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«Edge of Danger», Jack Higgins

Paul Rashid was one of the richest Englishmen in the world. He was also half Arab, and few people could tell you which influence most ruled his heart.

Paul's father had been the leader of the Rashid Bedouin in the province of Hazar, in the Persian Gulf, and a soldier by both birth and tradition. Sent as a young man to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he had met Lady Kate Dauncey, the Earl of Loch Dhu's daughter, at a formal dance there. He was wealthy and handsome and, despite the obvious problems, it was a love match, and so, despite the initial misgivings of both sets of parents, they had married, Paul's father travelling back and forth between England and the Gulf as necessary. Over the years they had produced four children: Paul, the eldest, Michael, George and Kate.

The children were intensely proud of both sides of their family. In deference to their illustrious Omani past, they all spoke fluent Arabic and were Bedu to the heart, but as Paul Rashid would say, their English half was just as important, and they fiercely guarded the Dauncey name and their heritage as one of England's oldest families.

The two traditions flowed together in their blood, the medieval British and the Bedouin, producing a general fierceness that was most remarked upon in Paul, and was perhaps best epitomized by an extraordinary incident that occurred when Paul was himself about to pass out of Sandhurst. He'd just gone home for a few days' leave. Michael was eighteen at the time, George seventeen and Kate twelve.

The Earl was away in London and Paul had gone down to Hampshire and found his mother in the library of Dauncey Place with a badly bruised face. She had reached to hug him and it was Kate who'd said, 'He punched her, Paul. That awful man punched Mummy!'

Paul turned to Michael and said carefully, 'Explain.'

'Travellers,' his brother told him. 'A bunch of them moved into Roundhay Spinney with four caravans and some horses. Their dogs killed our ducks and Mother went to speak to them.'

'You let her go alone?'

'No, we all went, even Kate. The men laughed at us, and then when Mother started shouting at them, their leader, a large man, very tall, very aggressive, punched her in the face.'

Paul Rashid's own face was very pale, the eyes dark, as he stared at Michael and George. 'So, this animal laid hands on our mother and you let it happen?' He slapped them both. 'You have two hearts. A Rashid's and a Dauncey's. Now, I will show you how to be true to both.'

His mother grabbed his sleeve. 'Please, Paul, no more trouble, it's not worth it.'

'Not worth it?' His smile was terrible. 'There is a dog here who needs a lesson. I intend to give him one,' and he turned and led the way out.

They drove to Roundhay Spinney in a Land Rover, the three boys. Paul had forbidden Kate to come, but after they left, she saddled her favourite mare and followed anyway, galloping across country.

They found the caravans parked in a circle, with a large wood fire in the centre, and a dozen or so men and women grouped around it, along with several children, four horses and dogs.

The large man described by the two younger boys sat on a box by the fire drinking tea. He looked up as the three young men approached.

'And who might you be?'

'My family owns Dauncey Place.'

'Oh, dear, Mr high-and-mighty, is it?' He laughed at the others. 'Looks more like a prick to me.'

'At least I don't punch women in the face. I try to act like a man, which is more than anyone can say about you. You made a mistake, you piece of dung. That lady was my mother.'

'Why, you little shite…' the large man started, and never finished.

Paul Rashid's hand went into the deep pocket of his Barbour, and pulled out a jambiya, the curved knife of the Bedu. His brothers followed suit.

As the other men moved in, Paul slashed with the jambiya down the left side of the large man's skull, slicing off the ear. One of the other men pulled a knife from his pocket, and Michael Rashid, filled with energy he had never known, slashed sideways with his own jambiya, cutting open the man's cheek, sending him howling with pain.

One of the others picked up a branch and used it as a club to strike at George, but Kate Rashid ran from where she'd been hiding, picked up a rock and hurled it into his face with a shrill cry in Arabic.

As quickly as it had begun, it was over. The rest of the group stood warily, in silence, not even the women and children crying out, and suddenly the skies opened and rain poured down. The leader held a soiled handkerchief to his ear, or what was left of it, and groaned, 'I'll get you for this.'


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