Long Lost Page 71

Again.

39

CABINDA PROVINCE

ANGOLA, AFRICA

THREE WEEKS LATER

WE have been driving in this pickup truck for more than eight hours now through the craziest terrain. I hadn\'t seen a person or even a building in more than six. I have been to remote areas before, but this took remote to the tenth power.

When we reach the hut, the driver pulls over and turns off the engine. He opens the door for me and hands me a backpack. He shows me the walking path. There is a phone in the hut, he tells me. When I want to return, I should call him on it. He will come and get me. I thank him and start down the path.

Four miles later, I see the clearing.

Terese is there. Her back is to me. When I returned to the Dakota that night, she was, as Win had said, gone. She had left a simple note behind:

’’I love you so very much.’’

That was it.

Terese\'s hair is dyed black now. The better to keep her hidden, I assume. Blondes would stand out, even here. I like her hair this way. I watch her walking away from me, and I can\'t help but smile. Her head held high, her shoulders back, the perfect posture. I flash back to that surveillance tape, the way I could see that Carrie had that same perfect posture, that same confident walk.

Terese is surrounded by three black women in colorful garb. I start toward them. One of the women spots me and whispers something. Terese turns, curious. When her eyes land on me, her entire face lights up. So, I guess, does mine. She drops the basket in her hand and sprints in my direction. There is no hesitation at all. I run to meet her. She wraps her arms around me and pulls me close.

’’God, I missed you,’’ she says.

I hug her back. That\'s all. I don\'t want to say anything. Not yet. I want to melt into this hug. I want to disappear into it and stay in her arms forever. I know deep in my soul that this is where I belong, holding her, and for just a few moments, I want and need that peace.

Finally I ask, ’’Where is Carrie?’’

She takes my hand and walks me to the corner of the opening. She points up the field, to another small clearing. A hundred yards away, Carrie sits with two black girls about her age. They are all working on something. I can\'t tell what it is. Peeling or picking. The black girls are laughing. Carrie is not.

Carrie\'s hair too is black.

I turn back to Terese. I look at her eyes of blue with the gold ring around the pupils. Her daughter had the same gold ring. I saw it in that picture. The confident walk, the gold ring. The unmistakable genetic echo.

What else, I wondered, had been passed down?

’’Please understand why I had to run,’’ Terese says. ’’She\'s my daughter.’’

’’I know.’’

’’I had to save her.’’

I nod. ’’She gave you her phone number the first time she called.’’

’’Yes.’’

’’You could have told me.’’

’’I know. But I heard Berleand. She isn\'t worth thousands of lives to anyone but me.’’

The mention of Berleand causes a sharp pang. I wonder what to say next. I shade my eyes and look back toward Carrie. ’’Do you understand what her life has been like?’’

Terese does not look, does not blink. ’’She was raised by terrorists.’’

’’It\'s worse than that. Mohammad Matar did his medical residency at Columbia-Presbyterian, right when in vitro fertilization and embryonic storage were becoming big. He saw an opportunity for a crushing blow patience and the sword. Save the Angels was a radical terrorist group disguising itself as right-wing Christians. He used coercion and lies to get embryos. He didn\'t give them to infertile couples. He used Muslim women sympathetic to his cause as surrogates like a storage facility until the embryos were born. Then he and his followers raised the offspring to be terrorists from day one. Nothing else. Carrie wasn\'t allowed to bond with anyone. She never knew love, not even as an infant. Never knew tenderness. No one held her. No one comforted her when she cried in her sleep. She and the others were indoctrinated every day of their lives to kill infidels. That was it. Nothing else. They were raised to be the ultimate weapons, to fit in as one of us and be ready for the ultimate holy war. Imagine. Matar sought out embryos from parents who were blond and blue-eyed. His weapons could go anywhere because who would suspect them?’’

I wait for Terese to react, to wince. She does not. ’’Did you capture them all?’’

’’Not me. I broke up the main group in Connecticut. Jones found more information inside that house and, I assume, some of the surviving terrorists were interrogated.’’ I didn\'t want to think about how or maybe I did, I don\'t know anymore. ’’Green Death had another camp outside of Paris. It was raided within hours. Mossad and the Israelis air-raided a larger training compound on the Syrian-Iranian border.’’

’’What happened to the children?’’

’’Some were killed. Others are in custody.’’

She began to walk back down the hill. ’’You think because Carrie never knew love before that she should never know love now?’’

’’That\'s not what I\'m saying.’’

’’Sounds like it.’’

’’I\'m telling you the reality.’’

’’You have friends who raised children, don\'t you?’’ she asked.

’’Of course.’’

’’What is the first thing they\'ll tell you? That their children come out a certain way. Hardwired. Nature over nurture. Parents can steer them and try to keep them on the right road, but in the end, they are little more than caregivers. Some children will end up being sweet no matter what. Others will end up psychotic. You know friends who have raised their kids identically. One kid is outgoing, one is quiet, one is miserable, one is generous. Parents quickly learn that their influence is limited.’’

’’She\'s never known any love at all, Terese.’’

’’And now she will.’’

’’You don\'t know what\'s she capable of.’’

’’I don\'t know what anyone is capable of.’’

’’That\'s not an answer,’’ I said.

’’What else do you expect me to do? She\'s my daughter. I will watch her. Because that\'s what a parent does. I will also protect her. And you\'re wrong. You met Ken Borman, right? The prep school kid?’’

I nod.

’’Carrie was drawn to him. Despite the unspeakable hell she lived with every single day, she somehow still felt a connection. She tried to break away. That\'s why she was with Matar in Paris. To be retrained.’’

’’Was she there when Rick was murdered?’’


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