Post 53 – Flynn is kidnapped by Israelis in India – #extracts from UNDER COVER chapters 12-14

Chapter 12

I’m heartened by my meeting with the Imam. Only I’m still not sure if there once was a Christian God, with heaven up in the clouds and hell burning furiously in the earth’s centre. These are the bits I remember from Sunday school as a boy in Los Angeles. I guess none of it really mattered. But what stayed with me were ideas about relating reasonably to others, and this is where I struck a chord with the holy man.

I should go back to my hotel and e-mail something to Carey at the Star, but I need to eat. Stuffed chapattis are on offer at a stall, and I’m enjoying the spicy filling when a vehicle pulls up in front of me. It’s the same VW van I saw earlier with a puncture, and before that on the road to Vizhinjam.

‘Hey,’ the woman driver calls softly through an open window. ‘Do you know which way the road to Trivandrum runs … I’ve been going round in circles and it’s crazy!’

There is an accent I can’t place and she has a strong face with natural blonde hair. But it’s her nose that really interests me: it’s slender and attractive with an unusual angle, like it might have been broken and then re-set with an almost Roman bend.

‘I’m sorry … I’m new here,’ I tell her. ‘But the way you’re heading leads back to the beach. I guess if you turn around and ask someone, you’ll get there.’

Her eyes smile and I’m sensing simpatico between us when I become aware of someone standing immediately behind me.

‘Do not make any movement … and don’t say anything,’ a guy tells me in fractured English.

There is something that feels like metal touching my back, and the female driver is looking straight ahead.

‘I want you to turn around slowly,’ the guy says. ‘And remember I have a gun which is fitted with a silencer.’

It’s the same person I saw earlier with the wheel-jack outside the Orthodox Christian church. His smooth fair hair is soft. But the scar on his left cheek looks like it could have come from a knife or a bullet – or maybe a piece of shrapnel from an explosion.

He opens the rear door of the Volkswagen van and motions me inside. He then pulls down a narrow bed from the side of the vehicle and points to it.

‘I want you to sit on this,’ he says, and when he has switched on an internal light, he takes a sealed pouch from his pocket. ‘You don’t need to know who I am,’ he adds, anticipating my first question. ‘But someone wants to speak with you and it’s a long drive.’

‘Look … for Christ’s sake – what’s this all about?’

The guy gives me a faint smile while opening a zip on the pouch.

‘I don’t know about your Christ,’ he says. ‘But we are aware of you being shot at in Mumbai. I am going to give you an injection that will help you to sleep. I’ll then strap you into the bed so you don’t fall onto the floor during our journey.’

There’s a gun in his belt, and although I’m not sure, I think it’s a military weapon. So I’m not going to make too much of a show about protesting.

‘I don’t really see how I can help you,’ I say reasonably, but it doesn’t make any difference. We’re already moving and I’m about to be given a knockout injection.

‘You could be helpful for us, Mr Flynn, ‘but we’ll speak more about this later.’

He has rolled up the shirt sleeve on my arm that isn’t wrapped in a bandage. He’s looking for a vein, and as he bends over I see a Star of David on a chain around his neck.

‘You’re Jewish,’ I murmur as the needle penetrates my arm.

‘Yes,’ the fair-haired guy answers. ‘Do you have a problem with that?’

No – of course not. But what’s happening? Why have I been kidnapped by a Jewish guy and a blonde-haired woman in South India? It doesn’t make any sense, and the sedative is taking a while to kick in. I can hear the guy talking to his accomplice in the cab. They’re not speaking English and the word sounds are harsh, but it takes me a while to catch on. The accents and vernacular don’t exactly match what I was familiar with in New York. But I’m now convinced that my captors are speaking a mix of Yiddish and Hebrew.

Chapter 13

 During our long drive, I sleep and dream intermittently of warring factions in the Middle East. On one side, I’ve got Iran with Ahmadinejad arming his rockets. While across the desert, Israel targets the dictator’s nuclear sites and prepares for a shootout.

When I finally wake up, I’m in a comfortable single bed. The bullet wound dressing’s been changed on my arm and there are palm trees outside the window. Sitting up, I can see a calm blue ocean with a deserted beach. I’m thinking of exploring when I hear footsteps outside and my room door opens.

‘So … you’re awake,’ the woman who drove the Volkswagen van says. She’s carrying a tray with what looks like muesli, croissants and coffee. ‘And I’m sure you’re hungry … yes?’

I am, but I’m also irritated. Where the hell am I and why is this woman bringing me breakfast in bed?

‘I am Sophia,’ she says when she’s put the tray down beside me. ‘When you’re ready, we would like to speak with you on the terrace.’

‘Who changed my arm bandage?’ I ask.

‘I did,’ the woman says and there’s a subtle smile flickering around her pale blue eyes.

‘You know about these things?’

‘Oh yes. Three months ago I left the Army in Israel, which is where I learned how to dress wounds.’

There are questions jostling for space in my head. But I’m hungry, so I just nod as I pick up a croissant. ‘OK … I’ll come and see you shortly,’ I tell her.

She’s in her late twenties or early thirties, and she’s attractive in a tough but engaging way.

‘Good … enjoy your breakfast,’ she says, ‘and we’ll speak again soon.’

The croissants are excellent and I don’t stop until I’ve finished all of them, along with the bowl of muesli, which quickly satisfies my ravenous appetite. I take my time with the coffee, but when I’ve savoured it, I throw back the bed sheet and get my feet onto the floor.

There’s an en suite bathroom without a window. But there is a razor and some shaving cream on the basin. I get myself tidied up, and when I’m dressed I open the bedroom door onto a deserted corridor. This leads to a large sitting room with French doors and a well-shaded terrace overlooking the sea.

‘Ah … Rudi Flynn,’ a tall, dark-haired guy says when I appear. ‘I am Max … Sophia brought you breakfast and Levi gave you a sedative to help you sleep on the journey here.’

Sophia smiles and touches the delicate angle of her perfect nose, which I respond to with a perfunctory nod.

‘And where is this place?’ I ask.

‘We are some way to the north of Cochin,’ the big guy says. ‘The reason you are here, Rudi, is because we saw you yesterday with Muslim fishermen at the port of Vizhinjam. We are not sure yet what these guys may be up to, but we’ve been watching them.’

‘OK … so what do you want with me?’ I ask as I try to settle into the one-piece foam cushion on a rocking chair.

‘We are Israelis,’ the big guy says. ‘We are concerned about what Islamic activists may be planning.’

I can hold out and say nothing for a while – but what’s the point? I might lose a news story scoop about what I’d been involved in if I give my content to the Israelis. Alternatively, I could work with them and they might give me something else I could use.

‘I need a drink,’ I say, crossing my ankles on the floor of the porch.

‘Would you like fruit juice?’ Sophia asks.

‘No thanks … my preference is whisky, but if you don’t have any I guess I could settle for a beer.’

They are clearly keen to keep me on side, so Levi and Sophia go off and return soon afterwards with a can of beer and a miniature bottle of brandy.

‘This is all we have right now,’ Levi says.

Brandy is not my favourite drink, so I take the beer and when I’ve tried it I sit back in the rocking chair. I then start with Anton du Prey’s death in Paris and continue with Sayeed and Nasir in Mumbai, which leads on to the Imam, Mustapha al-Katar, in Kovalam.

The Israelis listen carefully to everything I say, and when I finish, the big guy, Max, nods. ‘So moderate Muslims are about to take a stand against their more extreme brothers … is that it?’

I’m pretty sure this is how it’s going, and that it could make an impressive impact.

‘But do you really think the more mature moderates can gather sufficient support to edge their angry younger brothers out of the frame?’ Levi asks like he isn’t convinced.

‘Yes, sure,’ I tell him. ‘Just look around where you are here in India. In Karnataka, which is just up the coast, you have Islamic activists, but at almost every turn they are being held back or diverted by their more moderate co-religionists.’

I’ve given my captors almost everything I have. They go through it for a while, interjecting occasionally with points in Hebrew until Max holds up both of his hands.

‘What you say makes sense … and there are of course many more moderate Muslims than there are activists. It is possible that in time they may make an impact – and particularly so if they become organised. You are, however, looking here at a medium to long term scenario. This means that if the activists feel threatened in the interim period by their own moderates, they are more likely to go for extreme actions.’

I want to interject, but Max is waving his hand, so I shut up. ‘Our intelligence  suggests that the next phase will almost certainly be nuclear,’ he says. ‘Unless we pre-empt them, we can probably expect attacks from Iran or from one of the splinter groups within Pakistan who have access to nuclear technology. All of which leads most of us to conclude that we have to hit the activists decisively before they nuke us.’

This seems to be high end intelligence that’s way beyond anything I’m aware of. I do, however, want to leave India and I need to know when I can return to London.

‘We’ll get you on a flight to Dubai from Cochin – probably tomorrow,’ Max says. ‘But in the meanwhile, you’re welcome to enjoy our beach … and we can all go down to the village later.’

I have my passport and wallet. But almost everything else is at the beach front hotel in Kovalam, and I’ll need a jacket if I’m travelling.

‘You don’t have to worry about any of that,’ Max assures me. ‘We’ll find you something to wear.’

Sophia has disappeared, but when she returns she’s carrying a couple of towels and a pair of Speedo swimming trunks.

‘You want to try the beach?’ she asks, which has me hesitating. But what the hell; I like the idea of paddling in the Arabian Sea, and the swimming trunks look like they’ll fit. Only the woman with the interesting nose is coming with me.

‘Just in case you get lost,’ she jokes.

There isn’t much point in my trying to escape. I have no idea where the roads lead to. And although my captors seem to be reasonable people, I know that Levi is armed.

‘So what are three Israelis doing in this part of India?’ I ask as we walk down to the beach. ‘Is it a Mossad/Shin Beth intelligence base, or are you just passing through?’

She smiles and shrugs. ‘This part of the coast, and further up in Karnataka, is popular with those of us who want to chill out for a while when we’ve finished our national service with the Israeli Army,’ she explains.

We have reached the beach, and I’m embarrassed as Sophia starts to unbutton her shirt. She then drops her skirt and I’m averting my eyes, but I’m relieved to see she’s wearing a swimming costume.

‘We can walk or you can float in the water,’ she suggests. ‘Your bullet wound has almost healed, but I’ll put another bandage on it for you when we get back to the house.’

Right – it’s time to wrap a towel around my waist and get into the Speedo trunks. I’m distracted by Sophia’s long legs and quite enticing body, but she’s already in the sea and beckoning me to join her.

Chapter 14

I still didn’t know where I am, or what was happening. But I’m rather taken with Sophia Levine. We splash around for a while in the Arabian Sea, and then have a short swimming race, which I lose. On the way back to the house, Sophia carries my trousers and shirt, and she then finds me a pair of clean underpants.

‘Do you need to make any calls, or would you like to use the internet?’ She asks later over a sandwich with tea.

Unfortunately, as it’s Saturday and the Star doesn’t go out again until Monday, my commissioning editor, Carey, isn’t available. So I go for the internet, which has a better wireless connection than my iPhone. There are a few work related messages asking me to follow up on a whole range of leads in London. I do my best to show willing with a standard response to all of them, saying I’m presently out of town but will be onto each story when I return.

‘So – this evening … what would you like to do?’ Sophia asks as the sun sinks away behind the house.

The idea of dinner in the village is appealing. I want to go out and explore around a bit. I’m also interested to see if there are any other Israelis in the area, which of course there are. It’s like a mini holiday complex where most of the people speak Israeli Hebrew with some Yiddish. The guys and girls are mainly in their twenties, and Sophia is on hand to fill me in on her compatriots.

‘Almost all of them recently completed their military service in Israel,’ she says. ‘They feel secure here because they’ve been through a similar experience together.’

I need a drink, but a small band is warming up and Sophia suggests that we should get the dancing going. For a few minutes, we’re the only ones on the floor. We’re then joined by three dark-haired Israeli women, each of whom has a fair-haired male partner.

‘So Rudi … you like to dance?’

I’m enjoying the experience, but I’m confused when Sophia allows one of her hands to slide down along my ass.

‘Come,’ she says after a while. ‘I want to show you something.’

‘What?’

‘Follow me and you will see.’

This is maybe not a good idea; but I go along behind my Israeli captor and up some stairs in a building adjacent to the restaurant where we’re due to eat later. We stop at a door that leads into a first floor apartment, for which Sophia has a key. It is modestly furnished, but the sitting room has a balcony with a great view out over the sea.

‘OK … now we dance again,’ she tells me.

The music is still playing downstairs when she unfastens the buttons of her shirt and then does the same for mine. I should perhaps back off, but she’s very attractive, and when we’re both naked she insists that we once again get into step with the music, which has now slowed.

‘So what are you thinking about?’ she asks as we move closer together.

It’s difficult to say too much as Sophia Levine’s breasts nuzzle into my chest and I have a full, if somewhat involuntary, erection.

‘You are a beautiful woman,’ I tell her, which gets me a mischievous smile.

‘Good,’ she says, taking hold of my penis, ‘and this is what I want from you, Rudi … standing up against the wall, please.’

I’m not going to refuse, and I’m aware of an evocative scent on her neck as we come together. Her vaginal muscles have a distinct and exciting rhythm and we seem to be moving together towards an explosive climax.

‘Sophia,’ I say as she suppresses a scream in her throat and we eventually collapse onto the floor.

‘Let us stay here for a while,’ she whispers. ‘Then maybe we can do it again before dinner.’ We are on a Kashmiri rug and still very much together. ‘But now we must talk,’ she tells me.

‘What about?

‘Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine.’

Christ – or whoever … there is a lot to take in here for afterplay.

‘Sophia … wouldn’t it be better if we just kissed … or even made love again. Because we’ll need to eat soon.’

‘You’re not being very considerate, Rudi.’

‘I’m sorry … it’s just that …’

‘You like to fuck with me again … here … now?’

‘Yes … of course … but …’

‘OK … so just listen to what I say … and try to give me some answers.’

This is a unique form of interrogation, and it could be quite effective.

‘We are a country – a state – in Israel … right?’

‘Of course – ‘

‘And we are allowed to defend our nation against all of those who may wish to destroy us … you know about the Holocaust?’

It is difficult to pass over what happened in Germany during the Third Reich from the early nineteen thirties until the end of the Second World War.

‘What exactly are you getting at, Sophia?’

‘The Iranians want to destroy us … and they have nuclear weapons.’

‘So you want to hit them before they get to you.’

‘I feel we have no alternative,’ she answers. ‘Maybe we also need to pre-empt the Pakistanis … we are heading for a third world war, Rudi!’

 But what about the moderate Muslims, I ask.

‘This is all good,’ she says. ‘And it may offer the possibility of peace between Islam and ourselves in the future. For now though we have to deal with the renegades, and we need media people like you on board, Rudi … yes?’

I’m with her in spirit, but someone downstairs is calling her name.

‘OK,’ she says, swinging us around on the carpet until she covers me with her delightful body. This time, she does most of the work with her incredible vaginal muscles, which quickly have me back to attention and ready to do whatever I can for her.

When she comes again, and I swiftly follow, she bends down to give me an almost chaste kiss on the forehead.

‘We should sleep together in the house tonight,’ she suggests, and I don’t object.

‘But tell me something, Sophia.’

‘Yes … what is it, Rudi?’

‘Have you ever thought of settling down and maybe having a family?’

She laughs at this and then gets up.

‘Maybe one day,’ she answers. ‘But for now I have to concentrate on saving my country from annihilation.’

Downstairs, the young Israelis are sipping from cans of coke and beer. I have no indication that there are illegal drugs available anywhere in the exclusive little venue, and the Indians present are almost all attempting to cook Israeli dishes.

‘We want people like you on side with us, Rudi,’ Max says when we sit down for dinner and I nod as convincingly as I can.

Many of those I met that evening were clearly focused on the idea of eliminating Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guards, along with anyone else who threatened the state of Israel. It was dispiriting, and I was relieved when – just before midnight – Sophia came to take me back to the house she shared with Max and Levi for my last night in India.

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