The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 65.4

And even though the sun is shining will I still feel the rain? Time for tea, perhaps?

[Supertramp \\ Even in the Quietest Moments]

Chapter 65.4

Didi Goodman was spooked. She did not understand what had happened out there on the waves, and she had no frame of reference to process events as they transpired. When she fell into Callahan’s arms it was not, she realized, an act. She had been – for those last moments of the life she had known before – when the shark moved in, convinced her life was at an end — and after all the madness she’d been through the past seven years that was saying something.

She’d had the presence of mind to crawl past the grenade and had just made it to the sidewalk when the Land Rover caught fire. Her lower jaw was a fragmented wreck in the shattered aftermath of the assassin’s attack, yet even so she’d managed to find a taxi and get to the Israeli embassy, and she was back in Tel Aviv before the story hit the afternoon papers the next day. Her shattered jaw couldn’t be reconstructed without grafts of her own bone and tissue, so now she had chiseled fragments of her right hip embedded in her face, and skin from her thighs had been used to repair her neck and cheek. Her mouth had been wired shut for months while the grafts settled, and by the time her mouth was set free she had lost far too much weight, most of it in the form of muscle mass. She’d been weak, of course, but her unbroken will was as strong as ever.

The four-man team that had been sent to kill her had flown in from Bulgaria as soon as she left Israel for London, though the men involved were eventually identified as Russian and Serbian mercenaries. After the attack, the team discretely moved to London Luton and boarded a private jet bound for Cluj Napoca, Romania, where the men disembarked and got into four waiting cars. Now on full alert, Mossad agents picked them up and tailed the men into the city, photographing their activities for two days before they flew commercially to Madrid and then on to Buenos Aires. After holing up for a day at an airport hotel, the four men staged elaborate evasive cut-outs to shake any potential tails, yet they did not count on Mossad now having more than fifty agents in place to monitor their movements. After a half-day of such evasive maneuvering, the team converged on what appeared to be a safe house in the Monte Grande neighborhood on the southern outskirts of the city, and one by one the men entered the house. Five minutes after they entered the house exploded, and there the trail ended. Whether the team had in fact been eliminated was now a matter of some conjecture, but at the time Colonel Goodman felt certain they were still alive.

Colonel Benjamin Goodman suffered his first heart attack when he learned what had happened to his daughter, yet it was his group in Mossad that moved assets into place to pick up the mercenary team and shadow them over the next several days. Only one agent, however, had the presence of mind to follow the private jet that had carried the assassins from London to Cluj Napoca. 

She was a Danish Jew from Copenhagen. Her name was Ida.

The getaway jet, a Bombardier Challenger 650, refueled and filed a flight plan for Zurich Kloten, and Ida boarded an old Dassault Falcon 20 registered in Belgium and told the pilots what the new mission was. They took off before the Challenger, heading for Geneva but listening to all the communications between the Challenger and air traffic controllers along its route, and not surprisingly the Challenger filed a new flight plan en route, changing its destination to Madrid. As the Falcon didn’t have enough fuel to make Spain non-stop, Ida alerted agents on the ground, and these agents were able to photograph the Challenger’s lone remaining passenger when he disembarked in Madrid.

Delbert Moloch was easily identifiable in these photographs as he walked to another aircraft, boarding a private Boeing 707 currently registered to Eagle Networks of Los Angeles, California. The Boeing departed Madrid on a non-stop flight to Teniente Luis Candelaria Airport, located in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, and in the hours after, Goodman’s team set about implementing the next phase of their surveillance operation against the Adler Gruppe.

+++++

In the seven years since no Israeli operative had managed to penetrate the Adler Gruppe, but then again neither had MI6 or the CIA — nor any other intelligence agency, for that matter — while Didi Goodman had spent almost three years in physical therapy recovering from her wounds and injuries before returning to active duty.

Now, standing in the sun in Callahan’s arms, she suddenly found a sense of peace that had eluded her for years. Images of the shark’s gaping maw began to fade, and even the startled state of mind she found when the orca cupped her body protectively and carried her almost all the way to shore began to slip away. Standing there on the pebbled beach with her face buried in Callahan’s warm, clean-smelling shirt, about all she could see were stuttering images of the shark’s exploding body, then a fragmenting carcass somersaulting through the air before splattering on the crest of the next breaking wave. 

She felt his arms encircle her and an electric shimmer passed between them, then darkness came for her as she slid down towards the rocks — until, that is, Harry stopped her fall. 

“Maybe you’d better go get the Rover,” he said to Deborah. “I’m not sure I can carry back to the house on that damn trail.”

But as Deborah turned to leave, the pod in the water surrounding Brendan began making strange whistling sounds, then they too turned and disappeared under the water, leaving Brendan out there with the lone big male. Who then came close again, watching with keen interest as the boy peeled away a layer of the sky, revealing some kind of hidden secret beyond before he too vanished under a breaking wave. Brendan made his way through shallow surf to the beach, and only then did he notice that Didi had passed out…

“What’s wrong?” he asked, suddenly and now very clearly concerned. “What happened to her?”

“I’m not sure, but I think she may be a little hypothermic,” Deborah said. “Would you come with me, please?” she said to the boy. “I’m off to fetch the Land Rover and I may need your help.”

Brendan nodded and they took off up the trail for Harry’s place, leaving Harry and Didi there on the beach. He felt her stirring so he helped her find her footing, but he continued to hold onto her…just in case.

“You smell like sunshine,” he heard her say.

“Sunshine? Well, that’s a first.”

She pushed back from him a few inches then cradled his face in her hands and she looked into his eyes for the longest time before she pulled his face to hers. 

She came to him as an explosion of kaleidoscoping lightness and inside the span of a single heartbeat, she pushed him to the beach and mounted him, fumbling with his belt and trousers then guiding him inside. Their sudden union was a spontaneous, furious thing borne of need and fear, and the translucent pink mote hovering overhead spun up and jumped to the L3 Lagrange point at ten times the speed of light.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

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