“There have been, and will be again, many destructions
of mankind…just when you and other nations are
beginning to be provided with letters and the other
requisites of civilized life…the stream from heaven,
like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only
those of you who are destitute of letters and education;
and so you have to begin all over again like children,
and know nothing of what happened in ancient times…”
Timaeus and Critias
Dateline: Friday, 7 December 2012
Israeli Police HQ, Jerusalem
It was the most vivid nightmare he’d ever had: finding Dr. Dincke slaughtered on the floor of his Baltimore office, being questioned by the police, then coming back to Cyndi’s country place, telephoning for pizza only to have the cops show up and—
—hit him harder than he’d ever been hit before—even harder than that damned car had, Monday night, when he’d gone flying head over heels in love with the dark.
Now the dark loved him in return, as a needle entered his arm and he went down, down, dowwwn to a place where only the dead slept so soundly—no dreams, no visions, no giants . . . only the utter nothingness of oblivion.
When Dave awoke this time, he wasn’t on the sofa with the increasingly sexy Cyndi, or even on her living room floor. This time, when he awoke, he was lying next to no one. And he seemed to be moving, somehow. Fast.
He turned to his left and saw what looked like an airplane window (Row L, Seat 13) with a splendid view of the night. Darkness. Stars. He could even hear—or thought he could hear—the high whine of jet engines on either side of the giant L1011.
But it was probably a dream.
Of course. That’s all it was—he was dreaming of his flight from Israel, a week ago, when he’d fled Eilat, leaving those bodies, questions and suspicions behind. And now . . .
. . . well, and now he was having another nightmare—a real one this time, courtesy of his scrambled egg-brain. What had Cyndi called it? A “bad” concussion? How apt. It certainly felt “bad:” busted, pulped and bleeding.
Only now, at last, he was coming to . . . bleary and blinking as the unbearably bright, white light flashed in his eyes, and the man with the long, hard hands slapped and slapped and slapped him . . . The same man who’d cracked him in the jaw with a gun.
And this time, when his vision cleared, Dave saw that he was surrounded by—were those Israeli police uniforms? With the sky-blue tunics and the navy slacks and the—
—no . . . no way, this was the nightmare, this was not real, this was not—
—real enough for government work!—his brain shrieked as the woman beside him (Cyndi?) began slapping him as well, her long, black hair brushing his face as he looked into her deep, blue, Israeli eyes and—
—blue Israeli eyes?—
—no, no way, this was—
“David, wake up!”
“Wake up, David!”
—yes, this was Cyndi, slapping him awake and
knocking him out again.
Hours later, when he awoke, he saw all.
With Cyndi lying naked (!?) beside him, fast asleep. No Israeli police officers, no Mossad agents, no planes. It had all been a dream. A very bad, very realistic dream.
Cyndi had nodded off on the job, simple as that. She was supposed to keep him awake until midnight, but here it was, eight o’clock or thereabouts . . . and they’d both fallen asleep. Well, no harm done. He’d go interview Dr. Galilei in the morning. So, everything he’d just experienced had been a dream . . . But all of it?
What the hell kind of concussion was this? He felt as if he’d had two or three separate nightmares, interspersed with even more nightmarish waking moments—like the bleak, bare interrogation room at Israeli Police HQ, of all places. Man, he’d really done a number on his brain. He felt vaguely numb, stupid, dull and drugged—heavily drugged. Yet, his head still hurt like a broken tooth, and his face—
—his face felt as if—
—as if someone were still slapping him. Hard.
He could even hear it. Too, too weird. No one was there, no one was hitting him or shaking him or slapping him aw—
“—Wake up, American pig . . .”
—oh, but yes, they were . . . hell yes, they—
Only this time, when Dave Connors came to, he really did wake up.
And he was definitely not at Cyndi’s.
Along with two Mossad agents and an IPD detective—the three from Cyndi’s. The latter was the one with the amazingly long, hard hands, like wooden paddles. He was also the one who’d thoughtfully cracked him in the jaw with the pistol. He was the one who’d been slapping him all night, finally bringing him around with the pretty blue-eyed Israeli nurse injecting him with strange concoctions.
“Who the hell are—”
“Yes, who the hell indeed,” said the Inspector. “Your hell, apparently.” He was an older man, with a craggy face and hooded, coal-black eyes. He leaned down and smiled. “If you wish to see your home again, young man, you will not swear in my presence.”
“What do you think you’re—”
Schriever leaned even closer to him and spat: “Doing? To you? We are doing nothing to you, American. We are merely entertaining you, as our guest.” He fixed Dave with his soulless, black eyes—shark’s eyes—and grinned. “And, until you tell us about those murders in Eilat, we will continue . . . entertaining you.”
“But . . . I don’t—”
Schriever nodded and out came the boots. To the ribs, mostly, to avoid leaving any marks. Dave knew from his SEAL training that this punching and kicking to the body was called “dry” interrogation—as opposed to the more tell-tale, “wet” variety.
For now . . . the ribs. And the kidneys.
Kidneys, yes, and the liver. And that really hurt—a deep, all-pervasive, swelling ache that made him want to throw up.
Then the hip.
The bastards hadn’t overlooked that delicate spot. Dave knew they would play on that—and they did. Skillfully. For hours . . .
They saved the testicles for last.
Not merely because it was sound interrogation procedure or because they liked crushing a man’s balls in their fists . . .
. . . well, actually, yes it was: they liked it. And they were damned good at it.
After seven hours of torture, reconciliation, promises, sweet talk and more torture, they realized the American would not break.
“Not because he’s so tough,” Schriever told Sgt. Heim. “He simply doesn’t know anything. If he did, he would have cracked by now.”
Heim glanced at David, who was still strapped backwards over a chair seat, his back arched, wrists and ankles hog-tied beneath him.
“So he’s innocent?” Heim asked.
Schriever shrugged. “Of the Eilat murders, yes. But what man is truly innocent?”
Heim shrugged. “Now what?”
“Dispose of him,” Schriever said.
“But, where? How?”
“In the desert, Sergeant. Burn any I.D. he might have on him. Oh, and be sure to remove the head, hands and feet. Burn those separately.”
Heim nodded. Although he admired the American’s toughness, he would do as ordered: he would dispose of Connors somewhere in the Negev—parts of him, anyway—in a remote, quiet and isolated place. And who knew? Maybe years from now, the young man’s remains might be discovered by an archaeologist—someone like Dr. Oded, perhaps —who would mistake them for an older, more historic find. A prince, even, or a priest. Someone important . . . not just another anonymous corpse.
The Holy Land already had plenty of those.
Only one problem, as Schriever pointed out: the night was nearly spent, and daylight was only an hour away. Not exactly the best time to go careening about Jerusalem with a dead American in one’s car.
“We’ll wait for nightfall,” Schriever told Heim. “Until then, leave him in isolation. Who knows? He might talk, after all.”
But Schriever doubted it. Not that it mattered—either way, the American was dead. Returning him to the U.S. now, in this condition, was out of the question. But at least Connors might help him appreciate the workings of the degenerate American mind—help him to understand why.
Besides, killing him wouldn’t really be murder: Schriever and his one-time brethren of the Mossad weren’t just cops, they were physical extensions of the law. And the law stated that when someone murdered Israeli citizens—in Israel—someone paid with his life. So, he wasn’t breaking the law—he was fulfilling it. Executing a sentence. And he wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep. Never did. Except when he thought of his wife, Yakira, and her mental state.
Then he never slept.
Dave, likewise, could not sleep. Not that it mattered; he was beyond such considerations. Asleep or conscious, life or death, meant nothing to him now: he was adrift on a sea of pain and delirium. The past 12 hours had left him insensible—gasping, trembling and strangely numb; he couldn’t move a muscle. And although he hadn’t talked, he could see in the morning light that he’d wet himself, puked and bled all over.
(The only easy day was yesterday.)
(But SEALS don’t feel pain, SEALS don’t feel pain, SEALS don’t feel . . .)
. . . pain was everywhere: in addition to the hip-pointer, thigh bruise and concussion, he now had a broken rib, shattered left upper molar, cracked cheekbone, bruised kidneys and blood in his urine. And the tendons in his shoulders and elbows would never be the same.
But he was still game. Still good enough for government work.
And he had twelve hours till sundown.