Very early on Sunday morning with a bad conscious and a heavy heart, Karim set out to fetch ‘his trainee’ to the Libyan embassy, as he was instructed last Friday. He had no intention to check surveillance or cling to any other rule, basic, imperative or whatever. The huge city was still asleep, traffic was sparse and besides he had a terrible urge to have it done, as soon as possible. Having hailed a cab he rode straight to Samir's hotel; he told the driver to wait in his cab, and brought Samir who was expecting him in the small lobby to the waiting cab Outside.
‘Everything is settled, but there're some arrangements left, which you'll have to see to in person.’ That's what he told the unsuspecting Samir, as he met him in the lobby.
‘Has my date of departure been fixed already?’ Samir asked him eagerly.
‘That's exactly what we are going to find out!’ Karim assured him.
‘Where to now?’ Asked the driver, as they were ready to continue their trip.
‘The Libyan embassy.’ Karim told him curtly.
‘Arn't we going to shake off surveillance?’ Asked him Samir in their mother's tongue, showing the first signs of doubt.
‘There’s no need to, we're under cover, all along our route.
‘So we won't pursue our lessons from now on?’
‘That’s right we won't, you've got just a few more days left with us – for it’s not the special school alone you'll have to apply to, there're your studies…’
‘Were not there any objections?’
‘What objections? Oh no! I'd to persuade Abu-naeef though, telling him you're not worth much...’ He added turning to Samir with a sly smile. ‘But I've my own direct line to Paris... That's why the matter was settled that fast.’
It seems too good to be true, and that last phrase about his own direct line, is an obvious hint on the deep mud I’m in! That's what Samir really thought, taking a second look at Karim's indifferent face. He’s washing his hands of the whole matter no doubt, but at least he's warned me!
The cab stopped before the Libyan embassy, they got out. Karim passed the driver a twenty-pound note, and without looking back they mounted the embassy's broad stairs. The gate was already open before they reached it, and someone of the embassy’s personnel ushered them in.
‘They're expecting you downstairs.’ He told them in his peculiar Arabic accent. Karim led the way to the corner, where a narrow staircase led to a lower level.
There were five doors along a narrow corridor, the nearest one was open. ‘A welcome committee’ consisting of Abu-naeef his two body guards plus Kassem, were waiting for them – all of them with stern faces.
The heavy and thick door was shut and locked, right after their entry. Samir heard it being locked, but didn't turn round to have a look who did it. The cell for what it really was looked like a compact laboratory, though he could guess right away what’s its purpose was.
There was a big wooden chair in the cellar's middle, fastened to the floor with big bolts – and some devices including a computer, were arranged around, pushed against the walls.
‘That's what you call arrangements in person I guess.’ Samir said turning to Karim. He was scared to death, but somehow found the courage not to show it.
Karim didn't answer but Abu-naeef, who conducted that strange meeting – did:
‘You don't expect us to send you to Moscow, that far away with hardly knowing who you are.’
‘Don't you've my file?’
‘That‘s a very good question!’ Abu-naeef remarked politely. ‘But the file with your name scribbled on it, if it may be described as such, consists of just two letters; one is the letter of introduction, which you brought with you, and the other is a document which doesn't flatter you I dare say! That document reached our office last week, from our dear brethren in Egypt. It was delayed in our headquarters in Paris for some odd reasons... That would do for your file, sit down!’ He added sharply, pointing to the heavy chair at the cell's center. ‘We have got a few questions to ask you!’
As Smir sat down in that chair the two bodyguards appeared on both his sides, and without wasting time tied his hands to the chair's arms with leather straps that hung from it.
I’m doomed! This is the bitter end! He thought in despair raising his eyes beseechingly to Karim, the only person he still had some faith in – his last hope… But Karim turned his eyes away; Abu-naeef was the one who conducted the interrogation.
’Do You have any ties with the Israeli Embassy, here in London?’
‘No!’ He retorted defiantly with tight lips.
‘You don't happen to know anyone who's employed there?’
‘No!’ He said again shaking his head from side to side.
‘I do advise you to stick to the truth, for we have here at our disposal a sound proof cell, plus some ultra modern facilities – which will make any human being spill out every bit of data that had been accumulated in his brain during his whole lifetime!’
That short monologue was Abu-naeef's last warning; he made a short pause leaving Samir a few seconds for second thoughts – then passed his eyes all over the room, as if to say to his subordinates: I've given him his chance.
Having passed the preliminary phase just as he thought it should pass, Abu-naeef took his time and retreated to the interrogator's seat, behind a desk with a command board – facing Samir, letting him to sweat a while in the unbearable silence that ensued.
Kassem moved closer to his chief's desk and stood there, with hands in his pockets, watching Samir intently. Karim leaned on the computer at their right, watching the floor biting his lips. The two huskies on Samir’s either side, were rather restless and kept fidgeting nervously....
Swithcing on the intercom on his desk, Abu-naeef broke the silence: ‘You may come in.’
Abu-jaber who was the nearest to the door, unlocked it and opened it up in a series of sharp clicks, letting Haled in and shut the door right back; locking it once more with those series of sharp clicks – which got on the nerves of most of them, including Abu-naeef himself.
Crossing the cell's floor Haled reached the desk and stepped beside Kassem, there he stood facing Samir with that hideous smile of his, spread all over his ugly face.
‘Ever seen this man before?’ Abu-naeef turned to Samir with a brisk and business like note. He turned down the Libyans offer, to let the third secretary, who was a pro and well experienced interrogator do the job for them; that was his show and nobody would run it for him – he had an almost obsessive urge to exercise his power. He wasn’t going to give up such a chance.
‘No!’ Samir retorted angrily, in a shout almost.
‘He's lying!’ Said Haled whose sinister smile turned into a hateful grimace.
‘Meet Haled,’ said Abu-naeef raising his hand and touching Haled's arm lightly, to stress his faith in him. ‘Haled has served me as early as any other veteran in my group, since my first days as a group leader. No need to question his integrity or loyalty, I know him too well – just as every other member of our group does. Now Haled says he witnessed a meeting between you and an Israeli agent in broad daylight last Friday. What have you got to say about that?’
The odds are against me! Samir realized it already, it wasn't just some kind of a test, they were passing him through; he could have believed in such a possibility, adapt such an illusion – if that mocking hyena with his ugly face wasn't present there... He saw his face on the other side of the street, that mocking face – I’ve a crucial dilemma to solve! He thought desperately.
‘I haven't met with an Israeli agent!’ He said at last, with much effort, forcing the words out of his mouth.
Haled broke out in a loud contemptuous laugh, that pierced Samir’s brain with such pain, that no other physical torment could have caused him, He was terribly humiliated and felt helpless and weak. He was ready to do anything, they didn’t have to torture him – all they had to do, was to rid him off that ugly brute that was laughing in his face...
‘I see.’ said Abu-naeef as soon as Haled's disgusting notes died out. ’You did meet someone on that day, besides Karim – some friend of yours?’
Samir lifted his eyes to Abu-naeef's face. There’s still some hope… That rough peasant isn't a fool, he is a shrewd wild beast – but if he isn't after my blood for some reason I can't understand yet or know, there’s still some hope in persuading him that I’m innocent…
‘I was accosted by someone and got rid of him right away! He's a Jew I don't deny it, but he knew me and did identify me on that day – it’s just a stroke of bad luck…’
‘Bad luck indeed!!!’ Roared Abu-naeef laughing before Samir could end the sentence, while every one of them except him joined their chief in a fit of nervous laughter; astounding Samir in their eagerness, to fence him out – to betray him... to cast him out of their midst.
© Haim Kadman 1991 – all rights reserved