Heracles Karpusi was not a common man. From his early school years in a small town near Athens, he knew that he wanted more than the other kids wanted for their lives. He didn’t want to be rich or see the beauty the world had to offer, he didn’t even want to go to Athens. He wanted to see the world in his own particular way, from the eyes of a priest. He wanted to help the people and that’s why, upon his transfer to Beirut, decided to work as an undercover agent for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. It wasn’t the safest job, especially after the war broke out in Lebanon, but he was happy in life, in his little stone church overlooking the Mediterranean Riviera.
The quietness of his life was interrupted when he heard several vehicles pulling up in front of an old shielded building, across the street from his church. He slowly walked out to the entrance and saw how several heavily armed men opened the doors from inside and others pushed around a group of very well-dressed men and women. One of the women fell to the floor on the sidewalk and, who seemed to be her husband, picked her up gently before they were both shoved inside the building and the doors closed loudly.
Heracles had thought about it until he received a message directly from Tel Aviv telling him about a hijacked airplane and believed that they could be hostages, because they didn’t look like Lebanese people. He informed them about the incident, but received a non-conclusive answer. There had been no report of missing people on the plane from the hostages released, but one could never be sure in these situations, so they told him to keep an eye on them. Frequently, he had seen armed men entering and leaving the building, so he suspected that something was up, but during a civil war, several men joined the militias and was a common sight, sadly, in the streets of Beirut.
He felt bad for those poor people, held captive by those armed men. He looked up and saw the doors at the balcony being opened to reveal a woman. She was very beautiful and had a white shawl over her hair and a light blue skirt suit. The little bits of her hair that were shown, looked dishevelled and stuck to her skin, revealing that she had endured the heat in a closed environment for several hours. That had been a very hot day.
Night had come and the woman or the hostages were nowhere to be seen, so Heracles decided to retire to bed and call it a day, but he was informed by the Israelis that the hijacked airliner had taken off from Beirut and was heading to an unknown destination.
Farah had left the plane along with the Jews and the Israeli passengers in Beirut, and she had taken them to their headquarters, only two hours away from the refugee camps they had grown up in. She was in charge of the hostages until they were released when their demands were met by the governments of Israel, France and Germany, which had imprisoned several of their Party members in the past.
She was smoking a cigarette in the balcony, enjoying the nightly breeze, overlooking the Greek Orthodox little church and the cemetery by the sea. She didn’t trust that Father Karpusi. She never trusted any Christians she met in her life, and of course, she hadn’t met many, but still. If she could make that church and that priest blow up, she would.
In the room where the hostages had been held for almost an entire day, the heat had grown less unbearable than it had been during the day. As the passengers in the plane, the Jewish hostages had to bear that suffocating heat during their stay at Lebanon, the difference was that they had to endure a longer time in Beirut than them. They wondered. Had the plane left Lebanon? Had the other hostages been set free? When would they be set free? What would happen to them?
Gal woke up from a terrifying nightmare, alerting her husband, who put a hand over her shoulder and caressed her hair, sitting up from the floor, where they were sleeping.
“Are you okay, darling?”
Gal couldn’t articulate before bursting into tears. Her husband hugged her and the crying noises alerted the other hostages, who woke up from their light sleep. One couldn’t sleep in that situation, even if he was sedated. They were just too nervous for that. Elisabetta spoke up, holding her husband’s hand to keep him from whining.
“Um... what is your name?”
She asked, sensing the mood. Gal looked at her with tears in her eyes and tear tracks running down her cheeks, she was sobbing. Her husband looked at her too. Roderick was laying down, looking up at his wife from the floor. They had been captive for almost an entire day, but they hardly knew each other.
“Gal... my name is Gal Ben Mizrahi”
She said, her voice cut by sobs. Elisabetta smiled sadly, she could relate with what she was feeling. If it weren’t for her husband, she would have spent the whole day crying, but she had to be strong for him. It was no joke when people said that she was the man of the relationship. It was kind of funny, but true.
“Well, Gal, my name is Elisabetta Edelstein and this is my husband, Roderick”
Elisabetta said, with the sweetest voice she could muster, pointing at her husband. Josef lovingly wiped the tears from his wife’s eyes slowly with a handkerchief he was keeping in his jacket pocket. Roderick sat up. Josef introduced himself.
“I’m Josef Ben Mizrahi”
“Pleased to meet you”
They both shook hands and Elisabetta smiled. The other two men introduced themselves too, and now they knew a little more about each other than they did before. Elisabetta clapped her hand, unusually happy for that situation.
“Well, now that we know everybody, what do you say if we all sing a song to cheer ourselves up a little?”
Everybody looked at her like if she was crazy, but the Josef thought about it deeply. Perhaps singing would keep her from feeling so bad, so he spoke up with a thoughtful expression on his face, his beard starting to grow.
“I don’t think that’s a bad idea”
Roderick looked at Josef, confused as to why would anyone agree with his crazy wife, then looked at said person then back at the Israeli man. He sighed and looked down at his lap.
“Perhaps it isn’t”
Then Elisabetta began singing softly, to avoid anyone from outside hearing them, even though there was a thick heavy metal door keeping them apart from the Palestinians outside.
“Come on, you know the song. I had a hard time learning it because I don’t speak Hebrew, but you all do, so let’s sing”
Elisabetta said before being joined by a sobbing Gal, who tentatively sang the next verse.
H-Hava Nagila venismejá
They were joined by the two other men from the background.
Hava neranená venismejá
Josef joined them and soon they were all happy and the mood had lighten, because they all had smiles in his faces, except for Roderick, who had internally refused to sing. His wife kept poking him in the arm while she sang.
Uru, uru ajim
Uru ajim belev sameaj
Roderick rolled his eyes and decided to join them, just for the sake of doing something for his wife, instead of she doing all the work in their relationship. They were all clapping, singing and smiling widely.
Uru ajim, uru ajim
They were suddenly interrupted when the door opened and a very rude man entered, gun in hand.
He spoke in a thick Arabic accent before closing the door loudly. The six people inside looked at each other and chuckled. After all, if they were going to be in there for a while, they had to make the situation better.
Back in Algiers, the American Ambassador, who had just arrived at the airport, was trying to negotiate with Sadiq through the radio, the release of all women and children, but there was no way the hijacker would do such thing if his plane was not refuelled immediately. The ambassador knew he had to make time until the Delta Team arrived and the GIGN had a complete panorama of the situation, as they only had the version of the hostages released in Beirut. They were making a plan in base of that.
“Please, Mr. Adnan, you have to understand. The airport authorities won’t allow the fuel tanker to get near the airport until they know that, at least, the women and children are safe”
There was a long silence that was made even longer. The Colonel and Major LaGarde were also waiting for an answer through the radio, but there was nothing for fifteen long minutes.
“This is impossible, at this rate, we are going to have to storm the plane with all the passengers on board and that would be a disaster”
In the cockpit of the Boeing 707, Arthur, who had entered to bring the pilots coffee after a long night, had heard the entire conversation and turned to look at Sadiq, who was still sitting in the spare seat by the open door with a pensive expression on his face, but with no determination to speak. Silence reigned through the cabins.
“For Heaven’s sake, man, don’t you have a family? Wouldn’t you want your mother, your wife or your sister to be free in this situation? Can’t you think of other people rather than you for a moment?”
Arthur asked angrily, surprising the pilots and Sadiq. Francis turned around upon hearing his voice and nodding his head with a smile on his face, silently congratulating Eyebrows for his braveness. As he had spoken loudly in the cockpit, both the hijackers of the First Class cabin and some passengers of the Economy section could hear him and felt proud to have such a brave purser, especially the women. Sadiq got up from his seat and stood face to face with Arthur, he was way taller and broader than him, but that didn’t intimidate the flight attendant. His ever-present smile was gone, replaced by an angry expression on his face.
“Alright... but just women and children”
Sadiq left the cockpit. Francis sighed in release and told the air traffic controller that he would release women and children in exchange of fuel. Back in the tower, the Ambassador looked at the Colonel, who shook his head.
“We need to keep that plane in the ground, at least, until the Delta Team arrives”
He said, the Ambassador looked surprised and quite pissed.
“We just told them that we would give them fuel. How are we supposed to keep them in the ground?”
Major LaGarde turned to the Colonel.
“There is no way, Colonel. They intend to leave a soon as they can. If we want to storm the plane, now it’s the time”
The Colonel sighed. Alfred, who was there with them, was worried for his Artie, as always ever since this whole ordeal began.
“Just give me time to speak to one of the hostages. Then we will a whole panorama of the situation and we can act based in that”
LaGarde said. The Colonel left the tower, motioning Alfred to follow him. Matthew and Gilbert were done explaining the rescue operation to the members of the GIGN. Well, mostly Matthew because he spoke French. Sometimes, Gilbert’s hand would “accidentally” rub against Matthew’s, causing them a deep blush.
Gilbert would say, his pale face redder than Matthew’s, who just smiled at him. The members of the GIGN looked at each other like what the hell was going on, but carried on anyways.
“Bien, c’est le plan. Questions?”
Matthew asked, but no one answered, meaning that it had been clear enough. He smiled sadly. He didn’t want to storm the plane, he wanted a more pacific solution, but if that was the only way, he knew that they couldn’t negotiate with blood-thirsty terrorists.
He just wanted everyone to be safe, and he wasn’t sure that this was the way.
Sadiq took the interphone and addressed the passengers, whose heads had been forced down once again by the other hijackers who were standing on the Economy aisle.
“Ladies and children, Allah be praised. It’s time to leave the airplane. Thank your purser, Mr. Kirkland, for that. Men will stay in their seats”
Some women cried of joy and other hugged their husbands, brothers, fathers, etc. The hijackers on the aisle began ushering the women up from their seats.
“Oh my God, we are saved!”
Some took their carryon luggage and some just wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. The stairs were put on the First Class cabin and Arthur opened the door for the women to exit. Some kissed him in the cheek and thanked him. In his seat in the first row, Vash was thinking back of his sister, Lilly, and how would they be treating her. Geneviève got up from her seat, still covering her hair and grabbed Natalia’s hand.
They both went, hand in hand, even though they didn’t know each other, to the First Class cabin and left the airplane as quickly as they could. The American Ambassador was on the tarmac, waiting for the hostages and Major LaGarde was in the car, to avoid being seen by the hijackers. He had described his sister to the ambassador, who immediately spotted her.
He asked Geneviève. She nodded, looking up at him with an emotionless face as always.
“Please come with me”
He opened the door for her and she saw her brother, who was smiling at her. Like his sister, Michel LaGarde wasn’t expressive on his feelings, but upon seeing his sister safe and sound, he felt a pang in his chest. She got in the car and hugged her brother. The ambassador got in too and the car left the tarmac.
Little did she know that they were planning on storming the airplane as soon as all the women were safe in the Terminal, and little did they know about the hostages in Beirut and the other twelve hijackers who had come on board.
It was going to be a massacre.