Crossover (Part 1)
She rose from the thin layers of water, climbing the stretch of beach, her arms flapping and hips rising. She was tall and beautiful, wearing a bikini. She wished for a freedom bath and somehow misjudged the neap tide. When she got married to Zaid Falak, years ago, she had wonderful opportunities to travel and enjoy the resorts on the Red Sea coasts but never had this much of freedom.
Jamal Carreon sat there watching the kiters and taking pictures. He caught those exuberant moments of this beautiful woman on his Canon AE-1 camera with a smooth-action zoom. When she passed, he captured the girl in the micro-bikini, strapless bra and G-string, her rear that surprised him most; wiggling bums in perfect curves hanging off the T-back, long legs and lazy moves. Few yards away she disappeared behind the trees. Jamal followed.
Down on a knee she removed her bra, picked a towel and patted dry, not that she got wet. She fumbled into her bag. Jamal reached behind her taking photos. “Hello there,” he said, “You’re new around?”
“I don’t know you,” she replied grabbing her robe and quickly pulled on. She placed a pair of large sunglasses on her eyes.
Jamal craved for women and of such beauty, asked out of habit, “Mind if I offer you a drink?”
“Are you taking photos without permission?” she asked politely.
“What’s your name? I’m Jamal from the States. We can have a drink!”
She picked her bag. She glanced at the camera and at the tall man with a scratchy beard, grizzly hair, an old blue polo shirt. He could be over fifty. She knew he got her pictures on his camera. She knew he wasn’t an easy type to tail off. “My name is Mary,” she said, “I have to go, please excuse me.”
“Where from?” he offered a hand.
“Morocco,” she turned quickly heading for the hotel two hundred yards away; the Palmera Club.
Jamal followed on her footsteps, “I’ve been here for seventeen years,” he lied, “I’d love to show you around…”
“Excuse me, mister, I’m not interested.”
“What’s the rush?” She ignored and continued on barefoot, her shoes in the bag and in a long black Boduin robe that he thought unconventional. “Are you married? What is the purpose of your visit?”
She reached the hotel and passed the open area facing the sea. Jamal paused and captured a good view of this vast and abundant ground. A marble-finished swimming pool with emerald waters embedded in the middle of the two-storey hotel enclosing three sides of rooms and verandas. Sparkling waters mirrored the surface in the rays of the afternoon sun. He captured the lady in the Boduin robe as she crossed a row of doorways standing on the far side against the marble wall until she disappeared. He shrugged as he realized he loaded a black-and-white 35mm film to his camera. It didn’t stop him to go back to his lodge and develop the photos though not too enthusiastic.
Mariana came across the hotel receptionist as she climbed the stairs to the top floor. He was surprised to find her profoundly naked as he observed in the split of the robe. “Bonjour!” he greeted in a language she understood.
“Bonjour, Andrés,” she replied.
“Did you enjoy the swim?” he asked in English.
“No. I went to the beach. No water,” she tried at best to explain.
Andrés said nothing. He knew when this group booked in, first thing they asked for was screening and they booked eighteen rooms blocking the entire floor of the penthouse in the main wing. The Arabs dined at the ground floor restaurant behind screens. Her husband, an oil magnate from Sharjah in the Persian Gulf, had flown to Brazil on his private jet.
Jamal Carreon reached his lodge in his Dodge, quarter mile from the hotel and ten minute walk to the marina. He got busy developing the film.
He was a former FBI secret agent assigned to a diplomatic mission in Miami. In the 70’s he travelled to South America under false names and false passports. He knew the streets of Nicaragua like the back of his hand. Later posted to Venezuela as chauffeur to the American Ambassador, he carried secret missions and documents of a British equipped MES-Falkland Defence Plan and exposed to Argentina as advised by the CIA. He carried crack to the States in his diplomatic bag. He was caught for using a forged passport identity of a high-profile deputy and that finally pulled him out of job. He was born a Texan, with a distinctive Mediterranean tan, his roots obviously connected to the Middle East. He became a reporter for some time, his bonds secured on which his life depended mostly. He ended married life with two kids left in the United States. He retired to Argentina. He told Mariana that he got settled here for seventeen years. That was a lie.
The prints came out in fine quality, they were really good. The tall woman from her backside caught from his low angle was a cracking shot. “Gosh! She’s damn hot,” he cried. He inspected the images carefully. He noticed the walls of the Palmera Club were designed with palms as pillars between the doors. The figure in the black robe against the marble wall beyond a sizzling swimming pool created an artistic contrast in black and white. There wasn’t a single tree in the boundary and seemed a desert too bizarre to the suburbs of Quilmes. He got occupied to make dozens of large, 8R, black-and-white prints.
He returned to the hotel gathering information as much he could about the occupants. He learnt that Zaid Falak booked in with two wives and twelve other maids. Mariana was his youngest wife. This amused him for he got an edge to boost his ego to enter the lobby and enquire.
Finally, Mariana came on line, “Who is calling?”
“A Mister Jamal…” receptionist girl said.
“Pass him on.”
“It’s me, Jamal, the photographer. Remember?”
“What do you want?”
“I thought you’d like to buy some photos…”
There was a moment of silence, “Alright, I’ll be out there in a minute.”
He sat on a bench by the seafront prom for a while. Mariana climbed down the stairs to the lobby to come across Andrés once again. She appeared in a black mini, sheath dress with a jewelled collar, that too pretty expensive. He gazed at her streamline figure of great shape as she passed.
Outside she greeted the stranger, “Excuse me! You shouldn’t call here.”
“Is there anything wrong?” Jamal asked.
“I know. So where is the Prince Charming?”
“Away,” she said, “but he’s coming soon.”
“I brought these photographs. I have to say you look like a model, Mariana.”
“Call me Mary.”
“Well, Mary, shall we have a drink?”
“It won’t cost you anything.”
She took a moment, “Well, one drink.”
They headed to an open canteen halfway up the pass with all greenery around. “Aren’t you going to take a look?”
“Later,” she said.
Seated by a table at the Malibet, they ordered Bocks of the Quilmes. “Take them, please. I’m not going to charge you anything.” She wouldn’t even touch so he shuffled the prints out of the envelope.
“If my husband finds out, he won’t like it,” she said.
“If only he finds out. I wonder how you survive with him gone, such a beautiful girl…”
“Have you shown them to anyone?” she picked the prints and replaced them in the envelope, not too keen to look but rather to hide them away.
“I’m not sure if I should keep them.”
“Take them. What bothers you?”
“What is it that you want?”
“Well, we can talk, take a walk. Enjoy…”
“I’m not in such liberty.”
“I know. But you should try, just let it go...”
“Mr Jamal, what is your occupation?”
“I’m a reporter. I live here. What about you?”
“My husband is from Sharjah. We live in Saudi Arabia. He’s on business.”
“Is he rich?”
“You can say that,” she replied.
“Listen, Mary. I’m going to ask you for a date and you’re not going to say no to me.”
“Yes you will. I can see that you need it badly.”
“His elder wife is real trouble, you know. She’s kind of jealous of me. If she finds out…”
“That’s what I’m going to change.”
“Do you always win?”
"Ten out of ten,” he said.
They left the Malibet at sundown, took a stroll back to the hotel. She spoke softly with an uncertain voice. She gave no consent for a date. At one point he reminded her that those photographs could turn poison on her.
“You must give me the film,” she demanded.
“Think about the date. And I will come with the film. I promise. My number is there on the back of the envelope.”
Later in the evening he picked a girl from the marina where he was rather known as Mister Fish and settled for the night.
Next morning Jamal visited his friend, Danny Witt, 72 years old, an American and retired to live in Argentina. “Take a look at these prints. This Moroccan girl is staying at the Palmera. She’s married to an Arab. I have asked for a date. She’s stuck…hard kind to get.”
“It makes life difficult,” he checked the prints carefully, “She’s beautiful. What’s her name?”
“Mary,” replied Jamal.
“Bloody Mary…she’s all coke and screw!”
“I want to screw her to the bones.”
“She won’t settle.”
“No, she won’t. Go rape her.”
“Yeah, blackmail her.”
“I figured that.”
“If you want to do it any easy way, kidnap her.”
“Kidnap?” cried Jamal in shock.
“Remember last time you’ve gone crazy after a girl, seven years ago…”
“No. El Salvador,” corrected Witt.
“That’s right. Salvador. It worked for a little tip but this, Danny, that was a Latina and this is an Arab.”
“Time passes…Tony, settle down.”
“I’m pitching off. Hell with this girl! If I can talk to her three times in a row, I’ll turn her in.”
Jamal had one more trick up his sleeve.
He drove few miles to Caseros Avenue to meet another friend, Diego Lopez, a sorcerer.
“I need you to get occupied on this urgently and get this girl hooked.”
Lopez glanced at the prints and said, “Where did you find her?”
“I can tell you that. I will give you anything you ask. Fix this girl. She’s some Moroc in town.”
“I will ask a double. I need the tools and time. I don’t have much. Today is 27th April, the New Moon. It’s the wrong time,” he shook his fingers making it sound impossible.
“Get started, Diego. I know you can do it and I am dead serious here,” Jamal told him.
Lopez responded, “Difficult…”
“I will pay you the double and a bonus.”
He nodded vacantly, “Then I get started, I need to find an orchid that grows in Chile. I know where to get it. I need these prints and I will make a voodoo doll.”
Jamal left satisfied. Back at his lodge, Casa de la Rosa, a two-storey house where he rented a quiet room for the last two years, he checked the phone for any incoming call. Finding none, he poured vodka in tomato juice and uttered, “Bloody Mary!” He sat by the window watching the view over the trees and beyond.
An hour later, Jamal drove to the Palmera Club. He found them celebrating a special occasion and the cloaked crowd downstairs were feasting. He decided not to bother.
It was midnight when the phone started ringing loud enough to bring down the ceiling. Jamal picked it.
“It’s me. I couldn’t call any earlier.”
“It’s alright. Have you decided?”
“What is it that you want?” asked Mariana.
“A date, let’s say we have lunch together. There are plenty of places to go. By the way, you didn’t come to the beach.”
“You breach my privacy.”
“No, I don’t…” The line went dead. He dropped the phone, “Bloody Mary!” and sighed thinking it was over.
She returned to the table at the Malibet where she had taken two of the maids in whom she trusted for a late night treat. It was cold at 17°C, though it was a day for merry making at the end of the fasting month but going out on their own was against rules. Mariana had shown those photographs to the two maids. In one of the snapshots she was caught with a nipple exposed. She conversed with them briefly and turned to the booth.
The phone rang again. Jamal picked at once. “I will come,” she said in a deep voice.
“Afternoon at two o’clock and you must bring the film. I come to the Malibet.” The line went dead.
Jamal dropped to bed and suddenly flung up picking the phone and dialled Lopez. After a long ring he answered.
“She called. She wants to meet me tomorrow at noon. I want to take the orchid if it’s ready.”
“No. I have to collect it. I will do it first thing in the morning.”
“What the hell did you do?”
“I did the doll. I’ve got everything ready here. And I will spend my time doing my part, Mr Carreon.”
“Damn! I can’t sleep. You must come with the stuff before noon.”
“I will,” Lopez promised.
In the first light Jamal climbed the rooftop with his camera and the prints. He used a normal lens to duplicate the photo prints and developed a replica of the original film just in case she would ask.