“This novel will take you on a thrilling ride between the Middle East and the United States” –James O., Amazon Reviewer.
One Night in Tehran is the first book in an fast-paced series of new Christian mystery/suspense novels by Luana Ehrlich. It features Titus Ray, a veteran CIA officer, who is brought to faith in Christ by a group of Iranian Christians.
Titus Ray–on the run from the Iranian secret police–finds shelter with a group of Christians in Tehran. While urging Titus to become a believer in Jesus Christ, they manage to smuggle him out of Iran.
Back in the States, Titus learns he’s been targeted by a Hezbollah assassin. Now, while trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ, he must decide if the Iranian couple he meets in Oklahoma has ties to the man who’s trying to kill him, and if a beautiful, local detective, Nikki Saxon, can be trusted with his secrets.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired to write this book when I heard about the persecution experienced by Iranian Christians in Iran. Then, since I have a passion for the mystery/suspense/thriller genre, I asked, “What would happen to a veteran CIA intelligence officer if he encountered the faith and commitment of a group of Iranian Christians? What if he made a commitment of faith because of their influence? What would happen in his career if he began trying to live a totally different life, a life of faith?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Titus Ray, the main character in One Night in Tehran, is a composite of men I’ve met in churches where my husband and I have served, in countries where we have ministered as missionaries, and in my previous jobs, mostly recently at the University of Oklahoma.
Farah Karimi is based on someone I met through an English-language program, while Nikki Saxon, the detective in the story, is fashioned after three different women I encountered in my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma.
In far northwest Iran, a few minutes after clearing the city limits of Tabriz, Rahim maneuvered his vehicle onto a rutted side road. When he popped opened the trunk of the car to let me out, I saw the car was hidden from the main highway by a small grove of trees.
In spite of our seclusion, Rahim said he was still anxious about being seen by a military convoy from the nearby Tabriz missile base.
For the first time in several hours, I uncurled from my fetal position and climbed out of the vehicle, grateful to breathe some fresh air and feel the sunshine on my face.
As my feet landed on the rocky terrain, Rahim handed me a black wooden cane. I wanted to wave it off, but, regrettably, I still needed some help getting around on my bum leg.
Rahim slammed the trunk lid down hard.
“You can stretch for a few minutes,” he said, “but then we must get back on the road immediately. Our timing must be perfect at the border.”
Rahim and I were headed for the Iranian/Turkish border, specifically the border crossing at Bazargan, Iran. He was absolutely confident he could get me out of Iran without any problems. However, during the last twenty years, I’d had a couple of incidents at other border crossings—Pakistan and Syria to be precise—so I wasn’t as optimistic.
While Rahim was tinkering with the car’s engine, I exercised my legs and worked out the stiffness in my arms. As usual, I was running through several “what ifs” in my mind. What if the border guards searched the trunk? What if the car broke down? What if we were driving right into a trap?
I might have felt better about any of these scenarios had either of us been armed.
However, Rahim had refused to bring along a weapon.
Carrying a gun in Iran without a special permit meant certain imprisonment. Imprisonment in Iran meant certain torture, so I certainly understood his reasons for leaving the weaponry back in Tehran.
Still, a gun might have helped my nerves.
I was surprised to hear Rahim say I could ride in the front passenger seat for the next hour. He explained the road ahead was usually deserted, except for a farm truck or two, so it seemed the perfect time to give me a brief respite from my cramped quarters.
I didn’t argue with him.
However, I thought Rahim was being overly cautious having me ride in the trunk in the first place—at least until we got nearer the Turkish border. I’d been passing myself off as an Iranian of mixed ancestry back in Tehran, and now, having grown out my beard, I didn’t believe a passing motorist would give me a second look.
When I climbed in the front seat, the cloying smell of ripe apples emanating from the back seat of Rahim’s vehicle was especially pungent.
Flat boxes of golden apples were piled almost as high as the back window, and the sweet-smelling fruit permeated the stuffy interior of the car. On the floorboard, there were several packages wrapped in colorful wedding paper. I was sure they reeked of ripe apples.
We had been back on the road for about twenty minutes when Rahim said, “Hand me one of those apples and take one for yourself, Hammid.”
Although Rahim knew my true identity, he continued to address me by the name on my Swiss passport, Hammid Salimi, the passport I’d used to enter Iran two years ago. Unfortunately, it was now a name quite familiar to VEVAK, the Iranian secret police, who had already prepared a cell for me at Evin Prison in northwest Tehran.
After we had both devoured the apples, Rahim rolled down his window and threw the cores down a steep embankment.
“When you get back inside the trunk,” he said, “you’ll have to share your space with some of those.” He gestured toward the apple boxes in the backseat.
I glanced over at him to see if he was joking, but, as usual, his brown, weather-beaten face remained impassive.
Although I’d spent the last three months living with Rahim’s nephew, Javad, and learning to discern Javad’s emotional temperature simply by the set of his mouth or the squint of his eyes, I’d barely spent any time with Rahim. During the last two days together, he’d never made any attempt at humor, and it didn’t appear he was about to start now.
I protested. “There’s barely enough room for me back there.”
“It will be snug with the boxes, but you will fit,” he said. “If the guards open the trunk, I want them to see apples.”
I felt a sudden flash of anger. “Before we left Tehran, you told me they wouldn’t open the trunk at the border. You said they wouldn’t even search the car.”
My voice sounded harsh and loud in the small confines of the car.
However, Rahim calmly replied, “They will not search the car, Hammid. They have never searched inside. They have never searched the trunk. It is only a precaution.”
He turned and looked directly at me, his penetrating black eyes willing me to trust him.
It was a look I instantly recognized. I had used that same look on any number of assets, urging them to ferret out some significant nugget of intel and pass it on to me, even though I knew the odds of their being caught were high.
He returned his eyes to the road. “Surely you’re acquainted with making minor changes as a plan evolves.”
I took a deep breath. “You’re right, of course.” I suddenly felt foolish at my amateur reaction. “Planning for the unexpected is always smart. The more precautions you want to take, the better it will be for both of us. I’m sorry for questioning you.”
For the first time, I saw a brief smile on his face. “There’s no need to apologize,” he said quietly. “The last three months have been difficult for you. Your paranoia is understandable.”
Rahim shifted into a lower gear as we approached a steep incline. When we finally rounded a curve on the mountainous road, our attention was immediately drawn to two military vehicles parked on the opposite side of the road about one-half mile ahead of us. Several men were standing beside two trucks. They were smoking cigarettes and looking bored.
“It’s not a roadblock,” I said.
“No, we’re fine.”
Suddenly a man in uniform, leaning against the front bumper of the lead truck, noticed our approach and quickly took a couple of steps onto the highway. He signaled for us to pull over.
Luana picked up her first adult spy novel when she was eleven years old. Today, she continues to have a passion for the thriller/suspense genre of fiction. In addition to being an avid reader, she is also a news fanatic, following events around the world on a daily basis, particularly the Middle East.
Luana is a minister’s wife and has lived in Norman, Oklahoma for the past two decades. Previously, she resided in several states in the South and Midwest. Along with her husband, she also served as a missionary in Costa Rica and Venezuela.
Occasionally, she reports on the experiences of newly converted Christians for Baptist Press, a national news service for Baptists. At one time, she wrote a weekly column for The Indiana Baptist, entitled “A Story To Tell,” which told the stories of ordinary people who became followers of Christ. Luana is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers.
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