The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 7 (Finished First Draft: January 18, 2024 8:30 PM EST)

If you would like to send help to assist with the Gaza refugee crisis, the front line organization would be the United Nations Relief And Works Agency For Palestinian Refugees at https://www.unrwa.org, while the UNHCR is the backbone to such operations around the world. You can donate to them directly on their website.

Despite the recent allegations that several employees of the UNRWA took part in the October 7 Hamas attacks upon Israel, I will be keeping the link on this site. I was one of the first Canadians to speak up in Israel's defence after the October 7 attacks upon them and I am firmly with Israel in responding to such attacks, however, the Palestinian people are as much victims of those who conducted the attacks as are the people of Israel. The refugees in the aftermath of Israel's response should not be denied  humanitarian assistance while UNRWA is investigating the matter. The link above will remain up, and no, I'm not encouraging the support of any terrorist organization and never have.

The Government of Canada has made many statements on the matter as well, including having matched donations for Gaza relief up to 10 million CDN, an offer that ended in mid November.

The International Rescue Committee who can be found at https://www.rescue.org has recently launched a campaign with representatives like Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller and Rami Malek, speaking about the importance of supporting humanitarian aid for assistance during refugee crises around the world.


This story is dedicated to the members of Armed Forces around the world for this upcoming Remembrance Day (this story was started before November 11, 2023)

World Veterans Federation are one of the front runners of organizations that have the potential to make a difference in such conflicts by addressing assemblies of world leaders with regard to issues of war and combat on both the strategic and tactical fronts.

"None can speak more eloquently for peace than those who have fought in war."

Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize 1950


I am Brian Joseph Johns and this is Shhhh! Digital Media at https://www.shhhhdigital.com or https://www.shhhhdigital.ca in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701.

Nothing on this site is produced at or by anyone currently residing at Heyworth House. I am not Jamaican and I am not a member of any Jamaican religion with all due respect. To replace one's identity in order to replace their true origins, their culture, their religion or their gender is considered a hate crime in Canada. I don't do hate means love or love means hate (reversals of polarity of the context of expression) and I am not a blue rose.

New Chapters

  • Terminal Pursuit (Added November 2, 2023 and Updated November 3, 2023)

  • Forgotten (Added November 15, 2023)

  • A Drink To Swim Or Sink (Added November 23, 2023)

  • The Kite's Tail (Added November 30, 2023)

  • Station And Cell (Added December 1, 2023)

  • November 4, 1995 (Finished December 7, 2023)

  • History Is In Its Making (Finished January 9, 2024)

  • Of Mystery And Music (Finished January 10, 2024)

  • Recollection (Finished January 10, 2024)

  • Back To The Start (Finished January 11 2024)

  • Missing Persons (Finished January 12, 2024)

  • Shuk HaCarmel (Finished January 13, 2024)

  • En Route (Finished January 13, 2024)

  • The Kings Of Israel Square (Started January 17, 2024)

  • Borders And Mirrors (Finished January 18, 2024)

  • Life And Death Go On (Finished January 18, 2024)

  • Twenty Seven (Finished January 18, 2024)
Brian Joseph Johns



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I'd like to point out that it was the incredible Gary Sinese Foundation that brought the issue of Veteran's rights to my attention. I've always had little respect for those who'd forget the great contribution made by those who've risked life and limb to defend those values that so many of us espouse. Perhaps the true measure of one's principles are by that for which they'd risk their life.

"None can speak more eloquently for peace than those who have fought in war."

Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize 1950



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In all truth, there's a good chance that thanks to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Herbert George Wells, Jules Verne, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Pierre Burton (for The Secret World Of Og and his ground breaking interview of Bruce Lee) that all of us are literate. Actually that goes back much farther to the Phoenecians and their first 22 character system of symbols. Literacy is important. Really it is. Literally. It allows us to approach our employer at the end of the week (with a big club) and ask: where my money?! Math important too. It help us count our thirteen fingers and toes.


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Brian Joseph Johns



The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 7


Terminal Pursuit


Terminal one at Pearson International Airport was lightly crowded just outside of the level one gates, where a large group of people had been cordoned off and were being searched by hand by a group of Security Officers and Border Service Agents.

Two nearby Canine Units searched the carry-on baggage carefully, the sensitive noses of the dogs quickly able to detect any number of dangerous compounds.

Amidst the cacophony of inconvenience (as most passengers saw it), the gently reassuring sound of Muzak echoed off of the polished granite floors.

In all irony given the fact that they were searching for a bomb, they somehow failed to notice the echoey sound of clicking. Perhaps even ticking at a distance, however they were too far to investigate even if their ears had caught it.

Further down the terminal, towards the escalator and stairs, patrons of the airport stood calmly as the clicking sound got louder and louder. One patron just happened to turn around to try and find the source of the curious sound, which he did. It was the sound of the footfall of expensive men's shoes upon the granite floor, carrying three men in black trench coats in his direction. Their momentum indicated to him that they had no intention of stopping for those on the stairs or the escalator upon which he was perched.

When the three men had neared the escalator, two of them split off and took the stairs down, while the third man, a heavily bearded fellow ran directly at the escalator, pushing through the people and losing only half of his earlier momentum.

Some fell over on the escalator, triggering a domino effect, simply making more room for the bearded man. Beside him on the stairs, his two compatriots tried to keep up with him, only falling behind by a little.

 The screams started as the bearded escalator man began stepping across the fallen, crushing fingers and toes alike as he ran for the final landing.

Behind them but still not yet at the stairs, another man ran. A trim older muscular man, with a jaw line like a tank and a friendly pair of crows feet bordering his eyes to boot. His short cropped white-ish salt and pepper hair made him appear a man of the military, while his physical fitness in running confirmed it.

As he arrived at the escalator, he got a look at the damage the three men had already caused. Without losing any momentum, he leapt up and onto the railing, sliding down the center on his tush. He picked up speed as gravity caught hold of him, in time for the three men to catch sight of him.

They regrouped at the bottom landing, but instead of running to the exits, they instead chose to run for the up escalator and back into the international arrivals area of the terminal.

"Come on..." Stanton said to himself, as he reached the bottom, nearly tripping as he dismounted. When he'd caught his balance on his aging legs, he immediately ran for the escalator they'd taken up to evade him.

Fortunately, they'd already carved out a path for him, but at the expense of the other patrons using the escalator. Much like the one they'd fled, the patrons had folded onto the steel grate like stairs of the device as the three men stepped mercilessly across them. Crushing limb and bone alike as they ran.

Stanton once again, when he'd reached the halfway point, leapt up and onto the railing, this time digging his lightly cleated hiking boots into the rubber. He managed to sprint up the rest of the escalator this way, sparing the poor patrons any suffering on his part.

"Security and medical teams will be along any moment to assist you..." he assured them in passing, speaking in a commanding voice with presence.

He leapt off of the railing, this time landing perfectly into a front roll, from which he emerged up and onto his feet without losing any momentum. He continued his pursuit of them, economizing his breath carefully.

 The three of them continued to the next set of stairs and escalators, which happened to be lightly populated much to the relief of the older man pursuing them. Just as the bearded one was about to reach the first stair of the escalator, someone else slammed into him, knocking him off his feet.

"How's that feel?!!" Foller said to the man vehemently, paying the same man back for slamming his head into the post office lockers.

The man didn't respond, and was completely winded and dazed by the blow as Foller searched him for any sign of the documents. A flash drive or CD ROM, or any other storage medium that might contain the data for which they were searching.

"This one's got nothing!" Foller yelled to Stanton as the other two men took the stairs up two at a time.

"Incapacitate him and give me a hand!" Stanton yelled as he leapt up six stairs on his first leap, then taking them two at a time as he sprinted up.

"How?!" yelled Foller.

"Be creative!" Stanton responded, knowing that was probably the wrong thing to say to Foller.

Foller searched his pocket, finding a bundle of plastic slip-locks. He quickly fished three of them out, and slip-locked the man's hands behind his back, to the railing.

"You owe me big time, cause that wasn't nearly as creative as I could have been!" Foller said as he got to his feet, running after Stanton.

Foller, the smaller of the two slowly caught up with Stanton just as the two men they were pursuing split up as they entered into a crowd.

"You take left, I'll take right!" Stanton yelled to Foller.

"That's a little ass backwards, but alright!" Foller yelled in response, pursuing the man with the moustache as Stanton took after the clean shaven man.

Foller gave pursuit, enthusiastically jumping into the crowd and pushing his way through them as much so as the man he was chasing. His target then turned towards one of the gates in the departures wing of the terminal.

The man attempted to push his way through the baggage check, and was immediately set upon by two Customs Border Agents. They leveled their tasers at the man, screaming instructions at him:

"Down on the floor, face down! Hands above your head!" the female Border Agent yelled at him.

He did as instructed, now whimpering and playing his cards as a frightened and lost man.

"Oh please! Please! That bad man chasing me! Why he chasing me?!" the man asked.

"Why are you running?! Why did you assault me?" Foller responded.

"Alright, alright. Sir, we need to ask you some questions and see some ID?" the Customs Agent said to Foller.

"Fine. Fine. I'll come quietly, but he started it!" Foller said, putting both of his hands up.

...

Stanton pushed through the remaining crowd behind the clean shaven man, as he turned down a service corridor towards the bathrooms. Stanton carefully edged himself over to an opening in the crowd and found the same service corridor where he followed the man into the bathroom.

When Stanton arrived, he carefully entered, kicking the door open while keeping his plastic firearm holstered, his hand ready to retrieve it if need be. As he rounded the corner into the men's room, the man he was pursuing swung a daftly crafted blackjack, filled with compressed lead pellets. The club came down hard, narrowly missing Stanton by less than an inch as he'd deflected it with a quick move of his arm to change the trajectory of the man's attack.

Stanton wasted no time, grabbing hold of the man's coupled hands and attempting to throw him to the floor. The man however managed to carry his own momentum through, pulling Stanton over his leg, causing him to fall to the floor, prone.

Stanton once again used his own momentum to land on his shoulders and flowed with a roll, and was back up on his feet again, facing his adversary.

Stanton and the man's eyes met, and they paused long enough to speak.

"Yeschevi? What the hell are you doing?!!" Stanton addressed his adversary.

"Stanton. Stay out of my way. I know what I'm doing!" Yeschevi threw a punch at Stanton, which Stanton blocked as the two men circled each other.

"What happened to fighting the good fight? For a lasting peace?" asked Stanton, keeping his five zones  carefully protected as he searched for an opening in that of his opponent.

"Can't you see the contradiction in that idea? Fight for peace? There will never be any peace! Ever!" Yeschevi responded.

"You've changed from being the young idealist I used to know. What happened to make you a middle aged... bitter and malevolent man...?" asked Stanton, keeping his eyes focused on Yeschevi's.

Yeschevi answered by throwing another punch, which Stanton had anticipated. Stanton caught his fist and added to its moment, drove it directly into the steel electric hand dryer on the wall, breaking two of Yeschevi's knuckles with a compound fracture. Yeschevi winced in pain as Stanton used the tenderly fresh injury to coax him into dropping his blackjack.

When the pain was unbearable, Yeschevi dropped to his knees, releasing the blackjack, which fell to the floor with a dull thud.

"Talk to me Yeschevi. What's going on?" asked Stanton, still holding Yeschevi's arm in a locking hold.

"Still using your Krav Maga training..." Yeschevi spit as he spoke the words.

"Krav Maga. Gong Fu. Jeet Kun Do. Aikido. Jiu-Jitsu. Judo. Good old bare fisted brawling sometimes. Whatever it takes. I've done it all. So what's going on. Why are you of all people working for the bad guys once again?!" asked Stanton of an old contact from the Middle East.

"The end is coming! Don't you see it?! These old ways are going to fall. The old order... it will rule no more!" Yeschevi responded defiantly.

"I seem to remember a young Palestinian man whose mission it was to bring peace between his own people and Israel, remember?" Stanton held the man fast in the same arm lock, only loosening it ever so slightly.

"A peace that can never happen with the old established order! The tyrants that keep our world locked in a maze of economics and enslaved to currency! Israel, one of the nations on this throne of injustice will fall!" Yeschevi said, as spit escaped between his clenched teeth.

"How? You mean by the recent attack on Israel? How is mercilessly seeking out and purposely murdering women and children in their own beds going to bring this about?! They've just fanned the flames of the same conflict that's been going on for more than two millennia! A generational legacy of hatred and war!" Stanton responded to Yeschevi, who once again spit.

"You want to talk about killing women and children?! That's exactly what the Israeli bombing of Gaza is doing! Hypocrites!" Yeschevi's rage grew from within.

"You and I both know that HAMAS setup its infrastructure to use the civilians of Gaza as human shields, in case Israel was ever forced to retaliate in the face of one of HAMAS' attacks. Most of HAMAS infrastructure is purposely built neighbouring hospitals, schools and other high risk civilian areas so that in the event of civilian casualties, they'd have the fodder they'd need to fight an information based war against Israel. Make their enemy into the monster, when in fact, HAMAS are using their own civilians as human shields, whose deaths they recycle it into anti-Israel news rhetoric and hate propaganda as part of their information warfare program. You and I both know that its HAMAS that are killing their own citizens by hiding behind them. So don't give me that hypocritical rhetoric nonsense," Stanton verbally shot at Yeschevi.

"Hypocrite! You want to talk hypocrite! You support a regime which condones flying bombing raids against civilians!" Yeschevi responded full of hatred.

"HAMAS are thugs and Palestinians are as much their hostages as any of those they abducted from Israel during the attack. You're on the wrong side here, and a long way from being the principaled Palestinian optimist that I once knew! Once Palestinian citizens know HAMAS the way the rest of us do, they're done, and I bet on that day the Palestinian people look upon the people they were told for years were their greatest enemy, that those enemies will be the most generous with civilian aid and civil engineering to help rebuild and heal the wounds of this war. A war of attrition. HAMAS doesn't come with hospitals, schools, clean drinking water, social housing and a dental plan. HAMAS comes with a future of war and vengeance and nothing more. Pick the side that'll give your people the best chance at a future and peace in their time. Take that advice from a professional warrior," Stanton stood him down, tightening his grip for a moment, and then completely releasing it when he saw that the man was broken.

Yeschevi remained quiet.

"That brings me to another question. How did you become involved with the MindSpice bombers?" asked Stanton of Yeschevi.

"Like you said yourself. I picked the people who gave mine the best hope of a future," Yeschevi responded.

"Are you going to hand over the data, or do I have to search you for it?" Stanton asked Yeschevi.

"Front inside pocket on the left..." Yeschevi said to Stanton without looking up.

Stanton reached into Yeschevi's jacket, and when he did, Yeschevi delivered a crippling punch to Stanton's face, sending him backwards into one of the bathroom stalls.

Yeschevi was on his feet and running for the door, which suddenly flew open as two Canadian Border Services Agents kicked it open, their tasers leveled.

"On the floor! Face down! Hands above your head! Do it!" the first one, a woman yelled at Yeschevi.

"He's in my custody... sort of," Stanton got to his feet from the stall, rubbing his jaw.

"Now would be a good time to show me some ID! We can't just go on your word around here..." the agent challenged him.

"Right here... easy..." Stanton said as he reached for his badge.

He passed her the identification, which once again passed, much to his relief.

"Alright Officer. Do you need our assistance?" asked the Border Services Agent.

"You already did. You see, my old friend Yeschevi here just sucker punched me. One of the oldest tricks in the book, and I fell for it. But you gracefully saved face, Agent. Certainly mine," Stanton said to her charmingly, still rubbing his jaw.

"Glad to be of service. Here's my badge number if you need it for your report," the Border Agent handed him a card.

"Thanks again. Yeschevi and I still have some business if you don't mind?" Stanton smiled for her.

"We're just on our way out... Have a good one Officer Richards," the Border Agent let the door close behind her.

"Left pocket?" confirmed Stanton with Yeschevi again.

"Yes..." Yeschevi gritted his teeth as he spoke.

"No tricks this time, or I'm going to have to really give it to you, and its been a long time since I've had to do that, so come to your senses," Stanton advised Yeschevi, whose face remained compressed and embittered

Stanton retrieved several flash drives and a Terabyte SSD wrapped in an anti-static bag, all bound by a label which read: AR/AP BOOKS 2018 - 2023.

"Is this what you retrieved from the locker?" asked Stanton.

Yeschevi remained still and quiet once again.

Stanton waited for a moment, and then blew up all at once, grabbing hold of Yeschevi's shirt collar and pinning him against the wall.

"I SAID ANSWER ME!" Stanton yelled, keeping his face in Yeschevi's.

"It is as you said. We retrieved it from the locker... after beating down your friend," Yeschevi smiled.

Stanton spun Yeschevi, keeping hold of the back of his jacket.

"After I pat you down, we're going to walk out of here and if you run, again, I'll break your ankle, and you won't walk again for another six weeks. Do you understand me?!" Stanton asked Yeschevi.

"I do," Yeschevi nodded affirmatively, once again spitting at Stanton's feet.

Stanton patted Yeschevi down, checking him thoroughly for any hidden weapons. When he was satisfied that there were none, he directed Yeschevi ahead of him out of the bathroom door.

They stopped at a Mobile Phone shop and Stanton purchased a prepaid phone, which he immediately dialed.

"I'm currently under observation, so I'm going to give you my temporary. I'm operating as Unit 194F29 today," Stanton told the operator.

"Hold the line," the operator responded.

Stanton kept his eyes on Yeschevi, who sat at a bench no more than four feet away.

"Go ahead Unit 194F29," Stanton's handler spoke.

"I'm going to need an EXFIL team immediately at Pearson International, Terminal 1, north exit. Subdued objective, low to no threat," Stanton told him.

"Roger that. EXFIL TEAM ALPHA ETA ten minutes tops. What's the mission status?" asked his handler.

"Package retrieved. Suspect in custody. One agent unaccounted for..." Stanton responded.

"Noted. Hold station until EXFIL," Stanton's handler hung up the phone, as did Stanton.

"You think that arresting me will change things?" asked Yeschevi.

"Not for you. Your future is set in stone, now. An accomplice in a domestic terrorist bombing resulting in at least three confirmed deaths and over twenty six casualties? You're looking at fourteen to twenty four years. You'll be an old man by the time you're out," Stanton said, sitting down beside him.

"And many others will rise to take up my mantle," Yeschevi said defiantly.

"Not likely. There's no retirement package for you my friend. Just a poor and old broken man with not a cent to his name, and several lifetime's worth of shame after you're out of prison. You'll no longer be poster boy material, but you could turn yourself around and save a lot of lives by educating young people to the realities of your choices, what that entailed and where they led. You might even redeem yourself," Stanton said to him.

"I thought you don't believe in that sort of thing," Yeschevi said to Stanton.

"I don't. But you do. So why not do the right thing, instead of nurturing more generations of death upon your own people?" asked Stanton.

Both men stared at each other, until Yeschevi looked away in disgust.

"I cannot bare to see a man who has forgotten so much!" Yeschevi responded to Stanton.

"And I've obviously found a man who has remembered enough for it to be an issue with his own conscience," Stanton had finally had enough, remaining near the man only to see that he was taken with the EXFIL team.

However, that did not stop the words that Yeschevi had said from having meaning to Stanton. For in truth, there were only three men who had the privilege of that experience to begin with, and two of them were currently facing each other in Pearson International Airport. Recalling an intense history that most people on the face of the earth had long since forgotten.

Forgotten


Stanton stepped into line and at full attention as he stood before an administrative desk manned by two friendlies, while behind them an unnamed senior operative who remained in the darkness at the back of the inspection facility observed and took notes.

Stanton however, being as observant as he was immediately understood that this man was operating as the agent of another. However, being a professional soldier and engineer, he held his tongue nearly as well as he held his young ego.

"State your name and rank!" one of the administrators, a ranking enlisted man shouted at Stanton.

"Stanton, Bradley Alexander! Warrant Officer First Class Sir!" Stanton answered, perfectly upright and in full form.

"You present well, Warrant Officer, but how are you in the field of operations?" requested one of the admins at the desk before him.

Stanton stamped in place and saluted once again, without responding.

"Well?" continued the same administrator.

"I'm not quite sure of what you're asking, Sir!" responded Stanton.

The ranking Officer behind the administrators spoke.

"What they're asking you Gunny is, how do you perform under live fire?" he asked, still masked by the dark.

"I perform like any other Canadian Warrant Officer would Sir! I achieve the objective and I seek further instructions Sir!" Stanton replied.

There was a moment of silence as the man in the dark spoke with another man wearing the uniform of a another military operating in the same region.

"Warrant Officer, what do you think of this station?" asked the same man as the other faded to the background once again.

"Say again Sir?!" Stanton said abruptly and politely.

"Dammit Warrant Officer! Do you like it here!? The people? The placement? The Kibbutz?" asked the man from the dark background.

"I damned well love it Sir! If you say so Sir!" Stanton replied, giving the correct answer.

The man in the back of the room dismissed the admins momentarily.

"Take a break, though be back here by no less than 15:30h! That's fifteen minutes from now and in time for the next candidate!" he ordered them.

They promptly left the room.

"Warrant Officer Stanton. I rarely enjoy bringing men into the fold like this, but you have a nearly flawless record, and I underline the term NEARLY!" the man in the back spoke at Stanton.

"Sir! I am as I have been requested Sir! Here and at the call of duty Sir!" Stanton responded.

"So my reference to your nearly perfect record bothers you not?" asked the same man.

"I do not recall which record to which you refer Sir!" Stanton replied.

The man in the background conferred with two others, before returning his attention to Stanton.

"Do you have any allergies or dislikes of Falafel, Grape Leaves or Lentils Warrant Officer?" asked the mystery man at the back of the room.

"No Sir! I enjoy and eat the food that is given me Sir!" Stanton responded without even having to think about it as much as as it was true.

Stanton saw that the man at the back of the room visibly spoke with two others, comparing notes about him and eventually one of them shrugged and it was all over.

His military career. His future as an engineer.

Better yet, his life.

"Warrant Officer Stanton! Dismissed!" the man in the background let one of his best men go, off into the night.

To where ever disgraced soldiers go in the night. Where ever that was, Stanton went.

In this case, it was a lonely bar in Tel Aviv.

It was however, exactly where they'd wanted him to go, though he'd never have argued otherwise.

Stanton recalled the situation, as at twenty three years old and after serving his country for six years, he'd been discarded. Forgotten, much like the history which upon seeing Yeschevi had became fresh on his mind once again.


A Drink To Swim Or Sink

Revhevt Shel Shem (as it was referred to in Hebrew), was a liquor licensed establishment located near the intersection of Meir Dizengoff and Basel Streets in downtown Tel Aviv. The first street, Meir Dizengoff was named after the founder and first Mayor of Tel Aviv. A pioneer of the Zionist movement, and from within whose home (posthumously) Israel's independence was first declared by David-Ben Gurion in 1948. Dizengoff's namesake held weight in the history after the collapse of both Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine, while his former home had since become Independence Hall.

Basel Street on the other hand, was named after the city of the same name in Switzerland, which consequently to both Israel and Tel Aviv, was the home of the Theodore Herzl founded First World Zionist Congress, the focal Political Zionist movement as much so instrumental in the declaration of Israel's independence as was David-Ben Gurion's own Labour Zionist movement. The distinction between the two (both Theodore Herzl and David-Ben Gurion and their corresponding versions of Zionism) describing the means by which Israel's statehood would be achieved and recognized by nations of the world. For a people who'd been as gypsies, dehomed for the last two millennia.

The intersection held much of modern Israel's recent history in its namesake, while within the bar whose Hebrew name meant: Spirit Of The Land, heated discussion was frequently held as to its future. The signing of the Oslo II Accord slightly over a month earlier, had heightened such discussion, which often found itself divided into two sides amongst the Israeli population. 

The Israeli youth, young adults most of whom were students, soldiers and more often both, rose with the optimism that the Oslo Accords had brought in terms of the prospect of a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians alike. A future where the ideals of a secular order could form the bonds of peace, while giving the credence of equality where matters concerned religion and tradition, both of which were unanimously the foundation in the historically most conflicted region of the world.

The other side were the traditionalists, an absolutely determined and unmoveable force within the regional inhabitants of the land, on both sides of the Israeli border. Those who understood the fact that to yield or compromise anything to the other side was an unspeakable and unforgivable sin against their own. Against their ancestors and their history. Against the blood soaked land that had since the beginning of civilization, been fought over in war after war and crusade after crusade. Conflicts that had more often than not, spilled over the boundaries of the region and into other parts of the world. Spreading death and destruction amongst people who barely understood their own history, let alone that of a distant land that was the most conflicted region in the world.

Each of these two sides in discussion in the bar, saw the other side as the problem facing the future of Israel. The hard left, most often fueled by the youth and student movements saw the traditionalists and their corresponding hard right as the problem. That the solutions to Israel's challenges could not be solved by a stance of immobility. An unwillingness to move or compromise where it concerned peace with their regional neighbours. The unwillingness of either side to recognize the statehood of their occupying adversary. 

Yet, it had recently been proven that through negotiation and the rule of law, that the two sides could come to terms where it concerned the recognition of each other's statehood. The first step in a roadmap that would lead Israel and Palestine towards an era of unprecedented peace and cooperation. To sew the seeds of such ideas in the youth of both nations had afforded them the possibility of hope and more importantly, a future.

And yet, on either side of the conflict were the traditionalists whose unmoving stance had kept the vigil so as to prevent what had been gained thus far over the course of thousands of years, from being lost. From being slowly eroded away by the sands of time, in the guise of the spirit of youth, of new ideas, of complacency and the wont for peace at the cost of the yielding of state land. Land that both sides saw as having been promised them, by a higher power whose authority even superseded that of the great powers of the world. 

Israel had remained Israel in a balance of forces. The outward pressure from within Israel by the traditionalists and expansionists who held the borders against the inward pressure from the surrounding neighbour states to crush Israel, by whom they were hopelessly outnumbered. However, on both sides of the conflict, not the discussion, it was the hard-liners who maintained this eternal pressure. Progress for either side would only be made when one side was unable to match the pressure posed against it. It was an investment that had been paid in countless lives since the beginning of recorded history, and who amongst them would betray the sacrifices of their ancestors in defending that which either side had seen as their being the rightful owner of that which had been promised?

In all truth, the youth and those who'd longed for this change that the Oslo Accords had made possible, change that some would argue was more so theory than practice, would also eventually become the traditionalists and hard-liners in their later years. All that it took for that to happen was time, hardship, conflict and death amongst their numbers at the hands of their enemies. The irony was that the school of life flipped those who had leaned hardest to the left, to the hardest of the right in their later years. This was a fact on both sides of the Israel border.

Stanton sat at the bar, a drink in one hand and his chin in the other, as he leaned on the wooden countertop with his left elbow, contemplating recent events in his life. The liquor had softened the concussive force that had recently upended his career and life in the military. He was no longer a member of the armed forces, but a civilian and ex-patriate in a distant land. Nothing but his own resourcefulness and experience to rely upon, and in his case, the asset of that experience was ever so valuable.

He sat contemplating, ever so slightly tipsy, but he hadn't failed to notice the quick glance that a woman a few seats down from him had thrown in his direction. Her dark eyes curvaceously framed by dark eyelashes and a touch of eye liner. Her lips were faintly coloured by lipstick. Her face was covered in little if any makeup, and yet her features were very pronounced by rounded edges and sun dried lines of wisdom and laughter.

"To the future..." Stanton raised his drink, and his voice enough so that it reached her ears gently, looking in her direction.

She nodded, thinking it over carefully.

"To moving forward..." she smiled at him, taking the last drink from her own glass.

He watched her for a moment, and then stood, leaving his empty glass as he began towards her.

"Actually, stay there... please..." she responded, not looking to him, which he took as a sign of rejection.

A woman carefully guarding her own space.

He shrugged without saying anything, instead turning back to his original stool.

"I'll join you is what I meant..." she got up and walked over to him, taking the bar stool immediately neighbouring his.

"Better view from here?" he asked her, looking around the bar and then back to her, though she could see the rest of the bar through the reflection of the mirror tiling that lined the wall behind him.

"No. I just wanted to corner you," she smiled at him with a slight playful mischievousness.

Stanton tapped his elbow against the wall, up against which the bar had come to a halt near his seat.

"And I thought I chose this seat so I wouldn't have to watch my own back..." Stanton smiled, gesturing to the bartender.

"We have a saying here that goes: when you're surrounded on all sides, every side is your back. You're not from around here, are you?" she asked him.

"What gave me away?" he asked her as the bartender arrived.

"Your accent. Its not quite Mediterranean. Its not quite European either. Possibly North American?" she asked him.

"Maybe. Maybe not..." Stanton responded after which the bartender spoke.

"Can I get you the same?" he looked to each of them.

"On my tab," Stanton responded to the bartender.

"Old fashioned?" she asked him.

"No. Gin on the rocks," Stanton replied.

"I meant you, not your drink. I mean young men in the nineties in Tel Aviv don't often buy a girl a drink unless they're saying explicitly that they're old fashioned. So are you?" she explained to him her question.

"I somehow get the feeling that you're not," Stanton replied, keeping his own hand hidden.

"Three years in the IDF and every woman is a modern woman, don't you think?" she responded as the bartender returned with their drinks.

"You certainly are. Two years mandatory conscription, and you stayed for a third? The question is what do you do now, not-so-old-fashioned-woman, or do you have a name?" Stanton asked her.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," she replied, holding up her glass.

"Well met, even for a not-so-old-fashioned-lady. I'm Alexander, but you can call me Alex. Either or," Stanton met her glass with his.

"Pleased to meet you Alex. That's a nice name, but it somehow doesn't fit with you," she responded playfully skeptically, taking a drink.

"It might not fit the best, but its my own. You've seen mine. So lets see yours," Stanton took a drink from his glass, looking over the brim at her carefully.

"I'm Dina, but you can call me Dina. Either or," she mocked him playfully.

"Dina? I like it. Its quaint, yet very present. Like your features. Very admirable," Stanton responded.

"Old fashioned and a charmer too. I suppose a girl with a man like you should ask herself what lays hidden beneath the surface? Especially when most men want women only to see their best. So what's troubling that's beneath the surface that I should know about before we go any further?" Dina asked him.

"That obvious?" Stanton took another drink, keeping his eyes firmly on hers.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," she replied once again, to which he smiled.

"Was diplomacy and negotiations your tasking?" Stanton asked her, more sarcastically than anything.

"No. I think that we should be fair to each other, before we continue," she smiled at him.

"Alright. I'm drinking to drown my sorrows," Stanton admitted, taking another sip.

"A woman?" Dina asked him.

"No. My career. I fumbled big time. Bad judgement call. So I got fired, in a most dishonourable way," Stanton poured the last of his drink down his throat.

"Drats! I was kind of hoping that you were the kind of guy that liked to tie his girl to the bed or a secret something like that. So you got fired? That's not so bad. Happens to the best of us," Dina joked with him, following with the last of her drink.

"So I take it you like tying guys up, do you?" Stanton asked her.

"It certainly makes interrogation much easier, don't you think?" she turned to the door as a patron walked into the establishment, focusing on a man nearing twenty years of age.

"Seriously?" he quizzed her, gesturing to the bartender for another drink as he too watched the very same man approach the other end of the bar, taking a seat somewhat nervously amongst the growing crowd.

"No. I slept with another man on my ex-boyfriend. I'm a cheater, guilty as charged," Dina explained to him.

"No ropes?" he asked her.

"Nope. Just philandering," Dina replied, raising her eyebrows as if some painful regret had found the focus of her reflection once again.

"Your ex, was he good to you?" Stanton asked her.

"He was a good man, but not good for me. Over time he paid me less and less attention, until it was like I wasn't a part of his life, unless he wanted something from me. We spoke less and less, and rarely touched each other, even in bed. Then one night while I was out doing some shopping, another man happened to me. It had been so long since anyone had paid me attention in that way, that I suddenly felt very special. Like I was important to someone else. I felt excited. Like I needed to be loved. Appreciated. The next thing I knew, I was waking up at his place the next day..." Dina explained as their drinks arrived.

"What happened then?" Stanton asked her.

"At first, I felt guilty, but that guilt very quickly turned to resent. I mean, my boyfriend hadn't been paying me any attention! I have a right to be appreciated! To be loved! To be touched by warm hands! I continued meeting my secret lover... in many exciting places, and then one day my ex had me followed, and he found out. By that point, it just didn't matter to me anymore. I suppose that he blamed me, but we truly knew that it was his neglect of me that was the real sin of that relationship!" Dina turned to Stanton, looking at him intensely.

"So now you're a cheater," Stanton shook his head.

"A philanderer. Forever marked," Dina nodded.

"Here's to philanderers and the dishonourably discharged," Stanton raised his glass.

"May we each of us find our second chances here, and amongst certain company..." Dina tapped her glass to his and they drank together.

Both of them however, kept an eye on the man at the other end of the bar. How he'd turned his attention to two other men in the bar. Each of them seated at a different table. Silent and discrete. Almost as if they camouflaged perfectly into their surroundings.

"Distracted?" asked Stanton of Dina.

"Hardly. Just at the end of one of life's intersections, wondering which way to turn," Dina responded, still keeping her eye on the man at the bar.

"Well I guess that makes the two of us..." Stanton carefully took another sip of his drink, already knowing much about Dina without her even realizing.

"I guess now we've come to the difficult part, haven't we?" asked Dina of Stanton.

At that very moment, the man at the end of the bar got up from his stool. He looked to both men, one each of the tables spaced distantly from one another, and chose the man at the table nearest him, towards whom he began walking.

 Dina at that moment became somewhat tense, as Stanton waited for her to say something.

"Look, I've got a pressing matter to deal with... Call me?" she quickly pulled out a pad and wrote a number on it, ripping it from its binding and then placing it on the bar before Stanton.

By that time, the man from the bar had said something to the man at the table, prompting the man at the table to get to his feet. The two of them left together through the front door of the bar as Dina withdrew from her place beside Stanton, in pursuit of them.

Stanton picked up Dina's number and read it once, pocketing it thereafter before taking another sip of his drink. He watched her as she followed the two men out the door of the bar, still keeping his eye on the man at the second table.

He then gestured to the bartender.

"What'll it be Sir?" asked the bartender politely, wiping the counter area around Stanton.

"Just the bill please. Quickly and discretely if you could?" he prompted the bartender.

The bartender simply nodded and a moment later, returned with the bill.

While Stanton was reading it, the man at the second table got up and left through the same door that Dina and her quarry had stepped only a minute earlier.

Stanton quickly pulled the wallet from his back pocket and counted out a wad of paper currency, leaving it for the bartender. He waited until the man had left the bar and stood nonchalantly himself, even purposely swaying a bit as he gathered himself. He then headed towards the back hall which housed the bathrooms, though instead of using the laboratory, he instead turned at the end of the hall and used the employee door of the bar, stepping out into the warm Tel Aviv night air.

The Kite's Tail

Dina walked with her hands by her sides, her blouse concealing her trim and fit body. Her slacks a pair of comfortable khakis while her feet were protected by a pair of athletic sandals, with reinforced ankles. She appeared very casual, but her clothing as Stanton had observed was very purposely chosen for by her. She fit in as well, as many women were dressed similarly, though her apparel was chosen more out of function than form.

She dare not look directly at either of those she was pursuing, but instead to the display windows of the stores along Basel Street along which she followed the two men from a distance of no more or no less than twenty meters.

She continued her walking, always keeping them in her eye and when they stopped to check their six, she was already admiring the wares of a vendor's shop window. From the side,  and the current dim light they took no notice of her, especially amongst the others quickly making their way home in the late evening.

A good distance behind her, the man from the second table was keeping pace, his distance much more than she was from her own target. Whenever Dina had paused in her pursuit to check a store window, he'd quickly stepped into a nearby doorway, completely out of site, appearing much like the background around him.

He remained invisible in his pursuit of Dina and unknown to her.

When Dina's quarry had taken a left turn, she picked up her pace, pursuing them to that intersection at HaShla Street, and to the north from there. By the time she'd made the intersection, they'd already disappeared. She casually continued to the north and upon reaching the first alley, she stepped in, as if merely taking a shortcut home.

 Meanwhile, Dina's pursuer had anticipated her move, and turned north on Amdan Street in attempt to cut her off, unbeknownst to her.

Dina continued into the alley, and as she rounded a corner, she spotted her targets on their way up the back stairs of a hidden apartment dwelling above the HaShla Street storefronts. She paused behind the corner of a building, leaning against it, casually as if it were simply natural for someone at roughly 9:50 Tel Aviv time to be doing so in a back alley off Basel And HaShla. A moment later she heard music from their vicinity as one of them had turned on a stereo.

She quickly peeked around the corner again, ever so slightly and saw that the man who owned the apartment had setup speakers on a balcony area, where the two men now sat. The instrumental music  now covered the sound of their voices and conversation.

North of all of their positions, there was a ruckus from late evening traffic, as a near collision had spurred a truck driver to lean on their horn, as an exclamation reminding drivers to be careful around large vehicles, rather than using expletives, though that had honestly crossed his mind.

Dina thanked the truck driver for his distraction mentally, as she ran along the shadows of the alley attempting to position herself at the bottom of the stairs up to the apartment and balcony which they currently occupied, and were speaking of pertinent matters under the cover of traditional music in Locrian, harmonic minor or possibly of quarter scaling.

Dina, having studied at the Lin And Ted Arison Israel Conservatory Of Music had come to understand and recognize by ear, the different types of world and regional music. It was true, that most Westerners would have recognized the sound of the music they were playing on the balcony as being in the Locrian mode or harmonic minor. Very common in the Yiddish and Hasidic music of Europe and having a very Middle Eastern sound thanks to its three semi-tone interval preceding the major seventh of the scale.

What most Westerners didn't know was the many forms of music in the Middle East were derived originally from instruments that were tuned to Eastern scaling. That is, instead of a semi-tone, which denoted the halfway point mathematically between two notes in terms of frequency, Eastern scaling included quarter-tones. Notes whose interval between their neighbours were one quarter of the frequency interval of a whole tone. To the untrained ear, this sounded very much like Locrian mode or harmonic minor in Western music, but it was actually a completely different scale than that of any in the the equal temperament. The foundation of all Western music.

When Dina combined that with her knowledge of the rhythmic aspect of music theory, she was able to identify the piece very quickly as being part of a specific period.

It was an old piece of music from early Ottoman Palestine. It was music of much significance to her and her mission, as it had verified that she'd found her true target or at the very least, had a cumulative effect in confirming the validity of that assumption.

Dina prepared herself for the takedown, drawing her SIG Sauer P226 from a holster hidden under her blouse. She then pressed a button on a transponder in the cargo pocket on the left of her trousers, waiting in the darkness at the bottom of the stairs under their balcony abode.

Meanwhile, the man from the second table had made his way up Amdan Street and into the same alley, hearing the familiar music as he approached from the opposite corner. He checked both ways, north and south within the alley and found Dina, waiting at the bottom of the stairs, pressed up against the wall and the darkness.

He ever so slowly reached into his jacket and pulled forth an old Service Luger, laying it on the asphalt before him. He then fished into his other pocket, pulling forth an ad-hoc looking apparatus that appeared a combination between a plastic pop-bottle, and a cotton container. With some packing tape, he affixed the device to the barrel of the Luger, wrapping it several times, ensuring that it remained aligned with the port of the firearm. Once he'd achieved this, he slowly rounded the corner, using the sound of the nearby traffic to mask his approach.

When Dina heard the sound of a once off chirp from the transponder she'd clicked, sounding much like that of a regional bird, she began her ascent up the stairs. Stealthily. Silently.

She made her way up each step, one stair at a time. Carefully. Perfectly. When she reached the top landing, and could clearly see the heads of both her targets, she paused, leveling her firearm at them, in the center between them rather than directly at any one of them.

There was a moment of calm as Dina sat with the two men in her aim, targeting neither but very capable of taking both. She waited for what she knew was to come, but it was a quiet and muffled sound that startled from behind her.

The first shot was almost perfectly muffled. Masked by layers of aerated cotton and wax, flew out of the Luger, colliding with the end of the bottle. Melting the plastic instantly into a hard imporous material, against which the round deflected, tumbling into a spin not unlike the curve-ball of a professional baseball pitcher. The round's trajectory curved upward, just barely missing Dina's head by centimeters. A sensation close enough to her to set off her alarms. To tell her that she was in fact in serious trouble.

By the time the man from the second table had fired his second shot, the ad-hoc silencer had shifted thanks to heat and gun powder. That round too deflected off of the poorly crafted silencer, spinning like a knuckleball, this time nowhere near Dina's being.

She instantly stood, keeping her firearm focused on her two targets.

"Hands up! In the air! Right now!" she yelled at her loudest capability, startling the two men who were already paralyzed by the man from the second table's first two shots.

She kept her firearm leveled at the two men as she placed her back against the wall, covering both the landing of the stairs and the two men and their meeting.

"You obviously underestimated us. Didn't you?" the man from the second table revealed himself on the landing, now having discarded the home made silencer for the Luger he still brandished, aimed directly at her.

"Whooooa! Whoooa there..." Stanton stumbled up the stairs behind the man from the second table, stumbling as he strode forth.

The man from the second table adjusted his stance to deal with both Dina and Stanton.

"And who are you? A drunken fool seeking death?" the man from the second table aske Stanton.

"Ahhhh! Are you kidding? I'm after my hunney! She left me hangin' there in the bar..." Stanton stumbled, his arms directed towards Dina as he fumbled, whose face suddenly found a look of intense concern when she saw the drunken man.

"Doncha remember meeee?" Stanton spoke, leaning against a railing near the man from the second table to stabilize himself.

The three of them found themselves in a standoff. Stanton armed with nothing but drunkenness while Dina and the man from the second table leveled their firearms at each other.

There was a long silence as the players on the balcony saw each other for the very first time. Those  two unarmed in the midst of their meeting, shirked away from those armed to seek cover.

Dina kept her focus on the man with the Luger while he did the same with her. They watched each intensely for what seemed like an eternity, when the sound of hard military tires hitting the paved surface of the alley broke their standoff.

The man from the second table fired the first shot in reaction to the sound of what he knew was coming. That round barely missed Dina's shoulder as she rolled forward to dodge his shot.

While her vision was obscured, Stanton moved faster than anyone could have anticipated. He quickly slammed the Luger and its iron sights up into the forehead of the man from the second table, stunning him. Before Dina was up and on her feet again, Stanton had already slammed the man face down into the stone brick surface of the balcony area, rending him instantly unconscious.

The two men targeted by Dina had remained behind cover, too concerned for their own lives to watch over the safety of a hapless drunk.

By the time Dina was up and onto her feet, Stanton was once again stumbling around, advancing towards her.

"I thought we had something?" he said to her.

Dina looked to him, almost pleading with him but she said nothing.

Instead, a group of large men stormed up the stairs and quickly secured the area, throwing Stanton himself to the stone brick.

"Who is this!" asked one of the men of Dina.

"He's... he's... a friend. A drunken friend. From the bar..." Dina replied.

"Stay down and you won't get hurt!" the large man asserted to Stanton.

"Just don't huuurt my girl..." Stanton feigned his drunken spew once again.

"Yeschevi Safi! Lehan Taklim! You are being arrested on the grounds provided by the Terrorism Act, on suspicion of terrorist actions against the state of Israel!" that same man turned his attention to the man Dina had initially been following.

"Then take me! Take me! But I am an innocent man!" Yeschevi responded as he was hauled to his feet, one of the other agents telling him his rights.

Stanton swayed from side to side as one of the other agents approached him.

"Easy with him. He's... I don't know. He helped me though..." Dina urged her the agent.

"Seems the lady likes you. So you'll get cuffs on the front rather than behind," the agent proceeded to handcuff Stanton.

"No ropes eh? Cuffs it is..." Stanton held out his hands as he remarked to Dina, a comment to which she blushed only slightly.

"He's drunk... smells like a distillery," the agent remarked as he put the cuffs on him.

"Seems someone was dipping into the keg after I left?" Dina said to Stanton as she walked by him on her way to the stairs, two large men directing their prisoners down the stairs behind her.

"I thought we had something..." Stanton feigned his drunkenness in a response to her.

"What happened to him?" asked the agent who'd just put the cuffs on Stanton, pointing to the man on the balcony surface ie the man from the second table.

"Must have tripped or something," Stanton responded.

"He's playing dead. Have Amir and Enil keep watch over him until the paramedics arrive," Dina yelled up to them from the stairs.

The agent with Stanton directed him to the stairs, and he complied, still stumbling and walking with a slight wobble.

"So why did you follow me? Honestly?" asked Dina, suspecting a little more than what Stanton was revealing.

"I'm the end of the kite's tail. You followed that Yeschevi fellow. The guy up there in the land of nod  then followed you. I followed him to make sure you were alright," Stanton admitted to her, slurring his words as he spoke.

Dina remained silent from that point, getting into one of the four utility vans that had brought the agents to the scene of the alley. Meanwhile, Stanton, Yeschevi and Lehan were each put in the back of separate vans and locked to the interior chassis of the vehicles.


Station And Cell

Stanton sat in a white concrete cell on a metal bed, his tongue very dry and his breath very full of  the expelled alcohol he'd consumed earlier. 

His captors had removed the cuffs from his hands but had not provided him with much comfort beyond that. Occasionally, he'd hear someone passing the heavy door that kept him confined. Their footsteps in the outside hall sounding very much like those in a Precinct Office.

"Great. I'm in bureaucrat hell," Stanton remarked in sarcasm, his lips very dry.

He got up from the bed the and stood by the door, waiting for the next set of footsteps to pass. When he heard them, he began kicking the door.

"What the hell kind of place is this?!!! No water!!! Come on!!! The United Nations would have your balls in their hands if they knew this!" he yelled, purposefully crude.

The footsteps on the other side of the door paused as Stanton listened. He waited for some time and then he heard them continue walking.

"Made an impression at least," he said to himself, returning to the metal bed.

Five minutes after he'd taken the seat, he heard the large magnetic metal locking mechanism of the door disengage. The door opened and Dina stepped into the room, two large oafs behind her taking each side of the door, but remaining outside of the cell.

She approached him fearlessly, a two bottles of water in her hands. She handed them both to Stanton and then took a seat beside him on the metal bed.

"Thanks," he said to her, twisting the lid off the first bottle and quickly guzzling down its contents.

"I have some pull here, but there are things even I can't do to protect you. There's a lot of questions about you right now. My superiors are very concerned," Dina told him.

"About what? A love struck drunk that follows his heart and pursues a good woman?" Stanton returned the lid to the empty bottle, placing it beside him.

"Your record, Alex, or should I say Bradley? Stanton, Bradley Alexander more precisely," Dina confronted him.

"Did I lie or something? I told you my real name. Is that somehow a crime here?" Stanton confronted Dina.

"I know what you did to protect me, and I'm grateful. Very grateful. But there's so much about you that has raised alarms to my superiors that you might be much more than you appear," Dina relayed to him, watching him carefully for any body language.

"Like what?!" Stanton challenged her.

"Like being discharged from the Canadian military? A NATO Specialist whose tasking even we don't know, and there isn't much that we don't know Bradley," Dina confronted him.

"You're going to have to refresh my memory," Stanton played coy, observing her for any signs of measure.

"You first took an interest in martial arts during your youth, not to mention you had an aptitude for applied physics and math. Engineering to be more precise. You pursued an education in engineering and from there you took all of that interest into the military, first joining the QOR and then on to reg forces: PPCLI to be more precise, where you earned the respect of your superiors and were recruited first into SIGINT and then into their Special Operations Unit. From there, you were evaluated for participation in the JTF before its dissolution but never made the cut. From that point, our records are kind of murky. Regardless, I don't think that its coincidence that you ended up here, in a place that has the potential to be both the heart of peace and the focal point of war. A place where every direction is your back," Dina explained to him.

"That sounds like a load to me. I was a dedicated military man and they threw me to the wolves, to cover for something. That's all. The crap they fed you was likely to cover their asses because there's no unit that wants to be part of a disgrace. So they dumped me, and fed you false intel to cover their asses. End of story. Now I'm a jobless drunk that's become attached to an immensely intriguing yet imperfect woman, and its both aspects about her that I like," Stanton responded to Dina's erroneous exposition of his past.

There was a long moment of pause between them.

"So when are you going to start talking about you?" Stanton broke the silence.

"Stanton. Where we are, we don't have or worry about having a public relations department. In here, the information flows in only one direction. Inward," Dina assured him.

"You mean I was arrested by a market research group?" Stanton responded sarcastically.

There was another moment of silence, but Stanton saw the smile growing on the corner of Dina's lips.

"I was actually on my way to applying for a job at the Tel Aviv branch of Reuters as a consultant when I stumbled upon that bar. I hope you never know how it is when you're freshly fired, dishonourably. Your mind plays tricks on you, and convinces you that you need a break to throw off some stress. So I did just that. But all in all, my mind was right, 'cause I met you in the process of that happy accident," Stanton looked down at his knees and then to eye level, returning his gaze to hers.

"Whatever the Embassy threw at you, they were acting on behalf of my former unit, covering their ass. There's nothing quite so embarrassing as a disgrace to any unit of the military. My fault really, but I can't go beyond that. There's only forward. I'm an engineer. I'm handy too. And I have a few skills. Someone whose skills Reuters would love," Stanton assured her.

Another agent stepped into the room, much smaller and less menacing, but appearing very much fit nonetheless, even behind his button down shirt and tie apparel. He held a clipboard in his hand.

"He checks out. His story clears. They ix-nayed him definitely. The lamb for the slaughter," he nodded to Dina before leaving the room.

Dina appeared visibly relieved, getting to her feet and leaning against the concrete wall opposite Stanton.

"We're going to let you go. If any details about this situation come to mind that you feel might help us in our case, contact me at this official number," she handed him a slip of paper, once again, with a phone number written on it. 

Stanton mentally compared the two numbers. The one from her earlier note which he'd committed to memory and the one she'd just handed him now. They were different, meaning that the first number was her personal line, though he already knew that both would be monitored by the agency she represented.

The only question that was left unanswered, was that of Yeschevi Safi. Stanton knew that this situation had confirmed the man's importance, for he was now on the radar of the intelligence agencies of the vast majority of Western allegiances in the region.

November 4, 1995

Two days had passed since Stanton's encounter with the mysterious Dina, and yet here he sat in the same place he had been sitting in Revhevt Shel Shem and at the very same time. A portfolio lay on the counter beside him, opened to the pages detailing his application and first interview with Reuters. At the top right of the interview process handout was clipped a business card. The text of the handout detailed the interview procedures and outlined the kinds of questions the human resources scouts would be asking during the first interview. Stanton looked over to the portfolio and turned the page, where another note was clipped.

It read like a friendly note a teacher might leave for her student for their test results, and in the case of Stanton, he'd passed the first interview process with flying colours. A second interview had been scheduled in November, on the 6th to be precise. The day they'd go over his role in the organization, given his remarkable experience.

He drew another sip from his glass, and turned his attention to the door which he'd seen open through a reflection in another mirror across the room from him. It was woman. Definitely a woman, he thought to himself. The same height and silhouette against the backdrop of the colourful entry way lighting.

When she stepped into the bar, he immediately knew it was her.

She looked over, and then looked away. Perhaps distracting any onlookers that might be measuring her. She checked the room carefully without letting it be known she was doing so, and when she was satisfied that most patrons were on their way to being pleasantly tipsy and paying her or Stanton no mind, she casually began her steps towards him and to her same seat beside him.

She sat on the stool, pretending she hadn't noticed him. The bartender approached her and she ordered herself a drink. She purposely kept her back to him for a time, until her drink arrived and she presented her profile, once again purposely so.

"What's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" asked Stanton, raising his voice slightly but no invasively.

She then turned to see him, acting as if she'd not noticed him earlier.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there. How are you?" she asked him, craning her head rather than her body to meet his.

"I'm well. How about yourself?" Stanton asked her, playing along.

"Good. I've been very busy lately, especially after the last time I saw you," she slowly turned a little more towards him.

"Care to talk about it?" Stanton asked her.

"Well. I just wanted to apologize to you. I guess we thought you were something that you obviously just aren't. Honestly, I can work with the person you are, because you seem to be genuine and not to mention, you saved my ass. Really. I'd have been so fired for letting an amateur show me up like that, with a pop bottle silencer and all..." Dina took another sip from her drink.

"Go on, Dina. You're a real pro. I was just lucky to be there that day that fate wasn't smiling on us... Those days, we've gotta watch out for each other," Stanton held up his glass.

 She clanked hers to his and they both took a generous sip of their respective drinks.

"Actually, maybe it was..." Dina still straddled herself between halfway facing him and halfway facing the bar.

"How so?" Stanton asked her.

"Well, the one with the pop bottle..." Dina began, pausing to think about it.

"Go on..." Stanton listened carefully.

"He was there to assassinate one of the men I was there to apprehend," Dina explained to him.

"Who?" Stanton asked.

"Yeschevi Safi," Dina turned to face Stanton fully.

"Who's he?" asked Stanton, playing ignorant.

"He's someone of interest to us. Many ties to the PLO and possible deeper ties into organizations of which we're not yet aware..." Dina explained to Stanton, signaling to the bartender to turn up the music.

The bartender nodded and politely raised the volume of the music ever so slightly.

"I thought the PLO were now part of the peace process? Oslo I and II?" Stanton reminded her, though she was not one who needed reminding about any such thing so important to the peace and prosperity of the region.

"Yeschevi's association raises some alarms, and we're skeptical of him as a result. Nonetheless, someone else wanted him dead, and it was someone within the hidden depths of an anti-Palestinian Authority and anti-Israel terrorist infrastructure. Those who do not want a peace or a compromise between the people of Israel or Palestine," Dina looked to her drink.

"So why was this guy gunning for you?" asked Stanton.

"We're still analyzing the crime scene and his background for any possible motive..." Dina told him.

"So obviously this Yeschevi guy must be on the same side?" Stanton reasoned.

"In the aspect that we both have a common enemy somewhere," Dina agreed.

"What significance was the music?" asked Stanton.

"How did you...?" Dina asked him.

"I didn't. I noticed however that its very different to what you'd normally hear in anywhere in Tel Aviv. I also noticed that it was somehow very pertinent to you. So what gives with it?" asked Stanton.

"I'm trained in advanced music studies at the Lin And Ted Arison Israel Conservatory Of Music. That's a reason I was chosen as an operative on this assignment. As it stands in our current understanding, a cell we're investigating has been using pre-modern Palestinian Ottoman music to signify and coordinate their operations. The music sounds similar enough to traditional regional music that most people don't recognize it. However, it has significant differences that this cell and its friendlies are aware of, as many are well studied in regional history, including music," Dina explained to Stanton.

"So you're not just arresting citizens because they're listening to the wrong music then..." Stanton said accusingly.

"Never. That's not what we're about. This is part of a significant investigation that comes on the wings of a precedent setting peace accord. There's a group that seem to be using this old music to communicate," Dina looked to Stanton.

Dina looked to the counter in front of Stanton, and saw one of the Reuters business cards.

"How goes the job hunting?" asked Dina.

"Good. I passed the first interview, meaning I have my foot jammed in the door. Now I've just got to get through the second, and I'm in. You won't be able to call me a bum anymore," Stanton smiled at her.

"What are you doing in the meantime?" Dina asked him.

"Watching your back, I'm guessing," Stanton smiled to her.

"I was just going to suggest the same thing," Dina replied, flagging the bartender to order another round.

"How so? Officially?" asked Stanton.

"Let's just say that I'll be keeping you as a retainer. A consultant of sorts. Someone to watch my back," Dina suggested to Stanton.

"You mean like a bodyguard?" confirmed Stanton.

"I can look after myself, thank you very much, but a second set of (seasoned) eyes and ears couldn't hurt," Dina continued.

"What, you mean like I help you as a favour?" he confirmed again.

"No. I'll be paying you, but lets just say that your work for us will be off the books," Dina looked to him, and into his eyes.

"As a consultant?" asked Stanton.

"Yes. Lending us your expertise, and perhaps your perspective given your unique experiences and skills," Dina finalized the offer.

"Tell me more about your case first," Stanton demanded.

"Not until we're in agreement. Its one thing to dishonour your unit through a discharge of questionable motives. Its an entirely different story when you disgrace them by violating the bond of your word with another professional like yourself," Dina reminded him of what was at stake should he agree.

"Very well. I'll act as a consultant, pursuant what we've agreed upon here, assuming my reimbursement for such services is adequate to cover my lodging, food and comfort here in the wonderful city of Tel Aviv - until I've been procured in a more formal nature by Reuters or United Press International," Stanton negotiated.

"UPI. You didn't mention them before," Dina inquired.

"I've got an upcoming interview with them and it looks good. Just hedging my bet," Stanton assured her.

"I see. I've got my own terms as I'm sure you already know. You'll keep no notes regarding anything we're investigating and you'll discuss nothing pertaining to the investigation with any outside party, other than myself. If you break these terms, then we'll have to terminate - your agreement," Dina kept her eyes focused on Stanton unflinchingly.

"Fine. While I'm operating under the terms of our agreement, I am to receive amnesty with regard to any dealings with the local Police, not to mention I want a printed copy of this afforded amnesty, including my full name and the duration of this amnesty sent to the Canadian Embassy and addressed to the Office of the Ambassador. In my experience, its only a fool that jumps into a such a deal without a parachute," Stanton kept his gaze on her while taking a sip from his drink.

"That can be arranged, though there will be no mention of where or whom the order for this amnesty originated. It will only be signed and officiated by the head of our Police Service and under his authority. Fair?" Dina responded, a shrewd negotiator.

"That'll work. I'll need an advance of five thousand New Shekels, and two thousand a week for the duration. If you're happy with my work and want to throw in a bonus, I'd be more than willing to use it well," Stanton smiled, keeping all of his cards well concealed.

"You always struck me as someone not in this for the money," Dina replied, shifting her negotiating stance slightly.

"I'm not, but you can afford it and you and I both know that what I'm asking for is peanuts compared to what you'd pay for a skilled mercenary with similar skills, but I don't think you want just another mercenary. You want me, and I've learned from life that you can't do what you were meant to do unless you can support yourself. Money means little to me. Its just a means to do what I was meant to do, but I can't do it without it," Stanton didn't flinch in his words.

"Agreed. You?" Dina kept her eyes on him, no show of emotion.

"We're in agreement. We have a deal," Stanton nodded affirmatively.

Dina reached into her purse and pulled forth an envelope and handed it to Stanton. He accepted it, beneath the top of the bar and quickly counted the money. It was five thousand New Shekels. At that point he knew she was carrying more. Most likely, three envelopes in all. One with five thousand, one with three thousand and one with two thousand. That way, no matter what he'd negotiated up front, she could retain the upper hand and appear that she knew him so well that he could do little without them knowing first. He made no visible indication of this insight and instead folded and tucked the envelope into his back pocket.

"Who was the guy you were pursuing?" Stanton then asked her.

"He's a Palestinian. Born and raised in Tel Aviv. His father was killed during the time of the six day war, in a dispute with a neighbour of all things. His mother gave birth to him in March of 1968 and he grew up in Tel Aviv, well educated, though in 1992 he gave up his post secondary studies to become a full-time political activist. A year ago, he dropped off the radar and went underground. That's when he started showing up in these intelligence photos," Dina handed Stanton another, larger envelope.

He opened the end and retrieved several eight and a half by eleven images. A few were in full colour, while others were computer shaded (by complex algorithm) to reveal certain features hidden within the colour and shading histogram. A remarkable feat, considering the state of 1995 computer technology.

Dina smiled to the bartender and asked him to turn up the music. He raised the volume slightly and continued on his duties.

"Who are these people he's meeting with?" Stanton asked Dina, moving in a little closer to her.

"They're members of the PIJ. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In this photo, he's meeting with members of a Syrian backed group..." Dina explained to Stanton.

"Fatah al-Intifada. That's Al Qafir Abdari. He's mostly a political strategist and that's his bodyguard beside him, Sair Aktam. A veteran of the USSR/Afghanistan war. A brilliant tactician. Very dangerous," Stanton told her upon looking carefully at the images.

"Already earning your keep. I'm impressed. Getting back to these matters, Yeschevi has been on our radar ever since, meeting so prominently with such figures who are known for their use of violence to achieve their ends. Yeschevi meeting specifically with these figures is alarming, as it might signal a change in Yeschevi's prior political standing. He had a fairly good reputation and a lot of credibility with both the left and right wing parties in Israel. He spoke like an educated man more so than a brute trying to get a rise out of the public. Since he disappeared, his turning up in circles like these has caused us alarm. I'm sure you can see why," Dina explained to Stanton, who looked over the rest of the photos, paying great attention to the detail within.

"All of these groups are members of the PLO. There shouldn't be anything to worry about, as they're all onboard Oslo I and II. Its been signed and sealed already. That's no small feat by the way though I'm sure you know. Most of the men in these photos have been fighting for their entire life. They're older than when they became involved politically. Actively. They're tired and are hungry for peace after a lifetime of violence. That's what I see here. Yeschevi's meeting with them, perhaps drumming up support for the coming peace?" Stanton suggested.

"These are also men who are held in high esteem by their membership and recruits, and not all of those recruits are seasoned veterans of the spoken word. Many of them are illiterate, and have grown up into a lifetime cycle of violence, with no foreseeable other means of life. Its the only life they've known. Ideally, the Oslo accords will bring a new prosperity, but what happens to all these people who've fought tooth and nail for a war that has brought them nothing but death and hatred for the people they believe made all that possible? If Al Qafir Abdari or Al Zufir, prominent leaders within the structure of the PLO don't say what these men want to hear, they're going to turn to someone else who does. We find it very frightening that Yeschevi disappeared right when the first steps towards a lasting peace became possible, and now he's showing up with those who were part of the fight all along, right when this peace is the most fragile," Dina spoke with intensity to Stanton, who listened to her every word.

Stanton  stacked the photos and placed them carefully into the envelope and returned it to Dina.

"You said something about the music before," Stanton reminded her.

"Yes. Its from the Ottoman era of Palestine. Some of it from much before. We believe they're using that music, which has a very specific sound to those who are familiar with its musical roots, as a sort of method of communication," Dina explained to him.

"It could be a coat of arms," Stanton suggested, already familiar with the idea.

"That too. However, all of this has come up right in the midst of the region's most ambitious steps toward peace, and that has put us in a secret crisis. We have to make sure that Yeschevi's arrival in this situation and his dealing with these people isn't an opportunity to reignite the flames of war, especially when we're precariously balanced in the midst of the transition of generations. Is our legacy going to be one of peace, that they inherit, or is it going to be war, seeded by those misusing the power of their presence to radicalize the next generation of violence?" Dina asked him rhetorically.

"What about the man with the home made pop bottle silencer for his Luger?" asked Stanton about the man he'd introduced to the adobe mudbrick floor of the balcony.

"He broke under interrogation last night, though he won't reveal who gave him his orders or which group he represents. He was tasked with my assassination," Dina looked down to her drink, suddenly uncomfortable speaking about the matter.

"A little dangerous for you to be out and about then isn't it if you don't know who's gunning for you?" asked Stanton.

"I had to thank you. That's the second reason I came here tonight. Our business has little room for error as I'm sure you already know," Dina began.

"Tell me about it. You're talking to a man who narrowly avoided a Court Martial," Stanton responded.

"A man who of his own accord chose to follow my assassin. A man who did this after being ditched by the woman with whom he was speaking and who was the target of this assassin. A man who even prevented him from achieving his orders. So many hinge points from which my life could have been cut short. They didn't want me to bring you on. I had to argue a good case for it for three hours before I came here. They eventually folded when I threatened to take sick leave, and believe me, we are stretched nearly to our limits as it is. I asked you because if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have been alive to ask anyone," Dina admitted to Stanton, willing to give him something of hers that needed guarding, as much as she had something of his much the same.

There was a moment of silence as Stanton thought about what she'd said, and how much courage it took for her to say it. Showing such weakness was always a risk in their business. People who had such a soft spot in them so easily exposed often didn't last long. The problem was, that we all have a soft spot. The difference between those that survived and those that didn't was buried in how well they protected it.

"I'll call you tomorrow, although I think I might have a stalker," Dina stood, feeling they'd discussed enough for the night.

"I know you do. I'll talk to you tomorrow," Stanton agreed, smiling at her sincerely, a gratitude she returned.

She then walked over to the front door and left the bar.

Stanton waited for three minutes, and then left through the same back door in the bar he'd left the other night. He followed her the entire way home, keeping his distance from her, making sure she got there safely before he made his way to his own abode.

The two of them slept easily that night, thinking about one another. In their dreams they slept in each others' arms.


History Is In Its Making


Stanton's phone rang at ten in the morning, startling him in his bed. He sat up quickly and got up and out of bed, running across the cold floor naked to pick up the receiver from the kitchen wall.

"Hello...?" he said groggily, rubbing his eyes.

"Are you ready yet? We have a big day ahead of us," Dina pressed him cheerily.

"Uhhh. Yeah. I can be, in about fifteen minutes," Stanton responded, looking around to his kitchen counter where a congregation of empty beer bottles stood at attention.

"Fifteen? So you were still in bed. Alright. I'm coming up there now," Dina responded.

"Where are you?" Stanton asked her.

"In my car. Parked in the alley behind your building," Dina told him.

"How are you calling me...?" Stanton asked her, suddenly realizing the answer himself.

"Mobile phone. Dual band. Satellite and 2G based. The latest tech you know. Its installed in my car. Soon these things will be small enough for us to carry them in a backpack, and by that time, everyone will have one," Dina pointed out.

"I'll keep my AN-PRC-77 thank you very much. The door's unlocked, though my place is a mess. Make yourself at home," Stanton told her.

"See you in a minute..." Dina said before hanging up.

Stanton quickly went over to his front door and unlocked it, and then directly to the bathroom where he stepped into the shower. The streaming water soothed his throbbing twenty-three year old head, but not enough to kill his love of beer and whisky.

By the time he was out of the shower, Dina was already examining his kitchen and living room, taking in as much as she could.

"Are you a mercenary or a college freshman?" Dina asked him with an amused smile on her face.

"A bit of both. Why, what do you think?" he smiled, still in a towel as he answered her from the bathroom.

"Its quaint. Somewhat what I expected, though it could use a woman's touch," Dina organized the bottles on Stanton's counter, gathering them into an empty case and placing it by the front door.

A moment later, Stanton arrived, still buttoning his shirt.

"Can I make you a coffee or tea?" asked Stanton.

"No time for that. We'll grab one on the go if you need," Dina suggested as Stanton opened up his fridge and pulled forth a jar of an orange/brown mush, placing it on the counter. He then found a plate of cold falafels and a bagel, hidden behind some condiments and pulled them out, putting them beside the jar of much.

"What's that?" she asked him.

"Chickpeas, olives, garlic, tumeric and cumin. All crushed by hand in a real mortar and pestle. Its Kosher too, you might like to know. I get it from an old Yiddish Apothecare just downstairs from here. He emigrated here in 1947 and has stuck it out since then, building up a devoted clientele. Says this mixture is popular with college freshman, to protect their livers and kidneys from excessive drinking. Want some?" Stanton asked her.

"I'll pass, but thank you for asking. Looks... interesting," Dina headed for the door.

Stanton gathered the whole mixture up in a lunch bag, taking a few napkins as well for the cleanup. He then headed for the door.

"You're not carrying?" Dina asked him, somewhat shocked that a man of his repute remained unarmed.

"I'm with the press, remember? Don't need one," Stanton assured her.

"Oh yes. Your application. I remember, but don't you think its wise to carry one? Just in case?" Dina pressed him.

"No. Really. I don't need one, and if I do, I'll find it when I need it," Stanton looked to her, and she could see that he was a man who lived by the force of will.

"Fair enough. Let's go. I think you'll like our first stop. I'll tell you about it in the car," Dina said to him, stepping out into the hall of his building.

"...she said to him with baited breath," Stanton narrated her words for her and she laughed as they made their way down the stairs.

A few moments later and they were in her Land Rover, driving along Yehoshua Bin-Nun Street looking for East/West passage to their destination.

"We're meeting with a fellow you'll like. He's with the press. Reuters," Dina explained to him as she drove, turning onto Amsterdam Street.

"I like him already. Did I get the job?" Stanton asked sarcastically.

"That's not what I meant. He's a vet. Like you. I can't tell you much more than that as he's protected under the terms of a security agreement. You'll see when we get there," Dina told Stanton.

"I can hardly wait," Stanton said, shoving another mush coated falafel into his gullet.

They parked the car and made their way through one of the side entrances (which itself was another alley) and into Sarona Market.

Dina grabbed Stanton's hand and held onto it after he'd ditched the refuse of his paper bag lunch.

"This isn't the time or place..." Stanton responded, trying to keep cool.

"Play along. We're a couple visiting the market and meeting a friend," Dina leaned in close to his ear, keeping a modest smile on her face the whole time.

Stanton let go of her hand and took her other side, grabbing her right hand in his left.

"You're a left-handed gunner. I'll take your right hand just in case you need to operate in a hurry," Stanton leaned into her ear, correcting her and giving her a playful peck on the cheek.

"I like a man who's mind is focused on the mission," Dina smiled back at him, laying her own peck on the tip of his nose.

From there, once they found a comfortable stature together, they played the role of a loving couple. So good in fact that nobody would have ever known that they were simply playing their roles in a much bigger game.

They stopped at an antiques stall, examining the fine cabinet work of a local artisan cabinet maker. After their visit, they found a flower stall, where Stanton purchased some flowers for Dina, which she found to be quite romantic and a great improvisation for the part he was playing. She dragged him to another stall, grabbing a men's shirt for him. One that she found to be quite enticing, though he kept it slung over his shoulder for the time being.

When they arrived at the café, a muscular man with a slight pot belly sat across from them. He stood to greet them when they arrived.

"Dina, always a pleasure," he shook her hand, leaning over the table to give her a kiss on the cheek.

"So good to see you again, Avi. How have you been keeping since our last visit?" Dina asked the man, who remained standing.

"Good. In good health and keeping very busy with all the great news here. Who is this that you've brought with you?" Avi asked Dina.

"Avi Petrov, meet Bradley Stanton," Dina introduced the two men.

"Stanton is it? Your name sounds familiar. Have we met?" asked Avi of Stanton, the grip of their handshake considerable.

"We might have, but I'm not sure where. You're a specialist, I seem to recall," Stanton kept his grip on the older man's hand.

"A specialist? That's not the way most people would refer to what I was..." Avi smiled back at Stanton, the two men keeping a firm gaze and grip on each other.

"Spetzna, then. Correct?" asked Stanton, still keeping his eyes affixed to the man before him.

"You know Bradley, that wall came crashing down more than six years ago. You're referring to the boogie men of the Soviet Bloc, whereas I was able to procure an insiders account of that monumental event, and earn considerable trust and status amongst the world press for it. I will not confirm nor deny that I was a boogie man of the Soviet Bloc, but I will confirm that those days are six years gone and in that time, I've found a new life," Avi tightened his grip ever so slightly, surprising Stanton as their standoff reached a crescendo.

They released each others' hands and a friendly smile crossed Avi's face.

The two men then sat down after Dina had taken her seat.

"How long did you serve in Afghanistan?" asked Stanton immediately upon sitting down.

"I beg your pardon?" Avi confirmed he heard Stanton's question correctly.

"You heard me. How long were you there?" Stanton showed no respite in his line of inquiry.

"Two years was the requirement..." Avi responded to Stanton, reading the man as he answered and recognizing that his answer wasn't quite good enough.

"...but my superiors demanded a four year term for my unit..." Avi added, Stanton's expression changing ever so slightly.

"He's a bit shifty, but he's honest if given the incentive," Stanton assured Dina.

"Stanton is... in our line of work, but he's looking to make a career transition into the press," Dina tried to change the subject quickly.

"Something I might be able to help with?" asked Avi.

"First, lets discuss why we actually came here," Dina intervened.

"I was given some details as to what you might be looking to speak with me about. Ask and I'll do my best to answer," Avi nodded to Dina, a clever grin on his face having escaped Stanton's inquiry.

"We recently had some dealings with a man you might know or at the very least, have heard tell. Yeschevi Safi," Dina asked Avi leaning forward in her chair slightly.

"A Palestinian? Former activist? Yes, I've heard of him. Seems he's been making some waves in the circles I've been digging through for a good story or two," Avi gestured over to one of the wait staff of the café.

"Can you elaborate?" Dina continued.

"We're in business together aren't we? What do you have to offer for that information?" asked Avi, negotiating carefully with his own most precious commodity.

"I've been authorized to give you details regarding the first stages of how Israel's adherence to the terms of Oslo are going to play out in the language of policy," Dina assured Avi, who's eye brows raised considerably in response to her considerable offer.

"You see, that's how we did it in Moscow," Avi leaned back as the waitress arrived.

"Coffee? Tea?" asked Avi of his guests at the table.

"I'll have a coffee, please. One sugar, two cream," Dina replied.

"Coffee. Black. And a glass of water," Stanton added his own order.

The waitress left to fulfil to their orders.

"So what can you tell me?" Dina asked Avi.

"This Yeschevi fellow. He's been speaking with many of the leadership of the groups that make up the PLO. Their leaders and their war chiefs, though they've been tight lipped about the whole thing. They wouldn't even speak with me about him when I interviewed three of them for a piece I did for Reuters," Avi answered Dina's question as best he could.

"How many others did you speak to for that piece, besides the three you're indicating?" asked Stanton suddenly.

"I spoke with many. Their roles within... who's to say?  What have you to offer that might spur my memory?" Avi returned to negotiations once again.

"I can offer you an interview. Perhaps with a high ranking official. One who had connections to the ratification process of Oslo II?" offered Dina to Avi.

"That offer doesn't sound very certain. My memory is still a bit hazy on the subject of this Yeschevi fellow..." Avi responded, clearly negotiating with her.

"One of Rabin's cabinet members. One who works with him quite frequently on many issues and was key to defining Israeli minimum requirements for the accord," Dina elaborated a bit more.

Avi nodded affirmatively, not looking directly at Dina as he did. He then reached down to bag beside his chair and pulled a bottle from it. He unscrewed the cap and poured a healthy helping in his empty coffee cup.

"A drink?" Avi addressed Dina verbally, but tossed the bottle to Stanton who caught it and examined the label.

It was Jaegermeister.

"We used to drink this a lot on the east side of the big fence when it was still up. How you say? A pick-me-up?" Avi addressed them both.

"I'll pass," Dina said blandly.

"Fair enough," Avi took a healthy swig from his coffee cup and placed it back on the table just in time to catch the bottle as Stanton threw it back to him.

"I'll pass. So what do you recall about the men you spoke with? Did they mention anything about Yeschevi?" Stanton pressed him.

"We have a deal then I assume?" Avi turned to Dina, who looked him square in the eyes.

"You'll receive a call within a week from a secretary or assistant who will make arrangements for the interview. They'll give you the ground rules and a script of what questions not to ask, and you can take it from there. You have my word," Dina agreed to honour her offer.

"Since the nice lady with the wallet has paid, I can tell you that Yeschevi was a very different man from the kind of people who usually speak to these men. He was no warlord, nor was he a radical. He was more of a... дипломат [dze'pform'of]" Avi said, looking directly at Stanton.

"A diplomat? What... to unite an anti-Israeli movement?" Stanton seemed very skeptical.

"No. It seems his goals are much more peace oriented. Much like those who fostered the negotiations that made Oslo I & II possible," Avi pointed out, though Stanton was still not convinced.

"He was acting in the interest of peace?" Dina confirmed that she was hearing him correctly.

"That is what I said. I sat with them too, while Yeschevi was there, finishing up from an earlier meeting with them. They weren't discussing intelligence contacts, supply lines or sharing bomb building techniques. They were discussing how to transition from an organization designed for guerilla warfare into an organization to maintain peace," Avi took another quick drink of his Jaegermeister, finishing it before pouring another helping, and then returning the bottle to the bag beside his seat.

The table remained silent for a moment as they considered the ramifications.

"Perhaps that is something the people whom you represent should be doing as well?" Avi challenged Dina politely.

"We have been doing nothing less since this conflict began," Dina responded without hesitation, remaining collect over his insinuation.

"I can't help but think, given your previous ties, that there was something more to your visit with these men of the PLO? Especially if you recall details like that about Yeschevi's visit with them," asked Stanton.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Who's to know in our game, Alexander, or is that your real name? What is it you do? You've got quite a grip for someone who's out of work, not to mention the company that you keep would definitely imply that you're in a little deeper than you're letting on. Not quite American accent... perhaps Canadian?" Avi smiled deviously as he spoke, a light scent of booze on his breath.

"He's an exchange student, studying in the political science program. My intern if you will," Dina covered for him.

"Intern? So tell me, what makes you think I'm Spetzna, intern?" challenged Avi.

"Your tattoo. Inside skin on your right arm. The star, and two swords, one on each side. One for each of your tours in Afghanistan. The sickle above the star? Your tasking maybe? I'd say you started out reg-forces, were selected for an armed forces GRU before you were snatched up by the KGB," Stanton laid his prognosis out for Avi.

Avi remained silent, looking directly at Stanton with intensity.

"You're young. You've clearly something to prove, but know this from an older man that the only one you're proving it to is yourself, meaning you're still uncertain of many things. If this wasn't the case, you'd have said nothing. I will however give you some saving grace. Many of the people who heeded the call here from the mid to late 1940s were Russian Jews. They came here before the founding of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Before Russians were thick in their pride for their defeat of the Nazis, a bunch of Russian Jews heeded the call, and many of them are still living here to this day. Old women and men. I have an interest here, whether most people realize it or not. In this region. My sisters and brothers from the USSR of which Russia used to be a part, came here, and so now after the collapse of the fence, I'm here. That is what you're seeing through the eyes of a young man trying so desperately to impress himself. With your words, be guarded, because you never know when they might lead to your early end. Just some advice that might save you while you're still wet behind the ears," Avi said to him with a fierceness in his eyes that gave even Stanton the chills.

"You're sure of Yeschevi's activities with these men? Any specific details you care to share?" asked Dina, quickly returning to the subject at hand for the concern of her mission, and de-escalation.

"I am absolutely certain of his activities from that time, though he seemed more concerned with speaking to the leadership. Now a man of my experience might note that in doing so, he may have offended some of the warlords. These are men who know that they're the ones holding the real power. After all, they have the recruits, soldiers, weapons, munitions and vehicles at their disposal to back up this fact, while anyone who wears the badge of being a leader without that same power to back it up... well... you know. Those men don't usually last too long. Yeschevi has chosen to speak with these men...,  figureheads if you will, and in ignoring the warlords, he might have created another tension inadvertently if you understand my difficult accent..." Avi started out addressing Dina, and then looked to Stanton just to make sure he was paying attention, before returning his gaze to Dina.

"Diplomacy is perhaps one of the most difficult languages in all of humanity," Stanton responded, playing the role of a political science intern.

"Its much more than a language. Its a complex awareness wrapped around a set of skills unlike no other vocation or pursuit," Dina added, strategically correcting intern Stanton as she did.

"Diplomacy is two people across a stadium from each other trying to get to each other but they're separated by a turbulent crowd, all of whom can hear, criticize or repurpose for their own benefit or the detriment of the two, everything that the two have to say to each other," Avi noted, a young Stanton listening and learning from them both as they spoke.

"Shall we go then?" asked Dina of Stanton.

"I'm ready if you are," Stanton said, keeping his eyes on Avi.

"Thank you for everything, Avi. You'll hear from us soon about arrangements for the interview. Until we meet again," Dina stood  shortly after Stanton and Avi had.

Avi shook their hands and left him alone at the table, where he poured himself another stiff drink.

...

"Sounds like we have a place to start looking in order to find out who your assassin was working for," Stanton suggested aloud.

"That would be a dangerous move, even for a warlord on the eve of peace don't you think?" Dina noted.

"It might, though it could go two ways for them. If one of the warlords put out a contract for you and the other warlords found out, they might unite and possibly assassinate the warlord in question. Maybe even make it appear that it was Israel's doing. A tactical retaliation, which would allow them to consolidate the dead warlord's resources without raising suspicion, all while saving face for the remaining warlords and still maintaining the anti-Israel stance amongst the people that is required to justify the warlords' existence," Stanton explained to Dina.

"And the other way?" asked Dina.

"They see Yeschevi as a threat to their power base, as he's only speaking with the figureheads, not the warlords, and decide to form their own secretive coalition without the knowledge of the figureheads, while assassinating Yeschevi and yourself, though its of my opinion that your assassin had plans to kill you and round up Yeschevi for questioning before executing him, given Avi's intel," Stanton continued.

"Care to explain your reasoning for the second outcome?" asked Dina.

"You said that Yeschevi was known to your organization, and that he'd had dealings with people connected to it in the past, correct?" asked Stanton.

"I alluded to, but I didn't want to let it slip that we even had him in our custody before our chance meeting the other night," Dina confessed to Stanton.

"Why didn't you say something?" Stanton asked her urgently.

"I didn't know if I could trust you..." Dina responded, with both words and body language.

"What? You mean that saving your life wasn't enough?" asked Stanton, shocked that she would say something like that.

"You know how it is in our business? Someone could have easily staged what you did for me, just to get closer to us. These are real concerns, Alex," Dina said to him and they remained silent as they walked.

"If its any consolation, I trust you now," Dina said to him gently.

"Look, if we're going to work together on this and we're going to be on the same page, you have to start being more forthcoming with information like that. That's a key piece of information and in its absence, it could have gotten us both killed!" Stanton asserted firmly.

"Well we're not dead, are we?" Dina challenged his assertion.

"No. Thankfully. But it sounds like we definitely have a motive, and one that connects to those warlords," Stanton told her.

"I see. Yeschevi's speaking with the figureheads after they'd obtained intelligence that indicated he'd been held by us, would mean that they think he's working for us, and organizing some kind of a coup," Dina quickly figured out Stanton's line of reasoning.

"Not only that, he's been speaking with those on the side of the PLO who have been directly involved in the Oslo I & II development process, and without the warlords being invited to take part, which could signal to the warlords that their power base is being undermined, and that the Oslo accords were just part of an elaborate smoke screen. That could set the stage for more violence, or even a war," Stanton confirmed by nodding in agreement.

"I'll call that in when we get back to the car. I'm glad I brought you today," Dina said to him gratefully.

"I almost lost Avi's confidence back there. I'm sorry about that," Stanton admitted.

"What? For having an ego?  Don't worry about it, but do try to keep that contained. We're professionals  remember. The truth is, I was entertaining the idea that you were jealous of him," Dina responded, a hint of humour in her voice.

"Caught, red handed..." he returned the humour and they walked in awkward silence through the last alley before they saw the car parked twenty feet away.

"So what about what you were saying about the music? Is there anything we can do to investigate that possibility?" asked Stanton.

"That's where we're going now," Dina told Stanton.

"To see who?" he asked her.

"Remember how Yeschevi was meeting with another man?" asked Dina.

"The one you still have in custody, besides the assassin?" asked Stanton.

"Yes. One and the same. Well, we released him on the grounds that we had nothing, though we didn't tell him that of course. We told him that we had a lot of circumstantial evidence linking him to a plot, but that we were releasing him on 'good faith'. We've been keeping a very close eye on him and he hasn't spoken to anyone yet, but I'd be willing to bet that he's cooking, and just about ready to boil over," Dina told Stanton with a smile on her face.

"He must be pretty lonely. You want to be the first one there when he does," Stanton nodded, beginning to see how she thought.

"Let's go then," Dina said as they made their way back to her car.

"You aren't nervous about returning to the scene of your near death?" asked Stanton of her.

"My near death? My dear Mr. Alex, that was the site of my fully realizing that I'm alive," Dina leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

Of Mystery And Music


Dina pulled the car up into the same alley they'd been three nights earlier, where Dina's life had almost been cut short by a man wielding a Luger.

"Think he'll be nervous seeing us again?" asked Stanton as he got out of her car from the passenger side.

"Possibly. We'll just play it by ear, meaning that if he's a little too tender, I'll expect you to fade a bit more than to show teeth," Dina suggested to him.

"Brawn and brains honey. Brawn and brains," Stanton assured her.

"Well for this, you're going to have to work on the soft touch," Dina firmly asserted.

"You be the soft touch. I'll follow your lead," Stanton agreed.

"Fair enough. You know, I'm beginning to really like working with you," she smiled at him.

"Is it my jealousy?" asked Stanton playfully.

"That, and your focus," Dina began making her way up the same fire escape stairs to Lehan Taklim's balcony door.

"You're sure he's home?" asked Stanton.

"Yes. I'm sure. We've been watching him around the clock since we released him," Dina responded as they arrived at the top of the fire escape stairs and the steel landing where Stanton had stumbled forward to affront her assassin.

Their footsteps announced their presence until they arrived at the paved adobe style brick and plaster balcony. Dina led Stanton as they navigated the balcony over to the apartment door.

"Hopefully we're not waking him up," Dina said to Stanton.

Stanton then knocked on the door several times with his knuckles, loudly and firmly but not aggressively.

They waited a few moments before they heard the click of a latch, and then the mechanism of another lock before the door opened.

"Can I...?" he froze when he saw Dina's face.

"Lehan? I hope you don't mind us coming for a visit. It's a nice day today and I thought I'd come over and see how you're doing since the other night," Dina addressed the man, who wiped his eyes as he opened the door.

"Come in... Deanne is it?" Lehan asked her.

"Dina. I'm Dina. You remember Alex don't you?" Dina asked Lehan, who upon seeing the familiar face of the drunken man shyed back away from the door, leaving it open for them both.

"...Alex? Oh... the man with a taste for liquor... the man who moves too quickly when you're not looking... and then there's an unconscious man on the floor with a gun beside him... yes... and then they stormed my place... please do come in as I suspect you'll come in whether I like it or not..." Lehan recalled that night, inviting them in cautiously as he backed away from the door.

"You've a nice place here. You keep it well," Dina said as she entered, looking around admiringly.

"Well its fairly modest for a man of my tastes, though one's tastes don't always match their finances...  Can I get you a tea? I have some Blended Tea from Darpur, and some Black Tea from their neighbour, Lahore. A not so long time ago, Lahore was a part of India you know?" Lehan asked Dina and Stanton after a show of hospitality.

"Thank you for asking, but we just had coffee," Dina answered for them.

"Have a seat there in the living room. I was just settled in there reading a book," Lehan directed them as he retreated to the kitchen.

Dina took a seat on the sofa and spied a book which sat resting open upon its midpoint on the coffee table. She stood slightly to catch the title, which was The Shah Of Iran: America, Iran and the fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty. She looked away from the book and over to Stanton, who'd just taken a seat on an overstuffed chair beside the sofa upon which she was seated. He returned her glance after seeing the title of the same book.

"Seems he's been doing some 'light' reading..." Stanton remarked sarcastically.

"Seems so..." Dina nodded, quickly turning her attention to Lehan as he arrived to take a seat across from the both of them, placing a cup of tea on the coffee table before him and quickly snatching up the same book, and stashing it on the shelf of an end table beside Stanton's overstuffed chair.

"So what brings you today,  Deanna?" asked Lehan, after which he took a sip of his tea.

"Dina. Well, to tell you the truth, we were concerned that you might be a little anxious after the other night, and wanted to make sure that you're keeping well," Dina assured him.

"Well, I'm doing fine considering the circumstances, though I've been a little tense," Lehan responded to Dina's concern.

"That's understandable, after such an experience..." Dina looked to Lehan, and then to Stanton and finally back to Lehan.

"Look Lehan, I'm going to get right to the point. We're here because we need your help, desperately. You see, we're concerned that Tel Aviv citizens are in danger, and that it might involve a group who are using music to communicate and synchronize their efforts in readying for an attack," Dina explained to Lehan, whose face flushed of all tint, leaving a pale tanned visage before them.

"...Music...?" asked Lehan, now clearly concerned over some unseen matter.

"Yes. Like a secret communications network. They're using it possibly to signal other allies and coordinate their plans of this attack. Now, I heard you listening to Palestinian music the other night if I'm not mistaken, but it was from the Ottoman era of music, and possibly earlier. Now seeing as we don't hear too much of that around here, I was wondering if perhaps you could shed some light on this?" asked Dina, Stanton kept his gaze firmly upon Lehan without saying a thing.

"That music... uhhhh yes. It was from the Ottoman era... very rare recording and its only a wonder that I have it on vinyl, when so many are using this new digital format. Those silver disks I see all over the place," Lehan explained to Dina.

"Compact disks?" Dina asked him.

"Yes. I think that's what they're called," Lehan agreed, pausing to take a drink of his tea.

Stanton continued to watch him carefully, his face neither mean nor calm, but in fact smug, his eyes narrowing with every one of Lehan's glances in his direction.

"Ohhhh I can't do this! There are some of us... some who are trying desperately to ensure that this peace is lasting. The peace offered by these accords from Oslo. You see, not everyone, not nearly every Palestinian wants a continued conflict. Many want simply to earn an existence and build lives amongst their Israeli sisters and brothers. Those who express such a sentiment are singled out by other more radical Palestinians, who prefer the old ways of the Jew against the Arab. The Jew against the Muslim. If we were to express this sentiment in words, in conversation, we'd stand exposing ourselves, and the more radical groups who have not been tamed by the PLO, would likely snuff us out, citing that we were not true Palestinians. That we let Israel overrun the region. They're creating a regimen that defines our patriotism according to how much we hate the Jews, and how much we're willing to fight to get our land back, when in fact, most of us just want to live our lives. Even amongst Jews and even in a nation of their own, that was bore from our land, which in turn they claim was bore from them very long ago..." Lehan paused for a moment, thinking about to speak further.

"Some of us came up with the idea that we would identify ourselves through the music we played on our home stereo equipment. If we chose older, specific music from the Ottoman era, that highlighted peace, duty to family and country, and a humbleness towards the almighty, we could use this music to identify ourselves to one another..." Lehan explained to Dina.

Stanton's firm look eased slightly, his eyebrows raising as if surprised by Lehan's revelation.

"I don't speak to anyone of my views in this regard, but my neighbours hear my music. Of them, there are a few who might know the song, and the actual meaning of it, and they realize that they're of the same viewpoint as am I. So they begin doing the same thing. Playing music whose meaning they've studied enough so in attempt to communicate with their neighbours, and this spreads more and more as we do so. Then soon enough, our numbers are more than the warlords, though our means are peaceful," Lehan summarized his point.

Dina looked to Stanton, who returned her glance, not saying a word. He looked back to Lehan, and then around the room and finally back to Lehan one more time.

"What can you tell us about Yeschevi?" asked Stanton.

"He's a soft spoken fellow. Certainly of the same mind set as myself. That's how we came to know each other. It was by the music, and all of this happened in the face of those around us who'd have branded us deserters of the Palestinian people, when like most of us, we want opportunity, not violence, not war," Lehan answered Stanton as best he could.

"That's not what I meant. Yeschevi has been speaking with people. Dangerous people. Very dangerous people. What do you know?" Stanton's face became firm and he leaned forward in his seat.

"...Yeschevi is a restless spirit. He's obsessed with this idea that we can explain our secret movement to the right people, and they'll be able to unite the rest of the Palestinians, so that we do away with violent means to a solution, and instead work the land much like the Israelis have. Justify our right to be here as much so as the Israelis have justified theirs. Work together, not against one another. As my ancestors have often said, we are sisters and brothers, and what do we do most often? Do we work together or fight one another? Yeschevi is obsessed with making this movement a reality," Lehan explained to the two of them, looking to Dina when he wanted sympathy.

"Yeschevi is a part of your effort? The secret music movement?" confirmed Dina.

"That's how we became friends. He overheard the music I would often play, and eventually, he pieced it together as having some kind of meaning. He approached me with this belief, and I confirmed it. I explained to him what we were doing, and he explained what he was doing, with his activism. When he found out about the music and how it was connecting people, he wanted - no he promised that he was going to take this whole thing a step further. A lasting peace with the help of the leaders of the PLO themselves," Lehan admitted to them.

"Did he mention any of the people with whom he was arranging to make all of this happen?" asked Dina.

"We never spoke of that. Instead, we focused on building our network in Tel Aviv, though we did expand it into several other cities, after carefully selecting the people who would be the lamp lighters of this means of unity," Lehan sat back in his chair, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his hands.

"We only use vinyl. Most of the music we use was only ever released on vinyl and often in very small quantities. Some of it even bootlegged vinyl. We figure the historical value of this music and the role its playing now to be the true importance in its value. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must ask you to leave as I've got an appointment with my Doctor in forty-five minutes," Lehan urged them.

"We could drive you if it would garner a few more moments of your time?"  asked Dina.

"He's only downstairs and a half a block away. I'd do better walking, thank you," Lehan stood and led them to the door.

"Thank you very much for your time Lehan. We'll be in touch again to check up on you," Dina promised him.

"Please call next time," Lehan asked of her, sounding hesitantly disappointed by her offer.

"Very well. Thank you," Dina stepped through the door as he opened it for her.

Stanton said nothing as they left.

"He was fairly forthcoming," Stanton noted as they descended the steel stairs from the balcony.

"We knew he'd speak eventually, especially after sitting on this since his apprehension and release. He's not a radical. He's a peace loving man," Dina responded to Stanton's observation.

"Obviously there are many out there like him, if they've forged this peace network using old Ottoman era music," Stanton observed.

"One of the key factors in the progress and acceptance of the Oslo accords. By the leadership and the population. That and the work of the United States towards those ends, and the backing and legitimacy of the United Nations. We're entering into a new era of prosperity and investment in Israel and the surrounding region, and not just for Israelis. For Palestinians on both sides of the West Bank," Dina explained to Stanton.

"Like the 1979 peace treaty signed with Egypt achieved for the stability and investment in the region," Stanton indicated that he understood the situation well.

"Now if something big were to happen, an attack for instance, it would likely sabotage the progress made thus far and risk thrust us into another war, destabilizing the region," Dina replied.

"That's what we're here to stop. So what's next on the itinerary then?" asked Stanton.

"We're going to take what we have so far to Yeschevi, and then we'll return to the place where this all started," Dina told him affirmatively.

"Aye," Stanton saluted her before getting into the passenger side of her vehicle.

Recollection

Stanton sat in a chair in the interrogation room, an empty seat beside him and another across from him.

He looked over through the one way glass, which was illuminated from the other side, allowing him full vision of the operators preparing for their observation duty of the interrogation.

He caught the eyes of one of them, and tapped his watch impatiently while looking at the bespectacled face of the man.

The man with the glasses opened the door and spoke with someone briefly, and then closed it again, turning to face Stanton again. He gave him a thumbs up, and signalled the camera station operators to dim the lights. Stanton watched as their lights dimmed and they disappeared, the glass now replacing  their visage with his own reflection and that of the table and chairs within the room.

Another moment later and the magnetic lock clicked and buzzed. The door then opened and Yeschevi entered the room in orange coveralls, Dina leading him over to the table.

"Why's he here? You didn't tell me he was going to be here?!!!" Yeschevi sounded perturbed.

"Relax, Yeschevi, and take a seat," Dina requested of him, pointing to the chair across the table from them.

"But he... that man he slammed face first into the..." Yeschevi seemed panicked upon seeing Stanton.

"Look. Could you just sit down already!" Stanton barked at Yeschevi, and he sat uneasily across from them.

"Why did you bring me here, and for that matter, why am I still being detained! I haven't approved this little talk of ours with my lawyer, and that stands in the face of..." Yeschevi began.

"Look, the only thing wrong with your situation is the orange duds you're wearing!" Stanton lambasted him.

"Its true Yeschevi. Your living standards right now are better than that of most of other citizens and detaining you isn't necessarily because you've done anything wrong," Dina reminded him.

"That's my exact point! I haven't done anything wrong and you're keeping me here!" Yeschevi responded in a panicked voice.

"Sometimes there are situations when we might keep someone, not because they did something wrong, but for their own safety. Especially when they've been dealing with some very dangerous people," Dina spoke firmly to him.

"Someone wants me dead? What?! For trying to make peace?" Yeschevi said naively.

"Is that why you spoke to Al Abdari? Al Zufir?" asked Stanton, leaning forward in his chair aggressively.

"How... how did you know that? Too late I guess... uhhhh... yes. I spoke with them, because nobody else was giving them the time of day. They're peaceful men at the top of a pack of wolves. These are men who have the power and influence to change things..." Yeschevi challenged them.

"So you did speak with them," Dina asked him.

"Yes... You... he... just accused me of that... OH! I see. This is like those American cop shows is it? Good cop bad cop? Look I just want my lawyer and we'll..." Yeschevi began grovelling when Stanton acted.

"Yeschevi. The men you spoke with, they're struggling to maintain their influence, and the people they're holding that influence over have grown up their entire life preparing for great violence and war. A Jihad against those they've been conditioned from a very young age to hate. They didn't grow up in a suburb in Tel Aviv, well protected and nurtured like you did. School. College. And then your short lived career as a political activist. You see, those men you spoke with are idealists like yourself. They too know the future favours peace, but they've opted to ride the wolf pack because they know what you don't," Stanton began with an intensity that both captivated and frightened Yeschevi.

"What don't I know about peace? Tell me you fascist!" Yeschevi almost spat on the table.

"They know that those recruits. The forces under those warlords' command, many of whom have volunteered for the coming Jihad, have grown up knowing only one way, and the men who lead them are exploiting this power for their own gain. The way forward isn't by excluding those men, despite the fact that they're warlords. A stigmatizing label at best, and a violent truth at worst. Peace isn't about finding the people that agree with you. Its about convincing the people that don't, that they are better off with what it has to offer. When you exclude them, you're creating chaos, and there's no amount of good intent that is going to stop the end result of that mistake," Stanton explained to Yeschevi.

"We know about your movement. The one in which you were working with Lehan?" Dina reminded Yeschevi.

"...our peace friends? And what is wrong with that?" asked Yeschevi, defensive over the fact that he was being challenged on those grounds.

"Nothing. Nothing at all. The problem is that you chose to take it the next step further, and without the assistance of people who understand this situation. You put your first foot forward with idealism, which without an ounce of caution is a recipe for disaster," Dina affronted him on those grounds, though delicately so.

"Why do you think that I chose to speak to the wolf riders rather than the warlords? Because I wanted to convince them that there was a growing movement that wants what they're seeking. Wants what Al Abdari and Al Zufir are trying to achieve. I can't ride wolves. I can't deal with warlords. They can. They have. I figured we needed them on our side to make this whole thing work on the grounds that they have the strengths that I lack!" Yeschevi explained to them.

Stanton, who was still leaning forward looked over to Dina, who returned his glance. They both nodded in the understanding that Yeschevi had the best of intentions. He wasn't lacking intelligence or aptitude, but a firm understanding of the possible consequences of his actions.

"We're on your side, Yeschevi, but we believe that you're in grave danger. We don't agree with what you did, because its only complicated things and created a potentially deadly situation. One that almost led to yours and my own death the other night," Dina explained to him.

"By speaking with Al Abdari and Al Zufir, especially after approaching the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Fatah al-Intifada, you've attracted the attention of the warlords more so than the figureheads with whom you were dealing. You see, they're a guarded bunch. Very cautious, because they're in a constant power struggle with their peers, and even their own men. Its a leadership tree they enforce with authority and sometimes brutality. When someone new arrives in their circle and starts speaking to the men without their same power, that triggers their caution, and its a caution that can cost lives and even trigger wars," Stanton explained to Yeschevi.

"We believe that an execution order has been issued against your person, by someone connected to the men with whom you spoke," Dina explained to Yeschevi.

"They want me dead?! For trying to make peace?!" Yeschevi appeared distraught and panicked.

"No. They want you dead because you tried to exclude them. By speaking only with the figureheads, you inadvertently challenged their authority," Stanton's eyes were firmly upon his own.

"Yeschevi, we can help. What exactly did you discuss with Al Abdari and Al Zufir?" asked Dina.

Yeschevi from that point broke down, and began explaining to them the details of everything that had happened from the time he'd figured out Lehan's use of music to form a peace movement, to the point he'd used his political contacts in the West Bank to arrange for a meeting with these men of peace who rode wolves.

Back To The Start


The bar was starting to pick up as the hot winter sun made long shadows on the streets of Meir Dizengoff and Basel, just outside of the establishment in Tel Aviv.

Dina sat across from Stanton in a cozy little booth table, both of them looking over to their former bastion at the end of the bar.

"I thought it would be good to return here, but we can't be conspicuous and sit at the same place. We're enough out of the way that we should be alright," Dina said to Stanton as they awaited the service.

"Good call. You know, the change in setting isn't all that bad an idea. Kind of feels more like play than work," Stanton said to her, though she wasn't quite sure if he was flirting or not.

"That's the idea. So what are your thoughts on Yeschevi and his situation?" asked Dina of Stanton.

"Sounds like the best of intentions turned out to be a potential road to disaster. I mean, what can you say? Besides its a shame that it comes down to that, but if it didn't and there weren't people learning the ropes, then what would you and I be doing otherwise?" asked Stanton, leaning in a little closer.

"We might be..." Dina began when the waitress arrived.

"Hi! I'm Rachel and I'll be your waitress tonight. Can I get you something from the kitchen, or perhaps the bar?" Rachel asked them politely.

"Hi Rachel. Nice to meet you. My friend here will have a Gin on the rocks, and I'll have a Kvas, and two shots of Arak. One for my friend and I," Dina ordered their drinks.

"Can I get you anything from the kitchen?" Rachel asked them in a tiny but pronounced voice.

"Yes. We'll have a platter of veggies, pita and hummus dip if you could," Dina smiled.

"I'll be back in two seconds with your drinks, and about five minutes with your kitchen order," Rachel left them to fetch their order.

"So much for being an old fashioned girl, but I can work with that. So you were saying about what we might be doing otherwise?" Stanton smiled at her, continuing their earlier conversation.

"Oh yes, well if we weren't being the angels that watch over those learning the ropes, then I guess we might be doing something else? Something more engaging?" she said to him as Rachel returned with both their drinks, and a pair of shots of Arak.

"What could be more engaging than what we're already doing? What we've done so far?" asked Stanton of Dina, inviting her to use her imagination.

"There's a lot of history in Tel Aviv. So many places we could see and so many things I could tell you about. I grew up here you know," Dina held up her pint of Kvas, and he his.

"So why don't you tell me about it?" Stanton asked Dina.

"Well I don't know, do you really want to know?" asked Dina, taking another sip of her Kvas.

"I do. I wouldn't ask otherwise," Stanton responded.

"Where do I begin? I mean, I grew up in Shikun HaTsanhanim, a suburb in Tel Aviv. A little bit privileged, though I was a bit of an explorer my mother would always tell me. Adventurous little girl in a world that had reserved adventure for our brothers in the city of big dreams," Dina's mind wandered deep into her past.

"Explorer? So tell me, what did you explore?" asked Stanton, propping his head up on his hand and elbow upon the table as he listened to her.

"Our backyard for one. At that time, Shikun HaTsanhanim was still largely in development, so you could say I had a backyard that went for kilometers," Dina recalled.

"I've heard of that community. Many of the streets are named after the Latin American countries who supported the vote for the establishment of Israel in the United Nations," Stanton once again showed his prowess in political history.

"How right you are, and that's another point in your corner," Dina smiled at Stanton, before continuing.

"I explored a lot. Playing in the grass of the finished yard and the dirt beyond. I was an only child, and our immediate neighbours didn't have any children, so my dolls were often my only friends. I brought them with me on my little adventures," Dina's mind wandered back to a time when she was little more than three feet tall.

"That explains a lot," Stanton joked as he listened, mimicking the armature of a doll himself.

 Dina broke out in laughter. Something Stanton had not seen of her since the first night they met. When she calmed enough to talk, she continued.

"I do remember my parents being very tense during the Yom Kippur War, though I was barely a year old at that time. I do remember the family drills they'd have, grabbing me up from my crib or my high chair, and running to the bomb shelter, where they'd huddle with me in the dark for a few minutes after closing and sealing the door. Yet, by the time I was seven years old, a landmark peace treaty between Egypt and Israel changed all of that. Both my parents and I began to have a sense of hope in our Tel Aviv home," Dina explained to Stanton.

"I've read and studied a lot about that time. Jimmy Carter and Pierre Trudeau were instrumental in securing that peace, though Trudeau's efforts aren't largely recorded for some reason. Britain's James Callaghan was very supportive during the process, though Britain's role in securing that peace was more diplomatic and administrative. Are you orthodox?" Stanton asked her carefully.

"Not really. My family are Jewish, and they observe Jewish holidays, but not so often the rituals, though I did have a bat mitzvah when I was 13 years old," Dina replied.

"I bet that made an impression upon you?" Stanton asked.

"Yes. It did. I'm glad that my parents organized it, with the help of the local Rabbi of course. It wasn't so much ritualistic as it was like a coming of age. A rite of ascension. I had taken a step into a world in which I was accepted much like any adult, and it made me feel responsible," Dina admitted to Stanton proudly.

"What about your life in school?" asked Stanton.

"I was quite a student, certainly very into my studies, but most of my teachers either loved or dreaded me. I was intensely curious, especially with regard to political and social issues, especially those of an international significance. If I disagreed with a fellow student, or even a teacher, I would often express that sentiment, sometimes not so diplomatically," Dina paused to take a drink of her Kvas.

"Did you have friends?" Stanton asked her.

"I was a bit of a loner, but I did have friends. I had two close friends at that time. Fatima, who was a studious Palestinian girl with whom I shared many of the same classes, and Ezra, a boy my age of whom I was quite fond. Ironically, Fatima wanted to be a Doctor, while Ezra wanted to be a Pilot in the IDF. However, their families had arranged their futures, and so Fatima's education was steering her towards medical studies in the hopes that she'd become a Nurse, as women Doctors, especially those who were Palestinian weren't as common as they should have been, given the intense political climate. Ezra's family however, would have none of his interest in the military and instead lined up an education in medicine as well. Even during his mandatory time in the IDF, he was tasked as a field surgeon. His family simply wanted him to become a Doctor, as they came from a line of renowned Doctors," Dina laughed when she recalled all of this.

"What about you?" asked Stanton.

"Me. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was living in the moment, neither the future nor the past and that wasn't necessarily the kind of thing that parents want to hear. I mean, they want what's best for their daughter, and so they had me pegged as being a performer of some kind. In the arts, given my fearless yet cautious attitude and my imagination. During my teens, I became interested in sculpture, and actually befriended a popular sculpture in Rabinovich Park..." Dina smiled as she recalled.

"I know of the one. Its called The Golem, and its by a French artist... uhhhhh Niki De Saint-Phalle if I recall correctly," Stanton regurgitated something that had been caught in the sieve of his memories ages ago.

Dina laughed aloud.

"I can't believe that you know that! Well, in any case, that's not what the community locals call it. They called it the Monster. So you could say that every day after class, I'd head out from school to the Monster, and discuss life. I should say that the Monster listened almost as well as you do," Dina smiled at Stanton.

"Another medal for my parade uniform. I feel redeemed," Stanton replied jokingly.

"You definitely need it," Dina responded similarly in jest.

"How do you know so much about music?" asked Stanton.

"Well, I said that my parents thought that I should be a performer of some kind. So they enrolled me in the Lin And Ted Arison Israel Conservatory Of Music, where I studied for a number of years along side my regular classes. I did quite well there, though it still wasn't exactly what I wanted from life, but what I learned certainly made a difference," Dina grabbed up the shot of Arak in her hand, and held it up.

"To figuring ourselves out," Stanton said to her as he picked up his.

"To what the future may bring," Dina added and they both downed their shots.

"Tasty... A bit like Schnapps, but I think I need to wash it down with the Kvas" Stanton commented.

"It might be an acquired taste. I'm glad you like it," Dina put her shot glass down.

"So when did your military career begin?" asked Stanton.

"When I graduated from grade school, I spent a year or two trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I worked two jobs during that time. One for a local supermarket and the other for a shop that sells musical instruments. Between those gigs, I'd keep in shape by jogging and regular exercise. I think subconsciously I was preparing for my mandatory service, but in all truth, I wanted it. I was looking forward to it, like another challenge that would make me better," Dina replied, loving having someone to talk with about these matters from her life.

"You knew, didn't you?" asked Stanton.

"Knew what?" Dina responded, caught off guard by his question.

"That you'd end up doing what you're doing now," Stanton responded.

"I never heard it put that way. Maybe I did in some part of me. But to tell the truth, it all just happened, one thing leading to another, and before I knew it, I was first an asset, and then an operative," Dina shook her head, recalling the path that had led her to this point in time.

"I can't talk about that, for obvious reasons," Dina admitted.

"I know. But this might make a great story someday if I get hired by Reuters you know," he smiled back at her.

"Hopefully I'll get a page or two in your biography," Dina looked to him.

"A page or two. I'm looking for a bit more than that," Stanton admitted to her.

She looked to him intensely and their eyes met without barriers for the very first time. It was like looking into the soul of someone they'd each known their whole lives and that time was just biding itself until they connected.

"Is this really what you want? Us I mean?" Dina asked him.

"More so than anything I've ever wanted," Stanton replied to her.

"It would be... difficult, given my career. I'm not sure it could ever..." Dina began, but Stanton's hands found hers.

"It could. You have to trust me on this," Stanton urged her.

They sat quietly looking at each other, and then Dina broke the silence.

"I have to use the little girl's room," Dina said to him, sliding out of the bench seat and out into the aisle between tables.

"Don't run away on me now," Stanton smiled at her.

"I won't. I'll be back very soon. I promise," she smiled at him, waving with her fingers as she headed to the lavatory.

Missing Persons

Stanton started to become nervous around the five minute mark, when his mind returned to the first night they'd met. How instead of leaving through the front door to pursue Dina's assassin, he chose the service door which could be gained access through the same hall that led to the washrooms.

He flushed when he came to that realization.

He quickly slid out of the bench seat and walked quickly to the hall in which washrooms were situated.

"Dina!" he knocked fiercely on the women's door.

"DINA!" he banged the door again.

A woman abruptly opened the door to confront him.

"This is the women's...!" she began, but Stanton cut her off.

"Is there another woman in there? Dark hair? Dark eyes? Pale complexion? About five foot ten and a hundred and fifty pounds?" asked Stanton.

"No. There's nobody else in..." the woman replied, though by that time Stanton pushed his way past her and into the washroom.

"Dina!" he checked the stalls one by one, and found indeed that there was nobody else in the washroom.

He then ran quickly out and into the restaurant, looking for any sign of her. He checked their favourite spot at the end of the bar, and then he even stepped into the kitchen and looked for her there. He found nothing. No sign of her.

When he returned to their table, he found a piece of folded paper left on the table. He quickly unfolded the paper and found that it was a written note:

If you want to see her alive, come to the Shuk HaCarmel Market, and then to the Moshe Café before seven PM local time. Outside, there are three tables. Go to the south eastern most table and take a seat facing the café. Come alone or she will die.

Stanton quickly folded the note and put it in his pocket, when something near the wall of the booth table they'd been sitting at caught his eye. It was Dina's car keys, right beside her drink.

He leaned across the table the scooped them up, and then dropped a large sum of cash on the table for the waitress, after which he left the bar through the back door, looking for any signs of her along the way. There were barely enough patrons in the bar at that time to have acted as witnesses, either those who'd sighted who left the note, or those who'd taken her so silently out the back door of the bar.

He ran around to the west side of the building where they'd parked. Her car was still there, exactly where they'd left it. He quickly got in and started the engine and pulled out onto Tahon Street, driving south, circling around on Zeev Jabotinsky Street to make his way towards his own apartment complex.

When he arrived, he stopped in the back alley, parking in the same space that Dina had chosen when she'd come to pick him up earlier that same morning. He quickly went over to an electrical box, one that was maintained by the city. He reached beneath it, fumbling around with his fingers until he found the tool kit he'd stashed previously. He then began removing the front panel of the electrical box, leaning it against the side of the box when he'd unfastened it.

He removed another panel inside the box, and from behind it, he retrieved a leather case, which he removed and placed beside himself on the paved ground of the alley. He then quickly replaced the two panels he'd removed and returned to Dina's car, placing the case on the passenger's seat. 

He opened the case and from within he procured a handgun (his Canadian Forces Sig-Sauer P229). He grabbed two preloaded magazines, one of which he pocketed in his slacks, the other he inserted into the handgrip of the gun, chambering a round by cocking it. He grabbed two compact grenades, both of which were designed specifically for the special operations group, each tiny enough to fit snuggly into the palm of his hand. After he stashed the case beneath the passenger seat, he pulled out of the alley and made his way to Shuk HaCarmel Market.

...

Lehan sat in his favourite chair, reading the same book which Dina had spied earlier that same day. He'd felt a strange sense of relief after speaking with Dina and Stanton. As if he'd relieved himself of a great weight. A pressure that was not a burden to his conscience, for from his perspective, he and his group were doing something very noble, as was definitely confirmed by the public optimism of the Oslo Accords. Nonetheless, it had been eating away at his peace since they'd let him go two days earlier. Now, he could sit, relax, read and drink his tea in peace.

He'd been reading about the Universities and educational institutions in Iran, which had been one of the key foundations of support for the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as he'd instituted the pursuit of education as one of key elements that would transform Iran and bring it into the age of prosperity. The student movement in Iran had been supporters for these social advances and were key amongst his sympathizers. Ironically, these same supporters would eventually be turned against him, in the name of the preservation of tradition and over fears of Westernization. 

The idea that Iran would simply become a puppet regime for the United States, who would milk it for all its oil and exploit its youth in the process. Perhaps in some form, it was seen through the eyes of the revolutionaries as Cuba revisited, and much like the fall of Batista, though Iran lacked the lavish capital extremes of clubs and casinos. 

The Shah Pahlavi was deposed over some of his reforms, especially those he touted during his "White Revolution", such as allowing women to vote in state elections and to have legal equality in their marriages. Religious minorities would also be allowed to hold positions in office. Some of the reforms threatened to break land ownership by the powerful Shi'a clergy, which brought their opposition to life after having successfully stopped the trade of British tobacco in their country in the late 1800s.

And so it was this fear, and the fear of a conflict with theocratic tradition that brought down all of that social, infrastructural and diplomatic progress, ultimately leading to the fall of the Shah and the abolition of the Monarchy. Iran then became a theocracy under the absolute rule of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. 

Ultimately however, it will be the people that choose the time and place of their own societal transformation, and often if this natural process is rushed, it is bound to fall. Perhaps thought Lehan, then it is the wish of modern philosophers (and hopefully governments) to ensure that the rule over people hasn't evolved so much as to forever silence this natural process towards progress of their own choosing. Maybe with a little guidance.

He closed the book and pondered those thoughts, taking a sip of his tea when he heard a knock at the balcony door. He checked the clock on the wall, and seeing that it was ten minutes before seven o'clock, he became curious as to whom it might be.

He checked the bay window and saw a shadowy man in a trench coat standing with his face obscured, waiting at the door.

"Who could that be?" Lehan said as he walked over to the balcony door and opened it.

"Can I...?" Lehan paused immediately when he saw the man staring back at him.

 Two shots were fired immediately, tunneling into his chest and killing him instantly. He slumped to the floor as the last of the blood in his brain fueled his dying dreams. He was bathed in a mysterious light that was beckoning him forth and into it. He hesitated, and then took several steps towards it, disappearing into it as the third bullet entered his head, destroying a quarter of his brain in the process.

 The man in the trench coat then pocketed the silenced firearm, stepped into Lehan's apartment and closed the balcony door. He was careful to stay away from Lehan's body so as not to step in or train any of his blood.

He made his way around to Lehan's living room, where he found the phonograph turntable that Lehan had used to signal other followers of their peace movement. The man quickly thumbed through the phonograph collection, looking for a specific record, as he read the Turkish labels. When he'd found the one he was looking for, he removed it from its sleeve and placed it on the turn table, setting the phonograph to repeat when it had reached the end of the record. 

As the music began to play, he turned up the volume considerably. Enough so that the neighbours could hear it up to five units away. He then returned to the balcony door, stepping over Lehan's body carefully, closing the door behind him. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, he pulled his shall over his head to better conceal his face.

Even as he pulled out of the alley, he could hear the blaring music from Lehan's apartment: The Voyage Of Death Into Paradise.

Shuk HaCarmel


Stanton returned to the Land Rover and pulled out of the alley onto Ha-Rav Levi Yitskhah Street, keeping the utility vehicle just slightly above the speed limit. The four wheel drive vehicle clung to the road quite exceptionally as he made a tight right turn onto Arlozorov Street, slowing very little for it as he made his way back towards Dizengoff Street. He slowed when he spotted a Police car, though he doubted very much that they'd pull the vehicle over after doing a plate check of Dina's Land Rover.

He continued south to his destination, checking his rear-view mirror a few times to ensure that he wasn't followed. If he was, then they'd suspect that he was armed and he'd lose the element of surprise. He either had to keep them in a state where they were having trouble keeping up with him, or they were struggling to get away from him, one or the other or even both if possible. Anything else would mean they had the advantage and with his being along on this, that would most likely prove fatal.

He sped along Gedera Street, taking the roundabout at twenty kilometers an hour over the speed limit. The Land Rover clung faithfully to the road as he took the second exit, continuing along Gedera and taking a hard left onto Rabbi Akiva Street. He slammed his foot onto the brakes as the street came to an abrupt end, funneling into a market crowded with evening shoppers.

He pulled the parking brake and grabbed the keys from the ignition. He also noticed a folding make-up mirror in the tray between the driver's seat and the passenger seat. 

"This will be useful," he said as he grabbed it from the tray and slipped it into his pocket as he exited the Land Rover. 

He then began his troubled search for the Moshe Café. After circling the entire market twice in search of the missing café, he checked his watch, finding that he only had five minutes remaining to find it. As he raised his head to begin his search again, a momentary clearing in the crowd revealed the sign: Moshe Café And Eatery. The sign was illuminated with a string of LED lights along its rectangular border, which stood out in the setting sun.

He immediately began towards the establishment, navigating the crowd and finding his way to the patio. There he observed five tables, four of which were occupied, including the one he was required to wait at for whatever was to come next. The patio itself was also decoratively lined with strings of LED lights, giving the patio a mystical ambience. 

After a quick evaluation of the situation, he figured out every possible front that would prove a threat to the patrons, then evaluated how he could protect them in the event that conflict broke out. When he'd surmised an effective strategy a few seconds later, he grabbed an empty chair from the only unoccupied table and placed it at the occupied table in which he was supposed to wait, facing the café. He then  pulled the makeup mirror from his pocket and opened it, placing it slightly off to the side so that it revealed anything behind himself.

The table he'd chosen was occupied by a small family of three. A couple in their middle peak age, possibly in their late forties - early fifties, who were accompanied by a younger girl who appeared to be in her late teens.

The father looked to Stanton, a bit confused as he confronted the younger man.

"Can I help you?" he asked Stanton, perhaps challenging him in protection of his family.

Stanton was about to answer when several of the wait staff from inside of the Moshe Café emerged with a cake, decorated with a trio of sparklers, that illuminated the darkening evening air.

"Happy Anniversary! Happy Anniversary! Happy Anniversary! Happy An-niversary!" they sang to the couple as they presented the cake, placing it before the mother and father, whose faced were suddenly alight in joy.

Everyone on the patio applauded and the couple even stood and bowed, thanking everyone as they laughed. When they sat down, Stanton broke the suddenly immediate silence.

"I'm with the café. I'm just here to make sure you're having a good night," Stanton replied, looking to the father.

"Well I never suspected this in a million years..." the father smiled as he responded to Stanton.

"Yes. Its lovely. You make sure you  thank your wait staff for that," the mother added.

The daughter leaned in close to Stanton, whispering in his ear:

"I know you're lying, but that's alright. I think you're something else... but probably something we shouldn't know about, right?" the daughter asked him observantly, though Stanton remained cool, keeping his eyes about him.

"You know it. Parties have to be kept secret. You're pretty astute. Did you notice anyone in here earlier? Anyone behaving strangely? Maybe hanging around like they had nothing to do? Keeping an eye on people?" asked Stanton of the daughter.

"You mean like you?" she asked him directly.

"Yeah. Kind of like me," Stanton responded, impressed by her directness.

"Its funny that you mention it, because there was this guy sitting inside of the café earlier, watching our table like a Black Kite," the daughter said to him, again leaning close to him so that her parents wouldn't hear as they plucked the sparklers from the cake one by one.

"When did you see him last?" asked Stanton of her.

"Like five minutes ago, he was right over there..." the daughter had barely finished her words when Stanton was up and out of the chair, having caught someone trying to sneak up behind him.

Stanton quickly grabbed the man, twisting his arm around behind his back while providing pressure so that the man's cubital and ulnar nerves were compressed between his elbow joint and the bones thereof.

"Wish them a Happy Anniversary!" Stanton spoke firmly into the man's ear as he held him tightly from the right and behind.

"Haaa  happy anniversary!" the man squeezed out as Stanton firmly directed the man back in the direction of Dina's car.

En Route


Stanton directed the man forward as he pressed on towards the car, stopping momentarily to quickly search him for signs of weapons.

"One wrong move..." Stanton started.

"If I am your prisoner, then what about the Geneva Convention?" the man asked him.

"That all depends upon how your friends are treating my friend, doesn't it? The Geneva Convention is an agreement, and when all parties don't agree or follow it..." Stanton reasoned with the man, though in all truth he was bound as much by law to that convention as he was by his own sense of honour.

Despite that fact, there had been men in history who'd discarded both in the name of vengeance, and that was exactly what separated man from the beast.

"I get your point. She is being treated fairly and will continued to be so long as you follow my instructions," the man pointed out to Stanton.

"Feel that?" Stanton pressed the muzzle of his service pistol against the back of the man's neck.

"A trick? Something you had in your pocket? A zippo lighter maybe or something else made of metal? You had no time to arm yourself," the man challenged Stanton's bluff.

"Where's you message for me? The letter you were going to drop on the table when I was distracted by the wait staff's singing?" asked Stanton.

"My trousers. Front right pocket," the man replied.

"When we arrive at the vehicle, I'll let you into the passenger seat where after you've put on your seatbelt, you'll look up at the roof of the car and nowhere else. Make no sudden moves or I'll be forced to deal with you. Whatever and however that means is up to you. After I'm safely in the driver's seat and facing you, you'll retrieve the message for me, slowly with your right hand, as you keep your left hand firmly on the dash, palm down. Understood?" Stanton ordered the man as the navigated to the edge of the dense marketplace crowd.

"It will be as you instructed," the man responded as they arrived at the Land Rover.

Stanton opened the door, using it as a shield as he directed the man into the seat, keeping the pistol on him as he sat down. When the man was in the passenger seat and buckled up, he began making his way around the car, keeping his pistol on the man without revealing it to onlookers. Stanton knew that if that if the man made any sudden moves, he'd be in a dilemma as Dina's Land Rover was equipped with dense fibre bulletproof glass. As long as his prisoner didn't know that, he gambled that he'd be alright.

By the time Stanton had arrived at driver's seat, the sun had descended beyond the horizon and the night was making its slow entrance. Stanton looked over to the man.

"Well?" he asked him.

"Very well," the man placed his left hand palm down on the dash, while with his right hand he slowly retrieved the envelope containing the message intended for Stanton. When extending his right hand around in Stanton's direction to pass him the message, he dropped the envelope on the driver's side floor.

"It was an accident. Honest," the man replied calmly, grateful that Stanton hadn't plugged him right there and then.

"A little convenient don't you think?" asked Stanton with sarcasm more than anything.

The man remained silent.

"What does it say? I mean you must have written it. Exactly what does it say?" asked Stanton, keeping his eyes firmly on the man, ignoring the paper message altogether.

"It says... wouldn't it be easier to read it yourself? The stress of this situation has caused me to forget..." the man said to Stanton, defiantly.

Stanton suddenly grabbed the front of the man's shirt firmly in his right hand, while reaching down to the floor with his left (which still held the pistol). Stanton was able to grab the envelope, and though he sensed that the man might attempt to flee, the man instead remained resigned to his current fate.

Stanton then opened the envelope and pulled forth a piece of paper and handed it to the man. 

"Read this!" Stanton ordered him, as he started the Land Rover.

"Come to the Kings Of Israel Square, and to the west of the stairs of Tel Aviv City Hall, near Malkhi Yisrael Street. You will find a black van parked there during the peace rally. You are to approach the van and knock seven times in succession on the back right window. Instructions from that point will follow," the man gave Stanton the instructions that he'd earlier written.

As soon as the man had started reading the instructions aloud, Stanton's foot hit the accelerator and the utility vehicle spun to face the opposite direction, racing northwest towards Najara Street along Rabbi Akiva Street. All the while, Stanton kept his pistol directed in the man's direction.

"You have a name?" asked Stanton.

"Why ever would I share something so personal with you?" asked the man.

"That's alright. I'll just refer to you as my prisoner. You've got my girl, and I've got you. I just thought it might help to know you a bit more, seeing as there's a chance I'm going to be the last person you ever spoke with," Stanton indicated to his prisoner.

"So you're going to kill me then, are you?" asked the prisoner of Stanton.

"Not necessarily, but your friends certainly will once they find out you've been apprehended," Stanton told his prisoner.

"That is a risk I'm willing to take. There is much more at stake here than just my life," the prisoner responded calmly.

"You've got that right. A LOT of people stand to die if you go ahead with your plans," Stanton accused him, suspecting that they were planning to bomb Kings Of Israel Square, for from his understanding, there was a peace rally taking place there: a celebration of the success of the Oslo Accords.

"We have no intention of any such mass murder attack if that's what you're digging for. We'll make a much bigger statement with the taking of one life more so than the taking of many," the prisoner was starting to unravel as the multitude of destinies converged upon his one true fate.

"Whose life is that?" asked Stanton, digging further for information.

"I assumed that you already knew. Obviously you're still in the dark," the prisoner responded.

"When we find the van, you're the one who's going to do the knocking on the back door. Understood?" asked Stanton of his prisoner.

"That will not change a thing," the prisoner said to Stanton unflinchingly.

Stanton swung the vehicle onto King George Street from Allenby Street, leaving him with very little manoeuvring room to either side.

"Lean over, keep your face to your knees. Do it!" Stanton ordered the man, still having the gun directed at his gut with his left hand as he drove with his right.

The man leaned over as Stanton had indicated. Stanton was just maintaining the element surprise as best he could and keeping the one source of information he had alive.


The Kings Of Israel Square


Stanton continued north east, nearing his destination with little difficulty other than the traffic itself. As he closed in on the intersection of Frishman Street and Malkhi Israel Street, a sudden pop resembling the sound of a large stone hitting the glass, and a spider-web pattern of broken glass emerged on the windshield, to the right of his head. Another shot close to the same point of impact could possibly pass through the bullet proof glass.

"Keep your head down!" Stanton yelled at his prison as he looked for room on the two lane road to weave left or right.

Stanton opted instead to keep his vehicle weaving from side to side, heavily reducing his speed in order to do so. He already knew that the shooter was using a sub-sonic silencer and that the rounds he was firing were 5.45mm Kalashnikov in a Full Metal Jacket delivery package. A fact for which he was thankful, meaning that the shooter didn't know that this was Dina's car, also meaning that their communications network was more likely land-line and ad-hoc based than any other possibility. In all, it meant they'd be less coordinated. A fact he could readily exploit.

He looked off into the night sky ahead and quickly spotted the most likely perch from where the sniper would be firing at them. He checked the address as he passed the building and then grabbed Dina's in-car phone from the tray and dialed the emergency number.

"This is an emergency! There's an active shooter..." he yelled into the phone, giving the operator the address, though he already knew they'd quickly figure out that the call originated from an agent's car.

He felt a sense of relief once he'd passed the focal point from which any shooter at that location could fire upon the vehicle.

"See. He wasn't aiming for me. He was aiming for you," the prisoner reasoned with Stanton.

"No he wasn't. He hit the halfway point on the windshield, meaning he could have been aiming for either of us and only missed because I was avoiding bicyclists along the side of the road heading for the rally," Stanton clarified the truth to him.

A moment of silence passed between them as they approached the intersection. The traffic itself had all but completely stopped, slowing to a crawl as the streets surrounding the Square were blocked and rapidly filling with the supporters of peace, Israelis and Palestinians alike. 

Amidst their numbers were some of the far right party supporters, many of whom had branded Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as a Nazi, and were protesting his and Israel's participation in the Oslo Accords. A movement that had opposed them from the very beginning, citing that it was nothing more than a fancily decorated agreement for the ceding of much existing and hard fought for Israeli land. That Rabin was selling out his fellow Israelis for the benefit of an international publicity that would cement his name in the history books. 

On this night however, it was the representatives of peace, hope and of a prosperous future together whose voices were the most resoundingly heard of all. From a distance though, in either time or space, anyone could have easily overlooked the monumental significance of this night and what it symbolized for the region. 

To both Stanton and his prisoner from their immediate perspective, it was essentially just a large crowd of people, yelling, screaming, cheering and having a good time. A celebration to some, and a dire warning sign to others. To Stanton, it occurred at that moment as he abandoned Dina's car and made his way around to his prisoner's side, that any situation in history was very much like this rally. 

Even from very close, it appeared a mess of people and often had no meaning to anyone else who wasn't willing to spend a little bit of time and effort in order to understand its significance. It was just another headline in the news to those who weren't willing to read the story behind it all. The significance of this night would eventually fade, and be replaced by yet another conflict, and another generation of people would needlessly lose their lives never having taken the time to know of this moment and what it cost to get here.

"Get out slowly, and walk ahead of me. I've got the back of your belt, and if you make a run for it, you're going down very quick. Understand me?" Stanton spun his prisoner around to face the direction they'd be heading.

"Understood, but this is all a waste you know. Its far too late for you to do anything," the prisoner said defiantly.

"I'll be the judge of that. You just worry about being a good prisoner and we'll both get out of this alive," Stanton coaxed him forward.

"Where to?" the prisoner asked, walking forward from where they'd left the car.

"Continue north there on Malkhi Yisrael Street towards the van. You must know where it is?" Stanton pushed him forward again.

"I know nothing of their plans..." the prisoner responded to Stanton.

"Then how do you know that it's already too late?" Stanton caught him.

"You must know the difference between an idea and a reality," the man struggled to find the words he needed.

"You weren't speaking rhetorically. You specifically had a concrete fact in mind when you spoke," Stanton blocked his prisoner's means of verbal escape.

"I know the outcome, not the details between here and there," the prisoner quickly dodged, side stepping Stanton's attempt to box him in.

"When we pass the barriers and are in the crowd, don't try anything," Stanton reminded his prisoner, once again asserting his authority.

"This is a peace rally. To them, you're the pit viper and I'm the sacrifice," the prisoner reminded Stanton, also revealing that he was aware of how he could exploit his current situation politically.

"Why is it that guys like you aren't fighting for peace rather than trying to undermine it? You've clearly got a head on your shoulders. Just not enough so that you're doing the right thing," Stanton countered him sincerely.

"How does one fight for peace? That's a contradiction. I am fighting for what I believe, and that is that you, and the rest of Israel are on my land," the prisoner answered quite honestly.

Stanton didn't know what to say to the man's response, though he knew that not answering could potentially be far worse than saying nothing at all.

"We're not talking about that right now. We're talking about the fact that you have my girlfriend," Stanton responded, though in many ways he regarded both situations as the same thing.

He knew for certain that he could affect her chances to get out of this situation safely, even unharmed, but he had very few solutions for the other problem, if any. In fact, Stanton had been forced to think about this very situation from the time he'd been ejected from his military career. He'd been eating, sleeping and breathing it every single day since that moment, and yet unlike almost every challenge that met him face to face, he had no idea of what to do. It was like a dead end, and it was something that scared him more so than any live fire situation he'd ever found himself within. 

He was lost as to how the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians could be helped. 

More so, he was attempting to help when he no longer had anywhere to go that he could call his own. He'd been ejected from the military, and was essentially on the brink of becoming a stateless citizen. Just a few short notes of correspondence to the embassy and a fine thread were the only things keeping him from being entirely stateless.

Stanton quickly returned his focus to the mission at hand, tightening his grip on his prisoner's belt, leading him from behind rather than following.

Their progress through the crowd was slow but deliberate as they made their way up Malkhi Yisrael Street, slowly pushing eastwards until they were within the Kings Of Israel Square itself.

In the distance, perhaps a little less than that of a football field, at the top of the City Hall stairs was setup a podium and several tables and a small section of chairs within which sat many of the night's speakers. There were representatives from the Rabin government, including Prime Minister Rabin himself. There were representatives of the PLO, many of whom had taken part in working with the Rabin government to create the historic accords which they were celebrating. Between here and there, was an immense and active crowd, separating their respective situations between the ideal goal, and reality. Just as Avi had stated during their morning meeting, between the speakers at the podium and his prisoner and himself, there was a chaotic crowd of people. Somewhere, the ideal goal and the reality had to meet.

At the podium, the speaker addressing the crowd could barely be heard, though Stanton could make out some parts of the crowd cheering in support, while another group somewhere across from where they were, booed and screamed profanities at the orator.

As they got closer to the bottom of the City Hall stairs, Stanton spotted a black van, which very much appeared like the other security vans, however, it lacked one small detail that only someone like Stanton would have recognized. It was missing the coiled high-gain antenna box that could be found just above the passenger's door on the roof, meaning that it was civilian.

"That's our mark. Go to that van and knock on the back right door," Stanton tapped the prisoner's shoulder.

The prisoner mumbled something under his breath as he advanced on the back door of the van. Stanton just tightened his grip on the back of the man's belt. He doubted that they'd fire upon the two of them at a crowded event like this as they'd essentially be guaranteeing themselves no means of escape. Either Dina was inside this van (unlikely) and if she was, Stanton knew that they'd both be dead within the next day or two, after a torture and serious beatings of course. If she wasn't in the van, and the van then attempted to leave the rally, the same outcome was likely. If however the van stayed, then their abductors had something planned at the rally itself, and either Dina or Stanton or the both of them might at that point be the sacrifice to summon forth the gods of war.

The prisoner knocked on the back door of the van as Stanton had indicated.

A latch could be heard as the door was unlocked. The door then slowly opened.

"There's two of them!" a voice inside of the van could be heard speaking in Palestinian accented Arabic.

Arabic was one of the most spoken languages of the Palestinians and therefore a key language of commerce and diplomacy to the region. Stanton heard and mostly understood what they'd said.

"Bring them both," another voice inside the van ordered.

"I'm the Shuk HaCarmel messenger... He got me back there at the café," Stanton's prisoner indicated in the same language.

"Get in," the man in authority ordered the prisoner, whose identity suddenly changed to that of the messenger, for Stanton realized that he was now the prisoner.

Stanton released the man's belt, allowing him to get into the van before stepping forward to face his own fate.

"Get in the van, and give us your weapon. We know you have one. There are three of us, now four thanks to your former prisoner. Once you are situated in here, we will outline the terms of your capture and surrender," the man in authority addressed Stanton, though he could only hear the man's deep voice, for the van remained dark within.

Stanton stepped up and into the darkness of the van, which unlike the darkness of night, was total and absent of the sky.

The door slammed closed again, attracting very little attention. The darkness was now complete and Stanton couldn't see a thing, though he could hear several men fidgeting about with equipment of some kind.

A moment later, a series of bright lights came to life in Stanton's face, further blinding him even more so than he already was.

"Your handgun! Hand it forward, grip first in your right hand!" the man in authority addressed Stanton in English.

Stanton tried his best to localize the region of the man's dialect thanks to his accent, but found that he hadn't quite enough experience to do so accurately. After barely pausing, he handed his firearm forward as was requested, already having switched the safety to the on position. The last thing he wanted was to die from a misfiring of his own gun.

"Now, extend both hands forward, fingers pointing directly ahead of you. Don't block the light and try to see our faces. We're already covered. Hold your hands steady and don't move," the man in authority spoke again.

Stanton did as he was requested, and a pair of heavy-duty plastic ties were placed around his wrists and tightened, leaving no room for Stanton to separate his hands.

"Give him the hood," the man in authority spoke in Arabic once again.

One of the other men put his flashlight down and then placed a thick black hood over Stanton's head, pulling a draw string tight at his neck and tying it closed.

"Where's the girl?!!!" Stanton asked in English.

"She is safe for now. Did you speak to anyone else?" asked the man in authority.

"He called the Police from a car phone, and gave them the address of a marksman that almost shot us!" the messenger indicated to the man in authority, once again speaking in Arabic.

"The girl's car?" asked the man in authority.

"Yes. It must have been. A Land Rover," the messenger said to the man in authority.

"Where did he put the messages you gave him?" asked the man in authority, still thinking he was keeping their conversation private by speaking in Arabic.

"I ditched them in the crowd while we were walking to the van," Stanton lied to the man, also revealing that he could understand Arabic by his reply.

 "No he didn't! I dropped the note on the floor of the car. I was trying to get away! Really! I was!" it was clear that the messenger was more in fear of being mistaken for colluding with Stanton, though his fear ultimately sealed his fate.

"So now the message is on the floor of the car of a missing operative that just called the Police?" asked the man in authority in the van.

"Sorry. I tried to spare you buddy," Stanton said to his former prisoner, who now in utter horror realized that he'd walked into his own death trap.

Stanton's only play in that situation was to claim he'd dropped the messages in the crowd, because he knew what was coming next. It was merely good karma that the same play would have also saved his former prisoner's life.

The man in authority in the back of the van yelled ahead to the driver once again in Arabic:

"Get us to another location. To the safe house North east of the City Hall. We'll change vehicles and return in time for our offering," he addressed the driver, who immediately started the van and began slowly moving ahead, coaxing people out of the way as he proceeded.

"I didn't know!" the messenger was now pleading for his life.

"You may have sabotaged this entire operation, while this man tried to save your life," the man addressed the messenger, who'd now changed roles to become a man on death's row.

"I didn't know! I didn't know!" the former messenger raised his voice, pleading as Stanton listened from behind the darkness of his veil, already using the distraction to his advantage.

If they were planning to return, then that meant that Dina was either being held somewhere else or she was already dead. Their only motive for returning would be that they were planning something against the rally itself.

He'd counted five men so far, with at least two of them armed with SMGs (most likely Makarovs with  small flashlights taped to their frame). They also had his handgun in the back of the van as well. In all likelihood, the man in authority was unarmed, as was the former messenger. The driver was probably dressed in security gear and absent of a firearm in case they got stopped.

Stanton knew that he'd have to take down two of them at the same time and the best moment to do so would be when they were unloading from the van. It was a bottleneck in the queue, and seeing as they did not want to be seen hauling a prisoner, they would be trying to remain out of sight themselves. They'd likely leave one man to guard him, while the others got the exchange vehicle and parked it nearby.

If he waited until they'd left the van and then took out the solitary man left to guard him, he'd have to contend with at least one armed man head on, and an unknown quantity of others they'd procured from their safe house. His only option was to stop them before they'd gotten free of the vicinity of the vehicle and to do so with minimal gunfire, if any at all. He felt his heart pickup its pace as the adrenaline from the situation hit him.

Twenty minutes later and after a long talk between the former messenger and the man in authority, the van was free of the crowd and now began the drive towards Struck and Antokolski Streets. Stanton felt the tension in the van ease as they pulled away from dense crowds and the security forces of the area.

"Don't let your guard down for a moment. We still have much to do before this night is over," the man in authority addressed his men in the back of the van.

"Are we going to see the girl?" asked Stanton.

"We will see her eventually, but not where we're going," the man in authority answered.

Stanton did his best to determine if what he'd said was a figure of speech rather than a reference to a specific time and place, still trying his best to piece together where Dina might be. He had no guarantee that she was still alive, other than his own certainty that as long as he was alive, he would not give up trying to find her.

"Why would you murder an innocent woman? Is it really going make a difference in the scheme of things?" asked Stanton of the same man, doing his best to sound indifferent.

"You see a woman, while we see a demon with a forked tongue that represents everything that has happened to our people since 1948. If you're on the side of that demon, you'll see the woman of your dreams, and yet she's the very symbol of that which has befallen Palestine since that date. You might think yourself a good man, but you are in league with demons. Demons who have taken the homes of thousands. How can those be the actions of a good man and a good woman? Of good people?" asked the man in authority in the van.

The van suddenly came to a stop after taking several short notice turns along its route. Stanton was without words, but that did not mean that the man in authority in the van was right. Not at all. It just meant that Stanton knew he was wrong, but he couldn't explain why. He just knew it in his heart of hearts, and it was irregardless of how he felt about her personally. There was something missing from this puzzle of a complicated conflict of the ages, but Stanton knew that it was close. It was within grasp. Since the van had stopped, it was even that much closer, for he'd managed during the trip to their current destination, to get his hands free without revealing he'd done so. He kept them close together, pinning part of the plastic tie between his wrists so it appeared he was still bound.

"Wait here with him. We'll be back with the other van. We'll transfer him and the two of us will take him back to the Square so he can be witness to what is to come," the man in authority stepped out of the van first, followed by the messenger and then the second gunman, while the first gunman kept watch over Stanton.

As the second gunman stepped down from the van, Stanton let something roll out of his hands and onto the floor of the van, from where it rolled out of the back door.

"What's that stench? Do you smoke?" asked Stanton, as the odour of what smelled like a pack of lit matches slowly filled the van.

All of the sudden, there was a loud burst, sounding very much like a firecracker, but much, much deeper, louder and penetrating. Stanton's ears began ringing, and he felt suddenly winded, as if something had punched the breath out of him, although it was something he'd trained for numerous times. By the first second after the burst, Stanton had already gotten hold of the first Makarov without seeing it, and driven its entire frame up and into the face of the man wielding it as hard as he could, which was actually quite hard. Hard enough to render the man wielding the weapon instantly unconscious.

The man slumped forward as Stanton ripped the mask from his head with one hand, grabbing the Makarov with the other. In the  three seconds that followed, he was out of the door of the van, his eyes quickly adjusting to the night sky, though he could see very well all considered.

As soon as he spotted the second gunman, the one bearing the other Makarov, Stanton was upon him fast and hard. He threw the man forward onto the paved ground of the alley face first. The gunman did not get up. Stanton then grabbed his Makarov as well.

As the man in authority and the former messenger stumbled, still stunned and dazed from the flashbang Stanton had dropped, Stanton grabbed them both, one with each hand after throwing the Makarovs he still wielded to the alley asphalt. He tossed both the men into the back of the van, quickly spotting his P229 and grabbing it up in hand as he closed the back door of the van again.

He then ran to the front of the van and ripped open the driver's door. The driver was still winded, holding his ears in pain even at that distance from the epicenter of the grenade. Stanton drove his face into the frame of the van several times and then dragged him out of the driver's seat and to the back of the van. He then opened the door again and tossed the unconscious driver in with the rest of them. Before he closed the van back door, he reached up and into the door, finding a shaft of thin metal and a pin. He ripped both from the lock mechanism and slammed the back door of the van shut, while the cage at the front of the van would keep them confined. The interior back door handle would simply no longer function, essentially keeping them all confined to the back of the van.

"That should keep them!" Stanton said as he grabbed both the Makarovs and brought them with him to the front of the van.

"Now where am I going?" asked Stanton of the man no longer in authority.

"To hell, my friend. You're going to hell," the man no longer in authority responded.

"Then I'll need direction, 'cause I don't know the way!" Stanton responded.

"To save the girl, or to stop our plans for the rally?" asked the former man in authority.

Stanton thought carefully about his reply.

"Both. If we stop whatever you've got planned for the rally, that would be the way that she would have wanted it. That's what she would have wanted me to do," Stanton gave the answer that Dina would have given if their situations were reversed.

"Very well, though by the time we get there it will already be too late, not to mention that you'll definitely lose that demon of yours for good. The north east corner of the Kings Of Israel Square. That's where our statement to Israel and the world will begin and where it will ultimately take place," the former man in authority responded, and by that time the van was already in motion.

Stanton resigned himself to the fact that with his choice made, Dina was either already dead or she would be shortly. He held onto his last conversation with her, savoring every word as he sped south along Shlomo Ibn Gabirol Street and back to the rally with a van full of prisoners.


Borders And Mirrors


The white van slowed as it approached the barriers around the rally. Stanton looked around for a good place where he could ditch the van, preferably near a complement of Tel Aviv Police and the Security personnel of City Hall. He quickly found a nearby command center and parked the van three spaces away from it, pocketing his P229.

"What am I looking for?" asked Stanton.

"You're not looking for anything, but you'll know when you've found it in the place I've already told you," the former man in authority of the van responded to Stanton distastefully.

Stanton exited the van and walked over to the command center booth, which was setup on the corner of Shlomo Ibn Gabirol Street and David Bloch Street. Two men talking to one of the Officers turned as Stanton approached.

"Alex?!!! Do you know where Dina is?" asked Enil first as Amir turned his attention shortly thereafter.

"No. But there's a situation across the street there at the north east corner of the rally. Something is going to happen, but I don't know what. There's men in the back of that van who know more, and would probably talk given the right motivation but there's no time," Stanton explained to Dina's fellow agents.

Enil immediately radioed another team at the site of Dina's car as he followed Stanton and Amir towards the north east corner of the square and the rally.

Amir then ran over to a group of Officers, and started explaining the situation, commandeering their assistance in searching for anything suspicious amidst the dense crowd. As they searched the area looking for any sign of trouble, Prime Minister Yizthak Rabin took to the podium and began addressing the crowd amidst a roar of cheers and boos at his presence.

"We're nearing the end of the rally. Rabin's speech is the final one of the night!" Enil insisted to Stanton.

"Then we've got to look..." Stanton stopped when he spotted a group of three men pushing a wheelchair, through the crowd, which wasn't unseen, especially given the fact that many veterans would be present for such a rally.

What was strange was that the person occupying the wheelchair had a hood over their head. Very much similar to the one that Stanton had been forced to wear only a half an hour ago.

Stanton tapped Enil's shoulder and then ran, forcing his way through the crowd at the three men and the wheelchair. The wheelchair's occupant seemed to be wearing a suit that made them appear like a skeleton or a... demon.

"You three there! With the wheelchair! Stop and show us your hands!" Enil yelled as Stanton closed in on them.

When the three men stopped, Stanton could see that they too were wearing hooded veils. Their faces masked with skulls, while the one in the wheelchair had a hood adorned with horns. When Enil had yelled at them, they all turned to face him, whose gun was already leveled at the three men. The crowd cleared between Enil, Stanton and the three men with the wheelchair in front of them.

"You heard him! Hands in the air!" Stanton yelled.

One of them pulled their own handgun and put it to the head of the person in the wheelchair.

"This is it! The moment of our vindication! Our Martydom! The real demons of this city are revealed!" the three men kept their masks, but pulled the hood from the one in the wheelchair to reveal Dina.

"Let the woman go and nobody has to die on this night of peace!" Stanton yelled at them, lowering his own gun as he did.

"This woman here is a demon of the state of Israel! She is the very essence of that which took the land from us all those years ago! She shall pay for their sins!" yelled the man holding the gun.

"This is our land! Put your weapon down!" Enil yelled back at the man.

"She is a weapon of the state and one that was used against us in our time of peace! While the very government was selling you on this idea, they were killing others silently!" yelled the man holding the gun to Dina's head.

"There will be no peace until our land is liberated!" one of the other men holding Dina hostage added.

"This land is already liberated! Its our land, don't you see? This is what they're trying to achieve up on that stage!" Dina yelled, struggling against her bindings.

"You took it from us in 1948!" the man with the gun to Dina's head continued.

"It was taken from Israel long before that time!" Stanton exclaimed.

"It was..." Dina struggled though she was nearing the point of exhaustion.

"Her people. Their people. All of these people here have someone, somewhere in their lives that were part of a people with no state of their own. No country. No home," Stanton began.

"For thousands of years, left to wander the lands of this planet as Gypsies. Chased from one area shortly after having settled there, no home ever their own, least of which the one they originally lost, while the world watched and did nothing. Expanding into other regions and displacing more. What should we do when the same thing happens to you? Follow your example and do nothing? All of history watched and ignored a people whom they knew were displaced, each buying into that displacement simply because they didn't want to face the music for their own crimes in that way. Its been that way since we've expanded into every part of the world. Maybe its time we started fixing these problems peacefully and allowing the people the dignity of a home to call their own," Stanton put his gun down on the ground.

"That's something that can start right here, on this very place and on this very eve. The eve in which we celebrate a crucial victory in the procurement of peace and working together as a people. We will not simply disappear and be expelled as a people or from our homes, from our country and home land," Dina finished where Stanton had left off.

None of the small crowd that had gathered to watch Dina's situation unfold had noticed that Prime Minister Rabin's speech had finished right when this situation had started. All in all though, the message was the same, but the words were spoken by people of a very different life and experience.

They all stood silently considering their place in the way of things.

That is, until three shots were heard from near the car park.

That night, one of the very people who struggled to deliver that peace to the people of Palestine and Israel, died.

Enil and Amir quickly restrained Dina's captors with the assistance of the Officers whose helped they'd enlisted while other authorities began turning their attention to the car park and to a fallen man.

Stanton made his way over to Dina, and unbound her from the wheelchair, though she was too weak to stand on her own after her ordeal.

"You found my keys..." she said to him weakly, barely able to speak.

"I found a lot more. I found you. The real you..." Stanton said to her.

Dina faded into a troubled unconsciousness amidst the sudden panic that had struck the crowd in the midst of the shooting. Her dreams took her to many places and many times over the years of her home land and she came to a realization about all the people, both Israelis and Palestinians that lived on that same land.

Dina thought that on the two sides of the border, there remained the hardliners. Those who opposed the peace, seeing it as a means for the other side to gain land, while they themselves lost the same. Neither side realized that when they looked across the border at each other, they were looking into a mirror reflection of themselves. The only way to end this perpetual stalemate was to change themselves without sacrificing either their integrity or dignity.

On that eve of peace, one of the men who brought Israel to the doorstep of peace died at the hands of one of his own countrymen. 

Dina and Stanton both knew that the region would rise and fall back into the same barbarism again and again if nothing changed.

Hopefully, the generations to follow would learn something from the last time enough to stop it from happening again. 

Maybe someday, they'd even find a way to stop it for good.

Life And Death Go On


"When are you leaving?" asked Stanton of Dina, as he stood beside her in the hospital as she lay in bed.

"Three days. They won't say where, but even if I did know, I couldn't tell you," Dina's fingers ran up Stanton's hand towards his forearm before they were stopped by the sleeve of his uniform.

"What about you?" asked Dina of Stanton, smiling at him with both her lips and eyes.

"I've got another week here. I figure I'll spend it at our bar, after my debriefing that is," Stanton's hand found hers, and they played with each other's fingers.

"You look very handsome in your uniform," Dina smiled at him.

"I probably wouldn't be wearing it again if it wasn't for you," Stanton gave her the cover story answer.

"Won't it be kind of lonely at the bar without me?" she asked him.

"I'm sure you'll be there in spirit," Stanton said to her, knowing fully well that every moment he was there, she'd be there with him.

"I will. You'll always be my second love," Dina said to him, her eyes beading up with tears.

"I know. Your country is your first," Stanton tightened his hand around hers, and she nodded in agreement silently.

...

Stanton never saw Dina again from that moment, but she'd always be a part of his life, and there were few times when she didn't somehow wander into his thoughts.

Lehan was buried two days later, after an investigation had determined that he was most likely assassinated by one of the splinter groups supporting Fatah al-Intifada, who'd identified him as an asset of the State Of Israel. A fate that Yeschevi had somehow managed to escape and that was something that Stanton considered carefully as he finished his Gin on the rocks at their favourite bar.

He turned his head to the side and saw a woman who looked remarkably similar to Dina from the back of her head. She was fit too much the same as Dina. Definitely a member of the IDF. He watched her for a few moments, wondering if by some twist of fate that it might be her. She turned to face him when one of her friends pointed out that there was a strange man watching her from the corner. 

She smiled at him, but she wasn't Dina.

Stanton smiled back anyway, and returned his attention to his drink.

Twenty Seven


Stanton, now much older and with all the more gray to prove it, sat in his workshop nursing a pint of beer from his mini-fridge. He looked around the shop at his tools, contemplating what his next home project might be when his mind wandered again and found its way back to Tel Aviv.

He listened to the news on the radio about the attack upon the Israeli settlement by Hamas, who'd used tunnels to infiltrate and murder almost two thousand people, many of them still in their beds and sleeping. 

Israel had responded by declaring warfare on the leadership of Hamas, but not upon the Palestinian people. He listened as stories of the atrocities piled up on either side and he shook his head in sadness, thinking about Dina and how he still heard those three shots that echoed throughout the Kings Of Israel Square (now Rabin Square) on that night on November 4, 1995. The eve of a lasting peace.

All of it. Everything those people had fought for. Every single bit of it. Gone.

That same day, he'd left Pearson International Airport after his EXFIL team had arrived and taken Yeschevi into their custody in what would begin Yeschevi's new life in prison for the MindSpice bombing. All of this would come to pass after his lengthy court case, one that Gabe Asnon himself watched from the safety of his own hospital room, though he was still under RCMP protection when he did so.

During Yeschevi's interrogation, they'd later find out that he had sold out Lehan to the very splinter group that had him assassinated, in order to gain more support in the form of power in the region, and this began his new life as a retired peace activist, who became a provider of materials and intelligence to those seeking to build high yield bombs.

Ironically, months later and on Yeschevi's fifth day in prison, on the anniversary of Lehan's death twenty seven years earlier, Yeschevi would be asphyxiated to death by his prison cell mate. 

You know the saying: live by the bomb, die by the garrote.

Yeschevi's murderer hid his body under his prison bed, a fact that was later discovered on the first day of his new cell mate's incarceration.

However, the one thing that Yeschevi revealed at his interrogation that was key to the bombing investigation, led to the discovery of the encryption keys he used to encode all of his transactions involving bomb making materials and intelligence.

Something that led to their finding a connection with Jack Warren, a deceased former associate of  a person of interest named Oculo Mentis.


To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard - Episode 8


I am Brian Joseph Johns and this is Shhhh! Digital Media at https://www.shhhhdigital.com or https://www.shhhhdigital.ca in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701.


Credits and attribution:

I am Brian Joseph Johns and this is Shhhh! Digital Media at https://www.shhhhdigital.com or https://www.shhhhdigital.ca in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701.

I am not a guitar player but it is a very expressive instrument in the hands of a capable player.

Bibliography:

Numerous pages within Wikipedia were used to reconstruct the historical and political climate of 1995 Israel. Wikipedia is one of those powerhouse reference tools that is essential to my creating believable reconstructions of history and its characters.

Once again, an instrumental tool in building a believable reconstruction of Tel Aviv in 1995. Many  actual streets and communities within Tel Aviv are referenced within the context of this story.

Instrumental for research related to Jewish tradition, especially in developing the role that Dina's family played in her life.

Bing is so modest that they often declare that it is not necessary for artists like myself to credit their contribution to my writing, but I will not allow that. Both Microsoft Bing Co-Pilot and  Google Bard (before they cut Canada off from using it's Bard service) have proven to be essential tools in information gathering and quick filtering to arrive at the exact context of what an artist and author needs. Thank you Bing and Bard.

A great reference with regard to British history, which I used for its references to the politics involved during 1995 and the Oslo Accords.

Again, essential in reconstructing history from the standpoint and context of a news agency.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also proved very instrumental with regard to aspects of the timeline relating to news stories at that point in history.

Cable News Network was a source for a number of pieces of information relating to the time period during the mid-1990s itself.

Both were sources where it involves the functioning of news providers and their correspondence with journalists and freelancers who investigate the news pieces that make up the bulk of content that we see on the morning and evening edition thanks to Reuters and UPI (United Press International).

Full-time, Weekend Warriors and Veterans Throughout The Globe.
You know who you are. Characters like Stanton exist because of real people like you.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau contributed much to the peace that made the Oslo Accords possible, including being a key participant in the Camp David Accords in 1978, which were mediated by President Jimmy Carter and resulted in two agreements between Egypt and Israel. These agreements were called A Framework For Peace In The Middle East which outlined a plan for the settlement of conflict in the region, and the establishing of a Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza. The second agreement was called A Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel and ended the state of war between the two countries and normalized their diplomatic relations paving the way for what was to come.

Many world leaders, diplomats and administrators made the Oslo Accords possible, including President s of the United States Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. They would not have been possible without the United Nations, though the greatest successes of those accords should be attributed to Yasir Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian and Israeli people.


Recommended News And Editorials Directly Related To The Current Situation

These news stories and editorials are very much applicable to the current situation and are recommended reading for anyone who read through this episode of The Butterfly Dragon: We Who Stand On Guard. Informed opinions from writers and people of the region. These articles combined represent the diaspora of all sides when consumed in combination with each other.

The solution lies in the fact that it must protect the interests of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, while abhorring extremism through action or leadership as any kind of solution. Its an injustice that either peoples should be denied of their own statehood.

Haaretz Articles

Amid Wide Gaps, Israel and Hamas Express Readiness To Discuss Gaza Hostage Deal After Prolonged Deadlock - Amos Harel

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastlyBirdman, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Stable Diffusion (Easy Diffusion distribution), InstantIDSadtalkerGoogle ColaboratoryMicrosoft Copilot (Windows 11), Hitfilm, Borderline Obsession...

InstantID by: Wang, Qixun and Bai, Xu and Wang, Haofan and Qin, Zekui and Chen, Anthony. Research Paper Title: InstantID - Zero-shot Identity-Preserving Generation in Seconds.

Sadtalker by: Zhang, Wenxuan and Cun, Xiaodong and Wang, Xuan and Zhang, Yong and Shen, Xi and Guo, Yu and Shan, Ying and Wang, Fei.
Research Paper Title: SadTalker: Learning Realistic 3D Motion Coefficients for Stylized Audio-Driven Single Image Talking Face Animation.

Gratitude: Our Mentors, Senseis, Sifus, Sebomnims, lifetime inspirations, family, friends, the Nomads (ask Stanton about that one), the Music, the Movies, the Theatre, the Arts, ASMR, (both YouTube and Bilibili and the many other creators on those platforms), the Gaming and Developer communities and of course, the audience.

Martial Arts (in the words of real experts and at least one comedian): https://brucelee.com (home of the real Dragon and an entire family of inspirations), http://iwco.online International Wing Chun Organization (International presence of a very scalable intensity martial art, protected and developed by Shaolin Nun Ng Mui), https://iogkf.com International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karatedo Federation (even Hanshi had his teachers), https://itftkd.sport International Taekwondo Federation (Here there be Taegers), https://tangsoodoworld.com Tang Soo Do World (the path of Grandmaster Chuck Norris), https://www.aikido-international.org International Aikido Federation (how else would Navy Chef Steven Seagal liberate a Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier from a team of hijackers?), https://www.stqitoronto.com Shaolin Temple Quanfa Institute (The City Of Toronto's own Shaolin Temple), https://www.enterthedojoshow.com Master Ken's Ameri-Te-Do presence (If we can't laugh at ourselves, then we can at least laugh the loudest at others, and other Zen)

Special thanks to AitrepreneurHugging Face and the YouTube educational content producers, including those catering to the AI content production pipeline and of course AlphaSignal.

Something to give you perspective: The very first teacher had no formal education, didn't graduate and was self taught, but only because they had no other choice. We do.

This content is entirely produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701 under the Shhhh! Digital Media banner.