(Cont’d from yesterday’s post)…
First thing Sunday morning, Dave raced into the dining room for his photos of the Roswell debris. He’d been too whipped to look for them last night (and he’d really had to have that bath; damned sand was perfectly insolent). Now, awake and refreshed on a crisp autumn morning, he couldn’t wait to dig out his old Roswell pics and compare them with his shots of the Ten Commandments. To see if he was right—that the two sets of symbols matched. Which meant . . .
. . . well, he still wasn’t sure what it meant (God as E.T.? The First Astronaut?) but he had a ticklish feeling at the base of his neck that he was about to find out. Once he confirmed that the symbols did indeed match, he’d be on the phone to Oded ASAP. He’d missed his old friend the morning he’d left, hadn’t seen him since the dig. Now he’d do a little digging of his own: the Roswell pics.
He rifled through his desk, looking for an old, blue file folder labeled “Roswell” in black magic marker; he could see it in his mind’s eye. He found some of his old notes in one of the drawers—but no blue folder. As puzzlement rose to concern, he began emptying every drawer he had, dumping all his CDs, floppies and flash drives onto the desk. Zilch.
He dumped all his other envelopes, folders and drawers, before he realized the unthinkable: the blue folder was missing. Strange.
He tried to call Rosalind Brazille, the woman he’d interviewed five years ago, hoping she’d mail him an extra photo or two. He still had her number, but . . . no answer. And no message, not even “The number you have reached is no longer in service . . .” Nothing.
At the time, she’d warned him never to tell anyone of the debris she’d shown him. Yes, he could take photos, but he wasn’t to breathe a word about where he’d taken them or who owned the item. Now, with a jolt of memory, he recalled her saying something about “Majestic-12” and the “Men in Black,” which had struck him as funny at the time. Not so funny now.
Because now, when he phoned Information, he learned there was no one named Rosalind Brazille living anywhere near Roswell, NM—and never had been. It was as if she’d never existed . . . or, more aptly, as if she’d been erased.
Which erased any hope he had of salvaging the Ten Commandments/Roswell connection. It would be pointless to fly out there; she was gone. Besides, he had to return to work that evening—the night job: laser technician at the Mt. Nebo Observatory. Although it beat floating around the world unlocking code for the Navy, it still sucked like a Hoover gone haywire.
If he could just sell one big story—like the Roswell/Commandments connection —then he could finish school, get his degree in archeology and leave the laser-geeking behind. But that meant finding those Roswell photos, and that didn’t look likely now. The hell of it was, he knew those symbols matched, and that now they were . . . missing.
First his photos, now the Roswell woman . . . What the hell was going on?
He returned to his desk but still had no luck. Maybe he’d hidden them someplace else, or the cat had. They’d turn up eventually; they had to. Otherwise . . .
. . . he’d lose the biggest story of his life.
He stood there a moment longer, thinking. Knowing the photos had to be in his apartment somewhere. He walked back into his bedroom and glanced around: bed, headboard, dresser, end table, lamp, blue note—
Blue notebook. Right there on top of the end table. He picked it up and instantly remembered the familiar feel and heft of it. It was indeed the missing notebook, labeled “Roswell” in felt tip. It had been sitting there the whole time, on top of his bedside table.
On top of it, not inside it, which was where he’d always kept it. That was why he hadn’t noticed it before. He wasn’t expecting to see it out like that. And not only out, but . . . empty. All his photos of the Roswell debris were missing.
No, not just “missing,” he realized.
IPD detectives working the Eilat Murders, likewise, wished their case could be stolen, or simply disappear. Ditto for the two corpses. And the Globus kidnapping.
And that smell . . .
That was the one thing none of them could forget: the stench in that hotel room. And the blood. And the spinal cords torn open and . . . leaking.
Of the three detectives assigned to the case, Inspector Jacob Schriever was the most senior. A 20-year veteran of the IPD—and a former Mossad agent—Schriever was, at 61, already eying retirement. He and his wife, Yakira, had saved almost enough to buy a tiny vacation villa in Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast.
True, he was still a few years away from actually retiring there, but the sooner he did, the better: Yakira had been behaving strangely of late. Seeing things. “UFOs,” she claimed. And sometimes even their “pilots.”
Gibberish, of course. Yakira had never recovered from the loss of their only child, Sidney, eleven years earlier. Ever since, she had been what their friends politely termed “eccentric.” But this new development, with the aliens and flying saucers, well . . . it went beyond merely “eccentric.”
It scared the living hell out of him.
If he could only close this double murder/kidnapping case quietly, and spare the department any undue publicity, the villa would be that much closer. Inspector Schriever knew early retirement wasn’t entirely out of the question, even in these times of Mayan “doomsdays” and various Armageddon scenarios.
If only . . . he thought. If only he could retire to the little villa in Haifa. Then he could take Yakira to the finest doctors in the country, get her the help she needed, and spend the rest of his days caring for her in their home by the sea. He rubbed his eyes, leaned over his desk and sighed.
“So, what do we know about this man? This . . . Connors?”
The younger of his two subordinates, Sgt. Weiss, held a printout in one hand. He consulted the paper, then replied: “Twenty-nine years of age, resident of Alexandria, Virginia. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school, and served three years: midshipman, cipher clerk, then cryptographer. In 2004, he qualified for the . . .” Weiss peered at his printout more closely. “The . . . training of seals?”
“SEAL training,” Schriever said. “Sea, Air and Land Forces, a commando unit of the U.S. Navy. Underwater demolitions, counter-terrorism and so on. Tough outfit,” he added. “But didn’t he once live in Israel? Studied here, I believe. What of that?”
“Yes, sir,” Weiss responded. “After the Navy, he enrolled at the University of Virginia and majored in archeology. He won a two-year Fulbright Scholarship to study at Hebrew University, here in Jerusalem. On his return to the U.S., he left the archeology program, and took a job in a local observatory. Operating lasers of some kind. They are called here ‘Assisted Optics’ for use in ‘guide star imaging.’”
Schriever did not look impressed. “How does he pull three years in the U.S. Navy, SEALs at that, only to wind up here, in Jerusalem, studying archeology?”
“A dishonorable discharge, sir. From the Navy.”
“Yes, sir,” Weiss answered, returning to his printout. “He completed training and joined SEAL Team Two, in Little Creek, Virginia. Then, he appears to have . . . snapped. Nearly beat a man to death with his bare hands, in a barroom incident. There was a woman involved.”
“Naturally,” Schriever muttered. “And alcohol, of course. He is Irish, isn’t he?”
“Yes, sir. Though it appears there were mitigating circumstances.”
“Explain,” Schriever repeated; it was his standard prompt.
“Apparently, the other man was . . . eh . . .” Again, Weiss raised the printout closer to his face, struggling to interpret the clumsy American English. “Eh . . . forcing his attentions upon the woman. Connors . . . acted in honour of her . . .
eh . . . defense.”
“You mean, he acted to defend her honour.”
Schriever nodded. “A quaint notion of chivalry once common to the American south. Outmoded today, of course. Go on.”
“According to court transcripts,” Weiss continued, “he was convicted of Assault and Battery and received two years probation. He was kicked out of the SEAL program and given a dishonorable discharge in 2007. He studied archeology here for two years, actually boarding with his professor and family. Then he returned home to Virginia, dropped out of school and began work as a laser technician. He also became a freelance journalist, which is how he came to be in Israel last week.”
“But how does he go from the SEALs to archeology to operating lasers in an observatory?” Schriever asked. “I’m familiar with SEAL training, and none of it involves star-gazing or lasers. I doubt archeology does, either.”
“Ehhh . . .” again Weiss scanned his printout, clutching it as if it were a lifeline—which, in many ways, it was. “Ah, here. Yes. The woman he saved in the bar . . . whose defense he honoured? . . .”
Inspector Schriever didn’t bother to correct him. “Yes?”
“She is the Assistant Director of the observatory. She hired him. Apparently, he wanted to try archeology, first.”
“Stand on his own hind legs, you mean,” said Schriever.
“Ehhh . . . ?” Weiss had no clue what he was talking about. First seals, now hind legs? “Ehhh . . . then he returned from Israel and accepted her offer at the observatory.”
“I see,” Schriever said, with a nod. “Quid pro quo.”
Sgt. Weiss blinked. “Sir?”
“So,” Schriever said, warming to the subject, “it seems our man has a violent streak. Irish and Southern. And his background is certainly checkered, to say the least.”
“Yes, sir,” Sgt. Weiss replied, with no better idea what checkered meant than the stuff about seal training or hind legs.
“Anything else?” Schriever said.
The older subordinate, a Sgt. Heim, finally spoke up. “We interviewed Dr. Oded, the expedition leader, yesterday. He was Connors’s archeology professor and sponsor the two years he studied here. Oded said that Connors was unusually . . . eager for the story. Claimed it would ‘make his career.’ Oded also—”
“Yes, well,” Schriever interrupted, “American journalists are an . . . eager bunch.”
“Yes, sir,” said Heim. He knew Schriever loathed Americans, and blamed them for the loss of his only child, Sidney, eleven years ago. The Inspector usually referred to the U.S. as “The Great Cesspool,” or “That Sewer.” Heim exchanged a glance with his younger companion, then continued: “Dr. Oded also claimed that Connors was an excellent student, adding that he was quite ‘brilliant if somewhat naïve.’”
Schriever’s eyes closed halfway, the lids becoming hooded, as he settled back in his chair. For a moment, he looked to the younger men like an aged Mandarin, about to bestow some timeless wisdom upon them. Instead, he winced, as if choking back bile.
“Brilliant, perhaps—but naïve?” He shook his head. “No. The fingerprint evidence alone warrants his extradition. If he is guilty, he will pay. If not, he will go back to his cesspool in America. As to the—”
“Sir?” Heim interrupted him—usually, not a wise thing to do.
Schriever narrowed his hooded eyes at his subordinate, looking less like a Mandarin and more like a cobra. “What?”
“Extradition along normal channels may prove . . . difficult.”
The Inspector delivered his usual, one-word command: “Explain.”
“Sir, you may recall the Mossad operative arrested in Washington after the 9-11 attacks?”
“Yes, yes,” Schriever growled. “Didn’t we exchange some American flim-flam artist for her? Wall Street type, came here seeking asylum as an Israeli citizen?”
“Yes sir. The very one.”
Schriever said nothing, his eyes clouding over with disdain. He abhorred harboring American fugitives of any religion—Jewish or no. When it came to criminals, the Inspector had no prejudice: he was an equal-opportunity hater. “Well? What of it?”
“Well, sir, it seems the . . . operative . . . returned to the U.S. the next week. Without permission.”
“Oh, yes. I recall.” His manner was perfectly frosty now. “She’s still over there I presume? Without diplomatic sanction?”
“Correct, sir,” Heim answered. “Which might make standard extradition proceedings somewhat—”
“Yes, yes, Sergeant, point taken,” said the Inspector. “Well, then? We will have to obtain Mr. Connors by some other method. An ‘extradition by stealth,’ perhaps.”
“Yes, sir,” both sergeants replied.
“As for logistics, I fear budgetary restrictions limit me to sending only one of you over to bring him in. For questioning,” he added. “Whoever I select, however, will have two government agents at his disposal.”
“Yes, sir,” said his subordinates. They both knew he meant Mossad; the old Mandarin still had contacts there. And they had no budgetary restrictions.
“One other thing,” said Schriever, steepling his fingers beneath his hooded, half-closed eyes. “This American has probably murdered an Israeli citizen—in Israel. Should he prove difficult, you are authorized to use whatever force necessary to terminate this inquiry.”
“Sir?” Weiss asked.
“Only if absolutely necessary, you understand. We would like to question him.”
Heim grinned. “Understood, sir,” he said. And won the job on the spot.
“Good,” Schriever replied, facing him now. “If it should come to that, just make it look accidental, yes? We don’t want an international incident over this.”
“But, sir,” Weiss protested. “We can’t—”
Schriever silenced him with a wave of his hand. “You may go now, Sergeant.”
“I said now, Sergeant.”
The younger man rose from his seat and left the room. The two older detectives waited a moment, then gathered up their case files and also left the office, discussing the final details of the upcoming kidnapping and/or death of one David Connors.
Yes. Schriever could feel it.
The villa was much closer now.
End of Chapter 2.
See Chapter 3 tomorrow