The boat captain, Mustafa, watched Mumina’s coming and going from a shady, secluded area behind a khat stand across the street from Zaynab’s apartment. While he waited, he chewed and guzzled Coke. He was furious with himself for taking so long to find the cooler and now the girl had it. Long enough to let her discover and take the money, the gun, the passport. He needed a plan, had to find out what she had done with it.
He grunted, stood and turned around. He sucked in his protruding stomach and prepared to urinate on the back of the khat stand. He had just lifted his macwiis when he felt a knife tip poke his side. He yelped and dropped the macwiis.
“Can’t a man piss in peace?” he said, his voice breaking on the last word when he saw the men behind him. Two men, each holding bilaawes flanked him.
Mustafa laughed nervously. “Last time I checked it wasn’t a crime to pee.”
The men motioned with their daggers for him to come with them and they led him to a black Land Cruiser with shaded windows.
“Now what did I do to deserve this?” Mustafa said. “I’m just a guy trying to enjoy a little khat, trying to sip a little Coke, minding my own business. You can’t go around stabbing people in the side. This isn’t Xamar.”
“Shut up,” one of the men said and punched Mustafa in the face.
Mustafa shouted and spit out a broken tooth into his hand. “Now that was uncalled for. Tell me what you want and I’ll get it for you and you can leave me right beside the road, I won’t tell anyone about this misunderstanding.”
“Make him stop talking,” the driver said and a fist caught Mustafa’s ear. He yelped like a wounded dog.
They arrived at a walled compound and drove through a gate topped with broken glass and barbed wire. The men dragged Mustafa from the car into a dark, windowless building lit by a single bare lightbulb with a creaking fan overhead. They dropped him into a white plastic chair.
“Where’s the money?” one said.
Someone punched him again.
“Where’s the money?”
Mustafa spit on the floor.
“You blew up the boat and took off with the ransom money. Wanted us to think you were dead.” The man laughed. “I can make you dead. But not until you give us back the money. Not even the pirates would think to cheat our boss.”
It only took a few more well-aimed punches and kicks for Mustafa to break down into tears like a baby.
“I don’t have it,” he sobbed into his hands. “I don’t have it. The girl has it. The one who works at Peltier, the one from the boat. I didn’t think the pirates would would miss a few dollars.”
One of the men raised his hand to strike Mustafa again and the other held him back. “He’s telling the truth.” He turned to Mustafa. “You’re a coward, worse than Cigaal Shidaad.” He came close to Mustafa’s face and flashed the dagger again. “You want to keep your nose where it is? Your ears where they are?”
Mustafa nodded vigorously.
“Then you find this girl and get the money. You have three days.”
They threw him back into the car, drove to Arta Town and kicked him out. He rolled down a steep hill, crying out as thorns scratched his skin, then recovered and, limping and wiping blood from his face, flagged down a car to beg for a ride back to Djibouti Town.