Read an Excerpt
Betrayal in Paris
By Doris Elaine Fell
Howard BooksCopyright © 2003 Doris Elaine Fell
All right reserved.
AUGUST 2, 1990 - KUWAIT
In the light of the lemon-slice moon, a rawboned,
shadowy figure crept across the desert sand, his bruised and blistered
feet scraped raw by his sandals. As he took refuge among the towering
palm trees that edged the superhighway, his cotton robe flapped at his
ankles. Under the robe, his camera and infrared binoculars jabbed his
Winters had grown gaunt and skeletal from dysentery. His angular body
felt wasted, his face pinched. Dawn would bring its searing temperatures
and the intense humidity of another August morning. Even now beneath the
Kuwaiti headdress, sweat dotted his feverish brow. For weeks he'd
hidden from the scorching sun, sleeping through the daylight hours. Night
after night he'd stolen from Hamad's house and crawled through
the darkness, a deepcover operative noting the Iraqi buildup around the
Rumailan oil fields. Tonight he noted the increasing number of tanks and
troops fanning out along the border. An attack was imminent.
Jon leaned against the tree, willing the strength to come back into his
body. He had entered a country braced for an Iraqi invasion. Security
was tight, foreigners unwelcome, a non-Arab viewed with suspicion. His
passport bore another man's identification and nationality--and
his ownblurred photo.
How many more nights could he avoid capture? Or fight off the chill of
the desert nights as he crawled across the dunes, risking encounters with
scorpions and sand beetles and desert snakes? Without weapon or survival
equipment, he had only his wits and ingenuity to fight the elements. And
if he was discovered with his infrared binoculars and camera and the coded
messages in his pocket, he would surely be killed.
Hawks swooped low in the clear desert air. He called back to them in Arabic,
his words harsh, angry; it was as though they knew he had entered their
country under false pretenses. Between their cries, he heard the faint
click of his miniaturized transmitter, his watch--a trick of the trade.
He dropped to the ground and flattened himself on his belly.
As he pressed the wristwatch to his ear, Hamad's tension crackled
over the high-frequency transmitter. "My friend, the Iraqis have
crossed our border."
"I do not lie, my friend. My father says you must leave at once.
You must try to reach Saudi Arabia."
Jon's stomach muscles tightened. "They won't let me in
without proper identification. Tell him I have done nothing wrong."
"My father says you overstayed your visitor's pass. His debt
for our friendship is paid. I begged him. It is no use. My father has
known you too long to think that you are just a visitor in our country."
Remorse filled his voice. "He found the ground transmitter in your
"Tell him it's a shortwave radio for rock music."
He sensed Hamad smiling. "Do you think you have sheltered with us
these three months and not aroused my father's curiosity? My father
is a wise old man. He saw you slipping out of the house night after night."
"He must know I'm a restless sleeper."
"My friend, he has guessed that you are an intelligence agent, part
of America's increased surveillance against the Iraqis. He loathes
the danger that puts us in." He loathed himself. His adrenaline kicked
in with a futile attempt to defend himself. "But your father never
"Because I begged him to help you. But now he calls you a deceiver--an
infidel playing the part of an Arab."
"I have never lied to him."
"Nor have you told him the truth."
Hamad was right. For weeks Jon had carried his covert assignment in his
memory, his fear of discovery stuck like a burr in the back of his mind.
He did a rapid mental replay. He was to do intelligence reconnaissance:
monitor the threat of war and report back, ferret out Iraqi agents, recruit
and run sources within the country, form a Kuwaiti resistance group, and
send back operational status reports through the American embassy.
How much had Hamad's father suspected?
"Tell your father I'm sorry."
"Your apology comes too late."
Had he wasted his efforts? Trained the wrong man? "Has Mahmoud
guessed that I recruited you for the resistance movement?"
Melancholy crept into Hamad's voice along with the static. With Hamad,
loyalty died at a snail's pace. "I would shame him if he knew.
He would disown me. You must understand. As part of the ruling family,
my commitment is to them. The resistance belongs to those without royal
"You can't back down now, Hamad. The resistance needs you. Have
you told your father that a terrorist cell has a stronghold in Kuwait
Anger burned in Hamad's answer. "Many of those men have sworn
allegiance to the resistance movement."
"And you believe them?"
"They are my Arab brothers."
"Let me talk to your father. He treats me as a son."
"No, my friend, you can no longer pass as one of us."
The grit of the desert sand stung Jon's eyes. "Is this over
that heated discussion I had with him at mealtime?"
"You were wrong to tell him there would be a war."
"As if he didn't know." Jon switched the transmitter to
his other ear. "I just wanted to convince Mahmoud of the imminent
Hamad fought back with disdain. "He was right. You have such limited
knowledge of the Middle East. You and your book learning. What do you
know of us as a people?"
Earlier in the evening Jon had sat cross-legged on Mahmoud's carpet,
dining on Mahmoud's mutton boiled with onion and garlic and sampling
the spiced seafood. As they sipped biting black coffee, Jon had argued
about the possibility of an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia and the certainty
of one on Kuwait.
Without warning, Mahmoud's words had grown impetuous, vehement, his
usual pleasantries abandoned. "Iraq will not attack us. You do not
understand my people. Arab brother will never go against Arab brother."
But Arab brother had done the unthinkable.
Now Hamad's voice broke through the static again. "It will not
go well with us that we have harbored you, not with my father serving
as a cabinet minister."
Jon had depended on Mahmoud's position, depended even more on the
fact that Mahmoud was a distant relative of the ruling family. Mahmoud's
home was the perfect place to hide, to headquarter. "Hamad, please
destroy the equipment in my room."
His throaty whisper crackled over the line. "I cannot. My father
has already threatened to use it against you if we have to. Remember,
Jon, my father says you are no longer welcome. You must leave. You speak
our language well, but it will not take the Iraqis long to know who you
are--what you are."
And what will happen to you, Hamad, when your father or the Iraqis
find you are working with the resistance? Every muscle in Jon's
body ached. Without the tree bracing him, he would topple to the ground.
He had entered Kuwait with no escape route marked out for him. If caught,
there would be no official inquiry about his safety. But he had to get
word to Langley about the increased buildup along the oil fields and his
concern about terrorists infiltrating the resistance. Whatever happened
to him, he must get one final report through to the American embassy,
and from there to Langley.
"Hamad, I need the ground transmitter."
"If you come back, my father will treat you as the enemy. Be careful,
my friend--and may Allah go with you."
The transmitter went dead. His skin prickled. The silence was deafening,
the seconds endless before sheer bulldog courage set in. He waved his
knuckled fist into the desert darkness. "My survival is not dependent
on you, Hamad. But your survival is dependent on me."
Jon's one hope lay in slipping through the enemy lines and reaching
the embassy in case its communication lines were still open--in case
one more diplomatic pouch could make it out. He struck out, darting through
the night on silent sandals. As he neared the city, the pain in his feet
hindered his progress. Iraqi helicopters swooped down like birds of prey
through the darkness, bringing in their loads of Special Forces. He heard
the distant explosions. The rumble of tanks. The sound of vehicles approaching.
A row of cars came into view, fleeing from the city with their headlights
Suddenly the nerves at the back of his neck tingled. He was not alone.
A short distance away, someone shared the shadows with him. He fumbled
for his binoculars, cursing the darkness and his fears. Sudden streaks
of light illuminated the sky around him as a lone chopper skimmed the
treetops. An Iraqi soldier fired from the chopper. Death rained down on
the long row of cars. A vehicle careened off the highway, its gas tank
erupting in flames.
In the blaze that followed, Jon saw the man who shared the darkness with
him signaling the pilot. An Iraqi perhaps. An enemy, but a man like himself--a
foreign agent on Kuwaiti soil. The blades whirred as the chopper lowered.
If the Iraqis took Jon hostage, Islamic law would label him an infidel
in Arab dress. He'd be tortured. Executed.
Jon ran, stumbling in his sandals. As he fled, he loosened the wide band
from his watch and lifted the tiny transmitter to his mouth. "Hamad.
The strafing exploded around him. Searing pain tore through his leg then
through his shoulder. He pitched forward; his wristwatch slipped from
his fingers into the sand.
Moments later he came out of his stupor as rough hands tossed him on his
back. His wounded leg twisted beneath him. Jon screamed as the bone snapped,
tearing through the skin. Blood spurted.
An angry face loomed above him. Confused, Jon choked out the words. "You!
Not you. I thought--"
"Yes, me." The hands probed, searched. "Where is it, Jon?"
"I thought you were an Iraqi."
His bloody shoulder throbbed. He'd never known such pain, such fear.
He had no strength to fight back. Last week's bout of dysentery had
weakened him. His intestines rumbled and cramped. He knew he would spew
his guts, or his bowels would explode. Retching, fighting off the unbearable
pain, he stared up into the face of the man hovering over him. "What
are you doing?"
Deft fingers snatched the papers and camera from beneath Jon's robe.
"You won't need these any longer."
"I've got to get that report through to Langley."
"You're a fool, Jon. You should have left Kuwait while you had
the chance. You were told to leave before your cover was blown."
His words were as scorching as the pain. "You gave your location
away using that transmitter."
Hamad, don't call back. Don't signal back.
"Come on. I need the whole report. Don't waste time. Don't
make things worse."
Jon remembered the third man on their team. "Rick--where's
"He left. But you had to stay and play the hero."
Jon retched again. The sand in his mouth was wet with the acrid taste
of blood, the bile of his innards spilling out. He heard the click of
the transmitter, muffled by the sand. Stop transmitting, Hamad. Stop
trying to reach me.
He screamed as he stirred the sand with his good foot. Burying the transmitter
was one safety measure he could offer Hamad and his family. That, and
dying as an unknown Arab.
He looked at his betrayer. "Please. Please help me."
"You have come to begging, my friend. You, the boy who had everything.
My orders are to leave you behind, Jon."
"Your orders? Whose orders? I don't understand--we
came in together. We--"
"You volunteered for this mission."
"All three of us did--"
The man kicked Jon's leg, sending excruciating jolts through his
body. "Did you think I could let your reports go through? You wanted
to convince Washington that a terrorist cell has infiltrated the resistance
movement. You fool. Couldn't you let well enough alone?"
He roughly toed Jon's leg again. "You don't get it, do
you? You were never intended to leave Kuwait. You wouldn't have gotten
far anyway. You're bleeding. Your leg is shattered--I can see
that even in the darkness."
Fighting against the blinding agony, Jon slid his hand down his thigh
and felt the jagged fragments of bone. He felt his friend's betrayal
even more. "You sold out--"
"I didn't plan it this way, Jon. But I have my orders. There's
only transportation out of here for one of us. The crown prince and his
father are already en route to Saudi Arabia. They will be safe. That should
please you." He stood and gave a mocking farewell salute. "For
three months you hid and lived like a Kuwaiti. Now die like one of them."
Jon took inventory as he grew faint: Mouth dry.
Throat tight. Thirst unquenchable. Breathing difficult. Pulse irregular.
He feared dying. Dreaded the eternity of the damned. He forced his eyes
open. Sucked in another breath. His body was clammy with sweat and blood.
What if blackness and emptiness lay ahead? What if his father's God
He had thrust faith aside in his anger at God--umbrage at the God
who had allowed his father's humiliating downfall. But hadn't
Dad called his dismissal from Paris Father-filtered?
Now Jon had stared into the face of his own betrayer--and realized
it was the face of his father's betrayer as well. The truth fanned
out from Paris, circled the globe, and ended at Winterfest Estates.
Minutes passed with the drone of more planes overhead. Jon dragged himself
in an agonizing crawl to the next tree, his breathing compromised. He
had no strength left to push himself to a sitting position. With every
move, his leg bled more. He rested. Drifted. Fought his way back to write
his fiancée's name in the sand with his finger--that pretty
girl with the faint splash of freckles across her cheeks. He would never
caress her again. Never make
her completely his own. He had called her from Paris three months ago
to propose. No kiss to seal the commitment. No ring to sparkle on her
finger. He had asked her to tell his folks...to tell them...
What was it he had wanted her to tell them? Jon blinked against the encroaching
blackness, but it did no good. The blackness won.
When he came to, his homesickness was as overpowering as his nausea. The
grinding roar of the helicopter was gone. His betrayer had left him as
he would an Arab, dying in the desert sands. As Jon lay sprawled in a
shallow depression, time lost all meaning. Through the predawn clouds,
the moon had spread a gossamer whiteness over the desert sand. Now the
chill of the night was giving way to the first rays of daybreak. He tried
to focus his eyes and saw a gushing pool of water cascading over the sand
dunes. The mirage bubbled. Sparkled. He stretched his hands toward it--and
the pool evaporated.
In his confusion, the illusion turned the hills into snow-covered slopes--the
beloved Colorado mountains where he sometimes skied in the winter, where
he hiked in the spring. He sensed the old exhilaration of standing at
the mountaintop, felt the utter freedom of taking the slope on skis. He
reached again, his fingers weightless.
But his mountain disappeared. Gone. Like his strength.
Something wet and sticky trickled from his mouth and over his bristled
chin. He tasted it. Blood. It took a long time to die. Agonizing minutes.
The sands of Kuwait were splattered with his blood. He hadn't known
how dark his blood could make the sand. A muddy brown, like the ocean
waves washing a sandy beach, pooling into a child's bucket. His bucket.
The beautiful, bratty kid sister with her light, skipping steps on the
stairs at Winterfest. He wanted to tell her the land would be all hers
now, but the dusty lump in his throat choked him. He should have warned
her about Paris--should have taken her into his confidence about their
He tried to move, but the stabbing pain in his leg drove him to the edge
of madness. He would never ski again. Could I have imagined the betrayer
as I imagined the mountain?
He forced his eyes open and watched the desert sands turn into the blazing
shades of autumn. He was climbing. Climbing higher. He struggled to turn
over, to lift his head, the effort monumental. In the distance, his beloved
mountain turned to reality--a skyline of mosques and domes and minarets,
an ultramodern city where the new and the old existed side by side.
Kuwait--a place without alpine trails or snow-covered mountains. A
city--a country--under siege. He imagined the familiar wailing
that called the faithful, oil-rich Kuwaitis to prayer.
His thoughts drifted. His leg no longer throbbed. He felt nothing.
He awakened sometime later and knew that within hours he would die with
the sweltering Arabian sun beating down on him. Again blurred images of
his family and the pretty face of the woman he planned to marry gripped
Behind him he heard muffled steps on the sand. A stray camel? A goat?
An Iraqi soldier creeping up on him?
Please, God. Not my betrayer.
In his uncertainty, he called out for help. Cried for his sister, his
girl, his mom. "Adrienne...Kristy...Mom..." His speech
No, not Allah.
A prayer formed on his lips to the God of his boyhood. He fought to stay
alert, but the pictures of those he loved--and those he feared--faded
into nothingness as a canopy of darkness closed over him.
Excerpted from Betrayal in Paris by Doris Elaine Fell Copyright © 2003 by Doris Elaine Fell. Excerpted by permission.
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