The Sum of Things

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Chapter 10

1st October 2001

Abbas al Suleiman's recovery exceeded his doctor's expectations enabling him to return to Tyre for the wedding of his youngest sister where he was guest of honour. He stayed at the house of his father receiving many friends and well wishers who complimented him on the speed of his recovery. "It is the will of Allah," he assured them.

Returning to Beirut, he carried the small quran with him and placed the book among the books of the library in his home. The following day he flew to Cairo. From Cairo he flew on to Paris traveling on an Egyptian passport in the name of Dr. Annon Bakari, a civil engineer. From Paris he flew to Nice on the Cote de Azur and took a taxi into the city. At his favourite restaurant, Le Dauphin on rue Alphonse Karr, he took a pavement table and ordered Fettuccine Alfredo and a half-carafe of white wine.

His meal over he checked his watch; she was late. With a ghost of a smile he remembered that, being the diva she was, she was never early. He lit a Gauloise, his first since leaving Cairo.He was halfway through it when Fatima Geurnons arrived in her open top Maserati sports car.

That night they dined on the terrace of her home north of the city overlooking the Mediterranean, conversing in French and Arabic. Then, as always, she sang for him. She sang in Arabic in a rich contralto, songs of love, sadness, hope. Songs of her mother's native Syria and then in French in celebration of her father's France.

After two days, he flew back to Paris on an early flight and traveled on by train to Brussels, alighting at Gare Central. He was met by four Lebanese associates. After noon prayers at the El Halil Mosque, they drove him to the Muslim Quarter of Molenbeek where they entered a crowded souk. Passing through a narrow archway they moved down a warren of passages and into a building.
There were twelve, seated around a table, Arabic boys, none more than eighteen summers. They stood to greet him, and one by one he embraced them and whispered, “Allahu Akbar,”
He bade them sit. "You have been chosen because you are special. To die in sacrifice in the full bloom of youth carrying the sword of Allah and then to go immediately to Allah's side is an honour few are offered. You will never know old age and its sickness and infirmities. You will be forever young and beautiful." He smiled at them and they returned it.
"Be not afraid." he said. "Just remember to repeat, 'There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger' and all will be well." He embraced them once again. "But tonight will be your time for indulgence. It is Allah's will that you be allowed to drink and eat your fill and enjoy all the pleasures of this earth. Come." He led them from the room into another, larger room filled with beds, soft seats and cushions. Low tables were filled to overflowing with food and liquor. The intoxicating aroma of incense filled their nostrils. Another door opened and several young women in scanty and revealing clothes entered. Indentured prostitutes, young Arabian girls brought in from a Liege brothel to please the boys, they moved easily onto the beds and pulled the boys down to join them. And al Suleiman left the room.
Outside the souk, he took a taxi to the gates of a mansion on Avenue Louise. Set well back from the road, it was surrounded by a high wall and heavy vegetation. The gates of wrought iron and pained black and gilt, were opened as he approached. Two guards saluted him as he passed through and limped up the driveway to the house and into the most exclusive casino in Belgium.
Inside he was met and embraced by the manager and taken upstairs by elevator to a small apartment. He showered and from a wardrobe selected clothes appropriate for the evening. He dressed, adjusted his tie and brushed his hair. He checked his reflection in a full length mirror. Satisfied, he lit a Gauloise and went down to the casino.

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