Excerpted from Chapter One
Does it matter? Its more than youve got.
You dont know how much Ive got.
I can smell you. Your stink tells the whole story.
Abdul clenched his toes inside his torn sneakers. It helped him control his temper.
At least my stink is honest, he thought, from months of hard travel and living rough. He wondered what the smugglers excuse was.
Ill owe you the rest, Abdul said. The smuggler scratched himself in places that werent supposed to be scratched in public. He exhaled cigarette smoke into Abduls face.
Dont like dirty Arabs.
Im Kurdish, Abdul said, then wanted to snatch the words back. Hed just played into the mans prejudice. Should he say that he was part Arab, his mothers family from Baghdad? Why bother.
Im sixteen, he said instead, lying just a little. Im strong. Ill find work in England and pay you what I owe you. He spoke in English, which was better than his French. He knew the smuggler knew both.
Youll work. Youll pay. Youll do as youre told.
My grandmother carried a gun in the mountains fighting for a Kurdish homeland, Abdul thought, and here I am in a back alley of Calais, negotiating with a fool.
Just tell me how much, he said. Im too tired for games.
The smuggler spat on the ground, then held out his slab of a hand, wiggling his fingers.
Abdul dug down into his right front trouser pocket, the one with the pouch sewn inside it. He took out a roll of British pounds that had, until recently, been wrapped in plastic and shoved up his rectum. Not even that place was secure. Hed come across bodies with the bellies sliced open.
He took off the elastic band and put the bills in the smugglers hand.
Count it, Abdul said, and give me a receipt.
The smuggler sneered and made Abduls money disappear into his own pocket. He was a big man. He used to be muscled but had gone to flab, every meal hed eaten attaching itself to his belly and his arms.
You want a receipt, you little Kurd-turd? Ask the CRS. Get your receipt from them. And when youre finished, meet me tonight, two oclock, where the campers park, back of the Au Côte dArgent hotel. Do you know the place? Abdul knew it. It was by the pedestrian pier, where tourists stood to watch the ferries passing.
Dont be late. Id be happy to leave without you. The smuggler started to walk away. Youll be eating lousy English food for breakfast.
Abdul was thin from too many months of being on the road, but strong from too many fights with other migrants. He flung himself at the smugglers back, wrapping his arm so tightly around the bigger mans throat that the smuggler began to die, right there on his feet.
Count it and give me a receipt, Abdul said. The smuggler tried to shake him off, but his bloated body didnt function well without oxygen. He reached into his pocket and threw the wad of pound notes to the ground. Abdul released him and went after his money.
The smugglers boot smashed into Abduls head, sending him spinning into the gutter.
Keep your money, Kurd-turd, he said as he stomped away. I dont want you on my boat.
For a moment Abdul was too stunned to move. The kick, then his skull crashing into the curb put his brain on temporary lockdown. But he could feel his fingers, curled tightly around his money.
Excerpted from No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis. Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Ellis. Excerpted by permission of Groundwood Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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