Table of Contents
Chapter 27 appears
in this issue.
Chapter 28: Changing Landscapes
Toni had just arrived back in his hotel room. Carla was already waiting for him.
‘Hola. Time to get packed again, Toni ... you’re going home!’
‘What, to Bilbao? Right now ...?’
‘No — we’re going via Madrid. Quo has one last special job for you there ...’
Toni got on the phone once more, and was quickly booked on the direct flight departing at 1845.
‘Ah, yes ... hold on, please ... Carla, will I need a hotel too?’
‘Yes, you will — and please get a top class one, in the city centre! You deserve some luxury, and you won’t have all that free money for much longer — and we’ll need to use its business services tonight ...’
The hotel was quickly booked, along with a taxi to the airport at four-thirty.
* * *
By three-fifteen, Toni, who had been very quiet since finishing the call, was nearly ready and was about to re-pack the drawing materials from Paris at the top of his case.
‘We have a whole hour to spare. I’d like to give you something back for all you have done for us ...’
Toni blushed as usual.
‘No, Toni, be sensible! Some things can never be. I was going to ask if you would like me to help you draw a vision of Arunura ...’
‘Oh! ... oh, yes ... Carla, I can’t think of anything I’d like better at this moment ...’
‘Shut the window, Toni ... there’s far too much traffic noise!
‘That’s better. Now set up your favourite CD, but turn the volume down very low.
‘Close the curtains. Dim the lights.
‘Take your coloured pencils and your sketch pad, and sit comfortably in your chair.
‘Be tranquil, Toni. There is no rush. I will tell you when you need to finish.
‘Start your special music.
‘Now close your eyes a moment or two, and float in a silky sea ...’
When Toni opened his eyes again, Carla had disappeared. In her place she had revealed a glorious, vibrant perspective on the warm lagoons and the sunset skies of her mysterious homeland. Toni’s coloured pencils at once set to work ...
* * *
When the songs of his muse had come full circle, and when only twenty minutes remained before the arrival of the taxi, Toni’s exquisitely-disguised model whispered ‘It’s time to finish off now. When it’s done, just close your eyes once more ...’
Then Carla un-made from her image of Arunura, and re-made again in the image that Toni so loved.
Toni emerged from his long trance, looked down at his sketch pad, and smiled a very happy smile.
‘Please may I see it, Toni? ... Oh, that’s absolutely perfect! You really are becoming an inspired artist ...’
‘I like it too, Carla!’
‘This is my gift to you. Gracias, Toni ... with all my heart!’
* * *
The taxi was already waiting as they left the hotel. A little over an hour later, Toni was fully checked in for his flight — he had decided on an upgrade from economy class, just for once — and was walking through to the departure lounge with his unseen companion.
At Carla’s special whispered request, he went over to the bookshop and bought several Spanish newspapers, and a street plan of Madrid. Then he noticed a wide-screen TV running a non-stop news programme.
The story being featured, as he sat down to watch, was that afternoon’s overwhelming vote of acceptance of all ten new candidate countries into the European Union.
‘In each of the ten separate votes on enlargement,’ the reporter was saying, against a backdrop of the very flags beneath which Toni had been standing only hours before, ‘a small number of individual votes were cast against the admission of the applying nation. Some states suffered only very minor levels of such “rejection”. There was stronger opposition to the applications of certain other countries, mainly on specific long-running issues of human rights. But even in those cases, the European Parliament’s voting in favour of acceptance dramatically outweighed any dissent ...’
The anchorman took over and began to introduce the next item. Before Toni even knew what the subject matter would be, he could tell that the presenter felt much more comfortable with the “interest level” of what was to come. No doubt, he thought, it will be a trivial video feature on the private life of some cheap sports “celebrity” ...
He was wrong. The picture changed to a clip of his own Prime Minister emerging from his car in front of the Spanish Parliament building. He was surrounded by banner-wielding journalists and photographers. They had all downed their notebooks and cameras in protest against the deaths “in action” of two of their colleagues, who had been reporting on the invasion of Baghdad when a shell burst into their hotel ...
Toni suddenly realised he was a little out of touch. He had been on the road for over two weeks, and had not read a single paper or watched any TV news throughout that time. He checked his watch. Still ten minutes before boarding. He waited to see what else was going on ...
The anchorman was back, looking mildly flustered but exhilarated.
‘And we have just received these startling images ... there is no commentary yet, I’m afraid ...’
The screen was suddenly and silently filled with dramatic footage of the coalition forces’ invasion of central Baghdad, followed by a long and loosely edited sequence showing the progressive toppling of a huge statue of the ousted Iraqi leader.
Toni boarded his aeroplane on schedule at six-fifteen.