The following morning when Pero telephoned Toni and told her Radouan’s guards had been disarmed, he received further good news. The legal team Lord Rupert had assembled was arriving in Casablanca the following day, and they would meet them; and even more important, her contacts in Rabat had managed to schedule a meeting with officials at the Ministere d’Interieur for the day after that. Pero was relieved. They would be flying to Casablanca the next day. A van and driver would pick everyone up at the airport and drive on to Rabat where she had made reservations at Hotel Farah Safir. On the way he would be able to brief the legal team on various aspects of the case. Fortunately, the French member was a former Deputy Ambassador to Morocco with many contacts in the government and one of the English Barristers was a school chum of a Moroccan VIP.
Pero was pleased. It would be helpful for him to meet and know these foreign Avocats. Before Radouan’s arrest, he hadn’t even met Lady Antonia for Radouan had jealously guarded his relationships with her and kept it a secret, even from his closest friends. Now Pero understood why. Not only was Toni still beautiful, she was intelligent as well. Perhaps a bit selfish, always referring to things as my this and my that: my plane, my horses, my trainer Lahcen, my legal team, my cigarettes...my, my, my! At first Pero was put off but soon realized he was wrong: not only was she kind and generous, but more important, and quite unexpectedly, she was the most efficient woman he’d ever met! If she said she would do something it got done! If she told you she would be somewhere at a certain time, she was there. It was amazing! Of course the fact that she was rich helped. She could smooth the way and speed things up. People listened when she spoke, bowed, kissed her hands, and generally sucked up. So why was Radouan always telling her she was crazy? It was great to see everything working out so well, no screw-ups, no delays, and NO MONEY PROBLEMS!
At the Casablanca airport they were escorted to the First Class lounge where they had sandwiches and coffee. When the legal team arrived, the driver led them all to the van, which was well stocked with food and drink. What a lucky guy Radouan was, Prospero thought, to have met such a woman, kept her interested in him all these years and finally married her! What would they have done if the Baroness had been murdered before Radouan married Lady Antonia, or if there had never been an Antonia Howard, if the Baroness had died and left everything to Radouan without the money and power to go after it? He would not have seen one dirham. Even now, Pero guessed, it was going to be far more difficult than any of them expected.
During the drive to Rabat, he briefed the legal team about the evidence he had uncovered and played the tape of old Gamal telling his story, translating as he went along. Then Toni gave an account of the long relationship she and her ex-husband had had with Radouan over the years, and how she could not imagine him murdering his old friend The Baroness. She also described her long business relationship with Madame Saadi. How it was Saadi who had called the Marrakech Police, Saadi who registered the complaint against Radouan which led to his arrest, and, despite her denials, Saadi and her boy friend the false Youssef, who had probably released all this information it the press.
By the time they reached the Hotel Safir in Rabat, the members of the legal team seemed thoroughly familiar with the case and agreed to meet the next morning at ten thirty in one of the hotel’s conference rooms.
Alone on the balcony of her hotel suite looking out over the ancient port of Salle and the sea beyond, as she stood puffing on a cigarette, Toni breathed a sigh of relief. For the moment, Radouan was in his bed at the Psychiatric Facility in Marrakech, safely out of harm’s way. And from the tone of the afternoon’s conversation she sensed, thanks to Prospero and everything he’d discovered, that Radouan’s case was strong.
When this mess was finally straightened out and Radouan was free, she reckoned, something really important had to be arranged for Pero. Perhaps he could manage Radouan’s affairs - Pero the lion tamer. Without his sage advice, always stepping back and getting Radouan to think about what he was doing, Radouan would be doomed. Yet without Radouan’s drive and cunning, Pero would flounder. Radouan, the sleek cat, playful but dangerous, how she did miss him. Still, it was restful to be away from him, from his tempestuous manner, his wild energy and atavistic presence. But no sooner were they separated, than she began to need him again – just what did that really mean?
At first his machismo had irritated her beyond belief, but as she got to know him, she thought she saw a great potential beyond all his conditioning - beyond the poverty and structure of his society which had so sorely disadvantaged him. Despite all this, he had this strange reservoir of positivity, of innocence and purity of being; so different from the men who had populated her former debauched existence in London.
Dealing with his craziness, however, had soon become a full time job, often brought her close to madness and many times she had been tempted to give up, leave him, and leave Morocco. Like the famous lyric poem sung by Umm Kalthoum, Radouan had become both her Doctor and her Disease.
Suddenly she saw him cuffed to his hospital bed in Marrakech and shuddered. ‘Reality check,’ she thought to herself, yes, that’s what this was for both of them. In the future would they be more careful of each other’s feelings, more caring?
The sun slid behind the shimmering rim of the Atlantic and in the estuary below, sea gulls called to each other as they settled in for the night. She tried to imagine it long ago, a harbor crowded with Phoenician and Roman ships, later with the Corsairs of the Barbary Pirates, and British merchantmen, carrying the colonists to America.
Over in Salle, the fissiparous lights of a huge sports stadium had gone on and she remembered the last time she had been here in this hotel was with Rupert, buying horses or something. She sighed, flicked her cigarette into the breeze and went inside. Time for a drink, and something to eat, she thought, and wondered as she picked up the phone to call room service, if perhaps, she should invite Pero to dine with her - How diligent he had been, how sweet and comfortable to be with.
Then she shook her head sadly: it was definitely not a good idea. Pas encore - for lunch perhaps, but not dinner here in the suite of a Seaside Hotel. Pero would mention it to Radouan who would start obsessing about them having been alone together and go into one of his operatic rages. Does my husband crave drama, she asked herself, ah yes, just the sort that left her English heart drained.
A room boy appeared with a sheaf of phone messages. Tossing them aside she lit a cigarette, began browsing through a copy of French Vogue and found Delphine staring out at her, wearing outrageous things by Gautier and Thierry Mugler, photographed in Marrakech - page after fabulous page. Now she could see why Radouan had been so attracted to this unusual young woman, why Francesco had jumped at the opportunity to create a film around her and signed her on in such a hurry.
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006