Authors: William Mirza,Thom Lemmons
Tags: #Christian, #Islam, #Political, #Fiction, #Suspense, #Historical, #War & Military, #Judaism, #Iranian Revolution, #Cultural Heritage, #Religious Persecution
Ezra went to the desk in his study and slid out the lap drawer. Lying atop the other contents of the drawer was an envelope containing one million
which he had segregated from the rest of the sale proceeds now buried in the basement. Idly he opened the package and riffled through the bank notes. Today he would go to the covered bazaar and buy American dollars. Ten trips he would have to make, to convert all the money in the basement into hard currency. Trying to do the entire job on a single trip would surely arouse suspicion, and probably make him the target of thieves—either official or unofficial.
Moosa came into the study. “What are you doing, Father?”
“Getting ready to go to the bazaar.”
Moosa glanced at the stack of
notes, then back at his father. “Why are you going to the bazaar? The exchange rate at the banks is much more favorable.”
Ezra looked at his son. “If you were in power, and you were worried about people like Ezra Solaiman taking money out of the country, what would be your first act?” Patiently he waited for Moosa’s answer.
His brow wrinkled in confusion, Moosa said, “Outlaw currency conversion?”
Ezra nodded. “Perhaps. Or even more effective, require the banks to maintain a list of all customers who request certain transactions—conversions to American dollars, for example—and to turn this list over to the government upon request. What better way to monitor those who are traveling or doing business abroad? How simple to arrest those whom the government deems ‘enemies of Islam’ and confiscate their currency.”
Moosa scowled at the floor. The phone rang. Ezra picked up the receiver.
“I must speak quickly,” said a muffled voice he did not recognize. “Others may be listening.
have come and arrested Abraham Moosovi. The word is that he will be shot at sunrise tomorrow.”
Ezra felt his face going numb. “Why? For what crime?” he stammered.
“He is accused of giving money to the State of Israel and of being an Israeli spy.”
“But that is preposterous—”
“Yes, but listen,” the voice interrupted, “there’s more. Tudeh operatives have been snooping around this area, asking the whereabouts of the Jewish and Baha’i families. Your name has been given to them.”
Ezra felt his heart come leaping into his throat.
“You must prepare for the worst. That is all I can say.”
“But, wait!” shouted Ezra. “How do you know? When will they—” The line went dead.
Ezra hung up the phone. For ten, twelve heartbeats, he could not move.
“Father! What is it?” cried Moosa, seeing the stricken look on his father’s face.
Unhearing, Ezra sprang into action. Stumbling across the room to a bookshelf, he threw aside several handfuls of books, uncovering a wall safe. “Go find your mother,” he tossed over his shoulder as he frantically dialed the combination. “Tell her to come here.” Flinging open the safe door, he scratched through the documents and valuables in the small space, until with audible sigh of relief, he found the envelope containing the receipt signed by the
for his contribution to the cemetery. He spun about, and saw Moosa still staring, dumbfounded.
“Go, boy!” he lashed, as his son rushed away. As Moosa ran toward the kitchen, he realized it was the first time he had ever heard his father shout.
Esther came into the study as Ezra, seated behind his desk, was spreading the receipt in front of him. Her face went white as he told her of the phone call he had just received.
“Esther, every second is of the essence. This,” he said, indicating the receipt, “could save my life.”
“What is it?” she asked, trying to see the writing.
“Never mind! There is no time to explain. But you must know that if the
come and arrest me, they will certainly search me, and find anything I might try to conceal in a pocket. You must help me find a way to sew this into my clothing so that it cannot be easily discovered. If it is taken from me, I have no hope.”
Esther wavered on her feet, then seemed to catch herself. Nodding, she said, “Do you still have that old pair of black trousers with the watch pocket?”
Slowly Ezra nodded. “I believe so.”
“Good. Get them and bring them to me. I’ll get my sewing basket.” She turned and half ran from the study.
Ezra was standing to leave as Moosa came back into the room. “Moosa,” he said, “I want you to go to the address on Javid Street.” He tore off a corner of notepaper and scribbled a number on it. “This is the home of Mullah Nader Hafizi. You must tell him that I need his help most desperately. Bring him back here with you, if at all possible.”
Moosa nodded, jamming the paper into his pocket as he turned toward the front door. He grabbed a coat and was gone.
Esther ripped at the seam of the watch pocket in a frenzy of haste. She would fashion the pocket into a pouch long enough to conceal the receipt, then baste the flap closed. As she worked, tumultuous thoughts cascaded through her mind.
, she thought,
Ezra’s worst fears are realized.
With vicious suddenness, she knew the measure of her vain hopes. She felt empty, dead inside. He had been right all along. And she was too foolish to accept it. She tried to push from her mind the thought that Ezra might not return from his arrest.
…. She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a sudden sob. Taking several deep breaths, she returned to her work on the pocket.
Over an hour later, the front door opened. Ezra bounded down the stairs to see Moosa coming in—alone.
“Would Hafizi not come?” Ezra asked, the blood freezing in his veins.
Moosa shook his head. “It’s not that. He wasn’t home. I waited by his door for nearly an hour, but no one came. I left a note for him to call.”
“Of course, he has gone with his wife to Isfahan to visit their daughter,” mused Ezra. “Why, on this day of all days? Very well,” he said, returning to himself. “Perhaps he will come back within the next day or so. You must keep trying to reach him, Moosa.”
Moosa nodded. Esther came down the stairs just then, holding the altered trousers for Ezra’s inspection. “Get your paper, Ezra. See if this pocket will serve.” She had made a pouch of a thick material, to mask the cracking of the paper if a guard passed a hand over the concealed pocket. She hoped desperately that the ruse would work.
Ezra went into the study and came out moments later, wearing the dark, nearly threadbare pants. Thoughtfully he ran his hand over the pocket. “I think this will serve, Esther,” he said slowly. “Let’s pray it does.”
Firouz Marandi tapped the driver on the shoulder. “This is the house,” he said. The driver stopped the Mercedes sedan by the curb. Behind them, a van pulled over. Firouz rolled down his window, leaned out, and signaled to the van’s occupants.
The side door of the van slid back, and four
got out, slinging carbines over their shoulders and adjusting their gun belts. They swaggered up to the gate of the large house. One of the guards reached for the latch.
A huge black dog bounded from his kennel, barking furiously and showing his teeth. The guard yanked his hand back from the latch, cursing at the top of his lungs as he fumbled for the snap on the holster at his side.
Ezra heard the commotion and ran to a window. “They’ll shoot Marjan! The fools!” He raced to the front door and threw it open, springing onto the front porch.
“Stop!” he shouted. “Don’t kill the dog! Marjan! Heel!”
Growling and licking his chops, Marjan sank reluctantly to his haunches, never taking his eyes off the strangers who threatened his territory.
Ezra turned his head slightly toward the doorway. “Moosa,” he said softly, “don’t come outside. Don’t show yourself. Do you understand me?” He heard the door click quietly closed behind him. Slowly Ezra descended the front steps and paced toward the front gate.
“Marjan,” he commanded when he reached the dog, “kennel.” Whining and glancing backward frequently, the dog retraced the path to his lair, clearly unwilling to leave his master alone with intruders.
When the dog had entered his kennel, Ezra turned to face the four surly guards. He managed a weak smile. “My apologies, gentlemen,” he began. “Marjan is trained to react somewhat suddenly to guests who do not ring the buzzer.” He indicated the electric button set into the wall by the entrance.
“Are you Ezra Solaiman?” growled one of the
“We have orders to arrest you and bring you before a tribunal of the Holy Revolution. You are accused of crimes against Allah and the Imam.”
Ezra eyes went wide. “I … I don’t understand! I have never—”
“Shut up, Jew!” said another of the bearded guards. “We don’t have all day to make conversation. Get out here before we shoot you where you stand!”
Ezra felt the world spinning out of control. Darkness was closing in at the edges of his vision before he managed to catch himself, leaning weakly against the wall by the gate. Panting for air, he said, “May I … may I at least go into the house and tell my wife good-bye?”
The patrol commander considered a moment. Grudgingly, he said, “All right. But you can’t go inside. Stay on the porch where we can see you, or we’ll come inside—and we’ll do worse than shoot your dog.”
Ezra nodded, still trying to regain his breath. He turned and slowly made his way up the brick walkway, climbing the front steps with leaden feet.
The door opened and Esther stood there, her face a red, wet mask of misery. “Ezra,” she moaned, “what will happen?”
“They are taking me away—immediately. I’m accused of crimes against Allah.”
“Dogs!” hissed Moosa, standing just behind his mother. Fists and teeth clenched, he growled, “I’ll kill every last—”
“Stop!” whispered Ezra. “Stay back, Moosa! If they see you, they may arrest you on the spot! There isn’t time for threats. You must watch out for your mother and sister while I am … away.” The eyes of the father locked with his son’s. Moosa stood panting as tears of useless rage ran down his face. After almost a full minute, he wheeled and walked away.
Esther came into her husband’s arms. “My dearest love,” Ezra whispered into her moist check, “take heart. I am not entirely helpless, and perhaps Hafizi will return. Listen carefully. You must have Moosa go to the bazaar and convert the money. He must not take more than a million
at a time. You will find one million
in a desk drawer in the study. Use this as bribes for the
, if they come back. Give them a little at a time, and perhaps they will leave you alone.”
He felt her shuddering with silent sobs as he held her. His own throat closing with emotion, he whispered, “There is much to do. Stay busy. When I come back, I will expect a full report.” He forced a flickering smile through the choking anguish in his heart, as he gently raised her chin. She managed a tentative nod before burying her face again in his chest.
After a final, lingering embrace, he turned to go. “Wait!” said Esther, ducking quickly into the house. She reappeared, carrying his warmest coat. “You may need this.”
He took the coat from her, dragging his gaze away from her weeping face with great difficulty. Slowly he trudged toward the waiting
. Reaching the gate, Ezra turned for a last look at the house. He saw an upstairs curtain move almost imperceptibly. Opening the gate, he stepped outside.
In the car, Firouz watched in satisfaction as the
shoved Ezra into the van. He leaned back in the seat. “Drive on,” he said, and the sedan slowly moved away from the curb.