FEB 14, 2023
Once across the bridge, Gwafa now a lot more relaxed slowed down but kept a constant watch over the rearview mirror. As he navigated the wide roads, he contemplated what had just happened and had to pose a question to Mzee Tembo.
"Does he feel trustworthy to you boss?"
"Well, I don't know. He is everything Lourenço said he would be, so I have to go with that. What did you read from him?"
"Ossi is a hardcore businessman, full of himself with that ridiculous portrait. He wants the best deal, but he shows off a bit too much."
Gwafa turned and dropped the Simca into third, gunned it hard and overtook a lorry, then turned left into a narrow street.
"Agreed. I feel like there is a 'but'."
"His son. Kadour. I don't trust him."
Mzee Tembo was perplexed.
"Well, he was talking in Flemish and kept giving us a nervous look. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest."
At the end of the street, he performed an expert U-turn and drove back the way they came, and checked to see for tails. Zero. Mzee Tembo was impressed by his thoroughness and how he expertly manoeuvred the car.
"What did he say in Flemish?" Mzee Tembo asked.
"No idea, but how he looked when we left the back office betrayed him."
"Yeah, I saw it but maybe he was talking to a girl, some forbidden fruit type of thing."
A Citroën overtook them with the angry blare of its klaxon, given that Gwafa had rudely obstructed its approach to the junction. The Simca'e engine screamed as it cut its way through Rabat.
"Maybe, but even Ossi was surprised and tried to cover for him."
"I see. Well, turn in here. Rue Tanta. Park wherever you feel like, we can walk the rest of the way."
The quiet street hid the car fairly well. He parked and let it idle for a moment
"We will keep an eye out for him then."
Gwafa killed the engine.
"Sure thing boss, but that kid, he is up to something."
Mzee Tembo hated that Gwafa had picked that from Kadour. Gwafa locked the car, and they walked across towards the hotel.
"Let's see where this leads to. So far it has gone smoothly, so we stick to the plan," he reassured him.
Secretly, Mzee Tembo hoped he was not in denial and that they had read the whole situation poorly.
Gwafa however had to admit that Mzee Tembo was right, and it made sense to stick to the plan. That however did not ease his concern. They entered the hotel and waved to the receptionist as they walked up the stairs to Banou's room. Mapacha heard the heavy footsteps and recognised Mzee Tembo's stride. He tore to the door and opened it before Mzee Tembo knocked and startled him.
"Hey, Mapacha. Is everything OK?"
"Ah, sure boss. Just getting the door for you."
They walked past him, and he peeked outside to see if there was anyone in the hallway before he closed it behind him. As he shut the door, he let out a sigh of relief that finally, the others had returned and he did not have to be alone with Banou and his complicated reflections.
"So, did you guys get it done?" Mzee Tembo asked.
Banou, on the bed, barely looked up from her magazine, as she nodded.
"Six hundred and eight. Sixty-one bags."
"And the guns?"
"Serviced. We are ready to go, boss."
Mzee Tembo peeked into the bag and saw everything had been prepared.
"When is the meeting?" Mapacha asked eagerly.
"Sometime tomorrow afternoon."
Banou flashed a smile and Mzee Tembo and Gwafa stared at her with disapproval.
"It means we have to be here one more night and if the kid is dodgy, he has the whole night and day to track us," Gwafa answered.
"What kid?" Banou asked.
"Gwafa thinks that the jeweller guy's kid is up to something."
She swallowed hard, glum by the prospect. Mapacha cocked his ears.
"Something like what?"
Gwafa explained the scene and how he spoke Flemish and acted nervously as they left the shop.
"Could be a foreign girlfriend, some tourist he met or an ex-girlfriend from university," Banou offered.
"That is what I thought," Mzee Tembo said, "but if Gwafa says he is off, we have to go with his instincts."
"I agree," Mapacha said. "Besides, if he tries to doublecross us, well, we will take care of him."
Banou's brow furrowed and she suddenly felt nervous.
"You mean like kill him?"
Mzee Tembo sniggered.
"No. Nothing like that. We are not killers."
Not in the gang anyway, but they had served and gone to war and had at some point shot a man or two. Would there be any difference here? Unlikely as it would draw too much attention and this was what they had to try and avoid. Besides, broken bones healed, but cold-blooded murder on the other hand was a step too far.
"Well, there is no point in waiting on empty stomachs. Let's get lunch," Banou offered.
Mapacha stood up, went to the diplomatic bag, pulled out his revolver and went to tuck it into his belt but Mzee Tembo stopped him.
"There is no need for that. Put it in the bag and put all the diamonds in the safe. We are just getting lunch," Mzee Tembo said.
Banou was surprised and wanted to point out that the gun-nut was suddenly not interested in guns, but she thought better and held her tongue. Mapacha put it in and gave the bag to Banou who had just worn her flats. She crammed it into the safe and locked it. They all walked out of her room, heard her click the lock and went down the stairs, out towards the car. Across from where they had left it was a restaurant called La Mamma.
"I thought this place looked good enough," Gwafa offered. He pointed to the car for the benefit of Banou and Mapacha. "By the way, that is the car we rented."
"What sort of car is it?" Mapacha asked as he did not recognize the shape.
"A Simca. It's French."
Banou couldn't care less about the potential threat or the red car. Her eyes were drawn to the colourful mosaic wall in the restaurant that had a slow stream of water that flowed downward.
"This place is cool."
Then the cheese smell hit her.
Her girlish frame of mind arrived before her better senses at the excitement of pizza, a rarity back home. They picked a table at the most low-key end of the busy restaurant and a waiter handed them bright orange menus.
"Bonjour. Welcome to La Mamma. What will you like to order?"
The French menu needed Gwafa to translate, but before he could explain the food options, Banou had already ordered four different pizzas.
"And to drink?"
"Fresh juice for everyone, right?"
They mutedly agreed, letting her drive the boat. It was humorous to see them, tough as they were, subdued by her. While they waited, Mapacha needed some things clarified.
"So, is this guy buying all the stuff, or are we still looking for more buyers?" he asked.
"He is only taking fifty, at seventeen-fifty per, but he will introduce us to other people who may be interested," Mzee Tembo said.
A quarter of an hour later, the waiter first served them the fresh pressed juice, and then came back with a large wooden tray with the pizzas.
"When I was an air hostess, and we went to Europe, we used to have a pizza party with the rest of the girls," Banou explained. "We would order different pizzas and then mix them up so that we got a taste of everything."
They watched her warily. It all made sense now. She was stuck in a nostalgic memory, and this was the first time she could enjoy things as they had been in her old life. While there was pizza back on the island, the quality pizza was prohibitively expensive, while the more affordable pizza ended up being a heap of baked dough with bits of cheese, beef and an excessive number of diced tomatoes. But here, there was quality and choice and she had chosen wisely. A Pizza à l'oignon, a Roman, Neapolitan and a Sicilian. Banou mixed the slices for everyone and gave them an equal taste. She seemed pleased with herself, and for them, it seemed better to accept it, so they all dived in.
"Banou, this is actually nice," Mzee Tembo complimented her.
Her mouth was full of molten cheese, so she just giddily smiled and continued her feast. After lunch, they sat down to enjoy a second glass of juice. She knew they had enjoyed the meal as the drowsiness started to wash over their faces.
"It's time to go," she told them with a swift rap of her knuckles on the table.
Mzee Tembo stood up to go settle the bill, but, Banou stopped him.
"No old man. This one is on me," she offered with a satisfied smirk.
They strolled back to their hotel as Banou and Gwafa casually smoked, and went to their rooms for a siesta. There was not much else to do, so, a nap was in order.