"This is wrong for you to be in this car with me," I again complained. "I am a single woman."

"We are not infidels," the man in the front seat remarked gruffly, turning around.

"I'm not an infidel either," I exclaimed. "I love God." He looked at me with disgust.

In another few minutes, we arrived at a building in the center of Kabul. Behind the building's high wall I could see rows of black Toyota pickup trucks, the Taliban's vehicle of choice. As Abdul brought the taxi to a stop, I saw Taliban armed with guns and whips circling the area.

The man in the front seat took my bag and rifled through it. "It is not here," I heard a man say. "It must be with the other one. Someone will have to go back." He then got out of our car, walked over to the accompanying truck, and exchanged his skullcap for a turban. Some men moved me to another vehicle, and Abdul drove away in his taxi.

This government building was in a somewhat busy area next to a city park. Civilians walking by looked into the car at me. I hoped another foreigner or someone I recognized would pass by and notice me. I tried to recall every Bible verse about fear that I knew. I quietly sang songs to God. Remembering the whip on the man's lap, I said, "Oh Lord, please get Heather out of there."

Heather: After I hugged and kissed the Aasmir women, Aly walked me out into the courtyard. His little body swayed under the weight of Dayna's computer bag as he tried to stand up straight. None of the other children accompanied us. They usually mobbed me all the way out to my taxi, pleading with me to take them along while their mothers waved goodbye from the door. On this day, however, Aly and I went alone.

From the courtyard gate, I could not see who was out on the street, so I asked Aly to look for any Taliban guards who might be loitering by the neighborhood grocery stands at the bottom of the road. He would not go into the street by himself. Perhaps he does not understand me, I thought. My Farsi skills, elementary as they were, did not always serve me well. Since I was already late for my six o'clock staff meeting, I gave up trying to explain again and went ahead. There won't be anyone on the road, I told myself.

The day was exceptionally warm, and the neighborhood seemed subdued. It was Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, and few people were on the street. I was tired from a long day of activity but anxious to see my friends at the meeting in Wazir. Aly followed me halfway to my taxi and passed me the computer. Then we said goodbye. I walked the rest of the way down to where Abdul was waiting and got into the back seat.

"How long have you been here?" I asked Abdul regretfully. I had planned to be out by 5:30 so I could get to the meeting on time, but it was already a few minutes after six. I wanted to pay Abdul for the extra time, but he did not answer my question. He glanced at me in the rearview mirror; our eyes connected. His face, taut and pale, wore an odd expression. How strange he won't answer me, I thought. I decided I would ask him about the money again when we arrived at the meeting, only a few blocks away.

Abdul and I wended our way out of the Sherpur neighborhood, bumping along the unpaved road at 20 miles an hour. Suddenly we stopped and a man in civilian clothes climbed into the front seat.

"Who is this?" I asked Abdul. "What's going on?" No answer. The other man glanced back at me; we turned to Abdul, and they began talking. Why was Abdul allowing a strange man to ride with me? Perhaps the stranger was Abdul's relative, maybe his brother. After all, Abdul had stopped the car to let him in. I waited attentively to see what would happen next.

We had traveled only several more feet when Abdul slowed again and another man, also in civilian dress, got into the car, this time in the back seat with me. The man was tall with a narrow face and a large, protruding nose. In his hand was a walkie-talkie. Immediately, I knew the men had come for me.

"Who are these men?" I asked Abdul. "This is not permitted. I'm late for a meeting. I will find another taxi to take me."

Everything was happening so fast. Were these men kidnapping me? Only days earlier, an Afghan man had pinned me to a wall in our neighborhood as Dayna and I were walking to a prayer meeting. Did these men, too, intend to harm me? Would they try to rape me?

The car came to a stop, and I nonchalantly opened the door. The big-nosed man next to me grabbed my arm as I stepped out. I thought I might be able to run down a familiar side street and cut back over to Wazir Akhbar Khan, the neighborhood where we lived. Then I looked around.

Pulling out in front of us was a Corolla station wagon full of Taliban. I could see their oversized turbans through the vehicle's tinted windows.

Abdul had stopped right next to the Taliban check post, and nearly a dozen men surrounded me. Some were armed with Kalashnikovs. I scanned the area. A few men from the neighborhood lingered in the street, but none offered to help. I did not see anyone from the Aamir household, no familiar faces. My choices were limited: I could run and risk getting shot or return to the car. The taxi door was still open, so I got back inside.