Touma Shimizu

by Luca

Chapter 4

Appearing out of the darkness from behind the little boat was Adil. Zachary recognised him in an instant and so did Lowerstoff. Adil was always together with Hassan, Lowerstoff remembered Hassan like it was yesterday. He probably wouldn't admit it, but he had a soft spot for the kid.

"Where's Hassan?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Hassan?" Adil replied, puzzled.

"Yeah, the other kid who was with you."

"It nice to see you," Adil said to Zachary, ignoring Lowerstoff.

Zachary put an arm around Adil's shoulder. "Let's walk," he said.

The four of them strolled along the beach near enough to the street lighting to see where they were going. Zachary listened to the gentle ripple of the waves, Lowerstoff and Touma did not disturb the silence.

"How long you staying?" Adil spoke softly to Zachary.

"I'm not sure. We are looking for someone."

"Who? I can help," Adil replied.

Zachary told him about Emile, and gave a description as best he could.

"I know a lot of the artists," Adil told him. "They come each year for the festival."

Zachary wasn't sure he did, Moroccan boys liked to exaggerate.

"I'll find him for you." Adil smiled, seemingly pleased he had something to do for his friend, or just pleased to see him again.

"We are at the same hotel," Zachary said as they parted.

"That was strange," Lowerstoff remarked, when they arrived back at the hotel.

"It's a very odd thing," Touma said. "Like the person you met has a memory of seeing you here before, but it was not the same memory as Lowerstoff has, because there he was with a friend the last time you met."

"Yeah, exactly! How can Hassan simply be erased from the picture?" Lowerstoff asked.

"If you ask me," Zachary regarded both of them, "and it's the first time I've given it much thought, I would describe the realities, timelines, rifts, whatever, as spaghetti. All these strands of spaghetti are wrapped around each other, crossing, uncrossing, touching in places, not in others, and the people are there with their memories which might or might not converge or be different and even if they converge... No, I don't know, it doesn't really make sense."

"No, no!" Lowerstoff said, animatedly. "It does, it does make sense. Except for me getting shot and dying. I can't reconcile coming back from the dead."

"You mean if you get killed in one reality, you die in every reality?" Touma posed the question.

"If that's true, which is easy to understand, you didn't die back there Low," Zachary said.

"Or..." Touma paused, thinking, "It's just the timeline. You died, you will die, but not in the same instant."

"Thanks," Lowerstoff replied. "It's good to know I've got a few more days here before I die... again!"

"No!" Zachary raised his voice. "It can't be like that you can't do that and remember it makes no sense."

"No, it makes no sense," Touma agreed, although he thought perhaps it did, make sense.

The next morning everyone was up at the crack of dawn. It was difficult to sleep even naked with only a thin sheet, it was too hot. The hotel had no air conditioning, nor any fans and their room on the roof was tapped by the sun all day long. Lowerstoff found Zachary leaning on the wall of the roof terrace, looking out towards the Kasbah.

"It's hot already," he remarked, and Zachary turned and grinned.

"No kidding!"

"We should look for Emile and Violetta Cantagalli today." Lowerstoff moved next to him.

"Good to see you're still alive," Zachary joked.

"Not funny!" Lowerstoff scowled. "And too early to think about an explanation for all that."

"Maybe, but I've got one. You wanna hear it?"

"Seriously, Zack?"

"Yeah, I didn't get much sleep in the heat and I've been thinking."

"Ooh! Watch out down there," he leaned over the wall, "Zack's been thinking."

"Seriously, imagine there are an infinite number of realities. It's hard, so simplifying it a bit, to two realities. Okay? This one now and the one we left behind. Where my father shot you. You died in that reality, but here in this one you are alive and I'm here with you. The reality here is a bit different. No Hassan, we haven't launched a drone attack on Emile's mother or met Emile. Touma is here, he was in the other reality, but here it's not quite the same. Other things are the same, Hamilton took us to Nice, gave us tickets to Tangier, wants us to meet with Baragsen."

Zachary turned back from the looking out over the town and leant against the wall. "You follow?" he asked.

"I'm not sure, but carry on."

"Well, then there is the odd thing of having our memory from that other reality, and we are not the only ones. Touma and Adil also have those memories. I think Adil is a special case because he is without Hassan and so his memory can't be exactly what we lived. Anyway, leave that aside. The big question."

"The big question," Lowerstoff repeated, "which is?"

"You dying. You said all along Hamilton made you and you weren't real. Suppose, forgetting Hamilton's involvement, suppose you weren't real. Imagine you popped into the body of yourself in that other reality and I did too. Then we popped out again, back here."

Lowerstoff was trying hard not to laugh. "Yeah, well... that is some sort of explanation. Then he lost it and started laughing which infected Zachary who was attempting to be serious. The laughing quickly became uncontrollable.

"But which reality is the true reality?" Lowerstoff asked, when the fit of hysteria died down.

"I guess they all are. I'm thinking normally," Zachary did that thing of mimicking quotation marks with his fingers and hands raised, "You wouldn't carry memories from one reality to another. There would be no connection, no crossover, but that's the playing with quantum physics that someone has done."

"So," Lowerstoff grinned, "there are an infinite number of you and me in an infinite number of realities." He started giggling again, "But... we don't know it," he copied Zachary's quotes in the air, "normally!"

Zachary grabbed hold of him. "You got a better explanation?"

"I love you," Lowerstoff said, and grabbing Zachary back he brought them close together and kissed him.

"Haha!" Zachary said, when they pulled back from the kiss. "You got to enjoy life a bit, right?"

And Lowerstoff laughed.

"Hey, Look!" Zachary was looking out across the town.

The heat was starting to build towards the inevitable temperature high of the afternoon. People were out and about getting their business done whilst it was still relatively cool.

Lowerstoff turned to look where Zachary indicated. "That's Adil."

"Yeah, let's go and join him."

"What about Touma?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Leave him sleeping. I think he's exhausted from last night."

"He's not alone," Lowerstoff remarked.

Zachary grinned.

They quickly descended the stairs and exited the hotel. The surly teen was in the back room next to the counter. He barely looked up and went back to whatever he was doing. Zachary had found the boy behaved better with them this time round.

Adil saw them and walked across to say hello. Lowerstoff smiled and Zachary asked Adil if he had any news.

"You mean the artist?"

Adil returned Lowerstoff's smile which made Lowerstoff wonder if he wasn't flirting with him a bit. It was the look, his eyes, the way the boy stood. Adil was a beautiful young man, his short black curly hair was sexy, the t-shirt and shorts hinted at the nice body that Lowerstoff had already seen on that other occasion. But that was then, now was maybe different, he let any thoughts he had slide away.

It was Zachary's turn to smile as he nodded.

"He wasn't hard to find. Emile Cantagalli, Italian?"

"I don't know," Zachary admitted. He'd never asked. "I always presumed he was French. The name, Emile. He was adopted, his mother's Italian, I guess, with a name like that."

"She is very well known," Adil told him. "They are staying at a big villa along the coast. But you won't get in. They have gates and security."

Zachary thought about that. "You want breakfast?"

Adil smiled again. "Sure."

Lowerstoff added, "Me too."

At the cafe down the road from the hotel they found a seat at an outside table under the canopy of one of the large trees which lined the street. The waiter arrived immediately, another young boy, who looked about thirteen or fourteen. They ordered coffees and Adil asked for something else in Arabic.

"What was that?" Lowerstoff asked.

Adil smiled again. This boy smiled all the time. "Sweet pastries."

"Oh! I could eat something sweet."

When the boy returned carrying a tray with coffees and pastries it was obvious there were more than enough to go around. The little pastry nuggets were coated in sugar, had been deep fried, and were sweet and delicious.

"We need to see Emile," Zachary said.

"If you know him you maybe get let in," Adil said. "All I know is they have gates and guards and the whole villa is surrounded by high walls with broken glass on top."

"Guess they have enemies" Lowerstoff joked.

"The owner of the villa is rich," Adil told them. "All rich men have enemies."

"Do you know who this man is?" Zachary asked.

"I know his name and..." Adil glanced slyly at Zachary.


"He has a reputation."

"What reputation?" Zachary wanted to know.

"He is fond of boys. He puts on shows and dancing. I know some boys who have been inside. It is very magnificent."

"Not you?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Me? No, I'm not liking metnak by rich men."

Lowerstoff and Zachary looked at each other sharing their incomprehension.

"Metnak?" Zachary asked.

Adil made a sign, pushing a finger through a circle made by his thumb and forefinger. Zachary got the reference.

Lowerstoff grinned. "He likes to do boys."

"Yeah, okay Low, I think we got that."

"Have to go," Adil stood up. He grabbed the last two little pastries. "See you later," he smiled, and was off back the way he had come.

"I wanted one of those," Lowerstoff said.

"Too bad. Let's go get Touma. We can maybe find some more information about the festival. If we can't get access to the villa where they're staying we could maybe see Emile at the festival. One of the exhibition events or, I don't know, but we need to organise."

Together with Touma they walked into the centre of the town near where the buses arrived. There was an office with a large banner proclaiming the art festival and posters adorned the window. Inside was a nice lady who smiled and gave them a brochure with the events listed. When Zachary asked specifically about Emile the nice lady was unable to provide any information. He wondered what purpose she served. He supposed they needed someone to sell tickets for the paid for events, which when he studied the list, he found that was most events. The organisers were clearly targeted on the Western market and locals, with perhaps one or two exceptions, were not wanted.

"There's only a couple of options," Lowerstoff concluded. "We visit the villa and ask for Emile, saying we are friends from Paris, or we find one of those boys Adil mentioned who gets let in to, hmm, entertain the owner."

"And if we find a boy like that, what do we do?"

"Give him a message for Emile. Arrange a meet."

"That might work," Touma said. "I don't think we have any chance of getting in otherwise. Not unless you hire a limo!"

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