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Authors: Merry Jones

Outside Eden (25 page)

BOOK: Outside Eden
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Had Travis driven one of those cars? Harper pulled the jeep up beside them, got out and looked inside each of them. They were impeccably clean, uncluttered. Rentals? Rented by the dig? Or by Travis’s followers?

Her leg throbbed, but she scurried to the trailers, edging around them, listening, looking. Finding no one.

But Travis had to be here. Harper looked behind her, up ahead. The site was perfectly still, silent as time.

Travis might be hiding, watching her. He’d be desperate. Harper needed a weapon; she crept into the supply shed, grabbed a hammer, a pick.

Slowly, she moved around the trailers, peering into windows. Finding an empty bunk bed, tables covered with computers, printouts, maps, file boxes, tools, sodas, water bottles. But no Travis. She hunkered beside a generator, holding still, a predator waiting for its prey to reveal itself. But around her, nothing moved, just an occasional hollow breeze. She got up and searched the site, crossing scaffolds, looking into pits, tracing the perimeter, hearing only her sneakers on the ground, the rustle of her clothing, the sound of her breath.

The rest was silence.

But somebody must be here. Those four cars in the parking lot hadn’t driven there themselves. Harper rotated a full circle, saw no sign of Travis. She retraced her steps, returning to the parking lot, accepting that she’d been wrong. Travis wasn’t at the dig. She was the only living creature there. All alone. A chill skittered up her neck; a ripple of warning. Wait – were those footsteps behind her? She whirled, gripping the pick, saw an empty expanse of parking lot, the abandoned prison tower. Letting out a breath, she kept walking. Told herself she was imagining the faint shoveling sounds; nobody was in the pit. But when voices flitted by, too faint to understand, Harper pivoted, poised to strike.

And found empty air.

Air and stillness. The voices faded like the breeze. The site was deserted except, perhaps, for recently released spirits of the dead, unearthed by the dig. Maybe they were toying with her. But no one else was there; work had stopped early in anticipation of the fast day. And there was no sign of Travis, no evidence that he was trying to make a sacrifice at Megiddo, the location mentioned in the Bible.

Harper looked one more time across the site; saw the excavation, the top of the ancient wall. Raw, newly exposed earth and rock. Bare scaffolds. Ropes swinging in the breeze. Stark shadows.

Lots of shadows.

Which meant it was late in the afternoon. Probably around four o’clock.

And there were only about eight hours until the ninth of Av.

She was wasting time. Had to get back to the kibbutz and help them search there for Travis – assuming they hadn’t already found him. She hopped back into the jeep. Pulling out of the parking lot, she glanced at the row of parked cars. Wondered again what they were doing there, who’d left them there. Four brand new Corollas. Never mind.

When she pulled into the kibbutz, the guard directed her to the side of the road, removed her from the jeep and escorted her to a building near the gate. Harper tried to talk to him, but he didn’t understand English. Or didn’t want to talk to her. He led her to a room with cinder block walls painted a shade of avocado green that reminded Harper of Chloe’s finger painting, its mixture of yellow and blue. The room had a grate over the window, was furnished with several folding chairs, a table bolted to the floor. Nothing else.

Harper sat. Ran a hand through her hair. Reasoned that she had some explaining to do, but that she’d be all right once the authorities understood what had happened. What her military background was. What she’d been trying to do. Meantime, she wondered what had happened in the hour since she’d left. Had they found Travis? Rounded up his followers? Was Hagit all right? And Chloe . . . She closed her eyes, remembering her scent. Were the children safe? Hot rage pulsed through her, thinking of the council members, their threats. She stood. Went to the window, noted the iron bars. No way she could climb out; in fact, she couldn’t even really see out with all the crud and dust on the pane. Damn. She should have brought her phone. Called Hank, let him know what was going on. She was in a damned holding cell – how long had she been there? Had it been minutes? Half an hour? How long would she have to wait? She paced, recycling her questions. Sat again. Stood again. Wanted to scream, pound on the walls.

Finally, the door opened, and Gal came in.

‘Thank God,’ she stood. ‘Gal, can I go now?’

Gal took a seat. Didn’t indicate that she’d be leaving.

‘Have they found Travis?’

He watched her. ‘I think you have things to tell me,’ he said.

And she did. Harper told him everything. About the men she’d followed to the bunker, their attempt to kill Hagit as a sacrifice. Their threat to harm the children if Hagit resisted. She told him about the confrontation and Travis’s escape, her mistaken notion that he’d fled to the dig, and the likelihood that, even now, he and the other church leaders would try to kill someone before the ninth of Av.

Gal watched her, unsurprised. He crossed his legs. ‘So the two men who are dead, Harper. You killed them?’

The question startled her. ‘We . . . Wait. Two men?’ She’d been sure only of one. Unless Hagit had killed someone with that can of apple sauce? ‘I had no choice. They’d have killed Hagit . . .’

‘You’ll have to explain it to the police.’ He seemed cold. Unfriendly.

Harper was impatient. ‘Of course. But remember, I told the police what the church was up to, and they didn’t believe me. I told Dr Ben Haim, Dr Hadar. No one listened—’

‘Maybe people listened. Maybe they didn’t tell you.’

Really? ‘Well, if they listened, why didn’t they protect Hagit? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. Because now, the ninth of Av is just a few hours away. If we don’t stop Travis before then, someone else will die.’

Gal didn’t move. His gaze remained steady.

‘Gal? Listen to me. They won’t stop – they believe they’re doing God’s will . . .’

‘I understand. But you’ve already done too much. You need to talk to the authorities. And then stay out of it.’

‘Talk can wait. If Yael or Adi will watch Chloe, I can help . . .’

‘This is not your country—’

‘Neither was Iraq, but I still tried my best—’

‘And you’ve killed people here.’ Gal’s eyes flared.

Harper closed her mouth, swallowed. Surely, they wouldn’t blame her for the deaths. She’d been rescuing a citizen – a former Mossad agent. ‘Someone else will die, Gal.’

Gal’s eyes still didn’t waver. ‘We’ve been watching these people. We know they are planning something for tomorrow. Because of who you are – who your husband is – because of that situation, you are being treated with special . . . consideration. You have stirred up trouble, made it worse. Another person would be in jail for what you’ve done. I realize your intention is to be helpful, but rest assured: this problem is not on your shoulders. Do you understand?’ He watched her, waiting.

Harper felt her face get hot. She’d killed two men? ‘I do.’

‘Good.’ He stood. ‘I’ll take you to your daughter. You can visit Hagit if you wish. Talk to the police. But nothing else. I warn you: do not get any more involved.’

His tone was final. He gave her shoulder a restrained squeeze before he took her arm. Harper went along, mentally arguing, uttering not a word.

The search for Travis wasn’t going well. His bungalow held only Harold, who swore he hadn’t seen him and had no idea where he was. In fact, no one did. Church members, bereft at his disappearance, had not all been accounted for. Those who’d been located were confined to their bungalows, pending investigation of the bunker incident. Security officers, soldiers and police moved all over the kibbutz, disrupting evening meals and preparations for the upcoming fast day, warning people to stay together, not to go out alone. Looking for Travis and the few missing followers.

Not finding them.

Harper stood in the waiting room of the medical center, rocking Chloe’s stroller back and forth. She couldn’t relax. Too much adrenalin in her system. Gal had refused to let her join the search, had even gone to her bungalow and confiscated her passport and phone. Had left her here, pushing Chloe’s stroller in circles around the waiting room, staring at the door, hoping a doctor would come tell her how Hagit was.

She checked the clock on the wall. Five twenty-five. Where were the doctors? She’d been here for forty minutes. Had talked to Inspector Ben Baruch, had walked the circumference of the room a hundred times. Had wanted to call Hank, but Gal had her phone. Why had Gal taken it? Who was he afraid she’d call? Harper checked Chloe, who napped soundly after a day of hard playing. Lord, why was no one in the waiting room?

Harper turned the stroller around, pushed it toward the window. Told herself that Hagit was tough, that she’d be fine. But how badly hurt had she been? She’d been dizzy, her eye blackened, forehead cut. Harper reversed her direction and headed back toward the door. Why wouldn’t the police let her help? She was wasting time there, waiting, doing nothing. The ninth of Av was six hours away. Travis and his people would make a desperate last effort at a sacrifice. She wanted to assist the search, but Inspector Ben Baruch had scolded her like an angry schoolteacher. ‘I don’t give, as you say, a rat’s ass what war you fought or what you’re intentions are.’

She’d asked for her passport, her phone.

He’d looked at her eyes. ‘I think not. Not until this mess is sorted out. And meantime, you are to keep out of it. Completely out of it. Understood?’

Why did everyone ask her that?

‘Understood.’ But she didn’t understand, not really. With her training and experience, she could be an asset to them.

She turned the stroller around, frustrated. Breathing too fast. Deciding she’d waited long enough. She stepped to the door to the treatment rooms, opened it a crack. Peeked inside, saw a hallway with several rooms. Heard Mozart playing, saw no one. Propped the door open with Chloe’s stroller and went into the hallway. Looked into the first room. Saw Jimmy, his arm in a plaster cast, staring at a ceiling fan. Frank was in the bed opposite, his skull wrapped in gauze.

Oh dear. She dashed away before either noticed her, continued down the hall. Wondered where the other men were. That one guy, Wendell – she’d broken his jaw. They’d have to wire him. She looked into the next room.

‘Why are you sneaking? You look like a thief.’ Hagit was sitting up in bed, holding a cup of something. Her forehead was pasted together with butterfly bandages.

‘You’re all right?’ Harper let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.

‘Me? Of course. Where’s the baby?’

Harper glanced back at the stroller. ‘Here. She’s sleeping.’ Harper ran a hand through her hair. ‘Damn. I’ve been so worried. There’s no one to get information from . . .’

‘They’re a little busy here. Somebody went on a rampage and broke a ton of bones. And this isn’t exactly a New York City hospital. It’s a small staff here.’

Harper wasn’t appeased. ‘Hagit, Frank and another one of Travis’s followers are in the next room. Nobody’s even watching them. Those guys tried to kill you—’

‘Believe me. They’re harmless now. Police are stationed outside and they’re checking on me. Besides, those two next door are no danger any more, and I think a couple of others are waiting for surgery. You did some damage.’ She smiled.

Harper swallowed, recalling the snapping sound of Jimmy’s arm. The crushing of his companion’s throat. She looked around, checked Chloe again. ‘So, are you in pain?’

Hagit smirked. ‘I have a concussion. A cracked cheekbone. A black eye. An etching in my forehead. Of course I’m in pain.’

Harper nodded. For a moment they were both silent.

‘So I guess that means you can’t babysit Chloe tonight?’

Hagit nodded. ‘See? I’ve been too good to you. Now, I take off one night, and you’re helpless.’

Another pause.

‘It’s too quiet here, Hagit. I don’t like it. You should have a guard.’

‘They put guards outside, didn’t you see?’

‘But that’s outside.’

‘The nurses are here. Remember, we were all in the army.’

‘But the nurses are busy. You said it yourself.’

‘I have an alarm button.’

More silence.

‘They took my phone. Can I borrow yours to call Hank?’

Hagit blinked a few times. ‘The battery’s dead. I need to recharge it.’

‘I’ll take it back to the bungalow. I can recharge it—’

‘But it’s with my things. Somewhere. I don’t know where they put them.’

Harper watched her, saw Hagit’s eyes shift. Was she lying? Why would she lie about her phone? And why wouldn’t anyone let her make a call? Were they afraid she’d cause trouble – call the embassy or something? Or . . . were they trying to prevent her from calling Hank? Why would they? Oh God. Had something happened to him?

No, ridiculous. Nothing had happened to him. If something had, they wouldn’t hide it from her. The police – hell, the government would have told her. She was being paranoid, imagining problems as if she didn’t already have enough. Even so, she wondered: if Hagit didn’t have the phone, how could she know the battery was dead?

‘Go. I’ve had enough conversation.’

Harper gave her a careful hug, promised she’d be back in the morning. In the hall, she glanced into the room across the hall. Peter Watts was in there, still limp and ghastly pale; a nurse checked his blood pressure. Harper was considering going in to wish him well when Hagit called, ‘One more thing.’

Harper turned. Hagit had hobbled out of bed and had made it to the doorway. She held the wall for support, curled a forefinger, motioning Harper to come close.

‘What are you doing? You need to be in bed.’

Hagit stared at Harper’s throat, nodding. ‘Okay. You’re wearing it. Remember. The baby, too. Both of you. Wear your
hamsas
. Promise.’

The nurse looked out at them.

‘Go lie down,’ Harper shooed her.

‘Promise me.’

The nurse looked up; Peter Watts turned a wan face their way.

Hagit didn’t move. ‘Well?’

BOOK: Outside Eden
3.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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