Excerpt of The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees
(Page 4 of 5)
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George . . .
Dont worry about me. Get out of here before the Israelis
come. Not even your big clan will protect you from them. Goodbye,
Abu Ramiz. George Saba put an affectionate hand on
Omar Yussefs arm, then went fast along the street, bending low
behind the cover of the garden walls.
Omar Yussef put his hands over his ears as the Israelis
switched to a heavier gun. It shot tracers that left a deceptively
slow, dotted line in the darkness, like a murderous Morse Code.
That code spelled death, and the warmth that he had felt during
the dinner left Omar Yussef. He could no longer see George
Saba. He wondered if he should follow him. The waiter stood
nervously behind him in the doorway, eager to lock up. Are
you coming inside, uncle?
Im going home. Good night.
May God protect you.
Omar Yussef thought he must have looked foolish, groping
his way along the wall at the roadside, kicking his loafers in
front of him with every step to be sure of his footing on the broken
pavement. An awareness of fear and doubt came over
him. He sensed movement in the alleys he passed, and shadows
momentarily took on the shape of men and animals, as though
he were a frightened child trying to find the bathroom in the
darkness of a nighttime house. He was sweating and, where the
perspiration gathered in his moustache and on the baldness of
his head, the night wind chilled him. What an old fool you are, he
told himself, scrambling about in a battle zone in your nice shoes.
Sometimes you can have a gun to your head and you still dont know
where your brains are.
The firing behind him grew more intense. He wondered
what George Saba might do if he found the gunmen on his
own roof again, and he decided that only when a gun points at
your heart do you realize what it is that you truly love.
George Sabas family huddled against the thick, stone wall of
his bedroom. It was the side of the house farthest from the
guns. George came though the front door. The shooting was
louder inside and he realized the bullets were punching
through the windows into his apartment. He ducked into an
alcove in the corridor and crouched against the wall. At the
back of the house, his living room faced the deep wadi. It was
taking heavy fire from the Israeli position over the canyon.
Sofia Saba stared frantically across the corridor at her husband.
She was not quite forty, but there were lines that seemed
suddenly to have appeared on her face that her husband had
never noticed before, as though the bullets were cracking the
surface of her skin like a pane of glass. Her hair, a rich deep
auburn dye, was a wild frame for her panicked eyes. She held
her son and daughter, one on either side of her, their heads
grasped protectively beneath her arms. All three were shaking.
Next to them, Habib Saba sat silent and angry, below the
antique guns mounted decoratively on the wall by his son.
His cheekbones were high and his nose long and straight, like
an ancient cameo of some impassive noble. Despite the gunfire,
he held his head steady as an image carved from stone.
George called out to his father above the hammering of the
bullets on the walls, but the old man didnt move.
Most of the Israeli rounds struck the outside wall of the living
room with the deep impact of a straight hit. These were no
ricochets. Every few moments, a bullet would rip through the
shattered remains of the windows, cross the salon and embed
itself in the wall behind which George Sabas family sheltered.
Sofia shuddered with each new impact, as though the projectiles
might take down the entire wall, picking it away chunk by
chunk, until it left her children exposed to the gunfire. The
hideous racket of the bullets was punctuated by the sounds of
mirrors and furniture falling in the living room and porcelain
dropping to the stone floor from shattered shelves.
Excerpted from The Collaborator of Bethlehem
by Matt Beynon Rees © 2007 by Matt Beynon Rees. Excerpted by
permission of Soho Crime. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.