The Righteous Spy
‘Innocent lives are at risk. But who is the real enemy…?’
Today I am delighted to be joining Merle Nygate, screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist, on tour with her novel The Righteous Spy
Described as ‘a twisting international spy thriller, a shocking page turner that portrays a clandestine world in which moral transgressions serve higher causes. A must-read for fans of Homeland, Fauda, The Americans and NCIS, it will also appeal to readers of Daniel Silva and John le Carré.’
Doesn’t that sound thrilling?
Just released in ebook format with Verve Books, the digital-only sister company of No Exit Press, I am delighted to bring you all an extract today. So, you know the routine….feet up and cuppa in hand!!
About The Book:
Eli Amiram is Mossad’s star spy runner and the man responsible for bringing unparalleled intelligence to the Israeli agency. Now, he’s leading an audacious operation in the UK that feeds his ambition but threatens his conscience.
The British and the Americans have intel Mossad desperately need. To force MI6 and the CIA into sharing their priceless information, Eli and his maverick colleague Rafi undertake a risky mission to trick their allies: faking a terrorist plot on British soil.
But in the world of espionage, the game is treacherous, opaque and deadly…
Palestinian Territories – Two Weeks Later
Today I was moved to an amazing room, the walls are purple and painted with verses from the Koran and green birds. It’s so beautiful. The birds are painted in shades of turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald. They represent the flock that carries the souls of martyrs to Allah and soon, inshallah, they will bear my soul to Jannah.
I stroke the wings of a bird and feel paint and plaster under my fingertips. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not thinking about what I’m leaving behind. Sometimes I ache in my stomach when I hear the children laughing as they knock around a ball in the dusty courtyard outside. But in Jannah the children won’t have been displaced; they won’t know poverty and disease, they won’t have been bombed and cut down and injured and mutilated. They won’t be like the broken babies I nursed at the hospital, day after day after day.
Would it be different if I had my own children? Of course it would. For one thing, if I were a mother the Martyrs Committee wouldn’t have accepted me. Neither would I have been chosen if I were the sole support for my own mother who will, when the time comes, receive a good pension and be honoured.
Knowing what I’m doing for my mother makes me so happy. At last she’ll have a reason to be proud of me – her divorced and barren daughter. At last she’ll be able to talk of me with pride because I’ll be the one keeping her secure and in comfort for all of her days.
For a moment I remember how we used to have picnics on the beach in Gaza. In summer we stayed indoors during the day hiding from the heat. But when it got dark and a few degrees cooler we’d come outside and bundle into my uncle’s rickety pick-up truck, the car with the blue number plates that identified us. Once we got to 26 the beach we’d settle ourselves on sand still warm from the day and eat the kibbe, tehina and tabbouleh that my mother and her sisters had made. Sometimes I’d sit with my feet in the cool sea eating watermelon, seeing just how far I could spit the seeds into the darkness. And then we’d sing the whole way home as the truck rattled and rumbled through the night.
I always tried to sit near the back of the pick-up so I could feel the night air cool my arms. Usually I’d have the sleeping weight of one of the little ones on my knee. If I was lucky it would be Amira, holding her tight, holding her safe, holding her close to my heart. If I was less lucky it would be my little brother Wasim who was like a puppy, always looking around, squirming to get out of my arms and lean out of the back of the open pick-up.
‘Kun Hadhira,’ my mother’s voice would be shrill with fear from the depths of the truck. ‘Be careful.’ A lot easier said than done with a metre of slithering, squirming, laughing little boy on your lap who wanted to see and be, and howl at the moon with the sheer joy of life.
I swallow hard thinking of that time. That good time in the past.
Outside the window I can hear the sound of the wind, like the distant roar of the sea and then a clatter of a metal pot that hasn’t been secured. It must be rolling around outside. The window is spattered with shapes like little sandy clouds and the sky beyond is yellow, murky, dark. Sadly, it’s not simply the sand and the heat that’s the problem in Khamsim weather, it’s the pollution. Poor Mawmia – her asthma will be torturing her. I can see her fingering and clutching her inhaler in her gnarled arthritic hands, frightened to put it down, frightened not to have it close by, frightened that she will suffocate. I always made sure there was a spare inhaler in the kitchen dresser drawer – I hope she remembers – or that someone else does.
The door opens and Abu Muhunnad stands framed, as if in a picture, ready to come in.
It must be time.
‘Salaam alechem. May we enter?’
Behind Abu Muhunnad there’s another man. I haven’t seen him before. He’s younger and paler and harder-faced beneath his beard and behind his glasses.
Abu Muhunnad moves towards the single chair and the new man stands slightly behind him. I feel like he’s examining me and feel uncomfortable.
But Abu Muhunnad’s voice is warm and soothing, ‘We have something important to discuss with you.’
Of course I’m nervous but I also feel a surge of exultation and relief. At last the waiting is over. I sit on the edge of the bed upright, feet together, trying to breathe slowly.
‘I am blessed,’ I manage to say. ‘And honoured to have been chosen.’
Abu Muhunnad’s hands are folded across his black clad belly. ‘My child, we’re here to tell you that you’re not going on the mission that we have been training you to accomplish.’
What is this? For a few seconds I wonder if I have heard wrongly, misunderstood what Abu Muhunnad is saying. Not going? That can’t be right.
I massage my forehead as if the action will help me to absorb the information. Perhaps this is some final test to see if I’ve got the faith to complete my mission or whether at the last moment I will fail. I must convince Abu Muhunnad and the other man.
‘I’m ready Abu. I’ve memorised the map of the target. I know the bus stops on the corner of Dizengoff and Ester Halmalka. I know the café is two hundred metres away on the right-hand side. I know there are two orange trees in front of it. I’ve got a copy of American Vogue to carry to show I’m interested in fashion. And I know I must sit exactly in the middle of the café to make the maximum impact.’
‘We know; we know you’re well prepared; indeed, you’re perfectly prepared. We could ask for no more in your dedication, but you’re not going to the café.’
‘Because it’s our decision,’ the other man says.
I smooth the bed cover with my hand and find a small thread that I tug between my nails.
‘Am I not pious enough?’ I say.
I’m still uncertain whether this is a test and I have to prove my commitment and obedience. Maybe I’ve failed and all along there’s been someone else training, someone ready to go for the same target who is more righteous. That must be it. Looking at Abu Muhunnad’s face and then the cold expression on the face of the stranger I know that’s the truth. Someone else had been chosen.
I press my lips together to stop myself crying. There’s nothing I can do, I’ll be returning to my mother where I will help her wash and dress and be the comfort of her old age. My sister will visit with my nieces and nephews and I’ll continue to be the failure.
‘I understand,’ I say. ‘It is the will of Allah.’
I raise my eyes and catch a glance between the man and Abu Muhunnad.
‘Habibti.’ Abu Muhunnad leans forward and places both hands on his knees. ‘It’s because you’re both pious and brave that you will not complete this mission. You see, there’s something else for you to do that’s far more important and more dangerous; something that only a special daughter can do for the glory of Allah and the destruction of his enemies. You are going to London.’
That night I don’t sleep. I lie on the bed listening to the wind and thinking about what Abu Muhunnad said. I am going to London. Can it be true?
Abu Muhunnad gave me a phone with a European number. He said it was safe and wouldn’t be scanned by the Jews. I was going to use it so that I could call my mother when it was too late to change anything; call her to hear her voice for the last time. If I’m going to London, will I still be able to call her? Maybe the commander will take the phone. What shall I do? In the dark of the room I look at my phone – I’m sure Allah would forgive me if I call my brother Wasim and tell him that I am doing God’s work and that he has to make sure that my mother has a supply of asthma drugs. And to say goodbye.
I text a message to him.
I am going away. Look after Mawmia. See she has spare inhalers.
Now I can sleep. I close my eyes and begin to drift off. On the bedside table the phone vibrates. I answer it.
‘Where are you?’ Wasim says. ‘What are you talking about going away? Who said you could?’
Always the same, my brother, just like he was when he was a kid, asking questions, demanding answers.
‘I can’t tell you more but you must promise to look after Mawmia.’
‘What, are you going on vacation with our sisters?’
‘No,’ I say. ‘Wasim, it’s secret. I’m not coming back.’
I’m now sorry I texted him. Even more so when he says, ‘What do you mean, you’re not coming back? Sister, I may be your younger brother but I am still the head of the family, I’m your guardian.’
‘I’m going to be shaheeda,’ I say.
There is silence at the other end of the phone. I hear his breath close to the microphone.
‘What? What did you just say? Are you crazy?’ Wasim says.
‘I shouldn’t have told you. I’m sorry, forget it.’
‘It’s too late now, how did you… who’s guiding you, Sahar?’
‘Never heard of him. What’s his full name and family? Where does he come from?’
‘Brother, you haven’t been here for a year; things change and people change. You don’t know everybody anymore and what’s more, you don’t know what it’s like living here.’
‘That’s not the point. I’m your guardian, I’m responsible for you, Sahar; I’m responsible for the family. Nobody told me.’
‘I’m fine and I’m being looked after. I can’t say any more than that.’
Purchase Link ~ The Righteous Spy
Merle Nygate is a screenwriter, script editor, screenwriting lecturer and novelist; she’s worked on BAFTA winning TV, New York Festival audio drama and written original sitcoms; previously she worked for BBC Comedy Commissioning as well as writing and script editing across multiple genres.
Most recently, Merle completed her first espionage novel which won the Little Brown/UEA Crime Fiction Award.
It was described by the judge as ‘outstanding’.
Twitter ~ @MerleNygate
Website ~ http://www.merlenygate.com/