that is what that look meant when he passed the keys over to Daniel after he teased him by snatching them back. Perhaps their guest has not accounted for the importance, and whereabouts, of the car keys, in his primal greed for food and controlling-power over his sitting-ducks. That could be what Daniel’s judgement tells him.
Daniel walks away from the car and has a look around outside. Something draws his attention, lying in the bushes, at side of the house. He goes close enough to get sight of, what appears to be, an unconscious, or perhaps dead, figure in a T-shirt, with blood over the shirt and arms. It also looks like a bathrobe is lying close to this figure or body. This might be a game-changer his expression conveys. He may have to rethink. He decides to walk back inside with some collected water and finish preparing the chicken for eating.
There is a half-eaten, cooked, chicken-carcass sitting on the long kitchen table at one end, next to their guest, who is ripping more pieces off of it with his bare hands and stuffing them into his face with gusto. Daniel and Isabel are sitting at the other end of the table, still in the clothes they arrived with. Daniel is smoking a cigarette and looks a bit dishevelled. He has an empty glass in front of him and is lost in his thoughts, staring into the distance. Isabel has a magazine spread out on the table which she is making a poor impression of reading. Her shoulders are hunched and she is nervously wringing her hands.
Daniel is taking deep drags from his cigarette and glancing, now and then, at a box of matches, near to him, on the table. The guest has a metal lighter, for his fags, sitting nearby. Their guest swigs large gulps of wine from a plain tumbler and has the empty bottle sitting beside him. He keeps his shrewd eyes on them both. Constantly flicking from one to the other, so they get the message. His gun is there, on the table, and he gently strokes it every now and then.
Daniel stands up from the table, the guest touches his gun, but doesn’t lift it up. Daniel walks a few steps and grabs a full bottle of wine from a nearby shelf. Isabel glances at the eating-man, perhaps to check that Daniel has been given approval for this freedom of movement and decision.
Then Isabel says, causally, to her partner, “What you trying? Getting sloshed?”
“Pissed as a newt” Daniel replies with a strain in his voice as he tries to uncork the bottle while sitting back down at the table. Daniel pours himself a generous full tumbler of wine. The guest takes his hand away from the gun and stretches out and greedily grasps Daniel’s bottle and takes it for himself and replenishes his own glass to the full.
Chewing away on his food, their guest slurps his wine down, in big gulps, from his tumbler. His cunning eyes are constantly darting back and forth from Daniel to Isabel. Daniel sits quietly, in a relaxed posture, smoking and drinking, still with his scarf and jacket on, as if it is some formal party he is present at. But, even although he has already sunk quite a bit of wine, his face is deadly sober.
Isabel looks beautifully dignified in her, open-necked, blue blouse, given her wretched position, although she is still fidgeting with her hands and therefore revealing her inner tensions. All three are constantly locking eyes. Isabel’s face shows expectancy, as if she senses the next move coming up. Their guest seems to agree, as a slight smirk passes across his lips, then disappears. His eyes indicate he is about to introduce the next stage of their relationship, from inside his head, onto the table. With a burning cigarette between his fingers, their guest picks up his Luger in his left hand, stands up, and walks, cowboy-style, towards the big white fridge, which sits directly behind Daniel and Isabel.
Their guest, now posing as a gunslinger, swings open the fridge door. There is the sound of rattling glass. The gunman picks up a, cool and fresh, bottle of fine white wine. He stands there, behind them, looking pleased with himself. Chain-smoking Daniel shoots a glance at Isabel, as if to say “Oh, dear, here we go again …”. Isabel lets out a groan, and her face falls; her shoulders tighten a bit. Standing behind their backs, the guest is wearing his smug grin.
He brandishes the bottle at Daniel, who is staring away from him, and makes a gesture to his own temple, and then to Daniel. He mutters something disparaging-sounding in German, as if saying “you are an idiot Daniel, just thought I’d let you know that”. Isabel stares away; her face is livid. She leans forward and places her fist on her forehead in despair. Daniel takes a deep drag from his current cigarette and stares into the distance and accepts his insult without confrontation.
Their not-so-charming guest then slowly swaggers back to his side of the table, and, still standing, shakes the bottle at them, makes some sort of ceremonial toast-like gesture, which includes a few words in German, and then starts guzzling down his new bottle of booze, with enjoyment in his eyes, and meanness in his spirit.
Daniel, with a cigarette lingering in his glass-hand, swigs his own wine down and makes his own toast, he mutters, with bitterness “Hope it chokes you”.
Sitting back into his head-of-the table position, their guest takes a generous swig from his chilled bottle of wine. He continues to rip more meat from the remainder of his feast in a determined quest to finish the whole chicken by himself.
Isabel has lifted her magazine upright, in pretence that she is reading it closely, with special interest, but in reality she is creating an opportunity to speak to Daniel, sitting beside her, while partially covering her face.
“Still think he’ll flip?” she whispers, through the side of her mouth.
“Why not” Daniel speaks his reply, at normal volume, with confidence.
“Not in a hurry” Isabel states, looking over the table, and putting on a charming smile for their guest’s benefit, which is clearly a strain for her.
“Leave it, leave it, he’ll blow” Daniel predicts, with a tone of knowing-confidence.
Isabel, still wearing her inane grin, speaks through gritted teeth, like a ventriloquist, “You’ve been saying that for the last three hours”.
The chewing-man continues to stare at them both, with suspicion in his eyes.
“We can’t just sit here” Isabel points out, with her uncomfortable grin still present on her face. She is fidgeting about on her chair. Daniel is keeping still, with one arm resting on the table, and quietly blowing smoke out of his mouth.
Their guest has polished off the chicken. He grabs one of the garish yellow carrier bags, which are lying on the table, and wipes his mouth with it. He then scrunches the bag up and tosses it away. A small, after-meal, cigar now seems to be the order of the day for him. He takes one out of a nearby packet, pops it in his mouth, and lights the tip with his silver metal flint-lighter. He tosses the opened packet of cigars from his hand and they land near the centre of the table where a lot of bags, mess and clutter, has been gathering in a pile.
Now Daniel picks up the magazine and holds it in front of his face. Using the side-of-mouth technique that Isabel has already mastered, he tilts his head towards her and says, “The Yales to the jalopy outside are still in it” talking in code in case he is lip-read.
Isabel pricks up, falls forward, and looks directly back at Daniel, “Your joking?” her eyes wide.
“Heh, heh … I saw them …” Daniel confirms. “… they’re still there” giving an inflection to the word “still” and an emphasis on “there” by drawing the word out.
Cigar-man is getting drowsy. He’s having difficulty keeping his eyelids open as he blinks away, with the rate of blinking getting slower and slower as if he is being induced into a hypnotic trance. He slumps over the table, supporting his cheek with his cigar-hand.
“I’m still not sure …” Isabel has a questioning tone in her voice. Daniel passes the magazine to her.
Cigar-man’s eyes are becoming slits. He is propping up his left cheek with his hand, the one with the cigar burning away in it, but he’s not puffing. His Luger is perilously positioned just at his left elbow which is resting on the table to help him keep his head upright. The gun is only an inch from the edge of the table.
Instinctively, cigar-man seems to realise the potential weakening of his position and so he sits up straight, leans back, and slides the Luger into a safer area in the middle of the table in front of him. All the time his weary eyes are still monitoring his hosts, however his head is slowly nodding.
Cigar-man’s scorched and scarred face could do with a bit of face-cream to sooth its rawness. His nose has a shine to it, and so does his furrowed forehead. He has opened his shirt by two buttons in an attempt to give his body some cooling air. His light-brown shirt is now open so wide that there is a danger he could well burst out of it altogether as it no longer appears to even fit around him, like it is one or two sizes too small for him.
With his right hand he slides his Luger over a bit to make room. He lifts his right leg up and puts his boot on the table. The thick tread on his boot is now revealed. Happy with his agility so far, he swings his left leg up, leaning back a bit on his chair for leverage, and crosses his left leg over the top of his right. Having skillfully achieved this comfortable position of having both feet on the table, his body softens its posture into relaxation mode.
Daniel and Isabel now have a spectacular view of the soles of two huge tough dull-grey well-worn army boots on the table before them. Daniel is also relaxed, with a cigarette burning away in his right hand. His arm is lying limp on his right knee which is raised up and crossed over his left leg. His left foreman rests on the corner of he table and his left hand gently clutches his glass without really gripping it. His glass leans a little. His head slopes too; his eyes are flat and expressionless and his jaw has dropped a bit as he observes the booted-man at the other side of the table through glazed eyes. Daniel almost looks like he might just doze off himself.
Isabel’s face is a picture. Her left elbow rests on the opposite corner of their end of the long table as she leans slightly forward. Her hands are clasped to her left cheek, with knuckles showing, and her head is slightly tilted at exactly the same angle as Daniel’s in a remarkable piece of synchronisation. But her eyes tell it all. She looks appalled and worried in equal measure, almost as if this is the most unsettling thing she has ever witnessed. Her face indicates that this man is being crudely impolite in a way she never thought could be possible.
Isabel clasps her hand to her cheek and stares at his army boots on the table with repulsion in her eyes. She seems to be transfixed by them; maybe because they are close to her eye-level and only a couple of feet away, right there on the dining-table. She forces herself to look down to her magazine, seeking refuge from this distressing absence of etiquette, and she starts flicking through some pages, to try and distract her mind elsewhere.
The scar on the right of the German’s forehead is red and inflamed. His eyelids are dropping, and now they’re closed altogether. His head is tilted to the left, and is falling forward into sleep. Isabel looks up from her magazine, which she wasn’t really reading. She sits upright and her shoulders close-in with tension. Her eyes are widening, her head is lowering, and her chin is tucking in. Daniel’s eyes are blank, as if he is day-dreaming about another place, anywhere but here.
Isabel raises her head up, makes herself alert, and crosses her left arm across her body to gently nudge Daniel’s jacket-elbow with extended fingers. Looking sideways at Daniel she opens her mouth to communicate her thoughts.
The German’s eyes flash wide open. He looks surprised, as he breaks through into conscious-awareness, and angry at himself for dozing off.
Isabel sits back a bit from Daniel and adopts a nonchalant expression in a master-class of acting skill. As if to say “Thinking I was about to make an escape-move Mr German, or whoever you are? No, not me; the thought never entered my head”.
Their German guest can’t seem to fight it; his eyelids close again as he nods off. Isabel looks toward Daniel in anticipation, mouth agape. She is just about to nudge him when he snaps out of his dwam voluntarily. He’s back in the room, and his expression replicates hers. Opportunity knocks.
Daniel stares at the gun, sitting on the table-corner to the dozers’ right, like a preying animal that’s ready to strike. His fag is still burning away in his right hand, but right now, he is unaware of it. He tenses his body, ready to spring. The gun is not guarded. Daniel has a steely-look, chin forward, concentrating hard. Isabel has an almost identical gritty, now or never, look of determination, her chin also thrust forward, ready to go in for the kill. They both slowly rise in tandem, from their sitting position, being careful not to jolt the table and wake their guest.
The move fails. The dozer snaps awake, this time with shock, maybe even a hint of fear, in his now wide and alert eyes. Instinctively, going into gunfighter mode, he grabs his Luger, and crouches down in a defensive posture with alarm in his eyes. He flips his head from side-to-side, quickly, as if to appraise any other possible threats as well as those coming from his hosts at the other side of the long kitchen-table.
A flash of light flickers through the window and there’s the sound of a motorbike-engine approaching, and stopping outside, the Spanish holiday-villa they are not relaxing in this evening. The rumbling engine switches off and we hear the purposeful footsteps of someone approaching the front door. The German leaps up from his crouching position and skips sideways, gun in hand, and peers through the horizontal wooden Louvre shutters to clock who’s visiting at this late hour.
“His friend?” Isabel says to Daniel, lowering her eyebrows and screwing up her face a bit, in an expression of query that says, “what kind of person would associate with this thug, and will this help us or make things worse?”
The German dives away from the window, showing eyes of urgency that indicate to his hosts that strict compliance, and speed-of-reaction to this threat, is going to be required. He waves his gun about frantically, gesturing them to get up and move fast. They both react accordingly and jump up from their chairs.
The gunman waves them through the archway with brisk movements of his Luger. As all three run through the house, passing through the sitting-room, towards the bedroom, the German runs along behind them and pushes at Daniel rushing him to move faster. All three are standing in the bedroom. The German thumps Daniel on his back with the weighty Luger. Isabel lets out a squeal of shock and jumps back against the wall. Daniel falls forward onto the bed, face down.
Lying prone Daniel looks up, and back, over his left shoulder, perhaps expecting another blow. He still has that burning cigarette lingering in his right hand. Isabel is standing next to the bedroom door, pressed against the inside wall.
The violent man turns his attention to her. He throws the front door keys to Isabel, while covering Daniel, who is still lying on the bed, with his wavering gun. She catches the keys expertly. Without any instructions, Isabel knows what is expected of her. She quickly walks out through the bedroom door, heading fast to attend to the door-knocker standing outside the house at the front door.
He calls her back; she stands in the bedroom door-frame, looking in towards the German who stands over her partner. Her hands are outstretched and leaning on the wood at each side. The German grabs Daniel, roughly, by the shoulder, with his left hand, and with his right he jabs the gun-nozzle into Daniel’s left ear and holds it there steady. He looks back at Isabel with a look that says “don’t slip up, or he’s dead, is that clear?” Isabel’s faced is pained with extreme anxiety. “Easy …” she says, pleading with him, “ … I understand”. She skips around and moves fast to answer the front door.
The gunman shuts the bedroom-door over and switches off the light. He grabs Daniel with one hand and pushes him, kneeling, to the floor just in front of the bedroom cabinet and mirror. Daniel gives a little token-resistance but gives up entirely when the Luger is pressed against his left cheekbone. Isabel is speedily walking through the house to answer the door.
Standing outside the front door of the villa is a Civil Guard motorbike patroller, in fawn uniform, wearing a short black helmet with silver goggles attached but swept up, over the helmet, to reveal a good-looking man in this early thirties with an impeccably-trimmed black moustache, golden brown skin and evenly-shaped black sideburns. He is starting to prick his ears up, and gaze around, wondering why the door is not being answered, although his demeanour is calm, He’s just about to knock again when Isabel finally opens the door.
“Hablas español senorita?” he says respectfully.
With stress in her voice, “No señor hablo inglés” trying to keep her wavering-voice steady.
“You speak English, yes?”
“Yes” Isabel replies, with relief in her tone.
“It’s no problem” the Spanish policeman replies, in charming English, while putting on a low-key friendly smile.
Isabel has the front-door only partially open, and she hoped to keep it that way.
“May I come in?” says the Guard, being politely assertive, and giving her no real choice. Isabel lets out a sigh.
“If you must” her look is quite strained, and resigned, as she opens the door wide to let him inside. She steps back a few paces. The guard enters through the door and closes it behind him. His smile is turning into a friendly-grin which shows off his even white-teeth, complementing his dark complexion. He removes his motorbike helmet. His hair is flat, thick, and glossy-black. His uniform-collar is buttoned right up to his neck and he is wearing a gold-faced watch on his left hand, with a black strap. There is more gold, in the form of a wedding-ring, on his right hand. Isabel has her back to the policeman and her thoughts are ones of concern for Daniel.
With his grin getting even wider he says, “If English is good for you, to speak, then it is even better for me” with a pleasant Spanish accent. Isabel meets his warm smile with a tired and serious expression. The Spaniard has his arms loosely crossed and holds his helmet to his lower chest. He walks around a few steps and looks up, and around. “Oh … it’s nice. I pass here everyday” he looks at her directly, smiling away. She’s looking away from him. He’s gauging her, as well as the building he’s standing in.
“We only just arrived” Isabel feigns nonchalance.
The guard’s smile drops away. He takes two graceful steps towards Isabel, and puts his face just about an arms-length distance away from hers. He tilts his head slightly and his look, is kind, but also serious. “Tell me …” he says earnestly, “… do you know … Maidenhead?” He speaks the last word slowly, emphasising each of the three syllables in the town’s name, as if he is concentrating on trying to pronounce it exactly right.
“Maidenhead?” Isabel queries, with a raised tone of surprise in her voice. She pronounces the town-name with an emphasis on the first syllable. It was probably the last thing she expected him to ask.
“Yes, in Berkshire …” he replies, looking hopeful. He pronounces it “Baark-shir” with a pleased face on.
“Yes, why?” Isabel asks.
His lovely smile returns. “ … for two summers I worked there …” his warm smile widens, “ … at a pub on the A308 to Manlow”. Big smile.
“Oh … eh … it’s a small world” Isabel says, sounding a bit flustered.
“Now, I am a married man” he flashes his ring at her and then starts to stride about with confidence. He has an elegance in his movement, and a self-pride in his demeanour, and standing around six-feet tall, with a good job, he was probably quite a good catch. “We have one children, and so I have steady job all year round” he goes on, with a sense of satisfaction. While he is talking, his eyes are constantly scanning the inside of the house. His smile quickly disappears again. He stops walking about, pauses, and turns to her, with a serious face on.
“Where is your husband?” he looks at her very directly.
In the bedroom, the door is opened slightly, to catch the sound of conversation coming from the Guard and Isabel. The German has a big hand on the kneeling Daniel who is looking scared, probably because the uninvited guest is poking him in the back with the nozzle of a Luger. And with some conviction too.
Isabel attempts to answer the Guard’s direct question. “He … he’s in the bath” she keeps impressively cool-headed with only a slight hesitation. The German is listening intently through the gap in the bedroom-door, monitoring her performance, while pressing the gun into Daniel, who is also listening with interest.
“I thought that, at this time, you would both be in bed, sleeping?” the Guard questions her.
“Unpacking, exploring … you know how it is” she delivers this well, and with a stronger and steadier voice.
“Of course, you don’t want to sleep, the first night …” he offers her an indication that he may be prepared to believe her. Isabel is standing about ten feet from him; she looks poised, and she, too, looks elegant, despite what she is going through.
The Guard turns away from her and starts to pace around again, looking about the place. She glances over towards the bedroom with anxious eyes.
The Guard looks upwards: “This was a farmhouse originally?” he states, and also questions, testing her background-knowledge perhaps.
“So we were told” she replies, matter-of-factly, keeping composed.
He struts around, confidently, continuing to scan about. He takes a couple of bold steps towards the closed door at the other side of the sitting-room. “The bedrooms are through there?” he stretches his arm right out and points at the door that leads through to Daniel and the gunman.
Fear is present on Daniel’s face as he strains to overhear some of the conversation, between the Civil Guard policeman and his wife, going on in the sitting-room. A gun is probing into his collar-bone and his brow is covered in sweat. He’s kneeling and crouching and complying.
In the sitting-room the guard walks away from Isabel and thrusts forward with the intention of walking through the closed door that leads to the bedrooms. From inside their bedroom, Daniel hears much of this and some hope flashes across his face, mixed with apprehension.
Isabel chases the Guard across the room, “Please don’t go in, I’m unpacking, everything is in a mess” she begs him. The Guard pauses in his step, turns around, and fixes her with a sober and thoughtful look. Isabel tenses.
His serious look vanishes and turns to a gentle smile. Isabel’s face shows some relief. “I would not dream of going in there, to your bedroom” he says facetiously, emphasising the word “dream” while believing he is being funny. Isabel looks irked, pained, and relieved of some of her burden, all at the same time. “Dream, heh heh …” he says with a grin “… you get it?”
“Yes” Isabel replies, with a look to say, “that was as close as it gets to disaster, but I’ve got past the pressure-point for just this moment”.
The Guard now loses some of his command and starts to witter on about how the soil outside is too salty and not good for growing. Inside the bedroom the German is losing patience and making irritated chewing motions with his mouth. He presses his Luger into Daniel’s left ear viciously and his eyes dart, rapidly, from side to side, inside their sockets.
While the German’s concentration has been focussed on eavesdropping into the sitting-room conversation Daniel has been turning his head slowly to try and check-out the bedroom-window as a possible way of escaping, or even signalling to someone, but the German forces his head back around by using his gun as a lever.
The Guard and Isabel are standing in the kitchen, through the archway, at the opposite side of the sitting-room, possibly now out of earshot to those in the bedroom. Isabel is looking tired, and she’s starting wringing her hands again. The Guard, clutching his helmet, is standing over the kitchen table and examining the leftovers of the earlier meal. He has a frown on his face.
“Must be a big man your husband?” he questions her, with a serious tone in his voice. Isabel’s grip on her hands tightens.
“No, not especially” her tone is matter-of-fact.
The Guard steps closer to her. “I understand, he no enjoy his Spanish food?” he gently teases her.
“We both like it, why do you ask?” she comes back stronger this time.
The Guard has a brown-leather belt strapped over his right shoulder, leading to a satchel hanging by his left side. He has a standard-issue ballpoint pen poking out of his left-breast uniform pocket.
“Two dinners in one night?” his face is serious.
“No wonder you don’t sleep” the Guard suggests.
“You’re well informed about us” Isabel reacts back, with annoyance at his prying.
“It’s late in the season for tourists. I recognise your car” he tells her. “You are tired Mrs Baxter?” he makes a statement, and asks a question at the same time.
“Very” she replies, looking tired, without the need for any of her acting skills.
“It’s a long journey in your big car” he states. “I do not which to be rude but if your husband can come and have one word with me?”
“I’ll go and see” she says, and walks away from him, through the archway, heading for the bedroom.
While waiting the Guard peers at the mess on the kitchen table. Looking closer, he spots an opened packet of small cigars in the centre of the clutter. His face is perturbed.
Isabel opens the door and enters the bedroom. Daniel looks miserable, crouched on his knees with a Luger jabbing at his collar-bone. Isabel looks anxiously at Daniel then to the gunman. She closes the door and presses her back to it. There is a pause. All three are silent. Isabel glances at the German again. Nothing is said. She quickly opens the door, and leaves the bedroom, shutting the door from the outside, and then walks back towards the kitchen. The German carefully opens the bedroom door a few inches to lug-in on any conversation coming from through the house.
The Guard has now moved from the kitchen and is standing in the centre of the sitting-room, waiting for Isabel’s return. She walks through the door from the bedroom area, into the sitting-room and pauses about fifteen feet from the Guard, who is waiting for her, expectantly, helmet in hand. She stands erect, crossing her hands across her body, and proclaims “I’m afraid he’s asleep”. She’s not very convincing and delivers her announcement in a formal manner to make it appear to be incontrovertible.
“In the bath?” he says, incredulously, while stepping towards her, challenging her veracity. “I’m sorry Señora, I have my orders” he moves closer to her, insisting.
“He … He’s taken a sleeping-pill” she says, now with a little bit of panic in her tone.
They both stand in the middle of the sitting-room. Isabel, in her sapphire-blue blouse, and dark blue skirt. Him wearing his full, and immaculate, fawn uniform. His face is now just two feet away from Isabel’s. The Civil Guard gives her an uncompromising look that has no warmth in it. She has heels on, but he is still about four inches taller and so looks down on her.
“Can’t it wait until the morning?” she asks, with confidence and perfect diction, and an unwavering look. “Mañana?” she reinforces, holding his eyes, but with a hint of a plea in her voice.
“But it is Mañana now?” he says, not giving in to her, but showing some signs of perhaps a weakening stance, in his voice.
“Please?” she pleads. She mesmerises him with her wide and glassy eyes, the authority in her voice, and in the strength of her posture. He pauses for a few seconds. She remains silent.
“Very well, I will come back tomorrow …” he compromises. “ … at lunchtime” he says, trying to show he is still in control by setting the timing. He is rewarded with a gracious and warm smile.
“Thank you” she says, her body relaxing.
“And now I must go to bed” he says, and struts through the kitchen, past the long kitchen-table, towards the front door. She follows him.
While he is standing at the front door putting his helmet back on and tying up the neck-strap, Isabel, with her back to him, picks up the notepad, with the handwritten welcome-message on it, from the clutter in the centre of the meal-table. She looks concerned, her head dropping a bit. The Guard notices this and, now wearing his open-face helmet, he steps towards her.
A smile comes back onto the Guard’s face. “What are you going to do tomorrow? Drive? Or just lie on the beach?” he asks, warmly.
“A bit of both I suppose” Isabel replies, deflated. Her voice is shaking a bit, and sad, under the strain of events, and perhaps the realisation that her holiday is far from being relaxed.
“I will tell your husband some good roads …” he says kindly “… pretty vista” he says helpfully.
“Thank you” she replies, gratefully.
In the bedroom the German is listening to this banal conversation and wishing it would just wind itself up. He looks at Daniel, who is still crouching on his knees, with derision. He raises his Luger above his head and sweeps it down, with full strength, and coshes Daniel brutally with the heavy gun, for no reason. Daniel lets out a cry of pain and shock.
The German had shown enough patience for the Guard to be stepping outside, through the door, before he thumped Daniel with the gun, in a fit of rage, and so Daniel’s muffled cry went unnoticed by the Guard who was wearing a helmet, with strapping, that partially covered his ears. The Guard, now standing outside, is walking away from the door towards his motorbike.
Isabel takes a few steps out of the door after him. “Officer” she cries with a trembling voice of urgency.
He pauses and turns around, “Si, Señora?” he answers with an accommodating tone of empathy, perhaps detecting her anxiousness.
“We … we’ll see you again? she pleads, but with some composure.
“Tomorrow” he tells her, inflecting his voice, and raising the pitch, as if to say, “that is what we agreed, wasn’t it?” He now explains himself. “Señora, we are looking for two men. You have seen the one, the one who tried to stop you?”
“No, no-one …” she says, while glancing back through the door to see the German, in the distance, peering out from behind the archway wall, keeping an eye on proceedings, with Luger in hand.
The Guard goes on, “We think one of them is hurt”.
Isabel looks thoughtful, as if she is contemplating what this means, she pauses, then says “Goodnight” in a soft and quiet voice. She walks back inside and closes the outside door.
The Civil Guard looks up above his head and picks a grape straight off of the nearby hanging vine, puts it in his mouth, and starts to chew. His face turns sour and he spits it out.
The German is watching the Guard, through a small window, as he heads over to his motorbike. Isabel limply walks towards the kitchen. The German appears before her, from behind the archway. He pushes her, with force, back towards the front door. He checks that the door is locked and secure and then waves the gun, threateningly, at her. Isabel backs away from him but he pushes forward, pointing the gun at her with a suspicious look. “I didn’t say anything” Isabel protests …” while stepping away from the gun. “ … nada” she insists, now backed-up against a wall with the Luger only inches from her face.
The Guard is having a look at their MG car parked outside.
The Guard now stands by his motorbike, putting his gloves on. There is an extended antenna on a radio-receiver at the back of his bike. A message starts to come over the airwaves “Atención, Atención …”
Inside the house, Isabel and the German stand next to a shuttered window, peering out at the police officer. The German wants to make sure there are no tricks being played on him, and so he keenly keeps one eye on the Guard, and another eye-of-threat, on Isabel who is standing right next to him while he looks out.
The motorbike-engine roars into life and then, shortly after, the bike rides away. Isabel keeps a steady gaze on the gunman with a look to say that she had not divulged anything him and this is now proven because the Guard has left. The German flicks his head to gesture her to move through the house. He follows her, but pauses at the kitchen-table to finish off the remains of a bottle of wine that is lying open from earlier. He drinks the leftover wine, straight out of the bottle, in large gulps.
Isabel enters the bedroom. “Oh my God!” she exclaims at the site of Daniel, still on his knees, but trying to get up from the floor and onto the bed. “What happened?” Isabel asks with concern.
“He hit me” Daniel gives a muffled reply while struggling to get himself on to the bed.
“Why did he do it?” her voice is very high and strained.
“God knows …” Daniel replies groggily “ … where is he?” he asks warily.
“I’ll get you some water” Isabel says, and dashes towards the bathroom.
Swaggering-man appears at the bedroom doorway. He casually leans on the door-frame, with his left shoulder, while swigging more wine out of a large bottle.
Daniel has managed to stagger into the bathroom and has his head over the small sink. Isabel is running the tap to get some clean water to attend to his wound. In a low voice she says to Daniel “There are two of them” as she takes a damp cloth to the back of his head. “The policeman said” she whispers, just as their guest appears, filling the bathroom doorway, only a few feet from them. Neither one of them notices the German standing behind them. He is eavesdropping, and not letting his presence be known. He quietly walks away without Daniel and Isabel realising he was nearby for a short while.
Daniel is rubbing the back of his head, and has an aggrieved expression, as he leans over the small bathroom sink. “Two? You don’t have to worry about the other one, he’s in the bushes” Daniel informs her, calmly, in a low voice.
“Dead?” she asks.
“Hmmmm” Daniel confirms.
Inches from his face, she meets his eyes, “Daniel, we’ve got to get out of here” she tells him with a sense of urgency in her voice.
“How!” he challenges her, loudly, with a look of desperation on his pained face.
The German has finished his latest bottle of wine and is now standing at the open fridge selecting a new full-bottle for immediate consumption. He is happy to observe there are also quite a few full bottles still available.
Standing next to the large fridge in the kitchen, their guest, flips open the hinged-cork of a fresh bottle of white wine. He puts the bottle to his mouth, throws his head back, and eagerly guzzles down large quantities with considerable enthusiasm.
In the large sitting-room, through the archway from the kitchen, Daniel and Isabel have just entered. He is a bit shaky on his legs and Isabel is grasping his arm and helping him to a dark-oak wooden arm-chair that doesn’t look particularly comfortable. Daniel awkwardly sits down with Isabel’s support. Daniel is stroking the back of his head and looks a bit ruffled but he still has his dress-jacket and neck-tie on, keeping up appearances.
Isabel gentle kisses him on the top of his head, to comfort him, and reward him for the special effort he has made to get to the chair and sit on it. Daniel is a bit breathless with the effort. Isabel whispers to him and asks him is he is ok. He mutters a kind of “yeah” sound which indicates that he is passable under the circumstances.
Through the archway, and not that far away, their laconic German guest is walking towards them and is entering the sitting-room which is adjacent to the kitchen. Isabel has her back to the German and is standing next to Daniel and bending over to meet him at face-level while whispering away to him, intimately. Daniel is coughing and spluttering a little bit, and his strained expression reflects his physical pain.
The German stands inside the stone archway, with bottle in hand, and his back leaning on the wall, monitoring them. Isabel stands upright and slowly spins around and then walks toward their guest, and past him, into the kitchen. The German, wearing Daniel’s shirt, is standing upright, with his back against the archway-wall, and he’s gulping down the booze while glaring at Daniel sitting on the hard wooden chair, about twenty feet away.
He stands midway between the sitting Daniel and the standing Isabel, keeping his drunken eyes on them both, acting like a prison guard in his manner. Isabel is opening the freezer-part of the big fridge which is above the main compartment.
An idea flashes across Daniel’s eyes.
Daniel, in a strong voice, shouts over to Isabel at the fridge. “Listen, talk as if it is about my head, right?” he says, loudly, in a tone to indicate that he is forming a plan to try to fox the wine-swigging German who is standing there, under the archway, watching over them. Isabel is heading back through the archway, wringing a make-shift ice-pack, made from a yellow towel. “He hasn’t stopped drinking since he got here” Daniel carries on, loudly.
Isabel approaches Daniel at the chair, “He can hold his booze though …”
Daniel cuts in, “That doesn’t matter, he’ll still have to pee …”. Isabel is now crouching down next to him. She places her make-shift ice-pack on the back of her husband’s head, soothing his pain; nurturing him. “… and when he does, run for the jalopy …” he instructs her. His eyes indicate that he is being serious. “… and don’t stop”.
“How do I get out?” she questions him, in a high, almost polite, voice.
“Shutter … remember I gave you those things” he mumbles in a low tone, talking in code. Isabel realises that he means that the bedroom window is an escape-hatch; the one they used to put their suitcases through, earlier, when there adventure was just beginning.
“Yes, alright, but what about you?” Isabel looks concerned, and grasps Daniel’s arm. The German has moved forward and is standing right behind them, listening in. He appears to be bursting out of his borrowed-shirt which has big damp patches all over it where he has spilled wine down himself. His burnt face is shining with sweat as he looks at them disapprovingly. The scars on his forehead are unhealed and red-raw. Isabel, literally, bites her lip and shrinks back from him. She can’t bear his close presence and so she stands up and walks away, but still with elegance in her gait, through the archway and into the kitchen area, leaving Daniel and him together. Now that he has separated them, their German guest swaggers back to his monitoring-position and stands inside the archway again, leaning on the thick stone wall. He starts to swig away, wiping his mouth on his shirt sleeve. Tiredness and annoyance is starting to show in his eyes.
Isabel and Daniel pretend they are talking about Daniel’s sore head. “How is it?” she shouts from the kitchen. Daniel, sitting on his dark-wood armchair in the sitting-room answers, “Pounding” he rolls his eyes.
“I’ll get you some asprin. They’re in the bedroom” she shouts out, tensely biting her lower-lip. Daniel’s eyes glance at the German, gauging his reaction to their play-acting. Isabel purposefully walks from one end of the kitchen to the other, and attempts to go through the archway. He stops her by outstretching his arm, with the bottle, and blocks her from moving forward. He looks directly at her, shiftily. He easily forces her body back using just one arm; the one he is holding the bottle with. A look of pleasure appears in his eyes as he relishes how easily he can hold her back with almost no effort as she tries to push forward. “Asprin” she says to him. He looks at her with disdain. “Asprin?” she tries again, “Headache” she touches her right temple. Daniel looks on, wondering if Isabel is convincing him.
“Asprin” the German repeats, with perfect pronunciation. He looks at her with complete pity and puts on a chilling and mocking grin.
He slowly lowers his arm, impersonating an automatic barrier, to let Isabel walk through to the bedroom. Daniel has concern and relief on his face as their plan seems to be working, so far. Isabel walks across the sitting-room, where Daniel is, and approaches the entry-door to the bathroom and bedroom-area, which is at the opposite side to the kitchen, and is just about to walk through the open door when Daniel shouts over to her from his wooden chair. Isabel pauses in step and slowly turns around with a look of apprehension on her face. Daniel and Isabel meet each others eyes across the room but they say nothing in words. His eyes say, be brave and good luck my darling. Her eyes say, take care of yourself my love and I promise you I’ll do the best I can to escape and come back for you. Her eyes are glassy. The German is looking at Isabel with suspicion, trying to read her mind. But Isabel reveals it all through her eyes. There is no need to be a mind-reader.
Isabel walks through the door and into the bedroom area. The German transfers his suspicious look to Daniel as if he knows they are up to something. Daniel clutches the back of his head and keeps his make-shift ice-pack in position, and his expression neutral. When the German looks away Daniel’s face says “I wonder how she is getting on through there; has she opened the window yet?”
Isabel is inside the bedroom. She gently closes the door, shutting herself inside, biting her tongue with concentration. She wastes no time and moves quickly over to the shuttered window. She quietly and carefully opens the glass panes and then the external wooden shutters. Daniel’s perception of time has completely slowed down. Only a few seconds have passed, since they exchanged their look, but he feels that it has been an eternity. He has a straight-face on, keeping up appearances, disguising his inner worry.
The shiny-faced German moves away from his sentry-point under the archway, and slowly swaggers over to Daniel, with bottle in his right hand and Luger tucked in his belt. Isabel has gotten through the window and is now heading towards the car which is calmly sitting there in the night air with its top open and keys in the ignition.
Outside, Isabel dashes over to the dusty sports-car, in the dark stillness of the rural night. The only sound is her heeled footsteps on the driveway and the distant chirping of the crickets. The air is calm. She looks over to the villa, wondering if they are aware she is about to enter the car. She opens the driver’s door and gets in while constantly glancing over to the house.
Inside, the German is relaxing on a sofa in the sitting-room, about ten feet away from Daniel who is sitting on his hard chair, clutching the ice-pack to his head, leaning forward slightly. Their guest sits crossed-legged, relaxed and comfortable, casually reading a newspaper, by the light of a big vase-like floral decorative lamp. He flips the pages with his right hand while clutching his bottle with his left.
Daniel hears the car-engine turning over outside and realises that Isabel made it out of the window and into the car. He tenses a bit but does not move his body or alter his facial expression, hoping to buy a few seconds of time before the German hears the car turning over.
The starter-motor turns once, then twice, then three times, but the car does not fire into life. Daniel becomes tense and anxious. He dare not even glance at the German on the sofa. The starter turns over a fourth time without the engine firing up. Daniel slowly turns his head towards the German who appears not to even hear the sound of the starter turning over. The starter turns for a firth time. Daniel stares directly at the German who just continues to read his paper apparently oblivious to what is going on outside. The starter turns over again.
The German slowly looks up from his newspaper with a serious look on. And then a wicked grin comes over his face with a wide smile. He clutches his bottle with both hands and lets out a big laugh. Meanwhile the car’s starter-motor is frantically turning over but the car is showing no sign whatsoever of actually starting up.
Looking directly at Daniel the German puts his bottle down on the side-table and slowly takes his gun out of his belt. He raises it up, and very deliberately, releases the safety-catch, all the time with a grin on his face and making direct eye-contact with Daniel who sits upright in his chair and becomes rigid with fear.
Outside, Isabel is sitting in the driver’s seat frantically trying to get the car started. She involuntarily flinches at the sharp and loud crack of gunfire that comes from inside the house. She lets out a scream of shock and her face shows terror. She opens the car door, gets out, and runs towards the villa screaming at the top of her voice.
“Daniel!” she shouts. She runs towards the front door and bangs on it with her bare hands. “Daniel!” she squeals, her voice breaking. “Let me in!” she batters the outside door. “Let me in!” she shouts out. Howling and wailing, Isabel runs towards the bedroom window to try and get back into the house.
Isabel swings open the shutters from the outside and leaps through the window into the bedroom. She runs through the room in a state of hysteria, whining and wailing in her desperation. She bursts through into the sitting-room with angst on her face.
Her eyes meet Daniel’s. He’s standing up at the far end. There’s bewildered relief on his face. Isabel staggers towards Daniel, looking at him as if he is not really there. “Can he be, after that shot rang out?” her face says. She grabs him, and they both wrap their arms around each other. Isabel begins to sob. Daniel holds her tightly.
The German, still sitting on the settee, has a wide laughing-grin on his face. His shoulders are shaking with the mirth of it all. With a maniacal face on, he laughs out loud. “Ha ha ha ha!” he mocks them with a beaming smile of glee. He raises his Luger, points it upwards, and shoots it, repeatedly, into the ceiling. The sound is deafening. They both flinch, resulting in more crazed laughing coming from their guest. The gunman laughs so hard his face screws up, his eyes become slits, and he falls back onto the couch in a spasm. Daniel and Isabel are holding each other, tightly, about ten feet away from the gunman. Isabel is sobbing, wailing, and crying with desperation.
An interval of time passes.
Outside, there is a battered, and bloody body, lying in the bushes, partially covered-up. Flies are beginning to buzz around the corpse. Inside, their guest uses his small key to open up the cabinet, the one with the wooden crucifix standing on a plinth on top of it. He takes the telephone out of the small cupboard and places it, free to use, next to the cabinet. Gentle classical music is playing, coming from a large, portable, radio.
Isabel is lying, flat out, on the bed, holding onto a gold chain with a tarnished cross attached. She almost looks like she is praying, as if the chain is being used as a set of rosary beads. She stares upwards towards the ceiling. Her eyes are wide but they are seeing nothing. She twiddles with her chain, deep in thought.
Their guest has moved back into the sitting-room and has occupied the wooden armchair that Daniel was sitting in earlier. He has the chair leaned back at an angle to allow his feet to rest on the short stone wall of the central-fireplace. He seems relaxed and comfortable. He has a cigarette, almost burnt down, smoking away in his right hand and the radio is sitting on the stone wall by his feet.
Daniel is completely spread out on the settee, the one that the gunman had been occupying earlier. He has his hands clasped over his body and he’s staring upwards, into space. His tie is a bit looser at the knot and he still wears his dress-jacket. Their guest brushes some excess ash from the top of his cigarette and relaxes again. In the bedroom Isabel continues to fiddle with her chain and cross while staring at the ceiling.
Their guest’s cigarette burns down a bit and hits the skin of his finger. He winces with the sudden pain and jolts up, muttering an expletive in German. The radio is now playing light-popular European tunes. The German gets up from his chair, crushes his cigarette in a mild temper, and turns the radio down a bit. He walks over to the settee, where Daniel is lying, and grabs Daniel’s black-leather shoes. He swings Daniel’s legs around to get him into a sitting position to one side of the couch. He then waves at Daniel to get him to, stand up, and to follow him through the house. Daniel obliges.
Isabel hears the movement and snaps out of her dwam. She makes to put the chain she is holding onto the dark-wood bedside-cabinet next to her but does this absent-mindedly and the chain misses and falls to the carpet, next to a telephone wire that was not that noticeable before. Isabel follows the wire to a handset which is sitting under the bed, behind the bedside cabinet. She picks the phone up and says “Hello?” testing the line.
“Hablo Ingles” Isabel says, quietly, into the bedroom-phone handset, with a hopeful tone in her voice. “Do you speak English …?” she asks a question down the line. “… no hablo Español. Policia, guard? Please try to understand. Hello?” she says, her voice whimpering. She jabs the cradle on the phone up and down. “Hello?” there is desperation in her voice now.
In the kitchen, the table has been cleared of clutter. Daniel is sitting at one of the long sides on a wooden chair. Their guest is sitting at the other long side, opposite Daniel, helping himself to some bread and cheese. The surface of the table has half a loaf, a long bread-knife, an ash-tray, and a small note-pad and pen on it. The rest of the clutter has been put away.
The main phone, sitting next to the small cabinet with the crucifix sitting on top, starts to make random ringing sounds causing the German to become alert. The phone is directly behind him. He spins around, gets up from his kitchen chair, and grabs the receiver off the hook. “Hallo?” he says with a thick Germanic tone to his voice. Daniel looks on from the far side of the table, with a dazed expression on his face.
The German is still munching away on his food as he grips the phone handset. “Hallo?” he says again, in an agitated manner. There is no answer from the phone. He thumps the hand-set back into its cradle, showing his annoyance. He starts to walk slowly back to the kitchen table when he pauses. He looks at phone, then puts his right hand to his chin, thinking about this. His eyes go to the bedroom. It dawns on him that there may well be an extension in there.
He rushes towards the bedroom to check, with a threatened expression on his face. Daniel watches him disappear from view. The German swings the door open and bursts into the bedroom, Luger drawn, in his right hand, eyes darting around. He finds Isabel flat-out on the bed with her eyes closed, apparently sleeping. He stands there, chewing away, looking closely at her.
The German, with his gun in his right hand, slowly steps towards Isabel. She’s still lying flat, with her eyes closed, but her chest is undulating and this is not disguised by her thin blue blouse. The gunman flicks her polished black heeled shoes with his left hand while keeping his Luger trained on her. Isabel opens her eyes, leans up, and gives him a tight-lipped, and defiant, scowl. “Aufwachen” he says, returning the scowl. “Kaffee”.
“Yes” she complies, “Kaffee” looking suitable subservient. This seems to satisfy him, for the moment.
He turns around and slowly walks out of the bedroom leaving Isabel. She had the extension phone hidden under her pillow. He didn’t notice it. Keeping an eye through the open bedroom door she picks up the phone and puts it away, out of site.
Daniel has stood up from behind the long side of the kitchen table and walked towards the stone archway which leads through to the near side of the big sitting-room. The archway at the far side leads through to the bedroom and bathroom. Daniel looks a bit confused and without direction or purpose. Their guest meets him at the kitchen-archway, on his way back from the bedroom, and waves him, with irritation, back to his seat at the kitchen table, where Daniel was sitting before he started to wander aimlessly.
The German sits down at the table again, opposite to Daniel, on the other long side and picks up his half-eaten cheese sandwich and carries on munching. Daniel looks at him with bewilderment.
Isabel appears, walking across the sitting-room area, shoulders down, zombie-like, with a dead-pan face. She strolls into the kitchen and takes a seat at the top of the table, the short side, where their guest had been dozing earlier, with his feet up. The German sits to her left, and Daniel is to her right. She’s looking at their guest’s scarred and toasted face stuffing into a big cheese sandwich and her husband, with his loosened neckerchief, dark-brown dressed jacket, and light chinos. Daniel’s thick brown hair is a bit ruffled.
“Did you sleep?” Daniel asks her. The German, leaning forward, with both elbows on the table, chomping away, looks on, curiously, between bites of food. Daniel’s chair is angled to the side a bit, he is sitting back, and has his right elbow leaning on the table.
Isabel shakes her head from side to side and says “No” in a quiet and tired voice. Daniel leans forward a bit and clasps his hands over his knees. He glances at the German and then at Isabel and mutters something about “three’s a crowd” under his breath.
“Kaffee!” their guest instructs, looking at Isabel, impatiently. She dutifully rises from her chair heads over to the cupboard and brings back a coffee jar. Isabel bangs the jar down on the table, melodramatically, with force, and announces “Kaffee!”. She shouts at him, challenging him to make it himself. A look of worry appears on Daniel’s face.
The German rises up, slowly, from his sitting position. He meets her eye-to-eye. Isabel stands her ground, chin up and thrusting forwards. He’s not much taller than her, maybe just an inch or two, but he’s twice as wide, and many times stronger, with his solid physique.
Daniel, still sitting, instructs her sternly, “Don’t go crossing him now” his northern accent is emerging again, under the strain.
“Why not?” Isabel replies bravely, glaring at the German, fearlessly. Daniel is looking up at them. He has bags under his eyes. He looks weary. The German turns and walks away from her. Isabel sits down next to Daniel, looking relieved but shattered. She leans both her arms on the table and clasps her hands tightly, while twiddling with her thumbs. Their guest is clinking about, busy making his own coffee.
“We never did mend the Hoover” Isabel mutters away under her breath.
“What?” says Daniel, confused-looking.
“Put that new belt on” Isabel continues with a forlorn expression, almost tearful, gibbering away.
Daniel throws her an annoyed look. “You pick a fine time to think about that” he says.
The main phone rings. The German snaps up the handset and puts it to his ear. “Ya?” he says, making rapid chewing motions. He starts getting animated and begins to raise his voice and shouts a lot of German words down the phone-line while becoming increasingly angry. “Nine!” he shouts. He’s holding the phone in his left hand and leaning on the small dark-wood cabinet.
There is a heated interchange with a person on the other end of the line which doesn’t seem to be to the liking of their guest. His Luger is in his right-hand and pointing, generally, in the direction of them, sitting at the table. They are both looking most concerned, while trying to work out what the phone-conversation is all about.
He puts the phone down, and then rips the wire right out of the wall. The German steps forward and produces a short piece of rope from his pocket and gestures, at gunpoint, for the sitting Daniel to put his wrists together. Daniel obeys. The German binds Daniel’s hands together, tightly, expertly, without the gun leaving his hand. Daniel sits very still during this process.
Next the gunman shouts and grunts in German, and waves his Luger, directing Daniel to move fast. Daniel jumps up, speedily, from the table, hands bound. Daniel gets pushed through the house and right out of the front door, into the courtyard. He is standing outside with his hands bound together, looking fearful. The German has his gun pointing at him, but he is at the front of the car, lifting up the bonnet.
Inside the house, Isabel is standing up, and looking out to the courtyard at them both. The German quickly checks the wires and connections in the engine compartment and slams the bonnet down. With a grin on his face he moves around and opens the driver’s door; he looks in and checks. He slams the car door shut and waves his gun at Daniel, walking towards him with the gun pointing. He pushes him back into the house, shouting “Schnell!” to hurry things along.
Back inside, the German is grabbing them both and shoving them about like puppets. He man-handles both of them by the shoulders and gets them to stand under the kitchen stone-archway. He spins them both around to face the wall and now they have their backs to him. He nudges their heads forward into a bowing position. Then he takes a few steps back. The both look frightened at what he may have in mind.
Standing about ten feet from them, their German guest, with great deliberation, releases the safety-catch on the Luger, giving them warning of what is to come. Isabel and Daniel, standing, facing the stone wall, with their heads leaning forward, look terrified at the thought. The German raises his gun up in an outstretched arm. He looks mean. He takes aim at them. They dare not turn around in their terror.
They both wait for the German to brutally shoot them. Isabel looks dignified, but resigned to her fate. Daniel’s eyes are wide with terror. There is a second’s pause which lasts an eternity for both of them. Another second passes. They both become rigid; their shoulders hunched and tight; their eyes wide and staring.
The German doesn’t fire the gun. He just slowly puts his arm down, takes one last glance of contempt at Daniel and Isabel and then turns and walks out of the door, banging it behind him. They both flinch at the door slamming.
Isabel and Daniel are standing traumatised. A few seconds pass; neither of them move or say anything. There’s the sound of a car-door being slammed, and a sports-car starting up outside, and immediately driving away at speed.
Still in shock their tense postures relax a bit. Daniel slowly turns his head towards Isabel as if to say “that was too close for comfort” and then they both turn around to see what is behind them. On seeing no-one Daniel, hands still bound, runs towards the door and makes a couple of steps out into the courtyard. Isabel is still standing, limply, under the archway, facing the wall.
Daniel walks back into the kitchen-area with a confident grin on his face. Isabel hasn’t moved from her wall-position yet. She stands there in a daze, not turning around to look at Daniel. She just stares. “Don’t worry, he’ll ditch it” he says with bravado, in a manner that is maybe too casual considering what they were looking at just a minute beforehand.
Daniel stands over the kitchen table, looking at the remains of a cheese and bread meal, an ashtray with a few stubs, and a notepad and pen. With a gentle grin he says, “Thank God, thank God he’s gone” while shaking his head, slowly, from side to side. He doesn’t seem to have noticed Isabel standing there in a state of numbness. “I wonder who he was” Daniel mutters, making a silly kind of laughing sound and looking stupidly bemused. Then his face turns serious, “For what? Where’s he going?” he says.
Still standing away from Daniel, and staring at the wall, Isabel gently says “Who?” in a distant way, as if she is trying to recall part of a memory or dream while still half asleep.
Daniel’s stance has strengthened, now that the German has gone. He stands taller, with his hands still tied with the rope. “Aren’t you curious?” he mildly challenges Isabel.
“No” Isabel replies in a detached way; not engaging with him. Daniel confidently steps towards her, and places his big, still bound, hands over her shoulder to comfort her. “Come on love, maybe you should lie …”.
She cuts him off abruptly. “Don’t touch me” she says, with anger. She looks away from him.
The “don’t touch me” reaction from Isabel takes Daniel aback. He pauses for a few seconds and looks at her with an unsure expression. He slowly takes his roped hands away from her shoulder. Isabel closes her eyes in frustration. She stares away from him.
“Brandy?” he offers, but without conviction.
“Just leave me” she replies, with cool detachment, looking into the distance.
Daniel pauses again; he doesn’t know how to read her. He looks a bit confused. “Eh… I’ll … I think I’ll just … pop up to the top of the road and see if I can stop somebody” he blurts out while looking at his bound hands as if he had forgotten they were tied, literally.
He outstretches his arms to Isabel, showing that they are bound and that he needs help to remove the rope. “Here, would you?” he shakes his tied hands to draw attention to them needing to be released before he can do anything more. His manner is a bit uncertain.
Isabel has her arms crossed over her chest and her hands are clutching her shoulders. She drops her arms down, and turns to look at his hands but not his eyes. She walks over to the kitchen dresser, without energy or enthusiasm, and pulls open the middle cutlery drawer which is at waist level. “No … it’s the other one” Daniel says. She slams the drawer shut and limply opens the right-hand drawer which rattles with the sound of metal inside.
She pulls out a big carving-knife. Isabel steps towards Daniel, with the knife, but still not meeting his eyes. She calmly starts to cut though the rope which binds his hands. She looks up at Daniel, and for the first time, she makes eye-contact with him, but her look is one of disapproval. “You knew they were in there?” she states with a questioning tone. She turns her head around and looks back at the open drawer.
“Hmm…” Daniel grunts, not looking at her. “Those knives” she confirms, with perfect clarity of speech. Daniel titters a bit, self-consciously.
“Yeah, I got a hold of one in my hand; I looked at it but I couldn’t do it” he says, excusing himself, but without any firmness in his voice, slightly laughing, nervously.
She continues to cut at the rope. Isabel looks up at him, “Where was I?” she queries.
“In the bedroom” he answers, matter-of-factly.
“With him?” she asks, her face beginning to frown.
“Yep” he says, casually, and dismissively. She makes one final cut with the big knife and releases his hands. And then she walks away with her back to him, still holding the knife.
Daniel, tries to reason with her. “He was shaving” he pleads, pathetically. Isabel, standing a few feet away, turns around. She gives him a look full of daggers. She throws the knife down and it bounces off the wooden floor with a clatter. And then she quickly walks away, almost running. Daniel looks totally bewildered.
Isabel is now in the bedroom, packing her suitcase, with a serious look on her face. Daniel walks into the room, carrying a bottle of brandy and one glass. She doesn’t acknowledge him.
Daniel stands there, looking into her case, but not at her. “You don’t feel like giving it a couple of days?” he asks, weakly.
Isabel shakes her head from side to side, “No” she says, with a resigned and sad tone.
Daniel misreads her, again. “A few hours on the beach, you might feel different?” he says, attempting to lighten the frosty atmosphere.
Isabel is livid; and she rolls her eyes at his suggestion. “With, that … that body out there” she is so furious she can hardly speak, and loses her normal eloquence, momentarily.
“We can call the police” Daniel suggests as if it is not big deal.
Isabel fixes him with an look of anger, “Why didn’t you do something?” she accuses him with her head shaking in a tremor and her voice breaking and becoming hoarse with her rage.
Daniel looks defeated and embarrassed at this onslaught. But then his expression turns to anger. “Now don’t you be bloody unreasonable!” he shouts at her, this time, with complete conviction. His chin is raised in defiance. “What the hell can I do?” he now accuses her, and his voice is also breaking with the intensity of his anger. “We are alive, aren’t we, untouched?” his serious expression tells her to accept
“Untouched?” Isabel replies, incredulously. “Untouched?” she says again, softly, her eyes becoming glassy with tears. “That … gunshot … the chicken … him standing there, parading himself …” she turns around from her case to look at the spot where the German was standing as she revisits her memory. Daniel looks at the same spot but sees and feels nothing. Isabel turns back to Daniel. He gulps at the intensity of her look.
“I shall see that face every night of my life. Those eyes …” She holds her gaze on Daniel. He bows his head and looks away. There’s a few seconds pause in which nothing is said.
Isabel starts up again, “… every time there’s a knock at the door …”
“Ok, ok” Daniel cuts in, his face says he’s getting annoyed at her now. He turns around, steps back, and picks up his own case, and brings it to the bed where Isabel’s is lying, half-packed.
Tears are now running down Isabel’s face. She looks at her husband, “Untouched” she whispers, looking for him to grasp how she feels, and then her face falls. Daniel cannot meet her eyes and so he starts to busily pack his own case without looking up.