AS PRINCE JULIÁN’S vehicle approached the main gate of El Escorial, he saw a familiar barricade of white SUVs and knew Valdespino had been telling the truth.
My father is indeed in residence here.
From the looks of this convoy, the king’s entire Guardia Real security detail had now relocated to this historical royal residence.
As the acolyte brought the old Opel to a stop, an agent with a flashlight strode over to the window, shone the light inside, and recoiled in shock, clearly not expecting to find the prince and the bishop inside the dilapidated vehicle.
“Your Highness!” the man exclaimed, jumping to attention. “Your Excellency! We’ve been expecting you.” He eyed the beat-up car. “Where is your Guardia detail?”
“They were needed at the palace,” the prince replied. “We’re here to see my father.”
“Of course, of course! If you and the bishop would please get out of the vehicle—”
“Just move the roadblock,” Valdespino scolded, “and we’ll drive in. His Majesty is in the monastery hospital, I assume?”
“He was,” the guard said, hesitating. “But I’m afraid now he’s gone.”
Valdespino gasped, looking horrified.
An icy chill gripped Julián. My father is dead?
“No! I-I’m so sorry!” the agent stammered, regretting his poor choice of words. “His Majesty is gone—he left El Escorial an hour ago. He took his lead security detail, and they left.”
Julián’s relief turned quickly to confusion. Left the hospital here? “That’s absurd,” Valdespino yelled. “The king told me to bring Prince Julián here right away!”
“Yes, we have specific orders, Your Excellency, and if you would, please exit the car so we can transfer you both to a Guardia vehicle.”
Valdespino and Julián exchanged puzzled looks and dutifully got out of the car. The agent advised the acolyte that his services were no longer required and that he should return to the palace. The frightened young man sped off into the night without a word, clearly relieved to end his role in this evening’s bizarre events.
As the guards guided the prince and Valdespino into the back of an SUV, the bishop became increasingly agitated. “Where is the king?” he demanded. “Where are you taking us?”
“We are following His Majesty’s direct orders,” the agent said. “He asked us to give you a vehicle, a driver, and this letter.” The agent produced a sealed envelope and handed it through the window to Prince Julián.
A letter from my father? The prince was disconcerted by the formality, especially when he noticed that the envelope bore the royal wax seal. What is he doing? He felt increasing concern that the king’s faculties might be failing.
Anxiously, Julián broke the seal, opened the envelope, and extracted a handwritten note card. His father’s penmanship was not what it used to be but was still legible. As Julián began to read the letter, he felt his bewilderment growing with every word.
When he finished, he slipped the card back into the envelope and closed his eyes, considering his options. There was only one, of course.
“Drive north, please,” Julián told the driver.
As the vehicle pulled away from El Escorial, the prince could feel Valdespino staring at him. “What did your father say?” the bishop demanded. “Where are you taking me?!”
Julián exhaled and turned to his father’s trusted friend. “You said it best earlier.” He gave the aging bishop a sad smile. “My father is still the king. We love him, and we do as he commands.”在线阅读 网：http://www.Yuedu88.com/