Authors: Richard North Patterson
Tags: #Richard North Patterson
Balance of Power
Protect and Defend
No Safe Place
The Final Judgment
Eyes of a Child
Degree of Guilt
Escape the Night
The Outside Man
The Lasko Tangent
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Copyright © 2007 by Richard North Patterson
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Patterson, Richard North.
Exile : a novel / Richard North Patterson.—1st ed.
1. Jews—California—Fiction. 2. Palestinian Arabs—California—Fiction. 3. Terrorists— Fiction. I. Title.
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First Edition 2007
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Alan Dershowitz and Jim Zogby
In wartime, truth is so precious that she should
P R O L O G U E
Ibrahim and Iyad Hassan, who directed their actions and would join him in death, were living in suspension, awaiting the directives that would transform their anonymity to honor. Their temporary refuge was the village of Akumal, sequestered in a strip of beaches on the east coast of Mexico. Once the area had been peopled by Mayans, whose disappearance had left behind the ruins of pyramids and temples; now it was the playground of rich foreigners, sport fishermen and snorkelers, drawn by a reef system that offered coral of rich and varied hues and a plethora of vividly colored tropical fish. Their white stucco villa was one of a string of such places, sheltered by coconut palms, built into black rock ledges at the edge of the Caribbean. To Ibrahim, used to the desolation of his homeland, it was beautiful and alien, as disorienting as the aftershock of a dream.
They had existed here for a week. Each morning, as now, stiff breezes drove away the early clouds and exposed a rich blue sky, which met the deeper blue of the ocean. Sunlight summoned forth the slender women in string bikinis who snorkeled and swam and walked on the beach nearby, filling him with desire and shame. He turned from them as he did from the pitiless sun.
To Ibrahim, in their heedlessness and privilege, these tourists symbolized those who had shamed his people, the Zionists who used America’s weaponry to occupy their remaining lands and strangle them in a web of settlements and roadblocks, cementing their exile with the glue of poverty.
He thought of his sister, sweet and scared, who once had trembled when the bombs fell, before the soldiers drove all reason from her brain; of his father, whose profitable accounting practice had shriveled to bare subsistence; of their ancestral home in Haifa, now possessed by Jews, its beauty known to Ibrahim only through photographs; of another image, this one of bombed-out wreckage in the refugee camp in Jenin, beneath which lay a corpse whose sole marker was a shattered pair of gold-rimmed glasses. “Terrorist” the Zionists had called him.
No, Ibrahim thought—a martyr, and my friend. But it was Salwa, his sister, who fueled his wavering resolve in this place too far from home.
Their journey here had begun in Ramallah, on the West Bank. Using their own passports, they drove to Amman, then flew to Paris, Mexico City, and Cancún. There they had rented a car in Iyad’s true name, driving to the villa selected by the unknown authors of their mission. Ibrahim was unused to this freedom of travel—a clear highway without checkpoints or soldiers, running for miles in a straight line.
They were free here, Ibrahim thought now, a bitter irony. Neither had a criminal record; both spoke fluent English. They were in Akumal for the diving, they said on the few occasions in which they needed to say anything, and then proceeded to do nothing but await their fate in luxury. The conceit of this refuge was that no one with their actual mission would choose such a place: they were rendered inconspicuous by the sheer incongruity of their presence, and the indifference of vacationers bent on their own pleasure and distraction.
And so they kept to themselves, unnoticed save by a housekeeper who spoke rudimentary English and did what little cooking and cleaning they required. Their plans, Ibrahim felt certain, were beyond anything that life had led this simple woman to contemplate. The only Jews she had ever known were no doubt rich Americans—like, by the evidence Ibrahim had sifted from photographs and books, the absentee owners of the villa—and probably she did not even know what they were. For now, at least, he and Iyad seemed safe.
Yet Ibrahim was both frightened and sad. The dream state of this respite made him feel small, the puppet of unseen forces. He tried to imagine once more the pride of his friends, the admiration of strangers for whom, in death, he would enter into history. But here, in Akumal, this vision lacked the vividness it had had in Ramallah. Instead it seemed somehow juvenile, the fantasy of a boy who had placed himself in an action movie with which he had killed some idle afternoon.
Their only contact with reality was Iyad’s cell phone. Ibrahim was not allowed to answer it: Iyad would retreat to a corner of the villa, speaking Arabic in a low voice. His terse comments afterward made Ibrahim feel patronized, a child fed by his parents some rehearsed and edited version of a grownup conversation held behind closed doors. It was this, he supposed, that made it even harder to imagine Iyad Hassan taking orders from a woman.
But this woman, too, was surely only a conduit, the instrument of other men who shared their vision. In the end, they and their faceless masters were all servants of their people, and of God.