When the phone pealed from inside the warehouse office, Natasha Kelly dropped the invoice she was inspecting and hurried to answer.
“Kelly Shipping and Courier Services. Natasha Kelly. May I help you?”
“Miss Kelly, this is Zeir Ravin. I need to see you alone right away. Don’t bring any of your shadows with you, neither are you to communicate with anyone about this meeting. Do you understand?”
She didn’t. She trailed a finger through her long ponytail before scratching at a smudge on her pleated khakis. There was only one thing he could mean.
“By shadows, I take it you refer to Dirk, Anya, or David, who is in hospital too weak to shadow anyone…”
The silence on the other end of the line prompted a new tack. “Look, sir, if I leave the US without telling Dirk where I am or when I’ll be back, he’ll think I’ve been abducted and will absolutely freak out. I’m sure you don’t want a crazed British agent running through Israel, searching for me.”
“Are you refusing to obey an order?”
“No, I’m merely pointing out how unwise it would be for me to disappear without leaving a message of some kind.”
“You may say you were called in and that he will be contacted later. Can I rely on your discretion?”
The phone clicked, and Natasha dangled the dead receiver in her hand. Mossad’s Director had never called her personally. What was so important he couldn’t trust it to his aide?
She dropped the phone on the stand then glanced at the clock on her desk. Only ten in the morning…which translated to six in the evening in Israel.
How could she leave now? She’d been home with her family less than a week. They were deep into wedding plans for Katir and Tennia. Since Tennia had no parents to consider, they were having the ceremony in Houston. Natasha really didn’t want to leave her brother alone to run their shipping business. He needed a break. She owed him.
Katir strode into the office and perched his six-foot frame on the corner of the mahogany desk. “What’s up?”
“Why do you think something’s up?”
“You’re chewing your finger and pulling your ponytail through your other hand.”
Natasha laid her head on the desk and mumbled. “I got a call from someone kind of important.”
“Uh, even more…dangerous.”
“Great. The Mossad?” He sighed. “What do they want now?”
“Katir, I’m sorry. I’ll call him back and quit. You and Tawny are more important.”
“I thought David Benjamin was in a hospital. What could he need?”
“It wasn’t him. Someone a little scarier.”
She shook her head, and her blond ponytail flipped back and forth. “He’s not Mossad. He’s with Sayeret Mat’Kal. Look, it was the Director, and he’s never called me before. I don’t think he calls anyone.”
“That doesn’t sound good. So…either you quit or you have to go.”
“It’s all right.” Katir wrapped his arms around her. “But they better not pull this during my honeymoon. ‘Cause I’m not hanging around here.”
“How about I give you the business as a wedding present?”
Katir’s head jerked up. “Are you serious?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I know you don’t want Tawny flying with the airlines anymore. If you had all the income from the business, would it be enough to keep her on the ground?”
“She’s offered to quit. I know that would cinch it. But…are you sure? That sort of keeps you trapped working for the Mossad, and they don’t always have jobs for you.”
“I think if you pay me part-time whenever I’m home, and they pay me when I work for them, it will be enough. Besides, I don’t know how long I’ll be single myself. Dirk’s been making comments about our marital status. I think he’s tired of waiting.”
Katir laughed, his white teeth shining against his dark brown skin. “I can see why. I’ve only been engaged for a few days, and I’m ready to get married. Once a guy makes up his mind…well, you better not keep him waiting too long.”
“Yeah. So you’re ok with me leaving. I’m sure Tawny would love to come up here and help you. You could teach her everything she’ll need to know for when you two take over.”
“That’s the kind of bribe I like. Go save the world…with my blessing.”
Natasha drove home, thinking about what she should say to Dirk. The desire to confess everything ran through her mind several times, but if she did, she might lose whatever credibility she had with the Mossad.
When she arrived home, she called for a flight, changed her clothes, and packed all her things in a travel bag before dropping it at the head of the stairs. She stood there a moment, staring at the black bag. This felt like a long trip.
She shook her head, sending her ponytail swinging. Fanciful thinking.
She walked down the hall to her study and clicked on her email. If she delayed the time of delivery, Dirk would know where she was just after she arrived in Israel.
Darling Dirk, I’ve been called in. You’ll be contacted later.
She reread the short message. Just one more line wouldn’t hurt.
PS- Thank you for the amethyst earrings. I love them.
Dirk would know she’d worn the earrings with the tracking device. He’d given them to her for instances just like this, so he would always know where she was.
When Natasha strolled off the plane, she found Dosier waiting alongside the check-in desk. If the passengers around her knew he could arrange their assassinations with a look, they’d see him in a whole new light. Anonymity suited his job as the Director’s right-hand man.
She followed him to the jeep. Dosier wouldn’t tell her anything, so she didn’t ask, though they made polite conversation about her flight and the general conditions in Israel. Balmy, very sunny, and drier than usual.
Natasha turned her face to the window so the little man couldn’t see her smile. She didn’t think she’d ever carried a normal conversation with the man. He seemed too preoccupied with the fate of the world.
When they arrived at Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv, Natasha paused in the foyer to admire the blue tiled circle on the floor: a menorah surrounded by the Hebrew words, “WITHOUT GUIDANCE DO A PEOPLE FALL, AND DELIVERANCE IS IN A MULTITUDE OF COUNSELLORS.” Proverbs XI/14
Each time she saw it, a sense of purpose strengthened her resolve to participate in the continued existence of Israel.
She glanced at her watch. Five-thirty in the morning. Did the head man ever sleep? Dosier accompanied her to the Director’s office on the sixth floor. He usually waited outside, but, this time, he followed her in and sat to the side in one of the sand-colored suede chairs.
The Director pushed aside a stack of papers on his desk and focused on Natasha. “You left a note?”
She handed over a copy of the email and waited. His eyes traveled to her ears. “You won’t be wearing them.”
“You’ll have problems with Dirk. It will cause a great deal of trouble with him.”
“I’ve handled trouble before.” He held out a photo.
Natasha picked it up and stared. There was something familiar…She gasped. The Arab who’d been killed when he attacked her and Dirk in Tel Aviv. She put it back on the desk without a word. Saying less was more with the Mossad.
The Director studied her face and seemed to appreciate the new, quieter Natasha.
“You recognize him.” He didn’t wait for her answer. “There’s a price on your head. Yaakov didn’t care for your interference in La Palma.”
“I suppose the survivor willingly offered that information to you.”
Her sarcasm had little effect. He ignored her inference to Mossad’s interrogations.
“Your two attackers last week were the first of many hit men that will plague you if I leave you on the streets. Besides, I have somewhere for you to go, undercover, if you’re willing. It will be dangerous. Just one mistake, and you’ll probably be killed and endanger the lives of many more who are faithful to Israel. Can you do exactly as I say?”
Could she? She already felt as if she’d betrayed Dirk. With their relationship still wavering from the pressure of this job, would he wait for her, would he trust her again? Could she ask him to?
She closed her eyes to pray and saw her recurring dream, the cherubim standing before the entrance of Eden. “Yes.”
“I hesitate to attempt to understand how your mind works, young lady, but your answer came more quickly than I anticipated, and you didn’t argue. Would you mind sharing your reasoning?” He smiled slightly.
Most probably, he’d just insulted her, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t the reason she agreed to go.
“I will, but you have to agree to listen to my entire explanation. I’ll be as brief as possible.”
“I don’t know how you feel about your Scriptures or if you’re familiar with the stories in them.” She looked at him to see if he would answer.
“You may consider me knowledgeable about such things.”
“Good, it saves a lot of explanation. I have dreams in which God shows me things. He gives me direction. Sometimes for others; most of the time for myself. I can give you examples, but I’d rather get to the point.”
“We will say for the sake of argument that I believe you.”
“All right. I’ve had a recurring dream about the Garden of Eden. In the first dream, I knew I was standing in front of the Garden because I could see inside. The way was blocked by two enormous cherubim that radiated a remarkable light. They were peculiar in that they didn’t cast a shadow, they cast a light. Their faces continuously changed from that of a lion, to a man, and an eagle.
“The first time I had this dream, I couldn’t see the face of the man that sought to get inside the garden. He was stopped by the efforts of myself and John, the monk from the abbey. We used the Holy Scriptures against him. It also appeared to me in the first dream that John was killed in the fight.
“I had the dream again last week, the day I left for Africa. This time, I clearly saw where I was, outside Jerusalem, near the Eastern Gate. There were many people around a chasm in front of the Garden. I didn’t see them…rather, I couldn’t identify them in the first dream. This time, I saw they were Bedouin. I was brought to that place by the Bedouin sheik I met in the desert last year.”
She watched the Director’s face for any sign that she was getting through to him and discerned no reaction until she mentioned the Bedouin. His eyes widened. When she mentioned the sheik, he glared at Dosier. Dosier remained as unmoving as a statue.
Natasha paused until she held Ravin’s attention again. “As everyone gathered for this war, a great storm began in the heavenlies, and Jerusalem faded from view.” She blinked several times. Here, she might lose him. “It was still there, but we entered another realm from which it was no longer important to view Jerusalem.
“The fighting began, but we overcame. Yaakov disappeared from the spirit world. This war wasn’t fought in the physical realm, but in the spiritual. I wrote down the entire dream…” She crossed her arms over her chest. “You can have a copy. David Benjamin and Dirk Sloan were there, along with John, the monk from the abbey, and me.
“When you asked me if I could do this, I closed my eyes to pray. I saw the cherubim. I’m supposed to do this.” She sat back and waited for his response.
He said nothing about her dream. After another sideways glance at Dosier, he spoke. “Yaakov is gathering the Bedouin and other Arabs for an all-out attack against what he believes to be the entrance to Eden.”
Natasha’s eyes felt like saucers as she realized he was telling her she’d been right all along. He was also confirming the details of her dream. How did he really feel about that? An American Christian girl that had dreams about the attack plans of the enemy.
“We need to get as close to Yaakov as we can. The Bedouin sheik confirmed that his tribe has been invited to a summit of several tribes. You will go as a Bedouin servant, helping the sheik’s wife.
“The most dangerous part is your inability to speak the Arab language fluently. Thankfully, you understand most of what you hear and the sheik’s family will be there to help you. They all realize what’s at stake and will do everything possible to protect you from discovery. If you’re detected, you’ll cause the death of the sheik and his entire family, including an agent that’s been under deep cover for some time.”
The shock had her brain bolting from one thought to another. Jadon Ashdod, alias Hassan, was the only agent she knew under-cover with Yaakov. Surely, he wasn’t related to the sheik.
“Are you referring to Jadon? How is he related to the sheik, and how is it that Yaakov would trust him? That sheik is the one that informed the Mossad about the abbey in the first place.”
“Your information isn’t entirely accurate. I realize it will be difficult for you to trust those unknown to you without details. This information…even Anya Perez doesn’t possess.
“Jadon Ashdod’s name is also Hassan because he’s only half-Jewish. His father was a Bedouin. The sheik is his grandfather. Jadon has been undercover with Yaakov to discover what’s going on in that Arab community. We were all extremely surprised when he began to send information that showed Yaakov was behind more of our troubles than we’d assumed.
“He learned of the plot to infiltrate the monks and warned his grandfather, but the Bedouin didn’t arrive in time to alert the monks. Without giving Jadon away, the best the sheik could do was inform the Mossad through general channels. He was able to do this because his family has a long-running relationship with someone in the Mossad, someone who convinced Jadon to join with us, even though he was half-Arab and would undergo the most severe scrutiny.”
“David Benjamin. His family was here during the British occupation. They would know the Bedouin who supported the Jews in their fight for a homeland.”
“That is correct. You see why he was so sure Jadon hadn’t shot you with the purpose of harming you when you were kidnapped.” His fingers tapped restlessly on the table. “The Bedouin can henna your skin tones to more closely match their own, but your hair will have to be dyed and maintained while you’re gone. Because you’ll have to travel with the Bedouin for some time without coming into contact with the outside world, we need to get you into their camp at their next occasion to frequent a town. I’m afraid that will be this afternoon. You’ll have to leave immediately for the coordinates they sent. That is, immediately after we’ve dyed your hair. Any comments?”
The most revolting thing Natasha had heard about the Bedouin women was how they washed their hair. “Will I be allowed to take some water with me?”
“They are familiar with your inability to withstand desert conditions for a prolonged period of time. The sheik’s family is more modern than some and do carry a few conveniences; however, water is heavy and difficult to carry. Try and make do with what’s available.”
“I mean…I’m not washing my hair with camel urine.”
A wide smile split his angular face. “The summer is hardly started. I’m sure they can arrange a few bottles of water. The Bedouin you’ll stay with are not the poorer groups from the desert, but the more prosperous, modern Arabs. Anything else?”
She had to give it one more shot. “My earrings, sir. I need them.”
“Oh yes, I forgot.” He scowled at his assistant. “Dosier, how did you let me leave that out?”
“I knew you wouldn’t forget, sir. You never do.”
“Miss Kelly, you’re engaged to marry Jadon. That will help explain your language difference. They’ll say they brought you in from another tribe. You’ve been promised since you were children, which is the same thing as a wedding to them. You’ll wear earrings; they’re part of your engagement gift from Jadon’s family. There’s a tracking chip in the earrings. Don’t ever take them off. Dosier will see you fitted up.”
Natasha’s head reeled. She had to pretend to be engaged to Jadon? It was a good thing she couldn’t talk to Dirk. He might have a few choice words to say about this development. She stood to leave, but the Director stopped her at the door. “And Miss Kelly?”
“Go with God.”
“With you also, sir.”
Dirk Sloan sat behind his desk, waiting for Natasha to call. After clearing up some final details in his office at MI6, he was ready to fly to the US. He fingered the envelope addressed to the Chief of Special Operations at MI6. Before he delivered that letter, he needed to speak with Natasha. This was a decision they needed to make together.
He glanced at the gleaming gold watch at his wrist, a perk from his deep cover with Trinity Pictures. He might have to give all that up soon, but he had quite a healthy nest egg set aside. Natasha would be flabbergasted at the amount. He’d wait until five that afternoon before he checked on her. That way, he could still catch the last flight out for Houston.
A chime from his computer alerted him to an incoming email from Natasha. He smiled. Thank God for internet. They could chat online all the time despite being separated by an ocean of water.
He frowned as he read her words. Short and annoyingly uncommunicative, completely unlike Natasha. Someone had obviously told her what to write, but at least she added the postscript. If she wore his earrings, he could find her anywhere. Dirk reached into his pocket to retrieve the radar scanner that would tell him where she was. Nothing but a blank screen.
He felt a surge of alarm in his stomach and fought against it. It wasn’t possible for the signal to disappear from his scanner so she wasn’t wearing them. And if she wasn’t wearing them…
To be certain, he checked the batteries in his scanner. It functioned perfectly. He drummed his fingers on the desktop for several seconds then reached for the phone.
He rang the Tel Aviv hospital, and David Benjamin answered after two rings. “Benjamin, here.”
“It’s Sloan, did I wake you?”
“No, they’ve been poking things down my throat all day.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Much improved and ready to leave this hospital. What’s wrong?”
David’s ability to sense trouble made Dirk smile.
“Natasha’s missing, but I don’t believe she was taken against her will. She sent me an email. Before I fly out there to hunt her down, I was wondering if you knew anything.”
“Not a thing.” David paused. “Don’t get yourself in trouble, old friend.”
“If I do, I’ll make sure you’re not part of it, but I have to know what she’s doing.”
“I can make my own decisions about what I’m part of.” There followed a few seconds of silence. “I’ll make some calls. Where can I reach you?”
“I’m catching the first plane to Israel. Call my satellite phone.”
“Why doesn’t Natasha have hers?”
“I don’t know. Her email said she’d be wearing the earrings, but there’s no signal.”
David grunted. “I’ll call you.”
Neither of them had to say it. If Natasha chose to disappear without telling Dirk, it had to be connected to the Director.
Dirk grabbed the flight bag he kept packed in his office then drove to Heathrow airport. He couldn’t stop the self-condemnation that flooded his mind. Natasha would never have run off without telling him. Obviously, she’d been afraid to tell him what was going on, and that could only be his fault. He was the one who had warned her not to go up against the Director of Mossad.
When he found her, they were going to have a long, serious talk about guidelines for their jobs. There had to be a way they could keep the spy business from breaking their trust with each other.
By the time Benjamin returned his call, Dirk was flying toward Israel. “Sloan here.”
“She went to see the Director. That’s all I know. I’m getting out of here tomorrow. Come and get me.”
After he landed, Dirk drove toward Tel Aviv. Frustration and rage had built on the long flight, and he felt ready to do anything to find Natasha. When he finally listened to that still, small voice within him, repentance wasn’t easy.
I’m sorry, God. I’m not used to having anyone else to lean on. I know you already know where she is and that you’re taking care of her, but won’t you let me do that, too? That’s why you sent her into my life, isn’t it? So that I’d care for her, so that she could show me your ways? Help me, Father. Guide my steps.
He expected opposition when he arrived at the headquarters of the Mossad but received none until he reached Dosier’s desk. “Where is she?”
“Good morning, Sloan. The Director is expecting you.” Dosier opened the door for Dirk.
Dirk didn’t bother to sit nor did he wait until the director looked up. A lack of respect that few men showed this powerful man. “What have you done with her?”
“What brings you to the conclusion I’ve done anything with Miss Kelly? That is to whom you refer, is it not?” The Director continued working on the papers in front of him.
“She left a vague note, and she’s normally quite loquacious. She’s not wearing the tracking device I gave her. I got all the way through this building to you without being questioned. And worst of all…I told her to be careful of pushing you too far. I set her up to be afraid to say no to you.”
Ravin dropped his pen and looked up. “Sit down, please.” He waited until Dirk dropped in a chair. “She wasn’t the least afraid. In fact, she told me I had nothing to do with her decision. As if she expected it…something to do with a dream.”
Dirk felt the blood drain from his face. “You’d use your own mother if it would help Israel.”
“My own mother used me, right up until the day she was shot between the eyes. We did what we had to do…to survive. Your country is no different.”
“Where’s Natasha? She’s not like us. She’s too naïve to know better.”
“And yet it works for her. She hasn’t failed yet.”
Ravin’s staid face infuriated him. Dirk nearly flew out of his chair. “If it wasn’t for her faith in God…”
“Then why are you afraid now?”
Dirk sank back. He should have asked himself that question. Why was he afraid? There was more at stake, more evil involved, things he didn’t understand yet, and he wasn’t sure she was strong enough to fight a devil. But…she had the Lord.
The Director seemed surprised Dirk hadn’t responded. Suddenly it hit him. He had to trust God with Natasha. The fear and anger began to recede as the peace of God flooded his being. “All right. Will you tell me anything?”
Ravin blinked at him, probably not expecting such a quick capitulation.
Dirk hid a smile. If he knew the Director, the man was wondering why Dirk hadn’t put up more of a fight. He’d be suspicious of such calm acceptance from someone committed to a life of violence. But he wouldn’t hesitate to use Dirk’s violence for his own ends. He’d get the experience of British Secret Service without having to request it through formal channels. Ravin cleared his throat. The decision was made.
“She has a price on her head. Hence, the attack against you last week in Jerusalem. She’s not even safe in the US. I’ve sent her undercover with the Bedouin, but she’s not alone.”
Why in the world were the Bedouin safer than remaining under protective custody? How could putting Natasha in the midst of Arabs keep her safer from an Arab assassin? He could think of any number of places where he could keep Natasha secure. There had to be more to this, but if he said anything, the Director might stop talking.
“I took these from her.” The amethyst earrings, her global beeper, satellite phone, and her engagement ring dropped into Dirk’s hand. “But I gave her some earrings that were appropriate for what she was doing. If you match your scanner to this frequency, you can watch her progress.” He held out a slip of paper.
Dirk stared. He’d never expected to get this much information. He waited a few seconds to see if Ravin would say anything else. Apparently, the Director made up his mind about something. He heaved a great sigh then told Dirk everything about Natasha’s mission.
He handed him a copy of the dream she’d written out. “I want you to contact the monk, John. He must have something to do with this or he wouldn’t have been in her dream.”
“You believe in her dreams?”
He shrugged. “She believes in her dreams. That’s enough.”
“How is she supposed to communicate any of her findings to you?”
The director gave him a level look. “She can’t. Any type of communicating device found in a woman’s possession in a Bedouin camp, with Yaakov in attendance…well, I’m sure you can understand what they’d do to her and to the Bedouin sponsoring her. We’ll have to trust Jadon to get a message out, and we’ll just have to follow the earrings. Keep me posted.” The interview was at an end.
“You’re giving me a free hand?”
Dirk stepped out. As he passed Dosier’s desk, he halted. He spied an 8×10 photograph of a Bedouin girl, excruciatingly familiar. “Is that her?”
“I thought you might like to see.” Dosier passed it over.
“May I have it?”
“An incredible risk, don’t you think. I took that picture. No one else saw her. If anyone were to let slip what she looks like or where she’s going…Do you really want to worry about that picture being seen by the wrong person?”
Dirk dropped the photo on Dosier’s desk and walked out. He didn’t need the picture. He’d recognize her anywhere. How beautiful she was! Even as a brunette, Natasha was stunning.
“Send angels to stand guard over her to keep her in all her ways lest she dash her foot against a stone.”
Dirk was learning to use the Word in his prayers. Something Natasha did all the time. She said it increased her faith and brought God in remembrance of His Word, another verse she’d memorized.
Alone in the jeep, he read Natasha’s notes on her dream, startling because of what they’d face, comforting because he was with her in the dream. He and John and David, which led Dirk to another thought.
He felt the need for fellowship with a believer, and he needed someone who would understand his thoughts from a spy’s point of view. David Benjamin hadn’t been saved long, but neither had Dirk. Dirk drove to the hospital.