The Gatekeeper & the descendant
In a small port city in the northwestern part of Morocco, Diam Rousseau patiently waits for the opportunity to satisfy his latest contract. One with parameters that places him in unfamiliar territory. Messenger, over killer.
The sky this morning is a pale huon green, further bleached by the lazily rising sun from behind the Atlas Mountains. The harbor city of Essaouira, Morocco is as beautiful as ever this time of day, with the true beauty of its berm walls made of sand and stone existing under a faint tint of sunlight. The wind at the moment is particularly ornery, but the gulls in the area are gliding along the wind stream effortlessly, while a few windsurfers take advantage of one of the least appreciated exports of the Wind City of Africa.
Perched on an elevated stone atop the 2,700-kilometer-long exterior wall is a man whose patience and resolve were far calmer than the waves rolling in off the Atlantic. Diam Rousseau had been in this spot for just short of three hours, as the sky went from concealing the deep, dark, rich melanin in his skin that glowed under the moonlight, to placing light pecks of sun rays against his face. He fed the thalassophile in himself by allowing the sound and energy of the waves to invigorate, then calm him to a necessary point. That familiar place that elite marksmen referred to as the sweet spot.
A place he more so identified as the flow zone. Where he locked away his emotions and ability to feel, and unlocked the raw energy that yearned to tear and repair the fast-twitch muscles, that made him who he was. Portiere, the gatekeeper.
The display on his cell phone came alive, from where it sat in a small alcove a few feet away. It was attached to a Pulsar Helion 2 XP50. A high-powered thermal imaging scope, with a detection range of 1800m. The group on the screen consisted of six men and two women, one of whom was Adah de Leon, the leader of a burgeoning criminal fence operation in the Middle East.
As the group broke the threshold in their return from where their hike took them last evening, Diam, covered in a light blue, free-flowing djellaba, made his way down an old stone staircase. The dark blue Bedouin headscarf he affixed, completed his exterior look that he wore atop makeup that gave his skin an older weather-beaten appearance. He stealthily blended in among the marketplace visitors and shop owners on the promenade, making his way along palm tree lined roads to the famed blue fishing boats—the next stop in the hiking expedition's escape plan.
The Nigerian and Filipino de Leon towered over the other woman, and all but two of the men in her party. She never traveled anywhere outside of her estate in Lagos, without her personal physician, her chief security officer, Daraja Akerele, and two security personnel of Daraja’s choosing. Rousseau knew however that the formidable Akerele was the only one he needed to truly be mindful of. The smaller woman was no more than five-foot-three but was a former Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion that had been sent to Lima, Peru during her time at university to master the art of bacorn—a martial arts fusion style that specialized in concealed weapons and deception.
The absolute last thing he wanted to do was tangle with a killer of Daraja's skill, away from solid land and empty-handed.
Having paid the few fishermen that were not out working the waters to steer clear of the area, Diam was the lone worker left in the southern part of the bay. It took the group another thirty or so minutes before they made their way by jeep over to the famed brightly colored blue boats synonymous with the waters of Essaouira, but when they did the escorts were quickly dismissed. Daraja’s piercing eagle-like eyes were moving in a non-stop predatory grid as she took in the vast expanse of blue water outside of the bay, their surroundings, and the man in front of her wearing the light blue frock. She studied the way he moved, the look of his hands, and the way he manipulated the loose fabric of the djellaba while he worked to ready the boat. After checking the small vessel personally and then scanning it with a device geared to detect extraneous metal and explosive ordinance, she gave it her okay.
Adah’s group was situated on the pier in a tight, synchronous, tip of the spear formation with Daraja at the head. She stepped to the side and the two monsters bringing up the rear, filled her position before stepping onto the boat. The man closest to Diam, hesitated slightly as he got on, failing miserably to control his clear inhibitions of traveling on the large body of water in such tight confines.
He became the source of Diam’s attention from that point forward. The likely key to satisfying this contract.
Adah and her physician stepped on next, followed by an older Berber native that was the reason for this random trip to Essaouira for holiday. There had long been rumors of the Berber people, descendants of pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa, having ties to the lost Almohad Dynasty. The garb the older man wore let Diam know he was at least in his nineties and thus fit the description of the diamond-level asset in the prepared dossier he studied.
Diam, however, did not work in search and rescue.
When he held his hand towards the boat with his head bowed, Daraja subtly shook her head and stared at him stoically. Diam nodded, smiled, and stepped on the boat. He stumbled and hit one side of the floor of the boat hard when he sat down. Regaining his balance he punched down hard on the opposite side of him, feigning his settling in. The chief of security looked at him in disgust before getting on and taking a seat behind the native and in front of Adah and her physician.
With the sun at his back, Diam could see everyone on the boat perfectly, but they had varying degrees of success in seeing him. The Berber sat in front of the Black Frenchman, with his head down. There were fresh bruises on his wrists seen easily when looking at his steepled hands. The prayer he whispered was low and hard to decipher, due to it being in an older Arabic dialect. Adah spoke in hushed tones to Daraja who sat between the Berber and her boss, listening and responding without moving a muscle.
Diam’s original plan was to maim the security personnel and to kill Adah’s physician. The job as contracted was to send a violent, unmistakable message to the new kid on the block in an ancient game of corruption and crime that centered around antiquities. YOU ARE NOT UNTOUCHABLE, was that message.
The way the group was situated on the boat, did not make this job any easier. His original plan was to cause a leak and flip the vessel. Kill the physician under the water, attack the guards after the boat was righted, then disappear under the waves near the rocky edge of the coastline. Then something Adah said caused Daraja to respond, saying something that forced a pained expression across the Berber’s countenance.
The man's whispered prayer became a jumbled mash of competing languages heard in Morocco. He spoke in hushed bursts of Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, French and Amazigh. Diam picking up on a few of the words uttered took a chance and threw his head back with a smile, singing in a strained but overjoyed tone "daeuna najlis munhanin, walakin natahadath mubasharatan."
Once again Daraja looked at him with disgust, but the Berber clearly heard the words of an old Moroccan proverb that meant “let us sit bent, but talk straight,” and raised his head with tears in his eyes in Diam’s direction. When the Black Frenchman locked eyes with the older man, he mouthed, what do you fear? The man held out his arms to the side, then drew them in front of him. With two fingers he dragged down the length of his left forearm, then did the same to his right. He brought his fingertips to his forehead, moved them down his face, then touched his heart.
When he looked at Diam again, a single tear finally fell from his eye and slipped into one of a number of hard wrinkles on the man’s sun-beaten and worn, reddish-brown face. It zig zagged until it found its way to the side of his mouth. When he saw the worn impression of a ferryman on the flat surface of one of Diam’s rings, he smiled in a way that shed fifty years off of him, taking a chew stick he was passed. The resolute look on the man’s face cemented the plan in time.
The uneasiness of one of the two big men at the back of the boat led him to grip the wall of the blue wood vessel, with a fearful determination that would have made it cry out if it had a voice.
“Is this one going to make it?” Diam asked in an expertly accented tone in the direction of Daraja, motioning to the back of the boat.
She didn’t turn around at first because she knew who the fisherman was talking about. Daraja had also noticed the uneasiness of Abegunde when he got on but hoped that he would still himself for the trip from the south bay to the other side of Essaouira. He apparently had not. The moment she looked back to chastise her man, Diam nodded in the Berber’s direction and the man bit down on the chew stick he was given and gulped down the explosion of lethal conotoxins from a cone snail that filled his mouth.
The paralysis impacted the nonagenarian in a fraction of the time it would normally have taken hold in a younger individual. His eyes glazed over and an eerie calm spread across his features as his body slowly began to sway with the rock of the boat over the waves. The Frenchman used his ring-covered hand and punched as hard as he could against a spot in the floor of the boat that he fell hard against when he first got on. The same spot that he had been weakening with a replica of his favorite kubotan, made from a piece of Australian buloke, the hardest wood on the planet.
The blue wood of the boat splintered around his fist as two thin streams of water shot upward, then another and another. The Berber teetered then fell to his left, Diam’s right.
The big guard not named Abegunde bellowed, standing to his feet abruptly to point at the falling asset. The boat rocked awkwardly under his bulk from the sudden movement. Diam threw himself in the direction of the boat where the big man was standing and it pitched hard in that direction sending everyone with it. With the speed and dexterity of a cheetah, Diam placed his left foot against the curved edge of the boat, steadied himself as best he could, and levied a heart punch to the Berber that he never felt and would not recover from. A split second later, just as the boat was flipping over, Diam got both of his feet under him and catapulted himself forward toward the physician. At first glimpse, it looked like he was diving to catch the man before he hit the water. But the way his arms went to his neck, allowing his momentum to bend his head upward at a violent angle before gravity and the impact of the mighty Atlantic rose up to meet them, took care of the rest.
A sickening pop sound was muted by the sound of waves and the yell from the travelers.
The ocean’s mistress, chaos, made an unannounced visit to the scene. The panic that followed was framed by Adah’s screams directing everyone to grab the asset. She clung to the boat and yelled, “he is the last of his village!”
Daraja barked at Abegunde and his cohort to flip the boat over and to get Madame de Leon and the doctor safely inside. She scanned the water quickly, saw the Berber’s head covering and dived down under that spot, but it was too late. Diam fought his way from out of the djellaba and knifed through the blue ocean water along with the current. He was some twenty meters away from the boat when he broke the surface. A minute later he was out of sight.
On the vessel that was gradually taking on water, Adah de Leon’s screams almost burst the eardrums of the man behind the wheel of the 45’ cruiser Daraja had just called to come pick them up. In a flurry of activity that took no more than three to four minutes, the last living descendant of a people who could lead her to a treasure that had been lost for centuries was dead, and the one person she trusted with her life in the entire world, her physician, had been murdered.
Stripped down to compression shorts and a light black running shoe, Diam Rousseau used easy strides to run along the beach, putting himself further out of sight. A small black silicone drawstring bag laid flush against his back as his arms and legs moved in tandem, cutting through that same ornery wind that had been blowing since before the sun rose.
A descendant of Charon, the ferryman of the underworld, had delivered another soul through the gates of darkness.
DON'T BLINK (the Gatekeeper series) AVAILABLE at wattpad.com.