on August 20, 2018
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In 1973 Chile, thirteen-year-old English schoolboy Charlie Norton watches his father walk into the night and never return. Taken in by diplomat Tomas Abrego, his life becomes intricately linked to the family.
Eleven years later, Abrego is the Chilean Ambassador to London and Charlie is reunited with the Abrego sisters. Despite his love for them, he’s unable to prevent Maria falling under the spell of a left-wing revolutionary, or Sophia from being used as a political pawn by her father.
His connection to the family is complicated by the growing evidence that Tomas Abrego was somehow involved in his father’s disappearance.
As the conflict of a family divided by love and politics comes to a head on the night of the 1989 student riots in Santiago, Charlie has to act to save the sisters from an enemy they cannot see.
You are very lucky today, as I am delighted in bringing to you an excerpt from the Glass Diplomat! I told you – lucky! It is a corker too
Raoul Encarro is a left-wing revolutionary who wins the heart of Maria Abrego. His presence in the story hangs heavy on Charlie because he recognises there will be no happy ending for Maria if she chooses Encarro.
Raoul Encarro battled for his next breath. It had once been said, the striking face of Raoul Encarro could adorn the banknotes of Chile. Friends laughed at the time, while he’d allowed that conceit to lodge deep inside him. He regretted the conclusion promised to him events had snatched away.
He could see them now, the faces and the smiles and the attention, even if he couldn’t recall many of the old names. Maria had been among them, poor Maria. Ricardo told him she’d been arrested on the first night of the riots, and not seen again. She’d been a casualty of a war against fascism, a war against her own kind. He struggled to recall her clearly. He could remember the photographs, those featuring him. The press had loved the ones of them as a couple. It had been easy to make everyone believe, even her.
When he thought about the woman he’d loved, he always saw Alegra. He recalled her more than anyone. He could see her waiting for him in a doorway, waving to him from a bus, or looking up at him from underneath. She’d left him bereft in the way he must have left Maria. He wondered if Alegra had been disappointed in love, and that person as well, ad infinitum. He imagined billions pining for someone they couldn’t possess, pictured the whole world looking at someone while that someone looked elsewhere.
The tightness in his chest hugged him viciously, and he fought to get the air out. He might have survived for longer, if he hadn’t needed to come into the city to build support. But he couldn’t lead a revolution from a hut in the mountains, or a chalet by a lake. The safety of the mountains were an illusion anyway. He’d tried to convince himself the busier city might be secure with more places to hide. He’d discovered a false belief, there were always more of them to chase you in the city. When a man achieved such a high level of fame, such notoriety, there became no good place to hide.
The concert in Santiago had been a great platform for success. The crowd’s response had heartened him, and the ensuing deaths acceptable if they helped achieve their aims. He vaguely wondered who they might be. He struggled to find anyone who believed in him as much as he did.
The concert led to the riots, led to the hiding, led to the treachery in Valparaiso, and led to his return to Santiago, to yesterday, to today, to here. He wondered who betrayed him. The Judas in every group, perhaps. The only safe revolutionary the solitary one.
He supposed the small room had been a bedroom. The furniture had gone, and the plaster fallen from the walls in places, the bare boards layered with old dust and sand. The window let in the light, but the glass was too dirty to see through.
He heard their feet on the wooden stairs. They’d found him in the street and chased him here. The twists and turns of his life were exhausted, reduced to the last few lefts and rights, until only the staircase outside of this room had remained to climb. All of the turns and all of the doors were gone.
He pulled his knees closer to ease the discomfort of the unforgiving floorboards. He’d always been too skinny to sit comfortably, he reflected. He allowed the right-angled walls to support him, too exhausted to do anything else.
He pulled focus on himself as the room blurred. The blue shirtsleeve had been blackened by blood as it travelled from neck to forearm to wrap around his wrist and fill his palm. The glue of the congealing blood had kept the gun attached to unfurled fingers. His hand lay in a shallow pool of red like a disconnected artwork.
His breathing had become too shallow to maintain the rest of him and he could no longer afford the effort of sight. He could sense them in the room with him. He assumed he’d reached the end, he wouldn’t wake from this sleep. Those who’d found him would make no effort to save him.
When he’d been younger, the idea of immortality had been crucial. For his soul, for his legend. He’d been sold the romanticism of the revolutionary by parents and peers, and he’d bought it wholeheartedly. He had crafted final words, and grinned internally at the heroic image of him whispering to a loyal lieutenant, to an epic gathering of acolytes, and for the repeating of those words again and again through time. He’d warmed himself with the image of a nation in tears at his passing.
The romanticism of death eluded him. There would be no tears, and those with him at the end wouldn’t repeat his words. It no longer mattered; he had none.
Raoul Encarro never expected to wake. He thought the noisy threat of the police arriving in the room being engulfed by his own exhausted indifference evidence of death. And when he opened his eyes he imagined he’d arrived in the afterlife. Yet there was no white light, and no easing of the numbness, only the cold sweat and drained energy of living. He felt cheated.
It took him a long moment to focus, to recognise he hadn’t moved. He could feel the solid floor beneath him, and sense the shadows of figures in front of him. Beyond a man crouching beside him, he saw the blur of a semi-circle of unspeaking men. Relaxed in their stance, and with their guns holstered, he saw in them the lack of menace in himself. He witnessed the blank next page of his life.
He turned his attention to the closest man. He’d never met him, but he knew of him. Simon Patino carried the reputation of his kind.
“I thought I’d died,” he offered simply.
“You seem reluctant to do that.”