So we arrived at the courthouse this morning at 09:30, as (forcefully) instructed.
It is a new, large and faceless construction of brick and glass on the outskirts of Mula with (thank the gods) parking spaces. Right inside the large glass entrance doors is a body scanner, the like of which it is necessary to pass through semi-naked at any airport in order to avoid the embarrassment of an alarm. Only in this case, it was necessary merely to place my handbag on a tray beside the portal before passing through to retrieve it unchecked on the inside.
We can only be grateful that it is impossible to hide a gun or a knife in a handbag, then.
We were led upstairs to the first floor, to be seated on a hard and unforgiving bench in a long and bland corridor alongside Juan-Fran and his mother, Clara.
Despite the fact that this building is less than a year old, it is very poorly appointed. The loos on the first floor were locked and accessible only to staff with keys. We mere mortals waiting interminably to say our piece were obliged to take a lift down to the basement to a couple of basic, cold and frankly rank toilets.
Upon asking if there was a cafetería or at the very least a vending machine so that we could purchase water, we were informed that we would have to leave the building, cross the dual carriageway and use the bar on the opposite side.
And so we waited, fidgeting, bored and thirsty.
At around 11:00am, our drama magnet kicked into action when a large family of spaniards arrived in the foyer below making more noise than should be humanly possible. The most senior member of the group, a small but pugnacious elderly man, snarling and shouting and trying to throw punches, was man-handled back outside by security. The rest ascended to our floor and continued their deafening discourse there.
Suddenly there arose a wailing from their midst as the senior female decided to have an anxiety attack and fell to the floor, chest heaving and eyes rolling. Doors up and down the corridor opened like a choreographed piece and heads popped out in unabashed synchronised nosiness, as the group around the prostrate woman swelled both in number and in volume. Other female members of the family group took up the wailing as backing vocals to their lead singer, and kept it up without faltering until ambulance staff appeared and whisked away the offending woman on an office chair.
Apparently it was all to do with an inheritance. Figures. Where there’s a will, there’s a family.
Anyhow, it broke the monotony for a wee while.
John was losing the plot rapidly. He doesn’t sit still for very long at the best of times, and this wasn’t one of them. Already angry that he had been obliged to give up the whole morning yesterday in the guardia civíl station, he was pacing up and down the corridor like an expectant though reluctant father. At one point he announced that there were 484 tiles on the floor, which caused some mirth. He was also threatening to walk out and come back only in esposas (handcuffs …. or wives, for some reason).
At one point he bundled up his coat and lay full length on one of the benches further along the corridor. By this time, there was no-one else around but us. Oh, and a security guard, who wasted no time in approaching John and telling him to sit up. John, of course, did not understand so the guy repeated himself angrily and gestured for John to get up from the bench. I interjected quickly although I felt it unneccessary for the guard to be so heavy-handed. Give a man a uniform, eh?
We were finally called in one by one to give our testimony in front of the judge at around midday. All bar John, that is, who doesn’t speak spanish. He was asked if he had brought an interpreter with him and he indicated that I would do it. Of course, this is not acceptable since I was also a witness, and so they had to call in an interpreter for him.
It probably won’t surprise anyone to know that the interpreter finally arrived from Cartagena (some 80km away) at around 2:45pm. Obviously there is not an interpreter to be had in Murcia, the capital city of the region, just 25km away from the courthouse. Who’d have thought?
Finally, we were shown out of the courthouse by a back door, to avoid the large group of bulgaros (obviously related to the three accused) who were waiting for us at the front door.
The parting shot from the court scribe was that we are to keep our mobiles open on Wednesday in case we are called again. And you can bet your life they won’t have an interpreter ready if we are. Though John will almost certainly be elsewhere anyway.
We got home just before 4pm, another whole day wasted in our new guise as ‘good citizens’.
Clara, by the way, has just this minute arrived at our gate with a huge bag of cakes and pastries for John – ‘to replace the energy he used in pacing this morning’. Bless.