July 22nd, 1973
Kfar Remen, Lebanon
Ray stepped back from the tripod-mounted binoculars and interlocking his fingers, raised his arms above his head, stretched, and eased the tension in his lower back. He massaged the back of his neck, then glanced at his watch – 6:46 pm.
“Less than an hour before dark,” he muttered, unconsciously stroking the week’s growth on his chin.
Simeon handed him a metal mug.
“Here, have a coffee. I’ll take over.”
It was the fourth day of the stakeout and still no sign of activity from the target of their surveillance – a large, two-storey house in the sparsely-populated, eastern outskirts of Kfar Remen, a city in the Nabatieh Governate, in southern Lebanon.
The team had set up on the second floor of an abandoned metal-fabrication shop – a large, corrugated metal building some three-hundred metres from their mark and on the other side of a shallow, overgrown gully. A few pieces of rusting equipment and a lingering odour of oil and grease – still permeating throughout the disused building – were the only remnants of a productive past.
Ray wandered over to the make-shift table and sat on a metal folding chair next to Avi and frowned but said nothing.
Avi smiled a self-assured smile.
“Do not worry, my friend, our intel is solid. We just have to be patient.” He was right, of course, they had no idea how long they would need to wait, and his intelligence was more often reliable than not. Ray nodded in silent acquiescence, then took a sip of the hot brew, and stretched out his legs.
Avi Gershen led a specialist unit of highly-skilled ex-members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and trained in undercover operations. What made them particularly unique was their native language Arabic, enabling them to operate deep in Arab-held and occupied territories. Ray’s association with the contingent dated back to late 1970 when they worked together in uncovering and tracking down a contract killer and a mysterious organisation, Alhalu (the Solution). It was during an incursion into Lebanon while a chasing a suspect, that Ray had saved Avi’s life. Since then, they had become friends and remained in touch – albeit infrequently.
An uninhibited, calm, and steadfast individual in his late thirties, Avi was of muscular build with a chiselled face, buzz cut and with a perpetual heavy stubble. He stood a couple of inches shorter than Ray’s six-foot-one-inch frame.
“All quiet outside,” reported Gila – one of the two female members of the group – as she came towards them across the metal walkway carrying her Israeli manufactured Galil Short Automatic Rifle (SAR) loosely by her side. A classic, dark-haired Jewish beauty whose looks belied her fighting prowess and ability to take a man’s life with or without a weapon.
“Any coffee left?”
She brushed her hair off her brow as she took a mug from Avi and sat opposite on an old, worn-out leather settee, placing her weapon by her side. She smiled at Ray with her stark-black, almond-shaped eyes under thick lashes as she cradled her drink. If he had still not been lamenting the death of Leyla – his previous love whose life had been tragically taken during a hijack two years earlier – he would have certainly considered making a play for her.
She had enlightened him early on in their association that she made it a rule, not to date other members. However, in his case, she might make an exception. An invitation he was careful not to encourage. He grinned back and arched his eyebrows at the sudden snoring from Dalfon who had been on the early-morning shift and was still asleep on one of the three, canvas camp beds.
“That man can sleep anywhere!” She chuckled.
“What time is it?” An awoken and drowsy, Rani asked from the neighbouring bed.
“Just past seven,” replied Avi leaning over to pour out another coffee for the fifth member who had shared the watch with Dalfon. Rani swung his legs off the bed and yawned, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, then ran his hands through his hair. He got up, stretched his tall frame, walked over to Avi, took the drink, then sat down beside Gila.
Terach, the sixth and last element of their mission came up the stairs from the back of the building where he had parked the team’s canvas-covered truck in one of the two loading bays.
“Did I hear coffee mentioned?”
“Okay?” Avi referred to their vehicle. The truck was Terach’s responsibility. He checked it regularly to ensure it would fire up and be ready when needed.
“Yeah, no problem.” He reached for the coffee pot. “Great!” Terach exclaimed on finding it empty.
“We have activity!” Simeon suddenly urged from the window.
Ray and Avi sprang off their chairs. Ray grabbed another pair of binoculars off the table and joined Simeon, who had stepped back to allow his boss Avi, to view through the tripod-mounted pair.
They watched as three vehicles pulled up outside the house. A dark-blue Mercedes-Benz followed by two dusty, sand-coloured Toyota Land Cruisers. Ray counted nine men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles exit the four-wheeled cars and spread out around the vehicles looking in all directions. Four of them entered the premises leaving the others outside.
“Cautious bastards!” Remarked Avi.
They continued watching. Five minutes later, one of the four returned to the vehicles and walked over to the Mercedes. He leant down to the front window – no doubt giving the all-clear. The nearside back door opened. Another armed individual stepped out. He walked around the car and stood back as a hooded figure was pulled roughly out from the vehicle on the opposite side of their vision. He was bundled between two of his captors and hurried through the gate and into the building.
“I think we can safely assume that’s our man,” said a somewhat relieved Avi standing up and rubbing his hand over his face. He had set a lot of store in the intelligence and had it failed to materialise; there would be egg on faces.
“The Merc is leaving,” Ray said, still glued to the binoculars. “It looks like we’ll have ten to contend with.”
“Enough to go around!” Responded Avi and gave Ray a cocky wink.
Their man was Ariel Brachfield, the oldest of three children of, Ezra Brachfield the billionaire newspaper magnate, and a close associate and heavy financier of both the British and Israeli governments. The twenty-two-year-old was kidnapped three months earlier while on holiday in Cyprus. The abduction was believed to have been carried out by a splinter group of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
'BLURB COMING SOON'