?? They sat eating, Hassan watching the news from his chair at the table. It was stir-fry with vegetables, preceded by soup. Conrad said, 'Perhaps I'll get to taste some Palestinian food while I'm here.'
?? Hassan's fierce gaze swung from the TV. 'Non! Non! We are not to be Palestinians. We are to be thought of as Christian Lebanese. You understand, that is to be our cover. You must never mention Palestine because we are on duty every minute!'
??And just as Hassan said that, Conrad felt a soft foot come to rest on his ankle. At first he almost jerked his shoe away, but the foot lay quite still on his own; and judging by the position of seats at the table that foot could only have belonged to Zayna.
??'Tomorrow you are to begin work. You must buy guns.'
?? Hassan rubbed his short beard, glanced at Conrad's face, and continued eating. 'Guns?'
?? 'Yes of course, guns!' At that moment the foot lifted from his ankle and began a slow slide up the inside of his calf, catching briefly on the cuff of his jeans, then sliding up higher and higher, moving slowly, slowly. Conrad's eyes flashed to Zayna, who glanced back with a tiny acknowledging smile, and he tried to focus on Hassan's words as the foot crept up higher to his knee, guns, yes of course he had told them he could get them guns.
??'We have decided on two .38 Smith and Wessons, and one .22 Beretta. You will give me the price, please?'
?? Conrad blinked. The foot had just passed his knee and gave no indication it would stop. But why? Was this some kind of test, or was she just randy?
???'Price? Uh. Yeah. I'll have to ... check on ... that.'
? ?? He tried to focus, but his mind was in turmoil, the blood was making his face flush, and when her foot reached his thighs, which spontaneously opened like a flower to receive the foot, he felt the hardness developing between his legs.
???'How much do you think? One thousand dollars for three weapons? They must be untraceable, you understand that? And we need two hundred rounds for each gun. We must have practice.'
??? 'Oh. I ... yeah ... the price varies. I can't say. Guns are hard to get in Australia. Not like in--'
?? Hassan stood up in a fury, just as the foot reached the top of Conrad's thigh. He needed her to stop, this was too much, too dangerous. 'Are you saying you cannot get guns?'
? ?? 'Of course not. I said I could get them, and I will. That is my job.'
?? Hassan sat down. Abu commented, 'Hassan is nervous, you must not worry too much about what he says ... Are you okay?'
?? Abu was staring at Conrad's face. 'Yes.'
?? Conrad put one hand below the table and gently squeezed the foot, then lifted it away from his thigh. He looked at Zayna as he gave the sole of her foot a delicate stroke, pushing it aside. She smiled into her food.
??? And without knowing how it happened Conrad found he was holding Zayna in his arms. She had her head on his shoulder. 'I saw you, and you were different from these two--the first human man I had seen in my cage! I could feel your magnetism, your eyes were fire in mine. I feel it now! Conrad ... in the car I thought I could see into your head, into your thoughts. When they threw the beer cans at your car and I knew you were ashamed because you wanted to protect me. And I thought yes, you might want to love me.'
?? Conrad held her away from him to look in her face, then, afraid she might see more than he wanted in his own face, he closed his eyes. They were kissing, and suddenly his defences were gone, she had overcome his resolve. Her mouth was juicy, and their warm lips mingled and pressed fiercely. She had her hands under his T-shirt, on his bare skin and he felt like he was on a waterslide, flying down the tube, and there was no way he could stop, it was freefall. They were almost making love in the kitchen. His hands were under her clothes and his head felt dizzy with the pressure building up in his head.
???She whispered urgently, 'It is almost five past four! They are to come back at four.'
?? This was crazy. How could he stop? And yet if Abu and Hassan came back they would be dead. 'The laundry. Go to the laundry,' she pleaded. 'If they come back, we will hear them opening the door.'
?? In the laundry, opposite the kitchen, she moved away from him. He watched her empty the washing onto the floor: sheets, towels, shirts. In a deft move she lay back on the clothing and, smiling, lifted her dress as high as her shoulders and removed her panties.
???Conrad gasped at the sensuous force surging through his body. He undid his belt and pulled down his jeans and underpants, took his T-shirt off, and lay down within her welcoming legs. Instantly he was inside her, no thought of pregnancy or AIDS, nor even the more imminent death waiting in Hassan's hands.
???Inside of her body was swollen tight and running with honey, as if she had waited for this moment for eight years. Conrad, groaning after the third thrust, deaf to the world, thrusting in a genetic program inbuilt during the dinosaur age, ejaculated and kept going; he could not stop and she would not let him, and she was squealing with her teeth clenched tight as though trying to repress the sound. He lifted his head to look at her face and could see a shadow of pleasure, of relief at last at being able to fulfil her maternal instinct, but she would not stop, trying to draw all the genetic material from his body, and within four minutes he was near to a second ejaculation. He sought her mouth with his, her tongue inside his lips, her legs locked and loaded like a good terrorist across the small of his back, when they heard the front door slam.
?? Zayna got out carrying the two unlit petrol bombs. Conrad glanced along the street. It was deserted of all life, a canyon of shadows. He revved the motor hard in neutral--limbering up--the exhaust pipe pumped revolting oil fumes and pollutants into the night air. He pulled the gearshift into Drive and crept the car forward until the front wheels reached the gutter. The engine strained as he pushed the throttle down, and a centimetre at a time the car climbed up onto the footpath, where it stopped for breath, heaving with exertion. Zayna stood aside watching with curiosity. The black beast looked confused, half on the road, half on the footpath.
???Conrad accelerated forward and the car surged into the glass-fronted window. The supporting bricks, four rows high, fell inwards like Lego blocks, the glass shattered in huge dangerous multi-sided pieces. The Falcon smashed right into the office, tipping Number 99's desk, chair, and typewriter onto the floor in one explosion of sound. The black phone clung to its lifeline for a moment before the cord let go and it somersaulted into the office. The car's headlights lit up the interior, the sound of broken glass rumbled out into the street canyon. The engine stalled; the burglar alarm shrieked in high-pitched cries of pain. Zayna dipped the Molotov wicks into the petrol and sealed them back up. She lit both with a single match, and they burst into dangerous looking flames. Conrad was trying to restart the engine; it whined with complaint while he thumped in fury on the dashboard, cursing its conception and carburettor. Zayna was waiting impatiently for him to back out of the glass so that she could throw her fiercely burning Molotov cocktails into the office. The motor whirred on and on, the alarm wailed, hiccupping like an approaching police car. Zayna looked down the street and saw people, two, three, four, running towards them. Where had they come from? She stepped forward, pushing past the Falcon, and flung the first petrol bomb as hard as she could into the office. It struck a wooden door, bounced off and rolled along the carpet. There was no explosion. The wick continued to fizzle, the bottle lying on its side, leaking petrol along the carpet. Conrad sat in the car pumping the accelerator, twisting the ignition key, swearing and glancing at the four people running towards them, the leader only fifty metres away. Zayna loosened the cap on the second bottle. Standing in front of the whining car, she threw the bottle into the office, a flaming star. It shattered when it hit an ancient Remington typewriter standing in the back cupboard. There was an explosion of bright yellow and orange flames, a surging blast of heat rushed passed Zayna. The engine fired up, the rescuers twenty metres away. The first bottle, which had dribbled petrol along the carpet, now joined in the mini-holocaust. The carpet became a hallway of flames. Zayna opened the car door, and flung herself onto the seat as the first rescuer arrived.
???Conrad found reverse gear.
?? Above him he could hear shouting, a bright light was shining around him, and he wondered for a moment if he might be dead. Had they shot him? He moved, pain twisted his body, and he was again tumbling through branches, bushes, grass, rolling to a stop on the ground. Above him in the distance a light was sweeping back and forth. He didn't move. If he were to die, it would have happened already.
???He lay on the ground in darkness, finally he sat and stared up towards the starry, starry, night and wondered where Zayna was. He did not hear them drive off, but thought perhaps they might be walking down to kill him. He stood up awkwardly and began the difficult struggle down through the thick bushes, following the natural landscape. After five minutes he stopped, there were no sounds reaching him except the occasional roar of a distant semi-trailer.