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???'This gripping new work by Marcus Clark provides an unusually thoughtful perspective on terrorism. Clark's careful research, and his historical background on events in Israel, the West Bank, and Lebanon, plus glimpses of day-to-day life in the West Bank, make credible if not always sympathetic human beings of cold-blooded killers. Many readers will be glad of the extensive bibliography to enhance their knowledge and understanding of a complex and sensitive subject.'

???He walked outside the glass-fronted office, stopped on the pavement and stared at the waiting cop car. It was closer than he liked, a hundred metres along King Street. He needed more time to think about this. Hedgeman was a recurring nightmare, a cop who had tried to pin a murder on him a couple of years ago; tried and failed. The trouble was, Hedgeman wasn't the sort of cop who could ever admit he had made a mistake. For the last year Hedgeman hadn't bothered him, so why now all of a sudden? Had Hedgeman dredged up some new evidence for an unsolved crime?
????? As Conrad approached the cop car, he could see that Hedgeman was sitting alone. He held a cigarette in his big-knuckled fist, and a cloud of grey smoke floated out of the driver's window. Conrad squatted down on the passenger side and spoke through the open window.
????? 'You want me, boss?'
????? 'Conrad! Long time no see. Relax, you're not in trouble. I need your help. Get in and we'll talk.'
????? Conrad started to open the rear door. 'No, sit in the front.'
????? Hedgeman, overweight and red-faced, leaned back in the seat, his stocky left hand resting on the gearstick, his stomach bulging forward under his pale blue shirt.
????? 'This take long, Inspector Hedgeman?'
????? 'I've got a job offer for you. I hear you're unemployed.'
?? He smiled knowingly.
????? 'Sure, boss.'
????? 'Hey, cut that dumb Abo shit. I know you're street smart.'
?? He started the engine and pulled out quickly into the traffic without indicating. An old Ford Escort cruising along behind hit the brakes with a sharp squeal. Through the rear window Conrad saw the driver looking daggers and mouthing obscenities, but he didn't dare touch the horn. Detective-Inspector Hedgeman appeared not to notice.
????? 'What's this job?'
????? 'Well ... it's unusual. Undercover work. Good pay, a thousand bucks a week. A lot more than I earn.'
?? Hedgeman laughed unconvincingly.
????? 'A thousand a week? What do you mean undercover?'??
????? 'Wait a minute. Let me do the talking.'
?? Hedgeman swung the car into Carillon Avenue and parked it. He turned and faced Conrad. 'Listen, I'll start from the beginning. This is the absolute truth, so just hear me out.'??
????? 'Sure.'
?? But Conrad was suspicious; Hedgeman had never shown him anything except antagonism, and they had differing ideas about truth.
????? 'I got a phone call four days ago from Canberra--ASIO in fact.'??
????? 'Who?'??
????? 'You know, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the wannabe CIA. They've uncovered a terrorist cell here in Newtown. Don't smile, this is all dinkum. There's a group calling themselves the PFO. They are Palestinian terrorists and it is suspected that they plan to carry out an assassination on a high-ranking Israeli politician when he comes to Sydney. They want me to find someone to join the terrorist cell, then feed info back to ASIO.'??
????? 'And so you want me to join this terrorist-- '
??'Wait! ASIO told me that these terrorists have just arrived from London. They don't know their way around Sydney. They are looking for a driver, a Koori, a handyman-- someone to buy their guns, provide cars, run messages ... a helper. We can get you into their cell. Then all you've got to do then is to report to ASIO when they start making plans. Piece of piss.'
?? Conrad was grinning. 'I can't take this seriously. It makes no sense. Why me? Why not one of ASIO's agents?'
?? 'They couldn't spare anyone. Three-quarters of ASIO have been sacked since the Soviet Union disappeared. I asked the same question. The KGB must have given them nearly all their work. ASIO is down to a skeleton staff, so that means they employ people short term--he reckons it'll be for a month. That's four thousand dollars you'll pick up, paid each week in advance, and these terrorists will pay you another seven hundred a week.'
?? 'You make it sound so good, Inspector.'
?? 'Detective-Inspector now. It is good, better than being unemployed. This is obviously all money under the counter. No reason to tell Social Security.'
?? Hedgeman watched Conrad's face and lit another cigarette. He was starting to run out of patience as Conrad kept on with the questions. It was a good job offer, he should just take it. ' Why me? I don't know anything about spies. You don't trust me, you--'
?? 'Wait on, Conrad. I'll tell you. I've been scratching my head for two days trying to think of someone. You weren't the first name that popped into my head, Sweetheart. Listen to the job spec: must live alone, no relatives living nearby, must know his way around Sydney, be street smart, able to think on his feet, must be able to bullshit, preferably they want an Aboriginal. Now don't tell me you're not a Koori?'
?? Finally Hedgeman gave a slight smile. 'There's a lot more. Just think of all the Greeks, Lebanese, and Italians around here, they live with huge families--all talking their heads off. You tell anyone about this job and people will die--the first one will be you. Listen, I'll put you in the picture. These so-called terrorists are just wankers. ASIO are playing games; they've got to invent this shit or they're all out of work, get the idea? So when a chance comes up they exaggerate. Just take the job--it's all bullshit. You pick up six grand for doing nothing.'
?? 'But what if it is genuine? What if they do assassinate the Israeli?'
?? 'They won't because you'll tell ASIO what they're up to, right?'
?? Hedgeman was looking at Conrad and grinning with nicotine-stained teeth. A bead of perspiration sat on his wrinkled forehead. 'Where do you fit into all this, Detective-Inspector?'
?? 'My job was to find a driver-handyman. ASIO are such a bunch of desk jockeys they couldn't even do that. I got a phone call from my boss. He said some big shot ASIO agent, thinks he's James Bond, wants me to find a driver. If I can find someone to fit the job then it makes me look good, like I've got my finger on the pulse of this dump.'
?? 'And if I say no?'
?? 'I look for someone else. I've got three more to choose from. My first choice has just moved out to Orange after getting married. Turn this down and you're six thousand out of pocket. You're not putting my nose out of joint, Sunshine. If you don't want the job, don't take it.'
?? 'It sounds dangerous. Besides, I don't know much about the Palestinians or the Israelis. And what about this peace deal worked out between the PLO and Israel? I thought all the killing was over.'
?? 'Shit, Conrad, don't you read the papers? The Arab and Israeli hard-liners are both against the whole deal. The Arabs don't like it because they don't get enough, and the Israelis don't like it because they reckon the Arabs shouldn't get anything. It doesn't matter if you don't know anything about Palestine--ASIO said they'd give you all the info you need. Even if you accept, you've still got to pass their tests.'
?? 'Yes, but ... why me?'
?? 'Shit!' Hedgeman sounded exasperated. 'I told you I want someone without family. I want a local, preferably a Koori. I want someone who can bullshit, and there's one other thing that you've got.'
?? He paused for effect. 'What?'
?? 'A sixth sense. Don't deny it. Listen, this job's a piece of piss. You just got to drive them around, buy them pita bread or whatever they eat, and listen to what they talk about. The job is made for you. I thought of you straight away.'
?? 'How nice.'
?? 'Get smart, Conrad. This job's money for jam, you still collect your dole. There's no risk in it. These Palestinians are just the usual loud-mouth Arabs. They're gunna capture Tel Aviv, they're going to blow up the White House, they're going to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister; but they never do anything. All you got to do is keep an eye on them and report anything if it looks like they're getting serious.'
?? 'And that's all?'
?? 'Look, if you get this job--and I'm not saying you will--you get all your info from ASIO; they'll tell you the background. If things get hot you simply get out, report to your boss and that's it. You've done your bit for international relations. And what if you don't? So the worse comes to the worse and they blow this Israeli away, then there's another war. More women and children killed, more money spent on bombs and bullets. Okay, that's my story, Conrad. Here's the address with a phone number. If you want the job go around there tomorrow morning and meet this James Bond. Tell him you're interested and he'll fill in the dots. I have nothing more to do with it. So what do you say? Do you try it on, or do I look for another man?'
?? Conrad looked down at the address. 'Yeah, I'll talk to him, but I'm not saying yes till I know more about it.'
?? 'Smart. I'd do the same. Don't worry, this job'll be a piece of piss.'


?? 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?'
?? 'Uh?'
?? 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.

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