A Very Fine Solution VII
The waiter took the plates away, eventually. Perhaps he'd noticed Penny using hers as an ashtray. I ordered another beer, instructing him to hold the lemon. A particularly thick slice stood proud in the bottle neck when it arrived.
'Go on then, how?' I asked her, scanning the large group behind her. There were too many pairs of shorts.
'How what?' she bit off the words, as if she knew what I was talking about, but didn't like it.
'The usual: a girl like you, the Guadalhorce Industrial Estate?' I said.
'I had a job in property. Viva. I was one of the first out. I'd been working in one of the big glossy offices inland that they never should have opened.'
'Bit of a change, wasn't it?'
She shook her head,
'Not really, it was still selling something to people who really want to buy it, even though they shouldn't.'
'Why not escorting? Something safer?' She looked presentable enough.
'There's nothing inside a bubble really - and there was nothing in mine. Rented flat, leased car. Besides the Guadalhorce was quite safe.'
I laughed, 'not for that Guardia Civil.'
'He deserved it,' she said and excused herself.
The group of youngish men that had been behind her were restless. They were also being propelled off the terrace by three slim but athletic looking guys in the faux-evening dress of night-life security staff the world over. Unworried by being severely outnumbered, they ushered the men into the street and turned their backs. I admired their confidence, but the group went off in search of straighter pastures.
Penny came back, I asked why she thought our fish would be landed here.
'He'll come here sooner or later. At least I hope so, I don't fancy your chances of picking him up in Passion'
She had a point, I'd have looked as out of place as a rhino in a nail salon.
'Anyway,' she went on, 'what's the rush? You've got a week before December 7th.'
'I'd like some time with him first.'
Penny spotted him two nights later. He came in with an older Anglo, or possibly a Scandi. Penny raised her eyebrows at me and pointed at the lemon pullover draped across my shoulders. The one around Mohamed's friend's shoulders was mint green. Mohamed stumbled slightly over the step down onto El Gato's terrace.
I didn't have a plan. Mohamed and friend went inside the restaurant itself.
'I'll wait here,' Penny said, so I went inside myself.
They were in the process of taking high stools at the long bar. Mohamed was finding it difficult. The northern European looked like he was sucking on a Seville orange. I timed my pass with another abortive attempt by Mohamed to sit down. I dropped the beer bottle, swore loudly in English. The man with the mint green jumper started to apologise. I stepped very close to him.
'Tell your friend to be more careful.'
It was easy. Looking tough is. I could see him working out the hours since he'd picked Mohamed up, wondering if he owed the boy anything in the way of resistance. It didn't take long. He walked out without a backward glance. I released my breath slowly, it wouldn't have ended well if the guy had wanted to start anything.
Mohamed's eyes were those of a dog with fly on its nose. I arranged him on the stool. He slurred his thanks. I ordered a coffee for both of us from the barman. Over Mohamed's shoulder I could see my favourite waiter looking on in disbelief.
Penny and I had spent some of the waiting discussing what I would do. The obvious choice was to try and pick him up. When she saw the look on my face she said,
'It's the same.'
'As boy meets girl. Girl meets girl and every combination you can think of.'
'No, but what else can you do?'
It turned out to be even easier. He was so drunk, I don't think he noticed the colour of the jumper had changed. What made it easier still was his vomiting over the bar surface. I hauled him off the stool and papered the bar with euros. The waiter's mouth was open. I nodded at Penny and we made for the underground car park. The fresh air knocked Mohamed out completely. Luckily he was slightly built.
When we got to the car, Penny said,
'Get in the back with him. Wind the windows down, you stink.'
'Nope, I'm driving,' and I held my hand out for the keys.
She handed them over, muttering.
It wasn't until I got the car to the top of the ramp that I wondered aloud where we might go.
Penny giggled, 'Home, James. I've always wanted to say that.'
It would do. So I headed for the Mijas Pueblo road and beyond to Alhaurin El Grande, wondering if anyone outside of Mafiosi had been tortured in a flat over an ice-cream parlour before.