(Usman has disappeared and is feared kidnapped. Ron Cooper is on assignment in Pakistan as an under cover agent helping Usman’s family find him. Ron’s cover is that he serves as a consulting engineer for Usman and Amna’s father. At Amna’s insistance, she and Ron go to Afhanistan looking for Usman. Ron is disguised as a native driver. Along the way they meed Shauna, Usman’s fiancee, When Amna sees Mohammed Ali go past on the street, she and her companions rush to follow him in the hopes he would lead them to his cigarette smuggling operation. Amna suspects that Usman’s disappearance is linked to Mohammed’s cigarette smuggling ring.)
A few steps outside the computer shop, Amna, Ron and Shauna took cover behind a large cage of live chickens. Mohammed Ali continued to stroll down the street, apparently unaware that he was being followed.
Ron and the two girls did their best not to be conspicuous, but made their progress in short dashes from one shop to the next, finding cover where they could in groups of people or behind merchandise.
Near the edge of the village, Mohammed slowed as though waiting for something. “I do hope he hasn’t seen me,” said Amna as the three looked at the freshly died cloth hanging on a clothes line on the edge of the street. A man nearby was boiling more cloth in an iron kettle.
“It was you who rushed after him,” hissed Shauna. By now a second man, probably the brother of the man dying cloth, had finished making a sale and turned his attention to Shauna and Amna. Shauna pointed to a piece of cloth and asked the price in the local dialect.
A battered pickup truck eased through the pot holes in the street, Amna said softly in English, “That truck has Pakistani plates. It is registered in Lahore.”
One of Mohammed Ali’s men hailed the truck, and it backed up to a small building.
“Don’t you think this red and white shawl will match the fire in your eyes when you marry Mohammed?” Shauna said in English as though recommending the cloth to Amna. “It would appear that he is loading the truck with cigarettes from that building.”
The cloth dyer seemed pleased as he and Shauna haggled over the prices of several pieces of cloth. Loading of the truck continued across the street. Eventually Shauna ended the negotiations with a firm shake of her head and she beckoned to her companions to walk with her around behind a building near by. “When they are finished loading that lorry, we must look in that building. I am sure that Usman is there,” she said.
Amna replied, “How do you know Usman is there?”
“Well, I guess I do not really know, but it seems highly probable that he is being held captive in that building.”
Eventually the men finished loading the truck and drove off leaving behind Mohammed Ali and his two companions. They walked slowly down the street to a merchant who sold tea and cakes out of a primitive sidewalk cafe without tables or chairs, only benches.”
Ron and the girls snuck around to the back of the building from which the truck had been loaded.
Shauna rushed to a window and said in a low voice, “Usman, Usman my love.”
With a bound, the Usman was at the window. Iron bars secured the widow, but that did not stop Shauna from pushing her face far enough through the bars to kiss Usman, nor did the bars stop Usman from reaching through to caress Shauna’s hair.
Ron pulled the small knife from the bandage on his arm and began working at the screws holding the iron bars. Amna found a strong stick. The two girls used the stick as a lever to apply pressure to the bars.
Suddenly a menacing voice said, “Amna, my dear, how nice of you to visit me here in Afghanistan. Come inside out of the hot sun.” Mohammed Ali and one of his men were standing at the corner of the building.
Amna turned to run, but Mohammed’s other companion was standing behind her. He immediately grabbed Amna’s arm.
Mohammed himself took the knife from Ron and threw a coin to the small boy who stood behind him. The boy bowed and scrambled away. Mohammed lead the group into the building through the front door.
Inside, he unlocked a strong door. At Mohammed’s command, his companions pushed Ron and Shauna into the room where Usman stood, but Mohammed took Amna by the arm and lead her the other way saying, “Come my beloved. Let’s go into the office where we can have some privacy.”
Usman lunged at the door saying, “I’ll kill you with my bear hands if you touch my sister,” but the door slammed in his face.
Shauna hugged Usman and they whispered endearments to each other in a language Ron could not understand. After a few minutes. Usman let go of Shauna and began pacing the floor.
Ron said,”Relax. Mohammed has gone to so much trouble to blackmail your father into giving him Amna that I doubt he will harm her. Perhaps the first child will be a little premature, but pregnancy will come eventually to Amna unless your father can find a way to back out of the marriage contract.”
“That is why I am here. I have been investigating Mohammed’s smuggling ring and turning the evidence over to the authorities in the hopes they would put Mohammed in jail. If Mohammed were in jail, the blackmail would be ineffective. By the way, who are you to be talking this way.”
“I am Ron Cooper in disguise.”
“Mr. Cooper, is that really you?”
“Yes, I came to help search for you. Amna found cigarettes in your room and thought you were smuggling cigarettes.”
“That was evidence against Mohammed, but it was not enough. The customs people kept wanting more evidence so last week I tried to follow Mohammed. I was expecting him to lead me to his source, but Mohammed trapped me.”
“They did raid Mohammed’s warehouse in Lahore.”
“So I heard. That’s why they had to make an extra shipment today, but obviously Mohammed did not get arrested.”
Usman paced back and forth, uttering threats toward Mohammed. To distract him, Ron asked, “So were you also investigating the smuggling of chocolate?”
“No, but I could not pass up the good deal I found on foreign chocolates. Both Shauna and Amna love chocolate so.” Usman resumed his pacing and then added, “My poor little sister. I cannot stand the thought of what that goat might be doing to Amna.”
Ron also worried about what might be happening in Mohammed’s office.
(to be continued)
The next installment will be posted in about 3 weeks.