Part 1: Pliers

Chapter 1


Spring 1986

After he finished shaving Madari put on his uniform. He noticed a small wrinkle in the left sleeve of his jacket and clicked his tongue in irritation. He slipped the jacket back off and carried it through to the dining room. Youssef was laying out Madari’s breakfast, pouring coffee as Madari came in.

“Good morning, sir. Did you sleep well?”

“Thank you, yes. Please press this again.” He handed Youssef the jacket. “Quickly. I must leave soon.”

“Yes, Major.” The elderly servant took the jacket, frowning at it. He left Madari alone. Madari buttered a piece of warm, fresh bread, and began to study the newspaper closely. So many lies. And soon now that would all change.

In fifteen minutes Youssef returned with the jacket. Madari stood and let Youssef help him into it. Then he fastened the buttons and the wide black belt.

“Will you be in for dinner tonight, Major?”

“No, I will be late.” He checked the left sleeve, the crease was gone. Youssef handed him his gloves and cap. “Thank you.” Madari picked up his brief case and car keys and left the house. In a few moments he was on the desert road, driving south to Az-Ma’ir. He had to use his headlights, the night still clung on, resisting the dawn. Once another vehicle passed him coming the other way, but other than that he seemed alone in the world.


Youssef cleared away the breakfast things and washed up. He made Madari’s bed and was about to clean the bathroom when he heard a loud crash from the living room. Shocked he ran through there. Four men he didn’t know were in the room. They all carried handguns. The exterior door was broken down.

“Who are you?” Youssef cried. “How dare you break in here. This is the home of Major Madari of the Royal Guard!”

“Good, then we have the right place.”

One of the men came up to Youssef. A young, hard faced man. “Security police. You are Youssef Anbar, you work for Madari, you live here.” Youssef backed away, bumped up against the wall as the man followed him. The others had spread out heading through to the other rooms. “You will co-operate or you will die.”

He listened to his walkie talkie as the voices of his colleagues reported in, then grabbed Youssef by his collar, pushed him against the wall. “Where is your master, old man?”

“He… he went to the barracks.” Youssef’s voice quivered. He had faced thugs before, but he’d been young and armed. He wasn’t a soldier any more and these men terrified him. The recently established “Security Police” – the name sickened Youssef – had a reputation already for ruthlessness and cruelty.

“I told you.” One of the other men came back into the room. “His car’s not outside. That was him we saw on the road, I’m telling you.”

The man in charge pointed his gun at Youssef’s head. “How long ago did he leave?”

“Twenty minutes! Please…”

The leader swore and holstered his gun. He let Youssef go and turned to his men. “You,” he waved a hand at one of them. “Stay here. Don’t let him near a phone. Start to search.” He strode out, leaving Youssef alone with the thug that called himself a police office. The man was big, broad shouldered and tall. He noticed the humidor on a shelf and took out a cigar. He scowled at Youssef as he lit the cigar.

“Bring me some coffee.”

Youssef almost ran to the kitchen to obey. As he brewed the coffee his hands trembled, he was no longer afraid for himself. If God intended that he died today then so be it. His terror was for Madari.

He knew the major had become involved in something recently. There had been too many mysterious telephone calls and quiet meetings, where the men stopped talking when Youssef came in to serve refreshments. Youssef had not tried to ask about this, that was not his place. And now – his eyes prickled with tears – now he thought he may never see Madari again. “Faris.” he whispered. A name he’d not used to Madari’s face since the boy had turned sixteen. “God protect you, child.”


Madari pulled up to the gate house and the guard checked his car registration and then peered in at him.

Come on, raise the barrier, Madari thought, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. You know it’s me. Get on with it. He scowled at the guard who finally raised the barrier and saluted. Madari returned the salute and drove through the gate.

As he walked from his car a tall young man, with captain’s bars greeted him with a salute and fell into step beside Madari as they walked to the building.

“You are coming to the meeting tonight, Idris?” Madari asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Not a word of this once we are inside.”

“No, sir.” Madari glanced at him. Faraj, his second in command. At first he’d dismissed the handsome and fastidious young officer as over privileged and good only for a staff position. Then he’d seen him fight.

“Let’s get some coffee.” Madari said as they walked into the building.


Madari and Faraj had been served their coffee when the shouting started. Outside the room and growing closer. Officers looked up, turned to the door, discarding newspapers and work.

“What…” one began to say when the door slammed back. Three men in civilian clothes, followed by several more in police uniforms burst into the room. An officer was arguing with the man leading the intruders.

“You cannot just barge in here, this is military property!”

“We go anywhere we want.” The leader looked around at the officers, staring at him. His eyes met Madari’s.

For me. They’ve come for me. Madari glanced at Faraj who stood at his side. Faraj moved his hand slowly towards his side arm. Madari gave a small frown at him, signalled with his eyes. No. He didn’t want to start a shoot-out right here in the officer’s mess. And he didn’t want to give the government the excuse they longed for to attack the regiment outright.

“Major Madari.” The security policeman stepped up to him. “You’re under arrest.” He took out handcuffs and Madari felt the tension in the room rise.

“How dare you?” Faraj said, fury barely under control. “You cannot drag this man out of here in handcuffs like a common criminal!” His hand was hovering over his side arm again, he stepped in front of Madari.

“No, Captain.” Madari put a hand on Faraj’s arm to restrain him. He stepped forward and held out his hands to the policeman. The man grabbed his arm and pulled him around, cuffed his arms behind his back instead. Madari looked into Faraj’s anguished face.

“Please call my lawyer, Captain.”

Faraj gave a small nod of understanding. The police officer in charge snapped an order at his men and two of them grabbed Madari’s arms and dragged him out of the room.


“You idiot!” Svidler yelled at the policeman who had arrested Madari. “You were meant to pick him up quietly at home. Instead you barge into his officer’s mess.”

The policeman looked defiant.

“He’d left his house when we got there. What else could we do?”

“You could have waited until he came home, you damn fool. Get out!”

The man left slamming the door. Svidler turned to two other men who waited in his office. Arabs, both wearing western style suits.

“Thanks to your blundering idiots we’ve lost the element of surprise. Half his co-conspirators are probably on their way to the airport now.”

Haque, the head of the security police, waved a pudgy hand dismissively. His large gold rings glinted in the dimness. Svidler had the shades drawn against the bright morning sun that poured into the room.

“I know my men acted for the best.”

Oh of course, you’d never admit a mistake would you, you fat idiot. Svidler thought. God, he hated these damned Arabs. Nothing that went wrong was ever their fault. It was always “the will of Allah”. Well the will of Allah didn’t impress Svidler’s bosses back in Moscow.

“What does it matter, anyway?” Haque said. “Madari will give us the names.”

Of course, I’ll just drop in on him and ask him to draw up a list. “Yes, he’ll give us the names, but that will take time…”

“You always tell us that your man is the best,” the other Arab spoke. Turaif, head of the civilian intelligence service. Smaller and skinnier than Haque he had a smug face that Svidler wanted to slice right off. “Perhaps now is the time for him to prove it. Unless you prefer my people…”

“No.” Svidler snapped, making Turaif subside deeper into his chair. “Madari is in the control of the KGB. We will get the information you need.” He turned to leave the room. The other two hurried after him.

“Where are we going?” Haque asked, puffing a bit.

“Did I give you the impression that there was any time to waste?” Svidler asked. He strode ahead, forcing the other two to scurry to keep up.

Svidler led them into a small darkened room, with a couple of chairs and a table in it. One wall held a large window, looking through into a room next door. A two way mirror, Svidler knew.

The lit room through the mirror held a table and two chairs. It also held a man. An Arab, almost six feet tall, slender and long limbed, skin darker than most of the Arabs Svidler had met. He wore a dark blue-green uniform and was bare headed.

Svidler picked up a folder from the table, glanced through the information they had on Major Madari. Grandson of a man who once commanded the Royal Guard. Considered to be a fine strategic thinker and a leader of men, but inclined to insubordination. Arrogant. So, clever and he knows it, Svidler thought. Age thirty seven, so should be a colonel by now, but he’s annoyed too many people.

Madari paced around, hands still cuffed behind his back. Every now and again he gave the mirror a scowl. He looked impatient and angry.

“You need to break him quickly.” Svidler said. Turaif and Haque actually jumped as a small figure emerged from deep shadow on the back wall.

“I understand.” The man who’d been hidden said. He was an unassuming figure. A westerner like Svidler, he wore his hair slicked down flat, had a bland face. Even his suit was unassuming. Grey, without even a pinstripe to draw the eye to it.

“How quickly, Mr Sevchenko?” Haque asked, in a polite tone.

Sevchenko looked through the window at Madari for a while.

“Forty eight hours. Maximum.”

Haque nodded. “Good, good.” Turaif frowned as if he didn’t think it so good, but he didn’t speak. “I’ll go and authorise a watch on the airports.” Haque hurried out, wiping his brow with a handkerchief.

“Which he should have done already.” Turaif said, slyly. He glanced at Madari. “We need those names, Mr Svidler.” Then he followed Haque out.

“Camel bothering bastards.” Svidler growled. He glanced at Sevchenko who was still watching Madari. “He looks tough, Vass.”

Sevchenko looked at Svidler, smiled and shook his head. “He thinks so too. But look at his hands.”

Svidler did. Madari’s cuffed hands were clenching and unclenching, fingers balling into fists then splaying out, convulsively. Sevchenko spoke again, still smiling.

“He’s terrified.”


Madari knew they were watching him, through was what undoubtedly a two way mirror. He even thought he could hear the murmur of voices. But that could be his imagination. His imagination was working overtime now.

He knew where he was, they’d brought him in a car, brought him through the front door of what looked like an ordinary modern office building. But Madari knew what went on here in the Security Police headquarters. He knew what went on in the basement, where storage rooms had been converted to cells.

They would want the names of the other men in the conspiracy. Well there was no way they were getting them. He’d had training, resisting interrogation. Even if they… he closed his eyes briefly, even if they tortured him they were never getting those names. He would die first before he betrayed his friends, his fellow officers.

He had to give them time, to get out of the country, to get their families to safety. His life was… he swallowed hard. Perhaps it was over. But he had one last part to play in the fight against the foreign backed usurpers…

The door opened and a westerner came in. A small harmless looking man, flanked by security police, all big and very harmful looking.

“Good morning, Major,” the westerner said. He held out his hand as if for a handshake, then gave an almost pitying smile. “Ah, perhaps not. My name is Sevchenko. Why don’t you sit down so we can talk?” He himself took a seat at the table. Madari stayed standing

“I want to speak to my commanding officer, now!” Madari snapped. “I want my lawyer and I want these cuffs removed.”

“I asked you to sit down.” Sevchenko nodded at his bully boys and they grabbed Madari and forcibly put him into the chair. He tried to rise and was pushed back down. Sitting with his arms forced behind his back was very painful, but he barely noticed that.

“How dare your thugs put their hands on me! My C.O….”

“Will have no access to you. Neither will your lawyer.”

“You have no right to hold me! What evidence do you have against me? What am I charged with? I demand you release me!”

“You’re a fool.” Sevchenko said, softly. Madari gasped and strained against the cuffs, his pride demanding he retaliate. All he did was hurt his wrists. “You know what we are, you conspire against us, because you know what we are. And yet you make demands as if you believe you have power here. As if you believe you have rights. You have nothing here, Major. No power, no rights, no friends. You belong to me now.”

Madari didn’t answer. His throat felt too tight. With his hands free he could kill this man in seconds. Instead the Russian’s stare sent ice water down Madari’s spine.

Sevchenko smiled. “Shall we go downstairs?”

Chapter 2

At dusk the men whose names Sevchenko was charged with obtaining met at Colonel Rahama’s house, in the diwaniya. But there were no refreshments served and no social niceties observed. Some of the conspirators were not there, had already fled.

Faraj was the youngest man there, and the lowest in rank among the officers. He deferred politely to the senior officers and older men for as long as he could manage. But after an hour of hearing their plans for fleeing the country, he couldn’t hold back any longer.

“Colonel Rahama, sir.” Faraj addressed Rahama because he knew the man was an old friend of Madari’s family. And he was powerful. Many people had said he would command the regiment soon. Or they used to say that, before the coup.

“Colonel, what are we going to do about Major Madari?” Everyone in the room turned to stare at him. Faraj felt their eyes on him, felt heat rise in his face.

“Do, Captain?” Rahama asked.

“To help him, sir, to get him out.”

“Faraj…” Rahama said. Stopped and looked as if he was collecting his thoughts. “There is nothing we can do to help Major Madari now. Don’t you understand that?”

“We can’t abandon him!” Faraj cried, shocked.

“What do you suggest, Captain?” Another officer spoke. “A… a commando raid on Security Police HQ?”

Faraj looked at him and then back to Rahama. “I would lead that, if you can get me the men.”

“My god, he’s serious.” Faraj heard someone mutter. He frowned. Of course he was serious.

“Captain, come here.” Rahama said. He took Faraj’s hand, led him away from the other men, into the corner of the room. The others went back to talking among themselves.

“It is over, Idris,” Rahama said, his voice quite gentle, still holding the younger man’s hand. “I don’t know how. Perhaps we were betrayed, perhaps they simply got suspicious of Faris, I don’t know. But now they have him he will give them our names. You have to think of your family now, your son. Take your family to safety.”

“He will not give them our names!” Faraj barely managed to keep himself from shouting. “How can you suggest that he will betray us?”

Rahama stared at him, astonished. “He’ll have no choice, they will torture him.”

Faraj winced, felt sick with horror, and more determined than ever to help his commander.

“He won’t give them our names!” Faraj insisted. He shook his head, disbelieving. He pulled his hand away from Rahama’s. “How can you abandon him? You’re his friend.”

“Yes, and I…” Rahama’s voice faltered. His eyes shone in the dim light. “I mourn for him. But he is gone, Idris. Accept that. Save your family and save yourself. The fight can go on and we need men as brave as you to be part of it. But get out of the country as soon as you can.”

“I will not run!”

“If you don’t run then I will have to mourn you too.”

Faraj bowed his head to Rahama, said, voice strained and tight. “I must go.” He turned.

“Faraj.” Rahama’s voice was almost pleading as Faraj turned back to him. “Don’t make me mourn your family as well.”


“Ahmed!” Madari cried as the electricity ripped through him. His body arched off the metal table he was strapped to. “Help me! Ahmed!” The current stopped and he collapsed down sobbing. Insane. My mind is gone. I’m screaming for a dead man. How can Ahmed help me now? Strength. Yes. His strength. If I can have even a little of that then I can go on resisting.

“The names, Faris.” Sevchenko’s voice whispered in his ear. He flinched away, terrified by how close the man was. Madari had been blindfolded since being brought down to the so called “interrogation centre.” That in itself had become torture. The slightest touch, that might only be someone’s clothing brushing against him, was terrifying. He never knew when a blow was coming his way. He never knew how many people were in the room, how many people were looking at him. He couldn’t know what they were about to try on him next.

“Fuck you.” He gasped out at the Russian. “Fuck off and die, you fucking whore’s bastard.”

He’d sworn more since being brought here than he had in the whole of his life. Words he was barely aware he knew came out of his mouth and shocked him.

He felt Sevchenko move away and waited for the next lighting strike of electricity, his body tense as a bow string. But then he felt his wrists and ankles being freed. He was pulled up to his feet, a man on each arm.

“Put him against the wall. You, fetch the cane.”

Cane. Oh no. No.

How long have I been here? Days now surely?


As the sun rose the morning after Madari’s arrest Faraj, in civilian clothes, walked though Az-Ma’ir airport with his wife Janan and his three year old son, Mehdi. He glanced around, watching for any obvious security police. No sign.

He glanced at the departure board. The early flight for Paris was on time, scheduled to leave in less than an hour. Faraj led his family to the check in desk and presented their tickets. The clerk handed over boarding cards and the family walked to the security desk.

Faraj lifted up his son and kissed him. “Be a good boy, Mehdi.” He said, hugging the child tight. “I will see you soon.” Then he handed the boy to Janan. Too young to understand this was anything other than a holiday the boy smiled sleepily and snuggled against his mother’s shoulder.

“Idris.” Janan said, her face agonised, her eyes frightened. “Please, come with us.”

“I can’t,” Faraj said, though his heart was breaking as he spoke. “I have my duty.”

He waited at the airport until he saw them get on the plane and then he walked back to the car lot. As he pulled out, turning for home in his Mercedes, he felt tears start in his eyes as he thought about Mehdi waving to him as Janan carried him though the security checkpoint. Would he ever see his son again? Shouldn’t he have gone with them? No. They are safe. Duty, honour held him here.

Now he had to carry out the task that duty obligated him undertake. Major Madari was his commander and his friend. Faraj would not leave him to suffer and die at the hands of the enemy.


Sevchenko looked down at the trembling naked man curled on the floor. Blood, dirt and wounds covered Madari’s body. He whimpered whenever anyone got near him. He sobbed like a child at even the smallest blow. And he screamed when he was whipped or caned or electrocuted. But none of those sounds were any use to Sevchenko.

He glanced at his watch, turned to one of his men. “I will be back in half an hour.” he glanced down again. Madari had stopped trembling. His body had relaxed, his breathing was even. “Keep him awake.” Sevchenko ordered. As he walked out of the room he heard the men shouting at Madari, heard slaps and kicks, heard cries of pain and pleading for it to stop. But he didn’t hear any names.

Svidler, Haque and Turaif were in Svidler’s office along with several more Arabs whose names Sevchenko had no interest in learning. There was only one set of names he wanted to hear now.

“Fifty seven hours.” Turaif said as Sevchenko came in, without even saying good afternoon or shaking hands.

Sevchenko was aware of how long it was. He was also very aware he himself had only had five hours of sleep in that time. He dropped into a seat. He saw Svidler look at him with concern and speak into his intercom. Sevchenko rubbed a hand over his face.

“Fifty seven hours.” Turaif repeated. “You said no more than forty eight.” He glanced at Haque. “We should have used my men.” Haque nodded in agreement.

Sevchenko wanted to sneer. Your men? Your men still wouldn’t have got him to admit his name and address by now. A man came in with tea that Svidler must have just ordered over his intercom. Sevchenko smiled gratefully at his friend.

“He is stronger than I thought he would be,” Sevchenko admitted after a long drink of the refreshing tea. “But it won’t be long now.” Everybody breaks by the third day.

“Not good enough,” Turaif said. “Men we suspect of being in the conspiracy are leaving the country.”

“So arrest them.” Svidler said. “We’ll get the names as confirmation later.”

“It’s not that easy.” Haque said, dropping several cubes of sugar into his tea. “Many of them are powerful men, rich families. If we make a mistake, arrest the wrong man, it could backfire badly.”

Too much respect for money. Sevchenko thought, sharing a glance with Svidler. Ties their hands. He sat with his eyes closed as Svidler argued with the Arabs. He wasn’t dozing. He was fuming. How dare this man Madari make him look foolish in front of these idiots. How could he be so much stronger than Sevchenko had estimated? Sevchenko was too good, too experienced to make such a mistake. He’d read every word of the man’s file. There must have been something missing. And looking at him, assessing him, Sevchenko had been so sure the arrogance, the strut, hid only weakness.

He opened his eyes as he heard the Arabs leaving, complaining loudly. Svidler glared after them and came around his desk to sit on an armchair near Sevchenko.

“You look exhausted, Vassily.”

Sevchenko shrugged.

“I’m sorry about this, Victor. I really thought forty-eight hours would be enough.”

“Ah, it’s all their fault. If they hadn’t made his arrest into a public performance you’d have had time to do the job properly.”

“These things can’t be rushed.” Sevchenko said, nodding.

“Well I want you to get a few hours sleep, Vass.” He held up a hand to silence Sevchenko’s protest. “Your men can keep on working on him in the meantime. You need rest, or you’ll be in as bad a state as the major.”

They both laughed.


Weeks. Was it weeks? Was that how long he’d been here? Had he ever not been here? He’d not heard Sevchenko’s voice for a while. Where was he? God, make him be dead. Make him be dead and in hell. Hell where he came from in the first place.

Was there any place in the world but this place? If weeks had passed were the others safe now? Had they all fled?

And what if it wasn’t weeks? What if it was hours? No way to tell. No time, no day and night, only darkness. No meals to count the time with. No, wait that helped. He’d not eaten, but he wasn’t dead. He was hungry, but he was alive. But a man could go for weeks without food couldn’t he? They were giving him water. Not enough, but some. But he couldn’t remember how often they were giving him the water. Just that sometimes in the haze of pain water trickled over his lips.

No! No! He cringed and curled in a ball in the corner as he heard Sevchenko’s voice again. And how long he had been away meant nothing now, nothing, because he was back.

“Bring him to the table.” Sevchenko ordered. Madari tensed, waiting for them. The men grabbed him and dragged him, legs trailing, over to the table. They sat him in the chair and he almost fell out of it, too weak to sit up unaided.

“Take the blindfold off.”

Madari cried out in pain as the thick black cloth was pulled away from his eyes, and a bright desk lamp was shone into his face.

“Hold his arms on the table. Keep his hands flat.” Madari could hear Sevchenko but not see him. His arms were forced onto the table, hands pressed down flat. At least four men were surrounding him now, two holding down his arms, two holding him in the chair. “This is your last chance, Faris. What I do next you will never recover from, I promise you that.”

Madari wanted to spit at him. Another thing he’d been brought up not to do, yet only his mouth being too dry prevented him.

“Fuck you.” Madari gasped. It was still there, the shred of defiance. The last atom of his pride and honour.

When Sevchenko spoke again, his voice sounded as if he had turned away, he must be talking to one of his colleagues. He said one word.


“No!” Madari cried, at once starting to struggle against the men holding him down. “No, please! You can’t! You can’t!”

But it was no use. The pliers gripped the first of Madari’s fingernails. The index finger on his left hand. And pulled.

Unspeakable pain. Unspeakable. His scream was inhuman. His body thrashed, causing the chair to crash over backwards. He fell onto his knees, arms still held in iron grips.

Ring finger. Right hand. He shrieked so hard he thought his eardrums would burst. He heard one of the men holding him curse in a mutter. Let me black out, merciful god let me black out!

Right hand. Thumb. Madari vomited, what little was in his stomach, over the shoes of the man on his left. The man grabbed him by the hair, pulled his head back and called him vicious names, before punching him in the side of the head. Madari saw stars and prayed for the whirling blackness to engulf him. Beat me unconscious, please, do it. Kill me. Smash in my skull. Anything. Just make it stop.

But Sevchenko warned the man off with a harsh command. Then he spoke to Madari again. “You know how to end it, Major. You know what I want.”

“I can’t.” Madari gasped, barely able to speak any more. “Can’t.”

“Seven to go, Faris.” Left hand, little finger. “Six.” Madari heard him say, under the sound of screaming.

“The King’s Men.” Madari whispered.

“What’s that?” Sevchenko asked.

“What we call… the conspiracy. Please.” He whimpered, then shrieked as he lost the nail of his left thumb.

“That’s very good, Faris. ” Sevchenko’s voice was gentler now, like a teacher with a slow pupil. “You’re almost there. Now the names, tell me the names of The King’s Men.” He paused a moment and when Madari didn’t answer at once the pliers tore out two nails in quick succession, left ring finger and middle finger. The grip on the forearm and hand loosened and the hand was held up so Madari could see it in the bright light. The end of each finger and the thumb was a gruesome pulpy mass that poured blood.

“The names.”

Madari’s head spun and then he heard it. His own voice, hoarse, cracked, barely more than a whisper.

“Rahama…” His voice caught in his throat. His friend. A mentor after Ahmed was gone. The man who brought him into The King’s Men. “Sharif Rahama.”

“Very good, Faris, go on.”

Madari’s eyes were fixed on the blood running down his hand and arm.

“General Bhai. Colonel Jumale.” A man on the left was writing the names down. “General Rasham. Sheik Fatah.” The list went on, each name a painful gasp.

When Madari stopped and put his head down, sobbing, Sevchenko waited for a moment.

“All of them, Faris.” He spoke quite softly.

Madari looked up at him. How could he know? How?

“There’s no more.”

“Really?” Sevchenko picked up the bloodstained pliers again.

“No, no please! There’s no more!” He struggled wildly, but they were too many and too strong for him. And he screamed as the right index finger’s nail was ripped out. He screamed a name. The last one. “Faraj!” He screamed. “Idris Faraj, Captain Idris Faraj!”

“Very good, Faris. Very good. Now you see if you’d told me all that,” he paused, presumably checking his watch, “sixty-five hours ago we could have avoided all this unpleasantness.”

Again he had the urge to spit at Sevchenko, but not the means. Yet Madari had tears, if he had no spit. He rested his head on the table edge, didn’t even try to prevent the sobs of shame and disgust that shook his body.

“Nine.” He vaguely heard Sevchenko mutter. “That’s such an ugly number. Might as well make it even.” And he tore out the nail of the right hand middle finger. As Madari finally passed out he heard Sevchenko say “much neater.”

“Well done, Vassily.” Svidler shook Sevchenko’s hand, when Sevchenko, cleaned up and in fresh clothes, came into his office.

“Thank you, Victor.” he sat down, shaking his head. “I just wish it had been sooner.”

“The Arabs are out arresting the names now. Let’s hope at least some of them are still in the country.” He saw Sevchenko shrug and he smiled. What went on outside of the interrogation room really didn’t interest Vassily.

“What are the plans for Madari?” Sevchenko asked. “Are they going to shoot him?”

“No, send him to jail. That camp up north. Same with the others, send them to various prisons.”

“Ah.” Sevchenko nodded, “Still all that respect for money.” He smiled.

“Capitalist fools.” Svidler said, smiling. He got up and found a bottle of vodka in his desk, poured them both a glass. “I’ve been ordered home to give a report on the situation. I have to leave momentarily. I’ll make it very clear whose blundering it was that forced your hand on the interrogation.”

“Thank you, Victor.” Sevchenko looked thoughtful. “He was an interesting subject. In fact I think there’s more he can tell me, much more. Is there any hurry to move him to prison?”

“Of course not.” Svidler said, waved a hand. “You hang on to him for as long as you want.”

“Seventeen days, I think.” Sevchenko said, quietly. Seventeen? Svidler frowned, then smiled. Ah, one day for each hour over the deadline. Almost poetic. He checked the time and got up.

“All right, I have a plane to catch.” He picked his briefcase off the desk. “Enjoy yourself, Vass.”


Faraj groaned as his bruised body protested about the potholes in the road,

“Quiet!” the guard snapped. Faraj gave him a haughty glare and made a fruitless attempt to get comfortable on the floor of the truck. He had no idea where they were taking him, no-one had bothered to explain when they smashed their way into his apartment, beat him up and dragged him out.

Rahama had been right. Faraj could only thank god that he had at least had the good sense to get his family out. Madari had given up their names. Faraj could have wept as he thought what his commander must have had done to him to force the information from him.

And now he’d given up that information he was no more use to them. Faraj knew what that meant. That meant that Rahama was right about something else.

Madari is dead.