Behind the Wire
Behind the Wire
Dan Taylor picked up the motor sports magazine, tapped it to his forehead in salute to the café owner, and stepped out into the harsh North African summer, unaware he was being followed.
A momentary shiver ran through his body as he adjusted to the heat after the chill of the air-conditioned café. The awning over the footpath offered little shelter as the sun cresting the rooftops opposite cast a fierce light over the narrow street.
He stood to one side to let a pair of tourists walk past, both carrying surf boards, their American-accented voices fading as their sun-bleached heads bobbed out of view amongst the throng lining the pavement.
A woman stepped off the path and pushed the door to the bakery next to the café open, the fragrant scent of freshly made pastries and bread filling the air.
Dan dropped his sunglasses over his eyes and jogged across the busy street to a convenience store.
He checked his watch.
He was due back at the harbour within the hour. Any later, and the man he'd contacted to provide a new fuel pump for the boat would disappear, and he'd have to spend another month convincing him to return.
He pushed open the door to the shop and made his way towards the lone refrigerator that stood against the back wall, its motor mimicking a death rattle as it fought a losing battle against the summer temperatures.
He grabbed a two-litre plastic container of milk and a bottle of water and joined the short queue at the counter.
The port town had become a favourite haunt of his; until recently, there had been fewer tourists than Casablanca or Fez, so anyone looking for him would stand out in a crowd.
He wasn't a gambling man, though, and so as he waited in line, his gaze swept the street beyond the dirty windows.
He'd noticed a distinct increase in the number of tourists over the past six months, testament to the fact that at least two UK budget airlines had added the small Moroccan resort to their regular flight schedules, and decided it would soon be time to move on again.
It would be too dangerous to venture further south along the African coast, especially for someone trying to keep a low profile. Instead, he quite liked the idea of crossing the Atlantic and exploring the Caribbean islands for the summer, and he made a mental note to speak to the other boat owners at the marina. If another boat planned to head west soon, he'd find out if he could tag along.
A bus rumbled past and stopped a few metres from the shop. As it belched diesel fumes into the street, its passengers waited with bored faces while others climbed on, the screens of their phones held up to their faces as they tried to ignore the monotony of their journey.
Brakes creaked, the engine revved, and the bus moved on, and Dan's attention returned to the man behind the counter.
He smiled and held up the milk and water.
'How are you, Mr Dan?' The shopkeeper grinned, revealing a mouth devoid of three front teeth, the remainder nicotine-stained.
'Good, Farouk.' Dan indicated the meagre purchases. 'Just these today.'
Dan paid, nodded his thanks, and stepped back out into the morning heat.
The harbour was a fifteen-minute walk from the convenience store, and by the time he reached his destination, sweat pooled between his shoulder blades and over his chest.
The wind changed direction, bringing with it the pungent stink of the fishing boats from the working harbour further along the stretch of sqalas - esplanades fortified with ramparts, evidence of the port town's Moroccan rulers implementing Portuguese design several decades ago.
The boats had been in for hours, their produce already sold in the markets, but gulls hovered over the masts, seeking out scraps of food as nets were repaired and the boats readied for the following morning.