Refael Gur’s morning coffee hadn’t yet kicked in when he got the call to report to the chief’s office. This, he didn’t need. He needed to dedicate his first day back at Mossad headquarters to his expense vouchers and the mission report. The accountants probably already flagged him late with his receipts.
He threaded his way through the narrow hallways, returning nods, ignoring the whispers as he passed. Komemiute was a small operation; it didn’t take an intelligence analyst to figure out who’d done the Doha job. At least he was finally rid of that damn moustache.
Chaim Orgad glanced up from the paper he was signing when Gur knocked on his doorframe. “Raffi.” He pointed to the chrome-framed chair in front of his desk. Gur didn’t have to be told to close the door behind him.
Orgad tossed the morning’s Yediot Aharonot in Gur’s lap. Gur already knew what the front-page headline said; the same as every other newspaper in Israel that morning. He skimmed the story to see if this bunch knew anything more than Haaretz.
DOHA, Qatar – The Qatari National Police revealed today that Masoud Talhami, who was discovered dead of an apparent heroin overdose in his luxury hotel room on August 30, may have been killed by an Israeli assassination squad.
Talhami, 53, a ranking member of Hezbollah’s military committee, was one of the instigators of the second Palestinian intifada…
“I’ve seen it.”
“So what? We knew they’d figure it out. I told you this would be a repeat of Dubai. I guess the P.M. didn’t care?”
“Perhaps. We’d get blamed even if the bastard cooked himself, so perhaps the P.M. decided it was worth being rid of him.” Orgad slapped closed a folder, flapped it into his plastic out box. “What did they find? What do they have on you?”
Gur shrugged. “Lots of video, I’m sure. We took out the camera covering Talhami’s door, but it’s impossible to get them all, it’s not even worth trying. It’s not like when you were in the field anymore.” It was hard to picture this gray-fringed, paunchy, bald old man as a trained killer, but Gur knew better. Menachem Begin hadn’t looked much like an assassin, either. “Nothing physical in the hotel. We didn’t stay there except for the couple of hours around the job, and I made sure the team kept their gloves on. The Qataris will eventually find the rooms we stayed in, but the maids will have taken care of anything we left behind there. So, probably nothing.”
Orgad nodded, folded his hands over the faded windowpane-plaid shirt stretched across his belly. “At least you didn’t look into the cameras, like those idiots in Dubai.” He pointed to the newspaper. “Still, there you are on the front page. I have a meeting with the Director at ten. He’ll want to know why we can’t manage a simple job without becoming media stars. What do I tell him?”
“Tell him we can’t do this shit anymore.” Gur twirled the newspaper back onto Orgad’s desk blotter. “1972 was a long time ago. There’s too damn many cameras now. There’s biometrics in the passports. There’s watch lists. You can’t use cash anymore. It’s over, Chaim. Let’s just build ourselves some more drones and kill these bastards from a thousand miles away, like the Americans.”
Orgad frowned, eyed Gur across the cheap laminate desk. Gur avoided him by roving his gaze around this monk’s cell of an office. The only wall decorations were the official photos of the President and Prime Minister. In this line of work, you didn’t accumulate a lot of pictures of yourself with your co-workers, far less with the high and mighty.
Finally, Orgad stopped nodding. “Those are the words of a tired man.”
Gur flashed back two weeks: the nighttime view of Doha from the twelfth floor. That miserable prostitute-addict they’d dredged out of the guest-worker slums at the southwest end of the city, a jumble of skin-wrapped bones dead on the bed from an overdose of pure Afghan heroin. That bastard Talhami, drugged and stuffed full of vodka before he followed the whore to hell. His team watching the scene unfold, surrounded by the beige luxury of yet another high-end hotel in yet another city he’d never wanted to see. This is how I serve my country. Would the man whose name he’d used—Jaakov Eldar—be proud of what they’d done?
“I can’t stop being tired,” he sighed. “We do this—” Gur pointed toward the paper “—over and over, and it doesn’t help. We’re not winning the war. We can’t kill our way to victory.” He knew he shouldn’t say these things to his boss, but he didn’t care anymore. He’d be happy to sit a desk for the next ten years until he retired. Maybe he could try to build another life if he wasn’t always a visitor to his own homeland.
Orgad nodded some more, then folded his arms on the desktop. “Well. You need a rest. Things always look dark after a nasty job. Tsach Voydievsky just left for embassy duty in Brazil, so the Director needs an interim day chief in the Watch Center. I’ll give him your name. With your face all over the news, you’ll have to stay home anyway.”
Whatever “home” was. “Thanks. We should keep an eye on those people whose names we used, just in case. We’ve put them in harm’s way, it’s the least we can do.”
“In case Hezbollah decides to go after them? You know that’s not how they play the game. Stay out of the nightclubs and cafes for a couple of weeks, wait for the bombing, then we move on, yes?”
Gur tried not to grimace. They had an obligation to those people. “Yes, of course.” He stood, turned to the door, then stopped. “When did you know it was time to get out of the field?”
“When I almost shot my wife sneaking into the bedroom with breakfast for me on my birthday. But you?” Orgad squinted at Gur, as if looking into his skull. “I think you’re close. We’ll talk in a few days. Shalom, Raffi.”
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