Early the next morning as light filtered through the one small window high on their cell wall, Nick calculated each man had less than a third of a square meter to himself. In one corner was a water tap, which seemed to flow intermittently and in the other a hole in the floor, which served as a drain and toilet and was often clogged. The stench was unbearable.
Soon the cell door opened and guards distributed bowls of weak bean soup and pieces of moldy bread.
‘If you take that soup you’ll be sick and have to shit in front of all these guys,’ Radouan said, ‘don’t eat it... we’ll be out of here soon.’
Their conversation continued from the night before. Nick was about to admit that he was not as crazy as he’d been making out and to ask Radouan to forgive him when their conversation was interrupted by a large hand extending down between them attached to someone a few years older than Radouan wearing a Planet Hollywood T-shirt and cut-offs. The man squatted down and embraced Radouan. They kissed many times.
‘This is my friend Omar,’ Radouan said introducing Nick. ‘Omar works in his father’s bazaar. I’ve known him since I was a kid; he’s like an older brother to me. You met him years ago. He doesn’t understand English and he can’t read but he’s a sweet guy and not stupid... everyone calls him Handy Man.’
‘What brings you here?’ Omar asked sympathetically.
‘Jus’ havin’ a little vacation...’ Radouan grinned.
Omar chuckled knowingly.
‘They’re accusin’ me of murderin’ that German woman I’ve known for years,’ Radouan explained in Arabic.
‘You mean the Baroness.... Of course, everyone in Marrakech knows who she is. Did you do it?’
Radouan’s mouth dropped. ‘How can you say that? She was my oldest friend.’
‘I heard she made a Testament leaving everything to you, all her properties and money in Swiss Banks...’
‘Where did you hear this? When?’
‘Can’t remember... maybe a week ago. She never told you she was going to leave you something?’
‘No. I was in Paris...’
‘So I heard.’
Radouan was about to ask Omar again where he got his information when he remembered one of Omar’s brothers worked for the police. ‘Why are you here?’ he asked.
‘Hashish, of course...’ Omar replied.
‘But your brother...’
‘He couldn’t help me this time, but I’m sure he’s working on it. A boy I know... country boy... became jealous of me and invented a story... went to the police and told them I had him delivering hashish to foreigners. Police they came and dragged me out of bed,’ Omar observed himself with some surprise. ‘...No time to change.’
Radouan scolded him: ‘I’ve told you many times to be careful of these country boys...’
‘Yeah, every one has to watch out now... something about “the human rights,” whatever that means! One human right should be not to change, not to progress. They forget all the great battles that were fought around here over boys... boy stealing... camel stealing. They forget the days of Chaiir El Hamara of Bal Gamane, the bird seed seller on Derb Debachi who was a great connoisseur in these matters!’
They all laughed together.
‘Now they want to call it abuse,’ Omar went on earnestly, ‘... we have our human rights too, our traditions. All these new laws... they just make them up to make money... that’s all.’
‘But we are Arabs... boy stealin’ is a Berber thing...’ Radouan said, trying to provoke Omar.
‘Bullshit! Arabs are boy stealers too... everyone does it because the boys they want it... they need it.... the protection of older fellows. How long are you here for?’
Radouan put on a hopeful face. ‘They say I’m here for a week but maybe I’ll be out sooner... Inch Allah. But I’d like to know who made the Complaint against me. Maybe you can try and speak with your brother about it. What’s his name?’
‘Of course... then maybe you could speak with Mahjoub and find out who is accusin’ me... who went to the police... who wrote up the Complaint?’
‘Mahjoub, he is supposed to be coming here tomorrow to get me out... Inch Allah... I will speak to him about you, don't worry...’
‘I will make it worth his time and yours too....’
Omar patted Radouan’s back. ‘Don’t be stupid, we’re old friends, you don't need to do anything like that... when I get out I’ll see what I can do... some detective work for you... but fuck, I hope I do... I mean my oldest brother Moustafa... he’s the one who has to make the deal to get me out of this shit hole... our mother will yell at him, I’m sure. I’m the youngest of ten brothers; they have to take care of me...’
‘And I am the oldest of six brothers...’
‘Being the oldest is the worst... My brother Moustafa is insane... so are you sometimes...’ Omar turned toward Nick. ‘Who’s he... seems to me I know him but I can’t...’
‘My old English teacher,’ Radouan explained, ‘American... swims on the other shore... speaks Arabi. You met him once but you don't remember... lived here for years without leavin’... never had a visa. Some friends and me, some of the boys he taught, we’ve been hidin’ him over in riad Arous. Now the police know it... they arrested him and my sister Fouzia who was over there cookin’ for him... Maybe they’ve arrested my whole family by now... Inch Allah. But my father has an uncle in Parliament, so I doubt it.’
‘Then your father should be able to do something for you...’
‘Maybe, but I don’t think so. Murder is different than fightin’ or hashish...’
‘You have to remember one very important thing, akouya... and watch out!’ Omar grinned and pointed his finger skyward, ‘People are gonna be very jealous when they hear of your good luck.’
‘What good luck? That I’m accused of murder?’
‘No man... that you might get all her property and money. You will see they will try to take it away from you. Remember that Dutch woman who left a very nice house and property in the Palmerie to her Marrakchi lover... yes? Well, they took it away from him.... And now that you’ve married an English lady with her own jet prive, man, they’ll wanna roast you.’
Radouan frowned. ‘Her plane belongs to her father’s company... how come you know all this about her?’
‘I heard it from Lahcen, the trainer at Mamounia... he was in one of our shops the other day with some tourists.’
‘I hate him. I would enjoy stranglin’ him... arriviste bastard.’
‘Yeah... he’s very jealous of you too... that you got her, and married her in England... hopes you’ll stay in here forever.’
Radouan lowered his voice and whispered tenderly in Omar’s ear: ‘My uncle, when you get out of this place I hope you will do one thing for me... to be sure Lahcen leaves Marrakech and never returns? I don’t care how you get it done, but will you do it?’
‘Yes, of course, don’t worry. I never liked him either... tres dangerous.’
‘HEY,’ a voice rasped overhead. Radouan jumped up and embraced its owner, a husky young man like himself, ‘Houcein, may God protect you... what are you doin’ in here?’
‘Ah not much... last night I put a policewoman in the hospital... she was bein’ stupid. Stopped me for not usin’ my turn signal, can you imagine... caused a huge embouteillage so I knocked her...’
Radouan kissed him on both shoulders ‘Don’t worry your Patron will get you out. The guys on the force, they hate these new police women, they’ll go easy on you.’
Houcein had been a bodyguard for a prominent foreign diplomat, the only real job he’d ever had. Radouan and Houcein were the same age, had attended the same schools and had been known in the Medina as the two toughest, best looking boys of their time.
‘I lost my job with him last year,’ Houcein said, ‘guess I haven’t seen you for a while... we were in Istanbul just before he retired. Because I was an official bodyguard I had a permit to carry a gun... got drunk in a bar there in Istanbul one night... didn’t kill anybody just destroyed the place...’ Houcein turned his gaze on Nick. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked Radouan.
‘That’s Nick, you knew him years ago.’
Nick pointed grimly at Radouan: ‘Because I know him... that’s why I’m here...’
‘They broke into Pero’s place lookin’ for evidence about me,’ Radouan smiled ‘.... and found him and Fouzia. When they caught on he’d been here for seven years without leavin’ they charged him. Also they hate him because he caused them big problems years ago when his wife came over here lookin’ for him...’
‘They’re sayin’ you killed the Baroness,’ Houcein whispered. ‘Headlines in all the foreign journals, also the local ones. You’re famous!’
Radouan turned to Omar: ‘Tell me who could be promotin’ all this ichaa ... givin’ interviews to the press?’
‘The Police didn’t release any information until they arrested you... but we all knew certain things and were trying to piece them together.’
‘You mus' ask Mahjoub to find out about this propaganda,’ Radouan said and turned back to Houcein. ‘You think I would do that? Kill her?’
Houcein hesitated. ‘No... Her you wouldn’t kill... maybe that fucking English woman you’ve been seeing for years... wouldn’t surprise me if you killed her some day...’
Radouan grinned broadly, ‘I jus' married her...’
‘Congratulations, you never invited me...’
‘We got married in London. We’ll have a weddin’ party down here soon. Don’t worry, you will meet her... when you get to know her you will like her.’
‘I met her already - Long time ago with a bunch of musicians from London.’
‘She was pretty crazy then,’ Radouan grinned, ‘but I’ve calmed her down.’
‘Maybe Houcein can find out who filled the Complaint against you,’ Omar said.
‘I heard already,’ Houcein volunteered, ‘they say it’s the notaire, Madame Saadi... she’s giving out that a servant called her just after sunrise saying they’d discovered The Baroness’ body at dawn when the server brought her bed tea... said he saw you leaving about an hour before that. That’s what the journals say.’
‘Ecoute moi,’ Radouan whispered, ‘I have someone out there workin’ as a gardener. The Baroness, she hired him jus' before I left for Paris. He will know what really happened if we can find him. His name is Mokhtar. Whoever gets out of here first should go and find him... but be careful. The boss out there is an old bastard called A’hmed who he hates me. Maybe he sent Mokhtar away... or maybe the kid had to escape. If he’s not there, he could be stayin’ at a certain house in the Medina. I will give you the directions. Mokhtar is very important. You must promise to locate him and send him to Prospero; here, I will give you Pero's mobile number.’ Radouan wrote out the information and sighed, ‘Tal’bsouk al jarima...’ he said, ‘some one wants me to wear another person’s clothes. I’m being framed but I can’t see any motive for Madame Saadi to do this...’
Houcein rolled his eyes and said: ‘I’ve heard she has a cute new boy friend from Fez half her age.’
Omar laughed: ‘She’s so ugly who would want her?’
‘In the cafes they’re sayin’ he has her completely under his control and expects to marry her soon... maybe he has something to do with all this.’
As the day passed, conditions in the cell worsened. There was no lunch and everyone became hungry and angry. Someone said the soup they received in the morning was all they’d get until evening. Water was limited to short periods before prayers and there was not even room to pray. Radouan worried that Nick might not make it - all those years lying around in the riad had left him weak - and vowed when they got out he would try harder than ever to rehabilitate him.
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006