Do we realize what we create when we write? When we create anything for that matter? Once a mother looked at her tiny infant and beamed with love at little Adolph Hitler.
The haunting fog horn.
Did its creators know the keening sound they were creating? A sound that vibrates within the marrow of our bones and trembles inside our lost dreams. Or did they want to give warning of something more, something we dare not ignore? The loss of our mortality? Or something beyond the length of hope and past the reach of hurting hearts?
I'm in the middle of my first draft to NEW ORLEANS ARABESQUE, the sequel to FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. Some say it is unwise to spend so much time in writing a sequel to a book that may not even sell. In my mind's eye I can see Samuel McCord smile wryly and say, "Son, some of my best memories are of those times when I was unwise."
So I continue to write of Sam's adventures.
As we join Samuel, the Intelligence Agencies of the major world powers have all decreed his death. He is leading them a not-so-merry chase while trying to discover the why of the worldwide interest in his final death. It has led to his killing a woman he raised. Her last name changed often. But she always kept the first name Samuel had given her : Eve.
Though I left her dead body in Amsterdam, Eve continued to haunt me. I seemed to see her eyes in all the hot shadows of this land that had sent her to kill me. A land that I helped give birth to.
Israel. The hottest spot in the part of the world where science says life began and ancient scrolls say it will end.
Me, I was a practical monster. Life begins when you start to see outside of yourself and ends when you stop.
Considering its size and importance in the here and now, it was hard to believe that only a hundred years back, the place was just a sand dune. Actually, it had started out as a suburb of Jaffa, a city with a few shadows of its own -- like me.
After the Flood, it was said to have been founded by Japheth, Noah’s son. Old Jonah was swallowed off its coast when he turned his back on The Great Mystery, as the Sioux called Elohim.
In Greek mythology, Andromeda was chained to a rock in its port. The same port that King Solomon used to sail in all those cedars planks he used to build the Great Temple.
I smiled bitter. Now, it housed the Great Temple of Assassination and Spying, the Mossad. All in all, I figured the city had seen better days. Like me.
And like old Reuven Yatom, the present head of Metsada, the Special Operations Division. Fancy words for Murder Central.
I sat and watched him twitch like an old dog fast asleep. He was sprawled across his desk, his computer’s screensaver flashing erotic pictures of Angelina Jolie. Who would have figured him for a dirty old man?
Hell, where did he find the time?
His breathing was labored and wheezy. I watched the yellow hue of death tainting his life fires. How long did he have left? Five years? Two?
I sighed. I guess it would depend on how hard he pressed himself. If I didn't kill him first.
For a second I didn’t see the white, thinning hair. I saw him young and vital, his back pressed against mine as we fought ....
Hell, what was that war called now? I shook my head. I had fought too damn many of them to keep them all sorted right.
My face went hard. Somehow he had forced Eve to try to kill me. And I had done -- what had to have been done.
The chair I was in was backwards. I leaned a bit on its plush leather back, placing the barrel of my Colt right next to his temple. I pulled back the hammer with a gloved thumb. It made a loud, hollow click. He went stiff, his eyes snapping open.
I whispered the motto of the Mossad, “Be-tahbulot ta’aseh lekha milkhamah (By ways of deception, thou shalt make war).”
Only his rhuemy eyes moved, giving me a look that should have left welts. “What does it take to kill you, McCord?”
Any answer to that seemed downright stupid or suicidal so I said nothing. I had never gotten into trouble from something I hadn’t said.
His voice was thick with hate. “Eve is dead, is she not?”
“You should know. You killed her.”
“Do not blame me, monster!”
“I do. How the hell did you force her into trying to kill me, anyway?”
His face flushed, and his words came out slurred, “Eve had adopted the daughter of a murdered partner.”
He shrugged. “We merely suggested how dangerous life in Tel Aviv was for a thirteen year old.”
I nodded. “Figured as much. Now, I have to survive.”
He sneered, “So you can help that thirteen year old as well as you helped Eve?”
I pressed the barrel hard into his temple. “You know, you talk a lot of shit for a man with a Colt to his head.”
His wrinkled face paled. “How did you get that antique through the airport security?”
“Didn’t. I had this buried here a long time ago. Reckon I could outfit an army with all the Colts I have buried all over the world.”
His sneer returned. “If there was an army that would carry such antiquated weapons.”
“You need more than six bullets, you’re in the wrong line of business.”
Of course, this was a Walsh Navy Colt and fired twelve bullets. But with the Mossad it was never wise to show all your cards. Or all your bullets.
His lined face was a sagging map of the lost battles in his life. “What kind of monster, are you? You do not even mourn Eve.”
“I won’t mourn in front of you, bastard. And when I do, it will be in my own way.”
“You will die on this hunt, McCord. They are too many for even you.”
“Maybe. But the weak have one weapon.”
He sneered, “And what would that be?”
“The mistakes of those that figure they’re strong.”
His sneer clashed with his uncertain eyes. “They do not make mistakes.”
“They who? Who is so powerful that they can make the Mossad jump through hoops for them?”
His lips pressed together so hard, thin, and tight, they could’ve given a papercut. “Kill me, but I will not tell you.”
“Kill you? And spare you the suffering of these last years? Like hell.”
My gloved forefinger tapped the touch pad to his computer. “Besides, I bet anything you fell asleep after you talked to your master.”
The double-jointed pose of Angelina disappeared as Rueven yelped his outrage. I stared at the unveiled screen for a long moment. I turned to Reuven.
“Them? Them! I helped give birth to Israel, and you betray me to them?”
He didn’t answer but only swallowed once. Hard. His Adam’s apple seemed to have stuck in his throat. My fist slammed into his mouth. He flew out of his chair and hit the wall with a thud. He slid down it and stayed in a heap of clothes and blood. I got up slow.
“Said I wouldn't kill you. Didn’t say I wouldn't knock your teeth out.”
I sighed. Neither one of us seemed to feel any better after my hitting him. My face went rock-hard.
Next stop : the Vatican.
Here is a music video of Jerusalem by Herb Albert. Just imagine Samuel McCord in his all black western clothes, leading the assassins from a dozen different countries a grim chase. They are about to discover the harsh truth that when you hunt a tiger, sometimes the roles get reversed.