Read Obsession (Year of Fire) Online

Authors: Florencia Bonelli

Obsession (Year of Fire)

BOOK: Obsession (Year of Fire)
13.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2010 Florencia Bonelli
Translation copyright © Rosemary Peele
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Amazon Crossing
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140

ISBN-13: 9781612184357
ISBN-10: 1612184359
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012920904

For Miguel Ángel, my Horse of Fire.

For my nephew Tomás, as always.

CONTENTS

P
ROLOGUE
The Bijlmer Disaster

C
HAPTER 1

C
HAPTER 2

C
HAPTER 3

C
HAPTER 4

C
HAPTER 5

C
HAPTER 6

C
HAPTER 7

C
HAPTER 8

C
HAPTER 9

C
HAPTER 10

C
HAPTER 11

C
HAPTER 12

C
HAPTER 13

C
HAPTER 14

C
HAPTER 15

C
HAPTER 16

C
HAPTER 17

C
HAPTER 18

C
HAPTER 19

C
HAPTER 20

C
HAPTER 21

C
HAPTER 22

C
HAPTER 23

C
HAPTER 24

M
Y HEARTFELT THANKS:

A
BOUT THE
A
UTHOR

PROLOGUE

The Bijlmer Disaster

Amsterdam, Holland. 1996
.

The Boeing 747-200 belonging to the Israeli airline El Al was waiting to take off at the end of runway number one at Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. The aircraft engineer stuck his head out of the cabin to give an order to the only passenger, Yarón Gobi.

“Take the jump seat,” he said, indicating the folding chair next to the plane’s door, “and fasten your seat belt.”

They were next.


El Al flight 2681
,” the air-traffic controller radioed, “
ready for takeoff?

In the midst of the roar from the jumbo jet’s four engines, its only passenger shivered. He had never liked flying, but especially not with the present cargo occupying the entire fuselage, for which he was responsible. According to the shipping documents, the plane carried perfumes and other cosmetic products, but he knew the cargo’s true nature.

He was nervous. He shook his wrist to uncover the watch that had slid under the cuff of his shirtsleeve. Six p.m. In around five hours they would be landing at Tel Aviv Airport. There, vans that had been specially adapted to transport “security-related products” would take the crates on the final leg of their journey to the Israeli Institute of Biological Research in Ness-Ziona, a city in central Israel.

The plane began to climb toward cruising altitude. Yarón’s stomach clenched and he started to feel nauseous. He forced himself to calm down, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply.

His eyes shot open. He was jolted in his jump seat by a deafening explosion. The plane veered sharply to the right and he lurched in his seat as though he were on a roller coaster. The young copilot’s voice filtered through the closed door: “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” He knew what it meant to hear the word repeated three times. It was an emergency call, derived from the French expression
m’aidez
—help me.

Less than a minute later, the pilot had regained some control of the aircraft, although it was still being tossed around in a sea of turbulence. Yarón immediately ripped off his seat belt and rushed into the cockpit.

“What’s happening?” No one answered.

He heard the copilot talking to the control tower, explaining that engines three and four had stopped functioning and asking permission to carry out an emergency landing.

“Given our air speed,” he explained, “we’ll need the longest runway the airport has.”

Yarón closed the door and headed to the back of the plane, clinging to the walls and furniture for support. He looked out through a window. They had lost altitude and were flying over the southern suburbs of Amsterdam. He realized that if they weren’t able to land at the airport, they would crash into the housing beyond.

“My God,” he gasped.

Ariel Bergman was sitting at his computer when he saw a phone number he recognized flash up on his telephone. His office at the European headquarters of Israel’s intelligence service—known as Mossad in the world of espionage and often referred to simply as “The Institute”—was located in The Hague. As a
katsa
, a Mossad officer, and the head of Recruitment Operations, Bergman instantly knew what this call might mean. It was from the collaborator, or
sayan
, they had recruited in the control tower of Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. He lifted the receiver and asked, “What’s going on?” Even though they were using secure lines, protocol dictated that they never use first or last names.

“We’ve just received a Mayday. It’s coming from El Al flight number 2681.”

The call was the air-traffic controller’s first contribution as a sayan, the term used by Mossad to describe any member of the Jewish Diaspora willing to serve to help the defense and survival of Israel. The vulnerability of El Al, a prime target for terrorists, meant the control tower operator at Amsterdam-Schiphol, one of the airports most frequently used by the Israeli airline, was a sayan of incalculable value. Bergman had suspected as much when he had first recruited the controller, and it had only been a matter of time for him to be proved right.

He wedged the phone between his ear and his shoulder and typed on his keyboard while they spoke.

“What more can you tell me?”

“Engines three and four have stopped functioning. They’re returning to Schiphol to attempt an emergency landing. I’ll call again when I have more news.”

The screen displayed the information he had requested. It was a cargo rather than passenger plane, which, Bergman thought with some relief, would reduce the number of victims if the worst happened. However, when he read the next line, he cursed in Hebrew under his breath. Flight 2681 was transporting “highly toxic chemical substances.” Destination: the Israeli Institute of Biological Research, Ness-Ziona, Israel. There were no details about the merchandise, only a warning about its toxicity.

A few minutes later the response team had sprung into action like clockwork. A Chinook helicopter took off from a private base twenty-five miles south of Amsterdam. Faster than other transport helicopters, it would have a group of experts on chemical and biological attacks at Amsterdam-Schiphol in under half an hour in case the plane was unable to land successfully. Meanwhile, two katsas stationed in Amsterdam were on their way to the airport and would arrive in a matter of minutes. Another team was deployed to begin the search for terrorists who might have targeted the jet with an RPG and destroyed the engines. Finally, the director-general of The Institute was brought up to speed. He’d be the one to decide when to inform the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the defense minister, Yitzhak Mordechai, and the minister of foreign affairs, David Levy.

At six thirty p.m., El Al flight 2681 was preparing for its emergency landing. After the copilot had informed the control tower, the captain lifted the nose of the plane to slow it down. However, this routine maneuver disrupted the flow of air keeping the plane aloft, and the plane lost stability once more.

Yarón was catapulted to the right and rolled until he hit the fuselage. He dragged himself upright, holding on to the windowsill and a bolt used to tie down the cargo. He realized that they were still losing altitude but that now the captain had lost control of the aircraft. He had seen a National Geographic documentary that said a 747 like this one could still fly with only two of its engines working. If the problem stemmed from the fact that engines three and four had stopped functioning, why was the plane still shaking, losing stability and spiraling downward? They weren’t caught in a storm or turbulence. He was sure that they were going to die.

He was struck by a sudden vision that both surprised and calmed him: Moshé’s face reflecting back at him in the plastic of the window. His lover, Moshé, who was waiting for him in Ness-Ziona. It wasn’t easy to be homosexual in a country like Israel. Eventually, he and Moshé had learned to accept their love, but they concealed it, to protect it, especially at the Institute of Biological Research, where they worked. They had experienced freedom for the first time on their vacation last year, right there in Amsterdam. He remembered those happy days, when they would stroll hand in hand or hug on a boat crisscrossing the canals without anyone giving them a second glance. He also remembered their walk around Lake IJssel.

“The lake!” he shouted.

He hauled himself to his feet, fell flat on his face but kept on moving until he reached the cockpit. He opened the door and screamed, “For the love of God, avoid the water! At all costs! Don’t let this plane hit the water! Or God help us!”

The journalist Lars Meijer was writing an article about mercenaries for the
NRC Handelsblad
, a well-respected Dutch evening paper. He was working
in the living room of his apartment in Bijlmermeer, better known as Bijlmer. His colleagues at the paper, friends and family all thought it an eccentric choice to live in the suburb to the southeast of Amsterdam, a notoriously violent area, but the neighborhood suited Lars well. He liked the vibrant environment created by his multiracial neighbors. Many immigrants found refuge in Bijlmer, especially those who had left Suriname after the country achieved independence in ’75. Conceived as an avant-garde modernist project inspired by the revolutionary ideas of Le Corbusier, Bijlmer consisted of long blocks of ten-story housing complexes that overlapped to form a beehive. Green spaces, lakes, commercial areas and offices were distributed between the rows of buildings.

BOOK: Obsession (Year of Fire)
13.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

All of These Things by De Mattea, Anna
Cuff Me Lacy by Demi Alex
Dickens' Women by Miriam Margolyes
Here Be Monsters [2] by Phaedra Weldon