The Port City of Aden, Yemen
The young man known only as the Tunisian lay on the bed, naked and unconscious. Eden watched him from the balcony doorway overlooking the shimmering Middle Eastern gulf and thought to himself how beautiful the young man was; too beautiful for this line of work. Spies die young. The choices he made, the risks he braved, guaranteed that the young Tunisian would one day leave behind a good-looking corpse and a heart full of secrets. Then again, many had said the same of the handsome Dr. Eden Santiago.
Last night, Eden had met the Tunisian in an out-of-the-way restaurant in the backstreets of Aden, listening carefully to the information he had gathered regarding the rendezvous that was about to take place between the Chinese and the Yemenese black market racketeers.
Back at the hotel, after opening a bottle of Chilean wine in Eden’s suite, the two men made love. When they were finished, Eden and the Tunisian sat on the ruffled sheets of the bed facing each other, their legs entwined.
“You must be careful,” the blue-eyed Tunisian warned. “Qassim Qahtani is a dangerous man. It’s not his shipping business that has made him his millions. It’s his involvement in illegal weapons, and it comes at a cost. The cost of lives.”
Eden reassured him, “I’m only here to observe, not intervene. We need to know who’s trading the diamonds and what Qahtani is offering in exchange.”
“Then let me go with you.”
“You’ve already helped enough.”
“Eden, I’m coming. I owe the Professor everything.”
“And I owe you an apology.” Eden took the half-empty wine glass out of the Tunisian’s hand as he noticed the young man begin to sway on the bed.
“W-what are you talking about? E-e-den?” The Tunisian's speech was beginning to slur as realization set in. “Oh Jesus, you’ve drugged me with one of your potions.”
Eden’s response came with a nod to the cloudy wine left in the glass. “Potions? I’m a scientist, not a witch doctor. Take it easy now, it was a heavy dose. I had no choice, I knew you’d insist on getting involved.”
The Tunisian looked at the pale wine swilling in the bottom of the glass, his face struggling to conjure up a look of surprise and betrayal as the drugs kicked in. Then a faint smile. “You know me too well.”
“On the contrary. I don't even know your name.”
But the Tunisian didn’t hear him. With a graceful swoon his body began to sink, still conscious. Just.
Eden wrapped his arms around him and laid him down gently on the bed. “Sshh. Sleep now. You'll have a terrible headache when you wake tomorrow afternoon, but at least this way you won’t try to follow me. You won’t get hurt.”
“What—what about you?”
Eden smiled. “I told you, I’m only here to observe.”
But the Tunisian's crystal blue eyes had already closed as he slipped into a deep sleep. Eden kissed him lightly on the lips and laid the young man’s head on his pillow.
Then he stood by the open balcony door. He stood there the entire night, watching the lights of the boats on the harbor and the late-night activities of the merchant shipping port. There were three ships moored: a Suezmax-class French cargo ship, an African oil tanker which had stopped at port to refuel overnight, and a huge, rusted old Yemenese vessel. As the hours passed, Eden watched the last of the Yemenese ship’s containers being unloaded, carted from the bowels of the ship on large heavy-duty forklifts, down a loading ramp before being stacked neatly on the wharf.
Occasionally Eden glanced back into the room to make sure the Tunisian was still asleep.
And as the sun eventually rose in the east, spilling over the harbor, Eden dressed and left the Tunisian safely behind locked doors.