Ken Follett WORLD WAR II THRILLER COLLECTION
The Key to Rebecca
Also by Ken Follett
The Modigliani Scandal
Eye of the Needle
The Key to Rebecca
The Man from St. Petersburg
On Wings of Eagles
Lie Down with Lions
The Pillars of the Earth
Night over Water
A Dangerous Fortune
A Place Called Freedom
The Third Twin
The Hammer of Eden
Code to Zero
World Without End
New American Library
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Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First New American Library Trade Paperback Printing, February 2002
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eISBN : 978-1-101-04265-6
TO ROBIN MCGIBBON
Praise for Ken Follett and his bestselling novels
“Follett is a master.”
“An artist of compelling talents.”
âThe Philadelphia Inquirer
“Ken Follett can hold his own with the best.”
âThe Indianapolis Star
“Masterful. . . . Plot and counterplot, treachery, cunning, and killing . . . keep you on the edge every moment.”
âThe Associated Press
“Razor-sharp . . . harrowing . . . a cleverly crafted, easily read novel.”
The Dallas Times Herald
“Follett's great strength is his female charactersâthey are smart, strong, independent, and when they love a man, by golly, he knows the game is up.”
“An absolutely terrific thriller, so pulse pounding, so ingenious in its plotting, and so frighteningly realistic that you simply cannot stop reading.”
“Can Follett write. . . ? He outclasses his competitors.”
“Our spy in Cairo is the greatest hero of them all.”
âErwin Rommel, September 1942
(Quoted by Anthony Cave Brown in
Bodyguard of Lies
Table of Contents
THE LAST CAMEL COLLAPSED AT NOON.
It was the five-year-old white bull he had bought in Gialo, the youngest and strongest of the three beasts, and the least ill-tempered: he liked the animal as much as a man could like a camel, which is to say that he hated it only a little.
They climbed the leeward side of a small hill, man and camel planting big clumsy feet in the inconstant sand, and at the top they stopped. They looked ahead, seeing nothing but another hillock to climb, and after that a thousand more, and it was as if the camel despaired at the thought. Its forelegs folded, then its rear went down, and it couched on top of the hill like a monument, staring across the empty desert with the indifference of the dying.
The man hauled on its nose rope. Its head came forward and its neck stretched out, but it would not get up. The man went behind and kicked its hindquarters as hard as he could, three or four times. Finally he took out a razor-sharp curved Bedouin knife with a narrow point and stabbed the camel's rump. Blood flowed from the wound but the camel did not even look around.
The man understood what was happening. The very tissues of the animal's body, starved of nourishment, had simply stopped working, like a machine that has run out of fuel. He had seen camels collapse like this on the outskirts of an oasis, surrounded by life-giving foliage which they ignored, lacking the energy to eat.
There were two more tricks he might have tried. One was to pour water into its nostrils until it began to drown; the other to light a fire under its hindquarters. He could not spare the water for one nor the firewood for the other, and besides neither method had a great chance of success.
It was time to stop, anyway. The sun was high and fierce. The long Saharan summer was beginning, and the midday temperature would reach 110 degrees in the shade.
Without unloading the camel, the man opened one of his bags and took out his tent. He looked around again, automatically: there was no shade or shelter in sightâone place was as bad as another. He pitched his tent beside the dying camel, there on top of the hillock.
He sat cross-legged in the open end of the tent to make his tea. He scraped level a small square of sand, arranged a few precious dry twigs in a pyramid and lit the fire. When the kettle boiled he made tea in the nomad fashion, pouring it from the pot into the cup, adding sugar, then returning it to the pot to infuse again, several times over. The resulting brew, very strong and rather treacly, was the most revivifying drink in the world.
He gnawed at some dates and watched the camel die while he waited for the sun to pass overhead. His tranquillity was practiced. He had come a long way in this desert, more than a thousand miles. Two months earlier he had left El Agela, on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, and traveled due south for five hundred miles, via Gialo and Kufra, into the empty heart of the Sahara. There he had turned east and crossed the border into Egypt unobserved by man or beast. He had traversed the rocky wasteland of the Western Desert and turned north near Kharga: and now he was not far from his destination. He knew the desert, but he was afraid of itâall intelligent men were, even the nomads who lived all their lives here. But he never allowed that fear to take hold of him, to panic him, to use up his nervous energy. There were always catastrophes: mistakes in navigation that made you miss a well by a couple of miles; water bottles that leaked or burst; apparently healthy camels that got sick a couple of days out. The only response was to say
: It is the will of God.