THE southern coast of Spain is a country within a country. Like London or New York, it exists alone, a law unto itself. It has its own rules and rhythm and its own way of doing things.
On the morning of our story the coast awoke in a tepid daze, the Mediterranean flat as a dusty mirror, banks of low cloud drifting in over the chiringuitos and dampening the canopies of the hillside allotments.
Down on the beaches the hammock-vendors sprayed the sand in the hope of one more hot day: they´d been enjoying an Indian summer. In Malaga,cars formed rush-hours queues into the city while joggers stretched their calves on the low sea wall in Estepona. Shutters clattered up on the Nerja cafés. Benidorm doorsteps were swept and mopped.
Smoking, sunburnt fishermen winched their nets up in La Caleta, gulls hovering yet still, hungry black eyes staring.
High above the Malaga Mountains a twin-engine Cessna left a vectoring, ever-diffusing trail of ice particles in its wake. A door was open on its glinting, sunlit, sea-ward side and a figure in black appeared, leaping suddenly out, spread-eagled, away from the plane.
In Colmares, an elderly Brit who´d been up since five with gout pains, called out to a passing neighbour, an even older Spaniard, coming back from a walk. They put their hands to their brows and watched as a parachute opened and the bulky, twitching figure rocked from side to side until it meshed with the dark peaks.
By then the mist had mostly cleared, the sun had risen and the Mediterranean was its usual brilliant, diamond-encrusted blue.
“I´ll call the police,” old Ramón mumbled, tipping his stick and walking on.
The cicadas had started. The day had broken. Our story was underway.