Angelique: Book Ten, The Final Chapter


D.J. Belt

Copyright: Original fiction. Characters and story copyright 2017 by D. J. Belt.

E-mail: You can reach me at

Disclaimers: Fairly violent. No graphic sex. Let's rate it an “R”. ALT, containing both same-sex and opposite-sex romance. Enjoy!

Comments: This is it! The final installment of the Angelique series. It's been a fun ride.


Angelique: Book Two
Angelique: Book Three
Angelique: Book Four
Angelique: Book Five
Angelique: Book Six
Angelique: Book Seven
Angelique: Book Eight
Angelique: Book Nine



Whoever fights monsters should see to it that he

does not become a monster. And if you gaze long

enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back

into you.

– Friedrich Nietzsche






Paris, France. Autumn, 2015.


Although there was a tinge of coolness in the night air, the windows on the first-floor apartment were open. From it, one could detect voices speaking in Arabic and hear the clink of drink glasses. What was harder to detect were the two figures outside, beneath the window. They both appeared to be female, wore jeans and dark clothing, and had knit watch caps covering their hair. The shorter of the two had a messenger bag slung across her body. She seemed about to speak, but silenced herself when her companion held up a hand. After a moment, the taller one whispered in accented English.


“He is inside. Two others with him.” She looked up and down the street. It was a dingy side street in an equally dingy area of one of the more run-down Paris neighborhoods. “No one is out. Now is the time. Come.” She paused at the entrance door and secreted a meter-long metal bar by the steps, then led the way into the lobby of the apartment building's first floor. In silence, they each took a position beside an apartment's door and pulled the knit caps down over their faces. They were, in actuality, balaclavas of the type that security forces wear when they wish to keep their identities hidden. The taller one withdrew a pistol from beneath her jacket, gave the silencer a twist to insure its tightness, and gently cocked the weapon. The other pulled a short-barreled, pistol-grip shotgun from her messenger bag and held it at hip level. She watched as her companion tried the door-knob. It was locked. The shotgun holder placed the barrel at the level of the dead-bolt, racked the gun, and pulled the trigger. The noise resounded in the entranceway, the wood splintered, and the taller one kicked the door open. The three men inside stared, frozen in shock, as the two assassins entered the apartment. The taller one thumped a round into one man's chest as her companion kept the other two men at bay with a threatening stance. She stepped forward, finished him off with two more rounds to the head, then quickly retreated, with her companion, to the apartment building's hallway.


A nearby apartment door flew open and a man emerged, shouting in Arabic and brandishing a club, as others began to gather behind him. He halted when the silenced pistol was pointed at his face, then beat his chest with an open palm in a show of machismo and defiance. “Who are you?” he shouted in Arabic. “Some fucking Shiites, in a Sunni neighborhood? You'll never get out of here alive. What are you going to do, shoot me? Go on, then. Shoot.”


She obliged him. As he crumpled to the floor, the two assassins retreated through the outside door and slammed it shut behind them. The taller one picked up the metal bar and slid it through the outside door handle such that it crossed the jamb and locked the door. As they disappeared across the street and into a darkened alleyway, they could hear the angry shouts of the residents unsuccessfully attempting to pull open the door and give chase. When the crowd finally succeeded in breaking the door open and reaching the street, there was no sign of the assassins. All was quiet.


Ten minutes later, two young women sat in a covered bus stop, conversing quietly in English. Their knit caps were off, and their body language was reflective of a relaxed evening. The most noticeable difference between them was that one was taller, wore her brown-and-russet hair pulled back in a braid, and spoke with noticeable French inflections. The other was shorter and wore her red hair in a short, pixie-type cut. Her speech reflected one who grew up somewhere in North America. She held a messenger bag in her lap.


As they waited for the bus, three young men walked past the bus stop. One noticed them and called out to the other two, then stopped and leaned against the side of the shed. He spoke in French, but it was poor and thickly-accented.


“Hey, you. What are your names?” He attempted a smile. “Don't be afraid. I'm Hussain. These are my friends.” He indicated the two young men who joined him. They spoke in Arabic among themselves for a moment, but kept their eyes constantly on the two women and positioned themselves so that escape from the bus stop shed was blocked.


“What do they want, Angel?” the red-haired young woman asked.


The taller woman's reply was blunt. “What do you think? Get ready, Laurie.” She stood, fixed the leader of the group with a cold gaze, and addressed him in his native language. “I speak Arabic,” she said. “I know what you said. I know what you want. Get out of here. You don't want to die tonight.”


“And who's going to kill me?” he asked. “You?”




He laughed as he waved his companions forward. They halted when she doubled their leader over with a kick to the groin, then grabbed his head and kneed him in the face. As he collapsed to the sidewalk and writhed in pain, the other two men pulled knives from their pockets. The sound of a shotgun being racked froze them to their spots. Laurie aimed the weapon first at one, then at the other in turn. After a silent moment of indecision, the two men backed off and ran. Laurie watched them go as she slid the gun into her messenger bag. She looked at Angelique with a peculiar, unreadable expression. Angelique noted it and replied in French.


“What, Laurie?” she asked.


“Next time, we take a cab,” Laurie said. “This neighborhood is shit.”


“This whole city is becoming shit,” Angelique agreed. She looked down. On the ground, Hussein was beginning to gather himself together and lift himself from the pavement. She watched him rise to his knees, then lean against the bus stop sign-post. He dumbly contemplated the blood which covered his hands, his chin, and his shirt, then gingerly felt his groin and winced. In Arabic, she told him, “Your nose is broken. Perhaps your balls, too. Also, your friends deserted you.”


He gazed up at her, blinked in confusion, and said, “What are you? French?”


“Does it matter?”


“K uffar bitch,” he shot back. “I'll kill you for what you just did.”


Angelique replied with a deadly stare, then a round-house kick which banged his head against the bus-stop pole. He went limp and collapsed as the metal sign post vibrated with a soft whine. This time, he did not move. Laurie adjusted the messenger bag's strap across her body and joined Angelique as they waited for the bus. As it rolled up, a young French couple joined them. The male pointed at Hussein's limp, unmoving body and asked, “Is he all right?”


“If he is, then I'm losing my touch,” Angelique said.


“Should we call for an ambulance?” he asked.


“Forget him,” Angelique said. “He'll get over it, I think.”


Sacré, ” the young woman said. “This neighborhood is getting bad.”


“Yes,” Laurie said. “I'm told that people are getting shot around here.”


They boarded the bus, found a seat, and settled in for the ride southward. Over a Seine River bridge, past the Notre Dame Cathedral, they would eventually get off the bus and walk within their own neighborhood, the Latin Quarter, located in a section of the city known as “the Left Bank”. Here it was that scholars studied, here it was that writers and artists exercised their creative talents, and here it was that they lived. It was a far cry from the Kansas farm where Laurie had grown up, and an even farther cry from the Israel where Angelique had mastered her deadly skills and perfected the craft of assassination. She had eventually fled her beloved, adopted Israel and returned to her native France, hoping to forever escape war. It was not to be, however. Her traditional enemy, the ones who had long sought to annihilate her and her people, now flooded her birth country by the hundreds of thousands and brought their long-nurtured hatreds and brutal behaviors with them.


Angelique, in her private thoughts, cursed them for that. Then, she found her cell phone and texted a coded message to indicate that she and Laurie had completed their mission and were awaiting verification and payment.






13 Rue d'Espoir, in the Latin Quarter

75005 Paris, France

Autumn, 2015


Dear Mom and Dad:


I'm writing an old-fashioned pen and ink letter and sending it through the mail because it's safer for me to talk to you that way. NSA spends millions to gather electronic stuff, but they can't drop five bucks on a letter opener. Go figure!


First, Angelique (she'll always be ‘Angel' to me) says to tell you ‘hello', and that she's grateful for all the kindness you've shown her. Also, I actually heard from my big sister (do you believe it?) She says that she and Maurie are having fun down in the Greek islands, but they can't see staying there indefinitely. That's Allie for you: she's in heaven, and she wants to do something else. I'm betting that they end up in Israel, as Maurie's daughter and grand-daughter are there. Also, I'm betting that if they've lived together on a sailboat for this length of time and haven't strangled each other yet, they'll be getting married. Want to put money on it? Besides, I know Allie; her internal clock is ticking and Maurie's not getting any younger, so you two better get ready to be grandparents. ‘Maurie and Allie Ben-Shalev' has a ring to it, don't you think? And I know you guys; you'll be delighted to have little Ben-Shalev/Caldwells running around the Kansas farm. One thing's for sure: If they've got Caldwell in ‘em, they'll be good-looking kids. After all, check out me and Allie. Har!


Since we've returned from Atlanta, we're throwing all our energy into preparing Café Angel for re-opening. That terrorist bomb blast did horrible damage, but the structure of the building is still fine and the inside of the bar is almost reconstructed now. Emma (you remember her – the French girl with the arm tattoos and the lock of blue hair?) and I are finishing the cosmetics with lots of sanding, polish, and elbow grease. I've taken a break from French language classes to work on it. That's okay; Emma is constantly drilling me in my grasp of her native lingo as we work (especially the dirty words – there seems to be no end of them in French. I'll have you know that I can cuss with real class now). The hardest part was refinishing the bar, though. As we prepped that marvelous two hundred and fifty year-old wood, we were still taking dried blood off the bar from where Henriette was killed by the bomb. Occasionally, I'll find a hunk of her hair or a piece of her clothing imbedded in the wood and I start crying. When I cry, Emma starts crying, too, and we sit there and weep like a couple of goofy, premenstrual teens. Henriette didn't work here when you guys visited, but she was a total sweetie and we loved her. How come the good die young?


Angel has also beefed up security. There's high-impact glass, metal bars across the front of the bar's window and door, and better electronics. I keep a loaded shotgun behind the bar, and she always has a pistol somewhere close by. Plus, she's expert at Krav Maga (and my teacher, Esther, says that I ain't so bad myself). She also plans to have a periodic practice with Maurice (the bartender and manager – you remember him. The big, pleasant fellow?) and us ‘bar-girls' as to what to do in various attack scenarios. After all, she is an Israeli Jew, and our bar (and Angel, too) has been the object of a couple of attacks now.

Speaking of Angel, she's practicing her voice and piano constantly, getting herself in prime form for the bar's re-opening. She knows that it's her music that draws people into the place, and she is desperate to not disappoint. She's learning new material and getting used to the electronic piano that I got her instead of her baby grand piano that got destroyed. She says that she still doesn't feel comfortable with it, but she's making an effort. I told her that it wouldn't hurt my feelings if she wanted to get another baby grand, but she's such a tightwad about the money these days. I have to force her to buy new socks, even!

I have to wrap this up – my lunch is over and Emma's giving me the evil eye from across the room because she's working and I'm writing. So give my greetings to everyone there. I love you all and miss you. Come visit!

Love, Laurie

Ps. S'il vous plaît dire Laurie à retourner au travail!

Pps. That chicken-scratching was Emma. Never mind what she said. Love you!




Haifa, Israel. That afternoon.

Allie Caldwell plopped down at a sidewalk café table and huffed. “Man,” she said. “Dry land feels pretty good.”

“Are you tiring of the vagabond sailing life?” Maurie asked, as he handed her a bottle of beer.

She pulled her sunglasses down on her nose, considered him as he sat across the table, and couldn't help but smile at Maurie Ben-Shalev, her boyfriend for the better part of a year now. What a guy, she decided. Definitely hot, and that damned suave manner and rakish aura about him got to her on a regular basis. She couldn't stay irritated at him for long, no matter how stressed, tired, smelly, and wet from sea spray she got on those long watches as they sailed from the Greek islands to Israel. “Are you?” she asked.

He roared in laughter. “No answer is an answer,” he said. “Me, too.”

“So what do we do?” Allie asked.

He shrugged. “Sell the boat, then find ourselves another purpose in life.”

“Gotta love retirement, huh?” Allie teased.

“I love the pension,” he said. “And the freedom.”


“But I feel as if there's something else I could – or should – be doing.”

Allie nodded. She understood. After all, she was nearly thirty. Maurie, although he was almost twenty years older, possessed the vigor and physique of a man her own age. Allie took a long drink of her beer, then decided to go for broke. “Do you remember,” she said, “when you asked me to marry you?”

“Yes.” His eyebrow raised in question, and he rested his sunglasses on the table. She had his full attention now.

“Do you remember my answer?” she asked.

“‘Not for a year,' you said. It was a good answer. I know you had a bad marriage once before.”

“And yours?”

“Bad? Maurie said. “Not really. Just lonely, for her. I was always gone. First, the army; then, Mossad. And she never knew when the phone would ring, telling her that I had been killed. It was too much, I suppose.”

“You must have done something right. Your daughter's so cool. So is your grand-daughter.” As he nodded appreciatively, Allie said, “Maurie, I'll marry you on one condition.”

He rested his beer bottle on the table and leaned forward. “I'm listening.”

“The most noble purpose in life, I think, is raising neat kids. Our new purpose will be a family.”

Maurie sat back, stunned. He thought about it for a long, silent moment, during which Allie just sipped her beer and watched him. Then, he studied her with those dark, laughing eyes, and he shot her his famous grin. “Children?” he asked. She nodded. “How many?” he queried. She held up three fingers. He countered with two. She shrugged as if to say, ‘It's negotiable', and returned his grin.

Maurie said, “But I'm a Jew. You're Christian, aren't you?”

Allie rolled her eyes. “My mother likes to think so.”

“Then you're atheist?”

“Deist, more like.”

“What's that?”

“Well, let me put it this way: My idea of original sin is me rolling in the hayloft with my first boyfriend when I was sixteen.”

“And what was so sinful about that?” he asked.

“How clueless we both were,” she replied.

Maurie roared in laughter. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “And your first girlfriend?”

“That was during a sleep-over at her house when I was fifteen.” Allie shrugged. “Hey, with me, it's about the person. The plumbing doesn't matter. I like it all.” She eyed Maurie. “Shocked?”

“Nope,” he said.

“Not even a little? Darn. I was trying to impress you.”

“Allie, I am impressed. You are a total Jezebel. I admire that about you.”

“Yeah, I figured you did. I got you in the sack on our first date in Paris. Hell, there was no way I was letting you get away. So, Maurie, what do you say? Do you still want to get married?”

Maurie's manner turned serious. “Are you sure that this is the future you wish?” he asked.

“With you, it is.”

“Then I accept, on one condition: Our children are raised Jewish.”

“Maurie, old boy, I'll make you an offer you can't refuse. I'll throw me in, too. If you marry me, I'll convert.” Allie laughed. “Man, you're speechless. How's this? My Hebrew name can be ‘Jezebel'. You can explain to the rabbi why it fits me.”

Allie and Maurie exchanged mutual grins across the table. “Jezebel,” Maurie said, “you've got a husband.”

“And you've got a soon-to-be-Jewish wife and three kids.”


“Whatever. I've decided that I really love you, Maurie Ben-Shalev.”

“And I love you, Jezebel. Thanks for the new purpose in life.” They clicked their beer bottles together and toasted the pact with a hearty drink. Then, they settled into silence, each with their own thoughts. After a while, Allie placed a hand on Maurie's forearm.

“What's going on in that gorgeous Sabra head of yours?” she asked.

“Practicality,” he said. “I guess I need a job again. It will be hard to support a wife and two children on my pension.”

“Three,” Allie said. “And what would you do?”

“Once Mossad, always Mossad.” That caused Maurie to smile. “I guess I'd better go have a talk with the Old Man tomorrow. Perhaps he can find me a job.”




Paris, France. Café Angel.

Angelique adjusted the settings on her piano and pulled the microphone closer to her mouth. She struck a few introductory chords, then began humming the melody to an old tune. At the first notes, Maurice looked up from fussing with the espresso machine and smiled. It was his favorite tune, Lili Marlene. “Thank you, Boss,” he called out.

Angelique began singing. The combination of her husky, melodic voice and her piano filled the bar and caused Emma, Laurie, and Maurice to pause their work and listen. After the first few bars, Laurie looked at Emma and smiled. Emma nodded, a sign that she understood the unspoken thought: Café Angel would be back, and better than ever.

Angelique paused in the middle of the second verse, frowned, and asked, “Is this sounding good?” At the chorus of “Oui, oui!” echoed back at her, she shook her head. “I am not so happy with it.”

A voice from the door spoke in Hebrew. “I'm delighted with it, Bat-Ami. Excuse me; Halevy is your name now, is it not?”

Angelique's head jerked up at the mention of her Israeli last name. When she saw the source of the voice, she relaxed and replied in Hebrew. “Ronstein! Shalom! Come in.” She rose from the piano and greeted him with a handshake and a motion to a booth. “What can I offer you?” She shrugged. “The liquor and beer has not yet arrived, I'm afraid.”

“A tragedy. Coffee, then?” he asked. She nodded and called out to Maurice as they sat. A moment later, Laurie and Emma brought two coffees to the booth, along with sugar and milk. Ronstein smiled his thanks, then looked around the bar. “You've made it beautiful again,” he said. “I recall this bar just after the bombing. It was a wreck, a bloody mess.”

Angelique nodded. “Thank God for insurance. Now if only insurance can bring back the people who died that night.”

He nodded. “Indeed. I'm looking forward to your re-opening, but this is not why I visit. I come on behalf of Israel. And France.” That got Angelique's attention. She leaned forward on her elbows and nodded, an indication that he was to continue. Ronstein was now the head of Mossad at the Israeli Embassy in Paris. When he spoke, it was official. “We appreciate your execution of that free-lance contract the other night,” he said. “The payment is in your account.”

Angelique nodded approval. “Thank you.”

“From this, I assume that you would continue to accept free-lance targets?”

“It depends on who, and most important: Why?”

“Of course. You had the same reputation when you were in Kidon, the assassination section. The avenging ‘Angel of Mossad', they called you. Silent, deadly, and deeply ethical.”

“That was long ago,” Angelique said. “I really prefer peace, Ronstein.”

“But peace does not like us, it seems. You are aware of the increase in the number of attacks against Jews both in Israel and in Europe?” Angelique nodded. “In Israel, we hit them back hard. Here, we must allow the French police to deal with terrorist threats.”

“The SDAT is very good,” Angelique said. “Their anti-terrorism unit.”

“Yes, but there are things which they cannot do. French law and bureaucracy interferes. However, they are delighted to cover their eyes if we can do it for them.”

“Exactly what are you talking about?” Angelique asked.

“Our enemies are France's enemies now. The Europeans are discovering what delightful house guests many of their new refugees are. Crime and violence are exploding. Their cities are being trashed. Sexual assault and rape are epidemic. The welfare rolls are breaking their budget. And with the flood of immigrants, many jihadists have entered France. Eight, maybe ten percent of your French population is now Muslim. Within their neighborhoods, jihadists hide, draw support, and eventually will come out to attack everything western – and everything Jewish. French Jews are already fleeing to Israel in record numbers.” He sipped his coffee, then continued his thoughts. “We Israelis have dealt with jihadist mentality for a hundred years now. We understand how brutal and dangerous it is. The French, though? They don't seem to grasp the true danger quite yet. We've tried to warn them, but – ” Ronstein spread his hands wide in a gesture of frustration.

Angelique nodded. “I am French as well as Israeli. I understand the mentality. But what do we do?”

“We take action, Bat-Ami. We show them how it's done. And in the process, not only do we protect the French, but we protect the Jewish community in France, a community which was almost annihilated eighty years ago. We don't need another European Holocaust.”

“What action do we take?”

“Jihadist groups are like a snake: If one chops off the head, the body thrashes about harmlessly.”

“And we Israelis chop off the head? It will take more than me to do it.”

“Exactly. That is why we wish to form a team. Former Mossad agents, all of them. It sits dormant, here in Paris. When an enemy of significance is identified, our team ‘deals with it'. Quiet, efficient, like Kidon is known for doing.” He raised an eyebrow. “Like Angelique Bat-Ami, ‘The Angel of Mossad', was known for doing.” He quickly added, “Before she was declared dead, of course.”

“The Old Man knows of this?”

“His idea,” Ronstein said. “And the prime minister has approved it.”

“Of course. Who comprises this team?” Angelique asked.

“It is to be led by an old friend of yours: Maurie Ben-Shalev.”

Angelique lowered her coffee cup. “He is retired and living in the Greek islands with Laurie's sister. I do not see that changing.”

“No, no. They are returning to France to live.” Ronstein smiled. “It seems that they're getting married, and France is still a good place to raise children. In the country, at least.” He chuckled at the next thought. “She's also converting to Judaism, as I understand it.”

Angelique cast a glance across the bar to where Laurie was working. “Does Laurie know this?”

“Probably not. It's new. You may tell her.”

“Who else is on the team?”

“Besides you, another retired Mossad assassin lives here in Paris.”

“Esther? Is she up to it? She is rather, ah – fragile, mentally.”

“She's strong. I spoke with her. She's willing.”

“I hope you are right, Ronstein. So, that makes four.”

“I count three,” he said.

“Laurie,” Angelique corrected. “She will not sit idly by. She will insist on being part of this.”

“She's not Mossad trained.”

“She's trained by me and Esther. She's becoming proficient in Krav Maga , and she's good with a shotgun. She has been by my side in fights here, in Germany, in Israel, and in America. She has a body count of –” Angelique thought for a second. “Perhaps six, so far.”

Ronstein cast an appreciative glance at Laurie, then back at Angelique. “I defer to your judgement, Bat-Ami. It makes four. You need one more, though.”


“We'll send you someone special. You worked with her in Israel, during the ‘Martyrs' Brigade' fight. She's still active Mossad.”

Angelique puzzled for a moment, then looked up. “Shoshana Klein?”

“Yes. Every team needs a ‘rottweiler', don't you think?”

Angelique laughed. “A meshugga rottweiler; crazy, but good to have at one's side in a fight. She even speaks some French, as I remember. She's a good choice.”

“So, will you do this, Bat-Ami?”

Angelique thought in silence as she sipped her coffee. Finally, she spoke. “Let me discuss this with Laurie. I will call you tomorrow.”

Ronstein smiled his thanks. As he stood, he held out his hand. “ Shalom, ” he said, then turned and left the bar.

Laurie looked up at Angelique. “What was that all about?” she asked, in English.

“Tonight,” was all Angelique said. Laurie nodded. They would talk about it when Angelique was ready with her thoughts. Until then, it was business as usual.




Haifa, Israel. Shavit Marina.

Maurie looked up from his book and smiled at the sight. Across from him, in the central cabin of their sailboat, Allie was curled up in a corner, studying her phone intently, snickering and tapping at the screen. No doubt, he guessed, she's in another of those conversations with her little sister. When she and Laurie begin texting, it gets interesting.

Allie was interesting too, he thought. Right now, totally involved, no make-up, blonde hair loose, reading glasses on her nose, and in shorts, she was, to him, never more lovely than at this moment. They grow some magnificent women in the American Midwest, he thought. She'll make a formidable mother and wife. Maurie, you're a lucky guy. His curiosity also grew about the sisters' text conversation, but he merely returned his attention to his book. He knew that when the conversation was done, Allie would pass him the phone and laugh with him.

Eventually, Allie rose, walked across the cabin, and snuggled against Maurie's side. “Check this out,” she said, then sniffed Maurie. “Phew. You stink, bud,” she added.

“We've worked on the boat all day. I have not yet showered.”

“I guess I stink too, huh?” She lifted an arm and sniffed. “Oh, boy. I should talk.”

Maurie laughed. “Men stink. Women merely acquire a pleasant musk.”

“You're so full of shit,” she said, “but you're chivalrous. I love that. Here, read. I know that you're dying to.” She passed her phone to him. He put down his book and studied the screen, pausing to scroll through the conversation. It read:


Laurie: Hey, big sis! When were you going to tell me the news?

Allie: ??????

Laurie: You and Maurie getting married. WTF? Did you finally get knocked up, you slut?

Allie: Lol! No. At least, not yet. We just decided. Who the f*** told you?

Laurie: Angel heard it from Ronstein. Do Mom and Dad know?

Allie: No. Let me tell them.

Laurie: Sure. You can take the heat. They're going to freak out!

Allie: No heat. They've been wanting grandkids for some time now. Darn sure not getting them from my lesbo little sister.

Laurie: Oh, yuk, yuk! You've been there too, big sis! You deserted for men.

Allie: So sue me. I like d*** and I want kids.

Laurie: That's the difference. I don't much like d*** (except our store-bought one. It rocks!)

Allie: EW! GACK! Too much info! Is it big, or is it white?

Laurie: Har, har! It's kosher. Angel's Jewish, remember?

Allie: Kosher? What, does it wear a yarmulka?

Laurie: Lmao! No. It's been snipped.

Allie: You're one twisted girl. BTW, I'm converting. I'll be Jewish, too.

Laurie: I want to be a fly on the wall for when you tell Mom and Dad that!

Allie: Will they freak out, really?

Laurie: We'll find out. But they'll bless you, too. I know I sure will.

Allie: Thanks, little sis.

Laurie: You and Maurie will make some gorgeous kids.

Allie: You think?

Laurie: Sure. They'll have lots of my genes!

Allie: Hope not. I remember you in high school.

Laurie: Okay, so I was a dork. I admit it.

Allie: A superdork. Braces, skinny, no tits, red hair. Your yearbook nickname was ‘Ronald McDonald'.

Laurie: You always were prettier than me, darn you.

Allie: Not now. You're a total hottie.

Laurie: You think?

Allie: Yeah. Still skinny, no tits ... but a hottie!

Laurie: Thanks, I think. Angel loves me, anyway.

Allie: We all love you, little sis. And stay away from my soon-to-be husband, you hot little tramp.

Laurie: If you stay away from my wife, you slut.

Allie: It's a deal. We'll shake on it when I get to France.

Laurie: When is that?

Allie: Month or so.

Laurie: We'll have the bar opened again by then. Come visit.

Allie: Visit? We were going to move in with you and freeload for a while.

Laurie: Can't. Emma still has the guest room.

Allie: She can bunk with you two. Didn't the French invent the term ‘ménage à trois'?

Laurie: OMG! If I was single, I'd so totally do her.

Allie: So would Angel, I bet. Lol!

Laurie: O_O !?!? Huh?

Allie: More like ( o )( o ) . . . or, in her case, is it (.)(.) ?

Laurie: Hahahaha! Stop it! You're killing me. On that twisted note, I'm signing off. Love you, big sis. Au Revoir!

Allie: Love you too, little sis! Shalom!

Maurie handed the phone back to Allie with a snicker and a twinkle of his eyes. “You and Laurie,” he said. “Did you really expect to stay with them?”

“Nah,” Allie said. “I was just teasing her. We can stay just down the street, in that hotel. You know – ”

Maurie brightened. “The one where you stayed when we first met?”

“Romantic idea, huh?”

“I like the way you think. Speaking of romantic, it's time to shower.”

“Past time.” Allie looked around. “I love this boat, but the shower really sucks.”

“We'll use the marina showers. Not enough fresh water left in the tanks for us to shower here, and I don't want to have to fill them tonight.”

They both rose, gathered their towels and toilet kits, and were soon walking along the wooden dock toward the marina buildings. “Maurie?” Allie said. “I'll be glad to get a place on dry land again.”


“With a shower,” she said. “One where I don't have to bend over inside it and bang my elbows on the sides. A big, wide one with endless hot water.”

“Leisurely, hot showers. I miss that, too.”

“When we get a place in France, I'm guessing that the shower will be the most important feature.”

“Oh?” Maurie cast a quizzical glance at Allie.

“Yeah. Who knows? Maybe it'll be where we conceive all three of our children.”


“Whatever. Maurie, be a mensch , will you?”

“Hey, you're picking up Hebrew. That's good.”

“Isn't that Yiddish?” Allie asked.

“Whatever,” Maurie said.

They halted at the entrance to the showers, and she kissed him on the cheek. “See you back on the boat.” With that, she scurried into the women's showers. Maurie watched her go, then smiled as he entered the men's showers. Yes, he decided; she's quite a gal. I think I'll keep her. He paused at that, then laughed. I hope, he added, that she decides to keep me.




Paris, France.

Laurie glanced up from her place on the couch, and she smiled. Angelique had entered the living room. Her hair was still damp from her shower, and she was dressed in a t-shirt and some boxer shorts. Soon, she would pour each of them a glass of wine, sit next to her, and they would spend a little quiet, quality time together before bed. It had become their ritual when the day's labors were done, and it was a ritual they both had grown to treasure. In anticipation, Laurie clicked off the television news and placed the remote control on the table.

True to form, Angelique nestled down on the couch at Laurie's side and handed her a glass of wine. “Riesling,” she said. “I know that you like it.” After a sly glance at Laurie, she added, “And you look very nice in that.”

Laurie looked down at herself. Her nightgown didn't leave a lot to the imagination. “Thanks. You like the view?”


“That's why I wore it,” Laurie said. “There's something deep on your mind. What is it?”

Angelique cast her a quizzical glance. “You always can tell, yes?”

“Yes. So start talking.”

Angelique sighed, a sign that she was ordering her thoughts. Laurie sat quietly and sipped her wine, waiting for the flood of words which she knew would come. Eventually, they did. Angelique spelled out the conversation she'd had with Ronstein that day as Laurie listened. When the flood of words ended and silence enveloped the room, Angelique looked at Laurie. “What do you think?” she asked.

It was Laurie's turn to pause. She rested her wine glass on the coffee table and turned to face Angelique, crossing her legs in front of her. “Do you want to do this?”

“Yes,” Angelique answered, “and no.”

“But you will do it,” Laurie said. “You will because whenever Mossad asks something of you, you give it, and you give it because you love Israel so much. You've risked your life time and again, whether it was the army or Mossad. And every time you do something for them, they promise to leave you in peace, and they never do. They always come back to you. And now, it's not only for Israel, it's for your native France, too. How can you refuse them?”

“We are at war, Laurie. I cannot refuse.”

“Jews have been at war with Islam for fourteen hundred years, Angel. It'll never stop.”

“And you?” Angelique asked. “Why do you do this with me?”

“You know why,” Laurie said. “I married you. I love you. We're one now. If you fight, I fight.” She studied Angelique's expression and saw the doubt. “How many times have I been by your side now in a fight? Here, Germany, Atlanta, Israel, a few nights ago...”


“Right. My job is to protect you. Your job is to kill bad guys. We make a good team, don't we?”

“We do.”

“But? Come on, Angel. Talk to me.”

“I worry for you. It is dangerous. Perhaps one day – ”

“If it happens, it happens.”

“Laurie...” Angelique touched Laurie's cheek. “I cannot think of being without you.”

“Once, I thought you were dead,” Laurie said. “The loss, the grief – it was almost unbearable. I can't do that again. That's why I'm at your side.”

“You are not afraid?”

“Sure I'm afraid. But I know I'm with the Angel of Mossad. She's never lost. She never will. She's just that lucky.”

“I do not believe in luck. I must be better than my target. And,” she added, “more ruthless.”

“The first time I saw you ruthless,” Laurie said. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“I am sorry to have scared you.”

“Don't be.” Laurie climbed into Angelique's lap and straddled her thighs. She rested her arms around Angelique's neck. “You rescued me. I like that in a girl.”

“I would do it again.”

“I hope. So, you've decided to keep me around, huh?”


“Oh? Why?” Laurie rested her forehead against Angelique's. “Is it because you're crazy about me? Because I'm good in bed? Because I make you laugh?”

“All of that. And because good bar-girls are so hard to find.”

Laurie laughed. “Job security,” she said. “Marry the boss.” She looked at Angelique. “So, are we decided? Are we going to be a part of this thing?”

“You do not have to do this, Laurie, if you do not wish to. It is not your fight.”

“If it's your fight, it's my fight,” Laurie said. She kissed Angelique, then sat back on her heels and studied her intently. “There is one thing that bugs me about all this, though.”

“What is that?”

“Shoshana and Esther are both going to be in this, right?”


“And you've had a history with both of them. This won't be a problem, will it?”

Angelique's eyes twinkled in humor. “Not a problem. My wife is very good with a shotgun. There will be no, how-do-you-say?”

“Hanky-panky?” Laurie prompted.

Oui. That.”

“Dern tootin'. You want hanky-panky, you just come to me. I'll give you all of it that you can handle.” As if to prove her statement, Laurie kissed Angelique deeply. In the midst of the kiss, her cell phone began chiming. She broke the kiss and glanced at the phone. “Damn,” she said. “Who the hell?” She tapped at the screen, raised an eyebrow in question, and held the phone between them. “Emma,” she said, and began speaking French. “Where are you? Is everything well?”

“Yes, yes,” Emma said. “I'm coming home. May I bring a guest upstairs for the night?”

Laurie snickered. “You bad girl. Have you got Harry Potter with you again?”

It was Emma's turn to laugh. “Yes. Matthieu is here.”

A male voice sounded through the phone. “Laurie, Salut! And yes, it's Matthieu. Were you expecting someone else, perhaps?”

“Thank you, Laurie,” Emma said. “Now Matthieu will be wondering if I bring others upstairs.”

Angelique stifled a laugh. “Emma,” she said, “tell Matthieu that we chase away all your other suitors. We only approve of university physics students who look like Harry Potter. Of course it's fine.”

“Good, then. We'll be there in a few minutes. Thank you.”

Laurie grinned. “Thank you, Matthieu. If Emma doesn't get to sleep with you every few days, she gets bitchy at work.”

The phone echoed Emma's shriek and Matthieu's laughter. “I'm glad to be of service,” he said. “We'll see you shortly.”

Laurie ended the call, picked up her wine glass, and clicked it against Angelique's. “Drink up,” she said. “That's our cue to make ourselves scarce, I guess. The kids are coming home.”

Angelique considered the idea, then shook her head. “Get two more glasses and the wine bottle,” she suggested.

“Yeah,” Laurie agreed. “I like the way you think.” Laurie untangled herself from Angelique and rose. As she headed into the kitchen, she saw Angelique rise and walk toward the bedroom. “Where are you going?” she called out.

“To get your robe for you,” Angelique said.

Laurie paused and looked down at herself. “Oh,” she mumbled. “Yeah. We wouldn't want Harry Potter to find out that I'm a natural redhead, would we?”




13 Rue d'Espoir, 75005 Paris, France

November, 2015

Dear Mom and Dad,

Sorry I haven't written sooner, but we're really busy getting ready to re-open Café Angel. Angel, Maurice, Emma, and I are busting tail to make everything perfect. We're even putting advertising flyers around the streets, as most of our regular customers are locals. A lot of people have stopped by to admire our work, and our new Café Angel website is bursting with excited comments. I'm expecting a grand (re)opening night.

Also, Emma and her boyfriend Matthieu (Harry Potter, remember?) have moved in together! There was a little apartment for sale in this building, but they don't have any money, so Angelique (bless her) coughed up the Euros to buy it, and she's renting it to them super-cheap. I guess that makes us slumlords now, huh? I tease Emma that she's ‘keeping' a boy-toy, but she says it's an investment. After all, when Harry – excuse me, Matthieu – finishes university, he'll make good as a scientist. Angel just says that now there's no excuse for Emma to be late to work anymore. She always says that with a smile, though, so I know that she really did it because she's a softy.

Anyhow, one guest out, two in! Allie and Maurie are bunking in whenever they visit from their little farm outside the city (a neat place, about an hour into the country). It's so good to have Allie close again. I really miss her when she's not around. And no, she's not knocked up yet. She wants to wait until she's formally converted. She's taking classes and meeting with the rabbi regularly and studying hard, so she thinks it'll be maybe first part of next year that you'll officially have a Jewish daughter. Wow!

I know, with all the jihadist craziness going on here in Europe now, that you two are worried about us. Please don't be. Café Angel and our apartment upstairs is like a fortress (thanks to Angel's security additions) and we don't have any banlieue (Muslim neighborhoods) too near us, so we're not worried about being attacked again. And the local police said that they'd put some folks around us during opening night, just in case. It's all good.

It's time to go to work. I'll finish this tomorrow. Love, Laurie.

Next day.

I'm still in shock. Six attacks on Paris, all in the same night and within hours of each other. Several were on bars and cafés just like ours. The attack on the Bataclan Theater was worst, though. So many slaughtered. The news is saying maybe as many as 130 dead, three times that number injured across Paris. No attacks were near us. I know that you're worried. Please don't be. We're safe, and Allie lives out of town.

Angelique was hit hard by the news. She's even now sitting at the bar, watching the TV. She doesn't let on, but I know that she's really pissed off about this. She's fought these people before. She knows how psycho they are.

Well, the liquor delivery is completed and Angel's not getting any practice done, so we'll lock the door. Opening is two weeks away, give or take; I'm excited about it. Angel is worried about whether she's prepared enough, but I think that she's in prime form for opening night. She'll rock the house!

I'll write more soon. I have to stamp this and drop it in the post-box. Later!

Love, Laurie

Ps. Emma, Angel, and Maurice all say ‘Hi!'. Allie says, “No, I'm not pregnant yet, so stop asking.”




“Laurie, we must talk.”

Laurie turned toward Angelique in the darkness and scooted closer to her. “Only if you hold me while we do.” Angelique's arms drew her close, and Laurie purred. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “This is why we don't wear pajamas.” She ran a hand along the smooth skin of Angelique's thigh. “So, hot stuff. What's up?”

“Perhaps you know already.”

“The news, right? The terrorist attacks?” She felt Angelique's nod. “I thought so.”

“I spoke to Ronstein at the embassy.”

“I know,” Laurie whispered. “I heard you speaking Hebrew to someone on the phone. I figured it was either him or Maurie. It's a job, right?” The darkened room fell silent. When Angelique didn't speak, Laurie finished her thought. “So, when does it happen?”

“Tomorrow. I must go away for several days.”

“Just you? Not me, too?”

“This time, only me.” Angelique kissed Laurie's forehead. “You must see to the bar for me, make certain that we are ready to open.” She pressed Laurie to her. “You will do this for us?”

Laurie sighed. “You know I will. That's not the real reason though, is it? You're scared that I'll get hurt.”

After a moment's silence, Angelique said, “That, also.” She felt Laurie stiffen. “You are angry?”

Laurie lifted her head and shifted her body so that she was above Angelique's face. “Angry? No. Disappointed? Yes. Angel, I've been with you before. Why not now?”

“It is not my choice to make,” she said. “Please, stay and protect our home and our bar. I trust only you to do this.”

“Damn it, Angel. Who's going to watch your back if I'm not there?”

“Esther and Shoshana will be there. Maurie, also.”

“Okay, they're great. But Angel, I won't be there.”

“You will be here. Also, your sister and Claire will stay here while we are gone.”

“Claire? As in Esther's girlfriend?”

“Yes. Protect them both, please. I ask this of you. For me?”

For a time, Laurie studied Angelique, dim in the night, as she traced her fingers along the contours of her face and smoothed away her hair. “Well,” she finally said, “since you put it that way...” She could see Angelique smile. “Be careful, will you? I can't bear to think of anything bad happening to you.”

“I will come home again to you.”

“You'd better.” Laurie forced a smile. “Well, if you're going to be gone for a few days, I guess I'd better give you something to remember me by, huh?”

“A gift?”

“Oh, yeah. You could say that.” With that, Laurie kissed Angelique deeply, passionately, as she rolled on top of her. No more words were spoken.


The next morning, Emma let herself into the bar with her key. Maurice had not yet arrived, so she stashed her coat and busied herself with the coffee machine. It wasn't long before she heard footsteps on the back stairway. Angelique and Laurie were coming downstairs from their apartment. She called out, “I'm making coffee now. Just a few minutes.” When she turned, she noted Angelique carrying a jacket and a rucksack. “Oh!” she said. “You're going somewhere?”

Angelique nodded silently. Laurie said, “She's got business out of town. Emma, we'll be having guests this morning. I need pastries from the bakery down the street. Will you walk with me?”

“Of course.” Emma grabbed her coat. As she donned it, she saw Laurie place a hand on Angelique's arm and speak to her. The words, she didn't quite catch. The gesture was an odd one; tentative, unhappy, and yet affectionate, all at the same time.

They stepped into the street and closed the door behind them. As they walked, Emma heard the click of the lock being set. Angelique, she decided, seemed even more preoccupied than usual with security this morning. She slipped an arm through Laurie's, walked close to her, and said, “What's the matter? Did you two have a fight?”

“Not in so many words,” Laurie said. “It's nothing, really.”

“I don't believe you,” Emma said. “I can feel something. Can I help? Where is Angelique going?” Another thought struck her, and she gasped at it. “Oh, Mon Dieu! She is coming back, isn't she?”

“She has some business out of town,” Laurie said. “I can't talk about it. It's very – ah, private.”

Emma squeezed Laurie's arm. “She's not having an affair, is she?”

Laurie smiled. “No.”

“Who's coming this morning?”

“Some friends of ours. Israelis.”

“Those in the picture? You know, the picture behind the bar?”

Laurie recalled the picture, hung among photographs of various celebrities who'd visited the bar in years past, of a very young Angelique sitting with two acquaintances. All three were clothed in Israeli army uniforms. They occupied a low stone wall with the Mediterranean sea prominent in the distant background. On Angelique's lap, a sniper's rifle rested, and on her arm, one could see the three diagonal stripes of a newly-minted sergeant. A red beret was stuffed beneath her shoulder tab, a sign of membership in an elite combat unit which complimented the parachute wings over her chest pocket. Angelique Bat-Ami – now Angelique Halevy – sniper, sergeant in the IDF, protector of her people, defender of an ancient homeland. Laurie had hoped that Angelique could leave war behind her. Fat chance of that, she decided.

“Yes,” Laurie said. “They will be here.”

“Does this have to do with the attacks?” Emma asked. “You know, the Bataclan?”

“I can't say,” Laurie said. “Enough, now. Here's the bakery. Let's get some good breakfast, yes?”

“You must be worried.”

They stopped in front of the shop. “I am worried,” Laurie said. “But worrying doesn't change anything.”

Emma squeezed Laurie's arm in a gesture of understanding. She wouldn't ask any more questions. “Okay,” she said. “If you say. But if you need to talk, you come to me, yes? I am a good listener.”

Laurie grasped Emma's hand. “Thank you,” she said.

With her free hand, Emma pulled open the shop's door. As they entered, they both inhaled the delightful smells of a bakery in the morning. “How much did Angel give you to spend in here?” she asked.

Laurie snickered evilly as she held up a credit card. “Let's just buy the store.” For that thought, she was rewarded with a delighted squeal from Emma.




A taxi halted in front of Café Angel, depositing a lone female and her bag on the sidewalk. As the taxi pulled away from her, she glanced around the street, then focused on the bar. For a minute, she stood still, as if carefully assessing her surroundings, then tried the door. It was locked. She pressed the buzzer. When Maurice opened it, he found before him a woman in her late twenties or early thirties with dark, shaggy hair, dark eyes, and a perceptive, sharp gaze. “Oui?” he asked.

“Angelique?” she replied. A moment later, she was in the bar, the door closed behind her.

Laurie rushed across the bar and embraced her. “Welcome to Paris,” she said. “Angel's upstairs. Did you have a good trip?” In reply, the newcomer merely shrugged. “Everybody, this is Shoshana Klein, from Israel. She's an old friend of ours.” That got her pleasant nods and greetings from Maurice and Emma. “Do you need to wash up and rest? Follow me upstairs.”

Maurice leaned on his elbows on the bar and watched Laurie escort Shoshana up the back stairs and into the apartment. When the door closed, he looked at Emma. “What do you think of her?” he said.

She puzzled over it, then spoke. “Nice-looking, but there's something rather hard about her.”

“I'll bet that she's Mossad.”

Emma's eyes widened. “Mossad? What is she doing here?”

“Payback, I'm guessing.” Maurice smiled mysteriously as he tended the coffee machine. “Ah. Someone else at the door,” he noted. “Would you, Emma?”

She unlocked the lock and cracked the door open. Through the slit, she noted a familiar face: Maurie. She'd met him often. She opened the door and stood aside, and he waved three women into the bar, then followed. “ Bonjour ,” he said. “Allow me to introduce everyone. Maurice, Emma, you know Laurie's sister, Allie.” He gestured toward her, then toward a woman in her late twenties with short, spiky blonde hair and very blue eyes. “This is Esther and her friend Claire.” A woman with a gentle demeanor and brown hair and eyeglasses nodded as she clung to Esther's arm.

“I remember you all,” Maurice said. “Sit. Coffee and breakfast are on the table. Angel and Laurie are upstairs with, ah – ” He gestured in frustration.

“Shoshana,” Emma said. “She just arrived.”

Maurie seemed pleased with the news. “We're all here, then. Well, let's eat.”

Allie headed for the stairs to the apartment. “I'll let them know.” She trotted up the stairs and rang the buzzer. When Laurie opened the door, mutual squeals of delight echoed throughout the bar, and Allie got dragged into the apartment.

Esther looked at Maurie. “Are they like this every time they meet?” she asked.

“Worse,” he said.

Esther patted Maurie's shoulder in sympathy as Claire said, “Sisters who actually like each other. I think it's delightful.”




During breakfast, the common language was English. The jokes flew, the laughter resounded, and old friends caught each other up on the latest events in their lives. After coffees were refilled, Maurie said, “I suppose it's time to get down to business.”

“That's our cue,” Laurie said. “Claire, Allie? I'll help you upstairs with your bags.”

All three understood; what was about to be discussed was private and classified. Maurice and Emma donned their coats and left, as well. Only then did Maurie speak – this time, in Hebrew – as he looked around the table at Angelique, Esther, and Shoshana.

“Bruno, from the French SDAT – their anti-terrorism unit – will be here to brief us on our mission and be our French connection, so to speak. First things first: I know that we'll worry less about the people closest to us if they're all together and here while we're gone. Laurie is armed and will protect them, and this place is a fortress, thanks to Angel.”

Shoshana looked at Angelique. “Then Laurie's not going? How did you pull that one off, Angel?”

“I asked her to protect the others and our home. She can do it. She is very good.”

“My decision,” Maurie said. “I didn't want an American involved in this. If it goes bad and we're identified – ”

“Bad enough that we're all Israeli,” Esther said. “If that comes out – ” She got nods of agreement from the others at the table.

“Then we'll just have to succeed,” Maurie said. “We're all experienced past members of Kidon . For us, it's easy money, right?”

“Speaking of money...” Esther said.

“Ah, yes. We do get paid.” Maurie looked up. “I think Bruno's at the door.”

After the breakfast plates were cleared away, Bruno opened a folder and began placing photographs and maps on the table. As he didn't speak Hebrew, and Esther and Shoshana were mediocre in their understanding of French, English became the common language. “Here's our targets,” he said. “A cell of jihadists located here, in this banlieue – this suburb of Paris. They supplied some of the people and support for the recent attacks. Four leaders of violent jihad.” He pointed to the pictures, each in turn. “Bomb-maker. Arms supplier. Vehicle supplier. And this one is an imam of a mosque. He is a radical, and preaches it. They attend his mosque.”

“Do you have eyes on them now?” Maurie asked.

“Yes. SDAT is watching them all. We know their routines.” Bruno looked around the table. “I notice that your team is all female except you, Maurie. Why?”

“They're experienced assassins. They can wear Islamic female clothing, which hides weapons and identities easily. And these jihadists are quite superstitious; many believe that if they're killed by a woman, they won't enter Paradise.”

“Ah,” Bruno said. “The fear factor. When word gets around that women are killing their leaders – ”

“Exactly,” Maurie said. “So how do we get close to them?”

“They meet daily for tea at a small shop. Our agent will take you there. You –” Bruno indicated the three females – “will be wearing hijab . Maurie, I see you haven't shaved in a few days. That's good. With a skull cap, you'll appear Muslim. I'm sure that you've played Muslim before, in Israel.” Maurie affirmed that with a nod. “Good. You and your team will enter the shop when our lookout gives the word. The four men we want dead will occupy a table at the back of the shop. Same table, always. Usually, there's one or two men behind the counter, running the shop. Don't kill the shop-keepers unless you have to, right?”

“How do we leave afterward?” Angelique asked.

“The same van that brings you there will take you out of Paris. Your team will lay low at Maurie's farm for a while, then return to the city when things cool down.” Bruno cast a glance at the faces gathered around the table. “Are we good?” He seemed satisfied with the chorus of nodding heads. “Well, then. First stop, the Israeli embassy. Mossad will arm and qualify you with your weapons. Considering the esteemed company I'm in, that shouldn't be a problem.”




That evening, Laurie, Allie, and Claire sat in a back booth in the closed and shuttered bar, chatting while they dined on take-out Chinese food. As Laurie popped the cork on a second bottle of wine, Claire laughed. “We girls can get drunk tonight, can't we?”

“And gossip about our lovers,” Laurie added, “since they aren't here.”

“Ooh,” Claire said. “Secrets. I love that.” She looked at Allie. “So, when are you getting married?”

“Supposedly, after I convert,” Allie said.

Laurie looked at her sister with an ‘I detect baloney' expression. “Supposedly? What's that mean?”

Allie grinned. “That means,” she said, “that we've already gotten married. A civil ceremony.”

“Here, in France?” Claire asked. “That's hard for foreigners to do, no?”

“In Gibralter,” Allie said. “Easy peasy. It's the Vegas of the Mediterranean. Twenty-four hours, and bam! You're married.” Allie glanced at Laurie, and her expression became one of puzzlement. “Sis,” she asked, “what's up with you?”

Laurie said, “Have you told Mom and Dad yet?”

“Not yet,” Allie said.

“Why not?”

Allie shrugged. “I'm – hesitant, just yet.”

Claire placed a hand on Allie's arm. “You are afraid of them? How they will feel?”


Laurie shook her head. “You worry too much. They'll be happy.”

“You think?” Allie asked.

“Absolutely. They've been trying to marry you off for years. We'll Skype Mom tomorrow. And yeah, we gossip about you when we talk.”

“You do?” Allie's eyes widened as Claire allowed herself a delightful giggle.

“Yeah. Mom wants grandkids, so you better start pumping ‘em out, big sis. After all, you're almost thirty.”

Allie looked at Claire. She noted the amused expression. “You're having a lot of fun with this, aren't you?”

Claire nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, of course. Let's have more wine.”

Now that,” Laurie agreed, “is the best idea I've heard all night.” She emitted a baritone belch. “Except for the Chinese food, of course.”

“I wonder if our honeys are having fun,” Allie said, “since we're not around them to keep them behaving properly.”

At that thought, all three faces assumed a somber expression. “I'm worried,” Claire admitted. “Are you?” She looked at Allie and Laurie, who both nodded. “How do you deal with it?” Claire asked.

“Yeah, Laurie,” Allie said. “You're the most experienced at this. How do you deal with Angel being out there – you know, killing people?”

Laurie downed part of her glass of wine. Then, she spoke as she tapped the loaded shotgun by her side. “Usually, I deal with it by going with her and watching her back. This time, I can't. I really do feel helpless.”

Claire gasped. “You have been with her when she has done this?”

“Yeah,” Laurie said. “It's gotten hairy a few times, but I was always glad to be guarding Angel.”

“And you have killed people?” Claire asked.

“Maybe half a dozen, on different jobs.” Laurie noted Claire's shock. “I'd kill a hundred to protect Angel.”

“I killed a man,” Allie said, “in Israel. Sometimes I still see it in my dreams. I'd do it again, though, in a heartbeat.” Allie considered her wine glass as she spoke. “He wanted to rape me, you see. I couldn't allow that, could I?”

“Who was he?” Laurie asked.

“I don't know his name,” Allie said. “Some Eternal Martyr's Brigade asshole. He came into the room where they were holding me and pointed his gun at me. He backed me into a corner. Then, he stuck his hand under my shirt and grabbed my boob, and I buried my pocket-knife in his neck. Must have hit a carotid artery. There was blood everywhere. I still can feel that hot blood splatter me. I can still smell it. I'll never forget it. I escaped right after that.”

“Martyr's Brigade? I killed two of those suckers,” Laurie said. “One was wearing an Elvis tee-shirt. I still see that in my dreams. Elvis! Of all the damned things to be on a jihadist's tee-shirt.” Laurie snickered. “And that's what I see at night. Elvis, with part of his head missing from a shotgun round.” She picked up the wine bottle and refilled all three glasses. “I can only imagine what Angel and Maurie and Esther see at night.”

“Sometimes, Esther weeps at night,” Claire confessed. “All I can do is hold her. She is almost like a child, the way she clings to me at those times.”

“Ditto with Angel,” Laurie said. “Although it's less now than before, thank God.”

“Maurie just gets really quiet and withdrawn sometimes,” Allie said. “He won't talk about it.” She shrugged as she picked up her wine glass. “It's a guy thing, I guess. I just let him know I'm there for him.”

“Angel got really bad for a while,” Laurie said. “She'd wake up in a cold sweat. Wouldn't see a shrink. Wouldn't see her rabbi. I insisted that she talk to me. Finally, she did. What she told me horrified me, but the talking seemed to help her resolve whatever was going on.”

“I do that with Esther,” Claire said. “She tells everyone that she's okay, but I know that she's not well.”

Laurie raised an eyebrow at that statement. “Esther is tough. She'll do fine. You have to trust in her.” She raised her wine glass. “Now let's drink too much and act silly. We haven't done that lately. We're due.”




The next afternoon. A suburb north-east of Paris.

“We're entering the banlieue . It's a no-go zone for anybody but Muslims from here on out. Keep covered and keep in character, right? And watch out for the Sharia police.” Ali al-Barqa, French SDAT agent, returned his attention to the road as he drove the van. Maurie, sitting in the front passenger seat, watched as Angelique, Esther, and Shoshana adjusted their hijabs and covered their faces, leaving only their eyes visible.

“Weapons check,” Maurie said. “Lock and load.” Weapons clicked in the back seats, silencers were tightened onto barrels, and all indicated readiness. “Radio check,” he said, as he placed a finger on the Bluetooth device in his ear. Three heads nodded in reply. Maurie turned to Ali. “How far now?”

“Next block.”

Maurie touched his earpiece. “Team is almost in position. Are we good to go?” he asked. He listened, then turned to his team. “They're inside, usual table. No other customers. We're good to go.” Then, he turned and faced forward. Nothing else needed to be said.

The van pulled up to the curb in front of a store-front with Arabic lettering over the door. Angelique recognized it as a nondescript little café offering halal food. The van's side door slid back, and the three women followed behind Maurie. He assumed a posture of nonchalant confidence and walked into the store, past a few pedestrians on the street garbed mostly in Middle Eastern clothing. He did not hold the door for the women; that was a distinctly Western custom. Here, they were expected to follow behind him silently and fend for themselves.

As they entered, Angelique noted everything. It was pretty much the way the photographs depicted; a counter, some tables, walls crammed with tins and packages of ethnic products, and a television on with an Arabic language channel playing. One of the men behind the counter nodded a greeting, then cast a cold glance at the three women as Maurie gave a pleasant greeting in Arabic. The three women gathered behind him, then began advancing toward the back of the narrow café. When a counter man objected to the presence of women in his shop, Maurie raised a pistol and pointed it in his face with a gesture indicating that he should be silent. A moment later, loud pops of silenced pistols announced an assassination in progress. When one of the counter men began screaming in rapid Arabic, Maurie shot him in the forehead. He dropped like a stone. The other counter man raised his hands in the air, and Maurie said something to him. The man complied, and placed his cell phone on the counter. The handle of Maurie's pistol smashed it as several more pops sounded from the back of the café. The head shots had been delivered; the kill was finished. Now, escape became the priority.

The three hijab -covered women quickly filed out of the store. Maurie was the last to leave; he ordered the man onto the floor, then casually walked out of the café and entered the van. A moment later, it departed.

The café employee hurried into the street, but he could not see a licence plate on the distant van. It was moving too rapidly. He ran back into the store and found his companion's cell phone. With shaking hands, attempted to dial for help as he stared in horror at the four bodies sprawled in ever-widening puddles of blood where, moments before, they were having a quiet conversation and enjoying tea.




Laurie, Allie, and Claire had finished their dinner, cleaned up the trash, and moved upstairs. They lounged in pajamas around the living area coffee table, indulging in glasses of wine and giggling like schoolgirls. Laurie looked around the apartment, then rose.

“Grab another bottle while you're up, little sis,” Allie called. “Where are you going? You pee too much.”

“I'm going to double-check the locks and security,” she said, as she picked up her short-barreled shotgun. “I'm you guys' bodyguard until our people get back.”

“I feel safe, at least,” Claire said, as Laurie padded around the apartment, checking locks, studying the security video screen, and peeking through a curtain at the street below.

“I just feel drunk,” Allie said. “Hey, can I still get drunk when I'm Jewish?” she asked.

Claire laughed as Laurie replied, “Not when you're pregnant.” She unlocked the door to the bar below. “I'm going to check on the bar. Be right back.” With that, she trotted down the stairs.

“Can I at least be drunk during the conception?” Allie asked no one in particular.

“Don't worry that you can't drink when you're pregnant, Allie,” Claire said. “When you become a mother, you will make up for it.”

“You think?” Allie tilted her head in question at that statement.

“Yes, yes.” Claire held up her glass to emphasize her next thought. “My mother, she says that we children made her drink.”

“Kids do that to their parents?”

In reply, Claire shrugged. “At least, my mother says so. Does your mother drink?”

“Come to think of it, yeah. She enjoys her sherry.”

“There, you see?”

Allie studied her wine glass. “Damn,” she said. “Was I that bad a kid?”

Laurie closed the door to the bar behind her. “No,” she said, as she locked the door. “I was that bad a kid. Everything looks cool. We're locked up tight. Let's drink too much and act stupid.”

“Ooh,” Claire said. “My favorite thing to do. I like being here.” She pouted at her next thought as she refilled her wine glass. “I wish our lovers were here, too.”

Laurie sat on the floor and rested the shotgun by her leg. “I know,” she said. “I miss my honey. Can't sleep without her, anymore.”

“It's also that way with Esther and me,” Claire said. “We sleep very close.”

“That's romantic, I think,” Allie said.

“We have to,” Claire explained. “The bed is small.”

Allie snickered. “I'll sleep with you, little sis, if you want.”

“I love you, big sis,” Laurie grumbled, “but it's not the same thing. And I'm not sleeping with you naked.”

“Yeah,” Allie said. “And I can't talk dirty to you in French.” She looked at Claire. “You can, though.”

That got a whoop of surprise from Claire. “You are so bad,” she said. “And I only ‘talk dirty', as you say, in English anymore.” She shrugged. “My Esther is learning, but she cannot speak decent French yet.”

“But can she kiss that way?” Allie asked.

Laurie snorted in laughter. Allie grinned as she waited for an answer, and Claire's cheeks turned a delightful shade of scarlet. That was answer enough.




A farm, an hour's drive from Paris.

“Clear all of your weapons. Debriefing time,” Maurie said. “Let's go to the house.” They turned off the engine of the van and piled out of it. As they left the barn, Maurie closed and locked the barn door behind them. In a moment, they were in the kitchen of the farmhouse, weapons cleared, and they sat at the kitchen table. Maurie threw a cloth across the table, and they began disassembling their weapons and seeing to the cleaning of them as he spoke.

“We did well. In and out in perhaps sixty seconds. We weren't followed. All targets were dealt with. Good job. I'll inform SDAT of our success.”

“When do we get paid?” Esther asked.

“The Old Man will authorize it today, I'm sure. Check your accounts tomorrow.” He raised an eyebrow in question as he studied Esther. “Short on cash, are we?”

Esther shrugged as she sprayed oil on her pistol slide. “The money I got for the Berlin job is running low. I don't want to burden Claire.”

“I don't give a shit about the money,” Shoshana said. “But it's nice to have anyway.”

“Then why do you do this?” Esther asked.

“I'm Mossad,” Shoshana replied. “It's what I do.” She became more pensive as she added, “I don't really know anything else, you see.” The table fell silent at that, as the occupants concentrated on their own thoughts and the cleaning of their weapons. After a minute, Shoshana added, “I'm on probation with Mossad, you know.”

“Why?” Esther asked.

“I'm a druggie. I mean, I'm clean now, but...”

“You did great today,” Maurie offered. “I'll tell The Old Man that when we speak.”

“I'll screw up again,” Shoshana said. “It's only a matter of time. He knows it.”

Angelique finally spoke, and the activity at the table paused as the others listened. “Your problem,” she said, “is that you keep getting hurt. Whenever you do, you get addicted to the painkillers, and they have to dry you out. How many times have you been shot now?”

“Four, at least,” Shoshana said, “and blown up once.” She tapped a healed scar on the side of her head, near her hairline.

“See? I mean, look at your body. How much more can you take?”

Shoshana pulled the shoulder strap of her tank-top aside. Along her shoulder and arm, a series of vicious, healed scars wound across her olive skin. She lifted the hem of her top and pulled the waist-band of her jeans down a little. Another scar crossed her abdomen below her navel. “My hip and my back, too,” she said. “I must be magnetic. I attract metal.”

“It had to hurt like hell. No wonder you get addicted to that stuff those doctors give you.”

“It did hurt. It still hurts sometimes.”

Angelique considered her old friend with a gentle glance. “If you keep it up, you'll die, you know.”

“Then I die,” Shoshana said. “It's war, isn't it? Soldiers die, don't they?”

“There is more to life than Mossad,” Angelique said. “Laurie taught me that.”

“Strange words, coming from a professional assassin,” Maurie teased.

“Laurie. Now there's a good woman,” Shoshana said. “I envy you her.”

It was Angelique's turn to pause in the cleaning of her pistol. She thought for a second, then nodded. “Why she stays with me, I do not know.”

“Because you're you, Bat-Ami,” Esther teased.

Angelique's answer was not in words. She merely glanced up and smiled a thank-you, first to Esther, then to Shoshana, who grinned.

“She's crazy about you,” Shoshana said. “Don't ask why; just accept.”

“Shoshana, giving relationship advice?” Maurie said. “Now we've seen it all.”

“Maurie, speaking of romance?” Esther teased. “ Oi! I think he's in love.”

“He'd better be,” Angelique said. “He's getting married to my sister-in-law.”

“So it's really true?” Shoshana asked. “Maurie, the lady-killer, getting married? Just what is it about American girls that the two of you find so irresistible? I'll have to get me one.”

“Maybe the Old Man will post you to America,” Maurie said. “There's plenty of them there, I'm told.”

“Have Laurie and Allie got any sisters?” Shoshana asked.

“No,” Angelique said.

“Brothers? I'm an equal opportunity reprobate.”

Angelique snickered. “No brothers.”

“Damn.” Shoshana thought for a moment, then said, “I like cougars. How about their mother? Is she hot?”

“Yes,” Angelique said. “ Belle . Cute. Farm girls never age. It is the fresh air, I think.”

“Ah. Is she married?”


“Older and still very cute, but married,” Shoshana mused. “Okay, I can work with that.”




13 Rue d'Espoir, Paris.

The night seemed empty to Laurie, oppressive. She sighed in surrender as she contemplated the empty bed surrounding her. Eventually, she rose and slipped a flannel night-gown over her head. After it settled over her body, she eased her bedroom door open and tiptoed into the living area. She didn't get far before a voice asked, “You cannot sleep, either?”

Laurie squinted toward the couch. Claire was sitting up, clutching a pillow to her chest. “No,” Laurie said. “Want some wine?”

“Why not?” Claire said. “Maybe it will help me sleep.”

A few moments later, Laurie sat on the couch beside Claire and handed her a glass. As they sipped their wine, Laurie looked at Claire. “English or French?” she asked.

“English is fine,” Claire said.

Laurie laughed. “My French is that bad, huh?”

“No, no,” Claire said. “It is very good. Your accent is thick, though.”

“Maurice says that I speak French like a girl from Kansas,” Laurie mused.

“You do.” At Laurie's glance, she quickly added, “But I like it. It's how-do-you-say? Cute, the way you say things.”

“That's me,” Laurie said. “Cute.” Her cell phone's soft ring interrupted her train of thought. She pulled it from the nightgown's pocket and tapped the screen. “It's Angel,” she said. “They're coming home tomorrow afternoon.”

“Well,” Claire said. “I suppose that they got away with it, then.”

“I suppose,” Laurie echoed. “Although I didn't see anything on the news about it.” She studied Claire for a moment, then asked, “You don't agree with what Esther is doing, do you?”

“No.” Claire smiled, a sad little smile, as she spoke. “But I understand why. She's Israeli. They're fierce in their love of their country, like your Angel. But it's still killing people.”

“Those are bad people,” Laurie said.

“I can't understand that. Perhaps if I had killed – like Esther, like Angel, like Maurie, like you – then I would understand.”

“I hope you never have to understand.”

“How does one kill and live with it?” Claire asked.

Laurie thought about it as she sipped her wine. After a moment, she said, “Some people just need killing. Jihadists, for one. Angel calls them the rabid dogs of humanity. Others – the truly good – need protecting. People like you.”

“You think I'm good?”

Laurie smiled. “Yeah. I do.”

“You would protect me?”

“In an instant. So would Esther.”

“I like that about Esther. I feel safe with her.” After a moment's silence, she added, “I saw her fight a man once. She was ferocious. She almost killed him.” Another confession, softer, followed. “It's very scary out there, the city. I can't sleep because of it, sometimes.”

“It's because you have a gentle soul,” Laurie said. She considered Claire. “Are you scared now? Is that why you can't sleep?”

“Yes. Esther is not here, you see.”

“I'm here.” Laurie crossed her legs on the couch and dropped Claire's pillow in her lap. “Lay down and sleep. I'll be up for a while.”

“It is okay?” At Laurie's reassuring nod, she pulled the blanket across her and lay down with her head in Laurie's lap. “You are kind,” she said. “Thank you.”

Laurie rested a hand on the blanket over Claire's shoulder. “Sleep tight.”

Claire's voice became a whisper. “It's just that when I'm alone – ”

“Yeah,” Laurie replied. “Me, too.”

The room descended into silence as Laurie was left with her wine and her thoughts. Some people just need killing, she mused. A few years ago, she wouldn't have said that. Now, she can. When people fall in love and settle down together, they rub off on each other. She thought that she'd rub off on Angelique. It would seem, she decided, that her lover has rubbed off on her more. How Angelique keeps her personal demons in check, Laurie couldn't fathom. They must be deep. To have watched her sister mutilated in a Jerusalem bus bombing, to have held her as she took her last breath, it must have been a profound experience. No wonder she took the life's path that she did. Revenge? Righteous anger? No. Angelique would say it was justice, pure and simple. If one is kind to the wolf, then one is cruel to the sheep. Kill the wolves and protect the sheep. Sometimes, it really is that simple, isn't it? Growing up as a farm girl, Laurie had shot four-legged varmints all the time. She's just graduated to killing two-legged ones, she decided.

Laurie clicked the television on and turned the sound down low. She flipped through a few channels, then stopped on a black-and-white movie. Some time later, she awoke to a hand tapping her arm. “Huh?”

“Laurie? You are tired. Go to your bed,” Claire whispered.

“Don't want to,” Laurie mumbled.

“Because you are alone in there?”


Claire shifted her body on the couch. “Then stay. Lie down, though. You'll hurt your neck if you sleep like that.” She patted the couch behind her. “Come. I don't mind.”

“Yeah. Okay. Good idea.” Laurie unwound her legs and stretched out behind Claire, who shifted position to accommodate her and draped the blanket over them both. They settled down on their sides and fluffed the shared pillow beneath their heads as Laurie spooned behind Claire. “Thanks,” Laurie said.

“This is okay for you?” Claire asked.

“Yeah, sure. You got room?”

“Yes. You are how-do-you-say?”

“Skinny. And you're warm. I'll be asleep in a second.”

“Good, good,” Claire whispered. “Sleep well.” She reached backward, grasped Laurie's hand, pulled it in front of her, and held it. “So I know that you are here.”

“I'm here,” Laurie mumbled. As she drifted toward sleep, she thought, oh hell yes, I'm here. Claire feels good. She smells good. And I feel guilty. And it's nice to have someone close. Down, girl; you're a married woman. With that, Laurie sighed, then allowed sleep to overcome her.




Next morning.

Laurie walked through the open café door. “ Bonjour , Maurice,” she said.

From behind the bar, Maurice nodded a greeting. Below him, in front of the bar, two workmen were busy applying stain to wood. “Claire is safely at work?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Laurie rested her messenger bag on the table and held up a box of pastries. “Breakfast.”

“About time,” Allie groused from her place near the coffee machines. She wore a twinkling, mischievous expression, one that piqued Laurie's curiosity. Something was up.

“What's with you?” Laurie asked.

“Oh, nothing.” Allie waved at the two workmen, then pointed at the pastry box and her coffee mug, and they perked up. The work stopped, and everyone gathered at the bar to indulge in pastry and coffee. “Did you and Claire sleep well?” Allie asked.

“Yeah,” Laurie said. “You?”

“Not as cozy as you two, from what I saw.”

“Oh. That.” Laurie responded with a sheepish glance. “It was innocent, really. We both just fell asleep on the couch, that's all.”

Allie laughed. “Yeah. Right,” she said. “Just the same, you two better be discreet.”

“Nothing happened,” Laurie repeated.

“It will,” Allie said.

“Cynic,” Laurie retorted.

“Slut,” Allie teased.

“Am not!” Laurie shrugged. “Okay, maybe a little bit. But not like you.”

“I'm not that bad.”

Laurie squinted at her sister. “Oh? You've had your moments.”

“I might have,” Allie said. “I can't remember. I was probably high at the time.”

Laurie smiled in satisfaction. “Point proved.”

“Yeah. Maurie says that my Hebrew name will be Jezebel.”

“Fits you like a glove,” Laurie said. “An Old Testament slut.”

Maurice, who had been listening intently, spoke up. “So,” he said, “teach me English. What is the difference between whore and slut?”

“A hundred Euros an hour,” one of the workmen said in English.

“Where have you been going?” the other one asked his companion.

Allie and Laurie traded embarrassed expressions, then looked at the two workmen. “You both speak English, huh?” Allie asked.

“We're from Holland,” one of the workmen said.

“Oh, Jeez.” Allie shot a glance at Maurice. “And you speak better English than you let on.” That got a laugh from Maurice, who waited for an answer to his question with an amused twinkle in his eye. “Okay, to answer your question: A slut is about fun and a whore is about money.”

“Ah.” He considered that answer, then asked, “And you?”

“I'm a slut,” Allie said. “Laurie's a whore.”

“I am not!” Laurie said. “I have never done it for money.”

“Oh? Remember your high school junior prom?”

“Yeah. So what?”

“Who paid for dinner?”

“He did.”

“And your corsage?”

“He did.”

“And the gasoline for the pickup truck?”

“He did.”

“And that bottle of whiskey that you snuck into the prom in your purse?”

“How did you know about that?” Laurie asked, then rolled her eyes. “He did.”

“Be honest, now. Did you come home a virgin that night?”

Laurie's cheeks turned scarlet. She balled a fist and slugged her older sister on the arm, then said, “He was cute. And sweet. So there.”

Allie rubbed her arm. “The prosecution rests. And ouch, that hurt.”




SDAT headquarters, Paris.

Bruno emerged from his meeting in a disturbed frame of mind. His agents in the Muslim banlieue had reported the Israeli team's resounding success, yet the police reported no calls. The Muslims obviously didn't trust the French authorities to intervene. That was both good and bad. It meant that he wouldn't have to squelch a police investigation, but it also meant that the Muslim jihadists may strike back blindly at the city in a fit of rage and anger over their leaders being assassinated. It could get ugly in the next few days. He decided to direct his spies to monitor the preaching in the mosques, and see if the faithful were being exhorted to kill Europeans in the name of God. If they were, it could herald another attack.

When he returned to his desk, he accessed the computer list of known jihadists in Paris. It was large, so he narrowed it down to that neighborhood and looked over the resulting list of names. These, he thought, were just the ones that they knew about; the actual list was undoubtedly much longer. Of his potential revenge-seekers, several had unknown whereabouts, a couple were believed to be in Syria fighting with ISIS, and a few had known addresses. He really felt impotent, though; all he could do was have his spies in the neighborhood watch and report if they saw dangerous activity. In reality, they probably wouldn't know about the next attack until it happened. That's all Paris needed – more blood in the streets. He thought about the situation for some time, then rose and sought out his boss's office.

“You look concerned, Bruno,” the commissioner said. “Your Israeli team performed flawlessly, I hear.”

“They did. They're proving themselves to be an invaluable asset.”

“Then what's the problem?”

Bruno flopped down in a chair. “The jihadists will retaliate, you know.”

“I know. We're keeping eyes and ears on them.”

“But they still surprise us. We need to be more proactive, I think.”

The commissioner sat back in his chair and focused on Bruno. “Exactly what are you suggesting?”

“We have a terrorist watch list. Why not take them out before they do something evil to us?”

The commissioner's jaw dropped. He recovered himself, resumed his practiced, neutral expression, and said, “It's patently illegal. We're French police. We can't just go around killing people because we think they might do something.”

“But the Israelis can.”

A long moment of stunned silence filled the room while the commissioner mulled that thought over. Finally, he looked up. “How would this work?”

Bruno sat up and spoke animatedly. “We study the various banlieue where Muslims are gathered. We identify the locations of the people on the terrorist watch list. Then...” He shrugged, as if the rest of the statement was self-evident.

“Will the Israelis do that?” the commissioner asked.

“Not on our word alone. They require proof that their target is worthy of assassination.” He thought for a second, then added, “Especially one of them. She has a reputation for asking hard questions before accepting a target, and she's well-respected by the others.”

“Which one is that?”

“The French-Israeli one. Angelique Halevy.”

The commissioner nodded. “The one with the piano bar in the Latin Quarter?” At Bruno's nod, the commissioner chuckled. “An assassin with an ethical standard? Now there's a contradiction for you. What if they decline to execute our list?”

“I hesitate to suggest this, but there are certain pressures we can bring to bear on them. The leader, for instance. He wishes to settle down in France with his fiancé to raise a family. Neither are French nationals, so we can frustrate that if he's uncooperative.”

“I see. Any others?”

“Yes. Halevy is married to an American who's not yet a French citizen. She's here legally, but something could happen to her status.”

“She?” the commissioner asked.

“Yes. Her American spouse is female. And another one, Esther, is living with her French lover, but her legal presence here is only by our generosity to Mossad. We could revoke that. And if she's deported back to Israel, she might very possibly stand against old charges that she murdered an Israeli citizen in a mission gone wrong.” Bruno hurried to add, “But I don't wish to be heavy-handed, not with them.”

“Why not?”

“Israelis are proud people. If we act arrogantly with them, we'll end up having to do our own dirty work again.”

“And that's against the law,” the commissioner said, “and if their existence comes to light, we're in for disgrace and possibly ruin. Can you imagine the fun the press would have with allegations that an Israeli hit squad was killing Muslims at SDAT prompting?”

“Exactly,” Bruno said. “If they're found out, though, we just whisk them out of the country and deny everything, and the Israeli government will take the heat for it all.”

“We can't, as you say, ‘whisk' Halevy out of the country. She's a French national.”

“And she can't return to Israel for more than a few days at a time,” Bruno added.

The commissioner furrowed his brow in question. “Why not?”

“She's supposed to be dead. Her grave is clearly marked in the military cemetery in Jerusalem. Hamas paid out a million-Euro reward for her death to a double-agent of mine who supposedly killed her, here in Paris. If Hamas realizes that she's still alive...”

“I see.” The commissioner considered what he'd heard, then looked up at Bruno. “Let's proceed cautiously, then. Compile lists of jihadist leaders in each banlieue , then see if the Israelis will help us with this. If they will, then we'll proceed.”

“And if they don't?” Bruno asked.

“Then we might have to apply some pressure, yes?” the commissioner said.

“Not a good idea,” Bruno warned.

“I'll make that call.”




Laurie rolled over in the night. Her hand sought out the familiar, warm feel of Angelique's body next to hers. She found it, and she pressed herself against its warmth. She felt Angelique's arm pull her even closer. “I'm glad you're back,” Laurie whispered.

“I am glad, also,” Angelique whispered.

“Sorry you didn't take me along now?”

“It was not my decision.”

“I know. I'm just glad you're okay.” She felt Angelique's answer in the gentle squeeze the arm gave her. “Did it go according to plan?”

“Yes, without problem,” Angelique said. “We dealt with all the targets. Only one collateral death.”

“Oh. Did you – ?”

“No. Maurie killed him. The man was about to give an alarm.”

“Oh.” Laurie fell silent for a few minutes. When she spoke again, it was with concern. “Angel, can you keep doing this?”


“It's not going to make you crazy, is it? You know, like you were about that Gaza stuff you saw?”

It was Angelique's turn to think. After a moment, she said, “No, I think not. Please, do not worry. I am well.”

“Okay, if you say so. But if it does bother you, you talk to me, right?”

“Thank you, Laurie.” Angelique kissed Laurie's forehead, then whispered, “Sleep, now. Sleep.”




A few blocks away, Claire sat up in bed, found her eyeglasses, and put them on. Esther was not in bed. She sat in silence and listened for a while, then rose and walked to the closed bathroom door. She looked down. The bathroom light was on; her toes were illuminated from it. She tapped the door. “Esther?” she whispered. “Are you all right?” She tapped again. “Esther?”

A soft response sounded from behind the door. “Go away. Please.”

“Esther? What's wrong?” She gripped the doorknob lever and depressed it, and the door opened. She froze in horror. “Oh, good God! What are you doing?”

Esther was seated on the side of the bathtub with her robe loosely wrapped around her. Those magnificent blue eyes, normally so sunny, were dark and exhausted. When she looked at Claire's face, the eyes changed from lost to sorrowful. She lowered the pistol in her hand and looked away, as if ashamed to be seen at all.

Claire knelt in front of her. “What are you doing? Give me that.” She lifted the pistol from Esther's hand and rested it on the sink, out of reach. “What's the matter, Esther? You were doing so well. Why are you like this?” Esther did not reply, but merely put up a hand to shield her face from Claire's inspection. Claire gripped the hand, turned Esther's face toward her, and said, “What is wrong?”

Their eyes met. Esther's eyes watered, and a tear tracked its way down her cheek. She tried to speak. After a few silent starts, she managed to talk. “I can't sleep,” she said.

“That's no reason to – ”

“It's starting again. I thought it was over. I thought I was better.”

“You are better.”


“Yes, you are. Look, do you need hospital? I can take you there.”

Esther shook her head. “They'll lock me up. They'll make a zombie out of me.” She rested her forehead against Claire's. “And they'll take me from you.” She stifled a sob. “What can I do?”

“Do?” Claire said. “You fight it like you did before. And you don't do that,” she said, pointing to the gun on the sink. “Do you hear?”

“Sometimes, I just want to die. I get so tired of it all.”

“If you do that,” Claire said, “you kill me, too. Is that what you wish? To kill me?”

“Why do you love me?” Esther asked.

Claire managed a weak smile. “You are kind and gentle to me. You never find fault with me. You make me happy. You make me feel lovely. No one else ever did that for me. You're so damned hot, too. And you protect me, you keep me safe.”

Esther understood that last sentiment instinctively. She smiled. “Safe. You know I would die for you.”

“Live for me,” Claire said. “Like I live for you.”

“I can do that,” Esther said.

“And promise me you won't consider that again,” Claire said, as she pointed toward the gun.

“Only for you, I promise.”

Claire kissed Esther hard, then stood. “Take me to bed,” she urged. “Make love to me.”

Esther smiled at that. “I can do that, too.” She stood, grasped Claire's hand, and led her from the bathroom as she clicked off the light.




Three days later. A Parisian suburb.

Abu Talib was a veteran of the Iraq and Syria wars, having fought there with ISIS for over a year. It was a good time for him; he earned money, he had his pick of women, and he built a reputation for brutality. When he returned to the Paris neighborhood where he'd spent his adolescence, he found a depressing poverty and indolence among many Muslims, and increasing hostility among the indigenous French European population. Jihad, he felt, would help rectify that.

Although the French had allowed him to return to this country, he knew that he was on a terrorist watch list. The solution to that was to live underground, so he couldn't be found. He dealt in cash, he paid no taxes, he had no car, and he moved frequently. Only his cell phone kept him in regular contact with the world; that, and his frequent presence at the brothel and the mosque.

Today, he had determined to attend mid-day prayers. It was his usual custom. As he stood outside the mosque and conversed with an acquaintance, he felt a sudden chill. A wave of caution swept over him. He glanced around, and saw nothing odd in the street about him. As he shook off the feeling and returned to his conversation, the side of his head exploded against the wall of the mosque. The plaster was sprayed with bits of bone, brain, and blood. He slid to the ground and lay crumpled in a ball at his companion's feet as a voice raised an alarm, and as Muslim men began to search the street with their stares for anything out of the ordinary.

Angelique pulled back the bolt on the sniper rifle, ejected the spent brass casing, and rested the rifle in a box on the van's floor. She crawled into a large wooden cargo box and closed the end panel. Inside, she rested her pistol in her lap, pulled out her cell phone, and texted a message. One digit was all she tapped out; it signaled a successful assassination. As she waited for a reply, she could hear excited male voices shout in Arabic as they trod the streets outside the van, looking for evidence of Abu Talib's assassin. She could see, as she peered through the box's peep-holes, a man stop and press his face against the van's windows. After a moment, he left.

She rested her head against the coarse wood of the box, waiting for a coded reply. Eventually, it came. They would drive the van away when the scene outside the mosque quieted. That could take a couple of hours, Angelique decided. In the meantime, she would sit quietly. There was nothing else to do, really. As she contemplated that reality, she held the spent brass casing, still warm, in her fingers. One shot, one kill. Mission accomplished. Another rabid dog put to death. But what is one, when there are a million others? And no longer is she in her beloved, adopted Israel; she is now in France, where she was born and raised. The situation made no sense, and she could see no end to it, ever. Why did they have to come here? Why couldn't they just stay in their own part of the world and leave her and Laurie to live in peace? She began to consider her options for the future, and none of them looked good. She sighed in resignation as she closed her eyes. She was weary of it all, and she saw no end to it.

She awoke with a start. The van was moving. She peered through the peep-hole, and she recognized the back of Maurie's head. He was driving. She opened the box, crawled out, and thrust her pistol into the shoulder holster hidden beneath her jacket. “Hello, Maurie,” she said.

He did not look back. “Angel,” he acknowledged. “Good job. I confirmed the kill from across the street.”

Angelique crawled into the front passenger seat. “Did they call ambulance or police?”

“Yes. Both showed up.”

“Then Bruno will have an investigation to squash?”

Maurie nodded. “I've already called him. He's taking care of it.”

“Odd,” she said, “that the Arabs would call French police or ambulance. They don't trust us.”

“The feeling's mutual,” Maurie said. “Are you hungry? We can stop for a bite after we get out of Paris.”

Angelique managed a weary smile. “I could use that, I think. And a stiff drink.”

He nodded. “Done, then.”

“May I text Laurie now?”

“Yes. We're far enough away from the banlieue . Tell her you'll be home tomorrow.”




13 Rue d'Espoir.

Laurie laid the phone aside. “They'll be home tomorrow.”

Allie nodded. “I hate this.”

Laurie gave her sister a playful kick. “When we were in high school, did you ever think that we'd end up here?”

“In Paris?”

“Yeah, and waiting for our assassin significant others to come home.”

Allie drained her wine glass. “I always figured that I'd be married to some farm boy and pregnant at nineteen. That's why I ran off to college and didn't stop studying until I got my master's degree.”

“Yeah,” Laurie said. “That's why I went to Washington, D.C. to work. Dating farm boys will get you pregnant in a jiffy.” She thought about it as she sipped her wine, then added, “It must be that fresh air. High sperm count and all.”

“Gross.” Allie looked up from her wine glass and noticed Claire's clouded, unhappy expression. “Did the text mention Esther?”

“No. Let me ask,” Laurie said. She grabbed her phone and texted a message. A minute later, she looked at the reply. “No word yet.” Laurie attempted a reassuring smile. “I'm sure she's fine, Claire. She's one tough girl.”

“I suppose,” Claire said, more to herself than anyone else. With that, she quieted and busied herself with staring out the balcony doors.




Ali Al-Barqa, SDAT agent, escorted a woman in hijab along the street. It was full of pedestrian traffic, mostly people garbed in middle-Eastern attire. All women had their bodies and hair covered, and many had their faces covered, as well. Was this a Paris neighborhood? It looked more like any location in central Asia. He glanced at his female companion. Behind the niqab , the bright blue eyes, covered in light sunglasses, kept an alert search along the street. Esther had memorized their target's face and habits. Every day, he would walk in this direction, on his way home and at this time. She quickly spotted him and whispered a warning to Ali. He nodded; he'd already seen him. They slowed, then turned and paced behind their target as he plodded along the street.

As the man walked, he felt a sharp pain in his left buttock. A second later, a Muslim couple walked past him, striding quickly up the street. He wondered at the pain, a pain which was now almost gone, and shook his head in question. He shrugged it off as the price of middle age, then focused on going home. A few minutes later, he collapsed on the street as his hand gripped the shirt over his chest. He began to foam at the mouth and stammer incoherently.

As people gathered around him and attempted to question him, he found that he could not speak. He also could not breathe. He felt a wave of panic spread over him, but could only gurgle a few incoherent syllables before blackness covered him, and before he mercifully surrendered to it. A moment later, he was dead.

From a block away, Ali and Esther watched him collapse. They listened to the shouts of the crowd, then quietly turned and continued up the street. As they passed a public trash receptacle, Esther dropped a used syringe into the can. The municipal workers would think it was from a junkie; after all, these Muslim neighborhoods had profound rates of drug use. She wouldn't count their mission as accomplished, though, until they were in Ali's car and headed out of the city.




As a gray Mercedes sedan left the clutter and traffic of Paris behind them, the driver breathed a sigh of relief. The country roads ahead would be a more relaxing drive, an easier pace. He glanced at the rear view mirror and noticed that his passenger, the imam of a prominent mosque in Paris, was dozing. Let him sleep, the driver thought.

The traffic was light on this road, the scenery agreeable, and the afternoon sunny. It was a good day. He was in a pleasant frame of mind as he negotiated a curve, then slowed the car. A stop sign was ahead. As he rolled up to it, he glanced at the rear view mirror again. A motorcycle was approaching him from behind. From the sound of its engine, it was slowing down. As it neared the car, the driver noticed that the rider's face was completely covered by a full-face helmet with a tinted face visor. This was not unusual. There was something else about the rider, though, that made him uneasy. He couldn't put the feeling into words. He looked both ways, then lifted his foot from the brake. As he did, the motorcyclist pulled alongside him and looked at him. The Mercedes driver reached for his pistol, but he was too slow. Before he had it out of his holster, the motorcyclist produced a compact Uzi submachine gun and riddled the Mercedes's interior with bullets. The car slowly rolled across the highway and buried its front grill into a hedgerow. The attacker followed, produced a pistol, and put two rounds each into the heads of the driver and the imam. As a final touch, the motorcyclist dismounted the motorcycle, snapped open an ISIS flag, draped it over the dead imam, and threw the empty Uzi into the car. A moment later, the assassin gunned the motorcycle and fled the scene.




Fifteen minutes later, Ali halted his car by an ancient stone bridge. He produced a cell phone and dialed a number from memory, then put it to his ear. “Esther and I are at the pick-up point,” he said, then hung up. He looked at Esther. “We wait.”

“Is she okay?” Esther asked.

“Must be,” Ali said. “She answered the phone with the correct password.”

“Um.” That was all Esther needed to hear. She rolled down her window and busied herself with admiring the scenery around her. “It's lovely, the French countryside,” she said. “In the city, I forget that this exists.”

“You were raised in the city?”

“No,” Esther said. “On a kibbutz.”

“Ah. This is a farm?” Ali asked.

“Yes. A collective farm, in Israel.”

“It was a good life?” he asked.

She looked at him. He seemed genuinely interested in the subject. That made her smile. “Yes,” she said. “It was a wonderful life, actually.” At his nod, she asked, “You?”

That caused Ali to perk up. “Algiers,” he said. “The Old City. There's nothing quite like it. My mother still lives there, and my wife's family.” He pointed. “That's Shoshana now, I think.”

Esther nodded. She had noticed the approaching figure twenty seconds ago. A minute later, the car's back door opened, then slammed shut. Shoshana plopped down on the back seat and dropped her motorcycle helmet on the floorboards.

“Where's the motorcycle?” Ali asked.

Shoshana jerked a thumb toward the river beneath the bridge. “Taking a swim.”

“Ah. A shame. It was a decent bike.”

“It could be identified and traced to us. Sorry.” She shrugged. “It was okay, for sure.”

Ali started the car and pulled onto the highway. In a talkative mood, he tried to include Shoshana in the conversation. “And you? Where did you grow up? Kibbutz?”

“What?” Shoshana blinked in confusion. “No. Why?”

Ali pointed at Esther. “She says she grew up in one of those.”

Shoshana pointed at Esther and started laughing. “You, a Kibbutznik ? Yeah, right. Where's your suntan?”

“It's been a while. Let me guess,” Esther said. “You're one of those secular Jews, grew up in Tel Aviv. Haven't been to temple since your bat mitzvah, right?”

“Nope.” Shoshana said. “I grew up Hasidic, in Old Jerusalem.”

Ali's head jerked around. “Do you mean the black hats and beards and long skirts?”

Shoshana nodded. Esther's jaw dropped. She considered Shoshana with her piercing blue eyes for a few seconds, then said, “Bullshit. No way.”

“Yes, way,” Shoshana said. She cracked up at Esther's expression of total disbelief. “Guess I've fallen pretty far, huh?”

“How did you end up in the Israeli fucking army? You should have been married and pregnant at eighteen, not drafted.”

“I was married and pregnant at eighteen. I miscarried. My husband blamed me. He got drunk one night and beat me for it, and I left him and ran off to the army. My family shunned me. Here I am. End of story.”

“Damn.” Esther chewed on that for a moment, then said, “You left it all behind you?”

“No,” Shoshana said. “I still do ‘guilty' really well. Like for what I just did.”

“Do you mean killing those two targets you dealt with just now?” At Shoshana's nod, she asked, “Does it still affect you so badly, to kill?”

“Not killing. I don't give a shit about that.” Shoshana rolled down the window and lit a cigarette. “I mean killing people on Shabbat. It's the Sabbath, after all. That's work and a sin, according to my upbringing. I shouldn't be driving a motorbike, shooting a gun.” She grinned. “Guess I'm going to hell, huh?” She took a drag on her cigarette and exhaled. “If you ask me, I'm already there.”

Esther rested her forearms on the back of her seat and studied Shoshana. The next thought came with a quiet tone, almost a reverence for the subject at hand. “How do you cope?”

“Alcohol, drugs, and self-loathing has always worked for me,” Shoshana said.

“Do you ever think of – ?” Esther glanced away, as if afraid to bring up the subject.

Shoshana leaned forward. “Do you?” she asked softly.

For a second, Esther's normally sunny look reflected deep pain. She perked up, looked around, and gushed, “It's really beautiful here, isn't it? Who wouldn't want to live forever?”

Shoshana nodded. She grasped Esther's hand and squeezed it. “Yeah. I think about it, too.”




That night.

Laurie placed her cell phone aside. “They're laying low tonight. Home tomorrow, maybe.”

“I can understand,” Claire said. “I saw the Paris news.” She motioned toward the television. “A shooting in Seine-Saint-Denis , outside a mosque. A Muslim man got his head blown off by a sniper. At the same time, another one, said to be also on the terrorist watch list, had a heart attack and died on the street a few blocks away. And outside the city, two more were machine-gunned to death in their car. All about the same time. The news says it was ISIS-inspired.” She glanced at Laurie to gauge her reaction, and she noted the skeptical expression. “You do not think so?”


“Our lovers?”


For a moment, Claire was silent. Then, she grasped Laurie's hand. “This scares me,” she whispered.

“It'll be okay,” Laurie said. Even as she said the words, she knew that she didn't believe it. She'd seen too much, even in her short time with Angelique, to believe that. Things didn't always turn out okay, and the best-laid and rehearsed plans went awry. Like the old saying goes, everyone has a plan until the first time they get punched in the face. It was only a matter of time until things went wrong.

“You believe that?” Claire asked. In reply, Laurie said nothing. “I'm going to lose Esther, aren't I?” Claire dropped her glasses on the table and buried her face in her hands. “How do you do this?”

Laurie pulled Claire close and held her. “I believe that the best will happen. I have to.”

Claire sat up, wiped her face with her sleeve, and sniffed. “I'm being childish. You and Allie are the brave ones. Look at you.” She leaned forward and kissed Laurie's cheek. “I promise to do better.”

Laurie felt her face heat with blush. “Aw,” she said, “you're doing just fine.” When she looked up, she noticed Allie standing in the hallway. Judging by the towel wrapped around her, she'd just come from the shower. She paused to lean against the bathroom door-jamb, watch them, and give her younger sister a glance laden with warning.

Laurie said, “Get some clothes on and join us. Wine bottle's on the counter.”

“Are you sure?” Allie asked. “This looks like a private moment.”

Laurie rose and headed toward the kitchen. “Don't be silly. Claire and I were just – ”

“Hey,” Allie said. “Not my business, little sis. I'll be out shortly.” With that, she walked into the guest room.

Laurie picked up the wine bottle and another glass from the kitchen counter and headed back to the couch. As she filled the glasses, Claire touched her arm. “Does she think – ?”

“Probably,” Laurie said.

“Oh! Should I go home?” Claire asked.

Laurie considered the question in Claire's eyes. “No,” she said. “I'm to protect you. Here you are, and here you stay until Esther gets back.”

“I don't want to cause trouble for you,” Claire said.

“You won't.” Laurie smiled her best smile. “The only person who causes trouble for me is me.”

Claire laughed as she lifted her wine glass. “I'll drink a toast to that,” she said.




In the countryside, at a farmhouse an hour away from Paris, Angelique contemplated the setting sun as she sipped her hot tea. Normally quiet, she had been unusually so since that afternoon. A nearby voice distracted her. It was Maurie.

“There's something heavy on your mind, I think,” he observed.

Angelique turned to face him. “We were lucky.”

“I know.”

“We won't be so lucky every time.”

Maurie nodded. “I know that, too.”

“The French need to start doing their own dirty work.”

“I tend to agree, Angel. And they will, I think. We're just showing them how it's done.” Angelique grunted, but said nothing. She returned her attention to the setting sun. Maurie studied her, then asked, “Are you rethinking this business?”

“Aren't you?”

It was Maurie's turn to consider the sunset. After a moment, he said, “Yes. It seems that I have a lot to lose now.” He smiled painfully. “When we were young and soldiers, we were invincible and had nothing to lose. Now...”

“I feel the same.”

Another moment of silence passed. Then, Maurie nodded his understanding of the unspoken agreement between them. “I'll speak with the others,” he said, “and see how they feel.” With that said, he turned and walked out of the room.

It wasn't long afterward when a hand touched Angelique's arm. It was Shoshana. “I spoke with Maurie,” she said.


“Tiring of this, are we?”

“Aren't you?” Angelique asked.

Shoshana shrugged. “The rest of you have something to lose. I don't.”

Angelique glanced down at the glass in Shoshana's hand. “Is it not early to drink?”

“Not for me.”

Angelique smiled at that. “You are what the Americans call ‘a hot mess'.”

“I like it. At least I'm hot.” She thought about it for a moment, then added, “Is it the scars?”

Angelique studied her old friend. “It's everything,” she said. “And yes, you are still very hot.”

Shoshana leaned against Angelique and draped an arm around her waist. “Thanks. I needed that.”

“What is this?” Angelique teased, as she rested an arm across Shoshana's shoulders. “Shoshana Klein, a sensitive girl at heart? You are the rottweiler among us.”

“It's all an act,” Shoshana confessed.

“I always knew that,” Angelique whispered.

“And yet you never gave up my secret.”

“Secrets are much more fun when kept.”

Shoshana tightened her grip around Angelique's waist. “Now there's a certain truth.”




Esther paused in the door to the kitchen. Her jaw dropped, and she silently retreated back into the living room. She sat near Maurie, sighed deeply, and said, “Don't go into the kitchen just now.”

Maurie shot her a puzzled look, then rose and tiptoed to the kitchen door. A second later, he returned to his seat and exchanged amused glances with Esther. “Well,” he said. “There's an interesting development.”

“It's the danger that feeds the appetites,” Esther observed. “This job always does it to me.”

“So how do you deal with it?” Maurie asked.

“How do you?”

Maurie shrugged. “I drink. I chase women. I drive fast.”

“Exactly. Do you know a member of Kidon who isn't that way?”

Maurie thought about it. Finally, he admitted, “No.”

“There, you see? It's the job. It makes one live on the edge in all things.”

They descended into silence. Maurie attempted to return to his book, but couldn't. He cast a glance at Esther, and he noticed her touch her cheek, just beneath her eye. She managed a little grin. “Something in my eye,” she said.

“Yeah. Sure.” He closed the book. “You are still a little in love with Angel, aren't you?”

Esther's eyes twinkled that brilliant blue. “One never quite forgets a love like that, huh?”

Maurie thought back to his own life. “I envy you,” he said. “Mine is just starting.”

His phone buzzed, and he answered it. When he heard Bruno's voice, he rose and walked outside. The conversation was lengthy and, at times, emotionally charged. Eventually, he finished the conversation and walked back inside. “Esther?” he said. “Angel? Shoshana? Conference.”

When they gathered, he said, “I just spoke with Bruno. We're going back to Paris. Gather your things. We leave in ten minutes.”

“Trouble?” Shoshana asked.

“Not another job, I hope,” Esther said.

“A job of a different kind,” Maurie said. “SDAT just caught a really big fish. He's in their holding cells. He has asked us to interrogate him.”

“They can't do it?” Angelique asked.

Maurie raised an eyebrow at Angelique's question. “It's Abdul El-Rahmat.”

“That connasse ?” Angelique said. “He's near the top of Mossad's list. Mine, too.”

“Why?” Esther asked. “Who is he?”

“Only a Hamas biggie,” Shoshana said. “I recognize the name.”

“We almost got him in Gaza, several years ago,” Angelique said. “I was an army sergeant at the time. I lost two of my squad in a fight with his people. He got away.”

“Not this time,” Maurie said. “Let's go. Ten minutes.”

Without another word, they scattered to gather their overnight bags and lock up the house.




13 Rue d'Espoir, Paris.

Laurie closed her eyes and luxuriated in the hot, steamy shower. It relaxed her, melted the tensions of worry away. If she allowed herself, she could almost believe that Angelique was waiting for her in the bedroom, comfortable on her side of the bed, with her nose in a paperback novel. She knew better, though. Angelique was not there. There was no telling where she was right now.

She felt a sudden, almost painful ache for Angelique's touch. It wouldn't happen, though. Not tonight. Get a grip, Laurie, she decided. Make the best of it. Be strong. Soon, she'll be back. In the meantime, protect your sister and Claire. That thought made her take notice. God, if anything happened to those two while they were in her care...

She finished her shower and hurriedly dried herself, then slipped across the hall to her bedroom with the towel loosely held in front of her. At the bedroom door, a voice stopped her. It was Claire, standing outside the bathroom door and holding her toilet kit and a bottle of bath soap.

“You are finished with the shower?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Laurie said. “It's yours now.” She turned and faced Claire, and only then noted the odd little expression on Claire's face. She suddenly felt very exposed, and pulled the towel up higher on her chest.

“Towel?” she asked.

“What?” Laurie said, blinking in surprise. She looked down at herself. Why hadn't she gotten a bigger damned towel? This one didn't cover a lot.

Claire pointed at Laurie's towel. “There is one in there?”

“Oh. Oh, yeah. Cabinet. Help yourself.”

For a long, silent second, they faced each other in the hall. Then, Laurie mumbled a soft “Excusez_moi” before she retreated into the bedroom and quietly shut the door. Claire watched her disappear, then puzzled over the moment just passed. She finally smiled, then entered the bathroom and began disrobing as she enjoyed the warm, steamy environment – and the lingering smell of Laurie's perfumed body wash.

In her bedroom, Laurie finished toweling herself dry, then donned some sweat-pants and a tee-shirt from the closet. As she fluffed out her hair with her fingers, she studied herself in the mirror. “Get a grip, girl,” she muttered. “You're married.” A second later, she added, “Yeah, and you're also in Paris, not Kansas.” She snickered. “Here, it's ‘ C'est la vie ', not ‘You're goin' straight to hell for that thought.'” She studied her image in the full-length mirror for a second more, then thumped herself on the head with her fists. “What's the matter with you, Laurie? No, no, no! Stop it.” She held her head. “And damn, that actually hurt. Why can't we just have a switch that turns the ol' libido on and off?” She contemplated that question, then looked down at her own pelvis. “I guess I do have one. And brother, right now, it's definitely on. Ouch.” She slipped her feet into slippers and picked up her shotgun from the bed. “Okay, time to make the rounds. Maybe that'll cool me off. I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but right now, I hate being horny.” She gripped the doorknob. “Nah. Not really,” she admitted, then opened the door and strode out of the room.




An hour later, a van pulled into the inner courtyard of a Police Nationale building in downtown Paris. Bruno was standing outside, waiting for them. He passed out ID badges identifying them as guests, then ushered them inside. After following him through various hallways, they arrived at the holding cells and interrogation rooms. The decor here was dingier than the offices they'd passed, and a musty odor assailed one's sense of smell. Angelique could also feel a distinctly different atmosphere to the place. It wasn't one of appearance, but more a darkness of spirit which touched her senses and made every fibre of her conscious mind tingle in warning. She increased her stride, tapped Bruno on the arm, and said, “Where are we going?”

He pointed ahead. “Interrogation rooms,” he said. “Come in here, and have a look.”

They entered a small room and peered through a window. Inside, sitting at a wooden table, was an SDAT member facing a man of distinctly Middle-Eastern appearance whose cuffed hands rested on the table, next to a paper cup. The SDAT official was doing most of the speaking; the prisoner appeared to respond casually, with a practiced contempt written across his expression and body language. Bruno flipped the switch on a wall speaker, and they listened to the conversation.

Maurie asked, “What do you think, Angel?”

“That is him. I will never forget him.”

Bruno glanced over in surprise. “You know this man personally?”

“It has been years,” Angelique said. “I remember him. That is Abdul El-Rahmat.”

“Where did you last see him?”

“Gaza. Salaud .”

“You hate this man?”

“I would gladly kill him.”

“Well,” Bruno said, “that's not prudent. He knows the details of a plot against Paris, and he's not talking.”

“What kind of plot?” Maurie asked.

“A bombing, we believe.”

“Your man's not having much luck, it seems,” Maurie said.

Bruno nodded. He pressed a switch and spoke a few words in French. The interrogator rose and left the room. A moment later, he joined them. “Difficulty?” Bruno asked.

The interrogator looked at Maurie, then at Angelique, Esther, and Shoshana in turn. “Who are these people?” he asked. “We're not open for tourists today.”

“These,” Bruno said, “are our Mossad friends.”

The interrogator's eyes widened. “Oh? Pardon, then.” He gestured toward the window. “He's not much for details. All he's good for is contempt and insults.”

Angelique broke the momentary silence. “Let me talk to him.”

“His French isn't too good,” Bruno said.

“My Arabic is probably a little better,” Angelique said. “What, specifically, do you wish him to speak about?”

The interrogator said, “The bombing plot. Any details.”

“Done.” Angelique handed her jacket and her pistol to Maurie. She turned to Bruno. “Do you have a key for those handcuffs?”

“You don't mean to unlock him?” Bruno gasped.

“Yes. Key.” She extended her hand, and Bruno cautiously presented her with a handcuff key. “Thank you,” Angelique said. “Keep the door locked behind me.” With that, she left the room. A moment later, the door to the interrogation room buzzed, and she entered.

“You'd better get your paramedics around here,” Maurie said, as they watched.

“Why? No one's hurt,” Bruno said.

“Wait five minutes,” Shoshana said. Bruno studied the expressions of the Israelis around him, then nodded agreement and found his cell phone.




Abdul El-Rahmat looked up when Angelique entered the room. His eyes were dark, cagy. He quickly scanned her from head to toe, casually sipped his tea, then said in French, “I don't talk to women.”

Angelique answered him in Arabic. “Today, you do.”

He puzzled at that answer. “You speak Arabic. Who the hell are you? Some translator?”




“Another Police Nationale puke? I'm tired of you sissies.”

Angelique allowed the barest hint of a smile to touch the corner of her mouth. It did not extend to her eyes. “No.”

“Who, then? I tire of this. Where's that fucking lawyer I'm owed?”

“He's been delayed.”

“Then fuck off. Get out of here. And bring me some more tea.” Angelique took a couple of steps forward, crossed her arms across her chest, and drilled him with a cold, determined gaze. He noted it. It was a gaze of hatred, of imminent death. “No, you're not police. Who are you, woman?”

The icy smile at the edge of Angelique's mouth widened a little. For a moment, she stared at him. Then, she spoke one word.


El-Rahmat paled a little, then recovered and affected a nonchalant manner. “Oh? You're a little out of your territory, aren't you?”

“Let's talk.”

“Go to hell.”

Angelique pulled out the empty chair, sat at the table, and tested the table by pulling on it. It moved; it wasn't bolted to the floor. That was good. “How about we go to Israel, instead? We can make that happen tonight.”

“I have rights. You can't extradite me. It's French law.”

“Fuck French law,” Angelique said. “We're Mossad. We work outside the law. You can talk to me here, now, and live in a French prison. Or you can talk in Israel. And you will talk in Israel. And afterward, you will disappear forever. And one day, they will find your bones in the Sinai desert. Perhaps.”

He considered her words as he studied her face. “What,” he asked, “do you want to talk about?”

“A bombing in Paris. When will it happen?”

He waved his cuffed hands in contempt. “You know nothing.”

The last word was barely out of his mouth when Angelique stood, kicked her chair backward, and flipped the table across the room. It crashed into the wall beneath the window as her roundhouse kick caught El-Rahmat in the side of the head. He sprawled across the floor, dazed, and rose to his knees as Angelique grabbed his chair and threw it against the door, away from him. She kicked him again, this time in the ribs, and he yelled in pain as he bounced against the wall. She kicked him a third time, and he went down, hard. He crawled to the corner of the room and attempted to stand. She allowed him.

“Tell me,” she said.

“I'll kill you, woman,” he hissed, then charged at her. A moment later, he was thrown on his face in the middle of the room. A resounding, hollow thud echoed in the room as his head hit the floor. His nose gushed blood, and he spat out a tooth through bloody lips. As he rose, her boot caught him in the face again, and he fell backward. She watched him roll back and forth on the dirty floor, holding his face, as she crossed her arms across her chest. “The bomb!” she yelled. “Where? When?”

He mumbled something incoherent, then sat up slowly. His eyes were black with hatred; she knew that he was now operating on an emotion so base and powerful that his logic, his clever manipulation, would be overwhelmed. There would be no more games. She asked again. “The bomb! Tell me.” He said nothing. “You want to kill me, don't you?” He held up his handcuffed hands in reply. She smiled again, a cold, evil smile, as she held up the handcuff key. “Talk to me,” she said, “and I'll give you this.”

His eyes widened. “Give me that first. Then we talk.”

She nodded. The key bounced across the floor and came to rest between his knees. He grabbed it and jammed it into the locks on his handcuffs as she watched. When the manacles dropped to the floor, he rose. Head down, he charged Angelique and swung a fist at her. A second later, he hit the wall and staggered. He swung at her again. She blocked the arm, then peppered his face with blows from her fists. As she backed away, he swung once more. She caught his arm, bent it into an unnatural shape, and twisted until it until a loud crack echoed in the room. He screamed, and she increased the pressure on his injured arm as she drove him into a wall. His face smashed against the glass of the observation window, and he slowly slid down to the floor. As he did, Angelique noted that he left a smear of blood across the glass.

She looked around the room, and she noted the position of the video camera, high on a wall. She yanked him across the room by his injured arm, and he followed her. She righted a chair and placed it behind him as he faced the camera, and backed away a step. Then, she gut-punched him, a punch so hard that he doubled over and retched on the floor between his feet as he collapsed into the chair. She allowed the silence in the room to tick by for perhaps ten or fifteen seconds, then said, “The bomb. Tell me about it. Talk to the camera. Speak French.”

He began speaking slowly. He was describing an address, naming names. She grabbed him by the hair and held his face up toward the camera. “Louder, again,” she prompted. He kept talking. As he did, he dripped blood. It reddened his shirt and dotted the floor between his legs. Eventually, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he went limp. She let go of his hair, and his chin dropped to his chest. His arms dangled by his sides limply. Angelique looked to the window. “Did you get that?” she asked in French.

Bruno's voice answered on the speaker. “We did. Is he all right?”

She looked at his limp form, slouched down in the chair. “I think he needs some more hot tea,” she said.

She found the handcuffs and the key, and she locked his wrist to the chair. Then, she knocked on the door, and it buzzed open. She stepped into the hallway. There, several people watched her in silence. Most were Police Nationale or SDAT, and they regarded her with cautious, pale expressions. Bruno stepped forward and motioned two paramedics toward the door, then studied her silently.

“Did you get what you needed?” Angelique asked, as she handed him the handcuff key.

“We did. Thank you.” He looked toward the door as the paramedics emerged, and he raised an eyebrow in question. One of the paramedics shook his head, and Bruno looked at Angelique. “Did you mean to kill him?” he asked.

Angelique puzzled at that, then looked around at the paramedics' faces. “He's dead?”

One of the paramedics nodded. “As dead as yesterday's fish.”

Bruno looked at the people in the hall. “This never happened, do you understand? Sergeant, take the names of everyone here. If this ever gets to be public knowledge, I'll know who's responsible.” He faced Angelique. “You'd better go and get washed up. You're a mess.”

Angelique looked down at herself. Her top was speckled with blood, and her knuckles and hands were covered with it. She grunted agreement. Bruno pointed to a washroom, then put a hand on her arm to stop her. Softly, he asked, “Did you mean to kill him?”

“I don't really know,” she said. “Perhaps.”


She looked at Bruno. “He was a rabid dog,” she said, “and rabid dogs just need killing.”

“The longer I do this job, the more I understand you,” Bruno said. “And that scares me.”

“It should scare you,” Angelique replied. He released her arm, and she walked toward the washroom as the crowd in the hall parted for her in silence.




As Angelique scrubbed her face and hands in the sink, she looked into the mirror. The darkness in her eyes, that old, familiar acquaintance which appeared whenever she had to do a job, was fading, returning to that place deep within her psyche where it lived until needed once again. She felt old; her face revealed a new line or two around the eyes, and they matched a weariness in the core of her which begged her for rest. Her eyes traveled down the mirror's reflection to her chest, just beneath her neck, where a little gold Star of David dangled on a chain. There would be no rest for her. She was a Jew, and she was a defender of her people. It was a perpetual job, it seemed.

The washroom door opened, and Shoshana entered. “Damn, Angel,” she said. “I'm supposed to be the crazy one here, not you.”

“It was personal,” Angelique said.

“No shit.” Shoshana tossed an item of clothing at Angelique. “Here. A clean shirt. I took the liberty of fetching it from your bag.”

Angelique looked into the mirror. For the first time, she noted the spots of blood which dotted her top. “Ah. Thank you.” She stripped off her shoulder holster and handed it to Shoshana, then yanked the blood-spattered top over her head and threw it into the trash can. A moment later, she'd donned the new top and the holster, and they left to find their comrades.




Bruno met them at the van. “We've got warrants on the addresses and people Al-Rahmat mentioned,” he said to the assembled Israelis. “We're going now.” He paused, then added, “The interrogation helped. Thank you.”

Angelique said, “I'm afraid I've left you a mess to clean up.”

“It's the price of doing business,” Bruno said. “Ah, may I ask one more favor of your team, Maurie?” The Israelis exchanged puzzled glances, then nods.

“What?” Maurie asked.

“I saw how Al-Rahmat reacted when you said that you were Mossad. Stick around. When we bring these people in, you can question them.” He hurriedly added, “Perhaps just a little more gently, though?”

“What the hell,” Maurie said. “We weren't going home tonight, anyway.”

As the members of the Israeli assassination team retrieved their overnight bags and locked the van, Bruno was met by a Police Nationale official. “Do you want that body sent to the morgue?” he asked.

Bruno thought for a second. “No,” he said. “Leave him there. He'll provide us one last service before we cart him out.”




13 Rue d'Espoir. That evening.

“I just got a text from Angel,” Laurie said. “They're coming home tomorrow, she thinks.”

The other faces around the living room coffee table nodded. “Damn, I miss my honey,” Allie said. She got murmurs of agreement from Claire and Laurie.

“Are they all right?” Claire asked.

“She'd have said if anything had gone wrong,” Laurie said. She noted Claire's worry and attempted a reassuring smile. “I'm sure they're all fine.”

“As you say,” Claire mumbled. It was an unconvincing performance. Claire was deeply worried; Allie and Laurie could feel it. “Wine?” Laurie asked. Claire shook her head. “Hot tea?”

“That would be nice,” Claire said. “I'll make it.” She rose and walked to the kitchen. As she did, Allie leaned toward Laurie.

“She's really stressing. Go and comfort her,” Allie said.

Laurie cocked her head in puzzlement. “I thought – ”

“She's attached herself to you more than me,” Allie said. “Go.” She watched her sister rise and head to the kitchen. A moment later, she heard whispers of conversation. She turned toward the television and turned the volume up a couple of notches to give them privacy. As she attempted to focus on the news, she wondered if she'd done the correct thing by sending Laurie to Claire when the latter was so vulnerable. Hell, when they both were. Laurie was a tough farm girl who kept her feelings close to her chest, but Allie knew her sister well enough to know that she was particularly vulnerable right now, too. She sighed deeply, then returned her attention to the news with the muttered comment, “They're both big girls. And damn, I miss my guy.” The spontaneous statement took her by surprise. She mulled it over in her mind, smiled at it, and added, “Jeez. Until Maurie, I never thought I'd hear myself say that ever again.”




SDAT Headquarters, Paris.

Bruno's gambit had paid off. The heavily-armed teams of police had hit the addresses, found some bomb-making materials, rounded up male suspects, and spirited them to the holding cells. A few at a time, they were herded into the disordered, bloody room where Al-Rahmat's body still sat in a chair, and they were lined up against the wall. Then, an SDAT agent accompanied by a male translator would walk the line and question the suspects, warning them that if they didn't cooperate with the French, they'd be handed over to Mossad. After a second of silence, the interrogator would jerk a thumb toward Al-Rahmat and finish, “Like he was.” Then, they'd leave the suspects alone with their thoughts and watch through the glass as they whispered animatedly among themselves.

Most of the suspects were rather young; some spoke passable French, but many did not. In the end, after they were separated and questioned individually, many cooperated and spoke freely. The recalcitrant ones were herded together into a room. There were five of them; they were older than the others, wiser, and probably with training provided by Hamas or ISIS.

The interrogator and his translator entered the room and studied the sulking, silent prisoners. After a mutual staring contest of a minute or so, the agent spoke, and the translator echoed the sentiments in Arabic.

“You can still cooperate with us, you know. The worst that can happen is that you'll spend some time in a nice, comfortable French prison. But if you remain silent, we'll turn you over to Mossad and wash our hands of you.” He let that thought sink in, then removed the prisoners one at a time to the hallway for a private talk. One prisoner decided to relent. The others didn't, and remained together in the cell.

Bruno stuck his head into the lounge. “You're up. We've got four hard cases. They're all yours.”

“Did you get us what we asked for?” Maurie said. Bruno nodded and entered the room. On the table, he placed four balaclava masks of the type that police used, and four long, wooden riot batons. As Bruno collected their pistols, Maurie, Angelique, Shoshana, and Esther pulled the face coverings over their heads and picked up their batons. Then, they trod down the hallway single-file toward the interrogation room, to the silent stares of some Police Nationale members. When the door buzzed and opened, they entered. A second later, several of the French police gathered behind Bruno at the window to witness the scene.

When the Mossad agents entered the room, the four remaining prisoners ceased all conversation among themselves and stared in shocked silence. Four figures stood before them, faces hidden, all wearing empty shoulder holsters and wielding wooden batons. They lined up shoulder-to-shoulder facing the prisoners, and Angelique spoke in Arabic.

“You should speak freely with the French police, you know. It is better for you.”

One of the prisoners, bearded and appearing older, glowered up at them. “Who the hell are you? Are we supposed to be scared of women?”

“No,” Maurie answered. “But you should be scared of us.”

“You can't use those on us. We're in police custody. The French have laws.” The other prisoners laughed nervously at that.

The snickers of laughter coming from the prisoners silenced when Angelique said, “We're not French.”

One of the prisoners said, “Mossad. They're the fucking Mossad, Muhammad.”

Muhammad, obviously the older and the leader, stood up and defiantly waved his handcuffed wrists in the air. “Jews. You can all go to hell. You can't touch me. You can't do anything to me. This is France. I have rights.”

Without a word, Maurie stepped forward and brought his baton down on Muhammad's head. A tremendous, hollow crack resounded in the room, and Muhammad collapsed to the floor, grasping his head. Maurie hit him again, another resounding smack. Blood seeped between the man's fingers and began running down his face as he wallowed at his comrades' feet, unable to rise. “Now,” Angelique said, “does anyone else have objections?”

The three remaining prisoners began chattering frantically. Slowly, the masked interrogators walked toward them, and their voices rose to screams and pleas. Angelique listened to them, then walked to the window and pressed the speaker button.

“I think they'll talk to you now.”

She could hear the triumph in Bruno's voice. “We'll send in the translator and the interrogator. Thank you, friends.”

Fifteen minutes later, they had reclaimed their pistols and overnight bags, and were settling into the van. Angelique took the driver's seat, and she looked at her companions. “Back to the farm?”

“That's an hour's drive, Angel,” Esther said. She looked at Maurie. “We're already in Paris. Can't we just go home?”

“Yeah. Another hour in this van will make me crazy,” Shoshana echoed.

“You're already crazy,” Esther teased. “Maurie? How about it?”

Maurie looked around the van, then nodded. “I'll call Ronstein.” He exited the van and spent a few minutes speaking on his cell phone, then returned to the van. “No,” he said. “No exception to the standard operating procedure. But,” he said, as he held up a finger to silence any protest, “Ronstein will spring for hotel rooms here in Paris.”

“Mossad, springing for four hotel rooms in Paris? That doesn't sound like them to me,” Shoshana said. “They're usually a bunch of tight-asses with the money.”

“Not four rooms,” Maurie said. “Two.”

“I told you,” Shoshana mumbled. “We have to double up. Tight-asses.”

“At the Shangri-La Hotel, perhaps?” Angelique teased.

Esther, who was tapping at her cell phone, laughed. “God, Angel. That costs eight hundred Euros a night. Oh, but it's got a pool and a view of the Eiffel Tower.”

“We can skinny-dip,” Shoshana suggested.

“I have seen the Eiffel Tower,” Angelique said. “I live in Paris, remember? Right now, I just want a clean bed.”

“All right,” Esther said. “Here's one.” She leaned forward and held the phone out to Maurie. “It's only a hundred and ten Euros a night for a room, and it's not too far away.”

Maurie sighed in surrender, and he nodded agreement. “Give Angel directions,” he said.

Angelique snickered as two voices in the back seat shouted “Yes!” at the same time. She put the van in gear, and they pulled out onto the night-time Paris street.

As Angelique drove, she cast a glance at Maurie. “What is with you?” she asked.

“I was just wondering,” he said, “how Muslim men manage with four wives.”

She laughed. “The question is how you will manage with one.”

Twenty minutes later, they'd found the hotel, parked the van, and registered at the desk. Maurie led them to the second floor rooms, then turned and faced his companions. He looked a little ill at ease as he held up the two keys. “Ah, listen...” he said. That elicited grins from the three females.

“You're wondering how to divvy up the rooms, aren't you?” Shoshana teased. “Maurie, I've never seen you so lost for words.”

Esther giggled in delight. “I'll share the room with you, Maurie. If your Allie doesn't mind, that is.”

“And if she does?” Angelique asked.

“Don't tell,” Esther said. “Then she won't be angry.”

“This won't do,” Shoshana interrupted. “Maurie, I'll share the room with you. I'm gay, so your reputation is protected.”

Maurie gestured toward Esther and Angelique. “But they're gay, too.”

“Only Angel. Esther goes both ways.”

“Now you tell me,” Maurie mumbled.

Shoshana lifted the key from Esther's hand and took Maurie by the arm. “Esther, it looks like you and Angel get to share the other room. Sorry, Esther. You'll just have to endure Angel's snoring.” As she led Maurie away, she looked back over her shoulder. Her expression was one of evil delight. “Are you two going for dinner?” she called out.

“Not hungry,” Angelique and Esther muttered in unison, as they cast cautious glances at each other.

“Suit yourselves,” she said. “Good-night, then.”

“Good-night,” Angelique mumbled.

“Yeah,” Esther agreed.

“And keep the noise down,” Shoshana said as a parting shot. “We're next door.” They entered their room and shut the door. For a moment, there was dead silence in the hall. Esther and Angelique looked at each other.

“What did she mean by that?” Esther asked.

“Maybe she sleeps lightly,” Angelique offered.

“Yeah. Right.” Esther studied Angelique's expression. “Are you okay with this set-up?”

“Yes. Of course. Why not?” Angelique answered, a little too quickly.

Esther's bright blue eyes flashed humor. “Exactly. Why not?” She waved the key in the air. “Well, shall we?”

“We shall.” Angelique picked up both their bags as Esther unlocked their door and entered. A second after the door closed, the lock clicked.




Shoshana dropped her bag on the floor and sat on a bed. “Maurie?” she asked. He answered with a noncommittal grunt. “You know that I appreciate honesty. Well, I have to confess two things.”

“Oh?” Maurie pulled the curtains closed and turned away from the window. “What?”

“First: I really feel like getting drunk tonight.”

Maurie considered that statement, then nodded. “Me, too. What's the second confession?”

“I'll tell you another time. Shall we cruise the street for a couple of bottles of booze?”

Maurie allowed himself a broad grin. “I thought you'd never ask.”

As they walked past Angelique's and Esther's room, Shoshana paused to knock on the door. Maurie tugged on her arm. “No, don't disturb them right now.”

“Why? What do you think is going on in there?” she asked.

Maurie smiled painfully. “Ancient history. I'll tell you as we walk.”




13 Rue d'Espoir.

Laurie made a last inspection of the darkened, empty bar downstairs. It was ready for re-opening, she decided. It's time to hire two more bar-girls; just Emma and I won't do. She glanced at the piano. And it's time for Angel to get back to work, too. I'm about tired of Mossad. They'll keep using her until they kill her.

She double-checked the massive locks on the bar's front and alley doors, then ascended the stairs to the apartment and locked that door. The apartment was quiet; the lights were low, and Claire was asleep on the couch, beneath her blanket. Laurie checked the front door locks and the security camera system, then walked down the hall. The shower was running, so that's where her sister was. All was well, she decided. There's nothing left to do but go to bed. It's still a little early; maybe I'll read some. She entered her bedroom and shut the door quietly behind her.

She undressed, donned a night-shirt, and slid into bed. It was familiar there, comfortable. But it was lonely. Angelique was not there. She closed her eyes and willed herself to attempt sleep, but it did not work. She tossed and turned for a while, and her mind raced with thought. Finally, in disgust, she rose and walked to the window. In the dark, she watched the street below. The occasional car or motor-bike, the thin smattering of pedestrians, the yellow halo of the street-lamps reflecting off the buildings' windows and the street's cobblestones; Paris, she thought. I'm living a dream. Then why am I so unhappy tonight?

A soft tapping echoed. She listened for a moment, then shook her head. It must have been imagination. Again, it sounded, hushed and plaintive in the darkness. It must be Allie, she decided, wanting to talk. She opened the door and blinked in surprise.

“Claire?” she whispered.

“I'm sorry to disturb you. You were asleep?”

“No.” Laurie shrugged. “I can't sleep.” She studied Claire's expression, dim in the night. “You can't, either?”

“No. I'm – ”

“Scared?” Laurie suggested.

“Yes. It is silly, I know.”

“No. Me, too. Come in.” She stood back, and Claire entered. “Do you want to sit up and talk? I can get some wine.”

“No,” Claire said, as Laurie shut the door. They faced each other in silence. Laurie could almost feel the two hearts pounding in the room. The energy seemed palpable.

“Hot tea?” Laurie asked weakly.


“What, then?” Laurie asked, her voice a whisper.

In reply, Claire twisted the key just beneath the doorknob. It clicked. “Please,” she whispered, as she grasped Laurie's hand. “I don't want to be alone tonight.”

“Claire, I – ” Laurie didn't get a chance to finish her thought. It fled her mind as soon as Claire kissed her. And God, Laurie thought at that moment, this girl can kiss. She found herself responding, first with hesitation, then with enthusiasm. Oh, hell, she thought. It's going to happen. I don't have the will to stop it.

Laurie held Claire's face in her hands and looked at her. Then, she took Claire's hand and led her toward the ancient four-poster bed. When they reached it, Laurie turned toward Claire. “Are we really going to do this?”

“I hope so,” Claire said.

“Listen – ”

Claire's fingertip on Laurie's lips silenced her. “No words,” she whispered. “You need say nothing. This is only a moment in time, and nothing else.”

“That's the first time I've ever heard it called that,” Laurie said, right before she surrendered to the sensation of Claire's hands on her body in very personal places.




Allie wrapped a towel around her, collected her toilet kit, and exited the bathroom. She walked into the living area and noted that it was empty and quiet. “What the heck? Where did everybody go?” she asked. Her gaze wandered to the couch where Claire usually slept, and she noted the rumpled blanket cast aside. Her jaw dropped. “Say it ain't so,” she said, then returned to the hall. She stopped in front of Laurie's bedroom, put her ear near the door, and heard rustling and the occasional whisper. Her amused expression became a broad grin as she tiptoed toward the guest room. “Damn, little sis,” she muttered. “You beat me to it.” She snickered as she opened the guest room door. “Oh, I'm going to have so much fun with this tomorrow,” she decided.




Downtown Paris.

Angelique and Esther placed their bags on a table. “I'm first to the bathroom,” Esther said, as she kicked off her shoes and headed for the toilet. Angelique busied herself with peeking through the window to scout the area. She watched the people, mostly young people at this time of the evening, stroll the street and populate the bars and cafés. She even thought that she'd seen Maurie and Shoshana walking away from the hotel's entrance. She smiled at that. Now there's trouble, she thought: Maurie and Shoshana. She pulled the curtains tight, then turned the overhead lights off and the indirect lighting up to a mellow, comfortable level. While she was housekeeping, she turned down the cover on the bed, as well.

She'd pulled off her boots and dropped her shoulder holster on the table when Esther emerged. “Need to use the toilet?” Esther asked.

“No, thank you.”

Esther mussed Angelique's hair playfully. “Oh, don't be so formal with me. We're old friends from way back.”

“Prehistory, I believe,” Angelique said.

“Ooh, a big word. Bat-Ami, your English is better than I remember.”

“Laurie is a good teacher.”

Esther smiled at that. “I'm sure. And Claire teaches me French.”

“Oh? Say something to me in French,” Angelique teased, as she rose from her chair.

“Okay.” The room suddenly grew quiet as Esther drew very close to Angelique. The bright blue of her eyes seemed to sparkle hotly, to draw in and mesmerize Angelique. Slowly, Esther whispered a thought. “Je veux être avec toi, Angelique Bat-Ami.”

Angelique's breath caught. She could feel her pulse pounding throughout her body; in this second, time had seemed to stop completely. She was no longer in this world; she was frozen in those gorgeous blue eyes, in that face, in the presence of that whispered voice. She could feel the hot blood rise in her veins. It seemed to Angelique that the years had traced instantly backward, and they were twenty and in Israel again. “Je veux – ” Esther whispered again.

“Do you know what you say?” Angelique managed to whisper in English. She didn't have to ask, though. She could feel the answer radiate from Esther's body. And she could feel the heat in her own cheeks. Without another word, she pulled Esther to her, lifted her into her arms, and carried her to the turned-down bed. Together, they tumbled onto the clean sheets locked in a desperate, libido-fueled embrace from which there was no escape, but only surrender.




“There. The liquor store.” Shoshana took Maurie's arm as they crossed the street and navigated the evening crowds. “So, what's this about Angelique and Esther?”

“They were an item once.”

“A fling?” Shoshana asked.

“No. It was damned serious.”

“Oh. They were in love, huh?”

Maurie cracked that famous grin of his. “Desperately. They were eighteen or twenty. Both in the army. I think it was the first big one for both of them.”

“God help them. What happened?”

“Angelique's death was faked to save her from a Hamas fatwah . She was spirited from the country and hidden here. And Esther grieved, then moved on. Like we all do. But with her, it was hard. She never was quite the same, I suspect.”

“Ah.” Shoshana thought about it for a moment. “And now Angel's married. And I'm the stupid jerk who put them together in the same room, huh?”

“Yup,” Maurie said. “So, shall we buy them a bottle, too?”

Shoshana nodded. “I think they'll need it after tonight.”




An hour later, Angelique and Esther lay together. They were silent, motionless. The bed-covers were kicked onto the floor next to their clothes, but they made no attempt to retrieve them. Esther turned on her side, rested her head on Angelique's shoulder, and traced a finger across the bare skin of her chest. For some time, they kept their silence. Finally, Esther said, “Well, at least I feel much better, anyway.” She knew that she'd struck home with the humor when she saw the corner of Angelique's mouth twitch upward in a grin. “Don't you?” she asked.

“Yes. And no.”

“Ah. Feeling guilty, are we?”

“I'm married. Remember?” Angelique asked.

Esther leaned up on one elbow and looked down at Angelique. “I always thought that you French were so casual about a little romp. It really is very common, you know.”

“I suppose it is.”

Esther touched Angelique's cheek. “Do you regret it now?”

Angelique turned toward Esther. The eyes were still as blue as she remembered, but they were lined with old pain and new worry. They weren't like that so long ago, in Israel; then, those eyes saw the world as fresh with wonder and possibility. Windows to the soul, the philosophers say. Now, they revealed a fragile, damaged soul in a vicious, violent world from which there seemed no escape.

“Esther, I have never regretted for a moment being with you, either then or now.”

Esther's eyes watered. “That's about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me,” she whispered. “Thank you. Now, what nice gift can I give you?”

“A funeral? Laurie will kill me if she finds out what we did,” Angelique confessed.

“Then don't tell her. You'll only hurt her. It's our secret forever, Bat-Ami. And you needed release. You were wound tighter than a guitar string.” She snickered. “Me, too.”


“Relax and forget about it.” Esther rose and sat on the edge of the bed as her cell phone pinged. “Who the hell?” she asked, as she tapped at the phone's face. “Oh! It's Shoshana. She says to open the door and look in the hall. She and Maurie have a present for us.” Esther placed down the phone, picked up her pistol, and bounded across the room. At the door, she cracked it and peered out, then squealed. “Thank you,” she said, as she reached one arm through the crack, hiding her nudity with the door. “Just what we needed.”

“You look like you need clothes more,” Shoshana's voice teased. “And maybe a cigarette.”

“Oh, shut up. Give me, and thank you. I pay you tomorrow.” She shut the door, locked it, and turned to Angelique to find her sitting up on the bed, her own pistol in her hand. She held up the bottle. “Look. Liquor.” She sat on the bed next to Angelique. “Let's get drunk together, Bat-Ami. What the hell, we're already naked.” She laughed. “We always did do things backwards, you and I.”

“One of us should stay sober,” Angelique said.

“Oh, poo. No one knows that we're here. Not even SDAT. We can relax tonight.”




Maurie and Shoshana sat in their room, sharing the bottle of tequila that they'd chosen for themselves. They cracked jokes, made small talk, and generally worked on getting tanked. Shoshana was succeeding much more quickly than Maurie, it seemed, as she was becoming uninhibited in her speech. “So,” she said, “here we sit, getting pissed after a hard day's work.”


“And we're even behaving ourselves.”


“Unlike our comrades in the next room, who are actually shtupping each other.”

“So it would seem.”

“For God's sake, Maurie. We kill people for a living, but a little screwing is a sin? Explain that to me.”

“I can't,” he said. “I'm not a rabbi.”

Shoshana poured another shot for each of them. “Let's talk tachles . Honest. Maurie, you're a man, right?”

“Last time I checked, I was.”

“Haven't you thought at least once tonight about poking me? I'll bet you have.”

Maurie downed a shot of tequila, then spoke. “Of course. But you're gay, so I'm out of luck.”

“See? Honesty. I love it. That's why I like you, Maurie. You're a good man. There aren't a hell of a lot of those around anymore.”

“Since we're being so honest, what was that confession you were saving for later?”

“Oh.” Shoshana downed her shot of tequila. “That.” She glanced up at Maurie. “I'm not really gay, you know. I'm bi.”


“So you might get lucky after all.”

“Your secret is safe with me.” Maurie thought for a moment, then looked at Shoshana. “Since we're being so honest...”


“Have you thought tonight about – ” He gestured toward her, then toward himself.

“Yes. I have.”

“And what was your conclusion?”

Shoshana poured another shot and downed it. “I need a shower. It's been a long, nasty day, and I'm getting quite drunk.”

“I could use one, too.” Maurie puzzled over her answer. “Does that mean you're not answering the question?”

Shoshana laughed. “That means, ‘Let's take a shower together and talk about it'.”

Maurie poured himself a shot. “I'm not sure that I'm drunk enough to cheat on my wife yet.”

“I am. You sit here and drink, then. I'll shower. And when I come out, you better be drunk enough, because I'm going to be naked.” With that, she stood and planted a kiss on his mouth, then headed to the bathroom, shedding clothing as she went.

The door closed, and he heard the shower start. Slowly, his eyes trailed across the shed clothing, and he smiled. “What the hell,” he finally said. “It's Paris, right?” he drank his shot of tequila, poured one more, downed it, and uttered a silent prayer for strength as he headed for the shower, shedding his own clothing as he went.




The next morning, Laurie was in the kitchen, preparing a pot of coffee. When soft footsteps sounded behind her, she looked around. It was her sister. “So, little sis,” Allie said. “The apprentice finally trumps the master, huh?”

Laurie looked up at her sister's expression, then leaned against the counter and crossed her arms across her chest. “Okay, what's up with you?”

“You totally outdid me last night. Congratulations.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don't act so innocent. You won the girl. I congratulate you. I had to sleep alone last night.”

“Oh.” Laurie's expression changed from one of puzzlement to one of chagrin. “Hey, I tried to be discreet.”

“You were discreet. You're also loud. Or maybe that wasn't you. Or maybe the walls are thin.”

“It was both of us, I guess. And yeah, the walls are thin. Hey, it's an old building.”

“I'm just sorry it wasn't me,” Allie lamented. “Do we have coffee yet?” At Laurie's nod, she lifted the pot and poured two cups.

“This stays totally between us, right?” Laurie asked, as she chose a cup.

Allie's expression was gentle. “Of course, little sis.” She sipped her coffee, then asked, “May I offer you some advice?” She took Laurie's raised eyebrow as a ‘yes'. “The first time you cheat is the Rubicon. It gets easier from then on out.”

Laurie asked, “And you know this how?”

“Experience.” Allie's expression changed from warm to serious. “You've got a great thing going with Angel, Laurie. If you fuck it up, you'll regret it for the rest of your life.”

Laurie sipped her coffee as she thought about what she'd just heard. After a moment, she looked up at Allie. “I'm going to totally shock my older sister,” she said.


“I'm going to agree with you. Now, what should I do? Tell Angel?”

“No!” Allie placed a hand on Laurie's shoulder. “Don't ever tell her. This is your burden. You carry it by yourself. Don't put it on her shoulders, too.” Allie watched Laurie digest that thought, then nod agreement. “Okay, so let's change the subject. When are our honeys getting home?”

“Today sometime.”

A soft voice behind them asked, “Coffee?”

Allie and Laurie turned around. It was Claire, looking very sleep-worn and rubbing her eyes.

“Yeah,” Laurie poured a cup and placed it in Claire's hands. At Claire's shy nod of thanks, Allie laughed, then hugged her.

“Claire honey, you're so cute when you first wake up,” Allie reassured her. “And I've got to pee, damn it,” she groused, as she left the kitchen. “I've always got to pee, it seems.”

“That'll stop,” Laurie called after her, “when you get that STD treated.”

“Oh, yuk, yuk!” Allie retorted, as she shut the bathroom door.

Claire managed a smile at the exchange, then turned to Laurie. “She knows,” Claire asked, “about us last night?”

“Yeah. Don't worry. She'll keep a secret.”

“I hope,” Claire said. “Because we can't undo it now.” She watched Laurie nod agreement, then asked, “Do you regret?”

Laurie thought about it as she sipped her coffee. Finally, she answered, “No. And yes. It was very sweet. And also very wrong.”

“It was sweet, wasn't it?” Claire said. “Last night was last night. Now is now. That's life. C'est la vie. It's our secret.” She smiled painfully. “We have a future with our lovers, you and I. We only had a moment with each other. That's the way we French look at these matters. You should be more French.”

Laurie laughed. “I'm trying. God knows I'm trying.”




“Not much conversation around this table this morning, is there?” Esther asked brightly. She looked at her breakfast companions and snickered at the three sets of bleary eyes attempting to focus in her direction. “Did three of us drink too much last night?”


“Go away.”

“Don't talk so loud.”

“So,” Angelique asked, “How is it that you are so – so – ?”

“Alive?” Esther guessed. “I don't get hangovers, remember?”

“You didn't have time to drink, I think,” Shoshana said.

Esther's bright blue eyes twinkled in amusement. “My mother told me: In life, one sets priorities. Drink was not my priority last night.”

“What was?” Maurie asked. When everyone looked at him, he shrugged. “Just curious.”

“Not what,” Shoshana teased. “Who.”

All eyes focused on Angelique, who was poking at her breakfast with her fork. After a moment, she stopped poking and looked up. “What?” she asked.

In spite of their hangovers, the table erupted in laughter. Angelique raised an eyebrow at this, then cast a glance at Esther, who smiled sweetly and patted Angelique on the shoulder. “Bat-Ami, you are in some ways still a child.” She added, “And I hope you stay that way forever.”

Thank you,” Angelique mumbled. “I think.”

Maurie pulled his cell phone from his pocket. “Let's see if we can go home today,” he said, as he rose from the table and excused himself.

Five minutes later, he came back to the table and sat down. “Ronstein is meeting us here,” he said. “It's something important. We're to wait.”

The three women all exchanged glances. After a moment of silence, Shoshana summed up all their feelings in a one word utterance. “Fuck!” she said. “Probably another job.”

“Well,” Angelique added, “In that case, I suppose we can order another pot of coffee for our table.” She waved down the server and repeated the order, then added, “And one more cup, please. We're having a guest join us.”

Fifteen minutes later, Ronstein joined them at their table. As Esther placed a cup in front of him and poured some coffee, he nodded thanks, then began speaking. “We've got a situation,” he said. “I just heard from Bruno at SDAT this morning. He's not happy.”

“What's his problem?” Maurie asked. “We're killing his jihadists for him, aren't we?”

“That's the problem. You're not supposed to beat them to death in a Police Nationale interrogation room. And who gave that other one a severe head injury? He's in hospital now, on a respirator. He's not expected to live.”

“So?” Angelique asked.

“So,” Ronstein said, “Bruno tells me that there's been a reporter sniffing around and asking questions. If this breaks into the news and becomes public – ”

“That was quick,” Maurie said. “I wonder how they found out. Is SDAT not secure?”

“SDAT is. Police Nationale is not,” Angelique said. “Several of their people witnessed it. All it takes is one ambitious person to call a reporter.”

“Undoubtedly a left-wing reporter,” Maurie added. “Does he know where this guy is from?”

Le Canard enchaîné , he thinks.” Ronstein looked at Angelique. “Do you know this outfit?”

“Yes. Left-wing.” Angelique smiled painfully. “Well, at least it's not Al-Jazeera .”

“If this breaks into the news, it will be.” Ronstein sighed. “Look, the Old Man wants you bunch to lay low for a while. No more jobs. Angelique, go open your bar. Maurie, settle down and become a farmer. Esther, go back to that gym and teach Krav Maga .”

“And me?” Shoshana asked. “Whatever shall we do with Shoshana Klein?”

Angelique wrapped an arm around Shoshana's neck and pulled her close in a hug. “The Old Man won't let you down, not after how well you did here.”

“He reassigned you to me,” Ronstein said, “at the embassy here, in Paris.”

“So, is this it? Are we done as a team?” Maurie asked.

“No. You're just – ” Ronstein thought about it for a moment. “Hiding for a while. Let the storm blow over.”

“You mean, ‘Let the shit hit the fan and finish splattering',” Esther said. “Well, Mossad knows that one thing I can do is hide.”

“You all hide,” Ronstein said. “And if a reporter come around you asking questions, call me. I want his name. Got it?” Four heads nodded in answer, indicating that they understood. “I'll be in touch through Maurie. Until then, Shalom .” Ronstein rose, shook each person's hand in turn, and left the table. Silence reigned until Angelique perked up and smiled.

“Well,” she said, “let's go home. I want to re-open my bar. Are you all going to be there?”




The following week was uneventful. Maurie devoted himself to painting and repairs around the farm, Allie studied for her upcoming conversion to Judiasm, Esther resumed conducting her self-defense classes at the gym and her love affair with Claire, and Shoshana went to work and live at the Israeli Embassy in Paris – after a shopping spree to augment her very Spartan wardrobe, assisted by Claire's superior sense of style and knowledge of French language and custom.

And among the staff of Café Angel, the sense of excitement grew. Servers, the café's ‘bar-girls', as they called themselves, were either welcomed back or new ones hired. Emma and Laurie did their best to train them, Angelique practiced piano and voice for three hours a day, and Maurice kept the bar in order and saw to the liquor, beer, coffee, and espresso.

And yes, Angelique drilled the employees on what to do if they were attacked. A couple of the bar-girls were shocked to find that Angelique kept a pistol beneath her piano keyboard and Laurie had a loaded shotgun squirreled away behind the bar, but their fears eased as they rehearsed Angelique's terrorism drills. And through all this, Laurie and Angelique renewed their daily trips to the gym, a habit which had been somewhat disrupted by Angelique's recent Mossad responsibilities. There, Laurie resumed her drills in Krav Maga under Esther's tutelage and began rising every morning with a new bruise or ache where it hadn't been the day before as a sign of success. Angelique, always intense in her pursuit of perfection, just ached every morning, but would never admit it. Laurie could tell, though, when she detected the smell of menthol rub on Angelique. When quizzed, Angelique would just mutter, “ Non, non, ” to which Laurie would respond with a chuckle and the French equivalent of the American expression for ‘bovine excrement'.

All the while, Angelique nursed a lingering, uneasy feeling that a catastrophe was waiting around the next corner for her. She couldn't define it, but she also couldn't shake it. It wore on her, and Laurie noted it. One evening, Laurie decided to press the issue as Angelique settled down on the couch at her side.

Laurie said, “Angel, we need to talk.”

“Um.” Angelique sipped her wine, then turned and focused on Laurie.

“You've been acting strangely since you came home this last time,” Laurie said. “What's up with you?” Angelique sighed in response and remained silent, but her averted gaze told Laurie that she was ordering her thoughts. They would come soon enough. And they did.

“What I tell you, you must never repeat. Yes?” Angelique said.

Laurie noted the stern gaze. She nodded. “Yeah. Sure.”

“A man died in police custody. It may cause us difficulty.”

“How's that?”

Angelique laid bare the incident. As she spoke, Laurie could see the darkness flicker in the back of her eyes, the old, ruthless Angel of Mossad that Laurie had first seen so long ago. When the words were done and silence enveloped them, Laurie turned to face Angelique.

“Do you remember when you first saved my life?” she asked. Angelique nodded. “I saw something in your eyes then, a cold, hard look. Almost a demonic look. It faded right afterward. I just saw it again, as you told me what happened. It's gone now, but it was there.”

Angelique considered the words. “What does this mean?”

“I think it means,” Laurie said, “that you're becoming a little too much like what you're trying to kill. Like them .”

Angelique sipped her wine as she thought about Laurie's words. After a silent moment, she looked at Laurie. “Is it there now?”

“No,” Laurie said. She smiled as she touched Angelique's cheek. “It's not.”

“That is the difference between me and them.” Angelique studied Laurie's reaction to her statement. “Are you afraid of me, Laurie?” Angelique asked. She asked with hesitation, her voice almost a whisper.

“Yeah, when I see that look.”

“I would never hurt you.”

“You wouldn't ever mean to. But you might.”

Angelique gasped. “You think – ?”

“You're a warrior, Angel. A defender of your people. Someone has to be. But why you? Haven't you done enough for Israel? Is Mossad going to keep asking sacrifices of you until you die for them? Or worse, until it eats away your humanity and leaves you a cold psychopath?” Laurie sniffed back a sudden tear. “I worry for you.” She leaned into Angelique's chest and rested her head on Angelique's shoulder. “Please don't become the hatred that you fight.”

For a while, Angelique held her, listened to her breathe, felt the arms clutching her tightly. Laurie, she thought. If it wasn't for her, God only knows what would have become of Angelique. Her mind involuntarily flashed back to the fateful Jerusalem day that had changed her life. She could smell the lingering smoke from the flaming, wrecked city bus, recall the ringing in her ears from the explosion. The screams of the injured echoed around her, the shouts of witnesses, the smell of carnage. And in her arms, her sister looked up at her with questioning, wide eyes as she attempted to voice the question, “What happened?” She never managed to speak; the sparkle in her eyes faded to dust as Angelique watched, and her body relaxed as the last of her life left her. As Angelique realized that her sister had just died in her arms, a burned, bloody victim of a bus bombing, she also realized that she had lost something else. She hadn't found it again until Laurie came into her life, and it wasn't until that moment that she realized how much she'd missed it. She couldn't quite define it, but she didn't want it ever to leave her again. And if Laurie ever left, it would go with her.

“You and me, Laurie,” she whispered into the ear so close to her face. “Always.”

Laurie kept her face buried in Angelique's shoulder. “Do you mean it?” she asked in a muffled voice.

“The team, we are disbanded for now,” Angelique said. “No more jobs. You and me, we open our bar, yes? We live our lives. Together.”

Laurie's head lifted. Their eyes met, hazel and soft brown. “Do you mean it?” At Angelique's nod, she asked, “What happened to make them disband you guys?”

“The press, they are asking questions. We must how-do-you-say?”

“Lay low?” Laurie offered.

“Yes. Lay low. That's it.”

“So the Angel of Mossad can disappear for a while?”

“Forever, I hope.”

Laurie studied Angelique. “She'll be back. She's a part of you, Angel. She's never far away. And Mossad will always come back and ask for her again and again, until one day, I'll have to bury you.”

“Laurie, I – ” Angelique's voice suddenly went soft. “Please, you will not leave me?”

“Is that what you're worried about?” Laurie smoothed Angelique's hair away from her face as she spoke softly. “We're married. I told you that I'd never leave you.” She climbed into Angelique's lap and straddled her legs, facing her. Their faces were close, their foreheads almost touching. “Is it so hard for you to believe that I love you? I do. I'm crazy about you.” She smiled painfully. “You're my crack. I've got to have you.”

“Your crack?” Angelique asked, as she looked down. “What is wrong with your crack?”

Laurie laughed. “Nothing.” She placed a finger beneath Angelique's chin and lifted her face up. “You're my crack. You know, my drug. Like my cocaine or something.”

“Oh. That crack. I think I understand.” Angelique watched Laurie's expression turn from laughing to wistful, almost pleading. “What is wrong?” she asked.

In reply, Laurie rested her forehead against Angelique's. “Take me to bed?” she whispered.

“You are sleepy?” Angelique asked.


“What, then?”

Laurie whispered, “ Je veux . . . être avec toi.”

Angelique froze. After a moment, she lifted Laurie's chin so that their eyes met, and she studied the face so near her own. “From where,” she asked, “do you learn this?”

Laurie shrugged. “I don't know.” The brown eyes reflected question. “Did I say it wrong?”

For a moment, Angelique said nothing. Finally, she managed a weak smile. “No, chérie. You say it okay.”

Angelique gathered Laurie into her arms and stood. As Laurie tightened her arms about Angelique's neck and rested her head on her shoulder, Angelique slowly walked to the bedroom, nudged the door open, and carried her inside. As she pushed the door closed with her foot, the apartment fell into silence.




Angelique lay awake in bed. She listened to Laurie's soft snore as she studied the traces of the outside street-lamp's light which patterned themselves across her ceiling. After a while, she rose, slipped on a pair of jeans and an oversized sweater, tucked her pistol into the back of her waistband, and tiptoed out of the bedroom. In her little kitchen, she found a wine bottle and poured a glass, then rummaged in a drawer and retrieved a partial pack of cigarettes and her lighter. There would be a chill in the air outside, so she slid her feet into slippers before she cracked the balcony door and eased out into the dark.

The second-floor balcony, surrounded by a wrought-iron railing, was her place of refuge and thought. Here, she could indulge her occasional urge to smoke as she mulled over problems which nagged at her. In the late night, as it was now, she could do so in seeming private, a tiny island of quiet in the middle of a city bursting with humanity.

She slouched down on the bench, crossed her legs on the low wrought-iron table in front of her, and lit a smoke. It tasted harsh and strange, but familiar at the same time. An old friend which came to comfort her at troubled times. She allowed her mind free rein as she studied the narrow, cobbled Paris street beneath her, the street-lamps with their halo of pale light, and the darkened windows of the buildings surrounding her.

Je veux être avec toi. I want to be with you. Laurie had said it exactly as Esther had said it. There were many ways in any language to tell someone that you wished to be intimate, but what were the chances that Laurie, with her increasingly competent command of French, would say it exactly as Esther – whose French was poor – had said it? Slim, she decided. Claire had taught the phrase to Esther. Had she taught it to Laurie, as well, on one of those recent lonely nights?

If she had, then it was justice, Angelique decided. Karma. She remembered Laurie's concern about Angelique working closely with Esther and Shoshana. There will be no hanky-panky, Angelique had promised. And she had broken that promise. It didn't matter that, at the moment, she and Esther were in profound need of tenderness, of release, that there seemed, for that second, no one else in the universe but the two of them. She had promised, and she had broken that promise. Perhaps it was the same way with Laurie and Claire. They were lonely, they were in need of the comfort, the reassurance that only human intimacy can bring one. She'd seen how frantically Claire clung to Esther sometimes. Laurie was a rock, and in Esther's absence, Claire would have clung to her, instead. Perhaps all night. Perhaps even on the same night that Angelique and Esther had –

She took a drag on her cigarette and exhaled the smoke slowly. Yes, she decided, her rabbi was right. God does indeed have a sense of humor. As she sipped her wine and snuggled down into her oversized sweater to ward off the chill, she decided that – if it had indeed happened – she couldn't blame Laurie one bit. It was justice, and everyone concerned was only human.

That still didn't assuage the ache in her chest.

Laurie was right about it all, Angelique admitted silently. The path she currently found herself treading will eventually crush what remains of her humanity, destroy her marriage to Laurie, and then kill her. And she didn't know how to leave it. She had been treading that path for so many years, and every attempt to abandon it had failed.

She stubbed out her cigarette, finished her wine, and closed her eyes. In spite of her iron discipline, she began weeping. Once it started, she couldn't stop it. She had to let it bleed out of her, weep until she had no strength or tears left. As she did, she felt hands on her shoulders, leaning her forward. She felt a blanket drape around her shoulders, and she heard the sound of Laurie's voice, soft and comforting, whisper to her. What she said, Angelique didn't know. It didn't matter. Laurie was there for her. Laurie would always be there for her.

A hand turned Angelique's face to the side. She opened her eyes, and through the blur of tears, saw that Laurie was crouching next to her, watching her with concern. “What's wrong?” Laurie whispered. “Come inside. You'll get a chill.”

Angelique wiped her eyes with the corner of the blanket. “You have no shoes,” she said, as she sniffed.

“It doesn't matter,” Laurie said.

“You are cold?”

“It doesn't matter,” Laurie repeated. “Come inside. I'm worried about you. You need sleep. Tomorrow is a big day, after all.”

Angelique nodded. Laurie knew best. She always knew best. She surrendered completely to Laurie, to the hands which lifted her from her chair, guided her inside, and shut the door behind her.




The next day, final preparations for the re-opening of Café Angel had everyone bustling. The servers were receiving their final instructions from Laurie, Maurice was fussing about with the details of his bar, and Angelique was testing the sound settings on her piano and microphone. Outside the bar's open door – the day was pleasant, so the front and alley doors were open to ventilate the place – Emma added the final touches to the chest-high chalk board which usually announced bar's hours, and whether Angelique was playing that night. Her hands and apron were dusty with multi-colored chalk, and she patted them together as she admired her work. A nearby voice jarred her from her concentration.

“Mme. Halevy is here this morning?” the voice asked.

Emma looked up. A man and a woman had stopped near the bar's door. The man flashed Police Nationale credentials.

“Yes. Inside. She's at the piano.”

“Thank you.” They entered the open door, leaving Emma blinking in puzzlement. After a second's thought, she shrugged the puzzlement off and rose to wrestle the chalkboard sign into position next to the door.

Inside, Angelique greeted the two police inspectors. In a moment, they were all seated at a table and sipping coffee.

“The reason for our visit is twofold,” the male inspector explained. “One is the opening of your bar tonight. I know that the local police promised you some protection.”

“Is there a problem with that?” Angelique asked.

“No. They will station two officers outside, beginning at six o'clock this evening.”

“They will be armed, won't they?”

The female inspector shook her head. “Nothing more than pistols. You shouldn't even need that.”

Angelique's jaw fell. “Excuse,” she said, “but we have been the victims of several attacks. One, at least, involved AK-47s. For your people to have less than that – ”

“The decision is out of our hands,” the female inspector said, as she studied the wall overhanging the bar. Several framed photographs hung there, each one displaying a black ribbon and a name below it. The middle one was most prominent. On either side of the photographs hung a flag suspended vertically; on one side, a French flag, and on the other, an Israeli flag. “Those are the victims of your recent bombing?”

“Yes,” Angelique said. “The middle photograph is Henriette, my employee. The others were patrons.”

“I wonder at the wisdom,” the inspector ventured, “of openly displaying an Israeli flag, with its Star of David, so prominently in your bar. Aren't you afraid of losing business, or of attracting trouble?”

Angelique rested her coffee cup on its saucer. “The flag can't be seen from the street. Most of my patrons are locals, anyway. They know that this business is Jewish-owned. It's a bar. Muslims aren't supposed to drink, so they don't come in unless they wish to pretend they're not Muslim or they want to cause mischief.”

“And if they want mischief?”

Angelique smiled. The smile did not reach her eyes. “They usually don't come back.”

“Yes,” the male inspector said. “They usually go to hospital or morgue. I've checked.” He considered her carefully. “You are proficient in the martial arts, yes?”

“I've studied it.”

“You are a military veteran?”

“Former sergeant, Israeli army.”

“An elite unit, I understand. Sniper, paratrooper. How many kills did you accumulate?”

“I don't keep count.”

“You used to travel internationally quite a bit. Business?”

“Sometimes,” Angelique said. “What's this questioning about?”

The inspector ignored the question and pressed on. “What kind of business?”

“I consulted on security issues. What's – ?”

“You said, ‘I don't keep count'. Present tense. Not past tense. So you still employ your more deadly skills from time to time? Independent contractor?” He raised an eyebrow. “Mossad, even?”

Angelique assumed a mildly amused expression. “You're allowing your imagination to run away with you, Monsieur.”

“Am I?” he said. “Do you watch the news?” Angelique nodded slowly. “Then you know that there's been a rash of very effective killings of prominent Muslims in this city, all of whom were on our terrorist watch list.”

“So?” Angelique asked.

“Very effective killings. Almost like professionals were doing it.”

“Perhaps they are. Muslims are very good at killing each other.”

“So is Mossad. And Mossad is filled with Israeli military veterans, is it not?”

“I suppose. Are you accusing me of being a Mossad assassin?”

“Aren't you?”

“As I said, Monsieur, your imagination runs away with you. I own a bar. I am a musician.” She allowed a slow smile to crease her face. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

He withdrew a photograph from his jacket pocket and thumped it down on the table in front of Angelique. Her blood chilled a little when she recognized the subject of the photo. “Do you know this person?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said. “That's Esther, an old and very dear friend.” She fixed the police inspector with an uncompromising stare. “We were in the Israeli army together.”

“Although she seems to be here legally, I am unable to discover why she's in Paris,” the inspector said. “Can you explain it to me?”

“She retired here. She lives with her French lover now.”

“She appears rather young to be retired,” the female inspector noted. “What was her profession?”

“Army. I believe that she's medically retired.”

“Ah.” The two police inspectors traded glances. The male shifted in his chair, then spoke again. “Let me be quite honest with you, Mme. Halevy.”

“Please be,” Angelique said. “I would like to understand your concerns.”

“We have had reports that a team of Israelis is conducting certain – ah, missions – yes, that's it – in the Paris area. Do you, in your contact with the Jewish community in Paris, have any knowledge of this?”

Angelique considered the question as she sipped her coffee. When she rested the cup in the saucer, she had an answer.

“Let me be honest with you. If I did have any knowledge of such things, I wouldn't tell you, would I? As it is, the Israeli government doesn't consult me in what they do. And the French government doesn't give a twist about me, either.” She smiled. “Unless I don't pay my taxes.”

The male inspector thumped another photograph down on the table. “Do you know this couple?”

Angelique sighed. “Yes. That's Maurie Ben-Shalev, another old friend from Israel. I served with him in the army there. The woman is my sister-in-law.”

“Oh? Your husband is her brother?”

“No,” the female inspector interjected. “Mme. Halevy's spouse is female.”

“Oh. I see,” the male inspector said. He looked around the bar. “Pardon. She is here now?”

“Yes.” Angelique indicated with a glance the young female with the pixie-cut red hair behind the bar.

“And she is not a French citizen, is she?” the female inspector asked.

“Not yet,” Angelique said. “There is a waiting period of a few years. But she is here legally, if that is your concern.”

“We know the law,” the male inspector said. “Back to this couple. Neither he nor his wife are French citizens, yet they are here legally. Why, I can't discover. Can you tell me why they are in France?”

“That would be a question more properly directed at your own bureaucracy. Why ask me? I'm not an immigration official.”

The male inspector shot Angelique a stern look. “Humor me with an answer, please.”

“I haven't got one for you, I'm afraid.” Angelique drained her coffee cup and clanked it down onto the saucer. “Look, what's your purpose here? What do you want?”

The inspectors looked at each other, then back at Angelique. “Here it is,” the male inspector said. “There's a Mossad unit active in Paris, killing Muslims. We have a report that they beat a prisoner to death recently while he was in Police Nationale custody, being questioned. Another prisoner got a severe head injury and died a couple of days later. I want answers.” He tapped the photographs on the table. “All Israeli. All legally here for vague reasons. All Army veterans. Including you, Mme. Halevy. All of you are friends. All of you have vague pasts. It adds up.”

“Does it?” Angelique asked.

“Yes. I think,” the male inspector said, “that I'm talking to a Mossad assassin right now.”

“And I think, Monsieur, that you're chasing ghosts. Instead of questioning Paris Jews, why don't you question some of these Muslim radicals living here? Oh, of course! You can't enter their neighborhoods without an armed riot squad, can you? That makes it difficult.”

“We have spoken with representatives of the Muslim neighborhoods.”

“And?” Angelique asked.

“They aren't much help, I'm afraid.”

Angelique lifted the coffee pot and refilled their cups as she spoke. “They don't want to admit that they don't know who's killing their people. It could be Mossad, but it could be other Muslims. There are many factions within Islam, and various jihadist groups are fighting for power and supremacy. Good luck to you ever figuring out who's doing this.”

“You may be right.”

“Let me have your business card, Monsieur. If I hear anything, I can call you.”

He eyed Angelique a bit skeptically, then nodded. He withdrew a card from his pocket and placed it on the table as he retrieved his photos. As a last resort, he placed one more photo down on the table. It was a photo, probably from a security camera, of all four of them together: Maurie, Angelique, Esther, and Shoshana. “You seem to spend some time together.”

“We're all Israeli expatriates. We're close friends. We often gather for a meal or such.”

“Or such.” At the male inspector's gesture, the two police inspectors quickly finished their coffee and rose. “Thank you for your time, Mme. Halevy.”

Angelique nodded politely and shook their hands as she walked them to the bar's door. As they left, she looked at the chalkboard sign, then at Emma, on whose nose a streak of colorful chalk dust displayed itself. That made Angelique smile as she inspected the sign. “Good, Emma. Good,” she said. “Does your nose itch?”

Emma rubbed her nose with chalky fingers, leaving a streak of bright yellow across her face. “Yes. How did you know?”

“Just a guess,” Angelique said. She walked inside and seated herself at the bar. Laurie leaned on her elbows on the opposite side of the bar and shot Angelique a puzzled look.

“What was that all about? I mean, I caught some of it, but...”

“Trouble, I think. I need to call Ronstein, at the embassy, and Bruno at SDAT.” She rose and walked toward the office, then stopped and turned toward Laurie. “Take all our weapons and lock them in the safe room upstairs. I have a feeling that the inspector will be back with a search warrant.”

Laurie paled a little, but nodded understanding. She pulled her shotgun from beneath the bar and headed to the back stairs to their apartment. On the way, Angelique handed her the pistol she kept in the back of her waistband, and the extra magazine of ammunition she always carried. After she watched Laurie enter the apartment door at the top of the stairs, she entered her cramped little office at the stair's base, seated herself, and picked up her telephone.




Laurie entered the apartment, passed by the bedrooms and the bathroom, and stopped at the end of the hall. It was a wall with a small semi-circular table set against it, and a framed picture of a pastoral scene. Laurie swung the picture frame aside, tapped a code into a key pad, and heard the locks click. She pushed open the wall, clicked on the light, and entered. Inside, Angelique had built a safe room similar to the rooms many Israeli houses have, a room to seek refuge in case of an attack. Metal lined the front wall, metal thick enough to offer protection from handgun rounds or the shrapnel from explosives. It was cramped, but could shelter several people in an emergency. Laurie was glad that she hadn't had to use it while Angelique was gone on her recent missions.

She placed the weapons on a shelf and inventoried them. Her two shotguns were there, the short, pistol-grip one she'd recently taken to carrying in her messenger bag, and her solid-stock pump shotgun which she usually kept stored beneath the bar. Angelique's pistols and silencers were there, and all their ammunition. Her shoulder holsters were there, too. A final pistol, an odd-looking one, was a suppressed revolver. Those were uncommon; she remembered Angelique telling her that there was only one revolver capable of using a silencer well. This was one of those. It was the gun Angelique had used to save Laurie's life when she came to her rescue in her Washington, D.C. apartment several years ago.

For a vivid, long moment, the memory came flooding back into her conscious mind. Her heart pounded as she recalled – no, relived – the horrifying experience. What was the guy's name? Mo. That was it. Mo was there to kill her, and Angelique was just a moment behind him. Laurie could feel the grip of Mo's hand on her throat as he choked the life from her, as he twisted her arms behind her back, as he taunted her in that sinister voice. And a second later, he slumped to the hall floor, the victim of a single shot to the forehead. Angelique stepped from the darkness of her kitchen into the light of the hallway, this gun in her hand, and Laurie's life was never the same.

Laurie shook the flashback from her mind, and she considered the room. God, if the French police ever found this room – worse, if their apartment was attacked and they had to use this room...

Laurie looked down at her feet. At the back of the narrow room, a trapdoor in the floor was bolted shut. A rope hung from the ceiling and lay coiled next to it, an escape into the bar below. She had never seen it used. The trapdoor would let them down into the bar near the front door. A last, desperate escape. A sudden sadness overwhelmed her, and she hoped aloud that they would never have to use it.

“Me, also,” a voice behind her echoed.

Laurie jumped, and turned to find Angelique behind her. She huffed in relief, then clung tightly to her and buried her face in her chest. She loved the feel of the familiar, hard body, the smell of her favorite perfume, the whisper of the accented voice reassuring her that all would be well. Laurie looked up at Angelique.

“Will it?” she asked. “Be well, that is?”

“I think so.”

“But the police...”

“They have nothing. Bruno will step on them and stop their inquiries. You must trust that all will be well, or you will worry yourself sick.”

“Is that how you do it?”

“Yes.” Angelique held Laurie by her shoulders and studied her. “Now, let's send everyone home for the afternoon. We open the bar at six o'clock.”

Laurie studied her wrist-watch. “Oh. That gives us a few hours.” They stepped from the room and locked the door. No one would guess that there was a room behind that table and picture. That made Laurie smile. “So,” she said, as they walked down the hall, “what do you want to do until we open?”

“Rest?” Angelique suggested. She looked at Laurie, who replied with a raised eyebrow and a mischievous little smile. “You are bad,” she said, but snickered at Laurie's expression. By now, she could tell what it meant. “But,” she added, “I very much like you this way.”

“I thought you did,” Laurie agreed. “You were always partial to a little afternoon delight.”




“Are you guys ready for this?” Laurie asked. Her hand was poised on the door lock. She looked at the people assembled behind her.

“It's not yet quite six,” Maurice noted.

“But we have customers waiting patiently,” Emma added, as she peeked around the edge of the lowered shade. “Let's bring them in.”

“Do it,” Angelique said. At the signal, Emma and Maurice raised the shades over the front window and the door's glass, and Laurie slid back the bolts and opened the locks. As she swung the door open, Angelique stepped through the door, and was struck speechless by the line of people queued up. She did notice that many people out of the twenty or more in line were old, familiar faces. She walked the line as she spoke to them and shook their hands or kissed their cheeks in greeting. Then, she spoke.

Bonsoir , all. Thank you for coming. As you know, months ago, we were the target of a jihadist's bomb, but we're open again. I – we – will do our best for you tonight.”

A voice behind her caught her attention. “Excuse, please. We don't want a public disorder. What's going on here?”

She turned, and found herself facing two uniformed police officers. It didn't take more than a few moments to explain to them what was happening. The line of customers seconded her explanation with noisy approval. The police officers eyed each other, then nodded understanding and explained that they were there to guard the bar.

It was when Laurie emerged from the open bar's door, unrolled a French flag, and inserted the staff into a holder on the outside of the door-jamb that the crowd burst into enthusiastic roars of applause. From the noise, a single voice began singing. In a few seconds, other voices quickly joined.

All were singing La Marseillaise.




In a car parked down the street, a young man dialed a number on his cell phone. He placed it to his ear. As it rang, he absent-mindedly scratched at his beard. When the call was answered, he spoke in Arabic.

“Hey, it's Youusef. The bar's opening. There's a lot of people, and two policemen, as well. What the hell is this?” he leaned toward the open window and listened. “They're singing. Listen.” He held the phone out of his window for a moment, then placed it back against his ear. “What is that song? It's familiar. Hey, don't get angry. What do you mean, ‘I'm supposed to know'? I'm no Frenchman. I'm Syrian.”

He sensed a movement next to his car, and he turned toward the window. Two women and a man were standing next to his car. The women positioned themselves strategically, shielding the window with their bodies as the man pulled a silenced pistol from beneath his sport coat and stuck it in the young man's face. The man spoke to Youusef in accented Arabic.

“Say good-bye,” he said.

Youusef stared, slack-jawed, into the barrel of the pistol, then mumbled, “Good-bye”. He clicked the phone shut, and a hand snatched it from him. The door was opened, and Youusef was yanked from the car and hustled into a nearby alley, where he was slammed against the wall.

“What do you want?” Youusef managed to gasp, as the pistol was shoved beneath his chin.

Maurie said, “Why are you so interested in that bar?”

Youusef blinked in fear. “What?” he asked, weakly.

“The bar. You were watching it. Who were you talking to?” Maurie asked, as he pressed the pistol barrel into Youusef's neck with more force.

“What are you?” he asked. “Police?”

“Don't ask questions. Answer them.”

“Okay, okay.” Youusef was, by this time, sweating profusely. “That was the imam of my mosque.”

“Name?” Maurie asked.

“Omar ibn Assaf,” he said.

“Did he send you to watch the bar?”


“Thank you.” He stepped back and gestured to his accomplices. The one with spiky blonde hair kneed Youusef in the groin, and the one with dark, shaggy hair slugged him several times in the face. As Youusef fell, the three assailants dragged him farther into the alley. A moment later, from the darkness behind a garbage bin, a muffled shot rang out.

As Maurie emerged from the alley's darkness, he settled his pistol back into his shoulder holster. He looked at Esther, then at Shoshana, and asked, “Shall we go for a drink and some music?”

“Lovely idea,” Esther said. “I do so like to hear Angel play.”

“I second that,” Shoshana said. “What shall I do with – ” She opened a paper and looked at it. “Youusef's identity papers?”

“Pass them to Bruno,” Maurie said. “He'll be here tonight.” He looked over at Esther. “What did you take from him? Passport?”

“Of course not,” Esther said. She looked at the papers in Shoshana's hand. “Temporary residence papers, yes? He's a refugee. No passport, so he's probably lying about who and what he is.” She smiled slyly. “I took his money.”

Shoshana looked over at her. “You robbed him?”

“Yes. Of course,” Esther said. “I always do that. It confuses the local police about the motive for the killing, and Mossad's not paying that well, anyway.” She noted Shoshana's skeptical glance and said, “Hey, I don't have a regular job like you two. Plus, I have a lover to pay for.”

“Expensive, is she?” Maurie asked.

“No. She's sweet and doesn't complain, but I just hate to disappoint her.”

Shoshana and Maurie both signaled their understanding with nods and grunts as they walked up the street toward Café Angel. As they neared the bar's open door, they could hear excited voices and the sound of opening chords being struck by Angelique's piano. They nodded pleasantly to the two police officers that had stationed themselves on either side of the open door as they entered the bar. Maurie motioned to a booth by the window where he could keep an eye on the street outside, and they slid into the seats. A moment later, Laurie appeared at the table, a tray beneath her arm. “Hey, guys,” she said. “Thanks for coming.”

“You're looking lovely,” Esther noted. “And I love the apron.”

“And the earrings,” Shoshana noted.

“Oh, thanks.” Laurie looked down at herself. Beneath her Café Angel apron, she was wearing jeans, clogs, a black top, and silver earrings which dangled beneath her earlobes. “We just got the aprons. And the earrings are Angel's present. Ain't she sweet?”

“Speaking of sweet,” Maurie asked, “where's Allie?”

“I'll send her your way,” Laurie said. “She's still upstairs.” Laurie looked around. “It's starting out great. Hope it doesn't all go to shit.”

“You are worried that it will?” Maurie asked.

“Well, yeah. Last time I was waiting tables in here, I almost got my ass blown off. I can't help but feel creepy about it. ”

“That's just your PTSD talking. We're here to make sure all's well.” Maurie opened his sport coat and discreetly displayed his pistol. As Laurie looked around the table, she saw Esther and Shoshana do the same. Laurie's eyebrows rose in exclamation.

“Okay, then,” she said. “I do feel better.” She lowered her voice and leaned forward. “I have a shotgun behind the bar. Angel's armed, too.”

“And Ronstein is bringing some of his guys. So don't worry.”

Laurie cast a glance toward the front door. “What about the two cops outside?”

“If there is an attack,” Maurie said, “they will be the first targets.”

Laurie paled slightly. “Makes sense,” she said. “Fuck it. Let's party. What do you guys want to drink?”

“Bottle of red and three – no, four – glasses,” Esther said.

“And your sister,” Maurie added. He actually blushed a little when Shoshana and Esther laughed hysterically. Even Laurie smiled when Maurie said, “Okay. That sounded horrible, but – ”

“I know what you mean. I'll send her your way.” Laurie turned to leave, then shot a teasing grin back at the table. “Darned good thing you're married to my sister,” she added, “or I'd have to kick your butt for that remark.”

She hustled away, then returned a few moments later. As she distributed glasses and popped the cork on the bottle of wine, Ronstein passed their table and recognized them with a “ Shalom ” and a wave. Two men and a woman followed him, and they found a booth near the back of the bar.

“Damn,” Laurie said. “Is that the embassy showing up?”

“That's the Mossad section showing up,” Shoshana corrected. “And they're all armed, too.”

“Those guys are cute,” Laurie teased. “That chick, too. Ooh, la, la. You work with them, Shoshana?” she asked, as she poured a taste of wine in Esther's glass. At Shoshana's smile, she laughed. “You go, girl,” she said. When Esther nodded approval of the wine, Laurie poured it all around, then placed the bottle on the table and hustled off to the next booth. Maurie, Esther, and Shoshana turned their attention to the street outside the window as they listened to Angelique begin a song with some languorous piano chords. After a few bars, she accompanied the piano with some husky, melodious French lyrics as Allie slid into the booth next to Maurie, wrapped an arm around his shoulders, and smiled at the enthusiastic greetings.




Imam Omar ibn Assaf sipped his hot tea and puzzled over the abrupt end to his conversation with Youusef. It didn't make sense. He couldn't ring Youusef back, either. That wasn't like that boy. He was usually quite dependable. He decided to ring the phone once more, and called Youusef's number. This time, the phone was answered. There was music and voices in the background. “Youusef?” he asked.

“No,” the voice replied. “Youusef is not feeling well. I'll tell him you called. Who is this?”

The imam blinked in surprise. The voice was speaking adequate Arabic, but it obviously belonged to a foreigner. “Who are you?” he retorted. “And what's with Youusef?”

“He got lead poisoning. Is this Imam Omar?”

“Yes. Lead poisoning?”

“Nine millimeters of it. And if any Jewish-owned businesses are attacked tonight, I will personally hunt you down and kill you, too. Salam .” The call ended.

The imam stared at the phone, then slammed it down on the floor next to his knee. After a moment's thought, he called 1-1-2, the emergency number. When the operator answered, he explained in his best grasp of French that he was worried about his relative Youusef, and that something bad might have happened to him. He described the young man and his car, and where he should be parked. The operator assured him that they would dispatch someone to check on the situation and call him back when they had any information.

The imam thanked the operator, then hung up and smiled. Why should he send his own people when the Paris police will do it for him?




Maurie hung up the phone and pocketed it.

“Who was that?” Allie asked. “And you weren't speaking Hebrew.”

“Arabic,” Esther said.

“Just work,” Maurie assured Allie. “Nothing to worry about.” He added, “But if something does go bad tonight, you get under this table as fast as you can, right?”

Allie looked at Shoshana and Esther, then at Maurie. “You're expecting trouble?”

“I always expect trouble,” Maurie said.

“I am trouble,” Shoshana added.

“I'm just troubled,” Esther joked.

Allie cracked a grin as she looked around the table. “Well,” she said, “that about sums it up, I guess.” She looked at Esther. “Is your honey coming tonight?”

“Yes,” Esther said. “She'll be along after the shop closes.”




Imam Omar ibn Assaf dialed a number on his phone. “Kahil? What is your situation?”

In a parked four-door sedan two blocks from Café Angel, a young man answered. “We are standing by, but have heard nothing from Youusef.” He listened for a moment. “I understand,” Kahil said. He hung up, then looked at the others in the car. “Something happened to Youusef,” he said. “I'm going to look. I'll be back in a bit.”

“Are we going into battle, or aren't we?” one of his companions asked.

Kahil rested his AK-47 on the floorboard of the car. “Are you so anxious to attain paradise tonight?” He pulled the keffiyeh from his head and tossed it aside. “I'm going to scout the bar. I'll be back. Do nothing, got it?” He looked at each of his companions in turn, then opened the rear passenger door and got out of the car. The three other men in the car watched him walk up the street in silence. Finally, the youngest one spoke.

“What's so hard about this? It's a bar full of kuffar . Infidels. We'll kill a bunch of them and be gone in no time.”

Another of his companions snorted at that. “There may be Israelis among them.”

“All the better.”

His companion said, “Have you ever gone up against Israelis? There's a reason we haven't been able to conquer them in a hundred years.”

“Oh? What reason?”

“They seem able to kill more of us than we can of them.”

The three men in the car fell into silence after that comment.

In about fifteen minutes, Kahil returned and seated himself in the car. He opened his phone and made a call. “Imam,” he said, “there's police at Youssef's car, and there's two police officers outside the bar, too. Yes, the bar is fairly busy. Lots of people, and I can hear music. The front door is open. What is your wish?” Kahil listened, then said, “I understand.” He hung up, thought for a moment, and then looked at his companions. “Here it is,” he said. “Police found Youusef. He's dead.”

“Police killed him?” a companion asked.

“Fool. Mossad did it. French police don't work that way. They would have arrested him, not shot him in the head and left him in an alley.”

“So what happens now?”

“Mossad is on to us. Our element of surprise is lost. We wait.”




The bar was filling with customers, the bar-girls were hustling drinks and coffee to the tables, and Angelique was in prime form. As Laurie worked, she decided two things: one, that she didn't miss this job nearly as much as she'd thought she did, and two, that Angelique's worries about being unprepared were unfounded. She sounded great, she was in a good mood, and she was connecting with her audience in a major way. Between tables, Laurie cast a glance at the back of the bar and caught Angelique's eye. She smiled encouragement, and Angelique nodded appreciatively as she crooned her way through an old French standard.

Shoshana slid into the booth where Ronstein and two of his Mossad agents sat, and handed him a paper. “What's this?” Ronstein asked.

“We caught someone watching the front of this bar,” Shoshana explained. “He had this on him as identification.”

“Hm.” Ronstein perused the document, then held his phone to his ear. After a short conversation, he hung up. “He's unknown to us. Temporary asylum permit to be in France; this probably isn't his real name. What was his excuse?”

“He was reporting to one Imam Omar ibn Assaf.”

“Assaf? He's known Hamas. We're being targeted,” Ronstein said. “What did you do with this fellow?”

“Dragged him into an alley and put a bullet in his head.”

Ronstein considered that fact. The French police will find him eventually, and it will become known to Assaf that his soldier was killed. A professional hit, not a robbery. Assaf will assume that Mossad did it and will retaliate somewhere, sometime. Perhaps immediately. He nodded to Shoshana. “Thank you. Keep vigilant. He may yet hit us tonight.” At that, Shoshana left the table.

Maurie looked up as Shoshana slid into the booth. “What does Ronstein say?” he asked.

“Keep vigilant,” Shoshana repeated. She downed the last of her wine, then added, “I suppose I'd better switch to coffee, huh?”

Esther snickered at that. “I guess we'd all better.” She hefted the wine bottle, judged its remaining contents, and decided, “After this bottle is dead, that is.”

Claire – who had just joined the table – blinked in surprise. “What are you keeping vigilant for?” she asked.

“Maurie's expecting trouble,” Allie said.

Esther kissed Claire's cheek. “Don't worry,” she said. “Nothing will happen. But if it does, you stick with Allie, right?”

“Where will you be?” Claire asked.

Esther smiled. “Taking care of business. Where else?”




The night had flown by. It was near closing time, and the two policemen who had guarded the door – and occasionally snuck inside to imbibe a glass or use the toilet – waved good-night to Maurice and left. Angelique, aware of the time, finished with her final set, one which included such favorites as La Vie en Rose . It was her rendition of the Edith Piaf classic Milord , though, which roused the bar's patrons into a hand-clapping, foot-stomping sing-along on the choruses and the smiling appreciation of patrons on the slower, languorous verses. Angelique poured her best showmanship into it, and she managed to keep the song going for at least seven or eight minutes.

Laurie and the other bar-girls dodged among the tables amid the infectious joy, trays held high above their heads as they delivered to their tables whatever would keep their patrons drinking, singing, and carousing.

When the song had finished, the bar erupted in deafening cheers and applause. Laurie leaned against the bar, wiped the perspiration from her face with a bar towel, and cast a disbelieving glance around the place. It came together, she thought. All the work, all the heartache; it meant something. We actually did it. Café Angel is back!

She was contemplating that thought when Emma appeared next to her, hugged her, and kissed her cheek. “Angel's done it!” she shouted over the noise. “Never have I seen her in better form than tonight. We're going to make a lot of money here.”

At the piano and microphone, Angelique bid the crowd good-night, rose, and wandered among the tables and booths, stopping to speak with familiar and new faces.

Slowly, the bar emptied of patrons as the bar-girls hustled to and fro from tables and booths to the cash register to settle their patrons' tabs. The dull roar of conversation and music gave way to a welcome silence of subdued conversations, and eventually, there were only a handful of patrons left. A few quiet conversations in Hebrew became noticeable. A man lingering at the bar leaned forward to Maurice and spoke in French.

“Is she the owner?” he asked.

Maurice noted that he was gesturing toward Angelique. “Yes.”

“I'd love to chat with her for a few minutes,” he said.

Maurice smiled. “She's married.”

He laughed. “She's attractive, but it's not like that,” the man said. “I'm a reporter. Think she'll talk to me?”

Maurice shrugged. “Let's see,” he said. He left the bar. A minute later, he returned with Angelique in tow. She seated herself next to the reporter and studied him critically.

“I'm Leo Laurent, of Marianne news magazine,” he said.

“Angelique Halevy,” she responded.

“You're French? Not Israeli?”

“Dual national,” Angelique corrected. She pointed at his nearly-empty wine glass. “Refill?”

“On the house?” he asked.

“Yes, you're definitely a reporter,” Angelique teased. “Of course it's on me.”

“Then why not?” he replied.

Maurice, who had been hovering nearby, placed down a glass for Angelique and filled them both from a bottle of red wine. Laurent nodded thanks, then slid his business card across the bar to Angelique. “I'm quite interested in nailing down a story before anyone else breaks it. Perhaps you can help me.”

Angelique's expression was one of gentle amusement. “Oh? Explain.”

He lowered his voice. “There's a lot of blood being spilled in Paris streets lately. For instance, just tonight, a young man of distinctly Middle Eastern appearance and with no identity papers was found in an alley two blocks from here, with a bullet in his head.”

“Shame,” she intoned. “Drug dealers. Russians or Ukranians, maybe.”

“I don't think so. A nearby abandoned car had his prints all over it. It's registered to a Paris mosque. In fact, if you look from your front window, you can see where it was parked.”

“I can't help you there,” Angelique said.

“That same mosque is attended by a bunch of Muslim men who were rounded up in a mass arrest some days ago.” At Angelique's mildly interested nod, he continued, “And a couple were either killed or seriously injured during these arrests.” He paused, then emphasized, “In Police custody, supposedly.”

“Oh? And from where do you hear this?”

“My source is confidential,” he said. “But he also tells me that they turned up severely beaten after being questioned by someone supposedly from Mossad.”

“Um.” Angelique rested her wine glass on the table. “Mossad, here? This is France, not Israel.”

“Indeed. But in this bar tonight, I hear a lot of Hebrew spoken around me. I also see some guns beneath jackets or shirt tails. Are you expecting trouble?”

Angelique thought for a few seconds, then turned a serious gaze toward him. “You are aware of what happened here several months ago?”


“Then you know the answer to that. Many of these people are from the embassy. They have diplomatic immunity, so they can carry a gun without fear of arrest. They were here tonight in case there was trouble. Thank God, there was not.”

“You Israelis are a tight bunch, yes?”

“It's like this, Monsieur Laurent. We Jews are a little paranoid by nature. Given our history, it's understandable. And we're especially paranoid around Muslims. For fourteen hundred years, they've been at our throats, and they're still trying to kill us. So, yes.”

“And the pistol behind your back?”

Angelique smiled. “What pistol?”

“Of course,” Laurent said, with a chuckle. He sipped his wine, then asked, “So, I thought that perhaps with your connections in the Jewish community here in Paris, you might have noticed something out of the ordinary.”


“Like a sudden increase in Mossad types,” he said.

“Like the ones around you now?” Angelique asked.

“Exactly. Come, now. Would they have anything to do with this recent bloodshed? They do, don't they?”

“Let me guess,” Angelique said. “Your source is a police officer. Police Nationale , to be exact.”

Laurent's expression fell. “How do you know this?”

“They were in here recently, asking the same questions. I'll tell you the same thing that I told them: I can't help you. I'm a musician. I own a bar. That's it.”

Laurent nodded, then lifted his wine glass. He motioned toward the wall with it. “That picture,” he said. “You, right? A soldier? A sniper?”

Angelique glanced at the picture he indicated. “Me? Yes. Once, long ago.”

“Do you recognize the name Abu Talib?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Should I?”

“He was killed outside a mosque. Single rifle bullet through the skull, the police said. A decidedly professional job.” Laurent considered Angelique for a moment, then asked, “Did you kill him?”

“Monsieur Laurent, I have better things to do with my time than kill Muslims. They kill each other readily enough.”

“And they kill Israelis, too?”

Angelique's vision grew dark at that. “They try,” she said. “It's in Hamas' charter, you know, to wipe Israel off the map. To kill us all.”

“Arabs outnumber Israelis by the millions. How is it that they haven't been successful?” he asked.

Angelique studied him as she sipped her wine and considered the question. Finally, she rested her glass on the bar. “Let me show you something, Monsieur Laurent. Perhaps it will explain.” She slid from the bar stool and walked to her piano. As she seated herself, she struck some slow, lovely minor chords, then began a melody. At the first notes, the bar went silent. A few seconds later, a rustle sounded as everyone remaining in the bar stood. Voices among the dozen or more remaining customers followed Angelique's lead, at first quietly, then with increasing passion. Laurent sat quietly, a bystander absorbed in the moment. Laurie stood to one side with her tray pressed against her chest beneath crossed arms, and she smiled. She recognized the song instantly. It was Hatikva , the national anthem of Israel. And damn, she thought, as she listened; somebody among those Mossad guys has a kicking tenor voice. She wiped a cheek and thought, darn it, there must be something in my eye, as well.

After the last chords bled away, Angelique rose and bid the embassy folks good-night, shaking hands, hugging, and speaking in Hebrew as she escorted them to the front door. As the last of them left, she returned to the bar and sat next to Laurent as Maurice refilled her wine glass. She sipped it, then looked at him. “Now do you understand?” she asked.

“I believe I do,” he said. “Who are the hangers-on?” he asked, as he gestured around the bar.

“Oh, friends and family. Let me introduce you.” Angelique whistled and spoke in English, and the remaining folks in the bar gathered around. “Laurie, an American. We are married a couple of years now. Her sister, Allie, just married my old friend Maurie. You can see him in the picture, as well. This is Shoshana, old friend from Israel. Esther, also Israeli and a dear old friend, and also in the picture. And, of course, her friend Claire. Behind you is Maurice, the bar manager. I'd be lost without him. Here is Emma, Francine, and Louise, who serve the tables with Laurie.”

“All your employees are French?”

“Yes, all who work here are French except Laurie.”

“And she is French at heart,” Emma said, to laughter.

“Except her accent. That is pure Kansas,” Maurice said.

“Actually, it's thicker than Kansas,” Laurie said. “They interviewed me on the television once, and they put subtitles when I spoke.”

“Ah. A shame. I can understand you perfectly,” Laurent said.

“See, Angel? A gentleman,” Laurie said.

“And a very charming liar,” Emma said.

Laurent blushed, and that triggered a round of laughter.

Maurice reached across the bar and tapped Angelique's arm. “What is this, then?” he asked, as he pointed toward the front window.

Angelique looked up in time to see headlights swerving toward the bar's front entrance. The hair stood up on the back of her neck and her stomach tightened into knots. She knew the warning signs. She stood up and shouted, “Alarm! Lock the front door! Emma, take everyone upstairs.” A moment of stunned silence answered the cry. Laurie's shout as she ran to the front door, slammed it shut, and slid the locks and bolts home seemed to shake people into action. Maurice and Emma began herding those not tasked with the defense of the bar up the back stairs.

As the headlights neared, the car stopped just short of the metal posts lining the sidewalk. Headlights shone into the bar's barred front window, and the car's doors were flung open. Angelique could see figures emerge from the car, and her heart chilled at what she thought were the silhouettes of AK-47 rifles in their hands, recognizable from their distinctive barrels and long, curved magazines.

The Israelis seemed to know what to do instinctively. They all produced handguns from beneath their clothing and sought any shelter they could, facing the door. Laurie boosted herself up to the bar, slid across it on her bottom, dropped behind it, and rose a moment later holding her shotgun. Angelique ran to the wall by the back stairs, yanked open a panel, and hit a panic button. In a moment, the street outside the bar blazed with new light. A second later, she had the bar's telephone in her hand, and she was speaking to the emergency operator. When she slammed down the receiver, Laurent grabbed her arm. “What's happening?” he shouted.

“We're under attack, I believe,” Angelique said. “You'd better get upstairs with the others.”

“I want to stay.”

“You're a fool,” Angelique shot back.

“I'm a reporter. I can tell your story.”

Angelique cast a glance at him. “If you live,” she said. “All right. Take any cover you can and watch.” He looked around, then ducked behind the bar.

Above the excitement, she could hear banging at the door. Rifle butts were hammering against the door and the high-impact glass, but it was not giving way. Thanks to the outside flood lights, she could now clearly see the figures at the door; she counted their number at four, and noted that they all had their faces covered with their keffiyeh headgear. None looked to be wearing bullet-resistant vests. That was good, she decided. She knelt behind the partition separating her piano from the bar's tables as she reached into her piano bench and brought forth extra magazines for her pistol.

Maurie's head appeared above a booth's back. “What's the plan, Angel?” he shouted.

“Kill anybody who makes it inside,” she replied.

“Done,” he said. “Got that, all?”

Shoshana's voice echoed in the bar. “Got it.”

Esther ran to the front of the bar, pressed herself against the wall, and squinted through the barred front window. “Shit, Angel!” she yelled. “They're going to blow the door. One's got a detonator, I think.” One of the attackers saw Esther and cracked off two shots at her. The bullets deflected off the high-impact glass and wrought-iron bars, but left their marks where they had hit.

A ghastly vision flashed through Angelique's mind: an explosion which would rip the door open and allow the attackers access. No, she thought. They're not blowing up my bar again. No damned way. She shouted, “Shoshana! You're with me. The rest of you keep down. If they blow the door, kill them.”

Shoshana rose and met Angelique, who grasped her by the shirt-sleeve. “You and I flank them outside. No mercy, right?”

Shoshana smiled, a cold smile. “My specialty.”

“How much ammo have you got?” Angelique asked.

“Three magazines, total.”

Angelique looked down at Shoshana's weapon. “Same pistol as mine? Good. Here's two more.” She reached beneath the piano stool's lid and brought them out. As Shoshana tucked them into her back pocket, Angelique shouted, “Maurie. Take charge.”

When he nodded, Angelique and Shoshana headed for the back alley door. She glanced up and noted that the apartment door at the stair's top was closed; good. Emma would know to lock it down. That apartment was like a fortress. They'll be safe upstairs. They reached the back door, and Angelique took a deep breath before she hit the lock release and slid back the heavy metal bolts. The door cracked open, and she peeked outside.

In the alley, the dim light revealed no movement and no human figures. Good, she thought. They're focused on the front door. Now is the time. She and Shoshana emerged into the alley and took off at a run toward the front of the building. They reached the main street in a few seconds. They stopped, breathing heavily, peered around the corner of the building, and noted the attackers about six meters in front of them. Two were busy at the door with a bundle – and arguing – and the other two were peering through the windows, attempting to beat on the glass, and generally engrossed in trying to gain entrance.

Angelique and Shoshana traded glances, then raised their pistols and began shooting from behind the building's corner. One attacker fell immediately, another got off a shot before he was struck down, and the two aspiring bombers began shouting at each other in panicked confusion. One retreated to the car, shooting wildly as the other staggered, evidently hit by a gunshot, then raised the bundle over his head. It was at that moment that Angelique heard him shout the words that chilled her: “Allah'u'Akbar!” She grabbed Shoshana's collar and pulled her back just in time to be deafened by an explosion which lit up the street and rattled windows around the block.

Shoshana lifted herself from the cobblestones, shook her head, and muttered, “Fuck! Are you okay, Angel?”

Angelique was on her feet in a second and charging toward the car. Shoshana was right behind her, and she emptied her pistol at the figures lying on the sidewalk. She dropped the empty magazine, slapped in a new one, and proceeded to shoot two of the prostrate bodies in the head. The one that had detonated the bomb had no recognizable head left. After she was satisfied that she'd left no one alive, she walked around the car and raised an eyebrow at the sight before her.

Angelique had found one alive; he was stunned and injured from the blast, but conscious. He was leaning against the car's back tire, and gasped in surprise and pain as Angelique slapped his face a couple of times, then growled questions in Arabic. When he did not answer, she slapped him again. He remained defiant until she pressed the muzzle of her pistol into his groin. At that, his eyes grew wide, and he found his voice.

Shoshana did not listen to the conversation. Through the ringing in her ears, she detected the two-tone sirens of the Paris police. They were getting near. “Angel,” she said, “the police are coming.”

Angelique listened for a second, then turned her attention once again to her captive. She could see him smiling; he knew that when the police arrived, they would arrest him. He would receive medical care, food, and lodging in a French prison. His wounds would be tended. He would live.

“What is funny?” Angelique asked, as she stood up.

“I'll be out of prison in ten years or less,” he goaded her. “And I'll come for you again.”

“Oh?” she said. “How would you like to be martyred instead?”

His face fell at that statement. He looked up at her, and saw blackness in her eyes. He saw her raise her pistol, and he knew nothing else. Angelique's bullet pierced his forehead and blew a mess of dark tissue all over the car fender. One shot, center forehead: The signature of the Angel of Mossad. As the street began echoing with loud police sirens, Angelique and Shoshana ducked into the alley and ran toward the back door. They slammed it and locked it, ditched their pistols in the piano bench, and walked toward the front door to see if it would still open.

The attack had been thwarted; now comes the police interrogation. That, Angelique knew, would be, in some ways, harder to deal with than the attack they'd just survived. “Esther? Maurie? Shoshana?” she said. “Why don't you hide upstairs? I don't want the police to be asking you why you're in this country. And take those guns in the piano bench with you, in case they search this place.”

“Good idea,” Shoshana said. They trotted up the stairs as Angelique pulled out her cell phone and texted Laurie to unlock the apartment door. Then, she strode through the empty bar, unlocked the front door, and attempted to pull it open. After a few tugs, it gave way. She swung it back and inspected the damage to the front of her bar as the first police officers began emerging from their cars and approaching the scene.




“Tell me again exactly how it happened,” the police inspector insisted.

Angelique sighed and ran a hand through her hair, combing it away from her face. “Like I said.”

“Humor me,” he said.

“We'd closed. The last guests had just gone. My manager saw headlights approaching. We locked the door, turned on the front floodlights, and called the emergency number. The rest of the story is outside, on the sidewalk.”

“Who were they?”

“Who do you think? Muslim jihadists.”

“Who shot them?” When Angelique looked up at him, he continued, “Three have gunshot wounds.”

“One of the people here works for the Israeli Embassy. She has diplomatic immunity and a pistol, as she is Mossad.”

“I need to speak with her. Is she here?”

“Yes. Upstairs. Her French is not perfect. Can you speak English, or do you wish me to translate from Hebrew?”

“Just get her down here. We'll take it as it goes.”

Angelique dialed, placed her cell phone to her ear, and began speaking in Hebrew. A couple of minutes later, the police inspector, Shoshana, and Angelique were seated at a table. The conversation was tense, and it lasted perhaps thirty minutes. Finally, the inspector rose. “Thank you,” he said. “I'll make my report. The crime scene people outside will be some time, I fear. Perhaps all night.” He looked around the bar. “Nice place you have here.” With that, he walked toward the front door.

Not long afterward, Bruno arrived. He listened to everyone's report, then spoke to the ranking officer present and took official charge as the SDAT representative.

Maurie took Bruno aside. “What can you tell me about Imam Omar ibn Assaf?”

“Do you think he was responsible for this?”

“I know it.” Maurie gave Bruno a level, deadly serious gaze. “He's dead meat.”

Bruno shook his head. “You've got to lay low for a while.”

“Not now. Give me all the intelligence you have on him, and we'll make him history.”

“My boss probably won't approve it.”

“Then don't tell him.”

“I can't do that. You understand, surely.”

“Bruno, we're dealing with fanatics drenched in hatred for everything Jewish and everything western. They only understand war. That imam directed this attack, I'm sure of it. Killing him is the only proper response. Otherwise, he'll do it again.”

“And if you kill him? What then? Others will arise to revenge him. It goes on forever.”

“Tell me about it,” Maurie said. “We're Israeli. We've been living with this for a century.”

Bruno considered the argument and Maurie's passion. “How do you know it was him?”

Maurie held up Youusef's captured cell phone. “This belonged to one of his men. The imam called it, and I spoke with him.”

Bruno raised an eyebrow in exclamation. “It wasn't that fellow in the alley, was it?”

Maurie grinned. “What fellow in the alley?”

“Yeah.” Bruno returned the grin. “Can we have that phone for examination?”

“Do I get the intelligence on the imam?”

Bruno sat down on a bar stool. “I'm probably going to regret this, but yes.” He held out his hand. “Phone?”

“Let me make a call first. Then it's yours.”

“Who the hell are you calling?” Bruno exclaimed.

“The imam. Let him sweat a little.” Maurie opened the phone, examined the screen, and pressed a button. He put it on speaker, then set it on the bar. When he heard a voice, he recognized it as the imam's.

“Hello?” the imam asked, in Arabic. “Who is this?”

“Is this the Imam Omar ibn Assaf?” Maurie asked, in a polite French voice.

“Yes. Yes, it is. Who is this?”

Maurie switched to his darkest Arabic growl. “Listen to me, you son of a dog. Your attack failed. Café Angel stands, and your people are dead. I warned you what would happen.”

“You don't threaten me. Who is this? Mossad? Zionist pigs? How dare you?”

“I dare. Prepare yourself to die miserably.” Maurie hung up, then handed the phone to Bruno.

“Was that wise, to announce your intentions?” Bruno asked.

“They know us by now.”

“Yes,” Bruno reflected. “An eye for an eye. The Israeli way. You will retaliate.”

A police officer approached Bruno. “The press is outside. Can you speak to them?”

“Yes.” Bruno walked through the front door, gingerly stepped around the crime scene tape, and approached the group of cameras and microphone-waving reporters. His statement was terse and brief, but he did say that it was, in his opinion, a terrorist attack, and that the perpetrators all seemed to be of Middle-Eastern extraction. They began peppering him with questions about the sequence of events, so Bruno held up a hand. “Let the owners of the bar tell you. They were here, and survived it.” He dialed a number on his phone, spoke briefly, then said, “They'll be here shortly.”

A moment later, Angelique and Laurie emerged from the door and approached the press. As they took their place next to Bruno, he introduced them. Angelique relayed the events in brief, then listened to the questions. “Yes,” she said, “I was scared. For my employees. For Laurie. For my patrons. This has to stop. I call upon the French government and the governments of all EU countries to put an end to this kind of behavior. Now.”

The cameras turned to Laurie. In response to the question about where she was during the attack, she decided that it wouldn't be prudent to say, “I was pointing my illegal shotgun at the door,” so she merely chose to speak briefly about being inside, at the bar, as the attack progressed.

Bruno shut down the impromptu press conference after a few minutes with assurances that an official statement would be forthcoming. He, Laurie, and Angelique retreated back inside. At the bar, Bruno spoke slowly.

“This may not have been a good idea,” he said. “Your faces will be all over the French television.”

“Meaning?” Laurie asked.

“Meaning, your effectiveness as Mossad operatives is now compromised.”

“The team is on hold anyway,” Angelique said. “And I want the message to get out there. This has to stop.”

“Listen,” Bruno said. “I'm giving Maurie my intelligence on that imam. You hit him hard. When and how, I don't want to know. Then, you all need to get the hell out of France. I don't know how much longer I can hold off the press and the Police Nationale.

“But this is my home,” Angelique said.

“Mine, too,” Laurie seconded.

“Not anymore,” Bruno said. “If it comes to light that you're part of a Mossad hit squad that's been killing people in France – and it will, eventually – we'll all be toast. I'm sorry to put it to you this way, but this is it. You kill that bastard imam, then flee the country for good.” He studied Angelique's and Laurie's silent, shocked expressions, then nodded farewell. “Good-night,” he said. Then, he turned and left.

For quite some time, Angelique and Laurie stood in silence. Slowly, they looked at each other. Laurie finally said, “Well, that's a horse of another color, ain't it?”

Angelique blinked. “This means what?” she asked.

“This means that the whole world just changed for us in an evening. Shit, Angel. I love this place. I don't want to leave. This sucks.” She looked around the bar, then sniffed loudly and wiped her eyes. A moment later, she was holding Angelique tightly, and had buried her face in Angelique's shirt. She said in a muffled voice, “What do we do now?”

Angelique stared outside, at the police and morgue van collecting bodies and evidence. “What to do?” she asked. “We kill the imam, then flee France forever, like the man said.”

She glanced up at Angelique. “Where will we go? What will we do? You can't go back to Israel.”

Angelique sighed as she held Laurie. For a time, she said nothing. Finally, she spoke softly. “Je ne sais pas,” she said.

“I don't know, either,” Laurie mumbled, as she buried her face into Angelique's chest.

Angelique remained in silence for some time, holding Laurie as she wept quietly. Eventually, she lifted Laurie's chin and looked at her puffy eyes. “I never can stand to see you cry, you know,” she said.

Laurie, in spite of her mood, smiled. “It's a good thing that I don't cry much, huh?”

“We go to bed now. There is no more to be done here.” With that, she hugged Laurie to her side and guided her to the stairs.




After morning prayers, Imam Omar sat for tea with some of his associates. After small talk, he spoke of the matter on all their minds.

“As you know, the attack on that Jewish bar failed last evening. Five of our soldiers have been martyred by those Zionists.”

“We can attack again,” one said. “With more soldiers.”

The imam considered that option. “How many have we in readiness?”

“I can raise twenty, perhaps.”



“Tonight, then. Just after evening prayers. I'll be at an interview at the France 24 studios then.”

“What if there's a French police presence?” one asked.

The imam smiled. “Then they die, too. They're just kuffar, worth nothing. And they will learn not to shield Zionists.” He looked around the group, then repeated what he'd often stated in his sermons. “They think Paris is their city, but we'll show them whose city it really is. Europe no longer belongs to the Crusaders; it belongs to the Ummah now, the people of Islam. The infidel will submit or die.”




Maurie sat at the kitchen table of his farmhouse, studying the documentation on the thumb drive that Bruno had sent him. He rubbed his eyes, sat back in his chair, and sighed as Allie joined him, placed a mug of hot tea at his elbow, and started rubbing his shoulders. “No luck?” she asked.

“This is discouraging,” he said. “The imam resides deep in a Muslim neighborhood, at apartments connected to the mosque. It would be suicide for our team to attempt this. It would take more than us. In Gaza, it would take a full IDF company, with helicopter support.”

“He's not going to get away with this, is he?” Allie asked.

“No,” Maurie said. He sipped his tea as he thought, then nodded thanks to Allie for bringing it. “But there's got to be a weakness in his routine, some moment when he's not deep in his banlieue and surrounded by thousands of Muslims. When does he poke his head out? We'll get him then.”

“Let me do some research,” Allie said. “I'll bet I can find something. Hey, I'm a research librarian, remember?”

Maurie nodded. “Go for it. I'm exhausted. I'm going for a run, then a shower.”

He rose from the table and headed for the bedroom as Allie turned the laptop computer toward her, studied the screen, and began typing. “A run?” she said. “Hoo, boy. I know what that does to your libido.”

Maurie's laugh sounded from the bedroom. “Are you complaining?”

“Ask me after you get back,” Allie said, as she studied her search results. “Hey, lover. This imam does a lot of interviews on French news.”

“Oh?” Maurie emerged from the bedroom dressed for a run.

“Yeah. He loves the cameras. Look, several French news networks have interviewed him recently.”

“And the news network buildings are downtown, aren't they?”

Allie looked up. “Out of the no-go zones.”

“Bingo,” Maurie said. “See what you can find. We need to put our heads together with Angel on this. She knows Paris best.”

“Do I detect a trip to Paris this evening?” Allie asked.

“Call your sister,” Maurie said, “and see if it's all right to stay there overnight. We'll hatch a plan today.”

Allie smiled at that. “I love it,” she said, as she rose to find her cell phone.




Although it was morning and Café Angel was closed, there was much activity. A cleaning crew was washing the exterior of the bar with hoses, soap, and brushes. It wouldn't repair the burn marks and damaged wood trim or brick, but at least it would remove the remnants of the jihadist martyr who detonated the bomb just outside the door. Inside, Maurice, Emma, and Angelique were gathered at the bar, sipping coffee and watching the morning news. The broadcast was currently describing the previous night's attack.

“I don't remember it that way,” Maurice said.

“I don't, either,” Angelique said. “It would seem that there's the news, and then there's the truth.”

“Everything, it's a drama to them,” Emma offered.

Laurie trotted down the stairs and joined the group. She nodded a good-morning to all as she poured a cup of coffee, then joined in watching the television from behind the bar. “Hey, that's us!” she said, as footage of last night's impromptu street interview aired. “Aw, hell. They subtitled me again. I thought I was speaking good French.” That got a snicker from the others.

“You were,” Angelique said. The other heads nodded affirmation, but Laurie was unconvinced. When Matthieu emerged from the bathroom, Laurie collared him. “What do you think? Is my French really that bad?” she asked him. He blinked in surprise, then looked at Emma, who silently shook her head in an effort to coach him.

He patted Laurie's shoulder. “No, of course not,” he said. “I understand you perfectly.” He joined Emma and the others, then said, “Subtitles. Thank God there are subtitles.”

As the round of laughter subsided, Laurie leaned against the bar and picked up her coffee cup. “All you guys can kiss my grits,” she said, in English.

Maurice, Emma, and Matthieu all gave Angelique puzzled expressions, to which she merely shrugged and replied, “American expression. It's untranslatable.”

They resumed watching the news as Laurie added, “Just talked to Maurie and Allie. They'll be here today.”

Angelique nodded. She understood why. “Good,” she said. Her mood, though, did not match her response.




Maurie and Allie arrived that morning. Laurie took her sister out shopping and left Maurie and Angelique huddled in a corner of the closed bar, studying his laptop and formulating a plan to exact revenge on the imam. Several potential scenarios were discussed and then discarded. Finally, in frustration, Angelique leaned back, refilled her coffee cup, and huffed.

“We are getting nowhere. That banlieue is going to be a suicide mission.”

“Perhaps we don't have to go into the banlieue ,” Maurie said. “Perhaps the imam will come to us.”

Angelique studied him. “What are you saying?”

“Allie found out that he's due to be interviewed at the France 24 studio this evening. We hit him then.” Maurie scratched his chin as he contemplated the act. “We'll have to get him when he enters or exits the building. He'll probably have bodyguards.”

“Then we don't get close. Let me hit him from a distance with the sniper rifle.”

Maurie nodded as he contemplated a computer image of the city blocks around the France 24 studios. It was in a larger building where the France Médias Monde kept its headquarters. “There's two entrances, as far as I can tell, a block apart. Which one do we watch?”

Angelique leaned over and studied the Google map image. “This one,” she said. “On Rue des Nations Unies . If I were a bodyguard, I would bring him here. The car can stop just in front of the door. The other entrance, on Rue Camille Desmoulins , is too far from parking. They'd have to walk him across this large open area, just here.”

“We'll watch both. Two teams,” Maurie decided.

“And if it goes bad? What's our backup plan?” Angelique asked.

Maurie thought about it, then asked, “When's the last time you used plastic explosive?”

“A bomb?” Angelique asked. “Never.”

“We can get some from Ronstein. We build a magnetic bomb. Slap it onto the gasoline tank, beneath the car, while he's in the building. Then, we follow him as he goes home, and we detonate it when his car is in a place where we won't hurt innocent people. We'll incorporate a tracker, in case we lose him in traffic.”

“Shoshana is the bomb expert among us,” Angelique said.

“Really?” Maurie looked over at her. “I didn't know that about her.”

“How do you think she got blown up?”

“I never asked. Did she screw it up?”

“No. She detonated it while she was dangerously close to her target.” Angelique managed a pained smile. “She has no fear, you know.”

“I got that about her. All right, what happens if you can't shoot him and we can't blow him up?”

“Then,” Angelique said, “we will have to follow him into the banlieue and do it the old-fashioned way.”

Maurie thought about that. “I hope to God that it doesn't come to that,” he said.

“The question is, are we willing to trade all our lives for his?”

“I'm not.” He picked up his phone. “Let me call Ronstein and get the bomb stuff we need.”




Late that afternoon, a car backed into the alley next to Café Angel. The bar's alley door opened, and Ronstein entered, followed by Shoshana. “We brought what you requested,” he said. “But I'm not convinced that this is a good idea.”

“The imam has to be dealt with,” Maurie said. “It's principle. He and his mosque are breeding grounds for radical jihadist thought. With him gone, both the native French population – and the Jews in France – are safer.”

“You know what will happen. Retaliation.”

“Of course,” Maurie said. “But that can't be a reason for us to not hit them. If we live in fear of Islamic retaliation, then terror has won. We might as well surrender to them right now.”

“I sympathize,” Ronstein said. “I'm Israeli, as well.” He collected his thoughts for a moment, then looked at Maurie. “Listen, I spoke with Bruno. We can't expect his help on this one. His superiors in the French government have changed their minds about us. We're now a liability to them.”

“I understand the politics,” Maurie said.

“Do you understand that, if you undertake this, you and your entire team must be prepared to flee this country? Possibly forever?” Ronstein asked.

Maurie considered the question. “Does Mossad have our backs? Can you get us out of the country and relocate us all?”

For the first time, Ronstein smiled. “The Old Man is ahead of you. He's already issued orders to that effect. We're preparing your documents and transportation now.”

“That's all I needed to know.” Maurie sighed. “Shame. I like this country. A good place to raise children. And Allie will be deeply disappointed.”

“What about your other team members? Angelique, for instance. This is her home. She's built this business. She'll have to leave it behind. And Esther? Her lover is French. What will she do?”

“I'll speak with them and let them decide. If they wish to not undertake this mission, then I will respect that.”

Ronstein nodded. “I half hope that your team vetos it.”

Maurie nodded. “Me, too. Duty is a bitch, isn't it? Why don't we unload the stuff you brought into our van? It's parked in Angel's garage.”




Later that afternoon.

The team gathered in Angelique's and Laurie's apartment for the briefing. Assembled were Maurie, Angelique, Esther, and Shoshana. Since their futures were also involved, Laurie, Allie, and Claire had been asked to attend. They were present. Maurie started the meeting.

“As you know, the recent attack on Café Angel was instigated by a radical imam here in Paris. Angelique and I have worked out the retaliation, to happen this evening. Here it is.” He opened a laptop computer, called up a Google map image of Paris, and began describing the plot. When he finished, he looked at Angelique. “Do you feel confident that you can shoot him?”

Angelique shrugged. “We won't know until the moment comes.”

“Fair enough,” Maurie said. “Shoshana? You're the bomb-maker among us. Talk to us.”

“It's built,” Shoshana said. “It incorporates a tracker and a radio-detonation fuse. I will place it.”

“And I watch the front door from the coffee shop,” Esther says. “But what if we miss? What if it goes wrong?”

“Then,” Maurie said, “we go into the banlieue after him and do it the old-fashioned, up-close-and-personal way.”

“That banlieue is considered a no-go zone,” Angelique said.” Even the French police will not go in there except in force.”

“Which brings me to the point,” Maurie said. “If we do this, the imam's assassination will generate massive press coverage. The French SDAT is distancing itself from us – it seems that we're not their darlings anymore – and the French press and Police Nationale are sniffing around us. Not to mention, it could cause riots in the Muslim portions of the city. The French political types may insist upon our arrest and very public prosecution, in order to placate the Muslim mobs. Israel will once again be vilified in the world press. We'll have to flee the country immediately after we do this.” Maurie gave a stern glance to each person present in the room, as if to emphasize his next point. “Possibly forever. We never come back. I know that most of you have a lot to lose. If you don't want to do this, I will understand and concur.”

“And it goes without saying,” Shoshana added, “that if it goes bad while we're in the banlieue, none of us will survive.”

“And what about wives and sweethearts?” Laurie asked. “What happens to us?”

“You and Allie flee with your spouses,” Maurie said. “Mossad is making documents for you.”

“And me?” Claire asked. “Esther and I aren't married, but she is my world.”

Maurie sighed heavily. “I asked. Mossad said that since you're not married – ”

“I'm not leaving without Claire,” Esther said. “I'll go underground here if I have to.”

“And I'm not leaving Paris unless it's with Esther,” Claire said. “So that's that, isn't it?”

“Not necessarily,” Angelique said. “There is a way. Let us talk of that, though, if we decide to do this job.”

“We have a choice?” Shoshana asked. “That's a first in Mossad.”

“We do,” Maurie said. “Because you – because we have so much riding on this mission, we all decide whether to undertake this. If there's one negative vote, we don't do it. Clear?” He glanced around the room and saw the expressions on the faces of those present. “You'll want to discuss this, I imagine, with your significant others. We meet again in thirty minutes. I need your votes then.”

Angelique stood up. “For security reasons, nobody leaves or makes a phone call. Go downstairs, though. The bar is not yet open. I will serve coffee, and you may talk among yourselves.”



Emma had arrived early to inventory the liquor, and took charge of providing coffee. At one table, Esther and Claire whispered in earnest tones; at another a few booths away, Maurie and Allie talked, and at the bar, Shoshana sat quietly and sipped coffee as she made her best attempt, in her unpolished French, to converse – and flirt – with Emma. Emma, for her part, enjoyed the attention and returned the overt flirting with coy looks, laughs, and the occasional touch upon Shoshana's arm. That wasn't lost on Angelique, who managed a wry smile of amusement as she ascended the stairs to the apartment. Laurie was waiting there.

When she entered the apartment, Laurie motioned her to the couch, where they'd had so many heart-to-heart talks. She sat and faced Laurie, who said nothing for a moment, then embraced Angelique with a frantic strength before she relaxed and spoke.

“You're not thinking about this, are you?” she asked. “And without me again?”

“You will be here. Protect Claire and Allie.”

“And pack my bags?”

Angelique nodded. “I fear so.”

“Angel, I love it here. This is our home. You gave so much to make this life happen. This bar, this place. It's beautiful, and I love being part of it with you. I don't want to lose it.”

“Nor do I,” Angelique said.

“Then veto this plan. It's insane, anyway.”

“It's war.”

“Yeah, you always say that. You've been at war since you were eighteen. Haven't you sacrificed enough?”

“Laurie, so many of my comrades have died. How can I quit now?”

Laurie blinked in shock. Slowly, an expression of understanding colored her face. “That's it, isn't it? You're guilty because you're still alive. You'll keep doing this until you're dead, too. That's what you really want, isn't it? To die like your comrades? What the hell will that prove?”

“Please understand,” Angelique said.

“Oh, I understand all too well,” Laurie said. Her voice rose in volume, and she became animated. “Survivor guilt. My father told me about it, how he was racked with it because he saw his buddies in Vietnam blown to bits and he came home mostly intact. For a long time, he thought that it was wrong that he was still alive when so many good people had died.” Laurie began weeping, and she sniffed loudly as she wiped her eyes with a sleeve. “Well, that's bullshit. Do you want to get over that guilt? I'll tell you what my father said.”

Angelique reached for Laurie, but she pulled away. “No, Angel. Face that guilt and deal with it. There's two ways to do that. One is to get yourself killed. The other is to live as noble a life as you can live, every day that's left to you. Make yourself worthy of your good fortune. Make yourself worthy of the second chance you got and that they didn't get.” She stood, walked to the kitchen, and yanked a clean dish towel from a drawer. As she wiped her eyes, she returned and faced Angelique. “I love you, Angel. God damn, I love you so much it hurts sometimes. Don't you dare leave me like this. I buried you once already. It was awful. Don't make me do it a second time.”

“Laurie, I must protect you. Us. This.” She waved a hand around her to indicate their life together. “That imam must die.”

“And then what?” Laurie said. “Another one will sprout up in his place. There's thousands of those crazy jihadist fuckers around. You can't kill ‘em all. One day, they'll kill you.”

“Do we surrender?” Angelique asked.

“No!” Laurie said. “But you can't do it all, just you four, or just Mossad. It takes nations.”

“I have a duty,” Angelique said. “Please understand.”

“I understand this,” Laurie yelled. “I'm married to you. And you're married to Mossad. I can't compete with that. I'm tired of trying.” She studied Angelique with an expression alien to her usual, cheerful countenance. “Go kill that fucking imam if you have to. I'll protect Allie and Claire while you do, you know I will. And if you go into that banlieue , I hope and pray to ever-lovin' God that you come back out.” After a moment, she added, “But I can't promise right now that I'll be here next week, because I'm sick of this, Angel. I'm done being your wife number two. It's time for you to choose: Mossad or me.” Laurie threw the towel at Angelique's chest, then stormed into the bedroom and slammed the door.

Angelique sat on the couch, stunned. She had often seen Laurie in joy, in sadness, in passion, but she had never seen her like this before. She looked down at her lap, at the towel moist with Laurie's tears. Slowly, she picked it up and felt it. Laurie's tears. She could hear, in the stillness, Laurie's sobs in the bedroom. She felt her chest tighten with emotion, she felt the ache rise up in her chest, she felt her eyes water and tears begin to track down her cheeks. She was going to lose Laurie.

She wiped her own face with the towel wet with Laurie's tears, and she cursed herself. Duty, country. The survival of the Jewish nation. The destruction of the rabid dogs of humanity. That had been her passion, her duty from her eighteenth year of life until – until when? Until she'd met Laurie? Even that hadn't eased her devotion to that duty.

Until now.

Is it true, she wondered? Has she become the monster that she's spent her adult life fighting? This is the abyss, she realized. This is the telling moment. It all hinges on what she decides next.

Angelique went to the bathroom, washed and dried her face, placed some drops in her reddened eyes, and descended the stairs to the bar. She noted that every member of the team was assembled at a table in the corner, next to her piano. At the bar, Claire and Allie talked softly with Emma. She could read the expressions on the faces of her team comrades, and those expressions were solemn. She sat at the table. “Are we doing this?” she asked quietly.

For a moment, no one spoke. Then, Shoshana pointed at the apartment door. “It's amazing,” she said, “how much one can hear when it's quiet down here.” She placed a hand on Angelique's hand. “I think we all know where your heart lies. No one will blame you for your vote, if you say ‘no'.”

“Then I'll say it first,” Maurie said. “I don't want to do this. The prospect of a family changes a man. I'm no coward, but – ”

“We all know that, Maurie,” Angelique said. “You are a lion.”

“I don't want to do this, either,” Esther said. “Angel remembers when I came into this bar, begging for her help. Back then, I had to fight every day for a reason to not blow out my own brains. For the first time in years, I have a reason to live and thrive and be well. She's sitting over there. It means the world to be loved, doesn't it? I can't lose that. Not again.”

Angelique looked at Shoshana. “And you?”

Shoshana looked around the table. “Me? Even rottweilers get tired of the fight. I've been Mossad forever, it seems, and I've been on a lot of missions. This one's insane, though. We can't do it, even us, members of the vaunted Kidon . I don't see the value in possibly trading all your good souls and my tarnished one just to kill one rat. For what? Principle? Eye for an eye? Bah. Forget about it. He'll fuck up and we'll get him at some future time. Have patience and trust in God, for those of you who still believe in that sort of thing.”

“And what do you believe?” Esther asked. She seemed sincerely interested.

“For me, I believe I'll get drunk tonight.” She smiled. “Maybe laid, too, if I'm lucky.”

All eyes focused on Angelique. She was quiet for a moment, collecting her thoughts, then looked around the table at her comrades, those with whom she'd shared so much over the years. “Then it's settled, isn't it?” she asked. Three heads nodded. She considered that, then spoke quietly.

“When I was eighteen, my sister died from a Hamas bomb. I was not hurt too badly. But she died in my arms. Since then, I have dedicated myself to stopping such things. I devoted myself to it, sacrificed everything for it, and it stole my happiness time after time.” She couldn't help casting a glance at Esther, and she got a pained little smile in response.

“Now it seems that I'm about to sacrifice my marriage to it, as well. I can't do this anymore. I'm exhausted. I love my native France and my adopted Israel, but I love Laurie more. I just want to live my life with her and play my music. Is that so wrong, to seek a little peace after a lifetime of war?”

For a moment, silence reigned at the table. Then Maurie produced a phone from his pocket and rose from the table. “I'll call Ronstein and let him know that we're done with this whole thing.”

“Excuse me,” Angelique said. “I must speak with Laurie. All of you, stay tonight and enjoy the bar. I will play. I believe that we all have something to celebrate.” She rose and ascended the stairs. When she reached the door, she entered the apartment and closed it quietly.



Leo Laurent was on the early evening television, describing his experience during the attack on Café Angel the previous evening. Inside the bar, as it prepared to open its doors, a knot of people watched the broadcast with rapt interest. After it was concluded, the bar employees scattered to resume their preparations, and Angelique headed to her piano to do her sound checks and warm her voice up with a couple of tunes.

Emma sidled up to Laurie as she was tying her apron. “You look so happy tonight,” she said.

Laurie smiled. “I feel like a weight is off me.”

“It's time to open,” Maurice said, as he unlocked the door and pulled it back. Laurie and the other servers hurried to raise the blinds. They need not have hurried, however; unlike last night, there were no customers waiting. Maurice stood outside and scanned the street as Laurie put up the French flag by the door. He muttered, “Hm. Perhaps they're scared.” He paused in his thoughts and watched as a gentle breeze stirred the flag, now tattered and smudged by the bomb blast the evening before.




A few blocks away, a young man loitered by a street corner, smoking a cigarette, as he kept his attention focused up the street. Eventually, he flipped away his cigarette, tapped at his cell phone, and held it to his ear. “It is open. Not very many people there.” He listened, then said, “Okay,” and hung up. He remained at the corner, though, leaned against a building with his hands in his jacket pockets and one foot up behind him on the brick facade of the building. And he kept watch.

Inside Café Angel, Esther and Claire sat with Maurie and Allie at a table next to the front window. They gazed through it at Paris' evening streets, past the iron bars and the marks that bullets had made in the glass, past the lettering which proclaimed ‘Café Angel, 13 Rue d'Espoir'.

“Excuse me,” Esther said, then tapped Maurie's arm and began speaking in Hebrew. “Do you see,” she noted, about a block away, a young man, there? Military jacket, and he's bearded?” Maurie nodded. “I don't like it.”

“I don't, either,” he said, then switched to English for Allie's and Claire's benefit. “We may be attacked again tonight. If it happens, you know what to do, right?” They both nodded.

“Do you really think so?” Claire asked.

“I hope not,” he said, “but my instinct tells me so.”

“Shall I deal with him?” Esther asked. At that, Claire gripped her arm tightly, but said nothing.

“No,” Maurie said. “Let's put our rottweiler onto him.” He looked around the bar. “Where is Shoshana, anyway?” he asked.

“She said that Ronstein had something for her to do this evening,” Allie said. “She left a while ago.”

“Well,” Maurie mused, “she does work for Ronstein right now.” He looked toward the door and saw two police officers at the bar, speaking with Maurice. “Ah,” he said. “Paris' finest are here tonight. I feel safer already.”

“Maurie,” Claire said, “you're a funny guy.”




In a work van traveling along a busy, wide boulevard, Shoshana wormed into a one-piece workman's coverall as Ronstein drove. “I thought,” she huffed, “that you didn't like this plan.”

“Those above us did like it,” he replied.

“It's insane,” she said. “So we give it to the rottweiler, huh?”

“That's part of the plan,” he said.

“You do realize that I'll probably blow myself up, right?” she asked.

“Please don't,” Ronstein said. “We've all come to like you very much.”

“Well,” Shoshana said. “That's a first, anyway.”

“You antisocial Kidon types fit in well among the Paris Mossad detachment.”

Shoshana zipped up her coveralls. “Have I finally found a home, then?”

Ronstein smiled at that. “Perhaps you have. Would you like to stay for a while?”

At that, Shoshana raised an eyebrow in thought. “I'll tell you,” she said, “after this job is done.” She reached beneath her coverall to adjust her shoulder holster, then snugged a hard hat down over her hair. It had an EDF logo on the front, representing the French power authority. Some clear safety glasses finished the look, and Shoshana rested a black bag on her lap. Inside was the magnetic bomb she'd constructed that morning. She quickly checked it over, then zipped the case shut. “All right,” she said. “I'm about as ready as I'll be.” After a moment of silence, she looked at Ronstein. “How come you're driving me?” she asked.

“I have diplomatic immunity,” he said. “In case it goes wrong. You, too.”

Shoshana looked out the window. “Let's hope it doesn't go wrong,” she said. “Oh, look! It's the Eiffel Tower. In the evening, it does look pretty, doesn't it?”




Three blocks away, Hussein Asfour leaned against the side of his rental truck. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his zip-up hoodie as he waited. When he heard a knock on the side of the truck, he walked to the back and raised the door. “What is it?” he asked, in Arabic.

“When do we go?” someone inside said.

“Patience. When the word is given. Now be quiet. There's police nearby.” He shut the door and returned to the cab. As he lifted himself inside, his phone rang. He answered it.

“Finally,” he said. “All right. I'm on my way.” He turned, banged on the back wall of the truck cab, and shouted a few words, then started the engine and turned the truck onto the street. As he did, his heart began to pound. He, Hussein Asfour, was about to attain Paradise tonight. What would it be like, he wondered? He would miss his mother and sisters, but he knew that they would be well-compensated for his martyrdom. For the rest of their lives, they would get a pension from Hamas. And he would be sitting with other martyrs in Paradise, enjoying the pleasures of the faithful, if he could only demonstrate bravery and determination for a little while longer.

It didn't take him long to reach his drop-off point, one block away from his target. He left the cab and raised the back door of the truck half-way. “Hurry,” he said, as a dozen or more figures dressed in dark clothing dropped from the truck's back and took refuge in an alleyway. He climbed inside, checked the wiring on the canisters clustered just behind the cab, and assured himself that all was in order. Then, he closed the back door, returned to the truck cab, and made one last phone call.

“I am ready,” he said. He received the reply that increased his pulse until it pounded in his temples. “Allah'u'Akbar,” he said to no one in particular, as he put the truck in motion and pointed it toward Rue d' Espoir. It was getting dark rapidly; he clicked on the headlights as he accelerated up the street. He wanted to reach at least fifty kilometers per hour before he attained his target. If pedestrians got in the way, it was the cost of doing business. If a car got in the way, though, it could ruin the whole plan.




In Café Angel, there were perhaps a dozen customers scattered over several tables. Business was light, probably as a result of the previous night's attack. Angelique, as she began her second set of the night, deliberately chose a cheerful ballad of love, La Vie en Rose , to set the mood right and lift her own spirits, despondent over the loss of business. She always loved performing this song, whether in English or in French; to her, the melody flowed like water over the pebbles in a spring, and the sentiment reflected the giddy happiness of newfound romantic love. As she sang, she cast a glance at Laurie, who glanced back and smiled. She knew. This song was for her.

“Hold me close and hold me fast,” she sang, “this magic spell you cast, this is la vie en rose ...”




Ronstein swung the van into a parking spot on Rue des Nations Unies and shut off the motor. “We can see the door of France 24 offices from here,” he said. “The imam's car should be along any time. I'm told that his interview is scheduled at 20 hours.”

“Eight p.m.,” Shoshana intoned, then checked her wrist-watch. “Almost there. I assume that he'll have security?”


“And I assume that we're playing this by ear?”


“And I assume everybody is the target?”

“The imam is the target. Anybody else is just collateral damage. And Mossad doesn't like collateral damage.”

She grimaced as she fumbled in her coverall pocket, extracted a cigarette, and lit it. “I hate being right so much.”

Ronstein pressed buttons on his door, and both front windows rolled down. “Those things will kill you, you know.”

She cast a sidelong glance at Ronstein and saw the teasing expression. She replied with a grin. “Oi vey ist mir,” she said, “that I should live so long.”

“You will,” Ronstein said. “You're too mean to die.”

“I suppose that I'd better shape up, then,” she said. She smoked quietly for a moment, then asked, “Is it Shabbat today?”

“No. Why?” Ronstein asked.

“I'm about to go to work, blow up a car, and kill some people. I just wanted to make sure it wasn't a sin to do that.”

Ronstein snickered. “Shoshana, you're every rabbi's nightmare, aren't you?”




Hussein Asfour accelerated the truck up the narrow, cobbled street toward the last cross street before he reached Café Angel. He didn't bother to slow down and check for any cross-traffic; so focused was he on his objective that he didn't see the car to his left. He heard the screech of tires, though, a second before the truck shuddered and skidded sideways. The crash was resounding; he struggled to regain his course, lifted his foot from the accelerator, and glanced in a side-view mirror. A sedan had impacted the side of his truck. It spun to a stop, its front mangled and car parts scattering across the street. He did not let that stop him, though; he managed to keep the truck on the street, and he pointed it at the front of Café Angel. As if in slow motion, he could see the approaching windows, lit and welcoming; he could see silhouettes of people inside, he could see the metal posts in the sidewalk just in front of the bar. He'd hoped to have gained enough speed by this time that his truck would overcome those posts. He jammed his foot down on the accelerator, but the truck was unable to pick up speed, and he heard the thump-thump of a telltale flat tire coming from outside the truck. Even as he screamed “Allah'u'Akbar!”, he recognized a sickening feeling in his gut that his death wouldn't accomplish what he'd hoped it would.




The final piano chords of La Vie en Rose had just bled away when a tremendous crash echoed in the street and bled into the bar. As it was sparsely populated and the front door was open, the noise was audible to those inside. Allie was the first of the four people at her table to comment.

“Damn, guys. Did you just see that wreck?”

“The truck driver,” Claire said. “He must be crazy.”

Maurie's face fell. “No,” he said. “He's heading this way.” He stood up and shouted, “Alarm! Everyone, away from the windows!” When no one moved, he yelled, “He's coming this way. It's another attack!”

For a stunned second, no one responded. Then, bedlam descended as the dozen or so patrons began rising from their booths and tables. Maurice emerged from behind the bar and waved people toward the back of the bar as Angelique ran to the center of the floor and stared at the oncoming headlights through her front window. “God damn it!” she said, as she ran to the front door and slammed it shut, then threw the bolts. “Hit the panic button!” she shouted. A moment later, she saw Laurie yank open the panel and press the button. Bright lights lit the outside of the bar as the truck's front grill impacted the waist-high metal poles sunk into the concrete and stone of the sidewalk. The crash was tremendous; the poles bent, but did not completely give way. The truck sat at an angle atop them, front wheels still spinning.

Angelique looked around the bar. The patrons were clustering in the back hall, behind the stairs to the apartment. No one was left in the front half of the bar; no one, except Laurie, who was behind the counter, holding a frantic conversation on the bar's telephone as she struggled to retrieve her shotgun and bandolier of shells from beneath the bar. “Laurie,” Angelique shouted. “Get down!”

Laurie seemed not to hear. Angelique looked outside again. In the bright lights, she could see the two Paris police officers approach the truck's cab with caution, their sidearms held in front of them. She scanned the scene beyond the truck and detected dark figures approaching the bar from the same direction from which the truck had come. Her gut tightened into knots; suddenly, she was an IDF paratrooper sergeant again, and the situation had turned tactical. Gaza, all over again. The Golan, all over again. Lebanon, all over again. We're about to be in an infantry fight, she decided. She ran to the back of the bar, yanked open her piano bench, and retrieved several loaded magazines. These, she stuffed into her left back pocket of her jeans. Her pistol was at the small of her back, in her waistband. She yanked a second pistol from beneath her piano and slid it into her right back pocket, then ran behind the bar to take her place with Laurie.

Maurice's face appeared on the other side of the bar. “What's the plan, Boss?” he said.

Angelique looked around the bar, then said, “Get those people into the basement and then lock the door behind you.”

“Not out the alley door?”

“No. We're about to have a bunch of visitors. Do it, Maurice!” As he turned and left, Angelique shouted, “Esther! Where are you?”

“Here.” Esther appeared from among the patrons.

“Get our people and my employees up to the apartment. We've got gunmen on foot coming this way.”

“The cops got the driver, Angel,” Laurie said. “Look!” She had retrieved her shotgun, draped her bandolier of shells across her chest, and taken position behind the bar. “See?”

As Angelique looked, she could see the two police officers yank open the driver's door and shout commands. A second later, the truck exploded in a brilliant flash. The blast shook the building. The front windows bulged inward, but did not shatter. Pieces of the truck bounced off the front of the iron bars covering the windows, and the concussion rattled everything inside the bar as Angelique and Laurie were knocked to the floor.

Through the buzzing in her ears, Angelique heard Laurie's shout. “Angel? You okay?”

“What? Yes.” She sat up. “Is the front door holding?”

“I guess,” Laurie said. She pulled Angelique to her feet, and Angelique's eyes immediately fixed themselves on the front door. It was damaged, but it still seemed secure. “Where's those cops?” Laurie asked.

“Gone,” Angelique said. “And here they come.”

“What?” Laurie asked. “Here comes who?”

“Them. Get ready to fight.”

Figures appeared outside the bar's door. In the light, Laurie and Angelique could see that the attackers had covered their faces with keffiyeh , traditional Arab head-scarves, and wielded what appeared to be AK rifles. They began kicking at the front door and beating upon it with their rifle butts, and the door began slowly yielding to their efforts.

Angelique looked behind her just in time to see the apartment door, at the top of the stairs, slam shut. Good, she thought; everyone's safe. The back hallway was empty and the alley door was safely barred; that means that the front door is our only worry. She returned her attention to the door and watched it slowly give way to the persistent kicks and rifle butt thuds of the attackers.

“Shit, Angel. They're gonna get in,” Laurie said. She shot a glance at Angelique, and her eyes were wide. “What do we do?”

“Kill them all,” Angelique said, “No mercy, do you hear?”

Laurie paused and looked at Angelique's face. There it was again, the black, hard eyes. Angelique was no longer present; the Angel of Mossad was beside her now. Somehow, Laurie was glad.

Maurie appeared just behind Angelique's shoulder. “What's up?” he asked.

“Who's upstairs with Allie and Claire?” Angelique gasped.

“Esther. I'll take a position over there. We'll catch them in crossfire if they enter.”

“You have ammo?”

“I got three full mags.”

“Go,” Angelique said. Maurie left the bar and took a position behind the padded back of a booth as the door partially gave way with a splintering crash. Now she could hear excited voices in Arabic as the faceless figures outside renewed their efforts at opening the door. An arm managed to worm its way through the space between the door and the damaged frame, and something dropped from the hand. Angelique shouted “Rimonim!” , grabbed the back of Laurie's collar, and pulled her to the floor. A couple of seconds later, a sharp explosion sounded inside the room. It wasn't as violent as she'd expected a hand grenade to be inside the bar, and deduced that it must have been a ‘flash-bang', with much concussion but little fragmentation. As Angelique's head rose above the bar, she saw the door splinter and a body begin to force its way inside. “Laurie!” she shouted.

“What?” Laurie said, as she rose from the floor.

“What do you think? Shoot him!”

Her shotgun leveled, and she shot the figure. He yelled in pain, and slumped down in the door. His comrades began using his still-moving body as a springboard, stepping on him to allow themselves access to the bar. Even before the attackers were completely inside, they began firing wildly. The deafening cracks of the AK rifles resounded inside the bar, answered by Laurie's shotgun and Maurie's and Angelique's pistols.

There was no way to tell exactly how long the brawl lasted. It could have been sixty seconds, or it could have been five minutes. At the end, though, the haze of gunsmoke hung in the air. Two bodies were draped in the doorway, and three more were sprawled inside, in various places on the floor. An eerie silence, punctuated only by the ringing in the survivors' ears and the distant sounds of two-tone Paris police sirens, echoed in the bar. Angelique leaned against a wooden pillar, dropped the magazine from her pistol, and inserted another one. As the slide clicked home, she said, “Keep watch, Laurie,” then headed for the end of the bar.

“Where are you going?”

“Just keep watch.” Angelique stepped from behind the bar, pulled the second pistol from her back pocket, and held them both at waist level as she slowly tread across the wooden floor, between tables now tumbled and overturned. “Maurie?” she shouted. “You good?”

“Yeah. I'm good.” He slowly rose from behind a booth, then leaned against it. “No,” he corrected, then fell to the floor. “God damn it,” he added.

Angelique knelt next to him as she kept her pistols leveled and her eyes on the bodies sprawled across her floor. “Where?”

“My leg.” He ripped his trouser leg open at his thigh. “Here. Damn AK rounds go through anything. Fuck, it hurts.” Maurie stripped off the belt from his trousers and cinched it around his thigh. He winced when he pulled it tight. “That'll slow the bleeding,” he said.

“Laurie,” Angelique said, “get some towels. Maurie's hurt.”

Laurie bounded from behind the bar, shotgun in one hand and several towels in the other hand. She busied herself with tending Maurie's wound as Angelique rose and slowly approached the closest body. She kept one pistol pointed at the man's head as she turned him over with her foot. He wasn't moving. She kicked him in the groin, and he flinched. She shot him in the head and moved on to the next body to repeat the procedure. “Damn,” Laurie said to Maurie as they watched her work. “I can't believe she just did that. That's cold as hell.”

“That's survival,” Maurie said. “If they're alive, they can still kill you.”

“My daddy said that about rattlesnakes,” Laurie said. “You good for the moment?”

“Yes, yes. Go back up Angel.”

Angelique had just checked the last body when Laurie's cell phone, tucked into an apron pocket, began lighting up. She held it to her ear and said, “Hey. You okay?”

“It's Esther,” the voice on the phone said. “Tell Angel that they're attempting to come in the apartment door at the alley. Maybe half a dozen, at least.”

“Shit!” Laurie stuck the phone into her apron. “Esther says they're in the back alley, at the apartment door.”

Angelique turned around and stared at Laurie for a moment, then reached down and yanked an AK rifle from the hands of a dead jihadi. She snatched two more magazines from his waist, looped the weapon's strap over her head, and headed toward the bar's locked alley door. Just before she unlocked it, she looked at Laurie. “Go upstairs,” she said. “Open the safe room. Get everyone inside it, and lock it behind you.”

“But Angel, what about you?”

“Do it. Please!”

Laurie's gaze met Angelique's dark, intense eyes. For a split second, she hesitated. Then, she nodded and ran up the apartment stairs. Angelique looked at Maurie. “Can you manage? Cover the front? We get you a medic soon.”

Maurie had crawled halfway across the floor, and was attempting to wrestle the rifle from a body. “I have it, Angel. Go. Flank them.”

Angelique nodded. As she slid back the bolts and unlocked the door, Maurie's shout caught her attention. He rolled something across the floor toward her. It was a hand grenade. She picked it up, nodded thanks, and steeled herself for – for what, she did not know. For whatever was outside, in the alley. Then, she pushed the door open and peered outside. A moment later, she left and shut the door behind her.




Laurie entered the apartment, locked the door behind her, and looked around. Esther was near the kitchen, watching the closed-circuit television camera over the porch. Everyone else was crouched together in the hallway. Claire was gripping Allie's arm in frantic alarm, and the bar's servers, Emma, Francine, and Louise, were huddled together.

In the video monitor, Esther and Laurie could see several dark figures enter the alley gate near the garage, poke around the tiny yard, and begin to ascend the stairs to the apartment's back door. Laurie grasped Esther's arm. “Angel said to get everybody into the safe room.”

“You have a safe room? Where?”

“End of the hall.”

“Do it. I stall them.”

“No. You come too, Esther.”

“No time.” She yanked Laurie into the little kitchen and pointed toward the balcony door. A dark shadow of a man had appeared at the sliding glass door. He tried to open it, found it locked, and hit the glass with his rifle butt. Being high-impact glass, it resisted the blow. He stood back, shot at the lock, and yanked at the door again. Slowly, it opened, and he attempted to step inside.

Laurie's shotgun blast dropped him. He fell just outside the door. As she racked another round into her shotgun, Esther darted to the body and snatched the rifle. She ran across the balcony, peered over the side, and saw two more dark figures below. One was attempting to boost a comrade high enough to grasp the wrought-iron balcony railing. Laurie watched as Esther clicked the selector into full automatic mode, leaned over the railing, and began shooting. The noise was deafening against the Paris evening and the close buildings. As the rifle emptied, she dropped it, sat down heavily on the balcony's deck, and gasped. “Shit,” she said. “I'm hit.”

“What the hell?” Laurie said. She ran to Esther and knelt next to her. “Where?”

“Here.” She lifted her hand from her left shoulder and looked at the torn shirt and the widening patch of dark that covered her hand. “Shoulder.”

“Head, too,” Laurie said. “You're bleeding like a stuck pig from the side of your head. Oh, man. They nicked your ear. Let's get you inside.” She wrapped an arm around Esther's waist and tugged her across the balcony, toward the open door. As they passed the dead jihadi, Esther said, “Wait.”

“Wait, hell,” Laurie said. “Inside.”

“No. Here.” She lifted a grenade from the jihadi's body and held it up. “Are police here yet?”


“Then all bad guys down there?”


“Drop this on them.” She plopped it into Laurie's hand.

Laurie stared at the grenade. “Angel's down there somewhere,” she said, as she half-dragged, half-walked Esther inside. When they reached the hall, she dropped Esther down on the floor. “She's hit,” she said. “Do something. Get a bathroom towel.” Claire rose to comply.

“Where are you going?” Allie asked, as she stood.

“To open the safe room.”

Allie had crossed the floor and was watching the security camera monitor. “Shit, Laurie. They're at the back door.” As if to punctuate her words, thuds began sounding at the door as Laurie, at the back of the hall, yanked the picture aside and punched in the key code. The wall opened, and a light clicked on.

“Everybody, inside. Now!” Laurie shouted, then repeated the instruction in French. As the group crowded into the safe room, Laurie counted heads. Claire, Emma, Francine, Esther, and Louise found their way inside. Laurie did not see her sister. “Allie?”

“I'm here,” Allie shouted from the living room. “Laurie, there's someone at the balcony door.” She ran toward the hall as a figure began tugging open the sliding glass door. “Shit, Laurie. Shoot him!” she huffed, as she passed Laurie in the hall. “I need a damned gun!” she added breathlessly.

“Safe room,” Laurie said. “Guns there.” She racked her shotgun, pointed it at the balcony door, and fired as the figure entered. The blast wounded him, but it did not stop him. He staggered, screaming in pain, and focused on her. She racked the gun and pulled the trigger, but only heard an impotent click. The shotgun was empty, and she would not have time to reload. She did the only thing left to do, the tactic that Esther had taught her: when there is no other option, charge and use anything as a weapon. She did just that.

Laurie launched herself at the intruder, and collided with him before he could raise his rifle. She knocked him off his feet, and they rolled across the floor in a tangle before they separated. She rose to her knees, swung her shotgun, and connected its butt with his head. Still, it did not stop him, but it did disorient him and send his rifle skidding across the floor. She racked her shotgun back, extracted a shell from her bandolier with a shaking hand, and attempted to insert it into the ejection port of her shotgun. She didn't succeed. The shell bounced across the floor. Horrified, she watched it roll away, then looked up. Her attacker had produced a knife and now wielded it over his head. He struck downward toward her as she raised her shotgun. It blocked the blow. He struck again. The knife's blade skidded down the side of the weapon, then across Laurie's arm. She felt the burn of the blade's effect as she backed away from him, then struggled to her feet. He followed her example. For a sickening moment, one which seemed to play out in slow motion, they stared at each other. Laurie could see the triumph in the eyes behind the keffiyeh , the blade in his hand, and could smell the odor of his sweat. As they stared at each other, she leveled her empty shotgun at him in a threatening manner, and he hesitated to attack. Indecision replaced victory in his eyes. A second later, a shotgun blast hit him in the arm and shoulder. A pistol shot corresponded to a new spatter of blood across his dark keffiyeh , and he dropped. Laurie blinked in surprise as she stared down at her empty shotgun, then looked to her right. Allie held Laurie's short-barreled, pistol-grip shotgun in her hand, and it was smoking. Esther, her shoulder covered in dark blood, stood over him and put another bullet in his head with her pistol.

For a moment, they looked at each other in silence. Then, Allie held up the shotgun. “Damn, little sis. Is this yours? It rocks.”


“And you're bleeding.” Allie pointed at Laurie's arm. Laurie looked down. Her forearm was dripping blood, and there was a clean slash across the skin.

“Aw, hell,” Laurie mumbled, as her eyes rolled back in her head. Allie caught her just before she hit the floor.




Ronstein, in the driver's seat of the van, answered his cell phone. He listened, then said, “I can't leave now. What about casualties? All right, I'll call you again when we're in the extraction phase.” He pocketed the phone and huffed in frustration. Hell of a time, he thought, for another attack on Café Angel. Come on, Shoshana, do your thing and let's get the hell out of here. He tapped his fist against the steering wheel in frustration as he watched the entrance of the nearby parking garage.

Inside the garage, Shoshana strolled along the rows of parking spaces, looking for the imam's car. Disguised in coveralls, an EDF hard hat, and protective glasses, she looked like any worker for the French electrical giant, on her way to a job or to a car. It wasn't more than a few moments before she spotted it. She tapped her earpiece. “Got it, Boss. Two men with it.” She slowed her pace and looked around the garage. “No one else around. Yes, one security camera.” She listened, then replied, “Understood.”

As she passed by the car, the two men loitering by it ceased talking and scrutinized her closely. She responded with a nod, a smile, and a ‘Bonjour' . They laughed, and one of them called to her in French.

“Hey,” he said. “Don't go. Come and talk to us.”

Shoshana slowed, then looked over her shoulder. “What's in it for me?” she asked.

That got more laughter out of the two men. The one who spoke French said, “Come here. We can make it worth your while.” He took several steps forward as if to chase after her. “I like French girls.”

Shoshana turned toward them. The front of her coverall was unzipped to the waist, and her silenced pistol was at the end of an extended arm. “I'm not French,” she said in Arabic. He halted. His eyes were wide, and focused on her pistol. She shot him twice in the chest, and he dropped like a stone. She focused on the second man and shot him twice, also. He fell against the car, then crumpled to a ball next to the front tire, his own pistol in his hand. Shoshana looked around, then quickly put a third round in each man's head before she holstered her pistol. She dragged the two bodies behind a nearby car, searched their pockets, and came up with some identity papers, a set of car keys, and a cell phone. Excellent, she thought. It's a prime opportunity. She touched her earpiece. “Security has been dealt with. I have the car. I'll pick him up and take him somewhere. Figure out a good place.” As she spoke, she shed her EDF disguise and stuffed it into her bag, next to the bomb. Then, she pulled the dark suit jacket from a body and donned it, brushed her hair back, and donned the other guard's Muslim skull cap, covering most of her hair. She studied herself in the side mirror, and decided that it would have to do.

Ronstein thought about the situation, then shrugged in resignation. When in the field, it's best to let the operative call the shots. What the hell, he figured. It's crazy enough to maybe work. He studied the navigation screen in the van and looked for nearby vacant lots. In a moment, he found one right next to the riverbank, a couple of blocks away.




Angelique slipped into the alley, her rifle at shoulder-level and ready. Her head turned constantly, looking for any sign of her enemy. She saw no motion, but heard voices around the corner, at the back stairs to her apartment. She paced to the corner of the building and looked over the entrance gate. There were several dark figures at the top of the stairs, attempting entry. They were pounding on the door and thumping against it with their bodies, but so far, were not successful in gaining entry. She was outnumbered and alone; deception might even the odds, she speculated. She'd heard one of the men refer to another as ‘Ali'. Good.

“Ali! Ali!” she shouted in Arabic. The pounding stopped. One man looked toward her.

“Who's down there?” a voice asked.

“Muhammad,” she said. “Here. For you. Catch this.” She yanked the pin from the hand grenade, let the handle fly loose, then pitched it up the stairs toward the figures. The one answering to ‘Ali' caught it. She yanked her head back and winced against the anticipated blast. A second later, it happened. A sharp, loud bang echoed between the buildings. She listened for a moment, careful to register any movement or cries of pain on the stairs. She heard some low moaning, but nothing else. She shouldered the AK rifle and eased around the corner.

The grenade had taken out the porch light. She cursed at that, then slowly entered the gate and tread up the stairs. At the first body, she stopped and shot him twice more. Then, she stepped over him and continued up the stairs, shooting each body as she approached it.

One figure at the top of the stairs shot back. The muzzle flash was brilliant in the dark, and the bullets ricocheted off the building next to her head and peppered her face and chest with bits of brick. It disoriented her. She cursed as she staggered backward, then fell to her knees. She looked up; a dark form at her back door was attempting to stand, and she saw the distinctive silhouette of an AK rifle being pointed in her direction. She fired, but it did not seem to knock the figure down. On the next trigger pull, the rifle clicked impotently. It was empty.

She grabbed the body of the fallen jihadist just in front of her, held it up in a sitting position, and crouched behind it as she heard the report of shots and felt the bullets tug into the body. When the shots stopped, she heard a click. She looked. He was attempting to drop his magazine and insert another one into his rifle. Angelique pulled the pistol from behind her waistband and took aim at his chest. She fired once, then once more. He cried out, then slumped to the deck and did not move.

For a moment, she remained still, breathing heavily, taking assessment of the situation. Then, she rose, and she locked a new magazine into her rifle as she ascended the stairs. She began shooting into the clump of bodies until the magazine was empty, then loaded her last magazine. The light was out from the grenade blast; the closed-circuit camera probably was, too. Inside, they wouldn't be able to see what was happening. She lifted each body, draped it over the railing, and let it fall to the ground, one story below. If any were still alive, it would kill them. Also, she was tired of jihadists bleeding all over her floors. It was a satisfying gesture, and she smiled a little at each sickening thud of a body hitting the ground, one story below.

When all was done, she retrieved her stolen rifle and retreated to the alley. The side door was locked; she banged on it and shouted, but realized that Maurie probably couldn't hear her. The only way in was through the front door, and he was watching that. If she entered without warning, he might shoot her.

She crouched low and crept along the street, beneath the bar's large front window. The truck was burning brightly, and she could see – and smell – the mangled body of a police officer near it, still smoking. She looked up and down the street. A block or more away, she perceived the flashing blue lights of Paris police cars. In the street, though, she saw no movement in her direction. They were holding back. Why?

When she reached the door, she shouted in Hebrew, “Maurie? Are you there?”

There was no answer. She peered through the window, then around the edge of the blackened door-jamb. Maurie wasn't moving. She entered, knelt by him, and felt his neck. He had a pulse, but he was unconscious. She looked down. He'd lost a fair amount of blood. Got to get him to hospital, she determined. She tightened the belt around his leg, pressed another towel against his wound, and held some pressure. Her phone buzzed, and she blinked in surprise at this. She'd forgotten that it was even in her pocket. She kept one hand on Maurie's leg and answered with the other one. It was Laurie.

“Angel? Where the hell are you? The shooting stopped. Is everybody okay? The back porch camera is out. I can't see a freaking thing out there.”

“Yes, yes. Come down. I need your help.”

The phone clicked off. A moment later, the door at the top of the stairs opened, and Laurie descended the stairs, shotgun in hand. The others followed her. Angelique took charge. She pointed at Francine and Louise.

“Go to the end of the street. Police are there. Bring them to me. We need an ambulance now.”

As they stepped through the damaged doorway, past the bodies of dead jihadists, and began running down the street and shouting, Allie knelt next to Maurie. She studied him with a horrified expression and an ashen face, then looked up at Angelique. “Is he – ?”

“No. Passed out. He has a good pulse. We need to carry him to ambulance. Get a blanket or something.”

“I'll get a blanket,” Claire said, and ran toward the stairs.

“Laurie, collect up our guns and lock them in the safe room before the police get here. Leave the AK's.” Only then did she notice Laurie's arm; the bandages, the blood. “You are hurt? What happened?”

“Knife,” she said. “Looks worse than it is.”

“Can you help?”

“Got it, Angel.” Angelique felt Laurie's hands at her back, relieving her of her pistols and magazines, as Allie pulled the snaps loose on Maurie's shoulder holster rig and yanked it from his body. She tossed it to Emma, who was helping Laurie collect their guns before the police arrived.

Angelique checked Maurie's pulse again. “Still good,” she said, then raised her voice in frustration. “Where are those fucking police?”

A voice in French announced, “Angelique! Glad to see you're still alive. And – ” It was Bruno, wearing a protective vest and carrying a pistol. He managed a grin when he said, “And those ‘fucking police', as you call them, are just behind us.” He stepped inside, and was followed by three French army soldiers. “They sent in SDAT first.” He spoke into a hand-held radio, then said, “Ambulance is coming up the street. What's your situation here?”

“Several dead here. Two police, outside. One jihadist, in the truck. Five, in here. At least six or eight more in the alley and at our apartment's back door, all dead. I think we've contained the attack.”

“I'd say so,” Bruno said. “Before those ‘fucking police' get here, have you gotten rid of all your weapons?” As Angelique nodded, Bruno turned to the soldiers. “You three didn't hear that, right?”

“Hear what?” the corporal replied.

“I like these guys,” Bruno said. “Makes me want to go back to the army.”

“Not me,” Angelique said. “This is what we deal with in Israel all the time.” She looked at Bruno and the soldiers. “France now, too. Get used to it.”

A police inspector gingerly stepped over the dead jihadists in the door and looked around. “What a mess,” he said. “It'll take a week to untangle this.”

Bruno eased him aside and waved the paramedics through the door. They crouched next to Maurie and began working over him as Angelique backed away and gave them space. She pointed to Allie. “That's his wife. She doesn't speak much French.” She stood up and looked around. “Where's Laurie?”

“I'm here, Angel,” Laurie said.

Angelique gently lifted Laurie's injured arm and examined it. She winced as she peeked beneath the bandage. “Go with them to hospital. Translate for Allie, and get that tended. Right?” She hugged Laurie to her side. “I will be there soon. I promise.”

“You're hurt, too, Angel.”


Laurie touched Angelique's face. “Here. And your shoulder. You're bleeding. You're all dinged up. You come, too. Oh, and Esther is hurt. She needs hospital.”

Angelique's exhausted expression changed to one of alarm. “What? Where is she?”

“There, with Claire.”

Angelique pointed for Bruno's benefit. “Esther. Wounded. Hospital. Claire goes with her as translator.”

Emma, who had returned with the police, tugged at Angelique's sleeve. “There's people in the basement.”

“Who's in the basement?” Bruno asked. He turned to the soldiers. “Go. See.” They followed Emma through the back hall. A moment later, cheers and happy voices could be heard as the soldiers led a group of patrons and Maurice out of the basement and into the main room of the bar. Emma led them out the alley door, down the alley, and into the main street, where they began running toward the distant police barricade and flashing lights.

The paramedics placed Maurie onto a backboard. As they did, Maurie opened his eyes. Allie almost wept with relief as she gripped his hand. “Honey, you with us now?”

“What? Did I pass out?”

“Yeah.” Allie wiped a tear from her cheek. “Yeah. It's over. We're going to the hospital.”

“Where's Angel?”

“Here.” Angelique leaned over him.

“Have you heard from Ronstein and Shoshana?”

“No. Why? Should I?”

“You can guess what's happening.” With that cryptic reply, the paramedics lifted the backboard and headed for the front door. Allie, Laurie, Esther, and Claire followed, a bloody train of survivors.

Angelique watched them go as the police began their crime scene set-up, and as they herded her and her employees to a booth where police inspectors awaited them for questioning.




Inside the France 24 studio, the interview of the esteemed Imam Omar ibn Assaf concluded with the smiling cleric giving reassurances that the religion he represented was a peaceful, progressive one, that Muslims only wanted to live in harmony with their neighbors, and that he and his mosque had nothing whatsoever to do with the blaze of violence currently hitting Paris streets. It was, he insisted, rather the product of the far-right neo-Nazis and Zionists who were perpetrating this madness against his people. As the time ran out and the cameras were turned off, he rose, shook hands with his French interviewer, and was joined by his bodyguard as they left the studio and stood out on the street.

Ronstein watched them from his vantage point. The bodyguard seemed surprised that the imam's car was not there. He made a call with his cell phone. Soon, the car appeared and stopped in front of them. The bodyguard opened the car's rear door and the imam climbed inside. As the car idled, he shut the door, began walking around to the other side of the car, and halted in surprise as the car took off without waiting for him. He stood in the middle of the street and watched it go, then pulled out his cell phone and made a frantic call.

As the car accelerated down Rue des Nations Unies , then turned down a narrow side street, the imam leaned forward. “Driver! We left Hussein,” he said. “Go back and get him.”

“No,” Shoshana said in Arabic, deliberately speaking with the lower register of her voice.

“What? Why not? Go back now.” He leaned forward. “Who the hell are you? I don't recognize you.”

“I'm your driver,” Shoshana said. She slammed on the brakes, and the car halted in a darkened side street. After a quick look around, she turned around in her seat and pointed her silenced pistol over the back of the seat. “Greetings from Mossad.”

His expression revealed horror. She pumped three rounds into his chest. He gasped, then went limp. She placed one more squarely in the middle of his forehead, then turned around and stepped on the gas pedal. She navigated the car into the vacant lot by the waterfront and stopped it with the headlights pointing out over the Seine River.

She tapped her earpiece. “At the destination,” she said.

“On my way,” was the response from Ronstein.

Shoshana stepped out of the car, threw the skull cap and suit jacket into the driver's seat, and fetched her bag. She turned off the car, closed the door, and walked around to the back bumper. There, she knelt, opened her bag, and retrieved her magnetic bomb. She turned on the circuits, reached beneath the car, and slapped the bomb onto the gasoline tank. Then, she found her radio detonator and stood up to await Ronstein's van. As it arrived and stopped on the street, perhaps thirty meters away, Shoshana slung the bag's strap over her shoulder. As she did, she heard a beep from the detonator. She looked down at it and said, “Oh, shit.”




Ronstein sat in his van, waiting for Shoshana. He was sure she'd seen him, and it appeared that she was attaching the bomb to the car. As she stood, he began to relax. It was done, he decided. Now, all that remains is to get out of there pronto. We can detonate the bomb and watch it explode, he decided, from the distant bridge.

A brilliant flash blinded him. The concussion hit him next. He stared in shocked, disbelieving horror as the back half of the car erupted in a massive explosion. He looked again, and did not see Shoshana anywhere.

He put the van in gear, bumped over the curb, and drove toward the flaming car. In the light of his headlamps, he saw her lying about ten feet from the car. She was not moving. He ran to her, turned her over, and almost wept at her appearance. Her hair and her clothing on one side of her body was partially burned away, and little pockets of flames still licked at her clothes. He beat out the flames, then frantically attempted to find a pulse. He probed her wrist and her neck for a sign of life. It was there. She was alive. He lifted her and dragged her to the side door of the van. A moment later, he'd placed her inside, on the floor, and returned to the driver's seat. His next thought turned to escaping before anyone saw them there.

For several minutes, he drove down a random array of streets to assure himself that they weren't being followed. Finally, he turned north and headed for the embassy. On the way, he occasionally glanced back and called Shoshana's name, but she did not answer. As he drove, he pulled the cell phone from his pocket and made a call to alert the embassy. From time to time, he would pound the steering wheel in frustration and yell, “God damn it, Shoshana. Wake up and talk to me.”

She never did.




Angelique sat at a table as a paramedic tended the cuts that the brick and bullet splinters had inflicted on her face and shoulder. As he dabbed and bandaged, a police inspector spoke, notepad in hand.

“Tell me again,” he said.

“What part?” Angelique asked.

“All of it.”

Angelique pointed to a closed-circuit security camera in a corner of the ceiling. “Why not just watch the video?”

“You have video?” he said, in astonishment. He looked around the bar, and noted the closed-circuit cameras, one at the bar's front and one at the bar's back. “Oh. Yes. Good idea.”

Angelique looked up when she heard Bruno's voice. “Inspector,” he said, as he flashed his SDAT credentials, “this is clearly a terrorist attack. Our territory. I'll take it from here.”

The inspector rose and took Bruno aside. “I suspect,” he said in confidence, “that these people have illegal weapons here. Look at these bodies. A shotgun wound there, pistol wounds there, and out back are rifle wounds. Also, up in their apartment, there's a dead man with both a shotgun and a pistol wound. And in the back, several bodies with undetermined wounds. I suspect that – ”

Bruno held up a hand to silence him. “We'll look into it.”

“But there's at least a dozen bodies around here. A mass murder.”

“An attempted mass murder. These deaths,” Bruno said, as he gestured at the bodies on the floor, “are the result of self-defense. Remember, they attacked her.”

“And two dead police officers outside.”

“I'm aware of that, Inspector. We'll do them justice, never fear.”

“This is Paris, not the damned wild west or Syria. This kind of violence has to stop.” When Bruno grunted in agreement, the inspector added, “I just don't understand how they were able to defend themselves against this attack. I mean, the Bataclan was a bloodbath for the patrons. Not here. Why?”

“These people are former Israeli soldiers. Combat veterans. Mossad, too. People who know how the hell to fight.”

“Still, there are illegal guns here. I know it. The sooner we confiscate them, the safer Paris will be.”

Bruno kept his voice low, and leaned in toward the inspector. “Now you listen to me, Inspector. I don't give a damn if she has a few illegal guns. What do you think this bar would have looked like if that woman at that table – ” He pointed at Angelique. “Hadn't been prepared for this? It would have been full of bodies.”

“It is now,” the inspector protested.

“I mean French bodies. Who gives a damn about jihadists? She did France a favor. So restrict yourself to your crime scene and evidence collection and forget about her. She's my issue.”

The inspector slapped his notebook shut. “Your attitude will be noted in my report.”

“Fine. Just leave her alone. I'll deal with her.”




The guards at the Israeli Embassy opened a side gate, and the van entered the embassy grounds. It halted in a large underground garage, where several people awaited them. Ronstein dropped from the driver's seat and yanked open the side door. In a moment, Shoshana had been pulled from the van and placed on a stretcher. The medics began checking her over as Ronstein watched. One looked up.

“I can't get a pulse,” he said. “Get the defibrillator.”

“What do you mean, you can't get a pulse?” Ronstein said. “She had one when I checked her. She isn't even that seriously burned.”

“She doesn't have a pulse,” the medic repeated. “No respiration that I can detect.” He cut her shirt open as the other medic slapped two pads on her, one above her sport bra and one beneath it. Ronstein watched in dumbfounded shock as the machine began its routine, announcing in a mechanical voice that no pulse was detected and that CPR should begin.

He watched as the machine delivered shock after shock between rounds of CPR. It did no good. Shoshana lay, limp and unmoving, on the stretcher as the medics knelt around her. After what seemed an endless amount of time, the medics looked at each other, then glanced up at Ronstein. “It's useless, sir,” one of them said. “We've been at it for fifteen minutes. She's not responding. What shall we do?”

“What are her chances if we keep going?” he asked.

“Almost none,” the medic answered. “It's been too long. Even if, by some miracle, we bring her back, she'll be irreversibly brain-damaged. She won't live long.”

As Ronstein contemplated that, he realized that they were looking up to him, waiting for guidance. It was his call, he realized. He knelt next to her and tilted her head toward him. Her eyes were half-open, but dull and devoid of life. He'd seen the telltale sign too often before to mistake it now. He drew a slow, deep breath, then looked at the medics kneeling beside him. He attempted to speak, but found that he could not. He merely shook his head.

He'd made it official. Shoshana Klein, agent of the Kidon branch of Mossad, was dead. Killed in the line of duty. He looked at his watch and noted the time and date. Then, he rose.

“Sir,” one of the members of the Mossad detachment said, “what shall we do with the body? And how do we explain this to the French?”

Ronstein's head was spinning. He looked down at her for a long moment, then shook himself back to reality. “Get the aircraft ready to go,” he said. “We'll fly her back to Israel tonight. The French authorities can't know anything about this operation, or there will be a diplomatic shitstorm of the first magnitude.” As his subordinate left, Ronstein stared down at Shoshana. “I can't understand it,” he repeated, over and over. “She wasn't hurt that badly.”

A medic looked up. “Sir,” he said. “Did she fall? Hit the ground hard?”

He blinked at the question. “Yes,” he said. “She was thrown three or four meters by the blast. Why?”

“And she didn't respond after that?”


He kept one hand behind Shoshana's neck as he slowly rotated her head back and forth. “I can feel crepitus,” the medic said. “She's got a broken neck, I think.”




Angelique walked through the hospital's emergency department waiting room. Her body ached, and she was exhausted. Her face and shoulder had begun hurting, as well. She ignored it and slowed her pace, seeking a familiar face. It was a familiar voice she heard instead.

“Angel!” Allie rose and waved her to the corner of the chaotic waiting room. “Man, you look like you kissed a corn-picker.”

“I am all right. Laurie?”

Laurie's getting stitches,” she said. “It's a nasty cut, but she'll be okay.”

“Esther?” she asked.

“Getting patched up,” Allie said. “Claire's with her. It's not so bad, the doctor said.”

“And Maurie?”

Allie winced. “He had to get a surgery to remove the bullet from his leg. It didn't hit bone or artery, though. Thank God. He'll be here for a day or two.”

Angelique nodded. “Excuse me,” she said, and walked outside. When she saw that there were no people within earshot, she made a phone call. “Ronstein?” she said. “Have you heard? My bar?”

“Yes,” he said. “Give me a report.”

She did. Then, she asked, “Did you accomplish whatever you and Shoshana set out to do tonight?”

He was silent for a moment. When he answered, he said, “Yes. Good news and bad.”


“Good news: the imam has been dealt with. Bad news: Shoshana is –” He hesitated. “Shoshana was killed. She died even as she accomplished her mission.”

Angelique felt gut-punched. “Where is she now?”

“Embassy. She's going home tonight, for good.”

“I see.”

“We'll keep you posted.”

“Please do.”

“I'm sorry about your bar.”

“C'est la vie,” Angelique said. “At least for a Jew in Paris anymore, it seems. Ronstein, I'm tired of this.”

“It's not over anytime soon, I fear,” he said. “Islam has been waging war on Jews for fourteen hundred years.”

“It's over for me.” Angelique took a deep breath, then said, “Ronstein, tell the Old Man that I want to go off the map. Permanently.”

“You'll give up everything?”

“Everything but Laurie.”

“It's already been decided for you. You all go off the map. You, Maurie, Esther. He's already working on it.”

“I see.” Angelique paused for a moment to mentally chew on that. Then, she said, “Oh, and Ronstein?”


“Thank you. For everything.”

Shalom, old friend.”

Shalom ,” Angelique echoed.

The phone call ended. She walked back inside and sat down next to Allie and Claire. For a while, she said nothing. Then, she leaned forward and rested her head in her hands. Softly, she began to weep. Allie placed an arm around her, hugged her, and sat quietly.




Dawn had broken, and the morning sun revealed the extent of damage in and around Café Angel. Rue d'Espoir looked like a war zone, at least in that block. Outside, people in blue police uniforms still circulated, and a tow truck was wenching the burned, blasted jihadist's rental truck onto its flatbed. The bodies had been removed to the morgue, but bloodstains still darkened the cobblestones of the street and sidewalk.

Angelique surveyed the damage to the front of her bar, then stepped inside. Maurice and her servers, Emma, Francine, and Louise, were still there, sweeping up broken glass. Two men in paper coveralls, gloves, and masks were scrubbing the floor. Angelique noted them, then looked at Maurice.

“Crime scene cleanup, Boss,” he said. “I authorized them to clean up the blood, and signed the contract to pay them. I hope that's okay. They'll get the blood out back and up in your apartment, too.”

Angelique nodded, walked wordlessly to her cramped little office at the base of the stairs, and sat down. Laurie entered the bar a moment later, arm in a sling, and Emma greeted her. “Your arm,” Emma said. “It is – ?”

“Sore,” Laurie answered. She managed an exhausted smile, and Emma hugged her.

“What do you need?” Emma asked. “What can I get for you?”

“A three-day drunk,” Laurie answered. She motioned toward Angelique, inside the open office door. “I think for her, too.”

“I'll get you both something,” Emma said, as she headed for the bar.

Laurie entered the office and sat down next to Angelique. For a long time, neither one spoke. When Emma shoved two overloaded glasses of brandy into their hands, they merely nodded their unspoken thanks. Laurie slugged half the contents of her glass in one motion, then said, “The place is a wreck again, huh?”

“Um.” Angelique concentrated on her brandy.

“Have to fix it again, huh? It's not as bad inside as last time. Blood on the floor, bullet holes in the walls.” She considered the scene. “Bullet holes kind of give this place a ‘Roaring Twenties' flavor, don't they? Maybe we should keep them. Well, thank God for insurance, anyway.”


“Yeah?” Laurie looked at Angelique. She'd never seen her so exhausted. She perceived that it was an exhaustion of spirit, more than body. “You do know that we damn near died this time, Angel. Right?”

“I know. Because of that, I have confession to make.”

“Oh, oh. What?” Laurie asked.

“After the last attack, no one will insure us.”

Laurie blinked at that. “No insurance?” Angelique shook her head. “And you didn't tell me this because – why?”

“I did not wish to worry you.”

“So you carried the worry yourself,” Laurie said. “Like you always do.” She looked at Angelique. “Is there anything else that you're carrying that you want to get rid of?” Angelique shrugged in a noncommital gesture. “Well, since we're at it, I've got a confession, too.”

Angelique looked over at Laurie. “Oh? Will I like this confession?”

Laurie stared down at the floor. “I don't think so,” she whispered.

For a minute, Angelique studied Laurie. Then, she sighed heavily. “I perceive a guilty conscience.” Laurie didn't respond. “Does this have to do,” she asked, “with Claire?”

Laurie looked up at Angelique. She'd expected anger. She saw only a weary puzzlement. “Yeah,” she said, then quickly added, “Angel, I'm so sorry. It only happened once. It'll never happen again. I promise, I promise – ” Laurie began to weep. “Get mad if you want to. Yell. Scream. Throw things. But please don't hate me. And don't hate her. And please don't leave.”

“Shh.” Angel rested an arm around Laurie's shoulders, and Laurie leaned into her. “It was not your fault. It was not her fault. It was mine for leaving you alone in difficult times.”

Laurie sniffed and wiped her face with her sleeve. “You're not mad?”

“Laurie, it is only human, what you and Claire did.”

“I've tried to be so perfect for you. I guess I really blew it, huh?”

Angelique pulled Laurie closer. “Do not be perfect. Be Laurie. That is enough.” Angelique paused, then whispered, “I am not so perfect, either.”

Laurie froze. Slowly, she looked up at Angelique. Their eyes met. “Oh?” she said.

“Oh,” Angelique repeated.

“Was it Esther, or was it Shoshana?”

Angelique managed a pained little smile. “Does it matter?”

“Guess not.” Laurie rested her head on Angelique's shoulder. For a moment, she didn't speak. Then, she asked softly, “How many times?”


Laurie snickered. “Guess I deserved that, huh?”

“Karma?” Angelique asked.

“Payback?” Laurie asked.

“It was not meant to be so.”

“I know. I should have been there for you.” She wiped her face with her sleeve. “So, are we all done with that sort of thing now?”

“All done.”

“No more confessions?”

“No more.”

“Well,” Laurie mused, as she leaned against Angelique. “In a strange way, I feel better now. Do you?”


Laurie wrapped her good arm around Angelique's neck. “As long as you don't leave me. Or throw me out.”

“Laurie, I must leave. Perhaps forever.”

“What?” Laurie sat up and looked at Angelique.

“Me. Esther. Maurie. We are in danger.”

“From who? Jihadists?”

“That, and from the French authorities. We must all be out of the country. Forever, I fear.”

Laurie's expression fell. “What about me?” she almost shouted. “What about us?”

Angelique smiled. “Do you think that I can leave without you?”

Slowly, Laurie managed a grin. “That's the right answer, lover. So, where are we going?”

“Israel, at first. Mossad sneaks us out of France. We get our new papers, our new identities. Then... who can say?”

“We can say. So, how much time do we have?”

“Ronstein will come to take us to airport early tomorrow.”

“How early?”

“Two, three o'clock in the morning.”

“Shit,” Laurie said. “I'm so not a morning person.” Laurie sighed deeply. “I hate crying. Just let me get it out of my system, Angel. Then, we can start packing.”




Later that morning.

Emma stood in front of Café Angel's door and surveyed the damage. “Maurice, I didn't know you were a handyman.”

He laughed. “The times require it.”

“Nice job.” She watched him finish installing a lock on the new door, then walked inside. “Where's Angel and Laurie? They're usually having coffee at this time of the morning.”

“When the others get here, we'll talk,” Maurice said.

Emma blinked in surprise at the answer, but shrugged it off with good nature and went behind the bar. She stashed her jacket and purse and poured herself a cup of coffee. As she watched Maurice work, she asked, “Can I do anything to help?”

“Turn on the television,” he said, “and let's get the news.” As he returned his attention to the door, he muttered, “Not that I believe any of it anymore.”

As she sipped coffee and watched the news, several police vehicles of various descriptions stopped in front of the bar. A gaggle of police officers, some with weapons, emerged and followed a police inspector as he confronted Maurice and handed him some official-looking papers. “Search warrants,” he declared.

“For this bar?” Maurice asked.

“And for the apartment upstairs.” He strode past Maurice and began looking around as several police officers began searching the bar. “Speaking of which,” he asked, “where are the upstairs apartment's occupants?” He consulted a note pad. “Angelique Halevy and Laurie Caldwell.”

“If they're not upstairs, then I have no idea,” Maurice said, cautiously.

“Do you have any weapons in this bar?”

“Just a club behind the bar.”


“It's a bar. Occasionally, we get someone who can't hold their liquor.”


“No,” Maurice said, rather firmly. “No guns.”

“We shall see.” He walked up the stairs to the apartment door, rang the bell a few times, and pounded on the door. After a few seconds, he shouted, “Police. Open this door or we'll break it down.”

Maurice stood at the foot of the stairs. “Please don't, Inspector. I'm rather tired of repairing doors. I have a key. I'll let you in.”

He looked down at Maurice. “Then open this door now.”

When the door was opened, the inspector and several officers entered the apartment and began rummaging through it. Cabinets and drawers were opened and rifled through, the kitchen was thoroughly trashed, and the little back yard and the garage were inspected. Furniture was overturned, and even the books were opened, flipped through, and then dropped aside as Maurice watched patiently. Finally, he approached a very frustrated police inspector. “Did you find whatever you were seeking?” he asked.

“No,” the inspector said. “Where are the occupants?”

“Like I said, if they're not here, then I have no idea. They don't report their comings and goings to me.”

The inspector waved to his men, and everyone trooped down the stairs to the bar. The inspector was last to leave. Just before he stepped through the door, he said, “This isn't the end of this matter.”

“I'm sure it isn't,” Maurice replied cheerily.

After the police drove away, Maurice poured himself a mug of coffee. Emma watched him. Finally, she observed, “You look like how-is-it-said? The cat who just ate the bird? And where's Angelique and Laurie?”




When Francine and Louise arrived, they joined Emma at the bar. Maurice faced them. “I needed you here this morning,” he said, “because we have a lot of work ahead of us to put this place together again. Are you up for it?” They all nodded agreement, and he continued, “What I am about to show you must not be spoken of to anyone. Understood?” Again, they nodded. “Come.”

He led them upstairs. When they saw the apartment's disorder, they were in shock. “What happened here?” Louise asked.

“Police search,” Emma said. “They wrecked the place.”

“It can be put back right,” Maurice said. “Come to the end of the hallway.”

As they walked, Emma said with sudden alarm, “Maurice, where's Angel and Laurie? They're okay, aren't they? You know, don't you? Did you lie to the police?”

Maurice said, “What did I tell the inspector? Exactly, word for word?”

Emma squinted in thought. “If they weren't here, then you didn't know?”

“Right. I did not lie. And I know. What does that mean?”

“They're here?” Francine asked.

Maurice knocked on the wall. “It's Maurice. They're gone.”

“Oh, my God!” Emma squealed. “The safe room!”

When the locks clicked and the wall opened, they saw Angelique and Laurie sitting on four packed suitcases. “Finally!” Laurie said, as she jumped up and headed for the bathroom. “I have so got to pee!”




A week later. Mount Herzl Military Cemetery, Jerusalem.

Allie, Laurie, and Claire stood next to each other, all dressed conservatively in black. The crowd was small, and many of the people who were there were dressed in the green or blue of Israeli military uniforms. Carried by six pallbearers, the casket approached, draped in the blue and white flag of Israel. As it was placed on an open grave and the six pallbearers stood at attention by its sides, Laurie studied three of them in particular. Old and familiar faces, but somehow seeming strange and new to her as they wore the uniforms that they had worn in the service of their nation. Angelique and Esther wore the green of Israeli soldiers, and Maurie wore the blue shirt of an army officer. She noted that the berets, all neatly creased down the center, were a variety of colors. Angelique and Maurie wore the red beret – kumta , she had called it – of the Tzanchanim (Paratrooper) Brigade, while Esther wore a light green beret of the Caracal Brigade. Laurie's gaze trailed down to the flag-draped casket. She noted that on it rested a camouflage-colored beret of Shoshana's old unit, the Kfir Brigade. Shoshana. Laurie kept hearing the name repeated in her mind, still in disbelief that she was dead. She expected Shoshana to appear any moment in the crowd, with a wistful smile and a sardonic, amusing comment.

Shoshana Klein was dead. It didn't seem real to her. A ‘daughter of the land', she thought – Bat-Ami – like the translation of Angel's Hebrew surname. A young woman with a damaged body, a tortured past, a troubled soul, an irrepressible spirit, and a nameless hero's death. She leaned close to Allie and whispered, “Do you think she's at peace now?”

Allie sniffed and held a handkerchief to her face. “I hope so,” she replied. “She saved my life, you know.”

“I know.”

The rabbi spoke his words in Hebrew, the honor guard folded the flag and set the beret atop it, the soldiers present snapped salutes, and the honor guard fired its volleys. Then, a military officer approached and presented the folded flag and beret to a little cluster of people in Hasidic dress, with some whispered words in Hebrew. Laurie squeezed Allie's arm.

“Her family?” she whispered. Allie nodded.

When the officer left, a young woman turned to Allie, Laurie, and Claire. “I heard you speaking English,” she said. “You knew my sister?”

“Yes,” Claire said. “We all loved her. We ache for you.”

“Thank you,” the young Hasidic woman said. “Talk with us. Tell us how you know her. I'll translate for my family.”

A few minutes later, Esther, Maurie, and Angelique joined the group. They retreated to the shade of some trees and spoke in an alternating gaggle of English and Hebrew, trading stories about Shoshana.

As they gathered with Shoshana's family, Laurie looked over at the grave, and she smiled. Yes, she decided, Shoshana is at peace now. Somehow, she could feel it in her soul.




13 Rue d'Espoir, Paris, France.

Maurice and the ‘bar-girls', as they referred to themselves, had taken a break from cleaning up and were eating lunch. They'd popped a bottle of wine, and watched with intent the television above the bar. The news was on, and Café Angel was the subject of the moment. The news presenter was interviewing journalist Leo Laurent, who had earlier visited the bar, spoken with Angelique, and done a sympathetic piece on Café Angel.

“What was the motive for the most recent attack on Café Angel?” the presenter asked him. “Was it arbitrary?”

“It seems not,” he replied. “Not only was the bar Jewish-owned and a frequent hangout for Israelis, but it seems that the bar's owner was a particular target of theirs.”


“She was a former sergeant in the Israeli army. Paratrooper, sniper, a veteran of several conflicts. Also, there were some rumors – nothing factual that I can find – that she was, for some time, in Mossad.”

“Israel's intelligence bureau?”

“Yes, but they have more duties than intelligence. Assassination, for example.”

“She was an assassin?”

“There is no proof. Only rumors. Also, there's been a recent rash of killings of prominent local Muslims, all of whom were on French terrorist watch lists. There is some speculation that SDAT, the French anti-terrorism police unit, was using a team of Mossad agents to target and kill these people, and that she was one of this team.” He quickly added, “But no proof, mind you. My source comes from within Police Nationale . My source also states that it was possibly her who beat a suspected terrorist to death in a holding cell at SDAT headquarters.”

She asked, “And what does SDAT say about this?”

“A spokesman for SDAT denies any knowledge. Of course.”

“Of course,” she echoed. “What does this mean for the current prime minister's office?”

“Potentially, a crisis of major proportions, if any of it can be proven. Also, severe unrest within the Muslim neighborhoods.”


“It's happened before over less,” he said. “Cartoons, for instance.”

Maurice switched off the television. “Well,” he said, “I suspect that we haven't seen the last of that police inspector. After this bit on the national news, he should be around any time.”

Francine said, “He's already been here twice. He can't find anything and we don't know where Angelique and Laurie are.”

“I hope they're well, wherever they are,” Emma said. “I miss Laurie. We were good friends.”

Louise laughed. “I guess. She signed her motor-scooter over to you. What did you do? Sleep with her?”

Emma rolled her eyes. “God. If she was only single...”

Louise nudged Emma with an elbow. “She said that about you!”

“And only now you tell me?” Emma sighed. “The story of my life.”

“Don't be so greedy,” Francine said. “You've already got a really cute boyfriend.”

“Who's going to make a million Euros as a scientist one day,” Francine added. “You won't be a bar-girl then. You'll have a maid and a nanny.”

“I can't have a girlfriend, too?” Emma asked innocently.

Amid laughter, Maurice tapped his wine glass against Emma's. “It's good to have dreams, isn't it?” he said.

Behind them, at the open door, a voice said, “I've heard enough. You're all going down to the station for questioning.” He turned and waved three police officers forward. “Place them all into temporary custody.”

Maurice sighed. “Well, there goes getting anything productive done for the rest of the day.”

As they were herded to the van, Francine asked, “Maurice, are we still getting paid for the whole day?”

He shrugged. “Why not?”




Police prefecture, 5 th Arrondissement .

The inspector sat back and wiped his face with a handkerchief. “Let's try this again,” he said. “There's something you're not telling me.”

“But I've told you everything I know,” Emma said.

“Except where Mme. Halevy and Mme. Caldwell are. Where are they? And where are the illegal weapons that they used to kill those people?”

“I don't know! Please,” she implored him. “I'm thirsty and I have to use the toilet.”

“Then you'd better tell me the truth, young lady.”

The door opened, and Bruno entered. He flashed his SDAT credentials. “She doesn't know, Inspector. I'll vouch for that. None of them know.”

“And how can you be so certain?”

“We're privy to information which is highly classified. You don't have the security clearance. Leave it alone. Release them.”

“Says who?”

“Says me and their lawyer,” Bruno said, as he jerked a thumb toward a woman in a business suit behind him.

Emma blinked in surprise. “I have a lawyer?”

“You do,” the woman said. “You all do.” She looked at the inspector. “And unless you have proof of wrongdoing, my clients are leaving with me.”

The inspector sat, open-mouthed in exasperation, as Emma smiled pleasantly, stood, and left behind the lawyer. Bruno lingered behind. He sat at the table, across from the inspector, and said, “May we speak off the record?” The inspector slowly nodded his agreement. “Turn off the recording system.”

The inspector rose and did so. “It's off. Now,” he said, “what's this about?”

“Forget about illegal weapons at that bar or the apartment above it. I will personally guarantee you that there's nothing there.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because those guns are all in the hands of their legal owners.”

“Yes? Who's that, then?”

Bruno smiled. “The government of Israel.” With that, he rose, bid the speechless inspector a good day, and left.

Fifteen minutes later, they stood on the street outside the prefecture. “Well,” the lawyer said, “that was fun. I'm your lawyer. Maryam Durand. Here is my card,” she said, as she passed out business cards. “I'm on retainer from the Israeli embassy here in Paris. I often do work for them. If you're hassled any more, call my office.”

“How did you know we were in trouble?” Francine asked.

Bruno pointed at Maurice, then at Maryam. “He called me. I called Ronstein. He called her.”

“Well,” Maurice said, “the least that we can do for you is to buy you dinner.”

“Thank you, no,” Maryam said. “A drink would be delightful, though. I am told that you have a bar?”

Maurice smiled. “The bar is now open,” he said. “And for you both, free tonight.”

“How delightful!” Maryam said.

“I'll drive,” Bruno quickly added.




Western Kansas, United States. A few days later.

“Hey, chief. You got a package from Israel, of all places.”

County Sheriff Bill Caldwell looked up from his desk. “I what?”

“Here.” The clerk dropped the package on his desk. “Maybe it's a dreidel,” she joked as she walked out.

“Yuk, yuk,” he mumbled, as he flipped open a folding knife and slit the package. From it dropped a cell phone and a hand-written note. His heart leapt in his chest when he saw the handwriting. It was from his youngest daughter. “Laurie,” he muttered, “what are you up to now? I thought you were still doing that Left Bank barmaid thing of yours. What the hell,” he mused, “at least you married well.” He flipped open the paper, and it read:


Dear Dad:

Use this phone and call me anytime. It's encrypted. I've got one, too. We can talk freely. The number is programmed in.

Allie says ‘hi', and so does Angelique. We have news and a big favor to ask of you and Mom. If you've been watching the news, you'll know a bit of what's going on.

And don't worry. We're all fine and in great health.

We love you all.



“Oh, Jeez. What now?” he wondered, as he turned to his computer. He surfed the usual American news channel, and saw nothing. Then, he went to the English language French news sites, and saw some reference to jihadist attacks in Paris, in the Latin Quarter. He scanned the articles, watched a video clip, and he paled a little. He picked up the phone, found the number, and pressed the button. After several seconds, when the connection was established, he almost wept for joy when he heard his daughter's voice. He controlled his emotion, focused, and after an enthusiastic greeting, said, “Girl, you've got some heavy explaining to do. What the hell went on over there? And you're in Israel now? You're not? Then where in the name of Christ are you? What? When?” He leaned back in his chair, and a broad smile creased his face. Then, he looked at the note again. “So, what do you need from me? Never mind; if it's mine, it's y'all's. I love you too, sweet pea. I'll tell your Mom you send love. ‘Bye.” He hurriedly added, “Hey! Is this damned phone costing you a lot? And is your sister pregnant yet? And is she Jewish yet? Hell, we just found out last week that she was married. I can't keep up with that girl.”

When he hung up, he rose from his desk, wandered down the hall, and poured himself a fresh mug of coffee. A sheriff's deputy at the front desk noted that he was humming a little tune as he stirred in milk and sweetener, in time to the spoon clinking. After he left, the deputy looked at the clerk. “Sheriff Caldwell is in a great mood this morning,” she said. “Maybe it's a good time to ask for that raise.”

The clerk shook her head. “Don't do that. It'll just turn him grouchy again.” When the deputy looked at her in question, she added, “Trust me. I've seen the department's budget.”

Sheriff Caldwell sat at his desk and made a phone call. “Honey,” he said, “It's Bill. I'm about to make your day. Get a guest room ready. ‘Bye.” He hung up, snickered, and said to no one in particular, “Man, she hates it when I do that. But I've been married to her for thirty years, and I know how that girl loves a surprise.”




A month later. The Caldwell farm, western Kansas.

Laurie pulled two pies out of the oven and set them on the counter. “What else can I do, Mom?” she asked.

“Just sit and talk to me,” Michelle said. “And get a refill on your coffee.”

“Oh, yeah. Man, it's getting cold outside, ain't it?”

Isn't it , dear. It's December. Christmas is almost here. Does Angelique celebrate Christmas?”

“She will with us,” Laurie said. “Although remember that Hanukkah is around the same time.”

“I'm afraid that there's no synagogue around here,” Michelle said. “Gosh, there might be one in Dodge City or Garden City.”

“She didn't go to temple much in Paris,” Laurie said, as she settled down at the kitchen table with her coffee. A momentary silence fell in the kitchen as Laurie sipped her coffee and Michelle fussed around the stove. Then, Laurie spoke.

“Mom, I'm worried about Angel.”

“Oh?” Michelle stopped and looked at her daughter. “How's that?”

“She's really withdrawn and quiet. Last night, she was sitting on the back porch, having a wine and a cigarette.”

“I didn't know that she smoked.”

“She only smokes when she's really worried about something. She won't talk, though.”

“Don't take it personally,” Michelle said. “I'm sure that she'll talk when she's ready.” She clapped a lid on a pot, adjusted the flame, and sat at the table. “You know, I'll bet your father can help. Go tell him what you told me.” She smiled at Laurie's skeptical expression. “Trust me.”

“Okay, Mom. But I'm always a little wary when somebody says, ‘Trust me!'” They heard the door open and shut, and Laurie said, “Speak of the devil. Later, Mom.” She rose with her coffee, walked into the house's front hallway, and said, “Hey, Dad. Hard day?”

“Hey, Sweet pea. Nah. I hire other people to do hard stuff now.” He studied her as he hung up his coat and his duty belt. “What's up?”

“You can tell, huh?”

“I'm a cop. I read people for a living. And you, I can totally read, young lady.”

“Can we talk?”

“Meet me by the fireplace in ten minutes.”

“You'll have a warm fire and a cold beer waiting.”

“Wow,” Bill said. “This must be important.” He tromped up the stairs to change clothes as Laurie set about lighting a fire and fetching a cold beer. When he returned dressed in jeans and a checkered flannel shirt, he settled into his favorite chair, took a long drink of beer, and admired the fire. Then, he looked at his youngest daughter, seated cross-legged in the next chair, coffee mug in both hands. Damn, he thought. She's really grown up. “Thanks, kid,” he said. “This works. So, what's up? The last time you were this good to me, you had to tell me that you got my pickup truck stuck in O'Reilly's corn field.”

“Sorry about the truck.”

“I was actually relieved. I thought you were going to tell me that you were knocked up.”

Laurie laughed. “What? Why would you think that?”

“You were dating that boy. What's his name? And that corn field doubled as a lover's lane. I know what you two were up to out there.” He shot an amused glance at Laurie. “Hey, it was a lover's lane when your mother and I were dating.”

“No, Dad. This is about Angel.” At his raised eyebrow, she continued, “I'm worried about her.”

“Tell me about it.”

Laurie began unfolding her worries to her father as he listened quietly. When she ran out of words and looked toward him for answers, he got up and stirred the fire. Then, he sat down on his footstool and faced her.

“I understand completely. I went through pretty much the same thing when I came back from Vietnam.”

“Is this like, PTSD or something?” Laurie asked.

He sighed. “In a form. Look, she's a combat veteran, not only with the Israeli army, but with Mossad, as well. She had purpose, a mission, people around her who, because of shared danger, were closer than kin. She believed in what she was doing. And there's no more intense form of living than danger of that sort. She had to flee her adopted homeland, which she loved. So, she reconstructed her life, this time in Paris. Her bar, her music, her apartment. Her little world. It was a lovely existence. And she accepted just enough freelance work to get that occasional adrenalin rush, to feel that she was still doing something crucial to protect her people, that she was still part of an elite group.”

“And she's lost it all now?” Laurie asked.

“It's all gone,” Bill said. “Only you remain. So, you are the key to her mental health right now. You, who shared danger with her and lived in her world in Paris. Thank God she's got you.”

“What did you do to make it good, Dad?”

“It took some time. I felt lost, without purpose. This sounds crazy, but I actually missed the war, the identity of being a Marine, missed my buddies, to whom I was closer than kin. There, I knew who I was. Back here, I was nothing. And in those days, vets didn't get a warm welcome home. So, I did what aimless people do. I drank a lot. Grew out my hair. Smoked weed. Worked odd jobs for crap wages. Dealt with nightmares, loneliness. There were times that I went to some pretty dark places in my own head. Pretty dark.”

“What turned it around for you?”

Bill smiled. “Your mother did. She got me thinking about my future. Y'see, I knew from the moment I met that girl that I wanted to marry her, but I looked at myself and decided that I didn't bring much to the marriage table. So, I cleaned myself up, looked around for a career, and decided to apply to the state police academy. Being a cop was a steady paycheck and an honorable gig. Opportunity for advancement. And just enough danger to get that adrenalin rush every now and again.”

“In other words, you got your shit together?” Laurie asked.

From the kitchen, Michelle's voice remonstrated, “Laurie! Language!”

Bill and Laurie exchanged smiles. Then, Bill got serious. “Tell me,” he said, “what is Angel planning on doing?”

“She's still half owner of the bar with Maurice, but it's barely breaking even without her there,” Laurie said. “She's going to be teaching French at the local high school on a temporary teaching certificate, but I can't see that inspiring her.”

“Music?” Bill asked. “She's damned good at that.”

“We're in touch with an agent in Denver,” Laurie said. “Might be temp gigs for a lounge musician at the ski resorts this winter. We have to rustle up a demo tape, though.”

“I know a guy at church that might help with that,” Bill said. “But we're missing the point here.”

“Which is?” Laurie asked.

“She needs the adrenalin rush again. She needs purpose. She needs the feeling that she's protecting good people from bad ones. She needs the respect that her IDF uniform and sergeant's stripes and red beret brought her, the recognition of her achievements, and the appreciation of those folks that she protected. Once upon a time, she was a force to be reckoned with, and people respected her for that. She was doing something that she believed in. She needs that again.”

“Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?”

“Broach it to her. Let her think about it for a while.”

From the kitchen, Michelle shouted, “Dinner's almost ready!”

“I'll talk to her tonight,” Laurie said. “Thanks, Dad.”





Beit Kavim Kibbutz, northern Israel. Present day.

Maurie Ben-Shalev surveyed the distant crop fields with his binoculars, then lowered them and contemplated the expansive view as he pulled the visor of his cap low to shade his eyes. He was born and raised in these hills, these valleys, these farms. He knew them, and although he'd been away for years, he'd never seen them look so beautiful as they did right now.

He adjusted the strap of his M-4 rifle so that it rested across his back, and he turned toward the clusters of buildings in the distance. He could hear the excited shouts of children just getting out of school, and he saw trucks stop to release the young people who'd been working in the distant fields. As he walked toward the buildings, he passed slit trenches dug into the ground, present in case the kibbutz was attacked. It hadn't happened in several years, but that didn't mean that it wouldn't happen again. As director of security for the collective farm, it was his job to keep everyone on their toes. As long as the army kept control of the distant Golan Heights, though, he felt relatively safe.

He looked around at the shout, “Papa!” and the sound of running feet, then laughed.

He bent down and scooped a two-year old girl into his arms. “Miriam!” he said. “Where's your momma?” As he straightened up with her, she giggled and pointed toward approaching footsteps accompanied by a huff of mild exasperation.

He turned and saw his wife walking toward him. “I can't keep up with her anymore,” Allie said, as she kissed his cheek. “That girl's a track star.” When he didn't answer immediately, she looked at him from beneath a hand shading her eyes. “What's with you?” she asked, displaying an amused grin.

“I was just noticing how lovely you look today,” he said.

“You're such a liar, but I love it.” She smiled at the compliment and grasped his arm. “Thanks, but I don't feel that way. I feel like a walking turtle.”

He noted her blonde hair, now past her shoulders, stirred by the breeze, and the rich tan that her skin had absorbed. Against the brown of her upper chest, a little gold Star of David hung on a chain. His eyes trailed down to her swollen belly, and his smile increased. “Undoubtedly. Ma shlom-kha ?” he asked.

A-ni beseder, ” she replied. “Yeah, I'm okay. Just bitching. Hey, I'm allowed. I'm in the ninth month. Are you coming home? Shabbat begins in maybe an hour.” She grinned. “And if I'm lucky, I'll drop this kid just after that.”

“Yes.” He pointed to his jeep. “Get in. I'll drive you home.”

“Oh, yeah,” Allie said. “Now you're talking.”

He looked at Miriam, in his arms. “Do you want to blow the horn?” She squealed in delight, and he led his family toward the distant jeep. As Miriam clambered across the hood and dropped into the open seats, and as Allie eased herself into the passenger seat, he took one more look around, and he smiled.

He was finally home. And he was with his wife and children. It doesn't get better than this for a man, he thought. It has been a long journey, but it was so worth it.




13 Rue d'Espoir, Paris, France. Present day.

Esther opened the door to Café Angel and entered. Emma waved at her from behind the bar. “Finished teaching your classes for the day?” she asked, as she eyed Esther's exercise clothes.

Esther nodded. “I'm done beating people up today. Claire's not here yet?” she asked.

“She called me. She's bringing lunch for us all.” Emma pointed at the shelves with a pencil. “I'm taking inventory of the liquor and beer and coffee.”

“Nice,” Esther said. “Will you go broke if a beer goes missing?”

Emma puzzled for a second, then lit up in laughter at the joke. She opened a bottle of beer and placed it on the counter in front of Esther. “There. For you, a reward.”

“For what?” Esther asked, as she raised the bottle.

“The way you're speaking French these days,” Emma said. “It's really getting beautiful.” She shrugged. “For a foreigner.”

Esther laughed. “What the classes don't teach me, Claire does.” She looked around the bar. “I really miss Angel,” she said. “It feels like she's still here.”

Emma pouted. “She'll always be here, in a way. She's still part owner, you know.”

“She needs to come back and play her music.”

“She said that she will, once a year. If they don't arrest her when she comes back into France, that is.”

“They won't. New passport. She doesn't go by ‘Halevy' anymore. We old Mossad types, fooling customs is a game with us.”

“Weren't they going to throw you out of France at one time?”

“Yes,” Esther said. “Until Claire and I got married.” Her sky-blue eyes twinkled at the thought. “Two years next month.” Esther looked at Emma. “And what about you? Will you work here forever? When is that scientist boyfriend of yours going to buy you a house and make you pregnant? Isn't he a doctor yet?”

“He's defending his doctoral thesis this month,” Emma said. “He's all nerves about it. That's why I work so much. Stay out of his way.” She rolled her eyes. “He thinks of nothing else these days.” She smiled wistfully. “Not even me, it seems.”

“I know better than that.”

“Oh?” Emma teased. “How?”

Esther laughed. “He's a man, and you're a pretty girl. Some things never change.”




Western Kansas, United States, Present day.

Laurie stopped the tractor inside the barn, shut off the engine, and dropped to the ground. She gathered her water jug and her lunch pail and walked toward the house. She'd just begun to pull the door shut when the short honk of a car horn caught her attention. She looked up and smiled, then pushed the door all the way open. Her father backed his sheriff's car into the garage, occupying one side of the open barn. He got out and smiled a greeting.

“Hard day?” Laurie asked. “I heard on the radio that there was a hostage situation in town.”

“Yeah. We resolved it.”

“You arrested him?”

“Not quite. SWAT shot him.”

“Oh.” Laurie said nothing else for a moment. Then, she asked, “Angel?”

Bill sighed. “Yeah. Distance shot, through a window. Hell of a shot. Hey, that's why I gave her the SWAT team's sniper rifle.” He looked at his daughter. “You don't like Angel shooting people, do you?”

“It depends on who she shoots, I guess,” Laurie said.

“This guy deserved it. A meth-head. He had a gun pointed at his wife.”

“Not much shocks me anymore. But hey!” Laurie said. “This will shock you. I got those acres plowed up today.”

“I knew you would,” Bill said. “You've become quite the farmer. We'll put in alfalfa soon.” He looked up. “Here comes that gal of yours,” he noted, as a county sheriff's patrol SUV turned off the driveway and headed for the barn. They stood aside and waited as Angelique parked her car, slid the barn door shut, and joined them. She wasn't in her usual khaki Sheriff's Department uniform; she was still wearing the dark green SWAT coverall from her callout, and had a ball cap pulled low over her eyes. Laurie took a place next to her and slipped her hand beneath Angelique's arm.

As they walked, Laurie glanced at the uniform. Over Angelique's right breast pocket was a cloth name tag embroidered with ‘A. Bat-Ami'. “Do you get any teasing about your name?” Laurie asked. When Angelique shot her a puzzled glance, Laurie gestured toward the name tag.

“Oh,” Angelique said. She shrugged. “Not so much,” was all she said.

Bill chuckled. “Don't let her fool you,” he said, “At work, the guys call her ‘Bat-Girl'.”

A grin slowly spread across Laurie's face. “Now that's funny,” she said, as they walked across the wide porch.

Michelle came out of the kitchen when she heard three pairs of boots clump into the entrance hall. “Dinner's a little late,” she said. “And Laurie, don't you dare walk across my clean floor with those muddy boots.”

“Sorry, Mom,” she said, as she sat down and pulled her knee-high rubber boots from her feet.

“No sweat on dinner,” Bill said. “Gives us time to clean up.” He and Angelique hung their duty belts on pegs in the entrance, then headed for the stairs.

“Oh, Angel?” Michelle said. “You had a visitor today. Nice young Israeli fellow passing through town. He's left a package for you.”

Angelique raised an eyebrow in question, then walked to the dining room table. On it, a package sat, wrapped in brown paper. As Bill brought in three beer bottles and passed them out, Angelique flipped open a knife and slit the package. Inside was a box. She opened it, and she smiled. “Do you remember this?” she asked Laurie.

“Damn, Angel. You were carrying that when we first met.” Laurie looked at her parents. “She saved my life with that thing.”

“What the hell is that, anyway?” Bill asked.

Angelique lifted a revolver from the box, opened the side loading port, and spun the cylinder. “Empty,” she said, then passed it to him. “It is my Nagant. Russian pistol. Made in 1943. 7.62 ammo, seven shots. The only revolver one can silence effectively.” She reached into the box and held up a screw-on silencer.

“A suppressed revolver? How does that work?” Bill asked.

“Special ammo,” Angelique said, “and the cylinder moves forward to seal against the barrel when you cock it. Very quiet, and it leaves no brass behind at the scene.” She smiled wistfully. “It is rumored that KGB used it a lot.”

“Mossad too, huh?”

“So it has been rumored,” Angelique said. She lifted a leather shoulder holster from the box. “Mine,” she said. “Custom. My laser sight is here, also. And what's this?” She lifted a folded paper from the box and opened it. It was written in Hebrew, and had official-appearing letterhead. She scanned it, and she smiled as Laurie, Bill, and Michelle watched.

Laurie grasped Angelique's arm and leaned against her. “What's it say, Angel?”

“Honey, it might be personal,” Michelle chided.

“No,” Angelique said. “We are family. I will translate.” She began speaking slowly.


Dear Angel:

I rescued this from your apartment before the police search. I thought you might like to have it. A reminder of difficult times. Also, your holster is here, along with a hundred rounds of ammunition, courtesy of Mossad.

I am currently head of Mossad at the Chicago embassy. My card is included, and my personal phone number is on it. As always, we could use you from time to time. America has its share of evil, and the Angel of Mossad was legendary at dealing with such people.

Maurie sends his greetings from Israel. He and Allie are parents again! A boy, this time. Mazel Tov!

Please convey my affections to Laurie and your family there.

Shalom, your old friend Ronstein.


“Oh, my gosh!” Michelle said. “That girl finally had that kid. I'm a grandma again. Where's my phone? I've got to call.” She ran to the kitchen in search of her perpetually-misplaced cell phone.

“Ronstein,” Laurie said. “That rascal. So he got posted to America, huh? And how's he know about Allie before we do?”

“He's Mossad. It is their job to know things,” Angelique said. “Posted to America,” she mused. “You know, Shoshana once said that she would love a posting to America.”

“Shoshana. I still grieve for her,” Laurie said.

Angelique nodded agreement. “Me, also.” Then, she cast a sly glance at Bill. “This weekend, we shoot this?” she asked.

Bill grinned from ear to ear. “Oh, hell yes.” He lifted a cartridge from a box. “Odd-looking ammo. Is this stuff hard to get?”

“Not if I free-lance for them,” Angelique said.

Laurie squeezed Angelique's arm. “So, are you going to be doing that again?”

Angelique looked at Laurie, and she smiled. “I made you a promise, yes?”

“Yes,” Laurie said. “You did.”




After dinner, Laurie and Angel sat on the front porch swing, watching the sun set in a spectacular final act with bright splashes of color across the seemingly endless Midwestern sky. They talked quietly about everything and nothing, then fell silent and listened to the distant buzz of insects. After a moment, Laurie asked, “Angel?”


“Are you happy?”

Angelique glanced over at Laurie. She admired how Laurie's hair, now shoulder-length again, sparkled red in the hues of the setting sun. She liked Laurie's hair short, but she loved it long, loose about her shoulders, as it was now. She still looked younger than her age, although she could see the stress of the last years around her eyes when she smiled or squinted against the sun.

“Angel?” Laurie said. “What's up with you?”

“Hm? Oh, I only think about how lovely you look. Belle.

Laurie smiled at that. She leaned against Angelique, who rested an arm across the back of the swing so that she could snuggle against her. “You're sweet,” Laurie said. “But you didn't answer my question.” She glanced up at Angelique's face. “Are you happy here? Does this life agree with you?”

Angelique leaned her cheek against the top of Laurie's head. “Yes,” she said. “It is a good life, a simple one. I am content.”

“You don't miss Paris? Israel?”

“Of course I do. But this is a good land, and no jihadists.” Yet, she thought silently.

“Do you like being a cop? Don't you find it boring?”

Angelique studied the sunset as she sipped her wine. Laurie waited patiently, knowing that an answer was forming. It came.

“Boring? No. I find that I am protecting good people from bad ones. Always, I have done what I have done for this reason. These people are yours, Laurie. Now, they are mine, too. And they mostly appreciate what I do here. And they respect me for it.” Angelique added, “As you say, ‘What isn't to like?'”

“What's not to like,” Laurie corrected.

Angelique looked down at Laurie and affected a Midwestern drawl. “Well, ‘scuse the hell outta me.”

Laurie laughed. “You got that from my dad, didn't you?”

“Your mother,” Angelique corrected.

“Well...” Together, they said, “‘Scuse the hell outta me!”

The laughter bled away, and Laurie asked, “So, you're okay with this life? Not bored?”

“Not going to leave? No.”

“I wasn't worried about that,” Laurie said. Too much, she thought.

“You are worried that I will free-lance for Mossad again, yes?”

“You know me too well,” Laurie mumbled.

“I promised you.”

“I know you watch the news. If you ever feel the need to do that again...”

Angelique registered surprise. “I thought that you did not want me to – ”

“Not you,” Laurie said. “But maybe us. You and me. Together.”

Angelique fell into silence as she thought about that. Then, she said, “ You are bored?”

“Well, doing those jobs with you was the most intense, totally frightening and ‘alive' thing I've ever done. I mean, I get a ton of satisfaction from working the farm full-time and seeing it blossom, but – ”

“Ah. I understand, I think. You want to free-lance.”

“I'm just saying, if you ever want to do that again, you'll talk to me about it?”

Angelique smiled. “So, we are in how-do-you-say? A love triangle now?”

Laurie sat up and looked at Angelique. “What? What do you mean?” she asked. “With who?”

“You. Me. And the Angel of Mossad.”

Laurie snuggled down and thought about it as Angelique sat quietly, sipping her wine. Finally, Laurie leaned up and kissed Angelique's face. “I love you,” Laurie said. She snickered. “Both of you.”

Angelique kissed Laurie. “And we love you, also.”

“We, huh?” Laurie teased. She tapped the side of Angelique's head. “So, the Angel of Mossad is still in there?”

Angelique smiled at that. “She is never far away, I suspect,” she said.

“And I've got a feeling that's a good thing,” Laurie agreed. “Because she's a pretty handy girl to have around.”


The End.

djb, November 17, 2018


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