The Devil Is Dead, Part 2

The Devil Is Dead, Part 2

In Tangier something happened that had been hanging like a storm, and it broke on the third day there. Doomsday morning was sullen, and it became an angry day full of angry people.

How long will we stay in Tangier? Three days.

Tangier has a reputation for mystery and intrigue. It is deserved.

It was a hunt today. The horns were blowing already if you had ears for them. A death hunt, and Finnegan didn’t even know the predators from the prey.

Finnegan tried to keep track of his mates, but they all scattered like a flock of blackbirds, and in all directions: Don and Joe and Marie and Papa Devil and Manuel and Orestes the captain and Art and Harry. The Devil himself was loose in the streets, and it was the long last day of life for someone.

So Finnegan wandered that day through the rich town and the poor town, wondering how he could keep a friend from getting killed, not knowing for sure which friend it was, not sure what was going to happen, not knowing how he knew that something was to happen.

He ate almonds and burned sheep and drank lemonade and Spanish wine. He talked to people in Spanish and French. He also talked to people in Arabic, but they looked at him in incomprehension.

In these ways we are like Finnegan: we wander the rich town and the poor town, meaning Ville Noveau and the medina (Yes, we, second honeymooners, walk in the Kasbah.).

Almonds in the old streets of Tangier, Morocco.

Even the almonds in Tangier come wrapped in cryptic messages.

We eat almonds in the Petit Socco in the middle of the medina. We eat our burned sheep at the southeast gate of the medina, between the poor city and the docks. We drink lemonade near the beach.

We order the lemonade in French and are comprehended: jus d’citron.

We order our coffee in Spanish and are comprehended too: café con leche.

The burnt lamb is more difficult. How could this be? Morocco abounds in smoky lamb. Because I try to order it in Arabic, and try to pay in Arabic. They look at me with incomprehension.

Fanning cooking fires in Tangier, Morocco.

Fanning the fire to burn lamb near the west gate of the Tangier medina. Is your Arabic good enough to get a skewer?

Spanish wine is the most difficult and it provides an important hint about The Devil is Dead, which is so slippery in its sense of time and person.

If Finnegan casually buys Spanish wine, then Finnegan is in Tangier before 1956, because it was then that Tangier lost its special international status, became part of Morocco, and cleaned up its wickedest ways, including severely limiting the distribution of alcohol.

Don went to the consulate of this own country. He wanted to claim protection from the stalking killers. But he saw Saxon Seaworthy there, standing inside the building and talking to one of the officials. Don knew, as well as if he had heard it, that Seaworthy was telling the official that there was this seaman of his, and that he was loony. And Seaworthy would be believed. There was a prime snake at the entrance of the burrow.

Morocco was the first overseas power to recognize the United States as a nation and the American legation was just inside the eastern gate of the medina. It opened in 1777. The legation is the only location on the National Register of Historic Places that is outside the U.S. Its doors—heavy cedar from the Rif—are some of the best preserved in the medina, and it is easy to imagine Don Lewis peering in from one of the shadows.

Little arab boys keep company in the north gate of the Kasbah.

Little arab boys keep company in the north gate of the Kasbah.

Finn played the finger-count game with a little Arab boy. Finnegan had always thought the game was Italian, but the boy said that they also had always had it. Finnegan and the boy pledged friendship for life, after which the boy organized a valiant body of runners to keep Finnegan informed.

There is no shortage of children in Tangier, and they seem to lead a freer, breezier life in the maze of the old city.

Don Lewis bolted in panic when he discovered that the narrow street he had been walking during his introspection was a dead end. He wouldn’t be caught in a dead end; he’d rather be caught in the absolute open. He retraced his way, running, knocking into people. He came to a stop in an open square.

“You are nervous?” a European man asked him. “You are in trouble?” The man spoke in Spanish, but sounded like French.

“I am in deep trouble. It is for my life. I have to hide.” Don also spoke in Spanish, and sounded like an American trying to sound like an Arab.

“There is such a place where you might go,” the man said. “Listen carefully.” Then the man told Don that there was a man, at a certain junction of a certain street, who would hide anyone for money. “You have money?” the man asked.

“Yes, I have money. I will try anything. Thank you.”

Don found the street. He found the man who would hide a man for money.

“You have come,” said that man. “They said it was better to overestimate than underestimate you. But they didn’t think you would know to come here.”

“You know who I am?” Don breathed heavily. “You know what I want?”

“It is my business to know. Naturally they contacted me. I am the only one in this town who can hide a man, and nobody can hide from me.

“You can hide me for money?”

“That is my business. I can hide you even from them, for enough money. How much do you have?”

Tea and a man at Cafe Tingis, Tangier, Morocco.

Is this the man who can hide anyone for money? He spends much time at a certain cafe in the old city.

We cannot find this certain corner. We cannot find this man, who would hide us for money. He is here, we are sure of that. He may sit at a table at the Café Tingis in the poor city, or at a table at the Café Paris at the rich city. We do not know. He knows were are here. It is his business to know.

“Habib,” said a little boy, one of the runners, “I have found something.”

“Habib, what have you found?” asked Finnegan, choking on his anger, afraid of what it was.

“Go to the bottom of the tell and look,” the little boy said. Then he ran away.

Finnegan went to the bottom of the tell. He had already been heading there. He knew, with swelling frustration and horror, what he would find.

A tell is a mound, created by human occupation and abandonment of a site over many centuries. To Americans, all of Tangier feels like a tell.

The French were just another occupation and abandonment of the same ground. And now money from the Arabian gulf creates another sort of occupation.

We start our search to the windward, out the western gate of the Kasbah, where cliffs overlook the Atlantic. Murder would be easy here, but the geography isn’t right: the cliffs come too close to the ocean for a tell. And there are no goats.

Too many people in the poor town and the rich town…not a place for an open-air  murder.

To the east then, where the ground is sandier? Our shanty, the Hotel Nabil, is in the east. And there is a weird, overgrown patch of land just beyond, surrounded now by a crumbling stone fence and then on all four sides by buildings. Could a tell be hidden there, protected from development by law or by superstition? Do we hear a goat?

A weedy patch near the beach in Tangier, Morocco.

Do these weeds and the stone wall hide a tell? Is the grave on Don Lewis near?

At the bottom of the tell, in a weed patch, he found Don Lewis dead. He was stripped of robe and hood, and all his pockets had been turned inside out.

Nobody was there except a curious goat, the only eyewitness. The nearest shanty was fifty yards away; there were only weeds, brush, and waste. But Finnegan did not leave Don Lewis where he was. He looked for a cleaner place. He carried Don a hundred yards to where he found soft sand under the creepers, and he scooped out a grave for him.

It was clean sand here, and the creepers were from aromatic bushes, not from weeds. It was soft, and Finnegan scooped and delved diligently, having only his hands and a short hand-knife. But he had it about deep enough.

“Dig it deeper!” Papa Devil exploded like a crack of thunder, his voice rumbling with hate. “Deeper, I say. It will have to hold you both.”

“Oh, go to Hell!” Finnegan told Papa Devil, himself shaking with a conflict of emotions.

Finnegan was doubly upset. He hadn’t suspected that Papa Devil was nearly so close. He had thought that the steps following him from the bottom of the tell were those of the curious goat.

The stone fence keeps us from exploring the bottom of the tell near the Hotel Nabil, and we haven’t a hand knife to go poking through the sand for bones. Surely this place, Tangier, has plenty of bones.

Like Finnegan, we must leave Don Lewis in his lonely grave, and ready ourselves for the boat. Tomorrow we sail into the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean, where daggers turn to guns, and people reveal the complexity of their true selves,