A Very Fine Solution IV
I was awake at seven. The sun wasn't up and wouldn't be for another half-hour. The street-lighting was on, but then it was the Marina out front. No use pissing off people with that kind of money. The pavements were the best maintained on the Costa too. Rich people can afford better lawyers. I switched the laptop on: went to the documents folder, opened the one for pictures. There were two jpeg files. The names were just a string of numbers and letters. The photos showed the odd couple who'd entered the yacht, a couple of nights ago. Someone had – pretty crudely, I thought – incorporated some text into the image files themselves. Some file tags might have been more elegant.
'Benayoun,' was written just under the second button of the All-American's shiny jacket. In the other photo 'Cohn' appeared to be coming out of the swarthier of the two's right ear. It seemed pointless leaving these on the lap-top at all. I right-clicked the file icons, looked in the properties summaries. There were comments on both. 'Mossad illegals' was all that had been added. An egg-timer appeared on the top left of the screen. I opened the internet browser, Googled 'Barak' and got pages of nonsense. I typed House of Saud. My eyes blurred within seconds. Then I typed Saud and yacht. All I got was Wikipedia.
I read as far as “Publicly available information about the Saudi Royal Family's yachts is minimal” and gave up.
The egg-timer on the desk-top had got bigger. I tried to shut down the laptop, but the finger-pad was dead and no amount of finger-fiddly-diddly would make the pointer move. Coffee was required, but the Greek hadn't arrived yet. In the fresh-ish air, I shivered a little and turned up towards the 2nd line via the short-cut in front of Sinatra's. The McDonald's coffee scalded my hand, when I heard the crump.
I hoped no-one had been in front of the restaurant. Being killed by flying glass is just plain unlucky. Clearly the Greek hadn't had to rely on luck, I bet he'd had his insurance up-to-date too.
The sirens were wailing before I finished the coffee. Avenida Ribera was empty and I followed it, parallel to the Marina. I turned right at the end and doubled back on Calle Ribera, where I could see clear to the end of the road – and the red engine of the Bomberos with two Guardia Civil BMW's hard by. There were no rubber-neckers, not one. Unless you counted me. It looked as though the restaurant would be closed that night. Downstairs the place itself looked intact. The brickwork around the upstairs window was blackened by the blast. They'd been careful, whoever it was. I'd have to ask Eve. I doubted it was her lot, at least not if the point had been to make me a former person of interest. Drowning, or one of those special umbrellas, so they could blame some rogue former satellite state, that's the ticket. Not big bangs, civil servants don't like those, unless – like with the umbrellas – someone else carries the can.
Cajal might reasonably have expected me to be surprised to see him, standing among the glittering shards. He betrayed no surprise at seeing me. His suit looked out of place among the green-uniformed Guardia and yellow-helmeted Bomberos.
'No fire,' he said, 'just precautionary.'
I said nothing.
'Small charge.' He looked me in the eye, his grin was too wide for his face.
'Why not? Only Aristophanes has mains, d'you see?' I still found it weird: that voice coming from such Hispanic looks
'Lucky no-one was home.' I said.
'You were. Come on, buy me a drink.' Cajal grabbed my arm, waved at one of the Guardia and dragged me into Sinatra's.
It was as busy as it ever was at 9 a.m. Which is to say, not at all, since it wasn't actually open. But Cajal's presence was enough to bring a sleepy eyed owner and his usual. I put my hand over the coffee this time. The brandy stung a knuckle-cut as he continued to pour it anyway. Sinatra's owner's gloomy face loomed over the table as he mopped up the sticky spirit. He'd just appeared, as if he'd been waiting for some such event.
Cajal's mouth twisted up at the side as I licked the brandy from the back of my hand.
'More expensive here,' the laugh escaped him, at last.
'No better, though.' I laughed too. Bosom buddies, sharing a joke.
The policeman's eyes shifted to the side and I caught the glint of a contact lens. Tinted – no, coloured. To make his eyes fit the stereotype? To make his looks contrast with the clothes? I didn't care.
But it pleased me there was something of artifice about him, I felt more comfortable with fakes.
'So, who did it?' he asked.
The skin over his cheekbones tightened, he took a breath. Perhaps he was counting to diez.
'Who?' the word hissed out from white lips.
'What does Eve think?' I took a sip of coffee.
'Don't you know?' Cajal rolled his eyes, aware that as questions went this had been a very useful answer to me.
'No, I don't know. But you know Eve, don't you?'
He shifted in his chair. His lip curled, he looked like a truculent waiter. He told me he was just the bagman. He'd been told nothing – just kept a very close eye on me. I asked him about the 'phones: how he'd been able to keep track of them and me. He shrugged,
'Europe doesn't control everything: I'm sure old habits die as hard in the Czech Republic and Poland as they do here, don't you think?'
So he was just a local plod, high-ranking, sure – and very pissed off at being used by the Old Firm as a dogsbody in his own country. I thought I'd take a chance.
'Whose boat is it, Cajal?'
'It's hard to say. Shell companies and so on. It's registered in Monaco.'
He offered me a cigarette from the cigarette case. This time I took one. Once he'd lit it, he went on;
'But that means nothing, as you know.'
'Come on, you must know something?'
'We think it's connected to the House of Saud. Probably one of the grandsons. Or one of their offspring.'
'Really. That close?'
'It's not the Ambassador. He sticks to Madrid. It'll be someone outside of government.'
'Are they important?'
'What does that mean?' he stubbed out his cigarette on the table surface. 'Anyway, we don't actually know.'
'Photos, but no information. Not for me.'
He passed me a real photograph. Not a smartcard, not a USB pen. Paper and emulsion. So 'we' had meant 'I'. Cajal was as as far out on a limb as I was. It was my sincere hope it wasn't the same one.
'Let me know,' he said, and left.
The photo showed someone in traditional Arab dress, the red-and-white checks on the shemagh could have made him Saudi, if not Saud. Someone somewhere around fifty years old. He had no more familial resemblance to Number Two Son than I would with a sun-tan. I stuffed the photo in a pocket and wondered how long it would be before Eve got in touch.
It was that day. I spent the intervening hours watching the clean-up in front of the restaurant, half-expecting Number Two Son to put in an appearance. But he didn't. Nor did the owner of the restaurant, which was strange. Or not, depending on how you viewed the incident. Eva did come. This time she looked less like a British government employee. She was wearing a sun-dress, just too insubstantial for the autumn weather on the Costa. Like a tourist, in fact. Right down to the superfluous fake-Gucci Sunglasses perched in her hairdo.
'If those Cheltenham Ladies could see you now...'
'Piss off, James.'
She sat, crossed her legs and ordered something sweet and sticky from the waiter. The parasol looked wilted when it arrived.
'In character, then?'
'We haven't got time for this, James.'
'It wasn't us.'
'It wasn't. Or not official.'
'I need a drink myself.' Waving at the waiter brought him over, eventually. I ordered a beer.
'George was as surprised as anyone.' Eva went on.
'George? Gormless George?'
'He's Head of Station.'
'Madrid? He can't even speak English.'
'It's not like it was.'
'How is it then?'
'Cross-agency sharing. Pan-European co-operation. You know.' She gave a bitter laugh. 'Open borders, open secrets.'
'Open Sesame, you mean.'
'We've got more to worry about than forty thieves, James.'
I asked her again what the job was.
This time I got a better answer:
'I don't know either,' she said.
'It's the Israelis I don't get. It's just weird.'
She finally lipped the straw in her sticky-sweet drink and winced.
I paid the bill and we set off for the safe house. It was in a gated community, the kind of place the owners' of the yachts kept a pied-a-terre for a mistress or a catamite. We made good use of the facilities, it was Eve's idea.
Afterwards, after the 'afterwards' cigarette, that is, she told me what she knew.
'It's big. It's the Middle East and it could be the end. Or the beginning.'
'What? Nukes? The Israelis already have them.'
'Not nukes, and none of the Arabs have them.'
'Pakistan will do something about that, in the end.'
'It's not nukes, it's peace.'
It was a long bout of rib-cracking laughter. She got angrier and angrier.
'They can't agree with each other much less with the Sons of Abraham.'
'We've been told there is top-level involvement.'
She shrugged. 'Need to know.'
'Don't you need to? What the fuck am I doing here?'
'There will be a meeting on that yacht, that's all I do know.'
'It must be someone big if you're acting like this.'
'Stop worrying about it. We'll know more when George comes.'
I left her in the bed, she was lighting another cigarette.
The cream Mercedes taxi skidded, screeched and honked through the residential area to Calle Ribera. I tipped the driver a Euro and replied to his invective with a simple 'Y tu mama tambien.' It was early evening, inappropriately dressed tourists were dodging the looky-looky men, who had a weather eye out for the Vigilancia de la Marina. A splendid force equivalent to shopping mall security guards armed with Heckler and Koch pistols. I was about to take up post in Sinatra's when Number Two Son came out of the entrance. He nodded at someone over my shoulder and then someone had hold of my arms and something was digging into my back.
'A word, sir. That is all.' Number Two said, teeth agleam in the dusky light.
'Lepidopterous, that do?'
He gave a tiger's smile and the thing digging into my back almost made it out of my front.
'You'll come with us, it won't take long.'
'I hope not. I've got a date.' I moved enough to reduce the pain in my back a little, at least at first.
'You'll like it.'
The arms and the gun guided me round and I was facing the yacht. No-one saw anything but an English tourist. One a little the worse for wear, but lucky enough to have friends to help him aboard that massive yacht. "Imagine someone like that owning one of those". Besides, I wasn't going to make trouble. Sometimes the only way to find out what's blocking the sewer is to get in it.
The guy in the photograph was wearing a smoking jacket – with a shemagh. Still, it was his yacht, he could wear what he liked.
My arms were still held by my helpers.
The man flicked a hand. My arms were freed, but my concerned friends remained very close behind.
'Drink?' he asked.
'Whisky, scotch, if you have it.'
Number two son poured two. The man in the chair lifted his glass:
'L'chaim!' his laugh was infectious, at least for everyone but me.