'Of course,' said Ashraf Bey. 'We could just kill the defendant
and be done with it...' He let his suggestion hang in the cold
air. And when no one replied, Raf shrugged. 'Okay,' he said.
It was getting late and autumn rain fell steadily on the
darkened streets outside, while inside, sat around their table,
Raf's visitors continued to chase the same argument in tight
circles. A Grand Jury was in session. If three judges plus a
senior detective in a damp, third-storey office could be called
anything so imposing, which seemed doubtful.
'An accident,' suggested Raf. 'The steps in this precinct are
notoriously slippery. Or perhaps suicide... Shoe laces, an
unfortunately overlooked belt... ? One of my people would
have to be reprimanded obviously.'
Raf looked from Graf Ernst von B, the German boy, to a sourfaced
politician from New Jersey who insisted everyone call her
Senator Liz, neither of whom met his eye. There was also an
elderly French oil magnate, but he sat so quietly Raf mostly forgot
he was there. Which was probably the man's intention.
'Alternatively,' said Raf, 'I could have him taken out to the
courtyard and shot. Or, if you like, we could lose the body
altogether and just pretend he never existed. One of the old
Greek cisterns should take care of that.'
They didn't like this idea either; but then the young detective
with the Armani wrap-rounds and drop-pearl earring hadn't
expected them to... He was acting as magister to their judges.
And no one as yet, least of all him, seemed very sure what that
'Justice,' Senator Liz said loudly, 'must be seen to be done.'
Her voice remained as irritating as when the session began
several hours earlier.
'Lord Hewart,' Raf pulled the quote from memory. 'One of the
worst judges in history. And even he never suggested putting a
North African trial on American television.'
'That's not...' Ernst von B's protest died as Raf flipped up
'Let's hear what St Cloud thinks,' he said and turned to the
Frenchman. 'Do you think justice needs to be televised?'
'Me?' Astolphe de St Cloud slid a cigar case from his inside
pocket. And though the iridescence of its lizard skin was
beautiful, even by the light of a single hurricane lamp, what
they all noticed was the enamel clasp: an eagle spreading its
wings, while jagged thunderbolts fell from between the bird's
As if anyone there needed reminding that St Cloud would
have been Prince Imperial, if only his father had bothered to
marry his mother.
'It depends,' said St Cloud, 'on what Your Excellency means
by justice...' Shuffling a handful of prints, he stopped at one
which showed a young girl with most of her stomach missing.
'If we decide the evidence is convincing enough, then obviously
the prisoner must stand trial. Like Senator Liz, my only reservation
is that, perhaps, El Iskandryia is not quite...'
Raf caught the wry amusement in the Marquis' voice and
glanced round the room, trying to see it through the eyes of
a man whose own business empire was run from a Moorish
palace overlooking Tunisia's Cap Bon; and who now found
himself in a third-floor office, without electricity, on the corner
of Boulevard Champollion and Rue Riyad Pasha, in a tatty
four-square government block built around a huge courtyard
in best Nationalist Revival style.
At street level the exterior walls to Iskandryia's Police HQ
were faced with cheap sheets of reconstituted marble, while
glass hid the exterior of the two floors above. Black glass
obviously. The architect had been on loan from Moscow.
As for the level of comfort on offer... A fire burned in
a bucket in the centre of the floor, filled with logs from a
dying carob. Apparently, the tree had been not quite alive
and not yet dead for as long as even Raf's oldest detectives
Two men from uniform had hacked it off just above the roots,
using fire-axes. Now chunks of its carcass spat and spluttered as
thin flames danced across the top of their makeshift brazier.
Directly above the brazier, suspended from the centre of the
ceiling like an inverted red mushroom, hung a state-of-the-art
smoke detector. Like almost everything else in Iskandryia since
the EMP bomb, it no longer worked.
And behind Raf's head, a window unit that once adjusted
electronically to lighting conditions had been rendered smoke
friendly, also with a fire-axe. Through its shattered centre came
flecks of rain and a salt wind that blew in from the Eastern
'Justice,' said Raf, 'is whatever we decide...' His voice lost
the irony, became serious. 'And since the killing occurred
within the jurisdiction of the Khedive, I demand that the trial
take place in El Iskandryia.'
Senator Liz shook her head. 'Absurd,' she said. 'We have to
change the location. You cannot expect us to work in these
'I don't remember anyone asking you to work on this at
all.' Wrap-round dark glasses stared at the woman. The other
two he'd chosen. The Senator was different, she'd practically
demanded to sit on the Grand Jury.
Actually, there was no practically about it.
On her breath Raf could smell gin, while a non-too-subtle
miasma of sweat rose from her compact body. If von Bismarck
and St Cloud could manage to bathe in rain water, then so could
'Your Excellency,' said Ernst von B. 'Senator Liz has a point.
It will not be easy...' The young German spoke slowly, in
schoolboy Arabic, supposedly out of respect for Ashraf Bey's
position as magister, though Raf suspected his real reason was
to annoy the American, who spoke no languages other than
'Nothing is ever easy. But the decision is made.' Raf stood
up from his chair. And it was his chair because they were in
his office. His was the name engraved on an absurdly-long
brass plate on the door. His Excellency Pashazade Ashraf Bey,
Colonel Ashraf al-Mansur, Chief of Detectives.
He'd told his assistant a plastic nameplate was fine but that
wasn't how things were done in El Iskandryia. The long plaque
had turned up the day after Raf took the job, and once a week, on
Thursdays, a Cypriot woman from maintenance came up from
the ground floor to polish the sign.
Raf turned to find St Cloud stood next to him, leaning on a
cane with a silver top.
'You were joking about those steps, the accidents... I have
your word this trial will actually take place?'
The blond detective nodded. 'You do.'
The trial would happen and it would happen soon. In all
probability the defendant, one Hamzah Effendi, would be convicted.
Raf just wished Hamzah wasn't father to the girl he
should have married.
Nine days before the Grand Jury met in an upstairs office
at Champollion Precinct, Ashraf Bey sat through a warm
Iskandryian evening, bombed out of his skull, at a pavement
table outside Le Trianon, drinking cappuccino and listening to
DJ Avatar wreck havoc on the words of a Greek philosopher.
The afternoon call to prayer had finished echoing from the
mosque on Boulevard Sa'ad Zaghloul and the bells from l'Eglise
Copte had yet to begin. If it hadn't been for a sense of dread
hanging over El Iskandryia, this could have been a Monday in
October like any other.
Horse-drawn calèches, their brasses shined and wheel bosses
polished, rumbled up the Corniche, from the fat sea wall known
as the Silsileh all the way north to Fort Qaitbey, where the
ancient Pharos lighthouse once stood.
And at both ends of the sweeping Corniche, at Silsileh in
the shadow of Iskandryia's famous library, and at Fort Qaitbey,
groups of tourists watched as fishermen set hooks or mended
and untangled nets, waiting for the evening tide.
It was a tourist who'd taken the taxi that stopped outside
Le Trianon, with its window down and sound-system up too
loud, giving Raf the chance to hear the city's favourite DJ one
'And remember. . .'Avatar's voice was street raw. 'Rust never
sleeps. Coming at you from the wrong side of those tracks, this
for the Daddy, the Don...'
Most of Raf's officers thought DJ Avatar came up with
SpitNoWhere on his own; if they thought at all, which Raf
considered unlikely. So they happily stamped the corridors at
Police HQ, humming along, not knowing that the unchopped
original went, 'In a rich man's house, there's nowhere to spit
but his face.'
Raf hadn't known that, at least not until recently, but the
fox in his head did. And while the fox couldn't say why, the
General's aide de camp had just delivered to Raf an engraving
of hell, inscribed with the words, 'At its centre hell is not hot.'
It had at least been able to identify the picture as late Victorian,
unquestionably by Gustave Doré...
'. . . ou know,' said the fox, before all this happened. '. . . ese
things, they occur.'
The fox had a grin like the Cheshire Cat, except that no cat
ever owned so many teeth or carried its tail wrapped up round
its shoulders like a stole. Come to that, few cats took afternoon
tea at Le Trianon.
These things could have been Raf becoming Chief of Detectives
by default, or his recent refusal to marry the daughter of
'Why?' Raf asked. 'Why do they occur?'
But the fox didn't answer.
Sighing, Raf took a gulp of cold cappuccino to wash away
the taste of cheap speed and fixed his gaze on the pedestrians
who streamed past his cafe´ table, separated from the terrace
where he sat by a silk rope and the assiduous attention of two
The only pedestrians to meet Raf's stare were those, mainly
tourists, who didn't realize who he was. They just saw a blond
young man in dark glasses, wearing an oddly old-fashioned
suit, the kind with a high collar.
'Come on,' said Raf, searching inside his head. 'You can
He ignored his two guards, who looked at each other and
then hurriedly looked away. Raf didn't doubt that they could
see tears trickling from under his glasses, but he didn't much
The fox was saying goodbye.
The beast had been dying for years. Its abilities limited by
memory conflicts, failed backup and the fact that, these days,
the animal could only feed on neon light.
Once Tiri had been state of the art. Feeding on daylight,
infrared and ultraviolet, or so it told Raf. White light, black light
– back then anything went. The fox sharpened Raf's reflexes,
steadied his nerves and gave him good advice. It was what Raf
had instead of parents...
A small ceramic box set into his skull behind one ear which
kept him sane, sort of, and gave him a definable centre. And
once, when Raf was very young and in another country, it had
helped him walk out across a steel beam through flames and
Only life wasn't simple; because the fox, of course, refused to
admit that it existed. The fox's view was that Raf had a number
of unresolved issues.
'Your Excellency... ?'
Someone hovered at his shoulder.
'Go', said Raf and the waiter went, grateful to have been
Raf went back to watching the tourists who fed off from
Place Sa'ad Zaghloul, and headed south down Rue Missala,
searching for bars and theatres or just in a hurry to get back
to their hotels.
After a hundred and eleven days in the city, Raf could
now identify tourist groups as clearly as if they wore labels:
waddling Austrians, dark-haired French men, the odd bunch
of shore-leave Soviets in mufti and, rarer still, an occasional
pink-skinned English woman with silk scarf and sensible shoes.
But mostly Iskandryia got nice couples, as befitted a famously
The fuck-me singles, with their piercings, tattoos and trailer
chic, came out only after dark, and then only in closely-defined
areas. Places like PeshVille, where Scandinavian kids hosed
lines of coke off toilet rims, while girls shuffled in darkened
corners on the unzipped laps of boys too blasted to know they
weren't safely hiding out in student halls back home.
But that wasn't really Iskandryia, just how it went, with
the limo-delivered international DJs as interchangeable as the
clientele. It could have been Curitiba or Berlin, Punta del Este
or Kota Baru. And anyway those clubs weren't Raf's business.
The tourist police dealt with that stuff.
'You in there?'
Raf counted off the seconds, listening carefully for an echo
inside his head. One winter night, when he was maybe ten and
feeling sorry for himself, something that happened less often
than Raf remembered, he'd asked the fox if he (Raf that was)
had a soul... And the fox had gone all silent.
That was the weekend Raf refused to go to chapel. For five
weeks he'd been made to run round a field in the sleet at the
back of his school, while the others sang hymns in the dry. And
the fox's only comment, months later, had been to point out that
he should have waited until summer to lose his faith.
Maybe it was one of his schools that first put the fox in his
head. Or perhaps it was his mother. Alternatively, just maybe
the fox was right and it didn't exist, maybe it had never existed
outside of Raf's imagination.
Raf sighed. 'Do I get an answer?' he demanded. 'Or do I sit
talking to myself like an idiot?'
'Your Excellency?' It was the maître d' this time. Raf tried to
wave away the thin man but the maître d' stayed rooted to the
spot, urgency winning out over embarrassment. 'The General
is on the line from New York...' In his hand the man held an
old-fashioned telephone. 'He says it's very urgent.'
Raf shook his head and almost laughed as shock flooded the
maître d's face. No one refused to talk to General Saeed Koenig
Pasha, not even His Excellency Ashraf Bey.
'What do I tell him?' The maître d' begged frantically.
Raf thought about how to answer for so long that the thin
man holding the telephone actually began to squirm with
'I know,' said Raf finally, 'tell him my fox is dying.'
We had a give-away contest. Winners were sent a copy of Effendi,
courtesy of Simon & Schuster Earthlight.
The questions are:
What kind of glasses was Raf wearing? wrap-round dark ones
What is the name of the city's favourite DJ? Avatar
What was on the clasp of St Cloud's cigar case? It was an eagle spreading its wings with jagged thunderbolts between the bird's sharp claws.
In order to win a copy of Effendi, you must send an email
stating the correct answers to the above questions.
Please send only one email; duplicates will be ignored.
Winners will be chosen from those with correct answers and notified by email. Books will be mailed out post-paid once all winners have been notified.
A final list of winners will be posted on this web site.
Copyright © 2002 by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from
the author. This excerpt has been provided by Time Warner and printed with their permission.