tagRomanceHeaven's Rending Ch. 06

Heaven's Rending Ch. 06

byAdrian Leverkuhn©

Chapter 06: Convergence

Pol Jorgensen sat in his office in the Foreign Ministry and looked at the latest round of political cartoons spread out across his desk. They mocked Islam, again -- or so it had been alleged in newspapers across the Middle East -- and now decades of work building Danish credibility throughout the Middle East was literally going up in smoke. 'Danish Press Freedoms to Blame for Continued Carnage in Beirut!' bleated one leftist tabloid from London. "Oil Prices Surge -- Blame it on Copenhagen!" cried anchors on CNN. Jorgensen looked at the headlines from today's newspapers and once again cursed under his breath. Every democratic institution had been turned against itself! That, he said to himself, would be the most lasting consequence of Bush's War on Terror. The longer the new president carried on the war, the more insane the world grew. A week after his inauguration, then man had had a profound religious awakening. Some thought it was a stroke, others saw it as the hand of God, but what was becoming ever more apparent was simply this: the longer the war went on, the more Western political traditions suffered. They were withering away.

Democratic institutions of governance were cracking under a crisis of confidence as autocratic leaders whittled away at the very freedoms they were supposed to protect. Free markets were shaking on their foundations as wealth amassed for centuries flooded into oil sheikdoms and the corporate coffers of huge multi-national conglomerates, and - all of a sudden and once again -- a lot of people were looking at Karl Marx's observation that capitalists would one day sow the seeds of their own destruction with new respect. Just as his country was turning the corner toward a working green economy, the oil barons in Texas and Washington were gong to bring the whole system down! It was either insane or part of someone's plan. If enough people believed in Revelations and wanted it to happen, wouldn't it become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

But the problem Jorgensen faced now was simple: how to re-establish Danish credibility in the Muslim marketplace before the whole house of cards came down around their ears. If most of the world's capital was indeed pouring into the Middle East, the Twenty-first century would belong to the Arab world; that much was no longer in question. But it had been Jorgensen's hope that Denmark could 'get in on the action' by establishing export markets for alternative energy technology in the cash-rich Emirates, but now naïve editorial cartoonists had for all practical intents dashed that hope for good.

Europe had good technology to offer, as good as anything in the world, and investors would recognize that and act if the political zeitgeist remained relatively tolerant for another decade or so. But America's rampant theocratic petro-interventionism was polluting the global marketplace, souring the Third World's interest in Western goods and turning its attentions once again to Russia and China.

"Won't the Americans ever learn!?" Jorgensen cried out loud as he slammed his desk with open hands. The sound ricocheted off wood-paneled walls with practiced futility.

"What's that, sir?"

Jorgensen shook his head and looked up from his desk, pausing once again to take in Ingrid Andersen's beautiful legs. Oh! how he wanted those legs! To have his face wrapped between those thighs . . . just to smell her down there would be enough, he told himself again. Just that! Was that asking so much?!

Jorgensen pulled himself back from the abyss and looked at the action plan she had produced from her portfolio. Would it work? Could it really be so easy? Could rapprochement with Tehran really be the most expeditious means of reinserting Danish diplomatic contacts into the cauldron of Gulf politics? Would the larger E.U. member states stand for such an audacious act? Or would they take steps to isolate Denmark?

Andersen had approached a member of the Iranian delegation - it was really an overt overture, she told her Minister once again - and perversely she had not been rebuffed; in fact, she had been taken aback by the Persian diplomat's eagerness to consecrate a deal -- any deal -- with Denmark. Something wasn't right. She could feel it in her bones. The Iranians were planning there own operation. She knew it, could feel it, but she couldn't prove it . . . yet. They wanted something in return. But what?

The old man slumped back in his chair. "Nothing, nothing! So, how do you think we should proceed?" Jorgensen asked his protégé.

"With the Americans, sir?"

"No, no, no goddamn it! Iran! What do you propose to do? With your contact?"

"We need to draw them out, sir. Find out what their real intentions are. Engage them, take the initiative from them. This has been the Americans' tragic strategic failure; they are always reacting to radical-Arab initiatives, to Bin Laden, and never seizing the initiative; and when they try to they play right into their enemy's hands. They have been less than incompetent, and I assert that Washington has demonstrated they no longer have the intellectual capacity to work on the world stage effectively any longer. Their corporations are dictating policy! It's insane, yes, but the fact can no longer be doubted. There are no career diplomats left. Policy is being dictated in Washington by lobbyists!" And whores, she wanted to say, but everyone was guilty of that in the new world order. "We must move quickly to fill the void before the political momentum shifts irretrievably to a dialogue between the Arab street and China. With the president's radical conversion, its likely fundamentalists in Europe will find a new partner in Washington, and we can only guess where that will lead. It's a narrow window of opportunity. We must act. Yes. We must act while we can..."

Ingrid crossed her legs and Jorgensen watched out of the corner of his eye as her thigh swished across his field of view. 'Yes,' he said to himself within the confines of his own closeted mind, 'it's time to act.' He fought contradictory impulses inside his groin that told him to take her proposal seriously even as he licked his lips at the briefest thought of hoisting the woman's legs over his shoulders. He tried to summon the courage . . . to ask her to out . . . again . . .

"Very well," Jorgensen said, visibly crestfallen by his inability to simply ask her to dinner. "Contact this Iranian. And call me as soon as you learn anything. I'll be at home tonight. Alone. So call me . . . any time."

Andersen smiled callously at the old man's servile ineptitude. She would sleep with him to further her career - that didn't bother her. What did bother her was this high level minister didn't have the balls to make a play for her. It was written all over his shaken, pasty face. How could such a spineless toad be expected to carry-out the responsibilities of his office when pitted against some very savvy customers if he couldn't even make a play for a woman?

Not good. Not good at all.

She stood and walked from Jorgensen's office, even waggled her butt for effect as she passed through the doorway. She smiled when she heard him moan, grinned in triumph as she walked down the hallway to her office.

***********************************

Jonas Carpenter sat in his cubicle and read the brief once again. Mohammed al-Zaq had been spotted near Marseilles and tailed to Hamburg. He had met known operatives in the city before moving on to Oslo, and there surveillance had been lost. Oslo! Carpenter was trying to put the pieces together, and what he saw taking shape worried him. al-Zaq was one of the Republican Guards most disciplined agents, but what was most worrisome was that he was a physicist by training. al-Zaq reputedly understood Soviet era nuclear weaponry better than most Israeli or America scientists, and had long been suspected of gathering nuclear material and infrastructure from North Korea and Pakistan to help Iran cobble together a dirty bomb. The man had been seen with al-Qaeda operatives more than once, so there was little doubt what his intentions were.

But why Norway? And where had he gone from there? There were no known sleeper cells that far off the beaten path. Or were there? Now he'd have to commit agents to finding them.

And now word that an Iranian dissident -- and a nuclear physicist, as well -- had surfaced in Iraq and wanted to talk . . . with the Danes! With the goddamned Danes! So far the morons in Washington hadn't picked up on this one -- but that was becoming all too common these days, Carpenter told himself -- and while that wasn't unexpected it might cause problems down the road.

Carpenter, or more likely someone from his team, would have to go into Tehran and run a surveillance operation on both the dissident and the Danes. That meant hunting off the reservation - poaching on Langley's turf, as it were -- and potentially taking action against the Iranian if he proved dangerous to Israeli interests in the region.

Of most immediate concern to Carpenter was an item that had popped up from deep background: the dissident and al-Zaq had both studied at Stanford from 1973 through 1977. They had both moved on to the University of Chicago, but both had returned to Tehran in early January 1979, just two weeks before the revolution. Why? That didn't fit the usual pattern. Only families loyal to the Shah had been allowed to send students abroad during those last years; had these two even then been tasked to deep cover by the Khomeini camp? Carpenter didn't know the answer to that one, and you couldn't just pick up the phone and call Information Central for the file. The best way to get this missing piece was to go to Tehran and talk to the man, and that meant poaching off the reservation. The decision to do so wouldn't be made lightly, but it had to be made soon.

This whole affair smelled to Carpenter . . . it smelled of al-Zaq, of al-Qaeda, and of big trouble. It was time now, Carpenter knew, to call Maria and get his group together.

***********************************

Alan Burnett lay on a rooftop in central Baghdad doing his very best not to shiver to death. It felt like it was twenty degrees out, like it might snow at any minute, and he looked up at the yellow clouds and sniffed the air. Cordite and burning rubber filled the air, made his eyes water, and he rubbed them, then looked at his watch.

0200. Two in the morning.

A Marine sergeant lay next to him, an H&K PSG-9 resting on its bi-pod, his squad of SEALs and their Navy corpsman concealed in the bombed-out rubble below.

A member of Burnett's team was tailing a group of men suspected of supplying a group of insurgents with weapons; the plan was to monitor the group, follow them and see if they returned to the alley. They had been meeting with another, as yet unknown, agent; Burnett and the Marine were waiting near that spot, waiting to ID the unknown talent, and take him if the man was a known operator.

Burnett's headset burped to life. A simple Morse code sequence: the group was headed toward the alley.

Burnett flipped the night vision goggles down and turned them on. Four armed men edged along beside a house, the stopped and slipped into a rubble-filled entry, and after a moment one of the men flicked a cigarette lighter. A fifth man appeared suddenly, out of shadow at the distant end of the alley; this new one made his way down the way slowly toward the insurgents.

Even through the goggles Burnett could make out the agent; the man was a known Chinese intelligence operative and had long been suspected of being an intermediary between insurgent groups in Iraq and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Burnett tapped the Marine next to him -- twice -- on the shoulder; the Marine nodded at the pre-arranged signal.

The agent stooped into the entryway and the sergeant squeezed the trigger: the agent's right elbow disappeared in a wet haze. The insurgents broke cover and were quickly cut down in a hail of silenced fire.

"Okay, corpsman up!" Burnett said over the command net; "Bring in the wagon. Let's load that guy and roll!"

"Roger that," a detached voice said over the radio. "What about the other bodies?"

"Leave 'em," Burnett said into the headset, then he turned to the sniper. "Right, Cookie, let's go see what we can get out of the creep."

Sergeant Bill Cooke stood and put his H&K into its zippered case, then turned and walked away without saying a word. When he was out of range he muttered something decidedly unkind about the CIA in general and Burnett in particular.

***********************************

Mohammed al-Zaq stood beside a brick wall, looked at children playing basketball in the shadow of the Vor Frelsers Kirke in central Copenhagen. The twisting spire, topped with a golden orb, brought to mind images of minarets at home and suddenly he longed to return to his little house on Ansari Street and walk to the park after school with his daughter. What kind of world would be left for her after he finished this assignment?

All his instincts told him this operation was wrong. Everything that had been planned for so long was simply wrong, monstrously wrong. These children here, today, playing basketball under leaden skies, would go home to families tonight and at tables not unlike those in his own home, they would sit and talk about the fun they had had at school that day. Parents would ask sons and daughters what they had learned during the day, nod their heads and smile when distant memories of other days came back to them.

Just a few blocks away stood the monolithic brick foreign ministry building. Andersen was walking home along Sankt Anna Gade, passing through the quaint Christianshavn neighborhood on her way to her apartment. The woman from the foreign ministry took this way home every afternoon; the route was now well mapped out and was being covered by his agents. The transceiver in his ear fed him updates on her progress; she was crossing the bridge now, passing the little sidewalk café. The street was packed with cars, people walking home filled the sidewalks.

"Turning toward you now, on the Prinseessegade."

He saw her then; the red hair, the wide, clear blue eyes. She was quite beautiful, really. Such a waste, he told himself once again. As she drew near he turned and faced her, and he saw the surprise on her face when she recognized him. This satisfied him. She stopped walking, stood her ground.

"I thought we might walk together," he said to her in French.

"As you wish," Ingrid Andersen replied cooly. She was not a field operative, had no protective detail, and suddenly felt very exposed. She felt unsure of herself, off balance, and knew the Iranian held her at a disadvantage.

"Do you think it will snow?" he said.

"There is something in the air, yes. A change in the air."

"Change is inevitable."

"Yes."

"This is a lovely neighborhood. Have you lived here long?"

Andersen shuddered. She was being watched, tailed. What else, she wondered. Her phones? "What is it you want?" she said somewhat undiplomatically, for this meeting was well outside the bounds of normal diplomatic discourse. Almost illegal, in fact, in her protected little world.

"I thought it was the other way around, Ms Andersen."

She walked slowly, thinking, thinking, how to turn the tables on him.

He was content to let her dangle: "Does not your country seek contact with moderate voices? Voices that can help control the damage?"

"Oh? You represent a moderate faction?"

"There are those who want dialogue. An exchange of ideas. Yes."

"And you are among those?"

"Me? What I am is of no importance. Those who sent me. They seek an accommodation."

"An accommodation?"

Zaq stopped, looked up. "Well, here we are. Your apartment."

"You were saying? An accommodation?" She watched him for a moment; his thin face, sunken cheeks, reedy eyes -- all conspired to give the man a haunted look. And he was dangerous, she knew now.

"Yes. I feel snow in the air." He turned, looked her in the eye. "Well, good evening."

He turned again and walked to a gray BMW parked in front of the entrance to her building. He got in, waved to her once while he backed out of the space, then drove off slowly into the gathering night.

***********************************

Pol Jorgensen sat in his office, his chair turned to look out the window to the harbor beyond. All that now lay in darkness. He could just make out the New Opera House, its brilliant white light shimmering on black water, and he wondered for a moment what was playing now. Perhaps Gotterdammerung?

He rubbed his eyes, reached for the coffee on his desk, wanted to do something, anything, to stop thinking about this goddamn problem. It would not go away. He leaned back, closed his eyes, and he was there.

Ingrid Andersen.

So beautiful. So sexy. So available.

Why couldn't he make a move for her?

His telephone buzzed twice. The priority line.

He turned quickly and picked it up.

"We need to talk."

It was Andersen. His heartbeat quickened. "Alright."

"Stay there. In your office. I'll be there in ten minutes."

The line went dead, and he felt ill. Not here, not at his home, not tonight, not ever.

But what did she want?

He felt so inadequate.

***********************************

Maria Benevides-Carpenter was sitting in her office outside Tel Aviv, spooning blue stuff from a small plastic container of yoghurt that sat on top of a growing pile of paperwork. She was reading over an intel report from agents in northern Europe concerning the movement of Iranian agents all around the Baltic, and the more she read, the more worried she became. Why there? Denmark she could understand, but why Oslo? Why Riga?

A courier came in, handed her what she assumed would be a priority message, and Jonas nearly bumped into the kid as they crossed in her doorway.

"You eating that blueberry crud again?" he frowned at the blue goo in her spoon and rolled his eyes.

She opened the dispatch and pointed at the seat across from her desk. "Sit," she said.

As section chief for European field operations, her area of responsibility had quadrupled in the days after 9/11, and now, at almost seventy years old, she was growing immeasurably tired of Israel's never ending conflict with the Arab world. Surely Israel had not been re-founded simply to exist in a state of perpetual war? The mechanisms of Israel's foundation, the UN mandate establishing the new state, the appropriation of Palestinian lands, both had set in motion events that appeared set and ready to consume the world. British Zionism, American Jewry, and echoes of trains and gas chambers had defined this new state; she had been born from a sea of flame and appeared set to die that way too.

She read the dispatch, pursed her dry lips and wrinkled her nose from time to time, but mostly felt a bone-chilling sense that something was very wrong.

"What is it?" Jonas said after looking at her read for a minute.

"Zaq. He's in Copenhagen. Some of his group tailed a woman from the foreign ministry home about a half hour ago. He was there."

"So we've got him again! Where did he go?"

"That's not what I'm worried about. He was sending the Danes a message, and crudely too. Do you have an angle on Katani?"

"The dissident? He's in Baghdad and wants to talk. Approached a Danish emissary. I know what you know."

"Then its no coincidence Zaq is in Copenhagen. They're trying to get to him before we do, or the Americans can figure it out."

Jonas nodded. "We'll have to go in, then, and take him. I'll get the team together."

"Are you going to go too?" She looked at her husband with cool, distant eyes. She already knew the answer.

"I think I have to. If we come into contact with Langley someone has got to be there to divert there attention."

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