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Search & Rescue

Search & Rescue

A Story by BarryL

An end to the darkness of a lost soul, a return to light and the emergence of Raguel, the Angel of Vengeance


I pulled my keffiyeh over my mouth as traffic pushed the constant dust across the street to where I squatted against a mud-brick wall. My eyes strayed occasionally to the few faces going by, scanning the street for the unusual sight of a small child wearing a niqāb.


After two years of searching I found myself here, outside an opulent villa on Ibn Najm. I’d been stalking the villa for weeks, so far without success.


It wasn’t an easy place to watch, in the heart of a residential district in a city where few of the inhabitants walk anywhere. I had to change clothes twice a day, change my walk, switch vehicles; but I was sure this was the place.  This had to be my final destination. All I needed was visual confirmation and I could act.


When I’d arrived in the city more than a month ago all I had was a name, whispered in my ear by a rich, drunken Saudi in a busy, underground bar in Bahrain: a whispered name from a detailed description given to me by a dying man more than two years ago.


That death-bed confession had seen me leave my wife and daughter and travel from one dusty middle-eastern country to another following one dead-end lead after the other. I went native to make my presence less conspicuous, followed every call to prayer, merged western clothing with local elements and all the time I searched, and watched.


With each new clue I sent a ping to my wife’s phone from anonymous internet bars. Other than that I’d gone dark; disappeared from the planet, no contact. Everyone but she thought the grief had made me lose it. I might as well have been dead.


She knew I lived, she knew what I was looking for, and with each new ping she knew where I was.


Last time out I’d sent a double ping �" “I’m close!”; no response needed; she would sense my excitement.


I pushed myself to my feet and shuffled towards the jeep on the corner as a convoy of two SUV’s with black windows exited the compound. I had to follow; more than likely two vehicles meant women and where the women went I had to follow; where the women went so too did children.


I followed them out to King Fahd Road and watched them turn left. As we moved through the city streets it became clear they were heading towards Al Nakheel Mall. My heart beat loudly in my chest. I was filled with a curious mix of hope and rage; a shopping mall definitely meant women.


I pulled the jeep into the first available space and quickly changed my jacket, Keffiyeh and shades before getting out to watch the two cars find spaces. My route to the mall would take me right by them so no need to wander conspicuously off-course, no need to raise anyone’s suspicions; I was just another customer, nobody to worry about.


My heart skipped a beat; getting out of the car was a young girl clad head-to-toe in a black niqāb. With her were two other girls, neither covered up as she was.


Two years! Two years I’d been looking and now I jumped to wild conclusions that it must be her, that it was her, even though her back was to me I was sure; even after two years, one-quarter of her life, I thought I recognised her from the way she held herself. My little girl, my eldest, my first-born, the very breath that kept me alive, the ache in my heart.


I had to be sure, I had to see her eyes. The eyes that were exact copies of her mother’s except for the colour; that blue mirrored my own.


Trying to keep it casual I pulled out a cigarette and lit it up as I moved to the entrance. Inhaling deeply I pulled nicotine into my lungs to calm the overwhelming emotions. Hidden behind my mirrored lenses I stared intently at the approaching group; three men escorting two women and the three children. I waited for them to get close and, making a big deal about squatting down to stub out my cigarette on the pavement, took off my shades and turned to look straight into my daughter’s big, blue eyes; eyes that widened in recognition as I removed the keffiyeh from my face.


Nobody else was looking at me, yet. I placed my finger to my lips and my, now eight-year-old, acknowledged with an imperceptible nod but her wonderful smile, hidden beneath her headdress, was echoed in her eyes.


They passed into the mall and before I followed I checked my Janbiya was loose in its sheath. I had two more, slender blades, one in each boot but I hoped to do this without bloodshed; to take my daughter to safety without exposing her to any further risk.


I had to wait an hour for my chance, an interminable hour which seemed to take longer than the whole of the last two years. Wherever they stopped she looked for me, whenever they went into a shop she lingered at the entrance as if to give me the chance to see. I was sure her actions would give me away. I would pass it off as a natural Saudi child’s interest in a westerner.


I picked up a cheap, throwaway mobile and rang the hire company to come and pick up the jeep replacing it with my favourite motorbike in their collection a Suzuki DR650SE, a narrow lightweight bike that works best off the main highways in the block-pattern housing areas of the city.


I’d need it. I knew, from the moment I took my little girl back again, we would be fugitives in the city and I’d have to take a convoluted route at high speed to cover the 8 mile stretch between the mall and the British Embassy.


The call came and reluctantly I left my surveillance to make the swap, At the same time I swapped jackets and slung my few possessions over my back.  I parked the bike behind their SUV’s and on the way back into the mall dumped all of my excess baggage in a nearby bin. I wouldn’t be needing them again.


What I did need was western clothes for an eight-year-old girl and so I ducked into FG4kids and spent a small fortune on dark jeans with a flower pattern and a loose t-shirt with red poppies.


When I came out I caught sight of them walking towards me, the three men were laden down with bags and two of the women were struggling to hold my little girl who was twisting and pulling at them as she sought to catch sight of her Daddy.


I couldn’t be caught inside. I couldn’t risk the plan to give my daughter one crumb of comfort. She knew I had found her, now I had to trust that she would expect to see me again. She knew I wouldn’t leave now.


I went out, put on the lid and moved through the car park.  As they got to the SUV’s I saw the men gesticulate at the bike blocking their exit from the car park.  I casually strolled towards them, helmet obscuring my features, obviously heading for the bike, obviously the owner, not in any hurry.


The men began to shout at me, waving bags furiously as they pointed at the bike and me. This was easy, I was no threat. My daughter spotted me and stopped struggling. The women looked and suspicion began to bloom but before they could say a word I was among them. I had waited too long to be stopped now. I was bringing my little girl home.


My lid took out the alpha male, my boot took root in another man’s balls and there was only one left. He moved towards me, but had forgotten to drop the shopping bags.  He was easy meat.


The women didn’t make any effort to stop me taking my daughter. They watched as I pulled the niqāb from her face and hair, drinking her in, noticing every detail; those that remained the same and those that age had changed. She was still my little girl.


It lasted no more than a second, then we were on the bike and away, she in front, hugging me tightly as we swept up the Al Imam Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz Branch Rd at speed.  This was the easiest part of our journey. The first, exhilarating, frantic race up a long straight, before anyone could respond to the alarm.  Soon we would have to turn into the residential blocks to lose any potential pursuit.


We were doing top speed as it turned into the Northern Ring Road at which point I hopped the bike over the kerbing and planted verge and ducked the bike down towards the King Saud University district.


I broke into an unfinished house on Al Absat to change our clothes and say hello properly. All we’d managed to do so far was hug and I ripped my lid off and covered her face with kisses, tore my gloves off and touched her face and still-blonde hair. This small, little girl who’d been through all kinds of hell was back in my arms and I would never let her go again until she was safe inside the embassy.


No explanations, just “I love you, now get changed quickly, we’ve got to move.” And kisses. I taped a torn strip from the niqāb over the tank of the bike, threw away my jacket and back on our journey to the embassy district.


It was only about 2 miles from here but those two miles were torturous.  Any number of times we had to retrace our steps because of road blocks. Too many times we waited breathlessly for cop cars with flashing lights to chase past us. It seemed that the embassy district was on lockdown.


Eventually, we ditched the bike at a compound below the Wadi and climbed the embankment to the walking path that would bring us into the Embassy district; a mile and a half walk in open view of the road beneath us. We passed the Irish Consulate on Al Idrissi and turned right onto Ibn Uday to see the gates of the British Embassy on the corner before us.


A flash of our passports and we were inside and then hours where our story was told and retold many times, our passports checked and rechecked, DNA samples taken to link this blonde child to her dark haired father. And all the time we cuddled and kissed and laughed and cried as each heard the others tale and then a phone call home, a long phone call filled with joy, finally, filled with love and warmth and family: a husband returned, a daughter found.


Then quiet conversations in the garden as the Ambassador and his staff refused to countenance the urgent representations of the House of Saud. The conclusive proof of identity was confirmed and plans were laid for my daughter’s return home.


It was then that I allowed my rage to come to the fore. For two years, since that first terrible night when I had tortured the man who had facilitated my daughter’s kidnap to death for that detailed description, I had held my rage in check. I had put my vengeance to one side as I searched and now I would take it in the bloodiest way possible.


My helmet had obscured my face, they would not recognise me.


This man, this whispered name, would feel the blade of my Janbiya curve around his balls as I gelded him; this man could not live. Tonight I would creep into his compound, past his security, and I would murder every male in his house. This man would die knowing that his name would be lost to the ashes of history, his women left to their own devices. The future would die in his eyes long before I gutted him and left him bleeding out as his house burned around him.


My daughter was free and this man, and this family, would never be able to worry her again; this I swore to Allah who, of all the Gods, is strongest in this desert place.


That night I climbed the wall behind the tennis court…



© 2016 BarryL

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Added on June 22, 2016
Last Updated on June 22, 2016
Tags: thriller, crime, loss, redemption, kidnap



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