by D.D. Renforth
Before the abduction Jerrold was a stockbroker in Toronto who led a life of excessive indulgence and extravagance. On business in Istanbul, partying with his chums at a private club, the terrorists came as masked men and abducted him and others. They tried to ransom him, but his company was silent, his family and he had insufficient funds, and his government would not negotiate.
Silvia, one of the Istanbul club dancers, was in the cell beside him. They became friends and supported each other through the ordeal.
The abductors released him but kept her, a daughter from a wealthy family.
Jerrold promised to come back and rescue her, but the abductors laughed.
“Don’t count on it, woman! That’s a snake who only cares about himself.”
Surprised to see Jerrold return as promised, Spider, the leader, asked why.
“To save Silvia. If your group had never taken me, if I had never met Silvia, I would be living a different life. She’s a friend and gave me strength.”
Spider could not believe he was hearing these ironic words.
“You came back for Silvia? How unexpected and sweet! But do you have the money?”
“Why then should I release her?”
“Hand-to- hand combat?”
“No, I’m not a warrior,” Jerrold said. “Instead, test me, test my worth. If I meet your standards, release her.”
“You? Test you, the partier, the addict, the guy without a faith, and a hundred girlfriends? We know you. We’ve always known your type. You symbolize what we despise. You fight for money and corruption and let your women walk around half undressed. Go home before I change my mind. You’re worth nothing to anyone. No one would ransom you and you haven’t the character to win back another. You wonder why we let you go. Silvia stays until her family pays the ransom.”
“You’re afraid I might succeed,” Jerrold taunted.
“No, I’m not,” Spider said. “You’re so typical of the weak Westerner with bad habits. You say you’ve changed, but you’ll return to your habits.”
“Some of your people are Westerners,” Jerrold said.
“None of them was ever like you. Weak in body, weaker in mind, weakest in morals and ethics, that’s why your kind will lose. Our age will not degenerate like yours.”
“You’ve known too few of us,” Jerrold said.
“Your past behavior doomed you. Habits, not words or money, impress.”
“I’m not that man anymore.”
“So now you’re a new man? Well! Perhaps now you see our cause? Why not join us?”
Jerrold shook his head.
“I don’t approve of your means and methods,” Jerrold said. “I’ll admit I’ve changed, but I’m not a terrorist.”
“We’re not terrorists, we’re God’s warriors.”
“Can I see her?” Jerrold asked.
Her captors brought Silvia out, stumbling, barely able to walk, her eyes closed, her head wobbly, her face and clothes dirty, screaming how she wanted to stay.
Spider shrugged and laughed.
“I’m afraid she wants to stay. Go home, and join your decadent West in its final years.”
Spider gestured to one of his soldiers.
“Take him away and kill him if he returns.”
As the solider grabbed Jerrold, Silvia, who previously was only pretending, snatched a hand automatic from an unsuspecting guard and pressed it up to Spider’s head.
“Give him a chance or I’ll pull the trigger,” she screamed. “You know I will! I don’t care! I’ve had it with you!”
“Fine,” Spider said with a smirk.
“Say also,” she said: “‘I promise before God the Almighty.’ Now!”
Spider wiped away his smile and hesitated.
“I promise before God the Almighty,” Spider said, then added. “God is merciful.”
Silvia threw the gun to the ground and returned to her tent.
Spider then grabbed Jerrold’s arm and brought him to a place outside the ears of others.
“You have your chance,” he said. “I’m bound by my word before God and my people. Go home.
We’ll watch your behavior for six months. If you lead a moral life, Silvia will be free.
“However,” Spider continued, his face almost touching Jerrold’s face, “since I was forced into this agreement, there’s more. Even if you behave for six months and free Silvia, that won’t be enough. We’ll continue to check on you as long as you live. If you return to your old dissolute life, we will know, and the consequences will be severe, not only for you, but for all of the residents of Toronto. This too I promise before almighty God. The lives of many depend upon the quality of your life.”
Till he was an old man Jerrold looked at the city of Toronto in a way quite different from anyone else. Some days he wanted to die to free himself from Spider’s awful threat because he worried his acts might not meet the standard of Spider or those who watched him. There was a chance that Spider was dead and no one remembered him. But he would not take the chance. Every time he read a newspaper about a terrorist threat or suicide bomber he shuddered to think of the burden and responsibility Spider had thrust upon him. Even if he wondered at times if anyone was truly watching him, he never doubted Spider would fulfill his threat. Jerrold would not sacrifice the people of Toronto because he did not live a life of quality.
On his eightieth birthday, he took a walk to a park in Toronto and sat upon a bench near the entrance. He was there for only a few minutes when another old man sat down beside him.
“I didn’t think you could do it, Jerrold,” the man said. “You’re free.”