The Faceless 1. The Sweet Perfume of Clove and Impurity

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Ricard Llorent was walking down the poorly-lit street behind the Post Maroc with rhythmic, well-measured steps. Whatever his face showed to the outside, he was very nervous yet still unafraid. Money in great quantities usually made up for any lack of true bravery. ‘Ambition will always eat up fear, Ricky,’ Orlando Devinter used to tell him every time they went out on one of their “commercial runs” along the North-African coast. He hated the damned Dutch and his proclivity to cut it too close in their deliveries.

Maybe that was what got him killed, Ricard could not suppress the thought and immediately pinched himself in the side after he folded his arms to rub off some imaginary cold. Damn it, nen! They told you to keep clean of negative thoughts!

It was true. The Martaciano goons at the pier had told him some things needed to be kept away if he wanted to complete his next job in one piece. After all, no one of European descent understood just how the Federation’s agents worked or why they suddenly appeared to stop some criminal activities and not others. For all the white folk knew, it might as well be impure thoughts and guilt over one’s actions what tipped them off ,and soon the prowlers and thieves were met by the grim avengers serving the Axumite Federation.

It was this not knowing that made Ricard nervous. He had been to the semi-deserted city of Rabat before, but any sensible and cautious individual would never feel at ease in a place so close to the northern stretches of land claimed by the Miasma. Yet it was his already knowing the amount of money he would walk away with, that kept him going at a steady pace down Avenue Al Bassatine towards the intersection with Avenue Ibn Khatib. There, he was to meet with two men waiting for him outside an ice truck who would hand him the keys, and then Ricard was to wait fifteen minutes after the men left before starting the truck and heading to the outskirts of Casablanca where he would exchange the truck for two duffel bags, head back to Rabat, drop one at the Martaciano’s safehouse and take the other with him to wherever he decided to go after all was said and done.

Simple enough, Ricard reached for his pack of cigarettes and just before he took the last one out, he smirked and put the packet back in his coat’s pocket. I’m saving you for the trip back. It’s not like I’m going to find many souqs left around here and much less one that remains open at this hour.

Still, the fragance of the black tobacco and clove filled his nostrils and he sighed, delighted at the sweet and mild aroma. A few minutes later, he was turning the corner on Avenue Ibn Khatib and sure enough, the old rickety ice truck was parked there, but there were no signs of the Martaciano goons.

This made a chill run down his spine. Why aren’t they here, the sound of his racing heart almost drowned his thoughts. What has gone wrong… has anything gone wrong?

He pretended to walk past the truck as if not caring about it, careful to just take a peek from the corner of his eye and that when he saw the glint.

It was faint, almost imperceptible, but he had no doubt about what he had seen. It was the keys to the truck, discreetly stuck under the old vehicle’s only windshield wiper.

Without a second thought, he turned around, approached the vehicle, leaned over and pulled the keys from under the decaying rubber. He took the large key, inserted it in the lock and effortlessly popped open the door.

He smiled… soon enough, he was well on his way to a short drive, a quick drop, the ride back, another quick drop and a bagful of money that would take him out of North-Africa in the next ocean liner he set his sights on and headed to a far off place in the coast of Mexico... or the Carolinas, he didn’t care.

Soon, he was going to be rich enough to never have a care in his life, again.

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