from ULTRAZONE: TANGIER TOMBSTONE BLUES
A collaborative work-in-progress
Editor’s Note: This is the eighth part in a weekly series of an excerpt from a new work by Francis Poole & Mark Terrill.
Tweed was shaking as he stood there trying to figure out the easiest way to get down onto the balcony. He looked around the roof and saw an old handmade wooden ladder that some painters had left behind. The ladder was just long enough to reach the balcony from the roof. It took all his strength to lift the ladder into position and slide it down the side of the wall to the floor of the balcony below. He then slowly made his way from rung to rung until he felt the balcony tiles under his feet. He was breathing heavily and perspiring from the junk sickness, his tiredness, and fear of being seen. There was also a throbbing pain which went from his left shoulder down his arm. It was as though his arm were being squeezed by large, strong hand. Sooner or later he would have to see a doctor about those recurring pains.
Steadying himself, Tweed stepped around the wooden boxes, almost tripping over a laundry basket. He looked around under the table and behind the gas bottles and in the wooden crates but there was nothing but useless clutter and a bag of seeds for the canaries. There were several potted plants on the other side of the table near the door that led into the kitchen and Tweed saw something glinting there. Getting down on his hands and knees he crawled over to the plants and saw a small bottle wedged between the stems of one of the plants. He recognized it immediately as the bottle he had filled with the Blue Messiah’s junk. He extracted the bottle and excitedly removed the rubber stopper and saw that it still contained the precious white powder. Wiping his brow with his sleeve, he began rejoicing inside. I just have to get back up the ladder and I’ll have the fix I need, he thought.
As he was crawling back toward the foot of the ladder he glanced inside the open door and saw the old fedora along with a loaf of fresh bread lying on the kitchen table. Purely on impulse and without any further thought, he quickly jumped up and dashed inside the door and grabbed up the fedora and then went back out to the balcony and started up the ladder.
With the last of his strength he pulled the ladder up and put it back in its place. Getting down through the skylight was a precarious feat but with a burst of adrenaline he was able to hold on to the rim of the skylight and slowly lower himself down until he felt the chair under his feet. He stepped onto the table and steadied himself before jumping to the floor where he fell backwards against the wall. But he still had the vial and the fedora clutched tightly against his chest.
Tweed went into his tiny kitchen and dug through the wooden box where he kept his tableware. He picked out a large silver soup spoon and set it aside on the counter. Then he pulled aside a burlap curtain beneath the counter and found his last set of works. The syringe was coated inside with a green film and the needle tip was covered with a white crystal residue. He removed the needle, wiped the crystals off and poured some water into a cup. Then he filled and emptied the syringe several times making sure the plunger worked. After reattaching the needle he checked to see that the needle was clear.
His junk need was about to totally overwhelm him so he didn’t bother boiling the works. Then a thought flashed into his squirming brain; I’ll mix the Djinn Oil with the Blue Messiah’s junk. It could be the perfect drug cocktail to blow away all the weird shit I’ve been through in the last couple of days. Tweed found the Djinn Oil that Abdul had given him and poured it into the spoon. Then he added the Blue Messiah’s H, stirred it up with a small knife and heated the mixture over a flame on his gas stove until it dissolved into a milky white liquid. He carefully filled the syringe and walked into his bedroom.
Tweed sat on the bed, rolled up his sleeve and made a fist with his left hand. His shoulder still ached but the veins inside the crook of his arm stood up nicely. With a satisfied grin he stuck the needle deep into the fattest vein he could find and slowly pushed the plunger in. Then he pulled it back just enough to see a red cloud swirling inside the syringe. “Yep, that’s the golden ticket!” he said to himself and rammed the plunger home. With the first rush Tweed felt like he had made a bungee jump from the earth to the moon. He felt his toes dipping into the cold, powdery lunar soil before he was whipped back across space and plunged into the deepest part of the deepest ocean on Earth. He kept going down, deeper and deeper, being tossed and rag-dolled into the submarine-crushing depths of an unimaginable void. He felt his eyelids being ripped off and his pupils expanding in a vain search for the tiniest speck of light. Finally, as though a curtain had suddenly been lifted, there were multi-colored explosions of subatomic particles which formed psychedelic visions of glowing larvae and maggots crawling upward through his intestines, his stomach, and throat. His mouth opened wide and projectile vomited a stream of putrefied liquid into a coffin of alabaster. Looking up he saw a pulsating cloud which was etched with furls and ridges like a human brain. A bolt of lightning pierced the cloud and it began raining drops of blood which covered and soaked him.
The Djinn Oil had lit the candle of the Blue Messiah’s junk and it was Lift Off. Tweed found himself astride a mile-long thousand-wheeled locomotive which streaked across the desert like a rocket sled headed straight for a mountain. The mountain of black granite which lay ahead had only a tiny tunnel opening. Just before the locomotive reached the tunnel it was transformed into a blue, gold-flecked serpent which slipped effortlessly into the opening and disappeared into the darkness of a huge bottomless cavern. Tweed wrapped his arms around the serpent’s neck as it began to form a circle which ended with the serpent’s mouth grasping its own tail. He was riding the Ouroboros. The pain in his left arm intensified as he gripped the serpent tighter and tighter. The Ouroboros began spinning like a roulette wheel causing Tweed to lose his grip and flinging him off into the abyss. As he was falling one image appeared out of the darkness; Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion, an early 19th century painting by John Martin. Tweed had seen the painting once in a book entitled Tales of the Genii, by James Ridley. Then the image disappeared as he continued to drift downward. Gradually he felt a state of almost perfect bliss enveloping his being. Then everything stopped.
In a state of near paralysis, Tweed found himself looking into the yellow eye of a turtle. The yellow eye blinked once and the turtle disappeared. Tweed slowly turned his head and saw that he was lying on his back on some kind of smooth, flat table. He looked down at his side and realized to his astonishment that he had come to rest on Walter Harris’ tomb in St. Andrew’s Cemetery. Even more astonishing was the fact that there was a group of a dozen or so tourists standing above him pointing down and commenting on the tomb and the Moroccan zellige tiles which covered it. The tourists seemed completely unaware that Tweed was lying there. “What are you staring at?” he said out loud. No response. “Well then, won’t someone please help me up?” But the crowd ignored him and moved along down the path to the next row of tombs. “Fuck the lot of you then,” Tweed shouted. I must still be high from that fucking H-Bomb I cooked up, he thought. But even if I had had an overdose I wouldn’t drag myself back here of all places.
But he didn’t feel high at all. He didn’t feel junk sick. He didn’t feel anything except a strange weightlessness. I’ve heard of The Incredible Lightness of Being, but this is beyond lightness, he thought. This is like nothingness; like I’m on the verge of disappearing in some magic act. He stood up just as a man and woman were walking toward him. Before he could excuse himself or move out of the way, the couple passed right through him as if he weren’t there. Slowly a realization that something had changed began to overtake him. He stood there motionless as the clucking gaggle of tourists made its way along the cemetery wall and out through the gate to where a bus awaited them.
Tweed didn’t know how long he had been under the effects of the drugs but the shadows cast by the tombstones indicated it was just past noon. He looked around at the now vacant cemetery trying to figure out what had happened when he suddenly heard voices. Then at the back of the cemetery three figures stepped into view as if materializing out of thin air. It was Bowles, Dean, and Burroughs.
While still in the Teatro Cervantes schmoozing with Gysin and Brian Jones, Burroughs had felt the presence of the Ugly Spirit above ground and his GPS (ghostly positioning sensor) alarm went off. He felt the Ugly Spirit’s vibrations were coming from the vicinity of Avenue Mohammed V and the word ULTRAZONE flashed before him in a blaze of neon red then faded into an afterimage. Burroughs told Dean and Bowles he needed to find out what was going on and the three ghosts quickly made their way through the tunnel and back up to the mausoleum entrance in St. Andrew’s. Dean saw Tweed first and said, “Well, what do we have here, Bill? It appears that your double has decided to join the party.” Before Tweed could respond Dean said, “Welcome to Zero/Zero land.”
Tweed was certain he was still high, hallucinating, or dreaming. He reminded himself that the best thing to do when the dream becomes more real than “reality” is to just go along with it; like being hypnotized. When I wake up or come down, I probably won’t remember any of this, he thought. Without replying to Dean or acknowledging the others, Tweed slowly turned and began walking down the path toward the gate. I’ll just walk back home and when I wake up I’ll be where I was when I got high. It’s always worked before, he thought. As he passed through the cemetery gate he felt a strong wave roll over him. Everything seemed more sharply in focus. The light was brighter. The street sounds more clear and the smells more intense. As he walked along he realized he could hear the thoughts of the people passing by. Still no one seemed to take any notice of him as a presence. The walk back to Rue Mohamed Bergach seemed to take seconds rather than minutes. Suddenly he found himself back in his flat, standing in the kitchen. There on the counter were the two vials and the empty spoon. Aha! I was right, he thought. I was dreaming while still high and now I’m awake and starting to come down. He turned and headed to his bedroom. When he reached the doorway he looked down at the bed and saw a figure lying there, eyes and mouth wide open, with a syringe dangling in his arm. For a moment he failed to recognize the body as his own.
Evangeline and Piet were sitting at an outside table in front of the Café de Paris, having a meager breakfast of croissants and café au lait after what had turned into a long night. After witnessing the accident with the two taxis, one of which had burst into flames, they’d wandered on down the hill in the direction of the harbor and came across a dark, nondescript, hole-in-the-wall bar called Lord Nelson’s Pub in a tiny side street. It was just the sort of dreary, slightly menacing, sleazy dive full of unsavory characters that appealed to both Evangeline and Piet. They went in and found an empty table in the corner and ordered a couple of beers. Originally the interior decoration had meant to replicate an English pub, but all such references had gradually disappeared under a patina of dust and age, as well as the addition of a generic hodgepodge of maritime knickknacks. The place was full, mostly with men, and there were no other tourists in sight. It seemed to be a typical harbor and seaman’s bar full of dock workers in blue overalls and seaman and fishermen. The floor was littered with the crumpled tissue-like napkins and various chicken bones and olive pits and peanuts shells from the tapas served with each order of drinks. The smell of kif smoke hung in the air. A television suspended from the ceiling in one corner was on but the sound was off, and out of a dusty ghetto-blaster behind the bar came the sounds of Egyptian pop music. Evangeline and Piet felt right at home.
Several beers later, as the place gradually began to get even more crowded, they were joined at their table by two middle-aged men with long hair and beards and soon the four of them were engaged in a lively, drunken conversation. The two men, a Chilean named Arturo Belano and a Mexican named Ulises Lima, were both poets, formerly part of a group known as the Visceral Realists, who were active in Mexico City back in the mid-seventies. They’d spent much time and energy trying to track down the whereabouts of an obscure poetess in northern Mexico, Cesárea Tinajero, considered the “mother of Visceral Realism,” dating from the conception of the Visceral Realist movement in the 1920s. After their thwarted quest for the poetic grail, Arturo and Ulises had been knocking around North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the last twenty-some years, living a hand-to-mouth existence as true vagabonds. They’d been stranded in Tangier for several months now, trying to figure out how to scrape together enough money to get the ferry back to Spain. They were both infused with a powerful poetic integrity and radiated an intense authenticity. Evangeline later told Piet that the two poets reminded her of modern-day versions of Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, or of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.
When Lord Nelson’s Pub closed in the early morning hours the four of them walked down to the beach and sat in the sand in the silvery moonlight and smoked a few rounds of some very strong hashish that Arturo and Ulises had. Piet bought a chunk of hash from them, partly for his own stash, but also to help out the two down-at-the-heels poets. They talked and laughed and traded a few more stories until the first blush of pink began to glow in the east and the call to the morning prayer could be heard rasping out of the loudspeakers mounted on the many minarets of the city. They said farewell and parted ways, and Evangeline and Piet started walking back toward the Hotel Lutetia and Arturo and Ulises started walking toward the harbor and the empty deserted warehouse where they had been camping for the last few months.
At the Café de Paris, Evangeline and Piet had each ordered a second café au lait and Evangeline was poring over a map of the city of Tangier while Piet was reading a tattered, dog-eared paperback copy of John Hopkins’ Tangier Diaries, ignoring the endless pleas of the countless shoeshine boys while laughing to himself as he read the comment by Hopkins about sitting outside at the Café de Paris and speculating that Tangier must be the only city in the world where there were more shoeshine boys than there were shoes.
Out of the corner of his eye Piet was suddenly distracted by some movement and he glanced up to see a group of kids running down the Boulevard Pasteur chasing after several pieces of paper which were being propelled along by a strong breeze blowing in from the east. The kids were a bunch of grubby street kids, dodging cars and taxis, weaving through the pedestrians on the sidewalk and the trees planted along the curb, laughing and leaping in the air, and one by one they managed to grab up all the papers except for one single sheet which had been swept up out of their reach and was now heading directly towards the Café de Paris. Piet watched as the piece of paper fluttered down and landed in the branches of one of the trees lining the sidewalk directly in front of where they were sitting. One of the street urchins came running up and tried to climb up into the tree but the branches were out of his reach and the bark too slick to get a foothold and he stood there looking up at the piece of paper lodged in the branches with a look of bemused frustration.
Piet got up and pulled one of the metal chairs over and stood on it and just managed to pluck the piece of paper out of the branches and climbed back down to hand it over to the kid. Piet paused for a few seconds and glanced briefly at the paper and saw that it was a yellowed sheet of typing paper, covered on both sides with typewritten text, as well as various stains and a few blackened holes. Whatever it was it didn’t look particularly important or valuable and Piet wondered why the kids were so excited about gathering up the pages. Maybe it was just a frivolous game to help pass the time that otherwise might move so slowly and uneventfully for a bunch of Tangier street urchins.
Piet handed the piece of paper to the kid and watched him run off back up the street to triumphantly join his friends. As Piet sat back down at the table Evangeline asked him what all that was about.
“I don’t know, just some kids having fun with some trash blowing down the street.”
She glanced briefly in the direction that the kids had disappeared and then began folding up the map of Tangier.
“Let’s head back up to the Café Hafa,” she said. “Maybe if we describe the guy who took off with my hat someone could tell us who he is or where we might find him.”
Piet slipped his book into his shoulder bag and put on his sunglasses and the two of them started up the Rue de Belgique in the direction of the Marshan.
Under the cover of night, Bruno and the rest of the macaques had made their way down through the gardens and winding streets of the Old Mountain until they came to Merkala Beach. From there they worked their way along the coast through the rocks in the direction of the harbor. Before it got light they disappeared into a narrow cleft in the rocks at the base of the cliffs and entered the subterranean network of tunnels known only to smugglers, lost souls, ghosts, the Blue Messiah, and a few fishermen.
After the accident with the two taxis, Just-call-me-Ishmael was still very unsteady on his feet and a couple of concerned citizens took him to the hospital in their car, where he was admitted for overnight observation. After an array of X-rays and a full examination, Just-call-me-Ishmael was released the next morning. Other than a few dull aches and pains and a nagging headache, he felt okay and he decided to walk to his apartment, figuring the fresh morning air would do him some good.
At home he took a shower and changed his clothes, took several aspirin, and then called a taxi to take him up to his villa on the Old Mountain. The Monet pastel was a total loss, and he needed to get another work of art to take to Zürich for the auction house. He also had a few Gaugin pastels he figured he could part with, from Gaugin’s early impressionist phase before he left for the South Seas. But time was running out if he still wanted to make his ferry and train reservations.
To save time, Just-call-me-Ishmael went downstairs to the street below to wait for the taxi. While he was waiting near the doorway of his apartment, a bent-over old man came shuffling along the sidewalk and seeing Just-call-me-Ishmael, approached him with an upturned empty hand, the universal sign of the beggar. Looking closer at the man’s face, Just-call-me-Ishmael saw that the entire right side of his face was eaten away by some kind of skin disease or cancer. What looked like the man’s cheekbone was partially exposed, and there were tiny white maggots wiggling in the festering wound.
Just-call-me-Ishmael looked away in disgust, but the man stayed put, the empty palm of his hand protruding into Just-call-me-Ishmael’s peripheral vision. Just-call-me-Ishmael dug into his pocket and scooped out all the coins he had and dropped them into the empty palm, which quickly receded from view. The man mumbled something and shuffled off down the sidewalk just as the taxi pulled up to the curb.
Just-call-me-Ishmael gave the driver the address of the villa and told him to hurry. They went zooming off up the street and were making good time when suddenly they were enveloped in a traffic jam. Just-call-me-Ishmael sat forward in the back seat and squinted out through the front window of the cab and saw that there had been a bad accident. A taxi had run into a donkey that was pulling an old wooden cart with rubber tires. The donkey was sprawled across the street and its entire abdomen had been split open by the impact, its intestines and guts slithering out onto the sidewalk like a ripped-open burlap sack of bloody eels. The blood was flowing in a virtual stream across the street and into the gutter. A huge crowd had gathered and more people were arriving every minute. As always, there was much cursing, yelling and hysterical accusations flying back and forth and no sign whatsoever of the police. Just-call-me-Ishmael told the driver to turn around or back up but when they looked behind them they saw nothing but a static gridlock of cars, trucks and taxis, some of which were already honking loudly.
After the initial jolt of seeing his lifeless body the truth began to wash over Everly Tweed in waves. Evidently he’d been having either an OBE or and NDE, an out-of-body-experience or a near-death-experience. I must have skipped a dimension or two on those last kicks, he thought. Hah, there I am, he mused to himself while looking down at his body sprawled on the unmade bed, ‘Like a patient etherized upon a table.’ Old Tom Eliot sure nailed that one.
Tweed then moved from the bedroom to the front room and glanced up through the window facing the street and saw the hard blue of the Tangier sky. It was a Bowlesian sky, cold and indifferent, offering no shelter whatsoever as Tweed puzzled over the transformation he had apparently undergone. He went back to inspect his body and looked closer. In an out-of-body experience the body is in a state of limbo, between the worlds of the living and the dead. Tweed was well-read in such matters, having been a hypnotist and after spending years studying the literature of trance, illusion, hallucination, and medically induced comas. There were many stories by those who had “come back” from death’s door or the final threshold of the unknown. Most had described their experiences as euphoric, blissful, and above all, as peaceful. In such a state there was no fear or anxiety. But those people hadn’t actually died. And Tweed was feeling anything but euphoria, faced with the grim realization that there was now nowhere to go back to.
As he examined his body he noticed there were purple blotches on both arms and his face. This blotching or lividity appears after the heart has stopped pumping blood. Once circulation has ceased, blood begins to pool near the skin surface, a condition known as livor mortis, one of the first signs of death. “Well I’ll be damned,” said Tweed out loud, then thought better of the phrase he had used. If I am indeed dead, which appears to be the case, I don’t want to have to watch my body rot in this dingy apartment. And I absolutely hate maggots.
Tweed checked to see that his front door was unlocked as well as the front door at the bottom of the stairs and then made his way to Kazim’s house. Kazim was one of his only friends in the world and certainly the wisest person he knew. Tweed figured if he could get Kazim to be the one to discover his dead body then the matter of its hasty disposal would be attended to quietly and swiftly.
After entering Kazim’s house he found him reclining in a rattan Papasan chair fast asleep having a siesta. Lying there he resembled a large pear lodged in a catcher’s mitt. On the small table nearby was a plate of half-eaten cookies and a glass of mint tea. David Bowie’s “Golden Years” was playing softly in the background and Tweed listened as Bowie sang, “Don’t tell me life has taken you nowhere…” Tweed smiled wryly at this and drew near to Kazim. He then began projecting a strong post-hypnotic suggestion into Kazim’s deepest inner mind, so that when he awoke he would feel an urgent need to go to Tweed’s house to check on him. After a few minutes had passed Kazim took a couple of deep breaths, sighed, and began to stir in the chair. Tweed, not wanting his ghost to be seen by Kazim, quickly ducked behind one of the archways leading to the interior garden.
Kazim’s eyes suddenly opened wide. He was fully awake and felt his heart beating rapidly. Kazim rose up and called for his housekeeper, Habiba, and asked her to bring him his dark brown djellaba. He told her he was going out to visit someone. Kazim often left the house suddenly and there was nothing in his manner that seemed unusual. Habiba opened the large main door for him and handed him his cane. It was past noon and the sunlight was casting stark shadows at odd angles along the twisting medina alleyways. The effects reminded Kazim of the Expressionistic film sets in The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. When he had first heard the film mentioned many years before, he thought the title was The Cabinet of Doctor Calamari and had imagined a man who had tentacles instead of arms and legs.
When Kazim arrived at Tweed’s apartment building he rang the buzzer but there was no answer. While in the process of deciding what to do next, he noticed that the door was open and he stepped inside and ascended the stairs to Tweed’s flat. He knocked loudly three times with the heavy brass knocker, and hearing nothing from the other side of the door, he tried the latch and found that it was open as well. By this time Tweed’s ghost was already back at his flat, hovering on the roof and peering down through a pane of clear glass in the multi-colored skylight into his bedroom below. Kazim stepped inside and his nostrils were filled with a sour almost caustic odor. As if being led by some unseen hand he made his way to the salon, turned and then stopped at the entrance to Tweed’s tiny bedroom. There lay Tweed’s body, eyes wide open but glazed over like the eyes of a dead fish. Kazim steadied himself with his cane and stepped back. Tweed’s body had turned a purplish gray and there was a distinct smell of death in the room. Kazim was surprised but not shocked as drug overdoses had become fairly common among the aging expatriate community in recent years. “I am sorry, Mr. Tweed. May Allah grant you mercy,” he said half out loud. He then sat down at the table in the salon and calmly reflected on the situation. Soon a plan began to take shape in his mind.
First he would look for any cash or valuables that Tweed might have in the apartment. Any finances left behind would enable Kazim to make final arrangements. Kazim went from room to room looking for money and with Tweed’s invisible guidance finally found a well-hidden stash of pound notes in a small musty-smelling wooden box. He also located Tweed’s passport lying on a bookshelf along with some old electric bills, a resident visa, and a few faded Tangier photo postcards which had never been mailed. Kazim knew where to find the spare apartment keys which he dropped into the hood of his djellaba. Then he returned to Tweed’s body and using a towel, carefully removed the works from Tweed’s arm. He also gathered up all the drug paraphernalia in the bathroom and kitchen and wrapped everything in the towel. He then placed the bundle in Tweed’s heavy canvas shoulder bag. Kazim was determined to remove all evidence of drug use from the house to keep the police and any other authorities from getting involved. Such a scene could result in the entire neighborhood being searched and questioned, and eventually Kazim could get dragged into the episode by way of his long association with Tweed.
Next he would contact Dr. Microbia. For an agreed upon sum, he would pay the good doctor to prepare a death certificate and have signed copies delivered to the Moroccan authorities. Tweed had told Kazim he had no living relatives so the matter of the disposal of his remaining possessions would likely be left to his neighbors. Kazim realized he must work fast. Moroccan burials traditionally take place within twenty four hours of death or before sunset. Though autopsies were rarely performed on Moroccans in Tangier, the death of a foreign national was a different matter. But once Dr. Microbia had specified the cause of death, no autopsy would be needed.
Kazim pulled up an old tattered Moroccan carpet from the salon floor and draped it over Tweed. Then he picked up the canvas shoulder bag and left. Before he closed the door he set the latch to lock from the inside. Up on the roof Tweed’s ghost hovered motionlessly at the edge of the skylight and watched over his body as if he were at a wake.
Back at his house, Kazim called Habiba into his meditation room. He showed her the canvas bag and said that it must be disposed of immediately as it contained some highly potent magical materials capable of causing great evil. He asked Habiba to take the shoulder bag to the cliffs high up in the medina and drop it into a cistern which opened into the sea. The bag and its poisons would then be swept away with the tides and out to sea. After handing her the bag and some money, he warned Habiba not to open the bag to look inside as doing so might bring harm to her. Habiba nodded, put on her haik and veil, and left.
Kazim sat back down in his Papasan chair and considered his next move. There were many ways to proceed and he thought that perhaps a few pipes of kif might help in choosing which course to take. After smoking he began to see things from different perspectives. Soon a plan began to take shape. He decided to immediately go see Dr. Microbia, whose office was located in the same building as his apartment in Rue de la Liberte just down from the Hotel Minzah. It was only a fifteen minute walk from Kazim’s house. He took his cane and some of the money Tweed had left and headed out.
Mina was standing there in the Avenue Mohammed V watching the street urchins chasing down the sheets of paper caught up in the wind that escaped from the briefcase as it landed on the sidewalk and burst open. The kids had chased the sheets all the way down to where the Avenue Mohammed V became the Boulevard Pasteur and disappeared around the corner. Mina kneeled down and quickly gathered up the rest of the pieces of paper and the contents of the briefcase. The old blind beggar in the black burnoose was still standing nearby, slightly stunned and apparently confused after the impact of their collision, but no one else had seen the pistol, the knife, the syringes, the kif pipes and other paraphernalia that had fallen out of the briefcase. When everything was back inside she clicked the briefcase shut and got to her feet. She saw the street urchins approaching from down the avenue, waving the sheets of paper in the air as they drew near.
“Did you get them all?” she asked.
“Yes,” they said in unison.
One of the kids, who was bigger, older and dirtier than the rest, collected the papers from the other kids and approached Mina. “Even one that was stuck in a tree in front of the Café de Paris. Some Nazrani helped me get it out of the tree. So what are these papers worth to you?”
Mina wasn’t sure if they were worth anything at all but she wanted to have them back.
“What are they worth to you?” she countered.
Mina laughed and took a few steps as though she was going to just walk away down the street.
“500 dirhams!” the kid yelled after her.
Mina stopped and turned around. “I’ll give you each 50 dirhams.”
“Give us each 100 dirhams and you can have them back.”
“75 dirhams. No more.”
The kid looked down at the soiled yellowed pieces of paper with the strange illegible typewritten words and then looked at the other kids standing nearby. One of the other kids nodded his head and the older kid held out the pieces of paper toward Mina with his left hand while extending the upturned palm of his right hand.
The exchange took place and the kids went running and laughing down the street. Mina kneeled down to open the briefcase and put the other pages inside. As she was doing so a shadow suddenly passed over her and the briefcase. She looked up and saw the old blind beggar standing next to her. He began to speak in a low, raspy voice. “You are aware of what you have in your possession there?”
Mina looked at him in a state of total perplexity. Was he blind or not? His eyes were nothing more than two boiled quail eggs, uselessly rolling around in their sockets.
“I can’t see what you can see but you can’t see what I can see. That’s the difference between you and me,” he continued. “I see and sense a power of unimaginable darkness and evil, a power that has been dormant for many years and just now brought back to life. This power can only bring darkness and evil to whoever possesses it, for soon it possesses whoever it is that has taken custody of it. Are you aware of that?”
“What are you talking about?”
But before the blind beggar could continue, another violent gust of wind came sweeping down the avenue, threatening to blow the loose pages of the manuscript down the street again. Mina quickly stuffed them into the briefcase and snapped it shut. She got to her feet, took one last critical look at the blind beggar, and started off down the Avenue Mohammed V. She’d been gone long enough and still had to go to the post office before returning to the office.
When Kazim arrived at Dr. Microbia’s there was a crowd of Moroccans standing or seated in the tiny waiting room and the hallway outside waiting to be seen. Kazim went to the head of the line and Dr. Microbia’s assistant, Abdallah, who recognized him, ushered him straight in and took him to Dr. Microbia’s private salon. Within minutes Dr. Microbia entered the salon and closed the door behind him. He was wearing a bloody surgeon’s smock and there were tiny pearls of sweat beaded on his forehead, in which several strands of hair were matted.
“Kazim! Salaam alaikum. What a pleasant surprise. Please excuse the chaos. I had to leave suddenly to euthanize a poor donkey which had been horribly injured by an automobile. When I returned, I found a mob of patients waiting to see me. Some days are worse than others. So what can I do for you?”
Kazim explained the situation, of finding Everly Tweed’s body, the drugs, and the need for his assistance and absolute discretion in facilitating the burial.
“Is the body still in the apartment?”
“Yes,” answered Kazim. “I covered it with a carpet.”
“Well, the warm weather won’t help and soon decomposition will begin. Good that you covered the body. The carpet can be useful in transporting it here. I have a cold room in the back and can have some blocks of ice delivered. That should keep the body sufficiently cool for at least a day or two.”
“Fine,” said Kazim. “I am hoping that a burial can take place as soon as possible, tomorrow at the latest. I will arrange to have the body brought here. Do you know Moustapha, the St. Andrew’s cemetery watchman?”
“Yes, of course. He’s been working there for decades.”
“I’ll need his cooperation in obtaining a coffin and seeing that Tweed’s body is buried with minimal notice. But first I need a signed death certificate from you to keep the authorities from getting involved, especially the police.”
“Um, that can be done. But of course there is a risk for me, you understand. He is not Moroccan.”
“I understand. Between old friends I think we can agree on a price. I assume payment in British pounds is acceptable.”
“Absolutely,” said Dr. Microbia. “I will prepare the paperwork while you have the body brought here. What do you prefer I list as a cause of death?”
“Heart attack,” said Kazim.
“Perfect. Myocardial Infarction it will be.”
The two men came to terms, shook hands on the deal and Dr. Microbia showed Kazim the way out through a back door, which opened into a narrow alley behind the building. “This is where you should have the body brought. Ring the buzzer here and my assistant will open the door. If the body is rolled up in the carpet then no one should take notice.”
On his way back to Tweed’s apartment, Kazim spotted Moustapha walking briskly up the street toward St. Andrew’s.
“Moustapha!” Kazim called out.
Moustapha turned, saw Kazim and waited for him to catch up.
“Salaam alaikum, Kazim.”
There was a small café nearby and Kazim motioned for them to step inside and take a table and Kazim ordered two glasses of mint tea. “I assume you and Marvin and Lee were successful in your mission?” Kazim asked.
“Yes, the tombstone is back where it should be and I’m on my way to St. Andrew’s now to show Rector McClean and then hopefully get my job back.”
“Well, the rector is obliged to be a man or his word, so there shouldn’t be any problem. Nonetheless, I have a proposition for you that may give you some more bargaining power in your negotiations with Rector McClean.”
Kazim told Moustapha about Everly Tweed’s sudden death and the need for an expedient burial. He asked Moustapha if there was still a plot available in the cemetery.
Moustapha explained that the cost of burial plots had risen in recent years as much of the available space in the cemetery was already taken. Moustapha said that arranging the sale of a plot would certainly please the rector. The financial health of the church had fallen dramatically with the decline of the British and expatriate population. The meager offerings collected each Sunday were only a scant addition to the already dwindling funds of the Tangier Diocese. Some speculated that it was because of the accusations and rumors that some church members had engaged in immoral activities, which had brought unwanted scrutiny by Tangier authorities. Times were changing. It was possible that the church might even have to close. Moustapha knew how much plots were selling for and told Kazim there was a nice spot in the very back of the cemetery near a cane brake which barely concealed a compost heap.
Kazim cautioned Moustapha to be careful in speaking to the rector about the deceased. “If the rector asks, say the family wants the affair to be very private. Tell him that payment for the plot will be in cash and that you will arrange for the internment.”
“Ouakah, Sidi Kazim,” said Moustapha.
“Once you have confirmed the price, send a messenger to my house and I will get you the money.”
“Hamdoulah,” said Moustapha enthusiastically, and the two shook hands and parted.
While Moustapha hurried to St. Andrew’s, Kazim made his way through the streets of the medina to Lord Nelson’s Pub down near the port. There were always men hanging around the bar eager to earn a few dirhams, no questions asked. Many of them were addicts of one drug or another including alcohol, willing to do just about anything. A heavy haze of kif smoke hung like a blue cloud in the bar, even at this early hour. Kazim knew the café owner and asked him to pick out two men who would be no trouble and who could keep their mouths shut. The owner looked around at the rogue’s gallery of faces in the bar and the corners of his mouth descended in an expression of dissatisfaction.
“Not such a good choice today. Maybe those two over in the corner playing cards,” the owner said somewhat unenthusiastically. “I don’t know them well, they’re from the Rif and have only been in town for a while and are looking for work Any work.”
Kazim went over and introduced himself and sat down at the table. Their names were Hassan and Mansour, both in their mid-thirties, broke and hungry and willing to do just about anything. Kazim explained the situation and what he needed in terms of help and they quickly agreed on a price.
Hassan and Mansour followed Kazim back to Tweed’s apartment and when they saw Tweed’s body sprawled on the bed amidst the detritus of scattered books and clothes, they glanced at each other knowingly and quickly lifted the body from the bed and began rolling it up in the carpet. Kazim saw an old fedora lying on the bed and briefly considered tossing it in with Tweed’s body as it disappeared into the folds of the carpet but then rejected the idea. Wherever it was that Tweed was headed now, the hat would probably do him little good.
Kazim gave Hassan and Mansour 100 dirhams each and told them to rent either a donkey or a handcart and deliver the body to the rear entrance of Dr. Microbia’s office in the Rue de la Liberte, saying that he would give them each another 100 dirhams when they had completed the job. One of them was to wait with the body in the flat while the other went out to arrange for a means of transportation. When they left the flat they were to lock the door behind them. Kazim wished the two men luck and went down the stairs and out into the street and started toward the Rue de la Liberte to alert Dr. Microbia of the body’s imminent arrival.
After the fire in her villa Aicha had taken a taxi into town and taken a room in the Hotel Beni Makada. She was extremely tired but also very angry and agitated and had hardly slept at all. In the morning she got out of bed and showered and dressed and called down for breakfast. Strangely enough, although she’d had no dinner the night before, she was not hungry at all. But maybe the sight and smell of breakfast would restore her appetite. While she was waiting for breakfast to arrive she went over and opened the door to the small balcony that looked out over the Bay of Tangier, now sparkling brightly in the morning sun. As she was pondering over all that had recently happened, the telephone by the side of the bed rang and Aicha answered it. It was Mohammed, calling from the villa. He then explained to her what Zodelia said she had seen during the night; the two Mugwumps with another man leaving the villa in the middle of night with the two halves of Dean’s tombstone.
Aicha was furious. “What do I pay you for? Are you a watchman or are you a lazy useless dirty dog lying around waiting for someone to throw you another scrap of meat?”
Without even giving Mohammed a chance to explain or defend himself, Aicha slammed down the phone and went back out onto the balcony. The anger had taken possession of her entire being like some powerful spell. Whoever was responsible for stealing the tombstone from her villa was in for some serious trouble. She knew it had to be Moustapha, who must have employed the assistance of the two Mugwumps. The sort of revenge that was called for now would be the most volatile, cruel and all-consuming that she could possibly conjure up.
But as she stood there on the balcony beginning to formulate her plans, she was suddenly aware of a sharp pain in her lower abdomen. She’d been half-conscious of the pain during the entire night but had just blamed it on her having missed dinner and the stress associated with the fire and having to move into the hotel. But now the pain was becoming something she could no longer ignore.
By the time Kazim arrived at Doctor Microbia’s office the ice had been delivered to the cold room and arranged on a wooden platform in a coffin-shaped rectangle.
Dr. Microbia showed Kazim the signed and completed death certificate.
“I believe this will be satisfactory,” said Dr. Microbia. “I left the name blank.”
“That’s probably best. I’ve already disposed of the passport and any identification. Just list the name as Unknown European.”
“Certainly, as in John Doe,” said Dr. Microbia.
“If Moustapha is able to arrange the purchase of the plot in St. Andrew’s then the burial could even take place today,” said Kazim.
“Well I certainly hope so. I don’t want the corpse to get any riper than it already is, if you know what I mean. I’ll have the body doused with quicklime as soon as it arrives. It should help mask any odors of decay and will speed decomposition. By the time it is buried there should be no way of identifying it, should there be an investigation. After it leaves here my assistant will scrub down the room with carbolic acid. All very tidy, don’t you agree?”
“As always, Dr. Microbia, you ply your trade with a deft hand,” said Kazim.
“Compliment graciously accepted, thank you.”
Kazim was nearly exhausted by the time he reached the Grand Socco and so stopped to have a quick meal of chicken kebabs, salad, fries, and a Coke. He finished eating with a hearty belch and started back home. Walking along the sidewalk something on the ground caught his attention and he glanced down and saw a Tarot card lying there. Bending down closer Kazim saw that it was the card of The Hanged Man. Kazim reached down to pick up the card but then thought better of it. Instead he left the card where it was lying and continued on up the street, pondering the significance of The Hanged Man. He would have to look it up in his library when he got back home.
When he arrived at his house there was a young Moroccan boy sitting on his front step. At the sight of Kazim, the boy jumped up, bowed, and handed Kazim a folded slip of paper. On it was Moustapha’s scrawled figures for the cost of the plot, the coffin, digging of the grave and burial. The total came to 4000 dirhams, or nearly 300 pounds. Kazim told the boy to wait and he went inside. Habiba was not back yet and this worried Kazim a little. Whatever happens, it is Allah’s will, Kazim thought to himself.
He had put some of Tweed’s money in a safe place in the salon and some he had carried with him in the hood of his djellaba. When he put all the bills together and counted them, he had a little over 1000 pounds. This was more than enough to pay Dr. Microbia, Hassan and Mansour, the expenses of Tweed’s burial, and still there would be some left over for his trouble. “Hamdoulah,” he said under his breath. He then wrote on the scrap of paper “OK” and “Meet at the Café Triangle after the afternoon prayer,” and told the boy to return it to the person who had asked him to deliver it. He also handed the boy five dirhams which made the boy grin with gratitude as he left.
After all the exertions of the day Kazim needed to lie down and so plopped himself down in his Papasan chair. He was soon dozing and dreaming of taking a long trip south into the desert where there were many oases; beautiful ones with lush gardens, citrus orchards, date groves, fragrant flowers, and many songbirds. Just as the dream was starting to take an unexpectedly sensuous turn, he looked up at the crest of a giant sand dune which appeared over the top of the palm trees and saw a wooden gallows there, with the silhouette of a hanged man dangling from the end of a rope. There was a strange sound of splashing water and Kazim was awakened by sounds of Habiba in the kitchen. He got up and went to find out if she had done as he had asked. Habiba was standing at the sink vigorously scrubbing a bunch of turnips.
“Habiba, did the canvas bag find its way to the sea?”
Habiba jumped with a start, not having heard Kazim at the door of the kitchen. She dropped the turnips in the sink and turned to Kazim. There was a troubled look on her face.
“Before I even reached the cistern two boys jumped out of a doorway in the medina and grabbed the bag from under my arm and disappeared before I could even call for help.”
“Would you recognize them if you saw them again?”
“The one had the hood of his djellaba up and the other had the hood of his sweatshirt up and they were both wearing sunglasses so that I couldn’t see either of their faces.”
Kazim mumbled something to himself and shook his head.
After Kazim had left Tweed’s flat, Hassan and Mansour unrolled Tweed’s body from the carpet. Hassan pried open Tweed’s mouth and they both saw several gold-filled teeth and inlays. They tried to slip off the big gold signet ring from Tweed’s ring-finger on his left hand but it wouldn’t budge. They looked around the apartment and in a plastic bucket under the kitchen sink they found a rudimentary selection of old rusty tools, which included a hammer, a couple of screwdrivers, and a crescent wrench. Also in the kitchen was a large bread knife, albeit not particularly sharp.
Tweed’s ghost, still perched on the roof and peering down through the skylight into his bedroom at the activity below, watched in horror as Hassan used the hammer and screwdriver to chisel out the gold fillings and inlays, while Mansour hacked away with the dull bread knife at the ring-finger until the large gold signet ring, now dripping with blood, dropped into Mansour’s hand.
(c) 2014 By The Authors
FRANCIS POOLE first visited Morocco in 1973 and 1975 and was eventually hired to teach English at the American School of Tangier in 1979. During this time he met and befriended Paul Bowles, in whose apartment he also met Mohamed Mrabet, Mohamed Temsamani, Mohamed Choukri, Gavin Lambert, Claude Thomas, Rodrigo Rey Rosa, and others. During Poole’s three-year stay in Tangier he wrote poetry and edited BLADES, a small magazine of experimental writing to which Paul Bowles contributed several items, including the first poem he ever wrote as a young child. After other teaching stints in Evora and Lisbon, Portugal, Poole eventually returned to the USA, where he became a film archivist at the University of Delaware, which had a substantial Paul Bowles collection. Poole was then able to negotiate the acquisition of a substantial amount of Bowles’s papers, notebooks, letters, and books, which greatly expanded the University of Delaware’s collection. Poole last spoke with Bowles in September, 1999, two months before his death. The outcome of that conversation was the last interview with Paul Bowles, which appeared in Five Points. Poole has published several collections of prose and poetry, including Everybody Comes to Dean’s; Dean’s Bar, Tangier, (Poporo Press, 2012), Snakeskin Raincoat (Poporo Press, 2013), and with Kevin Lacey he co-edited Mirrors on the Maghrib: Critical Reflections on Paul and Jane Bowles and Other American Writers in Morocco (Caravan Books, 1996.) His essay on Hollywood’s depiction of the Moroccan bandit, Moulay Ahmed al-Raisuli in The Wind and the Lion, was published in The Arab-African and Islamic Worlds: Interdisciplinary Studies, and an essay on William Burroughs and the Beats was published in International Quarterly. Other writings have appeared in the Village Voice, Exquisite Corpse, Black Moon, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Bukowski Review, Chiron Review, Lost and Found Times, New York Quarterly, Pearl, Poema Convidado, Poetry East, Rolling Stone, Shattered Wig Review and elsewhere. Recently he collaborated with Mark Terrill on two limited edition chapbooks of poetry illustrated with collages by John Digby, The Spleen of Madrid and A Pair of Darts (both Feral Press, 2012). Poole lives with his wife in Newark, Delaware.
MARK TERRILL shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, and was a participant in a writing workshop with Paul Bowles at the American School of Tangier, Morocco, in 1982, resulting in a long-lasting friendship and many return visits to Tangier over the years. After extensive travels and stays in Europe, Terrill settled in Hamburg, Germany, in 1984, where he’s worked as a shipyard welder, road manager for rock bands, cook and postal worker. He is the author of Here to Learn; Remembering Paul Bowles (Green Bean Press, 2002) Bread & Fish (The Figures, 2002), The United Colors of Death (Pathwise Press, 2003), The Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express, (Main Street Rag, 2009), Laughing Butcher Berlin Blues (Poetry Salzburg, 2010) and 22 other books and chapbooks of poetry, prose and translations. Other writings and translations have appeared in over 700 literary journals and anthologies worldwide, including City Lights Review, Cahiers d’Art, Bombay Gin, Denver Quarterly, Fourteen Hills, Skanky Possum, Gargoyle, Rattle, Zen Monster, Talisman, Jacket, Partisan Review and elsewhere. In 2009 he was invited to guest-edit a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review, which included his translations of Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Nicolas Born and many others. Together with the poet Cralan Kelder, Terrill co-edited the poetry journal Full Metal Poem. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his own work has been translated into German, French and Portuguese, and he’s given readings in various venues in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Prague and Hamburg. Recent publications include a chapbook of his translations of the poetry of Jörg Fauser, An Evening in Europe (Toad Press, 2011), and a full-length collection of his translations of the poetry of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, An Unchanging Blue, Selected Poems 1962-1975 (Parlor Press / Free Verse Editions, 2011). Currently he lives on the grounds of a former boatyard near Hamburg with his wife and a large brood of cats.