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By P. M. Johnson
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2015 P. M. Johnson
All rights reserved.
Friday, June 27, 2014
The one-windowed room was encompassed by cold, bare cinderblock walls that possessed a cruel staleness and beckoned abandon. In spite of the dry nature of this climate, there was a musty stench to his surroundings, stifling every breath he struggled to take. It's like walking headlong into a strong, cold wind. His mind was all abuzz with a combination of fear, an anxious lingering, the well-being of his friends, a means of coming out of this alive, and devouring his sandwich ... of all things. Hands and feet bound and rendered useless, talk would have to suffice as his only weapon of choice. If only he could assuage his captors to the point of urging them into a release, verbal negotiation would be his only parlay if he were to ever survive this foul ordeal.
"Believe me, you have this all wrong. I'm not the person you think I am. Please! I am not who you think I am," he pleaded.
"Shuddup! Damn! This one just doesn't seem to want to cooperate," complained KAJI in a frustrated tone.
"Gag him," replied Shaykh Ahmad, with his back facing the scene.
"OK, hand me that duct tape and a towel."
"Towel?" Ahmad queried, glancing over his shoulder toward the pathetic detainee and his assailant.
"Yes, tape doesn't stick well to wet skin."
"Blood is wet, Shaykh, and if he doesn't start cooperating, his face is about to get soaked," KAJI spat gruffly, causing his prisoner to suddenly sit, eyes wide in silence.
"He seem to have change of heart," Ahmad said in his broken English, grinning with disdain as he carefully stroked a scar on the top of his cleanly shaven head.
"Oh, if he doesn't tell me what I want to know, it shall be more than his heart to be changing when I'm through. We're pressed for time, and this irritating creature is starting to tax me." KAJI glared at his helpless captive. "That's better. Now talk to me ... Talk to me!"
March 14, 1998—Saindak, Pakistan
Located on the westernmost stretches of Pakistan, a mere ten miles from the easternmost border of Iran lies the region of Saindak. A craggy, bleak collection of dry, rocky outcrops and valleys nestled in between mountains, reaching varying heights of anywhere from three thousand to six thousand feet, an extremely sparse population consisting mostly of semiestablished family groups and nomadic roamers eking out an existence of buying and selling local wares. With little official intervention from the Islamabad government due to geographical isolation and the meager population, the area was ripe with corrupt and shady activities and perfect for the need-to-disappear criminal elements of the territory. Saindak's weathered desolation more than satisfied the needs of its latest occupants however—a newly formed group of Muslim clerics, chomping at the bit to instill their ultraorthodox doctrine to the populace and possessing a strong thirst for expansionism. Led by a Pakistani national by the name of Abd al-Karim Hassen, the group Man Halla Hizaamn Baat ("He who unties his belt will stay the night" or "Actions speak louder than words") materialized. These hard-line Sunni Muslim clergy believed in an alternate path for Islam based on a strict and literal interpretation of the Quran with a return to Sharia law and dominance of not only the Muslim world but also of the entire planet through dogmatic religious conquest. Loosely aligned at first, the MHHB began to establish a select group of followers and successfully developed an ever-growing line of communication with similarly disenchanted Sunni devotees throughout the Fertile Crescent region and Central Asia. This assemblage included disgruntled factions in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Azerbaijan, and in particular, Iran. The Iranian orthodoxy perceived the ever-present economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe following the 1979 Revolution, along with an expanded version of additional sanctions in 1995, as a blatant injustice and an affront to Islamic faith.
Over the course of the next few months, they coalesced into a tightly knit core of loathing, malevolent religious cronies bent on beheading the infidel-infused Western culture through unwavering misinformation and fear. It was decided that the usual course of propaganda activity would be taken for the program of indoctrinating the ill educated and the misguided with the slogans, the repeated chanting of their interpretation of the Quran, the anti-West rallies, and the pleasurable promises for the hereafter. But the fear—it was the fear aspect that they felt required the most attention, and a plan began to formulate from within the inner circle. Initially, there was little finance and resource available to the ultra-Sunni group with only mediocre trickles of monies straining its way from some loose ties with Saudi royals that enjoyed an affiliation to the Wahhabi faith, an extreme hard-line Sunni sect. They decided on introducing a scheme to embrace a base human fear without the destruction of any infrastructure that they could harvest for their own use after the fact—a master plan to utterly destroy the resolve of the West through the sheer horror of their actions—and Hassen knew exactly how to go about it. But they would bide their time, wait for the right moment to strike, acquire the necessary resources, and have all the necessary facets in place prior to executing the master plot. They also came to a collective acknowledgement of a need for the use of a third party to supplant the strategy so as not to incriminate the MHHB, thus, allowing them to continue their fight with an ongoing and unabated presence.
This third party could also serve them in the immediate future with their ongoing plans of terror-laden disruptions when needed, and this was also an area with which Hassen could be of valuable service. He had met an individual through an introduction by a mutual friend, an imam at the Red Mosque in Islamabad some five weeks earlier during Ramadan. Hassen was aware of this individual's existence through rumors and hearsay of his supposed responsibility for numerous attacks on Western interests in and around the Middle East over the course of the last five years.
Known for his deceptive intelligence, frigid brutality, expertise in the English language, and unwavering dedication to the literal definition of the Quran, this man would be a perfect fit for the needs of the MHHB. Through his introduction and brief conversation, Hassen learned that he was a thirty-five-year-old Iranian national; and though his true name was Abdul Ruhollah Kameqi, he preferred the moniker of KAJI. Through his imam friend back in Lahore, Hassen learned that KAJI was currently holding out in the obscure camouflage of Cairo, lying low following his part in an explosion aboard a British naval vessel stationed in the vicinity of the Suez Canal. The imam informed Hassen that physical contact with KAJI at this juncture would probably take months rather than weeks to orchestrate due to the heat placed upon him by the Egyptian authorities at the behest of the UK officials and that he would notify Hassen of KAJI's availability as soon as it was realized. In the meantime, Hassen embarked on his stratagem for the master design of all fear.
As misguided and inconceivable as his passion would be to someone of an enlightened nature, Hassen considered himself a harbinger of rightly, religious-borne, hatred-charged revenge—a fifty-two-year-old portal of faith with a direct path to Allah. The many weathered lines on his dark leathery skin signified an aged wisdom, but it was his prerequisite long unkempt graying beard that dominated his facial features along with the two weathered, searing dark slits he possessed for eyes. One only had to look into them to witness the imminent horror behind them. This hatred bore fruit not through a lack of intelligence but through a lack of moral illumination. It was truly a dangerous man who neither required nor desired anything of a material sense, coupled with an all-out apathy for not only his own existence but also, especially, for those around him. However, in KAJI, he would meet his match in the field of danger.
Friday, April 11, 2014—Washington, DC
The professor didn't know what was louder: the creaking of his fifty-nine-year-old joints as he rolled out of bed or that of the smoothly worn floorboards with loose screws as he slowly shuffled his way through the darkness toward the bathroom to conduct his morning testimonial. The plentiful sparrows and grackles were particularly early risers this morning, piercing his open-windowed bedroom with noisy song, no doubt getting their spring affairs in order for the long summer ahead. He returned and dropped back down on his bed, drew the lone thin sheet up under his neck, and sighed, "Gawd, unless the outcome is youth, why in the world would a sane person long for a cure for old age?" He shut his eyes, knowing full well that even in this dark shroud of predawn, he was just a few short moments from crawling out of his slumber chamber for the day.
Professor Cary Parker O'Connor, head of the history department at George Washington University, possessed an awkwardly high intelligence with a penchant for visualization and pattern solving and was the kind of faculty member that students with a desire to learn history both loathed and dreamed about. He was to impart a short lecture at 9:30 a.m., Friday, to convey some of his vast historical wisdom regarding what he referred to as the oh-so-whimsical times surrounding the Spanish Inquisition to a spotty crowd of graduates in search of their master's in a vast hall designed for tenfold their number. But today was instead to engage his time with finalizing exam questions for the wannabe master's prior to submittal of their respective theses.
He resided at a mere fifteen minutes' walk from the campus, but it was an ungodly 5:15 a.m., and he had no required preparations to consume this amount of free time before departing for the campus. Too early for the arrival of his newspaper, television more times than not dropped his IQ twenty points; and no stomach for coffee this early in the day ... tea would have to suffice. So out to the back deck with his laptop it would be to share the world with no one, except the crooning birds. A widower for seventeen years with no children. Cancer relieved him of his loving wife, Eva, and her infertility relieved him of offspring. Thinking had become his only repose. Thought had become his "new" life companion. Thought had also become his life consumer. Eva had always told him, "You think too much, honey." Well, perhaps not enough for his own sake, perhaps too much for the sake of others. He always felt that if genius is best defined as "intuitive improvisation," then in today's sociologic reality, intellectual capacity, even if not yet extinct, was surely endangered. So he fell comfortably immersed into the rich well of knowledge presented by the online news outlets while sitting in the still twilight confines of his backyard, serenaded by friendly winged reptilians, and sipping on his hot Earl Grey.
He arrived at the campus in a purposeful manner, absorbed with establishing new exam questions as it was now going on 10:00 a.m. His high forehead and careworn face possessed an almost permanent furrowed brow, giving him a steady look of perplexed seriousness as if a constant cerebral search was under way. From the stark-gray, combed-over tuft of hair down to his piercing blue eyes full of wisdom but now nearly devoid of youthful spark, his six-foot stature with slightly hunched shoulders presented the professor as a daunting figure of a man beginning the twilight of his life. Whether it was a grim refusal to succumb to the whims of the modern realities of fashion or the more probable fact of his unconcerned nature with respect to practically anything outside the realm of his teaching position, his omnipresent loosened tie with undone top button and beige Christy hat were his signature of dapper wear. However, not unlike most individuals that enjoy the good fortune of possessing a high level of intellect, he too owned a quirky makeup. Although extremely meticulous in nature when it came to facts, he was also prone to mild forgetfulness and experienced a disturbing difficulty in conveying to people exactly what he intended, both of which were intensifying with age. His Ivy League distinction, together with an almost spiritual passion for both minuscule and monumental events of the past, commanded both annoyance and respect among his students and peers alike. He enjoyed a well-rounded knowledge of the past in general; however, his personal propensity was for matters concerning religious conflict and, of all things, that dead language, Latin. He was also a lover of storytelling, rehashing past exploits and conquests, as he referred to them. And it was this tendency to ramble that some of the student body just loved to take advantage of to get him off topic for relief of the tedious subject matter on Fridays. He headed down the center of the main hallway with head down, eyes staring at the floor as it presented itself sliding under his stepping feet, with a whispered mumble leaving his lips: "If the Bay of Pigs was in fact successful and the fall of Castro became a reality ... I wonder if Cuba would remain America's playground to this day ... a Vegas of the Caribbean of sorts ... or would the customary, boundless human compassion for the folly and ignorance of a blind world still prevail ... I wonder ..." His approach split the busy hall laden with student body as they parted the way in an almost habitual manner whenever the professor came into sight. Suddenly, upon turning the corner to pace the final steps of the corridor leading to his office ...
"Professor ... Professor O'Connor!" a young man's voice blurted out from behind.
"Ah, Mr. Jordan, my favorite intern that's forever flustered." The professor swung about. "What have you been filling your time with these days?"
"Nothing, absolutely nothing," the intern responded with a puzzled look about him.
"Fine, fine. Well, don't overdo it. If you don't possess your health, you don't possess anything. How may I facilitate you and your anxious proclivity this fine morning?"
"Uh ... huh? What? No, wait ... I ..."
"Mr. Jordan, as partial as I may have been in my youth to suffer through Laurel and Hardy–like parodies, my good man, I am in a rather hurried state as you can observe. Out with it, fellow, out with it."
"Professor, the college administrator just called for you. Sir, you're late."
"Late for what?" the professor snorted with derision.
"For your 9:30 a.m. lecture."
"Oh, don't be ludicrous. My lecture isn't until Friday."
"But today is Friday, sir."
"Good heavens, how astonishing! What happened to Thursday?"
"We had it yesterday, sir."
"Did we? Did we? Hmm, I should supply myself with a reminder to check my oven clock prior to retiring this evening."
"Uh ... Huh? What?"
"Good day, my good man. Good day."
The professor altered his tack and marched in the opposite direction toward the lecture hall. Entering to the bewildered looks of the class, he thought to himself, Ah, time again to salivate their thought process and provoke their awareness. Clearing his throat, he peered out over his glasses at the student assembly. His lecture began ...
"Due to an unfortunate brush with an ill-timed concept of which day of the week was displayed on my calendar, we will be fostering a shortened lecture today." Looking in the direction of one particular student, he said, "You're welcome, Mr. Augustine," which wrought a chuckle from the scholarly pilots, and he continued, "The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, more commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition, was a tribunal established in the year 1480 by Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and, in large part, to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam.
"This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501, ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave. A range of motives has been proposed for the monarchs' decision to fund the Inquisition, such as increasing political authority, weakening opposition, suppressing conversos—yes, you have your hand up, Ms. Jones?" The professor paused.
"Professor," the petite female student in the third row began, "what is a converso?"
"It is a Latin term that refers to Jews or Muslims or the descendants of Jews or Muslims who were forced to convert to Catholicism in that part of the world in that time period. To continue, other motives may have been profiting from confiscation of the property of convicted heretics, reducing social tensions, and protecting the kingdom from the danger of an imperium in imperio, a fifth column—yes, Mr. Augustine?" The professor acknowledged another raised arm.
Excerpted from Mortis Virum by P. M. Johnson. Copyright © 2015 P. M. Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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