NaNoWriMo – Day 6

A whirlwind trip to DC today to help a friend. She was a “Donut Dolly” in Vietnam and is arranging a reunion over Veterans Day weekend in DC. I drove her up to work out some last-minute details. I got back in time to write for a couple of hours. Just 2,324 words today, for a 29,860 total. So, tomorrow I’ll break the 30,000-word mark. Woo-hoo!

I added a short chapter today, Chapter 8, and started a longer one, Chapter 9, so today will be another two-fer.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 8, Dead Man:

Once the meal was done and cleared away, Tarife and Abdullah went behind their curtain. This time, Alexei didn’t go outside. He went instead behind Sulimah’s curtain. In the light from her lamp, he saw no trepidation when he entered. She sat up and faced him, smiling, her eyes expectant until they fell on the large duffel bag he carried.

He knelt beside her pallet. “I want you to safe-keep something for me,” he whispered. He unzipped the bag so she could peer inside.

“Merciful God! How much money is that?” she asked.

“A great deal.”

“I cannot be responsible for that much money,” she protested, holding a coverlet up to her chin.

“Yes, you can. I need you to do this for me,” Alexei said.

“Why me?”

“I trust you,” he replied.

“How do you know you can trust me?” she asked.

“I’ve trusted my instincts for a long time,” he said.

“And they tell you I can be trusted—or used?” she asked, chin thrust out in defiance.

“I trust you,” he repeated.

She looked away then looked back at him. “What am I to do with this money?” she asked.

“In the bag is a list of my men, your father included. Beside each name is the amount we negotiated for their service to me. The money is in dollars. Can you deal with that?”

“Yes, but what is it you want…”

“When these men or the family member they have indicated on the list come to you and ask for payment, you pay them the specified sum,” Alexei said.

“Why would they come to me and not you for this payment?” she asked.

“Because the Taliban and al Qaeda will have been defeated, and the war will be over,” he said.

“You didn’t answer me. Why wouldn’t they come to you?”

“I won’t be coming back,” he said.

Sulimah shook her head. “You are Saradi. You have killed many. Why wouldn’t you come back?”

“I told you this before. To make certain the man who killed my wife dies, I will die with him. There will be money left over. It’s yours,” he said.

Anger flashed at him. “Do you think a bribe will make me do this?”

“I ask you as a friend to do this for me,” he said. He saw tears travel down her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Sulimah, forgive me. This was too much of a burden to place on you.”

Her fingers swiped the tears away, and she let the coverlet drop to her lap. “Make love to me, and I’ll do this for you.”

Yeah, pretty evil to leave that open. Will he or won’t he? And from Chapter 9, Last Stand:

The battle for Mazar e Sharif ended with a whimper rather than a bang. It took very little fighting to convince the Taliban there to surrender, and they did. Afghanistan was back in the hands of the Northern Alliance.

One hundred fifty years old, Qala e Jangi fortress was distinctly medieval. More than a quarter-mile long with sixty-foot walls, its northern half held comfortable (for Afghani standards) living quarters, a military operations center, and a staging area. Its southern half was now a prison holding several hundred Taliban fighters who had surrendered at Mazar and Konduz. Their arms lashed together at the elbows, they walked about the open courtyard or sat in desultory groups. Those who weren’t being examined by the Red Cross were being questioned by the CIA.

That same end of the fortress also held a well-stocked armory, well-guarded by the fortress’ commander and self-proclaimed leader of Afghanistan, General Dostun.

Mai thought the prisoners would fare better under American supervision, but the U.S. was currying favor with Dostun and had promised him he could ransom the prisoners back to their families. They had no plans to put him in charge of the country and had to offer him something in return.

The CIA was there to glean intelligence, such as it was, from the detainees, identify any potential al Qaeda, who would be transferred to U.S. bases, then determine if Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11.

Mai knew where those instructions had originated.

In addition to the native Afghanis were Saudis, Yemenis, Chechens, Bosnians, and other Muslims from around the world who had heeded al Qaeda’s call to fight for Allah. The captured Taliban received, as customary, the opportunity to switch sides. Many of them had relatives in the Northern Alliance, and the battle had seen frequent truces to allow safe passage of the Afghani “pony express”—riders on mules who brought letters to and from the combatants. Family was a significant part of Afghani life, and even the binds of distant relations were tight. Those family ties, more so than the obvious American might, had induced Taliban by the hundreds to remove their turbans and adopt the pakool, the rolled-brim beret favored by the beloved NA commander Massoud. Those who hadn’t heeded their relatives’ pleas had died in battle or been taken prisoner.

(c) 2013 by Phyllis Anne Duncan.

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