Puja Guha
AUTHOR

books...

Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction
The Ahriman Legacy Book I

 

An international thriller - Espionage. Assassins. Middle East.

  • It was the year when global economies continued to plummet despite analysts' predictions of a turnaround.
  • It was the year when the Kuwaiti National Assembly consisted of the largest Islamic contingent in more than two decades.
  • It was the month when the price of oil plunged to twenty dollars a barrel.
  • It was the month when the Emir of Kuwait dissolved the National Assembly for the thirteenth time in fifteen years.
  • It was the day when the head of the Islamic majority of the Assembly hired an assassin and the CIA intercepted intelligence about a new wave of terrorist attacks.
  • It was the day that would change the face of the Middle East forever.
  • It was May 15, 2021.

 

Read two excerpts here.

 

Trailer

 

After a disastrous mission forces her out of the field, Petra Shirazi retires from a life of espionage to work in a research position. Three years later, her division stumbles upon a money trail that reveals a massive new wave of terrorist attacks. The money trail places her in the midst of an assassination plot that implicates the highest levels of the Kuwaiti and Iranian governments. Petra will find herself face to face with the Ahriman, a man named for the Persian spirit of destruction who is responsible for a series of bomb blasts that paralyzed the Suez Canal two years earlier. As the investigation begins to unravel, the ripple effects threaten to engulf not only the Middle East and its Western allies, but also the darkest secrets of Petra's past.

 

Excerpts

Read Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction:
Prologue

»

 

Tehran, Iran – May 28, 2018
"Is this Kasem Ismaili?"


"Yes," he said as he groggily rubbed his eyes. "Who is this?"


"It's Nurah Bahar. Do you remember me?"


Kasem sat up abruptly and frowned. "Yes, of course. You're that friend of Lila's. Is everything all right?"


"I have a message from her."


Kasem's heart started to race. "What is it?"


"We can't talk about this over the phone. Can you meet me in an hour?"
He reached over to his bedside table to grab his digital alarm clock. He blinked twice in astonishment at the bright red numerals that read 2:04. "In an hour? You mean meet you at three in the morning? Are you crazy?"
 


"You're both in danger. Do you want to hear the message or not?"
"Yes, of course! But I have to get to work in a few hours."
 


"I'm already breaking the rules by trying to get this message to you. It will all be irrelevant in twenty-four hours."


"Oh, come on! You have to give me more than that to go on. How do I even know that you've spoken to Lila?"


"I have the locket that Lila wore. Will it be proof enough?"


"The locket?" he said and took a deep breath. Lila said that would be the signal. His thoughts began to run toward dark places. "I guess another sleepless night won't do me any harm," he finally conceded. "Where should I meet you?"


"The place where we first met. I'll see you in an hour. Don't be late."
The line went dead. Where we first met? It'll take almost an entire hour to drive there. Kasem groaned as he fumbled around the room to get dressed.
 


He was en route to his car when he remembered that his friend Jamal was huddled on the couch after locking himself out of his apartment down the hall. He just had to forget his keys tonight. He pulled out his cell phone and typed a hurried text message while stopped at a traffic light.
"Running urgent errand for L on other side of town. See you in few hours."
 


Forty minutes later, Kasem pulled up in front of the empty lot where he and Lila had parked the last time they visited this flat on the other side of the city. Choosing the safety of the garage next door instead, he parked his car and walked over to the building.


It was eerily quiet at close to three in the morning. Cars passing by on the nearby highway were few and far between. Kasem shuddered. This had better be an emergency. His thoughts drifted back to Lila and he could feel his stomach tying in knots. He tried to push his mind away from the worst-case scenario to no avail and shuddered once again.


Kasem entered the lobby quietly and walked toward the elevator, which still had a large worn-out sign on it written in Farsi that read, "Elevator out of order." He pushed open the door to the stairwell and rushed up to the third floor.


He knocked softly when he reached the apartment door. A few moments later, Nurah opened the door a crack.


"Did you come alone?"


"Are you fucking kidding me? Who would I bring with me? It's three in the morning!"


"I had to be sure. Come in," she said while opening the door to let him inside the dimly lit apartment.


He stepped past her into the living room and felt something sharp jab him in the neck. "What the h—?" he cried out.


Kasem's eyes widened as he fought to maintain his vision. In his peripheral vision, he could see two burly men appear from the shadows of the dark room and grab his arms. He tried to lash out, but his muscles refused to respond. His legs started to sway and the room grew even hazier. "Nurah, what are you doing? Who are these men?" He tried to shout, but he could barely hear the whisper that escaped from his throat.


His legs buckled and he fell, first to his knees and then over onto his right side, landing hard on the side of the small couch near the entryway. Without realizing it, his phone slipped out of his pocket.


"I'm so sorry, Kasem. They already knew everything. I have to protect my family."


In the back of his mind, he could hear the echo of Nurah's voice.
The room faded as they thrust a dark sack over his head. "Where are you taking me? What do you want with me?" he tried once again to shout.
 


Then everything went black.


**********

 

Read Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction
Excerpt from Chapters 17 and 18 »

Kuwait City, Kuwait – July 4, 2021
At some point, Grant stopped her in exhaustion. "We need to debrief. What have you found? I'm not sure I get what's going on with this whole thing."


"Well, let's start with the big picture. What we had before was Marzouk Fayed and Khaled Majed talking about someone in charge of planting some device. They spent thirty million euros on something, so they must have hired this person for that sum. And the device, whatever it is, is going to be planted in a palace." She bit down on her lip, thinking it through.


"I don't really know anything about that, but Khaled Majed has had two streams of odd, secretive messages."

"Two streams? I only know about one. Show me."





 

Grant pulled up a series of messages exchanged between Khaled Majed and the mysterious 'OZ.'


 

"Okay, I've seen these," she said. "He must have a mole inside the Emir's office. What about the other one?"

Grant opened a second series of messages. "The messages start in May of last year."
 


May 15, 2020 – Khaled Majed sent to G: "Just installed myself."


September 22, 2020 – Khaled Majed sent to G: "Beginning to convince MF."


September 23, 2020 – Khaled Majed received from G: "Good. Continue to update."


January 15, 2021 – Khaled Majed sent to G: "Please prepare Ahriman."


January 16, 2021 – Khaled Majed received from G: "In progress."


May 10, 2021 – Khaled Majed received from G: "Ahriman to arrive KWT on May 15."


May 15, 2021 – Khaled Majed sent to G: "Ahriman has arrived. Preparations have begun."


June 15, 2021 – Khaled Majed received from G: "Components being delivered."


Petra stared at the stream of messages. "Oh my God." She sat back in her chair thunderstruck.


"What is it? What does that mean?"


Her tone was flat and she shivered. "Ahriman is a Farsi word. It was a name used in Persian mythology."


"And?"


"In Middle Persia, the Ahriman was the spirit of destruction."


"So the spirit of destruction has arrived in Kuwait?" he fumbled.


Petra could barely form the words. "After the June attacks, Agency chatter indicated that a figure called the Ahriman was responsible for what happened at the Suez Canal. We never got anywhere with the intel, so we finally abandoned the project."


Grant's eyes widened. "So the spirit has arrived. Does that mean…?"
"There's going to be an attack here.
 


**********


Salmiya, Kuwait – July 4, 2021
The Ahriman poured exactly 250 grams of the black powder into the top portion of the device he had assembled several days earlier.
 


It's ready, he thought as the powder settled into the bottom of the device. To secure it, he wrapped a few pieces of duct tape around the device and then taped the entire thing to his thigh. When he pulled his dishdasha on afterward, he was satisfied with the concealment. No one at the security gate would notice the device he was carrying. The dewaniya had only one entrance and the guards did not dare search any of the Emir's guests.


Before leaving, he slipped the canister Sarah had given him into his left pocket. Just in case. He surveyed the area to make sure the kitchen was clear of the substances he had made and walked out toward his car. Time for my last dewaniya.


**********


Kuwait City, Kuwait – July 4, 2021
Petra and Grant arrived at the gates to Bayan Palace and each held their breath until one of the guards waved their car through toward the dewaniya.
"Where is the women's event?" he asked.

 


"It's on the other side of the palace. I should have a good excuse to get lost."
"Just be careful, babe. Okay?"
 


She smiled. "Don't worry, anyone who sees me wandering around will take one look at me and direct me over to the women's event."


"Not if it's this Ahriman guy," Grant mumbled under his breath. Petra glanced at him and decided to ignore the comment.


They got out of the car and she readjusted her dress and burka.


"How are you going to approach the men's section?" he asked.


She pulled up the blueprints on her phone, which she had received en route. "The women's event is held over here on the north side of the palace compound. The main dewaniya is here, on the other side. An attic crawl space goes over the main dewaniya with old vented access points here, here, and here. They probably use it for storage. The vents will be covered up inside now because of the air conditioning system, but I'll be able to use my pinhole camera to view the dewaniya. Based on these plans, I can probably enter the attic through one of the access points in the main palace. It looks like there is one in this store room." She pointed at the map to show the entry point to the attic.


"But how are you going to enter the main palace?"


"I'll figure something out."


"I don't like this," Grant said, shaking his head. "When can I get us both back home?"


"Soon, babe. Soon." She reached out and squeezed his hand.


"There's a reason I never had any interest in the field. I was always much happier sitting behind my computer, or even better, reading about every aspect of the history of any random place." His expression brightened momentarily as he pictured himself at a country house pouring over artifacts from an archaeological dig. "Instead, I'm here pretending to be a nonexistent friend of the Crown Prince's son, about to sneak into a dewaniya with my girlfriend to capture an assassin so dangerous that he's named after the Persian spirit of destruction." He banged his head on the headrest a couple of times. "This is exactly what I pictured for our Fourth of July weekend.
She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "It's going to be okay."
 


"I just wish I had more control over this whole damned situation."


"Try not to worry. I'll be fine."


He glared at her for trivializing the situation.

"Grant, I know. I promise I'll be careful."


He studied her for a moment and she looked at him quizzically. "What is it?" she asked.


"Nothing really. I can see why they wanted to send you back into the field. You freaked out for a bit, but now you're so calm."


"I wouldn't have taken this operation if I'd really had the choice." She forced a small smile and tried to focus on the moment instead of letting her mind wander back several years.


"Grant, look at me." She grabbed his other hand and met his eyes. "All you need to do is go straight into the dewaniya. Everyone there will speak English, so don't worry about not being able to speak Arabic. Just take a seat and look around for our future friend Mustafa Mubarak. If there's anything particularly visible about him, try to let me know if you can."


He exhaled sharply. "Okay, I can do that."


"And try not to attract too much attention to yourself. If you think he's suspicious of you, excuse yourself and get out of here. Just let me know as much about him as you can on your way out."


"But then what will you do?"


"I'll improvise." Her eyes softened. "Try not to freak out about what Chris told us either."


He shuddered and looked away.


"What did I tell you? Don't worry! We'll be fine." After glancing around to make sure that no one was watching, she leaned over and gave him a deep kiss. When she pulled away, she tried to give him a reassuring look in spite of her fears.


The combination of her training in how to read people and the time they'd spent together made it easy for her to decipher his expressions. She could tell there were so many questions he wanted to ask her. They were the same ones that she had often asked herself when she started fieldwork. How is it possible to focus without being distracted by emotions? How is it possible to remove emotions all together? The moment passed before either of them could speak their minds.


She fastened her Colt pistol into her calf holster underneath her burka. "Let's get this over with."


**********


 

 

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Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction

 

Coming Soon...

The Ahriman Legacy Book II

After the events of Ahriman: The Spirit of Destruction, Petra Shirazi settles into a life in Paris under the alias of Ana Zagini. Her new world comes crashing down after a visit from a former Agency colleague forces her back into fieldwork. As they race to stop a mole that has infiltrated the Agency, they uncover an insidious plot to destroy the leadership of the International Monetary Fund and place it in the control of a corrupt nuclear power. The investigation spirals downward and she is forced to enlist the help of the Ahriman, now in hiding and presumed dead by most intelligence sources. Together they must face their demons to stop a conspiracy that threatens to bring the world's financial infrastructure to its knees.