فصل 01

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فصل 01

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CHAPTER ONE

The Voice in the Dark

Matobo, Africa

The hot sun burned down on the small town. An old wooden sign above the road was shaking in the strong wind. The words on it were unclear now, but it read: WELCOME PRESIDENT EDMOND ZUWANIE.

The car moved slowly down the road. The driver was a black African man. Next to him, a fair-haired white man was writing a list of names in a blue notebook. Another white man with long, dark hair sat in the back seat, holding two cameras.

“She refused to tell me her husband’s name,” the white man in the front seat shouted above the noise of the wind.

“The names of the dead are bad luck,” the driver replied.

“Zuwanie murdered half the town. Can their luck get worse?”

The driver slowed the car. “He can murder the other half.”

The fair-haired white man put a gun and a new notebook into his bag. He and the driver climbed out of the car.

“Stay here,” the driver said to the cameraman.

Slowly, the two men walked across the street toward a large, old stadium. Outside, two boys kicked a ball around the dry, brown grass.

One of the boys shouted to the two men.

“They want to show us the bodies,” the driver said.

The boys took the men into a room inside the stadium. There was a strong smell of death. The men covered their noses and told the boys to go outside. In the dark corners of the room, they could see piles of bodies on the floor. “XOLA NOW!” was written in blood on the walls.

They started to check the bodies. They recognized some of the dead and found the names of others from the papers in their pockets. The white man pulled the notebook out of his bag and started to write.

Suddenly, there was a shout from one of the boys outside.

“Somebody’s coming!” the white man said.

The two men ran out into the bright sunlight. There was nobody outside - only the two boys. Slowly, one boy lifted a gun and shot the black African in the chest. Then he turned to the white man and shot him in the stomach.

The white man fell to his knees.

“It’s OK,” he said quietly. “It’s OK.”

It was the last thing that he ever said.

The boy stood over the body.

“The Teacher says, ‘Good day to you,’” he whispered.

Hiding in the back of the car, the cameraman took some photos. Then he quietly climbed out of the car and disappeared into the trees.

A few minutes later, another vehicle arrived. The door opened and three soldiers climbed out. A tall, well-dressed African man followed them and walked slowly toward the stadium.

The United Nations Building, New York

The main hall was full of people. Ambassadors from around the world and their assistants were listening to the Spanish Ambassador’s speech. The interpreters sat in glass booths above them, repeating his words into Chinese, Russian, French, Arabic…

Outside the hall, U.N. Security Chief Lee Wu spoke to Assistant Chief Rory Robb: “There’s a security problem at the main entrance. Put the Secretary-General in the safe room. Take the Spanish Ambassador out of the building, then get everybody out.”

A U.N. guard came into the English interpreters’ booth as Silvia Broome finished interpreting the Spanish Ambassador’s words into English.

“Can you leave the building quickly, please?” the guard said.

Silvia, a tall woman of about thirty, with long fair hair and clear blue eyes, picked up her coat but left her music case in the booth.

“I’m teaching a student tonight,” she said. “This bag’s heavy and I don’t want to take it downstairs. I’ll get it later.”

The U.N. security officers worked quickly and emptied the building. Then they took the Spanish Ambassador outside to his car.

Rory Robb watched the large black car drive through the U.N. gates. He used his radio to call his chief.

“The Spanish Ambassador has left the U.N.,” he said. “He’s in the U.S. again.”

Silvia spent the next few hours in a restaurant with a group of other interpreters. It was nine o’clock at night when she returned to the U.N. building. She didn’t see anyone as she ran upstairs.

She opened the door to the interpreters’ booth and picked up her music case. Suddenly, she heard a man’s voice.

“The Teacher will never leave this room,” he whispered. He was speaking in Ku, the language of Matobo.

Silvia turned on a light and looked at her desk. One of the microphones in the hall below was still switched on. As the booth lit up, the man stopped talking. Quickly, Silvia switched off the light, but it was too late. She couldn’t see him, but he could see her.

She was shaking as she left the booth and ran down the stairs. She heard footsteps, then a door opened and closed. Someone was following her. She ran into the nearest room - the men’s restroom - and hid behind the door. The footsteps came nearer and stopped outside. Silvia pressed her back against the wall. Then, slowly, the footsteps moved away.

At the same time, on the other side of town, Secret Service Agent Tobin Keller, a tall, thin man with tired, sad brown eyes, was sitting alone in a bar. He sat there for a long time, then he went to the pay phone in the corner of the room and called his apartment.

A woman’s voice on the answering machine said, “You’ve reached the Keller’s. We’re out having a good time. Please leave a message.” It was his wife’s voice.

He put more money into the pay phone and called the number again. And again. And again.

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