Updated: Jan 29
The drive to the city’s outskirts was fast indeed. Even when North-African roads usually were traffic-free, Ricard was used to seeing the occasional vehicles passing him or coming in the opposite direction every now and then. Yet this time, he did not see a single one; not even in the outside of the city’s limits where there would usually be a lone taxi taking a straggler who had one too many drinks back home or a patrol making the rounds.
It was especially strange given Casablanca’s importance to those well-outside the Axumite sphere of immediate influence, and far enough from Rodhesian clutches. True to its ancient nature, Casablanca was as much a melting pot as it was a true hotspot for all sorts of activities, and Ricard knew smuggling was certainly not the least frequent among these. Maybe calling it “the City of Spies” as those big-screen Galt productions referred to it wasn’t as pretentious or ridiculous as Ricard had thought when he first heard it.
“Constant exposition turns to familiarity and then normalization,” Ricard Llorent repeated, imitating the tired monotone voice of his therapist. That was another thing he was eager and looking forward to leaving behind, sure as he was most of his bad mood swings and anxiety would forever be gone once he had enough money to leave Africa behind him, once and for all. “I want to normalize not being buit, Doc, moltes gràcies.”
That was precisely what made Ricard take this particular job in the first place. He had played both messenger and courier before; sometimes even accepting jobs too risky for the money offered, but times were tough and whatever it was the Marticianos had sent him out to deliver, it had to be highly illegal given the size of the cut he was getting from them.
Diamonds? Pilfered tribal gold? Ivory? Sacred masks? Ricard Llorent was real busy trying to wrap his mind around just what could be so valuable to the Marticiano “family,” that they threw such a large number his way. Whatever els diables it is, those crooks expect a big return… and they chose me for the whole thing because they know me really well and are totally sure I won’t try to steal from them.
Ricard felt a strange pang of pride mixed with self-pity at the thought. The Marticianos knew he was so reliable only because he lacked true ambition… or the guts to try and pull a fast one on them. It was mostly true, though. Ricard had survived on his own so far because he never went for a bigger bite that he could swallow or quickly fence it without causing a fuss. Llorent always knew he was only a petty crook; never in his life, had he pretended to be otherwise because that meant defending such a claim from anyone not willing to accept it and Ricard preferred to avoid conflict at all costs. So, yes; he did not have the guts to stick it to the Marticiano gang of two-cent lowlifes who fancied themselves a true crime family. They did call themselves that and they also had the muscle to defend such a questionable claim from small fries like him. So, he played along without asking too many questions and did as he was told. Very business like; utterly pathetic, too, but it paid the bills and settled the debts.
‘There. That’s the general whereabouts of the old warehouse I’m supposed to leave this junk at.’ Ricard’s voice came out dry and laden with resigned disappointment.
That was another thing his therapist had told him: ‘get rid of these harsh judgments about yourself and what you do. See yourself in a brighter light.’
‘Well, Doc,’ Ricard smirked. ‘Seeing myself in a “brighter light” would mean I fucked up and either the police, the army or the Marticianos are holding a mirror to my beaten face to stress the point mistakes were made and I had it coming, and I’m sitting tied to a chair under a naked lightbulb somewhere airtight enough that no one will hear me as I scream… so, you know… fuck your brighter light!’
Yes, the thought hit him like a wave rushing the shore as he drove the rickety truck through the first alley leading into Casablanca’s poorest district. I don’t have the guts.