Afarin and Heyfa were in their favourite place, Heyfa’s bed. It was one of those gentle moments where nothing else matters in the whole world, just the two of them. They were saying goodbye.
“I will miss you my Persian princess.”
“I will miss all of you.”
“Gad especially? You did your civic duty. He is lovely, is he not?”
“Yes. We shared a lot before we got home. To be honest, it was easy when you really get to know him. What lies within. Why did you so want me to make love to him? Why should you care if he was a virgin or not?”
“Because it would be the ultimate cruelty for a man to die without having known a woman. I could never have showed him because I’m pretty useless when it comes to sex.”
“I beg to differ,” Afarin said, “You certainly schooled me in the delights of a woman’s body. They were so cruel to you, me as well, concentrating on causing pain to the very parts that define our female sexuality. They broke Freida. Batya and Aisha have been quite reticent about what they did to them.”
“There was one in particular who was cruel, he was depraved. He told the man operating the electrical machine: give the jew bitch more juice. I want to see her bzaz bouncing. He laughed in my face when I pissed myself. That’s fucking Arabs for you.”
Except that Afarin knew they weren’t Arabs wielding the electrodes, they were Jews.
“Is that your only reason, Heyfa, not to die a virgin?”
“No,” and then she said hesitantly, “It’s because I love him.”
“What?” and then she started to laugh, “So you decide the best way to show him your love is by getting someone else to fuck him?”
“Don’t laugh at me. I wanted him to stop being so shy, and more confident with girls. He was kind to Freida, even though he knew that they had shattered her, and she told them everything. I found her pouring her heart out to him in the refectory and then I knew he was a thoroughly decent man.”
“He is,” Afarin agreed.
“He is shy, kind and I think as brave as a Lion. But I lack the experience to show him how to love a woman. You don’t”
If only you knew.
“So, what happens now.”
“I will stalk him, until we share our lives, and he will grow to love me.”
Afarin smiled, “It won’t take too much effort, because he already does.”
“Do you think so?”
“He told me when we shared a hotel room.”
Heyfa lay back on the bed, “Thank you, thank you so much.”
To Afarin’s sadness, Heyfa burst into tears.
“Whatever’s wrong, Heyfa?”
“You’ll be gone in a few days. You were my friend, and we’ll never see one another again.”
“That’s the nature of our job. I’ll never forget you, though. You introduced me to the delights of a beautiful woman’s body.”
“I wish I could introduce you to the delights of a toot of Puff the Magic Dragon.”
Afarin poked her breast, “We get compulsory drug testing and if they find traces in my blood, It’s instant dismissal.”
Something had been swirling around in Afarin’s head.
She went up on one elbow and looked at her, “What is it?”
“I am so sorry for betraying you. It was terrible seeing you in such pain.”
“I would have betrayed you, neshama sheli. Anything to stop them torturing me. When I wouldn’t tell them anything, they gave me shocks and I thought my shads were going to explode. They were evil bastards and they laughed at me! I think they enjoyed doing those things to me. Fucking Palestinian monsters.”
Afarin kept quiet. The truth would have been so destructive, “Are you all right now?”
“The bit right between my legs…”
“Yes. It still hurts on hard chairs and do not ask me to ride a bicycle.”
“What about, Gad?” Afarin asked.
“I’m not up to showing him the part of me between my einaz and my almuhabil. He would run a mile”
“He would understand being kind.”
Heyfa thought about it, “I’ll probably do the thing women have done for thousands of years, get noticed and look sexy. How did you entrap your James Bond?”
Afarin thought back across the months, “Well first of all I held a knife to his neck, then we went for a meal, and I told him the ball was in his court, so we went back to his room. He knew I wasn’t very experienced in these matters and treated me with patience and kindness.”
“Oooh you lucky girl. Does he drive an Aston Martin?”
“No, Heyfa. He’s just a faceless bureaucrat who works in Whitehall for the Government, a Civil Servant.”
“He sounds perfect, steady job, kind to you.”
“He does have one habit that I find distasteful,” Afarin said gravely.
Heyfa looked at her, “Does he blindfold you and tie you to the bed, before satisfying his lusts?”
“No, it’s worse than that. He keeps leaving the toilet seat up.”
They were both giggling and then Heyfa looked at her seriously, “Afarin, when you go, I won’t be there to say goodbye.”
“Because I would be too upset. You were my friend and now you’re going. It makes me feel a hollow emptiness.”
“Let’s just remember our last night together. Gad won’t be there either. He told me he would be upset, so already you have something in common.
“Your body is beautiful, Heyfa. I could get lost in you. I will miss you so much, my beautiful friend.”
It was their last night together and in the last few days, Afarin handed her weapons and kit back into stores, although it was threadbare and worn. She had an interview with the course director, who thanked her for her effort and going on the mission to Egypt.
“Congratulations on your promotion.”
Afarin asked him what would happen to Freida.
“Absolutely nothing. Her CO will be sent a letter that she performed well and worked hard during the course, which she did. It takes a very special person to get through advanced interrogation and we tend to lose around twenty-five per-cent.”
“That is a bloody euphemism, with respect, sir. They hated the women and seemed to be so misogynistic. Call it for what it is. Torture. Barbaric, torture!”
“And what do you think would happen if you were interrogated by real evil people? You would never come out alive, and as for misogynism, can you imagine what the men felt? Not only were they interrogated and in pain but were forced to watch while those they held dear, being subjected to intense pain if front of them. We work in the shadows of a vile world, and we need every tool in our armoury to defeat them. You may not approve of our methods, but we want to give you a fighting chance.”
Afarin left the meeting feeling mixed emotions. While accepting that the training should be as relevant and realistic as possible, the cruelty of Jews had surprised her. The “never get on cattle trucks again” excuse was wearing a little thin, but then again, she wasn’t a Jew. Certain things were hardwired into the psyche, and she could never change the fact she was a Moslem.
By Saturday she had finished packing. Heyfa had popped in to say goodbye, but she was clearly visibly upset. She had met Gad in the mess hall one mealtime. He sat next to her and said quietly, “I am so grateful to you Afarin. I thought I was going to die a virgin, but you have opened my life with kindness, patience and I swear I will never forget you. Have a good life, my beautiful Muslim tutor,” and then he was gone.
“Tomorrow I’ll be going home,” she said to the ceiling as she lay on her bed, totally naked in the heat of the afternoon. She felt her eyes getting heavy and was soon dreaming of calling an air strike on the houses of parliament.
She heard someone knocking on the door and still half asleep, thinking it was Heyfa, she opened the door.
“Oh fuck!” she said and grabbed a robe. It was Hoffman. He turned his back politely and waited until she had covered herself.
“Please excuse the intrusion, but I’ve come to give you some news.”
“Why am I always in the buff?”
He grinned at her, “Don’t worry. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
“You’d better come in before the neighbours start talking. I’m using up the tea and coffee. Do you want one?”
“Yes please. Black if that’s OK.”
She looked in the fridge, “It will have to be. I’ve got no milk.”
She had black tea in a Pyrex glass and gave him his coffee, “Well Staff Sergeant Hoffman. What is the news you want to tell me?”
He sipped the coffee and grimaced.
“That good, eh?”
“I wanted to let you know that there is an air ticket booked for you in the guard post. British Airways, but you will have to get to the Airport at 06:00, so leave here at around 05:00.”
“Thank you, Staff Sergeant Hoffman.”
He drank his coffee slowly, as though mulling something over.
“It there anything else?” she asked.
“Afarin, when you arrived with us, I thought you were just another little Arab with attitude. I was totally wrong; you are a little Persian with attitude. You are violent and gave Dan a hiding he probably deserved, and you were beaten as well. There was blood all over the floor of the gymnasium. Did you know that Dan specifically asked for you to be on the team for your mission? Why? Because he rates you as a good operator.
“You have proved you’re brave and defiant, but also gentle and kind. You and Heyfa have carried on a discreet relationship, the two most beautiful girls on the course. And then there was Gad, simply because Heyfa asked you to.”
“No, there was more than that. A bond developed between us in Egypt and is there anything you don’t bloody know?” she asked.
“It was my job to know, those who were struggling, those with problems. And I took special interest in you girls, Batya who is unbearably cute and looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket. But stupid giggly Batya is as brave as a lioness. She said nothing, despite the pain she was in and when they dragged Dan in to watch what they were doing to her, he wavered. She shouted at him: Don’t you dare! Aisha who appears aloof, but inside she so loves Zelig and poor Freida. We had our doubts and unfortunately, she broke in that cellar room. No shame on her. She worked hard and went back to her unit with an excellent report, but she could never have stood the ruthless world of the Mista’arvim.
“My wife is very astute, and she said to men “Afarin is your favourite, isn’t she,” and she was right. I have watched you closely, the way you interact with people. I hope you think I have always behaved in a professional manner, but I don’t think you’re aware just how lovely and appealing you are to people, if you could just get rid of that bloody great chip on your shoulder. You must declare peace with yourself. People like and love you for what you are, not who you were.
“You are not religious, yet you carry the trappings of your past. I have noticed you wear the hijab, but I suspect you see it as some form of protection. Why do you need to feel protected? Is it because you’re scared to let yourself go, to hide from something that happened in your life?
“Without doubt you know how to fight and would be willing to die. I wish you knew how to live, but your time will come. Promise me when it does come, you will grab it with both hands. You said to me when you visited my house: One day I will be long gone and forgotten, but those stars will still be twinkling away, never knowing that I ever existed.” I know you existed and one day you will have a family. They will be indifferent to the stars because they know you exist.”
Hoffman stood up. He put the coffee cup in the kitchenette sink, turned to Afarin and warmly embraced her, “Shalom aleichem, my beautiful Persian girl. I would be proud to have you as a daughter. Enjoy life as much as I have enjoyed having met you. Safe journey home and through life.”
And he was gone, striding towards the trees, his dog that had been wating patiently outside at his heels. Afarin watched him disappear. “Bloody hell,” she said.
She woke early with the alarm on her phone. She walked to where she had parked the hire car and saw six of them waiting for her. They were there to see her off and they took turns to embrace her and wish her Godspeed.
She looked at Dan, “Treat Batya with love and respect, otherwise I’ll come back and really give you a hiding the next time!”
Finally, Zelig gave her a card, “This is my private e-mail. I know you will be busy, but our friendships were forged in adversity. Please write yours on this piece of paper. I won’t pester you with tittle-tattle, I promise.”
Afarin wrote her Hotmail account on the paper and said: “Goodbye. I will never forget you all.”
As she drove off, they waved, and she felt tears picking at her eyes. Soon she picked up the autoroute to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport. She had turned a page in her life.
While Afarin slept waiting for the alarm, the man she had described as a faceless bureaucrat who works in Whitehall for the Government, a Civil Servant, was sitting in a car outside a haulage firm in Guînes, about ten kilometres south of Calais. Jean-Claude was in the passenger seat, Eva was in the driver’s seat.
“This is like old times, Jean-Claude.”
“You take the back of the building; I’ll take the front.”
“Jean-Claude, he was my agent.”
“Eva, I want the rear covered by someone competent as I go in. Most will try to get out of the back, so kill all of them. Who was he?”
“He must have made a mistake. When they found his body on the beach, he had been burned by acid on his genitals, and they blinded him. He was finally killed by having industrial strength oven cleaner poured down his throat. The French police are deliberately useless, and the Kosovan gangs operate with impunity. This shipment will go across later today.”
Jean-Claude stared out into the darkness. The radio crackled softly, and they heard the Watcher come on the net, “They are in position and have moved into the building. Two remain by the rear and front doors, guarding the place. There are numbers fifteen men. Be aware, they took three of the women out of the ISO containers and have taken them to their building.”
“Roger,” said Jean-Claude. “Let’s go Eva.”
The interior light was switched off and they stepped out into the night, closing the doors quietly. From the foot wells in the rear of the car, they pulled out two Sterling submachine gun L34A1 suppressed variant and two extra magazines each. Eva put the two spare mags in the pocket of her North cape jacket, Jean-Claude stashed his in the deep pockets of his Barbour coat.
They inserted the curved magazines into the side of the Sterlings. Each magazine held thirty-two rounds of fat, 9mm ammunition. The Sterling’s rate of fire was normally 550 rounds a minute, but this was reduced by the weapons’ long, cylindrical silencers.
“Ready.” They both cocked the weapons, which fired from a lever delayed blowback.
“Good luck, Eva. Be calm. Remember, if you get a stoppage, slide back and locked then tilt the weapon on it’s side. It will almost certainly be a miss-extracted round. If all else fails, use your Glock.”
“Thank you. You too, JC.”
They walked purposefully towards the single-story industrial building, bathed in harsh neon lights. To the side were lorry tractor units and two forty-foot ISO containers. The man guarding the front door looked up as the two of them approached and Jean-Claude took him out with a two second burst. Eva peeled off towards the rear on the building. He paused for a minute while she got into position and went in.
There were around ten inside, a group engaged in raping very young-looking girls across a work bench. Jean-Claude worked left first, killing a man in an inner office, glass shattering on the floor. Far right, man drawing pistol. Five rounds killed him.
“Lezi na pod!” He yelled, telling the girls to get on the floor. Two did, but one looked confused, probably not a Serbian speaker. He picked his targets, going down behind cover while the Sterling took chunks out of the men. Change magazine as a round ricocheted off the cabinet, he was behind. The firer was given four rounds, gut shots, nasty!
There was absolute panic inside the building, the girls screaming and a scrum of men trying to get out the back door. Despite the bulky surppressor, the was still the sound of the breech block assembly and return spring clettering in the weapon. The Albanians were caught between two shooters and most died or were seriously wounded where the stood. It was all over in less than a minute and he calmed down the girls.
“Vratite se na ISO kontejnere. Srpski lekari će uskoro biti sa vama. Ne beži. Sada ste sigurni,” he said gently in Serbian.
Acrid smoke wafted around the inside of the building, and he was glad to get outside. Eva was waiting for him.
“That was absolutely horrible,” she said feeling sick. Jean-Claude walked up to the ISOs and opened the doors. The stench was horrifying. He told the terrified women and girls that the Serbian Red Cross would take them home. Do not leave this area and do not go in the building.
They walked back to the car and a coach was waiting with its engine running. They were met by two representatives of the Serbian medical services.
“They are in the ISO containers. About forty women. How will you get back to Serbia?”
“That’s our problem. Thank you.”
Jean-Claude and Eva pointed the weapons were in a safe direction and unloaded, each checking inside the breach with a finger to make sure they were clear. They put the weapons in the back of the car again, covered them with a blanket and headed north, with Jean-Claude driving. They had the requisite MI6 paperwork for the Border Agency. Thirty minutes to the Eurostar, and they would be at Vauxhall Cross around lunch time. The watchers would make their own ways home.
“Won’t the French police realise it was British ammunition?” Jean-Claude asked.
“So much the better. It sends two messages. We’re on to them for their deliberate turning of a blind eye to girls being trafficked into the UK. Secondly, it sends a message that we will not tolerate our agents being murdered in gruesome ways.”
As they drove, Eva dozed. Jean-Claude was hyper-alert, and he was ashamed to say, part of him was elated because he had survived. Now he understood in part, what made Afarin tick. He already knew what a firefight involved. His hands started to shake.
© Blown Periphery 2022