It was another day, like any other in the bowels of Tripoli. Another coffee shop dive with tables occupied by the desparate, the heart broken, the insipid, the millipedes, the cockroaches... Spam was at the piano, playing tunes for the forgotten. I was behind the bar frothing a cappucino for a large Tunisian who was making me nervous taking up nearly two of my new bar stools.
"I say Dick, what keeps you in ruddy Tripoli, you could return to America or France, why risk getting blown up or imprisoned?" he asked as I slid his mug across the bar.
"Look, shut your mouth and drink, you'll stay alive a lot longer...the advice is free, but you owe me $5 for annoying me, don't come back." I said. He looked ruffled, but I stared at him unflinching, he pulled out a crumpled bill and averted his eyes.
Then I saw her, of all the Internet Cafe's in all the broken down, war stricken, impoverished, poorly written spoof stories in the world, she had to walk into mine. Spam saw her too and stopped playing in mid tune.
I stood there dumbfounded by her beauty, cigarette dangling from my mouth. She came to me at the bar.
"Why Dick, I had no idea you were here in Tripoli and Spam, oh its so wonderful to hear you play, please continue."
I nodded to Spam and he broke into a "A Hard Day's Night". I knew what he was getting at.
"Elka,imagine my surprise, or is it a surprise. I'd like to think this is a coincidence, but then the twists of love seldom are."
"Oh Dick its true, this is no coincidence, I heard you were here and I knew you'd be the one who could help us."
"I see so you're plural now, just who is "US" Elka," I said as Spam broke into "Miss You" by the Stones.
"Oh Dick if only I could have told you back then, but I didn't know, I thought he was dead. But he's not dead Dick, he'd not, he's alive and he has a new television series, but we must get out of Tripoli."
"And you think I know where the two stolen e-tickets are..." I said plaintively as Spam played, "Bad Romance".
"Oh do you Dick? Do you?" she asked, begging with her eyes.
"Elka, even if I did, you think I'd be fool enough to keep them here? Ghadaffi's people would be all over my jump drives."
"We can pay you for them Dick and...if you'll give me just one, I'll give it to him....but I'll stay here with you." She said looking into my eyes. I was nearly swept off my feet all over again.
"Elka if I could only believe you, I'd......meet me here tonight after closing. Come alone. You'd better leave now, there's spies everywhere, don't trust or talk to anyone."
"Yes my darling....Dick." Spam started playing "Yesterday", I was ready to throw a mug at him. Elka left.
I was about to leave the bar for a well deserved break, but there was a commotion in the back room, apparently the card game was breaking up early. A small weasel of a man backed through a door followed by a gun and an arm belonging to one of Ghadaffi's illegitimate sons. Illegitimate pretty much covered the last 500 or so.
"Pleeasssee! Mr Dick! You haaave to hellppp meee!! screamed Ungaurdre, like a man about to lose his privates or his life, take your pick.
I didn't like Ungaurdre, but I liked the son even less, "What's the problem here?" I asked.
"He was cheating," said the son spitting on the floor, another mark against him.
"Look Moommoo, this one's not worth the trouble, let me buy you a black russian."
"With marichino cherry?" he asked.
"If you like."
"And whipped cream?"
"Absolutely, I'll have Spam play you're favorite song, won't you Spam."
"Sure thing boss," said Spam looking at me with a question mark on his face.
"Well....Okay," he said lowering his gun from Unguarde's forehead."
Unguardre collapsed onto a bar stool, his forehead sweating profusely and annoyingly onto my wood floor.
"Unguardre, step back into my office," I said, he had something I wanted. He stirred and looked relieved I was speaking to him less threateningly than usual.
"Umm Yes Messiers Dick, anything you say..." He stumbled nervously around the bar and followed me through the office door. I closed and locked it behind us.
"I need those e-tickets now," I said.
"Oh well yess of courrse Messiers Dick, but you know I don't have them with me, I don't dare to carry them when I gamble."
I grabbed him by the collar lifted him off the floor, no small feat considering Bogart was only 5'8", "Listen! You said you could hold them for me and now I want them and I want them NOW!"
"Ohhhh! Now wait a second Dick head, I think maybe, why yes I have the jump drive in my, my pants." I set him down, "I must admit Messiers Dick, I may have messed myself just then, you frightened mee!"
"Just give me the jump drive, we'll sort out the fecal matter."
He handed it to me, I had to give him some credit he had it wrapped in plastic, so the mess was not a concern. Just then there was a knock at the door.
"Dick, open up, were closing down this establishment," said a commanding voice. "It's Captain Renaultudabi Dick, I'm afraid this time I must do as I say."
I hid the thumb drive in my dinner jacket and opened the door. Unguardre grabbed me desparately, "Messiers Dick! You must hide me!"
I looked him over, he had given me what I needed. I knodded towards the back door. "Get out and don't come back."
"On what grounds are you closing us down this time?"
"I'm shocked! Shocked to find out there is air in this building!...I say what's that smell, did you just break wind old boy?"
I smiled, "Dabi, what is all this, you know what goes on here, you're here all the time."
"Richard look, I'm outsourced police protection for Ghadaffi, I have a French accent, which he likes, I have to put on a show of force to prove I'm doing my job, so don't push your luck with my friendship."
"Yes but closing me down Dabi, you'll break me if you keep doing this."
"I'm looking for something Richard, you don't happen to know where those 2 e-tickets are do you? do you?! do you?!! I have to repeat myself so the bastards outside think i'm interrogating you. They were stolen from a Libyan courier we found dead, we think the killer was a strange fellow who comes here often...Ungaurdre."
"Hmmmmm," I said thougthfully, "Can't say I remember him. But dabi why send e-tickets with a courier, why not just e-mail them?"
"Don't change the subject Ricky, you're on really thin ice this time, I may have to spank you myself, not in a gay way mind you."
"Now you're really fantasizing Dabi, and I'm not Ricky, it's Dick."
"Whatever Richard, you will let me know if you hear anything? I'd hate to make this closing permanent."
Dabi left with his men and my customers, Spam and sat at the bar.
"Why don't we get out of here boss, she's no good for you, you've got plenty of money, you could sell the cafe to the Blue Amazon, she's been after it for years."
"I can't go Spam, I have to see...I have to see if what we had is still there."
"Okay boss, but don't say I didn't warn you."
"What's that boss."
"The song, play it."
"Oh shoot I done forgot how to play THAT song."
"Okay boss, but I never did understand what you two saw in Chopsticks." Spam played Chopsticks. I drank a tall Cappucino in one draw. I felt my eyes bulging.
The clock on the wall changed slowly 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 6pm...6pm the batteries were replaced, we had to call time and temperature and it was 11pm. I heard a knock at the back door, it was Elka. I told Spam to leave, but he refused and remained seated at the piano.
Elka straight to him and leaned on the piano, "Play it Spam, Play Chopsticks, the way you use to for us Paris. Nobody could play Chopsticks they way you do," Spam stared at me for approval, I knodded. Spam played Chopsticks while Elka listened jumping rapidly up and down to the rhythm. I couldn't help but watch her bosom and bum the way use to...in Paris I couldn't help but watch her bosom and bum the way use to move...in Paris. I found myself jumping too, but I had to admit my stamina wasn't what it use to be, after 5 minutes I was panting like a dog in the middle of July. Elka stopped too and we collapsed into eachothers arms on the lounge chair behind us.
"You still chop pretty good," I said.
"Would you believe," she panted, "I haven't chopped since Paris?"
"Well, now that were together again," I said, "We can chop as often as you like, just me and you." She paused and looked distant.
"I would like that Rick, but...I need those two e-tickets and I need them now."
I felt the barrel of a gun sticking into my ribs, so much for going out for Chinese food, I thought, "Oh so this was all just a ploy to get me to let down my guard eh sweetheart?" Thank god its nearly Valentines day, I'd never guess that gun was meant for me."
"I don't want to kill you Dick, but I will."
"Go ahead, you'll be doing me a favor, I couldn't have lasted through another round of Chop Sticks.."
"Boss," said Sam, "I just remembered I have to get to bed, you two have fun now hear?"
"Okay Sam, lock the door would you and maybe if you pass the police check point, could you tell them I'm about to get shot?"
"Will do Boss..."
"Ohhhh! Dammit Dick! I'm so confused, I don't know what to think, you'll have to think for both of us," said Elka
"Well kid, that's the first sensible thing you've said with a gun pointed in my ribs. Would you mind telling me who I'd be getting replaced by?"
"His name is Simon...Simon Cowell. We were married before the last Bush Administration and...at the time he was under contract to a television show in Baghdad, then Bush invaded, so we fled to Afghanistan...they invaded there too. Then we went to Egypt and the revolution started last spring, so the next stop was Trinidad, then finally out of perspiration we came here, that's when I found out you were still alive."
"That's some story Elka, okay, so here's what' we'll do see? We'll meet tomorrow at the airfield. I'll pretend that I've agreed to give you both the e-tickets. Only he'll be getting on that plane alone..."
"Well Rick," I must admit this isn't what I expected from you, I thought you'd grab that girl for yourself."
"That's what you get for thinking Dabi, I needed you along for insurance. I'm using one of those tickets see Dabi and I don't want any trouble."
"Oh I"m afraid you'll have plenty of trouble once the Moo-Moos find out," said Dabi.
Then I saw them in the mist near the terminal building, Simon Cowell with his arm around Elka. He looked much smaller in real life.
"Mr Dick, Elka has told me much about you, I want to thank you for your help, this time I know our side will win....er I mean my show will get great ratings."
"Simon would you give me a moment with Dick, I'll be along in a moment." said Elka, but then she froze with terror.
"Dick! Why are you pointing that gun at us."
"I'm sorry kid, but now I've seen the two of you together, I can't stand to break up such a nice couple. Dabi and are getting on this plane with these e-tickets. You two are going back to Rick's and you'll give Sam the chance he's never had to be discovered. Yes I know you can't understand today or even tomorrow, but someday you'll thank me...well can't you at least cry to give this dammned scene some emotion! You selfish turnip!!"
"No Dick, I can't...because frankly I've always loved Sam more than either of you! Here's looking at you Dicky"