‘You won’t like this.’
Jubair appeared troubled. Most unlike the man I first met. His self-confidence and composure shattered since. I wondered if his companion, Amera, had anything to do with it.
Nevertheless, he endured Charles’s onslaught dutifully, and without rancour. His answers were too glib, though, and I suspected our visit to Tevfik’s homestay had been reported back. No coincidence. We had been followed to the restaurant.
Hence Amera’s attitude; her desire not to be seen with us, and her insistence that Jubair handled it.
Jubair unfastened his watch, placed it on the table. ‘I’ll recap for you Mr. Fotheringay…’
While he brought Charles up to speed I shuffled in my seat, rubbed my leg, glanced around the terrace. Mostly empty now, tables being cleared and wiped down. I tuned in and out of the one-sided conversation, Charles hanging on every syllable.
‘Ibrahim denies any wrong doing … has manufactured a justification … his defence implicates Mr. Richard…’
What!? Implicates Mr. Richard?
They were looking at me. Charles shaking his head, frowning, and Jubair with what seemed like an apologetic expression.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I tried to talk Amera out of it, but she insisted.’ He picked up his watch, glanced over the balustrade. ‘She has called the police.’
I jumped up and banged my fist on the table. ‘You bastard. This whole scene was a sham. You’ve set me up.’
‘No,’ he said, crossing his arms. ‘That was not ... and never has been my intention. I … we … need your help.’
‘Wait a minute,’ interrupted Charles. ‘Why go to all this elaborate subterfuge when you could have simply asked us?’
His head hung down. Didn’t answer. I suspected.
‘And how did you know we would visit Sabang?’ Charles in full stride.
Jubair looked up. ‘We didn’t expect you, Mr. Fotheringay, but we knew Mr. Richard would probably come to take back his houseboy. We encouraged Tevfik to facilitate that.’
Hence his phone call. Bloody can’t trust anyone.
‘Where is Eko?’ I said. ‘And what happened to Tevfik?’
Jubair smiled. ‘Eko is with Tevfik’s wife. She’s recuperating from her illness at her cousin’s resort. The boy is safe.’ He glanced outside once more as if expecting a motorcade of police cruisers emitting high-pitched sirens. ‘Tevfik, you’ll meet him soon. At the police station.’
I gave Charles a look. He shrugged. Probably thinking we’re here now, let’s go with it — or similar.
Which was all very well, but my head was on the block. Good news, though, about Eko, if I could wriggle out of whatever I was accused of, and quickly.
Sharia police posed a different challenge. For years, we had kept ourselves inconspicuous while at the House in north Sumatra, a province away from the Free Aceh Movement troubles. Since the tsunami, hundreds of aid workers moved in to rented accommodation, and Sabang became an R&R island.
I hoped by now the police were familiar with the constant influx of foreigners, their ways and behaviours, but the law was strict, and I didn’t want to fall foul of it…
…‘Okay. Let’s move. Our escort’s arrived.’
Charles prodding through my reflections stirred me into action. Outside, after settling our bill, two police hustled us all into a Toyota mini-bus and drove us to the police station.
It soon became clear. Ibrahim was being interviewed, while the three of us met Tevfik in another room. He sat in a wooden chair, elbows pressed against a table top, head in hands. When we entered he offered us a weak smile, and a subdued Islamic greeting.
Not a happy reunion.
Charles wasn’t fazed. He took centre stage as we pulled up chairs and sat. I listened while he addressed them.
‘We’re really not interested in your internal affairs, so if you can clear Richard from any supposed wrong-doing, we can get on our way.’
Tevfik raised his head, looked at Jubair. ‘Tell him,’ he said.
Jubair coughed. ‘Ibrahim is accusing Mr. Richard of conspiring with Tevfik. That’s it.’
‘That’s it?’ I said. ‘I had nothing to do with your bloody sting operation.’
Jubair held up a hand. ‘You travelled from Lampu’uk together — witnessed at several police check-points. Ibrahim makes a convincing case of your involvement.’
Charles interrupted. ‘So what?’
‘He said Mr. Richard persuaded him to bring the money to Tevfik to fund new projects in Sabang.’
‘Jeez,’ I said, ‘all bloody bullshit.’
‘Not to the police,’ said Jubair. ‘Robbery is a serious crime.’
Tevfik chimed in. ‘And it’s our word against his. Worse still. Muslim Relief are distancing themselves from all this.’
Oh, heck. Bloody Amera?
A knock on the door, and in came a police officer. His dapper apparel designated him as a senior officer, confirmed on introduction.
‘I will need statements from all of you,’ he said, looking at me. ‘Mr. Richard? You first.’
At that moment my phone rang. I took it out. Delcie. I didn’t have the inclination to explain my predicament, and with the policeman beckoning me, I told her I didn’t know when I’d return, and switched off.
The “interview” lasted one hour, most of which was written down. In English. I read it over a few times, made adjustments, and signed it. I was told to wait.
In a holding cell. With an empty bucket, a few cockroaches, and a box of Kleenex as company.
The processing — I presumed — moved into the early hours. By then my belongings had been confiscated, and I’d laid out supine on the stained mattress in the cell, and dozed off. No spirits visited me, not even Angelique. I awoke at dawn call to prayer, alone.
Where was Charles? Or Tevfik?