Affair at Arâk/Narrative
The broker, a slaver in the employ of the Gozarids, had waited for the two parties to be seated at a discrete divan, situated in a corner of the caravansarai reserved customarily for debauched behaviours, before signalling his two compatriots, bald-headed monstrosities whom he genially introduced as his “two bold uncles”, before announcing that the pair would henceforth be guests of the “lords of Razjania”, with the imprecation that this was but a temporary interlude of enforced hospitality which could be speedily dispensed with in return for an appropriately pecuniary gesture of gratitude.
Rostam had barely begun to launch into the time honoured Euran routine of dissembling gratitude so as to ascertain whether he was indeed the subject of a kidnapping, or merely of overenthusiastic politeness, when his ESB minder, keeping a discrete vigil from the edge of a desultory bar, hurriedly whispered a coded warning into his sleeve, grabbing immediate attention of the close protection team which had been quietly positioning itself on the balcony overlooking the central courtyard of the caravanserai. A frantic mêlée quickly broke out, as the ESB security directorate goons thundered down two flights of stairs and attempted to barge their way into the “patrons area”, eliciting a chorus of curses from the institution's hulking doormen and shrieks aplenty from a gaggle of partially dressed girls and catamites draped over various divans and carpeted surfaces, as they rushed to cover themselves.
Seeing, and hearing, the scuffle unfold over by the single door affording entrance into the room, the Broker and Rostam, cast aside their pretences of civility and set about each other. The Broker, making plays with a deftly revealed switch-blade, faced off against Rostam, himself clutching in his right hand a weighted cosh held with purposeful intent.
The pair circled, then suddenly, the Broker lunged forward and tried to slash Rostam across the face. Quickly, Rostam raised the cosh and brought it down with tremendous force on the Broker's skull. The scarred arm of Rostam's assailant trembled and his sinuous, knotted, hand wobbled. Rostam's attacker looked irritated, his cracked skull seeping pulsing spurts of blood that flowed over his forehead like a crimson tide over the shores of a tidal mudflat.
Then he let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later the Broker was dead and Humayra Hashemi, still sat at the divan clutching the voluminous silken folds of her saffron gown, uttered a scream of pure terror as the two brutes, heedless it seemed of their master's fate, lunged at her.
Rostam had scarcely any time to react before the harsh report of gunfire cut through and silenced the pandemonium in the room, pulling the two lumbering brutes up short as they halted their advance and turned to look towards the doorway from whence the noise had emanated. One of the doorman, a dark-skinned and muscly Kumaranchi, staggered backwards clutching at his quilted grey bambakion as blood flowed copiously from a series of crater-like holes, torn in the fabric and the flesh of his torso. The man sagged and then collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap.
The fight went out of the dead man's companion, who regarded the corpse of his co-worker with unfeigned horror. He too now sank to his knees, his hands held up in the posture of submission and supplication to the ESB-men, each of whom possessed a compact sub-machine gun, the barrel of one which still emitted a thin resinous whisper of grey smoke. Six of these operatives now fanned out to secure the room, pushing startled and frightened clients, along with the establishment's companion-staff, to the floor. A seventh man, Rostam's minder, was stood with pistol poised, aimed squarely at the base of the skull of the room's barman, who had foolhardily been reaching for the old shotgun concealed in the wine rack immediately prior to feeling the press of gunmetal against the back of his head.
"Humayra, the favour bestowed upon your people will be immense,” Rostam whispered to her “if you but show me the safe way out of here."