Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
In Tehran, there was time to enjoy the mild days. Laleh and Karim were
in the home's courtyard walking beneath the trees. Laleh wasn't wearing
the Islamic dress but wearing Levis, a blouse, and no shoes. The blades
of grass felt good against her bare feet. Today, the pain in Laleh's head
was a dull ache instead of the throbbing sensation of someone banging away
inside it. Karim returned from the American Embassy Compound ten minutes
earlier. As Laleh and Karim walked to an outside table Laleh asked, "Are
the hostages being treated fairly?"
Karim said, "It's all politics. There are those who try to frighten
them. We've become less restrictive and they get together to watch movies.
It's nothing that's going to kill them."
Laleh wondered if Karim believed America's president would send the
shah back to Iran for trial. She asked, "Is there any hope of their
release without the shah's return?"
"No. It won't happen."
"The Americans will come. It's probably only a matter of days.
They'll need the cover of darkness and the nights are growing shorter."
"Are you still willing to help stop them?"
"If it's what it takes . . . yes. I don't want a blood bath that
will produce more martyrs. We have enough of them. A bunch of kids gunned
down will solve nothing. As I've said earlier, I don't want the Soviet
Union pouring into the country under the pretense of the Americans starting
Laleh sat at the table with Karim sitting across from her. She asked,
"What do you tell your friends about me?"
Karim placed a hand over one of Laleh's and answered, "I tell them
you were only doing your job and some punks kidnapped and raped you. I
tell them I have fallen in love with you and you hope to stay and learn
the Islamic way. I tell them you'll have to return to New York for a short
time to edit the book you are doing. I tell them you plan to return and
live here with me."
"Do they believe you?"
"I can only hope they do. It's a good dream. Now, they want me
to stay with you; they want to insure you do nothing but photograph the
After turning her gaze to the rise of Touchai Mountain to the home's
north, Laleh turned it back to Karim and checked her watch. She said, "We
need to go out and listen for the signal. It's after ten."
"Are you certain you're up to riding in the sidecar?"
"Yes. We'll take cheese and fruit, and we'll make it a noon together.
My head is much better today."
As Laleh stepped around the table, Karim took her right hand in his.
Laleh was glad he did. As they walked to enter the home Karim said, "I
have fallen in love with you and it's a hard price to pay."
Laleh stopped with Karim turning to her. Laleh answered, "There's
someone else . . . another time and another place . . . we might've been
good together . . . mixed peas in a pod."
Karim knew the American expression. He repeated her words, "Yes,
like mixed peas in a pod."
Ten minutes later the motorcycle turned out of the property, drove toward
Darband road, traveled south, and turned east.
They were soon alone and sitting on a foothill more than a mile from
any road. Laleh stood beside the motorcycle, the antenna extended, and
the earpiece in her right ear. She checked her wristwatch, and noted it
At exactly eleven a.m. a signal began coming through in Morse Code.
They signaled a coming, important decision. The words "Thy Father's
House" meant all parts of the operation were now in place and waiting
for the next night. As she tapped her call back, sadness came to Laleh's
face. She knew the Americans were making their attempt to rescue the hostages
and it pained her. After pulling the map from a pocket, Laleh rechecked
the longitude and latitude readings. She found the cross markings, and
said to Karim, "It'll be between the towns of Tabas and Yazd. According
to the map, the secondary road makes a short turn to the north and south."
Karim asked as he took a small block of goat cheese from inside a plastic
wrap, "Are they coming tomorrow night?"
Laleh turned her gaze to the blue of the sky. She said in a sad voice.
"Yes. It means we need to get to the coordinates and wait. I'm becoming
cynical. I'm not happy about doing this."
"Then don't do it."
As Laleh gazed on Karim he laid out a blanket and sat on it. Laleh sat
on the seat of the bike. She said, "We have no choice. Someone has
to do it. If we don't, there'll be a major bloodbath. What about the damn
Karim turned his attention across the open extended country running
to the south and off the northern mountains. Snow remained in the heights.
He said, "I don't think there'll be peace . . . not in my life."
"Let's go back to the house. There's nothing to do here. Early
tomorrow morning we go south."
"First . . . we have our picnic. Then, you need to rest as much
as possible. I know the old caravan road. It'll be a hard ride. We'll have
to stay off the highway"
Laleh left the bike to step to the blanket. There, she sat across from
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