I grew up in Toronto, mostly.
And before that?
Amman when I was very young. Then a year in Hamburg. Im a Palestinian, Professor. My home is a suitcase.
Massoudi made a sudden turn off Woburn Place, into the tangle of side streets of St. Pancras. After a few paces he slowed and looked over his shoulder. The man in the oilskin coat had crossed the street and was following after him.
HE QUICKENED his pace, made a series of turns, left and right. Here a row of mews houses, here a block of flats, here an empty square littered with dead leaves. Massoudi saw little of it. He was trying to keep his orientation. He knew Londons main thoroughfares well enough, but the backstreets were a mystery to him. He threw all tradecraft to the wind and made regular glances over his shoulder. Each glance seemed to find the man a pace or two closer.
He came to an intersection, looked left, and saw traffic rushing along the Euston Road. On the opposite side, he knew, lay Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations. He turned in that direction, then, a few seconds later, glanced over his shoulder. The man had rounded the corner and was coming after him.
He began to run. He had never been much of an athlete, and years of academic pursuits had robbed his body of fitness. The weight of the laptop computer in his briefcase was like an anchor. With each stride the case banged against his hip. He secured it with his elbow and held the strap with his other hand, but this gave his stride an awkward galloping rhythm that slowed him even more. He considered jettisoning it but clung to it instead. In the wrong hands the laptop was a treasure trove of information. Personnel, surveillance photographs, communications links, bank accounts
He stumbled to a stop at the Euston Road. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw his pursuer still plodding methodically toward him, hands in his pockets, eyes down. He looked to his left, saw empty asphalt, and stepped off the curb.
The groan of the lorry horn was the last sound Ali Massoudi ever heard. At impact the briefcase broke free of him. It took flight, turned over several times as it hovered above the road, then landed on the street with a solid thud. The man in the oilskin raincoat barely had to break stride as he bent down and snared it by the strap. He slipped it neatly over his shoulder, crossed the Euston Road, and followed the evening commuters into Kings Cross.
THE BRIEFCASE HAD REACHED Paris by dawn, and by eleven it was being carried
into an anonymous-looking office block on King Saul Boulevard in Tel Aviv. There
the professors personal effects were hastily inspected, while the hard drive of
his laptop computer was subjected to a sustained assault by a team of technical
wizards. By three that afternoon the first packet of intelligence had been
forwarded to the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem, and by five a manila file
folder containing the most alarming material was in the back of an armored
Peugeot limousine heading toward Narkiss Street, a quiet leafy lane not far from
the Ben Yehuda Mall.
The car stopped in front of the small apartment house at Number 16. Ari Shamron, the twice former chief of the Israeli secret service, now special adviser to the prime minister on all matters dealing with security and intelligence, emerged from the backseat. Rami, the black-eyed chief of his personal security detail, moved silently at his heels. Shamron had made countless enemies during his long and turbulent career, and because of Israels tangled demographics, many were uncomfortably close. Shamron, even when he was inside his fortresslike villa in Tiberias, was surrounded always by bodyguards.
He paused for a moment on the garden walkway and looked up. It was a dowdy little building of Jerusalem limestone, three floors in height, with a large eucalyptus tree in front that cast a pleasant shadow over the front balconies. The limbs of the tree were swaying in the first cool wind of autumn, and from the open window on the third floor came the sharp odor of paint thinner.
Excerpted from The Messenger, Copyright © 2006 Danile Silva. Reproduced with permission of the publishers, Penguin Putnam. Reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.
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