An Evening In Sarajevo

Army had heard nothing from Spencer in two days. Initially she was told to sit tight and wait until further notice. That was right after she broke the news to the bureau that Elana had escaped, and right before Eitan apologized a second time for his indiscretion in the powder room. The Serbs assured the two agents that Radayeva could not dodge them for very long and that they would pick her up presently.

Army moved around her section of the hotel suite with some freedom, making sure she was fully clothed at all times and trying to remain as professional as possible under the cramped circumstances. What she liked most about working with Ralph was that she was always comfortable with him. She didn’t have to worry about these kinds of things. Maybe it was because they had worked together for so long, or maybe it was for some other reason. Whatever, she was tired of eating out of a box and having little if any conversation with her present roommate. She decided that men are the same everywhere and if she didn’t initiate some kind of truce it would never get done. Anyway, he was probably still embarrassed about the shower incident.

Eitan, on the other hand, spent most of his down time in front of his laptop or on the phone. He wasn’t ignoring Army or being intentionally rude he was just intensely focused on the job he was given. This was a matter of his national life or death. There was little time to be concerned about relationships, either personal or professional. At the computer is where Army found him when she entered the small but lavish dining area of the hotel suite.

“What do you say we go out for something to eat?” she asked, startling him. Eitan twitched, looked up for an instant, and then his attention was drawn back to the laptop.

“Give me one more minute please.” he said.

Army casually worked her way around behind her Israeli counterpart to get a better view of the screen. The panel on the computer was crammed with entries. It looked like Eitan was working on some kind of word study. There were two columns; one was headed by the term “Vindication”, the other column was in Hebrew. Below each heading was a list of words and their meanings. Below the two columns were what appeared to be bible passages. Army bent down for a closer look, resting her hand on his shoulder.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Nothing important,” he said, shutting down the computer.

“What did you have in mind?”

“Eating,” Army answered, just short of sarcasm. Her attention was still on the laptop screen trying to take a mind picture of its content before it went blank.

“Where would you like to go?” Eitan asked, turning his head toward Army only to realize that his lips were an inch from her cheek. It had been a long while since he was this close to a woman, but he knew the smell. The smell of a beautiful woman was universal.

The downside of working in the Israeli intelligence community was that you never had time to do anything but work. He had little experience with the supple gender, at least the kind of experience that one could build a relationship on. He was not as standoffish as he seemed, more self-conscious than aloof, especially when it came to women. Meanwhile Army’s attention remained on the laptop’s fading panel.

“What was that all about?” she asked again while still focused on the blank screen. It was a vulnerable moment for Eitan. If she would turn her face toward him their lips would meet by accident. She didn’t. She straightened up, removing her hand from his shoulder. As suddenly as he was distracted, he was back in character, privately demeaning himself for the momentary lapse of judgment.

“I know a nice place by the river. We can go there.”

“Great, I’ll be ready in thirty minutes,” said Army, leaving Eitan and the neutral zone for her section of the suite.

Army had been cold from the minute she left Florida, and Sarajevo was literally the tip of the iceberg. She was always careful about how she looked. It was more a professional consideration than vanity, but she liked looking like a lady just the same. She determined early on that she would not accept the stereotyped image of the masculine raw-boned policewoman. Her intention was to come across like a pro while remaining feminine regardless of the circumstances, but tonight’s chill would call for compromise. A pair of snug fashion jeans and a turtleneck would get the job done, and if she needed to exercise raw-bone force the 9mm Beretta she carried in the pocket of her parka would be a sufficient measure of muscle.

Eitan changed from a well-used sweat suit to his patent mismatched sport coat and wrinkle free gabardines, a black crewneck sweater underneath for warmth with half of the white shirt collar trapped under the fuzz-ball-laden pullover. A dark beret that partially covered his coiled locks rested just above his ears. Greenberg’s raw-bone of choice was a Jericho 941 Desert Eagle that he kept strapped to the small of his back.

The snow had been accumulating for most of the day. Eight to ten inches had fallen already with more forecasted. There was something about a fresh snowstorm that shaped a buoyant attitude. The city teemed with exuberance as the taxi made its way along the south bank of the Miljacka. The cheerfulness was contagious. Army felt more alive than she had in weeks and she even thought she might have detected some sentiment of hope on Eitan’s normally solemn face. The cab stayed on course until it arrived at the Inat Koca Restoran, a charming city restaurant overlooking the brooding Miljacka River. Eitan had contributed some small talk on their short trip to the restaurant, but mostly he listened to Army carry on about how the snow had changed an already beautiful city into a wonderland.

Army took a backseat to no one when it came to police work but her experience was limited to stateside home security. She was an expert on Islamic culture but it was mostly derived from textbooks. Eitan, on the other hand, was an experienced globetrotter who easily adjusted to different traditions. Sarajevo was a western city with sympathetic ties to radical Islamic factions and his work with Metsada had brought him there many times. The soldiers of liberty were seated by a window with a spectacular view overlooking a walkover that crossed the river just in front of the trendy restaurant. Large concourse lights cast their soft hue against the new fallen snow illuminating the old bridge where people crossed the river, played, and in general painted a surreal picture of a bygone era. Army could hardly contain the excitement she felt in that moment. It was as though she had known Eitan most of her life. It was as though she could trust him like she trusted Ralph, talk to him about almost anything, be intimate. She knew it was just the night, the snow. It felt wonderful and she didn’t want to let go of the feeling, at least for a while longer. She turned from the idyllic wonderland to catch Eitan staring at her from across the table. The reflection of the snow from the streetlights made his eyes glisten and he was laughing out loud, an emotion Army was not accustomed to coming from her new partner.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You. You’re like a child visiting the North Pole for the first time. It’s very appealing.” Army wondered if there was a tender side trying to escape the vague exterior of her Jewish equivalent. She decided it was safe to probe a little.

“What about you Eitan? What makes you tick?” she asked. His expression changed from warm and fuzzy to defensive. She knew she had entered hallowed ground.

“You want to know something about me personally?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” Army shot back, feeling a little on the defensive herself. “I’d like to know something about the person my life may depend on. I’m not really crazy about working with a cardboard cutout, if you know what I mean.”

It was Eitan’s turn to gaze pensively at the snowy wonderland on the other side of the window for a moment. Army hoped she hadn’t pushed to far; the evening had such a wonderful start and now it looked like Eitan had withdrawn back into his shell. She studied the conflict in his face as he gazed at the activities on the outside. It was a rugged but benevolent face. He was undeniably a contradiction, but then so was Ralph. She wondered if she had made a mistake by prying and wished she could start all over again when Eitan turned back toward her, smiling.

“Why not,” he said. “My life has one purpose, the preservation of Israel. Nothing else is important.” Their eyes met and they studied each other for an instant.

“What about you personally?” she asked.

“Don’t you have selfish aspirations, marriage, children, picket fence, that sort of thing?” Army didn’t fully understand the degree of commitment Eitan lived by. Her father was wealthy. She had anything she wanted…everything but undying commitment. She was a patriot, good at her job, but she would give it up in a minute if the right guy came along.

“Yes, of course, but that sort of thing can wait until the job is done,” said Eitan.

“I don’t want to raise children in a world where fear is a way of life and terror rules. We are in a must-win war, Army, where the survival of humankind lies in the balance. There is a devilish spirit sweeping the globe whose sole purpose is the extermination of the Jews. His army will not sleep until the job is done or he is defeated. The Houston carnage is absolute evidence that this demon will use the deadliest force available to him.” Eitan focused on his water glass for a moment and then slowly took a drink, considering whether or not to make the next statement, and then went ahead. “I believe your government is working on such a plan, but I’m afraid it’s the wrong way to accomplish a lasting victory against these powers of evil.”

“Are you talking about the Vindication File?” asked a fascinated Army. “Is that what you were working on today?”

“I would like for you to meet my father, Army. Could you arrange it?” Eitan replied without answering her question.

Army was caught off guard. “Well, eh…sure…if Leonard will give me the time.” She wasn’t certain what she had agreed to but it was impossible to deny him when he seemed so vulnerable. The two stared at each other with bewildered appreciation as the waiter arrived with their order, a bottle of Pinot Noir, and two plates of Cevapi, the specialty of the house. After finishing their Cevapi, they worked on the rest of the burgundy while staring out the window at the beauty that was Sarajevo.

The serenity was interrupted by Eitan’s cell phone. It was the Serbian state police. They had Elana Radayeva back in custody.

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