ExtractRead chapter 1 of the novel

        I told him again. "I've known Wyndham a dozen years," I said. It was the same answer I had given minutes before, although in fact, I had known him only nine. It was a careless lie, unintended, and only thinking about it more closely, counting back the years, did I realize my mistake. I wasn't sure how I had come to make it. Violence, death: these things perhaps. They had forged and shaped our relationship from the very outset. Wyndham had been working at the State Hospital in Sarajevo when I had met him, employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. I had been in the city covering the civil war in Yugoslavia. Most of our subsequent meetings had been like this, in the arena of conflict, our professional fields of operation. The dull, pedestrian repetitions of friendship, the comfortable rituals which make one meeting blur into another, over weeks, months, years... these didn't exist for us.
        I tried to recall how he had seemed to me when I had first met him, those years ago. It was tough to remember. All the time between and a welter of events had blunted my first impressions. Naive? Idealistic? Perhaps these qualities, and a rawness too, untamed energy. But these were easy qualities to remember, because in a way, he had never lost them. They had simply hardened, over the years. He had made wrong choices, believed in wrong things, espoused wrong causes right up to the end. His naivety and idealism had become callused by harsh experience but they had remained within him, expressed in those wrong choices and beliefs.
        "I'm a dangerous man to know," he had told me once. It might even have been the first thing he had said to me, a warning I hadn't heeded. But how little he had changed, fundamentally: because it could very easily have been the last thing, too. He had always been dangerous.
        "In what way?" I had asked.
        He had been ministering to a man with a leg wound, an ugly gash which Wyndham was having to stitch up without the use of anaesthetic. The man was Serbian but I had an inkling he spoke some English: Wyndham's words seemed to alarm him.
        "How should I know?" he said levelly. "I'm just telling you so you don't hear it from someone else first. They seem to have a pretty dim view of me here. They admire my dedication though."
        This was true: both parts. His dedication couldn't be faulted. Just his desire to take risks. In only a few weeks at the hospital, he had gained a bad reputation. It was a wonder a sniper's bullet had never found him, his colleagues said, or the shrapnel from an exploding mortar shell. It was only a matter of time before he got someone killed, probably himself. At the time I had thought of this rash attitude as bravery - when I had stopped thinking of it as stupidity - but perhaps it was simply a corollary of knowing his actions were both selfless and for the greater good. Soldiers in action have this same blind courage, the same unquestioning belief in the rightness of what they do, creating a narrowness of outlook that can justify almost any action, no matter how extreme. Moral conviction can be a horrible thing in the hands of the zealous, a philosopher's stone able to turn base murder into glory.
        And these are other qualities to add to the list: Wyndham's zealousness, his moral conviction. In all his years in aid work, they were qualities he never lost. Had I been older, when I had met him, more worldly wise, I might have heeded those warnings about Wyndham - his own warnings – and stayed away from him, and never known him. It was only by chance that he had lived so long, nine more years. It was only by chance that he had got others killed, during those years, and not himself, or me.
        "You must sign this," Inspector Prabash told me. It was a preliminary report. "Also, you must give me address in Delhi where you are staying. I have contacted embassy in Delhi. Representative will be sent here. This person will want to speak with you." He paused, looked long at me as if awaiting a response. I was about to thank him for his patience and understanding when he spoke again. "You may go now," he said, "rest." He gave his moustache a twirl, an act of indifference - dismissal. "You are hungry? There is hotel opposite police station, also restaurant. I have booked room for you here. Desk sergeant will show you where to go. I will speak with you later when I have more information."
        He didn't get up as I left. Nor did the desk sergeant - he waved vaguely at the muddy street outside.
        I blinked against the light as I left the station. It was mid-morning and not raining, not sunny either, hot. It had rained through the night and stopped at first light. The traffic was heavy on the road. I had been in Mahaban only a few hours, had seen nothing of it, and already I hated the place with a passion. It could have been almost any other town anywhere in the North, unpleasant and overpopulated, a sun-raddled place of noise and stink to which the rains had brought a tolerable if temporary calm.
        But nothing was simple in India: it was a furious calm. I spent minutes waiting for a gap to open in the traffic so I could cross to the hotel on the other side of the road. No gap opened in the traffic.
        I hired an autorickshaw for the ten yard journey.

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