Radouan was returned to his cell edgy and nervous, aroused by seeing Delphine and profoundly depressed by what was happening to him. As the men in the cell settled down for the night someone provoked him, he jumped on the offender, dragged him to the floor and knocked him unconscious. A free-for-all developed. He pummeled two more men and challenged everyone in the cell. The disturbance roused the guards who soon came to get him. It took six of them to finally restrain him and carry him to an isolation cell, not quite high enough to stand up in, a hole for pissing and shitting, a liter of water a day for drinking and washing, and one piece of bread every twenty four hours. At night a thin mattress would be provided, which would be taken away at dawn, but he would have to pay to have the light turned off.’
He berated himself for losing it. What became of CHILL OUT? Delphine, of course, and how much she had changed. And that fuck Francesco.
Alone now with no witnesses, he realized he could easily be tortured or killed - anything could happen. But would they kill him as long as they believed there was money to be made by keeping him alive? Or would someone be offering more money than he could - some outsider like this Youssef from Fez for example, or the people controlling Madame Saadi, the ones who had persuaded her to file a complaint against him. On the other hand, the police were all Marrakchis and he was a Marrakchi. Would they ever trust outsiders to give them what they wanted? No. He knew exactly how their minds worked: didn’t give a fuck whether he had murdered some foreigner or not, only the MONEY!
The days passed slowly and he scratched marks on the wall of his cell as others had done to mark their passage and felt himself going down physically; down, down, down, from lack of exercise and too much time to think. At night as he lay crouched in the foetal position, unable to sleep, only to feel unbearable remorse, he reflected bleakly, that for the past twenty years he’d been on a roll which might now be ending. A year ago he’d felt it coming. Now it was here. Or was it? Even reviewing the great moments of his life, moments of love and triumph, he could not combat the mindless torpor that had descended upon him; invaded him like a painful alien force.
In these desperate straits, however, a new feeling began to shape it self inside him, the only thing that seemed to make sense: considering man’s fate, his fragile position in this world, was RAHMA compassion. Delphine had been right when she’d said he had the Passion but no Compassion - or was it Nick or Toni who’d said that? And that true love was both of these.
‘Concentrate on that and you will come through,’ spoke a voice from deep inside him - a new voice, a voice from the world behind the world, a voice of contentment and tranquillity.
Then a day arrived when he was taken out, permitted to shower, given new underwear and a tracksuit and taken to the interrogation room again where he was sure they were going to start “questioning” him.
But no, finally the door opened and there was the Chauffeur politely ushering in Toni - and Pero complaining in English how much the visit was costing them per minute.
‘Pay, pay, pay,’ chanted Radouan, forcing a smile, speaking rapidly in English. ‘You must know one thing... they’ve put me in solitary confinement and now they have me there alone sans witnesses, they could do anything. If we stop payin’, they’ll start “questioning” me... I know it...’
Toni smiled wryly, ‘Don’t worry; we’ll spend whatever is necessary. When we leave I will speak to Le Chef about getting you better accommodations. But we have some very interesting news...’
Pero interrupted her: ‘There’s a chance we may be able to get a psychologist from the University to say you’re psychotic and should be transferred to the Psychiatric Facility... I believe it’s better than this place.’
‘Is that your news?’
‘Not at all, my darling,’ Toni lowered her voice, ‘something else, something really important. Through his friends and through Omar’s brother Mahjoub, the police informer, Prospero has learned that there is gossip in Fez that Madame Saadi’s boy friend Youssef is not Minna’s son after all, but the son of a servant girl. That he was educated by his Patron, Minna’s former lover, and perhaps even adopted by him... it’s all too confusing but hopeful.’
‘Omar’s brother has also learned,’ Pero continued, ‘that well before this Youssef met Madame Saadi, he’d been in Marrakech asking questions about the Baroness, prying into her affairs, perhaps even meeting with her. Of course he’s claiming that he’s her long lost son. He’s been saying this for months to anyone who would listen to him. Saadi must have shown him the Baroness’ Testament in your favor...'
This seemed to confirm everything Radouan had thought all along. Hadn’t he told Minna her child was probably abducted by its father and passed off as the nurse’s son? Could this Youssef really be Minna’s son? But Minna had met him and thought he was a fake; she’d said so that morning he landed up at her place smelling of onions.
‘Did you know Minna left you everything, my darling? I reckon this Youssef might have timed Minna’s murder to make it look like you’d done it; then announce to the world that he had come to claim his inheritance... I mean it’s possible...’
‘Yes, I did know she was going to leave everything to me,’ Radouan replied, ‘but only the next to last time I saw her... the morning I came back from Ouarzazate. She was worried people would try to take Dar Chems away from me... made me promise to fight for it... gave me copies of her Testament and other papers. I’ve never looked at them. They’re in a leather case at Toni’s, thanks God they weren’t in my luggage.’
‘How many people other than Saadi might know that Minna had designated you as her heir?’
‘From my side no one. From Minna’s side I don’t know.’
‘Many I fear,’ Toni sighed. ‘With so much at stake... well let’s be realistic... were going to have to buy them off.’
Radouan looked perplexed, ‘But we discussed her family many times... she would speak on and on about how all her relatives were dead.’
‘Well, I think that’s true. That Plot to kill Hitler... her relatives were deeply involved... all of them executed. But the Chairmen and Boards of Directors of some of the companies you are due to inherit must be very angry that control may pass into the hands of a young Arab accused of murdering her. I think they will try to prevent it. And this Youssef, I guess I’ve seen Saadi with him several times... something about him looks wrong.’
‘Why do you think that?’ Radouan asked.
‘Just a feeling... Saadi is very smart and known for being honest; I think this Youssef may have swept her off her feet...’
Toni sighed. ‘Oh dear, another cliché, it means caused her to become carelessly obsessed with him... but, my darling, you must never admit to having known about the papers Minna gave you... and I better hide them somewhere safe in case the police decide to search my place...’
‘Did she sign your copies?’ Pero asked.
‘Yes, they were signed and recorded here in the Municipality... that much I saw when I glanced at them... but there must be other copies... maybe with her solicitor in Geneva. She used to have me sort her mail... never to open it... but there were often letters from Switzerland from a Monsieur... in Geneva… can’t remember his name. Saadi must know there are other copies, otherwise she would have destroyed the one she has.’
‘Toni’s right,’ Pero agreed, ‘You must never admit to knowing about these documents, at least for the moment, it would make our case much more difficult.’
‘You think I’m crazy! The police at the airport already asked me if I knew she was gonna make me her heir. I would never tell that. But you must know one other thing... she promised me she would not try to take her life until I returned. I wanted to take her to see a certain Marabout at Sidi Zween... What does it all mean?’
‘It means she may have spoken about it to others,’ Toni replied, ‘as you say, perhaps A’hmed... I’m sure he’d do anything she asked...’
‘In which case Madame Saadi and this Youssef are just taking advantage of a great situation,’ Pero reasoned. ‘Some one takes up her bed tea and smothers her, then old A’hmed calls Madame Saadi and says he saw Radouan leaving the Ksar at dawn. As you are the beneficiary of her Testament, common sense would suggest that if you knew Youssef was in town claiming to be her rightful heir you might have murdered her. Someone was waiting for the right time... someone who was paid to murder her... Who is this server who is supposed to have discovered her body when he brought her bed tea?’
Radouan feigned surprise. ‘A’hmed did not discover her body?’
‘There was a new server there; I think his name was Zouheir.’
Toni recalled Radouan claimed he was back in Marrakech by eleven thirty that night... she had even corroborated it with the Public Prosecutor. She gazed at him, at his sphinx-like mask and lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘I covered for you when the police asked me if you were with me that night. Where were you?’
‘I was with you... you jus’ don’t remember.’
‘You were not!’
‘Then don’t ask!’
Pero observed that it should not be hard to find out whether one of the servants was paid a large sum of money... servants were a jealous lot and liked to gossip. ‘And by the way,’ he said, ‘we haven’t been able to locate the orphan you brought out there to work for the Baroness... seems he disappeared when the police arrived.’
Radouan looked worried. ‘Mokhtar? You must keep lookin’ for him! Go to the place I told you about in the Medina... I’m sure you will find him there. It’s very important.’
‘I will also send someone to look and ask around in the villages near the Baroness’ Ksar,’ Pero added, ‘meanwhile I’ve decided to drive to Fez and investigate things myself. Lady Antonia would like to go with me but I told her she should stay in Marrakech so she can deal with anything that comes. Also her appearance in Fez would arouse too much suspicion. Me, no one will pay any attention to... I’ll be invisible.’ He made his excuses and left Toni and Radouan alone with Le Chef and two guards.
Radouan studied her for a long time. ‘I have to tell you… it’s very important,’ he said at last, a contritely, ‘I swear it doesn’t change anything between us... really. I mean ...well ...I’ve married this French girl, Delphine. I met her here the last time you were away in England, remember? You were gettin’ your divorce or somethin’....’
Toni narrowed her eyes and felt her jaws locking in anger. She wanted to scream but she couldn’t. ‘Of course I remember! You... you make me sound like an idiot! I certainly remember my own divorce but... MARRIED? What girl? How could you?’
‘Please, habibti, be tender, and don’t provoke me now …‘I can’t sleep here... I feel bad enough already, very bad... sometimes you don’t remember things, okay? It’s about her, Delphine, I’ve been doin’ all this film business with Francesco. Through me he became interested in her. Right now he’s shootin’ a film which will make her a huge star. I did the deal for her with Francesco; six million dollars for starters and I didn’t take a centime... no commission but I don’t trus' her to give me anything either so I had to marry her.’
Toni threw her head back and eyed him balefully. ‘habibi, stop it... just stop! You can’t really expect me to believe you married someone for purely financial reasons...’
‘Of course not. She’s very special... physically attractive and intelligent too but she drives me crazy - we fight a lot but you will like her.’
‘Well I’m not sure of that at all! Why should I like her? I find most French women very difficult. Exactly when and where were you married...?’
‘Last week at a village near Rome - Francesco’s native place. You remember I went to do business in Paris...’
She nodded dismally. ‘Now I understand why you didn’t want me along.’
‘No No, No, Habibti. What I said about doin’ the deal on my own was completely true. But yes, it’s also true that SHE was the business... I had to finish the deal and supervise her. It takes too long to get married in France so we flew to Rome. Francesco will be shootin’ his film in Rome and Sicily so it saved time. He arranged the wedding... it was... very... we all got drunk... in fact I’m wonderin’ if we really got married at all. Or is this one of his tricks.’
Toni laughed, ‘Perhaps you aren’t. I thought Italy had a waiting time just like France.’
‘I don’t think so. Anyway we signed some papers before the Mayor of the town. Then Francesco flew off to Sicily to scout locations and Delphine and I flew back to Paris where I was gonna help her move into her new apartment and then return here. But the next day when I went out to buy my journals I found some film magazines with photos of her. She was half-naked... more than half... I became very angry and lost it. We had a huge fight and I left. Really, Europe is not the place for me; I can never belong to those countries... my place is here in Marrakech and I know it.’ He sighed. ‘You can leave me here in this jail to die if you want to... maybe I deserve it. Maybe you will. If you don’t think you can share me I wouldn’t blame you, but it wouldn’t make any difference in the way I feel about you.’
For Toni, the expression of remorse that flooded his naturally arrogant face at times like this, had always proved irresistible; eyes rolling upwards like a crazed El Greco saint when he wanted something badly enough or was reaching for the impossible. But this time she was furious. His movie deal would never have been done without her friend Martin Segal. And what must marriage mean to him when literally hours after their own marriage he dashed off to Paris to meet this bitch? Perhaps a few weeks in jail would straighten him out, she thought. But no! As she gazed at him and sighed, to be truthful, even if they had not been married, she would have fought to get him out of this place! Moreover, she was certain she could easily compete with any other woman he became involved with.
‘Habibi, you’d better watch out,’ she said steadily, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to get you out of here... you know that... but I’m going to be a very jealous wife and a tricky one too.’
‘There is one thing more I have to tell you...’
‘Yes.’ She glanced at him suspiciously.
‘A young country girl my mother has picked out... I have to marry her too...’
‘Ah!’ Toni groaned, ‘you’re too much! You keep trying to drive me mad by telling me I’m crazy, when it’s you who are... yes, you are! It’s just lucky I spent so much time in India where the Rajas have so many wives... otherwise...’
‘They must not be Muslims then...’ Radouan replied sanctimoniously. ‘We Muslims can have only four wives. India… I feel sorry you wasted so much time in that place. But you will always be wife number one for me, ’bibti, even if you divorce me... You want to divorce me?’ he asked, gently ‘Believe me I would understand it... now I’ve had so much time in here to think, I know sometimes I’ve treated you very badly.’
‘I will never divorce you! NEVER! You can be sure of that. But I’m not sure I’ll marry you here either... all that nonsense about obeying...’
‘You can write whatever you want into a marriage agreement, it’s like a contract.’
‘Would we have a Moroccan wedding party then... you’re always talking about them?’
Feeling he had won the round, Radouan raised his cuffed hands and took hers across the table and kissed them. ‘Yes, of course, what do you think? No marriage is complete without the wedding party. Of course we will have one... orchestras and dancing girls...’
‘And dancing boys, I hope?’
‘Yes, why not... maybe even I will dance for you... you’ve never seen me dance...’ he dropped her hands. ‘And now you must go, this visit must be expensive...’
‘I’m going to arrange for you to be moved to another facility if possible... as you are quite mad anyway it shouldn’t be too difficult.’
‘What else can I say,’ he whispered ignoring her jibe, ‘I love you very much, I want to kiss you for about one hour... to kiss you... but that’s impossible here so you must go now... Go!’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006