‘Wonderful view eh,’ said the old man who had appeared behind me.
He must have walked up quietly as I stood enchanted by the view of the old port far below the citadel walls. This window in the ancient castle ramparts was clearly a popular place for tourists taking photos.
“It is yes, quite breath-taking,” here we go no doubt, he’ll want money. To guide me round, be my friend and I only want to take a photo.
“Are you English or German?” he asked.
This always the happens when I am abroad, being mistaken for a German. It’s not surprising, I guess we look a lot alike. I suppose there’s only the language and North Sea that divides us.
“English,” I said.
Here it comes I thought shamefully. Nothing happened, once more in life I was proved wrong. The fellow was just good-natured.
The man introduced himself as Eduardo but I could call him Ed, he spoke good English. He had worked in a hotel in Weston-super-Mare for twenty years. Loved England and the English. Life had been good there. A wife, daughter, job and house all happened for Eduardo. He’d had no plans to return to his native Spain.
“I sang in clubs at weekends and played my guitar. Neil Diamond, Elvis, Johnny Cash,” he said.
Frank began to sing. I think it was a Neil Diamond song with a Spanish accent. He started then stopped abruptly.
“Please continue”, I said.
Eduardo apologised and told me it was against the law to sing like that in the street without a permit. The police had given him hassle in the past when he had tried to earn a little extra to supplement his tiny pension. He didn’t want any trouble with the police.
Eduardo seemed to have all the time in the world and began explaining why he was back in Spain. He missed England. He said that after being married for a few years, he discovered that his wife was a spiteful, angry woman. She bullied him and made life for him and their daughter very miserable.
This all seemed a bit much to be telling a stranger, a tourist that he had just met. He had lived with her for twenty years and worked hard to build a home for the three of them. The old man went into detail about how she was cruel to him and the child.
Eventually Eduardo could take no more and resigned from his job at the best hotel in town. A job he loved. He was well thought of and highly respected at work. He left that day, his job, wife, daughter and home. He returned immediately to his home town in Spain. There he eked out a living singing to tourists to supplement his meagre state pension.
“Would you like to see some photos of my family”, said Eduardo.
“Yes, you must come to my apartment, it is only around the corner and I will make you coffee.”
With that he was gone, heading back into the maze of streets that formed this old Spanish port. I wasn’t sure what to do, he seemed genuine and sad. I felt sorry for the old fellow but what was I supposed to do. I suppose I could go and have a coffee and leave him some euros, he was bound to sing. Then make my excuses and leave.
I set off and could see him a little way ahead making his way home. The apartment was on the first floor in an old white-painted building in a narrow back street. Eduardo was waiting for me by his front door.
“Good I’m glad you decided to come,” he said and set off up the stairs into his apartment.
I followed and was guided to a seat by the window overlooking the street. I sat looking out, the apartment was larger than I had expected. A living room, a kitchen where my host was busy making coffee and other rooms off.
“My love’s we have a guest prepare yourselves I will bring him through,” said the old man appearing with a large tray laden with coffee, cups and sweet pastries’ I looked at him puzzled.
“Sorry I thought you lived here alone, I didn’t expect there to be anyone else here?” I said.
“Come friend into the dining and I will explain. Come and join us, let us all enjoy this beautiful day and celebrate our new friendship with good coffee,” said Eduardo.
I rose from my seat by the window a little reluctantly but set off into the rather smart dining room. A small crystal chandelier above a large mahogany table with eight chairs around it. One at each end and three either side. Eduardo had laid out the coffee and cakes. He was busy pouring, sorting plates and napkins. He gestured me to sit with him at the table.
I couldn’t move beyond the doorway. Terror welled up inside me, I began trembling.
“Come friend sit down and let me introduce you to my darling wife and daughter. Elsie and Rose. We named her so as always to remind us of that first beautiful English summer we spent together, isn’t that right Elsie?” said Eduardo talking to his wife sitting next to him.
She was quite still, dead and mostly decomposed. Flaps of leathery flesh were hanging from her face and hands. Flies buzzed around her settling on the bare flesh or disappearing inside her clothing. Her face was ghastly, twisted in horror. It had become almost skeletal, yet with her eyeballs still a prominent feature.
Their daughter was the young woman in her mid-twenties sitting at the other side of Frank. Both had injuries suggesting their end had been a violent one. Flies were everywhere in an out of their cavities before coming to rest on coffee cups and cakes.
“Eduardo!” I blurted out “what on earth?”
I sat down opposite the family, I had to I was in danger of collapsing. I didn’t know what to say. I thought I should say something.
“I thought you said you left them in England,” I said.
For the first time since I had met him he seemed happy, sipping his coffee sliding a cup and plate of cakes across the table toward me.
“I did but I was so lonely when I got back here. I didn’t know anyone and felt like a stranger in my own town. I missed them so much, so after a month I got in my car and went back. I had decided that they were coming with me back to Spain,” he said.
“What happened,” I whispered. Trying hard not to vomit as I watched Ed brush a fly off the pastry he was just about to eat.
“Nothing much, they didn’t want to come. It’s alright now though we are a happy little family again and w have a new friend. Maybe you and Rose might form a friendship. It’s about time you found yourself a man my girl and this young fellow seems a perfect catch,” he said.
Frank looked at his daughter, his wife and then me. He sipped his coffee and smiled.