The alexandria link, p.1
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       The Alexandria Link, p.1

         Part #2 of Cotton Malone series by Stephenie Meyer
 
The Alexandria Link
Prologue

 

  PALESTINE

  APRIL 1948

  GEORGE HADDAD'S PATIENCE ENDED AS HE GLARED AT THE MAN bound to the chair. Like himself, his prisoner possessed the swarthy skin, aquiline nose, and deep-set brown eyes of a Syrian or a Lebanese. But there was something about this man Haddad simply did not like.

  "I'll only ask one more time. Who are you?"

  Haddad's soldiers had caught the stranger three hours ago, just before dawn. He'd been walking alone, unarmed. Which was foolish. Ever since the British decided last November to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab, the other Jewish, war had raged between the two sides. Yet this fool had walked straight into an Arab stronghold, offering no resistance, and had not said anything since being bound to the chair.

  "Did you hear me, imbecile? I asked who you are. " Haddad spoke in Arabic, which the man clearly understood.

  "I'm a Guardian. "

  The answer meant nothing to him. "What's that?"

  "We're keepers of knowledge. "

  He was not in the mood for riddles. Just yesterday the Jewish underground had attacked a nearby village. Forty Palestinian men and women had been herded into a quarry and shot. Nothing unusual. Arabs were being systematically murdered and expelled. Land that their families had occupied for sixteen hundred years was being confiscated. The nakba, the catastrophe, was happening. Haddad needed to be out fighting the enemy, not listening to nonsense.

  "We're all keepers of knowledge," he made clear. "Mine is how to wipe from the face of this earth every Zionist I can find. "

  "Which is why I've come. War is not necessary. "

  This man was an idiot. "Are you blind? Jews are flooding this place. We're being crushed. War is all we have left. "

  "You underestimate Jewish resolve. They've survived for centuries and will continue. "

  "This land is ours. We shall win. "

  "There are things more powerful than bullets that can provide you victory. "

  "That's right. Bombs. And we have plenty of those. We'll crush every one of you thieving Zionists. "

  "I'm not a Zionist. "

  The declaration came in a quiet tone, then the man went silent. Haddad realized that he needed to end this interrogation. No time for dead ends.

  "I've come from the library to speak with Kamal Haddad," the man finally said.

  His rage bowed to confusion. "That's my father. "

  "I was told he lived in this village. "

  His father had been an academic, schooled in Palestinian history, teaching at the college in Jerusalem. A man big in voice and laugh, body and heart, he'd recently acted as an emissary between the Arabs and the British, trying to stop the massive Jewish immigration and prevent the nakba. His efforts had failed.

  "My father is dead. "

  For the first time he spied concern in the prisoner's barren eyes. "I was not aware. "

  Haddad retrieved a memory he'd wanted to forever dismiss. "Two weeks ago he ate the end of a rifle and blew off the back of his head. He left a note that said he couldn't bear to watch the destruction of his homeland. He thought himself responsible for not stopping the Zionists. " Haddad brought the revolver he now held close to the Guardian's face. "Why did you need my father?"

  "He's the one to whom my information must be passed. He's the invitee. "

  Anger built. "What are you talking about?"

  "Your father was a man due great respect. He was learned, entitled to share in our knowledge. That's why I came, to invite him to share. "

  The man's calm voice hit Haddad like a pail of water dousing a flame. "Share what?"

  The Guardian shook his head. "That's only for him. "

  "He's dead. "

  "Which means another invitee will be chosen. "

  What was this man rambling about? Haddad had captured many Jewish prisoners-torturing them to learn what he could, then shooting what of them remained. Before the nakba Haddad had been an olive farmer, but like his father, he was drawn to academics and wanted to pursue further studies. That was now impossible. The state of Israel was being established, its borders carved from ancient Arab land, the Jews apparently being compensated by the world for the Holocaust. And all at the expense of the people of Palestine.

  He nestled the barrel of the gun between the man's eyes. "I just made myself the invitee. Speak your knowledge. "

  The man's eyes seemed to penetrate him and, for a moment, a strange uneasiness overtook him. This emissary had clearly faced dilemmas before. Haddad admired courage.

  "You fight a war that is not necessary, against an enemy that is misinformed," the man said.

  "What in God's name are you talking about?"

  "That's for the next invitee to know. "

  Midmorning was approaching. Haddad needed sleep. From this prisoner he'd hoped to learn the identity of some of the Jewish underground, perhaps even the monsters who'd slaughtered those people yesterday. The cursed British were supplying the Zionists with rifles and tanks. For years the British had made it illegal for Arabs to own weapons, which had placed them at a severe disadvantage. True, Arabs came with more numbers, but the Jews were better prepared, and Haddad feared the outcome of this war would be the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

  He stared back at a hard, unbending expression, into eyes that never drifted from his, and he knew that his prisoner was prepared to die. Killing had become much easier for him over the past few months. Jewish atrocities helped ease what little of his conscience remained. Only nineteen, and his heart had turned to stone.

  But war was war.

  So he pulled the trigger.

 
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