I don’t believe that this has been done before. If so, please let me know.
In my work-in-progress, Jeremiah’s Jar, I pay tribute to the hero in another author’s books: the Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, created by Daniel Silva.
Take a look and see what you think as my hero and heroine, black-ops veteran Max Braxton and archaeologist Kat Cardova, visit a restaurant in Jerusalem. Men intent on killing Kat have been informed of her whereabouts. Sit down, strap up and hold on:
Manou ba shouk was nothing special in appearance. Quite the opposite. Like K-Paul’s restaurant in New Orleans. A simple shouk in a long line of them, like a miniature version of an American strip mall—only this one was on Ets Khaim Street in Jerusalem’s New City. It did possess a narrow patio out front, with enough room for a half-dozen wooden bench-type tables tight along the outside wall. But, as K-Paul’s food was to Cajun cuisine, so was Manou ba shouk’s offerings to Israeli gastronomy: extraordinary.
Max and Kat sat inside. They were across from each other at the back end of a long table, with several strangers who had become fast friends in the last several minutes. A thirty-something Jewish couple from Perth, Australia, sat next to Max and Kat. A couple in their sixties from Sweden was seated next to the Perth folks. And two Moroccan college boys perched at the far end of the table, oddly trying to fit in with the gang, though Max couldn’t figure out why they’d want to pursue a touristy swing through Israel on their way to Paris to meet their girlfriends. Wrong direction was Max’s first thought.
The English language and Jesus Christ were the common denominators for all but the Moroccans, who fidgeted around any discussion of religion. In fact, they fidgeted entirely too much for Max, scratching behind their ears and noses. Body Language 101, Lesson 1: Liars fidget.
These boys seemed fine with the others at the table, but uneasy with Max and Kat. Body Language 101, Lesson 2: Liars avoid eye contact.
Annika Larsson chirped, “Oscar and I walked the walls of Jerusalem in less than an hour. I couldn’t keep up with him when we got to the Arab Quarter. It was like he was in training for the Olympics!”
They all burst into a chorus of laughs, but Max noticed the young men’s chuckles. Body Language 101, Lesson 3: Liars force laughs.
Max nudged Kat’s foot with his and mouthed for her to Watch out!
She frowned. Why?
He mouthed The boys!
She twisted her chin. Naw!
He widened his eyes, doubling down. Be alert!
He patted his Glock 19, reassured at its presence but certain he would not use it … unless.
“It’s amazing how safe we feel here,” said Annika. “In our own country we don’t dare enter certain areas of some cities.”
“Really?” asked Jeffery Bromberg, the Aussie.
“Yes, like Malmö,” Annika said.
“It’s under Islamic control,” said Oscar. “Sharia law.”
“We stay away,” Annika said, “and if you’re Jewish? Watch out.”
“It’s no better in The Netherlands,” Oscar added. “I do business in Utrecht with a company that used to be headquartered in the Kanaleneiland district. They had to pack up and leave, it’s become so hazardous.”
Max watched the whole interchange with a keen eye. It was obvious the conversation was uncomfortable to the college boys.
“My cousin from England works at the European Parliament in Brussels,” said Crystal Bromberg, seated beside Kat, “and she and her colleagues complain they can’t walk the streets at night because of Islamic gangs. They even chase the police out of certain neighborhoods.”
“There are cities within cities, governments within governments,” said Oscar, “and most ominous is that these second cities are Muslim, controlled by the Koran.”
“A holy book,” interrupted one of the Moroccans, stirring awkwardly in his seat.
“From Mohammed,” said the other, beginning to rise out of his place. “From Allah.”
“We didn’t mean to demean your religion, boys, but—”
A sudden clamor drew attention to the entrance to the restaurant. Two brawny men stepped inside, shoulder to shoulder. They were apparently Middle Eastern. They were dressed in khakis, their button-up shirts open at the top. They wore crew cuts and scruff beards. They looked dangerous, no-nonsense, frightening. They appeared to be searching for a face or faces.
The Moroccans both stood to their feet and one reached beneath his tunic.
Kat threw out a hand and grabbed Max’s. Alarm filled her pretty face.
“Duck!” Max ordered, then leaped from his chair. In a second he had the Moroccan who was on his side of the table in a headlock from behind.
Women began screaming.
The Moroccan’s friend bound away, but Max swept a leg kick to his head, dropping him on the spot. The Moroccan in Max’s grip struggled and cursed and tried to reach under his shirt, but Max beat him there. His palm gripped a metal handle of some kind, and slipped out a ferocious-looking weapon.
It was a tactical knife, nothing a college kid should be toting. A knife meant for someone who had trained in its use. Designed for killing, not slicing steak.
People rushing to stand, knocked chairs to the ground. Somewhere a plate crashed to the floor. Someone nearby had peed their pants. Max looked down at the feet of the Moroccan he held tight. Aw-geez!
Somehow Max could sense Kat’s presence behind him. He applied extreme pressure to the carotid artery and the Moroccan was asleep in seconds. He jumped to his feet.
The two brawny men, pistols in their hands, had hurried to his side.
“Colonel Braxton,” one of them said in English, “you okay?”
Max turned to look at Kat, read relief in her eyes, winked at her, then said, “I am now.”
“Ma-am?” the man asked, his eyes on Kat.
“Fine,” she breathed. “Kinda.”
“They came for you, Ma-am.”
Kat’s eyes widened.
“We caught their chatter when they spotted you.”
Her hand went to her mouth.
Max reached for her hand.
From a maelstrom to near-silence, the restaurant had transformed. Israel’s Jews had lived through bombings at weddings and mar-mitzvahs. They’d seen buses blow up, loaded with their friends and countrymen. They’d lived with far worse than a little dust-up in a popular restaurant. This was probably the first taste of nearby danger for most of the tourists, however.
Were two Arabs here on purpose, with bad intentions? Yes. Were they now subdued? Obviously.
Max looked down at his handiwork, then up at the two brawny men, noticing that their pistols were Beretta 71s, compact single-action, .22-caliber semi-automatics.
“Mossad?” he asked.
“Will you take out the garbage for me?”
“No trouble,” one answered.
“And thank Gabriel Allon for me, will you?”
The men both nodded, realizing Max was at least an acquaintance of the great son and hero of Israel and now the head of Mossad.
Max took Kat’s hand and pulled her towards the kitchen in the back.
Glancing at the Perth and Swedish couples, he said, “Sorry, folks. We hope you enjoy your meal.”
“Yes!” Kat confirmed.
All four waved at them and one asked another, “Is that one of those famous American kick-boxers?”
Max didn’t hear the reply. Passing by a lady who co-owned the place, he handed her two fifty-dollar bills. “Sorry for the damage, Livna.”
“Keep your money, my hero,” she said with a crooked smile. “Just get your bride home safely. We love her so.”
He patted her on the shoulder. “You remain my favorite restaurateur.”
I’d love to know your thoughts! And in order to enjoy Gabriel Allon as much as I do, check out Daniel Silva’ scintillating geopolitical thrillers.