The Prisoner's Wife is a political thriller ripped from today's headlines -a tense trip through the murky worlds of state- sponsored terrorism, nuclear politics, secret American jails and lawless rendition. Shawn Maguire, unemployed American spy, has been paid to find a young Iranian now being interrogated in one of the CIA's black prisons. The prisoner may be in Fes, in Cairo or in Peshawar, but Shawn has every confidence that he'll find his man. Based on his time as an agent, it's an assignment he knows he can handle. But he's not so sure he can handle... the prisoner's wife.
Gerard Macdonald's The Prisoner's Wife takes a pulse-pounding look at the political intrigue in the Middle-East.
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GERARD MACDONALD began his writing career with two young-adult novels, both of which he turned into TV series. Thereafter, he combined television and film scriptwriting--in Europe and the U.S.--with post-doctoral research in American politics. For the past three years he has been hard at work writing adult novels, the first of which is The Prisoner's Wife. Macdonald lives in west London.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
PARIS, 9 APRIL 2004
In the spring of 2004, Darius Osmani was disappeared.
In mid-April, in a black Volvo on the rue des Vieilles Boucheries, Hassan Tarkani and Calvin McCord, intelligence operatives, were talking money.
Calvin said, “You tell me what you get, I tell you what I get, one of us going to be unhappy. Trust me. That’s the way it works.”
They were parked without lights in the quatrième, between a shuttered café and a nineteenth-century apartment building. Streetlamps were already lit. In the rain, a pointillist halo surrounded the lights.
“Tell me,” said Hassan, “for the same work, will a man from poor country, will he get less money than a man from rich country?”
“Interesting question,” said Calvin. As part of his training, he’d spent a semester at Michigan State, studying issues in moral belief. “We’re talking ethics, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re talking practicalities, answer is yes. No question, rich guy gets more. ‘To those who have, it shall be given and they shall abound; from those who do not have, even what they have shall be taken away.’ That’s the Bible, right there.”
“This is Christian Bible?”
“That’s the one,” Calvin said.
Both Hassan and Calvin wore tight-fitting black caps, which were in fact ski masks, rolled to forehead height. Calvin, who had a low threshold for boredom, held a hip flask between his knees. He took a drink without making an offer to Hassan. By nationality Hassan was Pakistani; by religion, Muslim. Though Calvin had worked with Muslims who eased the pain with alcohol, his partner wasn’t among them. So far as Calvin knew.
Hassan turned on the car’s interior light to check a double photo—full face and profile—of a man in his late thirties. “What exactly has he done, this man?”
Calvin snapped off the light. “Nothing, far’s I know. It’s what he might do. Same as Iraq—preemptive strike. Lock up the ragheads planning whatever they’re planning, what do we have? I’ll tell you. Peace. Would you say God knew if you did take a drink?”
“I have this vision of your God,” Calvin said. “He’s sitting in front of like some infinitely giant flat-screen video monitor, keeping an eye on all you camel jockeys. He’s pretty damn sharp. He’ll be eyeballing some chick wearing makeup on this side of the screen, say the right side, or she got her head uncovered, whatever, then, same moment, he sees a guy like you, not you personally, out in left field, you sneak a little drink. Gotcha, says God, quick as a flash. Won’t miss a trick, this guy. It’s like a touch-screen he has up there, he just hits it with his hand and bam, blasts you. Do not pass Go. Get straight to hell. What’s the road name mean?”
Through the rain-spattered windshield, Hassan peered up at a sign. “Old Butchery Street.”
“Appropriate,” Calvin said. “Something I wonder is, why the fuck you speak five languages and me—that’s got more money and more rank and more education—I have trouble talking my own damn tongue.”
“It has to do with color of passport,” Hassan said. “If it is blue, you tell us poor people, ‘Learn American, or we don’t talk with you.’ If you are sorry son of a bitch with green passport, you learn languages or you don’t speak with any person outside of Pakistan.” He touched the side of his wristwatch, illuminating numbers on its dial. “How long?”
Watching the apartments, Calvin said, “Long as it takes. He wants to get laid, has to come out sometime.” He lifted the flask, resisted a moment, and took another drink. His hand shook a little.
In the darkness, his mind wandered.
“Global warming,” he said. “You heard of this? Climate change? Sun getting hotter? Worries the shit outa me. I hate to be the one has to tell you, your whole damn country’s going undersea.”
Hassan said, “You’re thinking of Bangladesh.”
“The hell I am,” said Calvin. “If I was thinking of Bangladesh I would’ve said Bangladesh, wherever the fuck that is.”
Hassan considered explaining the subcontinent’s geography and decided against it. He pointed to the now-opening door of the apartment building.
Calvin was peering through binoculars at a man who stood in the building’s doorway, lighting a cigarette between cupped hands. The match glow lit up his face.
“Snap. That’s our boy.”
Moving as one, Hassan and Calvin rolled down their ski masks. They were out of the car, across the damp pavement, gripping the arms of the figure in the doorway. When the man yelled and tried to back into the hall, away from the black-masked figures, he was borne in the opposite direction, toward the Volvo. He shouted once. Something soft was pushed into his mouth. Though his arms were held, his feet were free. The prisoner had once been a soccer player, a fullback, in Iran. He kicked the black-masked man holding his left arm, kicked again, heard a muttered exclamation. Then something smooth and heavy slugged the place where the prisoner’s skull joined his neck. At the same moment Hassan’s fist hit the young man’s gut, driving air from his lungs. The smooth and heavy thing hit his knees: first the left, then the right.
When his breath came back and his eyes opened, the suspect found his vision fading in and out of focus. Whatever was in his mouth made it hard to breathe. He tried again to kick, but his legs hung limp, like a doll’s.
The masked men bundled him into a car’s backseat.
Hassan followed the prisoner in, gripping his thin neck and binding his mouth with duct tape.
Calvin, in the driver’s seat, pulled the car out, passing a soft-topped Peugeot. He did not turn his head. “Just don’t do what you did with the last one, okay?”
Hassan paused in his work. “I did what, exactly?”
“Get out of here. You taped his fucking nose.”
“Tell me about it,” Calvin said. “Just keep this one breathing.” He made a sharp right turn. “I’m not flying out with a body bag.”
He slowed for a red light on rue Rivoli, then accelerated through green. “Documents?”
Hassan cuffed the prisoner’s hands behind him, bagged his head, then searched his pockets. The man made a sound that, through duct tape and hood, became a muffled groan.
Calvin now wore a black trilby hat. Adjusting it, shielding his face, he turned on the car’s interior light, so Hassan could read.
“Hate to end up in Bagram with the wrong guy.”
Hassan said, “He can hear you.”
“That’s okay,” Calvin said. “He’s not going to Bagram. Still want him to be the right guy.”
Hassan had found the man’s passport, which was worn and red. “We got him.”
The man moaned.
“Planning to travel?”
“Pakistan. He has a visa. More than one.”
“Won’t be using them,” Calvin said, without looking back. “Not anytime soon.”
Hassan opened the backseat coffee-cup holder. From a plastic cylinder, he extracted a hypodermic.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” he told the prisoner. “It will relax you. Take away the anxiety.”
“Understandable anxiety,” Calvin said. “All things considered.” At slightly less than legal speed he was driving down the boulevards des Maréchaux, heading for the Parisian périphérique. “He must wonder what the hell’s happening. I mean, I would.” When his phone connected he called ahead for priority clearance at Charles de Gaulle.
Again, the prisoner made a sound. To ease injection, Hassan considered removing the man’s outer clothing, then decided not to. Rule was, at destination, three thousand miles away, the prisoner’s garments would be cut from his body and the bagged pieces flown to Virginia for testing. Till then, the guy stays dressed. That was the rule.
Through the prisoner’s woolen jacket, Hassan administered a syringe-full of chemical relaxant. As the hypodermic’s needle entered his arm, the man twitched like a rabbit.
Hassan patted the prisoner’s duct-taped face. “Oh, come on,” he told him. “Didn’t hurt.”
“Clean needle,” Calvin said, from the front seat, “if that’s what he’s worried about.”
“If he is worrying now,” Hassan said, “soon he won’t.” He found the prisoner’s pulse. “Relaxing already, this boy.”
Passing a police patrol, Calvin slowed a little. “He might be worried if he knew where he was going.”
“Fortunately,” Hassan said, “he has no idea.”
Copyright © 2012 by Gerard Macdonald
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