Saturday, March 24, 2012

Flower Killers (Part 3 of 4)

Continued from Part 2

She takes her time showering, it's where she thinks. Shaving her arms and legs gives her time to cogitate and formulate a plan of action. Feeling exfoliated and smooth provides a physical freshness that manifests itself in a mental cleansing.  Yesterday she wanted normality, today she needs to know.

She needs to talk to her interrogator now that she has renewed strength. She needs to speak to Jones and find out who she is, what's she's done. She passes through the nauseating and almost symbolic revolving doors at headquarters and asks the receptionist if she can see Jones. He's unavailable at first but she's persistent and he finally deigns an interview. She asks him how he knows her and receives little more than a blank stare.

"You don't remember?"

"No"

He hurls an envelope in her direction and instructs her to take a look. There are photos of her, looking different, but definitely her, in places she doesn't remember being. She's never been to Paris or London but there she is, known landmarks in the background.

"You'd have been a good operative if you'd had the gall to continue," he tells her.

"You just let fear get the better of you and after the last exchange . . ."

"What happened?"

"Got scared, lost your nerve, wanted out."

"What was my last mission?"

Jones figures he might as well tell her. She can be 'reconditioned' and released back into the community in time. He starts at the beginning.

***
Harji Kalil's business has not been as profitable since the war. Damn troops tramping his plantation, workers wanting more since the Taliban had taken a relatively back seat. His buyers are hungry and a heroin drought making the end users desperate. Poppies were once a lucrative income, these days they lay waste as they're burned to the ground by the invaders.  The Middle Eastern market had dried up since the morons in Iran clamped down on trafficking. The market's there but getting the shit out of the country damned near impossible.  They'd tried to get him to replace the crop with Maize or canola.

“Feed your people instead of killing them,” he'd been told. But it’s not his people he’s killing, It’s western kids sticking the needles in their arms, he’s just growing flowers.

Heroin is a vicious circle that needs all participants to close the ring. The grower, the manufacturer, the seller and the user.  Damn the infidel's and their right-wing Christian views on morality and use. They're killing his industry and he resents their presence.  What's worse, if he wants to retain his freedom, his lifestyle, his fortune, he has to deal with the two-faced bastards. While they burn his fields with one hand and talk liberation out of their arses. But Kalil’s smart and plays both sides.

The players are in place, the scene set. The gear all ready for export. It's the final direction he's waiting for. Getting this last shipment out and getting what he wants, that which was lost to him three years ago . . he wants them back . . . and soon. If it means trading with infidels, he'll do it.

***

Ken Jarmon ducks as the incendiary pushes dry desert 20 feet into the air and tiny stones shower his camo suit.

He's sick of burning poppy fields. He came to fight a war against the Taliban and free the oppressed, not harass locals for their unorthodox farming practices.   He knows the way to win over the country is to drink many cups of tea, listen to their tales and songs of war, become an ally not an invader. It's all so fucking hopeless and he just wants to go home. They've been here for almost two years, burning fields, dodging roadside bombs, making friends with the natives, even putting up with embedded journalists and intrusive cameras in their faces. It's not a war, it's a fucking TV show only the players run the risk of not being renewed for another season.

He's gone from Marine to flower killer in the space of 12 months. From being a highly honed soldier to destroying the livelihood of those who simply put in a hard day's work, albeit with a deadly crop. Berated at home for wasting their time, the stone-throwers don't understand what it's like over here. Fuck their glass houses. He's sick of taking the high moral ground, rehearsing the same rhetoric. "It's for your own good, we're here to help," knowing full well they're not making a difference, not to anyone.

This isn't a theatre of war, it's an invasion of a country so disunited, so alien to anything they know that they're merely treading water. Nothing's changing, nothing ever will.  No matter how many parle's on soft cushions with hard men. This country is not going to change, not any time soon. Bullets don't work, they understand the rule of the gun, they've been controlled by it long enough.  No amount of Christian indoctrination, "Love they neighbour" or encouragement to desert Mecca and embrace Christ will turn this godforsaken population from their current course.  He's not just dejected, he's angry.

He sticks it out by letting his mind wonder way beyond the dust, the goats, the minarets and prayers. He sticks it out by remembering what's waiting for him at home as his mind imagines the barrel of his own gun lifting her short skirt and revealing the lack of underwear beneath it. Of course, she always wore underwear but he can imagine . . .those brown legs, to die for! Him with her, playing out their own little version of 'good relations' while the Jesus and Mary Chain play Psychocandy in the background. Hard to find a good woman when you're hard in Jalalabad.  The only woman he’d been in contact recently wanted to run as far from the place as possible and he had no idea what her legs looked like.

Her name was Marian Kalil. She said her real name was Marian Rubens and she'd asked to leave.  At the first opportunity, she'd asked them to take her.  
"I'm American, please, take me. Get me out of here. And my children, they are American." Her accent certainly had a ring of the midwest about it as she slipped a note into his hand.

Jarmon was convinced that there was something to rescue here. She wasn't the first 'Afghan' woman to ask to be liberated from her husband or father but she was the first to declare that she was American. What's more, after several phone calls and clandestine meetings, it was established that she'd come to the country willingly after making the grave mistake of believing she was in love and the naivety not to believe she'd be incarcerated once she followed her US educated Afghan lover back into Jalalabad.

No sooner had she landed and the love of her life had imprisoned her in blue. A beautiful home, clothes, jewellery but she'd become nothing more than a bird in a gilded cage, all freedoms revoked.  At first he'd been a good and attentive husband but as the Taliban imposed Sharia law re-emerged, he became much like the others, a man's man, playing both the east and the west. Selling junk to the Americans, bribing the Taliban and living a life of sweet selfishness.

Jarmon took it seriously and referred the woman to his superiors, they brought in an operative to arrange a covert escape.

Marian had just picked up her children from school and the threesome walking nonchalantly home was accosted by a small group of patrolling soldiers, Jarmon and Stanhope among them. This was no chance meeting.

When they finally met, Kerry Stanhope was dressed in Army fatigues, barely noticeable as a woman and surrounded by militia. Chest flattened and bound, head shaved beneath her helmet, the dust of an Afghan summer on her face, hiding her feminine complexion. She looked for all the world like a Cherry - young and eager to do his/her thing in a new and strange theatre of war.

"There's a safe house," Kerry tells her. Neither woman makes eye contact. For all intent and purpose, it's just a routine patrol, questioning a local, and the interrogating soldier going through the motions while Kerry speaks to her from behind.

"I can't write anything down or text, you'll have to remember." She instructs the woman, in muted tones while Jarmon pats her down.

The Burkha lowers her head in acknowledgement. Kerry can see her shoulders begin to heave, imagining the tears welling in the woman's face and wonders what the fuck she's doing in this job. Whether it's fear or relief she doesn't know but her heart's pounding for the safety of a fellow female.

"Don't cry, don't do anything that looks suspicious. Carry on as normal but when the time comes, you'll have to be brave." The woman nods. "Pick the children up from school as normal but go to the Hamesha Bahar Hotel and ask for Lt. Jarmon. Tell the Concierge you're there to plead for your husband's plantation.  You don't want them to leave you destitute by burning his fields.  There's a patrol heading over the Kabul river as usual at 1500, they'll meet you there and arrange for a decoy to leave the hotel half an hour after you arrive.  There’ll be a Zodiac waiting to take you far enough downstream to meet the Chinook and we'll take it from there. Do you understand?"

"Do you understand Ma’am" shouts the male soldier during his faux interrogation. The Bhurka nods, "Then go home to your husband. On your way!" She turns and flashes a glance at the woman standing behind the soldier. Kerry can't see it, or hear it but the woman mouths 'thank you', takes each of her children’s hand, bows her head and retreats. Kerry feels her heart in her throat. It's a pathetic departure for a countrywoman swathed in blue. Imprisoned and desperate to escape.

***

The field once again is burning as the Afghan watches. This time a wry smile crosses his face he's a prodigy of the new order and making 'connections' with the right people. This field isn't worth shit. They can trample over it, these Centurions in fatigues instead of red capes. He's making waves with the Patricians while the plebs do their dirty work.  He's massaging the genitals of higher ups, metaphorically speaking, while the gunslingers burn his fields.

It's taken time. Like good sex, it's been slow to reach it's climax but he's now made contacts. The shipment's ready, the trade set in stone. His tactics once dirty and unmethodical, he's become slick in subterfuge. The shipment for a fortune and the return of his children and his traitorous wife. He can’t wait to see her punished. It’s all set. Perfect, he can hardly hide his smile.

Next week, he’ll hobnob with the top hats at a reception, and they'll bring the money and kids or at least an emissary will tell him where to find them. For Harji Kalil, it's the culmination of years of hard work. Year's of sleeping with the enemy.  He's machinated his way to the top, into a position of trust -  a local loyal -  a high priest with a shotgun, it's set. They can burn his fields, in a month they can kiss his ass. He has what they want and he’ll have what he needs. This is as easy as getting a blow job from a whore or taking candy from a baby.

Continued in Part 4

4 comments:

  1. This is what I envy about your writing--you are willing to travel! I like the twist in the story here and the way you have reintroduced the poppies from the beginning.

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  2. Hmm...

    Incendiaries don't explode. They just burn.

    Not sure an op would tell a civilian to "catch a Zodiac and head to the Chinook." Probably be more like, "take the rubber boat to the helicopter."

    Definite movie here. Who said Aussie breakfasts are good for nothing? Oh, wait...

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