In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

From the Benedictus - Song of Zechariah - The Gospel of Luke

Part Twenty-Three

The koi swam in concentric circles, and in a way, he envied them a little. The Zen-like, unhurried existence – the safety and warmth of the pond. By now, he knew them all by their markings. God, how many times had he studied them? All the hours spent out here, with the sun on his back, simply chilling out and watching the water.

But not today – and he didn't expect it.

He was filed with a pent-up excitement.

A sense of danger and anticipation as he thought about what lay ahead.

Even now, he wasn't taking any chances. He patted the gun in his pocket. He'd cleaned and loaded it in preparation earlier, when the media circus first began. Not that anyone else knew, of course. He hadn't mentioned it to Alan or Charlie. He didn't want to create anymore upset, or be the cause of further alarm.

Don shivered, and hoped he wasn't being paranoid. He didn't think so, call it gut instinct. A sense of menace still hovered around him; an awareness he couldn't quite shake. The air thrummed with it – almost sentient - super-charged with electricity. It was out there, the danger, or whatever it was, and it posed a real threat to his family. Until they got him the hell out of Dodge, there was a lot more than just his own life at stake.

He sat up straighter when he heard their voices. Dad and Megan – there was someone else with them. Another sound, one he knew only too well. He still heard her cry out in his dreams. Don smiled, as they approached him over the lawn. God, talk about bittersweet. If they'd taken the trouble to ask him, then this would have been high on his wish-list. His own little, pint-sized miracle. It was Benedicta, of course.

Of all the people he wanted to say goodbye to . . .

His throat tightened with a band of emotion; trust Megan to understand.

The baby struggled around as if sensing him, and strained backwards against Marissa. She was dressed like a shaft of sunlight, in a buttercup, yellow dress.

Since he'd woken up, they'd been regular visitors, and now they felt like part of the family. During all those weeks, when he'd been going crazy on bed rest, Marissa had brought her into the hospital. Back then, visitors had been a lifeline, but most especially this one, small lady. He knew the story of how she'd pulled him back from the brink – of how her voice had made him open his eyes.

"Hey, Sweetie - " she would always be Sweetie to him. He leaned forward, and held out his arms to her. "Come here, and give me a kiss."

Marissa placed her down on his lap, and his heart melted as she gurgled with delight. She was wearing a sun hat to match the dress, and she looked just like a flower fairy; her little, brown feet pushed against him, all softness and sweet-smelling skin.

"I swear it's almost as if she knows," Marissa shook her head in astonishment. "She's been bad tempered and cranky all morning, and now butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."

"What can I say, it's the mojo." Don pulled a face at the laughing baby.

"I had to come," Marissa was troubled. "Don, about the newspaper article. I didn't know until Megan told me last night, I swear to you, I haven't said a word."

"Hey, no – it's okay," he tried to put her mind at rest. "We found out who was responsible. It came from inside – an internal leak- but don't worry, they won't mention your names. Megan told you I'm going away for a while? When I'm away, she'll take good care of you. Any problems, and I do mean any, then you don't hesitate to contact her."

"I got a call," a soft smile curved around her face. "Dan's coming home any day now. I don't know how or why, his tour isn't over. He said something about special leave."

"That's great news," Don said, and he meant it.

He sent a mental note of gratitude to Megan. They wanted him – then they had to pay for him. From now on, they would play the game his way. On his terms, or no terms at all. He'd put in a few, late demands of his own, and Dan Da Silva had been part of the equation. They'd dealt with his request pretty quickly. The tough approach had paid off, in the end.

Marissa gave him an old-fashioned look. "Don, why do I get the distinct impression, you know more about this than you're telling me?"

"Who me?" he held her gaze in all innocence, and shook his head in rebuttal.

"Yes, you," she clearly didn't believe him, and reached out to touch his arm fondly. "Megan said it might be a good idea if we took some time away as a family. We plan to visit Dan's parents in Rhode Island – catch up on some Portuguese cooking."

"Rhode Island, huh?" Don thought it over, and then offered up yet more thanks to Megan. The woman was a veritable genius. As for the Da Silva's, he was going to feel an awful lot happier when they were the width of a continent away. "I think you could really use a vacation. You've been through a tough time, lately. It sounds like a terrific idea."

She frowned. "I don't know, right now, it seems so unfair. All your courage, after everything you did for us. You've hardly begun to recover, and now they're forcing you to go away."

"It's okay," he placed a comforting hand over hers. "It makes sense, and it won't be for long."

The baby cooed, and patted his face. He grinned down at her, waggling his eyebrows. Dear God, he was going to miss her. He was staggered by his love for this child. He had no right to her – another man's daughter, no blood links or familial ties. Yet he knew, whenever he saw her, the bond between them was stronger than ever. She'd stolen a piece of his heart away, irrevocably and for good.

"She loves you," Marissa said, softly. "It's almost as if she knows you're her miracle."

"She was the miracle," Don shook his head. "A blessing, just like her name."

Marissa smiled. "Don, I want to ask you a big favour. Dan and I – we talked it over last night. We already had her christened several months ago, God, I don't know how this works. I realise your family is Jewish, but I was hoping you might be an extra god-parent. Is that the term . . . " she laughed, "I hope it's the term, or a guardian, if you prefer it?"

For a moment, he was too touched to even respond. Then his composure broke, and he almost lost it. Through all the pain and the hours of darkness, this little girl had been his guiding light. Amid the evil and despair of the bombing - she was a voice of hope, a human antithesis. Something pure and as yet unsullied by brutality, she'd helped restore his faith and tattered will to live.

"Is that okay with you?" Marissa was tenuous. "If Benedicta could talk, then I know she'd ask you - to become a permanent part of her life."

Was that okay – how about wonderful?

Don swallowed, and forced himself to answer. "Marissa, I don't quite know what to say. It's more than okay, I'd be honoured."

She smiled again. "It's settled then. You're officially her Uncle Don, as of now."

"Just wait 'till we tell Great Uncle Alan – he's really gonna be stoked."

He held Sweetie out in front of him, and swung her as high as he could. She arched her back, shrieking with laughter, as her sun hat slipped down over one eye.

Uncle Don, huh?

Well, he could really get used to it. Sounded good - he felt a deep sense of happiness.

Yeah, dad was gonna be stoked, all right, but not quite as stoked as him.

"Whoa - " he raised an eyebrow at Marissa. "I think someone needs a visit to the bathroom. Must be all the excitement, young lady, here, back you go to your mom."

"Just you wait until you can carry her. It comes with the territory, Uncle Don."

Marissa shot him a fleeting grin, as she shouldered her not so fragrant daughter. Don watched them leave, pulling faces at the baby, as they headed across the lawn to the house. A god-parent or kind of guardian. He guessed that it would probably be the latter. The Da Silva's were of Portugese origin, and most likely Roman Catholic's. As a Jew, he would be prohibited from accepting the former role. No matter - he would be a damned, fine guardian. He wasn't kidding when he said he'd felt honoured. From now on, he would always be a part of her life. He was not going to lose this little girl.

He glanced down at his wrist-watch - twenty minutes to go. The clock was ticking relentlessly. It felt like he'd come to the end of a book. Time to close the page and put it aside. More footsteps – he didn't have to raise his head. By now, they were achingly familiar. Charlie sat down on the edge of the pond, and turned his face to the sun, with a sigh.

"I wonder what it is about this place. Is it the fish, or because mom used to love it? Perhaps it's simply because you can sit down out here. Life doesn't always have to be about the profound."

Don's eyes crinkled up in amusement. It was such a Charlie-like statement to make. "I think maybe it's a mixture of all those things – a little peace and comfort rolled into one."

"Peace and comfort," Charlie echoed. "You might have hit the nail on the head."

They sat quietly for a minute.

"You okay?" Don said.

Charlie snorted. "Let's move on and define the word okay."

"Let's not," Don smiled slightly at the sarcasm. It kind of summed up how he was feeling.

"I meant it, though," Charlie spoke, quietly. "What I said about the profound. Because you see, in the end, it's quite simple. When you look past all the complications, we human beings are really, very straightforward. We eat, we sleep, we have sex and we brawl. We need warmth and a few basic comforts. We seek the company of those we like and care about – ultimately, we need to feel loved."

"Charlie, I see where you're taking this . . ."

"Do you?" Charlie stared at him without breaking contact, compassion and guilt in his eyes. "I let you down when I didn't come to the phone. You were hurt and afraid, and you needed me. I was too busy with the bigger picture – I let my own concerns get in the way. It's something I'll regret for the rest of my life, and I understand why you can't come to terms with it. What I'm trying . . . I think I'm saying, I love you. Please remember that while you're away."

Don lifted his head to answer, but something else caught his attention. He leaned forward, and looked past Charlie's shoulder, peering across to the garage intently.

There was a movement – a rustling of foliage – as he watched, the bamboo screen-fence swayed slightly. Don thrust himself awkwardly out of the chair and seized hold of Charlie's arm.

"Charlie, do as I say, and get back to the house. No – wait – Charlie, get down. Now!"

The man appeared from behind the garage, a submachine gun strapped across his chest. Don launched himself at his brother, and wrestled them both onto the ground. The man swung his weapon up into the firing position and the first round scorched over their heads.

"Fuck," Don placed an elbow across Charlie's back, and pressed him further into the grass. They were part-sheltered by the edge of the Koi pond - it was a meagre form of cover for now. He uttered up a pithy, but heartfelt prayer, for his earlier bout of paranoia, and used the brief second of respite to steady the Glock in his hand.

"Don?" Charlie was petrified.

"Shut-up, do as I say, and stay down!"

A second round raked the stones beside them, and Don tucked his head in under, for a moment. Sliver-splinters spat in all directions, and a sharp pain stung the side of his face. He felt the sudden warmth of a trickle of blood, as one of them glanced off his cheek. Without hesitating, he rose to his knees and ignored the scream of protest from his pelvis. He fired three rounds in quick succession, and then threw himself forwards again.

"Charlie, get further behind the pond. Stay flat – crawl on your belly!"

He looked fearfully across towards the Craftsman. He prayed Megan would keep dad inside.

The shooter had ducked behind the orange tree. With any luck, he was flying solo. Don didn't rate their chances too highly if this was a two-pronged attack. So far, so good, if you could call it that. He took a breath and re-checked his gun. The man leaned out from the trunk of the tree and blazed off another round. Charlie huddled closer, in terror, as the bullets ripped into the lawn.

"It's okay, buddy, keep your head down!"

Yeah, right, who was he kidding?

Where the hell was the fucking cavalry – the FBI and his so-called protection?

They'd better throw their asses into serious gear, if they didn't show up soon, they would be dead.

Don watched the tree for any sign of activity, while his eyes scanned the rest of the yard. He was sick with dread and a terrible anger; he had to stay calm for Charlie's sake. It didn't get any worse than this. It was horrendous, his worse nightmare incarnate. He could cope – had expected them to come after him, but his family were out of bounds.

He sensed it rather than saw it.

A movement, and the man came out firing.

"Down!" Don hissed at Charlie again. He tightened his grip on his gun.

He lurched sideways, and something shifted inside him. He couldn't afford to pay it any attention. He squeezed the trigger three times in sequence, and rolled clumsily, flinching in pain. A loud grunt, and his spirits lifted. He looked up, and saw the man doubled over. The shooter staggered backwards, grasping hold of his leg, and for a moment, the gun slid out of his hands.

"Stay there!" Don yelled back at Charlie. Someone else was shouting behind him. He didn't have time to glance over his shoulder, as he struggled to get to his feet.

Too slow . . . he was too damned slow . . . dear God, he wasn't going to make it.

One agonising burst of effort, and somehow, he was up off the ground.

This was it, then - kill or be killed. Their eyes sparked with a deadly recognition. The man swung his gun back into position, and Don realised the brief window was closing. Now or never, he flung himself onwards, and aimed the Glock at the shooter's head. He was a damned good shot on the best of days, when he was shooting at paper targets. Today, he was an even better one. The first prize was his brother's life.

He pulled the trigger, and propelled himself to the fore, but his legs let him down at the last minute. His feet failed to work in synch with his body, and he pitched over hard onto the ground. As he landed, he looked up with some urgency. The three shots hit the gunman dead centre. He dropped to his knees at the side of the tree, the sub half raised and ready to fire. The man froze, his jaw falling slack with surprise, chest erupting in a blossom of crimson. His fingers tightened reflexively, as he jerked off a final round.

The bullets sprayed into the lawn around Don - sliced through the air where he'd just been standing. He hunched his shoulders up close to his ears, and threw his arms over his head. As a gesture, it was worse than futile. He was depending on a stroke of luck to save him . . . a stroke of luck, or the grace of God . . . a sharp pain and he knew he'd been hit.

For a while, after that, there was nothing. The stink of cordite and a strange unearthly silence. Don lay sprawled, flat out on his belly, his face pressed into the grass. He cracked his eyes open, and took a shallow breath. The world was flat and surreal from this angle. He rolled over then, attempting to push himself up, still clutching the Glock in his hands.

"Don, oh God, Don!"

What the hell . . . it was Charlie, of course, skidding down to his knees beside him.

He tried to answer, tried to yell at him . . . to order him back, just in case. He shook his head in an effort to clear it, but the words wouldn't form in his mouth.

"It's all right," he choked it out, in the end, he found it hard to rip his gaze from the assassin. The man was motionless, his head turned to face them; eyes glassy and reassuringly dead. Don exhaled, and returned his scrutiny to Charlie. "You okay, buddy, you didn't get hit?"

"I'm fine, thanks to you," Charlie swallowed. He looked like he was going to be sick.

Don flopped back into Charlie's arms. The adrenalin seeped out of his body. He was shaking with reaction, and a fresh onslaught of pain, now he was no longer pumped full of endorphins. He closed his eyes and let Charlie support his weight. The world reeled and he felt decidedly spacey. It had been close – way too close for comfort. He took in a deep draught of air.

"You're gonna have to give me a hand, Chuck, I think maybe I tweaked something again."

"Yeah, right," Charlie rested a hand on his brow. "Lie still, Don, there's no way you're going anywhere."

"Oh crap."

And then of course, he remembered. The heart-stopping sting of a bullet. The last random scatter of reflex squeezed out by a dying man. He reached around, slowly, cautiously, and then winced, as a sharp ache shot through his side. It had grazed the top of his ribcage, leaving a bloody furrow under his arm. In the scheme of things, he figured he'd been lucky . . . not serious, just bleeding and sore. It was his pelvis which worried him most of all, he wasn't kidding when he'd said he might have tweaked something. He felt fragile - made of broken eggshells. If he tried to stand, he knew for sure he would fall.

"You both okay?"

It was Granger. Halle–fucking-lujah. The agent was dressed as a medic.

"About time - " Don hastily shelved his fears, and tucked them well away behind a scowl. "Where the hell were you guys when I needed you? What the fuck is the FBI playing at – I thought you'd secured the house?"

"So did we," Megan's voice was grim. She'd been talking into her cell phone. "According to Warner, we just lost an agent. Matt Giordano – they cut his throat in the alleyway. Got in through your neighbour's backyard."

"Throat, huh? Like the guys in the delivery truck."

His heart was suddenly encased in dry ice, as he recalled the morning of the bombing. One more senseless murder on hs conscience, and yet another ripple of guilt. He'd barely even met Matt Giordano, but knew he was fresh-faced and popular. The guy had only recently come to LA, on his first posting, straight out of Quantico. And now, as a result of all this godamned mess, he was lying out back in the alley. Dead in a matter of seconds - his throat ripped open and exposed to the sky.

It was too similar to be a coincidence.

An identical cause of death and a matching MO - looked like the same hand had wielded the knife.

Any hope this was a storm in a teacup, had well and truly been put paid to, but then, he'd sensed it from the very beginning; the threat was deadly and primarily real. Ben Arendt was right, it was time to go. The terror cell had been reactivated. Even though he'd been alert and on his guard, the stealth attack had caught him by surprise. Don swore again, as he considered the dead agent. Hameed hadn't wasted much time.

Megan knelt down beside Charlie, and glanced quickly across at the assassin. Her face hardened at the thought of the man they had lost, and the phone calls she would soon have to make. "We picked someone up at the end of the street. A parked car - looks like he was the driver. Male, mid-twenties, of Middle Eastern origin; shot in the shoulder resisting arrest. I'm guessing he's also a part of the cell, but I doubt if he'll tell us anything."

"Best of luck with that," Don agreed with her. In his experience, there was no way the man would talk.

He closed his eyes, and fought off a wave of nausea. He felt sick and decidedly shaky. She leaned forward, and sensing his distress, laid a cool hand on his face.

"Do you still want to stick to the plan, Don? There's a real paramedic in the ambulance. I promise you, I'll take care of everything here. Parker and Getz are waiting outside."

"Wait a minute . . ." Charlie spoke up then. "Don, you're hurt, can't you see this changes everything? There's no way you can go through with it – for a start, you need to go to a hospital."

Don looked at Megan, and nodded. "My dad, Marissa and the baby?"

"David and Agent Emrich are with them. They're safe, Don, you have my word on it. Wasn't easy, but we kept them inside."

"You're not serious?" Charlie glared at them both. It was as though neither one of them could hear him. "I can't believe you're still thinking about it. You're lying here, bleeding all over my hands, and I doubt you can even stand up."

Don shifted. "Megan, give me a minute, please?"

She patted him gently on the shoulder. A silent message passed swiftly between them. She smiled, her eyes misting for a second, before she got back to her feet. "Okay, I'll go talk to Parker. Take it easy, Don, and don't be a stranger."


He watched her head over the lawn to the house, the sunlight bright on her hair. He was safe now, at least for the moment. The yard was filling with people. Granger moved off to stand guard over the body which still lay sprawled under the tree. Don exhaled, and relaxed against Charlie. As he leaned back, pain lanced through his side again. He knew he needed medical attention. His shirt was sticky with blood.

He felt like he'd been granted a moment of grace. It was literally all he had left to him. Like a pale wash of sun between a roll of grey clouds, or a temporary lull between rain squalls. He sighed; better make the most of it. Any spare time was fast disappearing – slipping like sand through his fingers, and blown away on the edge of the storm.

So all right, it was now or never. He checked again - looked his brother over. As far as he could see, there were no ill effects. "You sure you're okay?"

Charlie smiled, with a hint of wry humour. "I suppose – why the hell shouldn't I be? A hitman just tried to kill both of us, and now he's lying dead in my yard."

"You make a very good point." Don smiled too. A sense of relief uncoiled inside him. He'd thought Charlie was going to be difficult, and in all honesty, he couldn't deal with it now.

"You're still going, aren't you?"

"Don't you see, Charlie, I have no choice. All this . . . what just happened . . . I guess it kinda proves it more than ever." He stopped, the air growing cold in his lungs, as he gripped hold of Charlie's arm for reassurance. Another miracle - they were so fucking lucky; the sheer enormity washed over him again. "That man lying down by the tree over there, he didn't give a damn you were with me. Five minutes earlier, it was Marissa and Sweetie, do you want to take a bet on their chances? It's unlikely either one would've made it - no way they could have survived. Maybe next time, it might be dad's turn. Or perhaps they'll decide to use explosives. Yeah, that's cool – a remote detonator . . . it would blow the Craftsman sky-high."

"I hate it."

Charlie pulled him a fraction closer and Don manfully tried not to wince.

"Me too, but I have to do it. I have to know you're both safe."

"The protector."

For once, it didn't sound like a dirty word. Don felt a small sense of relief. "I guess, if you like. Makes me sound like some cheesy, seventies TV series. Don Eppes is – The Protector. Go figure."

"Cheesy is right," Charlie made a feeble but valiant effort to tease him. He broke down. "God, Don, you have to be careful. These people are deadly serious about wanting you out of the picture."

Don stiffened, not missing the allusion. It hurt, although he figured he deserved it. He wished there was some way of reassuring them. He didn't want dad and Charlie still worrying. He was not heading off on some suicide quest. He planned on staying very much alive.

"Hey, it's okay, you don't have to worry. I aim to throw a spoke in that wheel."

"Glad to hear it."

The affirmation was still emotional, but this time, Charlie sounded resigned. Don closed his eyes. They would be coming soon. He lay quietly and waited for the inevitable. He hurt and felt woozy and light-headed, but it wasn't unbearable pain. For the first time, in a very long while, he was happy to kill some minutes with Charlie. It wasn't quite the resolution he'd looked forward to, but it was better than he'd hoped for in the end.

The last few months had been one hell of a ride, and the rollercoaster wasn't done yet. In many ways, it would give him a sense of release when he no longer had to worry about his family. When it was over, and he could come home again, he told himself things would be different. They would have bridges to rebuild and some rocky roads to mend, but they were strong enough, he knew they could do it.

Him and Charlie - they'd both learned valuable lessons - but in the end, it was family that mattered.

It was something to hold close throughout the coming months. No deprecation and no more uncertainty. Although he was sore and heavy-lidded, he felt alive, sharp and bright with clarity. Free from the morass of self-loathing, cleansed at last, of any vestiges of doubt.

There was peace here, in his mother's garden, but it was fragile and too easily shattered. When he was gone, and the threat had been lifted, dad and Charlie would be safe once again. As for him, he would use the time gainfully, to rebuild his broken body. And if he had any energy left over from that, then just maybe, it might help fix his mind.

"They're here." Charlie said, calmly.

Don looked up to see a gurney approaching. Parker and Getz and a guy he didn't recognise; it was probably the real paramedic - with any luck, he had some Demerol on him. He looked up at the sky. It was clear and blue, just another day in sunny California. It was just as blue where he was going, and the bonus was, his family would be safe. He squeezed Charlie's hand. It was time now. To leave all this for the indefinite future.

He felt no qualms or sudden flare of indecision.

It was for the best, and he was right to go.


Four weeks later . . .

Don had awakened early. He was restless and sleep had eluded him. He looked at the luminous face of his watch, closed his eyes, and tried in vain to sleep again. No good – he rolled gingerly out of bed, and reached for a glass of water. He finished it and stretched across for his crutches, a little achy, but in no real pain.

It was getting better slowly but surely.

Each day was a little easier.

He'd been working hard on his rehab, and was beginning to reap some of the rewards.

His regime was based on a six day week with a day off for rest and relaxation. In the mornings, he had physiotherapy, one on one, with a personal trainer, and then an hour in the hydrotherapy pool, working out in a flotation vest. By lunchtime he was usually exhausted and more than happy to take a siesta. He crashed deeply and usually dreamlessly, while he slept the sleep of the dead.

When he awoke, there was ultrasound treatment, and, hallelujah, some deep tissue massage. Then it was time for the doctors to evaluate him. To run a barrage of yet more tests again. The results of his latest scans looked good, and he knew he was making progress. He was moving with less pain and more freedom. Both healing rates and alignment had improved.

Five thirty and dawn was breaking. The encroaching light ethereal and golden. The sun rose gradually over the mountains and lit the ancient city down below. By now, he knew all the sounds by heart. They began as soon as night started fading. The muezzin calling out to the faithful, and the deep throated toll of church bells.

He'd been right about the destination, of course. Ben Arendt had brought him back to Jerusalem. He didn't recall much about the journey itself, which had passed in a narcotic-fuelled haze. They'd stopped over in London for a couple of days, but he'd been too ill to appreciate the scenery. The bullet graze had become infected, and he'd been feverish and slightly delirious. He'd spent two nights in a clinic in Harley Street, drugged-up with morphine and lost in oblivion.

Don made his way onto the balcony, and looked out across the Kidron Valley. The sun was already a fiery gleam as it bounced off the Dome of the Rock. For now, the sky was clear and as sharp as lemons. It would get warmer as the day lengthened and grew older. He was used to the heat – but this was not like home. Here, it was dry and unflinchingly hot.

Jasmine; he gave an appreciative sniff. It smelled about the same as he remembered. Warm stone and citrus, cypress and sage, like the back of an apothecary's shop. Or at least, he sought to qualify that; as he imagined such a shop might smell.

On the whole, he'd had very little time to think. He was moderately sure that was a good thing. His schedule was pretty much all-consuming. It kept him focused and determined to get well.

Strange, but it was now that he missed them. In the still time - the quiet of the morning. While his mind was uncluttered and tranquil, and the night was slowly fading into shadow. It made sense, in a crazy kind of way. They were half a day's time zone behind him. His world was fresh and acute with promise, but they hadn't yet made it to bed.

If he closed his eyes, then he could picture them. Don smiled and indulged himself a little. It was this time of day, if any, they would most likely be thinking of him.

Charlie, looking slightly dishevelled, engulfed by a vast mountain of marking. The TV would be on, in the corner, while dad sat in the leather chair.

He'd sent weekly messages through Megan, staying upbeat and broadly generic. She in turn, had been pleased to inform him, there was no further sign of any threat. Alan and Charlie were still under surveillance, and would remain so, until this was over. Don leaned on the stonework balcony, and sighed. Until he could go home again.

Something glinted in the trees down below him. He looked harder, but couldn't see any movement. He felt annoyed with his own paranoia, and made his way back slowly inside.

His suite was discreetly medical – more like a luxury hotel room. He rang the bell for his breakfast, and pulled a sweatshirt over his head. The nurse would be in with his meds very soon. He had a couple more minutes of privacy. He made a quick face at the crutches. At least now, he could shower alone.

His cell rang as he was about to sit down.

Don looked at his wristwatch and frowned. No prizes for guessing who it was, of course. Ben Arendt – what the hell did he want so early?

"What's up?"

He knew, even as he said it.

Ben Arendt didn't pull any punches. "Better start looking over your shoulder, my friend. Hameed is here. It's begun."

The man pocketed the pair of binoculars and took one last drag on his cigarette. For a moment, he'd thought he might have been careless. Eppes had leaned forward, almost as if he had seen him. He'd stepped quickly back into the shadows, half hidden by the over-hanging branches. The ancient olive trees were gnarled and misshapen here – dense and cavern-like, forbidding of light.

He pinched the cigarette out carefully. There was no trace he'd ever been here. Within hours, the place would be covered. He didn't underestimate Zev Ben Arendt.

He wasn't worried, but he'd had to see for himself. To verify it was the same man. No mistaking – he remembered those malt-coloured eyes. They'd looked into his own, once before.

For just a few, very dangerous, seconds.

It was those seconds which now signed his death warrant.

It was ironic and even slightly amusing they should cross each other's paths once again.

He stared up at the walls of the clinic. It would be difficult, but not impossible. Eppes would not escape him this time. This journey had come to an end.


Copyright - Lisa Paris - 2008