The Spider Killings (7)


The Spider Killings (7)
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]

It was now dusk but still no sign of Hossein. It was completely unlike him to be so late, knowing Mahin would be stranded in the now deserted streets, her hands full of shopping bags from the Bazaar-e-Reza, the market where she had gotten all her spices and nuts, honey and saffron, enough to last for the month. Mahin started walking a bit down the street, hoping she could meet her husband’s oncoming car. Though she walked with her head held high, striding fast and determinedly despite the heavy bags wearing her down, she felt vulnerable. A woman alone at night, walking around as if… as if…

Mahin shook her head and tried to get the horrible thought about Fati out of her mind. Her late tenant’s violent death had shaken Mahin to the core. A woman walking alone at night in the streets of Iran’s holiest city, Mahin thought to herself, was no safer than a lone lamb venturing into a den of wolves. It was a sad truth but a truth nonetheless. Already, a few cars had accosted Mahin, men throwing vulgar comments at her, making her indecent offers, treating her, a respectable wife and mother, like the lowest of sinners willing to sell her body for a few rials.

Mahin’s exasperation turned to worry, not only for herself but for her husband. Had something happened to Hossein? She shuddered. He was her whole life. Even with his sometimes stupid quirks, like his attachment to his dear old Mom, and his unjustified generosity (like wanting to take the responsibility for Fati’s orphaned son), he was a good man, a good husband. He would never put Mahin in this position willingly. No, something must have happened that he had not been able to come pick her up from the Bazaar as they had planned, as they always did. Mahin bit her lower lip and quickened her step, her heart starting to beat a little faster than before. Better to walk on even if it was dark, until she could hail a taxicab to drop her off at home.

Suddenly a black Mercedes screeched in front of Mahin, and three men stepped out. They were young and boisterous, dressed in the latest fashion or what passed as fashion among the rich youth of the city these days. Loud Western music was blasting from their radio. They smelled strongly of alcohol. Az in Bacheh-pool-daara, spoiled rich brats, Mahin thought, probably the sons of either high government functionaries or maybe Mullahs. They knew the rules did not apply to them. She was not overly worried though. She had learned to take care of herself from a young age, being the only girl among seven male siblings, and she was certainly not going to let a bunch of bacheh-sossool get the best out of her.

As she tried to walk past them, they followed her with jeers.

--“Hey look at grandma! Grandma, do you need some help with your bags?”

--“Shut up, she isn’t all that bad for her age. I’d do her. Hey lady, how much do you charge? Is it by the hour or…?”

They all burst in laughter and continued to follow her. Mahin kept looking at the street hoping against all hopes that either Hossein or a taxicab would magically materialize. The young men were moving in closer. They were taunting her, pulling on her chador, trying to stop her. She finally turned around to face them and with all her might, she shouted at them to get lost.

--”Khejalat bekeshin, have some shame!” She spat at them “Go home to your mom, you need a good spanking!”

-- “But I’d rather get spanked by you Azizam!” One of them, the seeming leader, retorted.

Mahin shrugged her shoulders and turned back, only to be pushed from behind so hard that she fell to the ground face first. She felt a throbbing pain and her mouth feel with blood. One of her teeth must have broke from the impact. Her shopping bags had gone flying, all her items rolling out in all four directions.

-- “Help, help!!!” She screamed as best as she could through her bloody mouth.

She looked up and saw that her three tormentors were in the middle of an altercation with an older man. He had driven up to the scene in his van, unnoticed by Mahin and her assailants. The man, who had a strong built, easily overpowered the leader of the pack, punching him in the nose with such force that the blood squirted out and sprayed his two friends. As the three young men ran back sheepishly to return to the safety of their car, Mahin’s savior sent one of them reeling with a good kick to the butt.

A few minutes later, Mahin was in the passenger seat in the man’s van, pressing her handkerchief to her bloody mouth and thanking him effusively.

-- “Sad dafeh be Hossein goftam”, she repeated like a mantra, “I told Hossein a hundred times. I need to have a mobile for such emergencies, but he never listens and now, look what happened. If you hadn’t come along…”

She proceeded to give her opinion of her three persecutors, which then turned into her general opinion about men, “excluding gentlemen like you, of course”, she added as an afterthought. After a few minutes, she realized that she had not stopped talking yet the driver had not replied or responded to her in any way. She looked at his profile but it was hard to distinguish his facial features. It was so dark. From time to time, they would pass a street light, which would for a split second illuminate his hands on the wheel. They were two large hands, with hairy knuckles, and worn out, rough skin. Hands that had done hard labor all their life. Hands that could knock out an adversary in a matter of seconds.

Looking around, Mahin noticed that they were driving in a part of town that was unfamiliar to her and she then realized that she had not given her address to the man.

--“Agha…Agha…” Mahin ventured. He had not even given her his name, she thought with a growing sense of discomfort. “Agha goosh midi? Do you hear me? I need to give you my address.”

The van came to a stop and the man turned to Mahin for the first time in their journey.

-- “That won’t be necessary.” He said coldly. He then lunged over to Mahin, his hands around her throat faster than a snake striking at its prey. She was so shocked that she did not have time to react, to dodge him. She tried to scream but he had squeezed her neck tight and no sound would emerge. Slowly, she felt herself suffocating, losing consciousness. Her mouth mechanically opened and shut, trying to grasp some air, to no avail.


All that came out of Mahin anymore was an unintelligible groan. She put her hands on top of the murderer’s hands but she was too feeble to even scratch him, let alone loosen his strong grip. With her last ounce of strength, she tried to use her whole body to make the man lose his balance. She was jerking herself to and fro like a fish that has just been taken out of the water and thrown on the slimy deck of a fishing boat.

-- “Mahin! Mahin!”

In the middle of the struggle, she suddenly heard her name. It was Hossein. Oh my god, Hossein had finally arrived. He had come to her rescue.

-- “Mahin! MAHIN! Bidaar sho. Wake up!”

At that moment, Mahin opened her eyes and saw her husband’s concerned face over hers. They were both in bed, at home. The van, the murderer, all had disappeared, along with her nightmare. Mahin had perspired so much that she felt she was lying in a puddle of her own sweat. It was her own hands that had been around her throat, putting pressure on so that she had lost her breath. She burst into tears and Hossein held her, rocking her back and forth until she calmed down.

All Mahin could think of was Fati, poor Fati. The guilt was eating away at her. In the daytime, she could rationalize easily, bringing back all her old feelings of hate and jealousy at the pretty young woman who had made eyes at her husband, she was sure of it. A zan kharaab, a rotten woman, who had gotten just what she deserved for being so morally corrupt. But at night, she would become Fati in her dreams, a helpless, innocent woman stuck in the streets alone at night, to be picked on and mistreated, and finally strangled to death by a ruthless monster.

When Brigadier General Rohani had visited Mahin’s home a month ago, she had hoped at first that it was to take Babak, Fati’s son, away to the orphanage or perhaps back to his parents, who, she was sure, had skipped out on their rent and their son to boot. But the Brigadier had a much more gruesome mission: To identify the corpse that his police force had found in the outskirts of Mashad, about a week after Fati’s disappearance, by checking the missing woman’s photograph.

When Mahin was first told by the Brigadier that Fati had been murdered, strangled by an unknown criminal, she did what any woman would do in her position. She started to cry and scream, beating her chest, pulling on her hair, scratching her cheeks with her long fingernails. It wasn’t that she was mourning for Fati, necessarily. She was simply observing protocol. This was the way you were supposed to meet news of death. She had learned it from her mom, her aunts, and their friends, from the time she was little.

Over the years, she would in a way almost welcome news of someone’s death. That mourning ritual was almost a relief, the only time where it was not indecent for a woman to utter loud cries and bring attention to herself. The only time she felt free to raise her voice and shake her limbs in public and she would not be ostracized for it, quite the contrary. The rest of the time, she had to preserve the appearance of a good, religious mother and wife, yek zane sangin va khaaneh-daar, a woman with a household, with dignity and stature. For the only women in her society who dared to be loud and bring attention to themselves on a daily basis were the prostitutes, those girls with brightly painted lips who laughed loudly, standing at busy intersections, hoping to draw customers in.

Again, following the protocol, the neighborhood women had flocked to Mahin’s house upon hearing news of the tragedy. They wanted their share too. They wanted that little piece of freedom, that release of all their pent up frustration, everyday pains and worries, that they otherwise had to push deep down under their chadors. And the news of Fati’s death was a perfect pretext for that.

Every man, woman and child praised Mahin for taking on the difficult role of mothering Babak, that poor orphaned child who would have to live all his life with the stain of his mother’ sin. The women brought food to the house everyday, as much to “help out” as to hopefully hear some more salacious details about Fati’s lifestyle and horrible details of her murder. The thirst for gossip could never be quenched and Mahin found herself the center of attention, a position that she relished at first. Mahin accepted their praise and even boasted of how she had turned away that good for nothing drug addict Jamshid, Babak’s father, when he had returned to claim his son, because he was unfit to be a parent. Everybody doubled their approval and praise of Mahin as a truly selfless, saintly woman.

The truth was a bit different from Mahin’s version however. Jamshid, though he had indeed returned to his apartment, had only wanted to retrieve a few personal belongings and certainly had not planned on including his son amongst them. Despite Mahin’s pleas and threats to him to take Babak and get out of her life, he had denied all responsibility for the little boy. There was no way to prove this bastard was his son, Jamshid had said, not with a whore for a mother. And he had left without looking back. Mahin was not about to reveal that version of the story to the neighborhood of course.

After a few weeks had passed from Fati’s burial (which Hossein had insisted on paying for despite the exorbitant fee, sparking a new fight between them), the visits from the neighbors had spaced themselves out, becoming farther and fewer between. The praises and celebrations of Mahin had cooled off. There was even some sort of backlash. It was inevitable. Bored for some new hot topic to gossip about, some people had come up with the theory that Mahin was not such a saint after all because Babak was really Hossein’s natural son. Even Mahin had complained in the past about her pretty tenant catching the attention of her husband. Why would they take on the expense and difficulty of raising a child not their own, a child with such a filthy background, prostitute for a mother, drug addict for a father, and to raise him side by side with their own son Ali. No, no, the venomous tongues hissed, this was just a cover up for the fact that Babak was Hossein’s son and Mahin was just stuck with him now that his mother was dead. People now would walk by the house and snicker openly at Mahin. Babak and Ali would never return from school without a bloody nose or lip from getting into yet another fight with the kids who taunted them with the gossip they had heard from their own parents.

At that point though, Mahin did not care anymore about what the others thought of her. She was plagued with nightmares, one more monstrous than the other. She felt guilty and scared. She thought that this torment must be God’s punishment for her, for having mistreated Fati and her son. She tried to become a good person, to fit the character that had been invented for her of the selfless and martyr wife and mother. But despite all her efforts, she could never look at Babak and feel any love for him. It’s not that she paid any attention to the gossip about his parentage. That was just absurd. Everybody had conveniently forgotten that Fati and her family had moved into Mahin’s house long after Babak had been born. And Mahin was certain of the loyalty and love of her husband. He was the only being she had ever cared about. Even her love for her own son Ali was just an extension of her love for Hossein.

Mahin thought of herself as a God-fearing, religious woman. So then what was it that prevented her from bestowing the required kindness and attention to this destitute little boy. She did not know. She felt though that as long as this situation remained, that she would go on being punished. In the morning, she decided to go to Imam Reza’ shrine and pray to the martyr to give her the strength and emotion necessary to change her ways, and to become a better person, a better mother and most of all, to rid her of her guilt and nightmares. She was so afraid that she would end up in Jahanam, in hell, and that her nightmares were just a preview of the life that awaited her in the beyond.

As Mahin made her way to the mausoleum that had been built over Imam Reza’s tomb, she was almost knocked to the ground by a man exiting the shrine.

-- “A-hay! Movazeb bashin! Be more careful!” Mahin shouted angrily, momentarily forgetting her resolution to mellow out.

The man turned around and gave her such a dirty look, so filled with hate and contempt, that Mahin felt she had shriveled down to the size of a mouse.

-- “They shouldn’t let you women anywhere near this holy place!” The man uttered at her with rage. “You’re all filthy!”

Some passer-bys who had observed the scene snickered at Mahin and murmured their approval of the man’s words, while others stepped in front of the man, telling him to take it easy, until he turned on his heels and left.

Mahin had a hard time regaining her composure. As she approached the mausoleum, she thought to herself that this was not a promising start>>>PART 8
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