Ait Benhaddou, Morocco
(7224 words, parts 1-5)
Please note: I’ve had to remove this story as it is now available as a Kindle eBook and corresponding paperback.
Link: http://amzn.eu/j7ntoml (Kindle)
Link: http://amzn.eu/88ZWNwc (paperback)
I’m allowed to publish an extract of 10% though, so here is a section from Part 1.
The whole strange affair began one Christmas as I set off for Marrakech on a fortnight’s walking holiday in the warm Moroccan sunshine. We’d departed the damp, foggy air of Luton airport on the morning of the 20th of December, touching down three hours later at Casablanca for the connecting flight. Already, blue sky and sunshine were the order of the day and an announcement told us it was eighteen degrees outside.
We had an hour to stretch our legs, whilst our baggage was transferred to the new plane. I took the opportunity to smoke a cigarette and visit a luggage shop where I purchased a capacious grey Samsonite briefcase. It had 20% off and I thought it could come in useful. I’d taken very little hand luggage, merely a bottle of water and a book of chess problems in a carrier bag, so saw no difficulty with taking it on board.
Whilst discussing the briefcase with an attractive olive-skinned sales girl, who spoke good English, I observed a Berber-type fellow examining suitcases. He had dark skin, a large nose and curly black hair, was of medium stature and wore a worn navy blue suit. He attracted my attention by his frequent surreptitious glances in my direction. I began to wonder if he really was interested in suitcases.
I soon found out. As I left the shop he followed me down the corridor, soon walking alongside me. “Excuse me sir, may I speak with you please?” he said ingratiatingly. I knew enough of Moroccans to know that they usually wanted one of two things. To sell you something or to beg money from you. And they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
This chap didn’t look like a beggar and he carried a package, about the size of a large book, wrapped with waxed paper and the whole tied with string. From experience of the Berbers and their cousins, the blue silken-clothed Touareg of the Sahara, I supposed it contained either cheap jewelry or fossils. I ignored him and increased my pace.
“Sir, excuse please, I wish to speak with you!”
“Sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry, plane to catch..”
“Sir, would this be of interest?”
He held an envelope open in front of me. It contained a bundle of what looked like fifty pound notes. That was of interest all right! I was down on my uppers and I came to a standstill right there and then. He ushered me to some seats down a deserted corridor.
Sitting opposite me, he spoke in faltering English. “My name is Abdul. I give you this money if you take this..packet…onto plane. You give me packet back at Marrakech. I give you same amount again.” He patted a bulge in his jacket.
“Look, you must take me for a mug, it could be drugs or weapons. I don’t know you.” I remembered the adage, ‘never trust an Arab’.
To my surprise, he laughed and his face lit up pleasantly. “No sir, we have already been through security,” showing me his ticket, “and I give you package after we go through it again.”
We discussed the matter and I agreed that after we’d been through security I would put it in my briefcase, he’d give me the money and I’d carry it on board. The procedure would be reversed at Marrakech.
I asked him what was in it and why he didn’t want to carry it but he waved the question away. It was clear he wasn’t going to elucidate.
We passed a bored-looking security guard who barely glanced at the screen as our hand luggage travelled through the scanner. I wished he’d looked more closely at Abdul’s package. An attractive red-suited hostess with brown skin and browner eyes smiled at me as she checked our passports and I put the package in my briefcase as promised. True to his word Abdul passed me the envelope. My heart beat faster and I couldn’t wait to count the money…
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