In the heat of the afternoon he watched the boats, in their bright Phoenician colours, dance on the water of the harbour, and mused at that trick of the sunlight which caused the protecting Eye of Osiris to wink at him from myriad bobbing prows.
He sipped his wine and thought of the three young women. He had seen them some hours earlier, in the morning as he’d walked the tourist routes of the city. They had been sat on a low wall, feet crossed at the ankle, all three slim and dressed in black. He remembered their sleek dark hair and how they all wore it drawn into tails pulled over one shoulder. Silky little Phoenicians, he’d thought, daughters of Carthage and had longed to see them again.
He stayed for many hours close by the harbour, ate seafood and drank more wine. At twilight the giant cruise ship loomed between the old limestone buildings, lit up like an apartment block. Still he could see the dipping shapes of the little Phoenician boats. Then, on the quiet, lapping water he heard the throb of an engine and saw one of the prows ease forward and head in the direction of the cruise ship.
Silhouetted in the small boat were three slender figures. He strained to follow the boat’s progress across the harbour and left his café table, in some haste to walk along the strand in the same direction. He lost sight of the boat once it had reached the dark mass of the cruise ship’s hull. But then, he saw a glimmer of light, far below the main decks, and movement. Three shapes climbed from the sea and disappeared into the patch of light.
Cursing, he turned and walked back in the direction of his hotel.