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The camera panned a hillside alive with quavering trees and pounding rain. Then it zoomed in on the drenched cleric, now wearing a loin cloth and nothing else. Three hooded men stood in front of him, their weapons at their sides.
The cleric fell to his knees, his hands clasped before him as if in prayer. One of the hooded men laid his automatic rifle on the ground. From under his jacket he took out a foot-long dagger. He stood behind the cleric. Grabbing a fistful of dripping wet hair, he held the dagger at his victimâ€™s throat. He shouted a few words in Farsi. The cleric screamed.
The three soft taps on the wooden door woke me up. Josh was already sitting up. In the dim glow of the lamp he crept toward the door, Glock in hand. I heard more taps, six this time. Josh opened the door. "Salaam, Kareem.â€
Josh turned up the lamp, and Kareem walked in. He looked in his mid-fifties, wore a handlebar mustache, and was vertically challenged. He was short, really short.
I rose. "Our tour guide, I presume?â€
Josh said, "Meet Kareem. He will lead us the rest of the way.â€
Kareem gave a bit of a bow, and extended a hand to me. "Doctor McKenzie? I am honored. We have heard much about your skills as a surgeon.â€ He spoke with an accent but seemed fluent.
I nodded thanks.
Josh said to him, "Letâ€™s get going. Sunrise is only three hours away.â€ Then he turned to me. "Put on your hiking boots and a heavy jacket.â€
I did as he ordered. The hiking boots were Marine issue, and the heavy jacket was the same. Seeing me put them on, Josh smiled--at least his lips twitched. He said, "Once a Marine, always a Marine.â€
I wasnâ€™t so sure about that.
Josh strapped on his shoulder holster and picked up his luggage. Kareem turned off the lamp, and we stepped out.
Southern California weather gets to be a bad habit. I mean, once youâ€™re there for more than a year, you start shivering at temperatures below sixty Fahrenheit. Steam now blew out my mouth and nostrils, and my ears stung.
I asked Kareem, "Are we in the mountains?â€
"About seven thousand feet up.â€
The three-quarter moon, now directly overhead, brightly illuminated the surroundings. We were on a trail in a valley surrounded by snowcapped mountains. It was like one of those postcard scenes from the Swiss Alps.
We walked at a brisk pace along the trail that paralleled a stream. A half mile farther on we left the trail. Kareem led the way up a narrow gap in a cliff of stratified rock that seemed ready to crumble. My suitcase, which I had to carry because the tiny wheels couldnâ€™t negotiate the rough terrain, was on the heavy side. But I was in good enough shape to keep up with Josh and the guy he referred to as our tour guide. Despite his fifty-something age, Kareem appeared in excellent condition. Wearing jeans and a weatherworn ski jacket, he had a spring to his step, and didnâ€™t seem to be sucking air. Like I was.
I. James Sarfeh, M.D., is Emeritus Professor of Surgery with the University of California. He has authored over one hundred publications in scientific journals, written and contributed to numerous surgical textbooks. He is recognized nationally and internationally for his work in surgical research. In 2000 he retired from his successful academic career to devote full time to literary writing, a passion he has held since college days when he was studying journalism before entering medicine.
Dr. Sarfeh was living in England shortly after World War II, a time when the Warâ€™s devastation was imprinted everywhere, on the people, on the landscape. In 1958 he immigrated to America, receiving his B.A. at New York University and his M.D. at Albany (N.Y.) Medical College. He currently lives with his wife and son in Laguna Niguel, California. This is his second novel.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 312
Paper Weight (lb): 13.0
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