Devious Pozo de Abajo town hall officials and their local builders had already carved up the land, disregarding the plight of the current inhabitants, who were Spanish, British and Norwegian.
‘You are well, I trust?’
She shook her head and let go. ‘I cannot sleep, I worry.’ She waved a hand at a letter on the dark wood mantelpiece, resting against the heirloom clock.
‘May I?’ I asked, picking it up.
She nodded. ‘Read it.’
The paragraphs were in Castilian and repeated in Valenciano. Not as flowery as many official letters.
A tall order, I thought, as I waded through the jargon. Thankfully, the Benitez home would not be requisitioned for the new urbanization, but the family would be required to contribute towards the infrastructure of the new dwellings. The figure stipulated was €200,000. The old English robber barons had nothing on these people. ‘What happens if you don’t have the money to pay?’
‘Raquel,’ I said, ‘you must take legal representation. And consult Abusos Urbanisticos No! They’re taking the fight to these uncaring people. Laws are not meant to stamp on human rights. And you have every right to live in your family’s property – or be fairly compensated.’
‘Paz and his cronies are no better than those terrorists we hear about!’ Alfredo said, stooping to enter the lounge.
We shook hands and I eyed him grimly. ‘It will be a long – and perhaps expensive – process.’
I nodded, tending to agree with him. Hurt pride in the office pales in comparison to loss of hearth and home.
‘Our neighbours, the Fusteras, will lose their house if the builders go ahead,’ Alfredo added, pacing the floor. ‘Can you believe it? The road-widening plan will make their house illegal because it will then be within the five-metre limit between property and a road!’
‘I’m no lawyer, but surely prior rights can’t be trodden on?’ It sickened my heart to see the stress in my friends.
Legal battles had begun, I knew, but the diggers had already started at the top of this valley. The marker posts and orange net fences were in place, delineating the area of the new buildings and roads. The intended road would pass behind the Benitez home, taking away many square metres of their property, without compensation.
‘I went to see the mayor in his nice new offices,’ Alfredo said. ‘After five minutes, I got words of regret and was dismissed. We stand in the way of progress, he says!’
Not all building firms, by any means. Alfredo was a builder, one of the many honest workers who had done wonders in our country. Ironically, one of his cousins was an architect and he’d been awarded a prestigious prize for designing a marvellous, functional yet attractive sports complex. The relatively few corrupt builders brought disrespect to the many, and it irked Alfredo.
When Alfredo told me last night what he planned to do, I tried to dissuade him. Short of tying him up, it was impossible. He was determined to make a strong statement. So I broke into Mayor Paz’s council office, cracked his safe and identified all the shady deals he was involved in. I’d been surprised; like many of his kind, he’d become greedy. I took these documents and broke into the mayor’s villa and put them inside the safe in his study.
‘Señor Mayor,’ Lazaro called, ‘would you come over here, please.’ It was not a question. He knelt by the folder of papers. Incriminating papers.
Criminal damage, I thought. Very much like that advocated by bureaucrats similar to him under the guise of official documents.
‘See you in court!’ Alfredo called as he was escorted away to the Guardia van.