Enjoy this free chapter from Honour Among Thieves:
February 15th 1993
ANTONIO CAVALLI stared intently at the Arab, who he considered looked far too young to be a Deputy Ambassador.
‘One hundred million dollars,’ Cavalli said, pronouncing each word slowly and deliberately, giving them almost reverential respect.
Hamid Al Obaydi flicked a worry bead across the top of his well-manicured thumb, making a click that was beginning to irritate Cavalli.
‘One hundred million is quite acceptable,’ the Deputy Ambassador replied in a clipped English accent.
Cavalli nodded. The only thing that worried him about the deal was that Al Obaydi had made no attempt to bargain, especially as the figure the American had proposed was double that which he had expected to get. Cavalli had learned from painful experience not to trust anyone who didn’t bargain. It inevitably meant that they had no intention of paying in the first place.
‘If the figure is agreed,’ he said, ‘all that is left to discuss is how and when the payments will be made.’
The Deputy Ambassador flicked another worry bead before he nodded.
‘Ten million dollars to be paid in cash immediately,’ said Cavalli, ‘the remaining ninety million to be deposited in a Swiss bank account as soon as the contract has been carried out.’
‘But what do I get for my first ten million?’ asked the Deputy Ambassador, looking fixedly at the man whose origins were as hard to hide as his own.
‘Nothing,’ replied Cavalli, although he acknowledged that the Arab had every right to ask. After all, if Cavalli didn’t honour his side of the bargain, the Deputy Ambassador had far more to lose than just his government’s money.
Al Obaydi moved another worry bead, aware that he had little choice – it had taken him two years just to get an interview with Antonio Cavalli. Meanwhile, President Clinton had settled into the White House, while his own leader was growing more and more impatient for revenge. If he didn’t accept Cavalli’s terms, Al Obaydi knew that the chances of finding anyone else capable of carrying out the task before July the fourth were about as promising as zero coming up on a roulette wheel with only one spin left.
Cavalli looked up at the vast portrait that dominated the wall behind the Deputy Ambassador’s desk. His first contact with Al Obaydi had been only days after the war had been concluded. At the time the American had refused to deal with the Arab, as few people were convinced that the Deputy Ambassador’s leader would still be alive by the time a preliminary meeting could be arranged.
As the months passed, however, it began to look to Cavalli as if his potential client might survive longer than President Bush. So an exploratory meeting was agreed.
The venue selected was the Deputy Ambassador’s office in New York, on East 79th Street. Despite being a little too public for Cavalli’s taste, it had the virtue of proving the credentials of the party claiming to be willing to invest one hundred million dollars in such a daring enterprise.
‘How would you expect the first ten million to be paid?’ enquired Al Obaydi, as if he were asking a real estate agent about a down-payment on a small house on the wrong side of the Brooklyn Bridge.
‘The entire amount must be handed over in used, unmarked hundred-dollar bills and deposited with our bankers in Newark, New Jersey,’ said the American, his eyes narrowing. ‘And Mr Obaydi,’ Cavalli added, ‘I don’t have to remind you that we have machines that can verify . . .’
‘You need have no anxiety about us keeping to our side of the bargain,’ interrupted Al Obaydi. ‘The money is, as your Western cliché suggests, a mere drop in the ocean. The only concern I have is whether you are capable of delivering your part of the agreement.’
‘You wouldn’t have pressed so hard for this meeting if you doubted we were the right people for the job,’ retorted Cavalli. ‘But can I be as confident about you putting together such a large amount of cash at such short notice?’
‘It may interest you to know, Mr Cavalli,’ replied the Deputy Ambassador, ‘that the money is already lodged in a safe in the basement of the United Nations building. After all, no one would expect to find such a vast sum deposited in the vaults of a bankrupt body.’
The smile that remained on Al Obaydi’s face indicated that the Arab was pleased with his little witticism, despite the fact that Cavalli’s lips hadn’t moved.
‘The ten million will be delivered to your bank by midday tomorrow,’ continued Al Obaydi as he rose from the table to indicate that, as far he was concerned, the meeting was concluded. The Deputy Ambassador stretched out his hand and his visitor reluctantly shook it.
Cavalli glanced up once again at the portrait of Saddam Hussein, turned, and quickly left.
When Scott Bradley entered the room there was a hush of expectancy.
He placed his notes on the table in front of him, allowing his eyes to sweep around the lecture hall. The room was packed with eager young students holding pens and pencils poised above yellow legal pads.
‘My name is Scott Bradley,’ said the youngest Professor in the Law School, ‘and this is to be the first of fourteen lectures on Constitutional Law.’ Seventy-four faces stared down at the tall, somewhat dishevelled man who obviously hadn’t noticed that the top button of his shirt was missing and who couldn’t have made up his mind which side to part his hair that morning.
‘I’d like to begin this first lecture with a personal statement,’ he announced. Some of the pens and pencils were laid to rest. ‘There are many reasons to practise law in this country,’ he began, ‘but only one which is worthy of you, and certainly only one that interests me. It applies to every facet of the law that you might be interested in pursuing, and it has never been better expressed than in the engrossed parchment of The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.
‘ “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That one sentence is what distinguishes America from every other country on earth.
‘In some aspects, our nation has progressed mightily since 1776,’ continued the Professor, still not having referred to his notes as he walked up and down tugging the lapels of his well-worn Harris tweed jacket, ‘while in others we have moved rapidly backwards. Each of you in this hall can be part of the next generation of lawmakers or law breakers –’ he paused, surveying the silent gathering, ‘– and you have been granted the greatest gift of all with which to help make that choice, a first-class mind. When my colleagues and I have finished with you, you can if you wish go out into the real world and ignore the Declaration of Independence as if it were worth no more than the parchment it was written on, outdated and irrelevant in this modern age. Or,’ he continued, ‘you may choose to benefit society by upholding the law. That is the course great lawyers take. Bad lawyers, and I do not mean stupid ones, are those who begin to bend the law, which, I submit, is only a step away from breaking it. To those of you in this class who wish to pursue such a course I must advise that I have nothing to teach you, because you are beyond learning. You are still free to attend my lectures, but “attending” is all you will be doing.’
The room was so silent that Scott looked up to check they hadn’t all crept out. ‘Not my words,’ he continued as he stared at the intent faces, ‘but those of Dean Thomas W. Swan, who lectured in this theatre for the first twenty-seven years of this century. I see no reason not to repeat his philosophy whenever I address an incoming class of the Yale Law School.’
The Professor opened the file in front of him for the first time. ‘Logic,’ he began, ‘is the science and art of reasoning correctly. No more than common sense, I hear you say. And nothing so uncommon, Voltaire reminds us. But those who cry “common sense” are often the same people who are too lazy to train their minds.
‘Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote: “The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.” ’ The pens and pencils began to scratch furiously across the yellow pages, and continued to do so for the next fifty minutes.
When Scott Bradley had come to the end of his lecture, he closed his file, picked up his notes and marched quickly out of the room. He did not care to indulge himself by remaining for the sustained applause that had followed his opening lecture for the past ten years.
Hannah Kopec had been considered an outsider as well as a loner from the start, although the latter was often thought by those in authority to be an advantage.
Hannah had been told that her chances of qualifying were slim, but she had now come through the toughest part, the twelve-month physical, and although, despite her background, she had never killed anyone – six of the last eight applicants had – those in authority were now convinced she was capable of doing so. Hannah knew she could.
As the plane lifted off from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for Heathrow, Hannah pondered once again what had caused a twenty-five-year-old woman at the height of her career as a model to want to apply to join the Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks – better known as Mossad – when she could have had her pick of a score of rich husbands in a dozen capitals.
Thirty-nine Scuds had landed on Tel Aviv and Haifa during the Gulf War. Thirteen people had been killed. Despite much wailing and beating of breasts, no revenge had been sought by the Israeli Government because of some tough political bargaining by James Baker, who had assured them that the Coalition forces would finish the job. The American Secretary of State had failed to fulfil his promise. But then, as Hannah often reflected, Baker had not lost his entire family in one night.
The day she was discharged from hospital, Hannah had immediately applied to join Mossad. They had been dismissive of her request, assuming she would, in time, find that the wound healed. Hannah visited the Mossad headquarters every day for the next two weeks, by which time even they acknowledged that the wound remained open and, more importantly, was still festering.
In the third week they reluctantly allowed her to join a course for trainees, confident that she couldn’t hope to survive for more than a few days, and would then return to her career as a model. They were wrong a second time. Revenge for Hannah Kopec was a far more potent drug than ambition. For the next twelve months she worked hours that began before the sun rose and ended long after it had set. She ate food that would have been rejected by a tramp and forgot what it was like to sleep on a mattress. They tried everything to break her, and they failed. To begin with the instructors had treated her gently, fooled by her graceful body and captivating looks, until one of them ended up with a broken leg. He simply didn’t believe Hannah could move that fast. In the classroom the sharpness of her mind was less of a surprise to her instructors, though once again she gave them little time to rest.
But now they’d come onto her own ground.
Hannah had always, from a young age, taken it for granted that she could speak several languages. She had been born in Leningrad in 1968, and when fourteen years later her father died, her mother immediately applied for an emigration permit to Israel. The new liberal wind that was blowing across the Baltics made it possible for her request to be granted.
Hannah’s family did not remain in a kibbutz for long: her mother, still an attractive, sparkling woman, received several proposals of marriage, one of which came from a wealthy widower. She accepted.
When Hannah, her sister Ruth and brother David took up their new residence in the fashionable district of Haifa, their whole world changed. Their new stepfather doted on Hannah’s mother and lavished gifts on the family he had never had.
After Hannah had completed her schooling she applied to universities in America and England to study languages. Mama didn’t approve, and had often suggested that with such a figure, glorious long black hair and looks that turned the heads of men from seventeen to seventy, she should consider a career in modelling. Hannah laughed and explained that she had better things to do with her life.
A few weeks later, after Hannah had returned from an interview at Vasser, she joined her family in Paris for their summer holiday. She also planned to visit Rome and London, but she received so many invitations from attentive Parisians that when the three weeks were over she found she hadn’t once left the French capital. It was on the last Thursday of their holiday that the Mode Rivoli Agency offered her a contract that no amount of university degrees could have obtained for her. She handed her return ticket to Tel Aviv back to her mother and remained in Paris for her first job. While she settled down in Paris her sister Ruth was sent to finishing school in Zurich, and her brother David took up a place at the London School of Economics.
In January 1991, the children all returned to Israel to celebrate their mother’s fiftieth birthday. Ruth was now a student at the Slade School of Art; David was completing his studies for a PhD; and Hannah was appearing once again on the cover of Elle.
At the same time the Americans were massing on the Kuwaiti border, and many Israelis were becoming anxious about a war, but Hannah’s stepfather assured them that Israel would not get involved. In any case, their home was on the north side of the city and therefore immune to any attack.
A week later, on the night of their mother’s fiftieth birthday, they all ate and drank a little too much, and then slept a little too soundly. When Hannah eventually woke, she found herself strapped down in a hospital bed. It was to be days before they told her that her mother, brother and sister had been killed instantly by a stray Scud, and only her stepfather had survived.
For weeks Hannah lay in that hospital bed planning her revenge. When she was eventually discharged her stepfather told her that he hoped she would return to modelling, but that he would support her in whatever she wanted to do.
Hannah informed him that she was going to join Mossad.
It was ironic that she now found herself on a plane to London that, under different circumstances, her brother might have been taking to complete his studies at the LSE. She was one of eight trainee agents being despatched to the British capital for an advanced course in Arabic. Hannah had already completed a year of night classes in Tel Aviv. Another six months and the Iraqis would believe she’d been born in Baghdad. She could now think in Arabic, even if she didn’t always think like an Arab.
Once the 757 had broken through the clouds, Hannah stared down at the winding River Thames through the little porthole window. When she had lived in Paris she had often flown over to spend her mornings working in Bond Street or Chelsea, her afternoons at Ascot or Wimbledon, her evenings at Covent Garden or the Barbican. But on this occasion she felt no joy at returning to a city she had come to know so well.
Now, she was only interested in an obscure sub-faculty of London University and a terraced house in a place called Chalk Farm.