|Subject: Empty Reflections Epilogue
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Date Posted: 15:33:51 07/27/10 Tue
A/N: Sorry this has taken so long. Its been a tough time but things are better.
Thanks for your interest in the story.
Mc Lean Virginia
0915 December 11, 2005
Sparkling clusters of snow lay piled on every surface outside the windows of the semi-circular breakfast nook. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, teasing its intentions for the day. The weatherman had predicted more snow, but the sky hadn’t decided if it wanted to cooperate.
They toyed with a third cup of coffee, wandering aimlessly through the Sunday paper, they laughed softly as their daughter played with her snacks, and occasionally tossed her sippy cup on the floor to watch Mom or Dad retrieve it.
“I’ll get it.” Harm slid out of his chair and headed toward the sound of the bell coming from the front of the house.
For some unfathomable reason, Mac had insisted on programmable chimes for their front doorbell, and it was currently set to a sappy rendition of Silver Bells. Harm just shook his head tolerantly. It must have been that ‘nesting instinct’ Bud had told him about.
“Look who’s here,” he announced, as he led Ben Farraday back into the cozy breakfast room.
“Hi, Ben, what are you doing in town? Here, have a seat,” Mac started to rise and clear their breakfast plates from the table.
“I’ll take those,” Harm reached for the plates, waving her back to her seat.
He gathered the offending pile of plates and turned towards the kitchen, returning a few seconds later with a mug and spoon.
“Let me get you some coffee.” He poured before Ben could answer.
“Would you like something to eat? We’ve just finished, but it would only take a minute,” Mac offered.
“No thanks, little lady, I had breakfast at the hotel. How ya doin munchkin?” he chuckled and tousled the baby’s dark curls as he settled into a chair.
She giggled with glee as she recognized the gentle giant of a man.
“Seen this?” he glanced at Harm, tossed a folded newspaper his way, then continued to play with the baby.
Harm picked up the paper and read the article.
“What is it, and where’s Patty?” Mac asked.
“We drove up yesterday to see the Nutcracker, and she wanted to stay at the Fairmont,” he sighed remembering the cost of the last minute reservation, then continued with a tolerant smile. “This morning she decided to sleep in. Said we’d paid a whole bunch for the room and she was going to get every last minute of her money’s worth.”
“Nice,” Mac smiled appreciatively. “Can you come for dinner tonight?”
“Love to, but as soon as I get her out of bed we have to head back south. I want to try to beat this weather,” he glanced out the window. “This was a spur of the moment thing. Someone where she works had tickets and couldn’t go at the last minute. We didn’t have time to arrange an extra day or two off.”
Harm had stopped reading, and was rummaging through their paper for a section he handed to Mac. “Take a look at this.”
On the front page of the entertainment section was nearly a quarter-page color photograph capped with the headline, ‘Morgan Returns to London Stage’. The photograph portrayed the actor in a dramatic pose, garbed in the costume of an eighteenth century swashbuckler. Below the photograph, the caption read, ‘Michael Morgan has been tapped to play the leading role of Sir Percy Blakeney in the musical restaging of the Scarlet Pimpernel’.
“He can sing?” Mac asked, astonished.
“Hardly the point, Mac,” Harm replied dryly.
She shot him an impish grin which he interpreted to mean she was jerking his chain.
“What else does it say?”
He returned her look with one that clearly suggested she was capable of reading, then self-importantly snapped the paper while she reached down to retrieve the baby’s cup yet another time.
“Hurummm,” he cleared his throat. “Michael Morgan, the well known and acclaimed actor of the London stage, has returned from his foray into the world of television to once again grace the theater with his incredible talent.”
“Asked if he ever thought he’d do a musical, Morgan admitted that for a while after the ill-fated demise of his TV series, he hadn’t thought much about returning to acting at all. He felt retirement was a better option for him and his family. However, when approached six months ago by the producers, he found the concept of this classic story’s conversion to music inspiring. He explained that he identified with the character.”
“Interesting concept,” Mac murmured, as Harm adjusted himself disapprovingly in his chair.
“Reporter:” Harm continued, “How exactly do you find identity in someone who rescued French aristocrats?”
“Morgan: Well you see, it’s not who he rescues, but that he can see it’s fundamentally wrong to allow those people to be killed. He’s very selective as to who he rescues.”
“Reporter: Isn’t that sort of like being a vigilante?”
“Morgan: No. Not at all. He recognizes a wrong and he does something about it. It’s actually very much like the part I played on SPIES. I don’t believe people should just stand by and see things happen to others without doing something about it.”
“Self-serving, arrogant, ba…. uh, stuffed shirt,” Harm grumbled before he continued.
“Reporter: Apparently it came as a surprise to your public that you have a family.”
“Morgan : My wife and I were married at a young age and the pressure of my career did not help our relationship. We were estranged for many years. After retiring last year, we decided to try to rebuild what we once had, and with the help of a family counselor I can now say we’ve exceeded our best hopes.”
“Reporter: You also have a daughter. No one had heard of her until the news story broke last year that reported she was visiting you in the US when a fan died at a party in your honor.”
“Morgan: I’ve always preferred to keep Daphne out of the public eye. It isn’t a healthy environment for a child. That incident was a prime example of why children need a stable protected childhood.”
“The insufferable bastard,” Harm declared, letting his thoughts guide his language this time.
“Language, Harm,” Mac cautioned, gesturing with her head towards their baby.
“Sorry,” he mumbled then continued, “Reporter: There were some very unpleasant rumors in the news media at that time. Can you cast a light on what really happened?”
“Morgan: I’m afraid I can’t. The information I’ve received is quite spotty you know. Apparently, at one point they suspected everyone in the hotel.”
“Reporter: We were led to believe through unsubstantiated channels that your daughter’s governess was guilty in the death, and perhaps in some associated deaths as well.”
“Morgan: Well I’d have to say that’s just the sort of information one might expect from unsubstantiated channels, wouldn’t you? I mean consider if you will, what in the world would a simple governess have against anyone. All I have to say on the subject is that this death, and any others anyone has attempted to attach to the company, happened outside of my presence, and certainly had nothing to do with my daughter. Why she was so traumatized by the mere thought of what had happened she had to be hospitalized for three months.”
“Hospitalized my foot,” Harm mumbled again. “They probably were doing psych evals on her.”
Mac smiled her agreement, as she followed what Harm was reading.
“Morgan: Look I don’t want to appear uncooperative, but my family had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with that unfortunate incident, and the sooner we get past it the better. My poor daughter is still under the care of a live-in nurse. She never even leaves our property except to see her doctor.”
“Hah!” Harm interjected. “She’s probably under house arrest.”
“That may be exactly what’s happening. That nurse may be a court appointed guardian. The fact she’s still living at home just illustrates the cleverness of Morgan’s attorneys,” Mac agreed.
“We’ve tried to put it behind us and we’d really appreciate if you chaps could work with us and do the same.” Harm continued reading the article.
“Reporter: Of course Mr. Morgan, anything you say. Suppose we talk about the play. I don’t think anyone would have thought of you for a part in a musical.”
“Morgan: (laughing) “Well I never would have either, but you see this character speaks to me. He is a master of disguise. It’s always been rather a trademark of mine, and after a few sessions with a voice instructor, she allowed that she could make a passable singer out of me, so I entered into negotiations for the part. I think you will perhaps be pleasantly surprised, if I do say so myself.”
“That self-serving over-blown son if a *****!”
“Harm!! Please!! Watch your language,” Mac shushed.
“He just walked away scot free, Mac,” Harm fumed. “All of them did. They didn’t do a thing about all those people who died.”
“Now, Harm, remember, according to Channah Newel’s ‘official’ confession ‘she’ was responsible for the deaths. At least that’s what she led the authorities to believe. Only you and I ever heard her say anything different,” Mac reminded him.
“She may have disposed of the people, but it was Daphne who incapacitated them to begin with, using the drugs with the intent to ‘make them go away’,” he argued.
“Well it appears that perhaps the State Department, in dealing with the British Home Office, found it more politically convenient not to press the issue of our statements. Or perhaps this was the compromise they reached, keeping her under house arrest and in therapy for a period of time.”
“Perhaps,” Harm humphed.
“So this ‘governess’ took the fall for all five people?” Ben asked.
“She admitted her guilt in all five crimes as part of her plea bargain. In exchange, she was guaranteed life imprisonment here in the US, and complete secrecy in both the court proceedings, and her ultimate location. She was terrified of being deported and felt she needed protection from public view. She would have agreed to just about anything,” Harm scoffed, still annoyed by the lack of complete justice in the case.
“Why didn’t she want to be deported? And what about that ex-Mossad angle?” Ben looked back and forth between his friends, wondering what they could tell him. There was a lot more to this case, obviously. He’d picked up that much from Harm’s comments at the airport when they caught her.
“They didn’t share everything with either if us, but according to scuttlebutt she was apparently being sought by international authorities as well as almost a dozen foreign governments, including her own. While we thought the death of those fans was a heinous crime, she was apparently spending her late night hours in many of the countries they visited serving a radical counter terrorist operation. Another vigilante group if you will. It appears to be a common thread to this entire saga.”
“Do tell.” He raised his eyebrows slightly. “What were they up to?”
Ben leaned a little forward, his interest piqued.
“Targeting and eliminating people they had decided were a threat to Israel. The group contacted her through a distant cousin, a man we only know as Simon, whenever they arrived in a country where there was a target. Of course, that was most countries. This group was or is as radical as the people they’re fighting. Simon had provided her with a place to hide and helped her slip out of Israel just before the Israeli Army arrested her six years ago.”
“Why’d they want her?”
“Apparently a review of the ops she worked showed that very few of the ‘adversaries’ she encountered came through in very good shape. Some didn’t even survive. She was about to be charged for ‘overzealous use of interrogation techniques in covert operations’ when she escaped. The arrest warrant claimed her actions were excessive and indiscriminate by any standards.”
“Wheeeew!” Ben whistled. “So she’d been carrying on a private little war and then just continued with it on a larger scale when she started traveling with this production company.”
“Correct. This cousin followed her from country to country acting as the contact man between her and the people who were using her as their hired gun. Several intelligence operations had a finger on the cousin and suspected him, but they never could quite connect him to the murders, or assassinations, or whatever you’d call them. The cousin was finally arrested in a country where there isn’t much in the way of legal rights. They knew he had an accomplice, but couldn’t find airline records for anyone else that matched his travels no matter how many man-hours and how much computer time they spent. Finally, they got a break just before Ensign Fitch’s murder.”
“And none of those spies managed to put it together when people associated with the production group came up dead at the same time as this string of assassinations?” Ben asked incredulously.
“Nope, not at that time. When her cousin got her out of Israel initially, this organization he worked for…I never found out the name if it had one…in any case they provided her with documents, passports, and whatever else she needed to disappear. She’d already gained their admiration for what she’d done in the Army. She took her middle name and her father’s name, died her hair almost black and let it grow. Then she took a job serving drinks in a London pub for six months. When she figured the heat was off, she applied for the job of Daphne’s governess. Letting just enough of her background slip into the interview, she impressed Polly with her ability to protect the child from anything.”
“The few agents in the intelligence community, who gave a thought to that gypsy production company, or any of its employees, dismissed them almost immediately. The company used private planes, and often, private airports, but their arrivals and departures were heralded with so much press and fanfare that it never really came up on the covert communities’ radar. She had a highly paid position and several spare passports, as well as access to professional grade makeup and costuming. It all gave her a quick means of escape if it ever looked like the Israeli’s or anyone else was catching up with her. She could simply slip away into a crowd if anyone got too close. Of course, the group’s protection came at a price. A price she apparently had no problem paying.”
“Hiding in plain sight,” Ben mused. “Clever.”
“Exactly,” Mac chimed in. “She simply had to take the added precaution of not ever allowing anyone to get a clear photograph.”
“So why did she kill those people at the different fan parties? Didn’t it ever occur to her it would call attention to her presence?”
“Apparently her thought was having tabloid reporters crawl all over them because of scandals would bring more attention than someone occasionally dying from partying too hard. To an extent, she was right,” Mac added ruefully. “The deaths happened in different countries, sometimes in countries that don’t easily share information. The only time she came close to getting caught was in Turkey, but the British embassy showed up so fast that they were released before they could be processed. Daphne kept the drugs in a teddy bear purse that she always carried. It didn’t occur to the investigators in any of the countries to take the child’s toy away from her. And as governess, Channah walked out without so much as a faint suspicion of who she really was.”
“As far as anyone can tell you’re the only one who ever connected the various deaths, and it wasn’t until the second one occurred in the US that it actually came up on the general law enforcement radar. It appears it was your connection with that Vegas detective that threw up the red flags when they returned to film in Maryland,” Mac told Ben.
“So then, this cousin gave her up, and everyone descended on Baltimore?” Ben asked.
“Almost, but not quite,” Harm continued the conversation. “He never really gave a name or description, he’d been trained to resist torture and they were working him over pretty good. At one point, they finally tried the old trick of having someone rush in and say they’d caught his accomplice. His last words were ‘God help her,’ then he died.”
“And that suddenly made light bulbs come on all over the spy world?” Ben looked skeptical.
“Actually, it was a junior CIA agent who put it together. His training agent was asked to check out the production company early on when the kid piped up in a meeting with brass about the timing of the assassinations and the murders, but the older guy didn’t think much of the idea so he sort of did a cursory check on the men associated with the company and filed it. The kid didn’t agree, but he couldn’t risk his career by questioning the decisions of his trainer. When they got word of the ‘her’ slip, he reopened the file and did a deep background check on Simon. It took a couple of weeks to follow all the false leads, but finally he found what he was looking for, Simon’s family relationship to Ruth Channah Levine. Further digging revealed that her father Barton Newell had been a defense contractor recalled to England when she was ten years old. When he left Israel, her mother resumed using her family name and dismissed him from their lives.”
“So the government took the easy way out and accepted her confession and now she’s tucked away in some secret prison community somewhere?” Ben asked skeptically.
“Not exactly, at least we don’t think so,” Mac replied. “It was a pretty big can of worms legally. There were five murders of ordinary citizens in four different countries. Even if you remove Turkey because they still didn’t want to play, you still have four senseless deaths. The fact that the last two happened here gave us the right to try her in two states since we had her in custody. Add in all the countries that wanted her for the assassinations, and the group these killings were committed against, and you have an explosive situation. The last thing she wanted was an open trial. My guess is she didn’t think she’d survive two public trials. And even with her warped sense of justice she didn’t want Daphne involved, she had bonded with the girl. She also didn’t want to endanger innocent people with her presence. Thus the plea bargain.”
“So where is she now?” Ben asked cannily.
Harm and Mac looked at each other, but Ben deserved an answer.
“Probably back in Israel. The crime she was charged with there was the least of the lot, but they wanted her badly. There’s a new regime since the arrest warrant was first issued against her. Recently there was a three-way prisoner exchange between America, Turkey, and Israel. Remember, Turkey is still claiming they’d found their killer so they have no official interest in her. But there were a couple of guys in Guantanamo that they wanted back, and they held a couple of Israeli agents, one of whom was possibly and American CIA agent. We have an idea somehow Channah Newell aka Ruth Levine was included in the three-way exchange.”
“Hmmm,” Ben nodded. “I guess that explains why she doesn’t show up on any prison roster in the US.”
Harm chuckled and glanced at Mac. “I kind of figured you’d pick up on that. You spend too much time on that computer, Ben.”
Ben stood, smiled with satisfaction, and stretched. “Well I’ve spent too much time here, unfortunately, though it’s been a pleasure. But I need to get back to that hotel and get Patty up and packed before it costs me another night. And I want to get back south before I have to spend a real bad night in a real bad motel somewhere along the way.”
They walked him to the door, said their warm goodbyes and exchanged invitations for future visits.
As Harm closed the door he turned to Mac, “Do you think we did the right thing telling him what we’ve pieced together?”
Mac slipped her arm around his middle and gave him a quick reassuring hug. “He won’t ever say a word, Harm. He just needed to know. Remember he was on this case long before any of us were, and he didn’t look real surprised about the corresponding assassinations. I think we only really verified the facts he had already uncovered,” she smiled up at her tall husband.
“Harm looked down at her and shook his head. “Damn! You’re right, he didn’t look very surprised.”
“Language, Harm,” she poked him with a playful finger, then walked into the kitchen and placed the baby in her playpen.
As they turned to the messy sink and stove, Mac commented cryptically
“Besides, Harm, something tells me she isn’t a problem any longer.”
A cold chill ran through Harm. He hesitated, staring at his wife for a long moment. Only years of discipline allowed him to take a deep breath and shake off the feelings running through him. With a slightly shaky hand, he picked up the soapy sponge and started scrubbing the stove while she loaded the dishwasher.
The haunting sounds of the adhan drifted across rooftops and down the narrow streets as the muezzin sang the call to evening prayer. The deep pink afterglow from sunset lit the whitewashed city, as the faithful made their way to the mosques, or knelt to praise Allah in their homes.
A figure, shrouded in flowing white cloth, walked quickly down the nearly deserted street. A loosely rolled prayer rug was tucked under one arm. Swiftly, the person turned into a half destroyed building and disappeared into the darkening depths.
No one saw the figure emerge on the rooftop four floors above. No one saw it walk slowly, stooping low, toward the back of the roof. The figure lowered itself to the floor near the low wall surrounding the roof, and threw back the shroud of clothing.
It might have been a young man, but it was a woman. Quickly unrolling the mat, she withdrew lightweight rifle from the heavy fabric. She checked the weapon carefully before peering over the edge of the rooftop wall. Two men, bowed in prayer, were seated on rugs in the elaborate garden below. Taking careful aim, the assassin fired two well-placed shots, before quickly ducking back below the sheltering wall.
Checking the surrounding buildings, her deep brown eyes searched for any indication she might have been seen. Believing she was safe, she scurried backwards from the edge and hurried inside the building. One floor down the white robe and prayer rug were discarded behind a pile of rubble. The small rifle was quickly disassembled and the parts tucked inside a backpack that had been hidden beneath the voluminous clothing.
She shoved a broad hat down low across her short hair, then hurried down the last flight of stairs and out into the street. Dressed now in the loose western style clothing of a hiker or casual traveler she made her way down the street turning corners from time to time or cutting through deep alleyways, heading always toward the center of town and the bustling market place. There would be a car and driver waiting to drive her to the safety of a large Western hotel.
Only one more turn, and two blocks away to the security the truck and her handler, a last shortcut down an alley was a fatal mistake. The sound of footsteps, first one, then a second, and strong arms encircled her. She fought but there was nothing she could do as the knife cut deep into the center of her body.
She slumped to the ground. Her head spun. The only sound she heard was the retreating footsteps of her assassin.
As her consciousness ebbed, a bright light filled her eyes. She had only time for a brief thought. Soon someone would do to him what she had done to others. What good had been done? What good would any of it do?
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