I leapt to my feet, shouted at him. ‘Oh, yes, you bloody well can.’
Tevfik remained impassive. ‘Let me explain,’ he said.
‘No,’ I said. ‘I’ve been sitting here listening to a load of bullshit, for all I know. You could be as corrupt as Ibrahim.’
‘No he’s not,’ said a voice behind me. A cultured voice. I turned to examine a bespectacled man dressed in a sharp suit and striped tie. Not a local. He looked out of place here, a well-weathered coffee-shop, among a few rough-looking patrons.
‘Apologies for the delay.’ He shrugged. ‘You know how it is. Deadlines take priority.’
He gestured at me to sit back down. ‘You’re Mr. Richard?’
I didn’t move. ‘Yes I am, and who are you?’
‘My name is immaterial. I’m a lawyer, contracted to Muslim Relief, and I can vouch for Mr. Tevfik’s integrity.’
‘Bully, for you, I said. ‘Your Mr. Tevfik has shown a remarkable lack of it when soliciting my involvement in your subterfuge.’ I pointed a finger at Tevfik. ‘Most of all, he refused to tell me where I could find Eko, my boy. I thought it a timely coincidence, but shrugged it off as simply that.’
Glances passed between the two, before Mr. Lawyer nodded. ‘Blame me,’ he said. ‘I sanctioned non-disclosure.’
Why? Didn’t really matter. Not now. I wanted food inside me, and a stiff drink, but much that I resented it, I needed their help.
I shuffled my feet, and rubbed a hand across my brow. ‘Well, you can help me, then.’ You owe me one. Convince Eko to return with me.’
Tevfik interrupted. ‘I’ve already explained, I can only offer advice. Tell me, what role would your boy have at your home?’
This I had thought through, when Angelique last visited me. The solution, obvious.
‘I need a handyman. Since the tsunami, the grounds have been neglected, and works are always needed on the House. I would provide free food and lodgings, and a monthly stipend.’
Tevfik looked hard at me. ‘That’s all? No other more…personal commitment?’
Pervert? I shook my head. ‘Eko is like a son to me. I wouldn’t…’
Mr. Lawyer lifted a hand. ‘I’ll consider what we can do. Leave it with me.’
I walked away, more resigned than hopeful, and found an international restaurant nearby. Upstairs, an open-roof seating area appealed to me, already several tables full with foreigners. A smiling waitress showed me a blackboard of the day’s dishes, and I chose the three-course special and a large gin and tonic, one ice cube. While I waited, I squinted out over the road below. At night only a few lamps shone, and my view was partially obscured by the branches of an overhanging tree.
Was that Tevfik?
His face was in shadow, and he headed towards the ferry terminal, so I dismissed it. My drink arrived, and I savoured the first mouthful as if it was the elixir of life. My appetizer, an orange shrimp cocktail, had the same effect. Calmer now, yet deception and deceit still nagged at me. Before I returned to the House, with or without Eko, I’d talk again with Tevfik.
Chicken pasta garnished in a green pesto sauce, followed by a dollop of vanilla ice-cream — another G&T later, I settled the bill, walked back downstairs, and out into the street.
The trudge back to my home-stay was without incident, but now I became more vigilant, seeking substance in shadows lurking in doorways and alleys. I listened for footsteps, shrank away from dazzling headlights when a vehicle approached, and avoided masked men carrying poison-tipped umbrellas.
Tevfik hadn’t returned, so his wife told me. I bade her goodnight and went to my room. Angelique didn’t visit me that night, neither did Jane, nor any other spectre.
Sunday morning it rained. His wife said that Tevfik was visiting Lampu’uk. Due back Monday, which elated me.
Maybe Eko with him.
The day passed.
In between showers I went for short walks to clear my head, and to eat out at local cafés. Mary called. I told her I’d return soon.
‘Richard, don’t mess with me.’
‘So, when will you be back?’
This time she disconnected after uttering a selection of choice swearwords aimed at my incapacity to act intelligently.
I chuckled, and dipped a piece of bread into the remainder of my seafood stew. Facing the music didn’t hold out any real terrors for me now — the undercover episode with Islamic Relief taught me not to allow others to control my future.
Not anymore, they won’t. Nor would Mary.
A bird hopped by, and I lobbed a handful of crumbs towards it. It scoffed the lot, chirped, and flew off.
I returned back to the home-stay late afternoon. Tevfik’s wife was wringing her hands, her face streaked with tears, looking distraught as I entered reception.
‘Oh, Mr. Richard. Terrible news. Terrible.’
I stared at her. My chest tightened, the tension rose. ‘What’s happened?’
‘My husband. Accident.’
Good grief. ‘Tevfik had an accident?’
She shook her head. ‘No.’
I gulped in relief, waited for her to explain.
‘Landslide. Blocked the road. He says he can’t return until it’s cleared.’
‘A couple of days, one week, perhaps.’
A couple of days? A bloody week!
‘Rain too much. Dangerous.’
I had a decision to make. Stay put or return to the House?
Take control. ‘Tevfik is safe. Don’t worry.’ I scribbled my phone number in her guest book. Pointed at it. ‘Please call me when he returns.’
She frowned. ‘You’re going?’
I nodded. ‘Tomorrow morning.’