His bags were packed and sitting by the door. Nobody thought that was strange, because four diggers were jammed into each small living suite. With two eight-by-ten bedrooms feeding into a tiny sitting and kitchen area, and an even tinier bathroom, there was hardly anyplace to keep clothing, so they kept it in their bags.
Elijah shared a room with a middle-aged volunteer from Alabama named Steve Phelps. When Elijah’s cell phone vibrated at two o’clock, his first move was to roll up on one shoulder, turn it off, and listen to Phelps breathe.
Phelps was a sound sleeper, and he was sound asleep now. Elijah often got up to pee at night, and hadn’t awakened anyone doing that for two weeks—the days in the sun were exhausting, and once his roommates were familiar with his night moves, they never twitched.
When he was sure of Phelps, Elijah rolled out of bed, moving as quietly as he could. He’d loaded all of his personal items—wallet, passport, small cash—into his pants the night before, so all he had to do now was get into them. His socks were already rolled into his shoes, which he would put on outside.
When he was dressed, he listened again to Phelps, then eased through the door into the sitting area. Here was the tricky part. Another of the diggers, who slept in the adjoining room, had keys to one of the dig cars—and the keys were sitting on a radiator in his room.
Elijah stepped to the door of the other bedroom, and again, listened for a moment. Both of the men snored, which was why they’d been put together. When he was sure that he could distinguish the separate snoring, he eased open the door (he’d put a dab of Crisco on the hinges the night before, when the others were out) and stepped silently into the room.
The men continued to snore, which helped cover his movement as he stepped barefooted across the room and picked up the car keys. Two seconds later, he was out of the room; a minute after that, he was outside with his bags, in the cool of the Israeli night, sitting on the steps, tying his shoes, and again, listening and watching.
It had been an exciting day—maybe somebody else had been restless?
But nothing moved anywhere on the kibbutz as far as he could tell. He’d been through one tricky part, and now here was the second one. When his shoes were tied, he walked down to the first floor with his bags—a nylon backpack and a leather satchel—and around behind the dormitory to a low wooden building used to sort and classify pottery and other finds at the dig.
There were no lights inside the building. He reached into his bag, took out a large screwdriver, and pried open the door. Inside, navigating without lights, he went to a row of metal lockers, felt for the fifth handle down, and with the same screwdriver, pried open the locker door.
A stone sat on the locker shelf. He couldn’t see it, much, but he could feel it, and it was heavy. He put it in his leather satchel, closed the locker door and the outer door.
A HALF HOUR LATER, Elijah the Mankato-ite sped west in a stolen car past Jezreel, where, roughly 2,850 years earlier, Jezebel the queen had been thrown out a window. Her body had been eaten by dogs—all except for the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet—just as predicted by the other Elijah, the prophet guy.
As they didn’t say at the time, Bummer.
The latter-day Elijah paid no attention to Jezreel, as the former royal city was now just another stony field. Ten minutes later, he rocketed past Armageddon—Megiddo to the locals—where there was no battle going on, penultimate or otherwise. At Megiddo, he turned northwest toward Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean coast at Haifa.
Elijah was in a hurry: he had to be gone before the diggers got up, and some of them got up very early, at four o’clock. He kept his foot on the floor, and the much-abused Avis rent-a-car groaned with pain. Out the passenger-side window, as he went past Megiddo, he could see the lights of Nazareth twinkling across the farm fields of the Jezreel Valley.
It was pretty, all right, but he’d been to Israel too often to be impressed. He remembered that first naive astonishment, forty-five years earlier, when he found that the Mount of Olives was full of fake religious sites, that the Sea of Galilee was full of Diet Coke bottles, and that Jesus’ hometown was an Arab city where a good Christian could get his ass kicked if he wasn’t careful.
Not that he didn’t love the place, because he did. He loved all of it, from the green and blue mountains in the north to the sere desert in the south, and especially the shephelah, and above all, Jerusalem. But he loved it more like an Israeli than an American; that is, despite its faults.
THE FLANKS OF CARMEL were still dark when he drove into town. He’d leave the Avis car outside the dealership, he’d decided, where they’d find it when they opened at eight o’clock. He had a legitimate set of keys for the car, but it had been rented on a credit card provided by a credulous American graduate student from Penn State. The student would be mightily pissed if Elijah lost the car. In fact, he’d be mightily pissed if Elijah left the car outside the Avis agency, but Elijah had more important things to worry about than the feelings of grad students.
Luckily, the Avis agency wasn’t far off Route 75, and not far from the harbor, either. He found it easily enough, dumped the car, left a message on the dashboard, and called a cab.
As he waited, he fumbled a couple of pills from a bottle that he kept in the backpack, swallowed them without water.
THE CABDRIVER didn’t speak much English, but Elijah had excellent Hebrew, so they got along. The cabdriver asked, “Only that luggage?”
Elijah had the nylon backpack and the leather duffel with brass buckles. “That’s all,” he said. “It’s only a day trip.”
“I don’t go on the water,” the cabdriver said over his shoulder. “If the water grows too deep in my shower, I get seasick.”
“Never been a problem for me, though I live as far as you can get from an ocean,” Elijah said.
“This is in the States?”
“Yes, Minnesota,” Elijah said.
The driver noticed that his fare was sweating, even in the cool of the early morning. He also had the expensive leather bag clenched in his lap, as though it might contain an atomic bomb. The driver didn’t ask.
Strange things happened in Israel every day of the week, and asking could be dangerous. Though in this case, the driver thought, danger was unlikely: the man wore a black snap-brimmed hat, a white clerical collar under his black polyester suit, and he had an olive-wood cross hanging from a silver chain around his neck.
He was a type. He would have been a type anywhere, but in Israel, he was really a type. Give a guy a black suit, a clerical collar, a wooden cross, and a sick, screaming baby, and he could walk through any checkpoint in Israel with his socks full of cocaine or C-4. Because he was an annoying, proselytizing, American Christian type—the kind who usually came with slightly noxious religious and political opinions, and who was almost always chintzy with the tips.
Though not in this case. The driver dropped Elijah at the Fisherman’s Anchorage at HaKishon, the mouth of the Kishon River, and Elijah gave him a hundred-shekel note, which was way too much. He didn’t ask for change, simply hustled away, the pack on his back and the leather bag clutched in his arms, like a sick baby.
ELIJAH HAD BEEN to the port four days earlier, where he’d found the people he’d been looking for: a German couple, drifting around the Med on an ancient fiberglass sailboat with an engine that worked some of the time. He’d offered them five hundred dollars to transport him, without questions, across the water to the Old Port at Limassol on the Greek half of Cyprus.
The Germans had been reduced to eating pilchards fished from the dirty port waters and cooked over an alcohol stove, so a little human smuggling wasn’t really a central ethical problem for them. The woman, a lanky blonde named Gerta, told him that she could provide carnal entertainment during the trip for an extra two hundred, but Elijah declined, citing conservative religious values.
When Elijah arrived on the dock, the Germans were awake and waiting, perhaps nervous that their five hundred dollars had gone somewhere else.
Gerta’s partner, also lanky and blond, but improbably called Ricardo, pushed them off the dock within thirty seconds of his arrival. He fired up the engine, which coughed loudly before resuming its silence. Ricardo whacked it a couple of times, and got it running well enough to get them out into open water, where the Germans launched the sails.
Ricardo said, “Such a nice day for sailing. Should I put your bags below?”
“No, no, they make a place to sit,” Elijah said, in German. His German, like his Hebrew, was excellent, and their English was no better than the cabdriver’s, so it was what they had. He sat on his pack and clutched the leather bag in his lap.
“So you are carrying your valuables there,” Ricardo said, as Haifa slowly lowered itself on the horizon. He was eyeing Elijah’s bag as a great white shark might examine a dog-paddling fat lady.
“Yes, but I’m afraid some of them will have to go over the side before we get to the Old Port,” Elijah said.
“Over the side?” Ricardo was puzzled.
“Yes, over the side,” Elijah said. He pulled an older-looking Beretta 92F from the bag, a gun that may have migrated from Iraq to Israel, looking for work. It fit well in Elijah’s rugged hand, a hand that might have seen an early life throwing bales of hay onto a horse-drawn wagon. “It’s a shame, because it is a fine piece of weaponry. Fast, powerful, and accurate.”