Fidgety and perspiring, Dr. Ahmed Khoury’s eyes darted from left to right and back again.
He tried to control himself. But all he could think about was wanting to run, to scream, to throw himself on the floor in the middle of the terminal and curl up in the fetal position.
Fleeting childish thoughts that would never reach daylight. But for an instant they made him feel something, anything.
He’d been numb for the better part of 12 hours. Utterly helpless after learning his daughter had never shown up for school today, having boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at Heathrow bound for Istanbul.
Every few minutes he wrestled another deluge of thoughts. What did we do wrong? Why did God forsake my family? Please God keep her safe?
Desperate cries from a heart that was quickly losing faith.
Vigilantly scanning the passport control area, he didn’t see the them come up from behind.
Spinning around he was face to face with two agents from the British Consulate with badges at the ready for clear identification.
“Please come this way.”
Still visibly shaken he nodded and followed the agents through the security door at behind passport control.
The older agent motioned Dr. Khoury toward a sterile conference room as he continued down the hall.
“Please sit down.” The younger female agent pointed to one of four chairs surrounding a simple metal table that stood barren on a white stone floor. Dr. Khoury sat in the chair facing the door, with the wide two way mirror on his left.
“Would you care for something to drink Dr. Khoury? Tea? Perhaps a coffee?”
Mouth parched he crackled a “No thank you.” Then thought better of it. “Water would be fine.”
The agent smiled and left the room. She returned with a bottled of water and the other agent, her senior.
After some brief introductions. The agents had Dr. Khoury recount the days events. And he complied.
They already had his statements and his wife from the counter terrorism unit back in London.
But given his current state, the stress of losing his daughter and traveling 2000 miles to realize there is nothing he could do, they wanted to give him room to decompress if possible.
The last thing they wanted was for him going off half-cocked into Istanbul and ending up on the wrong side of town. Or worse yet, the wrong side of whoever was involved in trafficking his daughter to Syria.
They continued the niceties, and as Dr. Khoury caught on his demeanor changed from resignation to defiance. Defiance of the situation, the perpetrators, and anything that might stand in the way of him finding his daughter before it was too late.
“Dr. Khoury. I know this is very difficult for you. But there is nothing more you can do here. We already have our counterterrorism unit working with our Turkish counterparts to try and locate your daughter right now.
From what we’ve seen in the recruitment of foreign Jihadi brides, we have about a 48 hour window before they across the border into Syria. Please know we are doing all we can. And I strongly advise you consider traveling back to London and wait there for word from us when we know more.”
Glancing at the senior agent’s I.D. Card hanging from his breast pocket Dr. Khoury raised his head leveling a resolute gaze directly in the agents eyes.
“Agent Shannon. May I ask you a personal question?
Do you have children?”
“I do. A boy and girl.”
“How old are they?”
“William is 15 and Alison is 11.”
“May I ask you what you would do if you were in my position.”
Agent Shannon looked down at the table and paused before glancing over at his subordinate.
“Dr. Khoury. I can empathize with your position …”
Cutting into the agent’s answer, Dr. Khoury asked again. “With sincere respect Agent Shannon, I appreciate your empathy. But my question was what would you do? What would you do if you were in my position.”
The agent blinked. He looked down and then back at his subordinate who gave an approving glance.
“Off the record?”
“I’m a doctor. Agent Shannon. I took an oath to maintain the confidence with every patient I see. I want to know what YOU would do.”
“I would do everything I could to get my daughter back.”
“That’s that I thought you might say. Please know that I respect your position. And I am truly appreciative of everything you and your team are doing to secure my daughter’s return. But as a father, I must do what I must do. I have come to Turkey to visit friends of the family and they will be expecting me soon. Am I free to leave.”
“Of course. Doctor. You are free to come and go as you wish. But I have to warn you. The people who have lured your daughter to Turkey are professionals, and they are playing for keeps. It is important that you leave this matter to us. Your daughters life may depend on it.”
Dr. Khoury smiled a warm smile.
“Before you go. Do you have contact information where we can reach you while your staying in Istanbul.”
I do. Taking the prescription pad from the outside pocket off his briefcase, he wrote the name and address of his host in Istanbul and handed it to Agent Shannon.
“I will be staying at this address for the duration of my stay. You can also reach my on my cell as needed.”
Agent Shannon knew the meeting was over.
“Agent Brock will have your passport stamped and show you the way out. Please stay safe Dr. Khoury. Istanbul can be a treacherous place.”
As Dr. Khoury exited the secured area Agent Shannon made his way to one of the Gendarmes sitting at a computer terminal and he handed him Dr. Khoury’s contact information.
“Can you look this up for me.”
With a few key strokes the officer pulled Dr. Khoury’s host up on the screen. With raised eyebrows he grabbed Agent Shannon attention as he tapped the monitor.
Not only did it display the full name and address of Yaron Zahavy, but his full file as a former Captain in the Israeli Defense Forces and his current role as Mossad Deputy Station Chief for Istanbul and the Lavant.
Agent Shannon reached for a desk phone and started to dial.
Outside at baggage claim Dr. Khoury was nearing the terminal exit as his cell phone rang.
“Ahmed, Its Yaron. Everything Ok?
“Yes. I am on my way outside.”
“Glad you are well my friend. Do hurry we don’t have much time.”
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…
“A Graveyard at 26,000 Feet: The Tragic Fate of Those Left Behind on Mount Everest”written by Mark Newton, published on April 24, 2015 on Movie Pilot
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Around 250 people have died attempting to conquer Mount Everest, and many of them are still up there. Most of the unfortunate perish in the death zone, where rescue and even the removal of the corpse is treacherous and almost impossible, as the air above 8,000 feet is too thin to allow helicopter rescue. Even becoming injured in the death zone can be fatal. There are frequent stories of climbers being left behind by their team, simply because they do not have the time, resources or energy to help them. Indeed, passing dying climbers isn’t an infrequent occurrence, as Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall, a former soldier and current video game developer, mentioned on his recent expedition. His team encountered a dying, semi-conscious climber on an ascent in 2013. He explained:
“We got there, our lead sherpa shook the guy’s hand, and its was floppy as anything. I looked at the guy. I’d seen plenty of bodies in the military before. He looked as dead as a doornail to me. At the time, I was like, ‘Look, there’s no way I’d carry on to the summit if I could be somewhere helping someone.’ But I realized that if we didn’t — the guy was unconscious, at least. Definitely. And we argued about this back at base camp. Well, what if we’d put oxygen on him? Sure, it would have revived him, if he was actually still alive. But then what? We couldn’t bring him down. It’s just not physically possible. In which case, we would have revived him so he could be in pain. I just remember realizing how sad it was. And that was the overwhelming feeling: just how sad it was that he died alone.”
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.
Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).
Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.