The Burning Gates

The Burning Gates by Parker Bilal

Book: The Burning Gates by Parker Bilal Read Free Book Online
Authors: Parker Bilal
staying that long.’
    ‘Neither was I.’
    She tapped her nails impatiently on her arm. ‘Look, I’m serious about time. We don’t have for ever.’
    ‘No, of course not. I understand. Actually, I didn’t come here for this.’ He nodded at the bed.
    ‘Then what? We don’t get paid to talk.’ Then she was silent for a long time before a knowingness came into her voice. ‘Who is it?’
    ‘Who is what?’
    She gave weary toss of her head. ‘I’ve seen that look before. I remind you of someone. Everyone comes here looking for something or someone. A person, or a feeling, perhaps. Who is it?’
    Makana was still considering how to answer this when there was a knock at the door, and without waiting for an answer, it swung open and Gigi stepped inside. She looked him up and down. It wasn’t hard to see that something in her manner had changed. Gone was the smooth talk.
    ‘I’m glad I caught you before it was too late.’ Her smile was thin and mean. No sign of the pearly white teeth. She crooked a finger at Makana. ‘Some people would like to talk to you.’
    They were waiting in the reception area: two young men, both overweight, both dressed in blue jeans and shiny jackets. Both wore the dull expressions of hard men. The first one lifted his hand. It was a big hand, misshapen, as if the bones had been broken a few times. There were a lot of rings on that hand, big lumps of metal that could do a lot of damage if they hit you.
    ‘Mr Zafrani wants to see you,’ he said. It wasn’t an invitation.

Chapter Nine
    The driver, the shorter of the two men, drove in an aggressive manner, closing in on cars in his way and then flashing his lights for them to vacate the road. Makana had seen the same attitude in State Security drivers, only this man wasn’t State Security. He kept snapping the wheel from side to side as he switched lanes. Most passengers might have felt a little queasy, but Makana hardly noticed being flung against the door time and again. He had the strange feeling that he had just fallen back through a doorway in time. When he’d first set eyes on the girl he had thought he was imagining things. Bilquis bore an uncanny resemblance to Muna. Not the Muna who had died that night on the bridge, thirteen years ago, but the young woman he had first fallen in love with long before that. She looked, in other words, exactly as he had imagined his daughter Nasra might look today. Of course, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible, or was it?
    As they drove up onto the bridge, Makana could already see their destination, the old paddle steamer moored along the river, its outline sketched out in the darkness by red lights running up the square sides and around the upper deck. The name had been changed. Now the words, in English and Arabic on either side, spelled out the name Al-Buraq . The legendary animal of myth that had once carried the Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem and back again in a single, fateful night. Laylat al-Qadr. It seemed like an odd symbol for the Zafranis to adopt, but then again, why not?
    Makana’s dealings with the Zafrani brothers over the years had been of an ambiguous nature. For a couple of gangsters with a nasty reputation, they had always treated him surprisingly well – or perhaps he had managed to avoid antagonising them enough for them to do him harm – but it was like playing with a pair of unpredictable and dangerous animals. You never knew when they might lose patience and decide to take your hand off, or worse. Of course, he should have guessed they might be behind the club. It was a cut above the Buraq , but they were nothing if not ambitious.
    The car whipped down off the ramp and sped along the riverside to the brightly lit entrance. The boat had been given a facelift. Makana could remember the dark and gloomy restaurant on the upper floor that was always empty. Everybody knew it was just a cover for their more nefarious enterprises. Arches of white lights now greeted the

Similar Books

Protecting a Mate

Maria Connor

Christmas Male

Jillian Hart

Siren's Song

Heather McCollum

Pirate Queen

Morgan Llywelyn