Turning with the others, Marissa looked toward the mouth of the creek that ran beside the village to the ocean and saw the flicker of torchlights from the oil platform, as though suspended above the dark waters. Only then did she fully comprehend how much her husband had dared; when Bobby spoke again, the Asari turned to him in wonder. "The time has come," he told them, "for General Karama to help us build the Asariland of our hopes.
"We know that he can do this. In four years he raised a new capital city from nothing, then named this glistening creation after himself." Bobbys lips formed a broad but ironic smile. "So we will promise him that every road, school, and hospital we build will bear his name. We will do this for him, yes?"
Amid the cheers and laughter someone called out, "Yes."
"It must be so," Bobby answered, his voice strong again. "For this has become a dangerous country. Too many of our young men, deprived of any future, drink gin and smoke weed from morning to night. Too many others have taken up arms and vanished to hideouts in the creeks, killing one another for the right to live as criminals. If Karama does not yield, we will descend into an unending darkness of corruption, criminality, murder, and reprisal, condemning those who survive to a permanent hell. And among the things that will not survive is PGL - "
"Kill them all," a young man called out.
Glancing through the crowd, Marissa spotted him, a youth taller than most others - restrained from joining the militia, rumor had it, only by his attraction to Omo. Glancing at the girl, Marissa saw her downcast eyes fill with doubt and worry. "No," Bobby answered. "To act with violence will only bring to our door reprisals far more terrible than what we saw in Lana. I want no more blood spilled in Asariland."
Uncertainty filled the young mans face; though some around him nodded their approval, others wore expressions grimmer and more opaque. As though to reassure them, Bobby continued: "But the governments time is short. Every day our patience frays, and our youth slip beyond our power to restrain them. Karama and PGL must give us justice now, or there will be no peace for the powerful and PGL will be driven from Asariland."
"Fuck PGL," a voice called, and then a ragged chant came from a cluster of young men near Marissa. "PGL, go to hell. PGL, go to hell . . ."
Bobby held up a hand, his face impassive until, at last, there was silence. "Let us march to join our brothers and sisters," he told them, "and pray for the souls of our dead."
As conceived by Bobby, the climactic event would be a meeting with demonstrators from a neighboring village at the site of a recent oil spill, which, bursting into flames, had incinerated men and women from both villages who had come to scavenge for oil. Tonight those assembled would gather in memorial. But at least one of the villagers would be missing: Chief Femi Okari, Marissa noted, had gazed across the water at the torches flickering on the oil platform and then, shaking his head, turned away to walk home.
With Bobby and Marissa at their head, the people of Goro gathered where the road began, many with cigarette lighters held aloft. As the march commenced, the villagers began singing their anthem: "Be proud, Asari people, be proud."
A few feet ahead, Marissa spoke to Bobby beneath the chorus. "Women blocking roads, men seizing the platform. Did your council approve?"
"Is it dangerous, you mean?"
His voice held a hint of challenge. "I already know that," Marissa answered calmly. "So do the others."
"Do you doubt me?"
"Only when I should. What did Atiku say?"
Bobby did not look at her. "Atiku is rallying support in England," he answered in a weary voice. "Our young need more than words from us, or more will drift away."
Through her misgivings, Marissa sensed that he had made this decision in the face of resistance from his lieutenants and found it painful to consider how this might end. Taking his hand, she asked, "Is today all you had hoped for?"
Excerpted from Eclipse by Richard North Patterson
Copyright @ 2009 by Richard North Patterson
Published in 2009 by Henry Holt and Co.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
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