It was only Almaz whod recognized the vivid flush of the girls face, the faint hint of bitter almonds, and known what had happened. Shed walked in just as Hailu was explaining to the soldiers how the electric shocks shed received had damaged her internally.
Oh, she said. Yes, she collected herself. It was too much for her. Too much infection.
The soldiers had been agitated. We reported shed be back in a few days. People are expecting her, one said.
Ill explain it all in the death certificate, Hailu reassured them.
But Hailu had been summoned to jail, only one day after filing the report. His presence was requested in writing, delivered to his office by a skinny soldier with firm steps.
Arrive by dawn, the soldier said. The Colonel starts early.
Whats this about? Hailu looked at the inked signature at the bottom of the letter and tried to imagine the type of man whose hand moved across the page with such jagged sweeps of the pen.
The soldier stared at him and Hailu felt a shiver crawl up his spine. His light brown eyes were crisscrossed with red veins. Its just to talk.
Hailu tried not to think about the fact that no one ever returned from a summons to jail. Should I pack a suitcase? Most prisoners were ordered to bring a suitcase under pretext that theyd be released.
Its unnecessary, the soldier said. Tomorrow, he added before leaving.
Now, Hailu stared into the dark in his living room, his back straight as a tree, and waited, though for what, he wasnt sure.
Excerpted from Beneath the Lion's Gaze by Maaza Mengiste. Copyright © 2010 by Maaza Mengiste. Excerpted by permission of Norton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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