Southport has a new deep water container port between a nuclear power plant and the largest ammunition storage facility on the east coast. But it is his the target, revenge is the reason. Mukhtar Shiek Mohammed outsmarts the federal prosecutor and wins his freedom, and is determined to exact his revenge against those that incarcerated and tortured him at Guantanamo. Pursued by Mossad agent Amirrah,he complicates her task by forcing Amirrah’s childhood sweetheart to be his suicide bomber.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The state of North Carolina was pushing to build the deep water container port of my story. It seemed an ideal terrorist target given the lax security of container ports, and the strategic placement of the port between a nuclear power plant and the Middle East’s source for all ammunition. Researching terrorists, I came across Khalid Sheikh Mohammend who remains incarcerated at Guantanamo, has been water boarded over 180 times, and who was once scheduled for a federal trial in New York. I also uncovered that he attended college in North Carolina and worked in Wilmington. An ideal candidate for my antagonist. From there the story was born.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters grew from the back stories of real terrorists and to have the central characters represent the Israeli and Muslim extremists and to have one character trapped in the middle, a personification of the people of Gaza.
Mukhtar Sheik Mohammed, clad in an orange jumpsuit, shuffled his shackled feet into Courtroom 10-D of the United States Second District Court. In the early warming days of May all of Manhattan was tense as the first trial of Guantanamo’s “Notorious Seven” entered its second week. The pretrial motions and jury challenges were last week’s history, but not the prosecution’s litany of alleged terrorist attacks. It was 2016, thirteen years since his capture, and Mukhtar was determined to enjoy finally having his day in court. With a slight smile, he mouthed the words as the prosecutor led into the testimony of his prime witness. “… the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, the 2002 attack on the US Bank Tower, the Bali nightclub bombings, the American Airlines Flight 63 bombing, the Millennium Plot, the murder of Daniel Pearl, and the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.” All painted as heinous acts, but to Mukhtar an impressive resume.
Once the prosecutor finished his pitiful attempts to condemn him for eternity, Mukhtar slouched down into his chair; his hands prayerfully peaked under his mustache, preparing to listen intently to the testimony of Captain Raul Roberto. He remembered. He remembered it all, but he wanted to hear every miniscule detail again and again, to fuel the fire of his revenge. “Now Captain Roberto, from your interrogation of the defendant, you have determined that the defendant was responsible for the planning and funding of attacks, is that correct?”
Mukhtar’s eyes left the prosecutor and latched onto the soft-faced Army captain looking confident and self-assured. Mukhtar’s lips curled as he listened and his mind returned to those sessions, the interrogations at Camp X-Ray. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead as he recalled being strapped to the narrow board, his feet raised and head lowered over a basin of foul water, and Captain Roberto’s face hovering over his.
There had been four soldiers with Captain Roberto in that tiny dark room. The soldiers waited while Roberto leaned over Mukhtar and asked, “Cozy?” Then, smiling, he added, “Raise his feet more. We want him to feel the full effect.”
Roberto reached out his hand; a soldier placed a thin wet towel into it. He held it there, water dripping from its edges, over Mukhtar. Mukhtar felt the cold drops piercing his thin jumpsuit. He tried to suppress his emotions, but he could not. He was afraid and he had never felt fear like that. His eyes widened. Was he a coward? Had he always been a coward? No … no, he must not show fear. Allah, calm my spirit!
“Now Mohammed, before I place this cloth over your face, you can tell me about your, shall we say adventures, and save on water. Or we can go ahead with this … uh … therapy, and you will tell us anyway.”
A scream was all that emerged from his gagged mouth. Against all his efforts of control, his body quivered and squirmed against the coarse bands that secured him, one over his forehead, others over his arms and legs, and still another holding his torso to the board.
Watching him, Roberto smirked. “Oh I forgot, you’re gagged. Well, fuck you, you shit, you’re going to get it anyway!” He placed the towel tightly around Mukhtar’s face, and motioned for one guard to hold it there while another dipped a pitcher into the foul pool and poured the contents over the cloth. Mukhtar screamed and gasped. His entire body strained against the bindings, his back arching off the board.
The captain raised his hand, and a soldier removed the towel from Mukhtar’s face. He spit out the sodden gag, gasping and choking, and stared in narrow-eyed defiance at the cherub face.
Mukhtar found himself still staring when he shuttered back to reality, prompted by the sound of the judge’s deep, mechanical voice. “Your witness, Mr. Hussein.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” his attorney said as he rose from his chair. Unlike the other lawyers for The Seven, all of them lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Hussein Rashid was Saudi. He was a portly man, fastidious in a black suit, who had a confident, almost arrogant air about him as he said, “Now Captain Roberto, you have testified that my client was responsible for planning the long list of attacks cataloged by the prosecution, is that correct?”
Mukhtar sat up in his chair, the thumbs of his clasped hands stroking the corners of his mouth to hide the growing grin. Rashid was a brilliant lawyer, but these were Mukhtar’s words. Rashid was only the messenger. He could feel the tempo grow as the captain replied, “Yes sir, that is correct.”
“Now, for the moment, let’s consider just one of those attacks. The 9/11 attacks. The attacks on the buildings known as the Twin Towers. You have testified that my client planned and funded these attacks, is that correct?”
“Sir, that is correct.”
“What is the basis for your testimony?”
“Sir, excuse me, sir?” Mukhtar was delighted at the hint of confusion in the captain’s voice.
“Were you in the room when the defendant made statements that would lead you to believe that he was planning a terrorist attack?”
“No sir. It’s based on the results I obtained from my interrogations, and on several classified documents we obtained that together linked him to the attack.”
Mukhtar’s eyes brightened. Excellent, excellent, nibble-nibble my fish.
“You more than just ‘linked’ him, did you not?”
“Yes sir. These documents indicated that he was the architect of the attack plan. He was also directing their activities, and providing funding to Mohamed Atta, Harwan al-Shehhi, Hani Hanjour, and the others involved in the attack.”
I did more than that. The lazy camel herders did nothing but drink beer and talk of flying ponderous planes.
Rashid walked back to his desk and picked up some documents sheathed in plastic. “Your Honor, I would like the witness to review the prosecution’s exhibit twenty-three. This is one of the alleged documents mentioned by Captain Roberto.” He handed the documents to the captain.
Mukhtar’s eyes met Rashid’s and flashed him a spurring nod of approval as he continued.
“Now, Captain, would you describe these documents for the court?”
“Yes sir…. Sir, these are e-mails from classified sources.”
Rashid smiled and shook his head, “No, I mean … ah, perhaps it is the language. I meant, could you give a physical description of these documents?”
“Yes sir, I understand sir. They are hard copies of e-mails received at CENTCOM regarding the defendant’s activities. It consists of about thirty redacted lines–”
“Yes sir. The classified information is blacked out.”
“Can you read for me from whom this e-mail is?”
“No sir, I can’t. As I said, it’s classified, so it’s blacked out.”
“Ah, I see. Blacked out. Then perhaps, Captain, can you point to the line where the evidence could be read, if it wasn’t blacked out?”
Yes, yes, that’s it. Of course he can’t, the fool. Mukhtar’s fist tightened on the arms of the chair. Go ahead, answer. Answer!
“No sir, I can … I cannot.”
“Come, come now Captain. You have been over these documents many times. You are very familiar with them, are you not?”
“Yes sir, that’s … that’s true I guess.”
“Then you should be able to point to the line where the incriminating statements were made.”
Mukhtar could see that Roberto was nervous; beads of sweat were forming on his forehead and his tan uniform showed darkening under the armpits. He studied the first document, then, biting his lip, he tentatively pointed to it.
Mukhtar pulled down tightly on his mustache, suppressing a victorious cry, feeling the prosecution’s arguments crumbling like clay.
“Your Honor, if it pleases the court, let it be recorded that the witness pointed to line five of the document,” Rashid said. “Now Captain, to what action does this line five refer to specifically?”
“Sir, I don’t recall sir.”
“I see. Well, no matter.”
Mukhtar nodded ever so slightly, signaling that Rashid should begin the next leg of the attack. “So now Captain, you have stated that what you learned from the defendant during interrogation led you to this document and others like it. Is that correct?”
“Yes sir, I believe so, sir.”
“Ah, good. Now, these interrogations involved the use of some drugs, did they not?”
“Yes sir. Medically supervised drugs were administered to make the defendant more cooperative–”
“More cooperative, you say? You mean, willing to say anything to avoid further torture.”
Mukhtar’s eyes narrowed. He was pleased with Rashid, and now looked for the response he had hoped to hear.
The prosecuting attorney, Hamilton Blair, jumped to his feet. “Objection, Your Honor!”
“Sustained,” the judge said. “Mr. Rashid, you will refrain from such theatrics or I will find you in contempt. Captain, you do not have to respond.”
Mukhtar’s hope was fulfilled when temper replaced reason and Captain Roberto, incensed by the accusation, let fly. “Sir, the detainees at Gitmo had all received interrogation resistance training. Even in captivity, they were intent on fighting the United States. They considered themselves still in a combat situation, sir. They would piss on guards who got too close to the exercise yard fence, throw feces at them from their cells, and attempt suicide, as ways of fighting back. In the exercise yard, they organized attacks over a period of weeks or months. They’d say anything–meekly and promptly follow our directions, all to gain access to lower-security areas to pass on instructions for the attacks. Sir, they would then recant their testimony and return to their belligerency, so they’d be placed back in their original cells. Sir, these are combatants, hard men intent on continuing their jihad. The only way to get the truth was to use BDNF13 on them.”
“And this BDNF13, how did it make them more cooperative?”
“It enhanced their fears, sir.”
“Could you give us some examples, Captain?”
“Yes sir. They would become terrified of the dark. And a woman in a bikini would make them go screaming berserk. They’d try to climb the walls.” Roberto laughed and added, “Hell, I thought she was kind’a hot.”
His face unreadable, Rashid said, “And how do you think they felt?”
“Like the cowards they were, sir–”
Mukhtar attempted to jump from his chair, but the heavy hands of the guards restrained him.
“So in this state of mind,” Rashid continued, “when the detainees were in this state of mind, this is when you would get the answers you were seeking? When they were screaming and climbing the walls, as you put it.”
“Yes sir, that is correct.”
Mukhtar’s eyes locked with Rashid’s in a knowing stare, and then with deliberation in his movements, Rashid turned his attention from Roberto to the judge. “Your Honor, I apologize for this, but the document I showed Captain Roberto was not the prosecution’s exhibit twenty-three, but an e-mail I sent to my brother yesterday, and in which I blacked out most of the lines, as the government has done with their so-called documents of evidence.”
Ignoring gasps from Roberto and the entire courtroom, Rashid continued. “So, I submit Your Honor, if the government’s expert witness cannot identify the documents or their content, then how do we know they contain any incriminating evidence at all? Also, the evidence gathered during the interrogation of my client and others, as we have just heard, was gathered when they were in such a state of mind, they in fact were out of their minds. Your Honor, I submit to the court that unless the government reveals, in total, their classified information, there is no credible evidence against my client. Accordingly, Your Honor, I request the court drop all charges against my client.”
The prosecutor was on his feet. “Objection, Your Honor! Objection!”
Mukhtar greeted Rashid with a broad smile and embrace as he returned to the defense table. They had anticipated that the federal prosecutors would be adamant about proceeding with the trial, and in a quandary about releasing classified information, which could only help Mukhtar’s contemporaries. Mukhtar held Rashid silent as the prosecution ranted on. Finally, the judge, Nicholas Mauskopf, a staunch antiterrorism advocate, pounded his gavel and gave his decision. “I believe you make a valid point, Mr. Rashid. I will give the government seventy-two hours to decide what they want to do about these documents, and then I will rule on Mr. Rashid’s motion. This court is adjourned.”
Federal Prosecutor Hamilton Blair sat fidgeting with his tie on a leather sofa in the office of Frank McGuire, the Attorney General. McGuire was in animated conversation with the White House chief of staff and with each gesture his boss made, Blair became more anxious.
McGuire finally finished his conversation and came over to the settee area. Stressed from the phone call, his tone was sharp as he said, “Hamilton, this was quite a turn of events yesterday. This is not what we expected from Judge Mauskopf. You assured me …” He held up his hands and in a softer tone said, “You assured me Mauskopf would favor our position of only supplying redacted documents for the public trial.”
“Yes, Mauskopf was given full access to the actual e-mails. I mean he has all the clearances, and he knows we have the evidence, and …”
“And?” McGuire’s tone showed resurging stress.
“And he gave me every confidence–at least, my conversations with him two weeks ago gave me every confidence this would not be a problem. Not a problem as long as he had full access to the evidence, which … which he has.”
His patience stretched by the reply, McGuire quietly said, “Then what has happened?”
“The Saudi lawyer, and …”
“And what, Hamilton?”
“When I met with him this morning he said he was going to announce his retirement.”
“His retirement … why? He was just appointed to the Superior Court.”
“As he told me this morning, Judge Mauskopf has been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He said he didn’t want to be remembered as the hand of a repressive government.”
“Hmm. Mortality and his legacy, is that it?”
“I believe so, yes sir, but I could talk to him and remind him–”
“How do you think he will rule?”
“He gave us advance notice. He will require the complete release of all classified information, or the withdrawal of all charges.”
“Nice of him. Well, we cannot release the documents. Admiral Reinhardt has already warned that to do so would devastatingly compromise the NSA’s ability to collect terrorist information in the Middle East.”
“So … so what, how do we proceed?”
“That’s what I’ve just been discussing with the White House. We drop the charges and release The Seven. Since Judge Mauskopf will rule against us, you’ll inform him we will be re-filing our charges.”
“Re-filing? But what–”
“Never mind that. It’s just to buy us time. The Israelis owe us, particularly in their current crisis. So they won’t pay much attention when we transfer those seven detainees to the Gaza Strip. We’ll move them with only their clothes on their backs. No passports, no money, no ID of any sort. At the same time, you’ll provide the Israeli Defense Force with pictures, fingerprints, DNA, and anything else in your files on these men. The Strip is a walled compound. Without ID, these men will be going nowhere.” McGuire chuckled. “I’m sure the IDF will help make sure of that.”
Hamilton didn’t respond, but sat staring blankly at his coffee cup.
“You have a problem with that, Hamilton?”
‘No, I, uh … and the re-filings?”
“Wait six months, and then quietly drop the charges. If anyone asks, tell them they’ve been returned to the country of their … uh, choice.”
McGuire stood and extended his hand to Hamilton. “We’re done then.”
Still feeling the shock of what he’d just been instructed to do, Hamilton shook his hand and turned to leave.
“Oh, one more thing, Hamilton.”
Hamilton turned around.
“Make sure your doctor at Camp X-Ray gives the detainees an extra dose of that BDNF13 compound just before they leave. And make it clear to them what they can expect if we suspect they’re causing any more trouble.”
Hamilton raised his eyebrows, but said nothing as he nodded. As he walked the highly polished corridors of the Department of Justice building, he reflected on his many interrogation sessions. For most of the detainees at Gitmo, a threat to return them to Camp X-Ray would be enough to keep them from any further visions of jihad.
All except one. Judge Mauskopf’s ruling would provide the answer on that one.
Amirrah was chewing her lip, feeling on edge. She was in a hotel suite turned into an electronic surveillance hub monitoring a conference center. This was her first high profile assignment. Ehud said I should be careful of what I asked him for. Now you got the job, don’t screw it up Amirrah, she reminded herself. Amirrah was the roving agent responsible for seeing the total picture. She scanned the line of ten monitors and her stomach knotted as her eye caught an unexpected image. “David, zoom in on the first floor elevator lobby, that guy in the traditional Arab garb, the blue thoub, I don’t recall his photo on the briefing board this morning.” David typed some keys and zoomed in but the elevator doors closed quickly, allowing only a glimpse of the man’s face. “Damn.” Amirrah said under her breath. They switched to the elevator’s camera, but could only see the back of a shumagg wrapped around his head. Her only thought was that he was a person of interest that she remembered from her repetitious study of the daily threat bulletins. She drew her clock and headed for the elevator lobby outside the ballroom.
American born, Amirrah Kohen had spent her day at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, briefing-in on the security for the dinner hosted by the negotiating team of the Palestine National Authority, the Palestine Nation Planning Authority. They had been meeting with their Israeli counterparts to negotiate the formation of an independent Palestinian state. It was a process started in good faith and now stalled by decades of accumulated distrust and bitterness. Doctor Husam Khalid had convinced the PNA chairman, that a dinner party, a social event to get to know each other on a deeper level, would help get the negotiations moving again. The guest list included the PNA foreign minister and negotiating staff, and the Israeli negotiating team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as the Commission for Infrastructure Transition. Hamas weakened by years of strife, had not been invited, but had threatened to attack the social event. Which is why, Amirrah found herself rushing towards the elevator lobby, she was part of a Mossad team put in place to see that Hamas couldn’t carry out its threat.
On her way out of the surveillance center, Amirrah picked up another agent and they both stood outside the elevator, braced and guns drawn, watching the elevator’s indicator illuminate its progress through the array of floor numbers above the door. They were on the twelfth floor, outside the hotel’s largest and most ornate conference room. Amirrah had only recently qualified for Eilath, the anti-terrorism division of Mossad, and was at her first assignment at the Mossad detachment in Gaza, when she heard they were putting together a security team to supplement the agents in Jerusalem. As one of the few female agents, she had insisted on being included, and had been surprised how easily her supervisor, Ehud, had agreed.
The eleventh floor indicator lit. ”Safety’s off!” Amirrah said. The twelfth floor indicator lit, and the doors opened. “Freeze!” They shouted. Then Amirrah realized why the image had caught her attention, and lowered her weapon. “Jacob?”
The familiar face resting on athletic shoulders and framed by a cascade of curly black hair, smiled broadly. “Amirrah? I … can I get off now?”
Amirrah motioned for him to exit the elevator. She hadn’t seen Jacob since she was nineteen in Rafah. He had abruptly left without explanation, a crushing ending to her first real love affair, that left her hurt and angry. Those feelings she thought she had put behind her, but now her head and heart were saying otherwise. Feeling conflicting emotions, she tried to keep an official tone.
Amirrah waved off the other agent. “It’s all right, I know him.”
“What are you doing here Jacob? And why aren’t you wearing your credentials?”
Jacob gave a thin smile, and reached inside his thoub and pulled his security badge into view, identifying him as a PNPA staff member. “Sorry, I don’t like this thing dangling, and the high neck of the thoub, makes it awkward.”
Holstering her Glock, she said, “Not displaying your credentials could be a lot more than just awkward, it could get you shot.”
Jacob came alongside Amirrah. “I’m sorry, I will be more careful.” Nodding he added, “This is an unexpected surprise, but it’s great to see you here, it’s been such a long time.”
If they had met on the street or at a cafe, it would be different. A slap in the face, a hug, or perhaps a kiss, depending which emotion won out, but now she knew she had to be all about business. “Was it? I barely remember it, and we were hardly more than kids back then. But here and now I’m Mossad security, and you haven’t answered my question: What are you doing here?”
Jacob frowned and backed away. “I’m not sure really. Jaad-di, my grandfather, Husam, is organizing this and asked me to help with the arrangements, right now I was going to check the place settings at the main table, but I’m sure the hotel staff has done that already.”
“Well, go ahead and do your job, but don’t linger in the halls. I have to get back to security control.”
They parted and Amirrah resumed her duties scanning the monitors. The guests filtered into the room, Doctor Husam Khalid arrived. He was the principal negotiator for the nationhood talks, and during dinner he gave a speech poking fun at his delegation. Eli Yishai the Israeli foreign minister surprised everyone by giving a similar speech about his delegation. That seemed to lighten the mood, and after the main courses there was a great deal of movement from table to table as the attendees consulted and conspired. After four hours of scanning the wall of monitors, watching delegates move from table to table, Amirrah felt she had walked five miles by the time the social event finally dwindled to a close.
Amirrah and the other agents were relaxing in the control room, enjoying some pastry and coffee, when Amirrah noticed Jacob pacing aimlessly in front of the conference room entrance. She smirked. He looks like a loss school boy. She tried to ignore him, but knew he was deliberately drawing attention to himself. Deciding to talk to him and get him to leave before an agent with an attitude responded and real trouble developed, she snatched some pastries and left for the ball room entrance.
Amirrah approached Jacob, extending a plate with several pastries on it. “You look lost, would you like some rugelach?”
Jacob smiled. “Some ruge …rugelach?”
“It means little twists, they’re pastries.”
Jacob nodded and after taking a bite, said, “It’s good, very good, thank you. I wasn’t expecting this, but I was hoping you were still watching … uh, your monitors.”
Amirrah returned his smile. “I know, and I just came to say good-bye. So good-bye Jacob, and you will have to clear this area. Members of the delegation are staying the night, and the agent in charge wants to secure this floor.”
“Amirrah can we talk? Is there someplace we can talk for a few minutes?”
Amirrah grimaced. She didn’t want to open her old wound any more than it already was. “Jacob … I probably shouldn’t have come out here. It was good to see you, but the past is best left there, and so it’s still just good-bye.”
Amirrah turned to leave, but immediately ran into a gray-haired man in formal Arab garb, his blue thoub billowing around her. “Oh, excuse me … oh, doctor Khalid.”
Doctor Husam Khalid was smiling broadly, and reached out for Amirrah’s hands. He was a tall man, unbowed by the ravages of his seventy years, and had a Vandyke beard that accented his disarming smile. “Amirrah, my dear. Look at you, you have grown into a beautiful women, it is so good to see you again. I see you have found Jacob.”
Doctor Khalid still had a hold of her hands. Amirrah said, “Yes we met, and we were just saying our good-byes, I still have some duties to attend to.” She slipped from doctor Khalid gentle grasp, and then added, “Congratulations on your dinner, it looked quite successful.”
Husam held his broad smile. “Ah, yes. You were watching weren’t you? Why don’t you come to my suite? We can visit. I am sure you two have a lot to catch up on.”
Amirrah shook her head. “No, I’m … I’m really sorry, but I must get back to the control …”
Husam held up his hand. “You two should at least settle your parting so many years ago. Come, my suite is just down the hall.”
Amirrah gave a smile of surrender, and she walked the short distance down the hall to doctor Khalid’s suite, sharing awkward glances with Jacob. At the room a security guard opened the door, and as they entered, an agitated aid came running after them and called excitedly to Husam. “You two, go on in.” Husam said, “talk … talk to each other. I must attend to another matter, but I will be back in a minute.” Husam took a step then leaned back to Amirrah. “I most of all want to hear how you ended up in the Mossad, must be quite a story.” Then he gave her a wink, and joined his agitated aid.
Amirrah and Jacob went into the room and both sat in the reception area facing each other on a sofa. Jacob reached for her hand, but Amirrah pulled away. “I missed you. I know it has been six years, but I think about you all the time.”
Amirrah wondered what his real agenda was, because she didn’t believe Jacob. “That’s hard to believe. I sent letters to your grandfather for you, but I never heard back.”
Jacob shook his head. “It is more complicated than that.”
Now Amirrah was irritated, it was a line she had heard all too often. “Oh, is that what you say when you dump your girlfriend? I thought we were serious, we were talking about living together as soon as we could, if I recall.”
“My uncle Ramiz insisted I obey the Sharia, and go with him. Immediately. Jaad-di resisted, but after my uncle and Jaad-di talked, grandfather seemed to change his mind, and said it would be for the best.”
Amirrah folded her arms. She wasn’t buying it. “And yet here we are, in Jaad-di’s suite.”
Jacob stood, turned for the door, but stopped and added. “My uncle was a senior officer in Hamas then. My father was a Muslim as you know. My uncle insisted I had to convert to Islam and be educated in the Quran, without Jaad-di I had no means of support, and I had no choice. After a few years, your Mossad forced uncle Ramiz out of Israel and Palestine. I started a new life with Jaad-di. What I said about you always being on my mind is true. I wanted to talk to you, so that you would know it was not my choice to leave you, or to ignore your letters.”
Amirrah stood, gave a shake to her head, and said, “If you really loved me you would have found a way. And as far as your faith, what about your mother. You should have been true to her. She was an Israeli, so you also are an Israeli, and you should have been faithful to your Jewish ancestry and religion. That would have brought us closer. Now I have to agree with you. It is complicated.”
Jacob faced her, looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry. I know I hurt you, it wasn’t the right decision, and I know now, more than ever, that I love you. But if you want to part, here and now, I understand.”
Amirrah felt mesmerized by his deep blue eyes. She didn’t understand it, and couldn’t stop herself when her heart won. She reached up to his neck, pulled him to her, and gave him a long probing kiss.
“Jacob Khalid, you are mine now, and don’t leave me ever again. Remember, I am Mossad and I will find you.”
Dr. Aharon Adler, tall and slim with silver hair sprouting from under a black yarmulke, sat uncomfortably in the bright plastic seats at JFK, his face hidden behind dark wraparound glasses. The bright July sun beamed through the windows and warmed him, but his spirit remained dark. Indeed, his future seemed beyond bleak, and a hollow in the pit of his stomach was all that was left of the last ten years of his life.
Aharon felt someone staring at him. The man across the aisle in a facing row of seats flapped his paper, then stared intently at an unseen corner.
What has happened to me? I had a good reputation. A researcher for the Army, what was wrong with that? I did my job. Now I’m a pariah–
“Excuse me? Aren’t you famous?”
Aharon dropped his head to one side and gave a weak smile. Oh God, here we go again. Then, clenching his eyes shut, he subtly shook his head and admonished himself. Americans! They are so free with Your Name. Elohim, forgive me for thinking your name. “No, no, please, I’m not. You must be mistaken.”
The questioner gave a knowing grin. “Okay, I understand. But you are, ya know … your picture is right here in the paper. You’re that Army guy. Boy, the Civil Liberties Union sure doesn’t like you!”
Aharon waved his hand in surrender, then nodded and mouthed a yes.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m retired Army intel myself. I was at Camp X-Ray in ninety-one.”
Aharon looked away, wanting anything but a chat with this man. But he had to say something. “Ten years, two-thousand and five. I was a research scientist.”
“Outstanding. Hey, do you know anything about that BNDF stuff?”
Aharon’s eyes snapped to meet the man. “The what?”
“The …” The man fumbled with his paper, then raised it up. “The brain-derived neurotropic factor, that brain protein?”
“Oh, you mean B, D, N, F.”
“Yes, yes, that it,” the man said and chuckled. “Boy, old age, can’t keep anything straight.”
Aharon pursed his lips. He was anxious and didn’t want to say anything, but yet now, found himself yearning for even this small recognition. “Yes, I … I developed a derivative of it, ‘BDNF13’ I called it. In combination with sodium pentothal it was very effective.”
“Wow, no kidding. That’s outstanding.”
“Took me years to develop. Psychologically it was very painful.”
“An iron maiden.”
Aharon shook his head, confused. “Excuse me?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m a medieval history buff. That’s a torture device, like a cage. It contorted their bodies where they didn’t want to go. Sort of like your drug.”
“Yes, I see. A psychological iron maiden, pushing the mind where it didn’t want to go.” Aharon gave a nervous laugh, “Yes, I guess you could say that.”
“Well, I’m sure they’ll put your discovery to good use again.”
“Oh, no. I think it has all been destroyed, all my research, gone, all for naught.”
“Really? They didn’t keep any of the stuff? Your research papers, nothing?”
Aharon was feeling more depressed by the minute, but talking about it somehow felt good. “No, nothing. It was too big of a liability for the government, they said. They highly classified it or destroyed it, I … I don’t know.”
“That’s a shame. I mean, that had to be years of research. Did you publish any papers about it?”
“Well your family must have been proud.”
“No. I couldn’t tell my wife.”
“I see,” said the man, nodding as if agreeing and understanding Aharon’s pain.
“She left me. With all the … the media, they were relentless. We wanted to raise a family. At least I did. But we’re divorced. It’s over. All of it is over.”
“Wow, unbelievable man! I mean, you were practically a patriot. To end up with nothing? That’s painful.” The man folded his paper. “But you have your notes, right? A trophy? A sample? You know a keepsake?”
Perspiration emerged from every pore in his body; a hammer of queasiness hit his gut. He said he’d worked for the government. I was so careful, but … do they know about it? In May, it had all ended in a day. His data, his serum, and his papers, all confiscated. But they had miscalculated. They’d also wanted the last of the detainees, The Seven, to be medicated one more time, so Aharon bargained and won guarantees to preserve his data and the records of his experiments. He had spent the last six weeks documenting his work, then found out their promise was empty. They took everything, they said for the archives. They took everything, in fact, except the thumb drive now hidden in the heel of his shoe.
Though covered behind his glasses, Aharon couldn’t keep his eyes from widening. He struggled for control. Slowly he shook his head and weakly managed, “No, no I kept nothing. That would be against the law, and I … I have done nothing wrong, why should I start now?”
The man got up as another approached. That is when Aharon noticed that they were dressed nearly identically. The man smiled and said, “It was good talking to you, Doctor, enjoy your flight to Israel.” Then with a nod to the second man, both left.
Aharon sat. He sat staring into the blinding sun beaming through the windows, feeling like a speeding truck had just brushed his clothing. I’m not at the gate. How did he know I was going to Israel?
No more talking. To anyone, for any reason. Now he was more eager than ever to be out of the United States and safely home.
The contents of the thumb drive were all he had. It was enough. He would use it for a new area of behavioral research, he would establish a behavioral clinic for children at Rambam. He’d already secured a position there, he loved children, and it was a rewarding area of research: an area where every achievement was a miracle, and he would use his serum for good.
He adjusted his yarmulke, let out a long breath and looked around, his thoughts shifting to finding somewhere he could calm his nerves before his El Al flight. When he was tense before, he’d open a spreadsheet and analyze his data. That was out of the question right now. But anywhere he could close his eyes and his mind could drift back would do.
The Gate Way Pub caught his eye, and he fought his way across a torrent of people surging through the concourse. At a corner table, he ordered a double Glenlivet, and then opened his burgundy leather briefcase, retrieving his new-hire packet of paperwork. He took a sip of his scotch and leaned back in the high, padded booth.
The spreadsheets wouldn’t leave his mind, though. Every one of them documented dosage, treatments, and the reactions and personalities of each subject. How hard they were, how arrogant, but it didn’t matter. In the end they all had cooperated, petrified with terror, willing to say anything, admit to anything. His mind ran down the list of names, stopping at his favorite, Mukhtar Sheik Mohammed. Aharon had found the right combination of his drug, and Mukhtar told them everything without being aware of what he’d said. Not aware until later, much later, when he realized he had divulged many al-Qaeda secrets, including the key to finding Osama bin Laden.
A coat brushed against his table, startling him from his reverie. He gave a forced smile and faint nod to his fellow traveler who sat down at the table next to him. Taking another sip of his drink to fortify himself, Aharon opened the folder and flipped through the sheaf of employment papers, annoyed by the repetitious fields of information required for many of the pages. After completing only the first page, the flat-screened television monitor over the bar caught his attention. One side of a split screen showed a group of men in boisterous disarray. The gathering was, he realized, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. On the other side of the split, the commentator was speaking excitedly of breaking news.
* * *
An hour before, the Israeli Prime Minister announced that the Knesset would convene an emergency session to convene at four PM Israeli time. Media reporters and embassy representatives from every nation packed the visitor gallery. Knesset members were flowing into the great hall. The Speaker entered from a door on the left side of the hall, while the members of the Labor Party, which formed the largest group, entered in animated conversation from the right side of the hall. The prime minister, Isaac Noss, led this group, followed by his ministers, and they took their seats at a center table. From the left of the hall, Shimon Weizmann led the next-largest parliamentary group, the Zionist Party, who entered in hushed conversation and took their seats on the left of the hall. Knesset members of other minor parties filled in from the rear doors.
The Speaker gaveled the session into order precisely at four PM. The first words he spoke after the gavel’s echoes abated were, “Mr. Weizmann had petitioned me to add, as an urgent motion for the agenda, a question regarding the negotiations for a Palestinian state. Mr. Noss, tell me, who will be answering for the government?”
Isaac Noss rose from his seat at the center of the government’s table. “Mr. Speaker, I will address the question.”
“Very well,” said the Speaker, “I will summarize the issue. Negotiations for the Palestinian nation have yielded one government concession after another, and based on the latest report from the prime minister’s office, cannot be concluded, barring any further Arab demands, for another three weeks.”
From the floor, someone in the opposition shouted, “Three weeks? We cannot wait three weeks! We have no oil, our nation is at a standstill!”
Noss responded, saying, “We are all suffering, but the Arab League has demanded that all Israeli settlements be vacated from Samaria and Judea, before they will sign the agreement. We have requested an easing of the oil boycott, and the negotiating team promised they would address this with the OPEC nations.”
The Speaker turned to Noss. “Mr. Noss, will you yield to Mr. Weizmann?”
Noss nodded and sat down while Shimon Weizmann stood and walked to the Speaker’s podium. “Six months. For six months, we have suffered with this boycott to blackmail us. First, it was a matter of land, then the people as well. Forced to remove our citizens from their homes on the West Bank, we are on the verge of giving up all to the Palestinians–all of Samaria, all of Judea.
“Our honor has been lost, and if this treaty is agreed, we are powerless to restore the lands of ancient Israel. Without these sacred lands, the lands of Abraham and the House of David, from the Euphrates to the Nile, we cannot re-consecrate our Covenant with Elohim. We will never be able to achieve the greatness for our nation–greatness promised, greatness so that we may be the source of a multitude of nations. We must not, and cannot, agree to the treaty as it stands!”
The left of the great hall erupted in shouts and cheers of affirmation, but even some on the right, in Noss’ own party, responded.
“Concessions and more concessions are all that we have done,” one member shouted. “Where is our resolve, where is our chutzpa? We have the best armed forces in the Middle East, it is time we bared our teeth.”
The hall again erupted in cheers and the pounding of desks.
“We must stop squandering our strategic reserves,” another strident voice proclaimed. “And we must, above all, not give in to the Arab League’s demands for these territories! We must find new sources for the crude oil that we need, to relieve the suffering of our citizens. If it is forced upon us, if we must, we should take the oil from our OPEC neighbors, such as Libya and Iraq and Kuwait…!”
The room exploded in shouts and calls to speak. Isaac Noss dropped his head into his hands as he felt his government collapsing.
* * *
Totally absorbed by the breaking news, Aharon and the man beside him watched the large screen above the bartender. “In Israel today,” the announcer was saying, “the Labor Party government of Isaac Noss fell on a no-confidence vote in the Knesset. This puts a cloud over the negotiations being held at Camp David for a new Palestinian nation, and may escalate the economic crises Israel has had to endure for the past two years. A lasting peace based on a free and independent Palestinian nation has long been a centerpiece of Prime Minister Noss and his government. Shimon Weizmann, great-grandson of Chaim Weizmann and leader of the RZO, the Revisionist Zionist Organization, forced the Knesset vote early this morning.”
Aharon looked back down at his paperwork. “Well, this is the start of it,” he said under his breath.
“It’s about time the Knesset came to its senses,” the traveler next to Aharon said, still looking up at the monitor.
Aharon shook his head and looked over at him. “I beg your pardon. I often talk to myself when I work.”
“Oh, I see. I saw your yarmulke, and thought you …”
Aharon then noticed the well-dressed traveler was also wearing a yarmulke, and an Israeli flag on his lapel. “Oh, yes, you’re an Israeli also. But I hardly know anything about politics.” He returned his attention to his papers.
“The country is a mess, don’t you think?”
Aharon bunched his lips in frustration, removed his glasses. “No … I guess … uh, I haven’t been back for two years, and umm … my work keeps me very busy.”
“Oh, I see. Well let me tell you, everything is bad. No oil, and no gas, which causes shortages of everything. In Tel Aviv, there are lines for bread and fish, and for gas, some people wait days for a few gallons … it’s appalling.”
Aharon studied the traveler, took in a man in his late thirties possessing a perfectly trimmed, full head of hair, smooth, soft-looking hands, and a Rolex that peeked out from under one shirt cuff. “Gas delays? It doesn’t seem you would be bothered by such inconveniences.”
A slight smile crossed the man’s face. “Spoken like a scientist or a reporter.” He extended a hand to Aharon. “I’m Benjamin Neeman … Benny, by the way.”
Shaking his hand, Aharon replied, “No reporter here. I am Doctor Aharon Adler, biochem– umm researcher, that sort of thing. Benny, glad to meet you.” Smiling broadly and shaking his head, he added, “I always explain, because when people hear ‘doctor’ they–”
“Yes, I understand. You flying into Arafat International, then?”
“No, Tel Aviv. My new home is in Haifa. I’ll be living with my sister … but why do you fly to Arafat? Do you live in Gaza?”
“No, in Tel Aviv. But there are some things I do have to contend with, like gas lines. There are no lines in Gaza. They have their own refinery and fewer cars, I think is the reason.”
Aharon nodded. “That makes for a long trip then.”
“No, just ten hours, I am provided a private jet, and– Oh, here are my pilots now.”
Aharon looked toward the bar’s concourse opening. Two uniformed officers approached. Damn! Have I been talking to a government investigator again? Did I say anything? Are they here to arrest me? Aharon’s heart was pounding so hard he was sure they could hear it.
“Well, I see the air force has arrived,” Benny said with a grin. “Only kidding, these are my pilots. Sorry to interrupt your work, perhaps we shall meet again in Tel Aviv.”
Aharon only nodded in response, and allowed a slight grin and a bare raising of his hand as they departed the pub. Once out of sight his head fell into his hands; beads of sweat blossomed on his brow. I’ve been such a fool. I should have gotten rid of the files. Why am I hanging on to them?
He reached out, took one of the bar napkins from a stack and wiped his face, shaking the thoughts from his head. He had started at Rambam Hospital, and he was going back. Equally as certain, he would be able to apply his research to a more noble cause there. He looked at his watch; his flight would board soon, placing him out of danger at last. Closing his briefcase, he prepared to leave. Completing his paperwork on the plane might not be a tiresome chore after all.
“Assalamu alaikum (Allah’s grace be upon you),” Mukhtar said as he approached three men seated at a linen-covered table. The El-Helou Hotel, one of Gaza’s tallest and finest, took great care to provide its visitors every comfort. Arbors covered in wisteria shaded the three from the just-waking sun. All three wore black suits, white shirts with collars loose. Two of them, eyes hidden by dark glasses, sat at either side of the third, who never looked up from his bagels and lox. As Mukhtar closed on the table, the two stood and inserted themselves between him and the diner. The closest man, muscles barely contained beneath his suit, towered over him, produced a wand and swept Mukhtar’s fleshy torso. Then he nodded, pressed one hand to his earbud and spoke into a microphone on his wrist while the other man pulled a chair out and extended a hand, gesturing for Mukhtar to sit. The two then retired to the rooftop garden a short distance away. Moments later, food and a tea service sat on a cart beside the table. The diner again ate with gusto; by his silence and that he remained standing, Mukhtar declined.
The diner was a trim man, short silver-gray hair with a face seemingly already carved in stone, lacking in any hint of emotion. Without raising his eyes from his food he said, “It is good to see you again after such a long absence. If you won’t eat, at least have some tea.”
Mukhtar wrestled himself into a chair and poured a cup of tea, engulfing the delicate cup with his large hands. The diner finally looked up at the paunchy and balding Mukhtar, and said, “I find it difficult to believe, my friend, that you could survive the desert, but yet you are here.”
Mukhtar scanned the horizon and with a wave of his hand said, “It was not by my efforts that I survived, but through the hand of Allah.” He stared, unseeing, at the sun perched on a distant building, and the luxurious setting and the diner disappeared.
A hood covered his head, and he shivered in the induced darkness of the … morning? Afternoon? He didn’t know, nor would he ever. Seated with his hands restrained behind his back, something was thrashing him about like meat in a giant blender. They are going to eat me, eat me alive, nibble by nibble. He heard the others of The Seven; they were moaning in agony. He listened and realized he was part of the chorus, moaning in abject terror of the darkness, in dread of the thumping whump, whump of the eating machine.
From somewhere distant he heard a shriek, then more and again the new chorus grew, and each new scream came closer. His hood was yanked from his head, and he screamed as the face of an insect-man appeared inches from him. The creature’s head had a blunted horn in the middle of his forehead above huge glossy-black eyes, and a thin wire-like mandible appeared in front of its mouth. Now Mukhtar could see that the eating machine, a large metal box, was filled with The Seven, and many, so many of the insect-men.
The machine was falling, but the insect-men didn’t seem to care. One yelled, “All right, you roaches, it’s time to run to your holes.”
Another insect, larger than the other one, threw open a door. The box stopped pitching now, but a howling wind came through the opening. It must be the opening to their nest, Mukhtar’s mind shrieked at him. We are food. Food for the queen.
Mukhtar was the farthest away as the insects grabbed each of The Seven, released their bindings and tossed them, screaming, into the wind. Mukhtar was shivering with terror, his gray clothing soaked in sweat, when two of the insects grabbed him. “No, no … please no, I am not food!”
They released his hands and his legs, which he hadn’t realized were also bound. Mukhtar grabbed one of the men, shouted, “No! Stop! I am very clever, I can help you. I can get you many more men for your food.”
The larger insect-man screamed over the howling, “Throw that fucking crazy out, now! Now!” But Mukhtar was also strong, and he hugged the sides of the doorway. He looked down. Below was a swirling tempest of brown grit. He screamed again and again, then his arms were pried from their desperate embrace of the doorway and he was thrown, legs flying over his head, into the tempest. He tumbled, screaming and grasping for anything to cling to, then landed with a loud crack and sharp thrust of pain like some unseen jaw biting his leg.
The whumping sound of the insect’s machine faded, the tempest calmed, and the brown grit settled. His leg twisted under him, his heel staring back at his face, as he viewed the contortion in horror. The intense pain cleared his mind. He looked about. He lay in a desert. The others were scattered around him, sitting and holding their heads or wandering in tight circles, yelling entreaties to Allah. In the distance was what looked like a medieval castle, a great high wall with two minaret-like towers.
The uncertain quiet was broken when one of The Seven yelled, “They’re coming back!” Mukhtar heard the whumping and turned to face it, saw it to be a banana-shaped black beast, no, it was a helicopter, and quickly approaching, skimming the desert dunes.
It swept the earth close to the men, a brown blizzard terrifying The Seven, who ran yelling in mindless circles. He watched as repeatedly the black beast swept its swirling cloud like some giant hand, herding them closer and closer to the wall. They ran in mad panic toward the wall, darting left and right as if looking for some welcoming portal to hide them. That’s when he saw the minarets open, like the petals of a giant flower.
“Look out! Come back!” he screamed, but it was too late: Guns emerged from the minarets and laid down a deluge of lead.
He closed his eyes and rested his head on a clump of desert grass, and woke, his vision blurry, to someone calling him, “Ramiz, Uncle Ramiz.” It was good to hear that name. It was the name he used in his homeland; he must be in Gaza.
“Ramiz, are you all right?”
The sun had moved off its perch, and his drifting mind returned. He took a tentative sip of the hot tea and said, “Yes General I am fine, Ramiz Ajam Mohammed is fine,” and with a nod acknowledged the gift of his host.
“I want you to understand, I know that’s not your real name,” said the diner.
“I understand, my general.”
“Your name is of no consequence to me. What is important to me is the mind that hides behind such a cherubic face.”
Ramiz chuckled and poured himself more tea.
“Do not feign modesty. You have the mind of the fox, you have orchestrated some of the bloodiest terrorist attacks of the nineties. Some of your greatest successes have been against your own people. But then, that is my only interest … results. And how is your son Moussa doing in the States?”
“He is eager to do that for which he has been trained.”
The diner smiled and blotted his lips with an embroidered napkin. “So beautiful is the morning, Ramiz.” Smiling, he raised his arms, embracing the vista. Both men gazed out over Gaza City. Now a quiet city, its buildings formed a panorama looking more like a child’s scattered blocks than an organized metropolis. The diner lowered his arms and leaned forward. “We have traveled a long journey, my friend. You have done many things for me for which I am truly grateful.”
“Yes, we have been very fortunate. And by Allah’s hand, your rivals not so fortunate.”
“You have recovered, then, from your Cuban adventure?”
“General Mashaal, that was a very painful experience, but yes, I am better. With your help, my recovery will one day be complete.”
The diner was not really a general; even his security team didn’t know his identity, only that he was an Israeli VIP whom they’d picked up at Arafat International. “General Mashaal” was an alias, its roots from the first day he and Ramiz met some twenty years earlier.
Ramiz slowly rolled his teacup between his hands. “All your life, you have worked to reach the ultimate position of power. It is close at hand, but could quickly slip away. The new government has made many promises, but with so many problems, what are they going to do?”
The diner sat back in his chair. “We are not giving up the West Bank, I promise you that. Without those lands, the Covenant cannot be restored.”
“Those lands are also holy Muslim lands, conquered by the ancients,” Ramiz said. “The Palestinians will never let them go.”
“We know all this! The Knesset has debated this many times. What is it to a mercenary like you?”
Ramiz smiled. “To me, the land means nothing. The Palestinians even less. They are dogs that need to be kicked so they understand their place.”
“And why are we meeting?”
With a wave of his hand, Ramiz began his pitch. “The Labor Party was forced to negotiate for one reason and one reason only.”
The diner shook his head and furrowed his brow in a look of irritation. “Yes, yes … our oil. Once the Russians joined the boycott, and the Americans abandoned us, we had no choice. The conservation measures, which we thought were severe, were not enough. Now, even our military is struggling to continue everyday operations.”
“I have a solution for you, my general.”
The diner laughed. “You? You have a solution?” He covered his mouth with his napkin, then, seeing growing anger in Ramiz’s eyes, composed himself. “And what would that solution be?”
Before Ramiz could answer, he grabbed the lapel of Ramiz’s jacket. “And do not toy with me. I could have my men hold you over the side of the building with your entrails dangling, and no one would dare lift a finger to help you.”
“Of course you could, but I have not come here to play games. The Americans betrayed me also.”
The diner released him. Ramiz straightened his coat and continued. “They have humiliated me in front of women, my Muslim brothers, and Allah. They must pay for turning me into a coward, for their torture. I will exact my revenge.”
A waiter came to refresh their water and replace the tea. Ramiz looked around; the two security guards remained stone lions at the entrance. The sun had burned off the morning clouds, and seemed focused on their table. He waited until the server left to say, “Once it is started, it must be finished. It must be completed.”
Ramiz paused to add strength to his words. The diner slowly shook his head from side to side, then with an open-palm wave of his hand, signaled agreement.
“Good,” Ramiz said. “The Arab League, indeed the world, has aligned themselves with the plight of the Palestinians. The National Authority has subdued Hamas, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades are little more than crossing guards for schoolchildren. That is what the world thinks. But what if Hamas really were the Mafia, the SS, al-Qaeda, all rolled into one?”
“What kind of a fairytale are you spinning?”
“Hamas is stealing oil from you.”
The diner sat back, eyes narrowed at Ramiz, looking for any hint of his intentions. Without warning, he leaned into Ramiz’s face, his challenge a hoarse whisper. “How could they possibly be stealing anything from us? We have a ten-meter wall all around the Gaza Strip and the PNA states in the West Bank.” He chuckled with bitterness. “The PNA. Your Palestinian National Authority. What a joke!”
A smirk on his face, Ramiz stared into his eyes, unblinking. The diner realized Ramiz was coldly serious, fidgeted with the tablecloth, and like a covered pot held to the fire, boiled over. He pounded the table with his fist, demanded, “How do you know these things?”
“Because I am the thief.”
The diner choked on his own saliva. “You will tell us where, you will tell us how, every detail. Have you forgotten? The Mossad are not restrained as to how they get information, as the Americans were.”
Ramiz sat unfazed. “I was water boarded by the Americans one hundred and eighty times. Every Wednesday I received my injection that made me dig my nails into the concrete and climb the walls in terror of the smallest ant. I told them nothing. What could your Mossad do? How much time do you have? In two weeks, your military will not be able to run their tanks for more than a day.… Your planes will not be able to fly. You will be naked in front of your Arab neighbors. Iran and Syria will be circling like vultures to pick over your carcass. You must sign the nationhood agreement with the PNA this week, and your government will be over before it starts.”
“Much of what you say is true, Ramiz, but I don’t think you know everything.” The diner blotted his forehead with his napkin and took a sip of his water, his eyes still locked onto Ramiz. “The sun is getting very hot.”
Ramiz said nothing, but smiled in amusement as he pushed back and slowly lifted his jacket lapel, exposing the inside, making sure the security guards noticed. He removed two envelopes, put one on the table and slid it forward to the diner, who opened it. As he read, his hand covered his mouth and his face reddened. “This is your plan?” He tossed the papers back across the table to Ramiz. “I cannot do this. They will compare me to Hitler.”
“You will not be doing this. I am the hand of Allah. To the world, it will be Hamas and the Palestinians. Every action you take, a prudent and necessary response. Your actions justified, as an act by the angel of righteousness against the demonic. No one will listen to the cries of the Palestinians again. You will have a free hand. You will be remembered as one of the great elders of Israel, as the one who brought Israel back into the Covenant.”
Ramiz watched as the diner’s eyes darted about blankly. His politician mind is calculating the possible outcomes of what I’ve said, but at least now he understands why I insisted on meeting here.
The diner picked up the papers once more and leafed through the corner-stapled packet. “How much time?”
“Four weeks. No more, no less.”
“Four weeks, but you are correct: We only have two weeks of oil reserves remaining, we still don’t have enough time.”
Ramiz smiled, held up the second envelope and tapped it with his ring finger.
“Twenty million US dollars in cash. Here Monday. Remember, it is all the way or nothing. Any second thoughts along the way will bring disaster for both of us.”
The diner nodded, and Ramiz slid the second envelope across the table. He opened it and read the second document. A broad teeth-baring smile crossed the diner’s face. He chuckled, then he roared in laughter, stomping his feet in delight. “This is good, Ramiz. I have to admit that I thought perhaps …” With a wave of his hand and shaking his head, he finished what he didn’t speak. As he rose he said, “It is done then.”
The two men embraced, and the diner said, “Shalom, my friend.”
Ramiz whispered into his ear, “And congratulations on your election, Mr. Prime Minister.”
I was born in Detroit, Michigan struggled working my way through college and kept a jump ahead of the draft board by joining a Naval Reserve Officer Corps program. The net result was that in the summer of 1968 I graduated from college, got married and went onto active duty. My Naval Intelligence career began in Washington, D.C., where we remained for the next thirty-six years. After my initial tour of active duty, I stayed in the reserves and pursued duel careers as a Naval Reserve Intelligence officer, and national intelligence technical analyst working for Naval Intelligence, the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. Until 2007 my writing was confined to technical documents, position papers and contract proposals, not exactly the stuff of fiction. My urge to write fiction was kept on the “back burner” until my retirement in 2007, when looking for something to do with my time I was inspired by a proposal by the state of North Carolina to build a deep-sea port between a nuclear power plant and a nuclear arms depot. It struck me that this scenario presented an ideal target for terrorist action. The next six years were devoted to research and honing my fiction writing skills and my first book was born, and one year after that I completed my second book. I currently write for a local magazine in St. James, North Carolina, Cat-Tales, and I am working on my next books.
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