The stranger was clothed in black. Part of her hair was shaved and it was visible to the men because she wasn’t veiled. Her shaven hair was a sign that she was in mourning, this woman had just lost someone.
“Why do you cry so hopelessly?” Abdul touched her shoulder lightly. His touch didn’t comfort her. More tears glided down her cheeks.
“What are you doing here all alone?” He ignored her wails and pressed on. He was on a mission to find the body that was missing and nothing could distract him.
When the grieving woman was able to spare some tears, she wiped her face with the back of her hand. Her eyes were reddish and clouded with sorrow that he couldn’t understand. Whoever had died was very close to her.
“My husband, Ali was killed this day by a stranger. His face was heavily veiled but I could see his eyes. There were dark and filled with horror. It was the eyes of death. The killing of my husband happened swiftly. His brother had just witnessed the birth of his first child and my husband and I had come to the market to buy some gifts; while walking, the man on the horse rode straight towards us.
At first, I thought that he was full of wine because there was no path for a horse here. In a split of time, he pulled out a dagger from his garment and stuck it in my husband’s throat. I gave out a loud scream, but that wasn’t enough to save me.”
Abdul’s anxiety faded as he listened to the woman’s story. He was getting important information that would help him now.
“Why would anyone want to kill your husband?” Abdul asked calmly.
Tears welled in her eyeballs but she managed to control them.
“Ali was a good man. He was the best father and husband that anyone could ask for. He was a man of peace and wisdom. He had no enemies. I cannot tell why the beast killed my man.”
While the woman was speaking, Rahib watched her face intently. He noticed that her eyes were evading Abdul’s while she was talking about her husband. It seemed that Ali wasn’t such an innocent man after all and his wife knew this. Rahib concluded that she was hiding something.
“Did your husband give out loans or take loans?” Rahib stepped in. Abdul wasn’t surprised by his question. He knew the woman wasn’t being truthful.
She broke into sobs and began to cry again. The men were getting impatient.
“How can you disbelieve me? Ali was a perfect man!”
Abdul was now certain that she was hiding something. The woman was deliberately keeping information from them.
“Look, I don’t know why you would want to keep any important details from us. If your husband is the perfect man that you paint him to be then he didn’t deserve to be killed like a chicken. We are trying to find a way to pin down these marauders on a mission. If you want justice for your husband, you must tell us the truth and where his body is.”
She didn’t reply, she masked her thinking with sobbing. The woman truly had something to hide, but it wasn’t something that had to do with her husband’s reputation. Ali had been a wonderful husband and father. It was something else; something that someone had told her to do.
Perspiration broke on Abdul’s nose. He was growing annoyed by her tears. Why couldn’t she come clean and confide in them? How would they help her if she continued crying?
When she finally made the decision to break the promise she had made to the old man, she wiped her face.
“I do not lie about Ali, he was a great man. But I am keeping something from you. I can only tell you if you give me your word to bring him justice.”
The men realized they were right.
“I give you my word as the chief protector of Israr,” Abdul said.
She shook her head, “That isn’t enough. I want you to swear on God’s name. I do not want you to break this promise.”
“My master cannot do that. His yes must be a yes because he is an honorable man,” Rahib stepped in.
The mention of ‘honorable,” made Abdul feel uncomfortable. Was he really honorable? Was he deserving of the position that he had been given? His heart burned as he remembered what he had done to Aisha. He had treated her like a whore. He had disrespected her body. No, he wasn’t an honorable man and he couldn’t swear on God’s name lest he receive a punishment.
“I do not break my promises. You have to trust me,” he returned.
The woman realized that she had no choice, decided to tell them about the old man that had come for her husband’s body.
“An old man came to the square while everyone had fled. He told me that he comes from the village of Morkdul and he is a man of knowledge. He said that my husband’s corpse could be in trouble and I must give my permission for him to take it.”
Both men exchanged angry glances as they realized that the ghoul of Morkdul had outsmarted them.
“That dirty old man is up to some tricks!” Abdul gritted his teeth.
“We must ride for the village of Morkdul immediately,” Rahib agreed.
The woman felt relieved that these men were passionate about solving the puzzle. She vowed to help them with the necessary information that would keep the investigation moving.
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Abdul and Rahib bid the woman farewell and advised her to leave the market because they didn’t know where next the killer would hit.
“May Allah be with you,” she bowed her head.
“And may His countenance shine before you!” Abdul and Rahib responded.
It wasn’t long before the men mounted on the horse and rode fiercely towards the village of Morkdul. Their journey was swift. They were mne on a mission and they wouldn’t sleep until that mission was carried out.
The ghoul had been studying his new corpse. This one wasn’t mutilated like the rest, but there was an interesting scroll that he had found in the dead man’s pocket. Again, he had found the bakail flower inside the scroll and that confirmed his fears.
“Now that I have confirmation that the old and evil order is about to rise, I must make contact with the chief protector and his man.”
As if the wind had heard his prayers and brought them, the old man winced as he heard heavy pounding at his door.
“Who is it?” He quickly hid the scroll under the table.
“Open up you tricky fox!”
The ghoul was relieved to hear that it was Abdul’s voice. The man had feeling that Abdul had discovered that he was keeping information from them. He didn’t feel guilty about it. He had his reasons for going into personal research and he couldn’t apologize for doing what he knew was best for everyone. Now that he had discovered what the killings were about, they needed to dig further and find the faces behind the killings.
“Why do you come after me like a common thief?” The ghoul was a bit irritated by the way they had pounced on his door.
“If you had treated yourself as a man of dignity, we would not have need to come after you like a criminal.” Abdul replied angrily.
“You lied to us! You found something and refused to share. This isn’t how people work together.” Rahib offered his displeasure towards the old man’s behavior.
The ghoul’s face was stiff. The lines of his wrinkles remained in perfect shape and his small eyes did not lose their glow. He was not disturbed about their ranting. There were boys to him; he believed that he knew better.
“What do you want me to do? Apologize? I will not do that. I found something out which will benefit everyone.” He ignored his visitors and circled the table. His behavior angered Abdul further. How could the old man be this rude?
Rahib knew that Abdul would react, so he quickly moved towards his master and whispered.
“Do not be too angry with the old fool. He may be old, but he is very wise. Let us listen to him.”
The ghoul heard the words that were mumbled against him.
To be continued…