Jack Sussek's Blog

August 14, 2014

When he returned last night, tired, dry in the mouth, bloodstains on his jacket, he told the reception desk his companion, Mr. Rostov, had to unexpectedly return to Istanbul on urgent business and Piton settled Rostov’s account. Then Piton took a long shower, had dinner in his room, and made some phone calls. His last call was to reception to ask when the bar opened in the morning. “11.00 a.m.,” he was told.
Now, at 11.05 the following morning, Piton walked into the restaurant just as the waiters were cleaning the last of the breakfast dishes off the tables. It smelled like coffee and toast. The tour buses had gone; the day’s excursions underway. A few late diners sat near the windows, Lake Van spread out behind them. The sun was bright and in the distance, out on the lake, he could see small boats drifting, fishing poles over the sides, lines in the water. He went through the restaurant and straight up to the bar. When the bartender looked over Piton nodded his head sideways, “I need to speak with you,” he said and he went to the end of the bar.
At the end of the bar Piton leaned into the bartender and said, “Where is the owner, the fellow we met yesterday?”
“He’s not here yet,” the bartender stepped back, glanced at the clock on the wall, and smiled. “Not until just before lunch. He comes to get lunch for his wife, brings it to her, and returns with the dishes. Then he’s here until we close, usually around midnight.” His face turned sad and he shook his head slowly. “She is not well,” he said, speaking about the wife. “Needs caring for. They have no children, you see.”
Suddenly a cat, a white cat, jumped up onto a bar-stool. Piton noticed the cat’s eyes. One was brown and the other was blue. He withdrew the Walther from his waist band and held it, pointing it at the bartender’s waist.
“Please inform the owner,” Piton said in a calm, quiet voice, “that he needs to come here immediately or he will have to find another bartender.”
The bartender’s benign face hardened as he quickly picked up the phone and dialed. After a few words he said in a dull monotone, “He will be here shortly.”
“Please make me an espresso,” Piton said, still holding the Walther to the bartender’s waist. “A double.”
“As you wish.”
When the owner arrived Piton swung the Walther from the bartender to him and said, “Your Kurdish friends are dead. So is my friend. We need to speak. Alone.”
The owner, clearly startled, said, “Yes, of course. This way.”
Piton followed the owner behind the bar and down a small hallway to an office. It was messy, papers strewn about, receipts, invoices, and some old mismatched furniture haphazardly pushed around. There was a framed black and white photograph of Ataturk hanging on the wall over a pair of metal filing cabinets. Piton kept the Walther pointed at the owner.
“Who are these Kurds? How well do you know them?” Piton said.
“They are from around here, smugglers mostly. Everybody knows everybody around here.” The owner was nervous and kept looking at the gun. “You don’t have to point that at me, I’m not going to do anything.”
Piton kept the gun pointed.
“Who does he work for?” Piton demanded. “The one called Peya?”
“A Kurd called Agir. He is the boss. Agir is.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. I don’t see him much. Peya was his, his… how do you say? His manager in Van. Peya took care of business here. Agir travels.”
“What do they smuggle?”
“Anything. Anything of value. You are near four borders here. Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria. You can imagine what they smuggle here. For thousands of years, there is smuggling here. You see the country, one must know this country to get around. People like Peya, like Agir, people like these, their blood runs deep in this country. They are this country.”
“I need to find this Agir,” Piton said. “You will help me find this person.”
The restaurant owner looked at Piton and thought of his ailing wife. What am I to do now? he thought. How can I possibly help this foreigner?
“I cannot leave here,” the owner said meekly, staring at Piton’s gun. “My wife…she is not well. She needs me.”
“I am not asking you,” Piton said, his voice running cold. “I am telling you. You will help me find this person, this Agir. Or you will join your friend Peya and your wife will be left alone. It is your choice.”
“I don’t…”
“You will find him. You are a resourceful man, running a business, fencing smuggled goods, taking care of tourists. I am sure you can find this Agir for me.” Piton raised the Walther and stepped closer to the owner, shoved it into his stomach. “I don’t want to use this but I will if I have to. I have used it in the last twenty-four hours and I will use it again, I assure you. What is your name?”
“I am called Emir.”
“Emir.” Piton held Emir’s eyes with his own, hard gaze. “Very well. I suggest we begin. There is not much time.”
Emir went to his desk and picked up the phone. He called someone, spoke quickly and wrote down some numbers, a set of five. Phone numbers, Piton realized. He did not speak or understand Turkish, but numbers were numbers. Emir began dialing, starting with the first one. After the third one he put the phone back in its cradle. He turned to Piton.
“He was here little over a week ago. In Van. I did not know this. For just a few days. He was with others, members of Peya’s tribe, maybe some others not from here, too. They had a truck, a green truck, a utility van, one of Peya’s, and took something Peya had smuggled in for Agir. They went east, on the road that goes north of the lake. That is all I know.”
“You have a car?”
“We will return mine to the rental agency at the airport and you will take me to find them.”
“But, I cannot go with you,” Emir pleaded. “Please, I have responsibilities, my restaurant, my wife…”
Piton pointed his Walther at Emir’s head. He knew now Agir had Buckley’s case, the case with the PND. Nehet had hired the Kurds to take the case to a safe place. A waypoint before the actual transaction, perhaps the transaction location itself, but the Kurds, Peya and Agir, had stolen it after Nehet left. Nehet and Rostov. Now Nehet was missing and Rostov was dead. Didn't take a genius to figure this one out, Piton thought. There was no case where Peya had taken them, Piton knew that now, too. It was a ruse, pure and simple; he had no intention of taking us there. Peya’s only job was to keep us from looking for it and the only way to do that was to get rid of us. He knew if he didn't, didn't get rid of us, we’d keep looking. Piton knew the pressure he was under. He had to get to Agir before Agir delivered it to whomever he sold it to. That was the mission now. Piton was suddenly pleased he’d been able to narrow this down, to bring it in focus. Helped simplify things. They had to find this one called Agir. Soon.
“We don’t have much time,” he said to Emir. “Let’s go.”
“Where? Where are we going?”
“First we go see this one who has just told you about Agir.” Piton said. “Then we return my car and go to where Agir is.”
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Published on August 14, 2014 14:08 • 128 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

August 13, 2014

The moonless sky was littered with bright, piercing stars and sealed a deep silence broken only by the rhythmic sound of alternating shovels and pickaxes scraping against dirt and stone as the hole was dug. The repetitive sound of a dull ‘clunk’ followed by a deep ‘crunch’ was no match for the endless sky and the harsh noise quickly evaporated into the empty, soulless night. The nearest road, if you could call it that, was five kilometers to the west and this barren, rocky hillside was about as far off the beaten path as the dark side of the moon is from view. Eight pack mules, one of which had what seemed to be an elongated crate tied to its back, another with average looking but bulging saddlebags, and the rest with plain simple leather saddles each with a rifle and a goatskin flask of water tied to their sides stood silent on the high side of the hill as Rostov and Nehet stood close by them trying to absorb some of their warmth. Unlike the four Kurds digging the hole they were freezing in the bitterly cold air and Nehet cursed himself for not having thought to bring something warm to drink. They had finished Rostov’s vodka hours ago.
“O.k.,” Nehet said. He quickly glanced at the crate on the mule’s back and then into the ditch. “That’s deep enough.”
Rostov stepped over to the ditch, pulled a small flashlight from his pocket, and peered in. “Yes,” he said, the light illuminating his steamy breath. “That’s fine.” He walked over to the mule with the crate tied to its back, which in the fleeting light of Rostov’s flashlight Nehet recognized as an old Soviet Army footlocker. Nehet walked over to the other mule, the one with the bulging saddlebags draped over its back, and removed two black metal suitcases, one from each side. Rostov motioned to the Kurds to untie the footlocker.
“Over here,” Rostov said, pointing with his flashlight to a flat area between the mules and the ditch. “Lay it here.”
Rostov stood over the footlocker, squatted down, pebbles crunching softly under his worn leather soles, fiddled with the latch, snapped it open, and stood up with his right arm outstretched holding the lid. He waved Nehet over. “Here,” he said. “Take a look.” Rostov pointed his flashlight inside the footlocker. “I don’t think you’ve ever seen one of these before.”
Nehet stepped up to the footlocker and peered in. “No,” he said softly. “I haven’t.”
Inside, set in a wooden frame with strands of dry straw scattered about, lay a large heavy metal case approximately half a meter wide, one meter long, and a quarter meter thick. The edges were rounded smooth and the case was dull olive green, a piece of left over army surplus, with red and white Cyrillic markings, a big red star in the center and two metal latches on either end.
“Here,” Rostov said. “Hold this.”
Nehet held the lid of the footlocker open while Rostov bent over and released the two end latches. He lifted the top of the metal container off and placed it on the ground next to them. The Kurds stood silently behind them, wondering what all the fuss was over this old Russian Army footlocker that apparently was going to be buried in the hole they just dug.
Inside the case Nehet saw a series of four dials and two gauges. There were two small lights with black toggle switches to the right of the gauges. To the right of the toggle switches was another small dial with numbers printed around it.
“To arm the device,” Rostov said, in a tone suggesting what he was about to say he had said a dozen times before, “you turn these three dials all the way to the left, until they click and lock in.” Rostov pointed to the first three dials going from left to right. There was some small Cyrillic writing next to the fourth dial. “When the needle on this first gauge moves all they way over to the right, inside of this green area, then you turn the fourth dial until it clicks and locks in. Be sure the needle on the first gauge is in the green area before you turn the fourth dial. Again, when the needle on the second gauge moves all the way to the right and reaches the green area then you are ready. Flip the first toggle switch, the light goes on, and the device is armed. Flip the second toggle switch, the light goes on, and the timer is activated. Over here,” Rostov pointed to the small dial with numbers, “is the timer. You can set it for a minimum of one hour; I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are immediately leaving by plane, or if you have a suicider. There is a maximum of seventy-two hours.” Rostov stood up. “It’s simple. Anyone can do it.”
“I like simple,” Nehet said.
“Me too,” Rostov said. Nehet crouched down and peered at the dials and gauges; he felt with his hands the dials and brushed his fingers across the gauges and toggle switches. After a few minutes he stood up and Rostov placed the lid back on the case, secured the latches, and closed the top of the footlocker. He motioned to the Kurds and the four of them walked up, lifted the heavy footlocker, and awkwardly carried it to the ditch. They carefully placed it in and covered it over with the dirt and rocks they had only an hour before dug up. Once it was covered Nehet took the two black metal suitcases, lay one on top of the other, and waved Rostov over. Nehet opened the top case and placed it on the ground next to the other. He opened the other one. Rostov pointed his flashlight at one, then the other.
“Two millions,” Nehet said. “American.”
Rostov looked carefully at the tightly packed bundles. He put the flashlight in his mouth, aiming the light into the case, and reached in and took one of the packets out, slitting the center wrapper with his thumbnail. He fanned the bills in his hand like a deck of cards and looked at the exaggerated face of Benjamin Franklin. He studied the bills carefully and then selected four and handed one each to the Kurds. Behind them he could see the first cracks of dawn slicing through the eastern horizon. He turned to Nehet.
“O.k.,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“Hold on,” Nehet said. He walked back to the mule with the saddlebags and reached into one. He withdrew a small black device that measured 10 x 12 centimeters. It was thin, like a cell phone, but wider, so that it was more of a square rather than a rectangle. He pinched a corner of the device and pulled out a thin, forty centimeter antenna. He locked it in place and then flipped opened the lid of the device, turned something, and said to Rostov, “Let me have your flashlight for a minute.”
Rostov handed him the flashlight and watched Nehet study a small LCD screen. Suddenly it beeped and the screen glowed light blue. Two rows of numbers appeared and a signal indicator.
“GPS transmitter,” Nehet said, glancing at Rostov. He grabbed a shovel and walked over to the now covered over ditch. He dug a small hole in the center, placed the transmitter in it, put a few rocks around the antenna, and covered it. The thin antenna was barely visible.
“How long will the battery last?” Rostov asked.
“Six months,” Nehet said. “Plenty of time.” He took a small receiver out of his jacket pocket. This looked like a simple cell phone or a handheld GPS; he pushed a button and held it out in front of his chest. He studied the small LCD screen on its face.
“What are you doing?”
“Orienting the receiver,” Nehet said. “Once I lock on a fix, in this case the signal that transmitter I just buried is sending out, then no matter where I am in the world this little thing will tell me how to get here.” After a minute a sharp ‘beep’ sang out and Nehet noted the latitude and longitude splayed across the LCD screen, wrote it on a piece of paper, and shoved it into his pocket. “Just in case I lose the receiver,” he said, a thin smile creasing his handsome face. Nehet pushed a small button on the side of it and watched the LCD screen disappear. “O.k.,” he said, looking at Rostov. He turned the receiver off and put it in his pocket.
The eastern sky had brightened by a few degrees and was a dull gray by the time they mounted the mules. Slowly but steadily they retraced their tracks and followed the thin hardscrabble path back along the steep hillside and after numerous switchbacks, first on the ascent, then on the descent, they eventually made their way down to where Nehet’s old Land Rover was. After emptying the remaining jerry cans of fuel into the Land Rover they left the Kurds with their mules and their crisp hundred dollar bills. Nehet followed the direction the dash board mounted GPS told him and drove Rostov northeast, away from the Iraqi border, keeping comfortably west of the Iranian frontier, and on toward Tbilisi, some four hundred kilometers away. The further north they traveled the better the terrain would be and Nehet knew some 80 kilometers south of Van the thin remnants of a road would begin to appear. They planned to stop for food and fuel in Van. After Van, and once they passed the 5200 meter Buyuk Agri, leaving it well to the east and skirting around the western edge of Armenia, they would be less than an hour to the border and on to Tbilisi. He would leave Rostov there and then drive back across the border to Ankara, a thousand kilometers to the west. With luck he’d be home late tomorrow night and go to sleep for the first time in a week in his own bed. Buckley, he knew, will be pleased.
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Published on August 13, 2014 11:53 • 113 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

August 12, 2014

The auditorium was small but large enough to seat one hundred people. Today though, in the stifling August heat, not only was every seat occupied, there were at least another hundred people standing in a thick semi-circle behind the seats, around the outer edge of the old and dated room. Sweat poured freely and pungent body odors reeked indiscriminately but no one shuffled their feet nor so much as cleared their throats while the President of Iran spoke to this well chosen crowd. In fact, when the President, standing on a small stage before a plain wooden podium, paused for emphasis or took a sip from the glass of water placed on the tiny table beside him, the auditorium was as silent as an empty mosque. So quiet during those Presidential pauses Bashir could hear the grinding traffic outside.
“…The Islamic Revolution of Iran,” the President intoned, “represents a new achievement in the ongoing struggle between the peoples and the oppressive superpower. It has kindled hope in the hearts of the enchained nations and has set an example and created a legend of self-reliance and ideological steadfastness for a nation contending with imperialism. This, our blessed revolution, is in reality a conquest over the curse of the blindness that the corrupt and evil superpower had imposed so that even the intellectuals of the oppressed world could not conceive of any other freedom than under the benediction of the satanic superpower…”
Bashir glanced at his watch. He silently shifted his weight and rocked on the balls of his feet. He knew this speech by heart. He’d probably heard it a thousand times in various forms since it was first spoken by the President when he was a student leader during the takeover and hostage crises of the American Embassy in 1979. It had been read over the radio then, from the entrance gate to the “Den of Spies.” Now it was a standard preamble before some new announcement or initiative the President was about to declare. Bashir knew by the crowd assembled here today the subject would be about the new sanctions imposed by the United Nations in response to the President’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment and weapons development. And Bashir pretty much knew, as did nearly everyone else in this auditorium, what the President’s response to those sanctions would be.
Bashir turned to his left and before falling back on his heels saw General Abdulhassan Hashemi, director of the Iranian Security Services, suddenly step in from behind a curtain that concealed a side entrance. Hashemi stood next to General Rafsan Rajaeefar, the commander of the Special Revolutionary Guards Forces, known as the ‘Quds’ Force, and who, after Hashemi, was one of the most powerful men in Iran. Bashir saw Hashemi lean into Rajaeefar and whisper something in his ear. Does anyone wonder why these men are not sitting in the front row with the others? Bashir let the thought pass as he silently slipped behind the standing crowd, crouching down a bit so as to keep his moving head from attracting attention. He quietly made his way toward Hashemi.
Hashemi, concealing his recognition of Bashir, quickly stepped back through the curtain. Rajaeefar stealthily followed. Fifteen seconds later Bashir himself slipped behind the curtain and walked down the narrow corridor to the door held by one of Hashemi’s men. In the corridor he saw the two Generals stop and wait by the door Bashir knew led outside to a side street behind the auditorium. Bashir approached the door as it was held open and standing there in the street with its engine idling was Hashemi’s familiar black limousine. Bashir followed the two men into the back.
“It’s o.k.?” Bashir asked as he fell back into the seat.
Hashemi smiled. He turned to Rajaeefar. “General,” he said. “Please. The case.”
Rajaeefar reached under the seat, snapped open a large compartment, and pulled out a thick black metal suitcase. He rested it on his knees and spun the combination lock. “0, 0, 7,” he said. Bashir looked at Hashemi.
“It’s a joke,” Hashemi said.
“Ha, ha,” Bashir said. “I get it.”
Rajaeefar opened the suitcase and Bashir saw thick, tightly packed bundles of one hundred dollar bills. Each packet had a center wrapper that said “$10,000. USD - Central Bank of Sudan.” Bashir knew there were one hundred bundles in the suitcase. Rajaeefar pulled another case from the compartment under the seat.
“Two cases, two millions American,” Hashemi said. “Ten percent. For your down payment.”
“So it’s been authorized?” Bashir asked. “I’ve got the go ahead?”
“What does this look like?” Hashemi said.
Bashir smiled. “I’ve got to go,” he said, looking at his watch. “I’m late.” Hashemi took hold of Bashir’s forearm and gripped it firmly.
“You are sure of him?” Hashemi looked Bashir straight in the eyes, his own unblinking. “You are sure of this, he will come through?”
Bashir felt the cold dead weight of Rajaeefar’s presence and for a moment the only sound was the low idle of the limousine’s engine. He realized full well what Hashemi was asking. If he, Bashir, did not deliver he was a dead man.
“I have been doing business with this man for over twenty years. Israeli arms, American arms, Russian arms, everything. As well you may have forgotten his role, silent as it was, in the centrifuges. He is an honorable and trustworthy man. He has not failed me once.”
“And you, Bani Bashir, have not failed me once.”
“Then that,” Bashir said, glancing first at Rajaeefar and then turning to Hashemi, “is your answer.”
Bashir gripped the handles of the suitcases tight as he slipped out of the car. He walked quickly down the street. It was hot and the sun was strong on his back and by the time he reached the corner there were splotches of sweat dotting his shirt. He placed one of the suitcases down between his legs and reached into his suit pocket for a handkerchief and mopped his forehead while he looked for a taxi. Buckley, he realized while glancing at his watch, had been waiting nearly an hour.
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Published on August 12, 2014 12:18 • 113 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

August 5, 2014

“We are looking for a Kurd called ‘Peya,’” Rostov said as he turned onto a tree lined street that led toward the lake. “He’s the one who led us to the place where the suitcase is buried.”
“He is from here?”
“Yes. He lives around here,” Rostov said. “Claims his family’s been here since Adam and Eve.”
Rostov pulled the Toyota sedan into the parking area of the restaurant. There were a number of tour buses, vans, and cars parked and it took a minute before Rostov found a spot. The lake spread out before them and the outdoor part of the restaurant was filled with tourists. They saw waiters serving platters of food; mezes, kebops, sliced cucumbers and carrots, hot pita, and bowls of hummus and yogurt.
“This is where we met him,” Rostov said. “Nehet knew the owner. The owner arranged the introduction.”
“I see,” Piton said.
They walked through the front entrance and went to the bar. Rostov could hear the crowd outside. Mostly British tourists, he realized. He could tell by the accents. He heard some French, too.
Rostov ordered a beer, Piton a soda water with a slice of lime. As they were served Rostov asked the bartender if the owner was available. The bartender looked at the clock on the wall behind the bar.
“In about ten minutes,” he said. “Took lunch home for the wife.”

Dimon and Irina landed in Van just after noon, found what passed for a car rental agency, and took the only four wheel drive vehicle they had, a five year old American Jeep Cherokee. It wasn’t on the list of rentals but rather was used to retrieve cars clients of the agency had run off the road while driving to the obscure historic and archeological sights that surrounded Van. Dimon spent considerable time convincing the manager to rent it to him and after some bills exchanged hands he agreed. It had heavy duty suspension and large, oversized off-road tires, and a winch that made the front of the jeep look like the jaw of a shark. The manager charged an exorbitant fee for it but Dimon quickly paid. He had a feeling finding a good mechanic on short notice wasn’t such a sure bet in this part of the world and the terrain he saw while flying into Van convinced him to look for the most rugged vehicle he could find. How one of these ended up here puzzled Dimon but he gladly put it on the American Express card with all the insurances and extra’s he could get.
The only decent hotel he could find was the Merit Sahmaran Hotel out on the lake and when they pulled into the entrance he was pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t sure how long they’d be in Van but the facilities at the Merit Sahmaran wouldn’t be a hardship. They took two rooms lakeside, next door to each other, and inside Dimon saw there was an adjoining door between rooms. Dimon knocked.
“Yes?” Irina called through the door. Dimon slid the slide bolt back and unlocked his side. He heard Irina do the same.
“Just checking to see if it worked,” he said, as she opened her door.
“Nice to know things function here.”
“I guess as a scientist you’d be concerned with how things function.”
“One of my concerns, yes,” Irina said, a slight smile forming on her face. She looked right at Dimon. “But there are certain things, once you see them, you somehow know will perform to expectation.”
“Perhaps even exceed one’s expectations.”
Irina paused a moment. “Perhaps,” she said. “But the older I get the rarer that seems to be. Exceed expectations, that is.”
“Don’t be so cynical.”
“Not cynical,” Irina said. “Realistic. I’m a scientist, remember?”
“Right,” Dimon said, suppressing a smile. “Listen, why don’t you settle in and get the lay of the land so to speak. I’ll run into town and pick up some supplies. We’re going to need a few things for our field trip.”
“Sure,” Irina said. “After all that flying a little walk and perhaps a hot bath.”
“I’ll meet you back here in, say,” Dimon glanced at his watch, “an hour?”
“Sure,” Irina said.

“His name is Peya. You introduced him to Nehet Yasgen a week or so ago. Remember?” Rostov said. He and Piton were still at the bar when the owner returned.
“You were here then, no? With Nehet?”
“Yes, that was me.”
Rostov slipped the 1000 lira note across the bar and the restaurant owner palmed it, put it in his pocket. “Yes,” he said. “I remember now. You were looking for some ruin near here, is that right? An ancient fort or something?”
“Right,” Rostov said. “I’m afraid I left an important notebook out where we were.”
“Where was that?”
“That’s why I need to find this Peya. He knows where. I haven’t a clue.”
“A moment please,” the restaurant owner said. He smiled and Rostov saw a shiny gold tooth gleam in the light. He went to the end of the bar, picked up the phone, and said a few words. When he came back he said, “Peya will be here shortly.”
“Thank you,” Rostov said.

Dimon drove the Jeep into the center of Van looking for a hardware store. Judging by the latitude and longitude found in Anderson’s Mercedes the location was somewhere south and east of Van. In the airport in Istanbul he’d seen a general map of Turkey hanging on a wall and by rough estimate he put the position near a place called Yuksekova, a tiny village some one hundred miles south of Van.
He found a small utility store that sold all kinds of things including leather saddles, saddle bags, tools, cement, terracotta tiles, an array of flat glass, presumably cut to size for windows, chicken feed, fence posts, shovels, rope, metal buckets, crowbars, and an assortment of another hundred or so items. Half an hour later Dimon found pretty much all he needed and paid the proprietor in cash.
“Do you have any maps?” Dimon asked.
“Carte` du terraine.”
“Ah, yes. Over here.”
Behind the counter the proprietor opened a flat drawer inside of which, laid out in neat sections, were various maps; road maps, geologic maps, relief maps, and the basic Michelin map. Dimon took some that showed the area between Van and Yuksekova. The geologic map had latitude and longitude markings.
“Thank you,” Dimon said.
“You are most welcome, sir. Come back again. Anytime. I will be here.”
Dimon loaded up the Jeep and drove back to the hotel thinking about lunch. He was hungry now, hungry knowing he would be entering the next phase of the mission, hungry for the feeling of anxiousness he knew would come once they took off to find the intersection of 37’ North and 44’ East. All ops were like this, he thought. It was a good feeling, a true feeling; the preparation, anticipation, anxiety and fear, and then all that disappeared while you worked, the adrenalin taking over, all your concentration, your raw wits, focused like an X-ray on the task at hand. The mission, the operation, the job, whatever you wanted to call it. For Dimon it was life and right now life was good.

“I don’t remember a notebook,” Peya said. They were thirty minutes south of Van in the Toyota and the landscape was dramatic. Coming out of Van they had risen several hundred meters and once over the first set of hills the terrain went from lush green to green and brown and by the second set of hills had become brown and ochre, the mountains in the far distance rimmed with a strip of green and a strip of white on top, like a layer cake. The hillsides were rugged looking, jagged rocks strewn across their faces, and some had rolled into the rough road. Occasionally Piton had to swerve the Toyota right or left to avoid hitting them.
“It was a small one,” Rostov said. “Was in my back pocket, must have fallen out. Has to be somewhere between where we parked the Land Rover and where you dug the hole. It is important,” Rostov said. “I must get it back.”
Rostov sensed a growing skepticism in Peya. Best to keep my mouth shut, he thought. Peya’s companion looks like he is ready to shoot me.
“Russia long way to come from to find a small notebook,” Peya said. He paused and lit a cigarette; the smoke was sucked out the window in a stream. “Where is Nehet?”
“Home,” Rostov said.
“Why he didn’t come?”
“It’s my notebook, not his.”
Piton studied the two Kurds through the rear view mirror. The one called Peya and the other who called himself Azil. He didn’t like them. He sensed right from the start that these two meant no good and if he had to put money on it he’d bet there’d be conflict before they got out of the car, one way or another. He had a nose for these things. No matter. Piton was prepared. He only wished he’d let Rostov drive.
Back in the bar, before they left, the restaurant owner introduced Peya and Azil to Rostov and Piton and left them alone. Five minutes and a thousand Turkish lira later, they piled into Rostov’s Toyota, Piton driving, the Kurds in the back, and headed south. But no sooner had they got underway Peya began to needle Rostov. Clearly he was suspicious of this story about a notebook. His friend Azil hadn’t said one word since they met. What Piton was thinking about was how quick he could react while driving the car. He had his Walther PPK .9 millimeter tucked behind him in the small of his back. He had his Beretta .25 in an ankle holster on his right leg, and a five inch serrated fishing knife strapped to his left leg. Problem was he had two hands on the steering wheel. He should have let Rostov drive, he thought. He should have known.
“Up here,” Peya said suddenly. “We cut in behind that rise. There is a small road. On the left.”
Piton saw the rise dip left and he slowed the car. He leaned forward as if he were looking ahead through the windshield and reached behind himself and scratched his back under his sport jacket. Then he laid the Walther in his lap. Rostov looked at it and shot Piton a glance, a sense of relief passing across his face. Rostov sensed what he sensed. Rostov, Piton knew, was worried about Peya too.
Piton saw a small road, not really a road, more of a mule or Shepard’s path, and couldn’t see how the sedan would make it over this rugged terrain. The car had no clearance and clearly they were off the road. They needed a truck or a four wheel drive vehicle to handle this, or mules. Or walk.
“I cannot drive this,” Piton said.
“I know,” Peya said.
Suddenly Rostov felt the warm barrel of a pistol in the back of his neck. Piton watched Peya through the rear view mirror and placed his hand on his Walther.
“The thousand lira was to get you here,” Peya said. “You will need at least another thousand to get back.”
For the first time Piton saw Azil smile. He had no teeth and his mouth was black. Some kind of gum disease or something, Piton thought. No wonder he didn’t speak. Piton turned in his seat and saw the 12” curved knife gripped in Azil’s hand and Piton knew it was intended for his throat.
“Out of the car,” Peya said, pushing the pistol into Rostov’s neck. “Slowly. Hands up high and in front, up, up.”
Piton quickly shoved the Walther into his waistband as he turned to open the door. He raised his hands and kicked the door open and stood, letting his sport jacket hang over his gun. Rostov kept his hands up too after unlatching the door and he kicked it open and slid out.
“Over there,” Peya said to Rostov. He waved the pistol toward Piton and Rostov moved around the front of the Toyota.
In the time it takes to blink an eye Piton pulled his Walther and shot Peya in the head. Peya, already brain dead, reflexively managed to squeeze his trigger and hit Rostov in the stomach. Azil lunged at Piton but Piton feigned left and easily took a clean shot to Azil’s head, a misty cloud of red and white still hovering as Azil’s body crumbled. The gunshots quickly evaporated into the empty landscape. Piton turned and saw Rostov slumped against a large boulder, his hands pressing into his stomach, his clothes growing crimson between his chest and groin.
Piton went up to Rostov and ripped open his shirt and looked at the wound. Left side, center. A lot of organs in there. Stomach, colon, kidney, couldn’t remember which side the liver was on; no way to stop the bleeding out here. At best fifty-fifty if he were in the emergency room of a good hospital. Piton looked at the creased face of Rostov. His mouth was still, the only outlet for his pain seemed to be his eyes.
“I don’t want to die out here,” Rostov said calmly. “What does it look like?”
“Not good, my friend.”
“Any chance?”
“I don’t think so.” Piton paused. “You want to try I’ll take you back.”
Rostov looked up at Piton. His face was drained, pale as a ship’s sail beside the brown rock he leaned up against. Piton reached over and felt for a pulse on Rostov’s neck. Slow, and slowing.
“Listen,” Rostov said, his voice fading.
Rostov reached up and pulled on Piton’s sleeve, bringing him closer. Piton put his ear to Rostov’s mouth.
“Make sure my wife gets the money, friend. Please. Tell Buckley and Boxx. Please do this for me. It’s put away, Boxx is holding it for me.” Rostov let go of Piton’s sleeve, leaving his bloody fingerprints on the navy blue jacket. “Promise me,” Rostov said.
“Sure,” Piton said.
Rostov stared off, breathing slowly. Piton turned away too. After a few moments he heard Rostov start to wheeze. He coughed a little and then Rostov turned his head away from Piton and spit. It was red.
“Stay with me,” Rostov finally said. His voice barely a whisper now. He began to cry but slowly stopped. “I don’t want to die alone,” he said meekly.
“I’m here,” Piton said and he moved over and sat on the rock next to Rostov. Rostov lifted his hand and Piton shifted his Walther from his right hand to his left and took Rostov’s hand and held it. He felt the heavily calloused hand and the blood on it warm and sticky and thick. Piton turned and looked out over the rugged hills and saw patches of green dotting the landscape. He knew there would probably be water near those green spots but it didn’t matter now. Water wouldn’t do Rostov a bit of good. After a few minutes he felt Rostov’s hand go limp. He turned and looked at Rostov. His eyes were open, the pain seemed to have gone, and his face was still, motionless. Piton turned and looked in the direction Rostov faced and saw the last sight Rostov had seen. The flat brown plain leading to an endless run of saw-toothed mountains ringed with snow and below the snow a thin lush green line and below that the hard brown earth. Above the range a deep blue sky had puffs of clouds strewn across it as if a huge steam locomotive had passed by recently leaving a trail of white smoke behind. Piton closed Rostov’s eyes just as a puff of wind blew by. Rostov’s hair lifted a moment and then the wind passed.
Piton walked down the mule path in the direction Peya had indicated. The path led down a ways and then switched back again and again and disappeared into the distance. The rocky terrain was barren and empty. If this is the way to where the PND is it would take a miracle to find it, he thought. He scanned the area to the east of him but saw no markings, no indications of anything other than complete barrenness. The silence, Piton thought as he glanced back at Rostov, was loud. Time to regroup. Wishful thinking, looking for something buried out here without a map.
Piton walked back and emptied Rostov’s pockets and put the belongings into his own pockets. Then he went over to the Kurds and did the same. Then he got in the Toyota and drove back to Van. He was thirsty but had no appetite.
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Published on August 05, 2014 13:56 • 141 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

July 11, 2014

“Right,” Clydesdale said. “So that’s the gist of it; American’s have taken over of course, he was their man, you see. Because it happened here they’ve asked us to assist, naturally, special relationship and all of that. You’ll be working with your counterpart, he’s in Amsterdam now, bloke called Dimon. There’s a thread indicating one or more of the shooter’s will end up there. Seems a big pot of money wired to a bank there got our attention. You’ll be debriefed in Grosvenor Square. Chap named Coldwell waiting for you.”
Rose looked at Clydesdale and tried to get his bearings. Twenty-four hours ago he’d left Cairo planning to debrief the PM on the pending announcement by the Americans here in London that a peace deal had been reached between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians. Land for peace, security guarantees, agricultural ties, municipal agreements, Jerusalem issue, all of it put on the table and managed by the Americans focused on the best interests of both parties equally, backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. A breakthrough seventy-five years in the making. Rose was there himself when Ambassador Stratton had gotten the Israeli PM and the leader of the Palestinian coalition to shake hands on the deal. It was momentous, even though the talks, the Cairo meetings, everything had been in secret. That was the whole point. No time for a public discourse, as in the past. Push it out there as a done deal, just like President Carter had done with the Camp David Peace accords of 1979.
But what had been achieved twenty-four hours ago had been completely undone by an assassination squad in the early morning hours while he had been hurriedly making love to Celine in the 17th before his car showed up at the door to take him to DeGaulle. And now, Clydesdale had just told him, his assignment was to assist the Americans in tracking down who was behind the shooting of Ambassador Stratton. Not just the ones who pulled the trigger, rather more importantly the ones who ordered and paid for it. But of course to get there one had to get to the shooters first. Go to Grosvenor Square, Clydesdale said. Chap named Coldwell waiting for you.
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Published on July 11, 2014 06:37 • 132 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, suspense, thriller

July 3, 2014

Rostov was tired. His body was asleep but his mind was jumpy. He lay motionless in his bed and looked out the window. The sky was steel, smoky gray, like a battleship. He heard his wife in the kitchen fussing with the samovar as he reluctantly lifted his thick wrist. 9.30. Suddenly he sat up and shook his head. Come on, Alexanderovich, he said to himself. One more errand and you can come back and sleep.
The trip home had been arduous. When Nehet left him in Tbilisi it had been three o’clock in the afternoon and he’d had to wait until nine o’clock for the next flight to Moscow. Rostov made due with a wooden bench, a stale roll, and a cup of tepid tea; the two black metal suitcases on the floor squeezed tightly between his legs. Although he’d been up over twenty-four hours he dared not sleep. Adding to his woes the Aeroflot flights to Moscow were sold out and the only flight he could get on was some unknown local airline. It had cost him nearly five hundred US in bribes to allow him to carry on his two suitcases but getting a seat was impossible. Once aboard the plane, an ancient Ilyushin 18V, one of those old four prop jobs that had once been the work horse of the Soviet Air Force, Rostov saw all the seats filled with a lot of children on the laps of adults and a crowd of about twenty standing in the rear of the plane. Rostov quietly took his place in the back squeezing in between two unshaven Uzbek businessmen with gold teeth in cheap suits reeking of garlic. Just before take-off the stewardesses ordered all those standing in the rear of the plane forward behind the door to the cockpit until they reached altitude when she ordered them back aft where they had been standing. Nearly three hours later, on the final approach to Moscow, they repeated the same maneuver again. It was nearly three in the morning when Rostov finally set his two suitcases down in his apartment, his arms numb, his wife sound asleep, and his teenage daughter only God knew where.
Now, on the kind of gray morning only Muscovites truly knew, Rostov made the attempt to motivate himself and get his ass out of bed, quickly shower, dress, suck down a cup of his wife’s reheated tea, make a quick phone call and, with each of the suitcases, walk to Paveletskaya Station where he was to find a certain taxi that would take him on his last leg in this journey to deliver the two suitcases containing the two million dollars US, minus four hundred for the Kurds, seven hundred for travel, and five hundred in bribes, to the man this money belonged to.
In Paveletskaya he found the taxi, the one with a card in the window that said “Borofsky” and underneath in smaller writing, “Gazprom.” Neither he nor the driver said anything as the taxi pulled away and sped down Novokuznetskaya Street. They passed through Koltso as if they were the only car going through the intersection and continued on without yielding through the next two.
At the Novokuznetskaya Metro station the driver stayed left and, after crossing the canal, hung a sharp right and drove straight into an underground parking garage at speed. It happened so quick Rostov did not notice which building they entered. Underneath the driver pulled alongside an elevator that led upstairs and, turning in his seat for the first time, simply nodded at the elevator. Then he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, dialed a number and said, “He’s coming up.”
Rostov hauled himself out of the taxi, dragging the two suitcases after him, and stood in the nearly empty garage. It smelled of exhaust and damp cement. The taxi screeched as it pulled away and Rostov watched it speed up the exit ramp. Then it was gone. He walked to the elevator. Without pushing the button he could see by the LCD floor read-out that it was already descending. Boxx’s latest headquarters, he thought. Rostov wasn’t surprised, on the contrary, he expected as much. Boxx was a man who never stayed put for very long. Moved around the world as often as the moon. Something Rostov had gotten very much used to over the years.
The door opened and revealed a burly man of about six feet, his neck the size of Rostov’s thigh, and arms so thick and hard Rostov could see the outlines of the man’s veins in his biceps through his tight shirt sleeves. He had a thick black mustache but his head was shaved, revealing a scar over the top of his left ear. Rostov stepped in and realized he was in a hotel elevator. Judging by the neighborhood it must be the Kempinski, he thought. The elevator went all the way to the top floor and opened into a foyer where two men in dark suits stood guard. Rostov recognized them. They nodded at Rostov and began to walk down the foyer. There were no doors, just paintings, reproductions actually, of old Russia, Czarist Russia, Turgenev’s Russia, in shiny gold leaf frames hanging over bright red velvet wallpaper. Rostov followed the two men. The plush burgundy carpet was soft, quiet. At the end one of them opened the door and waved Rostov through. When Rostov stepped in to what appeared to be the sitting room of a large suite he saw Vladimir Boxx sitting by the window in a silk black robe, his thin hair perfectly combed, his goatee exquisitely trimmed, and a blonde woman sitting next to him, completely naked, holding his hand, her pale white skin flawless and her breasts as fresh and firm as ripe fruit. She was, Rostov thought, absolutely stunning. Boxx looked up, saw Rostov, and pulled his hand back from the woman. He looked at her.
“I will think about,” he said.
“Please, I beg of you Vladimir,” the woman said. Either she didn’t know Rostov had stepped into the room or she didn’t care.
“I said,” Boxx turned away from the woman. “I will think about it. Now leave me to do some business.”
The woman stood up, gave Boxx a kiss on his forehead, and walked toward a door on the left without so much as glancing at Rostov. He felt a tingling sensation in his groin. She was, Rostov thought, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Boxx turned to Rostov. “O.k. Alexander,” he said. “What have you got?”
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Published on July 03, 2014 08:32 • 136 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

June 24, 2014

“O.k.,” Hashemi said. “Don’t do anything. Stay there. You remember the house in West Beirut?” Hashemi began to flip through the notebook. “O.k., meet me there tomorrow, noon.” Hashemi flipped the cell phone shut and pulled his pants on. He heard the shower running in the bathroom. This was going to turn out to be a very expensive afternoon, he thought. Very expensive.

The next day in West Beirut General Abdulhassan Hashemi began to sweat out the late June heat and humidity of the western Mediterranean. The worn and over-driven black Mercedes threaded through the dusty alleys of the city as if it were on auto-pilot. Hashemi rubbed his eyes while he wondered how much the Americans knew, if they knew anything at all, and what this would mean for Operation Desert Wind. Why now? he thought. Of all the things that could have gone wrong in the last two years he thought this was one thing he could at least exercise some control over. And he’d managed pretty well thus far. Had the Americans discovered the ship? Was Sadr aware? It would be nearly impossible to reach him and Hashemi worried about that. But no matter what, Hashemi kept telling himself, he had to remain above it. Manage expectations and stay in control.
At the house in West Beirut Hashemi jumped out, the Hezbollah guards running after him, struggling to keep up. There were two guards standing by the door. Hashemi shouted something and they let him pass. He took the dank stairs two at a time, his wooden heels echoing up the stairwell announcing his arrival in advance. At the top floor he saw Jabar and some others standing in the doorway and smelled the sweet smell of Lebanese tobacco wafting through the hallway. Behind him he heard the four guards marching up the stairs after him, at least a flight below.
“General…,” Jabar said.
“Hello Mahmoud. Is Musawi here?”
“Yes. Inside. Come.”
They walked single file into the living room. Husayn Ali-Musawi sat cross-legged in the center, a tray of dates and some water and cigarettes and some bottles of Coca-Cola on a wood board between him and two others. When he saw Hashemi he stood up.
The two men embraced warmly.
“We have a difficulty,” Hashemi said.
“I’ve heard.” Ali-Musawi, his sad, droopy eyes gazing past Hashemi and towards the others, reached for a cigarette and a box of matches.
“I would like to speak with my associate,” Hashemi said. “For a real time brief, may I?”
“Certainly,” Ali-Musawi said. “Please, make yourself at home.” He motioned toward another room. “You may go in there for some privacy.”
Hashemi and Jabar went into the other room and walked to the far wall, the one furthest from the doorway. He took out his encrypted Thuraya and dialed Sadr’s control in New York. He cupped the phone as it went through the myriad aspects of connecting to a point 5600 miles away and said to Jabar, “We will tell his control what we know. If he wants to abort we’ll deal with Musawi, if he doesn’t we won’t say a word about any of this. Everything goes forward and we are simply paying a visit before we go operational, yes?”
“Yes,” Jabar said, nodding his head. “As you wish.”
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Published on June 24, 2014 14:01 • 75 views • Tags: beirut, dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, thriller

December 5, 2013

Heathrow Airport, London.

Jack Rose strolled anonymously along the jet-way sandwiched between a cuckolded husband, his demanding and overweight wife, and three obviously spoiled daughters. They had sat behind him on the plane and he was, by now, much too familiar with their family squabbling, money seeming to be the glue that was tearing them apart. The price he paid, Rose reckoned, for making a last minute stop-over in Paris. He held his battered briefcase in one hand while with the other reached into his inside pocket for his well thumbed passport with the diplomatic cover and the fast track chip. He hoped Charlene had been on the ball and had one of the pool drivers waiting. He had no choice but to spend a few hours at the office before he headed home. He knew all too well if the PM wanted a briefing in the morning he had better be prepared. And chances were extremely high he would. At least that was the last indication Charlene had given him before he left Cairo.
“If the limousine isn’t there it will be your father’s fault,” the heavy woman in front of Rose said to no one in particular. “I refuse to take one of those awful lorries they call a bus,” she whined.
“Did you daddy? We want a limo!”
“Limo! Limo! Limo!” all four chimed.
“It is a hundred and twenty quid for one,” the husband said meekly. “The bus is thirty-five.”
“LIMO! LIMO! LIMO!” the wife yelled. “Don’t you hear them?”
“Don’t be such a cheapskate!”
“Yes, daddy, please, just think of what Sally Crouse will say when she sees us pull up in a limo! Just back from Paris in a limo!”
“Dolly’s right George,” the wife said. “Don’t forget about the neighbor’s.” She turned and gave her husband George a look that Rose was sure would strip the paint off a wrought iron fence. Her eyes widened and her mouth turned down in such a way that the corners looked sharp as knives. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to lug our baggage all the way from the bus stop to the house, George. If we take the bus home you’re responsible for the luggage. Right, girls?”
Rose quickened his step and bypassed the doomed family just as he reached the gate for immigration. He saw the passageway for fast track and shot right through.
“Pleasant trip Mr. Rose?”
“Yes,” Rose replied. “The Pyramids this time of year are amazing.”
“I’ve heard that,” the immigration officer said as he stamped Rose’s passport. “Welcome back.”
Rose smiled as he bypassed baggage and went straight out through the arrivals toward the street. He saw no one waiting for him, no one he recognized anyway, and went out onto the street. A line of taxi’s snaked to the left of him and he looked for the que. Suddenly he felt a hand on his arm and before he could turn he heard, “Please come with me, Commander.”
Rose recognized the voice and turned to see the familiar face of Longfellow, lead driver for the pool, and he broke out into a grin.
“Times must be tough for you to be picking up the likes of me,” Rose said.
“Someone’s got to do the dirty work,” Longfellow said dryly.
They walked in silence to the car parked in a handicapped slot at the front, the agency placard splayed across the dashboard. Once inside Longfellow turned in his seat.
“American Ambassador, fellow by the name of Stratton, heard of him?”
“Of course, just saw him yesterday in Cairo,” Rose said.
“Yes, of course. Bloke bought it at the Connaught just after seven this morning.”
"So we're..."
"Going to 10 Downing," Longfellow said as he put the blue strobe light on the dashboard.
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Published on December 05, 2013 13:00 • 114 views • Tags: dimon, jack-sussek, spy, thriller

October 23, 2013

Peshawar, Pakistan

There were some shouts; then heavy pounding. Boom! Out the window the air was claustrophobic; thick, black like oil. The stars were out there too, somewhere; hidden by a blanket of diesel exhaust, dust, and wood smoke that had once again settled over Peshawar. Twenty miles out, he knew, you’d see an ebony sky so deep and stars so bright you’d think you were on the moon. Khalid listened and could tell by the sound they were using a steel battering ram. He felt sick, nauseas, exhausted. A chill ran through him even though his forehead shined a thin film of sweat; he shivered lightly. His feet and hands were numb and his mouth dry. The rancid smell coming from the bucket half full of vomit beside him reminded him of the neighborhood in Karachi he grew up in. Odd, he thought. He looked at his watch as he heard the door give way. A little late, he thought. But then again, this is Peshawar. He quickly stuffed the few things he’d been looking at into a worn, well used black leather case; his Qu’ran, a few photos, his good luck piece, and the file he had taken from Islamabad. His hands shook and his arms ached as he struggled to slip the bag’s carrying strap over his shoulder. Then he reached over, grabbed his hat, and put it on his now nearly bald head. He tried to control his shivering.
Boom! Bam! Crack! The door splintered, crashed open. Khalid sat calmly in his chair and leaned against the table. He smiled. Near the end of it now, he thought. The bright fluorescent light above made him look very pale, ghost like. The sores on his body ached and itched but he ignored them now as he watched the soldiers surround him, the pain no longer important. A Major stepped up in front of him. Do I recognize him, he thought? Pretty low rank for someone like me, he noted. I wonder if this Major knows who I am. Then he remembered this wasn’t about him, or them, anymore. This whole thing had left them now, gone on to a much more serious, more intense level. A level much higher than any of them.
“Praise be to Allah,” Khalid mumbled in a raw, raspy sandpaper voice, “the compassionate, the merciful, the all-knowing.” His yellow bloodshot eyes looked directly at the Major. “What took you?” he asked. “I’ve been here a bloody week.”
The Major remained silent and stared coldly at Khalid as a familiar crew-cut American dressed in jeans and a well-worn flight jacket stepped out from behind the Major.
“Hello, Jack,” Khalid said, his voice barely above a whisper now and he suddenly felt an enormous sense of relief wash over him. The pain that had racked his body these last weeks no longer bothered him, as if Jack’s presence had somehow erased it, like a salve or an antidote of some sort. He offered up his left arm, not quite a sacrifice, watched as Jack took it and pushed back his heavily starched sleeve. The American swabbed an alcohol pad on the inside of Khalid’s spongy arm, found a vein, inserted the needle. Only a matter of time now, Khalid knew. Couple days, week at most. The Major took out a set of flex ties, cuffed Khalid’s hands, and placed a hood over his head. Then Khalid heard Jack say in Pashto, “Ok Massoud, it’s your ball now.”
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Published on October 23, 2013 14:12 • 192 views • Tags: dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, pakistan, spy, thriller

September 27, 2013

The café was loud. Voices boomed like rolling boulders down an empty canyon. Spoons tingled tea cups and split the distance between bursts of laughter and muted coughs that bounced between vaulted ceilings and cracked plaster walls. Thin, wispy lines of smoke patched together like woven threads rose from dozens of water pipes and wafted over the large crowded room like a gentle mist over a river at dawn. Men, and there were only men here, shouted and argued and laughed and waved fingers and drank tea from stained cups in between puffs off the hookah. Although merely a popular tea house this café could have passed as one of Teheran’s busiest bazaars. As it was Buckley had the sense life here was a little out of control and it helped ease the tenuous anxiety he always felt in a society where control was everything.
He glanced at his watch for perhaps the twentieth time in as many minutes. He sipped his warm Coke but longed for a good cup of coffee despite the fact he was British. He despised tea. Watered down mud as far as he was concerned. Bashir, of course, was late.
He was always late. That was the thing about dealing with Muslims, Buckley wryly noted. Not like the English at all. In the thirty some years he’d been doing business in the East he’d long ago accepted the fact that time had a different meaning here. He didn’t mean to stereotype, in his business it was fatal, but generally speaking it was true. As if the Prophet had written in some kind of allowance for the perpetual ignorance of punctuality simply by excusing it as God’s Will.
Buckley smiled to himself as he allowed the full weight of his cynicism overrule his better judgment. He had always suspected why Muslims relied on muezzins, those necessary but cherished men who sang the call to prayer. It was the Prophet’s way of insuring the believers prayed on time. Such is life.
Buckley glanced at his watch again, a simple stainless steel affair with luminous hands, a date, a worn crocodile strap, not obtrusive, discreetly plain, a quartz movement. He always wore it when he was doing business in this part of the world, he’d had it for years and, like his unstylish tan linen suit, sans tie, with his scuffed and worn brown leather shoes, it made him feel comfortable, at ease. When doing business in the Middle East he had always felt if he wore one of his more expensive watches along with one of his bespoke Saville Row suits it would convey something he didn’t want his buyers or sellers to infer. Teheran wasn’t London or New York. God, no. What Buckley wanted was to look just like any of the other men sitting in this back alley café in a struggling Teheran neighborhood. And he did. And Buckley knew as far as Bashir was concerned, and all the rest of them, he was simply a go-fer, a middleman’s middleman, struggling like the rest of them to make a living in that rough and tumble area between a rock and a hard place.
He rubbed the back of his hand against the three day growth on his chin and recalled the last time he had seen Bashir. Not that long ago. Late last year. End of November. Or was it early December? Similar café, although instead of Teheran it was Paris, and instead of tea and hookahs it was coffee and cigarettes. And like today, Bashir was late then too. But they’d had a good deal, Buckley remembered, that Paris one. Forty-five hundred crates of US Army claymores delivered to Aden that, as far as the United States Government was concerned, had been destroyed back in 1991 along with thousands of tons of other ordnance left over from the Vietnam War. All part of a Pentagon program to “destroy and upgrade,” a direct result of the so-called ‘peace dividend’ that American politicians claimed they were owed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Buckley smiled to himself. He loved peace dividends and ‘destroy and upgrade’ programs. He smiled as he recalled the hefty profit he’d collected from Bashir that day in Paris. Buckley rarely reminisced but he couldn’t forget how pleased Bashir had been too. And that, Buckley knew, was the age old sign of a good deal. Both buyer and seller equally sharing in their good fortune. Something that seems to be rarer and rarer these days.
Buckley leaned back and reached inside his jacket for a cigarette. He tapped one out and rapidly banged the filtered end against the end of the table before fitting it into the corner of his mouth. He reached into his pocket again and withdrew a scuffed and dented stainless steel lighter with the red star and USSR written in Cyrillic underneath. On the back was written a phrase of which Buckley had long ago forgotten and under that the Cyrillic letters ‘KGB.’ He lit the cigarette and exhaled slowly, blowing the smoke upward, above his head, so that a small halo-like cloud hovered above him.
He loved it when countries decided to destroy weapons. Especially western nations. That was Buckley’s specialty. Selling weapons that didn’t exist anymore. And that, Buckley knew, was the basis of his well developed and deeply formed relationship with Bashir and the reason why he waited, no matter how long, in this noisy, smoke filled café on the eastern edge of this working class neighborhood in Teheran.
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Published on September 27, 2013 09:03 • 110 views • Tags: arms-dealer, dimon, espionage, jack-sussek, spy, thriller