Friday, 24 April 2009

Chapter 5

Enter the Don...

Chapter 5. Arrival of Geordie and Koff


         It took them all of January to settle their affairs. The main problem was where to find the cash for the trip out and this they eventually solved. Contributions appeared; no mystery, but, hush hush, confidential. Koff used the time to pursue research on Bolivia. Geordie wasted his energy, basking in the reflected glory of his chivalrous quest. Each according to his heritage.


         Koff came from a Jewish immigrant background; his grandfather had fled from the pogroms in nineteenth century Ukraine and this has made Koff circumspect but inquisitive. His curiosity is voracious but tempered with caution. Just don’t assume this makes him a soft touch by any means.


       Geordie’s father had been a shop steward in a Birmingham car factory and Geordie grew up inheriting a natural flair for organization until involvement with the local drug culture alienated him from his family. But behind his facade of debauchery, a taste for militant action remains.


            So both lads arrive at the Alto prepared in their own way -  Geordie a big man, a large-sized package, frayed at the edges by evident excesses, Koff looking trim and collected. Both are excited and though not yet clued into the specifics, aware that various trials and even traps lay ahead, knowing that Jim would arrange a special reception for his special friends – his speciality.


        So at the airport they’re putting on a brave face, making a raucous, jestful entry, leaning on each others shoulders, too loud, in a manner that immediately draws attention to themselves (tut,tut).


        They have accepted any arrangements already made and so head straight down, staring for the first time with amazement and without comment at the canyon that drags them in and at the splendour of the distant peaks beyond.


          On the journey down the motorway Geordie’s thoughts are focused on Jim.  He’ll be entering a scene which Jim has already established as his own, whether as a trusted mate or as a rival, the history of their prior times together leaves undefined. But Geordie has no doubt that he is arriving as of right; he is fully entitled to share whatever fate is marked on their cards. As Koff is in complete accord, they’re determined to put on a brave face, though both are more concerned about the reception awaiting them from Sandy. After the mauling they received at Mayola Road, they can have no illusions of her as an ally.  However confused she pretends to be, the woman is too sharp to be taken in by their show of brash bravado.


         “Hope she’s made contact by now.”  Such e-mail messages that she’s bothered to send have revealed nothing, or less.


         “Some hope.”


         Straight to the hotel, then, where they’re not surprised at being expected and already booked in, though they find the manager grumpy and inattentive. He despatches them with Mario to an isolated area beyond the public display of renovated, restructured stucco suitable for waltzing or tangoing, up into a dim passageway of creaking, splintering, wooden stairwells where the ancient building reveals its true age and character. Without any ceremony, Mario dumps them into a cold, grimy room of faded colours, high up among the rafters.


                 At least, during the day a dusty cracked skylight provides some light but the decrepit naked bulb will make night reading a strain. Luckily, this pair of travellers usually have other matters in mind for the evenings. As for a night-time trip to the murky bathroom, this will involve a hazardous journey down the groaning stairs and along a filthy corridor on the off chance that the shower is still functioning and actually supplies hot water..


              A far cry from the civilised facilities being offered to Sandy. Talking of whom, surely she has been advised of their arrival because, there she is, waiting like a ravenous vulture, by the reception desk. And so the inevitable meeting they’ve been dreading commences.


          “ So what’s news from friend Jim?” they ask.


            Silence, pokerfaced silence, accompanied by a  steady stoney stare directed at the two of them.


            “I presumed you’d been in touch,” she finally relented, “hatching plots among yourselves.”


             “Huh!??” was all the response they could manage.


            “I tell you there are games going on. Trickery. I get the feeling it’s all a set-up for the benefit of Lord Jim.” The irritation just oozes of out Sandy.


            “You’ve made no contact, then. Right, OK, tell us on what grounds are you making these charges?” reply the lads.


           “Well let’s start with this character behind the desk.” She cocked a thumb at the spritely clerk who was scowling at them. “From the first I suspected he was not all he seemed to be. Not a clerk, not even the manager I discovered, but the owner of this marvellous palace, lording it over the poor staff, “ she indicates with distaste.


           “What would you expect? This is Bolivia after all, “Geordie interrupts, “Back home we have capitalist pigs aplenty.”


              “Let me finish,” Sandy says. “ I enquired about Jim’s whereabouts and the manager turned icy cold. Since when I‘ve not had a civil word out of him. And worse, in fact, obstruction. Why should that be?”


                   Koff shrugs.


                 “ Then one fine day a man comes in with a lawyer in tow. Something about an unpaid debt and the lawyer pulls out a legal paper for the manager to sign. ‘Can you verify your identity?’ the lawyer demands and asks for his ID as proof. ‘So you really are Dr. Beto Villegas?’ he said.” Sandy places her fists on her hips for emphasis and nods in the direction of the reception desk. No reaction from Geordie but Koff is suddenly smirking.


                    “I presume that Sarah gave you all your copies of tha’ book? I’m sure she did. Do your homework! For example. Chapter 34 onwards. This here is the same doctor whose girlfriend Jim stole. The man he cuckolded and he makes sure that we’re put up at this guy’s hotel!”


                   “ So what’s your point?”


                   “That’s precisely my point. Chicanery. Jim wants to complicate our lives. He’s placing us in impossible positions.”


                    ‘Paranoia’ is the boys’ verdict and they leave her standing there, red-faced and almost in tears. In short, they cut her short and instead of arguing the point, they scoot off for the Perez to take up Jim’s personal recommendation from his latest email, nay, his drooling fervour for the shoeshiners’ regular evening football game and free-for-all (Jim really knows what would attract these lads).


                   If Sandy had been able to witness their enthusiasm at that spectacle, she would surely have given up in disgust at their amoral behaviour and left Bolivia forthwith, leaving the boys and Jim to their own devices.


               But events were shaping around her that would refocus her zeal. Sandy was about to be caught up in the tragedies of Black February and the shame she felt for Goni’s wretched governance would utterly eclipse any wayward pleasures of her British acquaintances.




Koff’s research on Don  Quixote.-


     The author Miguel de Cervantes led a tempestuous but trying life before getting round to writing his masterpiece. After being crippled in the naval battle of Lepanto (1571) it was his ill-fortune to be intercepted on his way home by Arab corsair pirates and held as a slave in Algiers for 5 long years until his ransom could be paid off. Then despite his early unsuccessful attempts at a literary career, Cervantes became bankrupt and was thrown into a Spanish debtors’ prison, which is where he conceived his notion for the novel about a gentleman whose theatrical obsession about the chivalric world of knights errant leads him into madness and ridicule.


   It was a this point, that Koff picked up the lead, since unsubstantiated, that Cervantes, before falling into bankruptcy, had been offered a senior post in an obscure corner of the Spanish colony of Upper Peru but somehow Cervantes fluffed his interview with the royal court officials. How fascinating, conjectured Koff. If Cervantes had managed to obtain that position in La Paz, he would have been saved from financial embarrassment and maybe Sancho Panza and the melancholy Knight of the Sad Countenance would never have ridden into immortality


         But Koff could never find corroboration for this yarn and forgot about the connection, until he uncovered another piece of the puzzle that would tie in directly with the krew’s quixotic quest. The story of the unfortunate hidalgo was published in two parts and the first proved a fantastic success. Quotes from the parody were on everybody’s lips, so that when a rather chastened Quixote rides into action for a second instalment he and all the other characters in the plot are aware of the personality of this known fantasist with his misplaced sincerity, and play practical jokes on him. Quixote is cured of his ludicrous quest for imaginary justice and dies a sane but sadder man


        Now, as the tale of the krew’s exploits developed without Jim clearly stamping his presence on the show, Koff grew increasingly concerned that Jim, after the phenomenal success of tha’ book back home in England might be heading for a similar fate, and the phrase ‘quixotic’ no longer seemed so alluring. For this state of affairs he blamed Sarah, though he should have placed more faith in Jim’s sound judgement.

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