When Death Called
Malik studied his balding head in the bedside mirror. At twenty-nine, he wasn’t due for balding, at least not for the next ten years. That’s how it was with his father and his father before him. The Yusuff’s started to bald at forty, and then rapidly after that.
Maybe a hat would help cover it up. He had seen someone with a fez cap downstairs at the lobby that would be just perfect. Hipster even, i’d do just that, he thought.
He looked around the room. It was almost a palace. He was used to luxury; his father had been an army general in Egypt, one of the richest having inherited a massive estate. His employers had spared no expenses, or rather, their clients. His task was simple, really. Someone had broken into the government’s tax portal and was wiping off tax records of huge corporations hugely indebted to the government. The person was doing it randomly, no pattern and Malik was to look for digital footprint and point them in the direction of the culprit at least, that’s if he didn’t identify the culprit(s) altogether.
Malik IbnYusuff had checked, the Malaysian Internal Revenue Office had a pretty secure network. Of course, no network was completely impregnable. Not with the right resources and persons working on it. He knew that.
His cell started to buzz, Arafat, his aunt. He slipped under the covers and took the call, letting out a flurry of Arabic. He ended the call with a sigh. His aunt back had always wanted him to come back. After his Master’s degree eight months before, she had made it clear she expected him back in Cairo.
Malik had gone ahead to get a new job with Retr, disregarding her instructions. If he went back, those who had killed his father were sure to do him in too. His father had been murdered in cold blood the night before Malik left for America.
The night was fresh in Malik’s memory. He had gone into NasirIbn Yusuff’s room after knocking insistently for more than fifteen minutes. The petite man of fifty-three years was in a pool of blood at the foot of his bed, his arms were wrapped around one of the bed’s stout leg as if he had fought for the bed’s support in his dying moments. There was a stab wound on his neck, three others in his back, his mother in the next room, with her nurse, dying from ovarian cancer. They had both heard nothing. Everyone knew it had something to do with politics; a political assassination.
Malik buried his father the next morning but was out of the country within 24 hours of the death. He had somehow known that he was the next target, especially if he stuck around, and tried to fill his father’s shoes which would have been easy because he had always been the old man’s right hand. His aunt had been adamant though, she insisted he returns. Her brother was a general in the army, and she had demanded protection from the army, and gotten it. She seemed to think the military guards at their palace would detract the murderers from going after Nasir’s heir. Malik had only ever returned to Cairo once, when his mother died. He had spent less than twelve hours on Egyptian soil.
The door to the suite burst open; he jumped out of the bed just as he saw a man, Asian from the look of him.
The man stepped in and said in heavily accented English, “Are you the Yussuf?”
His first inclination was to say, “No.” He wasn’t Yusuff after all, his father’s father was.
The man pulled out a handgun as Feri, Malik’s cousin, lunged out of the bathroom naked and screamed, two shots hit Feri in the belly, and he went down giving Malik just enough time to barrel into the attacker who had been shocked, apparently, he had been expecting only Malik in the suite.
Malik and the Asian assassin grappled on the ground; the gun had flown out of the man’s hand when Malik first hit him. But the Asian was stronger and obviously a trained fighter, he soon managed to pin Malik to the floor and had somehow slipped out a dagger.
Malik closed his eyes and said ‘Subhanallahi’ expecting death when the man crumpled into him; he heard the thud of the dagger’s hilt on the floor and opened his eyes. Feri was on his feet, though bleeding in the stomach, he had the assassin’s handgun in his hand with the silencer smoking.
Feri had saved his life. Malik took Feri along on that trip just because he wanted some familiar face, and Feri had ended up saving his life.
Some corporation had been behind the assassination attempt. The same company that had a suit in court against the Internal Revenue, and was trying to evade huge tax debts. It took Malik less than a day to find the code prints he needed to discover the culprits, and then the assassin was linked to a cult group that was known to have ties with the corporation.
Feri had survived with tell-tale scars, recovering fully only after eight months and three surgeries.
Six years later-Feri abandoned his real estate business, got involved in a drug peddling and got caught by the Feds.
When Tony Knight contacted Malik with the deal, it seemed like the perfect way to repay Feri. But first of all, he needed to extract a promise out of Feri, a deal for a deal.
Malik left the meeting with Knight, after agreeing to help break into the North Korean system and drove straight to ‘penal colony’ where Feri was being held pending trial.
Feri would have to quit drugs and go back to Cairo. There were a lot of opportunities for him and his drug masters weren’t likely to reach him in Cairo, he’d have protection, a target off his back and the opportunity to start a new life.
“I can’t do better than that Feri,” Malik said to himself as he drove into the retention facility.