Elmore Leonard: Djibouti

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Elmore Leonard Djibouti
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Djibouti: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Elmore Leonard



Xavier watched two legionnaires 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 A.M.

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." XAVIER WATCHED HARRY GIVE 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 role 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." THEY PICKED UP DARA'S 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."

"We 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 Carre 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.'"

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