Yazidis Needed

This is the sequel to “Iman to Come”. And so the tale continues apace.

Rupert and Claire stepped into the shop, mindful of its “attempt at clean smell but failing” odour. Right next to Victoria on Wilton Road, P&Y came with a great reputation for being able to get anything odd or foreign. Rather than the dock-side curio shop of old, the shop was well lit with glass windows open to Wilton Road. The windows were filled with enticing “ethnic” artifacts, some beautiful, some ugly; all authentic, crossed-checked, with well researched pedigrees . Rupert and Claire were not here for this sort of stock, neither were most of Hajib’s customers. It was what he held in the back that was of interest, even to his most select clients. Royals from many parts were known to darken his doorstep, credit-cards or cash in hand ready to buy what took their fancy.
Hajib spotted Rupert first. He smiled broadly as he saw the large man weave through the items to the back of the shop. Only when Rupert reached the back second counter did Hajib spot the lithe Welsh woman behind him.

That smile told Rupert that Hajib was fully briefed on what they sought.

“I have been expecting you, sir. Please come back into my client lounge. We can enjoy some refreshment while we discuss our mutual interests. Another man showed them into the room, without a sound, and then slipped back through the door into shop.

Once his guests were seated, Hajib inquired about their beverage tastes and quickly and quietly presented first Claire and then Rupert with coffee. He sat down, took a careful sip of his coffee and sighed.

“I was so pleased to be able to settle a price for my services with the Sage before you arrived. I do, so tire of having to haggle before anything useful gets discussed.”

“Price, what price? Oh, I’m sorry, the Sage did not mention that part.” Claire said, worry and hesitation in her voice.

“Oh no madam. Nothing like money. I merely wanted to make sure that any items recovered would find their way into my shop. I believe some of them were originally here in the store. I wish to help pay for the operation with the profits from the sale of these items.”

“What items specifically do you mean? You know what the temple, I mean the mosque, has in it?”

“On no…” he paused. “Merely speculation on my part. I am just making guesses from my experience with this sort in the middle east. Their tastes tend to be fairly, aahh…unique and predictable. You needn’t say mosque to me, I am well aware of what goes on up there.”

“You do?”

“Why yes. I try to know as much as I can about such things.” He began to whisper a bit and lean towards his guests. “It was I who first began to put it about that they were not all they seemed. One came into this shop wearing a signet ring that was certainly not Islamic in meaning.”

Rupert suspected Hajib to be stretching the truth a bit and tried to get back to the subject at hand. “ You are to be giving us some information we need to fight these followers of the black pharoah.”

“Yes, yes of course I will. I have some other information that might interest you as well. However, I will need a bit more of a guarantee before I speak of those things.”

“I thought you said it was sorted…” Claire was cut off.

“Oh yes it is. You don’t really need this information. It came to light after I spoke to your employer.”

“The Sage is not….” Rupert glared at Claire as she went quiet.

“Of course…there is something in the temple that I want. If you guarantee that I shall get it, I shall tell you something that will make your job much easier. I give you my word I will ensure the help of another interested group of anti-Nephrim Kas. I must have your word or my lips are sealed.”

“What do you want us to do? And who are you talking about?”

“I want the Onyx Creeds of Nephrim Ka. You will be able to find it in an instant.
As it is covered with human skin has a distinct smell….You wear gloves when you do such work?’

“No, not necessarily why?” Replied Rupert suspecting he knew where this was going.

“Well the book is said to be caustic to all non-believers. There are supposed to be finger prints burnt into its cover from the careless. If you wear gloves, you will be fine. Pick it up and place it in a leather bag, then bring it to me.”

“Alright, just make sure you are not leaving anything out. So who is going to help us?’

“I give you my word. I have the greatest respect for the Sage and would endeavor to help anyone who works with him. He has helped with unpleasantness on more than one occasion.”

“You owe him several is what you are saying. Wonder what he managed to get your arse out of….” Rupert said to himself while smiling cautiously at the shopkeeper.

“The group wishing to help you are Yazidi Exiles who live in London. In fact when I told them they insisted on being in on it. It was from them I acquired an accurate map of the building. We do business on occasion. I seem to be able to acquire their totems and objects from Iraq better than they can. A acquaintance of mine works for Saddam. Seems to be pleased to get me all the Yazidi things he can…” Hajib handed Rupert a normal flapped folder, made of plastic. “In here, you will find all you need for your task. I would recommend that you stick to your areas of temple and not drift into the Yazidis zone of attack. It would make things easier if there are any questions from the authorities once you are finished. You will see the item I desire clearly marked on the map. Make sure you get there before the Yazidis. “

“We will try. I plan to be in and out of there as fast as possible. We want to make sure they know we know they are there.”

“You must understand that I am busy man. So I must leave you now…I look forward to seeing you once you finish.”

Rupert and Claire heeded the invitation and rose quickly to make their way through the inner door and to pass through the shop. Two customers were eyeing a rather nasty piece of Chinese art. Hajib rushed over to relieve his assistant.

It was when the cool air and the sun-light hit Claire that she remarked. “Yazidis are satan-worshiping nutcases from Kurdistan aren’t they?”

“Indeed they are…”

“What has the Sage got us into this time?” Said Claire as they headed off towards Victoria.

***

As the Sage sat in his chair beside his computer he saw the ICQ message indicator blinking. He sighed and pulled down the message. It was from a contact named Frank Brenner, FSB, as has he demanded to be called by those in the know. FSB was one of those characters one may need but never really trusts. He was the fixer’s fixer. His contacts were far and wide…and more important, deep. His main method of self-protection was the fact that he knew so much about everyone that each had something to lose were he arrested or killed. There were certain sorts of dealings that did not come to pass without men like FSB. That didn’t mean that the Sage liked dealing with FSB. Still, occasionally, all assets must be employed so he must then deal the guy in a professional capacity however.

Bizarrely, FSB preferred to arrange his phone calls via ICQ or email, to make sure his call would make it through. The Sage, waiting for the pre-arranged call was unsure of what he was going to hear. Not a little dreading it, he would admit. FSB chats could be trying, to say the least.

The phone began to trill. The Sage waited through a few rings before lifting the receiver.

“Sage! How is it going? Long time since I heard your pleasant voice! How goes the fight against evil in the world?”

“We talk all the time online, FSB, so enough with the pleasantries. What have you got for me?”

“Sage, come on! I’m just being polite. What’s the hurry?…Oh yes sorry your always in a hurry. I believe it was you who said “saving humanity as we know it waits for no one!” That was you, right?”

“I suspect so…” He was cut off.

“Look, I’ve been doing a bit of digging on your project in West London. That particular Moslem centre seems to be interesting to a great load of people. You aren’t the only one wanting to knock the place over.”

“Knock it over? What we’re not there to rob the place but to stop them trying to raise a daemon!”

“Yeah, yeah I know. But everyone else seems to be about ready to rob the place. I am hearing there’re quite a few books of value. I’ve been approached by a buyer who wants whatever you find. No questions asked. He will pay well. If you agree to my terms, I will give you all my vast resources for getting these people. I would hate to see you destroy a lot of valuable stuff just for reasons of asthetics.”

“Aesthetics! “ He mumbled to himself.

“I’ve made a deal with the Yazidis. There’s a book they want badly. I told them that you would not take that book in return for their protection for your people. I stressed with your main man that you were both on the same side etc..”

“Well… um, not really. See, they’re…”

“Yes, I know that! Some accuse them of being devil-worshippers. All I know is that they keep to themselves and they pay up when I do something for them. Unlike some people we know, they don’t kill the messenger to cover things up. I’m sure I can arrange a meet with their high-ups if you’re interested. They are really nice people for…”

“Devil-worshippers. How cute!”

“Look its simple I just need you to promise not to trash any objets des’ art or books. Grab as much as you can on the way out and deliver it to me. In return I will make sure there are no interruptions to your little operation. I can make sure the bobbies show up at the correct time.”

“And if the Yazidis are involved, the fire brigade as well. They seem to like their fire.”

“Quite.”

The Sage hung up the phone. He sighed. The conversation was quite as annoying as he had anticipated. No, rather worse. Edin grunted and adjusted her body to take up less space.

“Well, Edin, you and I just have to cross our fingers on this one. We both hate to miss the action, but we’re best staying here.”

Edin turned her ear to the Sage, out of politeness. She didn’t bother to open her eyes, but it was obvious she was listening. She was unhappy when Claire and Rupert left without her. Of course, if she had left with them she would be worried about the Sage. She was most happy when her whole “pack” was together.

Rober Plant’s voice filled the room as the Sage clicked a bookmark to the Occultopedia. “Let’s see there is anything I might have forgotten about the Yazidis.”

***

Meanwhile, Rupert and Claire checked into the Kensington Park Hotel. They muddled through the “couple that is not a couple” procedure and managed to avoid looking too daft in the process. To their joint relief, the single beds that were promised were in place. So, the effort to save money was not too difficult and embarrassing this time.

Rupert set about pondering the next day’s activities as he stared silently out the window towards North East London. He stared into the black clouds that covered most of the city, but seemed concentrated over that part of London. This being their second mission together, Claire knew the drill. Her strategy was a complete relax. So she sat down to read latest novel in Anita Blake series. It was not long before she too was off in her head. It would take the sun setting before Rupert came out of his funk.

Rupert knew full well that attacking a “temple” at night was not the best of ideas. As he often said to a doubter, “I would rather just face the human guards on their own. The less chance of inhuman detection, the better. “ Mid-afternoon was his preferred time of day, right about the time of the Mexican siesta, in broad daylight.”

Claire wondered aloud if this were wise and suggested early-ish morning. This sounded sensible until Rupert pointed out that the temple was not in the country but on a busy urban street that would be full of morning traffic.

They ate their dinner at the nearest Pizza Express. They were able to talk “shop” while in the restaurant as they were surrounded by loud gormless American tourists discussing their next day’s forays. Rupert would later comment that they only way they would have been over-heard was if their table had been bugged. And, it would have a taken a damn good bug.

The couple made a significant effort to look as normal as possible. Just a couple of people in London for a few days.

After a further visit to the local Witherspoon’s pub, Rupert’s choice as befit his tightness with his wallet, they retired.

Elsewhere, there were others gathering their strength for the coming day. Prayers were said. Offerings given and plans made. In the temple, preparations were being made for the ceremony in a few day’s time. Chants learned, places selected and the high priest studied his lines.

It would soon be a new day for all, but they would all suffer very different fates.

As things were to be left until mid-afternoon Rupert and Claire enjoyed a bit of a lie-in and a hearty brunch. The weather was sunny, with occasional drizzle, still a bit on the nippy side. Rupert grunted his approval at the final weather report before they headed to North London. Touristy back-packs at the ready, the two arrived near the “mosque” with plenty of time to spare. Assuming delays on the tube they had left plenty of time. As Claire emerged from the Finsbury Park tube, just as her mobile vibrated to life.

“Hello Sage. Yes we are here alright. Yes, we plan to pop into a local café for a quick coffee” She turned and looked at Rupert as she said it. The Sage said a few more points of encouragement.

“I have heard nothing new on this end. Only I know is that there are several people really keen on the après-raid pickings. You need to try to get as much of it as possible before you leave. I would like to look at some of it before I let it back into “the system”. I will leave you to it. Bonne chance and be careful. Any sign of an ambush and get out of there with all speed, without prejudice.”

“Huh?” Claire asked.

“Don’t worry about being neat, I want you two in one piece, come what may.”

“Oh, yes. Of course. We’re going to have a look around and pop down the local Café Nero for a coffee. Talk to you later this afternoon, then.”

“Ok,” He hung up.

“That was Pater, wishing us all the best.”

“Yes, I figured as much. Did you bring gloves? It might get kind of wet and windy later.”

“Yes, of course, I did don’t want my new manicure getting all messy.”

A mini-van drove by them containing a large group of stern looking young men, only one of whom turned to look at the pretty girl with the large bloke on the side of the road. Claire and Rupert could just make out the slap the curious one received on the head administered by a frowning older man.

The couple walked around in mostly silence, feigning some interest in local landmarks and making the occasional comment. Once at the Café Nero, they made the right “gormless” tourist comments about this highly ethnic area of London. They drank their coffee slowly and nonchalantly to blend in with the mix of tourists and bohemian types scattered around the place.

Some time later, when they stepped out of the café, their game-faces were truly in place, The two began to weave their way towards their target.

***

“Well, all we get to do is sit here and hope, Edin. It is out of our control now. No prayer or spell I know will help them where they are going. We will probably be able to get a sense of how it is going, but nothing more.” The Sage leaned over from his work chair, speaking to his dog and the dog sat listening earnestly with her ears at full mast, her eyes too concentrating on what he said.

“Why don’t we go for a walk and see if time goes by any faster that way?” He paused and smiled, “Let’s take the long route down to the pub…then you can do your mistreated dog imitation and get some leftovers from lunch.”

Edin wagged her tail approvingly, but not in full flow. She was just as concerned as the Sage. She stood up and then glared at his mobile phone lying plugged in near the arm-chair in the living room.

“Yes, I will take the phone….You do realise that we survived the fight with evil before the invention of the mobile?”

For that remark, he got a swift poke up the backside and a canine grunt.

The two of them headed off overland towards the pub, a few pints and some food, most probably free.

***

Rupert and Claire got into the mosque without much problem, duck and cover a bit but nothing to serious. The place was relatively quiet with most of the men inside reading, quietly praying or resting.

On the other side of the Mosque, a young man, still sore on the back of his head from the censorious blow in the bus, trotted up the front entrance, eager to find someone around. His quary spotted, he moved quickly into the side room and stood in the most obtrusive way possible.

“Hello, my name is Mohammed Al Quabi and I have just come down from Burnley. I have heard great things about this mosque and all you are doing for Jihad. My brothers and I wish to study the Koran here.”

The bemused man before him, looking very Arab as opposed to his guest’s fairly modern dress. “I think you have the wrong Mosque brother. We do not recruit for Jihad here, we only praise Allah and HIS prophet here.”

“But this pamphlet tells us to come to London and see you!” The young man went through his pockets attempting to make as much of a bother as possible. His pockets not yielding what he sought, he looked in his bag, handing the man a large-ish hand-bill recently taken from a tree.

The man at the desk took it and examined it closely. He was too distracted by the mis-guided youth to notice the other men passing behind him and heading into the Mosque.

“Brother, this is not us. It is another Mosque on the other side of London. We frequently get confused with it. Very sorry. This is a printing error.” As he lifted his head, he briefly saw the knife flying at his chest above the paper he was placing on the desk. It pierced his heart and he feel forward.

The young man carefully closed the door to the room. He walked to the front doors and closed them as if ceremoniously, locking them from the inside. He removed a large dagger from his bag and quickly looked for a place to hide.

Below, two groups of people made their way through several basements levels. It was a race to the finish, just what finish no one knew.

The musty smell and the dampness, combined with incense filled Claire’s nostrils. There was less light as well, as torches lit the smooth sided corridor, giving the hall a shadowy hue. It was clear the pair were getting close to their objective. The only surprise was the size of the underground area below the mosque. A large room opened before them. Luckily for them, there was no one around, although movement could be heard above them.

Rupert hugged the wall, careful not to hit his head on the sconces in the walls. Claire was behind him with one eye to the rear.

Upstairs, the group of men set about clearing the area of the living. Anyone found was dispatched with haste. Only one being able to cry out slightly before his death. A different dagger was used to dispatch each one, an identical curved dagger well designed to pierce the heart.

When Rupert entered the room, he eyed it with intensity. Making sure there truly was no one around, he set about relieving it of its treasures. Claire stood alert, with a medium sized blade in her hand, crouched like a human viper ready to strike.

There really was not as much as they had expected. Other books were stored elsewhere. The focus of the room was on a small altar with a book sconce. The book was open. As Rupert approached the altar, he knew this was the book so many sought. He took the bag and using the bag as a glove, covered the book, dropping it closed into the pocket.

There were a few candle holders with odd designs on them, as well as a dagger and a blood stained cup.

Claire spoke quietly but succinctly to her companion.

“ There are people coming from the other end of this level. We need to get out of here now…don’t bother with that lot.

“Ok. Let’s go…I want it to look like a robbery, not a precision grab.”

As they moved out of the room and rushed whence they came, they felt the vibration in the thick walls of the voices behind them. The voices spoke in an Arabic language. Both could sense the coming destruction.

“Look out, there are people coming down this side as well!” Claire commanded.

The pair stuck to the wall, one peering forward one to the back.

In the flickering light , a flame intensified as it moved forward. Rupert was about to speak. Five men rushed through the entrance towards the large hall screaming some sort of ancient battle cry. They held sharp curved swords.

They waited a few short seconds. Rupert pushed Claire towards the entrance and they charged back up the stairs, weapons drawn. Mercifully, there was no one to greet them. An eerie silence filled the place. Behind them came screams, swears and the clash of swords. The smell of burning wood and cloth began to follow them flowing up from below. When they reached the back door, someone yelled at them from within. The command was first in Arabic and then in highly accented English.

“Hey you there, get down and defend your god! You coward, how can you run?”

Rupert did not even turn, he quickly sheathed his weapon and did Claire. Already a small group was forming outside, soon to become a curious crowd. As soon as the two began to merge with the group, they began to change to change their gait. Trying to blend in. Still, they would not linger. The sound of police and fire sirens began to fill the Finsbury air. As per normal, the sirens seemed to be coming for all around.

Claire spoke first and what she said shocked Rupert, “fancy another coffee or tea?” All that walking has made me thirsty.

Rupert followed as if on a lead and they popped into the local branch of All Bar One. It was possible, from the table Claire selected, to see the mosque. They would not have to wait long to see some of the effects of the internal strife.

Smoke that began to pour out of every opening, vents, windows, doors. By now the police and firemen had begun to arrive in fully suited, prepared. Just then an explosion ripped through the top of the building, sending glass and fire in all directions.

As the pair left the pub a free black cab came into view after doing a u-turn away from the ruckus at the end of the street. Claire grabbed it and they headed towards Kensington. No one rang either of them. A few hours later, Claire finally called the Sage to confirm things had worked out. Some time later that night Sky reported the explosion and fire at the mosque. Claire and Rupert did not learn what really had happened at the mosque until they reached Pembrokeshire and the fastness of the Sage’s remote house.

Turning to Edin, the Sage spoke quietly. “I think these things should be lost for a few years. Why don’t you watch my back while I go lose them in my library.”

Edin and the Sage carefully made their way into the basement and into the small, slightly hidden entrance. He walked past all the alchemical paraphernalia, some of it almost as old as the books he held in his trembling leather-clad hands. He placed the bag on a table and removed one of his gloves. Taking his hand, he pressed his pinky ring into a slot on box. A drawer popped open below. The Sage replaced his glove and picked up the bag, carefully placing amoungst the other leather book sized bags. Once safely in its place, the Sage carefully pushed the drawer closed.

He turned to Edin, who was keeping her distance by carefully watching her master.

“That was the easy part, how about you make the calls to our disappointed interested parties?”

Edin flattened her ears and rolled her eyes.

“I wonder if you realise how lucky you are you can’t talk.”

With that she turned tail and headed for the door.

“Alright first a nibble for both of us and maybe you can help me make up a good excuse for the books disappearance.”

Edin ignored him but trotted off towards the kitchen wagging her tail. The Sage followed his dog, smiling to himself.

Even the Sage did not know if he and his allies had really saved the world. The Sage knew what Rupert had saved from the conflagration. Only the faithful really knew its value. If any lived.


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