Read Djibouti Online

Authors: Elmore Leonard


BOOK: Djibouti
4.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Elmore Leonard

For Mike Lupica


Chapter One

XAVIER WATCHED TWO LEGIONNAIRES stroll out from the terminal to…

Chapter Two

XAVIER POINTED TO THE commercial port off to the west,…

Chapter Three

YOU WENT TO A fashion show in Paris to look…

Chapter Four

THE FIRST DOCUMENTARY FILM Dara Barr shot on her own…

Chapter Five

DARA WAS OUT ON the Buster twenty-seven days.

Chapter Six

THEY WERE CLOSER NOW to the cargo ships and tankers…

Chapter Seven

NOW THEY WERE WATCHING on the screen a ship stacked…

Chapter Eight

DARA, THE NEXT MORNING, came out of the wheelhouse to…

Chapter Nine

BILLY WYNN WAS WEARING a canvas shooting vest with cartridge…

Chapter Ten

NOW THE LAPTOP SCREEN showed cargo ships and the massive…

Chapter Eleven

BILLY WAS DRIVING HELENE nuts. He'd say, “You don't mind…

Chapter Twelve

THE NIGHT OF HIS party Idris presented a bonus to…

Chapter Thirteen

THE PARTY COMING TO an end reminded Xavier of a…

Chapter Fourteen

THEY WERE AT WORK again in Dara's hotel suite, looking…

Chapter Fifteen

THEY WATCHED THE SKIFF heading back to Eyl, a boatload…

Chapter Sixteen

I'VE GOT TWO HOURS of Somali pirates in the can,”…

Chapter Seventeen

THE CIA STATION CHIEF brought Dara by elevator to the…

Chapter Eighteen

BEFORE HE WAS JAMA Raisuli or Jama al Amriki he…

Chapter Nineteen

JAMA WAS TWENTY-EIGHT NOW, his birthday coming on the day…

Chapter Twenty

THE FIRST THING XAVIER did, he got to Djibouti, was…

Chapter Twenty-One

THEY WERE IN XAVIER'S Toyota, feeling their way south through…

Chapter Twenty-Two

ONCE THE WOMAN AND her servant were out of the…

Chapter Twenty-Three

HARRY HAD FINISHED SEVERAL gins by the time Idris caught…

Chapter Twenty-Four

THEY MET AT THE Club ZuZu and before long the…

Chapter Twenty-Five

THIS TIME DARA AND Xavier came to Idris's apartment on…

Chapter Twenty-Six

BILLY KEPT PEGASO TRAILING the gas ship by a mile,…

Chapter Twenty-Seven

BILLY CALLED THE NEXT morning early, 6 A.M., the blinds closed,…

Chapter Twenty-Eight

HE WASN'T SURE HE hit the movie girl. Talking too…

Chapter Twenty-Nine

BIN LADEN SAYS IN his speech, we ever quit being…

Chapter Thirty

A TAXI DRIVER EVER TRIED to charge him too much,…

Chapter Thirty-One

I DON'T RECALL,” BILLY SAID to Xavier, “if I told…

Chapter Thirty-Two

UBU KALID, AN ASSISTANT at Djibouti Marine, drove Jama in…

Chapter Thirty-Three

XAVIER REMEMBERED DONZIS FROM offshore powerboat racing. Cowes to Torquay…

Chapter Thirty-Four

FROM THE COVE JAMA climbed over the island again to…

Chapter Thirty-Five

XAVIER CHECKED WITH DJIBOUTI Marine wanting to know who it…

Chapter Thirty-Six

XAVIER CROSSED THE ROOF to Dara's dining room and kitchen,…

stroll out from the terminal to wait for the flight: dude soldiers in round white kepis straight on their heads, red epaulets on their shoulders, a wide blue sash around their waist, looking like they from some old-time regiment except for the short pants and assault rifles. Standing there waiting for Air France arriving from Paris, due in Djibouti at 8

From the terminal Xavier watched an air force cargo plane land and taxi to the end of the strip where a line of Blackhawk helicopters were parked. By 8:30 the once-a-week Air France was in, the stairway wheeled up and a gang of Arabs and Dara Barr coming off, the Foreign Legion checking out the passengers, seeing could they tell a terrorist they saw one.

Now Dara was coming along talking to an Arab-looking guy, nodding, getting along, maybe sat next to each other on the flight. The man wore a tan suit and striped tie, had a trim Arab beard but looked citified, not the kind rode camels. Now Dara
was putting on her shades. She'd be saying how hot it was this early.

Xavier crossed the lobby to wait as they came through customs, Dara taking some time to get her visa; it allowed her to stay six months if she wanted. She'd tell them no, she planned to cruise around and shoot pirates for a film. Now Dara was coming out with the Arab gentleman, saw Xavier and ran into the arms of her six-foot-six black assistant, slim in his faded jeans and T-shirt, Xavier seventy-two, twice Dara's age, Dara squirming, glad to see him, Xavier kissing the crown of her blond hair saying, “You the best thing I've smelled all week,” and raised his eyes to the Arab gentleman watching.

The man smiling now. “Dara's told me about you.”

This Arab with a Brit sound to his voice.

“I understand you've been through the gulf countless times as a seafarer. Now you come as Miss Barr's cameraman.”

“More her grip,” Xavier said.

Dara got them shaking hands, introducing Xavier LeBo from New Orleans to Ari Ahmed Sheikh Bakar. “Known as Harry in England,” Dara said. “Harry's with IMO, the International Maritime Organization, investigating—you ready?—piracy in the Gulf of Aden.”

“Actually,” Harry said, “my role is with the Djibouti Code of Conduct people, under the auspices of the IMO.”

Dara said, “Tell Xavier what you do.”

“Quite simply, I speak to pirates directly, the leaders, about the hopelessness of their venture. They're bringing the navies of the world down on them in their outboard skiffs. I try to convince them there's simply no future in piracy.”

“Harry,” Dara said, “is the spokesman for what is proper in this African world, or what can be gotten away with, and what is outright improper, hijacking ships and holding them for ransom.”

“Dara, as you know,” Harry said, “actually sympathizes with the pirates.” Harry getting a look of amazement in his smile. He turned to Dara to say it was great fun traveling with her and learning about her films, actually stimulating. “I love your stories,” Harry said to her. “You'll call me as soon as you have time, all right? Promise? And I'll introduce you to an actual pirate, sort of a gentleman rogue. Or that's the way he sees himself.”


Dara a peck on the cheek and hurry out to step into a Bentley, shining dark green in the morning sun.

“He does all right, huh?”

“He went to Oxford.”

“Learn to talk like that?”

“His mother's English, his dad's Saudi. They keep an apartment in London on Sloane Square. He says his mom's hip, at one time ran with the Sloane Rangers. She stayed there on and off while he was at Oxford.”

“He's for real? The man talks to pirates?”

“We're meeting him in two weeks at a place called Eyl, a pirate stronghold on the Somali coast.”

“He call it that, a stronghold?”

“It's a beach town where they're holding eight hijacked ships. I said in two weeks they might be gone. He said, ‘Or there might be more.' They've had an oil tanker there for three months. There are always ships, Harry said, being held for ransom. Harry plays the patient, understanding good-guy role. You heard him, he called it his
with the Djibouti Code of Conduct. Seventeen countries that agree piracy must be stopped. Once in a while they meet in Djibouti. Harry lives in the European quarter, a
Saudi working for the improvement of Somalia. If that's what he's doing.”

“But you like him,” Xavier said. “Thinkin, Hmmmm, I never had an A-rab boyfriend.”

“When could I?” Dara said. “Come on, I want to see our boat.”


luggage and equipment cases and put them in the rental, a black Toyota sedan, Xavier asking if she'd like to stop at the hotel first and freshen up.

“Have my hair done?”

“You could.”

“Have I ever had my hair done?”

“Once I know of, when we got the Oscar. That's the best-lookin you ever been.”

got the Oscar? You told Harry you were a grip.”

“Bein humble in the presence of the Brit sheikh. You want me to be a grip, I'm your grip. You want me to shoot somethin, I'll shoot it. And you'll like my work. I been shootin shrimpers, gettin 'em to act up. I believe I could do the same with these Somali gangbangers, shoot 'em pullin off their acts of piracy, the first big-time acts in three hundred years, believin they got the stuff to do all they want. They cocky. You say you want to put 'em in a movie they gonna wet their pants.”

“I'm counting on them,” Dara said. “But I want to see the boat. How big is it?”

“A thirty-foot trawler. All cleaned up and painted it looks like a boat for gay sailors, a cute little fat-ass boat. Has a beam on her can ride most seas. Or put paravanes on her, stick out to the sides, you want to keep her from rollin too much.”

“She's ready to go?”

“Stores comin later on. I made a deal with a man supplies hotels. We stockin French table wines and Heinekens, the only beer I could find around here. The Heineken man must have people workin for him carry machine guns. You can't drink the water. You might even be puttin yourself at risk takin a bath.” Xavier said, “You mention shootin here when we get back—lemme show you what you have, you might not want to shoot it. This Djibouti's a nasty place. Hot, full of open sewers, has rats, dirty kinds of bugs, like that beetle rolls up bat shit bigger'n he is?”

They were following a fairly straight road along the east coast of the city.

“But if you gonna shoot some now”—he paused—“get a feel of what to look for when we back? Fine. But don't shoot people lookin at you.”

Dara took an HD camcorder, a small one, out of her cotton shoulder bag.

“They want to be paid?”

“Some even refuse the bribe. Spit in front of you and walk away. I don't know it's their religion the reason. They mostly Sunnis here. The pirates, I hear they somethin else. Okay, we go over a few blocks now and head back south.”

Dara lowered her window. “You're starting with the slums?”

“Girl, this is the upscale part of town, where the Europeans live.”

Dara, shooting now, said, “Sort of like our French Quarter.”

“I was gonna ask if it reminds you.”

“It does, a little. Vieux Carré with Moorish doorways and windows.”

“Old-time French Colonial built by Arabs. I been through the gulf thirty-seven times. Mostly comin west we'd put in here to refuel.”

“You always went ashore?”

“I could be a tour guide, keep you from steppin in the sewers. You don't see none here but you will, we get to the African quarter. Look way over left. That's the U.S. Embassy. How'd you like to be the ambassador to Djibouti? His wife ask him, ‘What you gonna do today, dear?' Ambassador say to her, ‘You know, I wouldn't mind tryin some of that khat. Suppose to make you feel cool while you doin time in this ghetto.'”

Dara said, “I hear khat is big in San Diego, all the Somalis living there. But why San Diego?”

“See if they any retired pirates there. Now we comin to the Central Market, biggest one in town, the mosque standin over it. Rows and rows of stalls sellin shit—clothes, chickens, all kind of fruit and vegetables. Look at the outfits, the colors on the women. Lookit over here, the table of meat.”

Dara was shooting it.

“It's moving.”

“That's the flies on the piece of goat loin, all movin around to get a bite. Look at the girl there, holdin branches of leaves, cellophane around the bunch. She sellin khat. Only good two days so you keep it out of the air.” Xavier reached over to touch Dara shooting the rows of stalls, the women sitting under umbrellas. “Look at those guys, the wads in their jaws. Suckin on khat, known as the flower of paradise. All day they be chewin and suckin. They fly it in from Ethiopia, deliver ten eleven tons of chew every morning. Keep the men happy.”

“The women don't use it?”

“What they can sneak. You in the Muslim world. Women get seconds maybe.”

“I got some of that in Bosnia,” Dara said.

“Your best one. You know how to shoot women, get in their souls, how you do them. Hey, but you good with men, way you let 'em be theirselves thinkin they hot shit. Listen, you gonna get
a chance tonight, see the bad boys up from Somalia in the big city.”

“You're sure they come here?”

“Buy a suit of clothes…buy cars and they hardly have any roads down where they live. They come here lookin for French pussy and settle for Ethiopian chicks. They not bad, or the chicks down from Eritrea, they special, have that fine bone structure in their faces. You gonna see the bad boys out clubbin, the first time in their poor-ass lives in the big city cuttin up.”

“How do you know they're pirates?”

“They tell you. Let the chicks know they loaded from hijackin ships, makin good pay from it. I talk to a party lady after the boys left or passed out, had some English. She say these Somali desert boys are more fun than the Frenchies. Love to get all the way drunk. And they rich, finally livin their lives.”

Dara got out a cigarette and lighter from her shirt pocket, a faded blue work shirt loose and comfortable on her. She said, “They go out in skiffs, take down huge cargo ships and tankers, and make at least a million or so each time.” She snapped her lighter but didn't hold the flame. “I wonder if they're getting help. Tipped off, told what ships look good, easy to board.”

“They gone after a hundred or so and score forty-two times,” Xavier said. “That's like battin over four hundred.”

“Somebody,” Dara said, “could be giving them information for a piece of the action.”

“Who you think's doin it?”

She said, “Maybe we'll find out. I want to see my boat,” and snapped the lighter again.

BOOK: Djibouti
4.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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