A Walk in the Darkness (Ben Kamal and Danielle Barnea Series #3)by Jon Land
1948: An archaeological team in Turkey is slaughtered after making an earth-shattering discovery.
More than fifty years later, another group of archaeologists, this one made up of Americans, is murdered in the Judean desert. Chief Inspector Danielle Barnea of Israel's National Police is called in to investigate, accompanied by Palestinian detective Ben Kamal,/p>… See more details below
1948: An archaeological team in Turkey is slaughtered after making an earth-shattering discovery.
More than fifty years later, another group of archaeologists, this one made up of Americans, is murdered in the Judean desert. Chief Inspector Danielle Barnea of Israel's National Police is called in to investigate, accompanied by Palestinian detective Ben Kamal, whose nephew was among the victims.
Joining forces once again, Ben and Danielle are swept into a maelstrom of secrets and subterfuge where truth is the rarest find of all. Together they follow a trail that spans three continents and stretches from the dusty streets of Jericho to the regent corridors of Rome, back to a conspiracy that has remained buried for more than 2,000 years.
Hunted by a secret army and renounced by their own governments, Ben and Danielle close on the solution to a mystery that can destroy them at the same time it changes civilization forever.
Their only hope is to find the light that lies at the end of A Walk In the Darkness.
The Boston Book Review
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A Walk in the Darkness
By Jon Land
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
DANIELLE BARNEA FLIPPED the air-conditioning switch up higher as the hot sun of the Judean Desert baked her through the car's glass. The wave of nausea she had felt passed quickly, and she returned all of her attention to the road. She had gotten the call while sitting in the doctor's waiting room and had driven from the clinic straight to the West Bank.
The final stretch of the drive to the crime scene took Danielle east through the Judean Desert toward the Dead Sea along a flattened dirt route. Around her the land was arid and scorched, only thin patches of gray vegetation scattered across the rock-strewn landscape. She could feel the dryness even in the cool air flooding the Jeep's cabin. Besides occasional nomadic bedouin tribes, she knew there were no settlements anywhere for miles.
At length, Danielle approached a makeshift military checkpoint just up ahead. She flashed her ID and an Israeli soldier swiftly waved her through toward a campsite set in the lee of the hillside another mile up the road. Israeli Defense Forces vehicles rimmed the encampment, along with enclosed jeeps bearing medical markings. White rectangular tents erected over worktables fluttered in the wind. Four miniature Quonset huts with canvas flap fronts rose haphazardly out of the desert like unwelcome brush, now watched over by armed soldiers. Danielle noticed wooden plates nailed to boards driven into the desert ground named three of the huts after American hotel chains in hastily scrawled printing: HOLIDAY INN, MOTEL 6, and HOWARD JOHNSON'S. A trio of old Land Rovers were parked to make use of what little shade there was, while not far away a pair of covered cargo trucks roasted in the sun. Up a steep rise, just beyond the camp, she could see a doorway-sized opening into the jagged stretch of hillside, also guarded.
As she drew her Jeep to a halt near the others, Danielle got her first glimpse of the bodies covered by white plastic that crackled in the heat and wind. She climbed out of the car and walked toward the scene slowly. She noticed an Israeli army captain conferring with an old bedouin man in flowing white robes that billowed outward and headed toward him. The bedouin's hands trembled badly, his eyes red, drawn, and gazing somewhere else. The Israeli captain saw her and slid away from the old man.
"Pakad Danielle Barnea, Captain," Danielle greeted, handing him her ID.
The man took it reluctantly. "Captain Dov Aroche. We weren't told anyone from National Police was coming," he said, returning her identification after a cursory inspection.
Danielle chose to ignore his words. "You were first on the scene?"
"Then someone from your office was simply following procedure."
Captain Aroche did not relax. "I was under the impression this was a military matter, military jurisdiction."
"If there are security issues, yes. But the murder of foreign nationals is a civilian matter, unless terrorism is involved. Do you have any reason to suspect that here?"
"We have fourteen bodies, all shot to death, apparently from very close range as they slept. Beyond that, I don't know what to suspect at this point, Pakad."
"How many were American?" Danielle asked Aroche.
"Archaeologists, I was told."
The captain nodded. "I guess no one told them these hills were picked clean years ago."
Even though no stranger to carnage, Aroche sounded plainly unsettled. Danielle could smell tobacco smoke on him and a half-empty cigarette pack protruded from the lapel pocket of his shirt, the plastic hanging down over his name-tag.
She looked over his shoulder toward the old bedouin man. "He found the bodies, I take it."
The captain nodded. "There were four bedouins bringing supplies not long after dawn. The old man sent the others to go for help. They came upon one of our patrols three hours ago now."
"What else has he told you?"
"Nothing. We can't make sense of his language, even if he stopped ranting."
The captain nodded. "He seems to know one of the dead. We have just finished compiling a list of their names from IDs we were able to recover."
"Show me this list."
Aroche hedged. "I'm not sure if I have —"
Aroche shrugged and reluctantly led Danielle to the hood of a truck that had become his temporary headquarters. Atop the hood lay an assortment of wallets, passports, and identification cards. Aroche snatched a pair of pages from beneath a rock that had kept them from blowing away in the breeze.
"It's preliminary," he explained, handing it to Danielle with some reluctance, "but we still believe it to be complete."
"Very good, Captain," Danielle said, grateful for the time Aroche had saved her.
She scanned the handwritten list cursorily, until the ninth _ name stunned her. She swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and felt the hot, dusty air burn her mouth.CHAPTER 2
ISRAELI SOLDIERS HAD parked their jeeps diagonally across the road, blocking Ben Kamal's access to the Judean Desert. There were other ways to reach the reported crime scene, but only in the kind of utility vehicles capable of handling the terrain. This route running east from Bethlehem toward the Dead Sea, though unpaved, was naturally flat, manageable even for Ben's Peugeot.
Ben snailed his car to a halt even before the Israeli soldiers signaled him to stop. They took a long look at his white Palestinian license plates and then eased their hands to their automatic rifles.
The leader, a sergeant, walked to the passenger side of Ben's car. The private hung back, bringing a second hand to his rifle.
"You have entered a restricted area," the sergeant told Ben. "I must ask you to turn your vehicle around."
Ben produced his identification instead. "Inspector Bayan Kamal of the Palestinian police."
He had now spent five years as a detective in the West Bank after returning to his homeland to help train the Palestinian police force. His family had immigrated to the United States in 1967 shortly before the Six-Day War, though Ben had never considered a return until tragedy left him with nothing but memories in Detroit. Such a homecoming became an opportunity to start fresh with no baggage, he thought.
Until he created some. While attempting to train the fledgling Palestinian police force in proper investigative techniques, Ben found himself mired in the case of a murdered cabdriver suspected of collaborating with the Israelis. Meeting the man's widow and children gave him all the motivation he needed to uncover police corruption and a trail that led to a trio of officers who had killed and mutilated an innocent man.
The resulting outcry when the police officers were found guilty by a Palestinian military court led, ironically, to Ben himself being labeled a traitor. He realized he had drastically misjudged the landscape and the politics, found himself shunned as an outsider who had run out of places to which he could flee. He thought he could outlast the atmosphere of mistrust, but after five years had found relative isolation to be the only way to accomplish that.
The Israeli army sergeant inspected the ID, matching the picture of Ben's face. He flapped the wallet closed and returned it, unimpressed.
"I am sorry, Inspector, but you are out of your jurisdiction."
"I am here at the request of Pakad Danielle Barnea of the National Police."
"I know of no such request."
"She is the chief investigating officer at the crime scene in question."
The thick bands of muscle lining the sergeant's neck tensed. "And my orders are to deny access to the area to all but those who have the proper authorization."
"My pass allows for free passage anywhere in the West Bank."
"This particular area is currently under Israeli control." The soldier shifted his weapon from his shoulder so it was within easier reach. "If you do not vacate the area, I will have to detain you."
Ben turned off his car's engine. "This land was ceded to the Palestinian Authority in the latest phase of your government's withdrawal. I have the official maps right here. Would you like to see them?"
The sergeant leveled his rifle. The barrel trembled slightly.
"Please exit the car now! I am placing you under arrest."
Directly in front of the Peugeot's hood, the private snapped his weapon to his shoulder and aimed through the windshield.
"Do as I say!"
Ben caught the look in the sergeant's eyes and opened the door slowly. The sergeant backpedaled enough for Ben to climb out, then instantly resteadied his rifle.
"Turn around! Hands on the roof!"
Again Ben did as he was told, cocking his gaze backward to see the sergeant shoulder his weapon before he approached.
"Face forward!" the sergeant ordered, and Ben felt his neck jerked downward, reduced to the same height as the sergeant, who was at least four inches shorter than Ben's six feet.
The angle allowed Ben to see himself in the car's side mirror. The dust and a thin jagged crack distorted his face, gave it a grotesque, misshapen appearance like something from a sideshow attraction. Not that he liked the real version much more, even though his skin remained smooth and relatively unmarred for a man of forty. This while many Palestinians wore their scars proudly and enjoyed explaining in which war they had suffered each one. Ben's hair was lighter than most of his countrymen's as well, a medium shade of brown; thick, wavy, and full. A young man's hair, he often mused, layered above a much older man's eyes.
The sergeant's hands started frisking at his shoulders and worked downward, quickly feeling the outline of the pistol beneath his jacket.
"Beretta nine-millimeter," the sergeant said as he yanked it out.
"Israeli military surplus."
"I think I'll hold on to it for now."
And Ben felt the sergeant's hands continue their probe, while the private kept his gun poised in front of the Peugeot's hood. The sergeant got to Ben's jacket pocket and jammed a hand inside, emerging with his portable mini-disc player trailed by the small attached headphones.
Ben turned enough to look at the sergeant. "It plays music. The radio in my car doesn't work."
"Where'd you get it?"
"A friend gave it to me."
The sergeant gave the disc player a closer look. "The instructions are in Hebrew."
"An Israeli friend."
Before the sergeant could respond, a four-wheel drive vehicle with darkly tinted windows and yellow Israeli license plates came to an abrupt halt. The driver's door opened and the soldiers snapped to attention as a woman with a National Police badge dangling from her neck stepped out.
"What is going on here?" demanded Danielle Barnea, her eyes falling on Ben.CHAPTER 3
"WHY ARE YOU searching this man?" Danielle continued.
The sergeant regarded her nervously as the private lowered his rifle in front of the car. "I, er, we ..."
Danielle's boots clattered atop the pebble-strewn road. She stopped in front of the sergeant only long enough to flash her identification.
"Didn't Inspector Kamal tell you he was here on my orders? Are you the man I informed over the radio to expect his arrival?"
"Never mind. Return his gun and possessions immediately."
The soldiers looked at each other, then back at Danielle. The sergeant approached and returned the Beretta to Ben.
"Forgetting something?" Ben asked, holstering the pistol.
The sergeant slid the portable mini-disc player from his pants pocket and handed it over.
"Thank you," Ben said.
"I will take things from here," Danielle informed the soldiers as Ben and the sergeant glared at each other, "if you don't mind."
"Of course, Pakad," the sergeant relented, though it was clear that he did mind.
Danielle, of course, should have been addressed by the feminine "pakadet." But being the youngest woman ever to attain the rank of Chief Inspector of the National Police had led to her identification card being mistakenly printed with the first name "Daniel." The correction had been made almost immediately. Her formal rank, though, had stuck and spread quickly, a matter of tradition now, as well as respect for her prowess as an investigator. In fact, all her subsequent identification cards continued to call her "pakad." This after a military career in which she became one of the first female soldiers selected for duty in the elite Sayaret, the Israeli Special Forces.
As of late, Danielle had found herself comparing the old picture on her identification to the face she saw in the mirror. Remarkably, she looked the same. Her wavy auburn hair still tumbled to her shoulders. Her brown eyes were as bright and vital as five years ago, her weight exactly the same thanks to an obsessive dedication to daily workouts. And yet she felt so different, another person entirely, especially over the past three weeks.
Danielle waited for the two Israeli soldiers to head back to their vehicle before approaching Ben.
"That could have been nasty," she said. "They would have kept your gun."
Ben leaned back against his car. "I was more concerned about the disc player you gave me. Now tell me about these American archaeologists murdered in the desert. ..."
She watched him smoothing out the wires connecting the player to the small headphones. "It would be better if I show you."
"The courtesy of the call was much appreciated, Pakad, especially since I haven't heard from you since you missed our ... appointment last Wednesday."
"That makes two weeks in a row."
"I've been very busy," she said, not meeting his gaze.
"Are you going to be busy this Wednesday?"
"That's not important now."
Ben caught the uneasy tone in her voice. "Why did you call me here, Pakad, when it is clear your people have assumed jurisdiction?"
Danielle produced the wallet she had taken from the crime scene. "One of the victims, one of the Americans, is named 'Kamal.'"
Ben accepted the wallet almost reluctantly and opened it. Danielle watched the color drain from his face as he inspected the identification, started to reach out a hand to comfort him, then pulled it back.
"It's my nephew," Ben said so weakly the wind almost swallowed his words.
FOR SEVERAL LONG moments, he could only stand there staring at his nephew's college identification card, hoping there was some mistake. His gaze was so empty he seemed to be looking past the wallet's contents instead of at them. "My brother's son. You're saying he's ..."
Danielle turned away. "Let's take my car."
"It's been so long, I barely even recognize him," Ben mumbled, falling into step alongside her.
"Then perhaps ..."
Ben shook his head painfully. "No, Pakad. The student ID is from the University of Michigan, Dearborn campus. My brother is a professor there. I remember him telling me that is where Dawud enrolled."
"You haven't spoken to your brother very often, have you?"
Ben's gaze was fixed straight ahead. "Three times since I returned to Palestine. Maybe four."
Danielle left it there and got behind the wheel. It seemed to take Ben a very long time to come around to the passenger side, but when he finally climbed in, his face had hardened, reddening even as she watched.
"How was he killed, Pakad?"
"Shot. They were all shot."
"Twelve Americans. Two others."
"One, maybe: a bedouin man on the scene."
"I'd like to talk to him," Ben said, staring out the window.CHAPTER 4
AT THE CRIME scene, Ben lunged out of the car ahead of Danielle. She rushed to catch up with him.
"You are not here in any investigatory capacity. I want you to understand that. Let me do all the talking."
Ben didn't slow down. "Just take me to my nephew, Pakad."
Captain Aroche, the ranking Israeli soldier on the scene, stepped out in front of him before Ben could enter the hastily staked-out crime scene.
Danielle hurried to draw even. "Captain, I would like to introduce Inspector Bayan Kamal of the Palestinian police."
The captain continued to look at Ben. "We should discuss his —"
"We should not make this matter more complicated than it already is. Inspector Kamal is here on my authority. That is all you must concern yourself with. Is that clear?"
Excerpted from A Walk in the Darkness by Jon Land. Copyright © 2000 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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