Author’s Note: A Sharia London is the story of the transformation of a mild-mannered, politically-correct man into a fearless crusader. Marlon Stone, a lecturer in Post-Classical History at the University of Reading, U.K., is shockingly awakened to the dark underbelly of orthodox Islam in London.
Eventually he will remodel himself fully: “But I realized that my calling was in making history … not in teaching it.”
Marlon is attracted to Jamila Khan, his student. Born and raised in London, young Jamila has secretly become an apostate to Islam, and works covertly to liberate women oppressed by radical Islamism. She befriends Nafisa, an immigrant who helps her rescue a child bride-to-be. Later, while in class, Jamila receives a text from Nafisa: “They found me.”
This excerpt begins after Jamila zips out of class abruptly and sprints across the campus.
Editor’s Note: A Sharia London is part of The Writers Series, a regular feature in which we excerpt the work of novelists who have been influenced by Ayn Rand.
Reading, United Kingdom
Finally, her cab arrived. She got in, but, with no idea of where to go.
Sitting down did not ease her breathing, still heavy from the sprinting, her nervous energy blocking the slowdown.
She saw the cabbie watching her in the rearview mirror, taking in the teary eyes, the shaky hands, and the heavy breathing. She managed to say, “Not sure where we are going yet.”
He wore a Sikh turban. “Everything all right, miss?”
He reached out the driver’s side window and spun the taxi meter into place. He started the engine. “Looks like you need to get away. Shall I go east or north?”
She leaned forward. “I’ve got to find a friend. A friend who said she’s going to her Waterloo. Whatever that means.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Waterloo Bridge?”
The blinding flash of insight struck her like a thunderbolt. She remembered the movie DVD Nafisa was carrying when she first met her, Waterloo Bridge. She could have hugged and kissed this cabbie. Instead, she screamed “Yes!”
He pulled away from the curb violently. Jamila fell back into her seat.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you, you may have saved a life.”
The cabbie wasted no time. He zoomed down Whiteknights Road, his tires screeching around the left at the roundabout that took them to Workingham Road with another fierce right that almost certainly would have gotten him a ticket had he been spotted by a traffic patrol bobby.
“Miss,” he said as they coasted along the main road, “not my business, but if it’s serious, call the London Coastguard. In this traffic, we’ll take more than an hour to get there.”
Jamila snapped into action.
He continued, “They have a Tower Lifeboat. And marine police on standby. Is she young, your friend?”
Jamila got the number off her browser. “Yes, very young,” she said as she dialed furiously.
“London Coastguard. How can I help you?” a male voice answered.
“This is an emergency. A young girl, sixteen thereabouts, she may jump off the bridge,” Jamila spoke hurriedly.
“Slow down, ma’am. Which bridge?”
Jamila forced herself to speak slower. “Probably Waterloo Bridge.”
“Probably? Is she there now?”
“Not sure. We think that’s where she’s headed. Sorry, I’m not sure.”
“That’s okay. I’ll alert the Tower Lifeboat. Better safe than sorry. What’s she wearing?”
“I don’t know. Likely winter clothes. Medium height. Pale skin.”
“Hold on for a moment, please.”
Jamila felt the car accelerate. The cabbie jumped an orange light.
The man on the call was back.
“We have one boat in the area now, miss. They’ll do their best. Is this the number you can be contacted at? The 074 number ending in 065? Would you care to give us your name?”
“Jamila. Jamila Khan. Yes, that’s the number 074 3481 065.”
“Thank you, ma’am. We will be in touch.”
She jolted back in her seat as she felt another acute acceleration.
“Speeding tickets are waived for emergencies miss,” the cabbie said, “but I can slow down if you want.”
“Don’t! Go as fast as you can.”
Greater London, United Kingdom
Jamila texted Marlon: “Emergency. Don’t call me now. Will speak soon.”
Her phone rang within seconds of pressing Send.
“Are you all right?” Marlon sounded jumpy.
“Yes, but I do need to keep the phone free, please.”
“Is everything okay?”
“No, but please, I’ll tell you later.” She ended the call.
Only when they were minutes from Waterloo Bridge could Jamila breathe a sigh of relief. Nafisa was calling. Jamila perked up. “Hi, where are you?”
“At the South Bank Book Fair.”
“At the southern end of Waterloo Bridge?”
“Stay there. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Nafisa ended the call before Jamila could ask her to stay on the phone. She tried Nafisa’s number again, but there was no answer.
“She’s still there?” the cabbie asked.
“Yes, South Bank Book Fair.”
“Oh, thank god. We’re almost there,” he said.
The taxi eased over the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. Jamila fiddled in her purse. The fare could have been over a hundred pounds, but the cabbie had stopped the meter at fifty.
“You didn’t have to,” she said, as she gave him a fifty.
“Don’t worry, miss. Let me come with you.”
“She’s all right, I think.”
“Just in case. My name is Vishal Singh, by the way.” He stopped not far from where the book fair was.
”You can’t park here, I think,” Jamila said, now quite calm.
“Parking fines are waived for emergencies,” he said.
She smiled as she got out the car, “Well, all right, but keep at least ten meters behind me.”
Jamila looked around. The traffic was not too dense, but it was getting dark.
She waited for a break in the lines of cars before crossing over the road divider.
She spotted Nafisa in the bookshop straightway. Only one person wore an abaya with a niqab covering her face.
Jamila rushed toward her, “Nafisa?”
Jamila seized her wrist. She glanced back to see Vishal Singh standing by, few meters behind.
“Let’s go, Nafisa. Let’s get out of here. I have a cab waiting.”
“No, you go ahead. I want to enjoy the scenery.”
“No, not today.”
‘Please. I want to.”
“Okay, but then I’ll come with you,” Jamila said.
Jamila’s phone rang. It was the Coastguard. She stepped out of earshot for a moment.
“Oh yes, thank you for calling. We have located her. It’s all right, she’s all right.”
“No problem, miss. Glad to be of assistance.”
The girls walked toward the south-eastern end of the bridge. Jamila let Nafisa walk ahead of her.
A few gray clouds had gathered. The skyline to the east was lit up all along the shores of the Thames. The vista of skyscrapers, cranes, and boats went as far as the eye could see. Jamila noticed the Coastguard insignia on one of the motorboats, traveling west. The Coastguard boat went under the bridge.
“Ten minutes,” Jamila said. “Then we should take you back to hospital.”
Nafisa nodded, and turned to face west. The two Golden Jubilee Bridges rose, magnificent against the skyline. The London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel on the south bank of the river Thames, was illuminated. It seemed to move, but it was no more than the strong wind making it appear so.
Jamila saw the Coastguard boat emerge on the western side.
“Nafisa, can I see how bad it is?” Jamila asked.
Nafisa lifted the veil on the left hand side of her face. Despite herself, Jamila recoiled in horror. All she saw was a large red and blue discoloration on a swollen face; the eye, if it was still there, was no longer visible.
Nafisa whispered in pain, “I cannot see from my left eye. It’s gone. Forever.”
“I …,” Jamila leaned over the bridge and retched violently. She felt Nafisa’s hand on her back.
“It’s our lot,” Nafisa said. “We’re cursed. Cursed to be born as women in this world.”
Jamila, still nauseous, started to whimper.
“Did you …” Jamila forced the words out. “Did you see them?”
“No. It was too quick. I was drugged. All I remember seeing was a black satchel, like a doctor’s bag. And two masked men.”
Jamila took time to compose herself. Nafisa waited by her side.
“It’s so beautiful,” Nafisa said sadly, peering in the direction of the London Eye.
“It’ll be good again. We’ll get the best doctors for you. I know people who can help,” Jamila said, drying her tears. She took Nafisa by the arm. “Come, let’s cross over. Our taxi is on the other side.”
Jamila saw the cab parked on the western side of the bridge. Vishal Singh was gesticulating at a policeman, who was scribbling something in a book. She assumed Vishal was arguing about a parking ticket.
She wished she could walk across and help him, but Nafisa was her utmost priority.
Gently pulling Nafisa behind her, she began to walk across to the west side of the bridge. A double-decker bus approached on her right, so she quickened her step to get to the divider. In that moment, Nafisa pulled away, deliberately falling behind.
Jamila whipped around, but the bus was much too close. She leapt across the divider. Cars honked as they passed her on the outside lane. The double-decker bus on the inside lane blocked her vision for two seconds as it went past her. In the next instant, she recoiled in horror. The figure in the abaya, still on the eastern side, now had one leg over the three white railings, clasping the handrails.
“Nafisa!” Jamila screamed. Oblivious of the traffic, she darted across and jumped at Nafisa when within four feet of her.
Jamila missed by one second. Her head struck a handrail and she fell across the pavement. She heard multiple screams. She quickly forced herself up. The loud splash confirmed her worst fears.
Leaning over the rail, she saw a black bundle float west with the current and slip beneath the bridge.
She dashed to the other side, ignoring the incoming cars. One van came to a tire-screeching halt only two feet from her, but she never heard the blaring horns and the abusive shouts of the drivers. Quickly reaching the western end of the bridge, her right leg swung over the guardrail of its own accord. Her left leg followed, her body on a sloping edge several meters above the swirling dark waters.
Her arms rose instinctively to a diver’s position. Bending forward at the waist, she closed her eyes, expecting the ground to slip from under her and her body to be in an aerial dive.
Instead, strong arms encircled her waist and pulled her toward the rails. She fought it but the arms swung upward to her armpits and pulled with such strength that, in a single movement, she was heaved over the short barrier and landed with a painful thud on her bottom on the pavement.
Jamila opened her eyes to find several onlookers running toward her. She thrashed about, but the arms that still held her would not let go.
She stopped fighting. She leaned her head back against her rescuer’s solid chest and saw Vishal Singh staring down at her, shaking his head.
“No, miss, let the Coastguard do their work,” he said.
He helped her up from behind, his left hand holding her left wrist in a grip so powerful that her wrist ached. There was a policeman standing by Vishal’s cab, talking on some sort of a pager.
She was hysterical. Vishal Singh had to physically force her into his cab in the front seat beside the driver. He got in, locked the doors and started the engine. He cruised across the bridge to its northern side. He pulled over only when they were well past the waters.
Still distressed, Jamila called the Coastguard. They had reached Nafisa and pulled her out, but they refused to confirm whether the girl was dead or alive.
“The Thames,” Vishal Singh said to her, “is a very unforgiving river.”
“Thank you for holding me back,” was all she could muster.
“My sister … back in Punjab,” he said. Tears rolled down his face.
Vinay Kolhatkar is a freelance journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and finance professional. He is the Chief Editor of The Savvy Street. His work has also been published in The Missing Slate, Reason Papers, AS Journal, Cuffelinks, and JASSA. Vinay has penned two TV pilot screenplays (Marlon Stone, and Unlikely Partners), and has had two novels published in the unusual Romantic Thriller genre: A Sharia London and The Frankenstein Candidate.