An hour later, with no apparent movement on any front, Marek and Josep were sharing a cigarette and a coffee.
“Soon we won’t even to be able to do this,” Josep groused, flicking his ash into a discarded coffee container. “The Eurocrats are going to make us all stand outside in the rain to poison ourselves.”
“I’m thinking of quitting.”
“You? Three pack a-day Holzt. The cigarette companies’ll go bankrupt.”
“That’s part of it. This shit costs far too much. Every time I buy a carton, I think about how many better, more interesting things I could do with the money.”
“Like down an extra three or four slivovitz on Friday. That’s a real improvement.”
“Well… but soon we won’t be able to smoke even in Grosse Charlie’s. Maybe I wont go there so much anymore.” Marek’s bloodhound eyes looked even more downcast than usual. He rested his shiny bald head the desk. “I don’t know why I bother any more.”
“Hey partner, don’t say that. We just need to be more active, more proactive. Why don’t we see if there are any Abou A. Massan’s in the phone book? That’s not such a common Syrian name. Maybe somebody in the community knows him or is related?”
“Probably a waste of time, but it beats sitting here plotting suicide or a return to the seminary.”
“Don’t even go there. I’ll get the books.”
Bratislava is not a big city and a few minutes searching turned up the information that there were only three families listed with the surname, ‘Massan’.
“We going to call them all?”
“Maybe. Let’s start with this one, Massan, Bahir Ahmed.”
A pleasant woman’s voice answered after two rings, “Treasures of the Seven Seas, may I help you?”
“I’m trying to locate a man name Abou Ahmed Massan,” Marek began. “Perhaps you know him?”
“I think you need to speak with my husband. He’s not here right now.”
“She hung up on me.”
“Interesting… Maybe we should go for a walk?”
“Bit far to walk. It’s a shop in Stare Mesto. But your heart’s in the right place.”
“I think I remember a decent kebab place near there. We could get some lunch too. It’s after one. I’m starving.” Josep was as short and square as his partner was tall and lean. Marek was convinced he knew the location and menu of every good fast food joint in the city. “You’re always starving,” he said putting on his jacket.
An hour later, after a pair of very good kebabs, they pushed through the door of Seven Seas’ Treasures to enter an incontinent hoarder’s cave crammed floor to ceiling with the most disparate collection of third-world artefacts either detective had ever seen. Handcrafted Indonesian wooden boxes jostled for space with leering funeral masks; plastic jointed snakes - made in India – coiled listlessly in heaps on the tops of stacked tribal drums. The tops of intricately carved tables displayed tsunamis of carved animals, netsuke and ornate ceramic statuettes. The exquisite mingling in carefree abandon with outright junk.
An elegant dark-haired woman dressed in a simple smart western skirt and jacket emerged from behind the requisite bamboo curtain.
“How may I help you?”
“Mrs Massan,” Marek began, displaying his badge. “We spoke earlier…about your brother-in-law…”
“I told you he wasn’t here… I never said he was my brother-in-law.”
“I know, but when you said we should speak to your husband, we assumed they must be related. Where is your husband by the way?”
“He’s out, away. They’re both away.”
“Away where?” asked Josep, who had been admiring a tiny, elegant carved elephant.
“I don’t know.”
The look on Josep’s face told her this wasn’t going to cut it.
“Romania, I think, on a buying trip.”
“Buying what? Something like this?” Josep held out his palm with the elephant nestling comfortably in it.”
“No, no. That came from Africa, I think.”
“It’s beautiful. Ivory – is it?”
“Yes…no…plastic, I think, probably.”
“I don’t think so, Mrs Massan. I’m pretty sure it’s ivory, and new. How did you get it?”
“Abou brought them… it… when he came from Germany.”
“Them? Where did he get them and where are the rest of them?”
“I don’t know. Gone. Sold, as soon as he got here.”
“Sold? To whom?” Face bleached pale, excepting two spots of bright red on her cheeks and dark brown eyes wide as plates, Leila Massan had begun to resemble an animal trapped by a car’s headlights.
“I don’t know. Men. Ukrainians, I think.”
“Do you have any more like this?”
“No, the Ukrainians took the whole suitcase.
“So you don’t know where your brother-in-law got them and you don’t know the names of the men who bought them.”
That’s right. My husband handles these things. I just work in the shop.”
“When will your husband be home, Mrs Massan? We would like to ask him some questions about his brother.”
“I…I expect him on Sunday.”
“Please have your husband get in touch with us as soon as he returns or you hear from him.” Marek handed her his card. “Oh and we’d like to borrow this for awhile.”
Back at the station, Marek remarked, “It seems Abou Ahmed was into something a little less than kosher.”
“Seems that way.”
“Have we any news on the rest of the body belonging to the foot?”
“Got it right here. Says, the divers recovered the body of a middle-aged male, possibly of Middle Eastern origin. It had been in the water at least a week, maybe two.”
“Could be – or his brother. We’d better ask Mrs Massan to come and have a look at the body.”
“After two weeks in the water that’s not going to be pleasant.”