older looking than your online dating photo, Nadia,” General Melmud Massoud
Shammam says as he scrutinizes me from top to bottom.
In fact, it’s
my bottom that fascinates him the most. To my chagrin, he holds up one of my
dating profile pictures in order to compare it to the real thing. “Did you
Photoshop your buttocks to look like Pippa Middleton’s? Yes, of course! I see
that now! Shame on you, sister, for coveting an infidel’s likeness!” He shakes
his index finger at me.
busted. It wasn’t my ass. That was Arnie’s idea. I’ll never listen to him again, that’s for sure.
“I should be
disappointed, but I am a practical man and prefer hips large enough to bear
many, many children. So perhaps you will make me happy after all.”
Ha! Says you, I think, but I stifle the urge to
stick my stiletto into his heart.
breasts are bigger than mine, so I’m not sure I’d find his heart underneath all
I’d sure have
fun trying, though. Like playing a real-life version of that old game,
bow my head to the man once renowned as the top torture expert in Gaddafi’s
army and murmur, “It is true, sir. Allah has given me many wonderful years. But
the life of a fertile virgin is empty if it is not spent at the side of an
ID’ed by Interpol’s Universal Face Workstation as the thug standing with Carl
in the munitions exchange video. His payoff in arranging the fatal meeting was
a new identity and a one-way ticket to the United States.
Ladies, big FYI:
because this coward left his three wives and nine children to face Libya’s mob
rule, he’s back on the market. His online dating profile in Anastasia Date (the leading website for
men seeking Russian brides looking to move overseas) reads like this:
Join me in America!
Strong, virile and handsome man seeks slim and perfect woman with whom to
share his life. Let’s hit the links, and take long walks on the beach at
Must be Muslim, and a virgin. Natural blonde preferred. Must like golf
and also hiking, since sometimes we may spend time camping out in the desert
for long periods of time. But I am well-endowed, so it will be worth your
charmer, ain’t he?
into Melmud’s account and zapped the responses from the few Slavic singletons
desperate enough to answer the ad so that I’d be his default choice.
response was fine-tuned in the hope of making me sound meek, pious and
submissive. My profile photos were shot by a photographer who freelances for Playboy, and all that implies. With the
help of a sheer, form-hugging shift and some soft backlighting, the
photographer knew exactly how to accentuate the positive.
So did Arnie,
who’s a wiz at Photoshop. Pippa has set a very high bar for the rest of us. I
may have been wearing a headscarf, but now it’s obvious that Melmud’s eyes
weren’t drawn to the shape of my head.
“Nadia” would have flown from Moscow to LAX, but thanks to some Arnie’s hacking,
the best Melmud could pull off on such short notice was a flight to San
Francisco, where he was to her up, then fly her into Santa Barbara on his
female Acme operative with my height, weight measurements (perky breasts and
all) and an identical head scarf boarded the flight. When she got off, she went
into the fifth stall the closest ladies’ lavatory, where I was already waiting
for her. We’re dressed as twins down to our matching headscarves, so anyone
following her would presume we’re one and the same. She handed me her ticket to
put with my fake passport, changed her clothes and wig, and then there was one.
bodyguard met me at baggage claim and hustled me into another terminal, where
Melmud’s private customized Gulfstream G650 was ready to whisk us down to Santa
Barbara. The plane is tricked out with a private living room, bedroom, dining
room and kitchen galley.
words, all the comforts of home for a fugitive on the run.
Now that I’m
in mid-flight with my supposed betrothed, I’ll slip him the ultimate mickey—SP-117, a concoction invented by the
Russia’s external foreign intelligence arm, the SVR. It’s tasteless, colorless,
and leaves the victim clueless as to anything he may have said.
under the influence, I’ll ask him the whereabouts of the missing munitions
cache. But it’s only a fifty-minute flight, so I’ve got to work fast. My problem: being Muslim, neither Melmud
nor his thug drinks liquor or caffeine. A glass of water will have to do.
I begin with flattery, in my best Moose-and-Squirrel accent.
“Sir, my innate shyness forces me to request that our time together be
By the way he raises an eyebrow at this unexpected modesty it
looks like he believes that perhaps he really did find the only virgin on a
website loaded with Slavic vixens. I guess he’s giving me the benefit of the
doubt because he snaps his fingers at his bodyguard, who disappears into the
cockpit with the pilot, closing the door behind him.
I reward Melmud by loosening the top button of my already
low-cut, floor-length tunic, revealing the lacy camisole beneath it.
The plane hops over a cloud, giving me the opportunity to
tumble against him. Oops! My hand falls in his lap in the hope of bracing my
fall. I cover my mouth, as if shocked by this seemingly innocent action.
But when our eyes meet, I lick my lips in anticipation.
His response is Pavlovian in one regard. He’s panting for a
country, we toast the holy union between a groom and his bride.” I lower my
head. “Will you allow me to serve you, my honorable fiancé? Just a glass of water,
He smiles and
nods toward the kitchen galley. I bow slightly before gliding to a cabinet and
pulling out two glasses.
He is too
busy loosening his tie and planning the tests that will prove my virginity to
see me slide the medallion on my ring and release the drug into his drink.
As I hand him
his glass, he shouts, “Prost!”
He passes out
just as he had begun to slobber all over me. Yuck! I shove him off to the far end of the couch. I go over my
mental checklist of everything on my list—
Oh, fudge! I forgot to check the SFO duty-free
shop for any Furbys!
Note to self:
get better at multi-tasking.
things first. Buy time.
Melmud’s cell phone from his pocket and yank the subject’s SIM card from his
phone. Then I dial Jack with the satellite connection on the wireless SIM card
reader I’ve concealed in my valise.
little mail order bride?” he asks.
crap. I’ve just pulled out the SIM card. What now?”
Arnie’s on the line, too. All you have to do is slip it into that little
doohickey he gave you. When it’s done, uplink it, and voila! He’ll have access to a week, maybe two, of previous text
messages and traceable cell numbers.”
By the time
the upload is finished, Melmud’s Kickapoo Joy Juice has kicked in.
“Who is the
Quorum?” My voice is gentle but authoritative.
But they pay well for arms. Enough for me to buy the mansion next door to Oprah
in Montecito. But Oprah’s dogs crap in my yard all the time. Still, I don’t
mind. They are Oprah’s dogs! Some are Laboradors, but there are also a couple
of Springer spaniels. Not to mention the golf club in Montecito is top notch. I
have a two handicap. Soon they will soon make me a member. I am sure of it.”
should have warned me SP-117 leads to diarrhea of the mouth. If this were just
another extraordinary rendition, I’d have already given this dude a Cheney spa
treatment and tossed him out the door.
I start over.
“Melmud, try to stay focused. What is the Quorum doing with heat-seeking
Like, duh. At thirty-three thousand feet in
the air, this guy better tell me something I don’t already know, or one of us
is going to jump ship. I don’t want it to be me. “Where will it occur? On what
day, and at what time?”
“What I know
A sharp rap
at the door stops him cold. That damn bodyguard!
the bodyguard is telling his boss that we will be landing in five minutes. He
wants to know if there is anything we need.
about to say something when I hiss, “Don’t answer!” I reach for my satellite
phone. This time I dial Arnie direct.
When he picks
up, I whisper frantically, “I need you to dial Melmud’s bodyguard as if it’s
coming from Melmud, and give him a message.”
“Why would I do that?”
in the middle of interrogating this creep, and the guard is standing right
outside the door! I can’t have Melmud answer him out loud. He’s in a trance! No
telling what he might say! I need the guard to get a text message telling him
to scram! But to be authentic, it’ll have to be in Arabic, and my bandwidth
doesn’t stretch that far.”
piece of cake. And I’ll make sure the caller ID will show Melmud’s phone. Just
text me what you want it to say.”
I think for a
moment before sending him this:
While she is smart and beautiful and surely would make a fine and pious
mother, I still have my doubts that this woman is a natural blonde. I am
testing my theory now. If the door is still closed when we land, no one is to
disturb us! When I am done, I will meet you by the limo. Allah willing, my
bride is flaxen and therefore worthy to accompany us to Montecito. Oh, by the
way, the next time Oprah’s dogs take a dump in the yard, shoot them.
outside the door tells me the bodyguard has gotten Arnie’s message. A moment
later I hear Melmud’s thug murmur, “Yes, General,” in Arabic, before trudging
back to the cockpit.
I breathe a
sigh of relief. “Thanks, Arnie.”
“Glad it did
the trick. But, Donna, what the heck was that stuff about Oprah’s dogs?”
“I needed to
add a tinge of authenticity to the message. Trust me, it did the trick.”
I click off
and shake Melmud back into interrogation mode. “Tell me, quick. Where is the
shipment from Libya right now?”
infidels would not tell me. To hide this knowledge from me, they spoke in
French. But they did not realize I speak it, too. All I know is that it is
coming in by ship. From a toymaker.” A sly smile rises on his lips. “And by the
way, the female infidel really did have a butt like Pippa. But by her amorous
moves with her partner, I am guessing she is no virgin.”
slut, and Carl enjoys it? No surprise there. And for the record, this dude has
no idea what he’s talking about. No way does her bum look better than mine!
cackle puts me back on task. “Why should I care, anyway, when the cargo
arrives? The less I know about it, the better. I’ve worked too hard establishing
my excellent new identity as a successful self-help guru from Dubai. I’m
working on my book now. It is called Don’t
Worry, Be Happy: Six Must-Do Moves to Being a Better You. I have no doubt
it will be a sure-fire bestseller! I will leave it in Oprah’s mailbox, and she
will love it and build a whole television network around its teachings.”
Obviously, the truth drug has made him delusional. “I love Oprah. And I love
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Did you know she lives nearby? I love Seinfeld, too. I
wonder if he ever visits Elaine…”
I hear the
vibration of the plane’s wheels dropping. Time to wrap up our little
tête-a-tête, and it couldn’t come a second sooner. Hanging out with this guy is
driving me nuts.
I force him
to sip again from his glass. A moment
later, he drifts off to sleep. By the time Melmud’s bodyguard shakes him awake,
I’ll be just a pleasant memory.
I’ll also be
brunette again, and long gone.
landing is smooth as silk. As planned, Jack is there waiting on the tarmac. The
credentials he presents to the flight crew and the bodyguard identify him as
the field office director of the Santa Barbara County branch of the Immigration
and Naturalization Services.
turns white under his swarthy tan. The last thing he wants is for the INS to
question him about his passport, or Melmud’s, for that matter.
On the other
hand, he’ll gladly step aside so that Jack can take me off the plane in
handcuffs. Here’s a shocker. Turns out, I’m not a virgin after all. Apparently,
“Nadia” has run away from her husband, a Muslim jeweler based in Moscow.
“Your boss is
bereft,” Jack tells the bodyguard. “He asks that you not disturb him. He said
something about five salads.”
eyes open wide. “No, he means ‘salats.’
He wants to pray.”
only one thing. The Self Help Guru Formerly Known as the Mommar’s Mutilator is
very upset that his life-size Barbie wasn’t the fantasy bride he’d hoped for.
anything?” Jack asks, as we roar off in his Lamborghini.
coming in by ship.” Talk about a needle in a haystack. “Also, I now know why
Gaddafi’s regime was so dysfunctional.”
“Do you think
it might’ve had something to do with the fact he was a nut?”
that’s a big part of it. But it turns out we Americans were the real cause of
were. We played an important if somewhat covert role in aiding and abetting the
“Nope, I mean
even before the Arab Spring. You see, Mommar’s generals watched too much
American television. To them, life is a series of self-help aphorisms culled
from daytime talk shows. They also think sitcom characters are real.”
“So do most
Americans. So I guess we truly are a global village.” Jack shakes his head
sadly. Then his eyes light up. “Oh, wow, that reminds me. The Big Bang Theory is on tonight!”
to catch it on demand. Have you forgotten the Oprah special airs tonight? She’s
interviewing Pippa Middleton! I’m sure as heck not going to miss that.”
appreciatively. “Speaking of Pippa, did anyone ever tell you your butt looks a
lot like hers?”
When I punch
his arm, he almost drives off the Pacific Coast Highway.
(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (email@example.com).
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