Greetings from a hot and humid and thundery Cheshire.
Here are the next two episodes and things are hotting up…..
by CC MACKENZIE
Copyright © C C MacKenzie 2018
The hours Sarif usually spent with his horses was his purest joy. Not today. Today he fought a losing battle between despair and fury. At the moment, fury was winning by a hair. In his position life had its ups and downs even if he was used to absolute control. Well, he wasn’t in control now, anything but. Being the leader of his country was something he was born to do. There was a joy in it, at times frustration, disappointment and pride in his people. He enjoyed seeing his people and their land thrive. The harsh desert climate was equal parts their friend and their enemy. He knew the temper of the wind often better than he knew his own.
The fine spring the country was enjoying meant his people worked hard and long, but so far without the bitter harvest of crops dying in a dust bowl, or so far, a plague of pests or a sandstorm.
Right now, his temper was black because his horses were for him and him alone and two of his favorites were missing, along with his wife and her maid. However, what frustrated him most of all was the way he’d begun to trust Arabella and that had been a mistake. He should have expected her to do something dangerous. He should have expected her to take a risk with his son’s life to save her brother. He should have kept her behind bars. He should have… his sigh was a deep one.
The key to finding his wife was to keep calm and find his centre.
His horses had always soothed him.
They soothed him now.
The sun shone down on his bare head as he clucked to a yearling, watching as the glossy chestnut gave a lazy swish of the tail. Horse and man, they knew each other well, and Sarif had to grin as he waited patiently for the game to begin.
Sarif put his hand in his pocket, and with equine hauteur the yearling tossed his head and approached.
“You’re a good boy.” He gave a soft laugh, running a gentle hand down the yearling’s flank as the horse nudged his pocket. “Yes, it’s your favorite.” He took half of a small apple and let the colt eat out of his hand. “I wish I could take you with me today and we’d ride like the wind. But bullets and death are not meant for the likes of you.”
Other horses ambled over to enjoy a small treat, then Sarif lifted his head and gazed over the land.
He knew his idea of putting Arabella behind bars would never happen. The woman was a free spirit. A little voice might whisper she certainly was not consort material, but he ignored it.
A movement by the entrance to the stables caught his eye.
Dressed in desert khaki and armed to the teeth, Wallace Monroe, his face set and without the usual twinkle in his blue eyes, stalked towards him.
“I ought to have known she’d try something like this as soon as my bloody back was turned,” Wallace said, his deep voice low.
“She drugged the guards,” Sarif muttered.
Wallace shook his head, his eyes narrowing into blue slits.
“That was Leila’s doing. When she arrived I should have checked her extensive baggage, but it was under the Queen Janaan’s diplomatic seal. God knows what else the girl brought in with her.”
Sarif bit down hard on his bottom lip.
It seemed his own mother was involved in this debacle, since she was the one who’d sent the maid here in the first place. The thought of how she’d encouraged him to accept the girl, to keep poor Arabella company, made his hand fist.
“How will they know where to look for Nazari?” Sarif wanted to know.
Wallace winced. “I might have mentioned the location of his base when I told her part of our plan. I was trying to reassure her everything that could be done to free Rupert was being done.”
Again, Sarif turned to scan the land.
“The words needle and haystack spring to mind,” he muttered.
Wallace whipped an electronic device from his black cargo pants.
“Actually, meet the needle.”
Sarif studied the tiny blip on a black screen.
“What is it?”
“Arabella. Gilchrist had a tracking device implanted in her. Works within a twenty mile radius as long as she’s out in the open.”
Well now, it seemed today was a day full of surprises, and why hadn’t the Monroe brothers told him about a tracking device before?
“Then what are we waiting for?”
“Bruce is already on his way with a contingent of men to intercept Arabella and Leila, while you and I stick to the plan to free Rupert.”
Torn between the need to find his wife and to fix the mess he’d made by capturing Rupert Faulkner in the first place, Sarif nodded.
“Very well, but Arabella will not go with you quietly. Stubborn is her middle name.”
Wallace’s grin was a lightning flash of white teeth.
“Bruce’s middle name is obstinate. My brother’s a bolshie bastard. Don’t worry, he’ll bring her home in one piece.”
As they strode towards the stables with members of his security services waiting beyond, Sarif could only pray the man was right.
But he couldn’t help but worry about what his wife was going to do next.
The desert wind blew hot and dry as three dusty trucks rumbled through the mountain pass. Containing twenty men, armed and exceedingly dangerous, each truck made their way through the last series of twists and they would eventually arrive at a large encampment hidden deep in the mountain range.
At his destination, Yussuf Hassam Nazari knew that he’d find the night’s entertainment, the torture of a British citizen and a Jordanian helicopter pilot shot down over a recent hot zone, was well underway and he could not wait to see the results of his torturer’s labour.
He was a man who lived for two things, money and power.
A man could not have one without the other.
Then again, he’d discovered he needed something else too—violence.
He enjoyed the pleasure that came from that swift explosion of aggression and the sound of sweet pain as fists beat on the flesh of another.
He’d been five the first time he’d heard the mellifluous sound of human suffering.
The boy he’d hurt again and again had been three and cried like a pitiful baby until, under the careful tutelage of his own father, Yussuf had fired a bullet into the boy’s blood-encrusted head.
Since then he’d evolved from torturing the weak and helpless to terrorising nations.
His name alone was powerful enough to bring a liquid fear to the bellies of the fearless, and dread to those who tried to keep their lands and peoples safe.
Nothing and no one could stop the evolution of Yussuf Hassam Nazari’s global business dealing in people and drug trafficking and the buying and selling of arms to the highest bidder. He cared nothing for global politics, a filthy, corrupt business at the best of times. Politicians, he’d found, spoke out of both sides of their mouth and any who had been stupid enough to betray him died a slow and painful death, but not before watching every single member of their family die drowned in their blood first. All it had taken was a couple of examples for his message to be received. These days no one dared double cross him. Fear, Yussuf had discovered, was an incredible motivator.
Long legs crossed, he relaxed back in the passenger seat of the middle truck, shielded by fierce men prepared to die for him. He was dressed in the loose cotton clothing beloved by his warriors, his head, nose and mouth protected from the dust and the sun. Sharp dark eyes narrowed as they scanned the vast walls of solid rock on either side of the narrow road. The road might be inaccessible for helicopter gunships, but there was still the danger of entrapment should the special forces of King Sarif El Haribe break the habit of a lifetime and get lucky. Then again Yussuf had been taught by a master to never leave anything to luck. Failing to plan is planning to fail were the words his late father had lived by. Therefore, Yussuf had a man on the inside, a man close to a King distracted by a woman. Sarif was truly a pathetic leader to allow himself to be pussy-whipped by an infidel of all things. Not that Yussuf, deep inside, was a particularly religious man. However, religion, like any other form of mind control, was useful in the way he and others could manipulate the words of a book and use those words for their own ends. Deep in their hearts human beings were weak when it came to believing in imaginary deities that never existed. As his father had often said, My beloved son, remember these words—we cannot fix fools.
Now the vehicles came to a halt and he emerged from the middle truck, aware of the men on either side, killers, like himself. Men he relied on. Men he called brothers. Still, he was different from them and he knew it, even if they never believed it.
He turned his head to the squat building made of mud and camel dung.
The sound of pain, a high and prolonged scream, broke the sudden silence.
The sound soothed him as he hooked his gun over his shoulder.
The English boy had been brave, but the beatings had worn him down, bit by bit. By now there wouldn’t be a place on his body that didn’t hurt.
If Yussuf had been a kind man, he’d put him out of his misery, but the boy had the potential to bring in big bucks, as long as he delivered him alive.
Shame the British Government hadn’t stipulated unharmed, or, in one piece.
Now he nodded at one of his men standing guard outside the shabby wooden door of the building.
“Get some down time,” he said, his voice nothing but a low growl, the result of an attempted assassination, a throat cut, gone wrong.
“Can’t sleep. Too noisy.”
Yussuf placed a heavy hand on the guard’s broad shoulder.
“Take a break. You’ve earned it.”
When the guard moved away, Yussuf unwound the cloth over his mouth, pushed open the door and entered.
The smell of human waste and blood hit him first.
It took his eyes a few seconds to become accustomed to the lack of light.
On a long narrow table, instruments of torture, wet with blood, were lined up according to size.
In one corner the Jordanian, his flight suit sticky with blood and shit, was rocking back and forth, staring blankly into space.
Yussuf heaved a sigh.
The man had been broken too soon.
Still, when his flesh burned he’d scream until he was hoarse before his body melted from within.
Then he turned to the young man huddled in the corner.
He wore nothing but filthy jeans that hung on his emaciated body.
He trembled as if in a fever and he reeked to high heaven.
One eye was swollen shut, sticky puss leaking from a corner.
Infection in this heat might be an issue.
The young man’s narrow feet were bare, covered in bruises gone black and the soles beaten bloody.
Yussuf nodded at Hakim, bare chested, holding a bloody cane in his meaty fist and standing to attention.
He approved of Hakim’s quick thinking.
Should the cavalry arrive, which was highly unlikely, Rupert Faulkner would be unable to walk anywhere, which would make freeing him without taking heavy losses difficult.
“You have done well, Hakim. Now you must rest.”
Hakim, his blood splashed cotton pants slung low on his lean hips, sweat glossing his vast chest, bowed his dark shorn head and left.
When the door closed, Yussuf shifted to crouch before the young man and caught the way his one good eye went wary as it held his.
Yussuf nodded, recognizing an opponent worthy of his close attention.
It had been a long while since he’d had one of those.
“I will send a medic with food and water and medication for your eye,” he said in his low, hoarse voice. “Tomorrow is a special day for the helicopter pilot. I promise you will enjoy the show.”
That one eye burned with a hate Yussuf totally understood.
He stood, towering above a human being who was beyond all hope and help, and yet refused to believe it.
Both were wonderful things.
But by the end of tomorrow he knew both would be snuffed out and all that would be left would be the broken husk of a young man who would never be the same again.
Yussuf left and immediately headed for the spicy scent of goat cooking over an open fire.
Oh to be a fly on the wall when Brigadier Hamish Faulkner received the shell of his son, alive but mentally destroyed and to see how the proud soldier dealt with the man who had caused all the pain and agony in the first place, King Sarif El Haribe.
It was a very satisfied Yussuf Hassam Nazari who took his place on a pile of thick carpets laid next to the fire, washed his hands in the scented water offered and nodded to his men to eat.
But then he stilled.
There was a tickle on the back of his neck.
Slowly, he turned his head, his sharp eyes scanning the high ground in the growing dusk.
“What is it?” Hakim asked.
Hakim studied the place where mountain met the sky and shook his head.
“Unless they are a mountain goat, no one can approach from that direction.”
Yussuf nodded, he knew that, and yet…
“Double the guards.”
With a single nod, Hakim rose and moved away to do as he was told.
Still, Yussuf studied the horizon as night fell.
All was still, and yet the tickle remained.
His men called his intuition magic.
Maybe it was.
Whatever, he never ignored it.
Time to plan.
I’ve been incredibly busy with family and construction at the house, and with the heat and humidity it’s been difficult to find quiet space to write. However, undeterred, I shall write as much of Desert Captive as I can…..