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Camp NaNo July: Bedouin Boy Page

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The streets were cold and quiet as Jasem approached the corner. A man in a jacket and beanie sat on the ground in front of his newsstand unpacking one of several stacks of papers still bound with plastic string.

‘I open at four AM,’ the man grunted. ‘Come back then.’

Jasem flicked the man a dollar coin and picked up the paper from the stack he was unpacking, ignoring the man’s protests as he walked away into the night.

Back in his hotel room, Jasem opened the paper on the table and flicked to the Classifieds section. The advertisement caught his eye almost immediately.

‘FOR SALE: Four pre-Islamic pagan scrolls dating back to at least 200 BC. An ideal gift for an educational or religious institution by an individual or group. Serious buyers only. Enquiries should be written and addressed to the Business Focused International post office box.’

The clerk watched Jasem as he tried on a charcoal grey porkpie brimmed hat. The young man waited for the right moment, and then approached Jasem with a dark suit and jacket.

‘Excuse me, sir, but I thought you might like to try these on for size too.’

When he was finished shopping, Jasem paid for the items and the clerk placed them in bags, walking around the counter to give the bags to Jasem.

Stepping off the subway in Paterson, New Jersey, Jasem found and entire Middle East squeezed into a dense and lively area that spanned only two and a half miles. An entire world was channeled into a few bustling, intersected main streets, which housed numerous halal meat markets and restaurants, Lebanese bakeries, and stores that sold Syrian sweets and spices from Turkey. Shop signs were in Arabic, and loud Arabic music spilled out of stores that sold hookahs.

It was midday on a Sunday in the Silk City, and every table in the restaurant was occupied by locals and their families. A basket of large lafah bread arrived at the table. The man sitting opposite him was an antiquities dealer named Ahmed.

‘Do you understand the true nature of these particular scrolls, Jasem?’ Ahmed queried. ‘They are very different to the others.’

Jasem nodded.

‘Yes, I do.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I am Bedouin. My mother came from a long line of pre-Islamic pagan Arab practitioners. She herself was one back in Israel,’

Ahmed sat back and folded his arms, nodding slowly as he studied Jasem in silence.

‘The family is ready to sell. For the right price, of course.’

‘How much are they asking? Jasem queried.

‘Two hundred and fifty thousand,’ Ahmed replied. ‘Non-negotiable.’

 

Jasem followed Ahmed into the bank, trailing behind him as they approached the front desk, where there sat two bearded men in suits wearing kippahs.

‘I’m here about a numbered account,’ said Ahmed to the man in front of him.

The man placed a card and a pen on the counter.

‘Write down your account number, please.’

The second man at the desk stood from his seat. When Ahmed had written down the number, the first man passed the card to the second man, who disappeared through an ornate steel gate door behind the desk.

Jasem and Ahmed stepped out of the elevator and were met by yet another man in a  suit. They followed him and along a corridor of steel gated rooms, much like prison cells. They entered one such room, where the man placed four long, flat safe deposit boxes on the table in front of them, promptly leaving them to view the contents in private. Ahmed carefully lifted the lid of one of the boxes and pulled back a translucent protective sheet to reveal the scroll.

Jasem leaned down to look closer, and Ahmed leaned with him, observing the wonder in Jasem’s expression.

‘Two thousand years old,’ he stated. ‘Extraordinary, isn’t it?’

‘How did they get to America?’

‘Bedouins in Israel sold them to the family, who smuggled them to the U.S.’ Ahmed

paused thoughtfully.  ‘Be warned, Jasem. These are extremely powerful documents. They could be very harmful if you are not ready.’

‘I am ready,’ said Jasem.

Thanks for reading! Final excerpt coming tomorrow!

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Camp NaNo July: Bedouin Boy Page

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Copyright © Kate Kelsen 2020. All Rights Reserved

Mrs. Martin came into the living room and placed a plate of biscuits down on the coffee table. She poured tea into two cups, passing one to Omid. They watched the television screen intently. On the studio stage Jasem stood with the host Georgina: her make-up was bright, her hair was big and her shoulder pads were huge.

‘We have a special treat for you here now. Medium Jasem Bahar; thank-you for joining us, Jasem.’

‘Thank-you so much for having me,’ Jasem replied. ‘I appreciate it.’

‘So what is it like to connect with dead people?’

‘It’s incredible. The spirit world are looking for someone to bring messages through, and to say ‘I’m still here. Don’t think of me as dead.’ It helps people find closure.’

‘And when you are able to connect with someone, you must see it in their face right away.’

‘Every experience is different. It’s pretty intense, but it’s amazing for all involved.’

‘Tell me, Jasem, how did you first find out that you had this ability?’

‘I saw spirits as a child. My mother was the first, actually.’

‘What do you say to people that say when you pass away, that’s it?’

‘I say it’s up to you to come to your own conclusions in your own way. I don’t force my beliefs on anybody, but something like this today is a good opportunity to witness what happens.’

‘Stay with us, after the break Jasem is going to do a live reading with our studio audience.’

When the commercial break ended, Georgina smiled her gleaming white teeth as the camera zoomed in on her and Jasem again.

‘Well, we’re back with medium Jasem Bahar, who has had us fascinated all morning with the world of ghosts and the unknown. And we’re going to hand it over to you, Jasem, to work with our studio audience now. Take it away, and see what you can see!’

‘Okay, I’m going to start with this lady right here.’ Jasem pointed to a woman seated in the front row. ‘I have a mother figure coming through very strongly around you, with the name either ‘Mary’ or ‘Margaret’. She’s having a hard time moving and walking and getting things done. Do you understand that?’

‘Well, she was on medication but didn’t have any pain,’ said the woman.

‘Okay, so medication. I’m feeling this very much. Is there arthritis? A bone problem? Also something with the back? Can I see that she sits with a pillow behind her back? No? That doesn’t make sense to you? What about trouble with legs?’

The woman shook her head again, smiling awkwardly.

‘Okay, who has trouble with legs, then?’ Jasem persisted.

‘My father’s had two hip replacements,’ the woman replied.

‘So he can’t walk as well as he used to?’

The woman laughed.

‘No, he walks very well.’

‘Okay, okay.’ Jasem took a deep breath. ‘Right. Was your mother buried?’

‘Yes.’

‘U-huh, because she’s talking about being buried and awake, or a funeral rather. She knows about it. She was very surprised by it all. Is it Kathy or Katherine?’

Jasem stumbled over the names as he said them.  The woman shook her head. Mrs. Martin noticed the awkward grimace on Georgina’s face as she watched Jasem from a couch on the studio stage.

‘My cousin has just had surgery.’

The statement came from an old woman sitting next to the first woman in the front row.

‘Okay, let’s talk about her. I’m hearing about someone Catholic.  Who’s Catholic?’

‘We all are.’

‘Okay, so she’s talking about a mass that was held, an image of Mother Mary…’

‘Well, with Catholics there is usually imagery of Mary around.’

The first woman piped up again.

‘My mother’s name was Mary and died when I was six. It was 1950.’

Mrs. Martin breathed in relief at the connection.

‘Do you or did you play music?’ Jasem persisted.

‘No,’ the first woman said.

‘Okay, who did play music? Who was going to play piano?’ Jasem quickly turned his attention to another member of the audience a few rows back. ‘I want to talk to this lady. Your husband’s passed over? Or your father?’

‘Yes,’ the woman nodded.

‘Something about cars with him? Buying a car?’

‘No,’ the woman flatly replied.

‘Okay, who had a heart problem?’

‘Probably my mother.’

‘Okay. She’s passed over as well?’

The woman nodded.

‘A heart condition?’

‘Yes.’

‘Because she tells me she was going to get an operation. Something before that, okay? So, I don’t know whether you knew that she could get that.’

The woman huffed impatiently. Jasem started rubbing his throat.

‘I was also getting the name ‘Therese’ or ‘Terry’ in this area, okay? Was there a divorce with you?’

‘I’ve never been married.’

‘I’m not surprised.’

Georgina gasped behind Jasem.

‘Because she’s telling me that you need to love yourself more. Because you don’t. There is also something about the car, with your father. I don’t know what that means, but I’m putting it out there.’

Georgina stepped forward, standing next to Jasem again and placing her hand on his shoulder.

‘We’re almost out of time, Jasem…’

Jasem ignored her and continued pressing the woman for more information.

‘Do you have his watch or his ring?’

‘Yes and yes.’

‘I’m getting that you had a painting done, or you removed a picture of him, correct? Yes or no?’

‘Yes.’

‘I also want to tell you that he’s sitting next to you on the couch. He’s there with you. Did he smoke?’

The woman shook her head.

‘No.’

‘Do you smoke?’

‘Yes.’

‘Could you stop? Okay? I don’t know who Paul is, do you understand that? Who is that, please?’

‘A friend.’

‘He wants to say hello, because they were there when he died. They were around…’

‘Please thank Jasem Bahar for answering some very interesting questions this morning! It’s been very intriguing. Thank-you for joining us.’

***

Dropping his coat on his bed, Jasem flicked on the television set in the hotel room, and then poured a glass of whiskey from the nightstand.

‘Clairvoyant spiritual medium Jasem Bahar experienced several misses during a live taping of The Morning Show today. Jasem Bahar is a purported medium who claims to have used his psychic abilities to assist U.S. law enforcement officials in solving crimes. One such official, Gordon Blackwell of the Los Angeles DA’s office, have since denied any such co-operation happened, and stated the tips provided by Mr. Bahar were not helpful to their investigations.’

In the mirror, Jasem looked past his reflection. He rested his glass on the table and turned to face his mother.

‘Why wouldn’t they speak to me?’ Jasem snapped.

‘They only speak to you when they want to, Jasem. They are not trick monkeys.’

‘I was just humiliated on national television!’

‘I warned you already, Jasem. So did your father.’ Maryam stepped forward, placing her cold hand on Jasem’s cheek. ‘You have a gift, Jasem. It is time to start using it for the greater good, the way you were always intended to. Go to the newsstand on the corner and purchase a copy of the Business Focused International daily newspaper. Look in the Classifieds section, and you will find what you need.’

Thanks for reading! Another excerpt coming tomorrow!

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Camp NaNo July: Bedouin Boy Page 18

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Copyright © Kate Kelsen 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Jasem stood in front of Gordon’s desk, holding his resignation in his hands. Gordon sat back in his office chair, turning slightly side to side in his office chair as he spoke.

‘The police have a suspect in custody. A seventy-year-old male. They believe he abducted Rocco for his personal sexual gratification.’

Gordon sat forward, resting his elbows on his desk and clasping his hands together, pointing his two index fingers at the paper in Jasem’s hands.

‘What’s that?’

‘My resignation, sir.’

Jasem stepped forward and placed the document on the desk in front of Gordon. Gordon folded his arms, looking up at Jasem.

‘I’d like to take you on as a consultant, Jasem.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It won’t be full-time; we’ll call you when we need you. And we won’t be able to tell anyone the true nature of your role. But I think your ‘skills’ could be useful to us. You could help us pick juries, interview potential witnesses, and suspects in line-ups. That sort of thing. So, what do you say?’

 

Five Years Later

Under the shelter of his umbrella, Omid observed the bookstore from the opposite side of the street. In the window was a poster. At the top it read ‘JASEM BAHAR: LAPD MEDIUM’ and at the bottom below his picture ‘BOOK SIGNING 10TH JUNE’.

From where he sat at the signing table, Jasem couldn’t see the end of the queue, a line of endless faces with names he’d quickly forget.

‘Jasem?’

He looked up, and for the first time that afternoon he recognized the person standing in front of him.

‘Papa!’ he exclaimed. ‘You came!’

‘It’s good to see you, Jasem,’ Omid smiled. ‘Are you free for coffee later?’

‘Sure. I finish up here at three.’

 

Jasem and Omid found a table in a quiet corner of the coffee shop, and a waiter promptly approached them to take their order.

‘So, how is the book tour going?’ Omid enquired.

‘Really well,’ said Jasem. ‘I’m going to be on TV, too.’

‘If only your mother could see you now.’

‘She can, Papa.’

An awkward silence fell upon them, momentarily relieved when the waiter returned with their coffees.

‘You have an incredible gift, Jasem,’ said Omid. ‘I know it seems like I didn’t want to listen to you when you tried to tell me about it.’

‘I always thought you were jealous that I could see Mama and you couldn’t.’

Omid nodded.

‘I miss her very much. I would give anything to see her again.’ He sighed. ‘I was

afraid for you, Jasem. This gift brought a lot of trouble for your mother, and I was afraid the same would happen to you.’