Chapter One

Tel Aviv, Israel—1999

Nothing in Abigail MacLeod's life prepared her for the shock of watching Benjamin Rosen die in her arms. She was alone in Israel's Lod Airport, thousands of miles from her home in Indiana, light-years away from her routine life as a wife, mother, and teacher. His death from an assassin's bullet was so violent, so unexpected, that she could only cradle his lifeless body in disbelief and hope she would awaken soon from this nightmare. But Mr. Rosen's blood—soaking through her new cotton dress, pasting the material to her skin—felt too warm, too real to be part of a dream.

She never should have crossed the Atlantic. The ocean must have been the dividing line between normal life and chaos. But hadn't her life been in chaos even before she left home yesterday morning? This pilgrimage to Israel was supposed to be a new beginning for her at age forty-two, yet so far she had lost all of her luggage, been forced to board an Israeli Jet Liner in spite of a bomb threat, and had watched the kind, fatherly gentleman who had befriended her on the airplane die sprawled in her lap on the airport floor.

The police interrogation that followed had been like a scene from one of the cop shows her husband liked to watch on TV, except that Abby couldn't change the channel or escape to her bedroom with a good book. After prying the dead man from her embrace, the police had wrapped a blanket around her trembling shoulders, then led her to a stiff-backed metal chair in the airport security office.

This is where she now sat, clasping her hands in front of her to stop them from shaking. She barely recognized the disheveled, blood-smeared woman in the mirror on the opposite wall. Was it a one-way mirror? Was she being observed from the other side? Why were they questioning her as if she had something to do with Mr. Rosen's death?

"Speak a little louder, please, Mrs. MacLeod," one of the police officers said. The ancient tape recorder on the table in front of her hummed impatiently as the tape slowly fed from reel to reel.

"Umm . . . sorry. He told me his name was Benjamin Rosen." She repeated for what seemed the hundredth time. "I met him on the plane from Amsterdam—he sat beside me. He was making a phone call for me to the Archaeological Institute when somebody shot him. I didn't see who did it." She took a sip of the lukewarm water they had given her, wishing she had never left Indiana. Abby then added feebly, "I didn't have any of those things for the phone. What do you call them? Umm . . . tokens. Mr. Rosen said the phone took special tokens."

There was a knock on the door of the tiny cubicle, and after a brief conversation in Hebrew, the police officers who had been interrogating her filed out. Two men in civilian clothes took their places. The older man was in his sixties, with a milk-commercial mustache and woolly white hair as tightly coiled as a poodle's. His grave, unsmiling features seemed hardened by life, as if violence had left its imprint in concrete. The younger man wasn't much older than Abby's son, Greg, with wavy black hair and a curly beard. Both men wore pistols strapped to their sides and identical expressions on their solemn faces—expressions that clearly said, You're in big trouble, Abby MacLeod.

"I'm agent Dov Shur and this is Agent Kol," the older man told her. He pulled out one of the metal chairs and sat across the table from her. Agent Kol remained standing, as if guarding the door. "We would like you to start at the beginning, Mrs. MacLeod, and tell us everything that happened."

A wave of weary hopelessness washed over Abby. "Again? But I've already told the police everything there is to tell."

Agent Shur pulled an identification badge with his photo on it from his shirt pocket and laid it on the scarred green table in front of her as if the badge might explode if not carefully handled. Abby couldn't read much more of it than his name and Israel, but it looked very official.

"You've been talking with airport security and the local police," he said. "We're with the Israeli government. Something like your American CIA." He pulled out a package of cigarettes and offered her one. When she shook her head, he lit up without asking her permission and began to smoke. Then he reached into his pocket again and laid a second badge in front of her. It was identical to his own, except that it had the dead man's name and picture on it.

"Benjamin Rosen worked for us," he said quietly.

Abby choked back a sob. The second-rate cop show had just transformed into a second-rate spy movie—another of her husband's favorites. She wished she had watched spy movies with him more often so she would know how this was all going to end. James Bond was indestructible, but didn't his leading ladies usually die?

The acrid cigarette smoke made her eyes water, and she cleared her throat. "But Mr. Rosen told me that he was an agricultural specialist. He said he was working on . . . What do you call it when you get plants to grow in the desert?"

"Desert hydrology?" the young agent standing near the door offered.

"Yes, that's what he called it." Abby felt relieved, as if the right word could lead them closer to unraveling the mystery.

Shur nodded, exhaling smoke through his nostrils like a dragon. "That is true. Rosen had his plants. Everyone in Israel must play more than one role in order for us to survive. Ein breira, as we say in Hebrew—no choice." He reached into his other shirt pocket and tossed Abby a small blue booklet. It took her a moment to recognize it as her own passport.

"You are Abigail Ruth MacLeod," he recited. "Maiden name Dixon. Forty-two years old, married to Mark Edward MacLeod, forty-four, vice president of Data Age, a computer firm. Two children: Gregory William, age twenty, an engineering student at Purdue University; and Emily Anne, age eighteen, who graduated from high school two weeks ago and will attend college in the fall."

A chill of horror shuddered through Abby as he coldly repeated these facts about her family, facts that she knew weren't on her passport. Nor had she told them to the police.

"You live in Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis," he continued, "where you teach history to high school students. You have been separated from your husband for four and a half months and have recently begun divorce proceedings."

Abby started to protest that she had only consulted a lawyer, not actually filed for a divorce yet, then realized how ludicrous it was to say anything at all.

"Now please, Mrs. MacLeod. If you would start at the beginning again and tell us everything you remember up to the time Benjamin Rosen died."

"Can we get anything for you?" the younger man asked suddenly. "You are hungry, maybe? Or thirsty?"

Abby remembered her husband's explanation of the "good cop/bad cop" routine and wanted to cry. She shook her head, her stomach too volatile to risk adding food to the mixture of shock and fear already seething there.

"Then would you kindly repeat your story for us once more, from the beginning?"

Abby drew a shaky breath. "This is the first time I've ever traveled overseas," she began. "You see, I hate to fly. I'm terrified, actually . . . "

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