In this episode, we will continue with our novel Long Way from Home chapters 5-7 the journey with George and Pamela as they escape to the north and we will see together what they see the next day on the news about them.
We stopped at a gas station and I told her to pull over as we were driving without knowing where to go or what to do.
“We need to make tough decisions, Pam. I know we didn’t want this, but we’re in it now whether we like it or not.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“I don’t know. I am not sure if leaving like this will incriminate us more, but I still don’t think we should go to the police. Think about it. We were there alone. There was a witness who saw us together outside the ladies’ room, and all the cameras in the company caught us leaving the building. Nobody will believe us, and God knows what his people will do to us when they know.”
“Do you think they have found his body yet?”
“I don’t know, but it’s a matter of time before Omar or the other security guard finds out. Although the patrol should not include going in the ladies’, Omar must have suspected something, and he might want to go back up and take a look. But if we’re lucky, they may not see the body until the morning.”
“But Rachidy’s car is still there. How long will it be there before anyone gets suspicious?”
“It doesn’t matter if they have found his body yet, or if the poor cleaning girl finds it first thing in the morning. Everything is against us, and we need to think about what we’re supposed to do now.”
“Do you know anybody important we can seek for help?” Pamela asked the one question I would always answer with a big proud no, but I realized how much that could have helped.
“No, not really. The funny thing is that I always thought I could get by without having to humiliate myself and need one of those hypocrites, but now, I wish I had been somebody’s dog.” I didn’t know why I said that, but for a moment, my foolish dignity was all for nothing.
“I could have made a deal with the devil to see my children again, to be there for them, not to leave them alone. I don’t know.”
“George, I know it’s hard to say that when you have so much to lose and I don’t, but we need to think about ourselves now. We need to find a way out of this, or go to the police station, tell them everything and hope God will be merciful.”
“God had nothing to do with this, Pam, but you’re right. We need to make up our goddamn minds and do something.”
“I wish I had anybody I could trust. Most guys in my family tried to do the same thing as Mr. Rachidy so I wouldn’t deliver myself to any of these bastards. They will…”
“Stop, stop! Forget about all these bastards and that Rachidy scum. You have me now. I don’t want you to fear me, ok. I will not hurt you.” I looked into her eyes, and I couldn’t interpret the emotions in there, but I wasn’t trying to.
I thought of one person I could trust to help me no matter what. He did it before against the wrath of all my family, so I hoped he would do it again, only now he will face the wrath of the whole country.
“Listen, I know where we should go. I will talk to my brother-in-law. He is the only one I can trust right now. They live in the North, so we’d better go there at least to crash and have a place where we can think of a way out of this problem. We may watch the news tomorrow and see if there is anything the reports may say to our advantage.”
“What could be to our advantage, George? Don’t be naïve.”
“Whatever, let’s get out of here while we can.”
“Wait, do you have your credit card, debit card or anything with you?”
“Yeah, you think we should?”
“You never know what might happen tomorrow, and we’ll need all the money we can get our hands on.”
Pamela was right. I didn’t think we should expect anything other than our two images flowing like a raging flood all over the social media and the news the next day, so whatever we ended up doing, we needed as much cash as we could get.
We stopped at an ATM and withdrew all the money we could. With the money I got from the house, we had a little over eight thousand dollars. If things got worse, I thought we might get extra cash from my sister or her husband.
We left the car by the bank, and we took a van to Tripoli. I had called my brother-in-law from a payphone, and he was waiting for us there.
Ramsey kept gazing at Pamela and me; I told him not to tell anyone I was coming, but I didn’t tell him I was not alone.
Ramsey stood in the middle of the room going back and forth. He kept staring at Pamela and me with unfathomable looks. I wondered if he thought I was fooling him. It wasn’t easy to believe such a story.
If Ramsey decided not to believe me, we were doomed. The man was an ex-military, and we were in his own field with nowhere to go.
“I will just ask you one more time. After you answer, have no fear for as long as I live, I will protect you, both of you.” Ramsey was one of those proud Northmen who would take all the time in the world to give you their word because once they did, there was no way they could turn their back on you.
“Do you swear by the lives of your children all you told me was the truth?”
“Well then. Nobody has seen you coming here, but in the morning, the workers will come, and I won’t be able to hide you here. I must take you now to an old cottage up in the mountains where you can hide for a few days until we can think of something. I need you to destroy your sim cards right now, or they will track you. You cannot talk to anyone or leave the cottage for any reason. I will come in a few days when I think it is safe to come. Wait for me here. I will come back shortly.” Ramsey said these words. He didn’t wait for answers or questions and went out.
We were both like new recruits listening to orders from our staff sergeant. We didn’t say a word. We were in a place we knew little about and all we had was Ramsey’s help to count on.
“Do you trust him?”
“With my life.”
“Are you sure because if you’re not…”
“I said I trust him with my life. The man did this before and expected nothing in return.”
“What do you mean he did this before? Did you kill anybody before?” Since the fateful moment in the ladies’ room, I hadn’t seen that fear in Pamela’s eyes.
“No, no, it wasn’t a crime at all I committed. Well, at least everybody else except my family would agree with me. But it is a long story, and I may tell it to you, but please not now.”
Pamela didn’t answer, and I didn’t bother to convince her any further, but I could see fear receding from her eyes.
It wasn’t ten minutes until Ramsey came back with some clothes which must have belonged to his Syrian workers. Old trousers, scarves, and shirts. I looked at Pamela to see how she would react to these dirty out of fashion clothes, but to my surprise, she took the clothes without question and entered the small bathroom to change.
We both looked like peasant workers if not for our hands and faces which could give us away.
“You still don’t look like any of my workers, but in a few days up there in the cottage, you will,” Ramsey said in a way that made me feel as if Pamela was the woman I left my wife for, but his reassuring tone did the trick.
We both needed to calm down and clear our minds to think of what was coming next. The last thing we did before we got in Ramsey’s van to take the trip up the mountain was burning our clothes and all other unnecessary belongings. I kept my backpack with me after assuring Ramsey it contained no trackable devices.
The road was dark, and we couldn’t see anything on the way up, no streetlights as there were no streets at all after the first five-minute ride. The rest of the road was so bumpy. I wondered how Ramsey could see anything in the moonless night, but we finally got there.
Ramsey handed me two big bags, one was full of food, and the other had blankets in it.
“Use the blankets, don’t light a fire. In fact, don’t light anything. This mountain is high, and they can see the smoke from miles.”
“Are you sure nobody will come here and surprise us?” I asked but felt stupid to even ask such a question to a man like Ramsey.
“Hunters use this cottage, and they don’t come here at this time of the year, but you must be careful. Don’t leave the cottage for any reason. I will come back in two days, and…” Ramsey had that look on his face which made me feel terrible to get him involved in such a dangerous situation. He was the father of my niece and nephews. What was I thinking? I know it was selfish, but I had no other choice.
“… Listen. You don’t owe me anything, but my ass is on the line here. Don’t do anything stupid, especially you, miss. Just wait for me to come back, and we’ll figure something out.” Ramsey left, as usual, without waiting to hear any questions or complaints.
I looked at Pamela to see if she was offended, but she didn’t seem to care, not after what she had been through.
We both felt grateful to have Ramsey’s blankets more than anything else, especially when we were not supposed to light any fire.
We didn’t have much to say to each other, and although Pamela said goodnight hours ago, I knew she still did not sleep just as I could not, but I didn’t know what to talk to her about. I kept thinking of what Susan might be thinking about by now. Did she know yet? I knew Ramsey would not tell anybody including my sister, but did Susan know yet? If she did, what did she know? I saw all the people I knew in one tiny place coming and going before my eyes all cramped in one little place as if we had given them all a ride in that small car we drove away from the company. I closed my eyes but still couldn’t sleep.
It was morning, and the light came in from a small window. I must have dozed off for an hour or two. I looked around me not sure if I was ready to leave the warmth of the blankets yet, but I got to see the cottage from the inside clearer this time.
It was a simple one-room cottage with a bathroom and a kitchenette. There were some utensils and a small cooker. There was a fridge, too. But the most important thing that caught my attention almost immediately was a small TV by the woodstove.
I turned around to see if Pamela was up yet, but she must have surrendered to sleep, too. I got up and went straight to the TV and tried to turn it on, but all I had was static but no image. I hurried to turn the volume down, but it was too late; I woke Pamela up.
“Is it working?” Pamela seemed interested in the TV, too.
“I will make it work. We have plenty of time. I can do it after our morning walk.” I was sure she was not in the mood of a silly joke, but I was more like telling the joke to myself.
“Yeah, but first we need to go shopping for some sunglasses. We don’t want the shepherds to recognize us.” Pamela didn’t make much of it more than a little smile on her face. Maybe, we should stick more to computers and leave comedy alone.
As both our tries failed to add humor to our frustration, I started working on the TV and the old thing sticking out of it was supposed to be a fossil of an antenna. It took me about an hour to wire everything up together, and Pamela didn’t bother to get up. I didn’t blame her as I didn’t leave the warmth of the blankets so willingly.
I was holding the antenna project in my hand waving it around trying to get a signal when a glimpse of hope appeared within the static coming out of the TV. I lengthened the wire using the light bulb wire, which we were not going to use, and I brought the antenna closer to the window, but not too close to be seen from the outside.
The picture came in almost as clear as our first black-and-white TV at my parents’, but we did not care about the resolution of the TV. We could get two local channels and nothing else. We kept the TV mute as we both didn’t have the mood to listen to the morning programs on shopping and how to live your life following the lead of your top-rated idol. Pamela was sitting on the ground surrounded by waves of blankets folded around her body. She used my blankets, too.
I looked at the screen and ventured to turn the volume a little up. Both Pamela and I came
too close to hear well at this low volume level. I didn’t know why I did it, but I held her hands as if we were going to pray.
I didn’t know what to expect from waiting in front of the TV, or if what I did was newsworthy in the eyes of our local channels, but we were powerless at the mercy of our unjust fate.
And there it finally came, the news broadcast.
We didn’t care for any of the stupid stuff about who visited the presidential palace that day, or the other trash of those politicians, but we were both silent and watching all this crap until the introduction, ‘a horrifying crime in one of the most prestigious software companies in the country.” And here it began
“Can you tell us what happened, Omar?” a reporter asked.
“I was doing my normal patrol after hours. I supposed nobody should be in the company at that time. I was checking the floor, and then I thought I heard some voices coming from the kitchenette. George came earlier, and he had been there for more than half an hour, and he was supposed to pick something he left in the office as he told me on his way up. I got suspicious, and I went there to check it out, and there he was at the door of the ladies’ room with the beautiful secretary of Mr. Rachidy, rest in peace. He threatened me, and she did, too. George is a big man, you know, a huge man. I was scared, and I thought they were in there doing their thing, you know, so I didn’t want any trouble. I left them alone and came back to my station right in front of the main gate. I saw them leaving after about half an hour.”
“Didn’t you get suspicious and try to go back up to check the ladies’ room after they left?”
“I thought they were just having fun and since they left the building, there was nothing more to worry about. But why would they kill Mr. Rachidy; he was a great man. He always greeted me as if I were an important person, and he was very generous. He also…”
“When did that mother fucker ever say hello to anybody?” I said to Pamela, but when I looked at her, her tears covered her face like the remnants of rain draining through the rocky side of a cliff. She didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation before listening to the news. Maybe, she was waiting for some miracle to happen, or to wake up from a bad dream. Maybe, I was, too, but I knew God had nothing to do with it, for if he did, I’d have serious words with him, and I wouldn’t care what he might say back. I was just so unlucky to be there, and Pamela was, too, or she wasn’t because I saved her. I didn’t know.
I didn’t need to hear the rest of Omar’s obituary and the sound was not clear enough although I was moving the antenna around. I was still looking at Pamela when she poked me to look back at the screen. Susan was being chased by the press refusing to issue a statement. She was with Elsa and John. I felt my heart squeezing within my chest to see them in such pain and misery because of me without a way for me to tell them I was innocent.
I suddenly felt the warm arm of Pam wrapping around me, and although I had seen she had been crying for a while, it was when she came that close, I heard it, too.
Then there were our pictures on the screen, and the reporter continued talking,
“The police are still investigating, but the two suspects remain at large. For more details, stay tuned for the whole story in the evening news.”
I turned off the TV and couldn’t say a word to Pamela who was still holding me tight. I didn’t know who was comforting whom. We stayed like this for longer than I could remember. Then I put my hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes, which were still wet.
“I think we have no way back. We need to get out of here.” Pamela said.
“We will, but we have to wait for Ramsey. We can’t do it without his help. We’ll get caught. Everybody is looking for us, and the car was in the middle of the way here, so Ramsey himself must be taking some heat because of us. We must wait for a few more days until things cool off a little.”
“What if he doesn’t come? What if…”
“He’ll be here. Don’t worry.”