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Bought and Sold

By:Tessa Valmur
Chapter One

Zoe peered out of the tiny window, as the plane banked then began its descent. The city and its airport that she glimpsed below seemed surrounded by sea. On one side a sea of crystal blue water and on the other three sides by a sea of sand dunes that stretched away seemingly to infinity. One road, a thin thread of sand blown tarmac, stretched along the coast and into the distance. Her tourist leaflet told her that the Middle-East State of El-Saram was a small, oil-rich monarchy that had a warm, friendly culture that welcomed tourists. It offered miles of unspoilt sandy beaches, five star hotels, beautiful weather and an unspoilt hinterland that called out to be explored.

As the jet touched down, then rumbled along the tarmac towards the airport terminal, Zoe glanced out of the window again. Sunlight glared from the giant steel cylinders of an oil refinery that stood alongside the airport and the horizon shimmered in the fierce heat.

The airport terminal was not air-conditioned and by the time Zoe reached the customs desk her white cotton blouse clung damply to her, accentuating her generous breasts. She flicked her long, dark hair impatiently clear of her face as she waited her turn in the small queue. She rehearsed her story again in her mind: she was a free-lance journalist, writing a piece on the country's pearl divers. She glanced again at her passport. Zara Chambers, twenty-four years old, born West Sussex, journalist. The photo was her but the rest was a lie. She was Zoe Farquerson, twenty-six and her employer was the British Secret Service. Relax, she told herself as she moved another place closer to the customs desk, she'd done this plenty of times before.

When she showed her passport to the customs official she was asked to stand to one side and was soon forced to watch the backs of the last passengers passing through the doors that led into the arrivals lounge whilst she was kept waiting by the customs desk. She glanced at the security personnel who stood behind the plain table and in front of a large mirror that faced the customs desk.

'Your bag please Miss Chambers.'

'What? Oh yes, I suppose... of course.'

Alone now with the two uniformed customs officials the arrivals lounge on the other side of the barrier seemed suddenly a long way off. The concrete corridor stood empty and silent. Why me, thought Zoe, lifting her bag onto the inspection table. Was it possible they knew who she really was? She glanced past the security guard at the large mirror that she guessed to be a mirrored window. Was someone watching her? Her training and intuition began to tell her that something was already seriously amiss with her mission.

Behind the mirror window two men watched her silently. Ahmed Mosafa was a senior officer in the El-Saram internal security service. Rodney Stonefield, now the personal private secretary of the King of El-Saram, had until a year ago been a senior British government civil servant. Caught out selling secrets abroad he had been disgraced and once granted bail he'd fled rather than face trial.

'So she is one of your spies?' Ahmed Mosafa raised an eyebrow as he regarded the staggeringly beautiful young girl who stood impatiently before the customs counter as her bag was searched.

'Five years in the business, dear chap. Three as a desk girl at Head Quarters and the last two years as a field operative,' answered Stonefield.

'As agreed then we shall pay you your fee for this valuable piece of information directly into your Swiss Bank account. There will then just remain your wish to1/4'the Arab left his sentence hanging unfinished. The Englishman smiled maliciously as he watched the girl through the concealed mirror.

'To watch her suffer at your hands. That will be the most satisfying part of our gentleman's agreement.'

'This girl has angered you in some way? You wish to even a score with her, yes?'

'Absolutely. You see my dear Ahmed, she was one of the team the secret service used to spy on me once they suspected what I was up to.'

'I see.'

'Of course she'll tell you lots of useful things, though she may take some persuading. I dare say she knows the other agents that Britain has in your country and our links with your pathetic little pro-democracy movement and its plans to unseat his Excellency. It will be amusing to watch you coaxing the information from her. We must just make sure though that she never recognises me. Or if she does, that she never returns to Britain.'

'Once her interrogation is complete I shall have her moved to my little country retreat. You must come and visit me and we can take our time with her there.'

'Major Mosafa, you are too kind.'

Zoe glanced around her. Her heart was hammering and in her mind she was urgently running over what might happen next and how she could best deal with it. On the pretext of wanting to carry out a routine body search for drugs she had been led into a small, windowless room by two female security guards. In one corner there was a tiled shower but with no screen or curtain around it. There was a rough wooden table and chair, an old metal filing cabinet and an old tea chest up-ended to make a crude table which was scattered with little metal cups, a battered silver coffee pot and an earthenware bowl full of fruit. There was a large mirror on one wall which Zoe guessed again to be a concealed window and more disconcerting still was a broad, stout bench with leather straps fastened to each of its four corners. At the sight of the bench those alarm bells in Zoe's mind that hadn't yet gone off were now ringing out loudly. She was in deep trouble!

'Take your clothes off please,' ordered one of the women.

Zoe knew she couldn't really object; a strip search for drugs was almost routine in many countries. Reluctantly she began to unbutton her jeans.

'Can you tell me how long... only...'

'Search now, no problems then you go.'

The reply was peremptory but a little reassuring. Perhaps she was just worrying unnecessarily. She quickly pulled off her boots then removed her jeans. The sooner she could get out of here the better, she thought, handing her jeans to one of the woman who checked the pockets before tossing them onto a chair. Anyway, even if she was held for any length of time her contact would be trying to find out what had happened to her and the Embassy would swiftly become involved. Relax, she told herself, unbuttoning her blouse

'And your bra, take it off,' ordered the woman.

Zoe had just handed her blouse to the woman.

'But why? This is ridiculous!' she protested.

'We have to search you for drugs. We have to make a proper search... now remove the rest of your clothing.'

'Please can I...'

'Do it!'

The woman who was speaking stepped closer, one hand on the handle of her long truncheon. Zoe glanced from one of the uniformed women to the other. Both were in their late twenties or thirties. One was tall and powerfully built, the other slim and petite, though her short sleeved shirt showed well-muscled arms. Zoe herself was a petite 5'4". Her mother was Spanish and Zoe had inherited her olive skinned complexion and her slim build as well as her large, dark eyes and dark hair. Having been trained in unarmed combat she felt confident that she could look after herself in a tight situation. There was no point though in annoying these women. Get the search over and done with, she told herself, then get the hell out of here!

Having removed her bra and then her pants she glanced nervously at the women as they appraised her. Being naked made her feel acutely vulnerable and she anxiously eyed the women's long truncheons slung from their belts. She looked worriedly around the room, glimpsing her reflection in the large mirror. Her long, sable hair tumbled over her smooth shoulders, the ends falling far enough to partly cover her breasts, which were high and generous. Her taut stomach showed her fast, nervous breathing. She felt her cheeks crimson as the younger guard who'd taken her bra and pants, looked admiringly at the expensive silk and lace.

Both of the women facing her wore stout black leather boots with dark blue trousers tucked into puttees. They had on crisply starched, dark green, short sleeve shirts. Their dark hair was cut short and both wore dark green peaked caps with badges proclaiming the National Guard.

'Now, lie face down on that couch.'

'Why?' Zoe objected.

'Lie face down on the couch,' the woman ordered.

'I want to speak with a representative of the British Embassy,' Zoe demanded, glancing anxiously at the door and quickly assessing her chances of escape. The two young women made no answer but closed upon her, glancing as they did so at the large wall mirror, that Zoe was now certain must be a another mirror window.

'Lie down on the bench so that we can conclude our search of you, then you will be allowed to go.'

Like hell I will, thought Zoe, certain now that this was no routine search. Somehow they must know who she was? How on earth had that happened? Her thoughts were turning to what to do next when the door opened and a man in similar uniform to the women entered the room, quickly shutting and locking the door behind him. Distracted by the man, before she had time to respond, the two women seized her wrists, jerking her arms in opposite directions.

Immediately Zoe's training took over. She swiftly jerked her right arm free from the younger girl and aimed a karate blow against the other woman. The young girl though grabbed her arm again, spoiling her blow. A sharp punch to her stomach momentarily winded her and a hand chopping down on the back of her neck stunned her and she crumpled to her knees.

Before she could recover her senses properly the man briskly stepped forwards and pressed a thick pad of cotton wool firmly against her face. His hand clasped her hair at her nape and held her head forward into the cotton wool and an overpowering chemical smell assailed her. The two female guards pinned her arms and held her down, for a few seconds she struggled ineffectually, then her body went slack as she was forced to breathe in the chloroform.