Heaven's Rending Ch. 04byAdrian Leverkuhn©
The wind was growing stronger, coming over the little skiff's port beam now in gusts over thirty knots, and the old fisherman working the worn wooden tiller looked back over his left shoulder at the wall of black cloud that had been chasing him since noon. He cast a practiced eye on the approaching headland, then looked down to measure the color of the water; with these two pieces of information he knew he had a bit more than a mile to go in order to clear the rocks and make his turn for The village and the small estuary where he hoped to find refuge. But the black wall chasing the little skiff was closing fast now; the man could see the thick white band at the cloud's base where wind and rain was beating the sea's surface to a froth. It would be close, he knew. Perhaps a little too close.
He looked to his right, to the south, at the brilliant white yacht racing him for the headland, and though he desperately wanted to make it into the little harbor before the yacht did, he knew it would be almost impossible. He guessed the other sailboat was ten to twelve meters in length - almost twice again as large as his old wooden boat - and he was amazed that whoever was commanding the boat was driving her so hard into such a cunning storm. The yacht, now less then half a kilometer off his starboard quarter, was shooting off the crests of twelve foot waves and surfing down the faces of foaming swells into troughs so deep that the man lost sight of the white hull from time to time, but after a moment's pause - a pause measured in thundering heartbeats - he would see the yacht blistering up the backside of yet another mountainous wave, the man behind the wheel shouting in triumph. The yacht was, the man saw, being pushed well beyond the limits a sane man might test, for the boat was still under full sail, the rigging stretched to the breaking point, and the wake the boat left was a spectacular white foaming streak that created new waves on the sides of the storm's not much bigger waves. Neither the yacht's mainsail nor the big foresail were reefed, yet the old man could see the man and the woman in the yacht's cockpit as they drew nearer, and he could see that they were enjoying this, indeed, they were taunting the wind to do it's worst to them.
The old fisherman brought in the main and pinched into the wind, and his skiff groaned as it bit into the wind and slammed into another wave.
The man behind the yacht's wheel turned and shook his fist at the advancing storm, and even then- with the distance between the two boats now less than a hundred meters - the old fisherman heard the man and the woman laughing and screaming like they were on a thrill ride in Damascus or Beirut. He shook his head at their audacity, and wondered what manner of fool they might be.
The fisherman's skiff rode up a violently cresting wave and the wind on the wave's crest caught the skiff and pushed it well over on it's starboard beam. Green water cascaded into the open hull as the small keel bit into the water; the skiff began to right itself as it slid down the backside of the monstrous wave and the old man remembered to breathe again.
As the fisherman clung to the skiff's tiller, he saw the yacht rising like a breaching whale off the top of a wave not forty meters away. He gasped as he saw almost the entire form of the hull break free of the water and take to the air, and he heard then man and woman making noises like rodeo cowboys he had once seen in a movie. It was ridiculous, they were lunatics, and they were going to get themselves killed.
The yacht pulled ahead and the old man cursed them; now he might have to find an anchorage in the open, unprotected bay. He pulled in his mainsheet and pinched into the wind a few more degrees, and as the skiff began to climb the next wave he felt a withering gust hit as he came to the crest of this wave and - bam - a shroud on the port side of the mast parted and a millisecond later the entire mast came down in a wilting crash. Without the driving force of his sail to steady his skiff, the boat began to fall off the back of the wave and, with the mast now dangling on the water and the tattered sail streaming off in the sea, the old man clutched the gunwales of the boat as it slid down the wave. He turned to see the next wave - impossibly high and roaring like a train - cresting, and falling down on him.
The old man was torn free of his boat a moment later as it was pushed under the water; he struggled free of a tangled mass of lines in the water that had caught him and were pulling him under. He looked up at the underside of the water's crenellated surface and felt himself drifting, then he pulled as hard as he could for the surface. But there was something else on the water's surface. He could make out the yachts underside, see it's propellor thrashing wildly at the sea as the larger boat fought it's way through the waves to where his own boat had foundered.
The old man pulled hard, his lungs burning, and he felt himself break free of the water and claw at the sky. He fought to catch his breath as waves broke all around him, then felt a line slap across his shoulder and he clutched at it, held it as tightly as his chilled, bleeding hands would allow. The rope pulled him around in the water, and he saw the man on the sailboat hauling in on the line, pulling his withered, water-drenched body closer and closer to the yacht. The woman was, he saw, behind the wheel now - and she had reefed both the huge mainsail and the truly massive headsail while her companion hauled away at the line.
What manner of people were these, he thought. But what, really, did that matter now. The man on the yacht was pulling him to safety. To life. What else really mattered.
Fifteen meters, ten meters, five, now the man above was walking down onto the yachts stern with line in hand, and timing his reach with a dipping wave, the old man reached for the man's outstretched hand and they connected - and he felt himself pulled free of the sea as if unknown forces commanded by God himself had been there to pull him from death. He slammed into the stern and felt his head hit the side of the yacht and he saw stars but clambered for the railing above. He steadied himself against the slick white hull that lurched around him, and he strained to reach the other hand that reached for him over and over again. He felt the man above holding him, then pulling him up on deck and helping him forward to the cockpit, and he felt his legs buckling and all he could see in this falling world was her face . . .
. . . so beautiful . . . surely the most beautiful woman who had ever lived . . .
. . .Was this woman really on this boat in this storm saving his life? He felt a crushing tightness in his chest, and it became hard to breathe, and he grew very still.
The light came for him, but thought better of it and let the old fisherman go.
The local Coast Guard came for the old man and took him to the village clinic, but of the trip back to the village he remembered little; not the rocking patrol boat or the crashing storm. Neither did he remember the first two days he spend in bed recovering from the slight concussion and the cracked ribs he suffered in his rescue.
On the second third of his recovery the man and the woman from the yacht came to visit him. They told him that local villagers - with a little help - had found the old mans boat in fairly shallow waters near the headland and had - with the help of some men from another village who had a big enough boat - pulled it from the sea. The people in the local village had rallied to the fisherman's fight for life, and were fixing the boat even now; the old fisherman met this news with a trembling lip even as his eyes filled with tears.
They two came again the next day when he was released and walked with him to the quay at the waters edge, to where his boat was being worked on by many of the towns folk. The mast was still gone, true, but a new one of spruce and cypress had been laid up and laminated and now glistened in the morning's dappled shade, and the old man looked at the wood and rubbed his hands along the length of the mast and smiled with approval. He could still see evidence of his struggle with the sea in the ruins of the boat, but he saw the humanity of that struggle now from a new perspective, and of the little boats resurrection sat defiantly on the beach as proof of not just his mortality but of God's certain justice.
The fisherman lived in the scrub-brush hills above a village on the southeast coast of Cypress; he owned in a small hut near an olive grove on a craggy hill that looked down on the sea. He had built the house for himself and his wife less than twenty years ago, after they had fled their homeland - Palestine - in 1967. The old fisherman lived alone now, he had for several years now; he still sat by the stone on the earth most evenings - the stone that covered his wife - while he said his prayers to Mecca. He continued to fish these days as he continued to breath: it was a habit that was hard to break, and there was - really - no alternative to the suffering of this life.
But now, for the old man, his means of securing a livelihood lay in tattered disarray on the beach. The fisherman had little food in his hut and almost no money, and he looked upon the couple from the yacht with very mixed feelings. Perhaps in the order of the universe he knew and understood he should be dead; he had - after all - challenged the sea and lost. He would be lost to this world if not for the efforts of this man and this woman who had come to visit him - twice - in the clinic.
Now the two people from the yacht waited for him in the shade of a cypress tree; they watched him as he worked his hands along the smooth, freshly laminated mast, then as he paused at the little wooden tiller where he had made his final stand against the sea, and they could only guess what pain the old man felt. They had heard the old man's story from villagers who had known him since he and his wife arrived those many years ago, as well as Coast Guardsmen who had come to take some kind of incident report; they now knew his circumstances as well as any two strangers to Cypress could, and they had talked amongst themselves for two nights wondering what they could do to help the old fisherman get back on his feet. Cash seemed insulting, but rallying the villagers to help rebuild the man's skiff had seemed an easy enough thing to do, and the man and the woman had contributed a little to get the work underway.
Now the man and the woman sat drinking strong coffee as morning breezes stirred distant memories of other confrontations with death, of other close calls and mad escapes. They were spies. They worked a small but very efficient group of agents in Cypress and Syria, and they had come to the east coast of Cypress to help another Syrian make it to the promised land. This Syrian, who against all odds happened to be a jew, had secrets to sell, secrets rumored to be most compromising to Assad and the ruling elite in Damascus.
They both knew Syrian intelligence would be devoting massive resources to finding this defector and eliminating him, and they knew that by exposing themselves so openly they were themselves confronting great personal danger, but this was their lot in life. They were fighting the good fight, fighting for their just cause; death was only a certain, and they hoped, just reward for services rendered.
The man - who these days went by the name of Jon Benevides - seemed content to play the role of yacht-yuppie, while the woman with him seemed to methodically and continuously scan everyone in view. Hidden behind dark sunglasses, she made her way through the local outdoor market picking at this, examining that, while all the time watching for watchers, and now she was sure there were at least two of immediate concern.
A tall man walking along the beach had stopped and looked at the old man for a while, then at Jonas Carpenter/Jon Benevides, and this man had seemed upset when he recognized Carpenter. This man looked American, or perhaps English, and this troubled her greatly, for Carpenter's past was never too far behind. His enemies were tenacious, relentless, and sure of the final outcome of their back game. In her gut, she knew who this man was, and why he was here.
And then she had watched as two dark, thickset men in a menacing powerboat rumbled into the tiny harbor and made fast to the fuel docks. Their boat was painted dark gray and sprouted too many antennae to be a simple pleasure boat. The two men she could see didn't look like tourists, for that matter. And she could see no registration numbers on the boat, no flag of nationality was flown, and that in and of itself was cause for alarm. They were either smugglers or spooks. The former would be of no interest to her; the latter of immediate concern as she thought she knew all of the local Intel weenies, and these two did not come to mind. So, she deduced, the Syrians were here.
Now, who was the American? With one threat neatly categorized, she focused on the man walking along the water's edge.
For a moment she watched the man's footprints advancing along the sand and wondered how many ancient footsteps had crossed these wet sands. How many dreams had been swept away in the pressing surf, how many dreams were yet to die this very night?
When would humanity begin to learn from it's mistakes?
Another man - unnoticed by Marsha Benevides - watched all these goings on with seemingly less than a moment's passing interest. This invisible man was sitting at a small table in front of a waterfront café drinking coffee, apparently enjoying the rich morning sunshine and a cool breeze off the Mediterranean. This breeze occasionally wafted through the man's newspaper and rattled the pages of the paper like wet autumn leaves, and he fastidiously pressed the pages flat to keep them quiet. This man did not know these two rich looking westerners on the white yacht, but he had heard the tale of their effort to rescue the old fisherman, and though he most certainly appreciated their mercy, they were keeping him from contacting the old fisherman. This alone bothered the man at the diner, and this alone was of immediate concern to him. He had a job for the old fisherman, a job that would utilize the old man's very special, very ancient skill.
It was, he knew, time to activate his old agent and bring him back from the dead.
For the Russian's were coming.
Coming for an old prize now long denied. Now that the Shah was gone, they were coming for Iran, and now there was no one to keep them from taking it.
The Americans were clueless but, more importantly, demoralized from their experience in Vietnam; Israel wouldn't be able to stop a force as devastatingly large as Russia's.
That's what the leaders of his Intel service were counting on. They were counting on the Israelis making the attempt. Then the Arab world would be released to drive the Jews back into the ghettos from which they had come.
The only thing that could stop these plans from falling into place was a document detailing Syria's complicity with the Soviet Union, a document which detailed efforts by Syria to destabilize the very tenuous peace that held the Arab world apart from the Israeli. If the American or British Intel services got this document, his masters reasoned, war between Israel and a Russian backed Syria might be averted, and so justice might be thwarted once again - put off for another generation.
What this man didn't know was that his enemies already had the document; in fact the Mossad had passed along the document months ago to both Whitehall and Langely. Now all that remained to be done by Mossad was to convince the Syrians that they were safe to proceed with their tangled alliance with the Russians.
The Benevides team was a part of this effort.
The old fisherman had simply been very unlucky that stormy afternoon, unlucky that he had come into contact with one of the Israeli's most efficient covert intel teams. One storm, a real storm, had passed and had very nearly taken his life, but a bigger storm, an as yet unseen storm, was lurking just over the far horizon. Waiting patiently, so like the fisherman, waiting to release its energy, this storm would build for twenty years before it's fury was released.
But every storm has a beginning.