17.1 In Flagrante Delicto
Footloose Habib received a directive from Sayye Saeed to look for the letter that granted asylum to Adaran and remove it from his possession urgently. Meanwhile, Don Raha left to Vado to visit his extended family.
Nevertheless, Mala was under the spell and only relinquish in a Full Moon. It was 12th March, Saturday – USIR was getting ready to mark its Union Day on Sunday. Habib biked to Hittadu in the afternoon. He carried two handguns in his KDs.
A football match was organised. Crowd gathered around the mosque site, filling in the football field. Habib entered Iris Higun from Nares Road to come across Mariam Mala in her nurse uniform. When the crowd packed the field, they could not be seen generously from Iris Higun as a row of trees standing along the playing field hid the turf.
“Where is Shakir?” she asked.
“He said he’d come here. I met him this morning and we have a job to do. What are you doing here?”
“I came with Surgeon Marvin for the match. RAF playing against a team from Addu. What is the job?”
Habib whispered, “Saeed wants to get the asylum letter out urgently. Don Raha has gone to Vado. He won’t come back before two months.”
“I am under the influence,” she said.
“Are you sure?”
“It won’t go away until next Full Moon.”
Habib thought for a second, “Adaran is the Chief Guest today. He won’t turn up before breakfast at sunset. His office is left bare.”
“Do you want me to go in now?”
“No,” Habib said, “wait for the second half.”
On the western side of the pitch, there were rows of chairs and British officers seated there, Adaran sat in the middle. Many officers wore white uniforms, peak caps and trousers. This white service dress was the RAF uniform introduced to warm climates in the tropics.
They were preparing for the Union Day. Banners and flags flew over the playing field and silent roads. A feast at breakfast would be served promptly after sunset on any given day in the month of fasting along with the custom of the islanders. Plane and sandy roads neatly swept and not a fallen leaf in sight.
In the first half of the match, the Brits scored easy three goals.
When the second half started, Mariam Mala slipped into Iris Higun and met Habib and Shakir who arrived on his Moto Guzzi. The roads utterly vacant when all gone inside the playground. There were women in the mosque courtyard preparing sunset feast. Applauds filled the air without sight of the crowd. Habib thought it was time to sneak in.
“Do I take off my dress?” Mala passed her handbag to Shakir, “Hold this!”
“No,” said Footloose Habib, “That won’t be necessary. Just go in and look for it. It won’t take long. You have thirty minutes.”
“Shakir, keep watch on Adaran. Stand among the crowd. He will cross your eyes if he is coming this way. I keep watch on the front gate.”
Habib called Mala aside and pulled out the Ceska from his trouser pocket, “Take this! We are under an ‘SOS’. Use it if necessary.”
“It’s loud,” she whispered.
“It doesn’t matter. Do not hesitate to shoot. Then run into a backyard and remove your attires. I’ll be watching.”
She put the pistol into her shirtdress pocket and it could be seen inside the fabric but nobody would figure out. Mala stepped on Nares Road lit in golden sunray and colourful flags hanging over the long road from end to end. She entered the coarse white sand of the courtyard. A tall flag post stood in the middle with a fresh coat of white paint and again the reflection of the sun off it. The USIR flag flew smugly on top of the mast. She clambered the steps to the west wing office to find the door unlocked.
Habib paused by the corner of Nares Road and Iris Higun so that he could watch for Shakir and the gate of the magistrate’s house.
Mala closed the door and drove in the bolt. All the windows were closed. A faint light filled the room in a late afternoon gloom. She removed the gun and placed it on the table. Perched on Adaran’s chair and began to look into the drawers. Most important documents were kept in them.
Twenty minutes passed. She clutched a leather folder from a drawer. She discovered a manila envelope inside and a black hardcover British passport with windows cut out to read the holder’s name and number. That was the passport issued to every Maldivian who travel abroad. She removed a letter printed on parchment paper and spread on the table.
Embossed on the top was the chivalric Order of the Garter, in French; ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ – shamed be whoever thinks bad of it.
A curtain hanging by the garter on the left cascaded sending a vigorous rattle to her elbow. Adaran entered from a door that stood ten feet away. Mala sprung up from the chair grabbing the weapon on the table.
“Deeni!” Adaran muttered puzzled.
Mariam Mala moved from behind the table. Brusquely, raised her arms to point the Ceska at him. She could not utter a word. She was shaken.
Adaran looked down on the table, the letter and passport lying on the top. “What are you doing here?” he asked, “What is that you are pointing at me?”
She moved in back steps towards the door holding the gun pointed at him.
Coincidentally, as Habib maintained an eye, he saw a Willys Jeep turn from the east to Nares Road in the golden rays. It was the RAF Commander’s vehicle. Habib assumed that the Jeep would reach Miryas Road and turn towards the football ground. Since the causeway between Feydu and Gan islands was rebuilt, vehicles ran freely up and down the Hittadu Reef. Surprisingly, it came straight ahead and stopped outside the magistrate’s gate. And before its engine chilled off, Flight Lieutenant Marvin Edward in full uniform jumped down from the driver’s seat and entered the courtyard. Footloose Habib stood astounded like a very useless guy.
Shakir heard voices on his earpiece. He knew Mala was blown. He dashed to Iris Higun to find Habib snooping behind the corner with the Colt in his right hand and waving his left arm at him motioning to stay away. It was a bizarre image to find a gun in his hand in the middle of a village. None had seen a cowboy.
Mala reached the two-leaf door in the fading light, released the bolt and opened inwards to find the officer step into the courtyard.
Adaran said firmly, “Drop the weapon!”
Mala held the pistol in her right hand raised and pointed while her left arm crossed her body to open the door. She got her body partially behind the door leaf in a manner moderately concealed to the visitor. She lifted her shirtdress revealing nude in a flick to the master and tucked the gun under the girdle.
Adaran uttered, “Mariam Mala! Drop it! You can’t get away! I can help you.”
Lieutenant Marvin Edward climbed the steps and paused at the door momentarily, “Hello there! Hi Deeni! May I come in!”
“Please! Come in!” called Adaran.
He nodded to Deeni again and reached Adaran standing behind the desk. Mala ran out of the west wing towards Iris Higun. She ran across the road to Malim Lane right in front of the mosque. She hastily unbuttoned her shirtdress and tossed the gun into Habib’s hand who just reached her.
“They are coming!” she cried.
“What happened?” asked Habib.
“Adaran saw me,” Mala said untangling the long silver girdle. She kicked off her shoes, undid the belt and quickly removed her dress. There was the crowd watching the match. All eyes away as the game was coming to its end. Women preparing the tables were behind the low-wall boundary in the mosque courtyard. Mala disappeared leaving Habib and Shakir in awe.
“Let’s get out of here!” she cried.
Shakir picked her dress, shoes, identity card, belt and girdle, “My bike is over there.”
“What happened?” asked Habib again.
“She’s blown!” said Shakir.
“You can’t go to Etherevari,” he said.
“We must collect the contents in the pillowcase and the documents picked from his office.” Those documents pinched in October still remained unsent.
“Let’s go somewhere!” cried Mala.
“Deeni, don’t panic! You’re safe,” Habib assured, “Nobody can see you.”
“I can see her lipstick,” uttered Shakir.
“Take her to Feydu. I head to Etherevari to save the stuff. I will bring your bag.”
“Where do we meet?”
“Maradu…” There they heard the final whistle. “Get in touch with Farata and give him your location.”