The three of them cross the garden where the cocktails had

been served and which is now undergoing a rapid transformation.

When the guests come down from supper, they’ll find a dance floor lit with special lights, a seating area furnished with armchairs, and several small bars all serving free drinks.

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Igor walks ahead in silence. Ewa follows, and Hamid brings up

the rear. There is a small metal gate at the top of the steps down to the beach. Igor opens it and asks them to go first. Ewa refuses, but he seems not to mind and goes down the many flights of steps that lead to the sea below. He knows that Hamid will not prove to be a coward.

Until he met him at the party, he had considered him to be nothing but an unscrupulous couturier, a seducer of married women, and a manipulator of other people’s vanity. Now, however, he secretly admires him.

He’s a real man, capable of fighting to the end for someone he believes to be important, even though Igor knows that Ewa hasn’t one iota of the talent of the young actress he met tonight. She can’t disguise her feelings at all; he can sense her fear, he knows that she’s sweating, wondering whom to call, how to ask for help.

When they reach the sand, Igor walks right to the end of

the beach and sits down close to some rocks. He asks the others to do the same. He knows that despite her terror, Ewa is also thinking: “I’m going to spoil my dress. I’m going to get my shoes dirty.” But she sits down beside him. The other man asks her to move over a little, so that he can sit there, but she won’t budge.

He doesn’t insist. There they are, the three of them, as if they were old acquaintances in search of a moment’s peace in which to contemplate the rising of the full moon before they go back up the steps to listen to the infernal racket of the discotheque.

Hamid promise s himself that h e will give Igor ten minutes,

time enough for him to say everything that’s on his mind, to vent his rage and then go back where he came from. If he turns violent, he’ll be the loser because Hamid is physically stronger and, as a Bedouin,

trained to respond swiftly and precisely to any attack. He doesn’t want to cause a scene at the party, but the Russian should be under no illusion: he is prepared for anything.

When they go back up, he’ll apologize to their host and explain

that the situation has been resolved. He knows he can speak openly to him. He’ll tell him that his wife’s ex-husband had turned up without warning and that he’d felt it best to remove him before he caused any trouble. If the man doesn’t leave as soon as they return to the party, he’ll summon one of his own bodyguards to expel him. Igor may well be rich and own one of the largest mobile phone companies in Russia, but he’s being a nuisance.

“You betrayed me, not just during the two years you’ve spent with

this man, but during all the years we spent together.”

Ewa says nothing. “What would you be capable of doing in order to keep her?” he asks Hamid.

Hamid wonders whether he should answer or not. Ewa isn’t a piece of merchandise to be haggled over.

“Can you rephrase the question?”

“OK. Would you give your life for the woman beside you?”

There is pure evil in the man’s eyes. Even if Igor had managed to

steal a knife from the restaurant (Hamid hadn’t noticed him doing so, but he must consider all possibilities), he will have no problem disarming

him. No, he wouldn’t give his life for anyone, except God and the

chief of his tribe, but he must say something.


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