THE CASPIAN CONNECTION
This is simply too big a project to present; especially as a script, as I haven’t even started thinking about this yet. Actually, I haven’t even finished the books, even if they are 95% presentable. Therefore, let me just try to impress you with a wee bit of backstory on the bad guys: VIDEO
Let's go to Baghdad and 832; there’s a heated argument between those calling themselves “The Kharijites,” and the religious leaders of The Abbasids. Virtually 200 years have gone since the Prophet’s death and maybe 100 years since the original "Addendum" was destroyed. In this argument, The Kharijites argue for the use of unprovoked violence to promote the continued spread of Islam. When the prophet's (and God's) purpose with the original Addendum - which was: no unprovoked war - is used to counter the Kharijites’ argument, these argue that if there ever had been such a thing as an Addendum – which, probably, there hasn't – it most certainly must have been a forgery, produced by A’isha or Uthman, trying to pervert the true spirit of the Koran; "Had the writings been here now, that could easily have been proven." Now a loose-mouthed member of the Abbasids drops a bombshell by spilling the beans: a big silver plate together with six smaller copies, by order of the Prophet, were engraved with the text of (the now destroyed original Addendum), just to make sure that violence never got used in the name of Islam. Also, the loose-mouthed blurts out that these plates are to be revealed to the world on the 200th anniversary of the prophet’s death, i.e., in a matter of days. The Kharijites have to back down, and there is panic in their organization. The leadership of the Abbasids has purposely kept this information from the Kharijites, in order to keep them from stealing/destroying the plates, and the man who has prematurely revealed the information has acted rashly, especially as he has made it possible for the Kharijites to deduce the location of the first and nearest shrine. There could still be time enough for The Kharijites to stop at least the first shrine from opening. The loose-mouthed is admonished, and the Kharijites are warned not to try to prevent the opening of the shrines.
Now, in a Kharijite emergency meeting regarding the upcoming opening of the shrines, no agreement is reached. One group argued that it’s too risky to pursue the “Six and The One”; "They are watching us, and if anything happened to the plates, they would know that it was we who had done it, and we would all be destroyed." However, the radicals argue that the plates must be found and destroyed at any cost. "With them exposed to the world, our cause would be forever lost." There is no agreement but in secret the radical branch of the Kharijites – there’re seventy-seven of them – set off to trace The One and the Six in order to destroy them all, and to kill anyone with knowledge of them. They reach the first location where the shrine’s keepers greet them as brothers in faith. However, after having gotten all the information sought, they slaughter the entire order. As they have found out the next destination (of "Muhammad’s Travellers": those that opened the shrines 200 years ago) they set out for it, and as they reach the second shrine (just about to be opened) the keepers greet them in much the same way as they were greeted at the first, but again they behave as before, and they find out that the next destination of Muhammad's Travellers was Djardjan; they set out for it. In June 832, as they reach Djardjan, it is only to find that the shrine – which had contained four of the five missing plates – has been looted a few days earlier by Karli, a Viking from the Swede’s country (Odin’s son, though Karli doesn’t know this: our protagonist). Some of The Kharijites say it’s time to give up, some even that it must be God’s will; others say it’s their duty to follow the Vikings and destroy the plates, whatever the cost. Anyhow, it seems unlikely that they’ll manage to catch up with the Vikings before they return to their home country: the country of the Swedes. And, following them back to their home would require them to recover the plates from Karli on his own home turf; not an easy task.
There's mayhem and confusion, and it’s decided that a council shall be held. This council reaches no conclusion, and in order to settle the question, it is decided that a poetry challenge shall be held to settle the matter; Handsome Jacob from Spain – who represents those set on pursuing Karl - wins for the radicals. It is decided that Karli indeed must be pursued and that the plates must be destroyed at whatever cost; because, failing, The Kharijites’ very reason for existing would cease to exist. However, as it is unlikely – at least if they all pursue them as a group – that they’ll catch up with the Vikings before they reach the Swede’s country, this idea is discarded. Then the alternative of sending a single man with horses and enough gold and silver to purchase the plates is discussed. However, this is a project – at least if failing to catch up with Karli before he arrives the Swede’s country – that is likely to require more than a man’s power, silver, gold and (quite possibly) lifetime. Alternative solutions are sought and discussed, but no feasible new solution is found. Thus, furnishing their best rider with two horses plus gold and silver enough to buy back the plates is seen as their optimal option. Handsome Jacob - a Spaniard, a convert, the best rider, and the winner of the poetry competition - accepts the job: “Your task is to retrieve/destroy the silver plates at whatever cost.”
At this moment an expert in pre-Islamic magic, the leader of those seven (mainly pre-Islamic) magicians that forms part of The Kharijites 77-strong radical core, suggests: “Here in Djardjan dwells a renowned and powerful jinni by the name of ”Djardja.” If we could make her accept the same challenge as Jacob has just accepted, it would have two thousand years to complete the task rather than half a man-age.” However, it is then argued that a jinni is too awkward and unreliable a creature to deal with, and in addition would be unlikely to be accepted by the Norse. Then the magic experts suggest they offer the renowned jinni food and sex in order to make her accept entering a human’s (i.e., Jacob’s) body, thus to be given a human appearance and a persona that will appear less awkward. The pre-Islamic expert knows the required spells and rituals for keeping the jinni from breaking such a promise and though Jacob protests vehemently, the suggestion is accepted. Now men are sent out to find suitable men as sex-partners for the she-jinni and attractive jinn-food. Once this is done the renowned jinni is conjured up, offered to, admired and given the proposal: “If you “marry into” a human shape (until your task is done) and pursue the Viking-captain called Karli and destroy the five silver plates he has robbed, we’ll give you all the best food money can buy, and all the best humans-for-sex Djardjan can offer. The jinni/Djardja answers shrewdly: “But then, when I have exhausted myself in intercourse and consumed all food and drink my body can manage, what will I do then? If I cannot continue this way of life in the Viking’s country, looking for the silver plates, how then will I be profited?” A new council is held and eventually it is deemed acceptable that the jinni becomes a long-time/permanent drain on the Kharijites´ resources.
"THE SEVENTH LOT"
Andres Laszlo Jr.
PROLOG (PART OF)
‘Gold and silver, and much more, they call it money.’
‘And you think they want it too much…’
‘But if it annoys you so, why did you create it?’
‘I created it so that those who used their potential best would be able to accumulate enough of it to escape the struggle for survival; to escape the animal state and thus become free to contemplate me and the world I’ve created for them.’
‘But isn’t that how it works?’
‘Sometimes, but many, once they’ve acquired what they need, are turning it into a goal into itself: they start accumulating money that would have done better if owned by others.’
‘Forgetting about you and the wonderful world you’ve created for them?’
‘Do I detect irony in your voice?’
‘Of course not, father.’
‘Then, yes, and forgetting about other humans as well.’
‘Taking on a life of their own?’
‘Yes, you could say that.’
‘Well I can see you’ve got a problem with them, but then, they are only humans.’
‘They are, and I could, at least to some extent, forgive that humans are giving into greed but…’
‘I’m not, and I can explain!’
‘But you doing it is inexcusable.’
‘I’m not giving in to greed! I’m just using it to get what I need; as a means.’
‘Your needs are all catered for.’
‘They are not and to be quite honest it’s your fault.’
‘Yes, your money-thingy has made human-women finding me much less irresistible.’
‘And you should stay away from human-women.’
‘Charm, good looks and other natural advantages no longer count for very much. Human-women prefer to copulate with those who have the most gold and silver.’
‘You are starting to make me angry.’
‘I’m the best there is, yet now human-women won’t desire me as they used to.’
‘Now I am angry.’
‘Not unless I can present them with some gold and silver too.’
‘You need to be taught a lesson.’
‘Karli, you are dead, and I want your body.’
It was a clear yet echoing sort of voice and though it spoke to Karli as if from his inside it didn’t feel as if it was his own. Assuming he had somehow been wrong about the origin of the voice, Karli tried to look for the speaker outside himself, but as he tried, his eyes wouldn’t open. Strangely, it didn’t even feel as if he had any eyes. Wondering about the origin of the voice and over what had happened to his eyes, Karli realized something equally strange: though he ought to be pretty hung over he didn’t feel as he normally would feel the day after a drinking bout. As a matter of fact, Karli didn’t feel any way at all. Then the memories of last night – or last evening, night and morning, rather - started to come back. At least my memory works. Karli started to recall last night’s events. The sun had just started to rise over the longhouse and the drinking bout when Ulf. Ansgar’s gigantic “Gladiator,” as was his wont, had tried to provoke him by commenting on the somewhat sparse growth that covered parts – most parts, definitely most parts – of Karli’s chin and cheeks. ‘I know I’ve seen that very same down somewhere else, but I cannot for the life of the Lord remember where.’
‘Karli, you are dead, and I want to use your body,’ the voice again echoed from his inside, but Karli opted not to answer it. How could I be dead and think at the same time? Stupid!
A SCENE FROM THE BOOK
‘This is Chang Wang of the Chinese Military Police speaking,’ Chang spoke in a voice and in a manner that told Roquefort that his Chinese colleague, just like himself, was an admirer of Clint Eastwood. Roquefort- though he of course would never say so in public - figured that God, in making Clint Eastwood an American, had made either a mistake or a joke. If it was a joke - as he was inclined to think most of the time - Roquefort was convinced that it was directed mainly towards himself. At the very same moment that Chang started talking, K2.2 and his men were floodlit by a huge number of distant ground vehicles that immediately started up their engines and began to approach the nine men.
Roquefort could hear the sound of Z-9A/B helicopters starting up in a distance and there were hoards of soldiers approaching along with the vehicles. There must be at least ten thousand of them.
‘You are surrounded, all routes out of here are blocked, aircrafts and helicopters will prevent you from escaping by air and if you try to make it to your vehicles you will be shot,’ Chang continued, this time sounding even more like Clint Eastwood than before.
The Kharajites number one device-planting unit didn’t try to put up a fight but as the men in charge - Roquefort, Chang and the observers - started to approach the nine men, K2.2 pulled a detonator out of his pocket and turned towards his adversaries, ‘This is a detonator and if I press this button…’
Chang signalled his companions to stop and he then continued forward to confront the group’s weasel-faced leader alone, ‘Please put it down, I will have none of that nonsense.’
‘I don’t think you understand; what we’ve just dug down next to the dam wall is an atomic bomb and the affects of an explosion…’
‘I repeat, please put it down or I will consider myself forced to have you shoot.’
‘Have you ever heard of The Kharajites?’
‘Have you ever heard of jamming?’
‘I demand to talk to your minister in charge of this operation.’
‘As you are nothing but simple blackmailers this is not a political issue and therefore our ministers have taken no interest in this operation.’
‘So who is running this; you?’
‘Not at all, my colleague is in charge; he’s from France.’
‘Oh… I figured I saw a familiar face among your companions.’
Roquefort joined his Chinese colleague, ‘Good morning, caught again are we?’
‘Monsieur Roquefort, we should have done away with you a long time ago.’
‘Doesn’t your employer get tired of you getting captured all the time?’
‘Not “all the time”, very rarely, but congratulations on your upcoming promotion, I’m sure that will allow us to spend much more time together in the future.’
‘Unless you volunteer to dig up what you’ve dug down, I don’t think we’ll see much of each other at all. On the contrary K2.2, I think you and your group will spend the rest of your lives behind bars, Chinese bars, unless they keep to traditions and have you executed.’
‘Not a very likely scenario, I’m sure my fan club in the West, including Monsieur Fouché – please congratulate him on my behalf to his portfolio - will see to it that we are released quite swiftly. Within a week… Shall we say a thousand euro?’
‘Look out!’ one of the observers suddenly exclaimed, pointing at a man breaking away from the small group and running towards the vehicles, ‘He’s escaping!’
As the man started to make his way towards one of the vehicles Chang pointed at him. ‘Stop that man; shoot him in his legs!’
‘Don’t try to stop him!’ K2.2 exclaimed, ‘He cannot be captured. Just don’t touch him and nobody will be hurt!’
The approaching soldiers hadn’t yet reached the scene but one of Chang’s observers managed to intercept the escaping man – who, strangely, wasn’t running very fast - just before he reached one of the vehicles; a large motorcycle.
‘Stop him,’ Chang instructed, ‘then bring him here.’
At that moment the escaping man gave the observer holding on to him a slap and the man - apparently with no or very little cause - collapsed to the ground where he remained motionless.
‘Shoot him in the legs!’
The man straddled the motorcycle.
Several shots sounded from Chang’s men.
The man kick-started the bike and got it into gear.
Chang’s men and the observers continued shooting.
The man on the motorcycle, apparently unharmed, drove off towards the dam.
‘Shoot to kill!’ Chang shouted, and a few seconds later the approaching soldiers started to join in the barrage, ‘Take him out!’
The fire increased in intensity and though the motorcycle seemed to take several direct hits the man riding it continued to make his way towards the dam, which was by now less than five hundred yards away.
‘Grenades!’ Chang shouted into his radio. ‘Give him all you’ve got!’
Submachine gun operators took the cue and soon the droning sound of grenades passing through the air above them joined the ra-ta-ta of the submachine guns. Less than a hundred yards from the dam the bike literally fell to pieces under the man who tumbled to the ground together with the remains of the motorcycle.
Chang held up his right arm and the fire stopped, ‘An admirably persistent man, but such heroics against the Chinese army…’
The man, who had just had his motorcycle pulverized beneath him stood up, pulled down his pants and then turned his rear end to the observers. He then jumped up and down – several meters up and down – all while making obscene gestures.
Roquefort, Chang and the observers all in amazement beheld what was taking place – nobody said a word.
Then the leg-strong man - in a surreally slow and leisurely manner - started to jog towards the dam.
Again the cannonade started but as the man, still as if in no particular hurry, dived into the dam he seemed unwounded.
Roquefort shook his head in disbelief, It cannot be.
‘There’s no sign of him,’ radioed the first soldier to reach the spot where the escaping man had disappeared into the waters, ‘He’s gone!’
‘He must have drowned, unless he had some closed system hidden down there,’ Chang concluded, ‘throw grenades into the water, get searchlights, put out guards every fifty meters for a kilometre in each direction and if he surfaces; use grenades and shoot to kill!
It simply cannot be, Roquefort repeated to himself.
Continue the jamming,’ Chang instructed, ‘and get that bomb out of there quickly!’
“He’s nowhere,” were the first words heard from the soldier reaching the place where the fleeing man had taken a header, “He’s gone!”
“He must have drowned unless he had a close system hidden down there,” Chang said, mainly to himself, “Grenades into the water! Searchlights! Guards every fifty meters in each direction for a kilometre! If he surfaces shoot to kill! Beware the dam wall!”
Roquefort shook his head and repeated to himself, It cannot be him.
”Continue the jamming and see to it that that bomb gets disarmed!”
The soldiers reached the observer who had collapsed when attempting to stop the escaping man from reaching the motorcycle. The observer still lay motionless where he had collapsed and a doctor from the medical corpse went down on his knee to examine him, ‘He’s dead!’
Roquefort turned to K2.2 who was now being handcuffed together with the rest of his men, ‘Who was he?’
‘He must be dead.’
‘He’s not really into that.’
‘Dying, at least not until the fifth millennium.’
‘Then who is he?’
‘You should read up on us Kharajites; you’ll find some interesting stuff in the literature.’
‘I have read, but I’ve never come across anything about him: not unless…’
“It’s getting close.”
Roquefort didn’t answer.
‘Maybe you should pay a little more attention to the mythology part.’
ANOTHER SCENE FROM THE BOOK
Of course the priest son had agreed to meet the long-legged girl after his Friday lecture, just as Johanna had known he would from the very moment the girl had asked. However, rather than meeting her in his own office, as the girl had suggested, he had arranged for them to meet in the library. Karl’s every word had told a story of reluctance and for a while he had refused to change the time of their meeting. His body language, however, had told a totally different story and there was no doubt in Johanna’s mind as to what sort of exercises the priest son would be engaging in on the evening the following Friday, at least if the long-legged dumbo had things her way, ‘I knew you would agree to see her; why did you pretend you didn’t want to.’
‘Did I really?’
‘You did, the poor girl was virtually on her knees begging.’
‘Gets the juices flowing.’
‘Nothing, was she really – I mean eager to see me – I didn’t notice.’
‘Anyhow, the way they set their cap at you; it’s absolutely disgusting.’
‘Can’t really blame them, little darlings.’
‘What do you mean ‘can’t blame them’?’
‘I mean that if I hadn’t been me, and if I hadn’t discovered girls, and if then I had happened to come across me…’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Then could you have blamed me if I had become a homosexual?’
‘You’re such a seriously sad person.’
‘Make that ‘such a seriously rich and good-looking sad person’.’
‘We’ll talk about that in a minute.’
‘I really hope you don’t go to bed with them.’
‘Whom do you take me for?’
‘A self-indulging Sugar Daddy with a predilection for dodgy antique deals and an unrealistic notion of telling the Islam world what the Islam world most definitely doesn’t want to be told.’
‘Annette, whom I presume is the one you are referring to, happens to be twenty-three, and on top of that – I mean in addition to that – an unusually well developed twenty-three year old.’
‘You mean apart from her chest?’
‘Yes, and I am, as you’ve so often pointed out, an unusually juvenile twenty-five year old.’
‘You are definitely too old for her and it’s totally against the rules.’
‘Now, talking about old; it’s time for you to sing for your ticket to Växjö.’
‘Half of my ticket to Växjö.’
‘Remember that you’ve promised never to divulge a word about what I am about to reveal to you; not to anybody and that anybody especially includes your wicked father.’
Johanna had reconfirmed her promise and Karl had guided her out of the department, but rather than taking his car - a red two-litre 1988 Alfa Spider, struggling to make it to veteran status - he had walked her down past the University Library. Then he had stopped abruptly to look behind them, and not until he was certain that they weren’t followed, had he continued towards “Malmø Nation”. Its Friday disco was allegedly one of the priest son’s favourite pick-up places.
Karl directed her into the botanical gardens, ‘In here.’
‘I hope you’re not intending to give me a lecture about the birds and the bees.’
‘Don’t you worry, you’ve dumped me once and I’ve learnt to live with it. And, quite honestly, I’m not sure I’d be capable of challenging the combined forces of Frida and her dog-cat.’
‘What do you mean challenge?’
‘Well she does have a pretty nice nose.’
‘What do you think about Frida and me?’
‘And besides, you’re way to old for me.’
‘I’m nine months younger than you!’
‘Not enough for an old Sugar Daddy like me.’
Johanna followed the priest’s son up some winding paths until her companion proudly pointed at a huge one-winged stone monster right in front of them, ‘What?’
‘What do you see?’
‘A sphinx, a late nineteenth or early twentieth century copy of some Greek original; it used to sit on top of the university building until it started to break up.’
‘There were four, this one was presumably the one in best nick, so they placed it here in the park.’
‘Was that what my expertise was required for?’
‘You did a course on dating techniques, didn’t you?’
‘You want me to teach you about dating?’
‘Answer the question.’
‘It’s cement. It’s because the iron started to oxidize, causing the cement to break up, that they took them down; you can see the cracks and the reinforcements.’
‘First take a good look at where the wing has broken off and then at that little crack where its left breast ought to have been.’
‘A few minutes later Johanna was finished with her examination and though it was a very preliminary examination – and though she could see very little of the sculpture beneath the cement – it all pointed in one direction and one direction only; there was a real ancient solid stone sphinx beneath the cement.
Karl looked at her with his annoying ain’t-I-clever-smile, ‘Well?’
‘There are plenty of tests that will have to be done.’
‘And there are samples that will have to be sent for analysis.’
‘Yea, pretty cool, isn’t it?’
‘You’re going to be famous.’
‘Correction. I am famous, now I’m going to be rich too.’
Johanna, trying to look as if in utter disbelief, watched the man who less than half an hour earlier, with such passion and zeal, had motivated and described the West’s collective duty to repay its historical debt to the Islam world and drag out of its misery, ‘You’re gonna nick it?’
‘My father’s a policeman.’
‘I know. Man’s worst enemy but since you’re my oldest friend, I won’t hold that against you.’
‘And you expect me, a police officer’s daughter, to just stand by and watch?’
‘Unless you want in, but I don’t think you could put up that sort of money.’
‘Don’t be silly!’
‘And don’t worry, technically speaking I won’t nick it; I’m just gonna replace it.’
‘With another modern copy that looks just like the modern copy that everybody thinks this is.’
‘It’s still theft!’
‘Replacing a copy with a copy?’
‘It is if you know that the first copy isn’t really a copy.’
‘And how could they possibly prove that I know that, as long as you keep that pretty little mouth of yours shut?’
‘I don’t have a little mouth.’
‘Okay, your big pretty mouth.’
‘What if you get caught?’
‘What about it?’
‘You would have to admit that you wanted to swap this sphinx for another.’
‘And they’d discover that there’s an original beneath the cement.’
‘Possibly, but that’s far from certain.’
‘Would you tell them that you didn’t know that this was real; that you had no intention of making any money?’
‘I’m a passionate researcher; just ask my class. Passionate researchers don’t want to make money.’
‘So how would you explain that you tried to swap them?’
‘For a dare; I would say that I made a bet with Igor, that I could pull it off.’
‘Igor? You intend to drag him into this?’
‘Right, bad example, so I’d say I made that bet with someone else – you for example.’
‘You’ll never make them believe that; your intentionality is theft, and that’s what counts.’
‘‘Intentionality?’ You close-read-guys always have to complicate everything. It’s a copy, and I’ll give em another copy, and if they can’t tell the difference, then that’s their problem; that’s all there is to it.’
‘You’re talking prison; grand theft or something.’
‘Don’t you worry, I’ll get some expert advice before starting.’
‘Don’t be silly, with this sort of money Helmut would happily cement me into the new copy.’
A QUESTION OF HONOUR (BOOK 2)
In the second book of the series, we meet our hero as he’s at the end of his “all those things a man should have done” project that he has put himself through in order to become “man enough” to go after those who murdered his parents. He has fulfilled most of his resolutions, and he has grown since last we saw him. Karli is smarter than when we met him last, something we notice through his quirky word games and limericks. Also, Karl – without training and thus totally inexplicably – has developed physically to the point where he could compete for Olympic gold in the decathlon (Karli inherent traits as Odin's son are starting to manifest themselves).
Karl has also continued his study of the Arabic drug trade and is presently working on an article on “Mecca’s Position in Arabic Drug Trading” (next article could be “Arab Drug Trading; Where do the Profits Go?”). Karl has stayed in contact with most of the people we met at the beginning of book one: Johanna, Igor, Helmut, etc. and though his life has been in danger many times, it seems as if whoever killed his parents has no murderous intentions as to Karl.
A fellowship at All Souls College has made Oxford the “fixest” points in Karl’s existence, and he’s getting along well with Mike Thorn: Karl’s “Arab drug trafficking tutor.” In Oxford Karl’s existence mainly revolves around Arab drug trade, dodgy antique dealings, and women; though the memory of Farida is deeply engraved onto his heart, Karl remains a ladies man.
There are a couple of countries left to take the tally to 200 - which was one of Karl’s initial resolutions – and as we meet him, he’s in a travel agent´s hole-in-the-wall shop in Bangkok, attempting to get a good price on a South-East-Asia-round-trip. Once the haggling - that shows us that greed is still a part of him - is over, Karl looks for something to do while the visas are processed.
Karl gets a good deal on a return ticket to Dacca, and he asks the travel agent what one does in Bangladesh. You go Khulna, beautiful jungle, big tiger eats woodcutter. Eventually, the penny drops and Karl realizes that he’s on his way to the forest where Hyatt used to hunt man-eaters several decades earlier. Karl feels a bit uncomfortable as he recalls his nearly forgotten resolution. However, thanks to Farida, it is a rather watered down one: So you’d only shoot a licensed, free of charge man-eater if you in the process could keep somebody from being killed? That doesn’t sound very likely, and Karl isn’t all that worried. I’ll ask. They’ll think me an idiot and laugh, but at least that way I will be able to say that I’ve tried.
Alexandra is a stunning Dutch girl, working on a UN road project in the jungle. She spots Screamer as he’s about to attack a cow and she fires her rifle into the air just as her handbook prescribes. Screamer isn’t frightened but starts approaching her, but as the villagers arrive, he leaves. Alex is now seriously admonished by the father of her friend Napur’s: Tiger take cow okay. Government pay cattle compensation money, tiger get cow inside, he not eat us, we get food, better he eat cow even if holy – take cow okay.
The following night Screamer kills Napur; Alex feels responsible, swears to avenge her friend’s death and goes to Khulna where she attempts to talk Jim - the wine-drinking local head ranger - into going after the tiger. Jim refuses: He’s dangerous, and I can’t license him until he breaks the 1-2-3-rule. Suddenly they are interrupted by a very tentative knock on the door.
In comes the biggest man Jim has ever seen; the man coughs, excuses himself and looks embarrassed. God day, I… I… Then the big man spots stunning Alex and is totally metamorphosed. I’m here to shoot a tiger, says the big man, in his best Oxford English, the man-eating type. Jim unceremoniously pushes Alex – who makes sheep’s eyes at the big man – out the door.
As Jim realises that the big man doesn’t really want to shoot a tiger and in addition has no intention of paying the customary bribes, he shows him too to the door, but only after giving him what he obviously came for; Such a licence would have to be signed by me, and I wouldn’t sign one for all the steak in India.
Outside, Alex is waiting, and she invites Karl along to stay in her hut while she tries to get him a license to go after Screamer. So if I get you a license, you will go after him, even into the forest? Alex asks. Definitely, wild horses couldn’t keep stop me, Calvin answers, enthusiastic to Alexandra’s body and its language and in the secure knowledge that Jim will never sign a license.
However, once at “Hiron Point” one obstacle after the other “falls” away and, very contrary to his own desire, Karl soon finds himself in a situation where he is expected to go after Screamer (the man-eating tiger we got to know in book 1) the next day. At this point, Karl realizes that his personality really has changed. He realizes that he no longer thinks that he has the right to kill a tiger or any animal on the verge of extinction. However, Karl is honest enough to be suspicious of himself: Is that really how I feel or do I simply not have the guts?
Jim stops the hunt before Karl is forced to take a decision and Karl is over the moon. However, though Karl says that he is misunderstood, everybody now regards him as a coward (that doesn’t go anyhow) and probably a worthless hunter. Eventually a radio communication with the son of the famous Hyatt Khan – the son who tried to kill Karl in book 1 and who lost his own integrity/honor in his encounter with Screamer – sets everything “right.” “It’s a stupid mistake. Mister Nobel is a great hunter; I can think of nobody I’d rather match against that tiger of yours,” and “My father has cleared things with the head ranger in Khulna.” Omar is lying; he has hunted wild boar with Karl and knows that Karl is a pretty mediocre hunter. In addition, no license has been granted.
Karl realizes the truth but chooses to go anyhow. As Karl sits down by the dead human body that is used as bait, we follow his contemplations about his life in general and about what lies ahead particularly. We also follow Screamer as he contemplates his hunger and the big stick-bearing human that sits next to his food.
It all comes down to a monumental fight out in the river where few Reader’s sympathies will be undivided. Out there Karl can compensate - for his “lack” of strength, power, speed, claws, and fangs - by managing to reach what his opponent cannot: the river bottom. It ends with two wounded heroes: the tiger returns to his food and the human drifts off in a rowing boat out into the Bay of Bengal and new adventures.
While all this happens we also follow: (i) The murder investigation that is reopened back in Sweden and how Larson and Johanna are getting ever closer to the Destroyer, (ii) How the Kharajites and EUSDAT interact and how the bad guys start their “turn-the-world-into-an-Islam-caliphate-project” by demanding that Spain turns over the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta to the Moroccans, (iii) Frida’s relentless march towards the political top and (iv) How Igor attempts to clinch an antique sphinx for himself, bamboozling Karl.
PROLOGUE (PART OF BOOK 2)
After some initial hiccups – mainly from him, whoever he was, failing to recognize people who felt they ought to have been recognized, especially girls – most things had gone smooth. The people assumed to be his mother and sister had immediately and unconditionally accepted him - as Karli, their son, and brother - and they had, much to Karli’s liking, made offerings to Odin in order to thank Him for what they perceived to be a miracle. For a while, they – and the people of Birka - had been surprised that he had forgotten all about them, but then, who were they to criticize the memory of a man who had just had his head chopped off and kicked up into the air. From the moment he had walked into the place called Birka he had “become” Karli, and he had lived in the same house as Karli’s mother and sister; in the same house that they told him, he had lived from the day he was born. Karli’s mother was a pleasant creature; she made the best mead in Birka, and her company was much sought after. This mead-making quality – as soon as he realized that mothers were sexually taboo – Karli soon came to appreciate at least as much as her good-tempered nature. She was also, despite not being particularly rich, one of the most wooed widows around. Therefore it came as no big surprise to Karli when a wealthy chieftain - about to retire from trading and from going a-Viking - started to woo her. Karli’s sister – who was much younger than his mother – was an unusually short, blond, full-bodied and very pretty girl whom Karli was supposed not to harbor any amorous feelings towards either, this time because she was his sister. Though Karli again realised that there were conventions that one was supposed to abide by, he did feel very much as he wasn’t supposed to feel, and it was probably only his sister’s shortness of stature, his mother’s suspicious glances and the fact that there were attractive females outside the household that kept them from a tumble in the hay.
A SCENE FROM INSIDE THE BOOK
Cat was unhappy with Tammarassad, the last Algerian outpost before the Sahara Desert, Niger and Nigeria, Sand, car-thieves, scorpions, corrupt coppers and sleazy bars. What she was especially unhappy with was Jens Otto, her huge, brawny Danish so-called boyfriend. She didn’t mind his dodgy car-dealings - that part was actually quite fun, and the main reason to why she still hung around - what she was unhappy about was his behavior towards her. The problem with Jens Otto – or “Thor,” or “The Mad Dane” as some would refer to him - was that he was running after everything in a skirt. Cat took another sip of her beer and decided to get drunk.
‘Hi, I Karl, you paradox.’
‘A paradox?’ Cat queried, without turning around.
‘A biological contradiction, disproving anybody claiming that a beautiful flower cannot grow in the desert.’
Nice voice. Cat turned around to face the man who had just entered the bar, ‘But you can save your energy.’
‘Goodness gracious me; and not any beautiful flower.’
Cat nodded at the huge red-bearded bodybuilder at the bar ‘I’m afraid I’ve already got a boyfriend.’
‘The little creep with the spider; the one hitting on the Froggie’s girl?’
‘Yes, won’t you be a good boy and take her away from him?’
‘Not my cup of tea.’
‘Why? She’s got two tits, and I bet you there’s a hole in her.’
‘She’s got no class.’
Cat looked at the man who was trying to pick her up with ill-concealed delight. He really was big, even bigger than Thor, ‘And class matters?’
Her boyfriend was showing off the scorpion – a big, black, wicked-looking scorpion but with no poison left – laughing and gesturing so as to attract the attention of the two Palestinians who had accompanied her new admirer into the bar. First, he’s going to rip them off and then he’ll walk away with that French bitch right in front of me: he’s such a bastard! ‘He’s gonna rip your friends off.’
‘And you won’t help them?’
‘That’s their problem.’
‘If you’re as good a lover as you are a friend, you’re crap.’
‘They’ve already tried to kill me twice.’
The French girl petted the scorpion while Cat’s so-called boyfriend was scorning the Palestinians, ‘No balls? I suppose it would take a Jew to touch it!’
‘What are you doing with them?’
‘To get across the desert.’
‘To get to the other side.’
‘I mean, what are you doing here in the sand when you could have gotten a plane?’
‘An old resolution; I really should have gone by camel.’
One of the Palestinians had come up to her so-called boyfriend, tentatively touching the scorpion. ‘
I’m impressed, but do you dare to hold it?’
The big man took her hands, ‘I like.’
‘Yes, nice and soft, and not a single ring.’
‘You are persistent.’
‘If you had been a man and looked at what I’m looking at you would be persistent too.’
‘You… you’ve got nice hands too… powerful.’
‘Aoch!’ the stupid Palestinian shouted as the scorpion finally stung him.
‘This is terrible!’ exclaimed Thor, ‘rush to the pharmacy, you must get the antidote within fifteen minutes, or you’re dead; it’s just around the corner.’
The Palestinian, accompanied by his friend, skedaddled out of the bar.
The big Dane turned to the French girl, holding up a small glass container and a syringe, ‘They’ll be back.’
‘You are a bloody cheater,’ the French girl’s boyfriend approached the red-haired bodybuilder with his right hand’s index finger raised, ‘you wanted the spider to bite him all the time.’
Thor looked at the small man in disgust, ‘And you are a little wimp who talks too much.’
The Frenchman grabbed his girlfriend by the wrist, ‘Come here, I do not like the atmosphere in here, let’s go to the car.’
The girl freed herself, ‘You go ahead, I’ll have another drink; I’ll meet you later at the campground.’
The French girl’s boyfriend – who, as he was leaving, angrily and with much determination lighted a cigarette - nearly collided with the Palestinian who was entering the bar together with his friend.
‘They have no more antidotes!’
‘I’m really so sorry.’
‘He says you are the only one who has.’
‘Well yes, in a way, I’ve got one,’ Thor held up the container and a syringe, ‘But I get stung all the time, so I need that for myself.’
A couple of minutes later the big Danish man, five hundred dollars richer, escorted the French girl out of the bar, holding the scorpion by the tail and laughing; the French girl was holding him around his waist.
‘What do you see in him?’
‘I like his job.’
‘So what’s his racket?’
‘Second-hand cars; he’s good at it.’
Karl shook his head in disgust, ‘I’m sorry; had he been my little brother I would have given him a good spanking.’
Cat once more looked at the man who was trying to pick her up. He really is a full size bigger… and much better looking, ‘Come here with you.’
A SCENE FROM INSIDE THE BOOK
Karl moved a few paces further away from land; out to where the water reached to within a few inches of his shoulders.
Screamer swam out into deeper water and towards the human.
Karl turned around, facing the shore and awaiting his adversary’s arrival.
Screamer continued to approach the big human.
Karl hyperventilated, waited until the tiger was only a yard away, let out most of the air, sank to the bottom and moved a yard to the left.
Screamer reached out for his adversary, but again he failed to make contact.
Karl, staying close to the bottom, counted to ten before surfacing; the tiger ought to have passed over him and if so it would by now be out on the deeper water, only a couple of yards from where the tide would have swept it away.
Screamer had swum straight over where the human had sunk, and now he started to turn around.
Karl turned towards where he assumed the tiger to be, and he planted his feet firmly in the mud.
Screamer again approached the human that strangely no longer appeared as close to becoming food as it had only a few moments earlier. He paddled towards it.
As Karl spotted the burning yellow eyes – it had swum straight over him - he leaned forward towards his slowly approaching adversary. I’ve got you.
Screamer could see the big human’s paw approaching and as he recalled the last time it had reached out to grab him from above Screamer knew exactly what to do.
Karl reached for the scruff of the tiger’s neck.
Screamer opened his mouth wide and snapped at the human’s paw.
Karl’s could see the tiger’s white teeth gleaming in the moonlight; his hand had nowhere to grab.
Screamer, still with his jaws wide open, was swimming under the human’s paw and towards its abdomen. I’ve got you.
Karl, more from instinct than reflection, closed his open hand and hit the tiger on its nose butt.
Sure, being hit on the nose hurt, but not very much and it was from surprise rather than pain that Screamer snapped his jaws close.
Karl’s hand reached for the scruff of his adversary’s neck.
Screamer was held in a powerful grip; his approach was halted just before his adversary’s body came within reach and Screamer was again pushed backward, away from the big human.
Karl pushed his adversary’s head down beneath the surface.
Screamer tried to shake off the paw that held him from above, but again it was as if Screamer had lost some of his energy; again he felt strangely dozy, and the paw held him in just as firm a grip as the last time, only now it was pushing him down under the surface.
Karl was careful not to press too hard; though the water was deeper than the last time he had gripped the tiger by the scruff of its neck, Karl didn’t want to risk helping his adversary to reach the bottom a second time.
Screamer knew that he ought to roll but somehow being held like this seemed to do things to him; to sort of de-energize him and to keep him from doing what he really knew he ought to do.
The tiger offered surprisingly little resistance.
Screamer, who had made no effort to inhale before being submerged, started to run out of air.
Karl had a firm grip, and he felt that this time he finally might have his adversary where he wanted it. Please, no more surprises. I know we’ve got a deal: I’ll find her, marry her, produce offspring and then I’ll try to find out whatever you want me to do. I’ll keep my part of it if you keep yours.
Screamer’s life had been in danger many times in the past but never before from drowning and though Screamer felt that things weren’t going very well, even pretty bad, he didn’t really understand the seriousness of the situation.
Karl could sense how the tiger’s legs kept paddling forward and how its head kept on twisting but Karl had both the leverage to keep his adversary’s head down and the angle to keep himself in safety. As long as you don’t roll there’s no way out for you and if you do roll, I’ll just grab you again.
There was no air left in Screamer’s lungs.
Karl could feel how the energy of the tiger’s resistance started to decline.
Though Screamer knew it would be a bad thing to breathe in, his lungs told him he had to.
The end came much faster than Karl had anticipated.
Though Screamer had done a lot of killing himself - he had even seen a few dead tigers - he wasn’t really familiar with the concept of death.
In only a few seconds the tiger’s resistance totally ceased.
If Screamer had understood about death, he would have known that he was pretty close to it and when the water hit his lungs there was terrible pain.
Karl, as his adversary’s resistance so suddenly stopped, assumed he had killed the tiger.
As the water hit his lungs, Screamer’s whole body convulsed.
However, this time Karl was decided not to err on the side of clemency, and he kept pushing the tiger’s head down while he slowly counted to five.
Screamer could feel his head finally being pulled out of the water.
As Karl pulled his adversary out of the water he could hear no breathing – I’ve killed it - but then, after only a few seconds, there was a faint splutter followed by some coughing.
Screamer wasn’t dead, and as he came about, he greedily inhaled the air, spluttered a bit more, inhaled more air and then again, this time from instinct rather than from aggression, he started to paddle forwards.
Karl leaned over his adversary, and he looked sternly into the burning eyes of this unrelenting killing machine.
His opponent looked down at him from above, up from where it was out of his reach; it looked at him with those terrible eyes. Screamer opened his jaws but as that only had the effect of pushing him back down under the water he swiftly closed them.
As the tiger closed its jaws and re-emerged Karl stared at it, trying to look scary; he didn’t really believe it would have any effect, but al-Haqq had once told him that tigers were afraid of human eyes and Karl felt that he had nothing to lose.
Screamer wasn’t, as most people believed, afraid of human faces, but he hated human eyes nearly as much as he hated fire in the night; that’s why he rarely ate human’s heads, and that’s why the forest dwellers’ eyeless masks did little to scare him.
Karl again pushed the tiger’s head down into the water.