February 4th, 2013
Some of the comments received on this blog are asking about the kind of material I’m trying to get published. These books are: (a) book about unusual forms of bullying in early childhood for kids and adults (b) book about acquired brain injury in adults via toxic injuries (c) non-fiction book about contracts and law (d) two part fiction work, political/thriller taking place in the U.S in the first volume and in Europe in the second. My travels are partly recuperative (post cancer surgery) and also for gathering material for my writing.
The fiction work is not being written in order but more or less as things occur and spark my muse. I’m searching for an editor to assist me as I write because I’m dysphasic (acquired language disorder) as you will have noted reading posts in this blog and encounter errors. If you’d like to read a chapter from the european ‘saga’, feel free to click below for a peek at a story from Spain which is actually based upon real experience. You recall the definition of experience, don’t you? It’s when something happens that you didn’t want but find educational, nonetheless. Here you go and comments are welcome:
The novel is about a woman named Judith Kaplan whose job in a family business is lost when her father dies under mysterious circumstances. Learning that the business has gone into bankruptcy for reasons unknown, she begins looking into the reasons for these events. After traveling the length and breadth of the U.S.A. to meet with people who knew her father, she discovers that a coup has occurred. Pollution of a purposeful nature was causing widespread illness and death in a manner which would not be attributed to frank aggression under the imposed silence of the new shadow government. In the second volume, Judith goes to Europe to see how widespread the political disruption is within the Western hemisphere. Here is a chapter of that second book which takes place in Spain:
Spain seemed a logical place to go since there was a prevailing ‘rumor’ that countries who’d had the roughest modern history would have the ‘highest’ roof, with less visible oppression. It was also among the least costly options and my money wasn’t going to last long with the Scottish hostels no longer ‘hospitable’. Already banned from dorms, the private rooms were simply too expensive. Street pollution was nearing the levels which had caused me to leave the U.S. Even a major magazine had commented upon the early mortality rate being documented in Glasgow citing fumes rising from the Clyde river. Certainly the streets weren’t crowded and the library battles had been epic in true Scottish style.
I really loved that region and mourned the countryside denied me up in the Edinburgh area but it was time to head south for awhile.
Plane fare to Madrid was reasonable and I arranged my backpack to carry all my important materials while checking the larger rolling suitcase for the cargo hold. The trip broke in London for a couple of hours. It wouldn’t be a genuine glimpse of England but that wasn’t on the itinerary for cost reasons. The first leg of the plane trip was uneventful and I waited out the interim hours in a Heathrow coffee shop. Pulling out my own food and paying for the seat with a black coffee and chocolate bar, I sat by a window to watch the world go past. So did a portly, mustached man sitting next to me with a younger man who never said one word. He was merely a listening post, his presence giving the older man license to speak without restraint. And he did, in terms that were alternatively terrifying and mundane, being representative of something you’d say to someone being interviewed for a job. It went on non-stop for forty-five minutes, consisting almost entirely of threats until the final two minutes.
“The job is bleeding dangerous and you’ll wish you were dead by the time it was done. Have a good time while you can because you are royally fucked and we’ll kill you six times before sunup. Anything you want to do is going to be impossible. Meetings are held twice a month at the hotel. Dress is a customary suit and tie. You’ll hang by it after three hours until you choke. Sure, you can travel and sell internationally. Then we’ll kill you.”
I kept glancing sideways to see his companion continue drinking, inattentive and silent. They may not even have known each other. By that time, I was seething inwardly. Winding down, the final words were intriguing.
“We have some really exciting positions to offer you with the kind of work you’d enjoy doing.” He left abruptly and I realized it was time for me to head for the gate. Somehow, the threats hadn’t produced the desired effect and there was one offer of something positive – if anything positive could ever come from such a source. I doubted it and now suspected that England had fallen as well, with a really ‘low ceiling. What awaited me in Madrid?
The plane ride was uneventful but the games began once more upon my arrival in Madrid at the car rental place. I had a contract for a week’s car rental with the Upton Car Rental people but they claimed they’d traded my business down the line to another group called Friendly rentals. Dragging my luggage down innumerable ramps, the lower level beckoned with its massive car park. Peering around one tiny building after another, Friendly suddenly appeared in full, yellow signage. I entered and found my first experience with Spanish rather trying. I received the news that I’d been given an upgrade to a far superior van due to a lack of economy cars. Of course, I hadn’t ever been in such a high-end vehicle and hadn’t the slightest inkling how to operate it. The manual boasted English instructions but that part of the book was missing in action. Going back three times to the clerk for advice, I finally managed to open the trunk, find the lights and manage the automatic shift which was unlike any I’d seen before.
Alice in Vunderland. It was a lovely Mercedes. I hoped it would make an equally great motel room in the warm spring weather. Relieved to be out of the UK chill, I hit my first snag when the car kept stalling out. Stopping by some construction workers, my fractured Spanish and gesticulations left them hysterically attempting to give me instructions as to how to operate the shift properly. Finally grasping the fundamentals, I returned to my explorations of the area. Mostly in circles because nothing is harder than exiting the Madrid airport. However, shortly before circles became my way of life, I found the highway into the city proper.
The city was fairly empty of traffic for a weekday afternoon. The architecture was all I’d expected to see, mixing a history of North African and Middle Eastern occupation with the Spanish themes familiar to me from the American Southwest. Lacking any real knowledge of modern history, I was astonished to see a sculpture of a man chained to a post with the chain ending abruptly over his right shoulder. Watching it hanging in midair, I broke into tears forcing me to pull over to the side of the road. Their roof must have caved in to bring such art to the foreground of modern Madrid. They must have lost any hope that new links would be forged heading towards freedom.
I’d been mistaken about the continent as well as the UK. In confirmation of this thought, a white van pulled up behind me and baptized my car with a burst of putrid spray landing on my rear bumper. Time for emergency measures. Having been well trained in Florida, I started to look around for a store supplying clear contact paper to seal up the rear of the van. I’d be able to move luggage around from inside that roomy interior and could leave it sealed.
A call to the local tourist board informed me that it wasn’t illegal to sleep in one’s car, unlike many areas of the US. Grateful for that information, I set about gathering my supplies.
My funds were running low so I extended my contract with the car company for another week. They’d told me there was no problem and I should just stop in to make a payment when I got the time. Luckily, that arrangement was open-ended enough to survive a new shock. My main credit card wasn’t operating. Grabbing my cell phone, I made a hasty call after the magic hour which meant bank people would be at work. For some reason, the 24 hour phone service I’d been counting on all these months had turned into a 12 hour service. Then a ten hour service.
“Hi, this is Judith Kaplan.” I supplied my identification details and the woman answering called up my account. “My card isn’t working. Can you tell me why I’m unable to get a cash advance on it?”
“Your last request was refused because the account is overdrawn by $94.00.”
“I’m sure there’s a positive balance there. What was the last transaction?”
“This morning you withdrew the equivalent of 200 pounds from a Scottish bank.”
“I’m in Madrid, “ I said flatly. “That’s quite a trick and I’m no magician.”
She didn’t miss a beat and I admired her fortitude. “I’ll notify our branch dealing with theft and close down the card immediately.”
“Is there anyway to track the perpetrator since you have the details of what happened there?”
“You’ll have to report it and have that bank look into the matter. How long has your card been missing?”
“I’m holding it my hand so the question didn’t arise.”
“Oh, well it must have been cloned.”
“You mean like Dolly, the sheep kind of cloned?”
Maybe she wasn’t up on her animal agriculture. In any event, my card was reproducing and I recalled that Dolly couldn’t. “Never mind that – it isn’t relevant. You’re telling me that someone duplicated my card and presented it at a Scottish bank. Isn’t your bank working with others to stop that kind of fraud? Wouldn’t you be working on that as an industry?”
“I’m afraid it is up to you to have that bank look at its cameras to find the user. I can give you the transaction numbers if you like. All we can do is offer replacement cards to you.”
I had no idea where I’d be able to receive the cards and realized I’d need to look for a hotel. “How long will it take to send the cards to Madrid, Spain?”
“We can’t do that, I’m afraid. It has to go to the address on record.”
Great. An emergency forward from California was going to be necessary. I guess it would prevent hijacking of the cards but funds were going to be needed right away. Luckily, I still had my other bank accounts. They wouldn’t offer much but might get me through. “How long will it take to issue them?”
“Seven to ten business days.”
“Do you have an emergency service?”
“Yes, we can expedite it and deduct the shipping from your checking account.”
“Please do that. In the meantime, my next direct deposit into that account will be there in a week. How can I have money from that account transferred to another bank account I have in the US.”
“You’ll have to come into the branch to do that.”
My mouth was hanging open and I snapped it shut before flies entered. “If I were in California, I wouldn’t need a transfer.”
“That’s the rule. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
I decided to try this backwards and have one of the other banks get money out of that account for me via check. “Thanks for your help. I’ll contact the bank in Scotland to look for the perp with the information you provided.”
A call to Scotland resulted in a lackadaisical employee taking down the information and advising me to file a complaint with the fraud division of the police department. Apparently, it wasn’t their problem and my own bank in the states ought to be getting on that immediately. Sighing, I got them to offer me a number for the police and reported the crime there.
My call to my New York bank was more successful. I had enough funds in there to keep me going if I continued to sleep in the car. When my next direct deposit got into the California account, I could link it to the NY card. Then I could pay for the car and continue my travels on the continent.
Still looking for the ‘new’ border out of occupied territory.
I found an ATM and managed to get enough cash for gas and food. Back in the car, I settled in for the night after being pursued by sprayers for a half hour. I went around the city center to find a more residential location with less ongoing activity.
Airing out the car for awhile, I read by flashlight before calling it a night. Enclosing myself in a new sleeping bag, the world receded as a tall man walked his dog down the street in the late night silence.
As usual, the sun woke me early as motorized sweepers made their way down the clean streets of this heavily residential area. Green terraces were a signature feature of these well-kept households. At seven-ten, the first crowd of workers and students exited walled walk-ways surrounding the apartment complexes. Groggily recalling that I’d been robbed the day before, I set about locating the nearest fast food restaurant on my garmin so I could use a bathroom for the cost of a cup of coffee.
Success, in the form of a Good Morning World chain store, offered a roomy toilet and sink area to perform a reasonably thorough sponge bath. I’d planned on taking a hotel room every three days for a shower and laundry operation but the loss of my debit card was going to put a dent in that plan. A camp-ground would offer the cheapest option now. Apparently there were several on the outskirts of Madrid which might serve the purpose.
At nine A.M. I called the car rental company to ensure I could keep the car another week. Given verbal permission to extend the contract, it was a good bet my new card would arrive in time to cover the charges and arrange for a new contract. The rates would go up with the next version of the contract so a cheaper car would be needed.
Reviewing the cash situation, all was satisfactory but I suddenly realized my N.Y. Bank card was now missing. It must have been lost or stolen when I’d used it at the ATM the previous day. Cursing a blue streak, I berated myself for such carelessness. Not just a target now for poisons, my financial security was still under attack as it had been back home. The internal gulag begun in the U.S. continued. I called the loss into the 24 hour service this large bank had retained. Another card would be sent out immediately.
In the interim, there was no reason not to explore these incredible surroundings. Determined not to violate the intifada, the usual tourist attractions were outlawed. Heartbroken not to be able to see the Prado, I figured the real sights would be the countryside. The people would be visible in the larger food stores although the malls would largely hold members of the occupation force as employees and shoppers. There would also be people like myself who couldn’t shop over an internet connection. They’d either lack a mailing address or need some last-minute purchase. Shipping also raised prices considerably.
The days were warm so I’d avoid perishable foods and save money on ice and coolers. The major supermarkets were a welcome window into the national scene. Calm, closely bonded family units scoured aisles for bargains in the tough economic climate of the country. Kids barreled down the aisles rambunctiously and others held onto the hands of elderly grandparents watching over them for working parents. The large Muslim population was represented in the prevalence of chador-clad women. This contrasted with the shorter and more colorful skirts of many young women eyeing me curiously as I browsed the products.
Not being able to understand all of the labels was an adventure in product selection. The array of products on the shelves made American supermarkets look like country cousins in terms of variety. Used to thinking that American markets were well-stocked, it was fun to look over the many exotic options in front of me. Avoiding truly novel products since I was sans bathroom in my van, I canvassed some great selections in canned fish, dried fruit, roasted nuts and European chocolate. Picnicking might be less boring here than back home.
Storing sufficient stock for several days alongside a dozen bottles of water, I set out into the countryside. The mountains beckoned with a curious mixture of desert plants alongside more succulent varieties of greenery. My rear view mirror demonstrated the continuing presence of interested spectators but out here in the low-trafficked sections of the highway, there was little reason for physical proximity to threaten my car. A couple of day’s respite was punctuated by one unfortunate encounter with “Round-up” herbicide at a car camp, similar to my experiences back home. Still, the trip was peaceful until a return to the city was needed to arrange to have my new bank cards expressed to me from California.
My Garmin offered me a list of hotels in the region. A call to the Fairhaven hotel was successful. They said the’d accept the shipment. Upon receipt, I’d be able to charge a room and then hit the car rental place to rent a smaller car. My plans were to explore Barcelona after that point.
Back in the city, the nightlife beckoned. Sitting in a corner cafe nursing a few mineral waters, the chatter and movement around the city belied any sense of reticence. Sudden silence greeted the appearance of police dressed in yellow and black. The conversation resumed as they moved onward. This antipathy seemed to be a recurring theme.
Returning to my car for the night, I headed for a quiet residential street to get some sleep. It was around ten o’clock and my fatigue remained high, requiring as much sleep as I could get while on the refugee trail.
“Senora? Abre la puerta, por favor!” The shouting woke me through the window currently pillowing my head. A bleary check of my cell phone indicated it was midnight. Must be a police check. Recalling that it was legal to camp out in this manner, I rolled down the window and addressed the officer.
“Lo siento mucho, pero hablo solamente un poquito de espanol. Habla usted ingles?” I apologized for my lack of proficiency in Spanish.
“A little only. We talk ingles y espanol.”
Apparently we’d just agreed that neither of us could rely upon achieving an accurate exchange of information but might muddle through the encounter.
“Senora, you are sick? Enferma?”
“No, I was robbed of a debit card so I’m sleeping in the car to save money.” A semi-blank, but still sly look, indicated I’d have to do a better job of telling my story. I labored to translate it into Spanish. Another officer approached. There were three cars and six officers around me, bright LED lights flooding the quiet street. The yellow and black uniforms were form fitting. Struggling to full consciousness, I responded to a request for my license and the rental car papers. Just for a check, of course. Routine.
Uh-huh. The check took about half an hour, at which time one of the cops brought me their cell phone. They’d called the American embassy for me and invited me to speak with someone from there.
“What? Am I under arrest?”
“No, no. No arrest. You talk to them, right?”
“Sure.” I took the phone and uttered the routine greeting. “Why were you called?”
“I’m just the Marine on duty, Ma’am. They tell me you’re driving a rental car with an expired contract. They say they’re going to try to reach the company and make sure everything is alright. No arrest or anything. I’m going to contact the consulate though for you and you can speak to one of them. It’s just a precaution but I think it’s a good idea to go up the chain a bit. Ok?”
“Thank you. I’d be happy to talk to anyone who can deal with this.” I handed the phone back to the officer. “There’s going to be another call coming in from the embassy in a few minutes, ok?”
“Yes, yes. We ring to company but no one is taking call. Understand?”
I explained in broken Spanish and tired English the issue surrounding the extension of the contract and my stolen bank cards. Another cop approached and whispered in the ear of my confidante. He turned back to me and gave me the bad news.
“Senora, the car is stolen.”
“What?” Car theft wasn’t high on my list of chosen professions. It never occurred to me that anyone would report the car stolen. By now it was nearly two AM and I suspected that the cops may have induced the company to make a report. At this hour, they’d be safely out of reach for comment. A cell phone was again placed in my hand.
“Hi, this is Robyn from the Consulate staff. Have you been arrested?”
“No, they say they have a report of my rental car being stolen but they’re trying to reach the company.” I filled in the remaining details and asked if this was unusual.
“Oh, no. Americans have a terrible time here in Madrid. In fact, we get reports all night long of arrests so be sure and call us again if you should be taken into custody. A lot of the stories we hear aren’t as tame as yours. Here’s the number to call. Got a pen?”
Great. Western Europe and I felt like I was behind an iron curtain. The roof was sagging for sure. I took down the information and assured her I’d be calling if taken away in leg irons.
I’d been joking but the remark turned out to be close to the truth. No sooner than I’d hung up with Robyn than another officer approached. I was informed the car was listed as stolen and the words were written on their screens.
Low on funds, I needed to finish the night outside of a hotel. “Why don’t I follow you to the police station and surrender the car to you? I can spend the rest of the night sitting in the station or in the car. We can straighten this out in the morning.”
They indicated this would be fine but I’d need to go with them in a police car and someone else would drive the rental. Would I please empty it of all my belongings and very quickly. Funny, but there’d been no rush up until this point. My things were scattered all over the rear of the van and I was hurried through the process of cleaning it up and packing my bags. Knowing I’d be missing assorted items, I got everything I could into my sacks. Those sacks and I were hustled into the back of an official vehicle. After a few breaths, I exited coughing and choking. The scent of “Round-up” was heavy and had evidently just been applied. Appalled, I realized this was a roust.
Refusing to get back into that vehicle where my belongings were already stashed, I insisted upon moving myself and the bags into another car. Resisting slightly but still being polite, this was eventually agreed. The other car had fainter traces of other pollutants but was an improvement over the first one.
We tooled down the lamp-lit streets, an apparently common ritual of harassment from some of the looks encountered by passers-by. We reached the station and all politeness seemed to fade into the background. Brought into a tiny, windowless room, my asthma kicked up with a vengeance. Retreating to the outer area where the door had remained open, one officer approached informing me that I was under arrest and had to go back into that fetid room. Shocked, I stated that I needed to speak to my embassy and that I couldn’t breathe in there.
Agreeing to let me sit in the entryway, ventilated with the fresh, mild night air, I occupied the sole wooden chair along the rear wall. Inside the neighboring room I’d refused to occupy, came the sound of an aerosol can being used. The smell of pesticide wafted towards me and I resumed coughing. Grabbing a pen and paper, I began recording the entire scenario as the officer’s head peered around the doorway.
“She’s writing this down!”, he called out in English. The hissing of the can stopped immediately and another officer came towards me and confiscated my belongings.
“We take these inside and you will follow me. You will be fingerprinted and go into a cell until tomorrow.”
“I want to make a phone call.” Evidently I’d watched the wrong television series because they quickly informed me I had no such rights in Spain.
“No, no. We make a call to someone you want here in Spain only. In the morning, a state lawyer will come and see you.”
“I need to call the United States so my sister can call a lawyer for me. I have my own phone.”
“No, you cannot call anyone. Give me the number of someone here in Espana only and we make the call.”
I pulled out the number of the embassy officer and showed it to the cop who copied out the number. “I get to it later.”
Evidently, I wasn’t going to know if the embassy was called or not. In the meantime, my belongings were put into an area behind the front desk for searching. Given a few minutes alone with my baggage after being frisked, I removed some SD camera cards and other personal belongings including my safe deposit box keys. These were put into my pockets. Nothing I could do about their hanging onto my laptop and personal papers.
Taken from the front area into a back room I was fingerprinted. I was then escorted into the toilet and helped to wash off the ink. Requesting privacy, I then used the toilet before being issued a pillow and blanket. Then came the cell I never expected to occupy in the course of my life. It was in the dank, moist back-end of the police station. A clang marked the closure of the cell door, locking me into a square box, empty of all but a wooden bench and the echoes of screams from years past. The walls were stained with mold although the floor had been scoured clean. A drain in the center of the floor emitted sour fumes.
I sat back on the bench and breathed shallowly through a dust mask I’d secreted in a pocket. It was now after three A.M. I was exhausted but unable to consider lying down with my labored breathing. Staying awake, I covered my shivering frame with the blanket.
An hour later, an officer came and said I was being moved to another cell. Unable to understand this shift, I went to another lock-box in the far corner of the jail. This cell had wet walls and the air was impossible heavy with mold and other, unidentifiable obscenities. Choking and gagging, I yelled to be taken out immediately. No response.
“Either get me out of here or call an ambulance. Now!” Gagging, I tried to retain the contents of my stomach. Audibly wheezing now, the same officer came back to wrench open the locked door and permit me to escape into the hallway. He then watched me as my breathing gradually returned to the rough equivalent of a minor asthma attack. I was then returned to my original cell. I settled wordlessly onto the bunk, too nauseated to speak and too breathless to even shape my thoughts.
The auditory attack began next. Sounds which stood for various factions in this invisible war were coming through. Apparently I was to select among them in order to become a prisoner of one or more dimensions of this ‘unreality’. Conscious only of intermittent aerosol hissings and constant prompts by voices and recorded noises to make a choice, I huddled miserably on my bench, silently awaiting the morning. Comforted by the expectation that the embassy knew my whereabouts, the morning should also bring some kind of legal advocate. This might be a business misunderstanding but it clearly wasn’t theft since I’d remained in the area and in contact with the company itself. I was certainly oblivious to any hint of wrongdoing which might involve police powers.
An indeterminate amount of time elapsed before a cop brought in a cuffed young black male. He glanced at me expressionlessly and I nodded briefly from inside the blanket covering my head. He was shown to the bathroom and then locked in the cell next to me. I wondered briefly if that was a good sign – we’d at least hear one another if more games were to be played in the early morning hours. The hours passed slowly while the same tunes played on and on. I steadfastly ignored them.
Well out of sight of a window, my only awareness of the arrival of morning was the smell of a bucket of cleaner being dragged into the hall. A woman bearing a mop began wiping down the floors and cleaning the bathroom opposite my cell. Soon the morning duty officer came for me. I was to be fingerprinted once again and photographed as well.
“Did anyone contact the embassy last night?” I was anxious to find out when an embassy representative might contact me.
“No, you gave us the wrong number. The officer couldn’t reach anyone so he left for the night.”
Furious, I insisted the call be made immediately. The number was still in my pocket so I asked to see the number copied out by the cop who’d promised to make the call. The number was quite correct and this man had no trouble reaching the embassy with it. That alone spoke volumes. I spoke to another early morning embassy officer and was told the consulate personnel would be fully briefed immediately upon their arrival at nine o’clock. Despite the presence of a police officer listening to the conversation, I told the marine that I’d been mistreated. He listened intently to the circumstances by which my asthmatic condition had been exacerbated. He evidenced no surprise and asked if I needed medical attention. Replying that I was stable for the present he said that a lot of calls they received didn’t offer such positive news. We hung up and I went through the rest of the usual arrest procedures before being locked once more into my cell. The state lawyer wouldn’t arrive for another two hours at least.
A female officer arrived and informed me it was ten AM and my lawyer was upstairs. After a quick trip to the toilet, the word was that I was going to be released soon. Still denied access to my belongings, I made my way upstairs where I expected to have a private meeting with an attorney. A young woman in a crisp business suit stood there with several file folders in hand. An older woman left her side and approached me.
“I’m your translator today. You are well enough?” She looked a bit anxious so I figured the haggard figure looking back at me in the bathroom mirror wasn’t a particularly encouraging sight.
“I’m doing alright. May I ask the qualifications of this woman please? Are we going to meet in private?” There was a plain-clothed man sitting their who was obviously connected with law enforcement. I wasn’t sure if he was there to spy on me or upon the lawyer. After hearing about her credentials and that she was a human rights activist, I figured it was both. My presence in strange places seemed to be increasingly connected with that area of activism. Reassured of the attorney’s abilities and her calm but intense focus on the issues, we proceeded.
In front of the mustached auditor from the state, the translator did a good job of playing go-between under some apparent degree of stress.
“You were improperly arrested by the state police. The matter is one reserved for the national police and was purely a business matter for a civil division. It is most unfortunate that you were arrested at all. The police will release you now and you will have a date to talk with a judge to resolve this matter.”
“Can we talk privately? I hadn’t thought there’d be an audience.” Naively, I still held the belief that private speech was possible in this day and age. Illusions of rights still haunted me but I also felt fortunate that this woman was handling things in a country where one could evidently disappear and have to hope word of mouth got around.
“I have a history of harassment and assault using chemicals from back home in the United States. Last night, I was also subjected to conditions that made me ill using aerosol sprays and poor building conditions. Is there any recourse for this kind of activity? My embassy tells me it’s routine for Americans to experience problems with the police. Can I help with this incident in some way?”
The translator told me that this lawyer was also active in human rights issues but would have to consider this incident closed. She couldn’t act further on my behalf but would refer me to other lawyers if I wished. Apparently the arrest had been improper, the result of a misunderstanding.
Confirming that I’d be in touch, I signed a form authorizing her to receive payment for her services through the state and signed various other forms documenting the proceedings of the morning. Returning downstairs, I was very disturbed to be sent back to my cell. Apparently it would take another couple of hours to process the paperwork for my release. Figuring it would really take them another couple of hours to copy my paperwork out of my luggage, I patiently waited out the morning hours.
Finally released, I called the American embassy and reported that in addition to false arrest, my belongings had been rifled. The cops explained it was their responsibility to search the baggage for weapons but each individual paper had obviously been handled. Unless they were looking for microfilm on each page, there wasn’t any reason for the intense scrutiny of papers pertaining to my medical condition or the photos taken of people tailing me back home. As I’d placed complaints about my stalking on the record with police in the U.S., it wasn’t any big secret. However, I suspected it might be the actual reason for my detainment.
The embassy invited me to visit them for further phone assistance. I had the feeling we’d all find some face to face contact a source of reassurance. The Madrid embassy was supposed to be among the most carefully guarded American buildings in the world.
I arrived by cab to find the marines polite and the staff very friendly. Slightly teary at a cheerful greeting by an all female consular staff, I declined to enter the building when I was told none of my luggage could accompany me. One of the guards at the entrance was already employing an aerosol device. That convinced me my belongings might be in for further scrutiny and I’d just become aware that a number of my things were missing. These were most likely left in the car during hurried packing but my store of trust was now at zero.
At any rate, the embassy staff was only allowed to make calls or send faxes. No other consular services were offered so I decided to go along my rather un-merry way. Basking in the warm, Spanish sunlight, a kind woman helped me move my luggage several blocks to a store where I topped up my mobile phone. Regaining an appetite, I managed to scarf down some lunch at a park bench while children played around a small carousel outside a mall.
I decided to head for the airport for a safe place to sit while deciding on my next move. A retreat to an English speaking country was indicated while I tried to figure out what kind of legal mess might result from the incident. Perhaps a visit to England was in the cards for me after all.