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This book is a work of fiction. Places,
events and situations in this story are purely fictional and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
© 2006 by K
All Rights Reserved..
No part of this
book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted by any means without the written permission of the
“Mohammad Achmed al Hadi is wise to recognize that a man in his
position breathes precarious existence,” murmured Rashid al Sadun,
lowering his head and eyes to confirm the utmost of respect. Their
discourse, he knew, was low; still it seemed to rumble like distant
thunder among the late-night shadows discarded by marble pillars.
Even the lush, hand-woven carpet unfurled on the tiled floor and the
blue and gold brocade pillows upon which Rashid and his master sat,
failed to suppress their voices.
prepared for the black day,” murmured al Hadi, gazing up at the gold
leaf ceiling aglitter like the desert sky at midnight.
Rashid eyed his master. His heart thumped against his breastbone,
resounding like a great gong. “My master is too resigned to fate.”
of detachment had been Rashid’s since being taken from his parents
as a child; although servitude to Mohammad Achmed al Hadi and the
royal family had allayed that fear. Al Hadi had become a father to
the protector, a protector of the protector; and therefore, worthy
of protecting, worthy of dying for; and here laid Rashid’s
complicated fear of detachment.
father’s need to protect his seed requires sacrifice,” murmured al
Hadi. The sleeve of his white samite aba swayed as his left palm
gestured to the rhythm of his words. His right hand lay flat upon
the fine embroidery trim that cascaded down the breast of the
garment. On his third finger the signet ring, which had been handed
down through generations of rule, glistened in the low light as did
the agal that held his keffiyeh in place. “Without trepidation I
accept the forthcoming cloudburst of evil, for the ensuing flood
cannot be outrun.”
Position stipulated that Rashid was not to question, so he fiddled
with the signet ring on his left hand, a smaller version of al
Hadi’s. At the first sign of trouble, he thought, I shall
shed this white linen robe for the more practical outfit beneath.
Occasion has called for me to do so before. But these sandals….
Despite the fact that they are made of the finest of camel hide—most
certainly, not as fine as the goatskin sandals worn by my
master—they limit mobility.
“Certain African countries offer safe harbors for those in my
position,” continued al Hadi. “However, I do not underestimate the
vulnerability that bribery begets.”
“Bribery is a useful tool,” whispered Rashid. “I myself use bribery
as a means to an end.”
Hadi gave a light nod. “Sharp-wittedness and devotion have made
Rashid my most trusted protector. Alas, all that Rashid is will be
of no use when the black moment is at hand. Therefore, Rashid is no
longer my protector.”
Hadi elevated his left palm. “Rashid must survive…at all
costs…survive to protect my survivors.”
tremor wracked Rashid’s five-foot-nine frame. Thankfully, my
master is too busy with that map to notice my weakness.
Spreading a world map on the floor, al Hadi said, “Muted Middle
Eastern features render Rashid ideal for the task at hand.”
“Mohammad Achmed al Hadi honors this humble servant,” murmured
Rashid, again bowing head and eyes. Curiosity pricked him like
thorns. My Master withholds the rage of a volcano nearing
eruption, strangled by a higher power.
Hadi took a pocket-sized pointer from beneath his aba and unfolded
it. “Rashid will smuggle my survivors along this route.” The pointer
crept upon the map like slow-moving lava. “Across the great breast
of Africa to Liberia, the bastard colony of the United States. At
Robertsfield Airport, you are to board a plane.” The pointer arced
across the Atlantic. “This is the destination.” As the pointer
rapped on a spot on the North American Continent, Rashid gasped.
believe that capitalistic interests motivate my assassination,”
murmured al Hadi.
do I,” agreed Rashid, much too hasty, much too loud for decorum,
much too loud for this night.
Hadi’s left eye narrowed upon Rashid and then scanned the shadows.
Once again, focus fell upon Rashid. An anxious moment passed. Al
Hadi nodded. And relief sheeted over Rashid.
better spider hole exists,” said al Hadi, “in which to hide my
survivors than beneath the bloated infidel’s nose.”
Pace response, Rashid admonished himself. He sucked in a breath
then said, “I am in agreement.”
Hadi pulled a white folder from beneath his aba. “Memorize this
information, now, in my presence.”
Rashid hesitated then took the folder, opened it, and removed the
contents one piece at a time. “Assets. Diamonds. Gold. Precious
commodities.” He looked up at al Hadi. “All untraceable.”
Hadi nodded. “As are the listed charities, which I created to
provide additional funds should the need arise.”
Rashid tapped his right index finger on his bottom lip. “Mohammad
Achmed al Hadi has cornered the market.”
bountiful life for those who survive me,” murmured al Hadi. “When
Rashid is certain the information is forever his, I will destroy all
trace of it. Rashid will begin at once to gather supplies into
backpacks and bury them here.” He tapped the pointer on a spot at
the border of his kingdom. “Rashid and the al Hadi dynasty must
become skilled in the language of the infidels. Upon my death,
ancestral robes will be cast off. Raven locks that make our kind
pious will be cropped.” He handed Rashid a black leather briefcase
with gold features, which included the name Aranea. “Keep this at
your fingertips at all times. Necessary travel papers are in it.
Rashid will become American Timothy Aranea, uncle to my survivors
who will also carry the surname Aranea. I have given each an
American first and middle name.”
so the dawning of Mohammad Achmed al Hadi’s fiftieth year, the
nineteenth day of the third month in 1972, the assassination came to
pass, a carnage beyond measure, meant to send the Middle East the
message: submit to the Great Eagle or else. Rashid eluded death by
taking refuge behind a pillar. A blade to an assassin’s throat
provided a sand-colored cloak, antelope hide trousers, and desert
boots—and the means to escape the palace and the sandstone village.
Camouflaged within the worst sandstorm in decades, Rashid hastened
to a boarding school in a far-off southern republic and retrieved
his master’s only survivor, a son whose brazenness and insolence had
made him less favored not only in his father’s eyes but also
Rashid’s. Brazenness and insolence was the reason the boy had been
sent away. Rashid was of the mind that the boy was inherently evil.
Evil revealed itself in the boy’s eyes since first opening at birth.
Whenever in the boy’s presence, unsettledness roiled in Rashid’s
belly. All that must now be put aside, he commanded of
ceasing of the sandstorm plus a full moon forced night travel in the
shade of dunes. At the border Rashid dug up the backpacks. After
consolidating supplies into two packs, he reburied the surplus,
including his and the boy’s signet rings. Nearing Liberia, he shaved
his beard, cut his and the boy’s hair, and used a stripping agent to
lighten their hair. Rashid traded desert attire for a button-down
shirt, tie, and pleated pants. The boy donned jeans, light blue polo
shirt, and loafers. Wearing glasses, though neither needed them,
Timothy and Jonathan Aranea appeared to be Americans flying into
Canada, purchasing a red Detroit economy car, and driving across the
border into New Hampshire.