When a dealer in illegal archeological objects discovers a Palestinian terrorist assassination plot, members of an Israeli underground who want the plot to succeed murder him to keep it secret. His sexually traumatized sister Jamila witnesses the killing and is herself threatened, but escapes, taking with her the valuable artifact he had on him at the time. She turns to her old flame, Mickey, an embittered widower, for help. Both the underground and the terrorists pursue the pair, afraid they know enough to compromise the assassination. They are framed for her brother's murder and sought by the law as well. Jamila and Mickey, though, assume they are entangled in a deadly black market feud. Separated from each other, they manage to slip out of sight, each befriended under strange cirucumstances. Hunted by killers and the authorities, their pictures on the nation's front pages, they must confront their past and overcome personal obstacles in order to stay alive.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Michael Har-Even grew up in the Midwest (an itty bitty area between NYC and LA, north of the Mason-Dixon) and now lives in the Middle East. He makes his home, together with an incredibly supportive wife and three children, in Jerusalem, Israel. Michael spent years working as a computer programmer/systems analyst and currently pays for his fiction writing habit by working as a tech writer. He served for years as a combat medic in the Israeli reserves, until he got old enough to hear his back creak (as the hearing goes, the back sounds better). He gets his non-literary kicks practicing Tai Chi. Flaming Sword is Michael's first novel.
Bump in the Night
JAMILA IBRAHIM shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Airplane travel, she concluded, was cruel and unusual punishment and should be outlawed under the Geneva Convention. Jamila had long since handed the flight attendant her fiendishly conceived dinner tray, after which she tried in vain to relax herself into sleep. Nothing helped. She improved the movie by removing her headphones but, even so, lost interest after a few minutes. It was too dark outside the little rectangular window to see anything. Now she flipped idly through the airline magazine.
Subjecting herself to this was stupid, she thought. Why had she given in and decided to do it? After so long a time away from home she could have -- should have -- let it be. She had spent years in America and though she had never really allowed herself to overcome the emotional hurdles necessary to feel at home there, she was long past feeling a part of her birthplace -- Jaffa.
The seat belt sign flashed as the passengers were warned of upcoming turbulence. Jamila clicked her seat belt across her slender waist with nervous fingers, popped a stick of gum in her mouth and turned the glossy page.
"Israel is another place where antiquities theft has become a problem. Says the director of the Department of Antiquities, Professor Joseph Stern, 'Yes, it's true. Antiquities theft has skyrocketed over the past few months. Despite the best efforts of our minimal staff of inspectors, the plague grows unabated. Archeologists are very discouraged. Sadly, this crime spree is depriving the citizens of our country, and of the entire world, for that matter, of the ability to better understand our heritage'."
Jamila gasped as the plane dipped and shivered. She shut her eyes and took a calming breath. She pictured archeologists like the ones in the magazine digging in the sand, carefully unearthing long-lost relics. Spades and brushes, scraping and sweeping, faces keenly peering at history. Soon, in her mind, they were staring at her, clucking their tongues while pointing at episodes of her past. Her father, barely remembered, dying when she was so young. Her mother, trying to hold back her sobs, encouraging the young Jamila to board the plane and fly away. Her stepfather, cursing her obscenely. Her brothers, especially the younger Halil. Memories surfaced, like successively unearthed layers, and the archeologists sifted and examined them. Mickey, her old boyfriend, leaning against a wall, looking so cool. She had not thought of him in a long time, and did not want to think of him now. Image after image, so carefully buried, came at her now unbidden. Damn archeologists.
Jamila opened her eyes as the plane plunged and pulled up again. She felt flushed. She leaned forward and pulled out the little bag from in front of her, just in case. "You okay?" the woman next to her asked. "You look a little green."
Jamila shrugged. Then she used the bag.
* * *
"IT'S ME. It's okay."
"Yes, yes, don't worry. It was a piece of cake. Another fifteen minutes and the bastard will be home, right?"
One man settled in behind a clump of low bushes on a hillside where his partner had been waiting for him. It was a breezy, moonless night, stars sprinkled across a deep pitch sky, very quiet, the village air bearing sounds and smells through the wholesome calm in that rich, sensitized countryside way. A couple of dogs exchanging sleepy growls and barks. Crickets chirping. A generator in the distance. Now there was nothing to do but sit tight and confirm. They were dressed in black, their faces muddied, pistols in hand. Despite training and experience, it was still hard to keep focused while lying there in the dark. The man who had just returned set down his gun for a moment, peeled off the thin, latex surgeon's gloves from his hands and stuffed them into a small backpack. Two days earlier he had been assigned his mission. The last prisoner exchange had been a joke, hadn't it? The Israelis had received a couple of bodies for burial. The Palestinians had gotten back hundreds of their jailed terrorists, ready for more action. This was pure mockery, a ghoulish travesty of ingrained values. And while so many people identified with their goals, so few had the nerve to act. Well, not everyone was getting fat and timid and willing to watch those murderers operate freely. Not everyone. He was truly happy for his mission. This bastard of a target was sitting here in Beit Sahur, in his quiet little village. Instead of rotting in prison, let alone hanging from a gallows like he deserved, he was walking around a free man ten minutes from Jerusalem, mocking his weak-kneed opponents, planning his next terrorist attack. No more. Thank God there were people who were determined to correct such perversions. Thank God there were people, even if they had to remain underground for the time being, who were prepared to do what everybody -- yes, everybody -- knew in their heart of hearts needed to be done. He zipped the backpack and picked up the gun.
"I'm glad I finally got to do something. You know, a mission..."
"There's nothing to be glad about, kid. It's just necessary."
"Sorry. I didn't mean..."
"It's alright, kid. Relax. Don't be offended. We're all glad you're helping out. Some of us have been doing this for a while now and it gets discouraging." Even our so-called right wing governments back then when we started were weak, he brooded, continuing the train of thought to himself. They gave in to pressure. From Europe. From the Americans. Good friends killing us with their good intentions. So finally people started to act. There was nothing else to do. Now, with the Left in power... God help us. He scowled. "Anyway," he went on, "these are hard times. We need all the help we can get, but it's especially good to get people like you, someone with a commando background."
"Five more minutes," checking his watch. "He's supposed to come home exactly at this time?"
A chuckle. "Yeah. It's nothing very involved. Just pure intelligence work. Our mark is a very caring, civic-minded citizen. Every Tuesday evening he teaches a self-defense class in their community center and then comes home. Simple, isn't it? A regular schedule for a man who shouldn't keep one. Except tonight won't be so regular. The materials you planted in his place... you did put it all there, right?"
"That plus your little pipe bomb will all make it look like a fatal mistake in a bomb factory. A fitting end for a violent monster."
Lights went on in the house they were observing. Both men tensed, glancing at their watches, silently counting off the remaining moments. It was perfect. He came home alone and on time and they could have asked for nothing more except the successful culmination of their operation. Which came. A loud explosion, a flash of light, smoke, an acrid smell. By the time the dead man's neighbors emerged, confused, into the dark village street, the two men in black were already on their way to Jerusalem.