Things Like This Are Happening…

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A short excerpt from my new manuscript..The Bequest.

The engine of the 767 roared as the departing plane raced down the runway. Juicer Alexis’ white shirt was drenched in sweat, half-hidden beneath the wrinkled linen jacket. Surrounded by sick Syrian refugees, he pushed his hand through his rumpled hair and tried to steady his shaking limbs before blowing a sigh of relief. He’d remained hidden for several weeks in the house of an art lover in Dumayr before the invitation from Tyler College arrived via the sporadic email system inviting him to review and appraise a large collection of donated artifacts looking strikingly like others Jucar once housed in his museum.

He stared out the window of the humanitarian plane, one of the few allowed to enter and exit, and surveyed the beautiful city. A vast arid plateau lay below him, fingers of streams spidering into the Barada, the river responsible for the creating the fertile Al Gutah Oasis, site of his beloved city, Damascus. Just an hour earlier, he’d barely escaped detection at a terrorist roadblock on the way to the airport.

“Don’t even breathe when they stop me,” his friend whispered from the front seat. Jucar hoped the hidden compartment beneath the back seat of the man’s car could contain his fear. The opening was small as Jucar tried to endure the cramps rising in his extremities. He clutched his computer to his chest, praying the reputation for hating the West his friend was known for, would be the decoy they needed to get Jucar out of the country. He felt the vehicle slow and then slam to a stop. The tires slid on the gravel, sending dust seeping into the hiding place, nearly choking him. He closed his eyes and felt the sweat trail down his face and drop onto the laptop encased in his balled form.

Voices outside rose and fell. He heard the slap of a man’s hand across someone’s face before gunshots ripped through the trunk just behind him. He jerked suddenly, stilled himself and held his breath. A moment later he heard a gun bang on the trunk and an unfamiliar voice screaming at his friend to open it. Finding a pair of jumper cables and three gallons of water, the trunk slammed shut.

“Search what you will!” his friend’s voice was calm and certain. “If there is anyone to be found in my car, I shall kill them for you!”

The door behind the passenger seat creaked open. A man kneeled on the seat above him, crushing his full weight onto the hidden man, forcing a wheeze of air from Jucar’s mouth. He could see the fingers of someone brushing inside the seat inches from his face. He hoped they could not smell his fear or the stench of the sweat rising from his body.

Shortly after the door closed, the car started and pulled away, the gravel again spitting behind them. He remained quiet for several minutes before he heard a voice.

“We did it, Jucar!” His friend whispered, as though someone might still hear. “They took my old computer and my wallet, as we suspected, but they knew of me, which is why I am not dead at this time.” He laughed, but Jucar was well aware of the attack his friend had just been spared. He’d witnessed the brutality boldly broadcast on the networks of the television stations now controlled by terrorist groups across Syria. “We must hurry, as they said the refugee plane will be gone by nightfall.”

Jucar’s lungs expanded and then deflated in gratitude. Outside the airport terminal entrance, Jucar said a bittersweet goodbye. He held his friend closely, knowing he might never see him again should one of them be discovered before his return. If he returned.

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