The man dressed in Arab clothes was Jubair. I was certain of it. I hurried over to the group realising it would be a good time to confront him, with his cronies there. Charles was calling for me to wait, but I didn’t hesitate.
I grasped hold of his arm (it was Jubair), ignored the others, and launched into an oral tirade. ‘Where is Eko, and where is Tevfik hiding out?’
He tried to loosen my grip, but I held fast. ‘Let me go, you infidel,’ he said. ‘Or I’ll call the police.’ Noises of assent from his cronies, who were making threatening gestures. I saw the glint of a blade being extracted from under the robes of one.
At that moment Charles caught up with me and screamed into my ear. ‘Have you lost your marbles? We’re outside the Grand Mosque, dammit.’
I let go, and he dragged me back a few feet. ‘Stay there and don’t say a word. I’ll do the talking.’
With that he turned to the group, opened his arms, and offered an apology. A bloody apology, for Christ sake. While inwardly, I seethed with impatience, in hindsight I had to admit he handled the situation with aplomb. Most unlike the Charles I knew — arrogant sod. After a few minutes, tempers cooled, the blade was withdrawn, and we were invited to take tea at a nearby stall.
At bloody last.
While his — now compatriots — gathered around a nearby bench seat, Jubair addressed me.
‘Mr. Richard. I don’t know where Tevfik is, either. His phone is turned-off. It may or may not have something to do with Ibrahim. But that is none of my business, now.’ He opened his arms, clutched both my shoulders. ‘Eko — he could still be at the cousin’s resort, but I’m not sure.’
At bloody last. ‘Where is this place?’
He pointed at our taxi. ‘Is that your transport?’
‘Fetch the driver.’
Charles coughed. ‘Easy, old boy,’ he said. ‘Don’t screw up.’
Bloody patronising git. Calm down, old boy. Count to ten.
It took Jubair several minutes — his Indonesian, basic — with several hand gestures, to explain where to go. I gathered it wasn’t that far. Just follow the coast road.
Charles coughed again. ‘Tea break over.’
Jubair waved an arm at his approaching group. ‘You can see we’re in traditional dress. That’s because we’re returning home, today.’
‘Oh,’ I said. With him leaving and if I didn’t locate Eko, I was well and truly stuck.
Charles nudged me. ‘Time’s moving on, old boy.’
If he “old boy’s” me once more, I’ll spit blood. I gave Jubair a half-hearted wave, and I jumped back in the taxi full of hopeful expectations. We headed out to the coast road — into a persistent drizzle — and cruised along, passing various settlements. After about thirty minutes the driver stopped at a roadside shop, scratched his head, and admitted — with equally expansive head shakes and hand gestures, plus a smattering of mostly unintelligible words — he couldn’t find the resort.
Charles slumped back in his seat, his lips parted in a grim smile. Not me. With my expectancies crushed, I copied the driver’s expansive gestures while pointing at my open mouth and then the shop. My diction excluded expletives, but he cottoned on that I instructed him to bloody well ask. Even he if got bloody well drenched.
When he came back out shaking his head, I felt like strangling him. But, I bit my tongue and we trudged across the road to ask at a nearby café. Here, the conversation sounded optimistic. And so it proved. The ‘lost’ resort was situated up a rutted dirt track — the welcome sign had fallen down, or someone had uprooted it — and we splashed through puddles into a pebbled parking lot, occupied by a tractor and several motor-scooters.
The driver sounded the horn and, a few moments later, a woman sheltering under a golf umbrella appeared at the front entrance, and walked down the wooden steps towards us.
She resembled Tevfik’s wife, although larger, and I breathed a sigh of relief. One hurdle jumped. A dialogue ensued with the taxi driver, who shrugged most of the time, then pointed to us.
Time to go. Can’t wait. I opened the car door and jumped out into the rain. She hurried over to shelter me. Her English, fair.
‘Want room? Have good one.’
‘No,’ I said, keeping my response pidgin. ‘Want Tevfik.’
Her face paled, and she shuddered as if frightened. ‘Not here.’ She turned to go.
‘Wait,’ I said. ‘Is wife Tevfik with you?’
I pointed a finger at myself. ‘Wife know me. No problem.’
I tried another way. ‘You have Eko stay? Good friend. Together tsunami.’
Her eyes widened, tears forming. ‘Tsunami?’
I nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Come,’ she said, pointing at the entrance.
Hurray. At last.
I took a quick look at Charles, reclining, and motioned him to stay put.
Don’t spoil it, old boy.
Inside the resort, from behind a closed door, another voice I knew. A woman.
‘Who’s that, Mae?’
I raised my voice. ‘It’s Mr. Richard.’
The door opened and Tevfik’s wife hobbled out. Uncombed hair, she wore a dressing gown and slippers. Her face as pale as the moon. But when she focused on me, her smile was as warm as the sun.
‘Mr. Richard, ‘she said. ‘Oh, Mr. Richard.’ Her smile waned. ‘Tevfik go away.’
I tried to appear contrite, as if disappointed. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘But I’m looking for Eko. Is he here?’
She nodded. ‘Yes, he is with us.’
Bloody dog’s bollocks.
I looked around, frowned. ‘Where?’
I stifled a groan. How did we miss him? So near and yet so far.
‘I’ll wait,’ I said. Is that okay?’
She nodded. ‘Of course.’ She rattled off a stream of lingo to Mae, before seeming exhausted, and turned back to me. ‘Please excuse me, Mr. Richard. Need rest.’
I borrowed the umbrella, went back to the car to dismiss the driver, and shepherded Charles back to the resort. I’d keep him low-profile until Eko returned, perhaps holed-up in a separate room.
Now all I had to do was wait.