Summer had descended early over Marrakech - a massive brown cloud, blown in from the Sahara, the dreaded Chergui, which had trapped the heat and turned the city into an oven - the last place on earth Toni had expected to be that time of year. In fact, she had planned to whisk Radouan off to a castle in Ireland’s West Country where they could have spent the long cool evenings picnicking and riding by the sea... Mach Allah!  Obviously, He had other plans.’

 And never having thought of spending a summer in Marrakech, she had never bothered to have her flat air-conditioned. But now as fine ochre colored dust blew in under the doors and some days, unbelievably, the furniture was too hot to sit down upon, she decided she must act.

          But how could she - how could she be thinking of herself in this way, of her own comforts, when less than two miles away in Boulmaraz, Radouan was suffering.  On the other hand, she reasoned calmly, hadn’t she suffered too?  Would he ever guess how many hours, nights and days over the past fifteen years she’d spent worrying about him?  Which was why she was here now, wasn’t it?   Because really she had to be near him SO SHE COULD STOP WORRYING!  Did this not make sense? She shuddered, God what a mess!  In Boulmaraz prison, the air would be rank with the smell of sewage and the body odors of the inmates. Before she did anything else she must ask her GP to find a psychiatrist and arrange a meeting with Le Chef again to see what could be done.                   

          The heat grew worse; the temperature soared to forty-three, then forty- nine, and when the men came to install her air conditioning, she left her maid in charge and fled to a suite at the Mamounia. There, the following morning she met with a psychologist from the University of Marrakech, who agreed to write a letter stating that he’d examined Radouan and found him subject to pathological episodes, especially in close confinement, and recommended he be moved immediately to the local Psychiatric Facility and given certain medications.

          Late the following afternoon Larbi, the ‘chauffeur’ arrived and Toni received him in her suite overlooking the hotel garden making sure, however, to foil any of his amorous advances by arranging that the trainer, Lahcen, be there to supervise her daily workout.

          After reading the psychologist’s letter, M. Larbi reminded her that because the charge against Radouan was murder he would have to justify moving him, to his superiors.

           Toni smiled cynically and said: ‘You mean it will be expensive.’

          ‘It could be,’ Larbi replied suggestively.

           Toni sent Lahcen out on to the terrace and the negotiations began. Le Chef wanted two hundred thousand dirhams; twenty thousand dollars.

           Toni laughed and blithely offered him seventy five thousand dirhams.

           M. Larbi looked at her sternly and declared she must know very well, that since he would be risking his career and the well being of his wife and children she must give more. Concluding, however, that with the trainer Lahcen skulking around outside it would be pointless to suggest that if she could sweeten her offer with a little friendship, the price might come down, Le Chef stuck to the matter at hand and they settled on a hundred and twenty thousand.  He would drop by the following morning when he would require sixty thousand dirhams and another sixty when Radouan was actually moved.

         Toni saw Le Chef to the lift and returned to see Lahcen still out on the terrace staring down at the garden. Alone with him for the first time in her life, she felt guilty yet excited by how very simple it would be to suggest that he stay. Deprived of Radouan’s presence, which never failed to relieve her deep sense of anxiety, she craved release. And if she asked Lahcen to stay she knew she’d be relaxed for days. 

          Lighting a cigarette she moved toward the terrace door. There was no question she did not adore Radouan and was totally devoted to him.  Yet, exactly as he was attracted to Delphine, so she had to admit she was attracted to Lahcen, this magnificent specimen, who had just come in through the door and was standing there smiling - and ready!  Though he had often glanced at her in that certain way, despite what Radouan thought, she had never really dared meet his eyes. But here at the hotel, away from her gossipy maid and the doorman she was sorely tempted.  The hotel employed Lahcen and there was no reason why she should not choose to train with him in her suite rather than the gym; and now that Radouan was in jail Lahcen must be very eager to...

          She asked him if he would like a beer, He nodded and she went to the mini bar and poured out two glasses. The problem was, she reasoned, despite his friendly face and fantastic body, he was not very bright; which probably accounted for his touch, unimpeded as it was by intelligent thought, being so irresistible.  Nevertheless, if she now followed the command of his eyes, it would be impossible for him not to boast about it to someone. Word would inevitably reach Radouan and within days something would happen. Even from his prison cell Toni knew Radouan could arrange to get even with both of them and the consequences would be dire. Knowing what a risk she was taking, Lahcen would probably try to blackmail her. To keep him quiet she would have to start paying off.  Wasn’t it all too complicated? 

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©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006