Mike Jerrod spent the night with the Baroud family and brooded about what to do. He was reluctant to allow Youssef to assume the risk of transporting the cylinders to Sour. He was even more reluctant to put them on a small fishing boat in the Mediterranean with people he didn’t know. Youssef’s cousin would likely end up in the hands of the Israeli Navy and Mike didn’t know if Jean Levy’s network of contacts reached into the military. Then there were the possibilities of complete catastrophe: either Youssef falling into the hands of Hezbollah or his cousin’s tiny boat sinking at sea. Losing the cylinders would be a terrible risk, but ruining the lives of the Baroud family was the risk that he was most reluctant to take. It was well after midnight before he was able to sleep and it was before dawn when he woke up in the empty farmhouse. Struggling to focus his eyes, Mike looked around and saw the evidence of abandonment. He was about to call out to the family when he woke up from his dream.
Rather than disturb anyone, Mike quietly walked out the door to answer the call of nature. The morning breeze had cleared the clouds and the predawn sky was filled with stars. Mike smiled as he zipped his fly and pondered his regret that he’d quit smoking. At moments like these he really wanted a cigarette. Youssef’s voice startled him, “Beautiful isn’t it?”
Mike answered, “Yes, people who live in cities never see these stars.”
Youssef smiled, “That is why we live here. When the sun comes up behind those hills in the east, the light is wonderful.”
They stood there in silence and watched the sunrise until Camille, Youssef’s wife, sent the boys out to call them in for breakfast.
It was midday when Pastor Nasrallah pulled up in his BMW sedan. They had a light lunch and finalized their plans: Mike and Khalil would return to Sour while Youssef and the boys made preparations to move the cylinders. Mike would call Jean Levy to determine what could be done with the Israeli Navy. After the cylinders were on the boat in Sour, the Office of the Patriarch would release Mike’s reports to the DGA in Beirut, and while the Lebanese descended upon the Baroud farm, Mike would return to Jerusalem by way of Paris. The alternatives of overland and air transport provided too many opportunities for inadvertent intercept.
In Sour, Mike took a walk on the beach and used the burn phone that Jean Levy had given him in Paris. “We need to meet,” he said, “Call me back and let me know where and when.”
Three hours later Jean returned his call, “Michael, I assume we’re ready.”
“Just about, but we’ll need some help,” Mike replied, “Where will we meet?”
“Cyprus, tomorrow afternoon,” he said, “The archdiocese will send a car tomorrow morning to take you to Beirut. It’s only a short flight to Paphos. We’ll meet you there.”
“Sounds good to me, I’ll be waiting,” said Mike. “Not too long, my friend, not too long,” said Jean.
Mike said goodbye, removed the battery from the phone, dropped it into a trash bin and then removed the SIM card and dropped the phone into another bin down the beach. On his way back to the hotel he tossed the SIM card through a sewer grate. In his hotel room he went back to work on his laptop and the bogus site report for the archdiocese and the DGA, and considered how it was so remarkably simple to arrange the data and shape the truth.
The archdiocese sent the same driver and the same Toyota HiAce van to his hotel in Tyre. The thirty three kilometer ride went quickly but to his surprise, the driver didn’t turn into the terminal. Rather he drove to an open hanger where Mike boarded a chartered Cessna 303. He dropped his backpack into a passenger seat and asked the pilot if it would be alright to sit in the cockpit. “Anything for a friend of Jean,” said the young Greek. In the little bit more than thirty minutes they were in the air, Mike learned that the pilot was the son of a Greek businessman and yet another link in Jean’s chain of international friends. The flight went smoothly and after they landed at the airport in Paphos, Mike slipped into the back seat of a Mercedes and the driver took him to the small village of Kathikas about twenty five kilometers south of the airport. There they pulled past the wooden street gates of an unassuming whitewashed garden house built from cut stone called Villa Saint George.
The driver showed Mike around the split level three bedroom home, lit a fire and opened a bottle of good single malt scotch; then he excused himself and left Mike to his own devices. Mike fired up his laptop and plugged in his flash memory and started to update his neglected personal journal. When he entered the date he laughed because he’d completely forgotten his forty-seventh birthday. Late in the afternoon the driver returned with Jean Levy, a little old Greek lady and three bags of fresh produce, fish, lamb and other delicacies. The driver and the little old lady went to work in the kitchen. Jean had brought two bottles of excellent wine and two fifths of very expensive whiskey. He opened one bottle and handed the second to Mike, “Happy Birthday my friend, let’s drink to your health and then we’ll take a walk through the village.”
As they walked toward the church down the street Jean handed Mike three more burner phones and asked, “So what have you found?”
Mike filled him in on everything as well as the preliminary plans that they’d made to get the cylinders out of Lebanon, “What we need is some assurance from the Israeli navy that Youssef’s cousin can stay out of jail and get his boat back. You know anyone who could help out with that?”
Jean laughed and answered, “Not required. We can simplify things considerably with a transfer in international waters far away from prying eyes.”
“Should I ask how that will happen,” said Mike, “…or would you have to kill me?”
Jean laughed and said, “We’ll send specific instructions to the Patriarch’s office in Beirut and they’ll bring everything you need to your hotel in Sour. How long until you can get the cylinders to Sour?”
“I believe that Youssef can make the trip with a day’s notice,” Mike replied. “Fine,” said Jean, “It will take a day or two to set this up and I’ll give you a call about when we’re ready to go. Remember to dump these after we use them.”
Mike laughed, “I know the drill.”
“I know it seems silly,” said Jean, “But when you’ve got my kind of reputation you never know who is listening or why. Fifty dollars a call is a cheap price to pay for anonymity.”
Except for attributed photos and text, all content is copyrighted © 2014 JKM (an apparently in effectual boilerplate joke?)