As the soldiers dropped me in front of my building days later, I could only be thankful that I was alive. When dealing with someone like Mahmoud, you had to keep your wits about you. I think that I had angered him with my farce of a story about the relationship, but if you were to ask around, the story was true to a point. It just wasn’t the commandant’s daughter.
Over a hundred hours of interrogation, and I truly understood why this man was so feared in the intelligence business. I held my ground and didn’t give anything up, which infuriated him even more. Nor had he been able to disprove my story at all.
I crawled up the stairs to my flat and pulled myself through an already open door. The flat looked like a tornado had gone through it. Someone had been looking for information while the Major had me shackled to that chair. I didn’t care any longer. I needed to gather all my papers and get to the embassy so that I could be couriered out. I knew there would be soldiers standing guard outside the building to follow me wherever I went. I could not be let back into the embassy because that was diplomatic ground and I was untouchable there.
I kicked the door shut behind me and moved to the kitchen with the little energy that I had left in my body. I needed to get word to my handlers that the operation had been compromised. Since they had taken the phone and my diary, I knew they were looking for more information and could come back at any moment.
Damn it! How could they make a mistake like this on my records? That stupid clerical error on a file could have gotten me killed.
I pulled a linoleum tile back from the floor and opened the compartment that I had made in my first days in Tehran. I had a cell phone, new passport and cash just in case I was compromised. There was also a first aid kit.
Quickly, Kamal, quickly, I kept telling myself. I didn’t know what the Major had planned next, nor did I want to find out. I ripped open the bandages and cleaner in my kit and tended to the wounds, doing my best to make myself presentable so that I would not draw attention in the market as I headed to the embassy. At some point, I stopped and thought, that’s good enough. I have to move. I grabbed a needle out of the kit and jammed it into my thigh. Something to dull the pain.
Grabbing my passport, cell phone and the money out of the compartment, I went for the door just as I heard footsteps and voices outside. Shit! Too long.
Out the window onto the fire escape I went, careful to close the window behind me. “Leave nothing that might explain your escape route,” my tactical instructor had said during exercises. I made my way up the building hoping that no one below me would look up. I wanted to duck into a flat, hopefully empty because it was the middle of the day. About four floors up, I found one that looked promising.
As I stepped inside the window, the place looked empty. I could hide out here for a few hours but there was no way that I could stay any longer than that. I was wrong on both counts. I was closing the window stealthily when, out of the bathroom, a woman wearing nothing more than a towel emerged.
I think there was silence because we were both stunned to find the other there. Her more so since it was her flat. I moved swiftly towards her, covering her mouth before she could scream and she gave me a lovely bite on the hand.
Ah, fuck! I jerked my hand away as I bit back a yell. I knew any noise would bring soldiers to the door.
“Listen, don’t scream. I am Pakistani and the security forces are after me. They think I am a spy. I need your help. Please don’t scream. They’re downstairs.”
She ripped herself out of my hold, made a dash to the phone laying on the table and dropping her towel in the commotion.
“Pakistani,” she screamed at me. “You don’t look Pakistani. You look like those Persian dogs that like to ogle me in the market,” grabbing the phone from the table. Her screaming was familiar, and I suddenly recognized her: the girl from the café! Dammit, I had to find the least friendly person in the city to hole up with, didn’t I?
“I swear to you I am Pakistani,” holding out my passport as proof, “Please be quiet otherwise I will be tortured again.”
“That seems to be your problem. I have done nothing wrong,” she barked as she glared at me, not realizing the towel was on the ground between us.
“Correction, madam. I am in your flat. You are wearing well… nothing,” as I motioned to her naked body. “And it will take me a matter of seconds to strip down and wrap myself in a towel.”
She looked down realizing that she was exposed and made a dash for the room on the other side of the hall.
Come on, I thought to myself, can’t you see that I have already had the shit kicked out of me? Does all this running around help my injuries?
I dove across the sofa and tackled her to the ground, covering her mouth again with my hand, wincing in pain from the collision. “Don’t bite me again. It was not fun for me the first time and it will not be fun for you this time!” I said to her firmly.
She cowered under the weight of my body.
“I really don’t want to be here. I just need a place to hide for a little while—just until the soldiers leave. I promise that I am not going to hurt you. I just need you to cooperate. Can you do that?”
She nodded her head as the first tears started to roll out of her eyes.
“Look there is no reason to cry. You can go and get dressed. I just need you to promise that you will not call anyone and will not scream. Can you do that?”
She nodded her head again, as I handed her back the towel and she scurried to the bedroom and locked the door. I collapsed in a heap, tired and drained.
Part II will be posted on Thursday.