Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finding Yossi, VIII


         Zohar moved with the flow of black hats from office to home to study house to shul to bed with his wife; Sabbaths and festivals, the unerring rhythm of the pious, a mold for time and seasons.  Zohar knew he was safe if he stayed in this path.  If he deviated, if he walked away from the phalanx of the devout, who moved in clumps like schools of fish, he knew what could occur: the possibility of abduction.  Two men man-handle him in the street, bundle him into a van, a sharp needle in the arm, and he wakes bound to a chair in some unfurnished apartment in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
            One day, to test the degree of his confinement, Zohar deviated from his path.  Instead of walking home with his colleagues took a stroll along a canal.  A car pulled along slowly beside him.  Zohar stopped and the window rolled down.  Nadab, dressed in a natty checked suit and a red bow tie was in the back seat.  He beckoned for Zohar with a flick of his wrist.
            Zohar and his handler remained silent in the back of the car for the entire ride.   

            “Why didn’t you obey my summons?” Nadab asked.  He leaned forward in his chair, as if he suffered from a cramp.  His voice was strained, as if the effort not to shout was painful.
            “Actually, there were two summonses,” Omri added without evident emotion, reading off the dates and times from a coded duty log.  Zohar said nothing; there was a dry taste in his mouth, as if he had just regurgitated a spoonful of sand.
            “What?” Omri went on slowly, leaning far back in his chair.  “These Chasidim won’t leave you alone for one minute?  Is this a cult?  Should we get some men to extract you?  Speak man, or have you forgotten your Hebrew?  Are you Levy Levinsky now?  You looked like the Ba’al Shem Tov himself.  You’ve been among these fanatics for three months, I expect a detailed report.”
            Silence.  Omri and Nadab fixed their eyes on Zohar, intent and unwavering.
            “I resign,” Zohar finally answered, his voice low and fixed.  Omri and Nadab continued to stare.  A street car rumbled in the boulevard below.  In the room next door, a phone began to ring and no one picked it up.
            “You can’t resign!” Nadab screamed, a vein in his temple standing at attention.  “You are on active assignment, in the field.  We could have you…” Omri placed a hand on Nadab’s arm, and it was as if a switch had been thrown in his voice box.  Once again, the three men were silent; the phone continued to ring.
            “Listen, Zohar,” Omri began, picking his words carefully, as if he was pulling them out from some great, unfathomable depth, were words were created dark and unformed.   
             “We understand the unusual nature of this assignment.  It is unorthodox in every respect.  But you must see the legal implications.  Children can’t be stolen from secular Israelis and forced into black hats …  But we recognize the strain this case can have on an agent… Jews spying on Jews, especially with your religious background.  We accept your resignation…”
            “Thank you, Omri,” Zohar sighed, his body drooped. “That is most kind.”  Omri opened a brief case.  “I anticipated this.  Here is a letter of resignation.   You just need to sign and date it.”  Omri slid the paper to Zohar, who signed.  “And here is your ticket for Tel Aviv.  You depart in one hour.  We have a car to take you to the airport.  You have time to shave and change here and return on this passport…”
            “I’m not leaving, Omri.”
            “Your assignment is over!” Nadab bellowed.  “You can’t stay here, you rascal.  What, you stir that Shapira girl’s honey pot and you get…” once again Omri’s hand fell on Nadab, and the man was hushed.
            “Zohar,” Omri continued, his tone subdued, his body relaxed. “Field agents must return home when they’ve completed their assignment, have been called back, or have resigned.  You must return.”
            “With all due respect, sir, I’ll remain here…” Nadab was about to interject, but Omri placed a hand on him again.  In the next room, someone answered the phone: The murmuring of half a conversation filtered into the room.
            Zohar rose from the chair, walked out of the flat, and out into the street, surprised that his revolt was not squashed, that a group of men had not bounded out of the closet and subdued Levy Levinsky to the floor.

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