“Salaam, staa num tsa dhe” (hello, what is your name?)
This was a greeting I hadn’t expected, he spoke in quiet tones as I was lifted up and out of the smell. My legs were cramped and stiff, barely able to support me. The hood was removed and the restraints loosened but not taken off. We were parked on the side of a road, I couldn’t tell if it was dawn or dusk in the dirty grey light that shrouded this god forsaken country day in and day out.
He motioned to the bushes making it plain that this was a rest stop, I was escorted by a subordinate with a rifle slung over his shoulder but he turned his back as I fumbled with my zipper and squatted. If nothing else women were treated with respect in a muslim country if not equality.
Shuffling back to the car the leader offered me a bottle of water, I held it gratefully in both hands in spite of the wrist restraints. The water spilled down my chin as I gulped, the leader carefully pulled the plastic away from my face, he shook his head in a silent admonishment as I gagged.
The hood was back on my head but I was now on the floor in the back seat of the ancient Lada, the Soviet car of choice for lower caste Pakistani’s. This one was sun faded brown with rusted trim, the interior smelled like a locker room after the game. In this case the players all smoked, the strong odor of french Gauloises mixing with sweat and garlic.
There were three of them, two in the front and one in the back with me, his shoes bumping my head every time we took a corner.
I had no sense of time only the monotony of the sounds; tires, brakes, horns, shouts and Pashto, an eclectic auditory mix assaulting me mile after mile.
Gas stops were frequent, with the fill-cap on my side of the car smells filtered into my stomach already groaning from burnt rubber, garlic, body order and Gauloises cigarettes. I tried to judge the mileage by the time intervals between stops, this was a game we played when Dad took us on vacation in Maine, he loved the certainty of numbers and always reduced an unknown to an equation. In this case I didn’t know the miles per gallon of the old Lada but tried to estimate anyway, it helped to keep my mind occupied and off my circumstances.
I was a kidnap victim, I didn’t know who they were or why they wanted me. The attack took place in broad daylight on a busy bridge in the middle of Islamabad, people were killed, bystanders were hurt. It was sudden, violent, unexpected and without warning. I had no clue as to their objective in snatching a 17 year old American girl without a security clearance and no access to political or military intelligence. Why hadn’t they gone after Dad, the senior US diplomat in the country?
I wanted to ask them, I wanted to know if Sally and Owen were OK, I wanted to know where they were taking me and what was expected of me. I thought of Patty Hurst, I had read her book and seen the TV production of her story. Would these men expect the same, unquestioned obedience and sex on demand? I was not a virgin, Billy made sure of that in the backseat of his Father’s SUV a year ago. It was the first time for both of us, crude and fumbling, took him 10min to figure out how to unroll that condom still not sure he did it right but apparently good enough, didn’t get pregnant. If these men rape me, would they use a condom, funny the thoughts charging through my throbbing head, I need more water and another pee stop.
Back home in Indiana people read about kidnappings, if they were in our state or other parts of the US we’d express concern but wouldn’t get to excited unless there was a celebrity or other notable citizen or maybe an Amber Alert, I thought of the Patty Hurst case, would I be brainwashed, compromised in some way, induced with drugs to do things I’d never do on my own. When it happened in Pakistan or Afghanistan or other third world countries we shake our head maybe say something to a spouse or friend but quickly move on to the sports page. Unless, of course, it happened to be an Ambassador’s daughter.
My debut novel, UNDER THE SKIN, is summarized in the current issue of NOTRE DAME MAGAZINE. South Bend is where it all started for me, how nice to see this, I’m honored!!
“Under the Skin, Nick Hahn (Hahn International Ltd.). The novel chronicles two young women, one born to wealth in New York and the other into poverty in the African bush, and their unlikely friendship as they challenge a brutal African dictator. The women risk everything as they take on a corrupt, abusive government. In a startling move, they enlist the help of a notorious warlord, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether their dangerous gamble will pay off. Hahn attended Notre Dame in the late 1950s.”
July 2014 Notre Dame Magazine
Lionel Andres Messi is a professional footballer who currently plays in the Spanish La Liga for Barcelona. When he was a little boy from the streets of Rosario, Argentina no one could have imagined what a sensational career he would have in football. He grew up to became one of the world’s greatest players.
The Barcelona forward has been dubbed by many fellow football professionals as “The Best Player to Ever Grace the Sport.” Let’s not forget that, over the years, we have been privileged to watch many legendary careers blossom, including the Brazilian forward Pele, and the Argentine playmaker Diego Maradona.
“My name is Alexandra Murphy Wintour, I’m an American citizen attached to the US Embassy in Islamabad with diplomatic immunity. I’m being held against my will, I demand that I be released and returned to the US Embassy in Islamabad.”
I slapped her hard, her head jerked from right to left as the ill fitting hajib fell to the floor, releasing a torrent of red hair. Blood trickled from her nose, swelling erupted below her right eye, she glared at me, wiping the blood from her nose on the back of her hand.
I glared back at her speaking in slow measured tones; “you’re a prisoner of war, a casualty brought on by your government and their campaign against Allah and the tenets of the Holy Koran. You have no rights here, no diplomatic standing you are legal tender to be used in trade for our Muslim leaders in Guantanamo. You will be treated better than our captives, you will not be tortured or humiliated but we’ll not tolerate insolence. Your safe return to the US Embassy depends entirely on your father, his willingness to negotiate your release will determine your fate”.
She was not backing down, I sensed a toughness, a resilience I’m not used too. I saw this in the coeds at Kansas State, it shocked me then but here under these impossible circumstances this girl, this Alexandra Murphy Wintour, was challenging me.
“You underestimate my Father, he is resolute with significant resources at his command, you and your thugs will live to regret this.”
She stared at me, her blue/green eyes had darkened, her tone was guttural almost feral as she challenged me. The next slap was harder, she almost fell off the chair, her fair skin exploded in crimson and the swelling was simultaneous, the glare deepened, she was defying me.
So this is what you and your thugs mean by not being tortured or humiliated, how dare you. I’m the daughter of the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Pakistan, my Father is an American diplomat with credentials accepted by your President and Prime Minister. You will live to regret this Omar or whatever your name is, punishing me will make it go worse for you when I and the American aid worker, Max Stein, are rescued and we will be rescued, you can be sure of it.”
Perhaps my young friend, perhaps but the question for you to ponder is whether you’ll be rescued dead or alive.”
Why am I feeling this way, the girl means nothing to me, she’s the daughter of Satan, a woman sent to tempt me not help me. That last slap did not bring her to submission like Muslim women are taught, it made her defiant and angry. Allah help me why am I physically aroused, not enraged, the ache in my groin is disturbing, suggesting alternative motives, motives forbidden to me.
She wiped the blood from the corner of her mouth against her sleeve, bent her head down and spit out the red saliva, she glared at me, my arousal increased.
The traffic resembled a petri-dish of bacteria cells, colorful delivery trucks, taxi’s and buses with eclectic artwork covering every inch of open surface. Tasselled windshield borders and indiscernible numbers of religious symbols and luck charms dangling from rear view mirrors. The air was polluted with exhaust from damaged mufflers mixing with heat and humidity. Horns honked incessantly as if Pakistani’s had invented them and couldn’t resist showing off. There were no signs or address numbers, you either knew where you were going or you didn’t belong there. We knew where we were going.
The Sunfort Hotel was in a poor commercial neighborhood, overrun with beggars and the odor of raw sewage. It was dingy and poorly lit on the outside. Hookers worked all four corners, two on the hotel side two across the street. Already I felt like I needed a shower. Pulling up front, the doorman offered to park the Suburban, a bad idea and the last time we would see it. The doorman was not an employee, had never seen the inside of the Sunfort Hotel he took his orders from a Karachi street gang. Our truck would have been traded for cash a few blocks away and the doorman would move on to another hotel to finish the night-shift.
Inside was as bad as outside, low wattage bulbs embedded in a slow moving ceiling fan circulating the smell of disinfectant, human body odor and hookah smoke. We took the stairs to the third floor, Bull Casey didn’t like elevators, a year ago a UN security team from Turkey was gassed through an elevator air shaft.
The carpet was worn and pulling away from the baseboard of the narrow hallway exposing stained linoleum. I wanted this meeting over and Alex back in the Embassy. I trusted Casey but shit happens, we were in a foreign country meeting with avowed enemies of the United States in circumstances that, at best, were outside of our control. I knew the Black Hawks were circulating just out of sound range and that Seal operatives were on the streets surrounding the hotel disguised as beggars and hookers. I knew about the communications chip embedded under the skin behind Casey’s left ear. Still, this was risky and outside of protocol, if Linda Carruthers got wind of this scheme my career would be over.