فصل 04

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فصل 04

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Playing detective

By nine o’clock that morning I was sitting on a bench outside a park, close to the medical building where Alec Cartwright was based. It was still slightly too early for the tourists to have found their way out of their hotels, so no Cubans had asked me whether I wanted a taxi, a guide, a ticket for La Tropicana or a date for that night.

I had a date, anyway. The key to Luis’s apartment was secure in the back pocket of my shorts, and he had promised me dinner that evening. And before that we were meeting for coffee at eleven o’clock this morning.

Luis had gone back to sleep after we’d made these arrangements, and that’s where I’d left him, lying peacefully in bed, unaware of the shouts of the children on their way to school beneath his apartment window. By the way, there’s an enthusiasm about children in Cuba. They don’t drag their feet and quarrel with each other all the way to school, the way your daughters do. And they certainly don’t get a lift to school and back.

Anyway, back to Luis. I’d spent enough time with him by then to realise that he was a complex man, one moment relaxed and smiling, the next tense and angry. He was unpredictable, and possibly even slightly dangerous when there was a need for him to be. I doubted whether anyone really knew him. He was the type to always keep a part of himself hidden, perhaps even from himself. Time spent in his company certainly wouldn’t be boring, and I was confident we could stay on good terms for as long as my business with Alec Cartwright took.

I yawned and stretched, keeping my eyes fixed on the plain grey medical building on the other side of the road. The musical song of a tocororo bird reached my ears from the small park behind my seat. Brightly coloured Cadillacs smoked past every now and then on the road in front of me. A bicycle taxi. A red, white and blue flash of colour as the tocororo flew away. A group of young Cuban women passed by dressed in tight T-shirts and short skirts and carrying shopping bags.

I smiled at them, and they smiled back before walking on, chatting to each other in voices every bit as musical as the song of the tocoroco bird. I stretched and yawned, the smile still on my face. My body felt tired after the previous night’s activities, but it was a pleasant sort of tiredness and even though I’d hardly had any sleep, my mind was alert. Which was just as well, because at that moment a taxi pulled up outside the medical building and a man got out.

Grey hair, small beard, tight white shirt stretched over a huge belly. It could only be Alec Cartwright. Then I realised that he wasn’t alone. Someone else was getting out of the taxi. A young Cuban woman in a nurse’s uniform. She could only be Gina. Luis had been right; she was beautiful. And young.

The taxi drove away, and the couple stood and kissed each other right there on the pavement. It wasn’t a quick kiss either. No, this kiss was deep and passionate, the kiss of lovers who regret the time apart that work makes necessary.

Finally they broke apart. They spoke a few words to each other before Alec gave the girl a final squeeze and went into the grey building. Gina waited until he had completely disappeared from sight, then walked quickly off up the street. I guessed Alec Cartwright would be working inside until at least lunchtime, so I got off my bench, deciding to follow Gina. I wanted to find out more about the girl he had abandoned Diane for.

She had a good figure, at least what I could see of it from behind. Her legs were long and her waist was tiny, and she walked with a sort of confident rhythm, swinging her hips. I could imagine her being an excellent dancer, and I wondered if Alec Cartwright ever took her dancing. It seemed unlikely.

Up ahead, I saw a sign for the hospital. That’s why she’s hurrying, I thought; she’s late for work. But then, to my surprise, she turned down a narrow side street to the right, away from the hospital. I followed her, keeping my distance, and found myself in a dark street of tall, old apartment buildings. It took a while for my eyes to adjust, but I thought I saw the girl look at her watch, and then her pace increased again. She was obviously late for something, but if it wasn’t work, then what was it?

I soon found out. Just as I was starting to think I might lose her, she stopped suddenly to knock on a door. Instantly I slowed down, taking my guidebook out of my bag to make myself look like a tourist. But I needn’t have bothered. Gina was knocking on the door again and looking up towards a rusty metal balcony on the third floor. Far from noticing me, she wasn’t even aware that I existed.

‘Carlos!’ I heard her shout, and by then I was near enough to get a good look at her face, framed as it was by her curly black hair. It was lovely. Young and fresh with a beautiful bone structure and dark eyes. The only thing that spoiled it slightly was her anxious expression, but this disappeared as soon as the window behind the balcony opened and a dark male head looked out.

‘Carlos!’ Gina smiled immediately, and the man smiled back. ‘Gina, mi amor!’ he called sweetly and threw down a key’ to her.

Gina waved up at him, giving a laugh which made her sound like one of the excited school children I’d heard earlier that day. Then she picked the key up from the dusty road, and used it to let herself into the apartment building and the arms of her waiting lover. For it was perfectly obvious to me that Carlos was her lover, and not a friend or a brother.

Well, I thought, Alec’s got a rival. Well, well, well.

There were no convenient cafes in the dark street, and I didn’t particularly fancy waiting in one of the doorways until Gina had finished with Carlos. I would only draw attention to myself if I did. Anyway it was almost ten o’clock, and I was meeting Luis at eleven. So I walked slowly back the way I’d come, the picture of Gina’s lovely face turned up towards the window fixed in my mind. Diane’s an attractive woman too, believe me. She takes very good care of her appearance, visiting the beauty salon every week and she always wears expensive, stylish clothes. You’d definitely approve of her taste in clothes. You’d like her sense of humour too. And her intelligence.

But if you had to choose between a fifty-two-year-old woman or a beautiful twenty-six-year-old, you’d do exactly what Alec had done and choose the twenty-six- year-old, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. I know you would. My replacement was ten years younger than me, after all.

As I walked back the way I had come, I thought how unfair it was. I knew that Diane had supported, loved and encouraged Alec for all of their married lives. And she had given birth to their daughters. The only crime she had committed was to obtain a few age lines on her well-cared-for face. Lines that reminded Alec Cartwright that he wasn’t young man any longer each time he looked at them.

I wondered whether Alec’s conscience ever bothered him. Whether he ever thought of Diane as he was making love to Gina. If there was a corner of his mind that regretted how much he had hurt her. Is there a corner of your mind that regrets how much you hurt me? How much you used me? Probably not. I think you’re probably just like Alec Cartwright. I think you’ve conveniently forgotten just how good I was to you.

A bus went past in a cloud of polluting black smoke, and I looked at my watch. It was still a little too early to meet Luis, but I decided to head for the cafe we were to meet in anyway, in case it took me a while to find it. So I got out my map and set off on foot, doing my best to absorb myself in the grand but faded architecture of the buildings I was passing. My bitterness and anger was going to come in useful later on when I was serving up revenge, but I didn’t want it to spoil my entire visit to Cuba.

In the end, I found the cafe quite easily, so I ordered a coffee and settled down with my guidebook. The book fell open at an article about Santeria, one of the religions practised in Cuba. It’s related to African religions, and it involves things like sacrificing chickens to keep the gods happy. People who follow the religion dress all in white, and I’d seen a few of them around Havana. As I read the article, it reminded me of black magic, and in particular the practice of making an image of your enemy for the purposes of revenge. A doll or effigy. Very interesting.

Sitting at a table by the window with the Havana sunshine shining in on me, I smiled to myself as I imagine making an effigy of Alec Cartwright and sticking needles into it. Or better still, making an image of you and sticking needles into it. It was exactly what you deserved, and I imagined you jumping about with sudden mysterious pains as I put the needles into the effigy.

I was so absorbed in my reading and my pleasant fantasies, I would probably have missed Luis if he’d walked up to the cafe. However, Luis didn’t walk. He drove up to the cafe. And not in some rusty old Russian car bearing the scars of numerous crashes either. No, of course not. Luis drove up in the most beautiful, red Cadillac I’d seen since arriving in Havana. It had an open top and perfect paintwork, and Luis drove it with just one hand on the steering wheel. In the other hand he held a cigar, which he waved at me to say hello.

Everyone looked at him. The tourists, of course -half a dozen of them- surrounded his car to have their photographs taken almost as soon as he’d parked. But the ordinary Cubans looked too, at him and his car. Luis had such style, and he looked extremely good as he pushed open the doors of the cafe and walked towards me, a big smile on his face. I can’t deny I felt a sense of pride that this was the man who’d held me in his arms in his bed that morning. The man who, hopefully, would be doing the same thing again later on.

‘Querida,’ he said in his deep voice, bending to kiss me on both cheeks. ‘Tell me about your morning. What have you discovered so far about our Mr Mouthwash?’

‘Enough to make him very miserable indeed,’ I said, smiling up into his handsome face. ‘Enough to blackmail girlfriend and to destroy his dreams of happy-ever-after forever. Quite a victory for one morning, don’t you think?’

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