I sat down and regarded Tevfik. His normal effusive manner was absent, more dejected, or maybe pensive. That didn’t stop him talking.
‘I’m sorry for my friend’s bad manners. ‘Praise be to Allah. May peace be upon you also, Mr. Richard.’
Friend’s bad manners?
Ibrahim coughed. Touched my arm. ‘We are not friends, only ex-colleagues, but share our love for Allah. It is fitting that we…how do you say it…clear the air.’
I waited. No doubt one of them would enlighten me. And the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to know.
Maybe I could talk to Tevfik alone.
I couldn’t. I endured a battle of differences while they batted a ball to and fro — partly in English, for my benefit. Clearly, my presence served as an umpire, and I cut short the rally. ‘Game over,’ I said. ‘Your business dealings are none of mine.’
A third man joined us, dressed in uniform — a policeman? He carried a large briefcase, and sat it carefully down on the table.
‘It’s time, he said.
Ibrahim rose, nodded at me. ‘You did a good job,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t the courier, you was.’
I sat stunned while the “policeman” picked up the briefcase, escorted Ibrahim across the road to a black saloon with tinted windows, and opened the rear door. They both got inside, the door closed, and the car drove away.
Tevfik plucked at my arm. ‘I owe you an explanation,’ he said.
Too bloody true.
‘But first, coffee. Is that alright?’
I shrugged. A large cognac would have been better, but that could come later. Now I had Tevfik alone, I’d listen to his story, and then ask him to help me with Eko.
When the coffees arrived — two small cups of espresso — Tevfik placed both hands on the table, palms up, as if he had nothing to hide.
‘I was appointed loss prevention officer in Muslim Relief one year before the tsunami.’
I frowned, and he smiled.
‘I take it you don’t know what that means. I was tasked to set up controls to prevent money and equipment from being misappropriated. Came the tsunami, that job became critical’ — he shrugged — ‘but by then my contract had ended, and I had made a new life in Sabang.’
I made the connection. ‘So you’re saying..?’
He nodded. ‘A man in Ibrahim’s position could take advantage. Fictitious projects, labour, and materials all costing many thousands of dollars.’
‘So how did you become involved?’
‘You remember the card I gave you. Ahmet Hussein?’
I yawned. My coffee cup was empty, and so was my stomach. ‘Can we continue this over dinner?’
Tevfik read my mind. ‘All you need to know is how you were involved?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Hussein’s cousin is…was…Ibrahim’s driver. A tip-off, and I agreed to set up what you would call a sting, but sanctioned at the highest levels within Muslim Relief.’ He smiled at me. ‘When you came here seeking your boy, your interests coincided with mine. Allah was kind.’
I fidgeted. ‘And?’
Tevfik brightened up. ‘Ibrahim needed an outlet for the money. Money laundering, you’d call it. I provided that. Anonymously. You don’t need to know the details, except that today Ibrahim brought a briefcase stacked full of money.’
A bird glided past and settled on a wooden post nearby. It chirped and cocked its head at me.
One man’s view might not be the same as another.
‘So what did I have to do with it?’
Tevfik teeth shone through his wide smile. ‘Ibrahim didn’t trust anyone. Especially me. But he needed to check. When you told him you knew me, and where I lived, he thought it was a trap. But it must have been clear that you knew nothing, and he used you to meet up with me.’
I tried to remember if I mentioned Tevfik’s name or showed his card to Ibrahim when I first met him, but my memory failed me.
I took a sip of coffee, while Tevfik continued. He was oblivious to our surroundings and other patrons that passed us by; in a world of his own, and savouring every moment.
‘Once Hussein’s cousin called me to tell me he was on his way with you…’ Tevfik sat back, folded his arms, looked at his still full coffee cup, and then slapped his hands on the table top. ‘It all went to plan.’
I frowned. ‘I left him at the ferry.’
His eyebrows converged as if hiding a great secret that would be revealed to the gasps of his admirers. ‘Yes, I know. But he followed you to my resort, and my wife told him where I’d be after prayer. And that led right into the hands of our local law enforcers.’
Police. I thought so.
He carried on explaining, but the enormity of the intrigue hit me hard. I’d been bloody-well used. A bloody pawn. And I wasn’t happy. It didn’t take me long to fill in the gaps, and I set about redressing my hurt feelings.
‘Tevfik,’ I said, ‘I’m sure you know I found Eko at Lampu’uk, and I’m bloody sure you used me.’ I glared at him. ‘Now you can repay me. Persuade my boy to come back with me.’
Tevfik shook his head. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I cannot.’