Mirlo emerged into the moonlight one night in April 1939. Victory rather than peace had been declared after three years of civil war and Mirlo was automatically one of the victors. He had spent almost three years in a hidden cave in the hills inland from Valencia, relying on a family servant to bring him sustenance and clothing; a risky business indeed for that faithful man.
Cleanly shaven and in a respectable suit of clothes he came down from the hills that night and when he entered his town it appeared that he had arrived on the train from Madrid. His family quickly informed him of news enough to create a plausible alibi and expand upon the brief war reports that his taciturn servant had relayed to him on his nocturnal visits to the cave. Other men in Mirlo’s position had crossed the enemy lines to join their kind or had died attempting it. Mirlo would always be vague about his war activities, wishing, he said, to erase it from his memory.
He resumed his legal practice with enthusiasm; there were many people to be tried and somebody had to make a pretence of defending them. He would soon make up his lost earnings through this vindictive legal circus. The faithful servant had been sworn to secrecy – every week for three years; he wouldn’t forget – and seemed happy to now receive no special privileges. The familiar status quo had been resumed with a vengeance and once again every man knew where he stood.
Years passed and wounds, the press assured us, were healing. Mirlo prospered and was respected. He lived more quietly than before, but who knows what he had been through in the war which had changed many men and driven not a few to drink, whoring and even suicide?
In the spring of ’49 an astonishing rumour began to spread among the lower orders regarding the venerable Mr Mirlo. It soon rippled through town and ascended to that social hub of the gentry, the Casino, where Mirlo took coffee, read the national papers, and did business. He laughed aloud and his peers laughed with him. Such a refined, patriotic man as he to have done such a cowardly thing! Happily for Mirlo the rumour subsided. There was no real proof and unwise would be the man who furnished such proof unless he wore the armour of considerable social standing.
Some months later old Paco Belda was caught stealing some items of the Mirlo family silver – caught red-handed they said – although his trial was so summary and his removal to a distant prison so swift that his defence was heard by few. Never had a man acted so out of character, but you never knew in this country of remorse and revenge. The funny thing was that Paco Belda and Mirlo hadn’t exchanged more than a few dozen insignificant words during those ten years.
Nowadays people can say just about whatever they think. People have more free time too and have taken to pursuits such as rambling in the countryside. It’s a thrill for the children to be taken to ‘La Cueva de Mirlo’ and shine a torch on the initials which are chiselled on a ledge in a corner of the damp, low roof.
You can just make out an F, a J and an M.