Dropping his family off at Bab Dukala, Radouan hurried to his car and called his old friend, Francesco Monte, who had been leaving messages for him for two days. Although he explained he was already late for lunch with a client, Francesco insisted he stop by at his villa in the Mamounia garden for a drink. On his way Radouan tried unsuccessfully to intercept Toni before she left the gym. At the hotel he handed his keys to the chief Doorman, a child hood friend of his, walked quickly through the garden to where Francesco was staying and rang the bell.
Francesco’s black bodyguard, Tawfig, opened the door. Tawfig was a big Tuareg from the Sahara raised in Zagora who trained in the same gym as Radouan. They didn’t come any tougher than Tawfig who could drink with you in the evening and roast you for breakfast the next morning. They went through the formalities of an embrace and the usual verbal exchange. Then Tawfig pulled on his nose and gestured disdainfully through the drawing room to a small-enclosed terrace and pool where Francesco was entertaining two young blonde women and several young men who were passing a pipe.
‘Radouan baby... Salaam Alaykoum...Kif al hal.’ Francesco shouted across the pool. Radouan strode out on to the terrace where they embraced warmly kissing each other many times. Francesco introduced him to his friends. The conversation was stilted.
When he was alone with him Francesco would relax like a Moroccan countryman, but when there were other people around he got up tight - No problem. After all, his grandfather had been a commanding general during the Italian occupation of Libya so what could you expect? From time to time Francesco liked to play the Patrone, but understood Arabic so well Radouan always felt more comfortable with him than most of the foreigners he knew.
Francesco shrugged his broad shoulders and grinned. ‘I called you because I wanted to invite you to a party I’m giving tonight... On such short notice I hope you can come. Juss now there are some very beautiful women in town. I thought you might like to meet some of them... perhaps bring some of your own friends too if they’d like to come.’ Then in a lower voice he said, ‘I know I could have told you this on the phone, habibi, but I wanted to see you in the flesh, it’s been three years no? I think of you all the time and miss you very much But you look the same, even better... how are you?’
‘The same, yes,’ Radouan replied calmly, ‘busy running around supportin’ my family... you say tonight?
‘I’ll come... but now I have to leave, I’m late for an appointment.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006