The Spider Killings (12)

Chop, chop, those beautiful chestnut locks all gone


The Spider Killings (12)
by laleh haghighi

A fictional series based on real events that happened in Iran known as the "Spider Killings". [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

-- “Isn’t he a bit young for you?” Azadeh asked with a smirk as she looked at her friend Yassi, who was holding a little boy, no more than five years old, by the hand.

But Yassi was too excited for jokes.

-- “Oh Azi, isn’t he a darling?” She said while caressing the boy’s hair “We’re going to take him home, and wash him, and feed him and…”

-- “Wow, hold on a second there, what the hell are you talking about?” Azadeh replied, this time, with growing concern in her voice. “This isn’t a goldfish you can fish out of the pond and dump in a bowl for your soffreh haft-seen, your New Year’s arrangement. This is a little boy. Where are his parents anyways?”

Yassi approached her friend and whispered.

-- “That’s the thing. You see, when I found him, he was by himself. I asked him where his mommy was and he said…she is dead. I asked him who takes care of him and he said it is someone named Mahin Khanoom whoever that is, but that she ran away so fast from him, he couldn’t catch up with her. Azi. I think he has been abandoned. Look at him. He is filthy. He may have lice. And he looks so underfed. We have to take care of him.”

-- “Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait. I can’t. We can’t. Yassi, think about it. We have no right to do this. We have to, I don’t know. We have to get help. Call the police or something.”


Yassi, the usually pliable sweet girl, had suddenly shifted her tone to that of steel. There was no question about it. She was determined and she would get her way. Azadeh did not insist further. It had been wrong of her to mention the police, not just because Yassi and her were already on the wrong side of the law. It went deeper than that.

A while ago, Yassi had been arrested by a group of officers. Before they had taken her to the station house, they had gang raped her. When she came home after weeks of detention peppered with beatings, lashes, and other mistreatment, the young girl was hysterical.

For the first day, she couldn’t stop laughing. It wasn’t laughter actually. More like a giggle. Not a light hearted giggle that you would hear at the end of a punchline. Something else. Something wild and ... not... sane. It chilled Azadeh to the bone to hear her friend giggle like that for no reason when she should have been crying or screaming, anything but that. Had she lost her mind for good?

They made us all pray together, Yassi would repeat incessantly in between bouts of laughter, they made me pray and each one of them prayed too, right before taking their turn with me. Then Yassi abruptly stopped laughing and fell into a deep fever that lasted over a month. Azadeh had to spend all their savings on the doctor who came to see Yassi on and off. She was in so much pain. She used to wake Azadeh up with the sound of her head banging against the wall. My head is killing me, she would scream, and she would run her fingers through her thick mane of hair and cry out, begging for it to be cut off, because it hurt her head so. Finally, Azadeh had to relent.

Chop, chop, those beautiful chestnut locks all gone. Azadeh cried as she snipped each strand. She prayed to the Imam Reza Shrine for the first time since she had moved to Mashad, asking for her friend’s recovery. She blamed herself, knowing that her prayers were useless since she had forsaken God a long time ago. She was hoping a remnant of the pure, innocent girl she had once been could summon the divine help to rescue her friend in peril.

For a long time, things got worse rather than better. Azadeh was cutting, more than she had before. She looked at the bluish veins that were so visible underneath the pale, thin skin of her wrists and she thought to herself, if she lost Yassi too, then she would break through the skin and sever those veins once and for all. One morning, the timid voice of the young girl she had cherished returned, asking feebly for some soup, and Azadeh knew she would recover. At least in body, if not in mind.

-- “NO!” Yassi firmly repeated “Not those animals. They won’t get him. We are his family now. Azi, I swear…”

-- "Okay, okay calm down.” Azadeh hastily replied. And then, bending down to the child’s level:

-- "And what is your name darling?”

The little boy took his thumb out of his mouth and answered:

-- “Babak.”

* * *

-- “So how did your interview go with Mashad’ ladies of the night?” Peyman asked, with the ever-present twinkle in his eye.


Roxanne reached over for a forkful of salad before responding. Eating dinner like a bachelor was something she had forgotten since her student days. It had taken a while to find edible stuff in Peyman’s fridge and pantry. They had ended up having a picnic of sorts, with an assortment of goodies spread in small bowls and saucers of varying sizes and colors: Pickles, feta cheese, tomatos, yogurt, bread, and an omelette Peyman had magically concoted. Out of what expiring ingredients, Roxanne thought it best not to ask. It was delicious.

-- “What’s the matter with you? You just buy more plates as you need them? Haven’t you heard of washing dishes?” Roxanne chuckled.

-- “Hahahaha, funny, funny lady. Khob, if you listened to me and put an end to my agony, then maybe I could finally get my stuff in order.”

Peyman had said that with his usual joking tone but at the same time, he had gently taken hold of a hair strand that had escaped from Roxanne’s chignon and lovingly tucked it behind her ear. Roxanne suddenly got up and went to the kitchen:

-- “Want some more wine?” She asked nonchalantly.

Peyman sighed and waved his empty glass in the air in lieu of a response.

-- “You know, I did talk to a few women. One of them was very young. So young, she reminded me of Setareh. Funny too. A smart mouth. Haaaa, what a waste of youth and intelligence.” Roxanne recounted, as she poured some white wine in both their glasses. One thing a bachelor’s pad was never out of was alcohol.

The girl in the car, the one that had done the whole retail/wholesale bit that Roxanne had found so amusing could not have been that much older than her own daughter Setareh. After dropping the unknown young prostitute off, Roxanne had almost dropped her cell phone, so fast she was trying to dial Manou’s number to hear Setareh’s voice on the other line. She had never been so happy to hear her daughter's pouty teen-aged voice on the other line, with a tone that wanted itself to be aloof, to mask how much she was missing her mother. She was safe and sound, that's all Roxanne cared about right now. The rest she would deal with upon her return to Tehran.

-- “Overall though, they acted as if they didn’t know what I was talking about and they were more interested in asking me questions about my life in Tehran!” she concluded.

She turned to look at her friend, and very seriously, asked him.

-- “Peyman, what’s this all about? What’s the real reason I am here?”

Peyman smirked, his rejected overture forgotten, the twinkle back in his eye.

-- “I always knew why I liked you back in uni. You weren’t the most beautiful girl in the class, but you were by far the most discerning.”

-- “Aye ke delet bekhaad, you wish!” Roxanne burst in laughter, slapping her friend on the shoulder.

-- “Let me show you something.” Peyman said, getting up from the table.

-- “Thanks, I already said no 16 years ago!” the spirited woman retorted, still in a joking mood.

Nevertheless, she got up and followed her friend to the basement of his house.

There, in the chaos of broken furniture, rolled up Persian carpets, and boxes upon boxes of paper, Peyman made his way to an old armoire stuck to the far right corner and he started to move it.

-- “Here, let me help!” Roxanne exclaimed and ran over to her friend.

After a few minutes the armoire gave way a little, enough for Roxanne to distinguish a wooden plank underneath. It looked like a trap door. Peyman opened it and took out a yet another box that seemed overflowing with paper, envelopes, and a couple of computer disks.

A few hours later, the two friends were having coffee on Peyman’s balcony, overlooking the city, whose two massive domes seemed like two moons descending upon its inhabitants.

-- “How long have you been working on this?” Roxanne asked her friend. She was impressed. Very impressed.

-- “It’s been a couple of years. Very excruciating. And… to tell you the truth, and I promise you I will deny it if you ever repeat it, I don’t really know what to do with it.”

-- “What do you mean? You’ve got to publish it! “

-- “Roxanne. I’m… I’m hesitant.”

The two friends paused. The word “hesitant” was a euphemism that both of them understood only too well.

-- “Do you have… cause to be … hesitant?” Roxanne asked.

Peyman nodded.

-- “I know this is going to sound like one of your favorite Humphrey Bogart movies but… I think I have been followed for a while. And I don’t know when the shit is going to hit the fan but I am guessing soon.”

Peyman lit a cigarette and offered one to Roxanne, which she took eagerly. She rested her hand on top of her friend’s.

-- “And that’s where I come in. I understand. Don’t worry, leave it to me, I know what to do.”

* * *

Far away on the other end of the city, another man and woman were up at this late hour. But the reason for it was a bitter argument, not a friendly get-together.

-- “Mahin. Tell me again from the beginning.”

Hossein had not raised his voice once. But the anger in his tone was so palpable, it had sent Ali crying to his room and Mahin using every ounce of her strength to keep her chin from trembling in front of her husband.

-- “It’s like I told you. When you were away at your mother’s, Jamshid came back. He… He is trying to turn his life around, he told me so. And I could see that he has improved. He told me he had a change of heart and was coming for his boy. Hossein jan, what could I do? The man is his father after all.”

-- “So you let this martikeh tariaki, this drug addicted scoundrel, take Babak, a little boy, by the hand and leave out the door. And you did nothing! Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell him to wait. You could have called the police.”

-- “And say what Hossein? Say that I am keeping a man from his son?”

-- “Why not? You did it last time!”

-- “That was… different. He is a changed man now, I swear it. I could see it. Everybody deserves a second chance don’t they?”

Hossein put his head in his hands and sighed. For the first time in all his years of marriage, he was deeply unhappy. He had looked forward to adopting Babak, poor orphaned Babak who had lost his mother Fati in such a terrible way. Though he had acquiesced years ago to Mahin’s wish that they have only one child, he saw this as a great opportunity, a duty and reward at the same time for them to be a real family. He had gone many times to pray at the Imam Reza Shrine asking for guidance on what to do and he was certain that this was the right path. And now this?

It was a tough call for Hossein. To preserve his marriage, he could opt to believe his wife’s cockamamie story. As if that opium-addled son of a bitch could muster the will to take Babak right from under his wife’s nose! If Jamshid had indeed shown up on their doorstep claiming his son, he could have only succeeded in taking him if Mahin had decided not to stop him.

-- “I need some air Mahin. I am going out for a walk and I may not come back tonight. Don’t wait up.”

-- “That’s right” Mahin spat out, teary-eyed, “You go on to your mother’s like you always do, you mommy’s boy.” She ran away before her husband could react and slammed the bedroom door behind her.

-- “It’s going to be okay.” She whispered to herself, her hands pushing flat on her chest as if to prevent her heart from leaping out. “It has to be okay. It has to be.”

Hossein was walking the streets, haggard. He could not get rid of his sinister suspicion that his wife was hiding something terrible. Something that, if it was confirmed, would spell out the end for them.

He stopped at a payphone and after a few minutes spent picking up the receiver then dropping it again, he finally dialed the police’s number.

-- “Police here, what can I do for you?”

Hossein closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

-- “Hello? Anybody there?”

-- “Yes.” Hossein struggled with his words “I… I am calling to give an anonymous tip.”

-- “About what?”

-- “An abandoned child. He would have been abandoned today.”

-- “What’s the name?”

Hossein gave Babak’s information.

-- “Hold a few seconds please.”

After a while, the officer came back on the line.

-- “There’s no one by that name in our files and I looked in the whole week’s incident reports. There is no report of a child missing or abandoned. What’s this really about, Sir?… Sir?”

But the payphone lay hanging down, swinging back and forth in the empty stall>>> Part 13
PARTS [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


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