Certain photographs touch something deep within my soul, inspiring the creative writing juices . This is where photography and creative writing find a common platform. Each month, a guest photographer will be featured and short fictional pieces woven around the photographs presented.
Travel and Street photography are Ismael Ortiz Escribano's specialization with the aim of transporting the viewer to the place and time. A visual storyteller, Isma’s interplay of light, shadow and colour draw you into the frame and involve you in the story from the very beginning. All that is left for you to do is allow your mind to be embraced by the moment.
kingdom of ruins
The grass felt dry and itchy, and the soil sandier than he remembered, not quite the soft surface that was joy to roll around in during a hot summer’s day, or a crispy autumn afternoon. There was something very wrong about this place, with all the run-down buildings and shabby windows that were partially broken, and the rooms behind them looked uninhabited. That atrocious graffiti was painful to the eyes as well. Back in the day all the houses had beautiful smooth colours and potted plants in front of each door. He could still smell the summer roses in his mind. Where had everyone gone? Where was the grouchy old lady on the top floor who didn’t care whom her dirty laundry water landed on when she threw it out? What happened to the good looking young man who seemed angry at the world all the time? And the woman who always came home in the wee hours of the morning looking very much disheveled? In fact, he began to wonder whether he was even in the right neighbourhood to begin with. His sense of direction had deteriorated over the years, and it took him twice as long to return home these days, but his memory was still sharp and so were his eyes. Even stronger was his instinct, which had saved his skin several times, and it was this keen perception of danger that set off the alarms in his head. Nope, this couldn’t possibly be the beloved playground of his youth that he loved to tell his children and grandchildren about. The adventures he and his brothers had hiding from everyone else and exploring all the forbidden dark corners were the stuff of legends, absolutely marvellous and he would relive them all over again if his brothers were still around.
Stepping carefully over an abandoned wooden frame he spotted a pair of familiar old shoes. He knew exactly whom they belonged to as well, and regretted the day he crossed paths with that crotchety old man at the butcher’s shop. He was actually the grocer from across the street, one of two in town, but nobody liked going to his shop because of the foul manner in which he addressed the customers so people were more than willing to go clear across town instead and be attended to by the friendly pair of sisters who knew every customer by name for the last 20 years. It was a bit creepy and embarrassing to be tickled under the chin and have your cheeks pinched at this age, but he found it nevertheless endearing, no matter what his friends said and how much they berated him on his floundering dignity. It never hurt to feel young again.
As he turned the corner the sagging laundry line caught his eye. Aha, there was sign of life after all, not all was lost. A whiff of fish on the frying pan reached his nostrils. OK, it wasn’t exactly the five-star gourmet salmon they served him for lunch yesterday, but this smelled like comfort food, and it transported him immediately back to his first foster home. That family had very little money and a lot of mouths to feed, but they managed to get by, even if the parents took turns eating at night. They always made sure that he and the children got food in their stomachs before going to bed. If there was anything left over for mom and dad they would quietly savoir the food with gratitude and loving looks for one another. Water and hope would fill their hearts and get them through the night. That family may have been the walking definition of poor and perhaps one of the most hard up in the entire colony, but the genuine warmth they radiated and shared with one another was something he never found again.
Turning onto the busy road that led home, his heart was heavy with disappointment. There were no traces of his old neighbourhood, or even remnants of old friendships that flourished within the impoverished walls and made him the courageous character he was today. He would have been happy to even find some old toy or bell that that could have triggered more than a memory, a memento of a life lived and echoes of a soul. Those colonies pulsated with life, emotion, music, and somehow, fun. It was never boring and no matter what time of the day he went out for a walk to snoop on everyone else, there were sounds of life. Today the silence was deafening, sorrowful, and a painful reminder of the lonely life of luxury he led now. Yes, he had servants at his beck and call, and all he had to do was raise a haughty eye at anyone around him and material comfort would be provided. But life was boring, plain and simple as that. Sitting all day on an obnoxious pink rocking chair at the entrance of the gift shop to attract or entertain customers was not the way he had imagined his retirement years. He wanted to be free to come and go as he pleased like in the old days, not having to answer to anyone, and lay his head anywhere he darn well chose for the night. “Footloose and fancy free” they called it, ah yes, his humans were peculiar creatures sometimes, occasionally entertaining, but never as intelligent as cats.
As Reina walked down the pavement holding on to her walker, it seemed as though there was pain all over her body. Her arthritic hands were numb and she could barely feel the handlebars, and the sandals felt more like torture instruments than comfortable shoes. There used to be a time when she could hold on to the arm of one of her children and later on her grandchildren and feel like a queen, never needing her walking cane, but ever since they placed her in the nursing home two years ago, they all stopped coming. At first, they took her out for Sunday lunch every week without fail. Then the schedule changed to every other Sunday, and soon thereafter it was just once a month. She could not remember anymore when the last Sunday lunch was anymore, because so many months had passed since Easter, and nobody had called to greet her on her 90th birthday last month either. It was a good thing that the nurses at the home always bought a little bouquet to the celebrants and placed it on their bedside tables. On special birthdays like 80, 85 or 90, she and her companions even received a little cake and an extra pot of tea to share all around. She envied those who still had relatives that came to visit and sit with them, especially those with small children who eagerly climbed up to the grandfather’s lap or held grandmother’s hand.
Luz looked up from her dilapidated and flea-infested orphanage bed and noticed that the light outside was beginning to fade, just like her. Another day was ending and she was still sick. The fever had not broken and she slipped in and out of consciousness. Voices echoed in her head, snippets of conversations picked up here and there, some of concern and others of annoyance. Mother Superior was angry that she was taking so long to recover because that meant additional expenses for medication and doctors’ fees, both of which the orphanage could barely afford at the moment. The children with slight fevers and colds were still assigned chores and sent to lessons, but those like Luz who were incapacitated were confined to the infirmary until such time that they could be deemed fit to stand on their own two feet again. As a frail and sickly child, Luz’s chances of being adopted were low, as proven by the stream of couples who had inquired over the years and never returned for a second visit. Her biological mother had left her at the cloister entrance as a baby, knowing that the city’s red light district was no place to raise a child, and hoping to take her back one day and offer her a better life, away from all the evil. That day never came and Luz had been forgotten and moved down the list of recommended children for adoption, ignored like the cobwebs on the shutters she could discern from the bed.
Angel peered out the door to check if the police car had turned the corner already. He and all the other street children who slept in the abandoned warehouse by the pier had narrowly escaped arrest again. They slept under a different roof each night, and sometimes it wasn’t even a roof, but beneath the bridge or on cold days, inside garbage empty dumpsters. Last night they got lucky and found a building that offered them shelter from the pouring rain and peace from the human predators that roamed the streets. Their little group consisted of boys and girls aged six to sixteen, most of whom had been left on the streets to fend for themselves. Only Angel had left home voluntarily, finding more comfort among the street dwellers than the abusive parents at home. Sleeping on a flattened cardboard box was far more peaceful than the luxurious bed back home because there was no drunken father who would come into his room in the middle of the night. The other children had equally horrific stories to tell, some of them far worse than his. There was safety in numbers and they looked out for each other, scrounging for food wherever they could. At night they gathered at the designated meeting place and shared their offerings as one family. There was always the option of going to a halfway house or a warm meal at the soup kitchens throughout the city, but there was always a social worker on duty who was over eager to take them to social services and place them in foster homes.
Felicidad walked beside her neighbour on the way to church and wondered for the fifth time that day why she was named happiness when she had never experienced it, or at least not genuinely. Growing up on the farm had meant hard work from an early age onwards, sacrificing playtime and parties for barnyard chores and harvest time. She spent years looking out the kitchen window yearning to go to the village and dance with the other girls, or even spend an afternoon at the fair with her cousins drinking beer and sneaking cotton candy. These were all frivolities that her father frowned upon, drumming into their heads that parties and fairs were the devil’s playground and no place for his children. Her brothers were big enough to climb out the window at night for escapades, but her room was attached to her parents and the floorboards creaked each time she moved. There was no way she could have sneezed without her parents calling out to her and ask if she was alright. The years passed, the war came, and all the young men she knew were drafted, and only a handful returned home. When Father fell ill and Mother had a nervous breakdown after the third telegram informing them that all her sons had been killed in action, Felicidad took over the farm and forgot all about personal happiness.
Gabriel drove past the abandoned country road and suddenly jammed on the breaks. There it was! The entire family had forgotten the location of the cross that marked the spot where his brother had lost his life one fateful night. It had been High School graduation night for the class of 1975 and his brother Ken had just been accepted to Cambridge University. He would be going away for the next six years and the family had every reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, nobody stopped Ken when he sat behind the wheel and decided to take his girlfriend out for a joyride. She escaped without a scratch but he died on the spot. Gabriel shook his head again, wondering what life for his brother would have been like with that prestigious university degree. His parents had been so distraught at the time, and too ashamed to face the people in town to have a proper funeral that they refused to claim the body from the morgue. An anonymous donor, however, claimed Ken’s body the next day, had him cremated, and scattered his ashes on the spot where the accident happened. Soon thereafter, a cross was erected bearing only Ken’s initials, dates of birth and death. Guilt had killed the joy of youth.
The sun was setting behind the hills as Sean McAllister left the clinic in a daze. He didn’t register scintillating rays of colour that seemed to set the clouds on fire, nor did the loud group of teenagers walking past him seem to make any difference to his world. The two large malamutes that sauntered past him dragging their owner along as he held their leashes normally would have made him stop and laugh, probably even take out his camera as well. Instead, all he could bring himself to do was zip up his jacket and shove his fisted hands into the side pockets. Two weeks, that was all the doctor had given him; not two months or even two years during which he could have accomplished so much more. Two weeks to live. How was he ever going to tell his family? As he blindly made his way towards the car he felt the drops on his cheeks. “Rain, I’m going to miss the rain” he muttered to nobody in particular, only to realise that the drops were his own tears.
If he only had two weeks to live he was definitely not going to sit around the house twiddling his thumbs waiting for Death to arrive. Leaving the motor running, Sean jumped out of the car, dashed into the house and grabbed his two daughters from their playroom, flipped the jackets from the wardrobe, kissed his startled wife in the kitchen passionately, promising her more when he returned, and ran back to the car.
“Have we been naughty Daddy?”
“Yes, Daddy, are you taking us to the police?”
“No my darlings, it’s just the opposite. Daddy is just feeling different today. I want us to do something unusual and fun. Who wants fish and chips?”
“Great! That makes three of us, and we’ll bring some for Mum and Nan home, but after we have fried Mars bars and cokes.”
“But Daddy! You tell us every day never to eat those things?”
“And you spanked me once for having a spoon of ice cream before dinner, remember?”
Sean stepped on the breaks gently, pulled the car over to the side and turned around to look at his little angels. “I want you to remember this day. When you grow up and have children of your own, I want you to be able to tell them that your Daddy was not just a basket of rules and homework, but he could break away and be naughty too.”
“You’re being weird Daddy, but I like this”
“I like the weird Daddy too. Can you be like this more often? It’s not as scary.”
Sean turned back to face the steering wheel before his daughter saw the tears well up in his eyes. Two weeks was not enough time.
The most difficult part was telling his wife. They had feared the last visit to the oncologist knowing that the sharp increase in Sean’s pain, memory blackouts, and seizures were not not good signs. The cancer had spread viciously and rapidly over the last six months, invading the organs the last two months. Sean had waived chemotherapy and radiation treatment, having seen the horrible effects on his mother and cousins, and wanted no part of that. He wanted to live his life as normal as possible, be there for his children and make love to his wife as passionately and spontaneously as he could, knowing that he was on borrowed time. Looking out the window, his hand trembled slightly as he put his cup of tea down. The swing in the garden brought a bittersweet smile to his face as he recalled the day he and his uncle struggled to assemble it. The children were impatient while his mother and wife cajoled them from the kitchen, saying that would be the first swing ever assembled without a screwdriver and a brain. It had been a gorgeous day by Scottish standards, and the joyous laughter of the children echoed in his memory. Making a mental note to check the bolts and secure the seat again, Sean smiled as he wondered whether he could convince his wife to play with him on the swing once all the children had been tucked into bed. Mother was too deaf to dear anything anyway, and she removed her hearing aid when she went to bed, so they would be safe. Two weeks. How was he supposed to pack a planned lifetime with his beloved into two weeks?
The pain radiating down his back and abdomen was excruciating but Sean ignored all this for the sake of little Matthew sitting on his shoulders. These father-son walks were their special time together and the little boy always looked forward to the open space and adventures. Living with so many girls at home was stressful and both Sean and Matthew escaped for their “man time” as soon as their chores were done. The large, gentle, protective hands of the father held the son’s legs firmly as they walked down the path into the moors. There was a patch of trees with several fox holes where they liked to sit down and have their tea. It was Sean’s favourite part of the escapade because it was always his chance to catch up with Matthew and find out what was going on in school. He was not a very talkative boy, especially when his chatterbox sisters were around, but when it was just the two of them, Matthew seemed to make up for lost time and told his daddy everything his little mind could remember. Two weeks. Who was going to take six-year-old Matthew on these walks afterwards? Who would ensure that his little boy got his “man time” away from all the women? He had a birthday coming up next month and it broke Sean’s heart to think that he would no longer be around to help his son blow out the candles for any other birthdays, or give him his first driving lesson, share advice on his first date, move furniture to the first bachelor’s pad in uni...
“Hurry Daddy! Why are you so slow today? We might miss the foxes and the rabbits will be waiting for us too.”
“Och! Aye son, sorry m’lad, Daddy was just a little distracted. Did you bring your secret laser sword?”
“I had to stuff it under my shirt while the girls were combing Nan’s hair. They will be plenty mad at me when they find their toy mixer gone!”
“Attaboy! But be sure to give it back properly and say sorry. Remember this Matt, you will always be their big brother, and it is your duty to protect them and make sure nobody bullies them.”
“I thought that was your job Daddy… “
“Yeah, well, I can’t always be in three places at the same time. I need an assistant knight in shining armour, and that is you.”
Sean stopped, put his son down, looked around for a stick and said “Kneel young man, so I can formally knight you”
Matthew’s eyes shone with excitement and scrambled into a kneeling position with one let propped up like he had seen on television, and bowed his head.
Sean squeezed his eyes shut, inhaled sharply and prayed for courage. “I dub thee, Matthew McAllister, Knight and protector of the McAllister clan. You shall defend the honor of the McAllister name, clan, and women for as long as you live. Rise Sir Matthew Gallahad and fulfill your destiny!”
“What does a Knight answer daddy?”
“I think he just says ‘I shall do so with all my heart, faith, and courage’ “
“I shall do so with all my heart, faith, and courage.”
Sean looked up to the sky pleadingly “Lord I need 20 more years, not two weeks!”
Walking home from the bakery stopped to look at the old run down car on the side of the road. He knew exactly whom it belonged to and how it had ended up there. It was one of the best kept village secrets that he was privy to. But today he looked at the car with different eyes. His children were too young to be told the story, and he and his wife had different memories of that car as well, since that was where he had proposed to her ten years ago. They were young, sweaty and had just finished making love in the back seat when he grabbed her by the shoulders, lifted her chin, kissed her nose softly, and looked into her eyes. “I want to grow old with you and still have sex in this old car when we are 80. I want our children and grandchildren to see this and know that this car is not junk, but part of our family history. I want you to be the first think I see in the mornings, and and your hand to be the last thing I feel when I fall asleep at night. Marry me and let us build our castle of memories together.” The car was parked now, and it would always be theirs, but he would no longer be able to live up to his promise of making love to her at 80. Two weeks was all he had to show her how much he loved her.
Two weeks later, Sean lay on the hospital bed and turned his head to look out the window. He could barely hear what his wife was saying or the doctor. His mind was so fuzzy from the medication and everything sounded like distant echoes to him. He knew he could somehow muster up the last remaining energy to tell her he loved her, but somehow he couldn’t get his mouth to open either. The sky was blue today and there was even a bit of sunshine peeking through the trees. This would have been a good day to take Matthew on an adventure, or the girls on another food escapade. He felt little hands on his forehead and tugging at his ear.
“I love you Daddy. Get well soon we we can have more ice cream.”
“Daddy I miss you, Mommy can’t build my doll house with the pillows like you do!”
“Will you take me on a walk to visit the foxes soon Daddy? I can tell you all about my Knight adventures yesterday when Harry tried to steal the girls’ lunches”
Sean smiled at them and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.
“Why are you crying Daddy? Shall we sing so the fairies come to take the pain away?”
The nurse stuck her head in the door and signalled that visiting time was over for the children. The kissed their father one last time on the forehead and filed out of the room silently.
My ride has come. Time to cross the river.
He squeezed his wife’s hand, closed his eyes, and handed the ferryman his coin.
Two weeks were all he had, and they were over now.
** All photographs taken in Scotland ***
Ramesh had been shadowboxing for the last hour at the far end of the courtyard. It was close to high noon, when most other people opted to sit in the shade or remain indoors, but he needed the air and the illusion of being free again. Rivulets of perspiration running down his back felt good after the long hours of sitting in the dark prison cell. The days were long without anything to do, and since his cellmate had been sent down to solitary confinement for a month, he had nobody to talk to either. He yearned to returned to the life back in India where he could move around the village and be greeted with respect by the younger people. As the only boxing trainer of the region, Ramesh had built up a reputation over the years as the maker of champions.
Money, however, was always tight and there was no regular flow, since it all depended on sporadic sponsorships. His wife had died years ago and with her, the only steady income the family had ever known. It had been almost ten years since he last heard of his daughter as well, and the evil tongues of the villagers claimed she was working as a prostitute in Mumbai. Ramesh was no stranger to legal entanglements, but he had always managed to find a solution among former students and old boxing friends. Home was not exactly a palace, since had neglected the upkeep over the years and financial difficulties forced him to sell off one item after another. If there was a way to turn back the clock, he would never had agreed to be a drug mule to Thailand. Blinded by the fistfuls of money flashed before his eyes that fateful evening at the corner liquor shop, and he was desperate enough to do anything.
Christopher sat on the boat trying to catch his breath. He was so seasick that he could barely work and had to lean overboard so often to vomit. When he signed up for the job of janitor in his little village rural Nigeria, the recruiter left out the little detail about the job being on a merchant boat. He had placed his thumbprint on the contract without understanding any of the words, and been led to believe he would be working in a fancy office building in Nairobi, Kenya and wearing a brand new uniform that included new shoes. Shoes! He had never worn shoes before. Everyone walked barefoot in the village, and only those who went to town wore flip flops. He had heard stories about people from the neighbouring village who had gone to school and wore shoes some strange thing called socks, but education was something his family had never considered important.
One year later, he was still on the boat, as sick as he was on the first day. He was assigned below deck most days and rarely saw the sun. Only when the rest of the crew was asleep or had retired to their cabins did Christopher dare go to the main deck and catch some fresh air. He had made friends with some of the other crew members but they were all older than him. The age difference did not bother him, nor did he complain about the various beatings that rained down on his body throughout the day, but it was when some of the men used his body in ways he had only seen animals do that he felt revolted. The captain laughed out loud when he first complained about the abuse. “You are my slave and I own every part of you, so I can do with you as I please.”
Fatima found the cold marble steps of the mosque strangely comforting. Her eyes wandered about the rest of the complex and noted the cleanliness and silence of her surroundings. It was such a difference to the hellhole she was living in. Her parents had thrown her out of the house for talking to a foreign man who had just stopped to ask for directions. Her uncle happened to be passing by on his bicycle at that very moment and misconstrued everything. He pedalled to her home as fast as his short fat legs would allow and reported the scandalous situation to her father. By the time Fatima reached home, her bag had been packed and placed outside the door. She could not even enter the house and all she heard were angry screams of her father from the other side of the door calling her an ungrateful whore. At a complete lost what to do next, Fatima went back to school with her head hung as low as possible so nobody would recognise her. Once she found one of her teachers, she asked for help to enter one of the shelters for abandoned and abused women on the other side of the city.
The women’s shelter called Open Arms was run by one of the foreign organizations established after the Gulf Wart. Accommodation offered was basic and temporary, and the women were expected to find alternative arrangements after six months if they were single, and one year if they had children with them. There was a separate wing for those who were pregnant, and a psychiatric ward for those who had been raped or so battered that they required additional psychiatric care. Fatima was worried because her six were up tomorrow morning and had absolutely no place else to go. The entire clan had disowned her and nobody dared to reach out to her for fear of being suffering a similar fate. The school had also expelled her because the tuition could no longer be paid, which broke Fatimas’s heart. One one more semester to go before graduation and she could have been a qualified nurse. One of the women at Open Arms hat told her about an abandoned building on the outskirts of Kabul. There was no electricity or running water, but it would be some sort of a roof over her head.
Soledad looked up from her bench beside the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It was beginning to rain again but she still had so many more pigeons to feed. The birds knew she would be there every morning and evening too feed them at the exact same time and they waited for her faithfully. On the days when she was too sick to get out of bed or could not remember who she was, the birds continued to wait for Soledad until the city sanitation engineers came around to clean the piazza and drove them away. She had once been a rich grand dame driving a white Jaguar, but the day after she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s her husband packed his bags and moved in with his secretary 25 years his junior. “I don’t want to be around a crazy old bat the rest of my life, I have my needs” he spat in her face. They had opted not to have children early on in their marriage because of their busy social life and both their flourishing careers. “That was the biggest mistake of my life” she lamented as the rain grew stronger and mixed with her tears. “Now all I have are the birds to befriend my solace”
It was close to midnight in Zaragoza as the first drops rain created the first geometric patterns on the sidewalks. This was an indication for all the stragglers finishing up their drinks in the outdoor cafes to call it a day and catch the last rides home. Exhausted waiters began wiping up the tables, putting up the chairs and sweeping the pavements while the bartenders cleared countertops and issued the final warnings. The lights along the small alleys of the Casco Viejo, as the heart of the old city is referred to, dimmed one by one, chasing the party-goers towards the plaza instead. The two men standing outside the tapas bar frowned intensely at each other, one heaving with anger and the other with fear.
“How many times have I told you never to trust that woman?”
“Hey, I’m sorry, I really am, but she came at me with a butchers knife this time while I was still on the toilet. There was no way to defend myself with my pants down!”
“You fool, you always have your pants down and that’s what gets you into trouble. Need I remind you about last week and pretty young thing she caught you pawing?”
“Yes, yes, yes, no need to add insult to injury. But you have to understand, I have my needs too… so, are you going to give me the money or not?”
“Give? Since when do I ever give anything? I will lend it to you with the usual terms. A body for every 1000 Euros.”
“Anything in particular this time?”
“The younger the better.”
An aimless walk through the streets the next morning was a good way to start the day and escape the usual squabbles at the breakfast table. Although the cold air helped clear his foggy mind from the lack of sleep, last night’s conversation with The Friend sent chills down his back, an all too familiar and unwelcome sensation. The task of procuring innocent youth for the other man’s twisted desires was easier ten years ago, when he himself was younger, had far less wrinkles, and could charm them with a fresh pastry and a cup of coffee. The youth today was a lot street-smarter, wary of strangers, and ready to kick you where it really hurt.
Ten years ago he wasn’t rolling in debt either, making the “assignments” more exciting rather than burdensome like today. Caught between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea, there was no escape from the situation. Poverty and unemployment drove a man over the edge, and The Friend knew exactly how manipulate the situation to his advantage. Looking around at the run down walls and abandoned buildings that looked desolate by day and haunted by night, the subtle stench of urine mixed with stale beer that assaulted his senses reminded of his own disastrous marriage.
He continued his walk into the suburban areas of the city where the spaces between houses grew bigger, and run-down multi-story buildings were replaced by sprawling bungalows that smelled of old money. These were the places he could only dream of entering as a guest someday, at the most as hired help if he ever got a proper job again. Stopping to contemplate the estate for a few minutes, his eyes fell of the peculiar display in the driveway. Either it was time to visit the optometrist again change alcohol of choice, but he could have sworn the bicycles were floating above ground! Rubbing his eyes several times didn’t help either, the bicycles still didn’t touch the ground.
Shaking his head and stuffing his hands into his pockets he was about to stomp off in a huff when he suddenly remembered who lived there. Why yes! Yes indeed… this was the perfect hunting ground, since the family who lived here had three children, all below twelves years old. Time to apply for that gardening job after all.
Three days later he was on the run with his precious cargo. It had been far easier than he thought once he got hired as the new gardener of the property. He quickly befriended the elderly cook who had been with the family for over 20 years, having worked for the parents of the current tenants. An all too trusting and talkative woman, she had no trouble letting him in on a few family secrets after a few glasses of wine. By the second day she had him bringing the afternoon snacks out to the children, and they never questioned the change in routine. Slipping the drugs into the juice was literally child’s play thanks to the abundant shrubs and trees in the vast garden he had to traverse to reach the playground.
After several hours of driving he deemed it safe enough to stop and take a break. The sedative was beginning to wear off and the two children were stirring, it wouldn’t be long before bedlam would ensue in the car. The third child had been sick that day so she stayed indoors, which was truly a pity, he said to himself, because that would have meant a hefty bonus from The Friend, not just for the extra body but for the tender age. Oh well, there would be other times… for now he had to focus on the two who were tied up in the back seat. Just as well that the old church was coming up, it would be the perfect place to subdue them, and even if they screamed bloody murder, there was nobody around for the next 30 kilometres.