Arab Summer

DAVID LENDER

 
 

Arab Summer


Sasha Del Mira Thriller #3


by


David Lender

Copyright 2012 © by David T. Lender

    Chapter 1

Eighteen months ago.

Sasha Del Mira smiled at the baker as she took the loaf of bread he handed her over the counter. “Danka, Herr Gustoven,” she said, turned and stepped back into the throng of people in the shop. It was Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m., and the shops in Old Town in Geneva were already crammed with tourists. Sasha knew the shopkeepers loved the traffic, but it was locals like Sasha who filled the cash registers on their Saturday-morning rounds for their weekend essentials, walking directly to the counters with purpose instead of milling around and gawking like the foreigners. She worked her way to the door, hearing French, English, German and Italian being spoken. A typical spring Saturday. Near the door she encountered a man poring over a Michelin guide. Two girls, perhaps seven and ten years old, stared up at him.

“Please, Daddy,” the younger one said in American English.

“In a moment, Sandy,” the man said without looking up from the guide, “I’m looking for something.”

Sasha stopped in front of the girls. “Can I help?”

The older girl looked up with relief in her eyes. “Oh, thank God. You speak English. Are you British?”

“No, raised across the lake from here, mostly. My English tutor was British.” She smiled. “Can I help?” she repeated.

“Daddy said we could have treats, but we don’t speak the language.”

“There’s a universal language for that,” Sasha said, and motioned toward the display cases filled with neat rows of pastries, cakes, pies, strudel and torts. “May I show you?”

The man finally looked up from his Michelin guide. He smiled at Sasha and nodded to the girls. They followed Sasha to the display case. “Just point,” she said. The younger one pointed to a Napoleon, the older one to a custard tort. Sasha raised her hand. “Bitte, Frau Gustoven.” The gray-haired matron behind the counter smiled, then crouched behind the case and observed where each girl now pressed her finger against the glass. She retrieved the pastries, wrapped them in baker’s paper and passed them over the counter. Sasha handed them to the girls and turned to see their father holding out a handful of Swiss francs. She pulled out seven francs and handed them to Frau Gustoven. “Vielen dank,” Sasha said. “Guten tag.” Sasha turned to leave, said to the man, “Enjoy your stay in Geneva.” The man thanked her.

Her errands finished, Sasha left the fragrant warmth of the shop and stepped outside into the cool April air. She shifted her grocery bags into one hand and pulled the collar of her blazer up around her neck against the damp breeze off Lake Geneva. She walked across along Place du Bourg-de-Four, relishing the familiar feeling of the uneven cobblestones under her feet, taking in the 16th and 17th century limestone facades of the shops. Swiss locals in sports jackets with ties, walking with stiff formality, intermingled on the sidewalks with the tourists in their brightly colored parkas, Polo khakis, $200 Nikes and backpacks. Sasha smiled, loving it, and continued onto Rue de la Fontaine to descend the hill from Old Town to the center of Geneva.

When she reached the Pont du Mont-Blanc she picked up her pace. Daniel would be home from the gym soon. She wanted to arrive before him, get breakfast started and lay out the dishes as part of a peace offering. She forgot who had once dispensed to her that newlywed advice, “Never go to bed angry at each other,” but it rang loudly in her ears now. Then she was laughing to herself over it, because now, after six months, it felt like they were an old married couple. On reflection, the argument last night could have been avoided if only she’d held her tongue. Telling Daniel he’d had too much wine as she pulled him into the foyer to leave the Delarches’ apartment, loudly enough to be overheard, wasn’t politic, particularly since she’d had too much wine herself. They’d ridden home in a taxi in silence. This morning, Daniel had left for the gym without a word. Sasha figured a cheery hello and the table set for breakfast would put things back on an even keel.

She walked up Rue du Mont-Blanc and had entered Rue Ami-Lévrier, hurrying now, when she noticed a man was walking behind her, seeming to match her pace. She slowed to let him pass. He slowed. She felt a bolt of alarm and slid her hand into her handbag, felt for the grip of her 9mm Beretta Cheetah. The American from the baker’s? She took a sharp breath, stopped and turned. It was a portly man in a sweat suit. He widened his eyes at her abrupt movement, then smiled, said, “Guten morgen,” averted his eyes and walked past.

Sasha could feel her pulse in her temples as she watched him turn the corner onto Rue des Alpes. She exhaled. She remembered Daniel’s constant admonishments of her for being paranoid. Or just careful?

She continued down Rue Ami-Lévrier, then opened the door to their apartment building.

“Hello, Miss Sasha,” François said from behind his security desk when she entered and crossed the lobby to the elevator. She checked her watch on the elevator, tapping her foot. Upstairs, she hurried, hoping to get breakfast well on its way before Daniel returned home. The ingredients for their goat cheese, sun-dried tomato and caramelized onion omelets were all prepared and waiting when she heard Daniel enter. She brushed her hair back from her eyes, looking up at him as he crossed the dining room into the kitchen. His tan from their two weeks in St. Maarten made him gleam like a sun god, warming her.

“Sorry I got so pissed off,” he said.

“My fault, darling, I had too much wine.” She smiled back. Her rising desire and hunger for him told her it wouldn’t require breakfast for them to make up. She turned off the burner, reached out to Daniel as he took her in his arms and kissed her.

A half hour later, she cradled her head on her elbow in bed next to him, running a finger over his chest. “That was a better way to break the ice from last night than I’d planned.”

He leaned over and kissed her. “I wouldn’t have complained about breakfast, but…” He grasped her hand. “… I agree with you.” He kissed her, then stood up. She watched him cross the bedroom to the bathroom. He’d hardened and slimmed his body over the last year. She felt a rise of desire for him again.

She said, “Retirement’s been good to you.” He stopped and looked over his shoulder at her. “When I met you, you were lamenting your love handles and your 40s metabolism. Working out regularly agrees with you.”

He smiled and walked into the bathroom. She rolled onto her back as she heard him turn on the shower. Sasha sighed, content. This was her man. How could she ever imagine anyone else in her life?


#


The next Saturday, Daniel left for the gym, Sasha on her rounds to her usual shops in Old Town, as had become their routine. When Sasha returned home and pulled on the door to their apartment building, she found it locked. She peered in and saw that François was away from his security desk. Probably a bathroom break. She fished out her keys, opened the door and walked to the elevator. Upstairs, she noted that the light at the far end of the hall was out, and saw light emerging from beneath the rear door to their apartment, where they’d created their master bedroom suite by knocking out the walls to take over the other apartment on their floor. Is he home already? She opened the main door and called from the foyer into the bedroom, “Daniel?” No answer. She dropped her handbag on the dining room table and was in the kitchen putting the groceries down on the island when she heard Daniel’s key in the lock. As she crossed back through the dining room into the foyer, she saw Daniel smile as he entered.

“Hi,” he said.

As she opened her mouth to respond, she heard the crunch of something underfoot on the hardwood floor from the master bedroom suite. She froze, her scalp tingling. Her gaze darted toward the master bedroom, then back to Daniel, who dropped his gym bag and rushed toward her.

It happened fast.

A man—Arab complexion, bearded and wearing a Western business suit—strode a few paces into the room and raised a gun with a silencer attached. Her instincts told her to dive through the doorway back into the dining room, but before she could move, Daniel yelled, “No!” and threw himself in front of her. She heard the muffled sound of the silenced gunshot and the slap of the bullet into Daniel as one. She leapt sideways into the dining room, her brain now barking commands. She rolled, righted herself, thrust her hand into her handbag and pulled out her Beretta, then turned with the gun raised. She heard the gunman’s footsteps advancing across the marble floor of the foyer and fired one, two, three, four times into the sheetrock wall between the dining room and the foyer. She heard a grunt and a crash as the man must have toppled a piece of furniture.

Daniel! She lunged on one knee through the doorway into the foyer, her Beretta raised in firing position. Daniel lay in front of her on his back, a halo of red on his chest. The gunman was sprawled on the floor by the door with a shoulder wound, the gun dangling uselessly from the hand on his injured arm. She saw him lean forward, struggle to sit up, then reach across to the gun with his other hand. She fired again, hitting him in the stomach and putting him down. She ran to him, kicked the gun from his grasp and heard him gurgling, blood now coming from his mouth. She rushed back to Daniel.

Oh my God, no! His eyes were open, staring straight at the ceiling. She clasped his face in her hands, turned his head to look directly into his eyes. Nothing. She felt his jugular. She couldn’t tell whether the throbbing she felt was her own heart pounding or Daniel’s pulse. She took in a huge gulp of air, pressed her lips to his and exhaled. Again. And again. She lost track of how many times, her mind frantic, her heart wailing. She kept on until she was gasping for breath. Still Daniel stared, his eyes wide open but lifeless. She forced herself to look at the wound. It was directly over his heart. And now she felt the dampness through her jeans where she knelt over him, saw the pool of blood encircling them both. Her mind told her he was gone, but her heart wouldn’t accept it. She ran to the phone and dialed emergency.

“My husband has been shot. He’s not breathing. Send help. Fifth floor, number nine, Rue Ami-Lévrier. Please hurry!” She hung up and ran back to the foyer, picked up the Beretta from next to Daniel and crossed the room to the gunman. He was still breathing, coughing up blood. She leaned over and stared into his face. “Who sent you?”

He didn’t answer, his eyes glazed. She pressed the Beretta to his temple. “Who sent you?” she said again, this time in Arabic.

Now his eyes focused on hers and held her gaze. The man shook his head.

“Who?” she repeated in Arabic. “Tell me and I won’t kill you.”

He put his chin to his chest to look down at the bullet wound, said faintly, “I’m already dead.” Then he smiled, as if mocking her, and motioned for her to come closer. She bent down, her face so close to his she could smell his blood, the garlic on his breath.

He whispered to her.

Her hands trembled with rage as she stood, aimed at the man’s heart and fired.

She dropped the Beretta and ran to Daniel, fell to her knees and cradled his head in her arms, her heart feeling like it was exploding. She moaned, rocking him as she cried, then gave in to her horror and anguish and wailed. “No!” she heard her soul crying out.





counter in iweb

Copyright 2012 © by David T. Lender

Copyright 2012 © by David T. Lender