Ad Dumayr Syria 22nd February 2018
Daffi Hashmi considered himself to be somewhat of a ladies man when he wasn’t hurting them and it was true to say he was handsome with a superficial charm. It was the type of charm that could fool all people some of the time and some people all of the time. Ripley wasn’t fooled for an instant. She knew how Hashmi had used this charm in the Leeds area to woo the underage girls, who as the social workers and the police put it, came from “challenging backgrounds.” Ripley looked at the BMW. It just had to be a BMW didn’t it?
“Good morning, English lady,” he said in English, with a slight Yorkshire twang, “Did you get my present?”
“She was lousy. I had to treat her for a louse infestation and she is half-starved. And why are you talking to me, an unaccompanied woman, without a chaperone on a street, like some common whore?”
“The female police have made a complaint against you. They say you threatened them yesterday, so I don’t think you need a chaperone.”
“Who are you?” Ripley asked.
“My name is Daffi Hashmi and I am at your service. May I ask what your name is?”
“I am Afarin Khan now. My husband’s name was Noor, but I have reverted to my family name now he is dead.”
“My condolences,” Hashmi said smoothly, “Peace be upon him now he has died a martyr’s death.”
“Why are you speaking with me, Daffi Hashmi?”
“To enquire if my gift pleased you?”
“She is a sweet girl. So young to be subjected to such cruelty,” Ripley said, fixing him with her eyes provocatively. She re-shouldered her rifle, and thrust her hip out as she did so. It was no accidental move and she saw his eyes glisten with lust, “I do however, thank you.”
“I hope you will beat her if she displeases you.”
“She can barely sit as it is.”
“She is kuffar,” Hashmi said with a shrug. He got out of the car and lit a cigarette, “I’m glad that I met you Widow Noor. I have a proposition that could be to our mutual advantage. It’s a serious proposition and with both of us coming from England, I think you should consider it.”
Ripley looked at him. The Bosniak had been absolutely right. Her eyes were mesmerising, “Would this proposition of yours be anything to do with the fact I am a widow?”
“In part, but also to do with your being a fighter. We live in dangerous times and the writing is on the wall for ISIL in Syria. We have already been driven out of Iraq and Raqqa has fallen. Homs will be next.”
“This kind of talk is defeatist, Daffi Hashmi. Perhaps if you spent more time fighting in the defences rather than running your “businesses,” you would see that our morale is good and that we are determined.”
Hashmi was stung by her words and he reacted angrily, “Don’t lecture me on fighting, Widow Noor. I fought the Peshmerga and the Americans in Raqqa for six, bloody weeks. I was lucky to escape with my life. You talk of morale, well all the morale in the world won’t help you when the Russian bombers come and grind you into the dirt.”
Ripley looked down demurely. It was a gesture that was perfectly nuanced and part of the act to entrap him. And by now, he was wriggling like a fish on the line, “Please forgive me, Daffi Hashmi. I meant no offense.
“Jihad is a noble enterprise but it doesn’t run itself. In a manner of speaking I have moved from the factory floor and into management.”
She looked at the BMW, “I see what you mean.”
“Very soon the Syrian forces will completely encircle Ad Dumayr and we will no longer be able to get in or out. I intend to move before that happens and I would like you to come with me.”
“As your concubine?”
“No. As my wife, for it is written: One who cares for widows and the poor is like those who fight in the way of Allah or those who spend their days fasting and their nights praying. A widow is very special in Islam. She has certain rights to be fulfilled such as being protected and the right to get remarried again. Whoever doesn’t fulfil the widow’s right is committing a sin. Thus, a man who is marrying a widow has to fulfil all of her right and he will be given many rewards in return.”
“You are a learned man, Daffi Hashmi. Assuming that I will consider your proposal, you must be aware that only two of my menses have passed since the death of my beloved Noor, the peaceful blessings of the Prophet be upon him. We can’t marry until four menses and ten days have passed.”
He thought about this, “It’s important that we are married and certified as married for my escape plan to work. We could marry and not consummate the union until the statutory period, if you’ll excuse the expression, has passed.”
“What is your plan?” she asked.
“Why don’t you come to my place this evening and we can discuss it. There will be a woman, my concubine present as a chaperone and I will outline the plan and my aspirations, or rather our aspirations for the future.”
“Where shall I meet you and what time?”
“By the southern mosque that is near the Al Ad Dumayr pharmacy. Make it 6pm and we can walk from there. You will be making the most important decision of your life.”
Ripley watched him get back into the car and smile at her, “We could be good together, Afarin Khan.”
The BMW drove off and she suddenly felt as though her bowels were loosening.
“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” Ripley said out loud.
“Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky,” said the voice inside the bones of her skull, “Good morning Ripley.”
“Good morning, Ash. Did you get the gist of that?”
“Yes. You’re meeting him alone? Is that a good idea?”
“Stop sounding like Sergeant Wilson. We need to know exactly where he lives. I’m the woman on the ground and I think the risk is necessary.”
“Your call. What’s the plan?”
“I’ll have a look round to see if I can spot his car, a black BMW and that should give me an opportunity to find the area where he lives. I’ll be back onto you as soon as I can spot it and then you can pass my position to Star shine. While I’m at it I’ll recce potential landing sites, approaches and problem areas.”
“We’re constantly sharing this feed with Star shine, Ripley. I bet they are listening in now.”
“Be careful, Ripley.”
She walked north, as though heading towards the outer defensive lines, then turned west to approach the centre of the town from the east, in case she was being followed. Every so often she would stop and watch behind and to her front as well, in case she was being tailed from a frontal position. But there was nothing. She headed towards the southern mosque.
Daffi Hashmi parked the BMW under the trees and sat behind the wheel thinking. He knew that he wanted that woman and must have her, but he was cautious and he needed to be sure. He used his mobile phone.
“Adnan, I would like you to do a great favour for me and I’ll make sure that it will be worth your while. A kuffar girl of your choice, perhaps.”
“All right, Daffi. What is it you want me to do?”
“Keep an eye out for the English Widow. I am meeting her tonight, but I would like you to follow her. I’m meeting her by the south Mosque at six this evening. Wait for her outside the military compound and follow her, particularly when she leaves my place. You will have to be discrete.”
“All right, Daffi. But your nicest kuffar, not a child.”
She moved slowly through the orange and date groves in the centre of the town. This was a very nice area, mainly two and some three storey developments, and self-contained flats with balconies. The trees and fruit orchards surrounded the flats and provided a certain seclusion to the buildings. Even the traffic was quieter here and she could have been in another Mediterranean country, far away from war, strife and barbarity. Daffi Hashmi had done very well for himself after leaving that Leeds street of terraced back-to-backs.
A few cats eyed her suspiciously and she crouched down to stroke one, her eyes constantly scanning ahead, to the sides and behind. The cat nuzzled her thigh, but soon became bored when it realised she had nothing to eat. Shippers would have been cross with her. He had a morbid dread of rabies. In fact he had a morbid dread of any diseases and why he was a patrol medic was a mystery to her. She smiled when she thought of those rough, sweary men and her heart ached to see James again.
She passed a walled compound with satellite dishes on the roof and advanced through a thicket of mixed pome fruit trees. Just ahead was a block of white apartments, balconied with a play area close by. And then she saw the BMW in the far shade underneath the trees.
“Ash, are you there?”
“I’m here Ripley.”
“Can you get Star shine in on the conference?”
“I’m already listening, Ripley,” said a new voice in her head, immediately recognisable as Halward’s, but with a delay as it was being relayed from the airfield via the Rivet Joint over Jordan.
“Can you see where I am?
“I’m going to pace around a block and I think it’s where he lives. I’ll know for sure after this evening. Once I’ve paced it, I’ll find you two HLZs.”
Twenty-five miles to her east, Halward and the duty comms technician watched the red dots appear around a building on the Google Earth display.
“It’s got two stories with a small penthouse and some other structure on top.”
“Probably a water tank,” said the technician to Halward.
“There is a large set of glass double doors on the eastern aspect of the building and two rear doors on each end of the western aspect. There are trees up to ten metres from both east and west aspects. OK, now I’m going back to somewhere where I think you can get in one of the Wokkas.”
The red dots moved to the north-west about fifty metres from the building she had paced. “You can approach from the south over the trees which are less than twenty feet high, closer to fifteen. They are apple trees. The open area I’m skirting in cover has a small group of mixed shrubs north-west aspect. The ground is rocky but apart from paper, no obvious FOD. I’m following a wall east towards the mosque. It is a road that becomes a track.”
The dots on the screens turned south, following the edge of vegetation, “This area is slightly tighter, Star shine. You have a clear approach from the east, but there is a walled compound to the north of LZ and two smaller buildings to the south. The ground is hardstanding, packed earth. No FOD. Tell the aircrew that rotor clearances will be tight.”
The pilot looking over Halward’s shoulder gave a thumbs-up, “They think they can get in OK.
“Climb out could be a problem.”
“Tell her not to worry. We can work with it,” the RAF pilot told him.
“Good work, Ripley. Make yourself scarce.”
“Roger, Star shine. I’ve been here a bit too long, but needs must…”
They watched the dots head north towards the military compound and then Halward got a lined exercise book and using Ripley’s description and the satellite display on Google Earth, he began to prepare a tactical map and a plan.
Ripley left the compound at 17:40. She was worried. She didn’t see the Bosniak following her as she headed towards the mosque and had left the AK47 behind, giving Pela strict instructions not to touch it. Daffi Hashmi was waiting for her by the mosque, smoking again. Those things will kill you, she thought and stifled a chortle.
“Good evening, Afarin Khan.”
“Good evening, Daffi Hashmi,” She had to admit, he looked good in his white shirt and designer jeans. She wondered as she often did, why British Muslims joined ISIL, when they had every opportunity to succeed back in Britain and Hashmi not only had looks, he had a certain charm.
She followed him, keeping a couple of respectable steps behind him, past the second LZ she had made a reconnaissance of that morning.
“You live in a nice part of town,” she observed. He even smelled rather good and she was aware that her niqab could do with a wash. So could she in all honesty.
He led her up to the second floor of the block she had paced that morning and showed her into his apartment. A young woman in a niqab made herself scarce into the kitchen. Ripley produced a small box and gave it to Hashmi.
“This is for the woman of the house,” It was a small box of sweetmeats.
“Not necessary,” he said, “She is a mere concubine and requires no gifts.”
“Nevertheless, she keeps your home, cleans and presumably caters for your every whim. It is only good manners.”
Hashmi smiled, “You will make an excellent wife, Afarin Khan. Please be seated while Karima brings us some tea.”
His concubine brought the tray through and placed it on the low table between them. Ripley thanked her and she left.
“You say your late husband was from Sparkhill in Birmingham. Did you meet him in Birmingham?”
“No. I met him in Homs. I’ve never been to Sparkhill, although I’ve been to Birmingham on the train.”
“How was he martyred?”
“With a Russian bomb. I hate the Russians, but I hate the British more.”
“And where do you come from, Afarin? You have no accent that I can detect.”
“I come from Peterborough and the sizable Afghan community there.”
“And yet you never married?”
“My mother tried to arrange suiters but they were hopeless or related and I had no wish to carry inbred, disabled children.”
“You defied your family?”
“I have always defied my family. That’s why I became a fighter.”
“I don’t know much about Peterborough, although I know we have a sizable community there. How many mosques does it have?” Hashmi asked her innocently enough, but she knew he was probing. She had made a basic error.
“How many mosques does Peterborough have?” she repeated and at 30,000 feet in the back of the Sentinel, there was furious activity.
“Come on, come on,” Lambert said to an operator next to her, “Google it, fast!”
Ripley was desperately stalling as she felt the sweat run down her back, “Although it isn’t as large as places like Leeds and Bradford, it is still a city by virtue of the cathedral and I believe that Catherine of Aragon is buried there, you know, Henry the Eighth’s first wife.”
The operator found a website and spoke into Ripley’s head, which she repeated verbatim: “There are six mosques, but the one I used to worship at is on Gladstone Street, the Faidhan-e-Madina because it’s the only mosque that allows female worship.”
Hashmi was surprised, “Six mosques. That is indeed an impressive amount.”
“There is also an Islamic Centre in the Millfield area with a Madrassa close by. And because of the stupidity of the kuffars and their dhimmitude, we have taken over the local politics as well.”
“What set you on the path of Jihad, Afarin?”
“When I saw my brothers and sisters being bombed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the British air force, then I knew I must fight them.”
Hashmi smiled, “I had one of their aircrew as a little plaything, while I was up north. I enjoyed hurting her but she didn’t appreciate the attention. She is at the bottom of lake Assad now.”
“You captured and tortured a British, female pilot and then killed her?”
“She was a navigator, but yes. She was tough at first, but as the days wore on…” He grinned and it was chilling.
“Yes,” Got you, you bastard. Ripley felt the Glock and fighting knife against her inner thighs. It would have been so easy…
“Have you considered my proposition, Afarin?”
“Yes, I will become your wife, but we will not consummate the marriage until the appropriate time had passed.”
He smiled, “That is good, but you must allow me if not to sample the goods, at least inspect them.”
She slowly took off the niqab’s head covering and looked away from him modestly.
Hashmi breathed in sharply and sighed, “You are indeed a beautiful woman, Afarin Khan. I will be truly blessed. Please put your veil back on because you’re distracting me.”
She complied and asked: “When do you plan to leave this place?”
“Perhaps as early as tomorrow night. You must be ready. I’ll have a marriage certificate drawn up tomorrow. We’ll travel into Jordan, as visitors, not as refugees, and then fly from Amman to Ankara where I have holdings in a bank. We can fly into Europe and slip back into England on a ferry. And then we will make our fortune. There are more ways of jihad than bombs and explosives. We can use their weaknesses against them.”
“And what of your concubine, Karima?”
“She will be returned to her father intact and unharmed, apart from her maidenhead,” he told her with a smile.
You truly are a bastard, Hashmi.
“Then I must prepare for the journey. Where will I meet you?”
“Here tomorrow night. Same time.”
Ripley stood and bowed politely, “See you tomorrow, my betrothed.”
After she left the flats she started to speak quickly as she walked back to the military compound, “Lambert, get Star shine on conference.”
“I’m here, Ripley,” came the voice after the frustrating delay.
“We go tonight, 02:00. Get one of the Thompson Twins while I speak with you. I have a medical problem. It isn’t me, just listen. His apartment is on the first floor, first flat in on the left from the central stairwell. I will be waiting in the trees to the eastern side of the block and I’ll guide you in. He is armed as are other people in the flats. It’s jihad central in there. You’ll have to be quickly in and out, but that’s your part of ship. I’ll be carrying a red cylume, the kind used to mark guy ropes while camping. There are no external lights to the building.
“Is one of the Twins there?”
“Here, Ripley.” It was Mengele, but she suspected Shippers was close by.
“The little slave they gave me. When I went back today she was really sick. She has a high fever, complains of aching limbs and had vomited. She had a louse infestation, which I treated with Permethrin topical cream and carbolic soap. She is tired and listless. What is it and what can I do for her?”
“Does she have a rash?”
“Yes, under her breasts and it’s spread to her left arm.”
She heard a brief consultation, “Ripley, it’s almost certainly typhus.”
“Shit! What can I do for her?”
There was a long pause, “Nothing. Without antibiotics and hospitalisation, she will die. I’m sorry. You can’t bring her with you and you will have to be treated as well, just in case.”
“Oh, Mengele, I have to do something for the poor child.”
“Make her comfortable. Do you still have the Zopiclone we gave you to help you sleep?”
“Give her six tablets and the morphine from your autojet in a cup of sweet tea.”
“Will that stop the pain she’s in?”
“For how long?”
The pause was unbearable this time, “Permanently, Ripley. I really am so sorry. There’s nothing else you can do.”
She sobbed, “Nothing?”
“I fucking hate this job.” She regretted not having killed Hashmi when she had the chance.
“Very well. 02:00 Star shine. Don’t be late.”
Back in her hut, Pela was lying on the mattress and moaning fitfully. Ripley heated some water on a hexamine stove and dissolved six of the tablets in some hot water, let it cool then pulled off the top of the morphine autojet with a Leathermans tool and added the morphine to the water. The morphine had no batch number and had a fake MSF logo on the autojet as did all that were issued to British Special Forces. She filled the mug and dunked in a teabag, then added a lot of sugar. She suddenly realised Pela was looking at her.
“How do feel, Pela?” she asked gently.
“I’m so tired, Miss Afarin.”
“Come and lie next to me. I’ll help you.”
The girl cuddled next to her.
“I would like you to drink this. It will take away the pain.”
“What is it?”
“Tea. It’s very sweet. You must drink all of it and not throw it back up.”
The girl took a few sips, “It is sweet, but a little bitter.”
Pela complied and lay back down with a sigh. Ripley hugged her to her body.
“I feel tired and a little dizzy.”
Tears were running down Ripley’s face.
“Will you look after me for ever, Afarin?”
There was silence for fifteen minutes and Pela’s breathing became shallower. She opened her eyes one last time.
“I’m here, Pela.”
The girl gave a long sigh and became limp. Ripley thought about the people she had killed in the last four months and the corrosion of her humanity. She felt for the carotid pulse but there was nothing. She laid Pela’s head gently on the pillow, while her tears dropped onto the peaceful girl’s face.
Now I’m as dead as she is, Ripley thought bitterly. I have committed the worst of crimes, I have murdered an innocent child.
© Blown Periphery 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file