For this Guest Photographer & Short Story Series project, the guests were asked to submit three sets of photographs, the choice was entirely theirs and were not confined to any particular genre or theme. The short stories that ensue are based on the set of photos submitted, and the title of the photograph is imbedded in the story. The project has been dormant for a while but it is back with the Class of 2020, as a tribute to the outstanding work of the photographers and a celebration of enduring friendship!
Isma Ortiz has been a freelance photographer for the past 25 years. Based in Madrid and specialising in documentary photography, Isma’s cross-border non-profit work covers Spain and other countries around the globe, both on private initiative or as part of a collaborative team. A graphic designer and visual storyteller by heart, his interplay of light, shadow, colour and emotion, take you on a soulful journey. Click HERE for Isma’s portfolio.
Making his way through the dark corridors of the monastery, the solitary monk navigated his way to the far end of the building as quietly and swiftly as possible. Earlier that afternoon he had managed to convince the librarian to hand over the keys for the night, claiming he had to prepare for an upcoming talk to a group of foreigners next week. He could have just as easily taken the books to his room and work there, but there was no internet connection in any of the rooms, only the library and the secretariat. For what he wanted to do that night, the secretariat office was too risky, not to mention too public as well.
Locking the door behind him, Ethan extricated his laptop from his robes and connected the ether net cable. Wifi was out fo the question in these parts, so he had to go old-school, which was still better than nothing. It had been over three days since he was last online and had to check in with all his business partners to make sure everything was running smoothly. Although The Brotherhood* had sent him undercover for three years outside of the UK, the rest of his machinery was very much alive and kicking. Perversion and extortion were his game, and he had amassed millions over the years, expanding he network from simple online romance scams to BDSM dungeons all across Europe, transgender prostitution, and pornography. Sex and perversion sell, and he had learned to make the most of it, enjoying every minute watching other scream in agony or writhe in shame. Preying of the vulnerability of others was what he did best, and just because he was currently wearing his monk robes didn’t mean he was about to stop. Having reached the Crossed Roads of his career, and beginning to get restless, Ethan ventured into the more sophisticated and challenging parts of worldwide organised crime: human trafficking, weapons smuggling and organ harvesting going through great lengths to recruit the best among the worst. Myint Thein was one of three commanders who ran operations for him, specialising in human trafficking and organ harvesting in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Like Ethan, Myint Thein had a vast network which was able to infiltrate any organisation at any level, and in any country, using locals so that there would never be a cultural or language barrier. Money was not an issue, and no expense was spared in strategically placing the informants in government institutions, the NGOs, the medical network, and the transportation conglomerates. Everybody and their uncle was well paid, and traitors were eliminated on the spot.
Ethan wanted things to move faster in order to always remain ahead of the competition, but things in Ghana seemed to have reached a snag by way of Simon Roberge and his assistant Mary Asare. They were the only cell that had not delivered the required organs, falling far behind their counterparts in Nigeria, Angola and Egypt. It was time to put them under serious pressure, beginning with Mary’s family. She had two daughters aged 14 and 16 who could easily disappear In a Puff of Smoke. Simon would be even easier. He had a dirty little secret on the side that was draining all his savings. The high-functioning development worker and respected economist loved his cocaine a little too much, and it led him down the dark world of pedophilia.
Across the lake, Myint Thein pushed the woman roughly off his bed. She was barely conscious and was bleeding in various places. Though she claimed to be strong and flexible, that night she was tired, unwell, and perhaps not in the best of conditions to be whipped, trampled and repeatedly abused by eight others. Kicking her hard in her abdomen before bashing her head against the chair, Myint Thein lit a cigarette and contemplated his next move. Ethan had given him his marching orders and he had to get on a plane in three hours. It was going to be a long flight and could probably sleep en route. Looking down at Khin Win, he thought to himself that her hands looked much older than the rest of her body. It seemed as though they had gone through A Lifetime of their own. Coughing on his own smoke, he shouted for someone to clean her up change her clothes before returning her to the factory. After all, she too had to report for duty.
Khin Win gazed at herself looked in the mirror and smiled to herself. More than thirty years had passed since that dreadful night with Myint Thein. It was the last time she had ever seen him and there was not a day she regretted having serviced his most trusted bodyguards and orchestrating Myint Thein’s downfall Head On. It took a lot of humiliating nights to build up their trust, but eventually she had them all eating out her palm like docile doves, eager to teach her about the business, and everything they had learned from the time they were in the special forces. Together they waited patiently for the right moment to make their move.
Since Myint Thein always travelled the globe with his entire security detail, they were all privy to the plans, even the unannounced side trips that ensued whenever someone took his fancy. It was during the visit to Ghana that the perfect opportunity presented itself, far better than Khin Win and her cohorts could ever have planned. Simon had insisted on piloting the Cesna himself, with Mary and Myint Thein as passengers in order to conduct their confidential business onboard and not run the risk of being overheard. The rest of the security team was instructed to follow in a second plane a few minutes later. The Cesna never landed, having exploded dramatically in mid-air somewhere over Kumasi, and aviation authorities never recovered the complete remains of the three passengers.
Khin Win took another puff of her cigarette, and threw her head back with laughter. Oh yes, and Ethan eventually made it out of Myanmar as well, but in instalments, parts of him dropped unceremoniously into a pig’s farm, and the rest into a pool of hungry sharks in the middle of the Indian ocean. Life was good and business was booming.
* for the back story of The Brotherhood, please read The John Harper Series: Poisoned Web – Finale