DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 9A
September 30, 2011
Derek drove the motorcycle past Pleasure and the market. It was slightly after four in the morning. The fruit and vegetable market was closed. Pleasure was still in business. He circled the area, then parked the bike behind the bar and drifted in.
Momka was working the bar. Two girls in G-strings undulated listlessly on the stage to very loud music that was all bass and drum. Multi-colored lights flashed, providing the girls’ imperfections some camouflage. And providing Derek with some as well.
He crossed to an empty stool at the bar and perched there, scanning the men in the bar. Three sat at the bar, slouched over their drinks. It was hard to tell if they were even conscious. Black men, Afro-Cuban, he guessed was the description, and he assumed they were from Sierra Leone or West Africa or were just Afro-Cubans of some vintage.
Sitting at three of the tables closer to the stage were seven men. Three at two of the tables, one by himself. Two blacks, one white, three Cubans.
Derek took them in, his brain doing computations, analyzing what he saw. One of the Cubans worried him. There was something about his bearing that suggested cop or military. He’d looked up when Derek walked in, studied him for a moment, then shifted his gaze back to the girls. But his gaze had been a little too intent and a little too long.
A girl with black hair wearing a tight pair of denim shorts and nothing else except spike-heel shoes tottered over to him. She threw an arm over his shoulder and pressed her bare breasts to his side. She said something to him in Spanish. He was guessing it was something along the lines of “Can I get you a drink?” or “Will you buy me a drink?” or, perhaps, given the classiness of the bar, “Do you want to go upstairs and fuck?”
He shook his head and tipped a finger at Momka. The man came down and said in Krio, “You bring my bike back?”
“No, but it’s fine. I can tell you where it is.”
Momka’s lips creased into a tight line. “I told you to bring the bike back. I told you not to come back. But here you are.” His voice was rising. Some of the men were watching this exchange. Derek thought only one of them knew what was being said, one of the blacks sitting two stools down from him.
“It’s safe. And I’ve got a motorcycle. But I can’t ride both, so I need somebody to come with me to get the bike for you. Okay?”
Momka shook his head. “I don’t want you coming back here. Go. Go get my bike and leave it out back and don’t come back.”
Derek sighed, reached in his pocket and withdrew his wallet. He pulled out a sheaf of bills and said, “I want a cup of coffee and some food. You’ve got a grill, right? What do you have to eat?”
Momka’s greedy eyes fixed on the money. “No coffee. I’ve got kebab. Fried plantains. Black beans and rice.”
The girl said something. Momka spat some machine gun Spanish at her and she scowled and walked away, visiting the man at the single table, who wrapped his arm around her naked waist and started talking to her.
“Then give me some. And a beer will be fine. Out of a bottle.” He didn’t want Momka watering his booze. He wanted to see him open the damned bottle. Momka pulled a bottle of Bruja from a bucket filled with ice and angrily twisted off the top and handed it to him. Derek tossed him some money.
It seemed to mellow the man some. He came back a moment later with a plate with a grilled lamb kebab, or maybe it was goat, Derek wasn’t entirely certain, and black beans and rice. A moment later Momka delivered the plantains.
Derek drank the beer, which was dark and strong, and ate the food, mildly surprised by how hungry he was. He finished the food and considered his options. To Momka he said, “I could use a place to stay for the day.”
“I don’t want you here. You’re done. Go away.”
Derek felt movement behind him. He’d been sitting somewhat sideways at the bar so he could keep half an eye on the other patrons and get a sense of things at the door, but it was impossible to sit at the bar and keep his full gaze on the room. The man who had given him an official vibe appeared next to him. “Momka,” he said. “Problemo?”
Momka appeared very uncomfortable, wiping a glass with a dirty rag, not meeting the man’s gaze. “No. No problemo.”
The man turned to look at Derek, eyes appraising. “Documentación, por favor.”
Derek pretended he didn’t understand Spanish, even though he understand what the man wanted. In Krio he said, “I’m a tourist from Sierra Leon. I don’t speak Spanish. I’m sorry.” The man wore khaki pants and a white guayabera. On his hip Derek saw the holster beneath the shirt.
The man glanced at Momka. Nervously Momka said, “He wants to see your documentation.”
“Ask him why.”
Momka said, “No. Just show him your papers.”
The man rattled off something in Spanish and reached into a pocket, presumably for his own identification. Once the man had his hand deep into his pocket, Derek grabbed his wrist with his left hand and slammed his right elbow into the man’s jaw. As the man’s head snapped back, Derek reached down and snagged the gun off the holster and slammed the butt of it into the man’s skull. The Cuban collapsed to the floor like a bag of bones.
Kicking back off the stool, Derek rushed through the bar, ignoring the screams of the girls and the shouts of Momka and the other patrons. He jumped on the cycle, kicked it to life and raced off.