I kicked myself for involving Kostya in Richard’s release. Idiotic, and too impetuous. During my visit to Medan, I pieced together enough information about him to cause me to steer well clear. His dalliance with corrupt hotel workers and young sirens was just a tip of the proverbial iceberg. Links with power and corruption was his forte, and I had little doubt that he controlled a network of contacts, some of whom were well connected to Sumatra’s officialdom and military.
I didn’t want to imagine what happened to Ibrahim or whether Kostya also had some influence in Muslim Relief. Suffice to say I was in his debt, and at some future point he’d call in my tab. And if that involved Hannah, my hand was busted.
I stirred and focused on Richard. He was pointing outside. Two police cars had pulled in to the parking area, their headlights pointing at us.
What a stroke of luck.
I rose from my seat and signalled to the waitress for our bill. ‘Time we made a hasty retreat,’ I said. ‘Live to fight another day.’
Richard gave me a quizzical look. Earlier, I’m sure he never noticed I omitted why Ibrahim had rescinded his accusation, because he never pressed me. That could be my trump card, and when the time came, though, I would tell him he owed me.
What that might be, I had no idea. Maybe he could hide Hannah someplace while I distracted Kostya. Or put him in the firing line.
If it came to that.
One waitress whisked our teapot and mugs from the table, and I pressed a bundle of rupiah into another’s hands. ‘Keep the change,’ I said, as I led Richard out of the side entrance that lead to the khazi.
With several Aid agency workers still on site, I figured the police had enough victims to hassle. I was right, we weren’t even collateral damage, and we escaped unscathed into our waiting taxi.
Richard nudged me on our journey back. ‘What was that all about?’
What, indeed? I decided to play it cool. ‘I think the police would jump at any chance to let you rot in jail, old boy. You’ve been lucky once. Money talks.’
He stared at me. ‘You mean you paid them to set me free? How much?’
Ah, hah. Hooked.
I shrugged, as if no consequence. ‘After the charges were dropped they demanded a settlement to set you free. I brokered the deal. Call it an accommodation fee.’ I paused, let the words sink in. ‘It was nothing.’
He sat back and lapsed into silence. I’d sown the seed, and when Kostya came calling — a nightmare — I was certain I’d have Richard batting for me.
Back at the guesthouse, with him still quiet, I said we ought to seek out Eko at first light. Then catch the early ferry back to the mainland.
He nodded. ‘Inshallah,’ he said.
Next morning, when I was ready to leave I found Richard pacing around the lounge area like a caged animal, bog-eyed staring at his sandals, and muttering to himself. His clothes, freshly worn last night, looked crumpled.
Had he slept?
‘You’re late,’ he said, as if mimicking me. ‘Didn’t you hear the Fajr call to prayer?’
‘They all sound the same,’ I said, with as much disdain I could muster at that early hour. ‘Blasted racket.’
He shook his head. ‘What it means, Charles, is we’ll have to wait for a bloody taxi.’
‘Good,’ I said. ‘Is anyone about? I need a coffee.’
He grimaced. ‘And a bloody cigar, no doubt?’
Don’t tempt me. Put on my moral-high-ground voice. ‘I’m cutting back. Don’t want to end up like that Tevfik, coughing and spluttering all over the place.’
‘Don’t talk to me about that bloody man.’
‘Eh? What’s happened?’
He picked up his bag, gestured at me to follow. ‘Don’t ask. And don’t take all day.’
We passed through the cubby-hole grandly named Reception, where a young girl, head and shoulders covered by a grey shawl, and wearing a shift top, jeans and open-toed sandals, silently took our keys.
Outside, a pre-dawn mist made me shiver, but we had a break. A cruising taxi — belying Richard’s pessimism — stopped. The driver wound down his window, and asked us where we were headed.
‘Café?’ I said.
He shook his head. ‘Not open.’
‘Wait a minute.’ I turned to Richard. ‘Call Tevfik. Ask him where Eko’s holed up.’
‘Don’t you think I would have, but my phone’s dead.’ he said. ‘Up half the bloody night, worrying.’
Ah. That explained his mood.
No good us standing around like a couple of greenhorns. We had transport and an early start. Time for action. ‘We’ll do a recce of resorts. Someone will know.’
Richard had other ideas. ‘Go to the Grand Mosque, first. We might spot Tevfik there.’
Or we might not.
Maybe he didn’t want to be seen in public. Why? I pondered this on our way. What did we really know about Tevfik? Why had he closed his resort? And Jubair? Were they in cahoots? How…?
Kota Sabang Grand Mosque stood in the dawn light like a vast sentinel, imperious and impervious to outsiders like us. And a few elders, observing Sharia law, waved us away. We were not welcome.
I looked at Richard. ‘We could park within eyesight. Hope to catch a glimpse of Tevfik when the prayers end, or what?’
‘We wait,’ he said. ‘Eko could be with him.’
I shrugged, but a bead of sweat ran down my back. We had been warned to leave the island post-haste, and what seemed an easy task to locate Eko, was now looking grim.
It became grimmer when a stream of men exited the mosque, and neither Tevfik nor Eko were among them.
My body ached from waiting, slumped in the back of a taxi, and I opened the door, clambered out, and stretched. As did Richard.
‘Might as well go,’ I said. ‘Look elsewhere.’
He yawned. ‘Suppose so. Any ideas?’
I climbed back in, but Richard hesitated. ‘Wait a minute. That man over there.’ I leant back out, and squinted. He was pointing at a small group of men identically suited in flowing white robes and keffiyeh head-dress.
Richard sounded animated. ‘The one wearing glasses, Charles. I’d know the bastard anywhere.’
So would I.