A good efriend, Liz Gauffreau, mentioned in a comment that she enjoyed the snippets writers share from their own writing. It reminded me I pretty much never do that. And she’s right–if people don’t know what my writing is like, why would they risk the time to read the novel?
So, I’m going to share a snippet from each of my fiction over the next few months. This one is from my Rowe-Delamagente thriller series. I hope you enjoy!
Monday, August 7th
HMNB Devonport England
Until last month, Eyad Obeid considered himself a devout Muslim. He prayed five times a day, proclaimed God’s glory in every conversation, and performed the required ablutions when confronted with uncleanliness. When his brother was executed by Israeli gunman five years ago, Obeid swore retribution. No nobler purpose could he imagine for his worthless life than dying for Allah.
But instead of a suicide vest and the promise of seventy-two virgins, the village imam enrolled him in college to learn nuclear physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and math so complex its sole application was theoretical. Much to Obeid’s surprise, he thrived on the cerebral smorgasbord. In fact, with little effort, he attained all the skills required by the Imam.
By the time he earned his PhD in Nuclear Physics, he had learned two lessons. First, he was much smarter than most people around him, and second, the western world was not what he had been told.
Now, just weeks after graduation, Eyad Obeid approached the dingy Devonport pub on the frigid southern shore of England and wondered how to explain to the man responsible for giving Eyad Obeid this amazing future that he would fulfill his obligation, but then, wanted out.
He squared his shoulders and entered the pub.
His stomach lurched. Rather than his mentor Salah Mahmud al-Zahrawi, he found the Kenyan and his three henchmen. He had first met these thugs in San Diego California where he learned to run a nuclear submarine under the friendly tutelage of British submariners. When Obeid finished his studies, the Kenyan slaughtered the Brits. No warning. No discussion, just slash, slice and everyone died.
As did Obeid’s belief in the purity of Allah.
The nuclear physicist jammed his hands into his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and approached the table. The Kenyan had never introduced himself and Eyad Obeid lacked the courage to ask.
“I was expecting Salah al-Zahrawi,” Obeid offered as he slipped into the booth.
The Kenyan stared past Obeid, eyes as desolate as the Iranian desert, thick sloping shoulders still, ebony skin glistening under the fluorescent lights. Danger radiated from him like the hum of a power plant. He had three new fight scars since their last encounter, like angry welts but otherwise, he looked rested, clearly losing no sleep over the slaughter of innocents.
“You have one more job before you are released.” In a quiet, toneless voice, the man without a soul explained the new plan, finishing with, “If you fail, you die.”
Obeid was stunned. His gut said Run! He risked his future—his life—staying a moment longer with this crazed zealot, but Obeid did little more than croak a strangled, “If I succeed, I will also die!” His University friends called it a Sophie’s Choice.
The Kenyan shrugged. “But less painfully.”
Obeid twitched as heat washed his face. As he sought an appropriate response, the waitress arrived with tea. She poured a cup for each of them, chattering to no one in particular about how she had forgotten her blarmy slicker because her boyfriend kept her up the whole bloody night, di’n he, and she was frightfully knackered. No one responded.
“Shall I tell you the specials on offer?”
The Kenyan slowly ratcheted his head toward her. “Go.”
The waitress backed away, almost knocking over another server and his steaming tray of eggs, bacon, black pudding, and baked beans. “Well, aren’t we in a bloody mood,” and she left.
The Kenyan did not seem to notice, his flat dead eyes back on Obeid. The physicist squirmed. He was but one man. His only hope was to quietly warn the authorities. He folded his hands into his lap to hide their shaking.
“Insha Allah, I will help. What do you require?”
“Do you remember the training you received from the Parishers?”
The British submariners you butchered? Obeid nodded.
“You must ensure the sailors perform their duties after we hijack the sub.”
With no further explanation, the Kenyan tossed a fistful of notes onto the table and left. As Obeid hurried after him, he surreptitiously thumbed a message into his phone and pushed send.
There was no signal.
The Kenyan parked in the crew lot outside Her Majesty’s Devonport Plymouth Naval Base. Obeid changed into a uniform and emerged from the car carrying a loaded gun in a prayer rug. Maa shaa Allah.
The storm broke and quickly turned the parking lot slick and shiny. Obeid shivered despite the heavy pea coat with the warm fur-lined collar. How did the British stand the weather? When this ended, he would never again leave the sparkling sun and cloudless skies of his beloved Iran.
“Eyad!” It was Tariq Khosrov, with two other friends from Obeid’s graduate program, all with PhDs in nuclear physics. Tariq was one of the smartest boys Obeid had ever met and the most naïve. “Are we going to steal a nuclear submarine?”
Obeid hissed, “Quiet!” and the Kenyan nudged him toward the base’s thick metal gates. They had been designed to stop an AK-47 or a firebomb, even an RPG, but not the weapon Salah al-Zahrawi would use. Faithful Muslims who worked for naval personnel had replaced pictures of the dead San Diego Parishers with Obeid and the rest of the hijackers. By the time the Royal Navy realized something was wrong, HMS Triumph would be gone and missing.
The man in front of Obeid passed his ID to the bored security. He checked the man’s face, his computer screen, and waved him through.
It was Obeid’s turn. “ID, please.”
Obeid’s chest tightened as the stern-looking sentry, blonde hair trimmed close to his scalp, collar turned up against the wind, fingers like thick sausages on powerful hands, turned a flint-eyed glare to Obeid. The nuclear physicist froze and the guard’s boredom became suspicion. He read the name stitched on the right breast of Obeid’s uniform. “Haim is it?”
He looked Obeid up and down, as though to determine if the name matched the slight figure in front of him with wire-rimmed glasses and the thatch of black hair dripping rain down his forehead. True, he couldn’t tell Obeid’s stomach lacked the six-pack of muscles the real Haim had been so proud of, but he could see Obeid’s slender hands and they were those of a scientist, not a sailor. Surely, the guard would say something.
Obeid fumbled, almost dropping the ID before shoving it forward.
“Anything to declare?” The guard’s gaze flicked to the prayer rug.
Sweat broke out under Obeid’s arms. Should he tell the guard there was an AK-47 in his prayer rug or would he shoot before listening to Obeid’s explanation? No, better to deal with the problem onboard. Besides, the Kenyans claimed they were simply leveraging demands against Britain backed by the threat posed by the sub’s weapons. They would never use them.
He bit his lip hard, tasting blood, and forced anger into his voice. “You suspect me because I am Muslim? Do you want to examine my prayer rug?” His voice dripped with righteous indignation as he had practiced and he extended the tightly-bound bundle, taking care to keep the ends turned away from the soldier. “Maybe I am carrying an A… K.” He purposely stumbled over the name.
The sentry flushed and stepped back as though burned.
“Now I didn’t mean that mate, did I? O’ course you’re fine,” and waved Obeid through.
Across the yard, limned against the grey sky, towered the domed shape of the HMS Triumph, its deck slick with rain, sail glistening in the early morning light. The warheads it carried could reach the vast majority of the planet but the bustling sailors, some in oil-stained uniforms, others nattily dressed in white with jaunty officer caps, greeted each other, oblivious to the danger approaching them in the uniform of shipmates.
What had he done?
“Keep going,” the scar-faced Kenyan hissed between clenched teeth.
Obeid balled his fists to stop their shaking and forced his steps to be slow and measured as if in no rush to start what would be a three-month deployment.
When the group reached the Triumph, they were greeted by a cherub-faced seaman. “You the Parisher blokes?” He stuck his hand out. “Name’s McEwen. We’re the Second crew. First came down with food poisoning.” He chuckled, eyes crinkling with merriment, brows like gray steel wool. “Brill, you think? Who wants to play hide and seek with a Diesel?”
McEwen poked the Kenyan in jovial familiarity while Obeid combed through his training for what a ‘diesel’ might be.
“Enough yakking. Get sorted, blokes. We leave in an hour.”
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Man vs. Nature saga, and the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.