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Cover story

 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Fifty-Six


On arriving back at the home in Darband, Karim helped Laleh from the motorbike.As they had rode into the city, Karim knew word of the disaster reached it. A convoy of military trucks passed them as it raced to the south. The Iranian military was in the desert with their helo force searching the desert for possible American survivors. Eventually, someone would find the motorcycle tracks and know it had a sidecar. It wouldn't take those he knew within the Revolutionary Council and those of the Interior Ministry to figure he was in the desert during the night with the American woman. The convoy and others on the highway would remember seeing the motorcycle making its run back to Tehran.

With the motorcycle's engine switched off, Laleh brought her stiff body from the sidecar. She asked Karim, "How are we going to protect you? They'll kill you or they'll kill both of us. We have a day to get out of the city and make a try toward the Turkish border. We'll have to hide during the day and travel by night."

Karim ignored her words. He said, "No. I'll not run. What you did . . . what we did . . . prevented a blood bath. If it was what the Revolutionary Council wanted it's too damn bad."

Laleh was emphatic as Karim helped her walk into the home. She said, "They'll kill you, Mashhad, and you know it. The Americans involved will kill me if they find out I caused the deaths."

Aware of the possible consequences for helping the American, Karim knew Laleh was hurt and a further ride in the motorcycle sidecar could kill her. On her release from the hospital, the doctor told him to make certain she didn't make any lengthy drive. Doing so could cause permanent damage by causing further bleeding inside her brain. Now, he and Laleh Sanders returned from a near six hundred-mile ride. Karim said, "You'll never survive it. Another trip will kill you. No more . . . no more!"

Laleh pleaded with him, "Mashhad you've got to get away. They may arrest me, but they'll never tell the press what happened. They'll say it was the will of Allah. They can't run the risk of telling the world an American was running around in their country and waiting to prevent the rescue attempt. They'll never tell the truth."

"No. I won't do it. You need me here. I'll think of something to satisfy them. It'll be OK. I'll be back." Karim helped Laleh upstairs. He lay her on the bed and said, "Another time and place who can tell. It turned out this way by Allah's will. I have to get the motorcycle put away and go downtown. I'll be back this evening. I need to go to the embassy and find out the reaction of those in the street." Karim found Laleh's pain prescription. He gave two of the pills to her and got her a glass of water. Laleh took the pills. Karim said, "I'll be back."

With Karim turning away Laleh called to him, "Be careful, Mashhad. This is only beginning. I'm afraid it's not the end of it."

Karim turned back to Laleh. His eyes and face carried a worried look. As Karim closed the door, Laleh allowed her body to relax from the cramped ride in the sidecar. She wondered if she could find the strength to tell Karim her second secret. She wondered how he would take it, and what the Mullahs and Inmans would say if they knew. She was an American and though they might put her into prison she would be hidden away to keep another truth from becoming known. Laleh would wait until that evening. She would confide in Karim about what she should do. Nevertheless, in her thoughts, an overwhelming weight of failure washed through Laleh to settle as a broken heart for the world and its insanity. Laleh had stopped taking her birth control prescription before returning to Istanbul. She did so in case men searched her and accused her of being an infidel. However, her cycle ended three weeks before the attack on her. Not taking the birth control prescription caused a further worry. The day the hospital released her, she took Karim to bed. She did so to wash away the memory of the rape. She took Karim to bed, and she was now carrying his child.


After the C-130s returned to Masirah, Russ Camron's plane was ten minutes behind others due to a loss of an engine. Getting his plane taxied to a stop, he exited it, and hurried to find Colonel Keller. Finding him in a tent and looking over the tired air crews Camron said, "Colonel, I need to speak with you."

Keller looked into Camron's eyes and knew something other than the failed mission was on the pilot's mind. He exited the tent with Camron and asked, "What is it?"

Camron said, "Colonel, I lined up on what I thought was the end of our lights to the southwest."

"I know. But you made it. That's what counts."

"That's not it, Colonel. Before I lifted off, I saw someone through my NVGs."

"You saw someone . . . where?"

"In the desert. It was a woman. I'm sure of it. She was to the southwest and taking photographs. She was wearing the black chador. I'm sure of it."

Colonel Keller studied Camron's face in the early morning light. He said, "Forget it, Russ. It was a hallucination. You're tired. We're all tired. I've experienced hallucinations myself when worn thin from a flight. We got out of there and that's what's important. Forget it or you'll spend the rest of your life trying to understand it. Whatever you saw was nothing. With all that was happening it could've been a man of the blocking teams looking for a possible attacker.

Camron said, "I'm sorry for us. I'm sorry for you. It should've worked. It was bad luck. It was bad for all us. It shouldn't have ended this way." Russ Camron turned back to the tent and walked through a group of tired and disappointed men. He lay down on his cot he had left less than nine hours earlier.


Karim returned late in the night. By the length of time he was gone, Laleh worried that others arrested him. Someone would search the desert and the tracks of the motorbike weren't far enough to the southwest to prevent men from discovering them. She hoped Karim's return to the cabin would tell her the revolutionary guards' reaction to the American's being in the desert. He opened the bedroom door without turning on the light. Closing the door, he crossed the room to undress and lay on the bed with his body and mind tired. He asked "Laleh, are you feeling better?"

Laleh moved her head to his shoulder and thought of how her head throbbed throughout the afternoon. She thought of how the ride back to Tehran left her feeling as if she should return to the hospital. The pills were barely touching the level of pain she now endured. She asked, "What is being said?"

"They believe the Americans failed because it was the will of Allah. It has affirmed their belief that they are just."

"And you?"

"I don't know any more. It isn't up to me. They're going to spread the hostages throughout the city and country. There won't be any risk of another rescue attempt."

Laleh remained quiet for several seconds before she asked, "What do they know about us?"

"No one asked me where I was last night or this morning. I don't know. I'll wait and see. You can't move. You're going to end causing permanent damage with fear of a stroke. You're not moving. I won't allow it."

Laleh stared at the side of the Karim's face and saw its shape in faint light. She said, "Mashhad, I'm pregnant. I haven't had my period for six weeks. I'm pregnant, Mashhad, and I won't kill the baby. My religion prevents it."

"You're Catholic?"


Karim remained silent for several seconds before asking, "How long have you known?"

"The past three weeks. I can't leave until the baby is born. Will you see to the child's safety?"

"Yes, I'll raise the child."

Laleh's next words frightened Karim while he realized they were true. Laleh said, "They'll have to have me arrested and hold me until the baby is born. There's no other way. Perhaps they won't kill me if they find I'm pregnant. It was part of your assignment to find what I was to do here. The truth is the only answer. You knew it . . . you decided to help me to prevent a blood bath. They'll believe you if you show them the receiver and telegraphic capability of the motorcycle. You need to show them how the rifle forms into it. You helped me to prevent the Russians and Americans from turning your country into another Vietnam. They'll release me after the baby is born."

Karim thought of his words, and he pulled Laleh tighter against him. He lay in thought for a long time and listening to Laleh's breathing. Karim fell asleep with Laleh's head resting on his shoulder. In the darkness, he didn't feel the tears of the American woman running down to drop to his upper shoulder. In his weary sleep, Karim saw another time and place. He saw a petrol station at the southern edge of "The Valley of the Assassins." His father and mother were dead. The uncle transferred the petrol station to his father before his father died. The house remained empty the last years.

Now, Karim saw a young boy watching a single raven in the sky as it hunted its prey. Moreover, seeing The Raven transpose itself into the American's C-130 Talon, the plane came to take the woman and him into the night. With his subconscious mind feeding his memories, Karim remembered a night a girl brought her cousin cheese and fruit to the petrol station before "The Valley of the Assassins." The girl sat on the motorcycle seat, studied him, and told him not to give up his dreams. She was older than he was and she had dark hair, the greenest eyes he remembered seeing, and he thought her to look like an angel.

At the tine, Karim knew he gazed on God's beauty. From deep inside him, he knew it was the American woman beside him. Both the girl and The Raven came back to him in different forms to separate and leave him in despair. For the girl, and for the woman, Karim would tell the story as it needed told. He would tell it to protect Laleh who once told him to stand for what he believed. >>> Go to Chapter Fifty-Seven

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