"But when it cometh home to them, then it will be a hapless morn for those who have been warned."


The intent of Amy, Judy, Pistol, Duke and (with equivocation) Greer to defend their threatened roommate come-what-may, if unrealistic, demonstrates to Zahra a touching solidarity—destined to disintegrate under fire.

1. Is so naive.

2. They speak of measures to protect me as might children playing War without the slightest understanding what War tolls.

3. War summons angst.

4. War summons death when youth believes itself exempt as in immortal, till a bomb, a bullet, a bayonet belies.

5. War summons grief.

6. And even Holy War cannot allay the shock on stricken faces when a comrade or a loved one stares with unresponsive eyes. Is so abnormal: blindness, muteness, deafness, taste and touch insensate when a corpse has nary a gray hair, nor a wrinkle, ruck, or jowl.

7. To witness that-which-is become is-no-longer, stymies comprehension, lies beyond ones will to have it not be so, to have her back.

8. With all my heart and mind and soul I prayed for Homa's resurrection, irrespective her ascension unto Allah's Bosom.

9. Faith. What good are creeds that fail our needs? To lose a parent, offspring, spouse, to lose an intimate is to question hollow solace, doubt condolences that purport to offer substance when real substance lies inert, its inexistence a misfortune everlasting.


All agreed?

The plan, its single strength simplicity, has been forged with much dissension. Duke's proposal, designating bodyguards working in shifts, was dismissed out of hand. As was involving the police, an option shouted down by Greer, whose own suggestion—chipping in to buy a one-way airfare 'elsewhere'—met with heated opposition from all concerned. Judy's brainstorm likewise won no concord; donned disguises were unlikely to bamboozle him whose perceptiveness matched his skill to rid the world of her who listened, voiceless, privately unconvinced that any scheme put forth thus far could neutralize her nemesis.


Yeah, and then what?


Talk him out of it.


Fat chance; doesn't sound too promising.


Hey, he makes a move, attacks the decoy, springs our little trap, we simply shoot the bastard—Pshew.

Pistol blows imaginary smoke from his upraised index finger.


Ever shot a real gun, Pistol.


Hell, who needs to shoot 'im? Dude'll starve to death, we bar that door. A week or so should do.


But how confirm it?


By the stench. That place is soundproof not aroma-proof. Once he's croaked, we could wall him in. Very Edgar Allan Poe-like.


Hey! You're talkin' about my studio. Once he's croaked, we haul him outta there.


Only kidding.


Everybody in?

Duke exacts a yea or nay from each and every roommate; Judy, Amy, Greer, then Pistol nods. Zahra meanwhile mulls the likelihood of success.

10. They stand forewarned.

11. I have explained who Ahmed is, his craft, and the pitch of his tenacity. My depiction seemed to cause, in some, a well-considered cringe. Until bravado danced its dumb-show over faces, all three males.

12. To which the females—over-hastily—acquiesced. Is this our wont? Are we forever to be led by men who veto better judgment? Would decisions made by women not improve our lot and theirs?

13. We all are slaves, of course, co-equal in obedience to Omnipotence. Allah only issues edicts; human beings can but submit. Unlike the West that sees the Self as end and means of life's fulfillment, we in the East aspire to leading worthy lives on bended knee. It is humility that disposes men and women to salvation.

14. Mine, in jeopardy, is commended to a wrathful, vengeful fist; may his deliver me, if it be the Eternal's Will.


You game, or not?

The plan, as Zahra understands it, is to vacate Etta's room and take up residence (South of Market) in Duke's requisitioned soundstage, living there (alone) the while each roommate comes, by turns, to proffer solace, tender updates, drop off groceries, idly chat, and thereby lead her would-be slayer to the booby-trapped premises—where the bait, with any luck, will circumvent disaster.

Zahra, trading measured looks with each of the five conspirators (confident none has the fortitude or resolve), decides, with a fatalistic shrug, to signal her assent.