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The Tiger King Excerpt

The Tiger King Excerpt

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Published by Robin Kirk
A thriller about a diplomat's family pulled into violent conflict in Colombia and Sierra Leone, prey to forces that they helped unleash but poorly understood.
A thriller about a diplomat's family pulled into violent conflict in Colombia and Sierra Leone, prey to forces that they helped unleash but poorly understood.

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Published by: Robin Kirk on Jan 03, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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He had ordered her hobbled. She could run like a colt."Get her up." Cholo pulled the girl up. The beam of the flashlight made her blink. She had slept on the cave floor. Dirt stuckto drool on her cheek. The rope binding her ankles left a red rash.He wrote at the rough table. In the night, she had urinated on herself. The smell was oddly sweet. A memory  from something he had read long ago led him to wonder: diabetic? "Comrade." He signed the last order and handed it to Osvaldo. "To the secretariat at once." For the first time, he met her eyes: dull as old shell casings. As yet, she had but the beginnings of breasts. The girl had uttered not a single word since her arrest. "You know the charges," he said to her.Something about her was familiar. The defiance? He massaged his eyebrows. His mind played tricks. "It won't change your fate. But a confession would clear your mind. You are confused. Confusion is an enemy as dangerous as a soldier with a loaded gun. Comrade. I am like a father to you. Please take this as a heartfelt piece of advice." Was it last year's offensive when he first saw her? Children were hard to remember. Fighting whittled their bodies and often prompted early puberty. They transformed, like nestlings into birds. Or they died. He put them in the front line, as reliable as dogs. Their shots, often wayward and mistimed, yet served the better fighters as warnings. Soldiers  got too confident. They pressed on, too fast and without caution. They assumed this was the best the Tiger could do.That his reputation was inflated. That he had lost his touch.How often he proved them wrong.This one. Had he taken her after Concordia, that disaster? Or La Honda? Perhaps he should tell Osvaldo to photograph new recruits, especially the children, to keep a visual record.
In the army's hands, photos would be a liability. He didn't need to remember who they were. That was old thinking, bourgeois thinking. Still, these habits haunted him. The past. What use did he have for it? "It is time," he said.In the meadow below, his fighters waited for morning inspection. Up by 4 am, they had already eaten a gruel  prepared by the cooks. As the Tiger descended, he saw how mist caught like hair in the bromeliads anchored in the rock face. Flame-rumped tanagers rustled and sang, their triple chirp a counterpoint to the drag of the girl's feet along the path. Dew lay heavy on the huts of the hostages. They were asleep at this hour, clinging to the freedom of their dreams.The Tiger stood before his fighters. "Bring the boy." Over night, the boy had been staked behind the storage tent, with the mules. This was only fair. He was the mastermind. Like the girl, he was slender. A few hairs curled on his chin and upper lip. Was he thirteen? Ten? From his days as a medical student, the Tiger recognized the type: a survivor, resilient. Injured, he would beat the odds. Not this time.Cholo had wound rope around the boy's wrists, then had bound the wrists to the boy's waist. Strips of cloth, stiff and the color of old wine, wrapped around the boy's right foot. As yet, the foot did not stink."We're losing time." The Tiger drew his reading glasses from the front flap pocket of his shirt. Irritating, but necessary. With his thinning hair and paunch, the wire rims completed what he knew was a look of creeping decrepitude. He compensated with actions, to show that he was not weak.Osvaldo handed him a folded paper.
"The revolutionary council has reached its verdict," he said. "Comrade Alejandra!" Cholo half-pulled and half-carried the girl forward. Alejandra didn't seem to realize what was happening. This was more than insulin deprivation, the Tiger realized. Was she drugged? Who would have given her a pill? He felt his heart skip with anger. Maybe that sweetness was something else. Morphine tablets had no odor. Was it cough medicine? "You have been found guilty of contributing to the cowardice of a fellow comrade. On the night of the birthday of our glorious founder and the wellspring of revolution, you used a weapon to shoot Comrade Benjamín in the foot. Your dark purpose, as is well known, was to injure him severely enough to send him home and later abandon our national army of liberation. This is treason and conspiracy. The punishment is severe." 
 ," the boy said. He shivered, but his eyes were steady. This one, the Tiger thought. This one was strong."My sister had no choice.
 , I forced her. I threatened her. She did it for me, for the love of me.
 , I beg you..." "Silence!" The Tiger removed his glasses. Emotion is the enemy of reason. Reason is the motor of transformation. The way out of the petty concerns of the self. He sacrificed for the good of the people. The people were more important than any one person. These emotional ties had to be severed for their to be true and lasting change. So! Comrade Benjamín's punishment would be quite a lesson for everyone."Comrade Alejandra, the verdict is clear." Through half-lidded eyes, Alejandra stared at the ground. He smelled licorice. Of course! Alcohol, the peasant's oblivion. She reeked of it, in fact. Perhaps it was for the best. He heard Osvaldo ready his pistol. Then he unholstered 

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