Brick dust floated thick in the sunbeams that slanted into Prince Ashraf’s father’s office. Little piles of rubble had washed up like flotsam and settled in the cracks between the sumptuous leather sofa cushions. Every shiny black surface been coated a grimy grey.
Ashraf carefully blew a layer of debris from the computer keyboard and switched on the machine, praying it would still work. It did. Its starting-up bleeps sounded like the unexpected voice of a child found impossibly alive and well underneath six stories of a collapsed hotel.
Prince Ashraf sat back with a little sigh, and smoothed out the piece of paper he had ripped out of his father’s address book the previous week. Another office he’d had to break into. At dead of night, that time, to avoid the insurgents.
He stared at the simple email address, and prayed his plan would work. A man his father had never directly spoken to; a man the Colonel would never think to track down; a man in a safe country. It was his last shot, but he felt optimistic about it. He’d been thinking this through for the past fortnight, during all of those sleepless nights.
Ashraf ran his hands over his unshaven jaw line as he waited tensely for the computer to finish powering up. He flinched at the sound of a distant mortar. He had to blow more brick dust out of the mouse before he could finally sit there with his old, untraceable Hotmail account open in front of him and his fingers on the keys. He took a deep breath.
Dear Esteemed Friend, he wrote. Most heartfelt greetings to you. And how he meant it. My name is Prince Ashraf, the only surviving son of the most noble, most honourable late Sultan Bahir-Azeem, may God rest his soul. His fingers still trembled a little as he typed this out. I am writing to you, as I know you are a respectable man of business, and a man whom my father respected and esteemed, having recorded your name in his book of business associates. I therefore ask you please to consider my business proposition, as I am in need of urgent help.
My country has been overrun by military insurgents, attempting to perform a coup. He was not ready to admit that they had achieved this aim. Having murdered my father, the Sultan, and my elder brother, the Crown Prince, they are now seeking my life also. They have raided the royal palace and taken all that they could find there. However, my father had one further bank account which they have not yet discovered, containing the equivalent of 25,000,000 (twenty five million pounds sterling). Since the insurgency will soon take control of my country’s banking system, it is no longer safe for this money to remain in the account, and I would die before I saw my father’s money in the hands of those jackals who have overrun my country through nefarious means. Therefore, esteemed friend, I ask that you allow me to transfer the money into your safe bank account in UK. I hope to travel to your country as soon as possible in order to then retrieve the money from you. In recompense for your kindness I will pay you a share of the money amounting to 2,000,000 (two million pounds sterling).
If you are agreeable, please send me as soon as possible your bank details so that I can make the transfer. Please help — you are my last hope and I urge you to reply urgently as I do not know how long I can remain hidden. I know you will do this act of kindness as you are a respectable man of business and esteemed by my late father.
With best regards, awaiting your reply, Prince Ashraf.
He double-checked the email address. He pressed ‘send’. He sat back and loudly let out the breath he had been holding for the past five minutes. He gazed around at the ruined office, not really seeing any of it, and after about a minute, checked the email for a reply. Nothing. Nothing yet. Of course not.
Ashraf stood up decisively and rubbed his eyes; there was dust in them, too. Dust everywhere. He considered clearing off the sofa and taking a nap there, but he didn’t like the idea of some member of the insurgency suddenly bursting through the door while he slept. In the end, he took some things out of a grand old hardwood cupboard, and curled up in there, closing his stinging eyes and trying to close down his mind.
Prince Ashraf was woken abruptly by a loud smash that shook the ground. He almost smacked his head as he stood up inside the cupboard. Long experience had made him familiar with the sound of a nearby missile strike. He estimated them to be about five miles away.
The office was now in darkness; the only light emanated from the softly glowing computer screen. As he stumbled out of the cupboard, his heart skipped a little as his eyes fell upon it. He was going to have to leave this place; they were getting close. He wouldn’t be able to come back here again. But surely he had finally got one over on his enemies — surely he was about to have one last triumph with the help of his father’s esteemed associate Mr. Dave Price of Selly Oak, UK. He reached over and clicked the mouse with a swelling heart.
Suddenly, all he could hear was his own pulse and the echo of gunfire outside as he stood, frozen, staring in disbelief at Mr. Dave Price’s reply:
Mel George likes to write flash fiction between working, studying, catching trains and feeding ducks in the dark. She edits The Pygmy Giant, an online magazine for short British writing, now into its second year.