Saturday, 8 April 2017

Mareijke's Courage Chapter 11

It is strange to talk of miracles, revelations, inspiration, and the like, as things past,
while love remains.

Henry David Thoreau

Mareijke took a warm bath and dressed. When she had opened her eyes that morning, long before Uri entered the room, she could remember every single detail of her past. She knew exactly who she was, where she had come from and who Uri Ayrrault was. She remembered his lies about Béch’s death and she remembered Béch. She remembered her accident.
Her greatest desire now was to return to Agadir to find Béch. His life had been in danger before she had fallen from the cliff and she needed to find him; she needed to know that he was safe. She ransacked the house and the garage, but found nothing. Without her passport and visa, she would not be able to leave the country. Where could Uri have hidden the documents? 
She went next door to find the domestic worker. She asked if she could use her cellular phone. There was only one person in the whole world Mareijke could trust and that was Ada. She called her aunt in Swellendam and told her briefly what had happened. She asked Ada to fly to Gauteng to help her. She gave her the address and returned to the house to tidy up. She knew she would have to be very cunning to outwit Uri Ayrrault. 
She went out onto the patio, her mind back in Morocco. She followed the dusty mental tracks of her last day on the mountain.
The caravan left the village continuing their journey up the mountain road. After an hour of travelling, they stopped again for some rest. Béch was tired and still coughed raggedly.
The silence suspended over the awe-inspiring stretch of rock and sand was broken by the sound of a distant helicopter. Both Béch and Hamed El Hadrioui moved almost simultaneously to scan the skies.
“We need to take cover,” Béch said. “I don’t like what I hear.”
They were able to move into the shadows of the rocks long before the helicopter flew over them. It passed slowly, moving along the mountain path in the direction of the village. She knew, as well as Béch, that Uri had returned.
“Is it Uri? Does he know where the artifacts are?” Mareijke asked with great disillusionment.
“He may have an idea,” Béch replied, “but he won’t find them easily.”
Béch’s confidence was comforting to her, but knowing that Uri had found them left her panic-stricken.
“Is he our enemy?” Mareijke asked.
“No,” Béch said. “He’s only trying to protect you.”
“Then why are we running from him?”
“We’re not running,” Béch said. “We’re just being careful.”
“Why?”
“No time to explain now,” Béch said.
Béch was prepared. He had more men in the caravan than necessary because he knew he would need to form some kind of decoy if they were followed again. He wasn’t sure who to trust outside his own party. The villagers were good people with whom Béch was well acquainted. He knew they would not give strangers any information that would put his life in danger. He sent the men with the whole camel-train ahead to cross over the mountain, hoping that Uri would find them and conclude he was chasing the wrong caravan to the mountains. 
Béch, Mareijke and Hamed El Hadrioui moved along the rocks away from the ascending dust-laden road. The territory was difficult to cross at places, but they moved as quickly as possible while the blades of the helicopter were still.
“There’s a cave not far from here,” Béch said. “That’s where the artifacts are hidden.”
“In a cave?” Mareijke asked and Béch nodded affirmation.
“Once we’re there, we’ll be safe.”
“Won’t they find the cave?” Mareijke asked.
“The entrance is concealed. They won’t see it easily.” Béch said confidently.
“You have to know it’s there to look for it,” Hamed added.
Béch was still suffering a great deal of pain and she hated seeing him like that. She found it difficult to concentrate and was struggling along the track when her foot slipped on loose stones. She fell from the rock very suddenly, but managed to grab hold of a twisted tree and eventually the ledge. Holding onto it, she waited for Béch and Hamed to return to her. Each took hold of a wrist to keep her from falling further over the edge. Béch’s pain made him abandon the effort of pulling her up, leaving Hamed alone on the ledge. Hamed balanced himself carefully and then pulled her up slowly.
Unfortunately, the helicopter had come to life again and they could hear it approaching. Béch returned to Hamed’s side and together they brought her to the top as quickly as possible. Time was their greatest enemy. By the time Mareijke was safe again, the helicopter pilot and passengers had already seen them.
Béch moved into the rocks, Hamed and Mareijke following him closely. Knowing that the road was broad enough for the helicopter to land, Béch changed direction. It wouldn’t make a difference in which direction they moved, they wouldn’t be able to shake Uri and his men. Taking Hamed and Mareijke away from the cave was a better choice.
“I don’t want him to know about the cave,” Béch said as he continued to lead Mareijke away from it, Hamed El Hadrioui following close behind.
They rounded a huge boulder only to find themselves staring into the faces of four aggressive-looking men. Much to their surprise, not one of them was Uri Ayrrault.
Breyton grabbed Mareijke fiercely, holding a gun to her head. She had no words.
“Where are the artifacts?” Breyton shouted at Béch.
“Shooting her ends everything,” Béch said calmly. “You will never see the artifacts.”
She looked at him beseechingly, but he refused to make eye contact with her. She expected to see utter shock in his expression at discovering Breyton’s deceit, but throughout the ordeal he remained in control of his emotions.
“Then I shall make her suffer,” Breyton said, pointing the gun at Béch. “I will shoot you.”
“No!” Mareijke screamed, struggling to free herself from his grip. But she couldn’t fight his strength.  
“I will bleed to death before we are anywhere near the artifacts,” Béch said calmly.
“You don’t know me, Rousseau!” Breyton retaliated. “But, I know enough about you. I know what makes you tick. I know your strengths and your weaknesses.”
At that moment, Mareijke was consumed with anger. She pulled away from Breyton.
“What on earth do you want with the artifacts?” she screamed, on the verge of hysteria. “They mean nothing without me.”
“Not everything is about you and your precious inheritance!” he hissed in return. “I have other plans.”
There was no way out. Béch and Hamed El Hadrioui were made to walk ahead and Mareijke followed. They descended from where they were to get to the cave. It was a difficult day for Mareijke and she was tired, tense and hungry.
Her fall was so sudden that it caught Breyton, whose hand was around her upper arm at the time, completely by surprise. The movement was too quick and he was unable to prevent her from falling over the ledge.
That was the last she remembered about that almost fatal day. It was the last time she saw Béch.
Mareijke had no idea how she ended up in Pretoria with Uri, but she knew for certain they were not married. She wondered what had become of Béch and Hamed. If only they were safe. By now, after all the time she had been given to recover from her fall, Béch would have recovered too.
Breyton! The hate and anger she had seen in his eyes on the mountain lingered in her mind.
“Not everything is about you and your precious inheritance … I have other plans.”
What did he mean?
Of what use were the artifacts to him? She reconsidered the value of the artifacts. Breyton had weaved his way into both her and Dawid’s life. He had deceived them deliberately. She didn’t know the man at all. Four years had been wasted on feigned love. How could she have been so blind?
Ada’s arrival late that afternoon gave Mareijke the needed courage to plan her return to Morocco. There wasn’t much time, but they were able to make quick arrangements for the next day. They would go to the city and apply for new documents while Uri was at work.
That evening, Uri arrived home much later than usual. He was still in a strange mood. He bought KFC for dinner and excused himself from her company. She knew that something was wrong.
The next morning he came to her room quietly.
“Breakfast is in the kitchen, but I’m leaving now Mareijke.”
She didn’t like his tone. Perhaps he had found out about her conversation with the neighbour’s domestic worker or, even worse, that she had used the Internet. People talk. She sat quietly, mulling over the possibility. She wasn’t his prisoner, Mareijke thought. He knew about the picture. If he had answered her questions, she wouldn’t have turned to strangers for help.
Mareijke took a quick shower and ate her breakfast. She cleaned the kitchen and waited for Ada to arrive. They went into the city as planned and applied for all the necessary documents. It would take several frustrating days to receive everything, but Mareijke had to accept her fate. 
“Why don’t you come with me,” Ada said. “He won’t be able to find you.”
“I can’t,” Mareijke said quietly. “I don’t know if Uri and Breyton are working together. I was on the mountain with Breyton before the accident and now I’m with Uri.”
“It doesn’t matter if they know each other,” Ada said.
“I’m worried about Béch. His life may still be in danger.”
Ada could see that Mareijke’s energy was spent. The day had been long and tiring for both of them.
“Okay Sugar-drop,” Ada said calmly. “You do what you have to do. But, take this! Keep it with you. I bought it for you in Swellendam. Call me. I don’t care if it’s in the middle of the night. I’m staying here in Pretoria until your documents are ready.”
“Thank you, Ada,” Mareijke said gratefully, taking the cell phone.
“Remember, I’m a phone call away.”
Mareijke stood at the garden gate and watched Ada’s car disappear around the corner before she entered the house. She was relieved that everything planned for the day was done. She wanted to take a long, warm bath before Uri came home from work. If only there was enough time for her to take a nap and regain some of her energy.
She entered the lounge lost in thought only to discover that she was not alone. Mareijke was welcomed by the cold and austere presence of Uri Ayrrault. From the look on his face, he had been waiting for quite some time. The room was fearfully silent.
She stood as if frozen, wondering what to say. How would she explain where she had been? She crossed the room quietly and sat down on the couch. She waited for him to vent his anger, but Uri didn’t say a word. He stood up slowly and left the room. A few minutes later he returned with a shoe box, which he gave to her.
“I have never been your enemy, Mareijke,” he said. She could hear the anger and disappointment in his voice.
“Then why lie to me? Why did you tell me we’re married?”
“The hospitals only allow immediate family close to the patients. I needed to protect you.”
She looked up at him.
“You said Béch was dead!”
“Yes, but I wasn’t sure at the time,” Uri admitted. He didn’t have the amiable warmth in his voice that she usually found comforting. “My main concern was for your safety. I needed to get you away from the apartment.”
She looked at him. She didn’t know if she could trust him. Was he telling her the truth or was this just another ploy?
“I didn’t know you had fallen in love with him,” Uri continued.
She ignored his comment about her feelings for Béch. Trying to steer his attention away from it, she asked: “How did you know about the accident?”
“Mareijke! Mareijke! Mareijke! Will you never learn? I have been with you all the time,” he said, shaking his head slowly. “I waited outside the apartment and followed you and Marianne to the airport. I followed you and Hamed to Hermanus and Swellendam. When I found out where the bus was heading, I took a flight to Durban. I was also on your flight to Agadir.
“Hamed and I share the same acquaintances, so I knew where Béch was taking you. I waited in Agadir for your return. For once, I had decided to give Béch Rousseau a chance, even though it went against my better judgement – not for any reason other than the fact that he was badly injured. One of Hamed’s friends told me that a helicopter was bringing someone to the hospital. I thought it was Béch, but it wasn’t. It was you and there was absolutely no-one who could stand in for you as family.” 
“So you told the hospital that we’re married,” Mareijke said.
“If I hadn’t, you would still be in the hospital in Agadir and, honestly Mareijke, I don’t even want to think what the outcome would have been had you stayed.”
“And Breyton?”
“Breyton?”
“My fiancé,” she reminded Uri.
“I know who Breyton is, but what of him?”
Mareijke was surprised that Uri didn’t know of Breyton’s involvement. How was that even possible? If Uri had been with her all the time watching her, surely he would have seen Breyton. Was Breyton that devious?
She found herself telling him about Breyton’s actions prior to Béch’s accident at Bloubergstrand and his appearance and threats on the mountainside in Morocco. The information was new and very unsettling to Uri. He stood up immediately and started to make several phone calls on the patio.
Mareijke opened the shoe box, which contained all her personal documents and bank cards. She felt foolish. She never had any reason to distrust Uri. He had always been acting on her behalf, as far as she could remember.
Suddenly Mareijke started to wonder about Béch. If Uri and Breyton weren’t allies, who was Breyton working for? How did he know about the artifacts? They were the soul reason for his interest in Dawid and her.
Béch. Was he a traitor, too? In Cape Town, Breyton and Béch had connected from the moment they met. They got along like a house on fire, but why would Breyton then arrange to have Béch killed? Greed?
Uri came back into the room.
“Do you think Béch is on Breyton’s side?” she asked anxiously.
“No!” Uri’s answer was undeniably resolute.
“Really?” she expected Uri to make a firm stand against Béch.
“Béch is not the enemy,” Uri said confidently.
“… but you said you didn’t trust him,” Mareijke was exasperated.
“I don’t trust him in protecting you,” Uri said.
He sat down next to Mareijke.
“Béch and I go back many years. We have much more in common than you will ever know. One day, I will tell you the whole story. For now, all I can say is that we have always been in an alliance. A few years ago, Béch and I spent our days together, fighting for a cause we both believed in.”
“So you were friends?” she asked. “What went wrong?”
“Let me tell you about the cause for which we were fighting. Western Sahara borders Morocco. It used to be a Spanish colony. In 1975, Spain signed an agreement, handing the territory over to Morocco and Mauritania, but Mauritania abandoned her claim over the area a few years later. A military wall was built to divide Western Sahara. One-half was under the control of the Moroccan Army and the other governed and maintained by a rebellion group known as the Polisario. Over the years, Morocco had kidnapped and tortured many Sahrawi people. The Polisario was a group of Sahrawi freedom fighters, supported by Algeria, who wanted to help their people.
“The Sahrawis tried to escape from the Moroccan side at night by crossing the wall. It wasn’t easy because they had to first cross a low wall of loose rocks. If any of those rocks fell, it was like an alarm that drew the attention of the soldiers. After successfully passing over the first wall, they then had to cross a trench before they were faced with the challenge of climbing a higher wall made of sand and rock. Once over the high wall, they had to jump over barbed wire fence and cross a minefield. Those who survived the minefield faced the treacherous desert. They had to walk for days to a refugee camp near Tindouf in Algeria. Some escaped with water supplies, while others had absolutely nothing.  
“Béch and I teamed up with a group of nomads to assist those who had survived the great escape. We had our camel-trains waiting in small groups with enough food and water supplies to take them to Tindouf. On one of our journeys back from the refugee camp, we lost a friend in a dune attack,” Uri said. “I blamed Béch and he blamed me.”
“A dune attack?” she asked curiously.
“There was a drug trafficking network that extended itself from North Morocco to Algeria and one of the armed groups was stationed in Tindouf. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. A drug deal on the dunes had already gone horribly wrong by the time we approached the area. There were gunshots and our friend, Omar, was fatally wounded.”
“…why blame each other?”
“Béch knew the area well. He wanted us to change course and approach the refugee camp from a new angle. Why? I still don’t know. Instinctively, he just changed course. After several hours, I was convinced that we were lost. I wanted to approach the group of men on the dunes for directions, but Béch warned me to stay camouflaged. If I had listened to him, Omar may still be alive today.”
Both men felt responsible for Omar’s death. To ease the pain they had chosen each other as a scapegoat. It all seemed so senseless to her.
Suddenly, Uri’s phone started to ring and he stepped out onto the patio. She watched him carefully. He came back into the lounge looking satisfied with the information he had received.
“I have just spoken to a contact in Agadir.  Breyton left with Hamed and some men in a helicopter. Apparently he has threatened to kill Béch if Hamed doesn’t cooperate with him.”
Mareijke jumped up. “We have to find Béch. If he dies …”
She suddenly realized that she would have difficulty in denying her feelings for Béch after her impulsive outburst. Embarrassed, she turned away. Tears were welling in her eyes and Mareijke took refuge in the sanctuary of her bedroom.
She phoned Ada and explained everything to her dear aunt. Uri was not her enemy. Ada could thus return to Swellendam. Uri took Mareijke to the guest-house where Ada was staying. He invited the women to dinner at an up-market restaurant in Pretoria and discussed his plans for his departure to Morocco.
“I’m going with you,” Mareijke insisted.
“No,” Uri said slowly. “You’re going to Swellendam with your aunt.”
“I think that’s a very good idea,” Ada agreed with Uri.
“I am going to Morocco, Uri,” Mareijke said adamantly, “and you can’t stop me.”
“Mareijke, please …” Ada started.
“I have to find Béch,” Mareijke said. “The last time I saw him was out on the mountainside with Breyton. I need to know that he’s safe.”

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