Authors: Lavina Giamusso
As soon as Khalid reached his room; he unpacked his laptop, plugged it in and waited until he could get on the Internet. For the past several weeks, he had learned and had grown to enjoy the technology. He could search for anything and get an instant response, and he could get in touch with anyone readily enough. The programs’ feature even allowed him to write his emails in Arabic. Once on-line, he took no time to contact his Uncle Abdullah in Riyadh. He had no idea of the time difference, and he was not even sure his uncle would respond after Khalid’s deliberate silence for the past months, but he had to try.
Following the usual introductory sentences, he wrote:
I am in Australia until tomorrow night. The authorities are seeking to arrest Samuel Meshullam (a.k.a. Isaac Whittlestein) in the next few days. There is an order of extradition for him to be returned to Canada as soon as he is captured.
From what I can gather at this point, Muhammad Sadir’s involvement in this affair has been put into question. Since he is your friend and he has interceded in the locating of Ben Slimane, the question that has to be asked is whether he was himself a Mossad agent. How far did your friendship go? Be prepared to be questioned some time soon.
Your devoted nephew, Khalid Saif Al-Fadir.
He left the computer open, just in case his uncle would respond immediately, and went to open his suitcase. He wanted to get out of the suit and tie and into more appropriate clothes. He had not gone outside yet, but somehow felt oppressed. Distractedly, he took the envelope that Constable Strickland had given him at the issue of their interview. He opened it and looked at the tickets. To his surprise, he was booked on a flight to Singapore and then on a connecting flight to Paris. His heart sank. He sat down. He had expected to fly back to San Francisco, from where he had planned to make a detour via Vancouver. Again, he felt trapped. He could not figure out how or when he was going to see Talya. He was not aware that she was making great progress now toward a full recovery. He thought of Aziz’s call. He had let him and Talya down.
He shook his head, dismayed. He rummaged through his suitcase and found the clothes he was looking for. He got up from the bed, and as he was about to go into the bathroom to have a shower, he heard the jingle alerting him that ‘
he got mail
’ from the computer.
He dropped his clothes on the bed, sat down in front of the screen, open his uncle’s email and read:
Although very happy to hear from you at long last, the news your message brought me is indeed troublesome. Muhammad’s reputation was never a cause for me to worry. Admittedly, he was well informed when we first contacted him regarding the whereabouts of Mr. Slimane, which was surprising at the time. However, as a CIA agent for some years, I had no qualms regarding the information he provided. Are you suggesting he is then a double agent? If he is, you are right in assuming that I will be questioned regarding my association with him. All I can tell you, at this point, is that I have never known him to be involved with the weapons’ trade that was uncovered last year.
Not wanting to sound remiss in my concern, I must ask you if you have been able to see Ms Kartz lately. How is she progressing? If you do see her, please give her my regards and my best wishes for her recovery. What she suffered is my fault.
Your uncle, Abdullah Saif Al-Fadir.
Khalid read the last sentence again.
Uncle Abdullah should not feel responsible for Talya being shot,
he thought. At the time, his uncle was himself entangled in a web of deceit that even saw him being declared persona non grata in Switzerland and subsequently dismissed from his OPEC secretarial position. Apparently, Mossad, together with the CIA, had used him as well as countless others in pursuit of their ultimate goal—defeat the Palestinians at Gaza.
I have not been able to visit Talya yet. Dr Hendrix has called on me to go to her, but the events that followed his telephone call interfered with my intention to fly to Vancouver and saw me land in Sydney this morning. I was intending to go back to Paris via Canada, but the authorities are preventing me to do so at this time. I will be in Singapore tomorrow and from there I am to take a direct flight to Paris.
As soon as I reach my apartment, I will contact you again and perhaps then, we could discuss the possible involvement of Muhammad Sadir at length.
It was all he could do to contain his curiosity or amazement in front of the two constables. During the last 30 hours since he had left Ottawa, decisions had been made, measures taken and orders given that contravened everything he had heard prior to his departure. Mark was glad to hear that Samuel was up on charges and that extradition papers would be ratified as soon as the Aussies would put the guy behind bars. Yet, how did the wheels of his
suddenly spun into action when they had virtually grinded to a halt since Talya had been shot?
What’s more, he wasn’t ready to open his mouth and give these two underlings any information he had regarding what preceded his trip to Sydney. He wanted to speak to one of his peers or to the man in charge.
“As we told the both of you,” Strickland began, “we’ve got to find this Samuel fellow and surrender him into your custody as soon as we can. And to do that, we will need your assistance.”
“What do you expect from me, exactly? It’s not like I’ve been here before…”
“It’s not your first time in a foreign country and carrying out orders either,” Damien countered.
“No, it isn’t, but generally I’m well briefed
by my superior
before I go anywhere
I never went blind anywhere…”
“Sorry to contradict you again, Agent Gilford, but you’ve been to Florida and more precisely up the Jackson River, without orders, instructions or briefing, haven’t you?”
these two have quite an update on my dossier.
“Well…, yes…, you’re quite right, but that was an exception…”
“An exception that landed Ms Kartz in deep trouble, didn’t it?”
Mark didn’t like to be interrogated—certainly not by police constables. He decided to stop while he was ahead.
Strickland realized almost immediately they had made an enemy of Mark; their direct and obviously undesirable approach had turned him into a clam. They still needed him to get to Samuel. They thought of themselves as good officers—and they probably were—but they were not trained to track down a master of deceit or one of Mossad’s more famous spies. Even with the latest technology at their disposal, they were at a loss when it came to chase and capture a slippery customer as Samuel was.
“All right, Agent Gilford, we understand we’re only two coppers at our Majesty’s stipends, but we’ve got to get to this bloke before he slips through our fingers and vanishes before our eyes.”
“Okay,” Mark relented, “I know what you’re saying, but I can’t talk to you or even answer your questions or allegations, without talking to my boss first. If you wish, I can go to your office, get on line with him and see what he says. And we can take it from there…, how’s that?”
Both men nodded. “That’s sounds fair enough,” Damien said, replacing his cap atop his head. “Come on, Strick, let’s get him to headquarters.”
Strick got up, grabbed his cap from the table, and led the way out of the room.
Mark felt relieved. He was going to get a low-down on this incredible U-turn. Something must have gone horribly wrong in the agency’s relationship with the CIA for getting everyone turned around so quickly.
Did Mossad activate a sleeping cell when they observed Khalid taking off from Ottawa?
he wondered. However, he was relatively sure their under-cover movements had not been discovered. They would have been stopped in San Francisco if that had been the case.
It didn’t take them long to clear customs, security and all the rest of it, and for the three men to be on their way to the New South Wales police headquarters in Sydney. Expecting their new building to be completed in the next few months, their offices were still located somewhere downtown; exactly where, Mark could not say. They were driving on the left side of the road, which, for one thing, scared him. As Mark was getting used to the traffic moving on the “wrong” side of the road and to the car fumes that seemed to choke the city, they arrived at their destination.
Mark was ushered directly into a large anteroom and asked to sit down in one of the old leather chairs. Damien disappeared into an adjacent room and Strickland sat beside him, cap in his lap this time. The two men remained silent until the door on the far wall opened and an officer in uniform, appeared in the embrasure.
“Agent Gilford, please come in,” the man stated, waving to Mark to follow him back into the room. “I’m Chief Constable Sorenson.” He extended a hand to Mark, which he took in a firm handshake. “Have a chair.” Mark felt out of place straight away. Not only was the office spacious, well-appointed, but Sorenson’s speech and presence were intimidating. He commanded respect. Mark looked down at his scruffy jeans, his wrinkled T-shirt and would have like to hide under the man’s desk rather than talk to him. He sat down between Damien and Strickland, and opposite Sorenson, feeling totally out of his element.
“As I understand it from Constable Damien here”—he nodded in his direction—“you are requesting to place a call to your superior in Ottawa, is that correct?”
“Chief Gibson has explained the matter quite plainly to me, and I believe my constables have transmitted the message in as many details as were pertinent and necessary.” He stopped, frowning and scrutinizing Mark’s face. “So, why would you feel the need to obtain more information at this juncture? Or verify my instructions as it were?”
the man has the ego of an elephant and if I start going against his tsunami of orders now, I’ll be unable to move an inch.
“I have no intention to contravene your instructions or orders, sir, not at all. I wanted to contact Chief Gibson to obtain the latest information on the CIA’s movements and on one person in particular, Agent Sadir.” Sorenson’s eyes grew wider. “Agent Sadir, I believe, holds the thread that could lead us to our Mossad fugitive.”
“What makes you believe such an extrapolation from a mere encounter between the prince and Agent Sadir?”
The man is a prick,
Mark decided. “Sir, if I may…, your constables told Prince Khalid that he would find his passport at the Hotel de Crillon upon his return to Paris.”
“Well, sir, that tells me that you have been in contact with Agent Sadir or that you will be shortly, since Agent Sadir was the last person in possession of our prince’s passport.”
“And what?” To Mark it was obvious. Sadir had probably changed his mind about Khalid meeting Samuel and the duel had been called off. He had called Ottawa, and in turn, the Chief had called Sorenson to stop them. The only hole in this story was why. What happened that made Sadir take a 180-degree turn? “Agent Sadir must have encountered some problem at his end and called off the whole deal. That’s all.”
Sorenson chortled. “I see why you would want to talk to Chief Gibson. You don’t know what happened, do you?”
“No, sir, I don’t. I have been in a plane for the best part of 30 hours and now that my instructions seemed to have changed, I’d like to know why.” Mark caught himself. He sounded like a criminal trying to defend his alibi with a lie. He had to get out from under this guy’s eyes, and grip. He would not be able to function like this. That would mean he would bungle his assignment... no time for that.
“All right, Agent Gilford, you shall have your wish.” Mark couldn’t believe his ears. “Let’s get to the other room and see if we can contact Chief Gibson.”
In a chorus of movement, the three officers and Mark got up and moved toward the door. Damien fell in step with Mark; he didn’t want to lose him.
When Strickland opened the operation centre’s door, and let his Chief, Damien and Mark pass ahead of him, Mark stopped in awe on the threshold. In the semi-darkness, the multiple monitors lining the walls of the room were relating instant, simultaneous information about various operations in the field. The multi-dimensional screens overhung a semi-circular
where a number of technicians were conducting their particular operation from their keyboards. No one turned when Chief Sorenson came in. These officers were totally absorbed in their tasks.
“I see that you are impressed, Agent Gilford,” Chief Sorenson said, visibly pleased with Mark’s reaction.
“Why yes, sir. We’ve got about the same thing in Ottawa, but the degree of sophistication of these computers hasn’t reached our shores yet.”
“That’s one of the advantages of being close to our Japanese neighbours. Mind you, it took quite a lot of convincing on our part to arrive at this result. Our government would have preferred to build these computers on Aussie soil, but that would have delayed progress by five or more years, which was not a viable proposition. Anyway, we’re not here to discuss politics. Let’s get you on line with Chief Gibson.” Mark nodded and sat down in one of the chairs facing a larger screen and beside Sorenson.
“Jim, would you get Chief Gibson in Ottawa on line for us?” the chief said to the back of the officer closer to him.
The young man turned around, nodded, and returning his attention to his screen, he typed a few words on the keyboard. He waited, said something into his
and then looked at Sorenson, shaking his head. “It’s 3:00AM in Ottawa, sir. Chief Gibson is not in his office.”
“Very well then. Get him on the phone at home.”
Mark cringed. Fred never liked to be awakened in the middle of the night.
Jim turned to his screen again and amid multiple mini-screens, Fred Gibson’s number appeared. Sorenson picked up the small earphones and mike that hung over one of the armrests of his chair, and nodded to Mark to do the same. They slipped them into their ears and switched the microphones on. Within seconds, they heard Fred’s grunts of annoyance over the line.
“Gibson here,” he grumbled.
“Chief, Mark here…”
“What? Where are you, boy? What, what’s going on? Have you got him?” As his brain got in gear, the words came out of his mouth clearer.
“I’m still in Sydney, Chief. I’ve got Chief Sorenson here and he
to call you from headquarters...”
“Did you say, “Authorized you”? Since when do you need anyone’s authorization to call me? What have you done? Have you been arrested?”
“No, nothing like that. I’m the one who insisted on calling you at this hour...” He saw Sorenson smile gratefully from the corner of his eye. “I just wanted to know why you’ve stopped us and how come Samuel is to be arrested and extradited?”
“And you call me at 3:00 in the morning for that?” Fred bellowed. “Listen, Mark, it’s simple; you’ve got to find him a-sap, stay alive and bring him back. The rest I’ll explain later when I’m dressed and able to make sense of what I’m saying, okay?”
“Okay, Chief, I’m sorry.”
“Okay…, talk to me tomorrow…, I mean today... Whenever.”
Sorenson turned to Mark as he took his headset off. “I’m sorry, Agent Gilford. It appears that I have overstepped my authority. I guess your attire had a lot to do with my doubting your status or rank. Let’s go downstairs now and I’ll introduce you to the two men who will assist you in this assignment.”
“But I thought Constables Damien and Strickland were assigned to this case already,” Mark uttered, rising from the chair.
“My mistake, Agent Gilford, I should have told you earlier, but the two constables will make the arrest ultimately, yes, however, the locating and apprehending of the felon will be the responsibility of our agents. They are well trained, by MI5 no less, but they know very little when it comes to dealing with a Mossad spy, and that’s where you come in.”