The Long Journey Home, Part One: The Runaway

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
His daughter has disappeared .He does not have a clue where she is or what has happened.to her .He only know someone...

Submitted: August 11, 2016

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Submitted: August 11, 2016

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 One:

 

The Runaway

 

"You seem to be a little tense. Are you worried about something?" the man sitting next to him mumbled as they crossed the border into Iran.

Bob stared at the man's face for a few seconds. He was a bit older than himself and had been rather quiet since they left. His behavior had been quite normal and there had been no grounds for suspicion.

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled, "I don't know," he answered," I don't really think so. I'm a little tired, I guess."

The man shook his head. "I've been here several times. There isn’t  really so much to worry about down there," he said.

"Yes, I know," said Bob rubbing his face with his left hand to wake up.

"Is it the first time you are traveling to this country?" asked the man

Bob nodded.

"I'm John, by the way," the man said stretching out his hand to shake Bob's. "John Guardian," he added. "I'm half African half British. Where are you from?"

"I'm an American citizen," Bob said, "but I'm originally from Afghanistan. My grandfather was born there."

"I should've guessed," John said," I know many people from Afghanistan. I served there with the British forces for some time."

Bob nodded gently.

"What's your business in Iran? Are you going to visit some relatives or something?" John asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," answered Bob frowning. He paused a long while before he added, "I have my daughter here. She came to visit her sick grandmother….but I don't really know… where she is now!"

"How do you mean?" asked the man surprised. "Doesn't your mother-in-law know where she is?"

Bob did not answer. He looked out of the window. "The plane may have a problem!" he said instead. "It seems to be trembling…a bit."

John nodded and began looking out of the window too. There were some unusual movements in the body of the plane. Most of the passengers looked somewhat worried.

 "There's no cause for alarm," said one of the stewardesses. "Just fasten your seat belts and….relax. We will be in Tehran in forty five minutes.

John was reading a magazine article now. Bob continued looking out of the window until they announced the plane's arrival in the Tehran air space. They had to fasten their seat belts again.

When they were collecting their luggage they met again. "If you don't have a place to live," said John," you can stay with me tonight. I have a little apartment here. I 'm a businessman. I have to come here often."

"No thanks," said Bob. "I think I'll go to a hotel or something," he added as they were going towards the place where the passengers' suitcases were searched by the officers in charge.

"No point in that," said John. "I'll be more than happy to have company for a night. I don't have many acquaintances here."

"Well, if you insist," said Bob with a shy smile. "To tell you the truth I'm here for the first time and I don't know much about the place. I just have the telephone number of a man who is supposed to … help me…"

"Fine then," said John as he was trying to put his messed up suitcase back in order. "I have absolutely nothing to do tonight. My business meetings will start tomorrow."

They began walking together towards the outside gate pushing their trolleys in which they had placed their suitcases and hand bags.

 "Are you going to visit… your mother-in-law tomorrow?" asked John after they got into a cab and gave the driver the address.

"I 'm afraid not," said Bob, "I've never met her… and I'm not sure if she wants to meet me…"

"No …!?" said John looking surprised. "You've come all the way from America and …she does not even want to see you!?"

Bob shrugged his shoulders. "To tell you the truth, I don't particularly like to see her either. You see…my wife's family were very much against our marriage. They were a bit too religious and … a little too fanatical. They insisted that I change my religion and marry their daughter according to their traditions…, and they also wanted me to come and live with them … here. So right from the beginning we had our contradictions … which eventually turned into hostility!"

John laughed loudly. "Funny, huh?" he said after a while. "No wonder you never came to this country! They probably got you so infuriated that you swore you would never set foot on their soil!"

Bob nodded as he smiled. "I guess, in a way, that is true," he mumbled.

Their cab was now stuck in a heavy traffic jam and drowned in thick smog, so neither of the two felt like talking.

"How are you going to find your daughter," asked John absentmindedly as they took off the cab in the side-street where John’s house was.

"Well," said Bob as they walked up the stairs to John’s apartment, "as I told you earlier, I have the telephone number…of a man …who is…familiar with such cases as…my daughter's…. and can help me find her."

"Oh yeah, I guess you told me that," said John as he unlocked the apartment door. "It' so stuffy in here," he said as he entered. He walked to a window to open it. "Please make yourself at home," he then said.

When Bob sat down, John went to the little table on which there was a telephone set. "I have to order a few things from the supermarket around the corner. The icebox is almost empty," he said.

Bob was soon in the bathroom washing his face and arms. He did not seem to be listening to John who continued his questioning. "What sort of the guy is this man?" asked John several times before Bob finally answered.

 "I really don't know," said Bob, "He's an acquaintance of one of my pals in the States. I'm supposed to call him and see if he can do anything to help me."

"Some kind of a detective or something, I suppose?" asked John.

"No, he's just a man with… with some connections, I guess. He is supposed to be very knowledgeable about the situation here and have contacts who know about runaway girls."

"Runaway!?" asked John. "Did I hear you right? Did you say your daughter had run away from something!? I thought you told me she came here to see her grandma!?"

"Yeah, you heard me right," said Bob coming out of the bathroom.

"The groceries should be here soon," said John," I've ordered some Iranian food too. There's a nice little restaurant around the corner. Chelo-Kebab, is the dish I ordered. It's rice and barbecued meat. I'm sure you'll like it."

"Thanks," said Bob sitting down. "I hope I'll be able to make all this up to you some day!"

"Never mind that crap!" John exclaimed. "I 'm enjoying your company already.”

He took out a bottle from the nearby closet and two wine glasses. "Would you like some brandy?" he asked as he put them down.

Bob shook his head after taking a sip, “I don’t drink very often,” he said, “so I get very drunk when I do!  Because of that, I should be careful about drinking tonight!”

“Fair enough,” said John.

 "My daughter did not run away," Bob said after taking a sip at his drink,  “She was picked up as a runaway girl by mistake."

- Oh, yeah? How did that happen?

- I guess it happens rather easily in this country. She was lost in the street late at night. She was detained by one of the government vehicles which tour the streets picking up runaway girls… to prevent them from beggary or prostitution; and we have not heard from her since!"

- Oh really!? Who toldju all this?

- Her grandmother, of-course. Who else?

- And…how long ago did that happen?

- About two and a half months ago. It took her grandmother's family about two weeks to let us know that she was missing. It took another two weeks for them to discover what may have happened…; and it took me over a month to find some way of getting into this country.

John took a big sip of his drink. "For all you know," he then said, "lots of things may have happened during this… long period!"

"What?" asked Bob looking surprised, "I've been told that they keep those girls in safe houses until their parents are found . The place belongs to a very respectable charity organization. They provide food and shelter and even education for the homeless and the runaway girls."

John took a long look at Bob before he spoke, "I sure hope so," he said. "Let me know if you need help tomorrow," he added before he got up.

After they ate the food John had ordered, they leaned back on their armchairs. Bob then suddenly looked at his watch. "It's time!" he said nodding his head repeatedly.

John brought him the telephone set but Bob took out his cell phone."I'm not sure what's going to happen," he said, "So I'd better not use your phone. I don't want to get you involved."

"Fine," said John sitting back on his chair.

The phone rang a long time before someone answered.

"Alo…"said Bob," Mitoonam…ba…agaye Yousefi…sohbat konam?" he said in Farsi.

There was a long pause. Then someone said, "Do you espeak Inglish?"

"Yes, I do," said Bob letting out a sigh of relief.

"This is Mr. Yousefi's office," the voice said, "Vhat can I do for you?"

"I was told to contact Mr. Yousefi with regard to ….the disappearance of my daughter," said Bob.

There was a long pause. Then the voice said, "You must contact the police department … I tink.Mr. Yousefi has noting to do viz dat!"

John made a motion to Bob meaning to let him do the talking and came forward. He took the cell-phone and sat down next to Bob.

"We are aware of that, sir," said John. "We have come to make business here. I'm sure that Mr. Yousefi will be quite interested."

There was a long pause again and then the voice said, "Did you vant karajyanoor?"

"We have just arrived in Tehran, for business," John said not understanding the Farsi word. "We were told to call Mr. Yousefi and say that we are looking for our daughters."

There was a long silence again and then the voice said, "You must come for a visit. Ask de person who…gave you dis telephone number for de address!"

The line was then cut off.

"Interesting!" mumbled John. "It looks like we are dealing with the CIA or something!" He then looked into Bob's eyes, "Are you sure you don't  belong to the CIA or MI 6 or something?"

Bob laughed and then frowned. "It's o.k.! Even if I have to deal with the CIA or some organization like that, I'm ready! I have no secrets and nothing to worry about! I just want to get my daughter out. That's all!"

There was a long pause and then John said, "Your being alone… and your having come to this country for the first time….means that…you're not going to have an easy time dealing with this problem."  He paused for a long while again before he continued, "Maybe there was a reason for our being seated next to each other on the plane. My place was not originally there. An old lady asked me to exchange our seats because she had found a friend sitting on the seat next to mine. So I did!"

Bob was now staring at the wall in front of him not quite following what John was saying.

"I guess," continued John a few seconds later, "I guess I have to cancel my meeting for tomorrow and follow this thing up with you."

"Why?" asked Bob, "Why waste your precious time to deal with my little problem. Do you think something fishy is going on out there?"

He paused for a few seconds and then added, "I was told that it was a pretty straight forward thing. My daughter was taken in by mistake assuming that she had no family support. To get her out, all I have to do is to prove that I am her father. There isn't much to it!"' He looked down at the floor and then said, “My main problem is that I don’t speak Farsi and… I can’t understand the accented English that most Iranians speak.”

“Well,” said John, “This is not a big problem. They don’t have some English sounds like ‘th’ or ‘w’ in Farsi. So they use  ‘s’ or ‘d’ instead of ‘th’ and ‘v’ instead of w’. So they say ‘sank you’ or ‘tank you’ instead of ‘thank you’ and they say ‘vell’ in place of ‘well’.Also they don’t have any words starting with two consonants. So they add a vowel sound to the beginning of such English words. So they say ‘espeak” instead of speak. That’s about it!”

 He looked at Bob for a few seconds and then continued, “But the problem at present is not speaking with them. The way the guy on the phone  spoke about the whole thing gave me the impression that something weird is going on out there!"

He then looked directly into Bob’s eyes and added, "I hope… you've brought enough money with you!"

"I have some cash on me but I also have a friend's Iranian credit card, "Bob said. "I am going to pay him back in dollars when I return. He has plenty of money in his account."

John nodded in satisfaction, "Let's just hope that I am wrong!" he said a second later, "But to find that out for sure, we must first discover what the guy on the phone meant."

"Well," said Bob," he was obviously talking about a place. He mentioned a name and then told us to get the address from the man who gave me the phone number. So 'karajyanoor' may be the name of an Iranian city."

"Well," said John, "I know that there is a city called Karaj near Tehran. Yanoor may be … the name of a city district or street."

- Yes, it adds up like that! But where in Karaj? Unless the city is quite small, and Yanoor is really a city district, it may be rather hard to locate the place."

"No, it's not small," said John. "As a matter of fact," he added," Karaj is one of the biggest cities in Iran. But I don't think it'll be so hard to find Yanoor in it. Our problem is that … we need a more detailed address with building number and all."

They thought for a while sipping at their drinks, and finally John said, "The only person I can think of to help us is … a taxi driver who took me around the last time I was here. I have his name. I can call his cab company and see if he is still working there. We can ask him to help us. He might have some good ideas , being a native and all…"

The next morning John called the cab company and asked if he could have a cab. "Sorry Mr.," the man said, "my Inglish bad. I tell Firooz…talk viz you!"

John laughed. "Fate is still at our service. He says I must talk to Firooz! Firooz is the man I was looking for!"

Right after making the arrangements with the driver, John called his firm's agent and postponed the meeting he had on that day. "We're all set now," he then said. "We will ask Firooz to take us to the city of Karaj…and we’ll ask him questions about Yanoor district on the way."

Firooz was a rather young man with thick mustaches and a light beard. He laughed as he saw John and shook hands with him. "Hello Mr. John," he said, "I'm very happy from seeing you! You are velcome!"

Bob was introduced to Firooz as a friend who had come to visit his daughter in Karaj.

"Oh Karaj…!  Very good. I vorked dere for many year," said Firooz, the driver, "I take you dere myself! Don't tink about it! No trouble for me!"

He had a rather new Iranian-made car. When they finally got out of the city traffic and into the highway, Firoooz asked, "Vhere should I take you now?"

"We don't have the exact address," John said, "She was picked up by the police by mistake. They thought she was running away from home. They said the place was in Yanoor district of the city … or something."

"It may be Yanoor  street," Bob added.

Firooz turned his face towards them sitting in the back of the car, "You espeak Farsi, yes?"

"Yes, a tiny little," Bob said. "But my English is better!"

"He's originally Iranian," John said. "His grandpa came from Shiraz!"

Bob frowned and shook his head.

"Khoshvaghtam agha," said Firooz taking a glance back. "I'm happy to see you! I like Sirazi people very much!"

"Do you have any idea where Yanoor district is?" asked John.

The driver shook his head. "I don know," he said," but don vorry, I have a friend in bus company. He know everyting in city-e Karaj."

When they entered the city, Firooz parked his car near a large taxi station and got out. John and Bob could see him walk around a huge parking area and talk to various people. Half an hour later, he returned.

"Wrong address, you have!" he said But my friend know de place. It's a very good one! Big big! Many people live dere! I'm sure your daughter happy dere."

"You mean to say that you got the exact address!?" asked Bob thrilled.

-Yes yes! Of-course! Hajit is very good! I told you! No?

"You’re a smart man!" said John. "Now, where are we supposed to go?"

"No Yanoor estreet!" Firooz said. "I have address here. I vill take you now!" He quickly sat behind the steering wheel and turned on the engine.

In less than half an hour, Firooz found the place he was searching for. It looked like a mansion on the top of a hill. The walls around its garden were rather high but the trees inside were so much higher that they made it look short. Firooz stopped near a huge metallic door. "Here ve are!" he said."It's de end of the line!"

John and Bob gently got off the car and looked around. There was a uniformed man standing in front of the big metallic gate.

Firooz got out too. "Do you vant me to ask?" he inquired.

"Yes, it may be a good idea," said John.

"Her name is Fereshteh Simaee," said Bob," can you ask if… she is kept here?"

"Yes yes, of-course," said Firooz before he walked to the man guarding the door. John and Bob returned to the car and sat down. "Let him do all the talking," John said. "If they realize that we are foreigners, their expectations will rise sky high."

"What expectations?" asked Bob confused; but John did not answer.

The driver spent some half an hour talking to the man before he returned. "He say der are two hundred girls here," he said as he approached. "He say it is very nice place…like a hotel. Dey have big bed room…big kitchen…good food…English classes and kheili chizaye digeh!" He stopped and explained, "I mean…many many tings. Dey even go on trip to seaside!"

"I wish I could enroll here myself!" said John with a smile. "Are you sure you wan o get your daughter out of here!?"

"Did you inquire about my daughter?" asked Bob looking at the man.

"Your daughter? Yes, I ask. But he don't know!" he said. "The night shift man…may know," he added. "He say that guy go inside to see girls' body from window…at night. He know…if you give him picture."

"It looks like we have to come back here at night time with a photograph," said John with a smile.

"I have her latest photograph with me …in my wallet," said Bob, "But it's the only one."

"Well," said John "we don't have much of a choice. We should give it to them if necessary. We can come here tonight before we return to Tehran. My meeting is at 10 o'clock tomorrow."

They asked the driver to find them a hotel and stay with them until late at night and then take them back to Tehran.

Late in the evening they returned to the place. As they approached the mansion the shadow of a larger vehicle came into sight. It was a bus parked in front of the gate.

Firooz parked his car a hundred feet away and whispered," Please vait, I vill go see vhat is problem!"

Some people could be seen coming and going in the dark."Why don't they turn on the lights in front of the building?" asked Bob."I'm sure they have their own reasons!" said John, "It looks a bit suspicious of-course."

Some minutes later Firooz returned. "The day guardsman is gone," he said. "I talk wid the night one. He say dat some of the girls are going to the nors. They are going swimming at beach."

"Why do they go in the middle of the night?" asked Bob.

"It's cool and der is… no traffic," said Firooz.

"Your daughter may be among them," said John. "If we pay the guardsman some money, he may let us see the girls."

Bob took out his wallet and gave it to John. John picked a few 100 000 Toman bills and gave them to the driver. "See if he can give us a chance to look at them."

Firooz nodded, went back, and returned after a while. "Come to the gate and talk wiz him," he said. "You are his cousin, remember!  You came to visit him…if someone ask. O.k.?"

"Right!" said Bob as he quickly got out of the car.

Now the resonance of the girls' chatter and laughter could be heard from a distance. As Bob approached the bus he could see the girls coming in bunches of two or three together. They all carried small suitcases or sacks with them. It took them about an hour before they were all aboard. When the bus driver turned on the engine, Bob and Firooz returned.

"How did it go?" asked John. "Was she among them?"

"I'm not sure!" said Bob hesitantly. "There was one who looked just like her…but when I called her name and went closer, she did not pay any attention!"

There was a long pause. The bus was now turning to leave the place.

"Maybe she didn't recognize you in the dark," mumbled John then. "Or perhaps…she was too scared to respond!"

"Dey all looked very happy," Firooz said. "Not scared!"

"Yeah," mumbled Bob, "they looked happy all right!" He paused for a second and then added," maybe…she did not want to recognize me! Maybe she …would rather stay with them!"

"I know …de bus driver," said Firooz shaking his head. "Not a …very good person."

"No?" asked John getting curious. "Why not?"

"He carry…opium sometime. Ghachagh! You understand?"

"Good God! Yes!" said Bob suddenly. "What in the hell is he doing here then!?"

"Cool off, man!" said John. "This sort of a thing is not unusual in this country these days. Many drivers do that, I've heard, serving various government organizations. It's their greatest source of income!"

"God!" said Bob again frustrated. "What if …that girl was my daughter… but she was too scared to talk to me!?"

"Hell!" said John in a sudden burst of fury. "Let's go then! Hurry!" he shouted.

"Vhere?" asked Firooz," Should I go to Tehran now!?"

"Hell no!" said John angrily." Chase him! Follow the bus!"

"But…Mr.," said Firooz," he is going to the nort! Very far…avay!"

"To hell with it!" shouted John, "Catch up with him!"

"I thank you very much, sir," said Bob now somewhat cooled off." No need for you to take me. I can go by myself. All we need to do is to catch me another taxi and let me follow the bus on my own. I know you have a very important meeting in the morning!"

"No, no!" said John still edgy, "It's not for you! It's for me! I have to know where this bus is going!"

Firooz turned on the engine. "I go if you vant," he said," But it cost you very very much…"

"It's O.K.," said John loudly, "do you have enough gas?"

"Yes," said the driver now getting excited too, "I filled it when you was resting in hotel!"

"Good!" said John leaning back," just don't lose him."

He then turned to Bob," Please remind me to call my office early in the morning to cancel the meeting."

"O.k." said Bob," I'm really indebted to you for all this…"

"Don't worry about it!" said John.

The bus was now getting out of the city. "Dis is Chalus road," Firooz said after a while," it is very beautiful for you. I saw it many time."

"I've seen it too," said John," I had some business in that city a few years back."

They were now right behind the bus and they could hear the sound of the girls singing in chorus. Some seemed to be dancing in the middle of the bus.

"They seem to be having a good time," said Bob after a while.

"I hope so … for your daughter's sake!" said John.

"You don't vorry sir," said Firooz, "They pass good time!"

Soon they were far ahead of the bus and had to stop for a while so that it could catch up with them. This happened a few times before they passed all the mountains and reached a small town.

"This is Marzanabad, sir," said Firooz in a sleepy voice, "not far avay from Chalus."

"What's Chalus?" asked Bob in an equally sleepy tone.

"It's one of the bigger cities of the province," said John who seemed to be wide awake. "We will soon get to the sea-shore and the bus will have to end its journey."

"Hope so," said Bob trying to keep his eyes open. "It's been more than …three hours."

The bus was now moving very leisurely and they had to slow down. Soon they reached a winding road again and Bob fell asleep.

"You should wake up now," he suddenly heard someone say in his ear, "We are very near our destination. We're at the sea-side."

There were rays of light coming from somewhere. He sat up and looked around. They seemed to be surrounded by tall trees. Through the trees, on his left, he could see dark sea waves rushing forward towards the shore.

"Where are we?" he asked.

"We are beside one of the forest parks of the area. According to the road signs, the bus is approaching the city of …Noor,"

"Oh, God!" exclaimed Bob. "Now I understand what the man meant! He asked if we wanted to go to Karaj orNoor!  'Ya' is the Farsi word for 'or'!"

"How silly of us not to be able to guess!" said John. "Both of us know some Persian. We should've guessed!"

"It's going avay," Firooz suddenly exclaimed a few minutes later.

The bus was actually going off the main road.  Firooz drove to the side of the road and stopped. "If ve go," he said, "they vill understand."

"Understand what!?" said Bob impatiently.

"He means to explain that," said John gently, "since there are no other cars entering that side road, they will notice that we are pursuing them and get suspicious!"

The taxi was now parked on the side of the road from where huge waves could be seen storming the shore.

"This is the Caspian sea," said John," the biggest lake in the world!"

"So what!" said Bob irritably . "We followed them all the way from Karaj, just to lose them here in the forest!"

"No, we're not going to lose them," said John. "There aren't many buses going through that road. We can easily find them. Just be a little patient."

Ten minutes later Firooz got into the taxi and gently drove up the side road. The path was going up a steep hill getting further and further away from the seaside. The driver carefully looked at every little road branching off and finally stopped at a wider one.

"It's here!" he said." I'm sure!"

"How can you be so certain?"  Bob asked.

"I know the area. I came here many time," said Firooz."Bus go to a big villa…here!"

"All right," John said, "let's begin our search from here."

The taxi began moving and slowly entered the paved side-road. There were large gardens or small farms covering both sides. The road led to a high hill and was divided into two. Large villas could be seen all around. Firooz turned left, moved behind a huge hill facing the sea and slowed down.

"Here," he said suddenly pointing to the largest villa in the area. The building was five stories high. Its large garden seemed to expand to the seaside but was surrounded by other gardens and villas. By the side of its gate a green bus was parked."

"God!" exclaimed Bob," Right on the dot! This guy is a genius!"

"Pretty good man," said John," to tell you the truth I did not believe a word of what you said back there. I expected us to be looking for the bus for at least an hour!"

Firooz stopped and parked his car beside a creek. He then got off and began talking as he washed his face. "I've got to go talk to that guy to know vhen he's going back."

"No!" John said, "You'd better not. You should get him to come to you!"

He then turned to Bob. "Did he see you two last night when you went to identify your girl?"

Bob shook his head. "He was inside the building when we went there. And we left just as he came back!"

John turned to Firooz, "You said you know the driver, does that mean that he knows you too?"

"No!" said Firooz," He's an old driver, everybody in Karaj know him. But me nobody know!"

"Good!" said John," then you can ask him questions and find out about the kids!"

Firooz shook his head. John asked him then to put up the car hood and act like the engine was not working. Firooz juggled around with the engine for a while and then put the hood back. "Please push," he said then holding the steering wheel himself and pushing the car at the same time.

John and Bob helped him move the car until it gained momentum. Firooz  stopped it some twenty feet away from the bus , put up the hood and began messing around with the motor again. 

"Komak nemikhay?" asked the bus driver some minutes later walking slowly towards the cab. John and Bob stayed in back of the car.

Soon the bus driver gave Firooz a hand trying to get the car started. No matter what they did, however, the engine did not work. Eventually the bus driver waved to them and walked away.

Firooz came back smiling. "He say he vill help us get a mechanic for the car," he said with a smile.

"What about the girls?" asked Bob, "Did he say anything about them?"

Firooz shrugged his shoulders, and made a grimace, "Yes!" he said, "Dey have a party tonight and anoder tomorrow night. Dey vill go back to Karaj de day after tomorrow!"

"How are they going to go back?" asked John.

"Mojtaba vill take dem,"Firooz said." He vill stay in Noor until den."

"Who the hell is Mojtaba?" asked Bob absentmindedly.

 "It must be the bus driver," Bob explained, "who else?"

"Yeah," said Firooz with a big smile on his lips. "He's goino take us to Noor too, to get a mechanic to fix my car!" He shrugged his shoulders and then added ,"of-course after he kooft his lunch!"

"What's that?" asked Bob a bit confused when John burst out laughing. "Kooft kardan means to gulp down or something like that in Farsi," John explained. 

They sat in the car and waited until the bus driver appeared and motioned to them to get on the bus.

"Why aren't you staying in the villa," John asked the driver through Firooz, his interpreter.

“They didn't ask me," the driver said. "They've got too many guests," he added noticing the shadow of the next question on their faces.

"Isn't the building big enough for thirty girls?" asked John.

"It's not just the girls," the driver said. "They don't need too much room. They just take the third story of the building. It's the other guests that fill the hotel.

"Who are the other guests?" asked Bob.

The driver shrugged his shoulders, "They've told me to…mind my own business. I'm not supposed to tell." 

They were all very quiet for a while and then John coughed and said," Tell him that we know who the other guests are. We just don't know why there are so many of them!"

The driver, however, shrugged his shoulders again and remained quiet.

Then John shook his head and said, "Tell him that we know the guests are Arabs. We just don't know if they are from different Arabic countries or they are all from the Emirates."

"Different countries," the driver said. "Poor girl," he then added sympathetically. "Some of them are crying blood when they come back!"

"Why is that?" asked John in Farsi.

The driver stared at him for a few seconds. "I can only guess," he answered. "No one ever tells me. They just tell me to shut up! I don't even know why so many of the girls don't come back. Or what happens to them afterwards!"

"After what," almost shouted Bob when Firooz translated what the bus driver had said.

"Sorry," the driver was then quoted to have said, "I don't really know what's happening. All I know is that usually about half of the girls that I bring here do not return. Those who come back usually cry like crazy people."

They were now in the middle of the city of Noor. The driver stopped by a car repair-shop for them to get off. He gave them the address of a hotel to go to and left.

They stayed on the sidewalk and waved to him until he was gone.

"O.k.," said Firooz then," The hotel is on dat estreet, near the sea. You go there…I go get my car, o.k.?"

"O.k.," said Bob.

"Not o.k.!" said John more loudly.

Firooz and Bob were now staring at his mouth waiting for him to explain.

"We've got to be near that place to watch for the girls, so we'd better go with you," expounded John.

"But …you got no place to estay…dere, no?" said Firooz a bit confused.

"Don't worry about that now. I'm sure something will come up!" said John before he turned to Bob. "I really believe in fate," he continued. "Look how two and two were put together right from the time we got on the plane! There must be some sort of a providence involved, don't chu think?"

"I don't know," said Bob indifferently," I suppose…”

“Let’s go eat something now,” Bob said. “We can’t think very logically when we are starving!”

They went to a small restaurant across the street and ate some sandwiches without talking much. Then suddenly Firooz disappeared”.

“Where in the Bell did he go?” asked Bob.

“Clever guy!” mumbled John. “He doesn’t waste any time!”

Bob took a look around.

 

 

Firooz was now talking to a taxi driver at the other side of the street

"He doesn't waste any time!" said John.

Soon they were all sitting in a cab going back towards the place where they had left Firooz’s car.

"There's a lot of noise coming from that direction," said John when the taxi driver got his fare and left. "It sounds like there is  a big gang there."

"You've got very sharp ears," said Bob. "I can't hear much of anything."

"This Mr. is right!" said Firooz, "I can hear something too."  He then walked towards his car. "I can take you to cheap hotel on main road," he said as he walked.

"That’s O.k.," said John, "You just do your job, we'll think of something ourselves."

He was now walking in the garden of one of the nearby villas which had a very short fence. "Why don't you join me?" he shouted to Bob as he strolled. The fresh air is wonderful!"

"You go ahead," yelled Bob back. "I'll join you in a minute. Firooz may need my help."

A few minutes later, Firooz put the hood down and turned on the engine. "Stupid guy," he said, "he didn't see what I did!" he added laughing, “Every time he tightened someting…I loosened someting else!" He then touched his own head, "His upstairs… was….empty!"

Bob laughed. "You mean to say that he was absent-minded or something, I suppose, right?"

"Yeah," said Firooz as he turned off the engine."Someting like dat!"

John was walking towards them now with a big smile on his lips. "Come," he said while opening the garden gate wider. "I wano show you something!" He then turned to Firooz who was getting off his car." You come too."

They walked towards the villa with John in the lead. When they got to the door, John bowed and pushed it open. "Here you are," he said, "your private hotel for the next two days, at your service… for free!"

"For God's sake John!" exclaimed Bob, "We can't stay here! We may be arrested for trespassing!"

"Some villas are…empty for many year," said Firooz."Owner live in America,…or Europa  or…Farang!"

"Look at the dust," said John, "No one has lived here for years…!"

"How didju get in!?" asked Bob still confused.

"Fate!" said John emphatically. "I toldju that destiny is cookin up somethin for us! The door opened as soon as I gave it a push. Someone was in too much of a hurry to lock his villa door … at time immemorial!"

"Yes, correct!" confirmed Firooz, "Some villa owner ran away fast after revolution!"

The villa had a huge kitchen with a stinking refrigerator. Thick dust covered everything. Brown water flew out of the tap when they turned it on. The water tank apparently still had some water – many years old.

"Gaz tank has some gaz," said Firooz, we can make some …tea!"

"I have a better idea," said John. "Now that you have had your car fixed, you can drive to the nearest grocery store and buy us food and water for the next two days. You can get some meat too if there's a butcher shop. We can barbeque it in the garden tonight or tomorrow!" he said taking out his wallet. "From here we have a chance to watch those stinking slave-traders too," he added very softly.

"How can you be so sure about all this?" asked Bob after Firooz took the money and left.

John laughed loudly. "I'm not!" he said in between," I'm just putting two and two together to make up a nice detective story for myself to pass the time pleasantly. If we have to wait for two days for the girls to return, we might as well find some way of making it easier on ourselves, right?"

"I'm really ashamed of myself for putting you through all this, though, 'said Bob. "You really didn't have to do it! I feel I'm wasting a lot of your valuable time!"

"Stop worrying about such trivial things, please…!" said John with a big smile." I'm really having good time! I feel I am taking part in one of those games we used to play as children."

Bob shook his head but did not say anything. "Have you seen the bedrooms?" he asked after a while.

"Yes…!"John said. "There are four huge ones. We can all sleep in one of them and…rent the other three!"

They laughed together as they began dusting and cleaning the chairs, tables and the rest of the furniture.

They were both dozing on two of the huge sofas when Firooz returned. "You are lucky humans," he said, "I'm dying from not sleeping!

"You can go to bed right now. Don’t worry about dinner," John said. “We’ll make some nice sandwiches and try to get the electricity and things in order. You need to rest. We will have a lot to do tomorrow.”

"Choose any of the bedrooms you want, "said Bob. “You’d better eat something before you go to bed though. We don’t want you to starve to death before you take us back!”

****

The sun was rising when they woke up one after another. The red image of the sun and its reflection on the sea could be clearly seen from the houses bedrooms. "They were so lucky," said Bob in a sleepy voice," living in such beautiful section of the world.

"Are you talking about your own parents?" asked John still lying on his own bed.

"Yeah, that's who I mean," said Bob, "and the rest of the family."

"I thought," mumbled John, "you said that they were , from Afghanistan!"

Bob nodded several times before he spoke, "It’s getting late,” he said. We should have our breakfast soon if we want to eat outside the building. It may get too warm to eat out there later.  

"The electricity is on too" said John," I fixed it up while you were asleep." He gently got up and added, "But it‘ll be nice if we eat sooner so we can go out there and do…a bit of spying. It’ll be fun!"

They got up and put on their suits. When they went downstairs they heard some noise from the kitchen. "Should I get the barbecue tings ready?" asked Firooz.

"Fine," they said together as they stepped out of the building. “But let’s do it this afternoon or tonight.” Said John, “We wanno eat breakfast and go for a walk.”

"My passport says I'm from Afghanistan," Bob said as they began their stroll after breakfast. "It's safer this way, I've been told. But I was born in Tehran, not Shiraz!" he looked at John and grinned as they walked along.

John nodded understandingly but did not say anything. Soon they were in front of the huge villa. The shadow of some car could be seen from a corner.

"They probably have a large parking lot under the building," John said. He then looked into Bob's eyes, "Do you want to play James Bond for a few minutes?" he asked as he opened the railing back door of the garden and stepped in. Bob followed without thinking.

Immediately a man appeared in green clothes, a gun hanging from his belt. He had come out of a small cabin hidden behind some trees and tall vines. "Inja kari dashtin!?" the man asked looking up at John's face .

"Yes sir," said John, "This is Mr. James Bond, and I am John Holmes. We have come to see the girls. Mr. Yousefi sent us. We are from the Emirates."

The man was now looking directly at John's face narrowing his eyes and rolling his lips. His frowning forehead demonstrated his deep thinking.

"Mr. Yousefi…sent you?" he asked after a few seconds."Vhy vhy vhy?" he stopped and looked at Bob his hand over his revolver.

"I don't know! Said John confidently. "They sent us to Karaj but they said the girls are here already. Haven't they arrived yet?"  He then took out his cell-phone, "I must call him and ask him why he sent us here. "He dialed a number and turned to the man, "This is the wrong place you say? The girls are not here?"

The man shook his head, "No! Yes, they are here…no wrong place!"

"O.k. then," said John, "Where are they? Can you show us the way?"

"No, no! I can't," the man said, "You must ask Mostafa."  He then shouted, "Floor 2!" as they walked on.

"Thank you!" John shouted back.

"You are playing with fire!" mumbled Bob his face pale as a dead man's. "These people are dangerous! All we wanted to know was whether my daughter was here or not!"

"Yes," said John nodding his head, "But do you think they would tell us that? What if she were here and she never came back!? Remember what the bus driver said? Only about half of them return each time… after they are raped repeatedly, probably!"

Bob was now looking for a place to sit down. "Oh God!" he said rather loudly." How could…"

"Don't do that!" John ordered firmly. "The man is following us!"

They walked leisurely to the building corner and turned. John walked towards the seaside and took a long breath. Bob did the same. Then they gently turned around and came back. The man was standing about twenty feet away from the corner of the building

"Mostafa you said?" shouted John.

"Yes, sir," the man yelled back.

"Thank you…," howled John.

The man turned around and began walking back. They waited until he reached his hidden cabin.

As John had predicted, there was a large parking lot standing about five feet above the ground. There were about fifteen brand new cars and a large ambulance parked in it. A heavily paved driveway went up to the parking area, and a short flight of stairs lead to three elevators.

As their elevator door opened at the first floor, a large number of tables and chairs and a huge bar came into view. A wide back door opened into what could be a kitchen. A number of young women and some men were sitting at some of the tables eating and talking. A girl'sscream-like laughter could be heard as the door closed. 

The second floor consisted of a wide open area divided into sections separated by glass doors and windows. Desks, chairs, shelves and computers could be seen all around. A number of men were coming and going. A few men wearing Arabic outfit stepped in the elevator.

John and Bob got off the third floor and walked around in its hallway and then went up the stairs to the fourth. The third and the fourth levels looked very much alike. They seemed to be made up of hotel-like suites and apartments. The only noticeable difference between the two was that the third seemed to be filled with women and the fourth with men.

As they were walking down the stairs from the third floor a uniformed man going up stared at them and stopped half way. "Do you need any help, gentlemen?" asked the man loudly in English

"Yes, sir, we do!" said John stopping. "We are looking for two beautiful young girls, one named Fereshteh  Simaee , and the other Sima Beigi. Do you happen to know which room they stay in?"

The man scratched his head. "Vhy… do you not ask…de office, sir?"

"We asked," said John, "but they couldn't find them. There's something wrong with the computer… or something!"

The man shook his head. "It happen all the time, sir. Electricity go off many time." He began to leave but stopped again. "You know," he said," they don't have family name. Only first given name. I know two Fereshteh. One vent flyin last mont, and one sent back. "He then curved his lips as if ready to kiss someone, "dey vere bot fuckin beautiful!" He winked at them and continued walking up.

"We have to check with the office," said John softly.

"God!" said Bob. "That's too damned risky!"

"Well, we don't have a choice!" said John. He stopped climbing down the stairs, thought for a while and then added, "I tell you what! We separate here. You go sit in the restaurant of the first floor, eat or drink something and wait. I'll go to the office and inquire. If I don't come back in half an hour, pay your bill, walk out of the building, calmly say goodbye to the guardsman at the door and… run fast! O.k.?"

Bob shook his head." I'm not that much of a coward!" He coughed and then added, "I'll go downstairs and wait for twenty minutes. If you don't show up by that time, I'll come back up and look for you!"

John bent his head to one side and raised his eyebrows, "Suit yourself!" he said, "Only, please let me have that picture of your daughter."  He began to walk towards the door of the second floor as soon as he got the photograph.

Bob went to the bar of the first floor and ordered himself a large pitcher of beer. It had been a while since he had last had a chance to drink his favorite beverage and he began pouring it in as soon as it arrived.

His cell-phone which was placed in front of him showed that seven minutes had passed. "Thirteen minutes left," he told himself as he took a large sip. Now fifteen minutes had passed. Five more minutes and he had to go. "Five, five, five, five, "he kept repeating and drinking. The time was up now and he still had a third of the pitcher to go. "He said I had half an hour," he told himself, "so it doesn't matter if I go a little later!"

He stuck his cell-phone in his pocket and stood up. He had already paid and he didn't have to worry about anything. He picked up the jug and began pouring the rest of it in. He cleaned his lips when it was all finished. He sat down for a few more minutes to let all the beer to be absorbed by his body.

"I'll kill the son-of-the bitches if they don't give me my daughter back!" he told himself. "I should've brought that big machine gun I bought last year with me," he thought, "Then I could fuck' m all up! All of them!!"

He tried to stand firm in his place and then walked quickly to the elevator.

"You need any help, sir?" asked a young boy in uniform.
"No thanks, my boy!" said Bob as he burped. "Just let me off on the second floor."

-Yes, sir!

When he got off, he went straight to the big office in front of him and looked around. There was no sign of John. He sat down on an arm-chair.

"May I help you?" asked a young man standing behind one of the desks. Bob was getting himself ready to say something when he heard John's voice and then saw him coming out of the office next door.

When John saw Bob he walked straight to him. He was not followed by anyone. Bob was somewhat relieved. He did not have to get into a fight with them right away.

 John was smiling but frowning at the same time.

"How in the hell can he do that!?" Bob thought.

John came forward and sat next to him. "I'm sorry," he said," We've come a bit late. They've both been sold already!”

"Who sold …who…what?" Bob heard himself say.

"I wish you hadn't got yourself so drunk!" John said. "We really have a big problem here!"

"O.k.!" said Bob loudly. "Let's solve the problem!" He was practically shouting.

A middle-aged man came out of the office, from the same direction John had come. "What's the problem?" he asked.

"The problem is that," answered John standing up "our dealer here is …drunk! He may cause trouble and….."

The man said, "O.k. see what he wants and let me know!" He turned around and went back into the office.

John sat down again. "They have already sold your daughter and my client's and they want a lot more money to buy 'em back."

"Fuck 'em!" shouted Bob.

"O.k., o.k.!" said John softly "you take it easy now. We have to keep this very quiet and do what's necessary… before it's too late!"

"How much do the bastards want?" shouted Bob .

"Fifty million for each," whispered John.

"No!" shouted Bob. 'Thirty! No more! If they want more…fuck 'em!"

The man ran out of his office and made a sign to John."O.k., o.k.," he said, "Keep him quite! Bring your credit card quickly!"

"Do you have your card with you?" John whispered in Bob's ear.

"Yes," Bob whispered back. "It's in my wallet. Take it out. My security code number is 1939. Don't tell anybody! You understand!?"

"Yes yes," said John hastily "I won't tell anybody!"

Bob had been snoring for some time when John came back and shook him. "You’d better wake up quickly! It's time to go!" he said nervously, "I've told them to arrange a car for us to get out of here. Get your ass up! We've got to go now! Firooz is waiting!"

"You son-of –a bitch!" mumbled Bob "I was just closing my eyes for a minute! What in the hell is your hurry for!?"

"You can sleep in the car," said John softly helping another man to pick up and carry Bob to the elevator. Two young men in uniform helped them and they rapidly went to a car waiting for them in front of the parking lot.
"Hi dad," said someone sitting inside as Bob entered the back side of the car. Before he could get himself comfortably seated, the vehicle moved and went gently around the building. The gate was wide open with the gunman standing beside it. The car swiftly move out of the garden and went up the main road all the way to the intersection where they all disembarked the black car to board Firooz's taxi.

"I tought you has one daughter," Firooz  said with wide open eyes."Did you buy this pretty one for yourself?"

"You talk too much, Firooz," said John. "Mind your business and stick to  your driving! We still have a long way to go!"

"Okee dokee," said Firooz. He cleaned his nose and as he entered the main road going to the freeway said, "I vish I could buy one too. It's too expensive to marry one!"

 He then turned to John who was sitting next to him, "Swear to your mother's grave, tell me, how much did she cost you!"

"You silly man!" said John in an exhausted voice." I came all the way down here risking my life to make a little money to feed my family. I didn't come here to buy a slave!"

The car was going quite fast now. The highway was wide and rather deserted.

"You mean…" started Firooz again, "you mean to say that somebody pay you to buy him slaves… to feed your family?"

"No, sir!" said John somewhat annoyed, "I'm just a poor international detective! I get paid to help people all around the world! That girl's daddy hired me to find and rescue her daughter and I did it…with the aid of this drunken man sleeping in the back. Fate had helped me discover that he had the same problem as I did, so I placed myself on the seat next to him on the plane to use him as a lead; and fate helped me follow the whole thing through along with him!"

 He stopped to catch his breath and then added, "I'm sure glad we got here in the nick of time to save both girls! I just hope that we can now get them safely … out of the country."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Herman Azadi. All rights reserved.

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