Monday, February 27, 2012

SAECULUM ( A Novel: Part 24) – MATUTINUM I

SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)

I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)

I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
IV. Monday, 14 November, 2011
V. Monday, 14 November, 2011

CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)

I. Thursday, 17 November 2011
II. Sunday, 20 November, 2011
III. Friday, 25 November, 2011
IV. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
V. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
VI. Thursday, 8 December, 2011
VII. Sunday, 11 December, 2011


I. Sunday, 1 January, 2012
II. Thursday, 5 January, 2012
III. Saturday, 7 January, 2012
IV. Monday, 16 January, 2012
V. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VI. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VII. Friday, 3 February, 2012
VIII. Friday, 3 February, 2012


I. Sunday, 12 February, 2012
II. Saturday, 18 February, 2012
III. Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

I. Monday, 27 February, 2012

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)



It seemed to Michael Mara, as he looked downwards through a cloudless sky to the green-blue Mediterranean far below, that they had hardly reached a cruising altitude when the pilot announced their descent. Dave, Karl and the other Secret Service agents who had travelled grumbled in their wakening. Once the plane had lifted off they had instantly availed of the radio-free cocooned environment to snatch some much-needed sleep. Michael could not rest. His thoughts were concentrated on trying to figure out what had happened to him at Isabella’s apartment. What had she and Zoë done? And if they had, why? He had no real recollection of any sequence of events. His mouth was dry and his stomach, empty save for some concentrated coffee, knotted further as the plane came into land. There was a very high crosswind, which pushed downwards on the port-side wing, causing the jet to tilt at a lateral angle. The pilot made a late and expert correction to the tilt but the contact with the airport apron was bone-shaking. Michael breathed out, finally, when the jet shuddered to a crawl and began taxing to a private part of the complex.
“Jesus, Jake. This is not a fucking helicopter,” Karl shouted through the open cockpit door at the pilot.
“Sorry about that, gents,” the pilot apologised.
Karl shook his own head as he turned to Michael. “Most of these cute flyboys earn their wings these days on Gameboy’s or Play-Stations. They never see the friggen sky! Jesus help us!”
“What now, Karl?” Michael asked as he smiled in a conspiratorial fashion.
“General Arnold is going to meet us here and we will have a debriefing. He would like to know more of what happened to you over the past few days.”
“So would I,” Michael said. He looked out the window and could see a small group of non-uniformed people waiting beside two large cars for the engines to shut down. “But I remember very little.”
“That’s what concerns us, buddy!”
“What do you mean, Karl?”
“Let me try and put a hypothetical scenario together for you. You said you went to a broad’s apartment, right?”
“And the next thing you remember, nearly two days later, is another broad dropping you off at the café.”
“All of that suggests to me that you might have been slipped a Mickey Finn that first evening in the apartment. After that it would have been easy to drug you up with whatever they wanted to use.”
“Information extraction, usually.”
“Jesus!” Michael said as he realised what might have happened to him.
There was silence for a few moments. Karl had a puzzled frown on his face when he, eventually, spoke again. “There is one untypical feature about it all however.”
“Which is?” Michael asked. Everything about what had happened to him in the past week was untypical.
“If someone goes to that much trouble to kidnap and drug, normally they would kill the mark when they have obtained the information. I just wonder why they let you live? It doesn’t fit the usual pattern,” he said coldly as if Michael was a case study.
“I’m not half as disappointed about that fact as you sound, Karl.”
“Don’t get upset, Michael. It’s just his way. Karl is an avid fan of pattern analysis. In fact we think he’ll make a damn good knitter one day. Won’t you, Karl?” Dave interrupted. He laughed as he stood up, straightened his narrow tie and slipped on his still sharply creased jacket.
“Shut the fuck up, Dave.” Karl was touchy and as the younger agent backed off a little he turned back to look at Michael Mara. The plane had finally stopped moving. “We would like to take a blood sample for analysis,” Karl added.
“To see the combination of drugs used.” Dave explained.
Michael remembered the hashish. “No . . . It’s not necessary. What might have been used, and why?”
“Ketamine and perhaps a benzodiazepine like Rohypnol or Valium for neuroleptanalgesia. Perhaps pentothal as well for control of consciousness. There are many combinations that can be used,” the gruff lead agent detailed as he and Dave watched their charge carefully.
“I don’t believe it,” Michael protested as he stood up and retrieved his knapsack. No wonder he had felt groggy, he thought.
“Happens all the time Doc. Industrial espionage is a dirty game. Sometimes in the trade, once we figure out what drugs were used, we try to reproduce the episode to determine what information might have been given by the mark.”
“No fucking thanks,” Michael hastily replied as he moved up the aisle towards the front of the aircraft. The cabin door was open and he could feel the heat rise from the asphalt below.
At the bottom of the steps, General Bob Arnold waited. “Hello, Michael. Whassup!” he asked nonchantly.
“Just playing your game, General. Just playing your game,” Michael replied with sarcastic humour. “What about you Bob?”
“Surprisingly good, given the circumstances.” Arnold was agitated. “I am sorry about all this, but it was necessary.”
An image of Alonzo Aldahrze flashed in Michael’s consciousness, sitting in his chair, his still warm, blue-blotched face staring at him. “I understand. What now Bob?”
“We’ve received reliable information that an important meeting is taking place tomorrow and that one or other of the parties involved in trying to get their hands on the your cocaine Stealth Virus will be there. I’ll explain a bit more on our way to an observation house set up on the other side of the island.”

Arnold held the door of the car open for Michael and he sat in behind the driver. He watched as Karl and Dave descended the steps and quickly got into another vehicle. The two cars then set off at a leisurely pace across the apron and exited onto the normal airport access road through a guarded gate. The route out of the Airport took them past the door of the arrivals terminal. It was busy with traffic, meeting an incoming flight. Near the head of the taxi rank the congestion cleared and the car accelerated. Michael suddenly thought he recognized somebody standing in the rank. “Pull over driver,” he shouted.
“What’s up, Michael?” Arnold asked.
“Pull over and I’ll tell you.”
Arnold instructed the driver to comply and they pulled into the kerbside about thirty yards beyond the end of the rank. Michael Mara looked through the heavily tinted unidirectional glass of the rear window.
“What is it, Michael?” Arnold asked again, impatient.
“I’m not absolutely sure but I think I recognise that man.” Michael pointed towards the rank.
“Which one?”
“The tall fellow near the front with the small silver-coloured photographer’s camera case.”
“Yes. He looks nervous. On alert as it were.”
“Exactly. Like a meerkat sentinel,” Michael said.
“What?” Arnold looked at him in a confused way.
“It doesn’t matter Bob. That guy’s name is Sancho and he’s a waiter in Granada. What’s he doing here? It’s a very strange coincidence.”
“Why? Where did you see him before?”
“At the restaurant where I first met Isabella. She said that his mother was her landlady.” Michael felt a strange weariness and a desperate longing to meet Isabella again.
“Who is this Isabella?”
“The girl, whose apartment I went to . . . Whose friend brought me back to the café where your agents picked me up. I met her by chance last Saturday and that man in the rank served us at the table. It was Isabella who told me about Alonzo Aldahrze. She’s the . . .” He stopped short having suddenly realized that he could not reveal any more to Arnold. This was his secret.
“Excuse me for a moment, Michael.” Arnold touched the driver on the shoulder and after the central locking mechanism had been released opened his door, got out, and walked up to where the car that carried Karl and Dave had pulled in ahead of them. The driver of Michael’s car kept the engine running and adjusted the rear view mirror to be able to keep him in view. His eyes then darted from Michael to the car ahead.
“Everything ok?” Michael asked as Arnold sat back in.
“Sure. No problem.” Arnold touched the driver’s shoulder again and the car accelerated from the kerb he leant forward to retrieve his briefcase from the floor. After keying in the combination he laid it across his lap, opened back the top panel and retrieved a brown cardboard-backed envelope, which he then handed to Michael.
“What’s this?” Michael asked.
“Photographs. Please look at them, ” Arnold instructed.
Michael opened the envelope and extracted a number of good quality paper prints. The plain back was uppermost and it was only when he turned it over that a medium range but well defined picture of Isabella stared back at me. He blushed instantly and looked at Arnold who said nothing. Shuffling this first photograph to the back of the pile the next was a picture of a couple in deep conversation. It was Isabella and . . . Moshe Hertzog, his Israeli collaborator in the cocaine virus work. “Christ!” he said aloud.
“Is that the woman you know as Isabella?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Look at the date.”
The digital date print was on the bottom right hand corner. It was from a week previously when Isabella had told Michael she was in Chicago. “Where was this taken?” Michael asked, hoping against hope.
“Tel Aviv.”
All of the other photographs, apart from the last, were of that same meeting. The last had today’s date and was a long distance but obvious picture of Isabella standing against a boat’s railings. Tp Michael she looked beautiful with the wind in her hair and the sun on her face. He held the photograph up and looked at it for a long time. “And this?”
“Earlier today at the port in Calvi.”
Isabella is in Corsica?” Michael almost choked.
“Yes.” Arnold’s face was impassive, cold.
Michael placed the photograph in his inside jacket pocket and returned the others to the envelope and handed it to Arnold. “What’s going on, Bob?”
“Isabella Sanjil has been under observation since that meeting with Hertzog. Up to now, we still have very little information on her but we do know, from a partially intercepted phone-call, that her code name is Solis. It is she who is the conduit to Alexander in Alpanna and that is why she is here in Corsica. Alexander has a summer villa here.”
“Then my meeting her was not accidental. I was set up. A stooge!” Michael Mara’s voice had dropped to a whisper.
“Probably, Michael. I am sorry but industrial espionage is very sophisticated. You weren’t to know.”
“Shit. Shit . . .shit . . . shit.” Mara slammed the door with his fist. The driver’s eyes locked onto him in the mirror, and his his right hand moved towards the unoccupied passenger seat where a muzzled machine pistol lay waiting.
“Take it easy, Michael,” Arnold mollified. “This is why we had to get you out of Granada in such a hurry. I’m not sure why your friend Aldahrze was killed, but many of the people that Alexander has dealings with are not to be messed with.”
“What do you mean?”
“It appears that in addition to his pharmaceutical company, Alexander has an interesting sideline in sponsoring international terrorism and that drug money from the Afghan opium trade funds it. CIA and Interpol have linked his name to some of the most radical autonomy-seeking groups in the world. No definite proof, mind you, but the whispers are out there. We think that Corsica is the centre of that operation.”
“Why am I here?”
“Two reasons. One was your immediate safety and the second, was your relationship with this Isabella Sanjil.”
Michael looked out the window. The road rose through a valley that would take them, according to the signposts, to Corte. Ahead of them he noticed, all along the mountain-top horizon, dark storm clouds were gathering to blacken the sky. The occasional forked flash of lightning silhouetted peaks and high passes. “What do you mean by that Bob?”
“If the woman, Sanjil obtained all the information she wanted from you over the last few days, then you normally would have been expendable. The fact that you are still here suggests that you either managed to conceal the information she was looking for or that she likes you. Either way it is an opportunity for us to get at Alexander through her.”
“Using me as bait, I suppose!” Michael pretended to be angry. He thought of the Voices. Maybe Isabella’s loyalties were divided, he wondered. He hoped.
“In a very protected way . . . yes. If you do not believe that, Michael, or you want out of the Alexander operation, say so now. There’ll be no option for changing your mind later. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Michael Mara thought about what Arnold had told him for a few moments. There was something he had to do first. “Bob,” he asked in a quiet voice.
“Yes, Michael.”
“I need to contact my wife, Caroline. I’ll give you an answer after I speak to her.”
“Sure. Work away.”
“I can’t. Karl took my cell phone earlier. I need it back.”
“Oh! Sure.” Arnold tapped on the driver’s shoulder. “Stop the car.”

It was about twenty minutes before they got underway again. Arnold returned Michael’s phone and he and the driver left him alone as he tried contacting Caroline both at home and on her mobile. He had no success on either and Rod was also unavailable. He wound down the window and called out to Bob.
“What’s up, Michael?”
“I cannot get hold of Caroline.”
“Did you leave a message?”
“Yes, but I need you to do a favour for me.”
“Sure. What?”
“Caroline was with a State Department mission to La Paz in Mexico. Could you use your lines of communication to track her down?”
“No problem.” Arnold got out of the car again and Michael could see him speaking to Karl. When he returned he said reassuringly, “That’s all underway. We should have word when we get to the villa. Let’s go driver.”
“Thanks, Bob. It’s important.”
“I know, Michael.” Arnold pulled out a packet of cigarettes and offered him one. After lighting up they sat back saying nothing for some time. It was Arnold who finally broke the silence again, “May I ask you something?”
“Go ahead, Bob.”
“Does Isabella Sanjil turn you on that much?” Arnold had a look of genuine concern on his face.
“No . . . Well, yes she does. Are you worried it might compromise your mission?”
“Frankly. Yes. There is a lot of shit happening that I can’t figure. That worries me.”
“I’ve decided to go all the way with you, Bob, whatever the consequences.”
“Why, Michael?”
“Alexander is after my company, after me personally and is almost certainly responsible for Alonzo Aldahrze’s death. I need to be involved to see that he is stopped and also for another reason.”
“What’s that, Michael? What does Aldahrze have to do with all this? What was his connection to Alexander?”
“Charles Alexander is the gatherer . . . I have to stop him.”
“The what, Michael?”
“It doesn’t matter Bob. Can this car go any faster?”

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