Several days later, it seemed months to Radouan, he was taken to a private room where he found Francesco waiting. As there were two guards present they embraced formally and spoke in Italian. ‘Mi amico,’ Francesco blurted, ‘como vie? You can not imagine what I had to go through juss now to get in here... ayee! You would think I murdered her!’
‘That’s not so funny,’ Radouan said severely, ‘What are you doing here? I thought you were ready to start shooting... where’s Delphine?’
Francesco sighed and waved his hands helplessly. ‘She’s waiting out in the front office trying to negotiate with them to let her come in here... they are giving her a hard time… don’t believe she’s married to you. Naturally, she wants to see you... all the headlines in the tabloids you know, and insisted we come down here. Your picture is all over the place... you look great... fantastic... Have you any idea how much that woman left you?’
‘Nothing, except what’s in the journals...’
‘Ah, so you’ve seen them...’
‘Toni was here with my old friend, Prospero who is now my Avocat. They spoke of some properties and shares in big companies - plus cash.’
‘Mi amico, let me tell you,’ Francesco smiled obsequiously, ‘you are going to be un tres riche homme... much richer than your Antonia Howard.’
Radouan smiled sadly, ‘If I ever live to see it! This is a place of death... I may be her heir but there are many people who would like to see me... like to see the end of me... including you probably.’
‘You know that’s nonsense, habibi... but is it really true? I mean what the journals are saying... that you married Antonia Howard?’
Radouan looked surprised, ‘Of course... what do you think? She’s wanted to marry me for many years now. When I came back from bein’ in Ouarzazate with you she started up again about why had she divorced Rupert if we weren’t gonna get married… etc... So I said okay let’s do it and we flew up to London in her Gulf Stream and did it... got married in some government office. I’m hoping that we’ll soon be married properly here in Marrakech... Inch Allah. ’
‘But my friend, what about Delphine?’ Francesco drawled.
‘What about her? Of course I love her too... too much... I’m her slave.’ Radouan stared coolly at Francesco, ‘I hope you haven’t been foolin’ around with her. When I look at you something tells me maybe you have.’ Then he placed his hand over his heart and said: ‘Jus' remember if I ever catch you... if I ever find out you’ve fucked her I swear I will kill you, or arrange for you to be killed... so watch out! Now they’re callin’ me a murderer, maybe I’ll have to live up to my reputation.
Francesco laughed and waved his hand, as if warding off the evil eye... ‘Drama, drama, drama... always drama, habibi... I love it! But seriously, mi amico, what Delphine can’t understand is how you could have married her when you are already married to Antonia?’
A furious light flashed behind Radouan’s eyes, ‘Look, my friend, it’s very simple... I am a Musulman. I can have four wives if I choose, and as many concubines as I can handle...’
‘Thass what I told her, but could you could handle four wives?’
‘Of course,’ Radouan replied solemnly, ‘what do you think? Really I would like eight; one for every day of the week and a spare in case one of them is sick or has her period. Before I was arrested I was planning to marry another one my mother has picked out, a R’hamna girl. She, I have to marry because my mother has chosen her... but she can’t read or write and she isn’t beautiful… maybe she will become beautiful... that’s what Minna said... that’s one of the reasons I had to leave Paris because I have to marry this girl... very simple. But now, Inch Allah... how can I?’
‘Iss not as simple as you think,’ Francesco shrugged, ‘sounds very complex... this girl your mother has chosen... won’t she object to you having two other wives?’
Radouan’s eyebrows shot up, his brow wrinkled. ‘How can she object... why would she? She’s very lucky to get me. Her father is a poor man. She has many unmarried sisters. He’s lucky to find a husband for her... especially someone zween and smart like me... And she wants me, I can tell!’
‘Then who will be wife number one...?’
‘The one who has the first male child, of course...’
In the office of the jail, as soon as Francesco had been taken in to see Radouan, Delphine had made her move. Furious that he had been permitted to see Radouan and she had not, she sat behind a magazine discretely observing the scene: crossing and uncrossing her sumptuous legs, revealing to the assembled officers and staff from time to time a glimpse of Paradise. After all she was from Arles and knew how to get what she wanted from guys like these. How to come on to them, excite them by violating their taboos, stare at them mercilessly from their eyes to their belts and back again, look hungry, pout, and wet her lips.
Finally she decided the handsome one they called Le Chef was in charge, focused on him and a few minutes later had sauntered over to his desk and, knowing full well it was beneath his dignity to do so, had asked him politely if he could get her a Coca-Cola.
Slowly taking in her body with his eyes, a twisted smile forming on his lips, Le Chef sent off an underling to get the Coke, opened the gate in a low wooden barrier which surrounded his desk and invited her to sit down. Though he was polite enough and kept his hands firmly planted on his desk, she knew he was aching to reach out and grab her, do something violent, something punishing. Explaining that she was an actress working with the great director Francesco Monte who was just now talking with her husband Radouan, she begged to be allowed to join them.
Masking his confusion Le Chef snickered ‘How can I be expected to keep up with the sex life of Radouan,’ he asked cynically, ‘the Marrakech police know of only one wife of Radouan, the English woman. Anyway, you don’t look like a wife,’ he smirked, observing her carefully, ‘maybe you are just some prostitute this famous director has hired... have I seen you in any film?’ Delphine tried to explain her status as a star in the making, but Le Chef’s brain had traveled elsewhere and he seemed to be having trouble concentrating.
The moment to strike had arrived. Delphine shook her shoulders and laughed. ‘Perhaps it would be possible, for you to accompany me to the room where my husband is being kept. Is it far? It’s really important that I be there as they are discussing business matters that concern me.’
He stared at her meaningfully. She returned his gaze and pouted as he looked around the room and calculated who would see him leave with her. The Coke arrived and the assistant was dispatched on an errand. Finally satisfied that any damage would be limited, that in fact, leaving the room with her could actually advance his standing with his staff, Le Chef signaled her to get up and follow him.
And as she had more or less expected, halfway down a long dimly lit hallway he had stopped, opened a door and pushed her into a small hole in the floor toilet, redolent with the odors of underground Marrakech. Moments later he had one of his huge hands up under her skirt. Considering his behavior, she was surprised by the gentleness of his touch. With his free hand he guided hers to his erection which she so skillfully manipulated that within two minutes of entering the place he had ejaculated forcefully against the wall. A moment later, however, the sight of his own sperm seemed to make him ill and he was vomiting; then just as quickly he composed himself and minutes later they were standing before a door at the end of the hall and he was asking her for money.
She restrained herself from slapping him in the face and palmed a wad of dirhams into his waiting hand. He knocked softly at the door and a guard let them in. It was obvious to her she had just stepped into an interrogation chamber. Ominous looking chairs, strange tables, impressive hardware and white tile floors like a salle de bain with a drain in the middle - for bodily fluids she supposed. A guard saluted them and gestured toward Radouan and Francesco seated across a table from each other under a bare light bulb.
A few moments went by before they were aware that she and her escort had entered the room.
‘Habibti, you made it,’ Radouan cried, ‘come here.’
‘I think you’re horrible,’ Delphine said quietly in English knowing the guards and the Prison Chief would not understand.
Radouan’s forehead creased in distress. ‘Habibti, what are you sayin’ you’re upset... come here.’
‘Just now you told Francesco about your wives, the one to have the first male child would be wife number one... just now as we came in, I heard you say it...’
‘Yes, of course... why not? It’s perfectly normal.’
Delphine stared at him coldly. ‘You know I don't want children now...’
‘I’m not askin’ you to have any...’
‘It’s you who involved me in this film business, God damn it. Now I’m in it, I’m not going to make any mistakes; like having kids … OR BY BEING WIFE NUMBER TWO!’
Radouan pounded his head with his fist. ‘Ayee! No one is number one or any other number. That’s Francesco who has mentioned this, not me. You will always be THE number one to me, habibti... number one in love, you know that...’
‘Mmmm...’ Delphine pouted her brown eyes searching his. ‘You say that so easily because you don’t mean it. I suppose your Antonia Howard is number one in bank notes! For you women are just, I don’t know... really some times I think you’d be better off with one of those life sized rubber sex dolls... You want to keep us down; that’s why your whole fucking culture is down!’
‘I’ve explained to you many times we don’t keep our women down,’ Radouan replied angrily, ‘we protect them...’
‘Bullshit.’ Delphine whispered fiercely, recalling the emotions of Francesco’s staircase. ‘Listen to me. If it comes out in the columns that I came after your Antonia, what do you think people will say? I will be labeled The Number Two Girl! STARS can never be number two...’
Radouan was amazed... ‘So be number one,’ he said calmly shrugging his shoulders, ‘be any number you want!’
‘You said the one who had...’
Radouan raised his cuffed hands and rattled the chains at her. ‘You will…you will have children with me some day I swear it. Before we are finished you will have two or three of them, you will see... jus' talkin’ to you gets me excited, I would like to make it with you right now on this table, but how can I?’ He dropped his head in both hands and looked down at the table. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t see each other again ‘till I get outta here,’ he mumbled, ‘it upsets me too much... Listen... You know we have somethin’ between us that’s very special... absolutely unique. When I get outta here...’
‘When do you think that will be?’ Delphine asked wryly.
‘Within three weeks, a month at most. Either I’ll be out, or I’ll be in forever and probably they will kill me... but I didn’t do it, I didn’t murder her so... inch Allah, I’ll be out. Many persons want my skin because of what the Baroness has left me. They smell a feast... every one wants his portion. Vultures are hoverin’. It’s going to be very expensive!’
‘You already have some of your Baroness’s money then?’
‘Not yet but Toni... she will loan me enough until I can repay her...’
‘Your Toni, does she know about me?’
‘Not yet but she will... I will tell her very soon...’
‘Will she care?’
‘Care?’ Radouan repeated thoughtfully, ‘Toni and me... you see we are old friends... we go back almost twenty years, through many scenes and scandals, many tender moments too... so we have an mature friendship which can’t be shaken. With you and me, everything is new and exciting... two different kinds of love. Believe me, Toni understands these things... she will understand you and she will like you too, I’m sure...’
‘When will you tell her...?’
Delphine narrowed her eyes and studied him. ‘That’s not good enough… I know what your “soon” means... It means maybe, some day, or never. You... you’re the Sultan of Procrastination...’
‘No,’bibti,’ he laughed, ‘KING OF zahp. I’m the King of zahp. Jus' look down and see what you’re doing to me inside these fuckin’ filthy pants...’ Suddenly Radouan became aware of her escort standing in the shadows. ‘Who is that animal you came in here with?’ he growled.
‘Le Chef of something... this prison I suppose, that’s what they seem to call him out there...’
‘He’s not any Le Chef. I know who the Directeur is here…it’s not him, he’s a chauffeur. What did you do for him that he brought you here...’
‘Nothing. I gave him some money...’
Radouan sniffed the air, ‘You’re lyin’ at me. I can smell it... that you’ve just had sex. If I wasn’t wearin’ these chains and cuffs I’d knock you. YES, but I can’t do it so I might as well be happy to see you, zweenti, very happy…’ he intoned sarcastically, ‘So make your lips like you’re kissin’ me and I’ll remember them tonight while I’m jerkin’ off.’
Delphine was furious. Was she the only one that knew how really crazy he was? What kind of scary games was he playing with her head that she should suddenly start seeing him as a phantom - there but not there? ‘I think I’d better go now,’ she said, getting up, ‘are you finished talking with Francesco?’
Radouan’s eyes glittered angrily. ‘No, I’m not. What do you think? Fuck you! GO! I mus’ speak more with Francesco. Go wait outside with your chauffeur.’
She spun around and headed for the door Le Chauffeur had already opened for her.
‘Sei un attore incredibile... in questo momento... un genio della mimica... molto buffo,’ Francesco said after they were gone, and rolled his eyes.
‘And the genius of Zahp,’ Radouan growled angrily, ‘but I’m gonna be outta here very soon... maybe escape. So watch it! If I find out you’ve made it with her jus' remember what I said... it will be very painful for you habibi... you will suffer horribly... die very slowly like a boiled langouste.’
‘Ammettilo! You did murder Minna Von Schleebruck!’
‘Are you crazy? Why? Jus' tell me, please sir, why I would do that?’
‘Per la sua fortuna...’
‘But I didn’t know about her fortune...’
‘Non ti credo, Francesco smirked doubtfully, ‘I’m sure you knew about it. You forget I knew her very well... and I know you! She would have told you about being her heir... her last great scene. And you killed her because someone else appeared to claim it. In fact I have something like that in one of my films...’
‘Catch, Catch All,’ Radouan grinned.
‘Si...you know it then, where the...’
‘Of course I know it. I know all your films, what do you think? I’m one of your greatest fans; not only of your films but also for the quality of your ass... habibi, tighter than any tina. But if you fuck Delphine, I swear I will say I’ve been fuckin’ you for years and it will finish you.’
Francesco laughed loudly, ‘Al contrario, it would only add to the mystique, which already surrounds me, habibi. Let me speak plainly: non mi spaventi. Non ho paura di te - and despite your savagery and thirst for revenge, ti voglio bene ‘babe’ veramente!’
‘You should,’ Radouan responded sternly.
Francesco rose. ‘I must go before that guy rapes our budding star,’ he smiled sadly, ‘what can I do for you here?’
Radouan gazed at him thoughtfully, ‘What can anyone do? Jus' keep away from HER... there’s nothin’ else to be done... what will happen will happen; it's in Gods hands now. Take her back to Rome and finish your film. If she speaks about divorcing’ me, remind her how rich I’m gonna be. I’ll buy her a villa in the Bois de Boulogne. She loves MONEY... all great whores they love money - ME TOO.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006