Pedro ran on through the streets of Barcelona. He was driven by his own will, his own desperation, to survive. The criminal was being hunted across the city, and his tired legs were being forced by necessity to carry their master westward. They forced him down street after street, and took him past the featureless white walls of house after house – with every step he took. Pedro was running out of city to hide in. The further he ran, the more trapped he felt. Behind him, he could hear the growing tides of noise from the fast-approaching mob, every man in the city had banded together - eager to see Pedro hang.
The hostile brightness of the sun assaulted Pedro's eyes as he journeyed towards it, away from those who wanted to take his life. He paused for a moment under the temporary solace of a Spanish Fir and wiped the sweat from his brow. He strained his eyes through the harsh light of the rising sun and scanned the tops of the buildings in the west of the city – he needed somewhere to hide. Nestled in amongst the hundreds of white-washed bars and shops, the Spaniard saw something that was, to him, much more important. Pedro could just make out, silhouetted by the Spanish sun, a potential answer to his prayers. It stood on a spire not much taller than any of the other buildings, but it meant so much more. The plain steel cross that Pedro saw represented not only the glory of God, but the ability for him to claim sanctuary, and be forgiven for his crimes. Pedro knew that to do this, he needed only the blessing of the local priest. The church stood at the far end of the city. “Sanctuary”, muttered Pedro to himself. He glanced back – half expecting someone to have heard him, of course, no-one did. This unholy man made the sign of the cross on shoulders and said some quiet prayers to himself. Now, for the first time, the cries of the louder individuals of the chasing mob were audible. Pedro began running again, cursing those who chased behind him. Cursing those who were determined to 'see him pay for his crimes like a pig'. Those who were determined to watch him hang. The Spaniard told himself that with the help of the church, those fools wouldn't even be able to make him pay for a beer.
The human embodiment of the town's hatred stood catching his breath in the shadow of the church's cross. To his left and right were hundreds of smaller crosses. The church cemetery was poorly maintained. The weeds, grass and in some cases bushes were waging an unsightly war against the gravestones. While Pedro could see a lot of individual crosses, he was unable to make out a single name on any of the graves – not that he spent too long looking. With any luck, thought Pedro, It'll be a little while yet before I end up in there. The church itself was a tall building, with thick white walls and a unparalleled sense of sturdiness to it. As Pedro looked at this – his local house of God, he felt at once simultaneously reassured and ashamed. He wiped the sweat off his brow and looked back again. Instinct was preventing him from entering the church, and this notorious criminal was rendered temporarily paralysed underneath the enormous weight of it's shadow. Pedro also had to contend with the small matter of his brother, he'd been avoiding him for eleven long years, but this time, he had no other choice but to enter the church. He swallowed and took a few nervous steps forwards, deeper into the large shadow of the church. Pedro watched as his sweaty, bony fingers wrapped themselves around the grimy brass of the door handle. It was hot to the touch. Pedro sighed and took another look backwards. Sheepishly, he entered the church.
Pedro entered the church and was instantly grateful for the cool shade that the church's interior provided. The bearded veteran had escaped the murderous intentions of the mob and the relentless heat of the outside. However, as Pedro breathed a sigh of relief, he heard his brothers voice swooping down from an upstairs balcony.
“Hello little brother, by the sounds of things, you are a popular man. I assume that the mob outside is after you?”
Pedro spun around and looked up at his brother.
“It's been awhile, Alberto” said Pedro.
“It's been eleven years since you left us” said Alberto. Pedro couldn't quite make out his expression from the shadows of the upstairs balcony, but his tone was corrective and distant.
“Eleven years, has it really been eleven years?” replied Pedro, his words full of fake suprise.
Pedro's question hung in the air along with his shame. The brothers stood looking at each other for a moment, listening to the faint clamour of the mob outside. Finally, Pedro spoke again.
“Brother, you seem so distant up there, come downstairs” Pedro sensed his brothers inaction and added a word. “Please”. The word hung in the air hopefully.
He waited for a moment, listening to his brother's footsteps as they grew closer. Alberto emerged from the staircase facing his brother, his back to the door. Pedro waited for Alberto to break the silence that was once again imposing it's rule over the conversation. Alberto stood stroking his beard, watching Pedro with judging eyes. Pedro felt compelled to speak.
“So, how are our parents?” Pedro tried and failed to keep his tone casual.
“Only now do you think of them. Now after eleven years.” Pedro chuckled nervously and shrugged his shoulders. Alberto continued.
“Our Father died long ago, Mother died only a few days ago. She asked for you to be there, but there was only me.”
Pedro's shame crept back into the air again.
“Listen” Pedro took a half step forward. “We both know why I'm here. And I know that you, a priest, and my brother, my own flesh and blood, Alberto Ramirez, would not do anything to let me die.” Alberto's eyes forced Pedro to continue speaking. “All you need to do to save my life, brother, to save a life, a human life, is to grant me sanctuary from the church. Those pigs outside wouldn't dare question the authority of the church, would they?” Pedro smiled and forced out a laugh. “So, what do you say brother? I know you will help me.”
Alberto adjusted his collar and took a half step forwards. “I'm struggling to see why I should save you, my brother. Have you accomplished anything but evil in the last eleven years? - it seems to me you once had a wife someplace?”
Pedro spoke on instinct, strangely, he found that he was no longer so desperate to gain the favour of his brother. “Not just one measly wife, brother. Lots of them, one here, one there, wherever I found them.” Pedro found himself becoming impassioned by an unexpected anger. “Go on Alberto, preach me a sermon why don't you?”
Alberto's calm was breaking too. “What good would that do?” he retorted. “You must have already ignored a hundred sermons in your sick life, Pedro. One extra wouldn't matter, but I'll tell you one thing. Apologise for leaving me with mother and father eleven years ago and I may spare your life, but I'll never forgive you, Pedro.”
“I won't beg or apologise to you, brother. I've nothing to apologise for. You speak to me as if you're better than I am, let me remind you of something. In our backgrounds, if you did not want to die of poverty, you had two choices. You either became a priest, or a criminal. I chose my way, and I helped put you on yours. But let me, Pedro Ramirez, tell you something else. My way was harder. And you stand there judging me in that black cloak of yours – if it wasn't for the money I stole for you, you couldn't have made it as a priest. So don't you stand there now and ask me to apologise to you – maybe you became a priest because you were too much of a coward to live the life I've lived.”
Alberto stood facing Pedro for a second, frustrated and speechless. Suddenly, Alberto's hand lashed out and struck his brother across the face. Twenty five years as a priest had not been kind to Alberto's punching ability and Pedro took the blow with ease. Instinctively, Pedro punched back, and his blow had with it the full force of twenty five years as a criminal. Alberto crashed violently backwards into a table and brought a decorative cross down with him as he fell. Alberto's bleeding face looked up at Pedro from the foot of one of the church's pews. Pedro spat down at his brother. “I'd rather die than ask you for anything, brother”.
Pedro steeled himself and took one last look down at his injured brother, then turned and faced the large wooden door of the church.
“May God have mercy on your soul Alberto” proclaimed Pedro. Then, he left the church, ready to die at the bloodthirsty hands of the mob.