Excerpt of Dark Voyage by Alan Furst
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He walked purposefully along the quay, thanking his stars as he passed a Norwegian tanker berthed at the pier and caught the rich aroma of aviation fuel. Of all the ways he didn't want to die. DeHaan was tall, seemed tall, and lean, with strength in the arms and shoulders. Regular features: a North Sea face, gray eyes, sometimes cold, sometimes warm, with seafarer's lines webbed at the corners, and rough, fair hair, almost brown, its first gray--he'd just turned forty-one--visible in sunlight. A certain lift to this face; pride, maybe, of profession not position--good as any man, better than none. Thin lips, not far from a smile, that Dutch set of the mouth which found the world a far more eccentric, and finally amusing, place than its German versions to the east. He had big hands, appreciated by women, who'd told him about it. Surprise to DeHaan, that idea, but not unwelcome.
Should he have worn his uniform? The Hyperion Line had one, plain and blue, for their captains, traditional on the first day of a voyage and never seen again, but DeHaan disliked the thing. It wasn't, to him, a real uniform, and a real uniform was what he'd wanted. In May of 1940, when the conquering Germans had stripped out the filing cabinets of the Royal Dutch Navy administration building in The Hague, they'd surely found, and just as surely refiled for their own purposes, the 1938 application of one DeHaan, Eric Mathias, virtually begging for a commission, and service on a destroyer, or a torpedo boat, or anything, really, that shot.
He walked past the railway station and, a few minutes later, entered the narrow streets behind the Bab el Marsa gate--another world. Fragrant, the Maghreb. Stronger than he remembered; twenty-five years at sea, he thought, and too many ports. Fresh orange peel on the cobbled street, burning charcoal and--grilled kidney? He rather thought it was, nothing else quite smelled like that. Ancient drains, cumin, incense. And hashish, nothing else quite smelled like that. A scent encountered now and again aboard the Noordendam, but one mostly ignored it, as long as the men weren't on watch. He was himself, as it happened, not entirely innocent of such things, the stuff had been one of what Arlette called her vile little pleasures. One of many. They'd used it one night in her room in the rue Lamartine, balancing tiny morsels on a burning cigarette end in an ashtray and sucking up the smoke through a tightly rolled hundred-drachma note he'd found in his pocket. Then they'd made ferocious and wildly chaotic--Ah, this! No, this! But what about this?--love, after which he'd fallen dead asleep for ten hours then woke to make Arlette a colossal Dutch pancake swimming in butter.
In the rue Raisuli, Arab music from a dozen radios, and two Spanish Guardia, in their Napoleonic leather hats, strolling along in a way that told the world they owned the street. Which, officially, they did. Tangier had been since 1906 an International Zone, a free port trading in currency, boys, and espionage. Now Spain had taken control of the city, incorporated into Spanish Morocco, which meant that Casablanca was French, ruled from Vichy, and Tangier Spanish, and neutral, and governed by Madrid. But DeHaan and everybody else knew better. It was, like Paris, one of those cities emphatically owned by the people who lived in it. And how, DeHaan wondered, did Mijnheer Hoek fit into all this? Trader? Emigre? Decadent? All three? Number 18 in the rue Raisuli turned out to be a restaurant, Al Mounia, but not the sort of restaurant where important people gave private dinners.
DeHaan parted the bead curtain, stepped inside, and stood there for a moment, looking lost. This can't be right, he thought. Tile floor, bare wooden tables, a few customers, more than one reading a newspaper with dinner. Then a man he took to be the proprietor came gliding up to him, DeHaan said, "Monsieur Hoek?" and that turned out to be the magic phrase. The man clapped his hands twice and a waiter took DeHaan through the restaurant and out the back, into a courtyard bounded by tenements where life went on at full pitch; six stories of white laundry hung on lines strung across the sky, six stories of families eating dinner by open windows. From there, DeHaan was led through a damp tunnel into a second courtyard, an unlit, silent courtyard, then down an alley to a heavy, elaborately carved door. The waiter knocked and went on his way as a voice from within called out, "Entrez."
Excerpted from Dark Voyage by Alan Furst Copyright© 2004 by Alan Furst. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.