Authors: Sarah Black
5032 Capital Circle SW
Suite 2, PMB# 279
Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari
© 2013 Sarah Black.
© 2013 Paul Richmond.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62798-208-5
Printed in the United States of America
General John Mitchel:
John Mitchel is a retired army brigadier general, a scholar and leader. His last assignment before retirement was for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he made his reputation as a man who could find peaceful solutions to some of the world’s thorniest problems. After retirement he brought his skills and knowledge to the academic world, and, at the urging of his longtime lover, Gabriel Sanchez, took the first steps out of the closet.
The Horse-Lord, Gabriel Sanchez:
A legend among the wild brotherhood of helicopter pilots for his daring and bravery, Gabriel Sanchez was the man who had John Mitchel’s back during twenty-five years of military service. He also had John’s heart and loved him with great passion. After the army, Gabriel went to law school, took the bar in Albuquerque. He convinced John the time was right for them to step out of the shadows and love in the light.
John’s beloved nephew, adopted from a Korean orphanage when he was six months old. An artist, Kim has a wild and brilliant mind, and John spends much of his waking time wondering what Kim is up to and how to keep him safe.
The son of John’s old professor. Gabriel and John rescued Abdullah from war-torn Kuwait when he was a child. A cellist with the San Francisco Symphony, Abdullah has been roped into one of Kim’s projects.
A young art student, Billy lives with John and Gabriel since his attack by an abusive professor several months earlier.
Billy’s father and a former world champion bull rider, Cody Dial is a man of action, not words. He has a cattle ranch in Cheyenne.
Gabriel’s wife, Martha is furious and heartbroken since he asked her for a divorce. She doesn’t give a shit if John and Gabriel have been in love for twenty-five years, but she is trying to keep it together for the kids.
Gabriel’s son is fifteen, and he’s having a crisis of his own.
Martie thought the whole thing was cool until she realized her dad was actually moving out of the house.
General David Painter:
A former colleague of John’s, David Painter hires him to head up a rescue mission for a couple of his men thrown into prison in Tunisia.
The Wardroom in Tunisia:
A former Ranger, Sam is roped into duty as General Mitchel’s aide.
General Painter’s daughter, Jen has been in Tunisia, developing a network for pro-democracy women bloggers. She thinks it’s her fault the guys were thrown into prison.
Eli Hannibal Green:
Beaten up and thrown in prison for blasphemy, Eli just wanted to look at a picture of the elephant clock on his first trip to Carthage.
Eli’s best friend, he went along for the trip and to watch his buddy’s back. He’s looked up to the Horse-Lord since he was a kid.
Wylie and Jackson:
USMC, assigned to the embassy, they provide security at critical moments.
Friendlies in Tunisia:
Regional security officer at the US embassy in Tunis.
Head of station for the US embassy, Tunis.
a man of great heart and bravery, father to Amira, a pro-democracy blogger on the run from the Salafists, and also the father to the young doctor who came to the prisoners’ aid.
The director of the Bardo Museum, Ibrahim ibn Saeed ibn Ahmad al-Aziz:
A man of great wisdom and learning, he offers his hand to Eli and Daniel and helps them bring a sky full of color and joy to Carthage.
Bad Guys in Tunisia:
Ali Bahktar and his gang of Salafist thugs and bullies:
Ali has been a thorn in John’s backside since he was a teenager.
studied the candy-colored sky, raspberry pink edging to smudgy purple, the color of a grape lollipop. The colors reminded him of Turkish delight, a candy he’d been offered once in a Bedouin’s tent. He’d been there to negotiate passage for troops and troop trucks over the old man’s lands. It was rumored that the Bedouin was somehow involved in the nasty little conflict that had disrupted the flow of food aid to the region. John had been sent in to stomp on the sparks before civilian casualties escalated.
The old man’s grandson had filled two cups with mint tea so sweet John could smell the sugar over the dust and sun-warmed canvas of the tent. Then he’d offered the plate of Turkish delight with a flourish and a bow. The boy had black liquid eyes, long, thick lashes, and John had felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Eyes that beautiful and dark should have been filled with warmth, but the boy was young and didn’t know how to hide what was in his heart. John had watched the boy slide his hand down his leg, clutch the bronze dagger in the top of his boot and pull it free.
Then Gabriel was there, quiet as smoke, his rifle cradled in his arms, and the boy froze. John set his teacup down, refusing the Bedouin’s hospitality. It was an insult, a hard line drawn in the sand, nearly as hard a line as the one drawn when your grandson cut someone’s throat over a plateful of Turkish delight. The old man had eyes like the boy, a raptor’s eyes, cold and wet and black. John stood up, backed out of the tent without a word, and Gabriel spread his arms, the rifle in one big hand. No one could mistake the gesture. It said,
No one touches him. You come through me to get to him
They were in Gabriel’s chopper, heading back to base, before John spoke. “What were you doing? You just spread your arms wide, showing your big chest to a little shit with a knife in his boot.”
Gabriel glanced over at him. “He was a backstabber. Not the man who would look you in the face and throw a knife. I was just showing him that I knew what he was.”
“Thank you for saving my ass.” John closed his eyes, let himself feel the weariness that seemed to have settled across his lower back. “I was sitting cross-legged and my left foot had gone to sleep. It might have been touch and go if I’d had to run.”
Gabriel’s eyes were dark as the night sky, warm and full of stars and so beautiful they caused an ache in John’s chest when he looked into them.
“My pleasure, General Mitchel. Call on me anytime.”
stared down into the cold frame. The basil seedlings looked ready to come out into the big world, taste the cool night air. Gabriel walked across the yard in jeans and his favorite tee shirt that said
First, Kill All the Lawyers
. He slung an arm around John’s shoulder. “Hey, boss. You up for a steak?”
“I could eat a steak.” He turned his face up to the sky again. “It looks like Turkish delight, doesn’t it?”
Gabriel pulled John back to his chest, wrapped both arms around him in a gesture that was both protective and involuntary. “Yes, it does.”
“Abdullah is coming.” The words seemed to float in the air, and John looked up into the tree behind them.
“Is that the voice of God, or is Billy up there?”
A tiny figure drifted down from among the leaves, a spider or a hummingbird, attached to a string. When it got closer, John could see it was an origami bluebird, no bigger than a quarter. He studied the tree, and after a few moments, he could see Billy’s blue eyes staring down at them.
“There you are. Billy, what are you doing?”
“Research,” he said, and he swung his legs around until he was sitting on the branch.
Gabriel reached his arms up, and Billy slid off the branch and into his arms. He set the boy down on the ground. “What kind of research?”
“Camouflage. What it feels like.” He was wearing an old pair of jungle camo pants and a brown tee shirt, with a brown ski cap pulled low over his bright-blond hair.
John thought he recognized the camo as the old gardening clothes that had gone missing from the laundry basket. “So what do you think?”
“It feels safe, being invisible,” Billy said. “These clothes make me feel a little safer. A little stronger. That may be because they belong to you. Possibly it’s a combination of them being your clothes and the feeling of invisibility.”
John and Gabriel exchanged a look, and Gabriel pulled Billy in for a hug. Billy snuggled happily, rested his head on Gabriel’s chest. He’d been the victim of a particularly nasty attack by an older man he was dating, and John thought he was still a little fearful, still in hiding, his wildly blooming flower of a personality a shade more quiet and cautious than it had been before. He had taken to roaming around Albuquerque at night on his bicycle. John wasn’t sure if he felt safer in the dark or if he was trying to force himself to face the dangers of nighttime.