Driving back to town, Radouan brooded over the mystery of the person who was claiming to be the Baroness’ long lost son.  If he wasn’t her son, how could he have known so much?  Or maybe he really was her son; if so what did he want, money of course, but what money?  Maybe she had some money and maybe she didn’t; there was nothing in her Testament which she had given him that stated how much money there was, just the names and numbers of certain bank accounts, shares and properties. What he did know was that he had to follow her instructions and protect Dar Chems. She was his oldest friend, the origin of all his good luck and he must carry out her wishes faithfully.

          Following the Route de Ramparts, along the river, he entered the Medina through Bab Ailen and soon arrived outside the hamam owned by J.W.’s family. 

          The hamam was nearly empty, but he found J.W. lounging in the hottest of the three rooms and joined him.

          ‘I’m recovering from a big night,’ J.W. groaned, dousing him self with hot water. ‘ Suppose you’ve come to ask about that guy you wanted me to find out about... well, I haven’t much... he doesn't move in our circles so it’s difficult ... the only thing I have is from your friend Omar’s brother, the spy Mahjoub. You know him...’

          ‘Yes, of course,’ Radouan replied, ‘I try to avoid him.’

          ‘Me too, but sometimes he’s useful.  He came to the hamam two days ago and we talked... the guy you mentioned from Fez appeared in Marrakech a few months ago and began questioning people about the Baroness saying that he was her son.  As she is a friend of the King, the authorities began to wonder what he was up to and put Mahjoub on his trail... One thing he learned was that this guy, whoever he is, has made it his business to find out a lot about you and doesn’t like you. He was overheard putting you down at the Mamounia Bar.  Then in a cafe in Gueliz, he was seen talking with a notorious guy from Benguerir who specializes in getting rid of people... The Fassi seems to see you as an obstacle on his way to inheriting the Baroness’ estate. He’s an Avocat and speaks English as well as French. If I were you I’d be careful.  Has the Baroness ever mentioned leaving you any money?’

          Radouan dissembled. ‘From time to time, but never anything serious. If he wants me out of the way I’d better watch out.  What does he look like?’

          ‘Mahjoub said he was good looking, well dressed and a little rugged... like he trains or runs or something... my advice is that you should leave town for a while...’

          Radouan doused himself with hot water. ‘Right now, I’m supposed to be in Paris but I can’t seem to get outta here. My Polo buddy Rupert, has jus' arrived to buy some ponies so I’ll have to be with him day and night. Toni’s pissed because she thinks he’s come here on purpose to screw up our marriage... thinks we’re...’

          ‘You married her!’

          ‘Yes, of course... didn’t I tell you? Or maybe I haven’t seen you since then.’

          ‘You haven’t... Isn’t he mad at you?’

          ‘Rupert? No, he’s a very good friend to me... and he didn’t know we got married. Toni never told him. I had to tell him, can you imagine!  Really, I have compassion for him.  So for the next few days I have to be here and look after him, take him shopping, look for ponies, go to the Casino at night and find women for him... the usual, I guess... and on top of that, Hafida the girl I’m supposed to marry...’

          ‘The Keeper!’

          ‘Yes, her... Now her parents are harassin’ my mother about when I will meet with the L’adoul and finalize things.  I agreed to see them day after tomorrow,’ he sighed, ‘really her people are already bringin’ me down.  And right now I’m supposed to be in Paris on this business deal with Delphine and my Avocat from Los Angeles is waitin’ there for me… It’s a big mess.’

          ‘Is the Baroness sick?’ J. W. asked, ‘there’s some rumor...’

          ‘She thinks she is... tha's why I don’t mind stickin’ around a little longer... if I can do something about this Hollywood Avocat sittin’ there in Paris... he’s very expensive.’

          ‘If it looks like she’s dying, what will this Fassi do?’

          ‘I don’t know... tha's why a voice inside me says I should stick around...’

           J. W. looked at Radouan thoughtfully and said: ‘He might try to set you up in some way, be careful.’

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©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006