Frederick Harrison Novels



Her Eyes Were Filled With Tears

a novel by Frederick Harrison

Copyright 2010 by Frederick Harrison


Jamal Free was nervous as he prepared to go aft to board the helicopter that would take him into Mogadishu for a long anticipated meeting with the internationally recognized President of Somalia, who rarely left his fortified compound, principally because he had little reason to do so.   The call to Jamal Free for a meeting with President Ahmad Bashir was a significant development, inasmuch as it meant acceptance of his status as a player in the civil war gripping Somalia.    It also signified that his strategy for organizing and conducting military operations was achieving success and could no longer be ignored by his opponents.    However, as he prepared to enter this new phase of his campaign for a new Somalia, Free was experiencing the same feelings of dread that had overtaken him after the abortive attack on his limousine in Sana’a.   Awareness of his greatly increased visibility unnerved him, as much because it was contrary to his nature as it was due to fear of newly inspired enemies.   He did not wish to be the one going to confront the President of Somalia or anyone else, for that matter.    In his fantasies of success, he stayed aboard the Spear of Islam, armed with nothing more than a laptop computer and a satellite mobile phone, leading his forces from afar by astute management and patriotic inspiration.   He strongly resented the increasing number of journalists, none of whom he had ever met, who referred to him as Jamal Free, the pirate warlord.

Hannah Crossman walked with Free to the ship’s helicopter platform, noting his visible nervousness.    Brian Vanowen was waiting to accompany him, dressed in khakis with Free’s Spear of Islam device on his shirt collar.   Hannah would remain behind, her cover as a journalist too fragile to be risked.   In addition, Admiral Bergen had once again forbidden Hannah to go ashore in Somalia.

The helicopter could take its passengers only to a former parking lot on the city’s waterfront, approaching low over the water to avoid providing a fat target for snipers hidden in the buildings.    A convoy of vehicles, including three identical armored cars, waited to carry the visitors to their destination, part of a shell game of sorts designed to discourage would be attackers by requiring them to guess which of the vehicles held their high value target.    The convoy proceeded slowly through the littered streets, guarded at some intersections by militiamen carrying Kalashnikovs who saluted perfunctorily as the vehicles passed.   Leaving the waterfront, the air grew noticeably hotter, although it was still only ten in the morning, and dust filtered through the open gunports of the armored cars.    Just as the temperature inside became unbearable, the vehicles zigged and zagged around concrete barriers and passed through the security gates of Villa Somalia, the Presidential compound.   An aide met Free at the door to the palace and escorted the party through the building to the presidential offices, which proved to be the only rooms that were air conditioned.   There were already ten people present, sitting quietly staring at one another, when Free and Vanowen were shown in.    President Bashir signaled an aide to make introductions, since he apparently had no idea who some of the attendees were or what they represented.    Judging by their reaction, or lack thereof, the young man got it right, his job and perhaps his life depending on it.   Except for the President’s two deputies, all present were leaders or senior members of the most extreme factions struggling for control of Somalia or at least to prevent any of their rivals from gaining control.    They had come principally for the opportunity to get a look at the upstart Jamal Free.    The latter had expected to meet President Bashir alone.

            “I have asked you here to meet Jamal Free, a new member of our society,” Bashir began.    Only two of those present found his words humorous or ironic enough to exhibit even a half smile.

            “You have all had recent encounters with his fighters on the streets of Mogadishu (nod to Vanowen), and I considered it useful that we meet with him to hear his plans and objectives.”   As all in the room focused their eyes and attention on Jamal Free, he felt once again in his gut the thrust of fear.

            “This is a very great surprise, gentlemen,” Free responded.   “I had expected to meet only with President Bashir.    I have been wondering whether it would be possible somehow for all of us to meet to discuss our mutual situation and relationships, that we might find ways to avoid needless killing and waste of resources.”

            For a long moment there was dead silence, as though Free’s listeners had not anticipated his ability to speak.   Finally, one responded in a surprised and insulted tone:

            “Why should you think that we would wish to deal with you?   You are not one of us just because you were born in our country.   The wealth you bring is obtained from crimes forbidden by God.   You claim to dedicate your efforts and money to creation of a new Islamic Somalia, but you are not a pious man.   The imams speak against you in the mosques, and we are told that you are a tool of the American CIA.   I myself have heard that you have a beautiful woman sent by the CIA living with you on your ship.”

            There was a general muttering of agreement in the room as the speaker (Free could not remember his or the others’ names) recited his objections, tinged certainly with envy at the end.    However, Jamal Free was now angry, and had forgotten his fear.   He stood up and turned to face the others, who no doubt noticed that he was at least six inches taller (and much leaner) than they were.

            “If what we are fighting with one another about is the honor of speaking for God, I shall withdraw.   I am not interested in speaking for God.    All of you seem to believe that what our country needs is someone to bring its people the true word of God, after which all will be well.   But, I must tell you that, by the time that happens, all of them are likely to be dead.    There is an old saying that God helps those who help themselves.   We are supposed to be helping our people help themselves to build more peaceful and prosperous lives.   Instead, you are trying only to teach them, at their expense, to worship God as you would have them do it.   And, because you cannot agree among yourselves who would do that best, the people suffer even more while you destroy their homes and kill their children fighting over it.”

            The muttering from Free’s audience was now anger and growing stronger.   Brian Vanowen reached surreptitiously to remove the safety from the pistol at the small of his back, but he knew that everyone else in the room, except Jamal Free, also had weapons.   He did not understand Somali and could only guess what was happening, but the situation appeared to be deteriorating into a shootout.   Free, however, appeared oblivious of the danger.

            “You have perhaps wondered, as you should, why my fighters have been so successful and why their numbers are increasing so rapidly.   It is true that part of it is due to my providing them the best and latest equipment, as well as competent military advisors, such as Mr. Vanowen here.”   Brian smiled at the mention of his name, but didn’t care for the way the others then looked at him.

            “But, the principal reason they are winning is that they realize they are fighting for themselves and their families and not for what someone thinks that God wants.   The people are tired of being told that God wants them to be poor, to mistreat their women, and to chop off the hands or legs of their brothers and sisters accused of straying even slightly from the path of true righteousness.”

            At this point, the mutterings of anger became shouts, and the President’s guards standing against the walls looked to their weapons.    Jamal Free, seemingly unperturbed, turned to President Bashir.

            “Please understand, Mr. President, that I am not seeking to replace these gentlemen or their organizations.    People are calling me a new warlord, but I am not looking for power.    Rather, I am looking for a way to bring this endless civil conflict to a close, and have become convinced that, unfortunately, it cannot be done by negotiation.   One faction will need to be strong enough to defeat and dominate the others and that, God willing, will be mine.   You and your government are the legitimate secular authority in Somalia, and I am willing to direct my organization’s efforts and resources to your support, if we can reach an understanding.”

            Free’s proposal caught President Bashir by surprise, as did the explosive reaction of the other attendees.   As hands reached for pistols, he signaled the guards who rushed forward to surround the unruly group.   At the same time,  more guards with submachineguns rushed into the room.    The President himself  hustled Free and Vanowen out of the room and down to the vehicle convoy waiting in front of the building.

            “Goodbye, Mr. Free.   We shall talk soon!”

            The line of vehicles began to move even before Vanowen had shut the door of their armored car, and the convoy raced toward the waterfront, this time with sirens blaring.    Thrown back against his seat, Vanowen turned to Jamal Free:

            “What the hell was that all about?”

Her Eyes Were Filled With Tears
Paperback - 298 Pages -  $12.95



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