Calling the Faithful
The man located the outline of a figure hovering in the brightly decorated minaret that towered the village of Teznat. He fitted his telescopic sight and zoomed in on the muezzin sipping mint tea before he began adhan…, the call for prayer.
The man had always found its haunting sounds soothing. He remembered his first visit to the Ameln valley. Then he had thought the reason he heard each of the dozen villages calls for prayer a few seconds after those of their neighbouring village was because the muezzins’ had not set their watches in unison. When he realised it was because they were listening out for their neighbour’s crier’s chants as a signal to start their own, the man had felt deeply comforted. It meant that every village was in a regular stream of communication prior to Salat, the five-daily prayer, in a way that a set time could never produce. The first crier’s opening chant of adhan acted like an oratory version of a flickering beam gradually lighting up the whole valley.
It was exceptionally hot for a May morning in southern Morocco and a stream of sweat stung his eyes and obscured his vision. So he settled back on his haunches to guzzle the water he’d collected from the spring during his climb up the slippery quartz mountain range. Gazing down at the view he saw that everything looked just as it had done five years ago.
In the far distance the local women still appeared as majestic insects rotating in a near perfect circle while they deposited lavender grass in baskets enveloping their backs. Immediately below him the houses of Teznat, made of layered red rock, sand, and white quartz stone, were still as haphazardly scattered on the slopes between the spring line and the valley floor. No new buildings had been built to fill in the gaps during his time away. He would easily be able to track any movement he spotted along the path leading to the orchard. Its almond trees produced a thick cloud of pink blossom – the perfect spring camouflage for courting couples or an illicit affair.
The man knew that once midday had past and the sun began its tilt downwards, adhan would commence for the second prayer of the day. By then his target would be in the orchard with Houssine. He had a while yet, but he would have to be prepared. He had not managed to get hold of a silencer, and although the call for prayer would camouflage the sound of the gun, it only lasted for a few minutes.
He re-positioned his Lee Enfield Mark 5 rifle between two jagged edges of rock, re-adjusted the telescopic sight and calculated the lines of fire. He pushed the cartridges in, pulled the bolt back then moved it forwards. The clicks were reassuring, and he sat patiently in wait.
This methodical process of loading weapons had been missing whist he served in the army. There they had primarily used Self Loading Rifles though these had proven invaluable on the streets of Belfast and the windswept islands of Las Malvinas. Exactly where he’d last fired a weapon, the man was uncertain though he had never forgotten the time he had learnt to take his first shot.
‘My little warrior’, that’s what his father had said to wake him on that special day so many decades ago, his mouth still reeking of the night, his brown flying jacket freshly buttered with saddle soap. ‘How’s my fucking little warrior boy?’ Then, on a flat frosty shooting range in rural Essex, his father had leant over his shoulders and teased his thin arms and frozen hands over the Purdey double barreled shot gun. Once his reluctant trigger finger was re-positioned, the target – a solitary clay pigeon in the form of an inverted, fluorescent orange saucer – was thrown from an airborne styled ‘trap’. The ten-year old boy had experienced an unexpected excitement and unknown urgency. With the trigger pulled clear, he’d reeled under the recoil, but kept focused, anticipating the pieces of pitch and pulverised limestone rock splintering and cascading across the milky dawn sky before tearing through the glistening white shrouds covering a cluster of elderberry trees. But there had been no cascade. The brightly painted ‘pigeon’ had continued arcing – uninterrupted. A member of his father’s entourage had hesitatingly called: ‘Bird Away’, before scribbling briefly onto a hand-held score board. The man had never forgotten his father’s suffocating sigh of despair.
The muezzin’s echoing bellows of ‘Allah’ calling the faithful finally began and the man immediately re-focused on the task at hand. His telescopic sight picked up the orange glow of a head scarf gliding through the orchard towards Houssine and the man zoomed in on the point between his wife’s beautiful blue-grey eyes. But his hands began to shake. And he could not understand why all of a sudden he felt so, so cold. Despite the over bearing heat, it was as though his whole body had become encapsulated in a coffin of arctic sea.