Authors: Ben Coes
After a few seconds, the intercom clicked.
“Yes,” said a woman over the intercom.
“Hello, Mrs. Bohr, it’s Kohl Meir.”
* * *
At precisely the same moment, less than ten miles away, on the fifteenth floor of a nondescript office building on Third Avenue near the United Nations, a red, white, and green flag with a strange emblem in the center stood near a mahogany door. Next to the door, the words were simple, engraved in a shiny gold plaque:
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Behind the door, past a reception area filled with people, down a long corridor, in a windowless, locked, highly secure room near the kitchen of the mission, two men stared at a large, flat plasma screen.
One of the men wore a black three-piece suit, a tan shirt, a gold-and-green-striped tie. His black hair was slicked back. He had a bushy mustache, dark skin, a thin, gaunt face. The other man had on a short-sleeve denim button-down and khakis. He was stocky, his hair curly and unkempt. A beard and mustache covered his face. He sat in the chair, behind the desk, typing every few seconds into a keyboard in front of him. The man in the suit leaned over the desk, a cigarette in his hand. Both men studied the screen intently.
“It’s him?” asked the suited one. “You’re sure?”
“Yes, yes,” said the stocky Iranian. “Crystal fucking sure.”
On the screen, in fuzzy black-and-white, they watched as Kohl Meir climbed out of the taxicab, then walked down the sidewalk.
“And it’s all ready?”
“Yes, it’s ready, Naji. It could not be any more precisely arranged.”
On the plasma screen, Meir walked, limping slightly, down the crowded sidewalk. Halfway down the block, he started to climb the steps of a brownstone. He moved past two girls on the steps, then put his hand out to ring a doorbell.
“Just think,” said the stocky man. “The great-grandson of Golda Meir herself. We could not inflict any more damage on the Jews if we dropped a nuclear bomb on downtown Tel Aviv.”
On the screen, the door to the brownstone opened, and Kohl Meir stepped through. Then, he disappeared from the screen.
“Imagine,” whispered Naji, “when we do both.”
* * *
A small wooden sign next to a country road read
CASTINE GOLF CLUB
in neat, hand-painted black letters.
It was a bare-bones nine-hole golf course, long flat fairways that ran in pretty lines along the rocky ledges abutting Penobscot Bay below, like a links course in Scotland. At the opposite side of the narrow fairways, fields of olive-colored hay grass spread as far as the eye could see.
On the course’s fourth hole, between the small, oval-shaped green and the tee area of the fifth hole, Margaret Hill began. Half old and cracked tar and half dirt, with a small strip of stubby green grass growing up the middle, the one-lane road wasn’t on most maps of Maine or even Castine, but the townspeople knew it. Margaret Hill ran for a quiet, crooked, birch-lined mile to a farm. The farm didn’t have a sign, but everyone knew the farm by the name it had been given by the man who built it more than a century ago, Theodore Andreas, for his wife, Margaret.
Atop Margaret Hill sat a pretty white farmhouse, with black shutters and a cedar-shake roof. The farmhouse was a rambling, two-story cape, built in 1891, added onto multiple times, maintained impeccably throughout its life. A cedar-shingled barn sat down a sloping, grassy hill from the farmhouse. Stables stood farther down the hill. Fields surrounded the farm. From most windows in the farmhouse, to the east, south, and west, the dark waters of the sea could be seen in the distance.
It was past midnight, on this calm June night. The farm was dark and silent. The sound of crickets chirping in the fields, the low baritone of the far-off ocean, these were the only sounds. Overhead, a canopy of stars looked vibrant, the spray of white dots made the sky undulate. At some point trees began to rustle in the wind. In a matter of less than five minutes, the stars disappeared; black storm clouds encroached in a rapid flight from the ocean.
Then the black sky lit up in a violent, fiery blaze. Electric white exploded across the summer night in tentacles; lightning bolts spread as if some god had lashed the sky with a whip, interrupting the darkness in astonishing force. The lightning was joined a second later by a tremendous thunderclap that roared like cannon fire across the peninsula.
The farmhouse suddenly shook. Dewey’s eyes opened. He didn’t move.
Where am I?
he thought, and for a few seconds his mind was as blank as stone.
A few moments passed, then raindrops pinged the roof. Dewey looked out the open window. And then he remembered.
“You’re home,” he whispered to himself.
The raindrops intensified, they became like a drumbeat as the clouds unleashed themselves on the roof, on the land, the fields, on the meadows of tall grass, corn, and tomatoes, the acres of pine that ran north to the rocky coast, on the tin roof of the barn, the stables, drenching it all, washing it, feeding the land, the farm, everything, with clean, pure water from the Maine sky.
Dewey smelled the fresh rain through the open window. For several minutes he did nothing but listen. In his bedroom, the refuge of his youth, in his bed, beneath the roof that had been the place of his upbringing, protecting him, the place that made him the man he was, he lay in silence and listened to the hard rain. He thought of other rainstorms as a child, with his brother down the hall. He thought of the time before he left Castine, before he knew the outside world, when the most powerful weapon he knew of was a barrel filled with crab apples ready to throw at his brother, or a jackknife; before Delta taught him what killing was, how to kill, what it meant to kill, what it felt like to do it with a silenced .45 caliber weapon, or a combat blade, or with his bare hands. Before he knew that outside this small, pristine, innocent peninsula there lurked people who would gladly give their lives to kill him just because he was from this place. From Castine. From Maine. From
Yet, as he lay beneath the cotton sheets, beneath the eave that smelled of cedar and salt water, listening to the rain overhead, thinking about his childhood, he knew that he could never go back, that the memories were the only things that would ever be innocent or safe for him again.
The rain pounded the roof above, the din like a cacophony, noisy and yet calming, as only a summer rainstorm can be.
Dewey glanced to his right, at an old windup alarm clock. It read 2:00
I know what will happen next,
Anticipation mounted in his chest. He waited for it. Suddenly, in the east wing of the farmhouse, beyond the kitchen, the sound of footsteps. Someone stepping down the creaky stairwell.
Dewey smiled to himself.
He heard a squeak from a screen door spring as it opened, then the slap of the closing door a second later, steps on the porch, footsteps down the pebbles of the driveway. The iron latch of the stable door made a distant metal creak. Then he listened as his father did what he had always done in such storms; step inside the stables to calm the horses he loved so much.
Dewey pushed aside the thin, homemade summer quilt, then stood. He stepped into the alcove beneath the dormer. He looked out the open window. The rain was a deluge. A light spray of droplets, swept by the warm wind, dampened his face, his bare, muscled chest. The only light was a small, hazy dome of blue light from a bulb at the side of the barn. The cascade of rain across the farm created a misty blur.
Then, with a suddenness that startled even Dewey, another lash of lightning burst across the ceiling of black. A memory, still fresh, stirred. Perhaps it was the chaos at that very moment, the unbridled floodwaters, the lack of control he felt as yet another furious smash of lightning pounded Margaret Hill.
Dewey stared out the window and it was as if he were back in Beirut.
For several moments, it was as if the tiny alcove of his bedroom window was the open cargo hatch to the C-130.
Dewey had tried to delete it all from his mind. But he couldn’t forget it. Not that night.
He stared out the window, at the rain, but all he saw was the lights of Beirut. A canopy of city streets, spread out behind the open hatch of the big cargo plane as it descended, nearly out of control, into the airport. Strapped inside the cargo hatch, holding on for dear life as the wind tried to pull him out the open hatch.
Below, he knew, they awaited his arrival.
He remembered the awful thought. Either the big cargo plane would not be able to straighten itself out and he would crash and die. Or the pilot would find some way to land it, in which case he would have to deal with Aswan Fortuna and whatever mercenaries he’d sent to retrieve him.
Dying in a plane crash was how he’d wanted to go; quickly, the only pain being the moments just before it happened.
Now, right now,
he remembered thinking as the plane went almost vertical and came perilously close to flipping in midair.
Then, the plane had somehow straightened. Bounced upon the hard tarmac below, landing, sliding, into a three-sixty. It was then that the third option revealed itself. The one he never could have guessed: Israel.
Israel had come to save him that night. Kohl Meir had come to save him that night.
Dewey closed his eyes. He’d been trying for four months now to push Beirut out of his mind. He was haunted by the thought that even one man would die to save his life. It was a trade he would not have made. That night, six Israelis had died in the battle at Rafic Hariri Airport. Six young men who’d given their lives so that he could live. He kept trying to push the memory away. But the harder he pushed, the closer it stayed.
Lightning smacked down across the Maine sky, this time the bolt struck a tree at the near horizon, then the night lit up. Then a crack of thunder echoed across the black sky.
Suddenly, Dewey felt a hand, then two hands, wrap around him. For a moment, he was startled. Then he felt warmth against his moist chest. Soft fingers moved from his chest to his waist from behind, wrapped themselves across his muscled torso. He felt the imprints of breasts against his back, as she moved behind him, her naked body pressing against his, her hands enveloping him from behind.
“Whatcha doin’?” whispered Jessica softly. He felt her lips kiss his right shoulder.
Jessica’s hands rubbed his chest, moving across the hard muscles of his chest, then down, across his hard stomach. Her right hand moved lower. He was naked, too, and her hand moved down, below his waist, to his front, touching him.
“I love thunderstorms,” Jessica said.
She pressed her body tighter into his back.
Then, as quickly as it had come, the storm tapered off, then ceased altogether. The clouds moved on, the moon was revealed in white. The wet roof of the barn shimmered in the light.
Dewey turned. He tilted his head down. He looked into Jessica’s big green eyes that stared up into his. He moved his lips to hers. He kissed Jessica for several minutes as she pressed her body against his. Dewey reached down and placed his hands on the back of her thighs. He gently lifted her light frame. She wrapped her long thin legs around his back. She wrapped her arms around his neck. She put her hands in his tousled brown hair. He carried her to the bed as she leaned down and kissed his ear.
“My, what strong hands you have, Mr. Wolf,” Jessica whispered as he carried her naked body to the bed. He threw her down playfully on top of the summer quilt. He climbed onto the bed as Jessica laughed softly and the warm wind came in through the window and brought with it the scent of the violent storm that had just passed.
Ben Coes in the author of critically acclaimed
. He is a former speechwriter for the George H. W. Bush White House, worked for T. Boone Pickens, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard, the campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s run for governor in 2002, and is currently a partner in a private equity company out of Boston. He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2011 by Ben Coes. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
First Edition: October 2011