Safe From the War, chapter 3


Here’s another chapter from Safe From the War. Previous chapters can be found at the following links:

Hope you enjoy it, please hit me with comments. Thanks,



“Homicide division,” a pleasant female voice answered. “May I help you?”

“Yes ma’am, you can,” Nunez said. “I’m looking for Detective Helmers. He was the investigator on the murder case on Hanley a few nights ago. Is he around today?”

“Yes, he is, I just saw him a few minutes ago. May I ask who’s calling?”

“Officer Jerry Nunez, from North patrol. I just needed to talk to him about that Hanley case, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

“Yes officer, one second please.” The receptionist put Nunez on hold and he listened to the Muzak version of Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy on the handset for a minute before the voice of a gruff older man came on the line.

“This is Helmers.”

“Hey, Detective Helmers? I’m Jerry Nunez, I was the primary patrol officer on that murder call you had on Hanley.”

“Nunez, Nunez. . . you’re the one that loudmouth reporter, the hot one, kept trying to interview, right? Okay, I remember you now. That was a pretty good report supplement you wrote for that murder.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.” Nunez leaned back at one of his dining table chairs, stretching to shake off the soreness from the three mile run he had just finished. “Do you have a few minutes? I have something I’d like to talk to you about, about the Hanley murder.”

“We’re always pretty busy, but I’m sure I can spare a few minutes for a hardworking officer. Whadaya got?

Nunez wondered if Helmers was going to think he was wasting his time for calling, especially since Nunez really didn’t have any new information. “Well, it’s nothing solid, no new evidence or anything like that, it’s just something that’s been on my mind for several days now that I wanted to run by you. A few nights ago my probationary and I were checking out 1803 Hanley and we had a talk with another one of the residents out there, another guy from Afghanistan. Nice old guy, seemed real educated. Anyway, he talked to us for a while about Pashtun beliefs and stuff, and he stressed that it didn’t make sense for that kid to have killed his sister over her supposedly being a whore. It doesn’t fit in with their culture.”

“How does he figure it doesn’t fit in with their culture?” Helmers asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on Arabs, but we hear about honor killings all the time. If they thought she was a whore, like the kid and his dad both said, why wouldn’t it make sense?”

Nunez didn’t feel like explaining the difference between Arabs and Pashtuns again, so he ignored that part of the detective’s response. “Well, according to this guy we talked to, the daughter wasn’t a whore, not even by Afghan standards.”

“Yeah, sure, that’s what he says. But it would make more sense for her own family to know her better than her neighbor did. If the victim had done something seriously bad, or at least what they consider seriously bad, I bet that family would have kept it to themselves.”

“I get that, he probably didn’t know as much about her as he thought, but that’s not all he had to say,” Nunez said. “According to him, it didn’t make sense that the suspect would yell ‘Allahu Akbar’ after he killed his sister, because it just doesn’t fit with this kind of killing.”

“’This kind of killing?’ What does that mean?”

“Okay, I know it sounds stupid, but Muslims yell Allahu akbar when they’re dying to be martyrs,” Nunez said. “Not dying to be martyrs, not like ‘Gosh, I’m just dying to be a martyr,’ I mean, dying in an act of martyrdom, dying for Allah, you know. If that kid had blown himself up to attack Americans, it would make sense that he would yell Allahu akbar. Or if he shot up a mall or something, any terrorist attack in the name of Allah. But what he did to his sister wasn’t something he did in the name of Allah or anything. It was something else, cultural instead of religious. According to this old man we talked to, anyway.”

“Huh,” Helmers said, unimpressed. “I guess I get his point, but I don’t know if what he said about the culture is true. Do you know if it is? Really, do you know for sure that there isn’t something in the Koran or whatever that says you’re supposed to kill your sister if she breaks the rules?”

“No, I personally don’t know,” Nunez said. “This old guys seemed like he knew what he was talking about though, he seemed pretty honest to me.”

“Maybe he is honest, maybe he told you what he honestly believed. But is that the same thing that the girl’s family believed? Do they belong to the same sect, or branch, whatever the hell they call it in Islam? Even if he thought he was being honest, it could have still been a lie. My son was there in Afghanistan a couple of years ago, he got wounded by some of those nutjobs over there. Personally, I don’t trust a single one of them. Hell, I halfway didn’t trust anything those kids’ dad said to me on the scene.”

Nunez shifted in his chair, feeling like he wasn’t getting his points across real well. Changing the subject for a moment, he asked “Your son was wounded in Afghanistan? I was in Afghanistan in the National Guard, last year.”

“No kidding? Welcome home. My son’s a Marine, he was in Helmand, got hit pretty bad in an ambush. Hell of a Marine, that boy of mine. The only good thing to come out of his mother. Took a bullet in the face, and kept on fighting for several more hours. He‘s still in the Corps, crazy bastard is trying to go back to Afghanistan now. Were you down there, in Helmand?”

“Nope, I was in the northeast,” Nunez answered. “Little quieter where I was, but still enough action to keep you on your toes. Glad to hear your son made it through that ambush okay. I was in one or two, they aren’t much fun.”

“Yeah, I’m glad too, believe me,” Helmers said. “My ex and I almost lost it when we were notified. But anyway, back to Hanley. I don’t mean to cut you off at the knees or anything like that, but I don’t see what exactly we get from what the neighbor said.”

Nunez thought about it, looking at the information through the detective’s eyes. Did the old Afghan man’s opinion mean anything? Other than giving Nunez and Woods a lesson in culture, which might or might not be factual, did he actually tell them anything of value?

“Yeah, I hear you. All I can tell you is, I’ve got a decent amount of experience on the street, I can usually tell when someone is honest, and when someone’s full of shit. This old guy seemed legit to me. And I’ve been to Iraq, I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve been around these people before. That doesn’t make me an expert on anything either, but what the neighbor said just makes sense to me. It makes me wonder if there’s something we missed.”

The call waiting tone beeped in his ear, and Nunez quickly looked at the phone screen to see that his wife was calling from her office. He decided to ignore it for the time being.

“Hmmm. I understand that, and it’s good that you’re looking at it that way,” Helmers said. “But let me ask you this, Nunez. Let’s say we find out that there actually was something else to it. Maybe the brother tried to rape the sister and she fought back, although we didn’t find any evidence of sexual assault. Maybe Mohi-whatever was just a sick little bastard who hated women. Who knows, and what difference would it make now? I don’t mean to be a smartass, and believe me, all of us get way turned on when a patrol officer cares enough about a case to call us. Especially when he’s off duty, like I’m sure you are now. But if we go digging into this and find out something else about the motive for the murder, it won’t bring the girl back to life. The suspect is dead and burning in hell, the case is closed. Every single piece of information we had on the scene pointed to the kid being the killer, and being the only killer. Everything. The blood, the knife, the slash on the kid’s palm from when he accidentally cut himself like a lot of knife killers do, the statements he made to you, all of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to know the whole story, not just the little bit that the father told me. I don’t get why the kid did it, I don’t get why the father reacted the way he did. And I really don’t understand the overkill, all the hate this kid must have had for his sister. But I’ve got lots of cases, Officer Nunez, active cases, murders I need to make an arrest on. I can’t take what little time I have and use it to investigate cases that are already closed.”

Nunez grudgingly accepted that Helmers’ analysis of the situation made way more sense than his own. Still, it felt like there was something important left to be discovered about this murder. “Yeah. Yeah, I hear you. I hope you know what I was trying to get at though, I just want to make sure that nothing gets left unchecked. Hey Detective Helmers, I appreciate your time, thanks for listening.”

“No problem, Officer Nunez. And listen, don’t get the wrong idea about what I’ve said. I am not telling you to stop looking into this murder, if you really think there’s something more to it. I’m just saying that as far as I can tell, and I’ve been doing this a llllonnnnngggg time, there isn’t anything else to this that’s important enough to change anything. We might look into it some more and find something else out, but it wouldn’t have any impact on the basic facts of the case. I could be wrong, god knows I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. So if you find anything else that you think is important, let me know, don’t think twice about calling me.”

“I will, thanks.”

“Thanks for calling, Officer. Take care.”

“You too.” Nunez hung up the phone, not feeling nearly as foolish as he had at about the halfway point in the conversation. He stood up and stuck his cell phone into the pocket of his running pants, and it started vibrating immediately. Picking it up to see it was his wife calling back, he thought to himself, Here it comes.

“So, finally done wasting family time on the phone to the department, or do you have to call someone else now?” Laura had called earlier and Nunez had cut the call short, telling her that he needed to call Homicide division before it got too late.

“I’m done. Laura, do me a favor, don’t jack with me right now. I’m trying to figure something out about a murder I worked last week. It’s not fun, don’t go accusing me of having a good time with it.”

“What murder? You didn’t tell me anything about a murder.”

“Last Tuesday night,” Nunez said, wishing he had mentioned it to Laura earlier. “Bad one, worst I’ve ever seen. Innocent little girl got killed, and I was talking to the Homicide investigator in charge of the case.”

“Are you talking about that little Arab girl that was stabbed to death, the murder they showed on TV? The one that was killed by her brother? The officer-involved shooting?” As she spoke, Nunez could hear her level of anger rising.

“Yes, that murder. That officer-involved shooting.”

“You worked that one? You were in that shooting? And you didn’t even bother to tell me?” Laura asked.

“I was there, but I didn’t shoot. And I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Uh huh,” she said. “I see. I’m not worth talking to when something important happens.”

“God damn it, Laura, lighten up on me. You know that’s not how it is.” Even though he was aggravated by her take on his silence about this incident, he understood why she was angry. Despite their frequent arguments and flare-ups they were close, and he generally told her everything that happened at work. But he hadn’t wanted to talk to her about the murder of the little Afghan girl on Hanley.

“Laura, you know you’re worth talking to. That isn’t the issue. This one wasn’t anything I wanted to talk about. That little girl could have been Alyssa in ten years, she could have been you before we met. Dark haired little girl, pretty, and people say she was smart too. I saw her school ID after the Crime Scene guys went through her apartment, she was just beautiful. I think I’ve only seen two other actual innocent murder victims ever in my life. And they were both men, which made it different, I guess. I think, well, I know that male cops feel a lot more sympathetic toward female victims and child victims than they do toward men. But anyway, every other murder victim I’ve ever seen besides those three were doing something stupid that got them killed. Most of them deserved it, especially the gangsters. Those guys, they could just as easily have been the suspect instead of the victim, it just turned out that the other guy got the gun out first, or was a better shot. You know how I feel about those. This was completely different, and it bothered me a little. So I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Jerry, I’m your wife,” Laura said in a huff. “If you’re not going to communicate with me about things that bother you, our marriage is seriously flawed.”

“Yeah, I guess it is. Sorry.”

“That’s all you have to say? Sorry, you guess our marriage is flawed?”

“I have to go for a run, Laura,” Nunez lied. “Can we talk about this later?”

“I thought you already ran.”

“I was going to, I changed my mind.”

“You’re lying.”

“Laura, I need to go. I’ll call you later.”

“Fine,” Laura said, and hung up. Nunez put the phone into his pocket and walked to his computer to check his emails. On the desk beside the computer in the small extra bedroom they used as a study was a framed picture of Nunez and Laura, taken two years earlier when they went to Cancun for a short vacation away from the kids. Laura was a beautiful woman, petite and curvy with light skin and dark hair and eyes, an exotic cross between an Irish father and a Mexican mother. In the picture they looked happy enough; the eyes of the smiling couple in the picture didn’t give any hint of all the tension between them.

Their marriage had not started off well. When they first met, Laura was married to an evening shift officer named Gary something-or-other who Nunez was vaguely acquainted with. Nunez had bumped into Laura’s then-husband Gary at a party thrown by a mutual friend, and Gary had casually introduced Laura to him. That night at the party Nunez had simply shaken hands and said hello to her, admiring how pretty and shapely she was, and after she and her husband turned to walk away he spent more than a few seconds admiring the sway of her butt and hips under her tiny waist until other party guests blocked his view. She hadn’t made that much of an impression on him that night, nothing more than admiration for how hot she was and a little envy for Gary.

At that time Nunez’s primary focus in life, outside of work and his drills in the old, pre-war National Guard, was going to clubs and parties and generally doing his best to get into the pants of any single, good looking, middle class, decently dressed, non-crazy woman he met. Later Gary transferred to another station, something Nunez didn’t know until he happened to bump into Laura at a mall the following year. He went out of his way to say hi to her and ask her how Gary was doing, and wound up standing for over twenty minutes next to the table in the food court where Laura was seated, thinking he shouldn’t sit down next to her while she went on and on about what an asshole Gary had been. She told Nunez she should have listened to her friends and her family who had all warned her that she was too good to marry a cop, and how she would be smarter the next time she married, which wouldn’t be for at least another five years, not until all the hate for Gary was out of her system. During that little tirade she had tried at least once to throw in “But maybe you’re not as big of an asshole as other cops are,” which Nunez figured was as charitable as she could be under the circumstances. He was able to break away before she talked herself into a crying fit, relieved to finally be able to get to Victoria’s Secret to buy lingerie for the girl he was currently having friendly sex with.

Two years later he ran into her again, at one of the nicer downtown bars. Both of them were a few beers and shots into their evening, and Nunez was surprised to find Laura flirting with him after inviting him to sit with her and her friends at a booth. Within half an hour she was rubbing his leg under the table, within an hour making out with him on the dance floor, and they finished the night having sex in the back seat of his pickup in the bar’s parking lot while his sober friends and her sober friends waited uncomfortably inside the bar for them to hurry up and finish so their respective designated drivers could drive them home. They didn’t talk for several days afterward, until Laura called him at the number he had forgotten he had given her, apologizing for her behavior at the club and assuring him that their tryst didn’t mean anything to her and was just a consequence of her loneliness since her divorce. Nunez had told her he understood and apologized for his behavior also, assuring her that he wasn’t the kind of guy to just have casual sex with random drunk women he met in bars, which of course was a total lie.

She surprised him again on the phone by suggesting they meet sometime for lunch, which they did later that week. And again the next day, and then for dinner that weekend, and by the next week they were seeing each other almost every day. After the first time they had clear-headed, sober sex, Nunez thought he should shut this budding relationship down before it really got started, worrying about how much Laura might deep down still hate her ex and by extension all cops and maybe even all men. And there was another girl, a nice girl who he had met when he took a report from her about her car being burglarized at a gas station in his beat. He had been talking to her also, and had taken her to dinner once, before he and Laura had started seeing each other. The other girl was quiet and shy and demure and beautiful and coy and came from a traditional conservative family in Mexico, and placing each woman on the “happy wife, happy life” scale, the other girl was the clear winner. The time Nunez spent with Laura made him think he better make sure he didn’t knock her up and get stuck with her; the time he spent talking to the other girl on the phone made him think he should quit being such a tomcat, stop drinking and smoking and think about starting a family, since after all, he was already 30 years old.

One afternoon, after talking to the other girl on the phone for over an hour, he made his decision. He was going to call Laura and tell her that Gary had been too good a friend of his, which was bullshit, and that he didn’t feel right getting involved with her, which wasn’t. Later that day she called him first, to tell him she was pregnant. And that had been the end of that debate. Neither one of them believed in abortion, Laura because of her catholic upbringing and Nunez because being a cop had made him a firm believer in personal responsibility, so there was no question that the baby would be born, and that he would support it. There was definitely a question, however, as to the nature of the relationship Laura Simpson and Jerry Nunez would share.

Looking back on it, Nunez felt like the decision about their relationship just seemed to have been made for them, without either one of them thinking much about it. After Laura broke the news of the pregnancy to him, she had come to his apartment to discuss what they should do, and didn’t leave until the next morning. During the night Nunez had laid in bed with Laura curled up next to him, warm and soft and naked, and when he put his hand on her womb to feel the little space where his child was growing, for the first time he thought to himself, I could do a lot worse than this woman. And he could have done a lot worse, and their marriage could have been a lot worse.

Being married to Laura had pushed him to stop drinking and smoking and tomcatting around, and it had turned him into the family man he thought he should be. And Laura seemed to have grown to love him, or at least depend on him for security and stability. When he spent time with his wife now, he felt the love for her that had developed in his heart while his daughter Alyssa developed in her womb, and he felt respect for her as a woman and as a mother. But he could never quite lose the feeling that she was disappointed with her life and with him, that she felt like she had settled for something that was far below what she should have chosen.

Laura tried to make their marriage and their family into what she thought it was supposed to be, a happy little family in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with the husband at home every night and every weekend. And Nunez screwed that up by working nights because it was his favorite shift, and by working holidays because his low seniority meant he had to, and by going to drill and hanging out with his soldier buddies one weekend a month, still hitting the bars with them but now as the designated driver instead of designated drunken skirt-chaser. And then he really screwed it up by leaving his wife and daughter to sit at home alone when he deployed to Iraq. Far from being thankful that Nunez was in a job he loved and that helped support their family fairly well, she plain hated everything about his work. And how she felt about police work paled in comparison to how she felt about the military.

Laura was not built to be a soldier’s wife. During his deployment she was always either at her bank job or at home with Alyssa, constantly checking her emails and waiting for Nunez’s calls, insisting that he tell her about every dangerous thing that happened and then bursting into tears when he did. When he came home on mid-tour leave she was so relieved to have him home safe that she forgot all about birth control and wound up pregnant again, giving birth to their second child, a son this time, a few months after he finished the deployment. They hadn’t had much time to reconnect when the deployment was over; he was worried about having enough money to cover all the expenses a second child would generate so he went back to work early, straight back to night shift, weekends and holidays. Laura’s relief at having her husband back home turned quickly back to sullen anger and resentment, and two years later, when Nunez was in Afghanistan, she started to feel like she once again had had enough of being a cop’s wife, and was way past having enough of being a soldier’s wife. Since Nunez’s return from Afghanistan their marriage had been on the verge of being on the verge of collapse, and all Nunez felt like he could do was wait and hope it would get better.


Later, in the early morning of the 20th, after arguing with his wife from dinnertime until he left the house for work, Nunez and Woods drove slowly around the beat, looking for something to do, and Nunez said the most profound thing he had said all night.

“I’m bored as shit.”

“Me too. How about Yussuf, want to go check the complex?”

“Sure, why not. No calls are holding, right?”

Woods checked the call status. “Nope, we’re good.”

A few minutes later they pulled into the parking lot on Hanley. As they had promised, at least once every night they had gone by and checked on Yussuf, although they hadn’t seen or received any calls from him. This time they saw Yussuf again sitting outside his front door, with the porch light on this time, smoking a cigarette and smiling excitedly at seeing them. To Nunez’s surprise, Yussuf was wearing black western dress slacks and a white long sleeved dress shirt. Nunez and Woods got out and greeted Yussuf, who acted as if they were two long lost brothers.

“Michael! Jerry! It is good to see you again! Would you like to come inside for tea?”

“Oh no Yussuf,” Nunez said, shaking his hand. “I hate to bother your wife again this late. We’ll just visit with you out here tonight. So what are you all dressed up for, have you found a second woman you’d like to marry?”

Shaking Woods’ hand, Yussuf laughed good-naturedly at the joke. “Ah Jerry, of course you know I could not afford a second wife. And such a thing is illegal here, is it not? I would prefer to not trade my freedom for a jail, not again. I am dressed this way because tonight I assisted the professor of Southwest Asian studies at the University of Houston for his evening class, and I suppose I have just been too busy to change back to my sharwal kamis. Besides, should I decide to find a second wife among the many beautiful women at the University, I believe they would prefer to see me in western clothes.”

“You have a point Yussuf, they probably would,” Nunez said. “So, no more problems here in the last week?”

“No, nothing unusual,” Yussuf said. “Perhaps the residents of this complex are still somewhat in shock over the murder and shooting, it is unusual to see anyone outside now. I suppose that will change with time.”

Woods asked, “Hey Yussuf, I was wondering something. What happened to the girl’s parents, do they still live here, did they move into another apartment, or what?”

Yussuf nodded. “Oh yes, they are still here, still in the same apartment. At the moment there are no open apartments they could have moved into. The church paid for them to spend some time in a hotel, and while they were away several of our neighbors cleaned the apartment.”

“What about you, did you help clean it up? It must have been a mess,” Woods said.

“No, I did not think it proper for me to go into their apartment. For the same reason, I stayed inside my home and did not come outside to talk to the police that night. It was not a matter I felt I should be involved in.”

Nunez considered that answer. The night they met him, Yussuf had practically begged them to talk to him about the murder and the shooting, and had gone out of his way to try to get them to reconsider the motive for the murder. Yet now he was saying he didn’t think he should be involved.

Thinking of what Detective Helmers had said about the possibility of Yussuf and the family of the dead boy and girl being from different sects, Nunez asked, “Yussuf, are you and, what’s his name. . . Rahim, are you and Rahim from the same sect of Islam?”

“Yes, we are both Sunnis,” Yussuf said. “In Afghanistan only the Hazaras are still Shia. Our mosque, the Masjid al-Hadith, is a Sunni mosque. Are you familiar with the mosque, Jerry? It is in this area so I would think that you may have seen it before.”

“I’m not familiar with the mosque, where is it?” Nunez asked.

“It is on North Shepherd at the intersection of Crosstimbers, no more than fifteen minutes from here.”

Nunez knew the intersection, but he had never seen a mosque there. The intersection was full of businesses and warehouse on the east side of the street, and nice old residential homes on the west side. Nunez had seen plenty of mosques in the last five years, and he didn’t remember ever seeing anything remotely resembling a mosque at the corners where North Shepherd met Crosstimbers.

“I’ve been there many times, Yussuf,” Nunez said. “I’ve been working this area for years, and I can’t remember ever seeing a mosque there.”

Yussuf nodded, saying “It is understandable that you would not have seen it Jerry, it is simply an old warehouse that we have converted to a mosque until we are able to raise enough money to build a proper house of worship. The mosque has no markings and no minaret, simply a sign at the door. We in the Muslim immigrant community know where the mosques are, there is no reason to make advertisements of them. They are simply there for the faithful to gather and pray, not to proclaim to the world who we are. Of course, we would all prefer to have a traditional mosque, but Mohammed, peace be upon him, had no need for a mansion to worship God. A simple home or even the open desert was sufficient for him to practice his devotion.”

Nunez thought about the intersection, trying to place the warehouse Yussuf was talking about. The only warehouse he could remember was on the southeast corner, just north of a shopping center. As Nunez pictured the area, Yussuf continued, “The warehouse is a wonderful building, Jerry, my first look at the wonders of American architecture. I had no idea that such a simple structure could be built of walls so thick, and could contain so many different rooms. Such wonderful craftsmanship in this country, Jerry, one of the many amazing things I have discovered here! You know the warehouse is composed of two levels? I was not aware when I first saw the building from outside how complex it was. Of course, we use the open, main area of the warehouse to gather and pray, but on the lower level there are small rooms that are perfect for private study of the Koran, or for the discussions we often have together, the comparisons between the different versions of Islam we practice in our own countries. On pleasant evenings we sometimes even gather on the roof to drink tea and have the political and religious discussions which so many of us love, discussions which are common in most of our countries. The only concern among some of those who attend the mosque is that the large loading door at the rear is perhaps very simple for a thief to enter. Please, you should come join us some evening, Jerry. You might learn much that is of interest to you.”

“I’ll think about that, Yussuf, but I’m not a very religious person. Thank you for the invitation though.”

“Ah, I understand. But perhaps, if the mosque is in your area, you could check on it periodically? There is very often activity around the mosque at night.”

“We don’t work that area, but I’ll ask the officers who do if they can keep an eye on the place,” Nunez said.

“That is very kind of you Jerry, thank you.”

Woods tried to shift the conversation back to the murder. “Yussuf, you said you knew the boy who killed his sister.”

“Mohibullah,” Nunez said, reminding Woods of the boy’s name.

“Right, Mohibullah. I noticed that you didn’t have much to say about him. What kind of a kid was he?”

Yussuf sighed, indicating again that he hadn’t liked the boy. “Mohibullah was not a bad son to his parents, Michael. But he was not. . . ah, what is the correct way to say this? Mohibullah was not a very, a very personable boy. He was unfriendly to many of us. He was not disrespectful, he was simply unfriendly. To non-Muslims he refused to speak at all. My wife and I were always uncomfortable at the manner in which he spoke to his sister, at his seeming belief that she should follow his every command. He had no friends, no outside activities. He detested the school that he and Fahima attended, because he believed it to be a den of immorality and evil. He was very devout, Michael, he was a very pious Muslim. And that is all he was. Much like his father.”

“Huh,” Woods said. “So, just wondering, do you think he killed Fahima because she refused to do what he told her to? I mean, is that part of his culture, is that something that he would have done?” Woods asked.

“Mohibullah and his family are very simple, very conservative, rural people, Michael,” Yussuf said. “Or perhaps I should say, Mohibullah and Fahima were, and their mother and father still are. But even considering this fact about their family, it still does not explain why Mohibullah would kill his sister. Beat her, yes. My culture does produce men who think nothing of beating a woman for failing to be immediately obedient. But if a man murdered a woman for such a trivial reason, particularly if he mutilated her, the man would be killed himself. So, no, Michael. Any possible disobedience Fahima committed would not be a justification for her murder. Not even in as harsh a culture as the rural Pashtun culture.”

“Shit. I mean, shoot. Sorry Yussuf, didn’t mean to cuss,” Woods said. “I just keep trying to figure out some reason for this murder that makes some sense. I mean, it wasn’t an honor killing, he didn’t kill her because she refused to do what he told her to do, what else could it have been?”

“Yussuf,” Nunez said, “I hate to ask this, but do you think Mohibullah was trying to force his sister to have sex? Could that have been why he killed her, because she refused to have sex with him?”

Yussuf answered quickly, having an obviously emotional reaction. “No, Jerry. No. That is not possible. A young boy as devout and pious as Mohibullah would not conceive of such a thing. And in a family such as his, the penalty for such behavior would be death for the boy. No, Jerry, there are boundaries that simply will not be crossed. Mohibullah was not trying to force his sister to have intercourse. And I ask you, was there any reason to believe sexual desire was a motivation for this killing? Was there any indication that Mohibullah attempted any sexual act with Fahima?”

Nunez shook his head. “No Yussuf, there wasn’t. But I really don’t get this, Yussuf. Last time we spoke, you said I should look behind the reason we were given for the murder, the thing about Fahima being a whore. And we’re looking, but nothing fits, I haven’t figured out what other reason there could have been. Is there something else we should look at, some other motive Mohibullah could have had? I know that you don’t know either, but what other ideas do you have?”

Nunez’s heard a door open. He looked left and saw the door to apartment A standing open. Rahim stepped out, visible in the dim light, wearing a white sharwal kamis and smoking a cigarette. Nunez recognized him from seeing him the night of the murder, but for some reason didn’t expect to see him at the complex again. Maybe because Nunez knew he himself couldn’t have continued to live in the apartment where his two children were killed.

Still looking at Rahim, Yussuf slowly said, “It appears our conversation is disturbing my neighbors. I suppose it is time for me to join my wife inside.” He turned toward Nunez and Woods, giving occasional glances in Rahim’s direction. “Good night, my friends. I have enjoyed our visit. I hope to see you again soon.”

“Good night, Yussuf, we’ll keep coming by at night.” Nunez said, thinking that Yussuf must have really not liked either Mohibullah or Rahim. Right now, as Yussuf stood nervously at the door looking at Rahim, Nunez thought Yussuf looked a lot like the way locals in certain Afghan villages looked when their neighbors caught them talking to American troops.

Woods said, “Yeah, see you later, Yussuf. Have a good night.”

“Take care, my friends,” Yussuf said, walking in the door. As soon as the door closed behind him, the porch light turned off. Nunez and Woods got back into their patrol car and drove back onto Hanley. Nunez wondered why Yussuf had seemed so uncomfortable, both of them saw Rahim glaring hatefully at them as they drove past.

Nunez’s eyes caught Rahim’s for a split second; two men, roughly the same age, with the shared experience of being a foreigner in the other’s homeland, each one of them a husband and one of them still the father of a son and a daughter. They even looked similar, both with thin bodies, medium dark skin, dark hair and eyes. Each had experienced war and death and suffering, although Nunez’s pain could barely compare to Rahim’s.

In the brief instant their eyes fixed on each other’s, the two men could have seen and acknowledged all the factors they had in common. Instead, all Nunez recognized was the anger Rahim felt toward the type of men who killed his son. And he knew it had not dissipated in the week since Mata’s shotgun blew Mohibullah’s life out of his chest.

15 Responses to “Safe From the War, chapter 3”

  1. 1 Bart Noir

    I’ve simply stopped reading these excerpts!

    Because I will buy the whole book and don’t want to read it all piece-meal style.

  2. 3 JBourne


    I started reading your posts a couple of weeks ago, simply amazing. Keep up the good work and thank you for your service to our country and our community.

    • J,

      Thanks for that, I’m happy you’re enjoying them. Feel free to stop by and comment any time.


      p.s. It’s an honor to have the real Jason Bourne reading my stuff. 🙂

  3. Chris, loving this latest chapter, absolutely flawless. Really enjoyed getting to know Nunez a bit more, behind him as a cop. I feel the same way as Bart above, but i simply won’t be able to stop reading if you keep posting excerpts…AND i’ll be buying the book!

  4. 8 Charles Ellis

    Since I had to be in Houston today,and I grew up practically at the corner of Crosstimbers and North Shepard,I drove by there to see the old neighborhood and to see if there was anything remotely resembling a Mosque at the intersection.There wasn’t I’m glad to say.No warehouse either.At least not on the corner,just the CVS pharmacy and the Methodist church.You had me wondering.The old neighborhood is nothing like it was when I was a kid(I’m 63 and was 9 months old when we moved in there).Hell, it’s nothing like it was when my wife and I moved out of the area in 1990.It makes it very interesting when you talk about areas that I used to know so well.I enjoy your writing very much.Keep up the good work.

    • Charles,

      It’s fiction, so I had to change the scenery up a bit. Plus, I didn’t mention that the street is Crosstimbers in one direction and 43rd (or is it 34th?) in the other. That would have been confusing.

      But hey, I’m honored that you found the chapter interesting enough to go check the area out. Thanks for the compliment. 🙂

  5. 12 Reserve Corporal

    What are you doing? Stop right now, stop immediatly to read my comment and go write another chapter!
    I trully like your writing style and i want more, i love to read in English but i need to find something interresting, easy enough for me to read, and with the perfect amount of suspense for keeping me reading it and not making me switch for a french book.
    So again stop reading that and go back to work mate i need my daily dose:)
    Ps: i would totaly buy it too.

  6. 14 Reserve Corporal

    Copy that,
    Keep me in touch with the realease and be sure i Will take one 😉

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