Sunday, November 28, 2004

Chapter 5 - Enter Belinda… and the British Martinet!

Tony stirred, coming slowly awake. He felt her warm body pressing into his back as he became conscious of a pleasurable sensation and of his arousal. “Good morning darling”, she drawled hoarsely. “You like?” she asked. “Ummm.. very much..” He mumbled in assent, feeling his stomach tighten ever so slightly, aware of a little remaining stiffness at the back of his neck muscles and somewhat of a headache, no doubt from the tensions of the night before. Not that he had drank too much. Apart from a small glass to sample it, he had hardly touched the armagnac Paco Ramirez had sent over, good as it was. He kidded himself that that his headache was due to the lack of ventilation and cigarette smoke in the café. He made a mental note to speak to Jorge, see if they could not find some solution to the problem. If he was honest with himself, he would have accepted that the tension he was feeling had more to do with the incident at the end of the evening. For now, he couldn’t imagine any better medicine for his headache than Cindy’s wonderfully insatiable ministrations.

They had made love, with some passion, when they returned to his flat around two in the morning. Fervently, as if in an attempt to expunge his disturbed emotions from his encounter earlier. Cindy had sensed it. In ways that only a woman can, Cindy tried to sooth his turbulent feelings, distracting him with her own sexuality. In the drive back to the flat, she had whispered in his ear, asked for, in some detail, what she wanted, what she was expecting from him. Once all her demands had finally been met , they slept, both their wishes satiated in full. Tony slept fitfully. Now, he once more welcomed Cindy’s sensuousness and attention. It was as if she knew he needed her to caress away those thoughts. Yes, he needed Cindy around. He was glad as they once more lost themselves in their embraces and this time, unhurried lovemaking.

The lay on the damp sheets, spent, huddled. His headache eased, Cindy breathing gently and evenly. He felt her smooth stomach rising and falling in cadence with her breath. His mind once again allowing the outside world to permeate his thoughts, returning to the events of the previous evening. They had really enjoyed the evening, until that moment, Cindy even managed to get him to share a few dances with her. It would have been difficult for him, had she not insisted, as her suitors seemed endless, appearing at the table, one after another, requesting Tony’s leave to ask her to dance. Not that he minded, so long as they did observe the proper protocols by asking him first! Though relaxed, he did feel a certain possessive ownership, as latin men tend to but no overly so. She actually liked that about him, so long as it was not overdone, which he probably never would. She loved to dance and he not so much. He did like to please her though, conceding the occasional dance just to keep her happy. He felt himself tensing once more as his thoughts turned to the disagreeable and for him especially, somewhat distressing moment of the evening.

It had happened quite a while after Paco’s departure. They had spent most of the evening at their table enjoying Chippie and his wife’s company along with a group of other friends. He recalled the joke Chippie was telling as he rejoined the group after his conversation with Paco Ramirez. Chippie, with a big grin and at his best, telling jokes.

“So anyhow, there was Father Robles, walking along Fish Market Lane one day and happened to walk by one of the hookers who hang around the area. "Blowjob half a crown!", she half whispered at him as the priest went past. Naturally, she made him jump a little and with an uncertain look, shaking his head he hurried on. A little further on down the lane, so help me, another hooker, this time shouting, once more informed him, "Blowjob half a crown!". Well, he had had enough of these unknown verbal assaults and he scuttled off. Greatly relieved, he reached the relative safety of Main Street. He walked quickly back to the Cathedral. On arrival, he was greeted at the sacristy by the nun who looks after the priests housework, Sister Angelina, you know the one. Anyhow, Father Robles, confiding in the nun, in a quiet, perplexed tone, called her aside, "Dearest Sister, what is a blowjob?" The Sister, without a blink or hesitation replied, "Half a crown, just like in the market Father!" The table burst into uproarious laughter! Chippie could always be counted on to tell a good joke, so often irreverently directed at the local priests. Which reminded Tony as the table settled down, “You know Chippie, Paco Ramirez was just telling me about the parish priest in San Roque being carted off by the local ’Falangistas’ last week!” The ’Falanges’ were the equivalent of the German Nazi Brown shirts. “It appears they gave him a severe pasting. Something they didn’t appreciate in the sermon during Sunday mass! Things are getting worse over there.” Chippie nodded, “I heard about that from Mario”, mentioning one of their mutual smuggling acquaintances. “Mind you, things weren’t all that much better when the Republicans were flexing their muscles, not that long ago, were they? No, it got just as bad. Not that I have that much pity for the priests, to be honest. I mean, they are always putting their foot in it - constantly pontificating from their well fed, high up pulpits - telling us how to live our lives! Pah!” he shook his head in disgust. “In my opinion, the priests are as much to blame as anyone else for the mess the whole place is in!” he took a long swig of Paco’s armagnac. “Yes, well, be that as it may - there’s not so many of them now. What with both sides having so ruthlessly culled their ranks over the last eight years! And it’ll no doubt get worse before it gets better.” Tony said, diverting his glance to Chippie’s glass as he refilled it. Grasping the brandy balloon once more, with one all enveloping hand that hadn’t quite lost the engine oil and grease marks, “Tell you what Mario was also saying”, he looked back up at Tony, with some intensity. “I don’t know what your impression has been over the last few days but Mario was talking about the increase in activity they’ve all noticed from the ‘Sloppys’ over the last few weeks, especially over the last few days. They’re very worried, that lot. They reckon the ‘Slops’ are building up to a big crackdown on them!” Chippie steadied his gaze on Tony. Tony queried, “You mean the smuggling?” Chippie nodded. “Yes - the smugglers. They’re all talking about far more sightings of the ‘tabacaleras’, than usual - much more than usual - and not just the fast patrol boats either. No, no - they say they’re bringing over fast corvettes too! A group of them arrived over in Algeciras over the last few days. They’re there now! I tell you Tony, they‘re well and truly spooked!” he paused. The ’tabacaleras’ was how the fast coastal patrol boats, belonging to the Spanish authority’s paramilitary anti-smuggling forces were referred to by everyone. Chippie continued excitedly, “What about the Dorniers? Like the one we‘ve seen over the last few days. Twice today! Something’s going on Tony - don‘t you think?” Tony listened, pursing his lips and nodding slowly, thinking Chippie was so right. Something was up. Only, he wasn’t so sure it was just the Smugglers who should be the only ones concerned. “Yep - I think you’re right Chip! There does seem to be something in the air”, he said, not intending the pun.

Adjoining the Restaurant and Dance area, at Jorge’s suggestion, Tony had agreed a little while back, to add a smaller more private area that served as a little casino. It was never going to rival Monte Carlo but many of the Guests enjoyed a flutter at the couple of roulette and card tables. Uncle Armando approved. The takings were very reasonable!

Later, whilst enjoying one of his rare dances with Cindy, they heard raised voices over the music, coming from the adjoining room. Then, the crash of one of the small drinks tables that were used around the roulette and card tables, as it overturned, breaking some glasses on the way! As he came through the doors, Jorge and one of the waiters were already restraining a remonstrating tall thin man, his arms flapping about in an effort to avoid Jorge and the waiter’s attempts to overpower them. As Tony approached he saw another waiter and one of the guests helping a woman as she recovered from being thrown backwards, stumbling into the small drinks table by the Roulette wheel. With a start and a lurch of his stomach, he recognised Belinda! She was clearly very distressed and as she looked up their eyes met. Everything seemed to come to a stop. He no longer heard the music, though it was still playing next door. Everyone seemed to be moving slowly, almost not moving. All sound stopped. They just stared at each other. Belinda stared back, her eyes gradually filling with tears, strangely not so much from her distress it seemed, more in defiance. They stood there, locked in that moment for what seemed like an age but could only have been a few brief seconds. The sounds of the remonstrating between the man and the staff slowly brought him back to reality. In two steps he was holding her arms, ducking his head and looking up into her now lowered eyes, “Are you alright?” She didn’t answer. She just nodded vigorously and tried to move away, shrugging her arms and turning from him. One of the other ladies, quickly put her arms around her and made a gesture towards Tony, mouthing something like, “I’ll look after her!“ as she led Belinda away in the direction of the Lady’s’ room.

Tony turned to face the man who, by now, was well in hand, Jorge and the burly, thick set waiter, having managed to gain a controlling hold on him. Tony knew the man well! He was Belinda‘s husband. “What the devil are you playing at Captain?” Tony angrily demanded, not really concerned for a reply. “You Gibos, you’re all the same!” he spat! “Bloody jumped up Colonials - just like she is!” Forgetting his usual self control for a second, Tony grasped the Captain by the neck with one hand and felt his other hand clench forming a fist. Jorge, slightly surprised, quickly but calmly interjected, “It’s alright Boss. We’ll escort Captain Marriott outside”, with a quick movement, placed himself between the Captain, pushing Tony’s arm away from his hold round the Captain’s neck. The Captain allowed himself to be released and turned, adjusting himself, massaging his skin as he followed Jorge’s indication towards the doors. He was about to say something when Tony, with a large pointing finger in his face, snarled hoarsely, “If I ever hear you’ve forgotten yourself - with Belinda - you will answer to me my English friend!” They stared menacingly at each other for a second or two. Then the Captain turned, slowly moving his piercing blue eyes from Tony to Jorge, who was still urging the Captain, by indication, towards the exit. He did as he was being asked and marched off briskly towards the door of the cafe. Tony followed them a few paces. “Make sure Mrs. Marriott is alright and that she’s able to get home safely Jorge.” he ordered. “Yes sir!” Jorge assured him. “I’ll make sure.” Tony watched them disappear down the stairs to the Hotel’s foyer.

Cindy had watched the whole episode from a distance, for a moment alarmed at Tony’s unusual near loss of control and astonished at her realisation, she thought, “My god! He’s still in love with her!” She watched him follow Jorge and the Captain, remembering the expression on Belinda’s face when she had confronted Tony and thought, “and if I didn’t know any better, I do believe she is still in love with him!”

Tony had always thought Captain Peter Marriott of the Royal Signals, an unpleasant character. He knew his judgement was well founded and not tainted by the man’s relationship with Belinda. Others found him just as disagreeable. He was the stereotypical British Military ‘martinet’. A man who played it by the book and showing little regard for the consequences of his demands on his men, not to mention the local populace, his beloved ‘colonials‘! He would never understand whatever possessed Belinda to marry him.

Tall, thin with a fine clipped moustache on rather angular features and praetorian nose, Captain Marriott looked every bit the Garrison Staff Officer he was, even in his well cut civilian suit. Tony and Captain Marriott had never had much to do with each other directly. In his duties as Commander of his MTB, Tony had no need for direct contact with the Garrison, receiving all orders and briefings from the Naval base command. But the grapevine in Gibraltar was very efficient and people, some people, could hardly wait, at times, to bring the latest bit of gossip about the couple. The Captain’s more absurd orders or otherwise insulting behaviour towards his own junior staff, not least, towards the Gibraltarian members of the military attached to the Garrison was often the subject of these choice items of gossip.

Later, in Jorge’s office, he was able to find out exactly what happened. It appears Marriott had not been lucky and had lost a significant amount, certainly more than a Captain’s military salary could afford. It was common knowledge though, that he had private means, coming from a very well off family who owned a large country estate in England. Nevertheless, Belinda, probably because of her background and conservative upbringing, objected to him throwing his, their money away in such a manner and quietly and very discreetly but not enough to avoid the Head Croupier’s notice, had urged him to stop. Added to which, he had consumed a few drinks, probably one too many. Captain Marriott, somewhat uncharacteristically for a Staff Officer, who are normally very careful how they behave, in public particularly, seems to have lost control of his temper and lashed out at Belinda, pushing her back and making her crash into the drinks table. Whilst Jorge explained, Tony could feel his temporal artery throbbing and inadvertently, his fists clenching once more.

As he lay in bed now, one hand on Cindy, whilst she slept quietly beside him, he recalled the strong effect the whole incident had had on him and the shock at seeing her, especially distressed and unhappy. He was irritated to the point of anger at the turmoil of emotions Belinda could still make him feel. A little surprised too. It had after all been some time, years even, since it had become obvious that the hopes they once held and the promises they had once made to each other were not going to be fulfilled. After all, he thought again, it is all of five years since her marriage to that ‘martinet’!