WELL, WELL, IF IT ISN’T THE DEVIL HIMSELF

This is an excerpt from The Syrian. In this scene Sonia has been accused of collaborating with the enemy. She was severely tortured. Thrown into a filthy cell once her interrogator has finished with her, she is visited by the most unlikely character.

Sonia resisted waking up. The slightest movement caused her pain. She willed herself back to sleep so she wouldn’t feel the throbbing in her thighs or recall her brutal treatment at the hands of her interrogator, a man she’d gladly kill in cold blood. Now she understood why Leila had killed the Shin Bet officer.

She was finally on the verge of sleep when she heard the planes—two, maybe more. In unison, they nose-dived. They came in low, practically touching the building—at least that was how it felt when the walls around her shook from the ear-piercing noise. Just as abruptly, the planes veered skyward again. They circled overhead for some time, a tactic meant to intimidate, to force victims to cower in their homes.

Again the planes swooped in like birds of prey. One bomb hit the building, maybe two. The walls shook. Plaster fell from the ceiling, covering her in white dust. She heard agonized screams. Women wailed, men shouted for help. No one came to open her cell door. If the planes returned, she knew it would be here in this stinking jail that she’d die, buried and forgotten under piles of rubble.

In the aftermath of the raid, she was finally able to fall back to sleep, desperate for the comfort of a consoling dream, any escape from her filthy cell. When she opened her eyes again, streaks of morning light shone through the slits across the top of the wall. She hoisted herself up and made her way to the drain on the opposite side of her cell to relieve herself. The blood had dried so the welts no longer stuck to her pants. But her thighs, still red and puffy, throbbed when she flexed her muscles and tried to walk. After peeing, she wiped her hands on her pants and returned to her mattress. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before and would have welcomed nourishment of any kind, even a glass of water.

She heard voices outside her cell. She pushed herself up to a seated position. Keys rattled. One was inserted into the key hole. Her cell door opened. A man carrying a tray walked in. He kicked the door closed behind him then put the food on the floor. She stared incredulously at the person standing before her. It was Hassan Jaafar, dressed in a white shirt, black jacket and slacks.

“Well, well—if it isn’t the devil himself. Were you sent in to finish me off?”

He walked to the edge of the mattress and stared down at her.

“Ever the feisty one, aren’t you.” He laughed as he knelt on one knee and gently rolled up her pajama pants. “I heard what happened yesterday.” He examined her wounds and stood again. “What a pity to make a mess of such beautiful thighs.”

“You’re not here to examine my wounds. What do you want?”

“Relax, this is a friendly visit. I brought you a few sandwiches.”

She glanced at the two pita breads filled with tomato, olives and lebneh. Her hands smelled like wet, stinky socks but she grabbed one of the sandwiches and started eating.

“Your kind doesn’t make friendly calls, so why are you really here?” she asked between bites.

“To offer you your freedom, I’ll corroborate your story with Hezbollah. In return, you give me what I want.”

“And what is that?” Sonia asked.

“Nadia.”

This book is available for purchase here.

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