Thursday, 25 August 2016

His Royal Highness,The Tamil Tiger - FICTION

Kathir Bala Sundaram

Chapter 14

The Love Trap

Lieutenant Earless couldn’t shake the image of that beautiful girl from his mind. Since that day when he had accompanied the Minister of Political Affairs to Vembady Girls’ College, the picture of the tall, thin girl dominated his mind. He could still see Sendhoory’s two long plaits dancing around her shoulders and breasts—an image that had nearly driven him mad with lust at the very first sight of her. From that moment on, the beautiful angel had captivated his eyes and imagination.
In the following weeks, he even went so far as to pen some verses of poetry about her.
All the stars in the sky shine with thy face
Bouncing braids make my heart race.
My dearest angel, I would kiss you all the night
Come down, my love, and make my heart right.

A few of his subordinates were aware of his madness, but being that the Lieutenant was a well known womanizer, they passed it off as a flight of fancy that would be swallowed up like footprints in a swamp.

It took the intelligence arm of the Tamil Tigers two long weeks to discover Sendhoory’s hiding place. They discovered that the girl was being moved from location to location every week. An intelligence agent, posing as a fishmonger discovered her hideout in the village of Siruppiddy, just two kilometres north of her home town. The house she hid in lay off the beaten trail and required one to leave the highway and to struggle along monsoon flooded gravel lanes. The two room house was protected by the common privacy fences, covered in cadjans to obstruct any efforts to peer into the compound. Even the gate was covered with cadjan leaves.
Lieutenant Earless got word of her whereabouts one hot afternoon while lying on his bed and dreaming of the girl. He was murmuring the verse he had composed, trying out new lines, when the phone rudely disturbed his musings.
“Hallo!” he snapped into the receiver.
“This is the Minister of Political Affairs.”
“Yes sir!” he replied much more respectfully. “I haven’t any word yet on that girl.”
“Well I have. Our agents discovered her hiding place. Intelligence Chief, Uncle Pottu, will send you a report about her location. Don’t delay. Before ten o’clock tomorrow, you must be in Kilinochchi with that little whore. Do you understand, Lieutenant?”
“Yes sir! I only see one problem. What if she is discovered as we pass through a Sri Lankan army checkpoint?”
“Idiot, don’t you know how to hoodwink those Sinhala fools by now?”
Earless licked his lips. “Yes sir, I’ll get her through the checkpoints.”
“What’s your plan?”
Earless paused as his mind turned over the possibilities. There was one option that he had worked out some time ago; he just never had an opportunity yet to try it. “We’ll smuggle her through in a hearse. We’ll sedate her enough that the guards will think she is dead.”
“Very well. You get her here fast. His Royal Highness has already passed judgment on the rebel.”
“May I ask what the punishment is?”
“The traitor is to be transferred immediately into a Y-Class prison. That should get the Jaffna community’s attention.”
It certainly got the Lieutenant’s attention. He swallowed hard, his blood rushing to his head. Careful to keep his voice steady, he saluted the Minister and hung up. He stared at the phone as if it were a cobra ready to strike at him. No, he wouldn’t do it. He was a lot more than just infatuated, he knew. He was in love with Sendhoory. He would not arrest the love of his life!
Determined to save her, he called a dozen fighters into his office, seven female and five male soldiers. “We have an urgent mission soon. I want all of you to remain here and to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”
No one questioned the order. They were used to being left in the dark about operational details. Each saluted and left the room. The Lieutenant watched his squad leader depart last. The hefty dark woman had only one eye—the result of a training accident. She was by far the fiercest of the group. Indeed, of all the five squad leaders under his command, she, more than most, had a malevolent streak in her that went very deep. He would have to be careful with her around Sendhoory.
His camp lay on the Sri Lankan side of the Cease Fire Agreement borders. And though he couldn’t keep any firearms at this Brown Road camp, he had several secret stashes of weapons within easy reach if needed. He wondered if he should secure the weapons before the order to take Sendhoory came down.
The orders arrived soon after. He studied the report and the map that detailed the hidden girl’s location. He smiled. Soon he would see his love. And yes, he had a plan of his own, now that he knew where she was.
He quickly deduced that efforts were being made to smuggle Sendhoory out of the country to Malaysia. Reports indicated that the girl’s father, Professor Rajaguru attached to a university in Malaysia, had gone to Colombo to help facilitate the operation. Lieutenanr Earless did not know that in Colombo Rajaguru’s friends had advised him not to go to Jaffna to see his daughter as the Tamil Tigers would put him into prison and torture for his daughter’s mutinous actions. So Professor Rajaguru had approached a paramilitary group leader of the EPDP to liberate his daughter Sendhoory.
The Lieutenant studied the map more thoroughly. He knew of two routes to Colombo from Jaffna. The first went along the A9 highway where many buses made the trip each day, but the Tigers routinely stopped the buses and examined them thoroughly. He doubted they would try that route.
The last option was by airplane from the Palali airport, but that route too was under heavy surveillance, and the likelihood of making a safe passage through was very small. Those helping Sendhoory would know this too, so what would they do now? How would they move the girl?
If he knew that Professor Rajaguru had hired the EPDP paramilitary forces to move his daughter out of Jaffna, he might have been more worried.
Earless decided not to worry about it for the moment. He needed to rescue Sendhoory. Grabbing a bicycle, he peered about to make sure no one was watching, and then rode out of the camp.
Someone did see him though. The One-eyed squad leader saw him depart from the shadows of the trees. She thought his departure curious for he had ordered everyone else to remain in the camp.
For more than an hour, he rode to reach the house indicated on the map. Darkness had fallen and he had to use his flashlight to see along the way. When he reached the gate, he studied it intently with his light to figure out how to open it.
His hand hit something and the gate moved a bit, creating a curious sound that rang through the darkness sharply. A dog barked on the other side, snapping and growling. Earless stood back and cursed, trying to figure out how to get the gate the rest of the way opened without getting bit by the dog.
Another light appeared between the crack of the gate and the sounds of someone approaching reached his ear. A man looking to be in his early forties held up a lantern to the crack to study Earless.
“What do you want?” he demanded, struggling to see through the crack in the gate.
Earless knew this to be the owner of the house, a man named Arulan Ambalam. “I’ve urgent news for you,” he said in a commanding voice.
“Who are you?”
“No names,” Earless snapped, knowing that he dared not give it. “I’ve come to warn you. The Tamil Tigers have discovered that Sendhoory is hiding here. You must move her quickly.”
“I have no idea who you are talking about,” the farmer denied.
“Don’t lie to me. Her name has become a household word since she defied the Minister of Political Affairs at Vembady Girls’ College.”
The farmer thrust his lantern closer to the crack, but Earless stepped back out of the range of the light. “She isn’t here,” the farmer insisted then.
“You are related to her,” the Lieutenant said evenly, drawing a gasp of surprise from the farmer. “Take my word for it. Get her out, fast!”
As he prepared to leave, he rang the bell on his bicycle as hard as he could. The noise carried far, and seemed to rebound all around him. He nodded, satisfied. Let that serve as a warning.
Much later that night, but well before dawn, a rooster crowed as Lieutenant Earless once again arrived at Arulan Ambalam’s house, but this time, he came with one-eyed Seetha’s squad of soldiers.
The Tamil Tigers poured out of the two vehicles and quickly attacked the gate, forcing it open. The dog, snarling and growling leaped at the first soldier through, which happened to be Seetha. She dodged, and the dog’s snapping jaws narrowly missed her leg. 
One of the soldiers, an angry owl eyed man, cursed as the dog landed near him. He gritted his teeth, which flashed as the light from one of the flashlights fell on his face, and swung a sword at the dog. He connected soundly on the back of the dog’s head, which let out a painful howl. Swearing viciously, the Tamil Tiger swung again, silencing the mutt forever.
The thirteen soldiers marched up to the house where one-eyed Seetha began issuing orders to her squad. Most of the soldiers spread around the house, while Earless, Seetha and three others moved closer to the door where Arulan Ambalam stood, frantically waving his lantern about trying to see.
“Who’s there? Who’s there?” he kept shouting.
Mr. Arulan Ambalam, we are the Tamil Tigers. We’ve come to arrest Sendhoory who is hiding in your hose. Send her out immediately.”
Ambalam shook his head. “No, she is not here.”
Earless snorted, mostly for effect, but also with hope that his warning had been heeded. Seetha stepped closer and said, “We have a credible report from one of our agents that she is. Get her or we’ll have to arrest you too!”
“I’m telling the truth. Check the house, if you don’t believe me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
The squad leader looked at Earless in disbelief. He shook his head and waved a hand towards the house. “Might as well check it out,” he said calmly.
Seetha motioned for the soldiers near her to enter the house. Mallan, still carrying his shining, and now bloody sword, shoved past the farmer at the door and stormed inside. He started shoving furniture around, knocking things off the walls, and turning trunks upside down to empty them. His teeth chattered and his large eyes rolled about his head like a nervous boar.
In another room, Mallan found Mrs. Ambalam sitting on a mat and blinking as he shined his flashlight into her face. Two small children cowered next to her, frightened by all the noise. He ignored them and stared at the chimney that he could see behind her in the kitchen. He stared at it, scratching his head. He wondered if the missing girl could be hiding in there. Determined to find out, he marched over and squeezed his bulk into the chimney, looking. When he came out, he was covered in soot and ash. The whites of his eyes shone brightly in the dim light.
Mrs. Ambalam watched the whole thing incredulously, amazed that anyone would even think of climbing into the dirty chimney. A short burst of laughter escaped her lips before she could stop it.
Enraged, Mallan stormed over to the older woman and kicked her solidly in the chest, knocking her screaming in pain to the cement floor. Satisfied, he stalked off to continue his search.
Another of the soldiers, a young girl named Laila, searched the large chicken coop in the backyard of the house. She used her flashlight to look for any potential hiding places. A small wooden door caught her attention, and thinking that she may have found something promising, she opened it and stuck her head inside. The rooster that crowed earlier promptly attacked her, gouging deep lines in her face and cackling madly at the intruder. Laila screamed, dropping the flashlight and reeling backwards, her hands clutching at her bloody face.
Several of her companions rushed to her side thinking she had been attacked. But when they saw the rooster, they chuckled and laughed, slapping the poor girl on the back while she cried, blood oozing out between her fingers.
Seetha rounded the house barking orders for them to continue the search. And search they did. They went through every nook and cranny of the house, outbuildings, and property. The only thing they found was an angry bull that lashed out with a tremendous kick when one of the soldiers ventured too close. The poor fighter went flying away with a horse scream of agony. Mallan, angry at everything and anything ran over to the bull and cut on its leg with his sword. The bull lowed in pain and staggered about its pen.
Irritated by the ineptness of the soldiers, Lieutenant Earless punched the injured man and ordered Mallan back to the jeeps.
When dawn broke the soldiers gathered together at the gate empty handed. Their frustration boiled over at not finding Sendhoory, and they swore at and pushed one another around. Mallan even chopped the head off the dead dog and stuck it on a pole outside the gate, his teeth gnashing together viciously.
“Let’s go,” Earless ordered, pretending to be disgusted.
Grumbling, the squad marched towards the jeeps and Earless threw a subtle wave towards Arulan Ambalam who still stood by his door. Earless was grateful that they had gotten Sendhoory out in time. 
One-eyed Seetha saw it, and her eyes narrowed suspiciously. Several things clicked in the woman’s head at that moment, and she knew without a doubt that somehow the Lieutenant had tipped Ambalam off about the raid.
The next day, just before midnight, Lieutenant Earless was rudely awakened from pleasant dreams of Sendhoory when a Mitsubishi Lancer pulled up in front of the Brown Road camp, its tires throwing gravel and dirt around as it came to an abrupt stop.
Earless leaned out the window to see and recognized Lieutenant Kannady as the other man climbed down off the jeep. They were old friends having joined the Tamil Tigers at the same time and even served in the same squad for over four years.
“Hey, Kannady!” Earless greeted the other lieutenant. “It’s good to see you, my friend. Come in and take a seat.”
“Lieutenant Earless, I am here on official duty,” he said stiffly, remaining by the jeep and with not a hint of a smile showing.
“Okay. Tell me,” Earless said coming outside.
“Effective immediately, I am relieving you of command as the Political Head of Jaffna. I will be assuming your duties.”
Earless blinked in confusion. “Am I being transferred?”
“No, His Royal Highness has ordered you to meet him.” Kannady’s dark face broke a bit, and he stared hard at his old friend a bit sympathetically. “It’s serious.”
Only then did Earless see the second man in the jeep. Uncle Pottu, the Intelligence Chief, stared at Earless with an expression of calculated coldness. Earless felt goose-bumps rise on his arms. The well known assassin had come to the camp personally. He remembered another time when it had been he who rode out with Pottu to relieve someone of their command. That man had been executed without remorse.
Earless swallowed hard and looked around as if to escape. Kannady put a hand on his sidearm and whispered, “Don’t run. Don’t make me shoot you.”
 Earless froze, sweat pouring off his flushed face. His mind raced frantically for some excuse, some reasoning that would deliver him from shame and execution.
But the moment Pottu drove off with the bound Lieutenant, no one ever heard from Earless again. Indeed, even his name was forgotten.

It took three weeks of vigilant searching for the celebrated Tamil Tigers’ intelligence network to locate Sendhoory’s new hiding place. A report, unexpectedly, put her in Sivathalam Avarankal, hiding in one of the modern houses there. This surprised everyone since their attention had been on remote sections of the region and no one dreamed she would be living in comfort right under their noses by the highway a mere sixteen kilometres north of Jaffna.
They didn’t know it, but Sendhoory was hiding in the same house that His Royal Highness had once utilized as a safe house. He had hid in the underground before Jaffna district was captured by the government forces from the Tamil Tigers. 
By midnight of one cloudy evening, five hundred Tamil Tigers had surrounded the small town, securing escape routes and setting up observation posts. An additional hundred Black Tigers moved stealthily through back streets and roads checking houses and ordering civilians caught on the street to go inside and remain there. Cars swept the outskirts of the town warning residents to remain inside or be shot on sight.
Pottu and his team stormed into the two storey house where Sendhoory lay hidden. They blinked in surprise when they found the owners of the house, an old man and his daughter, lying on the cement floor bound and gagged. Pottu directed his men to find the girl. They searched the entire house, ransacking rooms, and generally creating havoc. Finding nothing, they untied the man and his daughter.
“Where is the girl?” Pottu demanded, his eyes narrowing in fury.
The woman swallowed and cowered away. “She was here,” she admitted. “She stayed here for about a week.”
“Where is she now?”
“Some men came in and took her about half an hour ago,” the old man explained. “They were dressed all in black. They beat us and tied us up.” He licked his lips. “We thought they were your men.”
Pottu’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Why did you think they were my men?”
“Because one of them mentioned a Lieutenant Earless.”
His anger barely contained, Uncle Pottu ordered the pair to report to Kilinochchi for having harboured a known fugitive.

The Tigers continued searching every house in the town and had disappeared before the first ray of light could grace the eastern sky.
 By noon the entire western region of the Jaffna peninsula was abuzz with the gossip that the Tamil Tigers had arrested Sendhoory at Sivathalam Avarankal in a tobacco garden. Rumor had it that while Lieutenant Kannady had transported the girl to Kilinochchi by jeep, the Sri Lankan army intercepted the vehicle at the Mukamalai checkpoint. It was being said that Sendhoory suddenly made loud noises and was successful in attracting the attention of the guards who promptly rescued her as covered by the Cease Fire Agreement.  Other rumours spoke of a daring rescue by a deserter, a former Lieutenant in the Tamil Tigers known as Lieutenant Earless.

But in the northern coastal areas, a different story was being told. There, some argued, the Tamil Tigers successfully snuck Sendhoory through the checkpoint in a coffin. Now she was languishing in a brothel in Kilinochchi reserved for high ranking army officials of the Tamil Tiger movement. Others argued that the story couldn’t be true, that the rumour was nothing more than propaganda from the Tigers to hide the fact that they had already murdered the poor girl and buried her deep in the jungle.

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