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فصل 05

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 5 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

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Chapter five

For two days the boat had been moving slowly along the Shatt el Arab. Many times the old Arab man had come down the river like this to Basrah. The other man in the boat was wearing the black and white keffiyah, the traditional Arab head dress. Over his long robe he wore an old brown coat with a red scarf. He was a man who looked like thousands of others in this country. There was nothing to show he was an Englishman, and that he carried a secret that could destroy him.

His mind went back over the last weeks: the attack as he came over the mountains; the caravan of camels; four days’ walking across the desert with two men carrying their “cinema”; then travelling on with old friends of the Aneizeh tribe. Hiding again and again from the men sent to kill him - ‘Henry Carmichael. British Agent. Thirty. Brown hair, dark eyes, five-foot-ten. Speaks many languages. Friend of the tribesmen. Dangerous.’ Carmichael had been born in Kashgar, China, and yes, he had friends in all the wild places of the Middle East. It was only in the cities that his contacts failed him. In every town in Iraq, agents were ready with plans to help him get to Baghdad. But these plans, made months before, had failed. The first had been an aeroplane, but his enemies had found out.

Someone had betrayed him!

So his sense of danger was at its highest as the boat turned into the waterway that ran through Basrah. Hundreds of boats were tied up and other boats were coming in.

The old man said softly, ‘May Allah make your path straight, and lengthen the years of your life.’

‘Inshallah. It is as Allah wishes,’ Carmichael said, getting out of the boat.

All around him there was the usual noisy, waterside crowd of people. On the opposite side of the street, passing by the shops and banks, were busy young Iraqi men in European suits. There were Europeans, too. No one was showing any interest in him.

Carmichael walked to the bridge at the top of the canal, crossed it and went into the souk. Here there was noise and movement everywhere. Energetic Arabs marching along between loaded donkeys and shouting children running after the Europeans.

All normal.

And yet Carmichael felt a growing sense of fear. No one was following him. Yet he was certain he was in danger. He turned into a narrow alley, then stepped through a doorway into a courtyard with shops all round it. He went to one where ferwahs were hanging - the sheepskin coats of the north. He stood there touching them.

‘Besh hadha?’ he called to the owner.

‘Seven dinars.’

‘Too much.’

‘There are cheaper fetwahs in the inner room,’ the shopkeeper said.

‘A white ferwah from the North is what I need.’

‘I have one.’

The shopkeeper pointed to a door in the inner wall.

As Carmichael passed across the room, he looked at the owner’s face - though he looked very much like him, this was not the right man. He stopped. ‘Where is Salah Hassan?’

‘He was my brother. He died three days ago. His business is mine now.’

Yes, it was possible that this was the brother also employed by the department. His passwords had been correct. However, it was with great care that Carmichael went into the inner room.

Here were shelves full of goods. And a white ferwah lay on a small table.

If they had chosen a gun as the weapon, Carmichael’s mission would have failed there and then. But it had been a knife.

On the shelf in front of Carmichael there was a big copper coffee pot. The knife and the man’s reflection showed in the shining surface. In another moment that knife would have been stabbed into Carmichaels back.

As quick as a flash, Carmichael turned and knocked the man to the ground. The knife fell. Carmichael ran back into the crowded souk, turning first one way, then another.

Betrayed again!

He was on the run once more. Without money, without help. He came out of the souk at last and walked on until he saw the familiar sign he was looking for: British Consulate. He looked up the street and down. No one seemed to be paying the least attention to him. Nothing, it appeared, would be easier than to walk into the safety of the Consulate.

But he thought of an open mousetrap with a lovely piece of cheese. That, too, was easy for the mouse…

Well, the risk had to be taken.

He went through the doorway.

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