Monica had a compass, Lane a map of the city. While the lower market was not on the map they could deduce where they were located showing them in which direction they had to go to get close to their hotel. It took them more than two hours until they had arrived at a point where they should be, hypothetically speaking, next to the hotel. It took them ten more minutes to find an exit. This one was a narrow shaft smelling suspiciously like the undersized toilet of a really popular club after a long successful night. Under other circumstances Lane would have gone back to look for another way back to the surface but right now they had to hurry. The rust covered ladder steps that had been built into a cracked old mud brick wall were well rusted, sending little flakes of corroded metal sailing gently into the depths, but they were still solid and more importantly dry. Lane took her chances smelling one of the rungs. It smelt of dust and iron.
The shaft became narrower as they continued climbing making climbing difficult near the end as there was hardly enough space for them to squeeze through.
When Lane was starting to wonder if she would get stuck in the shaft never to came out alive she bumped her head on something hard.
"OUCH!" Then Monica bumped into her.
"Ow!" Monica complained. "Please tell me that this isn't a dead end.
Lane reached upwards. She felt a cold metal plate. She shoved against it hard. The metal thing was very heavy but it moved.
"No." Lane said. "More like a manhole cover or something." she pushed harder. The cover gave way letting in a wave of cold air stinking of piss and shit into the shaft. "Fucking hell!" Lane said.
"What now?" Monica asked adding "Urgh." when the stench wave hit her. "What does that lead to? The hell of piss?"
Lane grunted as she shoved the cover aside trying very hard to breath only through her mouth. The way now open she continued her way upwards entering a moist cold tunnel.
"We are in the sewers."
Lane was taking out her cell phone turning on its LED light as Monica was wriggling her way out of the shaft. "Please tell me that the exit is near." she said.
"Yeah. There is a ladder over there. As long as this is not some kind of multi storey sewer we should be out in a minute."
"Thank fuck." said Monica who was now standing at Lane's side furiously rubbing her hands clean on her trouser legs.
"That doesn't sound good. What now? Rats?"
"No. My parents send me a text message."
"You have a signal down here?"
"Not here in the sewers. The lower market seems to have though."
"OK that is unexpected."
"I am actually more surprised to hear from my parents. They always thing that sending even one text into a foreign country will cost them their house. Also they are asking me to call back urgently as they are very concerned about me."
"Normally I would say standing in the middle of the sewer is neither the place nor the time to be wondering about these kind of things. But how did they now that you were getting yourself into trouble?" Monica said with a hint of suspicion creeping back into her voice giving Lane the hairy eyeball.
"For someone who just wanted to walk back to her hotel to live happily ever after you chose the strangest moments and strangest targets to get paranoid over. They have no idea about what happened tonight!"
"And why are they so worried about you all of the sudden?"
"If that's so incredibly important to you, you can call them first and ask them if you want. But maybe we should get out of here get our shit and then worry about them later?"
"Lead the way."
Lane rolled her eyes, she replaced the cover over the shaft leading to the lower market making the entrance almost invisible. From the side of the sewer the cover looked very much like a stone very much the same like the others which covered the sides of the reeking canal. She walked over to the ladder leading upwards, the ladder ended in a typical manhole cover. She sighed in relief. The outside world was near.
A short climb and a hard shove later they were both standing in a dark side alley covered in rubbish and neglect that ended on both sites in large brightly lit streets. While they were not that near to their hotel it did not take them long to realize that they had resurfaced only three blocks away from the hotel.
"I guess," Lane said, "that you would know when someone is following us or behaving suspiciously?"
"It would take some skill to fool me." Monica shrugged.
"Good. I'll go first. You follow me with some distance between us so you can see if anyone is looking out for us."
"Or so that you can better escape..."
"Not this again." Lane groaned. "Where the fuck do you think I'm going to run to? The police? Back to England? My private spy-plane?"
"I don't know."
"For all I know you are just waiting for me to turn around so that you can kill me like the Pale Man."
"I could have done that before if I had wanted to."
"When? When you noticed that the police were coming? Or in the lower market that was so full of witnesses?"
"My point exactly."
They stared at each other for a short while.
"So. Will you follow me and keep an eye out for people behaving funny?"
"Go ahead. I have your back."
* * * *
Lane took her sweet time going back. Stopping frequently at the several stalls still open this late at night giving anyone on the look out ample time to see her. Also giving them ample time to stand around on an adjacent stall so that Monica would notice them or be replaced by someone else behaving in a similar way.
At least no one approached her or tried to stop her. She also did not see any police around. When the hotel was in view she took a deep breath building up her courage to walk the last bit directly towards it without turning around or acting shifty. While she did not glance over her shoulder she did feel incredibly stiff. Even someone not interested in shadowing her had to find her suspicious. No time to worry. Monica would pick out anyone following her. She hoped. And... stop them? Lane closed her eyes for two seconds still walking. 'Oh please don't murder anyone else.' she thought.
She reached the entrance of the hotel, the doorman opened the door for her greeting her politely. She walked straight through the lobby. She had not given her key back at the reception so she could walk right towards the elevator.
No one followed her in. As the doors closed she could see Monica walking into the lobby.
Reaching her door she fumbled with her key card, poking it at the door waiting for Monica to arrive. Her friend emerged from the stairs shortly after. Lane looked at her with questioning eyes. Monica just shook her head.
Lane opened the door to her room. Before she could walk in Monica stopped her shaking her head very slightly. She signalled Lane with her hand to wait while she sneaked in. A minute later the light in her room was turned on.
"You can come in." Monica said.
Lane walked into her room expecting it to be turned upside down. It did look like a luggage trolley had exploded but that was all Lane's doing. No one had touched anything while she had been away. She felt relief and to her surprise also a bit disappointed. She closed the door behind her and flopped onto her bed.
"See told you so." said Monica.
"That doesn't mean anything. We are just lucky. Who ever is behind this is has not yet acted."
"Has not yet acted? You and your imagination galloping over the fields of fancy. Has it crossed your mind that maybe you are wrong and everything is alright?"
"It could be. We should still take our stuff get out of here and wait to see what happens."
"Sure. We can lay low for a day or two and see if something stirs. But after that I'd love to be back in my comfy hotel room. Now that we are not in mortal danger any more you can call your parents."
Lane rolled her eyes. She grabbed her phone "This should better be worth the ridiculous money this is going to cost me." she muttered while going through her contacts.
"Yes hi mom, it's me."
"It's the same time as where you are. Yes. I'm sure. Mom. The text you sent me? I'm OK. I told you I'd be in Marrakesh on my holiday. Yes, I'm here with Monica."
"Hi Mrs. Gray!" Monica shouted."
"What she's doing in my room? We were talking then I noticed you messa... Eloped? What? With... With Monica? Are you mental? No we are not sharing a room together. And even if we were that doesn't mean we are couple!"
"What...?" Monica's jaw dropped.
"No, mother. I can guarantee you that I have not been hit by some strange cosmic ray turning me into a lesbian and making me run away with my new girlfriend to northern Africa. Why would you even think something like that I told you that... Martin? He said WHAT?"
Lane covered the microphone with her hand before shouting. "That fucking bastard piece of shit!" a short grunt of frustration later she was back on the phone. "No. Listen.... Mom! listen to me. Martin is a confused, vengeful little shit of a man. No. No I will not take that back. He is. Really. He is not worried about me. He is being a horrible person. He knew as well as you did that I went on a holiday. He also knows the reasons for me going on this trip one reason is so I don't have to see his stupid face again and the other is so I can get away from his from his constant crap. He really isn't worried. Wait." Lane's voice went from flaming raged to cold venom. "Could you say that again please, because I hope that I have misheard. That FUCKING CUNT! To the police? Fuck him. Shit. No. You don't need to worry I am OK. Nothing has happened to me and I have certainly not gone missing. I'm calling me from my hotel room, that's way. OK, mom this call is costing me a fortune already. I'm fine OK. I am incredibly angry and you can tell Martin that the next time I'll see him I will rip his balls off and make him eat them. I will calm down. I will not let this ruin my holidays. Right. You can relax and tell dad that I said hi and that I have not been kidnapped or missing. Right. OK. Thanks mum. Yeah... I love you too. Bye."
"What was that?" asked Monica who had taken a few steps back from Lane standing now with her back to the wall.
"Well first of all Martin that piece of shit told my parents that I had eloped, ELOPED, with you to Africa."
"I yeah that I got but he did something even worse?"
"Yes. He. Went. To. The. Police. And he told them that I was missing!"
"Missing? On a holiday?"
"He did not mention the holiday. According to Martin he did not know that I was gone on a trip. He told my mother that I had been incredibly aggressive lately, then one day I was suddenly gone. Poof!" Lane made a little explosion motion with her hands.
"Don't the police usually wait for 48 hours or something before they even consider it a real missing person case?"
"No idea. What I do know though is that he went to the police several times, on one of his trips he conveniently found a receipt for our trip here in 'our' apartment."
"But you threw him out weeks..."
"I know! That little shit had a second, second key which he used to enter my apartment and go through my stuff!"
"Right? And then he went with that to the police telling them that I had run away. No where to be seen and maybe in Africa doing god knows what kind of crazy bollocks."
"You know what the best part is though?"
"He finally convinced the police that I had indeed gone insane and they are now looking for me and because I obviously ran away to
Morocco they put my details on an international database. So the police here is actually looking for me and the moment I try to pass through the security check at the air port I will get dragged away..."
"Fuck... What a cunt!"
"Right? Well another reason to gather my shit and look for an alternate way out of the country. I am sure as shit not going back to England with an escort!" Lane's eyes were flaming. She started grabbing her stuff stuffing it into her travelling bag. "Fuck."
"I can't possibly lug all this shit around me all the time..."
"No need to worry about that yet. WE will follow your plan for now. We will take our stuff, not all of it so that it will still look like we are still staying here if people don't look all to closely for a day or two. We take our shit down stairs to that magic market you discovered and find a place there were we can stash our things. Then we will find out what's happening up here if at all. We will take it step by step. Right?"
"Trust me on this. I may not be as paranoid as you are but I know how to handle shit like this."
Lane got through her things a second time taking out everything she thought she could do without, which were mostly the things that were still good enough to stay in her closet preventing her from buying new nicer things. It did not taker her that long to sort them out sprinkling them generously across the room to bring back her very personal look.
"You turn." she said to Monica after finishing.
"Put the don't disturb sign on the door, you don't want the poor maid to clean your shit away and that way it will take longer until the hotel staff notices that something funny is going on."
They walked down the corridor around a corner to Monica's room. They had been lucky that they had rooms on the same floor as they had booked their rooms independently from each other. The next time they would actually ask for adjacent rooms. It was not that far away but it certainly made midnight pyjama parties a bit awkward.
"Do you know where the next entrance to the lower market is?" asked Monica as she was fishing out her key card from her pocket. "Preferably one that does not lead through the sewers?"
"No clue, but it won't be that hard to find another entrance if we keep our eyes open."
The door to Monica's room opened almost soundlessly revealing her well lit room and the three men wearing balaclavas going through her things. Monica pursed her lips slowly berating out to them. The men remained motionless giving their best startled deer impressions. One of them moving his hand very slowly towards his back.
"Run to the reception and tell them that there are armed thieves in my room." Monica said in a low voice her unblinking eyes focused on the space between the three man to keep them all in her field of vision. "I will slow these shits down. Go. run." With that she stormed into the room kicking the door shut behind her.
Lane remained stunned for a second. But the sounds of heavy things crashing into the walls and furniture shook her into action. She turned around. Running towards the staircase. She had just passed her door when she had an idea. She came to a sliding halt, skidding for a few feet on the carpet. She pulled out her key card, opened the door to her room lunged towards the phone on her night stand lading on her bed. She dialled the zero.
"Hello? reception? There are people fighting in room 303. Please send security up as fast as possible it sounds as if someone is beating up a woman in there. Yes. Yes! Hurry up! Please....'
She hung up the phone went back to the corridor. After grabbing a fire-extinguisher she ran back to Monica's room from which she could still hear loud fighting noises punctuated by the occasional scream. That meant that Monica was still putting up resistance. Good. She tried to open the door. But it was looked again.
"Shit!" Lane cursed stamping her foot in frustration. then she saw that Monica's key card was lying on the floor. She took the card unlocking the door with it. She moved to the side so that in case someone was looking at the door or even worse pointing something potentially deadly at it she would be mostly out of harms way. She opened the door gently peeking inside. No one in the room was paying any attention to the door. Two of the men one of them having his balaclava ripped of his blood covered face, the other limping had grabbed Monica by the arms. The third man was moving towards Monica fist drawn back ready to punch her. Lane slipped into the room her heart racing, her entire body drenched in adrenalin and fear. She had to force herself to take each step towards the the fight every single one of her instincts not telling her but screaming to run away. She pulled up the fire extinguisher. Without her help Monica would be done for. The man with the bloodied face spotted her, he was about to shout a warning when Monica pushed herself up using the man holding her as support kicking the third man hard in the stomach sending her attacker stumbling backwards, while she and the two men holding her tumbled back wards tripping over the bed and night stand. Lane seeing the guy who wanted to attack Lane stumbling towards her only hesitated for the wink of an eye. 'Imagine you are hitting Martin...' with a roar she stepped forward swinging the fire extinguisher against the head of the man. When she felt the impact she gritted her teeth pulled through, sending the man spinning towards the floor blood trailing in a faint mist.