A Guy Marlborough Mystery
Smoke trailed out the door of the Cafe Chavez, and the few society types passing regarded it with trained disdain; the Cafe was a place suitable for the wheelings and dealings of stevedores and gamblers, surely, but of no interest to them. The acrid smell of tobacco fell unhappily on these learned noses. The German did not mind.
He entered the cafe at precisely six fifty-four P.M., seated himself near the window, and quite markedly kept his attention from the outside. He knew it was not best to look for the man he was meeting; this would heighten the anticipation of it all, though he was never nervous. This meeting, however, was important. He adjusted his monocle and looked at the menu.
Of course, the monocle was a fake, but it served to enhance the man's German credentials, and at any rate his contact was to look for it. The contact arrived a shade late, the German noted to himself: seven oh-three. Better than some. They exchanged light, nonsensical phrases: "And how is your grandmother's knee?" "Delightful. I see you have purchased two new flower pots." This irked the German, a man of action, but it was necessary. He did not want to talk to the wrong man. He motioned for the wiry, trembling Venezuelan to sit down opposite.
"Mr. Arraqui, I will not beat around the bush."
"I appreciate that." The Venezuelan needed to get his footing; he was still afraid, very afraid.
"You need not be afraid, Mr. Arraqui. Unless you have something to hide."
"No, n - sir, no sir."
"As you know, your people owe us a - debt. I hope you will understand, Mr. Arraqui, that it has gone past that time when my men were willing to accept your apologies."
"Sir, it could not be helped."
"We happen to have certain - information," the German grunted, placing an unlit cigar in his mouth and sliding a folder across the table. "I am sure you will find it as interesting as I do."
Mr. Arraqui grew more and more unrestful. His hands shook. "Mr. - yes - " He gulped.
"You do find it interesting?"
"Fa - fascin - s - yes, sir."
"Good. I will keep this information." The German pulled it back and shoved it brutally into his overcoat. The Venezuelan did not notice even now the oddity of the German wearing an overcoat in this climate. His life was flashing before his eyes. The German spoke and he flinched instinctively. "You will meet me again soon - I will contact you - and if it is not soon enough you will be contacted by ... other of my men. You do not want them to contact you, Mr. Arraqui. You will raise for my men a sum of money which I will name, or you and I will no longer be the only people in possession of that ... information. Do you understand?"
"I - I understand." Hammers began banging at the insides of Mr. Arraqui's cranium; he felt the world pushing in upon his shoulders, saw the angel of death in the Teutonic monocle.
"This is the sum."
Mr. Arraqui looked at the sum on the little paper. He envisioned thugs with German carbines.
"I will be contacting you soon, Mr. Arraqui." The German rose and departed, his cigar yet unlit. Mr. Arraqui stared at the sum, hearing nothing and at the same time everything, the crying of crowds, bloodhounds, sirens, the song of the boatmen on the river Styx. He was awakened from his reverie by a waiter. Forced to contemplate the menu of the Cafe Chavez, Jose Manuel Arraqui y Vinegas ordered his last meal.