by Paolo Copparoni, translated into English by Ruth Stephens
Chapter 9 – Police
The night that Amir and his rebel friends stole equipment from the company’s warehouse, Marco remained at home in the apartment.
He couldn’t sleep.
The next day, at work, he hears the sound of police sirens approaching the company’s compound. Now he knows that it is too late to do anything.
The police investigate all day. They question everyone, including Marco. But they discover nothing. No one saw the thieves, and no one knows how they managed to enter the warehouse.
The atmosphere in the city in recent days has become more tense. People are concerned there will be a civil war. Those who can are already making plans to leave the country.
Demonstrations against the government are more frequent now, and young rebels fight the police in the streets every day. Many protesters are arrested, or just disappear into prisons or police cells.
Because of the dangerous situation, Marco and Reya can meet less often. They must be careful.
And, even as weeks pass, Marco is still anxious that his role in the theft at the company’s warehouse will be discovered.
Marco’s family and friends back in Italy, who are following events in Libya on the news and in the newspapers, are very worried.
His parents call each day, always urging him to come home. But Marco is in love with Reya, so can’t consider the idea of leaving Libya.
Reya is busy with the daily demonstrations. She makes protest signs for the crowds of young people. Sometimes she doesn’t go home for several days, sleeping instead at the houses of rebel supporters.
Reya’s father worries that something serious may happen to her. He is aware of her political sympathies, and knows how tense the situation is.
After several nights when Reya does not return home, her father decides to search her bedroom. He hopes to find out where his daughter goes each day, and with who, so that he can better protect her.
Almost immediately he finds a photo, badly hidden in a drawer. It shows Reya and Marco together, holding hands and smiling.
He continues to look, but there is nothing else. No letters or other clues, just the photo.
He examines it carefully. It’s obvious that Marco is not Libyan. And the photo was taken in a popular square in the city…
Reya’s father is a police general. He phones his office and orders his staff to prepare a list of young foreigners working in or near the capital. It’s urgent. He wants it on his desk by the afternoon…
Arriving at work the following morning, Marco finds the company offices surrounded by police cars. Entering, he finds a tense atmosphere.
Company staff have already been questioned about the theft from the warehouse. And now the police are here again! Though no one seems to know why.
Before Marco can take off his jacket and begin work, he is approached by a police officer, who speaks to him in English.
Marco knows that people who speak to him in English are usually friendly, but not this time.
“Hey you! Let me see your ID.”
Marco produces his passport, and the police officer orders Marco to follow him to the manager’s office on the first floor.
Waiting for him is not the company manager, but two other police officers. They tell Marco to sit down, and begin to question him.
Why is he in Libya?
What does he know about the theft of equipment from the company’s warehouse?
Has be been involved with the rebels in any way?
Marco tells them he is only in Libya for work. He knows nothing about the stolen equipment. Or about the rebels!
On the night of the theft, he explains, he went straight home after work and stayed there alone all evening. He was tired and wanted to sleep.
The officers have no more questions. They seem to be waiting for something. The room goes silent.
Marco asks if he can go back to work now, but they refuse.
He has to wait too.
Around thirty minutes later, another police officer enters the office. He is smartly-dressed, with gold badges showing his senior status. The others stand up and salute him.
The senior policeman is carrying what seems to be a photograph.
He looks carefully at Marco, and then examines the image in his hand.
He’s clearly satisfied with what he sees, and nods to himself.
Turning, he speaks briefly in Arabic to the other policemen.
One of them pulls out his pistol.
The other takes handcuffs from his belt.
The both approach the young Italian…
Marco is under arrest!