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Thread: The Tel Aviv Contractor.

  1. #46
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    And right you are. Thanks!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  2. #47
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    Chapter 15.

    Treachery is an ugly word.

    Uncovering it however requires emotions to be set aside, in order to highlight reality. It was in this case, not helped when there did not exist an official credible back up, attributed to he who was undertaking the probing. For it takes a certain kind of strength to work alone, with all around you suspect. In fact, then treachery itself becomes pervasive and almost demands that, “evil be thou our good.”

    Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, it was that a cold determination entered Aaron’s soul. If, (as all pointers suggested), Simon, the instigator of his mission had entered a dark place; then there was no option to forgive him, and then as soon as possible, forget him. There now lay between them, soaked in his weariness, a thirst for retribution, even vengeance. For Aaron believed that all lies have a sentence of death written down against them; whether in this life or the next; and slowly or fast they advance incessantly towards their hour.



    The proposed Rosh HaNikra Crossing by which he had entered Lebanon was now not an option. Too many parties, perhaps on both sides knowing of his movements.

    In a trade where he had grown grey in surroundings of treachery, it was imperative he went to ground. He was to all extents and purposes, to undertake a journey to the city of Nowhere and then arrive.

    Thus, instead of taking the southern coastal road, he drove east from Beirut into another Arab wasteland, namely Syria. Via the outskirts of Damascus, he drove south on the broad fast tarmac of the motorway; yet still was exposed to the occasional glimpses of the devastation inflicted by a ten-year brutal war. At Jaber as Siran he changed direction again, and this time entered Israel from the east, across the Jordan River border crossing.

    Pulling over to a small petrol station he filled up the car and slept in the carpark for an hour.

    His destination was in the Southern Negev Desert town of Beersheba; far away from Jerusalem and potential prying eyes.

    It had taken him just under eight hours solid driving since leaving Beirut and he was exhausted; not just physically, but mentally as well.

    But the journey had granted the necessary solitude to decorticate numerous elements in his head.

    Cherished illusions had been mercilessly cut down; and then of course there was that most important question, which lay in the discerning between truth and fiction; in a climate where for the authors involved, fiction had to make sense.

  3. #48
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I don´t know whether you noticed, but your narrative has improved, becoming more and more fluid in the last texts.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  4. #49
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Must be that bottle of whisky I brought. Haha

  5. #50
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Lol! Whisky + Practice! Not a bad combination.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  6. #51
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    Chapter 16.

    The bolt hole named “The Eshel Mansion Suites” that he chose in Beersheba, was a low-profile establishment in Beit Eskel Street in the Old City.

    There were no signs outside, and it comprised an inconspicuous ground floor layout with a high yellow perimeter wall & a blue steel door which opened onto a quiet street. No reception checking in and out; and few other occupants due to a lack of business; presumably resulting from the ongoing pandemic. Fast food could be obtained from the various places in and around the local Bedouin Market area.

    It suited him fine.

    Aaron set himself to work on digging deeper into Simon’s financial affairs.

    His suspicion was that this area may have been partly the motivation for any treachery. He knew that for Simon, (like himself), all payments for work within Israeli state security was conducted strangely enough through a lesser-known finance investment bank, and not through one of the big three commercial banks: the Leumi Bank, Bank Hapoalim or the Israel Discount Bank.

    He was betting this account was still active.

    Like elsewhere in the world, banking secrecy may be ring fenced by substantial IT security features; but the weak link was always the human element working withing the bank itself, that could access information within seconds with some basic data.

    Years later, it was never known if Aaron had someone on the inside; for if he did, he would anyway have protected his sources as if they had been his own children.

    But be that as it may, in subsequent days, he undertook two visits to the bank concerned. To visitors it could be defined by frosted glass partitions inside; whilst the sandstone exterior comprised thick rectangular columns over the pavement. Traffic outside was invariably heavy, and it sat opposite a small flower / vegetable market.

    The transfer of funds to and from Israel is relatively flexible compared to elsewhere globally. Foreign currency control is administered by the Bank of Israel and this affects transactions carried out by Israeli residents and non-residents alike.

    While the basic rule is that foreign currency transactions are prohibited unless authorization is obtained, many types of foreign currency transactions are allowed by virtue of the General Permit under the Currency Control Law of 1978. This General Permit authorizes Israeli to conduct certain transactions through an authorized dealer (usually an Israeli bank) and the transactions authorized in the permit include most transactions conducted in the ordinary course of business activity.

    It did therefore to some extent, come as not too much a surprise to note that on Simon's past bank account statements, substantial sums had been regularly, (and legally deposited). The mystery lay in the subsequent transfer to another bank in Limassol, Cyprus. Likewise in the initial depositor being titled as “China Harbour Enterprises.”

    Despite the mists that still hovered, and what paths they concealed; all was becoming clearer to Aaron. Delusions needs had come: yet how gently, and in softening diffusion and mild succession, were these now made to fall. Thus, like a wineskin from which all is drawn, he had moved on to become almost a ghost of himself.

  7. #52
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    That´s a rather unexpected but interesting development. And I am happy that one still can find good narrative on LitNet!
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  8. #53
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    Chapter 17.

    The Cyprus Bank.

    Aaron arrived in southern Cyprus by plane on the 1st August. It was Sunday, and the airport was quiet. An amber alert was in place for extremely hot conditions, as temperatures were forcast to soar to 43 degrees Celsius inland and 34 even on the mountain peaks.

    New covid restrictions had came into force that day, with a safe pass now required in all smaller businesses, such as mini markets; whilst the authorities had intensified their checks over the past 48 hours; fining those for not wearing masks in open areas and in cars.

    The only semi-encouraging news was that despite signs that the fourth wave of coronavirus cases, powered by the more contagious Delta variant was stabilising, Cyprus had reported its highest 14-day cumulative notification rate since the pandemic had started; back in what seemed like eternity.

    He took a taxi to the quiet 3 star Pefkos City Hotel, located close to the old town of Limassol and the Limassol Marina. The balcony with the Mediterranean Sea views was not availed, but he turned the AC to maximum.

    Aarons plan was to draw Simon in person to his bank in Limassol, into which so much funds had been transferred from China Harbour Enterprises over the years.
    His espionage tradecraft was such that he had been able to obtain through his past contacts a passport in Simons name, but with Arrons photo. He knew that for those that held offshore accounts in exotic foreign countries like; the Caymans, Singapore and Macau, that the owners of such accounts rarely visited. They had no need to; being briefed invariably only on a 6 month basis by phone / email, or by having daily access to a client portal.

    He was also well aware of the past, (and likely present) reputation of Cypriot banks, both on the Greek & Turkish parts of the island.

    Cyprus, like so many other countries had been crippled financially by the global economic downturn that began in 2008. One initiative had been the, (since discontinued) investment citizenship scheme (“gold passport”) in 2013 to foreign investors. By this move, Cyprus being a full EU member state, it followed that all nationals granted citizenship under this investment scheme would enjoy full EU citizen status, with right to; live, work and study in all EU-28 member states. Naturally it attracted some questionable applicants.

    The most highlighted case involving the banking sector in Cyprus had been the Federal Bank of the Middle East, based in Tanzania but where about 90% of its banking was conducted in Cyprus. The owners were Lebanese brothers Ayoub-Farid Saab and Fadi Michel Saab.

    It started to unravel and was subsequently closed down when a request for information about FBME Bank came as Cyprus emerged as a key area of interest for Robert Mueller; the US special counsel who at the time was investigating a possible conspiracy between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin. Reports emerged that the bank had been evading efforts by the Central Bank of Cyprus to supervise its activities, and that FBME was facilitating; money laundering, terrorist financing, transnational organised crime, fraud, sanctions evasion, weapons trading and political corruption.

    Thus it was, that on Monday 2nd August at 9am sharp, Aaron presented himself at the bank, ostensibly on a flying visit. His passport credentials had proved credible. He had also hacked into Simons email account via an innocent link and had that very morning informed the bank he would be visiting. Back in Israel it would likely be that Simon would check his inbox, but was unlikely to do the same for messages sent.

    It was a comforting office in the bank with an accommodating manager. The usual pleasant small talk dispensed with, Arron, (or Simon as he was now) informed that he wished as an humanitarian gesture to transfer his funds to a Lebanese charity known for its work among those currently suffering hunger & poverty, especially in Beruit & Tripoli.

    'Do you wish to close the entire account?" asked the manager.

    "No" replied Aaron.

    "I have here 30 pieces of silver Israeli shekel coins that I will deposit for safe keeping."

    As he emerged shortly after onto the street it struck him; that that should flush the bird out of coven.

    Sometimes the battle itself is victory.

  9. #54
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Enjoyed the new development of the narrative, though it makes one reflect sadly on the precarious security of personal data.
    Liked also the update to the present with it´s Covid context
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  10. #55
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 18.

    Arron was surprised that it had taken just over a week for Simon to be lured to Cyprus.

    The island had in the meantime been oppressively hot even by local standards; and even if Cyprus had not experienced the wide fires that were still raging elsewhere in Turkey and Greece, the population were nervous and emotionally repressed by both the heat and the ever prevalent pandemic.

    Arron sensed that though panic for Simon would have undoubtedly crept in regards the depletion of his funds held in the bank; he would at the same time have been aware of the implied message generated by the deposit of thirty pieces of silver. Greed mixed with confusion, laced with suspicion, imbued with caution, would have sustained the most exotic of emotional cocktails. Even if ice and a twist of lime had been deferred, it had certainly been shaken, if not stirred!!

    If one is objective about status, then it would be realistic to presume that the initiative now lay with Aaron. Both parties, despite not being formally exposed, considered their positions akin chess players striving for that mental detachment so essential in winning, if not survival.

    As Simon's plane touched down on the Larnaca runway, he involuntarily smiled. But it was a smile sadder than tears.

    He had been obliged to play the cards as dealt, even though he was aware that he was being drawn out into open ground. Hope lay in the possibility that the knowledge of his treachery was limited; otherwise the Israeli authorities would have picked him up by now. His current footwork was his only salvation.

    For when Aaron had gone to ground and feedback had ceased as to his movements, it was inevitable that Zaynab back in Beirut had not informed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in Iran, or that Mossad itself was not asking questions. Perhaps whisperings had already reached the ears of the new Iranian & Israeli leaders, President Ebrahim Raisi & Prime Minister Naftali Bennet.

    For Simon, Aaron was now his number one suspicion. Whilst Mossad had wanted the female Lebanese assassin killed, Simon had been obliged to protect his Hamas paymasters. The subsequent approach to and mobilisation of Aaron; ill-equipped, limited in resources and set up for failure had been the plan. With the new developments there was perhaps a chance of a one on one negotiation; or in the extreme, that sordid euphemism "damage limitation?"

    Larnaca Airport was a 50 minute taxi ride to Limassol and Simon sat back taking in his surroundings. He assumed that the bank he would visit on Monday would become the most likely vicinity for a showdown.

    It begged the question as to who was to be the Judas goat; Arron or Simon, as each sought to draw out the other?

  11. #56
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    A difference of your story to others of the genre I have read is its elegance of style and occasional subtleties.
    "...he would at the same time have been aware of the implied message generated by the deposit of thirty pieces of silver."
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  12. #57
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thanks for reading buddy & the feedback.

    Couple more chapters should put this one to bed at last.

  13. #58
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    Chapter 19.

    Monday morning and Arron was in a dark blue Citroen parked strategically, both; within striking distance and with visual sight of approaches to the bank prior to its opening at 9am. It was 35 degrees C in Cyprus and had been hovering around that all week. Understandably a yellow weather warning continued to be in place for the extremely high temperatures, which explained the lack of movement in the street in what was normally a busy time.

    Aarons instincts told him that Simon would arrive early; whilst his logic told him that he had to be approached prior to entering the bank. Once the earlier deception of Arron had been exposed, there was always the danger of the police being called which would have complicated the situation.

    Aaron focused on the odd individuals approaching and passing by the banks front entrance.

    A tap on the window interrupted his concentration from an unexpected quarter.

    It was Simon looking down on him.

    Aaron activated the window switch.

    "Looks like we are two boxers past our prime, looking for an opening in a fight we did not need, my friend," said Simon.

    He looked tired and world weary.

    "Would you like to get in the car Simon? Its cooler in here."

    Simon walked around the front of the bonnet and slid in on the front passenger side.

    "I suppose we need to talk?" he said.

    "Yes" responded Aaron, "We really need to settle this one way or the other."

    They drove down to the Pier One Cafe in the Old Port and overlooking the sea. They ordered coffee and looked at each other; not with hatred or even animosity, but with a kind of benign curiosity and sadness.

    "Why Simon, why?" as if there was no need to delve into the minutiae of what lay between them.

    "Its simple," was the response. "Money. You did not know, but I got divorced from Rachael and lost everything: house, savings, the lot. Mossad offered me this assignment on a temporary basis with a free hand to run my own show, so at least for a time there was a bit of money coming in."

    "I was walking wounded as they say in some quarters, when referring to a broken marriage late in life. No chance to recover, unless I took that which was offered, for that which was previously unthinkable. I don't expect you to understand, especially when you view how I betrayed not only my country, but a friend."

    Aaron sipped his coffee slowly, yet never averted his gaze.

    "Who am I to judge if I had been in your shoes?" he said.

    "But what now? I'm not going to harm you. I had been told by Zaynab the Hamas lead in Beirut who I think you know, that although captured as per your plan, that I was being released and that I would know what to do."

    " I now do the same to you. We were friends once after all and it must count for something."

    "It looks like I have limited options," whispered Simon to himself.

    "I can go on the run with no money until they track me down; which inevitably they will. And I include either side. Or I can spend whatever time I have left in a prison cell."

    He seemed to sink into himself in a moment of deep sad acceptance.

    "Masada" was the only word that Arron heard him initially say.

    Then, as if by instinct, they both spoke softly to each other across the table, the words they remembered from the Psalms, imbued in their youth and using the Hebrew name for God,

    "In You, Adonai, have I taken refuge: Let me never be put to shame. In Your righteousness, deliver me. Turn Your ear to me, rescue me quickly. Be a rock of refuge for me, a stronghold for my deliverance. Since You are my rock and my Masada , You lead me and guide me for Your Name’s sake."

    Simon rose, shook Aaron gently by the hand and left the café alone. He did not look back.

  14. #59
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I'm wondering if this is the end, an open end.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

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    Chapter 20.

    Six months had gone by since the death of Simon when Aaron made the trip to the scene of that event; subconsciously perhaps, as both an act of remembrance and in order to reflect more deeply on what had unfolded. For in the interim fusion and confusion of his mind, imagination herself had flagged under the reality of the events that had transpired.

    It was becoming a cooler August in Israel than he had previously remembered, and there was an early morning, almost vernal sky in Arad; the calm and quiet town located between the Judean and Negev deserts. A change from the noise of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; almost deserted, with few people on the streets and not many cars.

    Aaron had his morning coffee in the garden of the house he was staying in, then started the car and headed west.

    For those of you not familiar with his destination of Masada, it was an ancient fortress built by Herod, the king of Judea on top of a barren mountainous desert plateau, thousands of feet above the nearby Dead Sea.

    Its significance lies in it being the location for the last stand of the Zealots and Sicarii in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome after the fall of Jerusalem. Of greater underlying significance had been the manner of the final collapse in this conflict.

    The story goes, that the Roman governor, Lucius Flavius Silva, heading the Roman legion X Fretensis laid siege. It surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau. The ramp was complete, after probably two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram. According to the historian Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defenders had set all the buildings ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other; 960 men, women, and children in total. Only two women and five children were found alive.

    It is therefore perhaps understandable how in Israeli culture the siege became a symbol of heroism against oppression.

    For Aaron it was a relatively short 20 km drive before he caught sight of his destination. Masada was a stark location, yet seemingly glorying in its stand alone presence; with a plateau abruptly ending in cliffs steeply falling 1,300 ft to the east and about 300 ft to the west.

    He chose to take the eastern side the plateau using the road starting between Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek. Parking the car he knew that he could climb the so called "Snake Path" route in about one hour before the sun had attained its maximum power. In fact hikers there frequently started an hour before sunrise, when the park opened, to avoid the mid-day heat.

    There were few visitors that day.

    Aaron wondered if Samuel had trod this same path on the day of his demise. Or perhaps he had taken the Roman Ramp trail accessed from the western side of the mountain. But for the moment he concentrated on his climb and his breathing, until the top was attained.

    He stood against the metal railing. The incipient heat rallied from across the Dead Sea in the early dawn.

    Below, one could make out in the clear desert light the meter-high circumvallation wall that the Romans had built around Masada, together with a few of the eight Roman siege camps just outside this wall.

    Aaron had researched from reports in the papers that an unnamed man had thrown himself to his death from this spot soon after from when Arron & Simon had previously parted.

    It was hard for him, (even after endeavouring to put aside emotion), to reason out this act of suicide, even though prewarned, and especially in such a poignant location.

    Perhaps for the Zealots it had been more straightforward. They had decided, in their religious fervour that it was by the will of God that they were to die on the mountain. Instead of becoming slaves, they chose to die. Judaism prohibits the act of suicide, and the Zealots killed each other. All of course except the final man who was obliged to commit that final transgression.

    Arron asked himself did Simon have to die like that? The pressures on him were just as heavy.

    Was the act itself one of courage or cowardice?"

    He remembered that at the time of the siege, one of the greatest ambitions throughout large tracts of Europe had been to become "a citizen of Rome". But for the Jews it had marked the end of the Great Revolt, the first of three rebellions by the Jewish people against the Romans.

    Perhaps the lesson he thought, lay in patience and time being a prerequisite for redemption and change. The Roman Empire had fallen and the Israeli State had emerged, albeit with so many of its traditional values diminished; the very values cherished during years of persecution.

    Arron stood alone for a long time at that barrier. No birds sung their dawn chorus; only the silence of the stark desert hung heavy about him. But he was glad he had come.

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