He was lost in a gallery of memory hung with portraits of the dead. They spoke to him as he drifted slowly past-Zwaiter and Hamidi; the brothers al-Hourani; Sabri and Khaled al-Khalifa, father and son of terror. They welcomed him to the land of martyrs and celebrated his death with sweets and song. At the end of the gallery, a bloodless boy with bullet holes in his face guided Gabriel through the doors of a church in Venice. The nave was hung with a cycle of paintings depicting scenes from his life and above the main altar was an unfinished canvas, clearly painted by the hand of Bellini, portraying Gabriel’s death. The master himself was standing in the sanctuary. He took Gabriel by the hand and led him into a garden in Jerusalem, where a woman scarred by fire sat in the shade of an olive tree with a cherubic boy on her lap.
When finally he woke, it was with the sensation that he had drunk himself sick. His headache was catastrophic, his mouth felt as though it were filled with a wad of cotton wool, and he feared he might throw up, even though it had been many hours since he had taken food. He opened his eyes slowly and, without moving a muscle, took stock of his situation. He lay on his back atop a narrow camp bed, in a small chamber with walls as white as porcelain. His hands were cuffed and the cuffs were attached to an iron loop in the wall behind his head so that his arms were stretched painfully backward. His clothing and wristwatch had been removed; his mouth had been taped closed. A searing white light shone fiercely into his face.
He closed his eyes, fought off a wave of nausea, and shivered violently from the cold. A good hiding place, this. Surely much planning and enterprise had gone into creating it. Despite the almost clinical cleanliness of the chamber, there were foul smells on the air, the smell of feces and body odor, the odor of a woman held for a long time in captivity. Elizabeth Halton had been here before him-he was certain of it. Was she still close by, he wondered, or had they moved her to another location to make way for the new tenant?
There were noises beyond the door. Gabriel turned his head a few degrees and saw an eye glaring at him through the peephole. Next he heard the sound of a padlock opening, followed by the groan of the cold hinges. A single man entered his cell. He was no more than thirty, slightly built and dressed in a collared shirt with a burgundy V-necked pullover. He gazed at Gabriel quizzically for a long moment through a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles, as if he had been looking for a library or bookshop and had stumbled onto this scene instead. Gabriel found something familiar in the arrangement of the man’s features. Only when he tore the tape from Gabriel’s face and in Arabic wished him a pleasant evening did he understand why. The voice belonged to a young man from the Oud West in Amsterdam-a young man who was half Egyptian and half Palestinian, a volatile mix.
It belonged to Ishaq Fawaz.
He vanished as quickly as he had appeared. A few minutes later, four men entered his cell. They hit him several times in the abdomen before uncuffing his hands, then, after lifting him to his feet, hit him some more. The chamber was too small for a proper beating and so, after a brief conference, they dragged him naked up a flight of stairs and into a darkened warehouse space. Gabriel struck first, a move that seemed to catch them off guard. He managed to incapacitate one of them temporarily before the other three jumped onto his back and drove him onto the cold cement floor. There they throttled, kicked, and pounded on him for several minutes until, from somewhere in the warehouse, came an order to cease and desist. They let him lay there for some time, vomiting his own blood, before finally returning him to his cell and securing his hands to the wall again. He fought to remain conscious but could not. The door of the church in Venice was still ajar. He slipped inside and saw Bellini standing atop his work platform high above the main altar, putting the finishing touches on the canvas depicting Gabriel’s death. Gabriel climbed slowly upward and, with Bellini at his side, began to paint.