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Authors: Gerald Seymour

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BOOK: A Line in the Sand
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without fear had stepped forward and Nizam al-Mulk was

young man

stabbed to death as he was carried in a litter to his wives' tent.

Hasan-i-Sabah had inscribed, "The killing of this devil is the beginning of bliss."

The words had been written 906 years before, in the place where the man

now sat. Every wall of the mountain fortress constructed by

Hasan-i-Sabah was now broken. It was the eighth time he had climbed the mountain, taken the narrow path used only by the sheep, wild goats ging wolves over the scree slope.

and fora

The drop beneath him did


frighten him, but if he had slipped on any of those climbs he would ed.

have di

He was two thousand metres above sea level, perched on


small rock high over the valley. It was where he found strength.

the fallen stones of the fortress, it was difficult for him



imagine it as it had been. In the valley had been the Garden of

Paradise. In the fortress had been the discipline of self-sacrifice and obedience. The young men who gazed down on the garden and learned skills in the fortress were the Fida'is. Their trade was


killing. They understood their duty, and the personal sacrifice it ed.


They yearned for their reward, a place in the Garden of

Paradise, where there were groves of sweet fruit trees, clear


streams and women of great beauty. He had slept in a tent by a small fire, and at dawn had packed up and started his climb on the path


the scree. Whether in sunshine, or in the winter's mists, whether the

snow had fallen and the path was treacherous, he made that pilgrimage to the destroyed fortress. He would reach it and sit for hours with the silence of the valley below him and consider the mission he had been given, the requirement for obedience and self-sacrifice, and


sun lowered or the clouds

reward of a martyr's glory. When the


rkened, he would make the call on the digital phone given him by



was like a father to him

man who

, like Hasan-i-Sabah had been to the

each the

Fida'is, and he would start the descent. He would r

ur-wheel-drive vehicle as darkness fell and drive back to the camp fo


asvin, he would start on his journey as, long ago,

Qasvin. From Q


had started theirs.


atter with it?"

"What's the m

down his fork noisily.

He put

t it good enough for you?"


away the plate. Now he looked down at the table mat.

He pushed

t's not much it's what Stephen likes. A bit late to start


complaining, you've had it before."

He'd cut through half a sausage and eaten it. He'd forked a few



and hardly any of the beans.

hat's the problem, Frank?"


ad cleared his plate.

Her boy h

He had a muted fear in his eyes, a

ild's loathing of adults' argument.


t's not much, but I had a long day.

"All right, i

I did that typing...

Come on, Frank, what's it about?"

d it from side to side.

He shook his head, jerke


"Are you ill? Do you want an aspirin

Again he shook his head, more slowly.

"For God's sake, Frank, what is going on?"

There was the violent scrape of Stephen's chair as the boy fled the he clatter of his feet on the stairs. Then his bedroom

kitchen, t




w what?

"You kno

He did really well in his English assessment, better

than he's done before. He was bubbling to tell you but he didn't


the chance, did he? Come on, Frank, you're always so good with him."

His head was sunk in his hands.

They hadn't spoken, not properly, since she had come home and had

zed the lie.


She had been in the kitchen, doing the typing


Peggy before cooking supper, and he had been in the living room.

He still hadn't put a light on. He had turned his chair away from the

unit fire and the television so that he could sit and stare out of the



Dusk had come early and he hadn't drawn the curtains. He

he far side.

gazed out on to the green and the street-light on t




did, or opened the

not listened to the news bulletin, as he usually

per she had brought him.




had never known him lie, and she felt a desperate anxiety. When

she had met Frank Perry, four years before, she had been a single



without a name for her son's father, working in a small company

in east London, pushing paper, when he had come to advise on the

ng required for the heating system in the old factory floor.


He'd made her laugh, and, God, it had been a long time since anyone had. Next week, when Donna came to babysit, they were going



ate the fourth anniversary, 3 April, since she and Stephen

to celebr


village with their cases, all that they owned, and moved

come to the

into the house that she and Frank had found. Living here, with him, e said, had given her and Stephen the best years of their

she would hav


She touched and tugged at her fair hair nervously.

"Is it about me?"


She took Stephen's plate, stacked it under hers.

"Is it about him? Has he said something done something?"



"It's about you?"

"My problem," he said. His words were muffled through his hands.

"Aren't you going to tell me?"

"When I'm ready."

She was up from the table, carrying away the plates.

"Of course, we're not husband and wife. We're only man and woman with


a bastard child. Makes a difference, doesn't it

bish, don't hurt yourself."

"Don't talk such rub

t talk about? Is it that

"Frank, look at me. Is it what we don'

forbidden area, the past? Two men came, and you lied. Did they come out of the past?"

He pushed back his chair, took the plates from her and put them in the

sink. He held her close against him and his hands were gentle on


hair. He kissed her eyes as tears welled.

"Just give me time, please .. . I have to have time." He gave her his

handkerchief, then went upstairs to Stephen's room to ask about his assessment.


She tipped the food from his plate into the bin, wiped the table,


went back to typing the Institute's minutes and the details of the Wildlife Field Day and the Red Cross bring-and-buy morning.

She heard him talking with her boy. Because two men had come from the

past and he had lied, she thought, somewhere in the darkness outside there was danger.

the window

vious evening, four men and a woman from the

The pre



d been brought in a closed lorry to the camp at Qasvin.




was the corpses of executed criminals -rapists, drug-dealers and

murderers that were dumped at the Abyek camp, but because the four men

and one woman were filth and apostates they were alive. He had heard them singing in their cell in the night, low, chanting voices.

They had headed north from the training base in southern Iraq and

crossed the frontier in the mountains between Saqqez and Mahabad,


been ambushed by the pasdars. Most of the raiding party had fled, but

five had been captured. After interrogation, trial and sentence,


had been brought to the Abyek camp at Qasvin.

Normally the corpses were propped against bare wood chairs or low


of sandbags but once, when an airforce officer had been found guilty of

spying for the Great Satan, he had been offered as live target


It was not a camp like a military compound but was constructed as


small town, on the outskirts of Qasvin. It was a miniature Babel, for

the recruits spoke in many dialects, with a sprawl of concrete houses and shops, a market that sold vegetables, meat and rice, and a mosque.

For many years the Abyek camp had deceived the spy satellites of the Americans, but no longer. Now there was stricter security around


perimeter and greater caution on all methods of communication. Only the best, the most determined, of the Palestinians, Lebanese, Turks, Saudis, Algerians and Egyptians were brought to the camp to finish their training.

Many came to watch, marshalled by their instructors into small groups of their own nationality. In front of them, in the sand scape that stretched to the perimeter wire and then the open country, were the low

heaps of sandbags and the chairs. He wore a scarf across his face.

most dedicated and determined of the recruits might be

Even the

captured, interrogated, might not have the resolve of those who had m the mountain at Alamut.

gone fro

He did not cock his Kalashnikov


automatic rifle until the terrorists were brought out from their cell and were within hearing range of the metal scrape. They were not


They were led to the chairs and the sandbags. Their ankles were not tied. The airforce officer who had spied for the Great Satan had


to run, which had made for a better shot. It would be good if some of

them ran. They were between thirty metres and a hundred metres from him. They were denounced by the commander of the camp, who read from a

page of text. There was a silence and the sun caught their bared


shot two with a short burst and saw them spill over, dead.


He fired a long burst into another, a dozen rounds, and watched as the

body kicked in spasm. He used many shots on the fourth man, but his mind was clear enough to reckon when he had one bullet left. She


furthest away, the last. She stared back at him. None of the men had

the satisfaction of running, and neither did she.

given him

He shot

her in the forehead, and she fell backwards. There was applause.


weapon, and walked away.

cleared his

As the recruits blasted at the corpses it hardened them to fire at real

bodies he made a call on his digital telephone. He was ready to begin rney.

his jou

ashion it out of nothing.

"I cannot f

I can only pass on what I've


ven by the Americans, and I've done that.


I've gone to the edge


it. If you can't shift him, that's your problem."

my rem

Flowers had cycled over from Vauxhall Bridge Cross to Thames


House; a rucksack and a mauve helmet sat beside her chair. It was the

end of her day and she was tired, Geoff Markham thought. She wanted out and the ride home. She was older than him, and more senior. She didn't acknowledge his presence. He sat at the far end of the table e minutes of the meeting.

and took th

ust go over the ground once more.

"May I j

Stop me if I'm wrong. We


have FBI material.." on a raid into the Saudi deserts, following an

intercepted but scrambled telephone link. They miss their target


retrieve sheets of burned paper, which are sent to their laboratories for examination."

Barnaby Cox was a high-flier, and Geoff Markham had heard it said


enough that promotion had come too fast for his slender ability. He headed G Branch, with responsibility for the prevention of Islamic terrorism and subversive activity in the United Kingdom. His route to

survival, as Markham had heard it, was a dogged pursuit of detail

and a

fierce avoidance of decision-taking. The weight of responsibility had

prematurely aged his features and greyed his hair.

what I told you yesterday afternoon, Barney. Their

"Which is


th the name of Frank Perry, in capitals, roman characters,

came up wi


time, and a wharf number in the port at Abu Dhabi, in arabic.

date and

sition located as

There was a secondary call the next day from a po

d-Gulf, between Abu Dhabi and Bandar Abbas.


The Americans checked

the name Frank Perry with their own computers, drew blank, tried us.


registered, it's what I told you yesterday."

It was not Harry Fenton's style to show deference to the younger man leapfrogged him on the advancement ladder.

who had

Fenton was back


d trusted home territory.

tried an

He had private means and didn't


pension, but he had failed that day and there was an

about the

exaggerated edge to his voice. Geoff Markham doodled on his pad,

ng for something of value to note.


I'm given facts from which a threat-level assessment can be


BOOK: A Line in the Sand
11.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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