It was turning out to be one of those days. How had I ended up in Israel?
I looked at my watch as I collected my bags, trying to remember if I had reset it to accommodate the time change when I arrived in Athens from Moscow. At this point, I wasn’t even sure what day it was. Tel Aviv had the tightest security of any airport in the world. Not unwarranted, of course, given its history with terrorism, but it was still a pain, especially when I was in a hurry. Two terminals handled an average of 17,000 passengers daily. Each vehicle that entered the property was routinely searched. Baggage was screened thoroughly. Travelers were profiled in ways that would never be tolerated in the States. If they had been, terrorists would not have been able to take over our planes and kill thousands of our own. We won’t be done in by nuclear weapons—the ACLU will be our downfall.
I spent what seemed like an eternity in Customs, and I still wasn’t sure what, exactly, I was supposed to be doing there. The e-mail from the Boss Lady said only that I should take the first available flight to Tel Aviv and call the office from there. The fact that my editor was e-mailing me was an indicator that she probably wasn’t in a good mood. It meant she’d tried unsuccessfully to phone me. It bugged her that I was so hard to reach sometimes—deliberately so, I might add. Ally liked direct contact.
This had better be good, I thought as I headed off to the Solan communications center to make the call. When I received the message from Alberta Ashland, I was at the airport in Athens, waiting to board a flight back to the States. I hadn’t been home in six weeks and for once was actually looking forward to some down time.
So much for down time, I thought after considering deleting the offensive e-mail and claiming I never received it. Knowing Ally, she’d have my hard drive checked out to make sure.
I purchased a calling card and went to the nearest available phone. As I waited for my call to be put through, I took off my Chicago Cubs baseball cap and ran a hand through my hair. “Come on, pick up,” I muttered. “If I’m here much longer, they’ll charge me rent.”
A female voice answered on the fourth ring. “Viewpoint, good afternoon.”
“What’s good about it?” I grumbled.
“Sorry,” I said. “Put me through to Alberta Ashland.”
“Who’s calling, please?”
“Tell her it’s Darcy. Tell her I don’t have a lot of time,” I snapped.
There was a pause on the other end. “Sorry, Mr. Darcy. I didn’t realize it was you. I’ll put you right through,” she assured me.
“You do that.” My patience was wearing thin.
Moments later, Alberta came on the line. “Darcy,” she greeted me with a cheerfulness that made me want to puke. “I take it you got my e-mail?”
“I got it. What’s this assignment?”
“Charlie Cross is there covering the conflict,” Alberta said. “He needs the best lensman I’ve got—and that’s you.”
“Yeah? When did you take up brown-nosing, Ally?”
“Much as I hate to admit it, you are the best,” she responded begrudgingly.
“I’m officially on vacation, remember?”
“You’ll have to postpone it. War waits for no man.”
“War? Is that what they’re calling it this week?”
There was a warning pause on the other end of the line. “I don’t have time for this today, Darcy,” she said finally.
I scratched my head. “So where is Big Thunder?” I asked.
“Tel Aviv. Leaving for Megiddo in the morning.”
I laughed. “Armageddon Megiddo?” I asked. “End-of-the world Megiddo?”
“The same. There was another suicide bombing there overnight,” she explained. “Six people were killed, including the bomber, seventeen injured.”
“This is not news, Ally. They’ve been at war since Moses came down from the mountain,” I pointed out.
“You’re not funny, Darcy.”
“I’m too tired to be funny. Funny takes effort.” I paused. “I really needed this vacation, Ally.”
“I’m sure. Who is she this time?”
“Who’s who?” I asked.
“The woman. You’re a chronic workaholic. The only time you want time off is when you’ve got some poor, unsuspecting woman caught in the crosshairs,” Alberta laughed. “You’re already paying alimony to two of your three ex-wives, but I hear you’re always on the lookout for number four.”
“You hear wrong,” I said. “I’ve sworn off marriage. If there were a twelve-step program for it, I’d sign up. From here on out, I only live in sin.” Hell, I couldn’t afford to be stuck paying out more alimony.
“If you say so.” Alberta was obviously in no mood to debate with me. “Listen, Charlie’s at the Armon Ha Yarkon. I suggest you catch up with him tonight. He wants to get an early start tomorrow morning.”
I took off my glasses and rubbed the bridge of my nose. “I’m glad it’s not summer. By midday, it’d be hotter than hell.”
Alberta didn’t miss the opportunity when it presented itself. “And I’m sure you have firsthand knowledge of hell.”
“As you said, I’ve been married three times,” I said.
Alberta started to say something else, but was stopped by another incoming call. “Got to run, Darcy,” she told me. “Call Charlie.”
I hung up, checking my watch again before leaving the communications center. So much for my vacation….
Chasing the Wind, copyright 2008 by Beishir Books. All rights reserved.