Read Casablanca Blues (2013) Online

Authors: Shah, Tahir

Tags: #Adventure

Casablanca Blues (2013)

Casablanca Blues (2013)
Shah, Tahir
(2013)
Tags:
Adventure
Adventurettt

Blaine Williams lives and breathes Casablanca. He's trapped in a make-believe world of Bogart and Bergman, of smoke-filled cafés, of fugitives and hit-men. And he's having a mid-life crisis. Having lost his girl, his job, and his home, he flees to the one place that's always provided comfort in times of sorrow and despair — Casablanca.

Diving in at the deep end of Morocco's most misunderstood city, Blaine is sucked down through the many interwoven layers until he hits its bedrock... with a thump! And it's there that he meets Ghita... a fabulously wealthy socialite, who's got a plan for him — one laced with intrigue and revenge. Through an adventure paid out in twists and turns, Blaine and Ghita find themselves in a storyline straight out of Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca.

Hilarious, poignant, and shocking at times, Casablanca Blues lifts the veil on modern Morocco, conjuring a secret realm hidden from travellers and locals alike.

From the acclaimed author of The...

http://www.tahirshah.com/casablancablues/

Casablanca Blues

TAHIR SHAH

Secretum Mundi Publishing

MMXIII

3
rd
Floor, 36 Langham Street London, W1W 7AP, United Kingdom
http://www.secretum-mundi.com/
[email protected]

© TAHIR SHAH 2013
ISBN: 978-1-78301-298-5

Tahir Shah asserts the right to be identified as the Author of the Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Visit the author’s website at:
http://www.tahirshah.com/
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

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Also by Tahir Shah:

Paris Syndrome

Eye Spy

Scorpion Soup

Timbuctoo

Travels With Myself

In Arabian Nights

The Caliph’s House

House of the Tiger King

In Search of King Solomon’s Mines

Trail of Feathers

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Beyond the Devil’s Teeth

This book is dedicated to the
Kingdom of Morocco –

A realm touched by magic,
whose landscape and whose
people never cease to amaze.

Contents

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One

The windowless walls at Acme Telesales were painted slate grey.

A sea of uniform desks filled the central hall, each one the same drab shade. The chairs were grey as well, and the telephonic headsets, and the complexions of the sales staff who wore them, and even the plastic plants.

The only splash of colour in the entire place was the baseball cap pulled down tight over Blaine Williams’ blond mop of hair.

It was fire engine red, and had the word ‘CASABLANCA’ written in large letters across the front.

‘Good morning to you, ma’am,’ said Blaine into the headset microphone. ‘No, no, I didn’t call last week. No, not even the week before. Why am I calling? Well, ma’am, I’ve got an offer... an offer for the silver generation...’

Click
.

Blaine dialled again.

‘Hello, ma’am. Let me be blunt: Do you have trouble with your drains?’

Click
.

‘Good morning to you, sir! Could I interest you in a case of Drain-O-Sure?’

Click
.

A miniature buzzer mounted on the left of Blaine’s desk, number 52, emitted a muffled warning sound. Beside it was a black and white studio shot of Humphrey Bogart – with signature cigarette, fedora, and sullen stare. And next to it was an empty mug, Bogart and Bergman’s cheeks pressed together on the side.

In a well-practised movement, Blaine slipped off his headset, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

‘For Christ’s sake! Beam me up to the mothership!’ he bellowed.

Two

On the dot of seven a.m., an automatic sprinkler system turned itself on, and began watering the manicured lawn in front of the Omary Mansion. There was not a blade of grass over an inch and a half, nor a weed in sight.

A pair of imposing wrought iron gates threw long arabesque shadows over the lawn. They rose thirty feet high into the pale blue sky, armoured CCTV cameras mounted above each one.

Behind the grass and the gates, the mansion rose up like a magnificent frosted wedding cake. Gleaming ivory white, it was adorned with Doric columns and Classical mouldings, and reeked of immense affluence: the kind of wealth that only a business empire, corruption – or both – can provide.

Inside, a handsome, well-groomed man of fifty-six was taking breakfast, squinting with half his attention at a pie chart on a laptop screen. His left hand was stirring a porcelain cup of English breakfast tea clockwise when his daughter, Ghita, hurried in.

‘Baba, oh, Baba... What catastrophe! What misery!’

Hicham Omary glanced up, and smiled absently, surprised that his only daughter was awake at such a reasonable hour. He didn’t say a word, because he knew an explanation would be forthcoming: one that would begin in condemnation and end in a solicitation for funds.

‘How can a girl expect to get married with such imbeciles on the payroll?’ Ghita moaned, as a cluster of servants fussed around her. ‘I have had no choice but to fire the lot of them, every last one. We’ll have to start again from scratch. It will cost a little more, but I know you’ll agree to that, won’t you, dearest Baba?’

Her lips stretched wide in a taut smile, Ghita blew a kiss across the table in her father’s direction.

Mr. Omary’s gaze moved back to the graph and, in one continuous movement, out to the landscaped garden that extended far behind the house. The sprinklers were throwing rainbows over the lawns. He was about to ask for a figure, when his daughter held up a finger, and exclaimed:

‘I blame the working class! Damn them! And damn them again!’

‘Excuse me?’ said Ghita’s father, in disbelief.

‘Well, it’s they who are driving up prices! Do you have any idea how much it costs to put on a wedding?’

‘I daren’t ask,’ Omary replied coldly. ‘But, after all, Ghita, it’s only an engagement. How over the top does it need to be?’

Three

Blaine wrestled with the key to the front door of his building and, after an eternity, managed to get inside. The stairwell was gloomy and damp. It smelled of rotten eggs, and led up many flights through a dark dingy twilight zone of urban squalor.

The sordidness and the stench increased with altitude.

By the fifth floor, where Blaine’s poky apartment was found, the filth was especially vile, as if painted on thick, like a theatrical backdrop.

Dressed in a grubby mackintosh, the belt tied in a knot at the waist, Blaine began the ascent in a slow trudge. In one hand he held an old fedora and, in the other, a TV-dinner furled up in a crumpled paper bag.

As he approached the narrow landing of the third floor, the door to 3A jerked open. The mousy hunched figure of a woman could almost be seen in the shadows and the grime.

‘What you got up there, Williams? A herd of rhinos?!’

‘Hello Mrs. Cohen.’

‘All that banging and crashing. Every day it’s getting worse. Any more of it, and I’ll get the Super up there!’

‘I’ve been at work all day, Mrs. Cohen.’

‘Sure you have. And I’m Mata Hari!’

‘In any case your apartment is two floors above you.’

‘So?’

‘So, goodnight to you, Mrs. Cohen,’ said Blaine, as he lumbered upwards.

On the fourth floor landing, he came across a young clean-cut couple standing outside a particularly battered door. They seemed uneasy, as if instinct were telling them to flee. Both turning at once, they smiled anxiously at Blaine.

Such was their fear they might have screamed.

‘Are you here to rent 4D?’

The couple nodded in unison.

‘Oh,’ Blaine replied. ‘I see.’

‘Whhhhhat’s wrong with it?’

‘Nothing, nothing much at all... except...’

‘Except?’

‘Except for the rats, and the roaches... and...’


And
?’

‘Well, surely Mr. Rogers told you...’

‘Told us what?’

‘About what happened to Mr. Wilson... you know... the business with the shotgun.’ Blaine paused, leaned back on his heels. ‘Made a helluva mess and...’

Before he could finish, there was the sound of city shoes and cheap pumps taking the stairs two at a time. After much scurrying, it was followed by the distant echo of the front door slamming shut.

A minute later, Blaine was sitting on the expansive furry couch that dominated his living-room. A Coors Light in one hand, a remote in the other, the Hungry Hombre platter balanced between his knees.

A few feet away stood a large screen TV, the centrepiece of an apartment that was a shrine to
Casablanca
.