Read F Paul Wilson - Novel 03 Online

Authors: Virgin (as Mary Elizabeth Murphy) (v2.1)

F Paul Wilson - Novel 03 (2 page)

BOOK: F Paul Wilson - Novel 03
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Kesev stared down at the mountainous terrain
below and wondered where they were.

           
 
"How much farther?" he asked the
copilot lounging in the seat directly ahead of his.

           
 
"Not much longer now, sir," the
airman said, then laughed.

           
 
"What's so funny?" Kesev said.

           
 
"Sorry, sir. It's just that whenever my
family used to take a trip, I'd drive my father crazy saying, 'Are we there
yet? Are we there yet?' And that's the answer he'd always give me: 'Not much
longer now.' And here I am, saying it to you."

           
 
"I was not aware," Kesev said icily,
"that a question concerning our arrival at the crash site of a weapon
hurled at us by one of our most vicious enemies, a weapon that might contain
chemical or biological toxins, could be construed as childish."

           
 
"Oh, sir," the copilot said,
straightening in his seat and half turning toward him. "I meant nothing
like that. I—"

           
 
He knew he was being unfair, but he was edgy
and irritable and wanted to lay off some of that burden on this youngster.

           
 
"Nor was I aware that I was driving you
crazy."

           
 
"Sir, I was just—"

           
 
"Just keep us on course."

           
 
"Yes, sir."

           
 
On
course.
The SCUD in question had been anything but. They had a reputation
for being about as accurate as a fireworks rocket, but this particular
missile's course had added a new dimension to the concept of erratic. It had
turned so far south that it never came within range of the Patriots the Army
had borrowed from the Americans. For a while it looked as if it might crash
into the
Dead Sea
, but its trajectory had flattened
momentarily, carrying it into the Wilderness.

           
Near the Resting Place.

           
 
Kesev had no doubt that it had missed the
Resting Place
. A direct hit was inconceivable. But
anything focusing attention on that area posed a threat to the secret. He
wanted to see the crash site himself, and he wanted to be there when the
inspection team arrived. He'd be there to deal with any other intelligence
service that might try to tag along. Domestic intelligence was Shin Bet's
domain and Kesev was here to claim it for them. He feared that if he didn't
stake out his territory now, Mossad and Aman would be horning in and might
wander into areas they shouldn't. One area—the Resting Place—was not to be
disturbed.

           
 
Never
disturbed.
He shuddered to think of the consequences. . . .

           
 
Kesev tried to shake off the unease that had
encircled his throat since he'd seen the computer MPI printout.

           
 
"I'm still waiting for the answer to my
question," he said to no one in particular.

           
 
"ETA twenty minutes, sir," the
copilot said without looking at him.

           
 
That's better, Kesev thought.
That's
the way to treat one of Shin
Bet's top operatives.

           
 
Then he reconsidered. Perhaps he was being too
hard on the youth. He'd been a young upstart once.

           
 
Dear Lord, how long ago had that been?

           
 
Never mind.

           
 
"Who do you think aimed this
missile?" Kesev said, trying to lighten the leaden mood that had settled
on the cabin. "A blind man?"

           
 
"Yeah," the pilot said.
"Ayatollah Stevie Wonder."

           
 
The copilot laughed and Kesev forced a smile,
all the while wanting to ask, Who's Stevie Wonder? But he feared sounding out of
touch. He was ever on guard against sounding out of touch.

           
 
"Yeah," the copilot said.
"Someone put a mean hook on that SCUD."

           
 
"Hook?" Kesev said.

           
 
"You ever play golf, sir?"

           
 
Kesev had tried it once or twice but had been
unable to comprehend the fascination the game held for so many of his
countrymen.

           
 
"Of course."

           
 
"Well, you aim a SCUD at Tel Aviv and it
just misses the
Dead
Sea
. I'd say
that's one hell of a hook."

           
 
Missed Tel Aviv by 120 miles. That was indeed
far off course. Too far off. Almost . . .

           
 
Don't think crazy thoughts, he told himself.
It's an accident. Another one of those crazy things that just seem to happen.

           
 
But he'd long known from personal experience
that some things which seemed to "just happen," didn't.

           
 
And he trembled at the possibility that this
errant SCUD incident might be one of those.

 

The Judean Wilderness

 

           
 
Achmed darted about the field, collecting
metal scraps of assorted sizes until both arms were full, then he scampered
back and dumped his finds on the steadily growing pile by the donkey. The clang
of metal on metal echoed like cracked bells through the still air.

           
 
On his next run he ranged farther from the
donkey, searching for the crater where the missile had exploded. He figured he
might find the most metal there. Then again, he might not—the blast might have
hurled it in all directions, leaving metal everywhere
but
the crater. But either way, he wanted to see it, be near it,
wanted to stand in the heart of its power.

           
 
He thought he saw a depression in the sand on
the far side of the field, at the base of the opposite wall of the canyon. He
ran for it.

           
 
As he neared he noticed that the otherwise
smooth sand of the field was increasingly littered with shards of stone and
streaks of darker earth, and how the trees surrounding the depression were
broken or knocked flat. The sparse grass smoked from fires that had already
burned out.

           
This was it. The missile must have
exploded here.

           
 
When he arrived at the crater he saw that the
blast had shattered part of the cliff wall, causing a minor landslide into the
crater. A deep cavity there in the wall. Almost as if ...

           
 
He picked up a stone and hurled it at the
hollow. It flew into the blackness but did not bounce back. It disappeared, as
if it had been swallowed. Then Achmed heard it strike. Not with the solid
impact of rock upon rock—with more of a
clink.
And then a clatter. As if it had struck something hard and thin and hollow
. . . and broken it.

           
 
Achmed stood on the crumbling rim of the
crater and stared into the blackness in the wall. No mere blast cavity here.
This was a cave. He shivered with anticipation as thoughts of Muhammad adh-Dhib
raced through his mind. Every Bedouin knew the story of the ten-year-old boy
who discovered the first
Dead Sea
scrolls in
Qumran
, not too many miles north of here; the tale
had been told around the fires for nearly half a century. And had there been a
Bedouin boy since who did not dream of finding similar treasure?

           
 
"Nabil!" he called. "Nabil come
quickly! And bring the light!"

           
 
Nabil came running up. "What is it?"

           
 
"I think I've found a cave!" Achmed
said, pointing to the dark splotch in the wall.

           
 
Nabil snorted. "There are caves all over
these hills."

           
 
"No. A
secret
cave."

           
 
Nabil froze an instant, then flicked on the flashlight
and aimed the beam into the darkness. Achmed's heart picked up its rhythm when
he saw the smooth edges of the opening and the deep blackness beyond.

           
 
"You're right, little brother,"
Nabil said, keeping the beam trained on the opening as he moved around the rim
of the crater. "It
is
a
cave."

           
 
Achmed followed him to the mouth. Together
they peered in. The floor of the cave was littered with small rock fragments, a
thick layer of dust, and . . . something else.

           
 
The beam picked out an object with four short
straight legs and what appeared to be a seat.

           
 
Achmed said, "Is that—?

           
 
"A bench or a chair of some sort,"
Nabil said.

           
 
Achmed was shaking with excitement. He grabbed
Nabil's shoulder and found that his brother too was shaking.

           
 
"Let's go in," Nabil said.

           
 
Achmed's dry mouth would not allow him to
speak. He followed his brother's lead, climbing over the pile of broken and
fallen-away stone. They entered the cave in silence.

           
 
Dry, musty air within, laden with dust. Achmed
coughed and rubbed his nose. They approached the little bench, covered with a
thick coat of dust like everything else. Achmed reached out to brush the dust
away, to see what sort of wood it was made of. He touched it lightly. The bench
gave way, falling in on itself, crumbling, disintegrating into a lumpy pile of
rotted flakes. "Oaf!" Nabil hissed.

           
 
"May Allah be my witness, I barely
touched it!" Apparently Nabil believed him. "Then this cave must have
been sealed for a
long
time. This
place is
old."

           
 
He flashed the beam around. To the
right—another bench and what looked like a low table; to the left— Nabil's gasp
echoed Achmed's.

           
 
Urns. Two of them: one lying on its side,
broken; the other upright, intact, its domed lid securely in place.
"That's what my stone must have hit!" Achmed said. Nabil was already
moving forward. He angled the beam into the broken urn.

           
 
"Achmed!" His older brother's voice
was hushed. "A scroll! There's a scroll in this one! It's torn and
crumbling . . . it's
ancient!"

           
 
Achmed dropped quivering to his knees in the
dust. "Allah be praised! He has led us here!" Nabil lifted the lid of
the second urn and beamed the light into its mouth.

           
 
"More scrolls! Achmed, they will be
singing our names around the night fires for generations!"

           
 
"Allah be praised!" Achmed was too
overcome to think of anything else too say.

           
 
Nabil replaced the lid and swung the
flashlight beam back to the broken urn.

           
 
"You take that one. It's already broken
but
be careful!
We don't want to do
any more damage to that scroll. I'll
take
the unbroken one."

           
 
Achmed bent, slipped his sweating, trembling
palms under the broken urn, and gently lifted it into his arms as if it were a
cranky infant brother who had finally fallen asleep. He rose to his feet and
edged toward the mouth of the cave. He didn't need the flashlight beam to light
his exit—after the deep night of this tiny cave, the moonlit canyon outside
seemed
noon
bright.
He stepped carefully over the jumbled rocks outside the mouth, then waited on
level ground for Nabil.

BOOK: F Paul Wilson - Novel 03
11.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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