‘VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER’ NOW AVAILABLE: Read the first chapter free!

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Valencia, Spain: October 1957 – After a long hot summer, Guardia Civil officers José Morales Ruiz and Fermín Belasco Ibarra have had enough of their lives. Sick of dealing with lowlifes and those left powerless under Franco’s ruthless dictatorship, the friends devise a  complex system of stealing babies, to be sent away to paying families. But as the October rains fall, the dry Valencian streets fill with muddy water, and only greed and self-preservation will survive…

It’s 2010, and Luna Montgomery is busier than ever. With the mystery of her murdered grandfather solved, she reluctantly prepares to be the bride in Spain’s ‘wedding of the year’. But four more bodies lie hidden at Escondrijo, Luna’s farm in the Valencian mountains. Her fiancé, bullfighter Cayetano Beltrán Morales, is not eager to have his name brought up in a post-civil war burial excavation. When Cayetano’s grandfather José, an evil Franco supporter, starts to push his ideals on Luna, her decision to join the Beltrán family comes under scrutiny.

The Tour de France is fast approaching, and Luna’s position as a bike mechanic on Valencia’s new cycling team begins to come under pressure. When an ‘accident’ occurs at Escondrijo, lives hang in the balance as more of Spain’s ghosts come to life and tell the story of a flood in 1957…

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As promised, here is the first chapter to read ~

Agosto 1957 – Valencia, España

 Valencia. It was hot. Stinking hot. Not as hot as back home in Madrid, but still, when combined with the stench of a fly-ridden body, the heat was hell. The whole place was hell. At least while standing in Plaza del Temple, outside the Delegación de Gobierno building, there was a hint of a breeze.

José sighed as he pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. Fuck, not many left. Perhaps some of his fellow funcionarios could start paying back the ones that they owed him. They would have to; he didn’t have a céntimo to spare for cigarettes. God forbid luxuries in this shithole. Why did his wife want to bring more babies into this world? For God and country, she would say. Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ will bless us with a son, she would say. More appealing was the bonus that José would get from Franco for having more children. The Caudillo encouraged more children from his downtrodden population. It was a mystery how anyone could feed these extra mouths; a  Guardia Civil pay-cheque couldn’t feed more kids. But after four years of marriage, all José and his wife Consuela had produced was their daughter, Inés. It was staggering what a beautiful baby girl could do to man, even a hard police officer like Teniente José Morales Ruiz. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid his eyes on. His fellow funcionarios would howl with laughter if they knew how soft he was with this daughter. Especially since they knew how rough he was with the sons and daughters of his fellow Spaniards when he hauled them into the cells of this hot city. Upholding the law didn’t produce half the excitement José expected, so he needed to create his own.

“Sueñas, Morales?”

José glanced up from the dusty footpath and watched Teniente Belasco come towards him; the tall thin man looked sweaty in his dark green Guardia Civil uniform. “I’m not daydreaming,” he replied and poked his unlit cigarette back into his pocket. “Where have you been? I thought we agreed to meet here.”

Belasco glanced up at the 300-year old building behind his partner. His eyes traced along the triangular turrets of the Monastery del Temple attached to the government building. The original temple had been built to commemorate the conquest of the city in 1238. “Sorry, but when a member of the public needs a dose of Guardia Civil justice, I must go where I’m called. You know I love beating people.”

“Why did you leave me to submit your paperwork with the civil protection division today? I’m not your slave.”

Belasco gestured over his shoulder in the direction of the prison near the end of the river. “Had to throw a few whores in one of the cells on Paseo de la Pechina. Nasty bitches, too. The ones who scratch when you shove them.”

“The kinds you use in the night?”

“Yeah, one of them did look familiar. I tell you, the whores back home are far more beautiful.”

“You won’t ever get back to the Basque country,” José commented. “So stop dreaming about their whores. If they look anything like you, they must have faces like wild pigs.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that the whores in Madrid are better?” Belasco challenged.

“I wouldn’t pay to touch one of those skeletons. Christ, I wouldn’t do it if they were paying me.”

“Do you ever dream of returning home?” Belasco asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow in the midday sun.

“You know the rules,” José sighed. “No, the Guardia Civil needs us here. So, here we are, stuck in Valencia. I will go home one day. My life won’t be like this forever.”

“Ah, yes, the big dreams.”

“You bet. One day, I am going to save enough money to buy my own land and people will work for me. No more wrestling petty criminals and dirty whores.”

“I love being a bully in a uniform. Plus, it gets us paid.”

“We are not getting paid enough.” José studied his fellow officer. He and Fermín Belasco Ibarra had worked together for several years, and he was sick of it. Belasco lived in the Guardia Civil barracks, but spent most of his free time drinking and sleeping with women, whether they consented or not. This hard-hitting life spoke through Belasco’s features; he looked exhausted all the time. “I don’t know how much more of this life I can take.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know.”

“You want out of the Guardia Civil? Fuck, no other work pays as steady as this. Sure, you can go home to Madrid, but then what? It won’t be happily ever after for you and the lovely Consuela if you starve to death.”

“Tell me about it.”

“If I had a pretty girl waiting at home, I might be a bit happier.”

“If you keep quarrelling with whores, the only thing waiting for you is a rash.”

“Too late for that.”

“Gracias, Fermín. Thanks for sharing.”

“We’re not all as lucky as you. You get a wife, a daughter, and permission to live outside the barracks on Calle de Calamocha.”

“Soy un hombre afortunado.”

“A very lucky man indeed.”

“One day, I will be just as lucky. I will go home to my beloved Basque nation and have a real life.”

“Don’t let any of the others hear you say that. May I remind you that the Basque country is part of España? Get in line, hermano, you are no different to the rest of us.”

“I thought I could trust you. I thought we were friends.”

José shrugged. “I could arrest you. Say you are an enemy of the State, and are plotting against Franco and the unity of España. And I would, too, if I would get something out of it.”

“Gracias.”

“De nada. If we were in Madrid…”

“Here we go again.”

“Shut up. If we were in Madrid, we could be part of an elite squad, out chasing rojos, the dirty red socialists who are hiding. That would give us some excitement.”

“Part of Franco’s special forces? They work here, you know.”

“But in Madrid, they’re catching the most dirty rojos, the filthy ones who got up to all sorts of treachery during the war. Those guys get to chase those pigs. They get to meet Franco. Valencia may as well be in the fucking desert compared to the action going on in Madrid.”

“It feels like the desert,” Belasco grumbled. He pulled at the collar of his heavy dark green jacket; beads of sweat ran down his neck as he did it. “Valencia saw plenty of action during the war, so surely there are loads of socialist pigs to catch here, too.”

“But we aren’t seeing any of that action. We are guarding cells full of whores and drunks.”

“One of them was dead in there this morning, you know.”

“Fuck, I know, I could smell him when I dropped off a pimp earlier.”

“And the truck isn’t taking him out to the cemetery until nightfall. They are stuck with the body all day.”

José glanced away from his worn black boots on the dusty path, and up out across the riverbed before him. Nearby limp trees were still in the heat. The river looked the same as always. Quiet. Innocuous. The river itself was 150 metres wide, yet the water that flowed was a tiny fraction of that, and the stream didn’t offer much water today. The rest of the riverbed was dry, and a few slum shacks had emerged. Those people would be royally fucked if the water level rose. But it was August, summer in full swing. It would be hot and dry for months ahead. That river wouldn’t come to life.

“There’s another one of ‘those’ in the cells today, those women who attack the clergy. Had to haul her out of Iglesia de Santa Catalina. She was in there, hurling abuse – and blows – at the priest. She had already injured two of the nuns.”

José turned and looked at his friend. He knew what Belasco meant. Nuns stole babies from their young mothers in the hospital, and the infants were sold at a profit through the priest – all against the mother’s wishes. Every church was the same, running the hospitals for their own desires. “Why was she arrested?”

“Assault. Might be able to throw in a few other charges, just to keep her quiet. She is a mess; a few months in the cells, and she will be dead. She was covered in blood, I guess from assaulting the clergy.”

“Or from giving birth.”

Belasco paused. “I don’t know about all that.”

“Me neither, but it can’t be pretty. I waited at the bar around the corner from my place while Consuela did all that.”

“This woman isn’t as virtuous as Consuela.”

“Just another whore?”

“When we pulled her off the priest, she was raving that she and her husband would have raised the baby, but he died back in the winter. But who knows. Either way, she is a single mother, and they suspected that she wasn’t a staunch Catholic, so they took the baby.”

“Don’t they usually just tell the mother that the baby is dead and show her a closed coffin?”

“They did; she didn’t believe them. Said she wanted to see the body of the girl. But by then, the baby had already been removed to be sold on to another family. A buyer was already lined up, someone more ideologically suitable for parenthood.”

“She probably deserved to have her baby taken.”

“They said she was speaking Valencian in the hospital while giving birth.”

“That’s a crime on its own. The baby is better off with a devoted Catholic family.”

“As they all are.”

José took off his dark tricorne hat and fanned himself with it. “Sometimes you have to wonder where all these babies are going.”

“A lot of cities developed a decent system where foreigners can come in and collect the babies. Those Americans who come in, they pay top dollar. Pity is, the system isn’t working so well here. The priests and the nuns work alone in public or private hospitals, and they are getting a large profit margin, but aren’t attracting many foreigners. Locals can’t afford to pay as much as extranjeros.”

“It sounds like a market to be exploited,” José mused.

“What are you saying?”

“Well, most of the babies are shipped out of here and on to bigger cities. There could to be a sort of go-between business that provides extra babies to the church. The church can sell them, and the baby-supplier gets a slice of the profits. They would get a slice of the foreign dollar. Imagine having a wad of American notes in your hand at the end of your work day.”

“What about our work here?”

“We could do both.”

“But wouldn’t that be stealing from the church? That money is for finding homes for disadvantaged children.”

José scoffed. “Targeting a vulnerable woman and taking her baby, or stealing a twin, is not done to save babies’ immortal souls. It’s for profit. Don’t tell me that it’s done because it’s God’s will.”

“Franco approves of the practice.”

“Franco is fostering a country where we all starve. Babies are stolen from their left-wing families, to create a population where he remains in power, by rearing the rebellion out of them. It’s crazy bullshit.”

“I could arrest you for saying that. Maybe you’re the enemy of the State, not me.”

“I just want to feed my wife and daughter. Plus, even with enough money – just – a man can only take so much paella.”

“Better than starving in Madrid, isn’t it?”

“But I took this job to see action! And where is it? Standing outside a set of cells filled with thieves and whores? They starve in the dark while I stand in the heat.”

“So, what, you want to be in the Brigada Especial in Madrid? The war ended 18 years ago, how many rojos can there be left to chase?”

“They killed my family,” José spat out. “Those Republican bastards shot my father, and my mother was killed in an air raid.”

“The town where I grew up is no longer on the map, thanks to air raids. I was lucky not to get shipped off to Russia to live out my days with the other orphans,” Belasco said. “But it’s old news.”

“I don’t feel like vengeance has been carried out sufficiently yet.”

“Maybe you should have joined the army.”

“The army is weak and pathetic. Anyone could take over España right now. At least the Guardia Civil has undisputed power.”

“Too much ambition, Morales. That’s your problem.”

“Franco rules this country and we help him do that. Why shouldn’t there be some benefits on the side?”

“Ask the boss later on then. He knows a lot of people, and he is getting plenty of benefits.”

“Whores, mostly.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Even respectable women, one angry word from people like us, and they are on their backs in fear.”

“I have no need for that.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t indulge. Consuela doesn’t need to find out. Besides, she still hasn’t given you a son.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Hey, you could buy her a son for Christmas if that cock of yours doesn’t fire up often enough. Or practice on other women first. The choice is yours.”

“You’re a prick, you know that?”

“Hey, my prick is happy, when it isn’t itching.”

José swatted a fly from his face and shook his head in disgust as Belasco laughed. There had to be a better way of making a living.

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2 thoughts on “‘VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER’ NOW AVAILABLE: Read the first chapter free!

  1. Just purchased it at Amazon.com. Looking forward to read it now!
    Would be interesting to read about how much you can see from Amazon sales..

    Like

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