email us

NamehNegar Persian word processor

Puma jersey

Iranian books


Fly to Iran

US Transcom
US Transcom

Iranian books

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

Advertise with The Iranian

Cover story

 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Sixty

March 10th, 2000

Nearly three months had passed along the Southwest English coast. The days and weeks had been cold and isolated. Roya was tired of the cottage. The walks along the stream to the beach had long become dreary. Walker had managed a first draft that he titled Conspiracy at Desert 1. As a celebration, Lin Thi came to the cottage with a Thi Dinner prepared at the restaurant in Porthleven. She did so after driving to Pensanze. There, she had gone to a travel agency to pick up visas, plane tickets, and the schedule of a tourist service with a two-week sightseeing trip to Iran for the Persian New Year. Wes and Roya had applied for visas and paid for a trip to Tehran out of London. Wes, Roya, and Lin Thi sat at the cottage table, Lin Thi asked, "Are you certain about this trip."

Wes knew his answer wouldn't satisfy Lin Thi. He said, "We'll be OK. When we come back, we can get into the U.S. by ship out of Portsmouth. First . . . we go to Tehran."

Lin Thi didn't drop her concern. She said, "I think you're crazy. You've pushed your luck by being here instead of North Ireland. If these men didn't believe it was where you are hiding, they would've been back to question me. It's crazy to go to Tehran! What if they are there are waiting for you."

Roya answered, "The Persian New Year begins on the 20th . . . the first day of spring. There'll be a large number of expatriated Iranians returning to Iran to visit relatives. My mother once said the whole country seems to be moving about during it. I have a half-brother there. I have cousins near the Caspian Sea."

Wes interjected, "The boy's father can help us understand the story. We need to find him. With the reformist party gaining seats in the majle or parliament . . . it shouldn't be such a risk. The reformers back the current President Khatami. With a majority backing him there might be those wanting the truth told."

Lin Thi exhaled a defeated breath knowing men in politics didn't always want the truth known. It hadn't been any different in Saigon, and she was certain it wouldn't be any different in Tehran. Through Lin Thi's visits to the cottage, she had come to know Laleh Sanders' story. She was in agreement with both Roya and Wes that the story needed told. She knew Wes could tell it. Lin Thi said, "I hope the two of you survive this."

Wes answered, "We will. What I need you to do is keep the laptop and disks safe until we return. We'll return here before going to the states. Keep the cottage rented should we have to stay late into spring. It'll depend on what, if anything, we learn in Tehran. I may have to do a good deal of rewriting. If so . . . I'll do it here."

"Wes," Lin Thi asked for her last effort, "I don't want to hear on the news that you have been killed in Iran. Promise me you'll be careful."

"We'll be all right. There won't be anyone looking for us there. It's the last place these men will expect us to go. We'll only be gone two weeks. One of us gets ill after arriving there and we stay in Tehran. Then, we find the truth."

Lin Thi released a breath and, "I guess it'll be good to get away from the isolation. The weather isn't the best here even with the coming of spring." The past weeks hadn't brought the sun to Southwest England.

Wes added, "We'll need to continue our stay here when we get back. We have to stay somewhere." Roya glanced at Walker and he smiled.

Roya thought of how she had endured a cold winter with hope that spring would arrive. If they were again isolated in the house following their return from Tehran then so be it.

Lin Thi turned her gaze on Roya then back to Wes. She wondered if Roya lived in a fantasy world not appreciating the danger around her. Lin Thi let the subject go and said, "At the least you'll see more of the world." The conversation turned quiet.

One week later They met others of a tour group in London's Heathrow Airport. It was before boarding an Iran Air 747. The group consisted of 25 members. All lived within the United Kingdom. Gathered in an airport lounge, Wes, Roya, and 23 others listened to the joy filled words of a woman with dark hair and eyes and a friendly smile. She said, "Hello . . my name is Susan Shamlon. I know that each of you have put your trust in United Travel to provide you with the best of tours to Iran. Once reaching Iran you'll visit Tehran, kashan, Nain, Yazd, Kerman, Bam, Shiraz, Persepolis, and Isfahan. The hotels that you will stay in are all three star or above."

Susan Shamlon paused, smiled, and continued, "You will find the flight full with those of Iranian nationality or ancestry. They are returning to Iran to celebrate the Persian New Year. It is customary for family to visit relatives through the ten days of the solar Calendar. When reaching Tehran, we will take a private bus to the Hilton Hotel. During the first three days, you will visit the palaces once belonging to the shah. On day four we will travel to Kashan via Qom. You each have a schedule of the days, cities you will visit, and the sites you'll see. I just want to welcome you and if anyone has a question . . . be certain to ask. I am pleased to be your guide and coordinator for the next sixteen days. I hope everyone has introduced themselves to each other. I hope that you have a pleasurable travel experience. Are there any questions?" The woman's face retained her warm smile.

Wes asked, "If we should decide to skip a particular tour . . . are we free to spend time on our own?"

Susan Shamlon answered, "Yes. You may spend time on you own. The women need to remember to wear a scarf and cover their hair when they are in the public. Though there is a hope for change in Iran with the new parliament still there continues a sense of vigilance of the laws of accepted behavior."

No one asked any further questions. The flight would leave Heathrow Airport in one hour. All members of the tour had checked their luggage. Now, it was a matter of waiting.


Four hours later, Walker, Roya, and the others sat in a plane full of passengers winging its way across continental Europe and flying to Tehran. Though Roya had hoped she and Walker might travel to Turkey and take the Asian Highway to Tehran as her mother once did she knew it was impractical. By being part of the tour, they were lost among those with their private memories.

With every mile, Roya attempted to visualize the country through her mother's eyes, and that country cut deep into her heart and soul. Her mother once did what she believed she needed to do. Roya didn't understand the dedication of it. Why did her mother make such a dangerous trip leaving her with grandparents? Why did she leave a son and give away all claim to him? When she reached Tehran, Roya hoped someone might send her in the direction of the man with the code name of Mashhad. Roya also knew she would travel the miles to the landing zone the Americans used one night, a night her mother was in the desert with Mashhad. It would be her personal pilgrimage.


Following hours on the flight, the plane landed at night. An hour later the tours group arrived at the Azadi Hotel where they checked into waiting rooms. Roya and Walker's was a room with double bed.

The next morning they toured one of the Shah's palaces. In the afternoon, they excused themselves from a trip to several museums to return to the hotel, Roya claiming menstrual cramps. Once they exited the restaurant where the tour ate lunch, Wes and Roya hailed a taxi. They slipped into the back seat and Roya said in Farsi. "We need to go to Darband. Can you take us there?"

The driver answered, "Yes, but it'll cost extra."

"That's fine. Drive us there. I'll tell you what address when we get there." Roya and Wes settled into a ride taking them trough the city to the north. Wes studied posters of Ayatollah Khomeini on walls and billboards that reminded the people of their need for vigilance in protecting the Islamic Republic of Iran. Neither Roya nor Walker asked the driver to take them past the once American Embassy Compound. To do so might alert someone of his or her reason for being in Tehran. Roya tried to visualize her mother photographing those on the streets.

In addition, with the country long reopening its borders to tourism, there were quite a few European and American tourist strolling the streets. Roya and Wes took notice of the women wearing the chador that covered them from head to foot. Roya looked out the cab window at them and wondered if they truly desired the manner of dress.

To Roya, the city didn't present the formidable bearing her mother described through the years. Brown smog filled the sky. Walker watched the traffic and those in it. As they were driven north, Roya wondered if the man once living in the apartment in front of her grandparents' home continued to live there. If he were alive, he would be in his eighties. If he were alive, he might remember Mashhad and her mother.

Reaching Darband, Roya gave the driver the address. The driver found the property and parked before the gate. Roya couldn't draw forth any memory of the scene. She had been too young when she was last there. Roya spoke to the drive, "Please wait." She and Wes exited the car and walked to the gate. Finding it not locked, she pulled it open so that she and Wes could enter the property. The cab driver lighted a cigarette and watched them with no particular interest.

Roya walked to the smaller apartment near the property entrance. Wes hadn't said anything during the drive. He followed beside her. An old man stepped out on the porch. Roya reached him. She knew he would be near the age she hoped to find. She said in Farsi, "I've come from America. I'm trying to find the man managing the property for my mother following my grandparents' deaths. He lived here in 1979 and 1980. Can you tell me if he is still living and where I might find him?"

Nezar Hindawi was eighty-four years old. He studied Roya. Several seconds passed before he realized the similarities of the face. The woman from America returned. He remembered the night revolutionary guards came and arrested her. The next day authorities had questioned then released him. Following two months in prison the woman had returned to stay and give birth before returning to America. Now, the property was one of several northern villas owned by the clerics and used as a retreat for students of the Holy book of Islam. Hindawi said, "I'm sorry, but I do not know. That was many years ago."

Roya studied Nezar Hindawi's face and refused to accept his words. She said, "You recognize my mother's face in me. Don't you?"

Nezar Hindawi answered, "That business was years in the past. I don't know what happened to her. They came for her and the young man one night."

Roya asked, "Who came for her?"

"The revolutionary guards."

"Why did they arrest her?"

"I don't know. I didn't ask questions."

Roya asked, "Who was the young man with her?"

Nezar looked toward the home and saw that no one watched in his and the girl's direction. He turned back to Roya and answered, "His name is Karim Sa'edi. You cannot tell that I told you."

Roya asked in an imploring face, "Please, if you know where he is . . . it's important. My mother gave birth to a half-brother. I would like to meet him."

Nezar Hindawi asked, "Why have you come to Iran?"

"Because my mother didn't leave the country until after the boy's birth. My mother died last August. She told me of my brother. I would like to meet him."

Men had told Nezar Hindawi to forget the night they came for the American woman and Karim. Through the years, no American contact came to ask about the woman's arrest. Nezar said, "The young man you asked about is alive. He has kept in contact with me. He always hoped the American woman might come back and look for him."

Roya came alive with hope. She asked, "Do you know how to reach Mashhad. You know how to reach Karim Sa'edi?"

"Yes, I know how to reach him. Perhaps it will make up for the madness of those days. After they took your mother . . . they printed that they arrested her for spying."

Roya said, "My mother wasn't spying. She came to stop the Americans from reaching Tehran. She and Mashhad were in the desert that night. She came to prevent a possible bloodbath. It went wrong."

Roya's words were the first words the old man heard to explain the day and night the American woman and Karim were gone from the home. It explained their weary appearance after returning to the home the day men broadcast that Americans died in the desert.

Nezar said, "Please come in." Nezar Hindawi turned to push open the door of the apartment.


Twenty minutes later Wes and Roya left the apartment and returned to the cab. In it, they sat thinking. Walker hadn't understood the language, and Roya hadn't told all Nezar Hindawi told her. Roya wondered if the old man's story was true.

Thirty minutes later, they were back on the sidewalk before the hotel. Not wanting to speak English while with the cab driver, Wes hadn't said anything during the drive. He asked Roya, "Do you think you can trust him?"

Roya said, "He's better than nothing. We may have gotten into the country, but I'll bet you no one is going to admit to what happened in the desert. You can only blame fate on the will of God. I want to check the old man's story."

Wes said, "I hate to tell you, but I don't speak Farsi, and I don't know what the conversation between you two said or didn't say."

"Are you willing to trust me?"

"Yes, I'm willing to trust you."

"Before we rejoin the tour tomorrow . . . we need to rent a car. Then, we're going to the man who is the father of my half-brother. I know where he lives."

"You're kidding?"

"Mashhad kept in touch with the old man in hopes my mother might one day return for him. But a terrible thing was done to him."

"What thing?"

Roya ignored the question and said, "No one knows that Mashhad has kept in contact with the man at the home. He will tell that he told us only what he knew from the day they came for my mother."

Roya knew the man with the code name of Mashhad had paid a high price for helping her mother. He became an outcast. Now, Walker and Roya were free to go to him. Roya could not only meet Mashhad, but she could meet her half-brother.

An hour later, Wes had completed the paperwork to rent an old Mercedes. It was late afternoon and Roya harbored nothing less than joy that they had so easily found the information she feared she wouldn't be able to find. Passing through Azadi Square, they were soon on the Asian Highway, traveling northwest.

After traveling a hundred and twenty-five kilometers, with Roya reading a map received at the car rental, Walker turned off the highway onto a graded road taking them north and into "The Valley of the Assassins."

Fifteen minutes later, at a point where the road crested a rise in the land, before it descended to a valley, Wes brought the car to a stop in the middle of the dirt road. There, both Roya and Wes viewed the valley ahead of them. The sun was at three in the afternoon. A small, mud-brick building sat a half-mile distance with the snow topped Alborz Mountains as a backdrop. The house looked lonely in a vast space and behind a single petrol pump. They sat staring into the distance for several minutes before Wes asked Roya, "Are you certain you want to do this?"

Roya turned to Walker. She had tears in her eyes, and she said, "I have no choice. I want to meet Mashhad. I want to meet my brother."

Wes pressed the accelerator down and the car descended into the valley. As they grew nearer the petrol station, Roya felt her stomach knot. She wondered if she should tell Walker to turn the car around, go back to Tehran, get on an airplane, and leave the country. Roya knew Karim Sa'edi suffered as her mother did. The sick feeling didn't leave until the rented Mercedes turned off the road and Wes parked it before a home that was badly in need of repair. Its outside walls were a dirty brown with paint flaking off. Wes parked the car at an old, glass-topped, hand-cranked, petrol pump. Neither he nor Roya exited the rented Mercedes. A young man pushed a door open, and he stepped toward the driver's door. He asked in Farsi, "Do you need petrol?"

Wes looked up at him and knew he would leave it to Roya to answer. Roya said, "Yes."

The young man removed the petrol cap. Roya exited the car to watch him. Twenty year-old Ahmad Sa'edi asked, "Are you going to the Castles of the Assassins?"

Roya answered, "Yes."

Ahmad added, "You'll have to hike the last miles. It's late in the day. You have a good distance to drive yet."

The words set a bewildering thought in Roya's mind. Her mother believed she was an assassin of the innocent men killed at Desert 1. She asked, "How old are you? What's your name?"

"I am twenty. My name is Ahmad Sa'edi."

"Are you here by yourself?"

"No," Ahmad answered. "This is my father's house."

Roya asked, "You live out in the middle of nowhere?"

Ahmad didn't take the words for more than they were. He watched the older man get out of the Mercedes and walk away from it to look toward the mountains.

Roya asked, "Is your father here? Someone told us he knew about the castles."

Ahmad thought the young woman was European. He was pleased that she spoke Farsi. Ahmad said, "He's in back of the house."

"Can I meet him?"

"Go around the house. He sits and stares to the west."

Roya turned to leave Walker to pay for the petrol. She walked around the house not knowing what to say to Mashhad. Stepping around the northwest corner, Roya saw a man sitting at a wood table. Karim held a water-pipe stem to his mouth with his left hand. He sat staring to the West. Walking up to Mashhad and standing before him, Roya asked, "Thy Father's House. Do you know the words?"

Karim turned to Roya and he remembered first seeing Laleh when she came to the home years ago on a motorbike. He looked at the shape of Roya's face. Karim asked, "Why has it taken you so long?"

The words didn't surprise Roya. Nor did they anger her mind or heart. Instead, there was a sense of compassion for Karim Sa'edi. The man cared enough to accept his punishment. It came from the same ayatollah judging her mother. Roya extended her right hand. Karim gave his left hand while holding the brass end of the water pipe between his teeth. His right forearm remained buried in a lightweight jacket he wore to ward off the chill of the afternoon wind coming off the northern mountains.

Roya asked, "Are you Mashhad?"


"Where you there when they sentenced my mother?"

"No. They had already dealt with me for stealing their glory."

"What did they do to you?"

Karim studied Roya as she stood across the wooden table opposite him. He pulled his right forearm from inside his jacket pocket. His arm ended at his wrist. Karim said, "It's the Islamic way for punishing those who steal. I stole their glory. I stole their martyrdom. It was my sin against Allah."

Roya looked on the stump of the right limb. She then looked to west and asked, "Why are you living out here and not in the city?"

"It is my banishment. The house once belonged to my uncle. I earn a small income."

"The boy? Is he my half-brother?"


"Does he know?"

"No. You cannot tell him. It will destroy him."


"Because he is a devout Muslim. Life is hard in Iran. He believes I lost the hand from work in a foundry. He will go to Qum next month and study to become an Inman. It is his desire."

Roya said, "I'm sorry. What did my mother do that night in the desert? The night the Americans came?"

Karim remembered how the fiery crash lighted the night and how Laleh took photographs as the remaining planes lifted off the desert floor. He managed to have the film hidden until Laleh left Iran. Karim said, "Your mother didn't cause the crash."

"Why not?"

"The shell wasn't what she thought it was."

"The one she fired?"

"Yes. The one to penetrate the helicopter's transmission."

"What was different that night?"

"It wasn't a shell she brought into the country. I had exchanged it for another one."


"The shells she brought into the country were cast in titanium. They each held an explosive charge. The one she used wasn't lethal."


"I had a gunsmith make one of lead with less than half the powder. It was dark and I loaded the rifle. The helicopter crash was an accident."

"You did this for her?"

"I did this for her."


"Because they had fewer helicopters than they needed. The Americans were leaving the desert. Your mother fired on the helicopter without knowing it. I was a contact in Tehran and had pushed for the embassy take-over. Men wanted the raid to fail. It failed before your mother fired the shot."

"Why did you have her beaten? It killed her."

"Because The Raven wanted her to trust me without knowing it was he who directed the embassy take-over."

Roya felt outrage. She asked, "Did The Raven instruct you to have my mother beaten?"

"Yes. My instructions came to me through a man named David Rice. I pray that neither man knows that you are in Iran."

Roya ignored the name of the man hunting Wes Walker and her. She asked, "Did you kill the men who raped my mother?"

"Yes. I despised myself for being a part of it. I didn't want the truth known."

"Did you love my mother?"


"They amputated your hand for the helicopter crash they thought my mother caused?"

Karim thought of the word amputated and knew it hadn't been a surgical amputation but the swing of a sword. He said, "I had gone around the perimeter and saw that one of the helicopters had shut down its engine. The Americans wouldn't have done so if the helicopter were flyable. It meant they couldn't continue for the next night's raid. I knew it was over. I didn't tell her. I should have told her . . . I didn't. It is my true shame. The lost of a hand is nothing."

"You loved her but didn't tell her she hadn't caused the accident?"

"Yes. I should have told her the truth. I fell in love with her during my stay with her in the hospital."

Roya turned from Karim and feared tears would come. She asked, "Why not tell Ahmad that he's my half-brother?"

"What purpose would it serve?"

Roya inhaled a deep breath before saying, "I'm sorry. I thank you for trying to protect her. My mother is dead."

Karim felt a sense of pain wash through him. He asked, "How did she die?"

"She had a stroke."

"Allah knows best."

Roya wanted to answer the words, but she didn't. Instead, she said, "I better go before your son wonders why I'm speaking with you."

Karim studied Roya and remembered Laleh. Roya saw Karim's eyes were moist and on the verge of tears. She extended her right hand and he extended his left. Roya said, "Thank you. I am sorry."

Karim tried to find a smile for the young woman but couldn't. He said, "Thank you for finding me. I have wanted to meet you. Your mother told me of her daughter. My guilt is no less than another's is. You're as beautiful as she was."

Before Roya could leave, Karim knew he needed to ask. He asked, "The code words "Thy Father's House" I never understood using them. Whose house were they referring to . . . the one in their Bible, or the one in Langley, Virginia?"

Roya answered a sad, "I don't know. My mother never said. She only wrote the words and told me in a letter that you would accept me. She instructed me to try to find you and tell you that she also loved you." Roya managed a partial smile, turned to walk to the front of the home, and to the Mercedes. Walker had paid for the petrol and driven the car away from the pump. Roya entered the car. Tears were in her eyes. Wes turned the car onto the dirt road and headed it in the direction of the highway. He didn't ask any questions and Roya didn't offer any answers. It was a mile later when Roya said, "The world is a sad place."

Wes responded to the words by placing his arm around Roya's shoulder. Roya laid her head on it and cried. Several miles later Roya said, "It was an accident. He had exchanged the shell. All those years my mother thought she was responsible for the deaths. I want to see this place called Desert 1. After seeing it . . . I want to go home." Wes Walker knew it was time for both of them to go home. It was time for the nightmare to end. First, they would rejoin the tour they signed on with and they would travel to Yazd. There, they would take a day to travel to Desert 1.

Now, in writing the story, Wes felt he was performing a rape of innocence lost. Roya's thoughts centered on wanting to see the landing zone the Americans used that haunted two governments. Roya wanted to see the desert where an accident altered the course of history and brought a new president to power. She wanted to see the place that eventually killed her mother.>>> Go to Chapter Sixty-One

Your feedback is important to us.

* Back to "Conspiracy at Desert One" main index

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Bernace Charles

 Send flowers

Copyright © Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form

 MIS Internet Services

Web Site Design by
Multimedia Internet Services, Inc

 GPG Internet server

Internet server by
Global Publishing Group.