Monday, May 13, 2013

Chapter Thirty-Three: Into Darkness

“The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of remembering against forgetting.”
~ Milan Kundera 

“Are you sure about this?” Epiphany liked the proposal, but once again felt that Edward was being far too reckless with its execution.
“I’m sure things will go badly. That’s why I’m leaving the Tablet with you.  If I don’t call within 5-10 minutes of 12-noon and 12-midnight, your time…”
“I know what to do. I get it. And you don’t want me to come with you?”
“To the White House, or to…?”
“Yeah, to the White House. 1600, as you used to call it.”
“Not really… But more to the point, THEY don’t want anyone else these either. West and Gretchen already had clearance, so beyond those two it’s bad enough they let me in. They don’t really want to make any more exceptions. And… I don’t see any value in pushing that point at the moment.”
“I can see West. Why Gretchen?”
“Because without her, we wouldn’t be doing it this way,” Edward reminded her.
“Yet her agreement to the plan was reluctant,” Epiphany reminded him in kind.
Edward signed. “Only because it’s such a radical proposal, on the surface anyway, even though it really isn’t. And, I’m sure, because she thinks it puts me at risk.”
“So why will Paul and John be going with you, on the trip I mean? Why not West?”
“West will be needed here. Since you’re the one keeping me safe, I need him to keep you safe. There’s nothing he can do for me over there. As for those two… Well, I DO want to go in with at least a bit of an entourage, not just as one guy.  But I picked them because while they’ve become my closest advisors – aside from you, my dear – their faith is still a bit weak. Always questions about HOW these things will work out. So… If my manipulation of the most ardent partisans in Congress doesn’t convince them that things will simply work out the way I promise, maybe THIS will.”
They kissed goodbye and Edward met West outside in the car.
“Have you lost your fucking mind?” the Vice-President sneered at Edward, after reading the proposal he presented him with. “What the hell is this?!”
“That, Mister Vice President, is our new policy regarding the State of Israel and our position on the Israelli-Palistinean conflict.
Director Panetta looked nauseous. “Th-This… This isn’t what we discussed…”
“No, Director. This? This is the price you will pay for what we discussed.  You will let me deliver it to the Israeli authority, in person, and you will confirm that this is our new policy. And, in exchange, the Iranian Government, the Ayatollahs and the Guardian Council will be swept away and replace with a Secular, Liberal Democracy intent on peaceful and prosperous coexistence with the rest of the world.”
The Vice president shook his head. “This will never fly.”
Edward smiled. “First of all, it is in interests of all parties involved that, should this actually BE our policy, no one else know about it.  Secondly, it would seem to me that the campaign finance bill that you recently signed into law, Mister President, should significantly curtail the influence currently wielded by the country’s irrationally pro-Israel lobby.  Besides: I’m not actually against them anyway. I’m trying to HELP them.
For too long our foreign policy in the region has been dominated by little more than Zionist superstition. That ends now. At this point both sides have committed so many atrocities that for either to claim the moral high ground at this point would be laughable to the point of absurdity. 
I’ll be at home. You have my number.  Official transportation there and back and the backing of the State Department is what I’m asking for.  In exchange? Iran and North Korea.  You let me know.”
Later it came down to a discussion between the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State and the CIA Director.  Secretary Clinton was against the plan whole cloth, and while Director Panetta still wanted to use whatever power Edward had to deal with Iran, his enthusiasm waned when he saw what it would mean for Israel.  What finally broke the stalemate was an off-hand, and somewhat cynical comment from the Vice-President:
“Why not let him go and just let them deal with him? Kill two birds with one stone.”
When pressed for clarification, he elaborated. “I'm saying let him present his proposal, and when they ask us about it let them know that as long as he's the one calling the shots, that will be our policy.”
“And make no suggestion that we actually support him, or want him back?” the Secretary of State filled in.
“Exactly! Worst case? They kill him for us, or they detain him and we’ll get a glimpse of what his associates are capable of, only aimed at someone else, not us, or they accept it, and we help him move forward with Iraq… I mean, Iran.”
The CIA Director was worried. “In two of those scenarios, we will likely LOSE his support regarding Iran.”
“But we might finally be rid of him!  Or at least know more about him, and be that much closer to being rid of him!”
The President must have seen something in that idea that he liked, because he finally broke his silence. “Do it.”
At Edward’s insistence, the three make-shift diplomats checked into the David InterContinental Hotel, rather than stay at the American Embassy.  Any concerns John and Paul had about security were quickly attenuated by the comfort of their accommodations.
The State Department made the necessary arrangements and, after buying John a proper suit (though not being able to wheedle into getting a haircut,) they were escorted into the office of the Prime Minister, where they were to meet with him as well as his Interior and Foreign Ministers.  Neither official had any idea what the purpose of his mission was, but extended him all diplomatic courtesies at the State Department’s request.
“Good morning, gentlemen. I realize that our time is brief, so I will get right to the point.
In six months’ time, you will sign a peace accord with the Palestinian authority, bringing this conflict of yours to a permanent end.  If you fail to do this, the United States will formally end its alliance with your Government, and cease all Diplomatic, Military and Economic Aid henceforth.”
Clearly the three men were not prepared for, or accustomed to, such a blunt delivery.
Nervous laughter. “Is that supposed to be a joke?”
“No, Mister Prime Minister. You’re being given six months to end this conflict, peacefully, and in way that will not only be happily endorsed by the Palestinian authority and people, but by the Arab league and the U.N. as well. The U.S. will, of course, support whatever treaty is drawn up that satisfies those requirements. And any parties, whether signatories or external agitators, that break or threaten the treaty will receive the full brunt of the military wrath of the United States of America.”
The PM could hardly take this man seriously. “And how do you propose we accomplish this?”
“I won’t presume to tell you how to do your job, Mister Prime Minister. Nor, I might add, will this policy be made public before the deadline. I would be loath to tie your hands that way before the deadline. This will be entirely up to you. But if you fail, well… Good luck defending yourself without our backing. Somehow I don’t think you’ll find too many other sympathetic allies if you don’t have us on board. So I would advise your offer be far more generous than they’ll expect. Enough to catch them off guard and have them sign before they should realize that they should ask for more.”
“This is absurd. How dare you…”
“Call the State Department. Ask them who I am, and whether or not I mean business.”
The Foreign Minister could stand no more. “We have the right to defend ourselves!” he exploded, pounding his fist on the desk as he did.
Edward shrugged. “Hey, you go right ahead. If you think the best defense is to treat your neighbors like dogs, you can keep on doing just that. But you’ll do it without our help. The choice is yours, but we will no longer concern ourselves, or bloody our hands, with this conflict. If you want to help everyone live safely in peace? You can start by establishing peace.
I’ll leave you my contact info.  You know how to get a hold of the State Department. I’d think it over, Gentlemen. You’ve got some time, so there’s no need to do anything hastily. Just… don’t take too long.”
Edward winked as they left.
The Prime Minister was apoplectic. “Avigdor, get Secretary Clinton on the phone.”
An hour later the three men were back in the office of the Prime Minister.
“OK, so what did you find out?”
“It was… a very strange conversation.”
“How do you mean?”
The Foreign Minister stroked his chin, and seemed to be deep in thought on how to phrase his answer. “Well… I spoke to Secretary Clinton. And she confirmed that this… ultimatum did in fact carry the authority of the United States government.”
The other two men threw their hands in exasperation; feeling betrayed by who they thought was their great ally.
“But there’s more. And this is where it gets strange.”
“How do you mean?”
“Bibi… Do you trust me?”
The Prime Minister narrowed his eyes. He had worked closely with this many for many years now. He DID trust his judgment in most things, and they saw eye to eye on most policy priorities. But there have also been times when they were rivals, and that were clearly of opposite sides of an issue. “Yes, I trust you.  Tell me.”
“Like I said, she confirmed that this is the U.S. policy. But it was as weak an endorsement as she could muster. Almost like… well almost like she was being forced to say as much. And she said nothing more when I pressed her for an explanation. Clearly this whole thing was not her doing.”
“And it doesn’t sound like the doing of President Obama either.”
“No.  While coming from a different philosophy than his predecessor, he has remained a strong ally and supporter.”
“So… Who then?  Who IS this guy?”
“I could not find out anything from her. Not directly anyway, but…”
“Well… if I read between the lines?  It seemed to me that she was strongly suggesting that if he were to… say… disappear? Then everything might return to the status quo.”
“She said this?”
“No. Not directly. It is only my opinion, my… judgement, that she was strongly implying it. That’s why I asked if you trust me. It could be a great risk.”
“But you believe this?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.”
The interior minister, silent up until this point, jumped in. “But… if what you’re saying is true, and he’s somehow manipulating them, then it’s hardly likely that their Embassy will allow us to march in and take them, or extradite them to us.”
“They won’t have to.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because they’re not staying at their Embassy. They are staying as the David. Here in town.”
Both men were shocked by this revelation.
“Any military escort?”
“As far as we can tell? Aside from the airplane crew, just the two men that came with him. And they’re not armed or trained as far as we know. Just a couple of advisors.”
The PM leaned forward. “Avi, doesn’t your brother-in-law sit on their board of directors?”
“His cousin, actually. But… if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, it shouldn’t be too hard to work out an agreement in short order, as long as we’re quiet about it.”
“We’ll definitely want to quiet about it regardless. Make it happen.”
Still jetlagged, and expecting to fly out early the following day, Edward and company were asleep in their beds by nine that night.  Around midnight, Edward found himself half-awake. As he looked up, not sure if he was awake or still dreaming, his bed surrounded by large figures, clad in black and mostly obscured by the darkness.
Adrenaline shot though him, but before he could move, he was pinned down. Baton blows rained down upon him, beating him well in to submission.  The beating continued until he was stuffed into what he could assume was a body bag and carried away.  Following some rough handling and the occasional baton blow, either in retaliation for perceived resistance or as a warning against it, he felt himself being thrown. He landed on two bony lumps that he could only assume were John and Paul. 
A door slammed.
An engine started.
They were moving.
None of them could tell how much time had passed. 
An hour, maybe? 
Bound. In the dark. Hard to breath.
None of them knew what time it was when they finally stopped.  They were dragged of of the vehicle, still in bags.  All assumed that they would eventually be taken out, and so did little to resist in order to spare them any additional abuse. The fear of live burial remained interred in their subconscious.
A brick floor.
The bags unzipped.
Still dark.
The sound of a cell door closing.
Edward sat up and reached around, trying to avoid stepping on anyone as he made his way to one of the bunks.  Any soreness or injury received from his jailers was soon healed.  John was silent. Paul was clearly on the verge of panic.
“ohmygod… ohmygod… ohmygod… ohmygod… ohmygod… ohymgod…”
“Paul. PAUL! Shut the fuck up!”
“Eddie,” John answered calmly, “This doesn’t sound like what you described. If this is part of your grand plan, now would be a good time to fill us in.”
Edward sighed. “No, this wasn't ‘the plan,’ per se.  It WAS however a contingency that I strongly anticipated and prepared for. Rest assured: We’re in good hands.”
“PAUL! Stop fucking screaming! For Christ’s sake man, I’m right next to you! We’re going to be fine, we…”
“We’re lucky we’re not DEAD!”
“They won’t kill us. Not until they get answers anyway.”
John scoffed. “Greeeeaaat. So we’re to be tortured first, then.”
“ohmygod… ohmygod… “
“Paul, would you Shut. The fuck. UP!  We’re not going to be killed, or tortured. We’re going to be just fine. Trust me. Now try to get some sleep.”
“Trust… TRUST?!” Paul was ready to go off on him again, but John put his hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.  He calmed down.
Neither John nor Paul got more than an hour of sleep.
Edward slept as deeply as his concern about rats would allow, which ended up being almost the entire night.  He dreamed of being with Epiphany, with no doubt in his mind that she would do precisely as he had instructed her to.

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