‘As we headed for the hills, I tried making polite conversation with the mother. In such a confined place, it seemed rude not to.’
‘We tossed a coin at the next unmarked junction before continuing our aimless afternoon hike. The searing sun made it no more appetising than our first night’s stroll in a monsoon. I was now more aware of Angelica’s meteorological indifference.’
‘But mainly Luis drank. When we strolled past his front door on a drizzling Sunday afternoon, he had clearly begun early. I thought he was promoting a bar, but it was just his home – into which he lured wandering foreigners like a kind lonely trapdoor spider.’
‘After a 45-minute bus journey, I disembarked into the heat and bustle of what I took to be the city centre. I felt immediately nostalgic for Peru.‘
‘The setting was a giant marquee in a rather unfashionable district. All the elements were ranged against us. Torrential rain poured down throughout the evening. As we approached the venue, scores of armed police – partnered with fierce chained Rottweilers – milled menacingly about. Their brooding presence suggested we were the problem.’
‘‘You are very brave,’ he told me, worryingly. I accepted the compliment – without thinking it true. Danger may have been close on that long, winding road, but a phalanx of heavily-armed soldiers lay between us. Perhaps he meant the danger within the city.’
‘‘We will walk by the light of the full moon!’ exclaimed the romantically-inclined Angelica as we slunk beneath a canopy of trees obscuring the sky and all its earthly subjects in total blackness. We were armed only with a torch that shone bleakly under the power of its dying battery and the advice to walk in a straight line to regain the entrance. But there were no drunks to follow, or if there were, they were disguised by the enveloping mantle of the forest night.’
‘I gazed up to see a well-built young man dressed in the pristine white garb of an indigenous tribesman. He hailed from the remote territory of the Sierra Nevada. As a resident of this imposing and secluded mountain territory, he was, culturally and geographically, a long way from home.’
'But some sixth sense compensated for the conventional one and I found myself wheeling around to find the whole feral pack lunging towards me.'
'The hands of his corpse were hacked off in a ritualistic gesture to stop his soul finding eternal peace. The $8 million ransom was not paid and his hands remain at large. It is not for me to say what’s happening with his soul.'
‘I passed through the thronging petitioners and wandered unchallenged up the wide empty staircase. At the entrance of one of several deserted-looking offices, the name of the Public Defender appeared on a small typed label that appeared to be trying to merge quietly into the woodwork. There was no-one inside, but there were signs of working life about the threadbare dusty room. I took the open door as an invitation.’
'I was in the Right Place at the Wrong Time.'
'While savouring the first meal to stimulate our taste-buds in four days, I wondered idly about the location of the train station we needed to return to Cuzco.'
'The orchestral ‘tune-up’ proved to be the first song. The collective noise emanating from the corner might only qualify as music in some obscure atonal sense beyond my Western-tuned ears, but the fear in the eyes of the musicians willed us to find harmony where there was none.'
‘Somewhat bored with my own internal monologues, I sought alternative company in a bar.’