Cámara turned away and stared up into the glass eyes of the bull's head mounted on the wall behind as the barman poured him another beer. The horns rose up in straight, parallel points from its temples before splaying out at the ends. ¿Yo también tengo cuernos? he thought to himself. Do I have horns as well? He checked himself; where had thoughts of being cuckold arisen from all of a sudden?
He looked at the time on his mobile phone: it was already gone nine o'clock. They'd been there for almost an hour. He thought for a moment about Almudena and their plans for the evening. He'd texted her from the bullring to say he'd be running late. Come round when you're finished, she'd answered. Perhaps he should just slip out now. No one would notice. The barman placed his drink in front of him as the sound of shouting came from the street outside.
'Those bloody anti-taurinos again,' the barman mumbled. 'Think they're going to frighten us off with their rallies.'
No one else seemed to be paying any attention, assuming them to be another bunch of kids setting off firecrackers for Fallas. But Cámara listened as a barrage of whistling and calls of 'murderers' - 'asesinos' - filtered through the walls. Someone out there was playing a drum.
There was a kick to the door and it opened with a crash. Conversations stopped, and everyone turned to look. The doorway was empty, and across the street, election posters for the mayoress grinned back at them, while fiesta lights blazed down from their wire supports above.
'¿Qué coño? What the fuck?'
There was a bewildered murmuring from the guests before a huddle of people burst through the doorway and into the bar. On their chests were emblazoned drawings of a bull with a red line painted through it, while two of them were holding a banner with the words 'Blanco asesino' painted in dark green letters which they struggled to unfurl in the cramped room. Without moving from his position at the bar, Cámara looked over and quickly counted: there were nine of them, with perhaps a straggler or two outside. Most were in their twenties, one or two slightly older. Almost all of them were wearing jeans, with walking boots or trainers, and brightly coloured shirts and jackets. No sign of any of them carrying a weapon. Once inside, the demonstrators pulled out their whistles and started to blow, splitting the air with a tremendous sound, while someone banged a drum with a slow, stomping rhythm. Above the noise, a tinny voice echoed out from a loudhailer, the words angry and violent but incoherent in the racket. Cámara spotted the would-be spokesperson - a girl of about twenty-five, her hair in dreadlocks and pulled back in a loose bun.
Some of the guests had stood up and were gesticulating aggressively at the intruders. Ramírez, the bull breeder, sat where he was, his skin reddening. The owner of the bar was rooted to the spot, an expression of panic on his face. Cámara looked for Carmen Luna, but she seemed to have disappeared. Instead he found himself being watched by the short woman with the highlights in her hair. He felt sure she knew who he was, and her wry, knowing smile seemed to tell him that he was the only one there who could deal with the situation.
He placed his drink back on the bar and walked towards the intruders. They were now inching their way forwards with a growing group momentum, and there was a danger of imminent physical contact with some of the guests.
Cámara stepped in and quickly placed himself between the two opposing forces. The whistling intensified, as though to blast him out of the way, before finally subsiding as the intruders paused to take their breath. Cámara grabbed his chance.
'Venga. Come on,' he said, gesturing towards the door. The girl with the loudhailer stood to the front and looked him up and down. She seemed curious: he didn't fit here. The absence of an expensive watch on his wrist, his uncombed hair, the short sideburns framing his face, the stubble on his chin showing that he hadn't been as careful as he might have been when shaving that morning. By the looks of it he should have been on their side.
From Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster. Copyright ©2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of Minotaur Books.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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