Shiva's Messenger

Scene Through A Burkha’s Window

Chapter 17

Scene Through a Burkha’s Window


With the final destination of Quetta in Pakistan, Tariq Muhammad and his lovely daughter Fatima lifted off from Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport. People seated near them in business class were at first enthralled by the girl’s exquisite and exotic beauty but it was her genuine affection for her father that completely won their hearts: she clung to him as tenderly as a lover and snuggled against him, as they chatted quietly.
“Let’s go join the mile high club.” Fatima giggled into Tariq’s ear.
“That would put an awkward rent in our father and daughter routine.” His mind couldn’t resist a fleeting temptation at her lewd suggestion.
“We can play hide-and-seek,” the playful young woman spread an in-flight blanket over both their laps and pulled it up to her neck to cover any fun that might ensue, “for a small object hidden in our clothing instead.”
“You’re too skinny,” the beleaguered man switched the subject away from her proposals of sky high jinks, “for the name of Fatima.”
“Fatima means daughter of Muhammad. As soon as you took that name, my choice was obvious.”
“You like to pick names that mean something.”
“Was that phrased as a question,” the girl’s hand found his inner thigh, “or as just an observation begging for a comment?”
“What’s the difference?”
“If you asked then I would be impolite not to answer.” Fatima pinched her fingernails into a sensitive nerve center. “But if you stated a perceived fact then I can confirm by not contradicting it and your ploy to evade my rapacious desires will have failed—yet again.”
“I should pour ice water under the blanket to cool your ardor.” Tariq scanned the aisles. “The flight attendant hasn’t finished the meal service.”
“I’ll bet she’s joined the sex-in-an-aircraft-lavatory fraternity more than once.” The naughty young woman nodded slightly to indicate a mature stewardess. The woman had bleached blonde hair and heavy make-up.”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“How about if I fix my lonely dad up with a fling? After learning from an experienced mile-high club member, you can pass the moves on to me.”
“Can we at least wait until they dim the cabin lights?”
“My mom made our identity changes into a little game.” Fatima went back to the interrupted topic. “I would tell her what I wanted and then she tried to get it. I now know that it all depended on Sam’s resourcefulness.”
“It must be more difficult for him to find particular names.”
“Like Lyra!” The girl chuckled at the pains her choice must’ve cause the old forger. “I wanted to be named Lira because it’s money in Italian.”
“What was important about one having a secondary meaning?”
“A name is more than just a sound people answer to. They are mini-backgrounds for the individuals. First names might be a person or maybe a movie star the parents admired. Middle ones are often bestowed in respect to a deceased relative. Surnames tie the family together but also tell about the heritage. A name is a bond to the past and to people we love.”
“I gave mine up without caring as to its significance”
“I’ve never had one truly my own and I didn’t want my names to be only sound so I used etymology or significant reasons for picking them.”
“You must have a name somewhere?” The concept of being utterly anonymous was alien to one born with an identity. “I use false ID as a tool but deep down I’m Tariq Rashid Awi, complete with the story the sounds imply. A bureaucratic filing cabinet somewhere must have a folder with a date when this cute little female infant bounced into life.”
“My parents and apparently Sam, were the only ones who knew I was born. They never registered the event with any administration. That was one tangible gift from my father and my mother taught me to cherish it.”
“I’m sorry, but it sounds more like a denial than a blessing from him. Many men have sired children and then withheld legitimacy. The practice coined an epithet that I would never apply to you.”
“I’m not a bastard! My mom was as good as married when I was born. The choice of not naming me was an intentional one and it was out of love. Surnames pass from the father usually and it’s a portion of his immortality: his name will span generations. My father intentionally gave that up.”
Tariq looked at her on the last comment, but without responding and he noticed there was one other aspect of her truly nameless status. When she switched identities, the change was total. He didn’t think of her as Lyra or even as Katya anymore because her identity was now Fatima.
[Could you react right if called something other than Tariq?]
You’re still around? The Iranian hadn’t heard from Loki in awhile.
“Why do people really need passports anyways?”
“Besides armed border guards not allowing us into a nation without?”
“Sam was right about forged identification being instruments of healthy revolution and I’m correct about law being an oppression.” Fatima sighed. “Why have people put up with this abuse for so long?”
“We are bribed with comfortable lives.” His thoughts traveled back his pre 9/11 lifestyle. “Slaves are blessed by not having to do for themselves.”
“Putting our collective heads up our conjoined butts isn’t blocking out the problems anymore.” Fatima closed her eyes and a swarm of thoughts like angry wasps from a kicked nest buzzed around her brain. After a few moments, she had them tamed back into the tranquil honeycomb.
They dozed while a movie ran: afterwards, the lights were dimmed.
“Almost everyone here in business class is asleep.” The randy young female poked his ribs. “Let’s perform that romantic duet in the lavatory.”
“There is one label that does apply to women like you.” He chuckled. “I’ll give you a hint: it starts with nympho and ends in maniac.”
“I played a long lonely symphony with no percussion section.” Fatima wheedled. “Come on old man: I’ll put some boom-boom in your drum.”
“I can’t contort my decrepit body into the positions that would take.”
“I’m flexible enough,” she grinned excitedly, “to bend for both of us.”
“Oh alright.” The man heaved a heavy sigh as if he had just acquiesced to a horribly unpleasant duty. I’ve always secretly yearned to try this.


“~When you lived in America,” the café owner set a carafe of Arabic blend on the outdoor table, “~how did you avoid becoming depraved?”
[Immorality is in the eyes of the debauched.]
The ears of the stilted listener would not wish to hear that.
“~A degenerate society perverts,” Tariq had his laptop computer on the calico tablecloth. He was posing as a pro-jihad writer and his monitor was filled with spiteful words: he could also consult an English-Urdu translator program as needed, “~as a dead bull festering in a brook.”
The proprietor left—nodding as if absorbed in the profound concept.
In Quetta, a Northern Pakistan city close to the Afghanistan border, they had rented a suite and donned traditional Muslim attire. Tariq had on the distinguished flowing thobe he had last worn on the Seattle golf course. On his head, he wore a ghutra tied with an agal. Fatima’s delightful curves had vanished under a shapeless black abaya and her gorgeous face was but a lovely picture in the cropped frame of a burkha.
“There’s room in this bag for both of us.” Fatima ballooned the fabric. “I’ll go naked under and you can play three ring circus under the big top.”
“I don’t think we can manage that.” The Iranian noted an abundance of black turbans—which are a visual mark of the Taliban.
“That’s what you thought about the mile-high club until we tried it.” Her eyes held mischief, liberally garnished with ‘I-told-you-so’ spice.
“That only worked out so well because you can twist like a pretzel.” His head turned about as if the programmer’s neck was also one. The Pakistan Government claimed the Taliban forces didn’t operate in Quetta but police jeeps feared venturing off the main streets to make certain. The black turbans and graffiti slogans painted on alleyway walls told the truer tale. “Our goal here is to blend in and pretending I’m a trapeze acrobat in your abaya doesn’t quite fit the image. Besides, I was hinting that strict community decorum standards are enforced here: sometimes to the death.”
“I’m pouting but the sack on my head ruins the effect.” To the contrary of her words, Fatima’s overall image was disarming. She sat demurely at his right elbow. Though only the two were at the square table, the doting daughter was back from one corner to leave the three other edges open.
“~We’ve been watching you.” The taller of two Pakistani men spoke.
“~I’m writing a dissertation on the Islamic Jihad,” Tariq folded down the computer screen and offered seats, “~but I always have time to chat.”
“~Wealthy Saudi Arabians,” after introductions Ahmed’s eyes gave an indication of Tariq’s headdress being out of place, “~generally worship in the American temple of mighty dollars.”
“~Osama himself was a rich boy, but he found Allah.” The Iranian had adopted the Saudi look for the same reason he had on the golf course: that was to stand out—but subtly so. “~My family is not as well-heeled as his.”
“~The Christian bible has only sixty-six books,” the shorter of the men, Asham, offered an obtuse statement, “~but our Koran has sixty-seven.” His body matched his observance: it was somewhat thick too. His belly was as a basketball under the dingy white bedspread of his thobe.
“~Have a smoke with us?” Ahmed asked as the waiter arrived.
“~I gave up cigarettes.”
“~A shi sha filters the smoke through water.” Ahmed urged, “~it’s as a fire that’s been quenched: it can no longer burn.”
“~Which do you recommend?” The programmer shrugged and looked at the illustrated menu of available tobaccos.
“~All are flavorful,” Ahmed offered, “but I prefer the green apple.”
“~I’ll try that.” Tariq pointed to the menu picture of a plate of sliced fruit then looked back at his guests.
Ahmed was likely Indian with dark skin and handsomely proportional features. His turban was also worn in a Sikh style, carefully wrapped with a peak at his forehead. Asham’s flesh tone was lighter. His headgear was as if a crow had made a nest with black cloth swatches and the man’s nose was almost as prominent as a raven’s beak.
“~All government is foul as feces,” Ahmed resumed the conversation, “~and the Christians don’t flush their political toilets often enough.”
“~A dilemma,” Tariq scored a point by writing that gem down, “~is the American military crams a stinking governance up our offended nostrils.”
“~Islam has sixty-seven books.” Asham chirped again. Deeper ideas, like chicks in his head’s nest, hadn’t pecked out from their eggshells yet.
[His shovel should dig harder for some meaningful dirt.]
Tariq smiled at Loki’s jab because when seen in profile, Asham’s nose was the large tip of a face shaped like a spade.
The men switched to small talk while the intricate process of loading and lighting the shi sha pipes was accomplished. Ceramic bowls, shaped as inverted candlestick holders, were filled with rough-cut tobacco that was as sticky as if mixed with blackstrap molasses. Each was then fitted with a tinfoil cover that was perforated by deft stabs with a toothpick and placed atop an intricate chrome water pipe that stood as high as the tabletop, bedecked with brass bangles and scrollwork designs. Glowing cubes of charcoal, set carefully on the tinfoil with tongs, fired the tobacco inside.
The Iranian had moved to North America long before he was of age to smoke and had never tried this Arabic form. Having quit cigarettes after 9/11, his plan was to draw smoke into his mouth and then fake inhaling but that wasn’t possible. The diameter of the smoke hose was sufficient to siphon gasoline. That and the forearm’s length of fittings at the housing and mouthpiece held too much air volume to be all taken into the cheeks: it forced taking a lungful. He coughed, though the smoke was cool and mild.
[Western economics are as smoking a hookah—filled with hashish.]
“~I suspect the decadence in the west probably began when Sir Walter Raleigh returned with a shipload of tobacco.” Tariq took one last draw and set the tube across his lap. “~The product’s primary function is to cause a customer’s death and Capitalism’s goal seems to be in killing the planet.”
“~Sixty seven books.” Neither man understood Tariq’s hypothesis and Asham reiterated his worn theme but this time he expanded on it. “~Islam accepts the Christian prophets but they refuse to acknowledge ours.”
“~Every human being is born in a state of a pure nature.” Ahmed quoted the prophet Mohammad: then went on a tangent. “~The Christians give themselves the permission to sin by claiming they were born into it.”
“~A priest’s duty is to promote rampant sinning,” Tariq expanded on the premise, “~by making the infidel’s conscience feel easier on Sundays.”
“~Sixty-six books.” Asham nodded as if he’d added a snippet of value.
[Black head wraps must absorb radiant heat like a brain-baking oven.]
Then Asham’s pre-frontal loafs were probably sliced off to make toast.
The men talked until their pipes were finished. Although Tariq tried to lead the conversation into international politics, his efforts failed. Ahmed and especially Asham seemed keen only to talk about Islam.
“Nobody was eavesdropping,” the daughter reported after Ahmed and Asham left, “in fact, it was the reverse.” Fatima’s self-assigned duty when her father spoke, was to pay attention to the surrounding tables. “By the rolling eyes, I suspect most local people are tired of what those two men have to say. That guy over by the kebab grill,” she pointed with a nod of her chin, “said ‘today I don’t have to stuff cigarette filters in my ears’.”
“Apparently, Koran thumpers are considered almost as odious in the Islamic world as Bible pounding is in Christendom.” Tariq then noted the distance between the overheard man and the spy. “Your young ears could probably detect a mosquito’s sneeze from across a crowded karaoke bar.”
The programmer was also impressed by her quickly expanding grasp of Pakistan’s Urdu language. Fatima understood the Hindi tongue from her mother’s Indian background and that was a solid base to work from. She periodically used his laptop’s translation dictionary to find meanings.
“I’m intrigued to know the deeper theory,” Fatima had filed the tidbit in memory to ask later, “behind your smoke and entrepreneurs notion?”
“Loki’s mind was abuzz from tobacco and my objective was flicking away the gospel gnats as quickly as possible.”
“It might be a flippant comment that holds some hidden truth.” Fatima vowed to ponder it further when she had time. “Our technology is making innovative strides but business is eager for profit, so they reduce quality to the lowest edge of functionality and the resulting crap just falls apart.”
“Our planetary minerals go to littering landfill sites after giving only a negligible benefit, so our grandchildren will have to mine their needs from our refuse heaps.” The programmer expanded. “Irreplaceable fossil fuels are frittered in warming the globe, building and transporting shoddy junk. Rampant consumerism is a crime against humanity’s future generations.”
“The profiteers have to swim in the earth’s pool too,” Fatima finished the shared thought, “and my time with Bob Wall showed me that the rich aren’t made all that happy by the wealth they acquire by peeing into it.”
“I’m finished for the day.” He packed up his laptop and paid the bill.
“Would it really be so difficult,” Fatima waited so she could follow, “to make products durable, upgradeable, recyclable and earth-friendly?”
“Seemingly it is.” Tariq collected the change and left a tip. “Highly fuel efficient cars would hurt the oil industry—and those who depend on it for a livelihood. Upgradable products would ultimately lead to slumps in sales—that might cripple the retailers and cause layoffs there.”
“Do you buy that tripe? The worst industries talk of the catastrophic economic woe that retooling involves, but these offending corporations are some of the wealthiest—so theirs is the only story on the news channel.”
“Oil would—.” The Iranian began but then realized it wouldn’t be on his own logic, but that supplied to him—by the news. “Give an example.”
“Doom and gloom predictions discount the human spirit. Fuel-efficient vehicles would hurt oil industry profits, and some would loose their jobs—but they could seek other employments. All though, would benefit from a reduced carbon footprint and having less gasoline off the family budget.”
“The price would rise: amounting to a nil benefit.”
“On what grounds? Less demand should make the supply a glut.” The girl ran for three paces: his longer legs made him hard to keep up with. “I know why you felt that way about the price though. We intrinsically know that profiteers will always seek to screw more money out of any situation. The governments they own, and networks they control, would facilitate it.”
“We know it, but don’t like to think about it.” He arrived a crosswalk. It was painted with hash marks but none of the vehicles paid any attention. “This safe-zone is just a cruel joke—to lure pedestrians to a certain death.”
“This crosswalk is indicative of a fault in society,” Fatima took his arm and they bolted through an opening, “and it comes down to money. People with drive cars are generally affluent. Safe zones are painted to get votes but politicians cater to the rich—so enforcement isn’t a priority. Drivers suppose they own more of the road, because they paid higher taxes to build it and operate vehicles accordingly: at least some do and the rest follow.”
“Should civilization divest itself of the concept of currency?”
“Taking two Tylenol cures a headache but swallowing a whole bottle of them can injure or kill. Basing an economy on cash is fine, but a system of governance needs to be rooted in human values—and not monetary ones.”
“It would take money to publicize another agenda but those financially able to, have the most to loose if the status quo changes.”
“Exactly. The primary reason for not having fuel-efficient cars is the wealthy would miss out on the profits. Preventing the smaller folk loosing employment is just a media smoke-screen and a vote-getter.” The pathetic sidewalk they were now on wouldn’t have permitted two walking abreast. “Ordinary citizens don’t have the promised equal voice, even though they have a vote—because they don’t have enough money for a megaphone.”
“Americans suppose they want capitalism and democracy,” he inwardly winced: his previous incarnation would’ve rebelled over this topic, “but the first eliminates the actual fact of the second—when rampant capitalism is taken to the extreme—as it grossly is in the United States.”
“Someone like Bob Wall has more than enough to enjoy two-thousand lavish lifetimes—when he will only have the one. Meanwhile, hundreds-of-thousands or millions go without even the subsistence for a meager life. But well-viewed documentaries don’t cover that inequality, because over-wealthy people also own the major newspapers and broadcasting stations.”
“Bob’s apparent philosophy is incomprehensible to me.” The Iranian scanned the path ahead: a place was coming, where a concrete power pole took up part of the pedestrian way: a beggar had positioned there to further hinder foot traffic. “He has everything—but nothing that he truly values.”
“Wealth is as addictive and life-stealing as heroin is.” Junky Jinder’s daughter perceived the correlation. “At first the cash provides a high but it becomes an obsession.” She noted the panhandler had no deformities, and the rents in his rags seemed as done with a knife—for a contrived look of poverty. “The American dream is a hallucination in designer clothing.”
“Many people,” Tariq needed to step between the sitting man’s crossed legs to get by, “Bob included,” he turned to help Fatima, “peg self-worth to net-worth.” The beggar didn’t budge over to allow them an easy crossing. “The only way he can feel good about himself is to acquire more.”
“Bob Wall,” the ex-slave girl giggled, “or this annoying panhandler?”
“That is funny!” Tariq belly laughed. “But what poignant similarities exist between that excessively rich man and an able-bodied beggar?”
“He doesn’t really have a need,” they arrived back at their rooms, “but will use his all resources to block progress—just to acquire even more.”
“You wear that you wear underneath?” The programmer only had his back turned for a few seconds to lock the door: when he looked again she was wearing only panties and a black contraption strapped to her face.
“The burkha fabric,” she unclasped the harness, “chafes my cheeks.”
“It looks like something bought in an S&M boutique,” he chuckled and snapped the elastic t-band behind her skimpy g-string, “but I meant this.”
“You get to wear white,” Fatima playfully slapped his hand, “and that reflects away the sun. I nearly melt under all the dark material.” I also want to look good if a breeze blows the cloth against my body.


“I fished for a porn star,” Wall was atop an utterly motionless, spread-eagled female, “but snagged a starfish.” His motions became halfhearted. “I’m doing all the hard physical work for both of our pleasure.”
The female didn’t respond—she normally didn’t to him, but this time it was without even the slightest twitch. Wall did a push-up, to bring his face from the pillow. Her eyes had a far away look and her features were still.
“You’re exceptionally dead tonight.” Wall commented, and then did a mental double take. “She is dead!” Bob leaped to his feet in dread.
“What do I do?” In a panic, he paced around the bed—she still hadn’t moved a muscle or even blinked. His mind could’ve and should’ve been on possible first aid measures but instead, he wondered how he might hide the body. Her sudden death presented him with yet another dilemma.
“I need to think straight.” The CEO grabbed the heroin needle kit to freshen up his high. He took a shot in the washroom and then got a cooler from the fridge—he guzzled four in a row to steady his hands.
“How long do I have to arrange for disposal,” he drank his fifth vodka cocktail on the sofa whilst considering, “before her corpse starts to stink.”
“I’ve heard about guys dying during sex,” the liquor and drug had both kicked in and Wall found some humor in the situation, “but I can boast of my voracious passions, having killed a woman in bed.”
Oksana’s pale white ghost floated from the bedroom to the bathroom: seconds later, her poltergeist was heard opening up a faucet.
As he went check her cadaver, the software nerd’s inebriated mind was on contracting a voodoo practitioner to banish her restless spirit from his apartment. But the room was empty. In the background, a toilet flushed and after a moment, the ashen blond woman timidly returned to bed.
“Did the bimbo scare the crap out of me on purpose?” Bob asked while heading back to the kitchen for another bottle. His previous Russian sex slave may have, but he knew this one was without guile. The geek stayed awake for two hours and had four more drinks, to regain his composure.


“~Have you ever had one of those days,” Tariq squirmed in his chair, “~when passing wind would fill the under shorts with chocolate pudding?”
“~Do you mean—uh.” Ahmed’s forehead knurled under his turban as he sought a polite phraseology for diarrhea.
“~Yes,” the Iranian rubbed his solar plexus, “~with tapioca pellets.”
“~You’re not feeling very well?” Asham questioned.
“~Other than my bowels and a hemorrhoid swollen up like this,” Tariq held up a single finger, “~I don’t feel too badly.”
“~I’ll pray to Allah for your improved health.” Ahmed offered.
“~Throw in a good word for my feet as well.” The programmer laid it on thicker. “I have a rash in between my toes that I can’t identify.”
“~You might anoint them with oil.” Asham’s shovelnose unearthed a possible remedy found in holy text.
[Religious zealots don’t take subtle hints to get lost.]
“Unless you need an ambulance,” Fatima whispered into Tariq’s ear, “I’ll go find something more interesting to listen to.” She stood to leave, but as her chair was pushed back, the leg jostled an oscillating fan’s power cord. The unit tipped over and a strong wind blew up under her burnoose.
Fatima’s hands scrambled to protect her modesty, while Tariq put the fan back upright. That felt quite refreshing. The girl giggled as she left.
“~It is nearly to prayer time.” Ahmed was slightly flustered by what he had almost seen, and took his impure thoughts as a good excuse to leave.
“~Later.” The programmer waved as his unwelcome guests departed. He crossed his knees and pretended to put his attention onto his computer.
On the street, the Iranian watched an intricately painted truck unload a number of dust-encrusted men. Elsewhere in the world, such a garishly decorated vehicle might’ve stood out like a peacock in a flock of penguins but here they were commonplace. The item that garnered Tariq’s curiosity was that the Arabic men each had combat boots under their smocks. He watched as the troop trundled to the same café as his, but to a larger table on the furthest side away. Eight of the nine men took seats.
“~Get them a round of beer and shi sha.” The leader ordered for his squad and tugged off his turban to display a shaved head. His men doffed headgear too. Islamic tradition frowned on alcohol but coffee didn’t wash desert grit from a throat as effectively as ale did. The large man spun on a Desert Eagle boot heel and strode over to the writer.
“You would be Tariq Muhammad.” The captain dropped into a chair left vacant by Asham and Ahmed’s departure. “I was ordered to grant you a few moments of my time.”
“I’m—uh,” this had come to Tariq as a complete surprise: Bijan was to arrange something but the programmer had expected it to be somewhat more formal, “writing a dissertation.”
“Some men are talkers,” the jihad commander mocked, “while others are the doers. I’m Kareem and I’m of the latter group.”
[Is that the first name or the last?] Loki wondered but they would soon enough learn that it was both.
“Can you tell me of your cause?” The Iranian began: he was pleasantly surprised by his contact’s automatic use of English, and his fluency in it.
“I do whatever I’m asked to.” The jihad man answered disinterestedly and his eyes strayed to where his squad-mates were laughing and joking.
“My readers will be interested in your thoughts and feelings.”
“I’m just a soldier: my personality doesn’t enter into it.”
[At least he hasn’t changed the topic to liquid craps yet.]
Kareem is as thrilled by my discussion as I was with the Koran twins. The programmer couldn’t let the bored officer go though: he needed this contact too badly. At that moment, Fatima returned to her customary spot.
“This is my daughter Fatima.” Tariq introduced but the soldier didn’t seem particularly excited by a largely unseen female either.
This is not going well at all. Fatima assessed the situation as Tariq was unsuccessfully trying to elicit more than perfunctory comments. Another ten minutes of conversation had brought barely a scrap of new information, and all the preparation efforts were in eminent danger of being wasted.
I have my female artillery, but it is all ineffectively locked in a shed. The abaya camouflaged her body and the burkha showed only her eyes, outlined in heavy mascara, and a delicate henna tattoo on her upper cheek.
“Ah-choo.” Fatima faked a sneeze and the man reacted as expected by looking at her face—she batted her eyelashes, but he turned his attention away after barely a pause. That was a pathetic effort: I can do better.
After another moment, she had contrived her next ploy. She casually removed a silver snake ring from her finger and played with it idly, until Kareem’s wandering attention landed on the item. Fatima squeezed it hard and as planned, the ring squirted from her fingers and onto the floor.
Now, I can show off the general form I have stashed under this tent. She stood quickly and under a guise of retrieving her possession, she bent away from the seated men. Behold the shape of a young female’s pert butt.
Then, the unexpected happened. The fan she had knocked over earlier, again tumbled. This time though, her hands were both occupied and near the floor. The sudden wind ballooned up under her shift and the material flew like a black umbrella inverted by a sharp gust. Fatima had planned on giving him a hint of what was underneath. Instead, the jihad commander saw her whole lower half, viewed in close up, and clad only a red g-string.
[That was as unsubtle as Thor’s hammer is blunt.]
The partially naked female’s reactions were faster than an asp’s strike. She swiveled and dropped to a squat. Her nimble fingers clasped at the flyaway cloth and she gathered it to her ankles. Fatima stood sheepishly and her one hand scooped the coiled snake bauble on her way up.
The Egyptian cobra’s rapid acting venom is a neurotoxin and Kareem’s brain was almost instantly paralyzed: as if in respiratory failure, his words were gone too. Exactly as the Russian boy had been from first sight of this girl standing naked in the wreckage of her tsunami ravaged home, the jihad commander was irrevocably hooked.
“I’m sorry.” She really was repentant. That was some major overkill. The girl noted that Tariq had picked the fan up again: as he had done the last time. On the other hand, Kareem had not moved a single muscle.
“Uh,” the Arab man finally found his voice: he turned his face to the writer, “I apologize for seeming abrupt but we have just returned from a mission. After I’ve rested, we can have a more productive talk.”


But Fatima’s titillating faux pas hadn’t been the only unexpected flash of female skin occurring on that side of the world. Bob Wall was also due for an unpleasant peek at some scandalous Arabic flesh.
The CEO rubbed his red eyes and switched on his computer. He typed ‘boinkbob’ at the password prompt and then strolled to his office wet-bar and coffee counter.
“Enter.” He responded to a knock. Is he a psychic? Bob wondered at his underling’s seemingly unerring foreknowledge of his work schedule.
In fact, Collin had fitted his workstation with an audible alarm to alert him whenever the CEO’s computer logged onto the corporate server. The boss had become far too erratic to predict by other methods.
“I’m as dry as a cottonmouth rattler,” Wall smacked his lips and poured some water, “crunching stale popcorn in a Gobi desert heat wave.”
“I’ll assume from your cheery greeting that you haven’t yet seen the news.” Collin spent the next few moments describing the porn debacle currently unfolding in Asia. “It will take more than just H2O to douse the hot winds blowing around your customer’s venomous fangs.”
“Let me see it!” The chief’s fingers hovered over the keyboard, but his brain was fuzzed from his hangover and the late-nigh heroin binge.
“I’ll do it for you.” The younger executive spied the predicament and swiveled the monitor so both could see. In several mouse clicks and a few strokes on the upside-away keyboard, the ‘Vixens in Veils’ video played.
“That camel-humping,” the CEO’s voice rasped like a desert wind over the sand dunes of his tonsils, “son of a dingo bitch!”
“This stunt does cast suspicion towards Riyadh,” the asshole joked as his pointer brought up other details of the Asian incident, “or maybe you suspect Canberra of having something to do with it.”
“Does Omani come from Australia?” Bob missed the jibe on his mixed slur. Camels are native to Arabian arid regions but a dingo is a wild dog in Australia’s Outback. “He sent a major client down-under last week too.”
“I haven’t found anything connecting Ghazi to that cancelled contract.”
“The Persian theme in this porno is proof positive.” The visuals were soft-core but they gave Bob’s ire a raging hard-on. “I’ll bake that Saudi sand-ape’s severed balls like spitted shrimps on my barbeque.”
“That culinary method is called rotisserie roasting.” Though the words seemed mocking, Hersker’s face was pensive. “Baking testicles requires a closed oven with convection or radiant heat.”
“What possible difference does that make?” Wall’s anger shifted from the Sheik to his subordinate rectum.
“I suspect I’ll be your cookout’s gonad chef,” Collin countered, “and my optimum testes recipe calls for a controlled temperature setting.”
“If you’re trying to bait me, you’re being a master at it.”
“After I showed you the video of the streaking lawyers,” the boss had intentionally insulted, but Collin ignored it, “I had a premonition of today.”
“Extrasensory perception is whacked,” Bob was upset from not fully understanding the conversational thread, “and off the topic.”
“I got your solo-sex message the first time.”
“I need a morning caffeine fix.” Wall fetched a cup from a machine.
“You hired me to conduct corporate takeovers to increase your political influence.” Collin correctly surmised that his employer’s denseness and irritability was a result of substance abuse. “The Arabic programmer on your vandalized boat, a Saudi stealing lawyer’s clothing, and this Middle-Eastern porn shenanigan has me seeing a connect-the-dots puzzle.”
“Draw the picture out for me,” the CEO took a half-cup swallow of his brain-straightening caffeine, “and use a wide-tipped felt marker.”
“If Ghazi is behind these pranks,” Collin got a beverage too, “then it’s a childish game.” I feel like a hired classmate, protecting a wimp from a big bad bully. “But I don’t play in schoolyards anymore.”
“I don’t wear short pants either.” The computer geek meant he wasn’t in a school uniform but in fact, his trousers often did show too much of his socks. “This assault is the last one I’m going to take without fighting back. First, we’ll file suit against Ghazi bin Omani for damages. Then, I’ll kick him right where his nuts are going to hurt the worst.”
“I surmise your foot would be aimed at his crotch,” Hersker’s grin was because Bob’s clumsy analogy fit better than the CEO realized: the man’s quizzical, and hung-over visage also looked quite silly, “but I know a place where his male genitalia might be clustered for a stronger strike.”
“Do you have a scheme for a good under-the-belt uppercut?”
“If your revenge calls for a similar but bigger corporate sabotage,” the special executive stopped his beverage fixing to reflect on his decision to stay on, “then you can find someone else to pull it off.”
“I’m not sure what I want,” Bob’s anger waned, “but if we hit him hard enough, maybe he will leave us alone.”
“If you pull a dirty trick in response it will escalate the hostilities.” The asshole strolled back to his seat and sipped his coffee to allow suspense to percolate into a stronger brew. “You’re successful in contests with small foes because you can bring heavy blunt force in to stun opposition. This is different: the bin Omani cartel is a big player. Ghazi is vicious, arrogant and he’s been in tougher street-fights than you have. If he has instigated the attacks then it’s because he isn’t afraid of you.”
“There is no if. He deliberately provoked me,” Bob’s hand gestured to provocative screen action, “and he left this taunt. Can I just let this slide?”
“Sheik Ghazi bin Omani is aggressive and fearless but those could be weakness too: they will make him predictable. Even so, if you enter a slugfest with him—you’ll both be bloodied in the ring.”
“So what’s the tactic?” The CEO was rife with anticipation.
“You buy his company out from underneath him.”
“We buy—.“ Bob’s mind reeled with the staggering proposal. “Omani Group is too big. That idea is not even in the realm next door to reality.”
“His corporation is large and strong,” Collin had researched this well, “but so is yours. The treasury is plump with a highly successful upgrade.”
“Nobody could envision it coming.” Bob recalled how shocked he had been when Oksana was seemingly dead, and then alive just as quickly.
“You bite some chewable chunks off his organization.” The specialist elaborated. “That might get his dander up and perhaps he won’t opt for playing defensively. If Ghazi becomes angry enough to try buying Wall Soft out instead, then—Gulp!” Collin made the sound dramatic.
“I swallow bin Omani Holdings!” Visions of power-plums danced in Bob’s head: Santa was filling his stocking—big time. “Start today!”
“La vengeance,” Collin spoke French, “est un plat qui se mange froid.”
“Huh?” Wall’s mind was still jingling bells on his Christmas thoughts.
“Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.”
“Right, Ricardo Montalban.” Bob nodded. “From the Wrath of Kahn.”
“Or maybe Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos. From Les Liaisons Dangereuses, where Hollywood stole it.”
“Okay.” Bob didn’t understand French any more than a Russian girl’s nattering. “We’ll give Ghazi a Ramadan that has him praying for mercy.”
“Make sure I have a healthy war chest to work with. Otherwise your butt could be up in the air—and pointing away from Mecca.”


“Two—three—four.” Halfway. Tariq paused with the barbell at full arm’s extension before lowering it for his next repetition. Positioned on his back for pectoral presses, the scruffy gym’s interior was largely out of view but a twang of sweat left no sensory doubt of the room’s appearance.
[Like radar paints an image with sound for a bat, so would the aroma in here give pungent focus to a hound dog.]
“Five and six.”
[Our Freya gives us strenuous workouts.] Loki complained.
“That’s cardiovascular.” The man muttered as he did the last two reps. Some of the girl’s tantric positions were also stretching and limbering. Weight training keeps up muscle tone—I thought you know what I do?
[I just skim through the boring bits of your brain’s encyclopedia.]
With his preplanned number reached, Tariq was about to place the weight back onto the hooks when a face showed over the knurled bar.
“Do you want a spotter?” Kareem assisted in maneuvering the barbell.
“I just finished this set,” Tariq wasn’t intending to use heavier weight so a safety person wasn’t actually required, “but sure.”
“I push much more than this,” the younger Arabic man scrutinized the bar and his fingers assisted his tally of the weight. Kareem removed one bar collar while his workout partner unscrewed the other.
“I’ll spot for you while I recover for my next.” Tariq matched the mass of the disks the other man was taking: it was more weight than he should lift with cold muscles. In a bodybuilding testosterone contest, there is only one loser and no winner. The programmer watched the bulky Arab take a wide grip. Kareem’s poor form will give him a mechanical disadvantage.
“What are the aim and the purpose of your book?” Kareem strained and pushed the bar to his start position. “One.”
[That wasn’t one yet. It’s not even a half.]
“It’s a treatise on how the Al Qaeda organization benefits our society.” Tariq smiled at the ploy. He’s not sure he can do the whole eight and has slyly reduced it to seven.
“Al Qaeda is opposing the capitalist infidels.” Kareem took a deep breath and began his set. “Two—Three.”
“They also give common people hope and that’s what I’m studying.”
“Five—Six.” Kareem’s face was bulging and red from overexertion.
[Doesn’t the number four fit somewhere in sequential counting?]
Isn’t it painfully obvious why he omitted it? Tariq could see Kareem had hit his maximum already. His intakes of breath were so heavy that his nostrils weren’t of sufficient caliber. Those next two will be a real bitch.
“Seven.” The jihad soldier’s arms were shaking like his muscles were fish wiggling on his bones. He lowered the bar, but only marginally before going for a final raise. His under-conditioned elbow sinews were critically overtaxed and locked after pushing the barbell only a hand width higher.
[Let him take a bite on that iron hot-dog.]
“Eight!” Kareem’s count before the lift’s finish echoed as a help plea.
“Good job.” Tariq took the load. “That was an awful lot of weight.”
“I normally go heavier but my shoulder has a previous hurt.” The hefty man rubbed his feigned injury. “I should’ve let it heal up a bit more.”
[He works out his jaw muscles under some big golden arches.]
“I know what that’s like.” Tariq busied himself in reducing the weight and his eyes strayed to the back of Kareem’s skull while he was bending to rack a disk. A brown dome stood atop three thick rolls of neck flab.
[It’s a crusted-over cow flop on the hillocks of his shoulders.]
Fat men really shouldn’t shave their heads. They especially shouldn’t allow it go to stubble. The creases were sharply demarked where the dark bristly hairs folded together. A monk’s tonsure would even hide that nicer.
“I know many things,” satisfied that his show of might was impressive Kareem presented a carrot of knowledge, “that might assist your study.”


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