‘I don't want to hear anything more about it!’ Declared Abu-awad raising his voice in pathos. ‘We don't have to check him, to live in doubt and ponder ceaselessly who he really is, to guess – and to find out just at the very end of all our efforts that he's against us! Nobody bothered to consult us, or to let us know at least he was to arrive to join our crew!’ He took a deep long breath of air and looking sideways, and released the excess of air caught in his lungs with a short quick sigh. ‘I don't like the whole affair!’ He added turning back to Abas, his second in command and loyal operations officer.
‘I don't like it either, but what are we do to do then, what do you suggest?’
They had the whole floor above the office to themselves. It was a vast apartment once, which was now turned into an office; two bedrooms served as their offices; the living room served for conferences, briefings, the lively discussions and the many meetings they used to had with the entire crew – not too long ago. They occupied the building's top floor for two reasons, safety and secrecy. Although they were dealing with subversion, murder and various other clandestine activities, as they were in fact the executive arm of the local organization; they were disguised as cultural and press attaches, but still they were an integral part of the organization’s local branch. Thus the top floor served as their base for miscellaneous purposes, and a very safe haven it was. The four rooms that were left on their floor served as hideouts for emergency cases. These extra rooms were empty now, ready to receive any active organization members who were on the run – or those who needed to pass a cooling-off period, right after having executed a successful operation. Agents were hidden there for a short while, a fortnight or more or as long as it was necessary, in order to avoid their being caught red handed at the country's airport on their way to Lebanon, the Magreb or any other Arab country for safety. The building itself was not an impressive edifice, but an ordinary apartment building - in which three floors were rented on a yearly basis to local tenants, year in year out – for a fair amount of money. The fifth floor served the chairman, "Abed-el-kader" was his name and his staff; and that in fact was the heart of the local organization's activities. While the fourth floor had two main functions; on the surface it was a dormitory, restaurant and a social club for any stray Palestinian in need of such facilities. Its second function was to serve the sixth's floor distinguished occupants as a living shield, against raids of the law and order representatives, or even worse, against the Mosad skilled blood hounds. The lucky tenants who were accepted as such, to occupy the organization's three lower floors, were poor emigrant families mostly from Surinam and Indonesia; thanks to their ignorance of the building's main purpose and its owners’ policies, they served as the organization’s local branch first belt of defense. The building's location being far from the center, in a recent erected suburb, kept the real boss away from it. He could have been seen there, on very rare occasions. He simply abhorred the place, the risks he had to take in his opinion, to expose himself in just being there; and that mob of inferior race, which infested the whole quarter. Curse the brain behind that dreadful plot! That's right! He would fume with rage time and again. It’s a mean plot that forces him to sweat in that ‘mousetrap’. That was the only right term to describe that building, as far as he was concerned. That’s what he thought recalling the term, which he himself invented; and here he is once again caught in that horrid mousetrap, in attendance to some young punk! ‘Send him off right away – to London!’ He added before Abas had a chance to respond. ‘He wants to carry on with his studies, doesn't he?’ He kept raging on.
’But on whose authority?’ Broke in Abas. ‘The only source to that precious piece of information is the man himself.’ Abas muttered with disbelief.
Abu-awad was attacked with a sudden fit of coughs, and after having cleared his throat several times, looked a bit disappointed at his second in command. ‘All right we'll authorize him, we'll supply him with a written document.’
‘Oh come on, what document?’ Abas had no wish to commit himself to any of his boss's whims. He had no idea what was now on Abu-awad's mind, but he knew quite well, that it would end up with the aid of his own creative talents; and above all, with his own signature to confirm the elaborate effort! It was as simple as all that, Abu-awad was tossing the problem into his lap – as he was usually doing.
‘Oh it nothing at all,’ calmed him down his boss, waving a hand in the air to let that dumb deputy of his understand, how trivial the whole matter really was. ‘Just some letter of introduction, in which you'll ask our London colleagues for some help, in finding the right institution for that talented young man. That's the whole thing. But to make sure things shall end up as we wish them to end up; you'll have to point out to them that in case the young man's search ends up in nothing, they shall have to send him right back to us without the slightest delay!’ The phone began ringing, and sending one hand forth to pick the receiver, Abu Awad raised his index finger of his left hand, to emphasize the importance of his last words. ‘Shukran ya habibi!’ (thanks dear boy) He said and hung off. ‘He is on his way up!’ He whispered to Abas, though nobody joined them yet. ’The living reminder of our problem.’ He added thoughtfully.
‘And if they'll send him back to us, as we're going to urge them to do? Persisted Abas.
‘You've scored a real important point there!’ Smiled to him his boss. ‘But let’s discuss it later, when this thing is over and this young man, which must be very near our door, would be on his way back – to pack his things and leave us in peace.’
A slight knock was heard, the door opened up and Samir walked straight in; crossing the short distance between him and the seated men, in a quick decisive step.
‘A somewhat saucy young man, isn't he?’ Remarked Abu-awad aloud with an obvious air of sarcasm.
‘Quite right, though he should be much more reserved, after the stormy night he must have passed in the arms of a local belle.’ Echoed after him Abas, keeping up the warm atmosphere.
‘Why, he must be spent the dear fellow! Shouldn't we order some food and drinks?’
They did get on his nerves Samir had to admit, but they did not frighten him; the chubby middle-aged one in particular, did not impress him at all – although he must be the boss no doubt. They may carry their little pranks as long as they wish. I’m not going to lose my temper, or get scared! I can handle both of them. He thought encouraging himself. His arrival must have caused them a great deal of annoyance; he could sense it all right. Try hard as they would, they did not manage to hide it. Though I can’t not know yet what they’re really after… In any case, I must stick to my standpoint and reject their demands, by all means! He encouraged himself. They’re my seniors, I can’t deny it, but a bit of impudence won't do me any harm – surely not this time.
His two hosts were silent. There were no introductions, no other preliminary gestures, so traditionally common in any other circumstances. They were waiting patiently for Samir’s reaction.
‘I've explained already the why and how, I'd the privilege to meet Abas, and I'm glad to meet you sir, but do I have to repeat it?’
’Well, in a way but not every bit of it,’ Answered him Abu-awad. ‘Do relax you're among your brothers, welcome! It’s a real treat to sit thus together and to speak freely in our own tongue. Yes we're glad indeed to have you in our midst; but do give us first of all an oral resume of your background, and your trip down here; and be as short as possible just the high lights.’
‘Well, there's really nothing much to tell.’ Samir opened up trying to appear as modest as he could. ‘I've reached Cairo after having executed successfully my task; waited there for almost a month, as inquiries were made whether I should study there or elsewhere – and it’s been decided that I should be sent to Europe, through Yugoslavia; my first contact so I've been told, would be in Amsterdam – and here I am.’
‘What was your task?’ Asked him Abu-awad.
‘To slay some famous Jew professor.’
‘So, it’s you, ‘mabruk’ (be blessed), a fine piece of work it was!’ Smiled to him Abu-awad effusively, turning to his deputy with a look full of approval.
‘A turning point it would be, that great feat of yours!’ Remarked Abas with a broad warm smile. ‘Lets hope it would mark the beginning of a bloody avalanche – a torrent of blood that would drown them in it once and for all!’ He added rising from his and slapping Samir slightly on the shoulder.
The atmosphere has changed miraculously into a warm and intimate one, and though Abu-awad had one more issue to clear up; who was behind Samir the exact body or person, and who authorized him to carry on his studies – or promised him a scholarship? Was there actually such a promise, at all and a known body behind it? Somehow he had almost forgotten it completely! Somehow the young man did not seem to be an eminent hazard anymore, and his doubts were pushed aside as if by some magic hand. Too soon... Abu-awad told himself, has this young man charmed them both. That's it, that's the trap! There was no need to inquire the young man’s details and his origin... What the hell for? Who cares whether he has been authorized or not, let our brethren in London solve that riddle. ‘Sorry to send you off so soon, ‘Ya habibi’ (dear fellow) but you’re bound for London, these are our latest instructions...Leave us your room number, Abas here will be in touch with you. As for our too short acquaintance... I'm very proud and privileged for having met you my dear fellow!’
Samir hardly left the room and Abu-awad turned triumphantly to Abas. ’Got rid of that small problem haven't I!’
‘Neat and easy!’ Laughed Abas. ‘It could have turned tricky though! What's our next move? He asked his boss, combining honey tongued flattery with his own consideration – the burden his boss was going to toss into his lap.
‘Very simple indeed, find out the date and hour of the most suitable flight to London; order the man, I mean our young educated warrior to look after his own arrangements – plus one more little thing.’
‘Which is?’ Interrupted him Abas almost against his own will.
‘Provide our young warrior with a letter of introduction, to our brethren in the United Kingdom; and see the young warrior off of course.’
‘You'll sign it?’ Asked Abas with much hope and anticipation.
‘No, you'll sign it and don't worry, for I'll back you up. Have I ever let you down? But let’s stick to the point, I want him followed to the airport and I want you to make sure he's gone!’
‘Very well, I'll see to it myself; I'll watch him take off, with my own eyes. Now about that letter, I do apologize; I've no wish to upset you, but what’s on your mind exactly? Could you give me some more detailed instructions?’
‘Thanks for reminding me dear Abas.’ Smiled to him cunningly his boss. ‘I'm quite sure now that the young man's arrival is due to some human error, or simply an outcome of sheer negligence. It’s but my own assumption after all; but nevertheless, I've no intention to verify it and waste our time and means on checking and rechecking, etc. Allah alone knows for how long. Our only solution to that problem then, as we have already concluded is to take that burden off our hands, and that letter should serve as his one-way ticket. We don't wish to have him back, do we?’
‘That's right,’ said Abas and smiled back. ‘But that's exactly what I'm afraid of!’
‘I see,’ remarked Abu-awad pulling out his golden cigarette case, offering it to Abas. Having lighted his own and his deputy's cigarettes and leaving the open case on his desk, they took a short break of silence both of them, puffing smoke, pursuing the delights of rich aroma.
‘Well,’ said at last Abu-awad. ‘I know what's going on there, in London. I mean. I've had a word or two with Abu-naeef, the last time I saw him in Paris, and did the same with two more prominent members of his famous crew. They're short in manpower! He used to have twenty-five experienced men under his command; about six months ago they were cut down to nineteen. I heard him complain with my own ears, mind you! At first though, I thought he was showing off on my account. But I was grossly wrong, the man was simply hurt; six of his best men were sent to Tunisia, to serve as body guards to our senior functionaries there. C’est la vie!’ He added smiling. ‘That's our little break, mind you, and we shall grasp it. Now then, all you have to point out in that letter is the young warrior's loyalty and reliability is. But don't make much fuss about it, just put it straight forward once, and no more. We of course have no intention of giving him up, and that fact should be stressed with much emphasize – thus we ask them to do all in their power to discourage that man, make him give up his plans for additional studies and send him back to us – as soon as possible.’ That's shooting two Jews with one bullet!’ Remarked Abas admiringly.
‘That's the idea!’ Admitted Abu-awad, quite flattered.
‘In any case there's still a slight possibility that they won't fall for it, and they would eventually send our problem back to us.’‘No chance!!!’ Retorted Abu-awad resolutely. ‘I know Abu-naeef and his flaws too well! He won't get any replacements in the near future! He's envied, feared and hated, by too many bitter enemies – and mark my words! I won't be surprised if he'll be pushed off stage soon by some mysterious and tragic accident… he's too rough! But above all he can't tolerate me the poor devil, he hates my guts!
© Haim Kadman 1991 – all rights reserved.