Fascist populists, callous sex-traffickers and murderous mafia gangs – these were not what Pastor Jude Kilburn had expected to face when he moved to Albania. But when vulnerable 19-year-old Alban disappears from his poverty-stricken village to seek work in Greece, Jude has to undertake the perilous journey across the mountains to try and rescue him from the ruthless Athenian underworld. Accompanied by a volatile secret-service agent and a reformed gangster, Jude soon finds himself struggling to keep everyone together as personal tensions rise and violent anti-austerity riots threaten to tear them apart and undermine the mission. Caught between cynical secret police and a brutal crime syndicate, the fate of them all will be determined by a trafficked girl – but not every one will make it home. The Migrant is a tense and evocative thriller with a powerful redemptive twist.
Chapter One Part Three
Ssshhh … budalla,’ hissed Ervin as he stepped back and lifted him by the arm. When he was upright, Alban yanked it back and glared again at him. He walked briskly for the next hour close behind him, listening as the trees rose around them and the darkness between them deepened. At one point they came upon a wolf cub lying alone on its side at the track’s edge. Its breathing was shallow and rapid. Alban squatted down beside it and gently lifted its head.
‘Oh, how bad,’ he whispered to Ervin. A little blood from its mouth came off on his fingers. He remembered his uncle Skender and the argument they’d had: the shock and the hurt when Skender struck him across the mouth forwards and backwards. He loved Skender. It was the raki: he drank too much of it. Well, he was nineteen now, not fifteen, and old enough to make his own decisions. He wanted to take the cub and nurse it. He brushed a tear from his cheek, partly for Skender, and left it.
The track came to an arched, stone bridge just wide enough for a cart to cross, and Alban stopped to peer over the side. The sound of trickling water came up from the ravine where a cluster of fireflies were gyrating around each other.
‘Ervin, shall we stop a little? What time is it?’ he asked quietly.
‘Let’s get across that clearing … by the edge of those trees. It’s gone ten.’ They passed a circle of blackened stones that lay around the charred remains of branches, plastic bags and empty Tirana Beer cans. ‘Albanians … always leave the local picnic spots clean when they leave. Why don’t they mark the route with arrows so the Greeks know where to wait for us?’ said Ervin with disgust. Alban slumped down on the grass by him and lay on his back.
‘Hey! Ervin, that was close. I thought you’d done this before?’ said Alban. Ervin looked away, avoiding the embarrassment of an acknowledgement, thought Alban. ‘So, what are the Greeks like?’ he continued. ‘Do they cook their pilaf like us?’
‘You’ll see them soon enough,’ said Ervin. ‘There are good and bad ones … the army are the worst. They could shoot you in these parts in the early years. They caught a group of Albanians once and made them all climb up a tree. Then they cut it down – laughing – as they fell through the branches, like it was sport.’ He then smiled and wiggled his finger as if it was swimming through water. ‘They like their pilaf with seafood in it. Prawns.’
Alban felt a coldness entering him despite the warmth of the June night. He drew his sack closer and untied the string around its neck. He lifted out a jar of village cherries in syrup with a spoon, and some sardines fried in flour and wrapped in newspaper his mother had cooked yesterday. Then he pulled out a roll of plastic sheeting for sleeping under. Lastly, he took out his best training shoes. They were white with a black tick on the side. He buffed them with the edge of his T-shirt while he ate a little.
‘They are originals, not Turkish,’ he snapped as he noticed Ervin’s sceptical look. They were like his cousin Shpetim used to wear. They would help him make a good impression on Greek employers, he thought. He’d find work, despite the crisis. He would show them that he was a good worker too. He could put his hand to many things: plastering, picking peaches – he even knew a little about plumbing. He picked up a tiny, tin compass that had rolled out onto the ground. It had the flag of Great Britain on the back and the white wheel of the London Eye on its face. He tapped it and noted where the needle pointed and then where south-east was, deeper into Greece, where the distant silhouette of a watchtower could be seen just above the treeline. ‘Want some fish?’ he said and passed the sardines over to Ervin as he stuffed the other items back inside.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Alkazraji worked as a freelance journalist in the UK from the mid-nineties. His articles were published in Christianity Magazine, The Christian Herald, The Church Times, The Baptist Times and other publications. His travel articles were also published in The Independent. His first book Love Changes Everything, a collection of seven testimonies, was published by Scripture Union in 2001. His second book Heart of a Hooligan, a biography of ex-football hooligan Dave Jeal, was published by Highland Books in 2000. His third book Christ and the Kalashnikov, a biography of missionaries Ian and Caralee Loring, was published by Zondervan in 2001. From 2004 to 2010 he was editor and publisher of Ujëvarë magazine in Albania. His first novel, ‘The Silencer’, was published by Highland Books in 2012. His new novel, ‘The Migrant’, set in Albania and Athens during the austerity troubles, was published by Instant Apostle in February 2019.
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Muthena-Paul-Alkazraji/e/B0034OJYLK/