The Second Harry Waterman Murder Mystery
(featuring Melanie Underwood and Alan Cornish)
Russians and Royals
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, London, early April
Gilgamesh Jazani, the Iranian ambassador to London, had originally refused to see Jamal Karam, but her persistence had paid off and, partly by luck, their paths had crossed outside the embassy one morning in early April.
Seeing the beautiful woman approach him, insisting that she had: “Extremely important information concerning the economic welfare of Iran!” the ambassador succumbed and invited her into the embassy.
Standing behind his large, leather-topped desk, dressed in a pinstriped suit, Jazani regarded the alluring woman facing him; she was wearing a black hijab and a black dress. Her olive complexion was near flawless and her dark, sultry eyes were intoxicating and tantalisingly irresistible. Her bright-red lips were the only outward sign of her rebellious nature.
‘Please, take a seat,’ he said as he lit a cigarette. ‘I must say Miss Karam, if nothing else, you are a very persistent woman.’
‘Oh—there’s a lot more to me than that, Mister Ambassador,’ she replied confidently, as she settled on one of a pair of ornate red-velvet sofas that were separated by a low, marble-topped table.
Gilgamesh Jazani’s face was full and plump and the wisps of black hair that remained on his head were oiled and combed straight back. His gold-rimmed glasses were far too big for his face and a well-trimmed, moustache adorned his top lip.
‘I have ordered tea and cake, they will be arriving shortly,’ he said, with an insipid grin that exposed his smoke-stained teeth and gold fillings.
Jamal smiled and replied:
‘How nice of you, Ambassador.’
With a condescending tone he asked:
‘So… what is it that you have that could possibly affect the economic welfare of my country?’
With that there was a knock on the office door and a woman, wearing a sand-coloured hijab and full-length black dress, walked in carrying a tray of Persian tea and Yazdi cakes (cup cakes). The Ambassador gestured to her, in a condescending way, to leave the tray on the marble table. The woman subserviently obliged and left the office without a word being spoken.
Jamal smiled at the man she was beginning to dislike, but business was business, she quickly reminded herself.
The ambassador walked over to the table. ‘Sugar?’ he asked, as he poured tea into the two fine-china teacups.
‘One lump please,’ she said and took the steaming cup offered to her. She watched while her host settled on the sofa opposite her and picked up the tray of cakes. ‘Help yourself,’ he mumbled, after forcing a whole cake into his mouth.
Jamal smiled and ignored his offer. ‘…To answer your question, sir,—I have something for you that will, without doubt,’ she leaned forward for effect and looked deep into his eyes, ‘persuade the Americans to unconditionally remove much of the trade embargo on your country; and that, I’m sure you will agree, would be worth billions of dollars to Iran.’
The next cupcake the ambassador was about to devour never reached his mouth. ‘… You are a mad woman?’ he snarled.
‘Do I look like a mad woman, Ambassador?’ Jamal asked, coolly.
‘…There is nothing you have, young lady, that would persuade the Americans to do such a thing—so please—do not waste my time any further.’
Jamal leaned forward, took a cupcake and devoured it sensuously. ‘…Mmmm, delicious,’ she said, seductively wiping the sides of her mouth with her index finger. ‘We have similar cakes in Iraq,’ she concluded with a wry smile.
The ambassador began to stand.
Jamal quickly added:
‘I guarantee there is something I have, Mister Ambassador, and it’s for sale to you at a cost of thirty-million US dollars; an absolute bargain, even if I say so myself, and the best return on investment Iran will ever have offered to them on a plate.’
The ambassador scoffed:
‘… What on earth are you selling that’s worth thirty-million dollars! Miss Karam?’
Jamal chuckled. ‘I’m selling the best poker hand Iran will ever be dealt; a hand that will make Iran a respected player on the world stage, instead of a struggling, volatile country crippled by religious bigots and economic sanctions.’
The ambassador closed his eyes and huffed in despair. ‘You are mad and downright rude and you have wasted enough of my valuable time. You have accepted my hospitality and in return you have chosen to insult the great Republic of Iran.’ Gilgamesh Jazani gestured to the door. ‘Would you now please leave.’
‘I only speak the truth,’ Jamal replied. ‘Please, let me explain. I’m offering Iran top-secret Russian military information, Ambassador; information that the Americans would lick your arse and suck your cock for!’
Her host stiffened and blushed with embarrassment at her vulgar comment but Jamal Karam never took her eyes off him.
‘…You have five minutes, young lady,’ he said, ‘to tell me exactly what kind of information you’re selling.’
Jamal continued, knowing she had his undivided attention.
‘I’m offering Iran top-secret information about the location of numerous hidden underground missile, bomb and chemical warfare sites in Russia. The kind of armaments being manufactured and the throughput at each of the sites. Also, detailed information about the whereabouts of storage facilities for both conventional and nuclear weapons and—if that’s not enough—four locations of major cyber centres that the Russians are developing to wreak havoc on the West’s financial infrastructures.’
The ambassador sneered. ‘How could you possibly know all of this?’
‘Simple,’ Jamal replied, ‘I have access to genuine inside information.’
‘I’m sorry young lady but I don’t believe you.’
Jamal smirked and then stood up. ‘But the Americans will,’ she said, as she walked towards the door. ‘They have suspected Russia of lying for some time, and now that Russia has pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Iran could offer the Americans concrete evidence to support their claims. A massive negotiating chip, wouldn’t you agree?’
‘Do you expect me to believe that you would sell that information to the Americans?—after what they did to your country!’
Jamal stopped and slowly turned around. ‘America, Saddam, ISIS, they’re all the same—innocent people always die. And for thirty-million dollars, Ambassador, I would sell my mother to the Americans!’ Jamal then walked to the door and reached for the handle. ‘Thank you for your time and the delicious Yazdi cakes.’
‘…Please!—Wait a moment!’ he called out, in a conciliatory tone—‘We need to talk. Please—come back and sit down.’
Jamal fought back a smile and returned to her seat on the sofa. She watched the ambassador light another cigarette; he inhaled deeply and then, looking into Jamal’s eyes, he said:
‘You know that extremely sensitive military information of this nature can get you killed, don’t you?’
‘Are you threatening me, Ambassador?’
‘Oh no—certainly not me, young lady! I was thinking more like—Mister Putin for example.’
Jamal offered a conciliatory smile through tight lips and replied:
‘I’ll take my chances, Mister Ambassador.’
She then watched as a pensive Gilgamesh Jazani got to his feet, walked over to his desk and picked up the telephone handset. After a momentary pause he said in Persian:
‘…Put me through to Tehran.’