12 MAR, 2023
Gwafa heard a knock on his door. A visitor? This early? He knew it was not one of the others unless there was a crisis. The second knock yanked him out of the bed. He stood up and walked to the door dressed only in his underwear.
"Who is it?" he called out in his deep hoarse morning voice.
The feminine Arabic accented voice on the other end responded, "Good afternoon. Housekeeping?"
"Not now. Come back later," he replied gruffly.
"OK. Thank you."
He heard the trolley squeak away. What time was it anyway? That did not matter either. First, he wanted to relieve himself, then get a cigarette, after which he would try to figure out what the day would be about. He entered the privy, came out naked a moment later, and picked up a Caporal that he lit. His deep-set bloodshot eyes stared at his skinny frame in the mirror, but all he really saw was the fatigue. How did he get here? Shootouts in foreign countries? Robberies? He knew that he could act cool in front of the others, but in reality, the weight of his actions weighed on him. Mapacha was in the next room, shot up, while Banou's strings were slowly being unravelled. Only Mzee Tembo seemed to be thrilled by all of this. Is this what happened to old men in pursuit of their last hurrah? He ashed the cigarette and watched the embers slowly incinerate the ringed label. It was done. He stared out at the road beneath him and saw a marvellous afternoon. Time to shower and start his day. This was his life now.
Mapacha heard the cars downstairs and realised the day had started. How long had he been out? He felt a presence nearby. Someone was in the room. Abril? Why had she let him sleep in? Then the pain coursed through his arm, cut across his entire body and he juddered. The replay of the previous night suddenly became very real. He had been shot in the arm. Then, he shot Kobus and the other guys and then beat them up. Afterwards, there had been the dawn operation and now he was here in the hotel room, and there was someone else with him. The acute ache forced his eyes open. At first, he made out an afro and realised that it was Banou in a white t-shirt. For a moment, he could not hear her. Then he did, and her words made some sense.
"... and I hope you are feeling well."
"What?" he asked her.
"I said, you need to wake up and I hope you are feeling well."
"Yes. What time is it?"
"It's two PM. I got you something to eat."
On the desk, there was a tray with chips, a big steak, salad and two glasses of juice.
"Sit up," she ordered him.
"Banou, you did not need to do this. I don't need to eat in bed. I can get up."
"Well, get up then."
She laid the gown before him and turned her back as he got up and unhurriedly wore it. Then he sat on the table, picked up the fork and ravaged the meal. Banou sat on the lounge seat and with great expediency rolled up a joint made of weed and hash. As he chewed through the food, he cautiously eyed her and wondered what all this was about. The surprise waned and now he wondered how she knew he smoked.
"How did you know?"
"I just know. Now finish eating," she said, as she licked the joint and sealed it. After almost half an hour, he was done. He drank the juice and then swallowed two pills.
"Are you ready?"
Banou took out her matchbox and lit up the joint, pulled heavily on it and blew out the heavy smoke. She sucked on it again, inhaled, and then passed it to Mapacha. As he smoked it, he felt the pain escape and his mind relax. The heavy mix of hash and weed tore through him in just a few minutes. Banou had lit a cigarette and deeply drew on it.
"Banou, where did you get this?"
She reached down and pulled up two packages. With a deviant smile, she laid a brick of hash and a bag of weed.
"You mean this?"
Mapacha, unduly dumbfounded, coughed and the smoke escaped in tiny gusts.
"I got it from the porter. He had been eyeing me, so I asked him. About an hour later, a guy delivered ten bricks and ten bags. The three bricks and the three bags are yours, one set I will keep and sell the rest to Umaru and Nsia," she casually explained.
He took the joint with him into the privy, relieved himself, and then flushed it down as he entered the shower. It was a delicate affair, but the pain was now muted. After the long shower, he got out, towelled down and inspected the bandage. The mass of red had become hazy, and he knew it needed to be changed. He came out with a towel wrapped round his waist and found Gwafa seated next to Banou with a cigarette in between his lips.
"You good big guy?"
"Yes. Much better."
"You guys stunk up the room," he said with a mischievous smile. "Sit down so that I can change the dressing."
"Where did you get the medical stuff?"
"I got it when I went to dispose of your shirt and the other stuff."
Banou handed him a second joint, and he sucked on it. Gwafa undid the dressing and inspected the wound. It seemed to be less bloody than earlier that morning when Hamid had wrapped it. Mapacha looked down at it and saw the expert stitches that held it together.
"Does it hurt?" Banou asked.
It did until he smoked. Now it was a dull throb that pulsated with each heartbeat. Gwafa wiped it down with a tincture of iodine.
"No infection big guy."
He painstakingly wrapped the wound, checked his handiwork and then packed away the medical equipment. The room now reeked of cigarette and weed smoke.
"Get dressed big guy. We are leaving as soon as you are ready."
"Or Josephine. It's your call. The old man wants you to decide."
"We still have more stones to move. Tell the boss I'm good for Casablanca."
"OK. Let me go and tell him."
When Gwafa left, Banou helped him dress and pack and just as they finished, Mzee Tembo and Gwafa walked in. Mzee Tembo sniffed the air and eyed them wearily.
"What is that smell? You guys are smoking weed in here? Really?"
He shook his head in disappointment then went to the window, opened it, and sat on the apron. The salty sea breeze washed over his face and he enjoyed the moment before he turned and faced them.
"You good son?" he asked Mapacha, as he pushed up his browline spectacles.
"Yes, boss. I'm good."
"You probably want to know the guys who came after us."
He stood up and laid the passports and wallets on the table.
"The guys from last night who were with Kobus, they were gendarmerie attached to the Minister. There is going to be some sort of scandal because they were caught with bullet wounds and were involved in a gunfight."
"Is anyone looking for us?" Mapacha asked.
"If they are, they don't know where we are, but I don't think anyone has talked yet. Either way, we need to get out of Tangier."
"I'm ready boss."
There it was, his voice. Banou suddenly felt cheerful.
"OK, this room stinks of weed."
She pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Mzee Tembo wearily gazed at her irritated.
"You just finished smoking. Is this really necessary?" he asked her.
She ignored him, sucked on the cigarette and puffed out little rings.
"OK. If everyone is packed, we can check out and leave."
"What about the guns? And the whip?" Mapacha asked.
"Oh, right. I almost forgot."
He hastily left the room and came back with a bundle hidden in a gown that he laid on the bed and unwrapped. There were three revolvers. Two Colt Cobras and a Velo-dog.
Gwafa whistled as he reached out for the Velo-dog.
"Wow, I've always wanted one of these. They are rare and a good backup."
"That was what Kobus was shooting," Mapacha explained.
Gwafa, Mapacha and Mzee Tembo suddenly burst out in laughter. Banou was lost. What was funny?
"I don't get it," Banou said.
Gwafa explained, "Kobus is a huge guy, and he was carrying such a tiny gun."
She could not see why they were amused, so she just leaned back and blew out more rings.
"We take them all," Mzee Tembo said. "It would be a shame to throw away these Colts."
"Do we even have space for all these things?" Banou asked.
"Why?" Mzee Tembo questioned.
"Well, I have some things I would like to bring in one of the diplomatic bags."
"Things like what?"
"You won't be pleased, so don't ask."
"What is with you and drugs Banou?"
She was embarrassed for a moment, but then, she came back to her senses.
"Hey, they sell good stuff here. And deliver too."
Mzee Tembo shook his head and turned to Gwafa who nodded.
"Banou, throw the guns and the weed in the Hartmann and zip it up. I will seal it with tape and tag it. Hopefully, the customs guy will not really bother. They are not quite concerned about stuff leaving."
She was pleased. The hash alone would be worth at least ten times its value back on the island. About half an hour later they checked out and rode a taxi to the airport. They were all muted, save for the taxi driver who excitedly tried to rouse a response from Mzee Tembo as he described the current Africa Cup Championship status.
At the airport, it was a brisk pass. Gwafa was first in, and he sought the transit paperwork, paid the fees and then got the others. As he had predicted, the minute the customs officer saw the diplomatic bags and the seals, he did not bother and waved them through. The porter pushed the trolley through to the airside. Mzee Tembo supervised the bags as they were loaded onto the plane, while Gwafa inspected it. Everything seemed in order.
The ground power unit was coupled to the plane. It sneezed to life and coughed out a large cloud of smoke. Gwafa worked the buttons and dials and after a minute, the Wasps kicked up smoke and roared to life sequentially. He stuck his hand out with a thumb up, and it was decoupled. The chocks were then dragged away and he turned the plane around. He talked to the controller as Mapacha, next to him wore his headset and stared out into the abyss. The weed had finally worked its way deep into his system. While he would be excited to listen in on the chatter, at that moment, his heart and mind were not there. Air traffic control cleared them and the Skytrain rumbled down the runway and dragged a veil of brown spray behind it. The wheels finally left the ground, and the plane bounced in the turbulence before it found steady winds higher above. Behind them, Tangier became a tiny dot.