CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
One phone call and now he was promoted and in Jerusalem to kill a man. Guy entered the Old City by the Jaffa Gate, passing the crenellated stone ruins of the Tower of David that loomed like a medieval castle. He quickened his pace, keeping in step with the Israeli beside him who had announced himself only as Kline at Ben Gurion Airport.
The status of Corps of Queen’s Messengers had ensured him passage through security, his diplomatic white bag neither opened nor X-rayed. There were only fifteen men in Great Britain with that privilege. He was grateful for his accreditation but the bag was empty. He carried all the details of Tolman´s treachery in his head. He guessed Kline was a member of Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Service, and he asked no questions of him, content to follow his lead. The Israeli gestured at the yellow stone arch cut in the Old City’s western wall.
“You like our City, Mr Royce? This Gate was built by Süleyman the Magnificent. He called it The Gate of the Friend in Arabic. Are you a friend? Your General Allenby marched the British through this very Gate to liberate us from the Turks. We Jews get liberated a lot. Of course, they had liberated us from the Mameluke who had liberated us from Saladin. He, in turn, from the Crusaders. And so it goes on, Mr Royce. The Romans, the Greeks. Then you find yourself back with The Israelites.”
Guy listened as they entered a narrow alley, cobbled like the rest in the Old City, descending in steps towards the Via Dolorosa, where Christ took his final walk with the cross. Stones bridged the steps for merchants’ handcarts that had delivered to the shops in this street for 2,000 years.
Arabs in groups sat in doorways playing shesh-besh and cast sidelong glances as they passed. The smell of spices and fresh-baked pitas assailed Guy as they walked.
“I am not here for politics, Kline. I am here for business.”
The Israeli shrugged. “Three years ago you could not walk here for the crowds. Then another Intifada. Now it is deserted.”
A shopkeeper gripped Guy by the arm, pointing to a store of metal vases, teapots and pots and pans. He implored, “Look, please in my shop. You don’t pay to look.”
The Israeli waved him away. Guy smelled the sweet, rich odour of cinnamon as they descended the steps deeper into the city.
“It’s all politics, my friend. We Jews are back here where we belong. Many friends of Israel helped this to be. Your Government tells us Ibrahim Tolman is an enemy. Well, our enemies come in many different clothes, Mr Royce. Ibrahim Tolman has not been one of them. An enemy to you may not be so to me.”
They had traversed the shuk into King David Street, turning onto a wide stone plaza that opened up before them.
“Where are we going?” Guy asked.
“This is the Kotel, our most sacred place. This is why we fight by any means, Mr Royce. You call it the Wailing Wall. It’s all the Romans left when they destroyed King Herod’s Temple.”
Guy watched as a soldier, wearing a kippah on the back of his head, nodded in prayer at the Wall beside a black-frocked Hasidic Jew. A scrawny black cat crossed the plaza in the baking sun. The crowds pressed to place folded messages between the ancient stones.
“Kline, where are we going? We are losing time.”
“Time is eternal here, Mr Royce. We are here already. Follow me.”
He led them off the plaza into the black mouth of a hewn-rock tunnel, queuing with the crowding tourists to get out of the heat. The turnstile operator let them through with a nod to Kline.
“These vaults were built by the great Saladin himself. He wanted to raise up the city. Now we have excavated them. This labyrinth runs along the Western Wall of the Temple of the Mount. We have business here, Mr Royce. Please follow me closely.”
They walked beneath the dressed stone arches that supported the city above, the gouges of a thousand years of battles cut into them. Deep in the centre of the vaulted tunnels, Kline stopped at an ancient, olive wood door, letting the tourists move on by them. He pressed his fingers into a hollowed mouth in the stone.
The door swung open smoothly and he beckoned Guy to follow. The door was modern, only its façade was distressed wood. Stainless-steel bolts withdrew within its metal carcass. It was shut by a soldier carrying a carbine across his chest.
The vaulted stone rooms extended further than Guy could see. Aluminium desks and chairs made up modern workplaces in a setting so ancient. The Israeli took a seat behind a desk, indicating a second and Guy was anxious to begin. He expected Mossad to be recording the interview.
“Now, Mr Royce. Your Government requested our assistance. Why are you here?”
Guy noted the deference his staff showed to the Israeli. He wondered what Kline’s rank was. He was certainly a man who could get things done and he liked that. He wanted to shock him into attention. He opened with his trump card first.
“Ibrahim Tolman is responsible for an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister and the Queen of England.”
Kline’s chestnut brown eyes watched him carefully, showing no emotion.
“We have heard of this, but they are unharmed?”
“Yes. The would-be assassins are dead.”
Now he discerned a flicker of doubt cross the Israeli’s face as Guy continued.
“If the assassinations had been successful they had criminally arranged Market events to Tolman´s advantage. Two employees of Tolman´s abducted a female press photographer who was a danger to them. The intention was to kill her. They had already killed another woman. These men told the surviving girl all about Tolman and his world-wide money laundering schemes.”
Kline’s eyes never left his. He watched him in silence. Guy was unsure if the Israeli believed his story, then he saw Marcus Barclay´s face at the COBRA meeting, insistent and disapproving. He expanded further.
“He was making money by criminal means for his Hedge Fund. Distributing it to his investors. They had links to terrorist organisations. Tolman turned profits into diamonds smuggled in Grand Prix cars to avoid due process by the banks.”
“One man’s terrorist is another’s liberator, Mr Royce. You have questioned these employees?”
“They are dead.”
“Dear me, anyone involved in this seems to be so. Why is this Israel’s problem?”
“Is Tolman a Jew?”
“No, not originally. He has performed services for Israel in the past. He was allowed the privilege of conversion. Many Jews from Russia would not be here today without Mr Tolman’s intervention. My Government is grateful.”
“Grateful enough to overlook the fact he’s sending millions of dollars to support your enemies?”
Kline shifted uncomfortably in his chair and his eyes scanned the room.
“You have proof of this? In Israel that is a serious allegation.”
Guy sensed a pivotal moment. Here his case would be won or lost. Marcus Barclay´s words repeated in his head: Utmost prejudice, Royce. The truth was, he had no evidence. He had to wing it. He pressed on.
“You know, of course, about the Gaza tunnels?”
Kline nodded. “Eight hundred of them, at our last count. As quickly as we close them, another opens.”
“Owned by Hamas warlords?”
“Yes, we estimate seven hundred and fifty million dollars worth of goods comes in that way from Egypt every year.”
“And the profits go the other way, on trolleys under the desert.”
“Correct. Why does this interest you?”
Guy seized his moment. “Ibrahim Tolman had such a tunnel. He moved profits to his investors that way. Till you shut it down. Now he uses a Grand Prix team to do it.”
Kline took a breath and Guy continued, sensing he had his interest. “The Three Sisters Hedge Fund is not registered in the West for good reason. It would have to declare its investors. These men do not want that. Why?”
The Israeli replied. “Do you know why it’s called what it is? When Ibrahim Tolman came to Israel from Russia he came with his three younger sisters. His parents were lost to them in Stalin’s Gulags and they were alone and in his charge. They lived in the settlements in Gaza. All three were killed during fighting with Hamas terrorists - by a grenade.”
“Then why? He must know some of his profits go their way?”
“The grenade, Mr Royce, was thrown by an Israeli soldier. These things happen in warfare. The innocent and the guilty bound up as one.”
“Then he has turned against the very people who took him in.”
“Who knows what is really in a man’s mind? An ultra-nationalist Jew assassinated our Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. To this day, Tolman still visits the graves of his dead sisters in Gaza.”
“Gaza is now Palestinian.”
“Nevertheless, he goes.”
“If Tolman had succeeded he would have killed our Head of State, too. This is not politics, Kline. This is murder for profit. My Government believes he will try again. His investments are still in place from the first attempt. If he fails a second time he will lose billions.”
The Israeli nodded, standing abruptly to terminate the interview.
“I must report your information. I, too, have masters to represent. And now I will escort you to your hotel. It is the best in Jerusalem. It has a view over the Dome of the Rock. You will hear the muezzin. It is beautiful, in its own way.”