Excerpt from the first draft MS for PIRATES (Cutting Edge Press) © Greg Cummings
Brandishing a baseball bat like an exclamation mark, Mehemet Abdul Rahman eased open the large, brass-studded, Zanzibar door to his house and stepped into the dead of night. Against this stretch of the Somali coastline the Indian Ocean was windless and hushed, gently beating the shore beyond the perimeter of his compound. Apart from his wife, children and servants asleep indoors, there was not another soul for miles in either direction. Nothing stirred, though he was certain he’d heard something. A trespasser, someone who was presently hiding in the mottled shadows of twisted juniper, palm and aloes draped across his garden.
He held his baseball bat with both hands, as though expecting a sudden curve ball from an unseen pitcher, all the while knowing it was of little use against an assassin armed with an AK-47. There was a loaded .38 snub nose tucked into the back of his pajamas, but he believed he stood a better chance if he appeared unarmed to the intruder. He would duck and roll out of the line of fire the instant he heard a charging handle being released.
Although in his mid fifties Mehemet was in good physical shape, well-built, of medium height, and with a full head of dark hair. As he crept through the shadows, his distinct Roman nose caught the gleam of his garden lights, though it was his sense of hearing he was most relying on. A twig snapped. He dropped the bat, reached around, grabbed his pistol, released the safety and aimed it at the shadows. “Who is it? Who goes there?”
“Mehemet,” came a frightened voice, “It is I, Abdu Takar.” An elderly, lanky, bearded man with his hands raised above his turban stepped into the light. Mehemet recognised him at once as one of the Majeerteen elders to whom his wife deferred during clan disputes.
“Abdu?” cried Mehemet, replacing his gun into the back of his pajamas, “What the hell are you doing creeping around outside my house in the middle of the night?”
“I’ve come to warn you, my friend. You are in very grave danger. Assassins are on their way from the Yemen to kill you. You must leave Puntland this very night.”
“Who told you this?”
“That’s not important. We know it to be reliable information. Al-Qaeda fighters are on their way here now by boat from the Arabian Peninsula, with the intention of killing you.”
As a naturalized American who had lived for the past decade and a half in Puntland, Somalia’s semi-autonomous state, no one was more aware than Mehemet Abdul Rahman of the radical elements on both sides of the Gulf of Aden that had begun infiltrating the region. He was the infidel in their midst, an obstacle to their unscrupulous designs. Mehemet turned back towards the house, but Abdu caught him by the shoulder. “You cannot fight them, my friend. You must leave.”
“I must protect my wife and children!”
“It is you they want. We will see to it Khadija and the children are protected.” Mehemet pulled himself away from Abdu and went straight back into his house to where his wife lay sleeping in their bed.
“Khadija,” he whispered, gently stroking her coffee-coloured hair that was spread out across her pillow like a splash. “Khadija. Wake up.” She stirred, turned slowly to gaze at her husband with a smile. Mehemet turned on the bedside lamp and Khadija squinted in the sudden burst of light.
“What is it, my love?” she croaked.
“You’ve got to go, Khadija,” he said.
Her Somali features were childish - full lips, doe eyes, elfin nose - but as she became aware of what he was saying, they quickly formed into a frown. “Go where?” she asked.
“It’s not safe here,” said Mehemet opening the cupboard where he kept his M-60 assault rifle. He hesitated upon seeing the weapon but grabbed an already packed black duffel bag instead, into which he stuffed his pistol.
She sat bolt upright. “I don’t understand...”
“You and the children must get away from Bender Siyaada tonight,” he said, quickly changing into a black sweater and black jeans. “Abdu Takar is here to take you to safety.”
“Abdu? Here?” asked Khadija leaping from her bed and frantically searching for her own clothes. “Tell me who, Mehemet? Who is after us?”
“Abdu will explain everything to you,” he said, heading for the living room. “C’mon, there’s no time to waste.” A few minutes later, a confused Khadija and her four children, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes, were fully clothed and gathered at the front door. Mehemet turned off all the lights while Abdu and the servants began ushering them outside into the humid blackness. Mehemet clutched the shoulders of his eldest boy and said “You are in charge now, Nadif.”
“What about you?” asked Khadija, turning in desperation to her husband, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
“I have to make my own way,” said Mehemet solemnly, “without you.”
“But Mehemet…” she cried.
“Forgive me, my love, but it has to be this way. I must leave Somalia tonight, alone.”
The tears began to roll from her beautiful eyes. “When will I see you again?”
Mehemet pulled her into a passionate embrace, and whispered in her ear, “We live in a strange world, Khadija. But no matter what happens, I love you. I will always love you. Have faith in us.” With that he released her, dashed over the garden wall and disappeared.
“Quickly,” shouted Abdu, bundling the distraught Khadija and her children through the compound gate. First light was breaking on the horizon, though it was still too dark to see the coast. Khadija looked south, knowing Mehemet would be heading in that direction. Then she heard the sound of an approaching speedboat; they immediately began running across the sand to where a Land Cruiser was waiting by the road, with its engine running but its headlamps turned off. As soon as they reached the car and opened the doors, the interior light came on, alerting the approaching speedboat to their flight. Bullets began flying all around them. The family quickly leapt inside the car and sped away.
The attacking speedboat hit the beach with a loud scrape and a whine, and a band of fighters scrambled ashore, firing their weapons. They tried to pursue the fleeing vehicle on foot but were too late. The fighters then turned and headed for the solitary house on the beach, searching the entire compound for anyone left behind, while their commander stood guard outside the gate. They found nothing, except Mehemet’s M-60 assault rifle.
“Omar, we found this,” said a mujahideen fighter, handing the American weapon and a bandolier of a hundred rounds to his commander, who unravelled his head scarf to get a better look, as did the others. It was clear from their appearances that these were not Yemeni assassins after all, as Abdu Takar said they would be, but Somalian.
“The infidel was expecting us,” said Omar, releasing the safety on the American machine gun and aiming it at the iron gate. He then opened fire and did not stop shooting until he’d expended the entire bandolier. When the smoke finally cleared it became apparent from the pattern of bullet holes in the gate that he’d written the words “al-Shabaab” in Arab script. “The lads.”
Continue reading, Chapter Two...
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