But Abu seemed to have only one focus of attention, and he spun back around to the man he had branded a traitor, positioning his scimitar-shaped blade for another attack. Badly wounded, the Technician tried to ward off his assailant, but instead began to sink to the ground. The loss of blood was too great. Just as Abu lunged forward to finish him off, powerful hands grabbed the bearded Hezbollah leader from behind, slamming him down and pinning him to the sand.
Abus eyes burned with defiance as the two were taken into custody by the government soldiers. He did not fear any government. Governments were cowards, he had often said; governments would release him under some pretext of international law and extradition and repatriation. Deals would be struck behind the scenes, and Abu would be quietly released, his presence in the country a carefully kept secret. No government wanted to bring on itself the full fury of a Hezbollah terror campaign.
The terrorist master did not struggle, but instead caused his body to go slack, forcing the soldiers to drag him away. As he was dragged past the Technician, he spat full in his face and hissed, "You are not long for this world, traitor! Pig! You will die for your treachery!"
Once Abu was taken away, the several men who had grabbed the Technician gently released him, easing him down onto a waiting stretcher. Obeying the instructions of the battalion captain, they backed away as the captain approached. The Tunisian knelt beside the Technician and examined his wound. The Technician winced but uttered not a sound.
"My God, its a wonder youre still conscious!" said the captain in heavily accented English. "You have been badly injured. You have lost a great deal of blood."
The man who had been known as the Technician replied, "If your men had responded to my signal a little more speedily, this wouldnt have happened." He instinctively touched his wristwatch, which was equipped with a miniaturized high-frequency transmitter.
The captain ignored the barb. "That SA-341 up there," he said, pointing up to the sky, where a helicopter hovered, "will take you to a high-security government medical facility in Morocco. Im not permitted to know your real identity, nor who your real employers are, so I wont ask," the Tunisian began, "but I think I have a good idea"
Just then the Technician whispered harshly, "Get down!" He quickly pulled a semiautomatic pistol from the holster concealed under his arms and fired off five quick shots. There was a cry from a copse of palm trees, and a dead man toppled to the ground, his sniper rifle clutched in his hand. Somehow an Al-Nahda soldier had escaped the massacre.
"Mighty Allah!" exclaimed the frightened captain of the battalion as he slowly raised his head and looked around. "I think were even now, you and I."
"Listen," the Arab-who-was-not-an-arab said weakly, "tell your president his minister of the interior is a secret Al-Nahda sympathizer and collaborator who conspires to take his place. Hes in league with the deputy minister of defense. There are others...."
But the loss of blood had been too great. Before the Technician could finish his sentence, he passed out.
Five weeks later
The patient was conveyed by a chartered jet to a private landing strip twenty miles northwest of Washington, D.C. Although the patient was the only passenger on the entire aircraft, no one spoke to him except to ascertain his immediate needs. No one knew his name. All they knew was that this was clearly an extremely important passenger. The flights arrival appeared on no aviation logs anywhere, military or civilian.
The nameless passenger was then taken by unmarked sedan to downtown Washington and dropped off, at his own request, near a parking garage in the middle of an unremarkable block near Dupont Circle. He wore an unimpressive gray suit with a pair of tasseled cordovan loafers that had been scuffed and shined a few too many times, and looked like one of a thousand midlevel lobbyists and bureaucrats, the faceless, colorless staffers of a permanent Washington.
Copyright Robert Ludlum 2000. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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