Archive for July 2011
He came from New Mexico and said that he was part Apache. His features bore this out as he had a touch of Aztec about his eyes. He wore cowboy boots, jeans and a sweatshirt most of the time and often a Stetson hat. It was said that he only had one pair of boots and when they were in for repair he would take to his bed. He was, at the time, unmarried and he lived as he pleased.
He said he had been a bomb aimer with the United Sates Army Air Force during the war against the Nazis. That may have been so. At least he wore his leather flying jacket when it was cold and it had the right look about it. In a town where there were people left over from both sides in that war the story was not unusual and excited little interest.
He had first come to Libya with one of the America oil drilling companies as a tool pusher or rough neck or the like. He was the best Kelly driller around. He had drifted from job to job and ended up in Benghazi running a company drilling for water where the wildcatting rigs set up in the desert.
As his water drilling company grew he employed more Americans to help him. He sent to the USA for his mother and her current husband and they set up house amongst us and entertained friends. She was a good cook and the family talked well at the table about their life in New Mexico. Stories of marital disputes settled with guns were not unusual in their repertoire.
They would show their family photographs around after supper. One was of a large group dressed up for a wedding or a funeral. It was the last family picture with aunt so and so they would say. They would point out the aunt and add that she was dead before they could get the photographer out to take the picture. They had dressed her up in her best frock and an uncle held her corps up from behind as the family stood in a row before the camera.
There was a terrace cafe outside the main bar of the Berenice Hotel in Benghazi. It was on the right hand side of the great marble steps and from it drinkers could see across the cornich to the harbour mole. It was at its most popular in the summer evenings when the notables from the town sat with the oil folk and the airline crews and talked.
One night they heard a taxi coming too quickly from the sailing club. Some saw two men walking from the basement laundry around the casino towards the steps. Most heard the thump and saw a dead body fly through the air from the taxi’s bonnet into the sunflower garden.
News passed up and down the terrace amongst the drinkers. The dead man was a worker from the hotel laundry. It was the best laundry in town and many people had known the man by sight. The police came and did their work and an ambulance took the body away.
The next day an Englishman was arrested and questioned for some time in connection with the case. The dead man had been wearing his trousers which had been at the laundry for dry cleaning.
The Englishman remembered to be calm about the event. Many clients wondered what adventures their own trousers had seen whilst they were at the dry-cleaners.