He looked so big standing there, yet so serene, so relaxed even.
While Valda stood riveted to the spot in horror, he smiled and emitted what Valda thought was a grotesquely polite greeting, ‘Why, Valda, at last, I have been waiting for you! I am sorry if I shocked you.’
Valda closed her mouth into a hardened grin, she knew that her body language had revealed more than simple shock. Her heart was pounding and she found it impossible to move from where she stood. She swallowed hard, while cursing her lack of composure, fiercely determined to get a grip of herself and to play out the situation to her advantage. ‘Well, at least you made yourself at home,’ she said sarcastically, at the same time finding the nerve to saunter towards where the Sheikh was stood. She looked him straight in the eye, almost throwing down the gauntlet. He met her stare with his usual self-controlled confidence.
‘And you were so agreeable the other night at dinner.’ His tone was mocking and Valda felt he was chiding her. He had seen through her phoney chatter at the Tivoli.
She had the overwhelming urge to tell him he was a patronising fuckhouse, but she gritted her teeth. Fear was fast turning into anger.
‘So what are you doing here?’ she directed her question with defiance.
‘I’ve always admired your passion and your mendacity!’ he smirked, obviously getting a kick out of toying with her emotions.
‘And likewise, on the mendacity count, that is,’ she retorted, almost immediately regretting what she had said. Her temper always used to get the better of her and this was no time for that old habit to jeopardise things. What she really wanted was to be cool, but the red mist tended to linger with Valda.
Something was changing in his eyes and Valda could tell that the game was over.
‘I have found you to be a fascinating woman, a woman who makes wise choices!’ He stopped, but Valda remained silent, as she wanted him to do the talking, while she decided on her next move. ‘We’ve shared a secret and now I want to share something else with you!’ Valda’s face initially registered disgust as a series of sordid images flashed through her mind, but she quickly reinstated a bewildered look. ‘I was born in Jeddah!’ he stated. Valda’s confusion was now quite genuine. ‘It’s a magnificent, ancient and holy city.’ His eyes were suddenly filled with wonder. ‘I want to share it with you,’ he continued. ‘My private jet is waiting, let us go now!’
As she thought of being whisked off to Saudi Arabia, Lara’s theories came flooding back and that icy feeling of dread began to rupture into panic.
‘Now? Right now?’ she blurted out. The Sheikh nodded. ‘But, I’m busy … you should have let me know!’
‘But your overnight bag is already packed,’ he sounded triumphant; he knew he had Valda in a corner.
Oh, shit, shit, shit, thought Valda to herself as all her anger and defiance left her. He had obviously been in her bedroom and seen the near-empty cupboards, boxes and packed overnight bag on her bed.
‘I was going to surprise Brett by visiting him in Singapore!’ she explained hurriedly, desperate not to allow him through her defences.
‘Well, if he is not expecting you, then he won’t be disappointed!’ he uttered in a low tone.
Valda was wondering if Ahmed was lurking somewhere in her flat. Thoughts of them strong-arming her into a waiting limousine and then onto a jet and into some Arabian Alcatraz flashed though her mind. She thought of Lara; Lara had suspected this might happen. If she disappeared, Lara would at least know or have some idea of her whereabouts. Valda tried to comfort herself, but she knew Lara did not have a modicum of a chance of finding her and no chance at all of finding her alive. She thought of the newspaper articles and wondered if her existence would soon be reduced to a 4 by 1 inch slot in a newspaper column. She glanced at her watch; it was two o’clock, still two hours before Lara was due to pick her up. Valda could tell that the Sheikh was feeling in total control of the situation – he was arrogantly relaxed and she watched as he withdrew his platinum cigar case and distinctive lighter.
‘Should I get my overnight bag then?’ she enquired, wondering whether an escape to the bedroom would help her chances. She thought hopelessly of her bedroom and her bathroom – there was nowhere to run, unless she wanted to jump seventeen stories.
‘No!’ he commanded. ‘I will buy you whatever you need!’
‘But I will need my passport,’ tried Valda in desperation.
‘No you won’t!’ he said, looking at her pityingly, before he turned around to look for an ashtray.
Valda was thinking fast, she considered making a dash for the door; however, she reckoned that even if she made it to the door, either the Sheikh or Ahmed – who she was sure was not far away – were bound to catch up with her on the way down the seventeen flights of stairs. She decided that even if she escaped from the building, he was bound to have her picked up by the authorities on some trumped-up charge at the airport. She silently cursed herself for not leaving the previous night with Richard: if only she had not delayed that extra day in order to get her last salary cheque and to take the GT for that last spin. If only. Despondency was all over her.
She watched the Sheikh as he made his way over to her ashtray, which was on a side table. His back was to her and she took the chance to look about the lounge and her gaze ventured towards the kitchen, vainly searching for an answer. She looked over to him again. He was flicking ash from his cigar in such a prissy manner; his cool, controlled attitude riled her: he seemed so dammed sure he had her where he wanted her. Valda hated losing, she hated it when someone got the better of her, and the Sheikh was one person who had consistently done so. She looked about the room again; she could suddenly feel a surge of something, something powerful, something she could only describe as: Survival. She thought back to that fateful night in Clifton – she was a survivor. Despondency gave way to a rush of adrenalin; every nerve fibre was on fire. She looked over to the side table and there, sparkling under her Tiffany lamp, lay the dagger. In a flash, it was in her hand. The second hand of her clock seemed to jam and the Sheikh appeared to be motionless on the other side of the room. Stealthily, she stole up behind him, raised her arm and, gripping the dagger as hard as she could, in one almighty motion she sliced it ruthlessly into the side of his neck.