Hadiza walked in whistling the song Aisha.
“You refused to eat my fried rice Rose?” said Hadiza and made a grimace.
“Aww! Your uncle and I got talking about some important stuff but now I must eat it all before I open this big mouth of mine again to talk, do you have it with you?” asked Rose as she began to eat the food served to her.
“Yes, it’s right here,” said Hadiza as she pulled out a sheet of paper and was about to read it.
“Give us a minute Hadidi!” Junaid interrupted.
“Come on, let her read it. This can wait!” said Rose.
Hadiza looked sad and said, “But uncle Junaid, she agreed to help me with my…”
“Please Hadidi, this is very important.” he interposed.
Hadiza walked out hesitantly.
“When you saw my name tag back at the hospital, you looked petrified. Can you tell me why?” Junaid asked.
“It was nothing, I was just… perplexed. I thought you’d attack me too.” she answered.
“Hmm, okay!” he responded as he walked out of the room. Few minutes later he came back with a photo, sat down gently on the bed close to her right foot and passed it to her.
“Your family?” she asked.
“Yes, Fatimah and my beloved daughter Halima,” he answered, “Some years back, my wife and daughter went to the local market to make some purchase. It was my birthday, Halima was just a year older and they wanted to surprise me I guess. I told her not to bother, asked her to wait until we have enough money to celebrate but Fatimah just couldn’t stop being Fatimah. So she and Halima went to the market maybe to buy me some present, who knows.” he sighed, “…the most unfortunate thing was, your government believed it has finally located Ahmed Al Tufail, the one man they believed was the mastermind behind the terrorist attack on their Embassy in Nigeria three years ago, so they sent one of their drones. Fatimah and Halima were in the opposite shop.”
Rose forced words out saying, “I am so sorry. I may not understand how deep it hurts you but I…”
“What have they done wrong?” asked Junaid as tears rolled down his cheeks, “and you…why did you lie to me? You are no tourist. You are just another terrorist! You were after the Doctor as well. We knew your government wanted him dead too. Your cowboys came riding their iron horses rattling their venomous tail with their hellish sound of democracy; all they do is steal, kill and destroy our lands. They are men just like us, and we must take back what belongs to us!” as he wiped the tears from his eyes, “…the brotherhood suspected the Doctor of being a spy recruited by your government, he was a traitor to his own people. Question was, why did they want him dead?”
“What do you mean by, ‘why did they want him dead?” Rose asked.
“The explosions…that was not the handwork of the brotherhood! They did plan to attack the hospital that day but only to kidnap the doctor in order to gather some information from him. Who else wanted him dead?” said Junaid.
“Are you saying the American government blew the hospital?” she asked.
“Are you saying that you don’t believe you can be expendable?” he replied.
“I don’t follow!” Rose replied.
“The one who took over the leadership after Ahmed Al Tufail was also killed that day at the hospital!” he said.
Rose kept quiet for some time pondering what might have gone down back at the hospital.
“We know who you work for! Ever since the day you landed, the brotherhood already got informed,” said Junaid, “It so happened that they didn’t tell me they were coming to kidnap the doctor that same day. They made that decision after I’ve left for my day’s job.”
“You knew I was coming to the hospital that day?” she asked.
“I didn’t, but the brotherhood knew. They were informed! So they wanted to use one stone to kill two birds!” he added, “We know you work for the CIA! Your photo was circulated around the city to all the brotherhood since the day you arrived,” said Junaid, “Someone wanted you off the radar as well!” as he walked towards the window and sat on the sill bending his head down.
“Why didn’t you let them kill me?” she asked.
“I don’t know! I really don’t know!” he responded, “When I first saw you in that elevator I just could not believe my eyes!”
“I don’t understand!” she said.
“Your eyes, just like Fatimah! I had to compose myself so as not to scare you!” he replied, stood to his feet and walked to the centre of the room.
After a long thought, Rose lowered her head down watching her palms, “Your name came sixth to Ahmed Al Tufail on the most wanted list. Few months ago an American drone operator and his family got murdered in cold blood in Nairobi while on vacation and we got Intel that you were behind the attack. Not only was he one of the best drone operators, he was also the first son of an American diplomat. The government had to do something when they realised that your people went about killing the men they believed were drone operators. The Ghazis have killed nothing less than seventeen men in cold blood with their families!” said Rose.
“They killed my family. Tit for tat! They took away Fatimah, and my Halima,” he wept, “They destroyed the lives of many innocent people, their hearts must be hung on the gates of hell!” he protested.
“Murphy did not kill your family, you took vengeance on the wrong man in Nairobi Junaid.” said Rose in a calmed voice, “Some months ago we discovered a plot by some prominent Middle-Eastern men to kill all known drone operators. They paid a huge sum to some mole at the agency and a list of names and addresses was given to the Ghazis. My best friend was the lead investigator but he disappeared some months back in Kirkuk and never heard of or from again! He believed it was an inside job. However, he left something tangible behind,” said Rose, “I contacted Doctor Abbas Hassan; he promised me that if I can come here, he would give me something that would help me crucify the culprits. I purposely came to Mosul to see the doctor in order to secretly interview him, the agency doesn’t really know the main objective of my coming here…well, I guess. I also have a reason to believe that a prominent American businessman known as John D. Watson is the middleman who…”
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care about your stupid investigation. Vengeance says; crush the ones who intentionally hurt you and bring an end to the reign of the wicked who showed no mercy to you or your loved ones!” Junaid interrupted.
“Look Junaid, I am sorry about your family, but you of all people should understand that what happened to them was an accident. My friend believed that some elites secretly and indirectly funded these operations and it is my duty to bring them to justice,” she exclaimed.
“An accident? Huh? And what about the rest of the innocent people within the radius of your merciless arsenal? How dare you call a premeditated assault an accident?” he responded furiously, “…and that is supposed to make everything okay!? Accident!? I will tell you what an accident looks like; the existence of your nation,” he said angrily as he spat on the floor.
Hadiza walked into the room smiling, covering her face with a sheet of paper, “Uncle Junaid, can I come in now?” she asked.
Junaid sighed then forced a smile out saying, “Yes Hadidi! You may come in!”
“Can I read it now Rosy?” asked Hadiza as she walked in.
“Sure, I am all ears sweet angel. Let’s hear it.” answered Rose.
“Promise you won’t laugh?” said Hadiza.
“Scout’s honour!” Rose hollered as she held up three fingers.
Hadiza stood close to the bed and smiled, then opened the sheet of paper she held,
“Peace cannot be purchased with war, for peace is priceless.
Peace calls on forgiveness to be served to those who hate you seemingly for no just cause, thus becoming what your enemies can never be; a vessel of love and light that shines through the dark times.
Peace is a torch that is fuelled by blood of the innocent
It is the heart bound with a hot barbwire that continues to beat even when immersed in a furnace of injustice.
We can say men are all the same but a man reflects what he is made up of; light or darkness!
The choice is yours to make; the light sword or the heavy torch, one of these two a man must take.
The path to peace may be filled with thorns of cruelty for Peace asks the prey to embrace the predator.
However, its destination yields the sweetest fruit that heals and turns the victim into the victor.
Peace shall piece through the hungry drums of war, for light has conquered darkness!” read Hadiza.
“Oh my God!” Rose exclaimed as she clapped excitedly, “You actually wrote that?”
“Yeah!” said Hadiza as she nodded smiling, “But I know it requires some correction!?”
“Wow that’s very touching! I have told you several times Hadidi; words cannot stop bullets nor can it turn wicked men from darkness and unto the path of light! Junaid scoffed.
“I love it Hadiza, I think it’s one of the most beautiful speeches I have heard so far!” said Rose looking to see if Hadiza would smile.
“Kill-joy!” said Hadiza as she walked out looking sad.
“She is naive, a girl whose heart is yet to fathom the depth of cruelty in this world,” said Junaid, “She needs to know the truth before she gets older!”
“You didn’t have to be harsh on her! I think she sounds like someone who have already encountered the light! Let her grow up! She is just a little girl!” said Rose, “I just admire her! Hope for a better world in such innocent eyes. What about her parents? Where are they?” Rose asked.
“They died when she was two! Would you like to know how they got killed too?” asked Junaid.
“Look, I am sorry if my presence reminds you of so many bad things that happened to your loved ones!” Rose said, “Why did you save me if you hate us this much?”
“I hate no one, I don’t hate you nor your people. I just despise…”
“Americans?” asked Rose.
“Your nation! It is nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing! I have made it my duty to strip the skin off of the wolf!” said Junaid.
Hadiza ran into the room looking frightened and spoke to Junaid in Arabic, he then told her to stay in the room and not come out as he walked out and shut the door behind him.
Hadiza looked scared as she stood next to the bed, Rose held Hadiza’s hand firmly.
“Is everything okay? Are you alright?” asked Rose.
Hadiza turned and made a gesture to Rose to stay quiet. The girls could hear what was happening in the living room, they could hear Junaid talking to some men.
“What’s going on? What are they saying?” whispered Rose.
Hadiza seemed afraid as she translated softly, “Brother Junaid, we were told some traitor brought the American woman and is probably harbouring her in the neighbourhood, so we have informed the rest of the brothers. They should be here in the next ten minutes or less, gear up, we are going for a manhunt and whoever gave a safe haven to that infidel, would be sent to hell along with her.” she held Rose’s hand firmly as she continued in a low tone, “Don’t worry, uncle Junaid will not tell them anything!” she turned and stared into Rose’s eyes trying to reassure her, “God will protect us, He always does!”
Rose gave a weak smile.
“Why didn’t you tell me the truth? I saw your picture on TV, but uncle Junaid told me that you are innocent and that once your leg heals, you will leave and he made me promise to keep this a secret.” added Hadiza.
Rose could not say a word, captivated by the innocence in Hadiza’s eyes at the same time her attention was on the conversation between Junaid and the men that came to see him.
Minutes later the men left, the girls could hear Junaid lock the main entrance. He walked in a hurry and shut the window in the room.
Junaid went under the bed where Rose was lying and pulled out a big wooden box, from it he took a machete, placed it on the floor then brought out an AK47, “When this is all over, I’d like to hear you explain to this little girl what her beloved cousin did and why she deserved to be killed by your government. Your cartridge? Check under the pillow, in case things get worse,” he said to Rose, “Hadidi, go to Grandfather’s house and stay there until I come to pick you up.”
“Wouldn’t she be safer here at your place?” asked Rose.
“But I want to stay here with Rosy!” Hadiza insisted.
Junaid shouted at Hadiza in Arabic, and she walked out crying.
“You stay here and do not make any sound, if you want to live,” said Junaid.
“I still think you should let her stay here with me,” said Rose.
Junaid gazed at Rose, “People with big mouth should learn to keep it shut! Okay Rose Green?” he added as he pushed the wooden box back under the bed.
Rose heard the sound of a chopper approaching from afar, Junaid stopped what he was doing, he looked a bit confused as his cell phone rang.
“Hello!” said Junaid as he picked, “Hello?”
No one answered so he hung up and ran out of the room with the Ak47 as he banged the door behind him. Immediately he got out Rose heard some men shouting in Arabic followed by gun fire as the sound of the chopper got louder. She remained quiet as her heart pounded.
For about fifteen minutes, there was exchange of gunshots and she had no idea what was going on outside. She could not move her leg. Rose started to shiver on the bed, and then the shootings stopped.
Women and children in the neighbourhood were heard screaming and some crying accompanied by the rotor sound from the chopper which seemed to be hovering above the neighbourhood in circles.
Rose quickly put her hand around her back and felt the cartridge, loaded her pistol and aimed at the entrance to the room as the chopper moved away from the rooftop of the house, she could hear someone crash the main entrance to the house down.
“Clear!” said a man’s voice.
Rose got scared and started sweating, she cocked her pistol as footsteps approach the room where she was hiding. She heard a gunshot, and another.
“Clear!” said the voice again.
As she waited patiently, the window came crashing in as someone tied to a rope broke through and quickly pointed a gun at her.
“Put down the weapon! Easy! Easy!” said the man.
Rose’s body was shaking as she slowly turned to her left towards the position the man stood.
“U.S marines! We are here to take you home ma’am!” said the man.
Rose gently placed the pistol on her thigh, sighed and felt a bit relieved as the marine’s uniform got more visible to her.
“She is here, she’s okay!” shouted the marine.
Five men came through the door and in no time brought in a stretcher and carefully laid Rose on it.
They moved her out of the room, through the living room where she noticed Junaid lying lifeless in another room. Rose sighted many dead bodies of young men on the ground as they moved through the compound. The soldiers carried her on the stretcher toward a Humvee packed outside as the chopper came hovering over; there were about six Humvees waiting with more soldiers on guard. By the time the marines took her outside the compound she saw an old woman weeping in the streets not far from Junaid’s residence; the old woman was holding Hadiza’s corpse as the wind blown by the rotors blew the sheet of paper off her hand and into the skies. Rose began to sob.
The soldiers pushed the stretcher into a Humvee and shut the doors.
“X-RAY Two-Three, THIS IS ALPHA One-Two, RADIO CHECK! Over?” said one of the marines in the front.
“ALPHA One-Two, THIS IS X-RAY Two-Three, I READ YOU 5 BY 5, Over!” replied a voice over the radio.
“Operation SRG, mission accomplished! Returning to base, Over?” said the marine.
“Say again, Over?” responded the voice over the radio.
“Operation SRG mission accomplished. Returning to base! Over?” the marine repeated.
“Copy that soldier! Is the cat still breathing? Over?” said the voice over the radio.
“Affirmative! Over?” answered the marine.
“Good! You boys go ahead and gulp as much whiskey as you can down the base, drinks on me! Out!” came the response.
“WILCO!” answered the marine as the Humvees zoomed off.
Rose closed her eyes and could not hold her tears from falling.