The action began auspiciously.
Salem Nabulsi had prayed for good weather – and God had rewarded him with a day of brilliant sunshine.
He’d hoped the woman’s husband would leave at his accustomed hour – and the husband had departed fifteen minutes early.
He’d feared the woman would not admit him to her apartment – but she had.
And he’d feared she wouldn’t die quietly – but she did.
By 8:15 AM, he’d already washed her blood from his hands, injected her baby with the contents of the syringe and chosen, from among her clothing, the hijab
that were to become his shroud.
God further smiled on their enterprise when He sent a taxi driver, punctual to the minute, but also so unobservant that he failed to notice how heavy the baby’s carriage was when he folded it and stowed it in the cab.
The crowd, too, exceeded all expectations. It wasn’t yet a quarter to nine when they reached the consulate, and yet the line already stretched to half the length of the security fence.
But then it all began to go wrong.
How could they have known, how could they possibly
have known that babies attract Brazilians like flowers attract bees?
Salem hadn’t been in place for more than two minutes before a grey-haired lady stuck her nose under the sunshade to have a look at the sleeping child.
She cooed at the infant and started telling him about her grandchildren. Salem gave her no encouragement, but it still seemed an eternity before she abandoned her attempt to elicit a response and returned to her place in line.
Next to interfere was a fat sergeant from the Civil Police. Salem, fearing the cop’s suspicions would be aroused by the difference in skin tones between himself and the baby, edged his hand closer to the detonation switch.
But the sergeant was wearing dark sunglasses and the baby was in deep shadow, so perhaps he didn’t notice. After a few complimentary remarks, which Salem didn’t respond to, the cop gave up and moved on.
He’d no sooner disappeared into an alcove fronting a leather goods shop when a third busybody appeared.
Salem was never to know it, but her name was Dorotea Candida. She was a sharp-eyed lawyer, the mother of three and the grandmother of two.
She was smiling when she bent over, but the smile quickly faded.
“Yours?” she asked, standing upright.
The Mullah hadn’t prepared him for such a question.
“Yes,” Salem blurted.
Her eyes narrowed.
“Uh-huh,” she said.
Salem didn’t like the way she said it.
Then, without another word, she turned and headed toward a cop, not the same one as before, another one. And this one looked a lot smarter. She spoke and pointed. The cop nodded and walked toward Salem. Wait until nine
, the Mullah had said. The crowd will be biggest then
And it would have been. At least ten people had queued up behind him. More were arriving every minute. But Salem could wait no longer. Discovery was imminent. He put his hand on the button.
And pushed it, just as the cop reached him.
In Dudu Fonseca’s law offices, a little more than three kilometers away, the shockwave from the explosion rattled the glass in the windows.
Fonseca held up a hand to silence his client.
“What was that?” he said.
“I don’t give a damn what it was,” Orlando Muniz said. “Answer my question.”
The question had been what’s our next move?
And Muniz was sitting on the other side of Fonseca’s desk, with his arms crossed, awaiting Fonseca’s response.
Fonseca was the best defense lawyer in São Paulo. Not one
of the best, the
best, but on Muniz’s murder charge, he’d been unable to deliver an acquittal, and Muniz was mightily displeased.
Fonseca picked up the mock-Georgian coffee pot and poured the last of its contents into his cup.
An honest answer would have been that further moves were a waste of effort. The hard truth was that Muniz would be spending the rest of his days in a prison cell.
But, at the moment, Muniz was still laying golden eggs, so an honest answer wasn’t in the cards.
“I’ll have to give the situation some deep thought,” Fonseca said, taking a sip of the (cold) coffee. “Frankly, we’re in a bit of a quandary.”
“Quandary, my ass,” Muniz said. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Indeed, he couldn’t. In his world, the rich didn’t go to jail. Not in Brazil. Not even if they killed an unarmed, penniless priest, in the presence of a federal cop, as he had done.
The initial judgment, one that resulted in a conviction, carried with it an automatic appeal. Fonseca had arranged to plead the first instance before one of the best judges money could buy. He was about to do the same with the second.
But a public prosecutor named Zanon Parma, in a spectacular show of legal tour de force
, had checked the man on the bench at every turn.
Parma was to prosecutors what Fonseca was to defense attorneys. The best. Muniz’s remaining days of freedom were surely numbered. But this, Fonseca thought, was no time to be candid.
“How important is this guy Parma to the prosecution’s case?” Muniz asked.
Fonseca didn’t like where his client was going with this. He smelled trouble. But he was being paid for his advice, so he gave it.
“Very. Parma is brilliant, he’s dedicated, and he can’t be bought.”
“And that federal cop? That Chief Inspector Silva? How important is he?”
“Perhaps even more important than Parma. In addition to being the principal witness against you, he’s spearheading–”
“The witch hunt. It’s a fucking witch hunt. But any witch hunt needs guys up in front with scythes and pitchforks, right? You take those guys out of the picture and–”
Fonseca, once again, held up a hand. “Stop right there, Orlando. I don’t want to hear it.”
Muniz stood up. “Then we’re done. I won’t thank you for your time. I’m sure you’re gonna bill me for every fucking second of it.”
Fonseca, as was his custom with departing clients, struggled to his feet. He was grossly overweight, and it was never easy for him to get out of a chair.
Muniz ignored the lawyer’s outstretched hand. “One thing more,” he said. “Keep your fucking mouth shut about this conversation.”
He departed so quickly that Fonseca’s hand was still hanging in the air when the office door slammed shut.
The blast had been the loudest thing Sergeant Flavio Correia had ever heard, louder than a crack of thunder, louder, even, than the stun grenades from his training days.
He rubbed his ears with his palms. One came away wet. He held the hand out in front of him and stared at it. It was red with blood.
His ears still ringing, Flavio stepped into the street.
A crater smoked where once a length of sidewalk had been. The windows in the buildings facing the American Consulate were blown out. The trees on both sides of the security fence were denuded. Small fires were everywhere.
A gas tank exploded, ruffling his hair with a pressure wave of hot air, as another vehicle joined the others already in flames. The woman slumped over the wheel didn’t react. She was either dead or unconscious. Either way, she was a goner. There was no way he’d be able to get her out of there.
Flavio shuffled forward and stumbled over a severed foot still wearing a man’s brown oxford.
A woman ran past him, her hair on fire, her mouth open in a silent scream.
A few meters away, a bloody arm rose from a legless trunk, waved once in wordless appeal, and fell back onto what looked like a pile of offal.
Flavio, his hands trembling, detached the transceiver from his belt, turned the volume to maximum, and put it to his ear.
But he couldn’t hear a damned thing.
Excerpted from Perfect Hatred by Leighton Gage. Copyright © 2013 by Leighton Gage. Excerpted by permission of Soho Crime, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.