Read The Last Testament Online

Authors: Sam Bourne

The Last Testament

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T h e

L A S T

T E S T A M E N T

S A M B O U R N E

For my father, a testament to my love
and enduring admiration

Contents

Prologue

The crowd were pushing harder now, as if they scented…

1

Chapter One

The usual crowd was there. The hardcore leftists, the men…

7

Chapter Two

‘Big day today, honey.’

13

Chapter Three

It wasn’t a surprise. She had known that much the…

29

Chapter Four

After-dark meetings were part of the tradition of this office.

36

Chapter Five

For the first time since she got here the people…

40

Chapter Six

The street was jammed, cars parked on both sides, their…

47

Chapter Seven

He wouldn’t need to be here long. Just ten minutes…

52

Chapter Eight

‘Our information is that the body, riddled with bullets, was…

57

Chapter Nine

Maggie headed to the room Davis had set up for…

63

Chapter Ten

Her first surprise was at the brevity of the journey.

68

Chapter Eleven

Maggie lay back on her bed at the David’s Citadel…

79

Chapter Twelve

Salam had headed to school that morning more out of…

87

Chapter Thirteen

Amir Tal knocked on the door with two brisk taps,…

92

Chapter Fourteen

She was meant to travel nowhere except with her official…

98

Chapter Fifteen

He only had a rumour to go on. His brother-in-law…

102

Chapter Sixteen

Maggie had seen plenty of dead bodies before. She had…

107

Chapter Seventeen

Mahmoud was regretting this decision. He should be above this…

115

Chapter Eighteen

She met Uri at the Restobar Café. Not that he…

125

Chapter Nineteen

Jaafar al-Naasri was not a man to rush. ‘Those that…

139

Chapter Twenty

The drive back from Psagot had been tense. Maggie had…

144

Chapter Twenty-One

Henry Blyth-Pullen tapped the steering wheel along to the Archers…

152

Chapter Twenty-Two

‘I hate the media in this country, I really do.’

162

Chapter Twenty-Three

Amir Tal was working hard to conceal his amazement, even…

166

Chapter Twenty-Four

Their orders were very clear. Get in, search and possibly…

171

Chapter Twenty-Five

Henry Blyth-Pullen hated flying at the best of times. Even…

176

Chapter Twenty-Six

For a small country, Maggie couldn’t help thinking, Israel couldn’t…

182

Chapter Twenty-Seven

This was the sound Shimon Guttman wanted to hear, the…

190

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Their first stop had been the central police station in…

201

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Maggie bolted upright, her heart thumping. She was confused, taking… 208

Chapter Thirty

Shimon Guttman’s hand trembled as he put his key in…

215

Chapter Thirty-One

Khalil al-Shafi knew that, in reality, this was only half…

224

Chapter Thirty-Two

For the second time in a week she was entering…

229

Chapter Thirty-Three

As they threaded through the back streets, narrow and made…

232

Chapter Thirty-Four

Tradition held that this hour was reserved for the forum,…

236

Chapter Thirty-Five

She had no idea how long she had remained stuck…

242

Chapter Thirty-Six

Officially, Baruch Kishon was meant to hate Europe. As a…

251

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Maggie did her best to conceal what had happened. She…

258

Chapter Thirty-Eight

‘Uri, I want to get out.’

263

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Not for the first time since he got to this…

273

Chapter Forty

The sensation was almost physical, as if her spirits were…

277

Chapter Forty-One

They were running out of places to meet. The golden…

286

Chapter Forty-Two

They drove back to the hotel in silence. Uri had…

290

Chapter Forty-Three

She knew she should have said no, that she should…

297

Chapter Forty-Four

First he heard the double click, the signal that they…

309

Chapter Forty-Five

At first she wasn’t sure if she had opened her…

311

Chapter Forty-Six

Maggie flung her arms around Uri’s neck and planted a…

315

Chapter Forty-Seven

His wife heard it before he did. He had always…

325

Chapter Forty-Eight

She got out of the hotel more easily than she…

327

Chapter Forty-Nine

He was not asleep. He was not even lying down.

334

Chapter Fifty

She wheeled around, searching among the blissed-out faces and strumming…

336

Chapter Fifty-One

She held herself very still, wary even of her own…

343

Chapter Fifty-Two

The car turned through the Jaffa Gate, stopping almost immediately… 349

Chapter Fifty-Three

Her legs made the decision before she did. She stood…

360

Chapter Fifty-Four

Gloved hands gripped her wrists so hard it was as…

363

Chapter Fifty-Five

‘They don’t usually show people this part of the building,…

371

Chapter Fifty-Six

‘You had me followed?’ Again she was disappointed by the…

374

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Maggie stared at the ground. She needed to steady herself…

380

Chapter Fifty-Eight

It was as if she were raiding the emergency tank.

385

Chapter Fifty-Nine

The driver took her the short distance to the hotel,…

389

Chapter Sixty

The throbbing was softened now, reduced to a rhythmic ache.

394

Chapter Sixty-One

Maggie stared at the message, her brow slowly smoothing into…

400

Chapter Sixty-Two

Uri kept his spirits high for most of the journey.

410

Chapter Sixty-Three

Her eyes searched for Uri, but could see no sign…

417

Chapter Sixty-Four

The camera fell from his hand with a thud. Uri…

425

Epilogue

She had all her papers on her lap, in a…

433

Acknowledgments
437

About the Author

Other Books by Sam Bourne

Credits

Cover

Copyright

About the Publisher

P R O L O G U E

BAGHDAD, APRIL 2003

The crowd were pushing harder now, as if they scented blood.

They charged through the archway and their combined weight pressed against the tall oak doors until they went crashing to the ground. As they rushed through, Salam moved with them.

It was not a decision. He was simply a part of a moving beast made up of men, women and children, some even younger than him. They were a collective animal and now they gave a mighty roar.

They burst into the first vast hall, the glass of the display cases glinting in the silver moonlight that spilled through the ceiling-high windows. There was a brief pause, as if the beast were drawing breath. Salam and his fellow Baghdadis contemplated the scene before them. The National Museum of Antiquities, once Saddam’s treasure house, bursting with the jewels of Mesopotamia, now laid wide open. There was not a guard in sight. The last of the museum staff had abandoned their posts hours earlier; and the few remaining security men had fled at the sight of this horde.

The brief moment of silence was ruptured by a sledgehammer 2

SAM BOURNE

crashing through glass. On that cue, the room was instantly filled with thunderous noise, as one after another they started wielding pistols, axes, knives, clubs, even heavy strips of metal torn from wrecked cars – anything to spring these precious, ancient objects from their cases.

Pane after pane of glass shattered. Ivory statues tumbled; ancient ceramic plates smashed to powder as they hit the floor.

The room, usually blanketed in museum quiet, echoed now with a mighty din: the breaking of stone and glass, even gunshots as the most impatient shot out locks that refused to surrender to a crowbar. Salam noticed two well-dressed men setting to work methodically with professional glass-cutting equipment.

The ground trembled as wave after wave of people stampeded into the museum, ignoring this first exhibition hall, looking for fresh pickings elsewhere. They collided with those anxious to get out, hauling their priceless booty on handcarts, wheelbarrows and bicycles, or struggling under heavy plastic crates and cardboard boxes. Salam recognized a friend of his father striding out, his face flushed and his pockets bulging.

Salam’s pulse was throbbing. In all his fifteen years he had never seen anybody behave like this. Until a few days ago everyone he knew had moved slowly, heads down, eyes averted. In Saddam’s Iraq you knew better than to break the rules or draw attention to yourself. Now these same people –

his neighbours – were wild in their desire, stealing anything they could lay their hands on and destroying the rest.

Salam reached into a broken case for a necklace made of pale orange and amber stones. But someone grabbed his wrist before he could grasp it: a middle-aged woman, eyes ablaze, blocking Salam with her left hand, stealing the necklace for herself with her right. He backed away.

It was like a scene from the sacking of an ancient city, Salam thought: an orgy driven not by lust, but by greed, the partici-THE LAST TESTAMENT

3

pants writhing with avarice, slaking an appetite that had been pent up for decades. Suddenly he was pushed forward again: a new group of looters had arrived and they were making for the stairwell.

Salam was swept along as they headed down a flight of stairs: a rumour had spread that the museum staff had stashed all the best stuff in the storerooms. He saw a knot of men standing around a door which they had clearly just lifted off its hinges.

Behind it stood a freshly-constructed wall of cinder blocks, the cement barely set. First one man, then two, began hacking away at the bricks with hammers; others joined them using bars, even their shoulders. They turned to Salam.

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