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In the Face of Jinn: A Novel
     

In the Face of Jinn: A Novel

3.7 7
by Cheryl Howard Crew
 

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Christine and Elizabeth Shepherd are on a buying trip in India for their California silk business when Elizabeth mysteriously disappears. In search of her sister, Christine ventures alone into Afghanistan and Pakistan disguised in the traditional garb of Islam, and often living among the women of the region, enduring the crushing oppression of Sharia. Christine

Overview

Christine and Elizabeth Shepherd are on a buying trip in India for their California silk business when Elizabeth mysteriously disappears. In search of her sister, Christine ventures alone into Afghanistan and Pakistan disguised in the traditional garb of Islam, and often living among the women of the region, enduring the crushing oppression of Sharia. Christine painfully gains a new understanding of her own country and family as she navigates the mysterious tribes of the Pashtuns, has a dangerous encounter with the Taliban, and learns to fear the "Jinn," the devils that dominate the superstitions of the people she must understand in order to survive.

"An impressive first by a Hollywood insider explores the deeply hostile reception two American sisters receive when they penetrate the tightly patriarchal society of Muslim culture....Winning and intensely moving."

Kirkus

"The nonstop action and gripping plot twists should keep readers entranced."

Publishers Weekly

"Cheryl Howard Crew writes with penetrating insight while she straps you in and takes you on a thrill ride of twists, turns, and sudden fear that doesn't let go until the last page."

—Jean M. Auel

"In the Face of Jinn brings its audience into uncharges regions of a woman's heart while exploring the unfamiliar fascinating, and sometimes horrifying worlds of Afghanistan, India, and Pakison...a taut thriller."

—Walter Mosley

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A California exotic goods importer embarks on a perilous rescue mission through India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in this vibrant, adventure-filled debut by the wife of film director Ron Howard. When Christine Shepherd's sister and business partner, Elizabeth, vanishes after a violent terrorist attack in India, Christine catapults herself into a world of warring tribal clans and the emerging Taliban. As Christine loses hope that Liz is alive, her desperate search becomes a vengeful hunt for the man responsible for the attack, terrorist Farrukh Ahmed. This unlikely but winning heroine, who's armed with an extensive knowledge of weaponry thanks to her relationship with "surrogate father" and retired FBI agent Cloid Dale, manages to survive everything from a series of horrific sexual assaults to a gut-wrenching parasitic illness. The story's greatest strength (and weakness) lies in its wide range of characters. Though some people are only sketchily described, Howard Crew uses most to compassionately reflect the region's religious and cultural diversity. Among the more interesting folks Christine encounters are Reggie Duke, a melanoma-spotted Aussie and retired SAS trooper with whom she develops a special camaraderie, and Mir Hasan, a mysterious gray-eyed Muslim with whom she falls passionately, if not convincingly, in love. The nonstop action and gripping plot twists should keep readers entranced. Agent, Mary Evans. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An impressive first by a Hollywood insider (the wife of director Ron Howard) explores the deeply hostile reception two American sisters receive when they penetrate the tightly patriarchal society of Muslim culture. Accustomed, in the 1990s, to traveling periodically to India and northern areas of Kashmir to dicker with Muslim merchants for the best deals on merchandise for their growing California import-export company, Christine and Liz Shepherd don't often feel intimidated moving among exotic cultures. Their American citizenship and dollars protect them, until Liz, the elder, and her driver venture out alone for one last buying stop at the small Hindu village of Padamthala, which is subsequently bombed by the Sunni Muslim terrorist group led by the fanatic Farrukh Ahmed-and Liz is missing or presumed dead. Christine, whose father, long deceased, was a chemical engineer who taught her to shoot a gun, sets out on a harebrained scheme to find her sister, coached via cell phone by her father's best friend and special agent to the FBI, Cloid Dale. Alarmed by hints of a "flesh trade," Christine accepts the escort of a low-level Indian government employee, Nikhil, who ends up raping her in the desert and triggering a landmine; she takes refuge with a sympathetic Pakistani family, the Javids, who agree, against their better judgment, to drive her into the larger town of Peshawar: Christine is resolved to find the notorious terrorist and reclaim her sister, despite the increasingly hateful treatment she receives at the hands of the men. Howard Crew's narrative erupts in violence at every stage of Christine's journey, from rape to gun smuggling to bloody ambushes by vengeful tribes. Theplausibility of her story relies on the generous personal detail the author brings to the landscape and characters, and especially to the ancient family customs and protocol of the people Christine encounters along the way. Winning and intensely moving, if wildly, romantically far-fetched.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312326494
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
01/24/2006
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.45(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

 

CHAPTER 1

Dabboo—”

Red lacquered talons flashed through the air as the skinny Indian woman, clad in purple polyester, lunged at the Muslim merchant.

“Dabboo, stop!” Christine yelled, and grabbed at her guide, nearly tripping over a pile of silk and wool carpets.

“Did you hear her?” Dabboo screamed. “She called me a goat in heat, a goat who soils itself for cash. Bloody cow!”

“She can hear you,” Christine hissed, trying to hold her close.

“Nonsense!” the Indian cried. “The Muslim doesn’t even know English. She’s illiterate!”

Christine dared to look at the woman who sat atop her own pile of extraordinary rugs. Wearing a chador, the traditional headscarf of Islam, the woman stared past them at the opposite wall of her small mud hut, refusing to acknowledge them. In Delhi, Dabboo, with her oversized European hats and shiny pantsuits, was well known and liked. But by the 1990s especially in the northern areas of Kashmir, the Muslim merchants had become wary of the Western importers and their Indian agents, who seemed to expect they could buy the finest products for paltry sums. Christine’s sister and business partner, Elizabeth Shepherd, had already agreed that they would need to pay more this year, but the merchant had balked at every offer.

Dabboo continued to complain, and despite Christine’s warnings, she was as loud as ever. The woman obviously didn’t know English, but her eyes were fixed, and her lips were thin and unyielding. Whatever had been said between them, and Christine had only caught a few words, it was clear that the negotiation had stalled.

“Chris,” a voice called from outside.

Liz had heard the commotion and was coming through the goatskin entrance into the hut. There were ornate screens and carved walnut doors that cut in and around the piles of carpets. Tables and small teak and ebony furnishings were stacked precariously to one side, and brass and copper pots, wood boxes, and lac toys were stacked on the other. With all the merchandise, a portly Muslim woman, and an enraged Hindu, the space was already tight enough, but they had to talk.

Christine had carelessly thrown a headscarf on, but Liz loved her Indian saris, and that day she had insisted on wearing one that was neon green and tight fitting.

“She shouldn’t be dressed like that in here,” Dabboo reminded her.

Dabboo was wearing a ridiculous sun hat, a shiny purple pantsuit, and nearly a hundred bracelets, but at least she was covered.

“I know. C’mon.” Christine sighed, and Dabboo followed.

“Are you blaming me, Chris? Because I tell you, the woman is incorrigible, just incorrigible.”

Christine could only nod as they made their way through the maze of handicrafts and over the Kashmiri carpets to where Liz was waiting.

“I heard screaming,” Liz began, her eye already caught by the colorful batik wall hangings that lined the mud-and-grass dwelling.

“She called me a goat!”

Christine rolled her eyes. “She told the woman her daughters looked like donkeys—”

“I said no such thing!”

“I heard you!”

Liz’s hand shot up to silence them. “This is not working.”

“No,” Christine agreed.

“I only—”

Liz’s hand went up again. Glaring, Dabboo jerked at the wide rim of her hat, pulling it in so the merchant couldn’t see her. “I only said,” she hissed, “that she was lucky her daughters didn’t resemble donkeys. It happens. These people sleep with their own, you know.”

“Oh, Dabboo …” Liz groaned.

Christine turned and flashed a quick smile at the merchant, for whatever good it might do. Then she turned back. “They hate each other.”

Liz looked to Dabboo for an explanation. The petite Indian cocked her head. “What can I say? The woman is a pig. But this is all part of the haggle—a bit of the show. You understand?”

“But we go home tomorrow,” Liz said.

“Yes, yes … of course. You Americans worry too much. Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Tamils, Bengalis … I handle them all. I will fix. You will see.”

The Indian flashed a huge smile. Liz seemed confident, but Christine wasn’t so sure.

“Call me if you need me,” Liz said to Christine.

“We won’t need you,” Dabboo assured her, and turned once again to face the merchant. Liz patted Christine on the arm, when, suddenly, the merchant snarled something behind them. Whatever it was she said, Dabboo nearly leaped across the rugs to get at the Muslim. The age-old hatred of these two people who two generations before had all been one people under the British still surprised Christine. Dabboo strained against them, screeching at the merchant.

“Maf kijiye,” Christine called out, trying to apologize to the woman, but the merchant wasn’t taking any chances. Tilted forward on her rug, she had pulled a thick-handled knife from beneath her headscarf.

“Dabboo, out!” Christine shouted, pulling Dabboo toward the exit. Dabboo started to object, but Christine wasn’t listening. She glanced up just to make sure the woman hadn’t come after them. She hadn’t, yet. But Christine also wasn’t taking any chances, and managed to maneuver both Liz and Dabboo through the goat-skinned flap and out of the hut.

Once alone, Christine spun around. But there was no sign of a knife, only the woman eating from a plate of some kind of meat bones.

Moving cautiously, Christine stepped over the uneven floor of piled merchandise, ready to bolt, should the knife appear. But the knife was nowhere to be seen. And now Christine wondered if Dabboo was right and it all was “a bit of the show.”

As Christine neared the merchant, her eyes darted about, looking for her backpack. Fortunately, she hadn’t listened to Liz, and had packed a gun that Ullas, Dabboo’s husband, had given her for the trip. This was her third trip to Kashmir, Liz’s fifth, but still Christine thought her sister was a bit gullible when it came to people. She was anxious to retrieve the backpack, just in case.

Circling wide, Christine nearly stumbled over a buckled rug as she swept up her backpack. The woman didn’t react, didn’t look, only gnawed at the bones. With Dabboo out of the hut, the woman seemed to have calmed. Christine came back around, watching as the woman licked at her fingers. She tried to remember where Dabboo had left off in the negotiation, and only hoped that her smattering of Hindi would be enough.

“Namastay—I mean, Salaam alekum,” Christine uttered, awkwardly clasping her hands in greeting.

The woman looked up, eyeing the American buyer. Her mouth began to move as if she was about to speak. Instead, she raised her greasy chin, and spat long. Christine followed the spittle as it sailed past her, just hitting the top carpet of a pile that she and her sister had spent days selecting. Still, spit was better than a knife at the throat. Christine went on to say what an honor it was to see so many beautiful carpets. The woman spat again.

Christine ignored the gesture, and mentioned how much her own mother loved Kashmiri carpets and how many of them they had bought through the years.

The woman’s mouth twisted. Christine closed her eyes. She could hear the shot of saliva hit their pile and strained to hold a smile.

Christine was befuddled. Was it her Hindi, or was the merchant just no longer interested in selling? She thought about getting Liz to help, but to a Muslim a woman dressed in a neon green sari with her shoulders, neck, and arms exposed, and wearing designer sunglasses, and a full head of brown hair that a scarf could barely contain, probably would not be appreciated. Then Christine remembered a neighbor in Los Angeles, a Muslim, who—The words were barely formed when the old merchant jerked her head to the side and spat once more.

Christine stopped talking. That last shot was a particularly offensive projectile, and the woman’s aim was precise, hitting the center of the carpet. Christine dreaded telling Liz about the soiled carpet and had to restrain herself from spitting out that Dabboo was right. There was an uncanny resemblance between the old woman’s daughters and her livestock!

Desperate to make this acquisition work, and remembering that the woman was armed, Christine went over and downed the cup of tea offered her earlier by one of the daughters, a tea that was sure to have her running back and forth from window seat to toilet on their flight back home. She reminded herself that they had spent three days dealing with this woman, a vendor who represented more than six villages. It had taken two-thirds of their trip just to sort through the merchandise. They had to buy.

“Dari sundar ke sab Kashmir, ke sab Kashmir!” Christine cried out, telling the old woman that her carpets were the prettiest in all of Kashmir, in all of Kashmir!

The woman wasn’t speaking, but she wasn’t spitting either. Still, Christine didn’t trust her and held her backpack close.

Christine had opened her mouth to speak when the old woman waved at her to stop. She had heard enough.

“You will pay cash. You understand?” she rasped. “U.S. dollars, no rupees, no checks, no credit cards. And now I will hear what you are prepared to offer?

Like her aim, the old woman’s English was perfect.

By the time Christine emerged from the hut, Dabboo was frantically puffing away at a hand-rolled bidi.

“You are finished already?” Dabboo called out. “How much did you give her? Not too much—Promise me you didn’t give that silly cow more than eight hundred!”

“She kept spitting, Dabboo.”

“So she spat! How much did you promise her?”

Christine shrugged. “Twenty-two hundred.”

“U.S.?”

Christine nodded.

“You Ameri-cains!” Dabboo hollered, taking another drag of her bidi. She inhaled so deeply, Christine thought she might suck in the entire cigarette, burn her fingers, and choke. Instead, she barked at her husband. “Ullas!”

Liz and Christine had also hired Ullas as their driver, but they could only watch helplessly as Ullas, all two hundred and sixty pounds of him, caught the door of the van and held it open. Muttering to herself, Dabboo, her bracelets clanking, took Ullas’s large hand as he lifted her into the passenger’s seat. He checked to make sure that her seat was fully elevated and that her silk cushion was in place. And still the crown of Dabboo’s sun hat never reached the ceiling.

That night they stayed in a rest house in Kangra, just south of Kashmir. Christine and Liz took the deluxe room furnished with two cots, a cupboard, lots of plastic flowers, a stone figure of Lord Ganesh from Orissa, enamelware from Jaipur, and several miniature paintings of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Elizabeth and Christine Shepherd had been buying exotic merchandise for over ten years. It was now March of’98, and despite personal scandal and political upheaval, President Clinton and his team of Democrats had managed to bring down the deficit and the American economy was booming. What had started as a San Fernando Valley import outlet grew into Shores, Inc., with seven prime locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Still, as Christine examined the cheap Indian statue, she had to admit that the golden days of buying village crafts for next to nothing had probably passed.

“I should’ve let Dabboo do it,” Christine groaned, setting down the elephant idol.

“Yeah, well, Kashmiris are tough,” said Liz.

“I swear to you, she wouldn’t say a word,” Christine said, throwing a hand-dyed cover off her bed. “She just spat.”

Christine watched as Liz carelessly pulled back the cover and crawled easily onto the flimsy cot.

“You’re not going to check for bugs, or snakes … or something?”

Liz pulled a mirror from beneath her cot. She seemed more concerned with the shape of her eyebrows. “Time to wax, I think,” she said.

Christine got up on one elbow and watched her sister pick at her face. The only chest of drawers in the room was covered with Liz’s cosmetics, and as Liz reached down beneath her cot into an oversized piece of French tapestry luggage, Christine thought of her dad and how he would enjoy seeing Liz teeter on a cot in the middle of Kashmir, trying to extract an overstuffed, black-satin toiletry bag. Christine had brought a backpack and a cheap duffel that had been a promotional giveaway. It was enough. Except for her interchange with the rug merchant that day, Dabboo usually dealt with sales. Christine and Liz took care of everything else.

“Dad was here, wasn’t he?” Liz remembered.

Christine smiled. She and her sister were so different, but they often shared thoughts. “Wasn’t Kashmir. Delhi and Varanasi, I think. With Cloid.”

“I forgot about that.” Liz dabbed her face with cream. “Cloid must’ve been on assignment … That was nice of him. Big highlight for Dad, I bet.”

It was a big highlight, Christine realized. When her dad had returned home, he talked for weeks of temples and beggars and sacred cows, but he mentioned little of Cloid. He couldn’t. His friend was here on business, federal business, and Cloid couldn’t share much. Her dad and Cloid had come to India, but Cloid, his best friend, and twenty years his senior, was a special agent for the FBI, and her dad was a chemical engineer who had a family to support. Christine had known Cloid since she was a toddler, but Cloid Dale’s life had always been shrouded in mystery, and Christine knew her father had envied him.

“If that idiot hadn’t plowed into him,” Liz added, “I bet he would’ve helped us with the company.”

Their dad had been killed in a car accident, and although he had been dead for years, Christine still hurt. She tried not to be bothered that all her sister thought about these days was the company. “I don’t think carpets were his thing,” Christine reminded her.

“It’s not just carpets. It’s textiles, and furniture, and jewelry and”—Liz leaned across her cot to Christine and whispered—“and dark men with knotted calves.”

“Knotted calves … Oh, that would’ve put him over.” Christine rolled her eyes, but had to smile. She liked broad backs herself. She was only twenty-nine, Liz, five years older. Neither was married, but already they had covered most of Europe, and now they were working their way through Asia. She had the feeling Liz could keep traveling, never go home, whereas Christine counted the days of each buying trip. Still, she enjoyed her sister’s company, hedonist that she was, and knew her dad would’ve approved of the business they had started and succeeded with, if only for the adventure.

Liz finished her face, creamed her hands, then stuck out her leg to use up the excess, when suddenly she froze. There was something beneath Christine’s cot.

“What is it?” Christine gasped, thinking snake. Cautiously, she bent over the edge of her cot. All she could see was her dirty nylon backpack. She had left it open and something was sticking up out of it. Not a snake, but worse, the unmistakable handgrip of a gun, a .40-caliber pistol to be exact.

“Shi—” Christine muttered under her breath and snatched at the bag before Liz could swing her legs off her cot.

“Chrissy, give it to me.”

Christine tried to ignore her, stuffing the gun back down into the bag.

“Give it to me. I mean it. Before someone gets hurt.”

“I need it,” Christine insisted, clutching the bag to her.

“For what?”

“She had a knife.”

“So.”

“Sooo, she had a knife!”

“It was just a ploy,” Liz said, taking the bag from her. “I swear. Cloid has turned you into such a reactionary. Please tell me you didn’t bring this over on the plane.”

“I wouldn’t do that. Ullas gave it to me, and for good reason. If that woman had charged—”

“What would you have done? Shot her?”

“No … It’s just that Ullas thinks a gun might not be such a bad idea when we’re dealing with Muslims.”

“I think it’s that wife of his he should worry about,” Liz said as she checked the gun’s safety. “It’s going back.”

Christine groaned loudly and fell back against the thin pad of the cot as Liz buried the gun deep between the many layers of clothing in her suitcase.

“People do get killed, Liz.”

“Those kids were killed by fanatics, not by some villager trying to make a living. Anyway that was months ago, south of here—way south.”

Having locked the suitcase, Liz slipped the key inside her toothpaste holder.

“It was Gujarat Province,” snapped Christine. “I know exactly where they were.”

“And we’re not anywhere near there,” Liz snapped back, throwing the bag, minus the gun, back to her sister. By now, Christine was muttering to herself.

“Please, don’t mutter. I hate it when you mutter.”

“I was just saying that Cloid would want me to carry a gun.”

“Cloid’s an ex-Fed. He’d have you carrying a gun to the toilet if he had his way.” Liz crawled back onto her cot. “C’mon, Chrissy, don’t get weird on me. We’re almost home.”

“These people scare me.”

“What are you talking about? You loved taking that old hag on,” Liz scoffed. “You loved it!”

“I lost us money.”

“I didn’t say you were good at it, just that you loved it. You probably even loved the way that disgusting woman spat.”

“It was an effective tactic.”

“Now you do sound like Cloid.”

Christine wasn’t particularly comfortable leaving her sister alone with Ullas, but Liz was emphatic. They had four crates of merchandise waiting in Delhi to be inventoried. Dabboo could help with customs, but Liz was right; this was India, and Christine would need at least a day to make everything ready for transport.

Except for the merchant with a knife and another who tried to sell them carpets that had somehow been urinated on by a water buffalo, it had been a good trip. One last village remained on the itinerary and Liz wasn’t going to skip it. It was decided that Ullas would stay with Liz while Christine and Dabboo went on ahead to New Delhi.

Liz kept the van, and Dabboo managed to find another vehicle, a used truck that she picked up “cheap, very cheap,” from a local farmer.

By local standards, the trip had been quite uneventful. After five hours with Dabboo driving on broken and dusty roads, they had killed only one dog, sent tumbling two men who had been riding the same bicycle, and accidentally grazed the hindquarters of a camel. In the third world, Dabboo assured her, that hardly counted.

Christine squinted her eyes trying to see into the brown smog that nearly obscured New Delhi. The Hilton Hotel was just ahead.

“Once we finish with your shipments, you might want to visit Old Delhi,” suggested Dabboo.

The Indian woman not only assisted them on their buying trips, she also owned her own two-person travel agency. “Of course, I have someone who can take you around, if you’d like—Nehru Museum, Khan Market, Humayun’s Tomb—”

Dabboo clucked her tongue. They had pulled into the hotel, but there was no one to greet them. “These people are useless,” she harped, sticking her head out the window. “Bellman!”

At the sound of her shriek, a bellman appeared. Christine climbed out as the bellman helped Dabboo come down off her silk cushion. She snapped at him in rapid Hindi, and the young man ran around the back of the truck and began unloading boxes. Christine went to help, but Dabboo waved her over as she lit up another bidi cigarette.

“I would’ve mentioned some of the great silk houses we have here in Delhi,” Dabboo started, taking a long, deep pull from her cigarette. “But I think you and Elizabeth are very different. Yes?”

In contrast to Liz’s elegant saris, Christine was wearing her usual traveling garb, blue jeans and a mail-order cotton shirt. Liz had made her change the sweatshirt.

“Uh … yeah. Guess I’m not much of a shopper.”

“How tragic,” Dabboo said, shaking her head. “Will you need me for anything else?”

“I could use another pair of sandals.”

Dabboo glanced down at Christine’s ragged footwear. “Yes, lots of cowshit here.”

Slipping the bidi between red lips, Dabboo reached high to Christine’s shoulders and steered her toward the main street. “See that building, two hundred meters … the one with the red flags?”

Christine nodded.

“Across the road, there is a market. They have everything, cheap, very cheap, but only with lots of haggling. Of course, haggling is your thing now. Am I right?”

Christine didn’t have time to comment. Dabboo had already turned away. She was climbing back onto her silk cushion.

“If you need anything,” Dabboo said, grabbing the wheel while flicking her bidi over Christine’s head, “call me on my mobile. Otherwise, I shall be back tomorrow to take you and your sister to the airport.”

“They’ll be back in time?” Christine asked, closing the car door after her.

“You worry too much. She’s with my Ullas.” The Indian woman turned the ignition, waved once more, and was gone.

That night Christine called her mother in Los Angeles to let her know what time the plane would arrive and asked her to bring the Suburban to pick them up. Christine wanted to take the crafts that were breakable with them on the plane; Dabboo could ship the rest. Her mother’s two dachshunds were barking in the background, making every word an effort until they were finally relegated to their “playroom,” Liz’s old room, complete with chenille cushions and a playpen full of their favorite stuffed toys. Christine could picture her mother shuffling back in and around the old kitchen banquette with a terryloth robe and slippers that she had worn for over a decade. And overhead there were window curtains parading tiny puppies and yellow beach balls that matched the yellow of her kitchen. Between her church work, her husband’s monthly pension check, and only two small canines to be responsible for, Marsha Shepherd had very little to worry about. Life was good, quite a departure from twelve years earlier, when she had lost her husband of thirty years.

Christine gave a quick rundown of the trip to her mother, omitting the part about the spitting merchant. Then she asked her about her blind cat, her own mutt, and some videos she had forgotten to return. The animals were fine, and her mother had remembered to return the tapes weeks ago. Little else was said. Marsha and her girls had been well indoctrinated by her stoic husband. In all matters, the less said the better. Except for the minor infraction of a mother inquiring after her daughters’ health, the call ended quickly.

Cloid, or “Cloidhopper,” as he was known on AOL, Yahoo!, the Net, and Hotmail, was not on his computer. A retired FBI agent, and a family friend, Cloid Dale occasionally contracted out, doing most of his investigative work via the Internet. But it was early morning in Los Angeles and Cloid was probably already out on the firing line, getting his usual morning practice in before the rifle range opened to the public. Christine would try calling him later, but for now she’d have to settle for e-mail.

Unlike the call to her mother, Christine began her e-mail with the story about the Kashmiri rug merchant, her knife, and her immeasurable store of spittle. She went into great detail estimating the velocity of each round, the angle of fire, and the distance to the top carpet. She and Cloid had spent so many years on the firing line together that she knew the old man would cross-check her figures with his own calculations. She had gone over her own numbers several times. She knew she would get an earful when she got home if she made a single mistake. Not only was the merchant skilled (Christine noted that the spittle stains fell into a remarkably tight group), but also, as she had told her sister, the old woman’s use of her unusual skill as a tactic for negotiation was very effective. Either way, Cloid would agree, the merchant had prevailed. Christine had overpaid.

A nice spring day in New Delhi meant that the temperature would not exceed one hundred degrees. It was now barely noon, and already one hundred and four. Christine was sure that the market would to be packed with tourists and feel even hotter.

A flurry of brightly colored saris and bicycles carrying whole families swerved around her as she checked the time. She wanted to pick up her sandals before Liz returned. Tickets were bought, the merchandise catalogued and ready to go, but she still had to check out of the hotel.

She had called her sister on her mobile phone that morning. As always, the connection was lousy, but from what Christine could make out, Liz and Ullas had arrived at the village early that morning, had purchased, and were headed back to Delhi. Except Liz had hinted at another village that Ullas had heard about. It was so like her sister to buy right up to departure. Still Liz had ended the call, promising that they would make the flight and not to worry.

As bicycles sped by, something clipped the back of her heel. Christine gasped and hobbled across the bustling intersection to a crowd of grinning Indians and their vehicles, eager to take her anywhere.

“Lady!”

“Hey, Madame, wanna ride?”

“Very cheap, very cheap.”

Christine managed a glance at her heel, chafed but not bleeding. A man stepped up, pulling a rickshaw.

“You Ameri-cain? Yes, good price for Ameri-cain. You see, come. Come!”

“Na, na,” Christine muttered as she limped through the men. She looked and saw that she would have to cross another busy street to get to the market. She spotted three children running across and caught up with them. An old beggar with no legs and glazed eye sockets teetered in the middle of traffic. Small, bronzed fingers clutched at her jeans as she jumped onto the opposite curb.

As the horns of the trucks warbled around her, Christine was sure her nerves would fray by the time Liz arrived. She was already regretting her decision to leave Liz with Ullas. He was a good enough man, but Ullas didn’t have the savvy that Dabboo had, and Christine worried that her sister trusted too easily.

“Madame, paisa, paisa, paisa,” pleaded a skinny, knobby child who looked about four years of age. He reached up with his left hand for money. He had to; his right hand was missing.

Christine groaned, and reached for her wallet. She had been in Delhi long enough to know she wasn’t doing the child any favors. Parents would often maim their children for money. Still, the beggars, especially the children, had their intended effect, and Christine acquiesced. She handed him ten rupees and walked quickly ahead.

The moment she turned off the boulevard onto the narrow street of stalls and lean-tos, Christine felt herself sway with the horde that flooded the Delhi market.

Liz was right; she was paranoid. It was the height of the season in India, and even though the street was jammed with gullible tourists, Christine felt the hawkers had singled her out.

Jewelry, candy, and cheap leather purses were pushed into her face as Christine made her way over to a stall of footwear. She grabbed a pair of sandals, fending off the vendors in stalls nearby.

“How much?” Christine asked a grizzled Hindu.

“Seven dollars.”

Christine thought about bargaining, but paid the man at once. She needed to get back to the hotel. Liz would be waiting.

As she pushed her way back through the market she caught a glimmer of bright color. An Indian in long orange robes was pointing to the sky while flashing a stained and tattered sheet with a horoscope printed on it. The couple he was trying to con wasn’t interested, but even before they turned away, the Indian had spotted her. His gaze was unnerving, and at first she thought he had just caught her staring. So she stepped over to another stall, but saw that the Indian had started toward her. She was in no mood to be harassed. She cut across the market, through a throng of people. Careful to avoid the piles of cow dung and trash, Christine walked along the back of the stalls until she came to the market’s entrance. Crossing, she watched for bicycles, and saw the man in orange emerge from the crowd. He had followed her.

Christine rose up on her toes, cringing from the pain in her heel. She could see the Delhi Hilton down the boulevard. It wasn’t far, but the stranger was actually pursuing her. She’d have to go for a taxi.

When she came to the intersection where the glut of drivers loitered, she paused. She had never seen so much traffic, but when she felt a hand on her shoulder, she almost leaped off the curb.

“Jago!” a teen yelled, his arms waving. The motorized scooter swerved and Christine jumped back, the vehicle just missing her.

“Missus?”

The air was hot and it smelled and her heel hurt, but most of all she was worried about her sister.

“Missus, please.”

She had run into these fakirs before, these fortune-tellers who would reveal your future for a hundred rupees. What was her problem? Why didn’t she just turn and tell the man she wasn’t interested. She had a nagging feeling that the con wanted more.

“I’m sorry for this,” he began.

Christine spun around to face him and caught a whiff of something different from the dirt and diesel fuel she was used to. “No, thank you,” she snapped. “I’m not interested.”

The fortune-teller looked startled, even frightened. At first, Christine thought he was reacting to someone behind her, someone threatening. She looked around, but there was no one.

Christine left him, walking back along the road, intent on finding an opening in the traffic. The man stayed with her.

“Please, Missus … I am sure now. It is you.”

Christine gave up and returned to the corner. She waved across the road to the taxi drivers. THe one at the front of the line jumped into his car and joined the crush of traffic, signaling that he would have to go around the block.

She would have to wait, and while she waited the man in orange stood patiently beside her. He uttered something and she looked down at the pavement, trying to ignore him. She saw that he was missing two toes on his left foot.

“I saw you in my dream,” the three-toed man said.

Christine looked up and she caught another scent of something sweet. His teeth were stained and his orange robes were threadbare, but the man smelled like flowers.

“Please, I have to catch a plane. I don’t have time—”

“You are correct, missus. You are already too late.”

“Too late for what?”

The smell was stronger now. “All right, how much—” she said, reaching into her bag.

“No,” he said, clasping his hands in respect while he mumbled a few words of Hindi. He was perspiring and she realized he was afraid. A wave of intuition came over her, and she felt compelled to talk to him.

The taxi pulled up beside her.

“Wait, okay?” she told the fortune-teller.

Christine bent down to the driver to pay him for his trouble, but the man in orange didn’t wait. She called out after him, but he didn’t stop. By the time she caught up to him, the sidewalk was teeming with tourists.

“Excuse me,” she called out, pulling money out of her purse. “I’ll pay you,” but the fortune-teller only quickened his pace. The man was moving out of reach and her heel was throbbing. She had to act. So she lunged, pushing people aside to get to him.

A pair of Germans started yelling at her, probably cursing. It didn’t matter, because she couldn’t understand them anyway. All she cared about was that the three-toed man in orange had stopped. He had no choice. Christine had grabbed onto his sleeve.

“Here,” Christine said, handing him a fistful of rupees.

“No! No money,” he waved at her, almost knocking the money out of her hand.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I just wanted to hear your dream, or fortune, or whatever it is you want.”

“There is no more to say. You have karma that follows you. Now please go and do not pursue me.”

He clasped his hands once more and whispered something under his breath. She couldn’t catch his words; she wasn’t supposed to. His prayer was not for her.

IN THE FACE OF JINN. Copyright © 2005 by Cheryl Howard Crew. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Cheryl Howard Crew is married to director Ron Howard. They have raised their four children in Los Angeles and Connecticut, and currently reside in Armonk, New York. In the Face of Jinn is Crew’s first novel.

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In the Face of Jinn 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this in a normal book form. I was astounded by the hardships the heroine had to endire. At 15 I cant claim to have gone through anything like this but i still could connect with Christine as she works to save Elizabeth. A great insight on a culture that as Americans we are sheltered from. Also a great journey story with amazing emotional and psychological viewpoints. I truly enjoyed this book and I thouroughly commemd the author for this great piece of work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just can't figure out what this was about. Did I learn anything? NO. Except to swear never to be like the "heroine" in this book on any level at any time. Stupidity is not something I admire.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author's extensive travel in the region shows. I enjoyed the story a lot. It is a very fast 'read'. It does however, read like a movie script, (the relationship with Mir was so predictable). I don't know who did the proofreading, but they should be fired. There are numerous spelling and repeated word errors. All in all, I do recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was wonderful and I could not put it down. I finished the book in under two weeks. There were a few spelling mistakes but all in all it was not that noticable because the book was so compelling. I found myself wanting to research exactly what the different Middle Eastern religions were about after finishing this book. I would highly recomend this book to anyone who likes a page turner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It reads like a Hollywood movie and is predictable! I was disappointed that a book with such a great beginning would fall so fast and hard- Come on', after being raped and abused, would any strong woman have a 'quickie' with a smelly man she just met?? This will do well at the box office but not as a recommended book. And the grammar mistakes... was nobody reading it???
Guest More than 1 year ago
in the face of jinn is an extremely interesting and entertaining read. the author has done an unbelievable job in transporting the reader to the feel of what an american female outsider must endure to survive in the countries of india, pakistan and afganistan. The research alone is worth the read, however the story itself allows either a male or female reader to become swept up in the unending perils and emotions of christine in her quest to find her sister who has disappeared as well as her hunt for the individual resposible. a great story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is hard to believe that this is Ms Crew's first published novel. You can tell that this is a well researched world and written with passion and heart. I truly loved reading this book and have come away with a new understanding and appreciation of the culture and the land in which these tribals live. I highly recommend this read for the summer.