Friday was visitors’ day. Omar waited impatiently for his brother to show up but instead it was Radouan who was called, and after leaving Nick in Omar’s care and pushing his way through the crowded cell to the door, he was conducted to the visitors’ room where Prospero and Toni were waiting.
Not sure how long he would be able to speak with them, Radouan immediately passed on the information he had received from Houcein concerning the notaire, Madame Saadi, and asked Prospero to drive out to the Baroness’ place and try to find Mokhtar. ‘But you must be careful of A’hmed... try to avoid him if you can, but if you have to speak with him, jus’ tell him you’re my Avocat now and want to ask a few questions and look around... But do not mention Mokhtar’s name to him... find a way to ask one of the gardeners where he is. You must try to find out what really happened... won’t get a straight story from A’hmed. The most important thing is to find Mokhtar.’
Prospero confirmed that Fouzia had been arrested and was in the women's section of the jail, but neither Radouan’s parents nor his other sisters or brothers had been bothered. Himself, he had just left the riad when the police arrived. Lucky because they would have arrested him too and he would have been unable to take the case or do any investigating.
Having taken care of business, Radouan turned to Toni. Her face was an ashen mask and she was ominously quiet. ‘I have no idea why this is happening,’ he said, ‘somebody’s tryin’ to frame me but I don't know who, or what’s the reason...’
‘I’ve tried...’ Toni gritted through clenched teeth. ‘I have tried everything to get you out of here but I don't seem to be getting anywhere. It’s your own fault...’
‘Speak louder, I can’t hear you,’ Radouan said.
‘Your thoughtlessness, your selfishness in never calling me from Paris or wherever you really were! If you’d called I could have warned you not to come back here; they kept the whole thing very quiet until they arrested you, but I knew... I could have picked you up and we could have flown to... wherever,’ she shrugged her shoulders, ‘Now we have this mess to cope with.’
‘It wouldn’t have worked,’ Pero said calmly, ‘they’ve had Interpol on the case since the morning of the murder.’
‘They tell me people being held for murder are restricted in ways other prisoners are not,’ Toni shouted, ‘...Isn’t there some other place where we can meet privately? I mean the noise level here is staggering.’
‘For that we must write a letter to the Prison Commander,’ Pero replied, ‘He’s the main link here... I’ll take care of it immediately. For a certain consideration they will allow us to meet in some hallway but Radouan would still be cuffed. For more money we could have the room which is usually used for questioning people. They know Toni’s rich so it would be expensive but believe me, at this point it’s the only way. Now I must do some serious detective work. Whoever’s behind this has a purpose, and is motivated...’
‘If they have money they might outbid us, mightn’t they?’ Toni screeched.
‘I want to get him out of here as soon as possible,’ Pero yelled.
‘Don’t worry about me,’ Radouan roared, ‘You know I’m a hard man...’
‘We know that, darling, but we also know something about the conditions here and what happens... what they do to people... Have they tortured you yet?’
‘Not yet, Hamdou Allah.’
The police in Marrakech had been waiting years to get Radouan, Pero reflected, it was going to be expensive to change their minds. He was the type of guy they liked to shackle down and work out their grudges on.
‘I was so angry with you but now I see you like this I can’t...’ Toni cried hysterically, ‘I just can’t bear it... your being here... you didn’t murder her, did you?’
‘How can you possibly say something like that to me?’ Radouan moaned with passion ‘What does it mean? Of course I didn’t! I can’t believe you jus' said that... moreover, did you know she was dyin’ of an incurable disease?’
‘Why no. How terrible!’
‘She was thinkin’ of takin’ strong sleepin’ pills and whisky. I even managed to get some for her.’
‘Darling, you didn’t... you actually got them?’
‘Where are they now?’ Pero asked.
‘In my luggage which the police have confiscated, but no problem... the prescription is in my name... French doctor. Didn’t you know I have trouble sleepin’? You think I’m stupid?’
‘Sometimes you are, my darling... very stupid.’
‘I want to punch you!’ Radouan growled menacingly
‘Well, this is one place you can’t,’ she smiled defiantly and looked around. ‘Thank God... the crowd is thinning and we can stop shouting... What were you saying?’
‘There is one thing you can do for me which is very important. They brought in an old friend of mine… American... taught English to us boys. When he decided to give up his life in America we hid him in a riad belonging to Pero’s family who live in Casa... His name is Nick Brady... then soon after that there was a huge investigation... his wife came here to find him but they never found him... we hid him... crazy thing to do but we enjoyed it... the adventure. That was seven years ago. Two days back... right after they got me they picked him up at the riad with my sister Fouzia... He’s not well... a little crazy, has no papers or passport but he’s very intelligent... you will like him... and in his case your influence would work. His only crime other than bein’ here without a visa is that he knows me... He has kept one number they call the Social Security... write it down... from this number the Embassy in Rabat can get him all the necessary documents for a passport. You think you can do this? Conditions here are killin’ him... I’m sure he could pay you back for any money you had to spend...’
‘Makayn mouchkil,’ Toni beamed. ‘I remember him from somewhere years ago... what a strange story... of course... he can stay at my place while I sort out his life... it won’t be a problem...’
‘Thanks, and Fouzia too if you can manage it.’
‘Yes, of course, don’t worry about her,’ Pero replied impatiently, ‘our big problem right now is to find out who is spreading all these stories and photographs of you… in Paris, par example... yes... Who could...?’
‘My friend Houcein says it’s Minna’s notaire Madame Saadi. He says that after they arrested me she started releasin’ all this stuff... now all the journals have the story. Why should she be so interested?’
‘I’m sure Madame Saadi is the source,’ Toni said firmly, ‘she’s my notaire too, but considering the money involved the tabloids will eat it up... You forget Minna was a famous social figure for many years and I’m not exactly unknown... TYCOON’S DAUGHTER MARRIED TO ACCUSED ARAB MURDERER! GERMAN BARONESS LEAVES FORTUNE TO ARAB CASANOVA! Those are some of the headlines... You know Minna was much richer than she ever let on? I mean her property here is just the tip of an iceberg... houses and properties in Manhattan, London, Paris, Cap Ferrat, Geneva and Rome... a controlling interest in one of the world’s largest food corporations... huge holdings in other multi-nationals as well. All that is supposed to be yours now, my darling! Worth fighting for don’t you think?’ She studied him and smiled encouragingly.
Radouan yawned and frowned, ‘You think so?’
Toni sighed ‘I wonder if Minna really knew how rich she was? I’m sure you understand how much jealousy and hatred this is going to cause... I mean the heads of all those corporations have a real interest in seeing you dead... let’s hope they don't reach the authorities here before we do. But your friend Houcein is right: the only person who could know all these details is Madame Saadi. We know she filed the complaint against you so she must be giving out all this information as well...’
Pero turned to her and said. ‘The latest Saadi has given out is that this person called Youssef, the guy from Fez that Houcein mentioned, had written the Baroness a letter, filled with details, explaining that he was her long lost son... making his claim seem very real. Saadi has said because Radouan often helped the Baroness with her correspondence, he was in a position to intercept Youssef’s letter and destroy it, then murder the Baroness before she could change her Testament in Youssef’s favor.’
‘Long lost son,’ Toni cried, ‘What are you talking about? What long lost son?’
Radouan looked surprised. ‘She never told you about the child she’d had?’
‘No never... I can’t believe...’
‘Yes, here in Marrakech many years ago,’ Pero explained, ‘The father was a Cherif from Fez... one of the few Fassis who was close to Pasha Glaoui... part of his inner circle like her father, the Baron. She was this Fassi’s secret lover from the age of eighteen, until she was thirty-four when she had his child - a boy. But when it was six weeks old, one night it disappeared along with its nurse. Her father the Baron Von Schleebruck pretended to make an investigation, but actually paid the authorities not to investigate. When she found out, Baroness Minna was heartbroken. Then when she met Radouan whose birthday was exactly the same day as her lost son’s... that’s when their relationship began.’
Radouan held his hand over his heart, ‘I swear, not until yesterday when Houcein told me, had I ever heard of this Youssef. Believe me there was no letter from him... or if there was I didn’t see it... even if I had, you know me, would I care whether I got money from her? Yes, of course, now because she has left it to me I’m interested and because she made me promise to take care of Dar Chems... but if this guy is real… Don’t worry. I wasn’t at her house that morning... I left about eleven thirty the night before and was home here in Marrakech an hour later, remember?’
In fact, Toni could not remember and was trying hard to conceal how isolated and helpless she felt. On the one hand, she adored Radouan for his good qualities, on the other there was this depressing dark side, really very dark indeed, infused as it was with so much hypocrisy and a thirst for bloody revenge. Furious with him for getting himself in such a jam, she wondered what could really have happened at Minna’s that awful morning - would she ever know? Would anyone? Poor Minna, so well intentioned so divine, what a mess she’d left behind!
As the fateful cries of the Muezzins echoed through the city saluting the dying day and the sun slid past the last small window of the reception hall, Toni and Pero departed and Radouan was returned to his crowded cell.
For the first time in their long relationship he began to understand that perhaps Toni was more together than he’d thought. Most women he knew would have proven hopeless in such a situation, and though she seemed to enjoy the publicity a little too much, he could see now she was going to help him. Thanks God they were married, now he could count on her to pull him through. Or was it because he might soon be very rich that she was in such a forgiving mood?
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006