When Violet returned to Kuwait, she came on a new visa. It was a work visa in the capacity of an accountant. She had kept this information from her mother and Luke, not that it mattered now. She would still be working as a maid while she pursued her long term goals.
Violet came to the servant quarters in Kuwait, she unpacked her suitcase in the room. She kept some bolinas in a box for Tintin and removed some sorpotel her mother had packed for Linda. Though pork was forbidden in the Muslim nation, scores of people found ways to sneak it in disguised as pickle, tinned food, etc. When Tintin entered the room, she was surprised to see the things Violet had brought back for her. All of which was food.
Then she listened quietly to Violet as she announced, ‘I’ll keep these things in the fridge for Linda. My mother said, since she’s lonely she might like some homemade Goan food. I’ll tell her about it later in the night. I plan to start afresh with her, maybe spend some more time talking to her, learning from her….’
Tintin listened as Violet rambled on, about what Linda said to her before leaving while the young Filipina shuffled on her bed.
‘I don’t think you’ll be able to speak to her Violet,’ Tintin replied trying to find the right words to say.
‘Why? Is she still transferred to the daughter’s house?’
Violet remembered Tintin telling her about Linda working temporarily at one of the old folks’ daughter’s place. This was during one of many phone calls Violet made to Tintin to see how she was doing.
‘She’s dead Vio.’
Violet’s heart stopped for a moment, ‘what?’ She screeched as she turned around from her half empty airbag.
‘Shhh. Keep your voice down. She died a week ago. Her body was buried here at Khaldiya, because she had no next of kin.’
‘How did this happen? She was fine a month ago, besides she wasn’t that old,’ Violet was still loud.
‘She didn’t just die Violet, she may have been killed.’
Violet looked more shocked than ever. Slowly she walked to the edge of Tintin’s bed and sat down, hoping to hear more details.
‘She was working at our Madam’s nieces place. Initially there were lots of complaints about her, that she was old and slow. The girls wanted a replacement for her. Madam didn’t make any changes though; she in fact told her niece that Linda was a good worker. With you gone, Madam didn’t want me to be transferred there, so she had Linda stay there longer. The old folks had apparently gone to Hajj in Mecca and Linda had no work, so she didn’t mind being there. Last week she was asked to accompany the daughter and her kids to the mall. They told us that on the fifth ring road while going to Salmiya Linda voluntarily jumped out of the moving car and she was killed by oncoming traffic on the spot. The cops ruled it as a suicide.’
‘But why would she do that?’
‘She didn’t,’ Tintin dropped her already lowered voice further, ‘I’ve heard it before but never believed it, they said, that the niece, pushed her out of the car because they wanted to get rid of her.’
Violet’s face was covered in disbelief; she put her hands over her mouth.
‘The driver can’t say anything because nobody wants to lose their job.’
Violet could not believe this. ‘Didn’t the police investigate it? Thoroughly?’
‘The police are just a bunch of Bedouin Kuwaitis. Our bosses are bigger Kuwaitis in the hierarchy, even if there was anything suspicious it would never see the light of day.’
‘Is it just me or every now and then something scary seems to be happening here?’
Tintin saw the fear on Violet’s face. She knew Violet was including her beat up among those inicdents. She was regretting making all those statements as she frowned. But the reality of so many other women had come closer home.
‘The truth is Vio we are blessed to be in this house. You’ve read the papers, you’ve heard the stories. Maids being beaten, belted, branded with irons, cigarette butts, kicked abused, verbally, mentally, sexually. It happens,’ she said obviously very uncomfortable saying it.
‘In the Gulf, nobody can defend us besides the embassies and most of the time even they cannot help us.’
‘Aren’t they supposed to protect us?’
‘Do you know how much evidence you need to collect, to draft a single complaint against these people? The entire rigmarole is just useless. We need our jobs and are in even greater need of the money. So let’s just bear with this and work without complaining. Now remember you didn’t hear anything about Linda, whatever I said just forget about it. Don’t ever repeat what I told you not even by mistake.’
Violet closed the door of the bathroom and sat on the commode of her bathroom. She was clearly shocked. How could this happen? Tintin had been physically abused or sexually she was not even sure, Linda was murdered.
That thought just would not go away. She thought of what it might have felt like being pushed out of a car, knowing you’re about to die, she imagined Linda struggle before she fell out on the highway.
What a painful death it must have been?
Violet felt like she was suffocating
She could not believe the things that had happened. She clutched the Swiss knife in her pocket and felt reassured. But the fear did not depart.
Violet was afraid working in the Dashti home. She was on tenterhooks all the time. Keeping her guard up every moment was draining her out. So much so that Majid Al- Ansari the family lawyer also noticed that something was wrong. She submitted her passport to him and reviewed her salary agreements and contract in haste. He noticed the girl who would like to read her documents with practiced patience, was clumsy, dropping papers, answering in monosyllables and jerking up at every random sound made by a door closing or telephone ringing. In short she was not her usual self.
He didn’t want to intrude but felt the need to find out if something had happened during her holiday. Something untoward?
‘You’re rather quiet huh, what’s the matter? Miss home or bad holiday?’
Violet smiled lightly, ‘no, I’ve just got other things on my mind, and my holiday was great, thank you.’
The forced smile only made Majid more curious. So her holiday was fine. Did something happen at the Dashti home? Damn it, was anything with regards to the maids ever right at that house?
First their most trusted servant is killed, the next week, the Filipino brings in documents with a black eye partly covered by a misshapen lock of hair and now their most intelligent maid, no accountant was cowering in fear in his office. He knew she would not reveal anything to him. None of them ever did. If there was something going on at the Dashti household, the girls may have been warned to keep their mouths shut.
Violet got up to leave, when Majid said, ‘are you going to take the bus back home? Let me ask my son to drive you home Violet, you don’t look well to me.’
Violet’s eyes turned large with horror, her back stiffened ramrod straight, her mind was racing as to what she was going to say next. The last thing she wanted was to be next to a hot blooded man, who could take at will from her, just as it had played out with her roommate. This could not be happening to her. And to top it all she hadn’t carried her Swiss knife here.
Majid realized the girl was now even more scared out of her wits than she had been previously. So something was going on at Sabah’s home. Did Sabah know of it? Was she deliberately hurting the girl? For the moment he had to reassure the girl or else she might just balk out of the room.
Just then a young man in his dishdasha walked in, saying ‘Yoba.’
‘Violet, this is my son. I believe I have raised him well, to make sure he gets you home unharmed. So please don’t misunderstand, I don’t think you should take the bus home in this September heat. Rauf will take you home. I will call Sabah and explain.’
Violet turned to see the tall man, of roughly six feet, well chiseled arms fitting the immaculately white dishdasha. She recognized the man at once; he had been at the airport asking for her documents when she had first arrived. He was the same man who was at the Eid celebration with Khalid when she had been falsely accused of stealing.
Rauf was surprised when his father had asked him to come to the office on his day off. But he was even more surprised that his father had to remind him not to touch the girl. He had never forced himself on anybody; he was handsome enough to choose his pick from the lot. It riled him.
Only when Violet had left the office did his father ask him to switch on to police mode and glean whatever he could about the Dashti home from the girl. Finally the old man had come to his senses thought Rauf. Being trained in the police services and working with some of the best had taught him to have a high index of suspicion. He had realized long before that there was always a problem with the maids in that house. Every time he brought it up with his father, Majid would defend his mother’s only friend Sabah and change the subject. Hopefully the girl had given him some new insight or damning testimony.
Violet stood at the bottom of the stairs. As he walked out and motioned to the black BMW, he couldn’t help but wonder about the young girl he was taking home. As he backed his car out of the parking lot, he observed loose tendrils of hair escaping the clutches of her tight bun, the sunlight shining through her clothes, providing a silhouette of slim, toned, body and those warm olive brown eyes making him light headed.
Violet had never been seated in a BMW before; it was no different from sitting in an ordinary car. But fear overruled all the other feelings she wanted to enjoy. She was jittery and afraid, sitting uncomfortably as close to the door and as far from Rauf as possible. She thanked God for her seatbelt and fastened it holding on to it as if her life depended on it. Rauf didn’t understand why she was so afraid of him. It was quite contrary to the reaction he received from most women. She was never this shy? Reserved? Afraid?
He could not find a word, but she wasn’t her usual self. He had observed her often when he came to visit the Dashti home during Eid and other occasions. He had also seen her roam freely with Aliya at the flea markets, when Sabah would ask him to keep an eye on them. But today she was just different.
As he drove through Sharq, he glanced her way just to make sure he was not imagining her silence, when he realized the door lock hadn’t been pressed down. Slowing down a little, he stretched across in front of her while she gasped, ‘What are you doing?’
Rauf was more shocked than she was. This girl was lovely but did she think he was trying to get physical with her in his prized damn car.
‘What do you think I’m doing?’
Just to show her how wrong she was, he intentionally stretched out and pushed the door lock down, seething with anger as Violet sank back into the seat as far as she could go.
‘You really think you’re all that great huh?’
Violet didn’t need to explain, but still opened her mouth, ‘I’m sorry, I thought you were opening the door. I didn’t know what you were about to do.’
‘Why would anybody open the door of a moving car? Are you crazy?’
Yes she was going crazy, she realized. Her paranoia had caused her to embarrass herself at Majid’s office, which resulted in Rauf driving her home and now she had made a fool of herself again. it was not her fault, all these people around her were crazy.
Rauf realized the girl in his car was miles away. So close yet so far he thought. But why was she so jumpy? Why was she thinking, he would push her out of the car and that he wanted her to die?
The silence was growing between them as they drove past Kuwait city when it dawned on him. Could it be what had happened to that other woman in Khalid’s home? Was that the reason why his father had been so keen on him keeping alert with the girl? Did she give him some information regarding the case?
‘Have you seen this happen to someone else or do you know of anyone who has been killed that way?’ Rauf knew he was just shooting in the dark, but interrogating her was not going to help him much, for all he knew, his style of interrogation would definitely make her jump out of the car.
‘I guess I know someone. She used to work with us before. She died a month ago I was told.’
‘How did she die if you don’t mind sharing?’
‘I was told that she jumped out of a moving vehicle and died as the incoming traffic sped over her.’
‘And you don’t think she jumped on her own?’
‘No, that’s the problem. Linda was technologically challenged. She wouldn’t have opened the door and jumped out of an expensive Pajero. Even if you told her a hundred times how she couldn’t just open the door lock and jump.’
‘Maybe the door was open,’ he said as his police train of thought kicked in.
‘There you see that’s the problem, even if she wanted to die she wouldn’t have known where to jump or which direction traffic was coming?’
‘She was sick, she had night blindness. She never ventured out anywhere after seven. She finished all her chores and went to bed early because she could not see much at that time. If she had to do it she would rather do it in the day.’
Rauf breathed in slowly, if the girl was right something much bigger was going on at Khalid’s home. He recalled talking to Tintin, when she showed them Linda’s room. Tintin had a shaggy haircut that obscured much of her right face as if she were hiding something. He noticed that her uniform was long sleeved, despite it being the peak of summer and she also had a slight limp on the left. As far as he knew none of the maids that ever came to Kuwait had a handicap of any sort. Kuwaitis were very particular employers, since they wanted maximum work done without much wear and tear. He was now beginning to wonder of Violet knew more than she was telling or worse that she was going through something similar. The rest of the drive, Rauf thought it best to leave the girl to her thoughts while he sifted through his own. He condemned himself for such sloppy detective work, but consoled himself altogether, knowing justice would not be done even in light of the truth.
Violet just used the time trying to forcefully think about anything other than Linda. And every time she did that, it angered her that those thoughts were about the young man sitting next to her. His dishadasha was taut clinging to his biceps and pectorals, his long fingers deftly maneuvered the steering wheel. Violet tried to scratch that thought before her mind see- sawed back to Linda. Finally when they reached Qoturba she was tired playing mind games with herself, she got off with a quick thanks and he drove off.