One thing you must believe: Granny was never a war criminal.
I know it’s hard to think of her even as a soldier, isn’t it? That little old lady who used to come and look after you on Fridays, gave you sweets, cooked your tea, took you to the playground, painted with you, pond-dipped with you, put on your favourite DVDs and read you stories. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
But I have some photos somewhere of her in her uniform. I should dig them out for you. There’s some of her at the Palace even, receiving her medals. She looks amazing – so smart in an olive green jacket and trousers with blood-red piping and a cap with such a broad peak that you can’t really see her beautiful electric blue eyes. What am I saying? I’m pretty sure they’re black & white pics. You’ll have to believe me about the eyes.
Actually, come to think of it, there’re probably some colour photos on the web of her in action. In fact I know there are because I’ve Googled them. There she is standing on a hill outside Komednikazi, sitting in a jeep, surrounded by squaddies pointing authoritatively at the horizon, or poking out if a tank turret squinting through binoculars, or poring over a map as befuddled poshboy captains and lieutenants worry about what to do next, how to impress the general, how to behave in front of a military lady, what to think about a woman leaning over the table and allowing her tags to droop away from her smooth tanned neck...
She was a beautiful, beautiful woman your Granny underneath all that military garb. And her hair! You hardly ever saw her rich red hair – always scrunched into a helmet or a cap, but believe me it was thick and rich and full of deep swirls like a slow-poured Sicilian wine. And immaculate make-up always. Perfect lipstick, smooth foundation, mascara not too thick and the slightest hint of perfume so subtle that you might look round in search of blossom, thinking it was an aroma caught naturally on the breeze rather than something artificial.
That’s how I remember her anyway – sweet-smelling and immaculate. I suppose those filthy South American cigarettes and the stink of engine oil and tank fumes probably masked the perfume when she was younger. You’ll see when I show you the photographs. She’s holding a ciggy in every shot. Which is funny because I don’t remember her smoking - so at some stage she gave up. Maybe when you give up being a soldier you start to pay more attention to your health. Once the immediate danger passes of getting your legs blown off or taking a bullet to the head you’ve got time to ponder something slower and more insidious like the creep of cancer.
Sorry, darling, I’ve strayed into grown up territory already and really I wanted just to tell you a story, a little bit of family history so that you know where you come from, who you’re related to and why some people where you are might connect your name to things you’ve nothing to do with and which aren’t your fault.
Perhaps you’ve already heard people talk about Komednikazi even though it was years ago now. I sometimes think the books they write about it nowadays make it seem more like a fairy story – or perhaps a moral fable. And I suppose that’s how I might like it to be for you: a fairy story or a fable, like the ones Granny herself used to read to you on Fridays - except perhaps I’ll give you more of the guns and the fighting and the puzzles and the ‘levels’ you like to have in your PlayStation games.
Perhaps that’s where I should start. With a puzzle, the first level. And that way we’ll creep up on who Granny is, who she really is, and why you should never have to think ill of her, despite her name, despite her history, despite what other people have thought and written over the years about what happened at Komednikazi.
So here is the first puzzle. For many it is the only puzzle. How did the City finally fall?