The Secret Agent

Part 5


The Secret Agent
by Ari Siletz

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 6]

To make his frightening point, the ghost briefly opened his shirt. Deep scars and burn marks on his chest and belly; he had been tortured.

“Good God!” I exclaimed. “How did Doctor Nojoom even find out you were an agent?”

“He wasn’t around at the time.” The ghost said, buttoning up his shirt. “Nojoom was in Paris studying to be a doctor. I could always tell by the Khan’s mood when he had heard from his son. He beamed proudly all day, and always read to us from the letters. Young Nojoom was winning one academic honor after another. Then one day a letter arrived that the Khan did not share with the servants. It made him thoughtful. A rumor began that Nojoom had written about a woman. A couple of letters later the Khan declared that his son had fallen in love with an Iranian art student in Paris. Nojoom was asking his father’s permission to marry her.” The ghost blew a stream of smoke in the direction of a photo on the wall. It was the same woman who had been enshrined on the mantle. “Her name was Shireen,” he said.

She had an attractive figure, large hazel eyes, dark hair and soft looking skin . But it was the riding outfit that promoted her from pretty girl to beautiful woman. She stood, whip in hand, one boot on a rock, planting a kiss on the muzzle of a magnificent white stallion. In that outfit and pose, she looked like she could be the leading lady in a movie starring Golbaz as the male hero.

“Did you ever get to meet her?” I asked.

“It would have been better for both of us if we had never met,” he said cynically.

“You fell in love with Nojoom’s fiancée?”

He ignored my question to go on with where he had left off. “Nojoom’s next letter said Shireen’s patience had run out and they had become husband and wife in France. This upset the Khan, not because he was against the marriage; he just wanted his son’s wedding to be in proper Iranian fashion. He wasn’t nearly as annoyed, though, as when he got the next bit of news about Shireen. She and Nojoom had been married for less than month, when the homesick bride wrote to her parents that she was coming home to be with her family. I drove the Khan to Tehran, so he could join Shireen’s relatives in greeting her at the airport. Her parents apologized for her sudden decision, and said Nojoom’s residency at the Paris hospital had made their daughter feel lonely and jealous. They told the Khan that Shireen very much looked forward to her husband finishing his training and returning to be with her.

“The airport is a romantic place for a first meeting,” I said, mostly to let him know I was not appalled by the love affair.

“I helped her load her luggage into the car,” he said, and after a long pause added, “I was alarmed by the hungry way she was looking at me.”

“She was the one who started it then.” The temptation for gossip was getting the better of me.

The ghost seemed uncomfortable with the subject, rubbing his chin indecisively. “There was nothing there to start,” he finally said, nervously making eye contact to see if I was catching his meaning. I wasn’t.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t notice right away how pretty she was,” I said.

He hesitated, wondering how to phrase his next confession. Finally he said outright, “I have never been attracted to women.”

“What!?” I blurted out. “But you married Aunt…I mean you were married. Weren’t you?”

He seemed simultaneously embarrassed and annoyed at the detour I was making him take. “My mother wouldn’t get off my back. She kept arranging visits to the parents of one pretty girl after another. Finally one day I yelled at her, and said if she wanted a maid to take care of her in her old age, she would have to look for an ugly spinster who was desperate for a husband. Poor woman.”

“Your mother?”

“My wife. I had to find her by myself, as my mother preferred only seemly maids to wait on her.”

“But didn’t your mom suspect?”

“I told her several times that only a woman that no other man wanted would do. If she was ready to hear the rest, she would have asked why. Instead she just kept lighting candles in this shrine and that holy place for God to protect my manhood, and send me a wife with a heavenly face. Do you see what a disaster that would have been? ”

“you wanted a spinster who would be happy to keep your secret just to have a companion in life,” I guessed. “A pretty woman might have started a scandal.”

“That’s right. I found the perfect candidate on a bus and followed her to find out where she lived. You should have seen the surprise on the faces of her parents when I asked for her. They thought I was there for the prettiest sister. When I told them who I was after, they became suspicious, and refused.”

“And I don’t blame them,” I said indignantly.

“Is that the only reason you are bothered?” He said.

I had observed him long enough to know he could see through fake niceness. Besides, he was telling me his secrets and he may have clammed up if I abused his frankness to gain the moral high ground.

“No,” I said honestly confessing to prejudice.

“You’re a clever young fellow, aren’t you?” He said. “But don’t ever go into intelligence work. In our business the smart ones are the first to screw up.”

“So how did you and Aunt…how did you two end up getting married? Did you elope?”

“She stopped eating, so her parents had no choice. It turned out all right for her. My mother passed away soon after our wedding, so my wife didn’t have to put up with her. I was a good provider, and we grew to need each other. She used to say she had a happier marriage than her sisters, and you should have seen how enviously they watched our friendly banter in family get-togethers.”

“She never told her sisters?”

“Don’t be stupid. She even made a sport of having me flirt with them. I was quite good at teasing the women.” Happy memories began to color the tone of our conversation. I remembered a photo of Golbaz helping out Tooba in aunt Effat’s kitchen while the other women tried to snatch the spatula away from him.

“You must have made some of the men very jealous,” I laughed.

“Not really,” he said with levity. “They could see how obviously happy my wife and I were. Puzzled maybe, but jealous?” His spirit couldn’t carry the burden of joyful memories for too long, and quickly he collapsed into a sad nostalgia. “We did take care of each other’s needs, you know.”

“I don’t see how a homosexual can take care of a young woman who needs a real husband.”

He sighed as more memories flooded his thoughts. “One day we were window shopping and saw a painting of a naked woman looking at herself in a hand mirror. There was so much glamour in her self absorption. I took my time staring at her. That night, as my wife was combing her hair in front of the mirror, she and her image caressing each other, I wrapped my arms around her from behind. She took my hand to her breast, and made me disrobe her, teaching me touch by touch about her body. Then she lay me down on the carpet, put her weight on me, and rubbed herself against my body until her eyes rolled back and she finished with a quiet tremor. That night I found out I could enter her. The next week she bought the painting and redid the bedroom to look like its fantasy world. So began our life of sensual joy. Not sex for me, really; but something just as intensely pleasurable that we had invented together. The games we played, the stories we enacted, the costumes we improvised, the make-believe atrocities her fairy tales made her commit against my poor body. I am sure none of the other husbands would have tolerated it from their wives.”

Noticing my face flushing, he added, “Look son, I know I’m dying. You won’t get a chance to hear this from me when you’re older. So let’s both take advantage of this meeting. Do you want me to stop?”

“No,” I said. “ Is that what you did with Nojooms wife? More sex games?”

He shook his head. “It was a matter of life and death that I discourage her immediately. Her attentions could be very dangerous me, as well as to herself. Her pointless infatuation with me, could tangle her in the Khan’s illegal affairs.”

“She didn’t know the Khan was an opium lord?”

“Keep in mind, she met the Khan through his son, the scholarly medical student.”

“But she lived in Tehran and you were in Isfahan. Wasn’t that a safe enough distance?”

“She had an old high school friend that lived in Isfahan. And now that she had married into the Nojoom family, she had all the excuses she needed to virtually set up residence in the Khan’s house. Almost every day she and her friend had me drive them to the bazaar. Their games of enticement were so transparent to me. They would tell me they’d be back in a few minutes, then they’d show up hours later with no apologies. Shireein tried every trick to make me angry and create drama between us. If I were the other kind of man, she would have quickly succeeded in making things personal between us. I’m not imagining this. Speaking in French thinking I wouldn’t understand, they made comments about my butt and made jokes about horse penises. Sometimes Shireen spoke in Farsi about couples in France and how adultery was the spice of marriage over there.”

“At first most of what they said was of no interest. So what if Shireen felt uncomfortable with the Khan’s attentions, or thought he may have entered her room while she was out? But as the Khan started to introduce his charming daughter-in-law to his foreign visitors, what she mentioned in the car filled in little pieces of the puzzle for my superiors. A city: Frankfurt, an airline: Lufthanza, a profession: pilot. Either the Khan was being careless, or he was preparing Shireen for the family secret. In my earlier reports I had identified Shireen as a risk factor to be managed. I wanted her out of the scenario as quickly as possible. But now I was reporting that she was my most valuable source of information.”

“The office was very pleased by this development, as the Khan had been too slow in trusting me. Sometimes he inexplicably had me drop him off downtown where he took a taxi to destinations unknown to me. This was frustrating to my superiors. One day I received orders to pursue an intimate relationship with Shireen.”

“That’s so dirty,” I said. “Using blackmail to force her to spy against her own family.” Turning to Shireen’s picture, it was as though I was trying to warn her not to fall for the trap.

“She was no angel,” he shrugged. “A married woman coming on to the chauffeur? That’s not betraying your family? You can’t blackmail an innocent. We were doing her a favor, giving her a chance to commit her otherwise wasted sins in defense of her country.”

“Wasted sins,” I muttered, walking up to the wall to take a closer look at the photo. How could she put those lips on a sweaty horse? She was too lovely to pollute her kisses like that. And that wasn’t love of animals in her eyes, she was prizing the awesome beast for its strength. I don’t know why it made me feel angry. Maybe because she gave away to an animal admiration I did not have the muscle to deserve. Yet I couldn’t help but run a caressing fingers across her image. What a shame, I thought. This beauty had no idea what “beast” truly meant.

The ghost had walked up to join me at the wall so he too could face Shireen’s image. “Recruiting her was risky, even if I did fuck her,” he said. “And I sent a missive saying, “not advised at this time.” But the office said they urgently needed detailed information about a specific foreign client. A window of opportunity had opened up that warranted any level of risk. I suspected that the window of opportunity they were really talking about was the chance to recruit Shireen. She was bright, beautiful, spoke the European languages, and if there were pictures of her in bed doing me favors, she could be made to do a lot more.” The ghost’s calm demeanor seemed temporarily ruffled by the memory. The slight hunching of his shoulders had traces of the paranoia he had displayed that morning in the hospital.

“Looks like you were jealous she was going to replace you,” I said, taking a jab at the homosexual stereotype.

He gave me a dismissive smile. “I was looking forward to finally going home. This mission had been extended too many times as it was, and things were getting filthier by the day. I badly needed my wife, and wished this bizarre sex drama would soon become just another bedroom game in my marriage. I would have been delighted by the decision if it didn’t threaten the mission so badly.”

“The mission? You weren’t at all upset by having to sleep with another man’s wife?”

“Of course I was. In fact, as a pathetic gesture of loyalty to my own marriage, I broke protocol and sent my wife a note saying I would be home soon.”

“So when did you perform your professional duty on the poor woman?” I asked staring sympathetically at Shireen’s photo.

“I didn’t,” said the ghost. “ I disobeyed the idiotic order. Amateurs!”

“Thank God,” I breathed.

“Don’t be too quick thanking anyone. My own plans for Shireen went no better for her.”

“What do mean?”

.“I exposed her as a British spy.” >>>Part 6


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desideratum.anthropomorphized anonymous000

Ari, as the creator,

by desideratum.anthropomorph... on

you’re best positioned to figure out the riddle after all.  From a reader’s viewpoint however, one who opens each writing of yours with much anticipation and is perhaps a little too demanding on you, I had a sense that it was easier to understand and keep interest in the stunning shrewdness of your protagonist as a kid and follow him through the beginning of his Isfahan journey, but then he suddenly grew to become this unbelievably mature interlocutor, so much that the whole narrative lost touch with any plausible reality (or maybe with the reality as perceived by a modestly intelligent reader such as myself).  But then again, who said spy fictions should stay faithful to any reality….  I must think about this.


Spy fictions aren’t often the first thing I pick up to read before bed, though Le Carré has been an exception.

One more thing to say but I'm working from home today  and have to attend to the oven before there's a fire :) More later

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Thank you for your kind remarks. And good feedback. One of the pleasures of posting for a community of writers is the wise criticism of some of the commentors. Spy fiction may not be your cup of tea, but its the writer's job keep any reader interested regardless of genre preference. I propose the problem isn't in the genre, but your reader's sixth sense misses some of the sub-plots and character development that  deserve the same level of detail as, say, Aunt Mehri and her family. For instance the story of Shireen and Nojoom in Paris has emotional content that demands a finer level of treatment. Maybe in the novel!  

desideratum.anthropomorphized anonymous000

Keeps you on the edge of the chair

by desideratum.anthropomorph... on

undoubtedly.  Your storytelling skill and a great feeling of anticipation make it a wonderful read.  But why can't I read this series twice? I could perhaps still look back at the first two parts, re-read and enjoy them just as much as I did when I read them first. But that's not true for the last three parts (maybe last two in fact).  Not sure why....but suspect it's because even in the world of spy fictions it’s so unreal that as a reader I lost contact with and interest in the content. That said, the way you narrate is hard not to find masterful; thank you :) 



Ari jan

by IRANdokht on

I didn't find SanFranciscans tarofi at all, the messages were loud and clear LOL I think the level orange was meant to keep me away for a while. I faced a delay due to security threat of orange when I landed and once at departure... a total of 4 hours wasted at the airport. I am glad I had good reading material tonight.

hmmm  maybe you should write a suspenseful thriller about SFO too?


It was wonderful seeing you again

Always a fan


Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You're thinking like a fiction writer. Fournier is not to be underestimated for sure, but we've also seen Nojoom's talent for surprizes.

The sixth and final episode of this spy story starts with a warning to the reader about torture room violence.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You're welcome. It was good seeing you at the SF Iranian .com event. One more episode and and the taarofi San Franciscans will let you go home.

Nazy Kaviani

Dear Ari

by Nazy Kaviani on

Very interesting thickening of the plot! I am a little scared to think why Nojoom would let Golbaz and the narrator talk undisturbed for what feels like a long and intense conversation. What is he planning to do with the young man who is learning and collecting so much information against him and his father, not to mention his deceased wife? Will he let him walk out and tell others about Golbaz's fate? Where is Fournier? I would have thought the resourceful young man would have come back to rescue his friend by now!

I appreciated the revelation of Golbaz's sexuality and the introduction of sex and adultery in the story, which provide a more personal touch, as well as introducing a "motive" for other developments in the story. Isfahan will somehow never feel the same for me after reading your story! Please hurry up and tell the rest soon.


What a twist!

by IRANdokht @ Sfo (not verified) on

Thanks for a great read while Im stuck with a level orange delay... From reading the previous chapters, I could have never guessed we'd end up here! Quite a twist Ari jan. Loved it :0)