Catamaran Rahne Mari
One o’clock midnight, Thuthu Kalo climbed the mid island path heading north to check the beach. Kalo was the watcher on this island of Kanifinol, a 135 room four star facility lying north of Bodu Hura. Main units of the restaurant, reception, offices, shops and all the bars located in the middle and beachfront bungalows appear around the island. He passed the powerhouse and took a path through the undergrowth where he came across an intruder sneaking behind the huge water tanks. Kalo flashed his light. The intruder turned briskly. He wore a black diving suit and face covered in hood. He carried a knife. He dashed into the trees and disappeared into the dark night. Kalo was an old man, his legs couldn’t keep the pace and his light wouldn’t reach his face.
This incident occurred in April 1992.
A week after Shausun Nasheed arrived from Australia where she was studying Maritime Law at the University of Queensland. She was having a coffee with three old-time friends in Trends Garden at Nasandhura Palace Hotel. “I did diving with my Aussie friend, I hold an OWSI.”
“When are you getting married? You’re twenty-four,” one of the girls asked. She carried an infant in her lap. In the little world of Maldives, girls married early.
“My dad is worried coz I haven’t got a thought.” She wore a knee-length, tight skirt of white colour and a black top pinned to her trunk. “I guess you are lucky. I missed all my friends. We were classmates eight years ago! I feel a stranger now!”
Usra asked, “Do you need a number?”
“Ama Bandu!” she exclaimed in a jolt.
“What’s the matter?” asked Ahlam.
“I don’t know! I think something’s stuck in my panties!”
The girls giggled.
Shausun felt creepy again. “Ouch!” Shockingly, she pulled her skirt up, turning her underwear, “I need a toilet. A centipede! Eek!” she was shaken.
“Over there,” Ahlam pointed.
Shausun darted to the toilet. The guests stared at her.
“What’s wrong with her?”
Baheera, holding the kid, said, “Fahsha entered her.”
“You mean Fariké Handi?” asked Usra.
“Yes, it’s a Fahsha pinch – the devil that enters through the legs.”
Shausun removed her panties to find a piece of rope inside that created itches in her body.
It was technically a wet evening. Six-thirty and temperature dropped to stench the drinks served at the tables. A short thickset man walked up to the counter, scribbled on paper with a thick marker borrowed from the bartender and pinned a notice to the board.
Shausun came out of the toilet and glanced at it, “Hello!” She stood a foot taller than him.
“Kihinetha?” the Italian spoke Divehi Language, “Barabaru dho!” Fantastic, isn’t it!
“You speak Divehi?” she asked amazed.
“Si, I’ve been here for twelve years.” he laughed grisly, “Mio barca partire domani matina.” He told her in Italian that his boat would leave tomorrow morning. He left the girls there, “Buona Sera!”
Shausun read the notice.
CATAMARAN RAHNE MARI
FIVE DAY LIVE ABOARD
DEPARTURE 15TH MAY FRIDAY MORNING
FOUR SPACES AVAILABLE
ALL INCLUSIVE PACKAGE US$ 500 PER PERSON
DIVING, SNORKELLING, FISHING, ISLAND HOPPING, MEALS & COFFEE
REPORT 0900 HRS AT GATE FOUR
“How do you like the idea?” Shausun asked her non-diving friends who frowned at the price.
Ahlam enquired, “Are you going to spend your money on it?”
“Yup,” she signed up.
Shausun hurried home to pack for the trip. The telephone rang. She picked it, “Hello!” A voice asked for a favour to fetch someone next door. It wasn’t unusual – some houses still got no telephone and people call their neighbours. “Oriyama!” she grumbled a lie, “I’m in bed. Jiggy-jiggy! It’s not a convenient time.” she hung up.
She checked her diving kit, packed her summer clothes and listed requirements. She went for shopping with a younger brother to buy films, toiletries, batteries and accessories.
They parked their bikes in a dark lane to enter a super mart on Majeedi Magu. When they returned to their bikes, a young girl ran up the lane screaming and a longhaired, weather-beaten man chased her. He caught her by the corner to the main street and held a garden lizard hanging on its tail from his fingertips. That girl was terrified. That was a thick, ugly, red lizard with long black limbs whirling in air, hanging upside down. Her screams gathered people. This villain was slewing her. He brought it close to her face, at times its legs tangled on her hair. Suddenly, a brush of her free hand lopped the tail in two pieces throwing the lizard into space. It landed a couple of feet before Shausun who screamed madly caught by the creature under her foot.
That night at home she thought to go early to bed. She got undressed and as she crossed the mirror to the bathroom, something struck her. She was quite sure she did not appear in the mirror. She took a step back and posed to look into the mirror but there it was – no reflection.
Arrigo Piselli was no good-looking but a short, thickset, weirdo hippie with a tattooed chest and hairy shoulders. He got long auburn hair reaching underarms in untidy curls and an outgrown moustache. He wore a sleeveless black jacket and a brownish orange wrap – a kandeki. He came to the Maldives first time as an Italian tour guide in 1980. He got married to a Maldivian girl.
A management change in Halaveli Island Resort sacked him in 1989. Now he hired the catamaran to lift overbooking on safari cruises to make money.
“Bravo!” He cried finding three names listed for the trip. “Mille cinque cento dollari!” Arrigo tipped the barman happily and rang his boatswain, “Ciao! We need drinks, Adam,” and he passed the news. “Guests prefer excellence.”
Next morning, Shausun arrived promptly at the Gate Four in front of Nasandhura. She wore faded blue jeans, an orange pullover and a red band on her wrist.
A beautiful woman dressed in traditional gown held a placard for ‘Rahne Mari’. She was Arrigo’s wife – Murushida.
Arrigo greeted with a shocker, “Oh! Madonna! Chi se?”
She was introduced to two Germans – a father and a son. Free Individual Travellers who flew from Sri Lanka after seeing a Maledivan brochure.
“Guten Morgen! Wie gehts es Ihnen?” greeted Hans-Jürgen Schiller.
“Sehr gut, vielen Danke,” she replied.
“Wie heißen Sie?” asked Mat Schiller.
Soon, they boarded a ferry to Club Med where the catamaran was moored in the lagoon. Murushida, in her thirties, got two children – Hanja Harris and Kashàe Dawud. Both were brown, weather-beaten and skeletons. Hanja was sixteen years old and the girl was thirteen.
Shausun asked, “Are you a student?”
“Quit school,” the unfriendly girl replied.
It was breezy and creating spindrift in the blue sea. Salt and moisture spread in the atmosphere. They wore sunglasses to protect their eyes from a bright sun. In twenty minutes, the boat moved through the barrier walls that opened a passage into Club Med waters. The engine switched off and she moved soundlessly over the clear green waters towards a white Top-Cat catamaran in the cavalcade of yachts. ‘Rahne Mari’ – those letters appeared in navy blue on the rear fibreglass beam and the wings.
Arrigo’s boatswain was the only crew onboard. He was occupied clearing the main deck, stashing away supplies – a 12 KW generator and a gas cutter in their proper places. Shausun felt traumatized to come face to face with the lizard man. Adam Naseer was the guy who chased the girl last night.
Mat Schiller focused his camera on the peaks of thatched huts on Club Med Faru. Sunbathers lying down on the white sandy beach like chops of polished logs.
Arrigo called, “Benvenuti! We fill in registration cards and a briefing.” The guests sat around a table on the main deck, 16.72 square metres, under the parasol hood. Controls, cell-starter system and steering wheel fixed on the panel abreast the windshield. He spread a chart of North Malé Atoll showing his plan of the places the boat would stop in course of five days.
This catamaran was 12.8 metres long, 9 metres in the beam and 2 metres in the draft. Four beautiful cabins located in the noses and the sterns of the hulls. Right-wing mid-section housed a comfy lounge finished in greyish blue with television, mini-library and karaoke. A silver-plated, wood-furnished kitchen housed in the left-wing. A 270 HP Volvo engine lowered on hydraulics fixed under the stern. Soft generator, belch pumps, air-condition, desalination plant and compressor installed under the main deck. In the front, between the wings, a trampoline stretched dangerously into the blue waters, 16 square metres – spreading a sundeck.
Two Germans took the right-wing nose cabin. Shausun and the brown girl, Kashàe, took the left-wing nose cabin. Cabin interior was white, accessible through a water-closet and so refreshing with air-fresheners. The bunk designed to fit the curving walls, two metres wide at foot. Porthole on the top over the bunk gave access to the prow deck.
Shortly after an hour, they were all crew toiling the ship. Shausun and Murushida prepared lunch in the beautiful kitchen while the guys unmoored the vessel – rigged the sail to the mast. The catamaran moved out of Club Med waters and hit the wind. Shausun appeared on the deck in a light blue miniskirt and red brassiere. She got filmed with sun-blocking lotion. Mat Schiller glanced up from the ramp below at those yellow legs of spotless Maldivian skin. Adam Naseer nictitated. Hans threw a line to catch fish while Arrigo steered the boat.
She joined Hanja and Kashàe on the sundeck. The sea was rough and the waves created foamy crests breaking over the prows. She saw the dark blue sea rush under her feet and the shadow of the sail moving as fast as the yacht. Hanja passed a cord attached to the railing for a grip. It was hot. They were wet. If the wind dried, salt dried in the ears.
Soon they were outside Bandos waters. It was another stunning reef for snorkelling. In clear visibility, the colours of coral and marine life were just great deep below.
Shausun dived from the prow. Rest followed. Day’s plan was to lunch and snorkel in Bandos waters and head to Vabbinfaru. Murushida stepped on the deck in a dazzling blue swimming suit and a dark blue silk wrap. Arrigo had called others to climb aboard because his plan changed. She couldn’t come down swimming.
On the way to Vabbinfaru there was some radio contact with another vessel. “Mike-One-Nine! Mike-One-Nine! Victor-Nine!”
“One-Nine receiving you loud and clear!” Arrigo replied, “Cambio!”
“Ten tonight. I have received flight manifesto. One-Eight-Seven birds flying. Get ready!”
“Things are ready. My boat stops at Vabbinfaru in thirty minutes. Ciao!” Arrigo released a gargle at the tall girl, Shausun, steering the wheel, “Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest…” He clapped on her thigh with both of his palms.
“Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!” a chorus from the Germans but it ended abruptly right there.
“Belle, get me a beer! Adam, set the gear! We fly tonight!” Arrigo ordered.
The approach to Vabbinfaru was breathtaking. It was again a crystal clear lagoon, a splendid beach and the sky cooling for the evening. Sails rolled down on the jib and anchored. Arrigo explained, “We spend the night here on this island. Tomorrow noon we leave to Asdu. Tell me, who wants dinner on the Cat?”
Shausun didn’t expect this. Now she got to pay for dinner at a resort. Otherwise it said free meals on the boat. She learnt this was Arrigo’s safe haven and the family kept a bungalow here. Actually, there were only two tourists on the yacht so she decided to come down. Hans and Mat climbed down first. Adam towed them on a surfboard one by one to the island. Murushida went next. Shausun observed how Adam lowered her – he put a palm in her crotch but she seemed not bothered. Then it was Shausun’s turn. She put a foot down and Adam touched her. She stopped him trying to hold her knees together. She posed her back lowering to the surfboard and in the moment her skirt opened, Adam put his palm on her butts and his thumb pressed into the crack. She stumbled down to the surfboard. She cried, “Acheedi!” and slapped him. “Don’t touch me again that way!”
There was hardly a speck of dust on the white beach. Few guests were here. They enjoyed the seaside before dusk. Arrigo had shown his bungalow where to change. The sky deepened to reddish blue. Adam Naseer was busy on the catamaran lying some fifty yards out. Mat took pictures of the setting sun. Hanja and Kashàe were in the waters. Shausun got a strange feeling there. She saw a boat moored outside Ihuru – the next tourist island. Somehow she knew there was something wrong around. Just then, Mat Schiller remarked, “Wow! Look at that!” He focused his camera on a big red moon rising from the east. It was a full moon night.
Six-thirty, she lay on the beach. Stars appeared flickering like candles in the deepening sky. She saw the boat crew, Adam Naseer, reaching the shore paddling on the surfboard. He brought garbage and two tanks. There were half a dozen oxygen tanks on the main deck. Each cylinder tagged with a sticky blue tape.
Arrigo said he got no gear for diving. Could it be true? If she wanted, she could do diving in the resort, he told her. She did not want to argue but she knew he wrote free diving on the notice. He should have a proper compressor and tanks. Twelve dollars and she made up her mind to do a check-dive in the morning by booking at the hotel diving school.
In a Scorpio Moon, she felt the other half of her soul. She removed her bikini and climbed down to the waters stark naked. She swam to the catamaran because Adam wasn’t on the boat. She expected no one onboard. None of the doors from the main deck to the wings were closed. She heard the kids in the lounge. She peeked in and saw, rather puzzlingly, Hanja groping a hand deep inside Kashàe’s panties and fumbling with her genitals. He pulled out a thick packet wrapped in plastic foil.
She watched them mix its content with tobacco using a tiny knife. It was sticky cannabis. They filled the bhang to smoke pot.
Shausun couldn’t speak at that instant or if she did, nobody heard. She wore nothing and just like last night, she saw those traditional ornaments on her body – the golden necklace and the silver girdle, bangles and anklets. She could even feel the weight and touch them tangibly. She noticed them last night for the first time when she couldn’t capture her image in the mirror. She stepped down into the lounge slowly. The kids couldn’t see her and she knew that.
She was standing quite comfortably just a yard from the two kids. Suddenly, Kashàe said, “Look at that! It’s moving!” Hanja watched. “That band belongs to the tall girl, Shausun!”
A red wristband was hanging in midair.
“Wow! It’s moving.” Hanja said leaning over to grab it. He caught it but it didn’t come into his hand as if someone was holding it.
Shausun had not removed the red band on her wrist. She realised it was visible to them. It did not come free from her wrist so he couldn’t take it away.
She waved her arm. The kids picked their stuff and Hanja cried, “Let’s get out of here!” He was scared. Something was wrong with that band of wool or in the drug. Hanja touched it. He felt it but certainly someone was holding it. Suddenly, it raised in elevation a couple of feet higher.
They ran into Adam’s cabin, left their stuff and escaped out of the porthole. They dived into the lagoon and swam to the island. The moon had climbed a height to drop reflective rays in the waters on the horizon.
Shausun swam back to the island, took bathe in the bungalow open-air shower garden and joined others in the sand-filled restaurant for dinner. In the dim lights on crude walls, they sat to dine on bamboo chairs. And that was the last time she saw Murushida, Arrigo, Adam and Hanja. They disappeared shortly after dinner.
Mat Schiller and Shausun Nasheed took a walk around the island. They came across two guys cutting a diving tank using a gas cutter behind the powerhouse.
Few steps away she asked Mat, “Do you know where those tanks come from?”
“No. I have no idea,” Mat replied.
“There were six tanks on the Cat. Now there are only four.”
“How do you know? Have you been aboard?”
“Yeah, I climbed after sunset. I believe I can tell what’s in it.”
“What’s in it?”
“Marijuana,” she replied. “Let’s sit and watch!”
So they were on the beach watching those guys at work. They cleared after another forty-five minutes. Mat and Shausun went up and smelt a strong odour of hemp. They saw burnt grass on the rug where the guys worked. The cut halves of the cylinders were left behind the powerhouse.
They returned to the bar and joined Hans and Kashàe.
“Where’s your brother?” Shausun asked.
“They’ve gone to Pachet – trawler out Ihuru. It’s no trawler but a scientific boat that belongs to Dr. Johan Berge. He’s Norwegian.” Kashàe told her.
That night in Kanifinol Tourist Resort, guests filled the reception lobby to pay their bills. Hundred and eighty-seven tourists would fly home on Lufthansa and Condor on Saturday morning – next day. Soba kept busy at the reception until two in the morning. He attached a wake-up call list to the counter, locked the office door and went to his room ending his late night duty.
Five minutes later, Thuthu Kalo stood behind the counter checking the room numbers on the list. He was the one supposed to call all the workers and duty staffs as well as the guests who got to leave early in the morning for their flights. Kalo raised his head to find a man standing in the middle of the sand-filled lobby. He wore a hood and in black diving suit like the one he saw a month ago behind the water tank. He produced a cosh and Kalo could not remember what happened next – he fell behind the counter.
Two other guys wearing dive suits and hoods rushed in and carried him to the beach where Kalo was gagged and tied to a chair.
There were five in diving suits and their faces covered. They cut a chunk on the backdoor and entered the Front Office. They forced open a heavy door that led to the cashier’s department. There stood a heavy safe about three feet in height. They lifted the load onto the cashier’s chair and carried it on wheels to the rear door. Next they borrowed a four-wheel cart – one of the carts used to lift supplies from the stores to the kitchen. Five guys pulled the cart with the hefty safe placed on it and through the mid island path towards south.
A sixth person was waiting on a rubber dinghy. It was a woman in black diving suit. They put the load into the dinghy and pushed away from the narrow canal between Bodu Hura and Kanifinol.
Murushida pulled its wire and a blast of noise from the outboard motor fluttered to instant life further out from the island earshot. Adam, Galt and Kleng set the gear ready to cut open the thick metal fabrication of the safe. They used the 12 KW generator set and the gas cutter working on slow run to Pachet – 15 km away.
Arrigo, Hanja and Galt sat with legs swinging to water avoiding the blaze of the gas cutter.
Thuthu Kalo felt dazzled and cold as he woke up. His arms and legs tied to the chair. He was bleeding from his crown. He dropped to the sand with the chair. Quite trickily, his legs got untangled. A loop came off a leg-post. He didn’t know how he got free but he crawled away from the chair. His arms still tied from behind, he got up on feet and ran to the manager’s room bumping his head on the door. The manager opened to find the watchman in gags.
In five minutes, the resort employees were up and out searching the island for the missing safe. Police were called. They discovered the wheel-cart standing on the southern shore. They found blood in the reception lobby probably from Thuthu Kalo’s injury.
Usually on departure night, most clients paid in credit cards and traveller’s cheques. Still a lot of money got collected in cash. According to the cashier, seventy thousand US dollars in cash were in the safe made ready for banking. Big amounts of cash collection weren’t kept on an island but sent to Malé and deposited by the next day. It was the night they prepared for banking.
Quarter to four, Mat spotted a spark out on the sea. “Can you see a light over there?”
“I am getting cold.” She got up brushing sand from bare shoulders and butts. “It’s a night dive. Could it be someone using a gas cutter?”
“A gas cutter! Again! On the sea!”
“There was a gas cutter on the yacht. I noticed when I climbed the yacht.” She slipped on her garments.
The moon shown bright but they could hardly see anything except the flashing light. It always looked eerie when a moon shown the light on a quiet night to disclose the stillness than that of a dark night without a moon.
They couldn’t hear a sound either – the flashes lit up from far out. They headed to the bungalow.
The island was dead and sleeping. A deserted bar stood wide open with no doors, no walls, no lights – empty tables and chairs of a restaurant exposed to the wind and spirits of the night – those ghosts of the lost merchant ships. Closed or just shutdown – the bamboo chairs and tables vacated – if not a paradise expected of bright sun and vigorous activity, lot of spirit, sweat and noises – tangibly existing only during daylight.
Four-thirty, she heard an outboard motor of a moving craft. Shausun stepped on the beach to observe a dinghy pull by the yacht. Some guys got onboard. She guessed Arrigo and others arrived from Pachet. She was not in mood for adventures. It was cold.
Mat was sleeping by then – just before dawn. In second thoughts, she wanted to find out if she could get invisible. She removed her clothes. And there she was – hey presto – with traditional ornaments and an orchid on her hair.
She swam to the Cat and climbed aboard. The guys were on the main deck, each wearing a diving suit and seemed like they did diving. The 12 KW generator set and the gas cutter stood in the middle of the deck, apparently moved from position.
One white guy on the dinghy shoved a cylinder with one strong hand. Adam received it and placed on the stern carefully. He shoved another and together four new tanks came aboard. Each one tagged with the blue tape.
Arrigo removed his dive skin. “Belle! I am going back to Pachet. Prepare breakfast for the guests before you go to bed.” He climbed down to the dinghy.
Shausun joined him on the dinghy but she was invisible.
Pachet was originally a trawler converted to a scientific vessel with computer systems, GPS, satellite connection, IDD telephone and a range of sophisticated equipment. There were a dozen of cylinders standing in the wheelhouse. She assumed they carried marijuana in them because all got the blue tag. Arrigo and two other white guys sat on the stern deck drinking beer. Shausun heard them talking. None of them was Dr. Johan Berge. She climbed down a vertical ladder into the rear cabin. There were charts, instruments, log books and a guitar. It was her guess that these guys were trafficking drugs in the Golden Triangle, formed of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Often unheard but they served a stream of coasts in the Indian Ocean. South India produced much opium – another important factor scarcely broached by the International Narcotics Control Board.
Shausun noticed those two guys were using the rear cabin. They were a Norwegian crew – Kleng Handal and Galt Kjellfrid. There was a heap of dollars and hard currency left on the bunks. She saw a lot of credit card payment slips, traveller’s cheques and exchange memos. Those cheques and slips signed in different signatures sealed with Kanifinol stamp. She picked some of them and wrapped in a polythene bag she obtained from the water-closet. She climbed up the ladder.
The sky lit up sufficiently of new dawn. Arrigo and Galt climbed down to the cabin. Kleng Handal was the deckhand and he got strong arms.
Shausun undid the rope attached to the dinghy from the trawler’s anchor chain and jumped in with the plastic bag. When the dinghy floated away, she fired the engine.
Kleng saw the unmanned craft running on its outboard motor. He threw an anchor which missed it by only a foot. He threw a heavy anchor with his powerful arm to such a great distance.
Arrigo and Galt rushed to the deck and flashed at the craft closing Vabbinfaru. Its engine stopped and left adrift. Galt switched on the engines of Pachet to go and fetch the floating dinghy.
Shausun climbed ashore from the spot where she left her clothes. She hid the polythene bag in a pit behind some bushes. She heard noises of twigs breaking and leaves crushing. She thought it could be rabbits. It was almost six in the morning. She searched around for a hint and there she saw – Murushida and Adam Naseer ploughing the sand like turtles. An intimacy she realised now how he lowered her from the yacht. Arrigo’s pretty wife was lying naked under him.
Adam saw a woman standing inches from his hair. She wore a kandeki and topless and the ornaments of a Maldivian Beauty – her eyes were white. Murushida raised her head and abruptly, wet sand hit their faces. She was gone. She just disappeared.
“Did you see that woman?” Adam Naseer asked quite bewildered.
“I sure did. She’s a Maldivian, wearing eyebrow liners. Arrigo will kill me if she speaks.” Murushida got up and entered the waters for wash, swam across to the catamaran. Adam climbed the island.
Later when Shausun returned to the catamaran on the surfboard, in her clothes, there seemed nobody aboard or perhaps sleeping. She prepared breakfast for the two Germans and the rest. When Mat was alone, she mentioned to him what happened on a weird night. He suggested, “You better keep silent until the trip is over.” He didn’t believe a single word she said.
By dawn there were several police officers on Kanifinol Tourist Resort and Bodu Hura doing the usual thing – taking pictures, questioning the staff, searching for fingerprints, tracing the track of the wheel-cart but ironically, nobody drew lines on the sea. Police tied Kalo to a chair and asked him to get free, which he couldn’t. When police tied him to the chair, the rope was bound over a joist connected to the leg-posts and thus the loop didn’t come free. Kalo failed to explain how he was tied to the chair and managed to get free. He was arrested as a suspect. Staff quarters were checked and the entire island was searched thoroughly. Police even suspected a hand of the manager involved in this robbery. It was the second case reported of an attempt where the safe was picked and carried by sea and the first case it happened on a tourist island.
Shausun felt tired to do dive that morning. She took to the bunk and slept until noon. So did the rest on Catamaran Rahne Mari.
Weather changed by midday. Shausun woke up feeling the boat moving. She saw a moving island when she glanced through the porthole.
Kashàe looked through the hatch into her room that was the left-wing nose cabin. Shausun wasn’t in the bunk. She had had another smoke with her half-brother. She peeped in from the porthole into the water-closet. Water poured down from the shower rose but there was no one in the closet. She saw the tap turn on and off on its own. That was crazy. Something must be wrong with the valve. She climbed down to check. She opened the door of the water-closet that led to the cabin stepping two doors but to find Shausun wrapped in a towel. “Is something wrong with the shower?”
“No. I just had a bathe.” Shausun said, “Where are we now?”
“On the way to Asdu,” Kashàe replied. “Lunch is ready.”
They had lunch on white rice, boiled vegetables and limed fish with lot of coffee and cigarettes.
Hans, Mat and Adam got engaged catching fish. One moment Hans was pulling a line and then he cried, “Scheize!” Hans missed a barracuda.
Shausun gave a hand to store the catch in the freezer in the narrow kitchen. She rubbed her bums on Murushida’s every time she moved between the shelves. Arrigo’s beautiful wife was preparing a chocolate cake. A pot of vegetable soup left boiling on the silver stove and a tall glass of white wine touched her lips from time to time. Shausun wondered how this woman could be a smuggler’s wife.
Shausun had a brandy. Picked a cigarette from Murushida’s pack and the pretty woman shoved a light.
“Grazie! What are we having for dinner?”
Murushida replied, “Fish again. Our freezer is full of them. I must use them all. Besides, we eat fish all the time.”
“Do you always live on boat?”
“Mostly, we do. We are planning another trip to Uligum right after this. You know, that is the gorgeous stopover island for many yachts crossing that way from Australia or New Zealand to Thailand.”
“That’s two hundred kilometres away. What’s your purpose to go there?”
“We take supplies, almost everything and what we can, mainly drinks, cigarettes, mineral water, toilet paper…” She sipped some wine.
Shausun could tell precisely what she meant – another stock of narcotics and heavenly supplied to the yachts in Uligum lagoon. In remote islands, natives did anything for money and one dollar bills. There could be no order and obviously no cops or law keepers – where the West briefly come to meet an indigenous community of native islanders.
Asdu was another small tourist attraction. They enjoyed diving in the house reef. They set sail around midnight for Helengeli – still another tourist island lying fairly a distance away.
In the moonlight, they could clearly see radiant white, foamy crests over the reefs scattered all over the inlet atoll. On the third day, the catamaran set sail on a six-hour cross to Baa Atoll, to Eydafushi – an inhabited island. There was a moment they could not see a single island on Kashideau Sea and the waves grew bigger.
Eydafushi pier lit with orange beacons and the vessel docked just outside the houses where island girls came out playing and talking to the visitors. There were several other yachts and this quay was prepared for any yacht of the usual size in Maldivian waters to pull along. Baa Atoll got beautiful piers because these islands lie in the officially open tourism zones.
On the islands, there were no doors or property that you couldn’t trespass – somebody could switch off the generators in the powerhouse if one wished because nobody kept watch. Mat and Hans sat on a joli perch in the backyard of somebody’s kitchen – nobody could tell a kitchen side or a foreground or even a shower garden because they got filled of tropical trees everywhere. The waves washed from the shore to reach their heels. They had coconut drinks and tried to munch some dried fish hard as stone. Even sweet stuff called ‘meta’ was hard as concrete and nuts they chew cracked jaws. Islanders expected them to eat. People slept on the sandy roads in folding beds day and night, pretty lazy islanders, with a radio under each pillow. And the radios were free given by the government. Once when a radio journalist asked, “Why are the people turning away from listening to the radio?” a pedestrian replied, “You should think of giving them an allowance to listen to the radio.”
It was here Shausun heard about the theft in Kanifinol Tourist Resort on the radio. She wondered if anyone would believe her story.
3rd June, Wednesday, Soiq Abdullah drove his car into the gravel path and pulled by the open staircase to his three-storey wooden house. He was the owner of Kanifinol property. There were spiky trees and colourful flowers hanging over the lights on two-foot poles. Soiq climbed to the balcony upstairs. He noticed the bowl on the coffee table with orchids. His garden got no orchids. He opened the door leading to the sitting room and the lights went out all of a sudden as if an electricity failure. All he saw were streetlights. And at that point he heard something tapping the floor. He felt he was not alone.
He was standing inside the sitting room when the lights returned. The yellow-cushioned sofas hovered in midair. A green-coloured glass ball bounced on the polished wooden floor keeping equal height every time it rose. Glass hitting a wooden floor created a disturbing noise and seemed as though it would break. Suddenly, the sofas dropped to the floor hitting hard on wood, a thunderous noise and an echo hit the walls. The glass buoy broke to several pieces in midair dropping them to the floor in tinkles. There were some items inside the ball.
He realised a topless woman in kandeki wrap, wearing gold and silver, was standing in the middle of the sitting room. A lot could tell about this longhaired native girl, a manjé, wearing eyebrow markings. A lot could tell Anzala Fahsha when the goggles of her eyes were pure white and standing six inches above the floor. And that was why she looked tall. She lifted her wrap just like an island girl did in natural movement of body language and as it came undone – she vanished.
He stood stunned for a moment and picked the items – a photograph of the catamaran called ‘Rahne Mari’, slips and cheques of payments collected on the 15th May at Kanifinol. Soiq made a mistake in calling the police. Nobody believed him seeing Anzala Fahsha or a so-called Fariké Handi – pretty ghost. It was all folklore. The only evidence he got in hand were broken pieces of the glass ball – one of a kind used as a buoy by the local fishermen – and those tender slips.
Police asked for a better explanation of having those stolen slips in his possession.
For several weeks, Catamaran Rahne Mari was watched by coastguard surveillance. She was followed for sometime. Nothing turned up to suspect of illegal activity. Police believed Thuthu Kalo was keeping some secret. During that time Shausun was worried about an innocent man held in police custody as a prime suspect but mistakenly. She knew the awful truth but she also knew nobody would believe her story of what happened to her that night.
Though she did Law, particularly Maritime Law, there was no way she could tell an imprudent story out of paranormal behaviour, impracticable by a lawyer. Her next step was to continue studies in Australia.
Months later, the Fire Section of the National Security Services, NSS, received an urgent call. Someone reported that a tourist vessel in Malé south harbour was on fire. Somebody torched the catamaran while it was left empty. Two barrels of petrol were all it required and the fibreglass vessel burnt to ashes – everything above water. Did Soiq take law into his hands over the claim of speculative proof he provided to the police that which was denied? As usual, a chapter closed. It still remained a mystery to Soiq.