Would like to point out that I rewrote this chapter following very harsh comments from a guess reader. I'm sorry for the quality of my English. I'm a French native living in Québec city (not much English spoken or written here). I started writing Fanfiction for me not lose the little English I have. I don't use a Beta reader because I tend to write very long chapters, make many mistakes so it would be too much work for one person. I usually get along with two spelling aids - Ginger and ProWritingAid and Internet. This story was one I had written a couple of years ago, re-read it rapidly, found the story interesting and decided to publish it. My mistake, because I now realize it was very poor writing. I know the following chapter is not perfect, but it is better than the first version and the best I can do.
Chapter 1 - This changing world!
At Allen's tavern, Annie and Auggie were discussing late dinner plans. Well, more which takeout to order from!
A man dressed in a knee-long, charcoal, Chesterfield coat sat next to Annie and said,
"As I recall, I owe you, this is my round."
Auggie blinked as he said "Ah! Our favorite Mossad spy is in town. Well, since you're paying, I'll take an IED, a CWMD and to finish 3 anti-tank rockets. And dear, please drop the bear hug, we are in public. It would risk exposing our cover!"
Eyal Lavin chuckled and signaled the waitress to bring another round.
Annie folded her right hand under her chin and bent towards the handsome spy. "What's Mossad doing in town?"
"Mossad, I don't know. Me, I'm visiting an ex-colleague and settling a couple of IOUs."
Auggie held up his glass and said "Here's to bullshit at its best. Try again friend, we're not buying."
Eyal's shoulders slumped as he said "I'm hurt!"
Annie replied, "Get over it, Eyal! What's your business in Washington?"
Eyal took off his coat and discreetly showed them his wounded left side. "I'm on what you Americans call 'workers compensation'. Rivka told, well ordered, me to take some time off. Preferably as far away as possible from her and the Mossad. Seems I don't play well with others when I'm desk-bound."
Auggie laughed and said "So you came to play with the CIA. You realize Joan had you tailed as soon as you set foot at Dulles airport. You are on our 'person of interest' list."
"Yes, and she's not alone, the FBI also has a tail on me! I love providing work for my American counterparts. It's always an educational experience for my 'followers'. I led FBI Agent Wingtip Rossabi to a dumpster…."
Eyal flashed his phone showing a shiny black SUV covered with garbage. Annie laughed and Auggie rolled his eyes at her vocal description of the photo.
Auggie smirked "When will he ever learn?"
Eyal responded "I hope, never! It's always refreshing pulling one over him! As for CIA's, she's the brunette sitting at the bar. Auggie, help her, she's having problems adjusting her pinhole camera! Got to admit, she's a looker and if I were in a better state of mind, believe me she would not be tinkering with spy toys at this moment."
Annie asked again "Eyal, stop the bantering, what's up?"
Eyal lifted both hands "Promise, I'm legit. On vacation and want/need to forget bullets, covert operations and terrorisms for a couple of weeks; doctor's orders! Came to Washington to help a friend renovate her apartment. Improvement projects always help to clear my mind. That may be why I could build a house from basement up when I was with my ex!"
Annie downed her drink and said "Well, happy renovations! We need to pick up dinner!"
Eyal's head shot up "Hey, I'm studying the floor plan of my friend's apartment tonight. I invited her and a friend, co-worker or boyfriend, whatever he is at this time, to my apartment. You two free? A home cooked meal is always better for the body and soul than takeout!"
Annie asked "Are you sure your friend won't mind?"
Eyal smiled "She's one of us, meaning changes in plans are a fact of life. Her name is Ziva David; an ex-Mossad that now works for NCIS."
Annie answered, "We are free, especially if you're cooking! Eyal…"
Eyal smiled "I guessed… you two put down 'roots' and signed a 'Close and Continuing' form. Congrats! Auggie, my friend, don't fret: My proposition 'to see a beautiful sunset' with her has expired."
Auggie donned a surprised look "A what and when did that happen?"
Annie elbowed Auggie's ribs. "Ouch!" All laughed.
Eyal reiterated his invitation "So what do you say, you two up to a home cooked meal?"
Annie answered "Here's a counter proposition for you: We bought Danielle's house. Why don't you bring your cooking skills and we'll provide the food plus the paper plates and plastic utensils… no no just kidding, we have proper dinnerware!"
Auggie added, "And I still keep the best Patron plus thanks to the tips you gave my girlfriend, we build an interesting selection of fine worldwide wines!"
Annie touched Eyal's hand "Eyal when you interrupted, I wasn't about to say that Auggie and I were now a couple. Wanted to tell you that I know Ziva. She and a friend of hers, Sharon Welby, are my regular running partners. We've even worked together on a couple of missions. NCIS is more and more called in for counterespionage and terrorism treats outside the US borders."
Eyal's face went somber "Times are changing and not always for the best."
Annie put on a mischievous look, at that, Eyal put his head down "I'm scared to ask, what's up Annie?"
"Was thinking; I'm with Auggie, Ziva I'm presuming is with Tony and you….?"
Eyal laughed, "I'm cooking plus I'm not the best of company at this moment."
"Eyal, it won't be a 'date'. I'm thinking of Sharon Welby; she's a mother of two and not hunting for a guy. A gathering between friends is always better when in an even number. Come to think of it, you two have a lot in common."
Auggie interrupted, "I can vouch for her, Eyal. She's an on-off MI-6 field officer and the daughter of Robert Jackson."
Eyal's eyes blinked. "She's the daughter of MI-6's director. Hell, CIA and FBI are tailing me, don't need to add an MI-6 one!"
Auggie added "Don't worry about Daddy, Sharon is her own person."
Eyal spoke "Annie, invite her, but make it clear it's not a blind-date."
Annie sheepishly lifted her head and said "Will do… well just did. She's free tonight. Also checked with Ziva, the change of plans is OK with her. So it's a date… well, no, not a date."
Eyal added "How is it that I have a feeling I will regret agreeing to this."
Annie rolled her eyes at Eyal then turned towards Auggie "Auggie, this will be our first Friends' Gathering in our new home! Danielle would be so proud of me!"
Auggie added in a barely audible voice, "And how convenient; it's a multi-agency spy gathering! How's that going to go down with Joan?"
Again Annie's elbow made contact with Auggie's ribs. He replied "Hey, I'm blind not insensible, stop the rib pokes!"
Eyal chuckled "That my friend, you will need to get used to: A woman's elbow is # 1 as her backup 'I don't agree with you' weapon."
Annie 'poked' her friend, but didn't think of his wound. Annie being Annie, she hit the bull's eye. Eyal bent over in pain.
Auggie guessed what had happened and put his hand on Eyal's shoulder "Man, you OK?"
Eyal answered, "I'll be fine. Auggie, you are right that's one killer elbow!"
With downcast eyes Annie added "Eyal, I'm so sorry. Let me take a look?"
Still wincing "Annie, I'm OK. Let's talk about our dinner. You two still call out for food, meaning there's more takeout boxes in the fridge than real food?"
Annie smiled and nodded while Auggie added a quip "My killer elbow cut all her cooking classes, and I'm no help in that department, so yes Eyal, we will need a list."
"Don't fret, I'll take care of the groceries. You can pick up dessert. Annie, do you remember my favorite?"
"New York-style cheesecake! Coincidence, it's also Sharon's and Ziva's dessert of choice. When it's 'Girls Thai night out', we always stop for dessert at your favorite ice cream shop."
Auggie questioned "So she knows your favorite dessert, your apartment in DC, your favorite restaurant and she had an open invitation to a beautiful sunset….. Are you sure the two of you never…?
Annie put an end to that line of questioning, "Auggie, you know the answer to that not-so-subtle insinuation!"
Auggie put on his best 'I'm sorry, dear' smile!
Eyal concluded "Well, that settles it. I'll pick up what I need and head to your place to set things up. I always admired Danielle's kitchen. Annie did she leave you her appliances?"
"Yes, the best of the best, but sadly we are not using them as we should. You might give me a couple of pointers tonight!"
Auggie pleaded "Yes, Eyal, please do. Homemade grilled cheeses would be great!"
Eyal caught Annie's elbow before it made contact with Auggie's rib cage.
"Mrs. Walker, enough man beating for today!"
Annie quipped "Still the stick in the mud a remember! Now, please excuse me, I need to use the ladies room!"
Auggie whispered "Thanks partner! Here's a spare key. Coincidence… Joan just summoned us. I'm guessing your tail called Mommy, and she's calling us in to get the whys, who's and what's of this gathering."
Eyal said "That was to be expected. Don't worry your dinner will be ready when your boss's finishes chewing you out for meeting up with a spy from a competing agency. Tell her I said Hi and that I won't be needing a lift to King Saul's Boulevard this time!"
"Will do… well, depending on her mood! Eyal, on a more serious note; I'm sorry to hear of the passing of Mike Harari. From what Annie told me, he was your Mossad mentor. The guy made mistakes, but he was a rare and ground-breaking man of operations, brave and creatively daring. Would his death be part of you want/needing a breather?"
Eyal whistled "You, my man, can zoom right into a problem!"
"I kind of stumbled on this well hiding news. Why would Mossad want to keep it under wraps is puzzling but you Israelis don't think like the rest of the world! Again, my sympathies on your loss."
"Thanks and yes, his death hit close to home. It's not the only reason for me wanting to get away, but it's part of it."
"Well, hope tonight's blind date will cheer you up. Oh, sorry, it looks like a date, smells like a date, but it's not a 'date'! Just kidding, think you will like Sharon. She's a mix of Annie and Ziva plus she's one hell of a spy. You two should easily find conversation starters. Plus, I'm guessing the first thing you'll do is read up on her."
"Nope. Auggie, I was serious about needing some downtime. I will meet Mrs. Sharon Welby as any normal man would and go with it from there. Tire of doubting everybody and reaching out for people's files since I have the security clearances to do so."
"You really are in need of a change of scenery. What in the f_ck happened in your last mission?"
"Classified and you don't want/need to know, believe me!"
Annie returned, and they parted.
At Langley's, Annie and Auggie were rapidly hustled to Joan's office by two guards. They didn't dare speak a word, but were wondering what had gone down for them to be treated in this way.
As Auggie stepped into Joan's office, he was mad. "Joan what is this all about? We are not traitors, what's with the welcoming committee!"
"Sorry and by the way, this has nothing to do with you meeting up with Eyal Lavin. We have a major security breach on our hands. We are shutting down the DPD. Reliable intel is telling us that one of our own sold classified Intel to an Iranian national. We can presume that all our operations could be compromised. You are our chosen ONES: As of now you are on temporary leave like all the others. The welcoming committee was to provide you guys a cover for any unwelcome watching eyes. It is showing all that you are considered as guilty as all other DPD operatives. You'll be working a black op from your home. You can bring in your friend from the Mossad, it might even do him some good."
Auggie's eyes looked everywhere and nowhere "What, did I just hear Joan Campbell say we could use a spy from a competing agency… a Mossad spy of all people?"
Annie was just too stunned to speak, she tried, but Joan cut her off.
"Yes! This is bigger than just the CIA and DPD! We are bringing in MI-6, Mossad and NCIS. In a nutshell, here's the intel: A high ranking Naval Vice Admiral was shot dead yesterday. NCIS was on his tail and that Admiral was presumably to meet with one of our very own – A CIA mole! The meet somehow went sour, and the Admiral was shot by an MI-6 spy. That MI-6 field officer was presumably on vacation and said he acted in self-defense! Was that spy part of this meet or he was really acting in self-defense? We don't know. I was just in contact with Robert Jackson of MI-6 and he's putting a friend of yours on the case: Sharon Welby. She's been read in as we speak. As for Eyal, it's up to him, Israel is not involved. I called Rivka and asked if I could 'borrow' Eyal to give our trainees a lecture on the Mossad's philosophy since he was already our soil. It was a decoy and she sensed it, but still she opted to play with me. I'm thinking she needs her best officer back to his normal self and my business with him, whatever she thought it was, might just be the trick to get him up and about. "
Joan focused on Annie and continued.
"Annie, we could use his expertise with this mission. You should be the one to ask for his help. NCIS's director, Leon Vance, has assigned Jethro Gibbs's team, meaning Ziva David will be working this case. How wonderful that you guys are all meeting tonight for a friendly gathering!"
Annie and Auggie stare at Joan and Annie risked asking
"Joan were we bugged? We didn't hide or plan this meeting, Eyal is a friend. I'm a spy and being bugged is a way of life, but a minimum of privacy in our personal life is expected."
Joan face firmed up, and she said sternly "Annie, when one of my people meets up with a spy that is not CIA, you can expect eyes and ears on you. You asking that question is inexperience or naivety on your part, but I will tell you one thing: fence up and/or grow up fast because this is the world you chose to live in. There is no such thing as trust between spies. You can help each other, save each other, get a drink as friends, sleep together if your little heart desires but trust between spies forget it! It should never happen and if you can't deal with it, quit now!"
Annie was shaken by Joan words. Auggie took her hand and squeezed it while asking,
"Joan, again, were we bugged?"
"No, but eyes and ears were on both of you. The tail that Eyal though was his was in fact for all of you. Yes, we listened in. I'm disappointed, you should have picked up on that possibility. Especially you Auggie!"
Both bit their lips and breathed out heavily.
Auggie said "Lessons learned Boss. Like Eyal said, we are in a changing world, our life is no more our own and our guards must continually be up. That insecurity will cause many early retirements."
"You are right Auggie, but we can't dwell on it now. Can I count on both of you for this mission? We will have no more meetings in this building. You know the protocol for a dark op: If you are caught there is nothing CIA can do to help. Jethro Gibbs, from NCIS, has lead."
Annie ventured "From what Ziva told me, her boss is a real nice guy, a father figure of sort."
Joan was now a bit impatient "Well are you taking this op or not?"
Annie looked at Auggie and they both said at the same time. "We're in, Joan."
"Thanks and one word of advice – Watch your backs more than ever, we are not playing with amateurs. This is counterespionage at its best. It's the first time in history that a department of the CIA has been forced in a shutdown and operatives all over the world called back in. Now for a second piece of advice - on a more personal side: Take time to have fun tonight, don't discuss the op. A friendly night with close friends will be welcome! This shit can wait till tomorrow."
Annie spoke "Joan, as I see it, Eyal will be the only one in the dark. I'd like to read him in tonight."
Joan looked at her phone and smiled "Just got news from Rivka. That woman always needs to be in control; she organised herself to be the first to talk to her officer. Happy to announce that Eyal accepted to help us . I'm sure Rivka gave him very specific orders. Orders that, as usual, he'll do whatever he wants with, but he's in. Tonight is your night off, like I said, make the most of it."
Auggie had another question "Joan, did Rivka read you in on why Eyal is in need of some down time. I'm not asking what's wrong with him, but do you think he's up to working this op?"
"She didn't mention Eyal's specific problems, just said that he needed some time off after a very difficult mission. Eyal Lavin has enough experience to decide his own agenda. Annie will read him in tomorrow and I'm not worried, the answer he'll give us will be his own and he'll live up to it. Plus with the talent we got on this op, my gut is telling me it will be intense but short…. well, I hope. OK briefing over. I must get out of here. Arthur is alone with Mackenzie, sometimes I don't know who the baby between them is!"
Annie and Auggie arrived home a bit earlier than expected. Eyal was still in the middle of preparing what smelled like a delicious gourmet meal!
He glanced at them and smiled. "See CIA is as bad as Mossad for vacations. Nice to see that we will be, for once, working together with the blessing of our agencies. I told you I was in need of some down time and I still am. We planned a friendly get together, and that's what tonight is all about. I don't have all the facts for this mission but trust that you, Annie Walker, will properly read me in (because you're the best at handling me!). I texted Ziva, and she talked to Mrs. Welby, they agreed: Tonight we are having a 'normal' gathering between friends – no mission talk allowed. Are you two in?"
Annie answered, "Believe it or not, our boss gave us her stamp of approval. She told us this shit could wait till tomorrow! We're in FRIEND!"
Eyal replied "I like that woman more and more!"
Annie continued "It smells wonderful Eyal, what's cooking?"
"You mentioned you, with Ziva and Sharon, liked Thai - I decided to give you a taste of the real culinary delights of Thailand. It's nothing like that fast food you Americans gobble up on."
Annie shook her head, "You might be under the weather, but you haven't changed! Eyal you are always so attentive to small details and what is said in a simple conversation."
At that Annie helped Eyal with the meal and Auggie prepared the beverages and music for the night!
Ziva, Tony and Sharon arrived together. Annie did the presentations.
After a couple of appetizers, they sat at a wonderful table setting. Eyal took a couple of minutes to explain his theme.
"In Thailand, there is no such thing as appetizers; neither is there any dish that belongs only to one person. As a general rule, Thai diners order the same number of dishes as people present; however, all dishes are shared and enjoyed together. Thais believe that eating alone is bad luck. A typical Thai meal includes four main seasonings: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. So my meal was prepared with those four seasoning in mind: It's made to combine all four tastes."
Eyal's meal was wonderfully presented; platters decorated with a variety of carved vegetables and fruits into flowers. The food consisted of spring rolls, soup, chicken and beef satay, raw vegetables with a spicy dip, and a salad.
Sharon whistled "This is spectacular. Where did you learn to cook Eyal? Israel, Mossad and Thailand are not a common mix?"
Eyal winked at her "But Thailand is far enough from Israel for me to be unreachable!"
Tony added "Wonder if that would work for me?"
Ziva answered "Gibbs is not Rivka, he'd find you in a flash plus not so sure you'd like the places Eyal keeps himself. Let's say I've been there and nothing resembles first class accommodations. What Eyal considers a 'retreat' is not your cup of tea! Tony, you need the spring break like party destinations that guarantee a good time."
Tony looked at Eyal "Let me guess 'repenting periods'. Is that a Mossad thing or what? Once in a while Ziva is possessed with the same melancholy!"
Sharon puts down her chopsticks and said "Eyal, let me guest - Buriram's Prasat Phnom Rung and/or Loe."
Eyal shot Sharon a quizzical look and added "Both, you've been there?"
She chuckled "Yes, call it a retreat or melancholy period. I needed an out and a mutual friend (she looked at Ziva) told me about this out of nowhere place. I now see where she learned about it. The isolation did the trick! But can't figure where you learned their culinary secrets… unless you befriended the monks. I tried but couldn't do, me being a woman!"
Sharon lifted her glass and said "chia̍h hok - Eat well, enjoy good food"
Eyal responded to her toast with "lí ē-hiáu kóng tâi-gí bô - Do you speak Taiwanese?"
Sharon answered "ē-hiáu, chi̍t-sut-á - Yes, a little"
Auggie interrupted "OK people, we are not all linguists. Keep it in English, please. If you all decide to challenge each other, Tony and I are going to find the night long!
Both Eyal and Sharon said "sit-lé – sorry!"
Auggie looked at Ziva and Tony "OK, we need to settle something: Annie and I are a couple, Eyal and Sharon aren't, well not yet – (that got him a dark stare from Eyal and Sharon). Ziva/Tony, what's with you guys? And darling, no elbow please, you want to hear this as much as I do!"
Annie shot Auggie an 'if eyes could kill' look, Ziva laughed, took Tony by the neck and kissed him.
"That answer your question Auggie?"
"By the reaction, I'm guessing you kissed the guy?"
Ziva's had forgotten Auggie was blind! "Sorry, yes, Auggie we are officially a couple."
Annie asked "How did that go down at work? NCIS has stronger rules on that subject than the CIA."
Tony joined in "Not well at first, but we worked through it with Gibbs. It's not NCIS rules, but more if the team leader accepts his people dating. Gibbs was, still is, against it. Let's say we are on 'probation'."
As the evening progressed, Annie was having fun seeing Eyal uncomfortable in Sharon's presence. So this world class Casanova was human after all. She decided it would be best to give them a small 'push' in the right direction… meaning together. After their meal was washed down with plenty of wine, Annie made for the two to meet 'properly'.
Taking Eyal by the hand and Sharon by the shoulders, she brought them into the living room.
"Eyal Lavin want you to meet a friend of mine, Sharon Welby. Sharon, this is my dear friend Eyal Lavin!"
Sharon looked at Annie and said "Annie, what's your beef?"
Annie replied "You two have been playing this 'who's going to make the first move' game, and it's annoying me! We don't have much downtime, you need to speed it up a bit!"
Eyal pressed Annie's shoulder "Annie, told you I wasn't in the mood for a date, thought we were clear on that subject. You preferred our little get-together be an even number, and it is. Don't rock the boat, please."
Sharon pressed on the other shoulder and whispered in Annie's ear. "See you had a bit too much wine. Told you I'm not on the prowl for a one night stand or anything else. Eyal, from all the guys you set me up with, is, by far, the best looking and he can hold very interesting conversations. So thanks for what is, I'm having a wonderful time, but no thanks for pushing things up to the next level. I'm a big girl Mrs. Annie Walker and I like to decide the who, when and where. Get my drift FRIEND?"
Annie puts on a pout and walked out, they heard her say "Stick in the muds, both of you, boringggggggggggg!"
Sharon and Eyal's eyes met, and they had to laugh at Annie's antics.
Sharon said "She's priceless, but usually succeeds in what she sets up in doing! We should be careful."
Eyal swirled the wine in his glass and whispered in a husky voice of seduction "So you find me attractive?"
"Yes, but I'm not the only one! You must have realized by now that you have the face/body that fits the means or the job!"
"You read up on me?"
"As you did me!"
"Nope, all I know about you is what Annie told me."
Eyal tended his hand to Sharon, and she surprised him in accepting it as she said "Let's get back and mingle with our friends before Annie has another brainstorm."
Just as Eyal pushed the door separating the kitchen from the living room, Sharon halted him and said "You might need to tend to that?"
Eyal swore in Hebrew, but rapidly regained his usual poise "Sorry! Our mutual friend elbowed me in the worst possible place and popped a couple of stitches. I seem to have done a poor job of fixing it."
Sharon lifted his shirt and winced "Nasty! Take a seat, all it needs is a couple stitches."
Eyal jumped away from Sharon. "Stitches…"
"Don't worry, I've stitched-up people before, was in pre-med and my biological father was a doctor! Or we can call 911, your choice? Not sure you'd want to explain to the paramedics how you got a 9 millimeter bullet in your side. One thing for sure, I'm not leaving that wound unattended. What will it be?"
Eyal put his palms up and said "I'm all yours, Doctor Welby."
Sharon laughed and yelled to Annie "Walker, get your stitch kit in here. Once again, I need to mop up after you."
Annie, Ziva, Tony and Auggie all came in at once. Annie took one look at Eyal and threw the kit to Sharon.
Noticing Eyal's malaise, Sharon spoke "Come on guys, give him a bit of privacy. How would you feel having to disrobe before all? Auggie, why don't you get out the Patron and serve some to our friends…. preferably in the dining room! We'll join you in a couple of minutes, keep us some dessert, PLEASE!"
Auggie smiled and said "Come on people, let's give our 'couple' some privacy."
Sharon and Eyal both said "AUGGIE…." But too late… their friends smiling eyes said it all!
Finally alone, Sharon said "OK, Mr. Lavin, take it off."
"What?" a surprised Eyal responded.
"Who would have thought you could be so prudish! Take your shirt off so I can fix that nasty gash. Promise, I won't manhandle you! Gees…. there must be two Eyal Lavin because you are not anything like what Annie and Ziva described."
"Sorry, think we started off on the wrong foot. Must admit I guarded up not wanting a 'blind date' and I seem to have forgotten my ways!"
Eyal took his shirt off and caught Sharon staring. "You like what you're seeing, Mrs. Welby?"
"Very much so, told you I found you attractive. You know damn well you are candy for the eyes."
Eyal smiled and said "You British are so straightforward."
"I'm not British but Canadian. I see you weren't lying when saying you didn't read my file. Refreshing… for a spy. If you want, I can give you a bit of my bio while stitching you up. It will take your mind off the 'sting'"
"I'd like that."
Sharon cleaned his wound and proceeded in stitching it up while saying
"My mother was an MI-6 spy and married a non-spy, a doctor and my father. We lived in Québec City, Canada. She died on a mission when I was 8 and my father died from a heart attack when I was 16. Robert Jackson, my mother's brother, adopted me. I've been a spy since, well, birth! My mother use to bring me on dead drops or brush passes. Seems a baby is a sure thing 'prop'! I have a sister Robin Jackson, also an MI-6 spy, you remember Robin don't you?"
Eyal shifted "Robin Jackson?"
Sharon smiled and approached his neck as she whispered "Yes… Robin Jackson."
Again, another nervous move by Eyal as Sharon purposely pulled hard on her last stitch.
Eyal grabbed her hand, she resisted making him strengthen his hold.
"Stop playing games, Mrs. Welby. You've read up on me, I get, but don't patronize me. I have the reputation of a player and that's how I like it. If it bothers you, I'm not one to impose my presence."
Sharon interrupted him "Stop, you're right; I was out of line and I'm sorry. Eyal, you are more than a just a player. I never only read a file, I analyze it! Think you are not the only one that guarded himself so not to have a 'blind date'. Look, you're all 'stitched' up, let's get back to the others. Promise, I'll be on my best behavior. I'd like you to stay. You look like you could use a night off, getting shot by a colleague is always disturbing"
"How… Oh, I get it:You've been read in on my case and Rivka assigned you to be my 'cheer-me-upper' liaison officer!"
Sharon laughed "Nope, Rivka wants nothing to do with me, we've met up a very long time ago and that meeting didn't go well! Reading people and analyzing intel are my strong suites. I'll prove it to you. Can I have a go at telling you your story?"
Eyal lifted his eyes slightly and replied "By all mean!"
"That hole in your side is the result of a Jericho 941. You were shot at very close range, the barrel touching your body. It left a calling card 'abrasion ring' in your back. That's typical Mossad MO. Somebody wanted you out of the action, but he/she couldn't go for the kill. You never saw it coming, would even guess you knew you assailant well. Nevertheless, you completed the mission, but after it was over: You went for the kill. Hence, your self-analysis brooding mood. How did I score Mr. Lavin?"
Eyal had stopped breathing at her identifying the gun, from there on he sensed she'd unraveled it all. Auggie was right: Sharon Welby and Ziva David were made from the same mold!
"110%, Mrs. Welby. I'm impressed. Would like to ask that you don't mention your conclusions to our friends. I'm still having problems in dealing with the whole situation."
"Don't fret Eyal, I understand, been there, done that! Back stabbing colleagues are always an emotional challenge."
She handed him his shirt, but said "Oups, think you'll need to change. This shirt should rest in some white wine and salt. The best grandma trick to clean blood stains."
Laughing Eyal said "I've used that 'recipe' often! As for a shirt, I have a clean one in my car. I'll get it."
"I'll go! You don't want to fire up Annie's busybody neighbor Mrs. Spacet! If you're not in the mood for a date, piece of advice, don't go out there shirtless. Where are your keys, promise I won't snoop."
"It's a rental, nothing in there worth your while."
"Bull, nothing in 'there' but under 'there's plenty'. You always gear up for war?"
Eyal's eyes widened as he answered, "Yes, in Israel it's a way of life. Not many people / spy notice my stash of ammunitions."
Sharon smiled and said "I've been at this job longer than you have, Mr. Lavin. Give me your keys, please."
Eyal handed over his keys, pulled his bloody shirt on and went to join the others. From Ziva's and Annie's smiles…. he concluded Sharon and he were in for a long night.
Eyal couldn't explain why but this redhead was pleasing him in many ways. She was nothing like her sister, well more cousin. Robin, which he had encountered while on a mission in South Africa, was one very badass spy but as cold-hearted as could be. Well, as much as he, himself, could be! They met, had amazing sex, but Mrs. Robin Jackson was gone before he could fix her some breakfast! Sharon was a mix of Annie's caring soul and Ziva's spunk, but she was her own person. The girl wasn't his usual choice for a companion. At 5'2", he was exactly a foot taller and Sharon bore the 'girl next door' look. Still, he very much liked the image she was projecting. He caught himself thinking that he'd like some time alone with this woman!
Sharon came in and helped him put on the clean shirt.
Annie approached Eyal and sat by him "You're truly smiling! Could it be the cheesecake, our company or a certain MI-6 spy, that's having that effect on you?"
Eyal scolded "Annie, you just can't quit! Sharon is nice and I really enjoy her company, but we both agreed, we are not on a date. Neshema, don't go imagining things!"
Auggie shouted "I win"
Tony answered "No Sharon does: Auggie you wrote down 'after desert'. Sharon wrote down 'during desert'. We are actually having dessert, Sharon you win!"
Eyal was missing something "Could I ask what this is all about?"
Auggie smiled and explained "Eyal, we bet when you would call Annie 'Neshema' for the first time, no pun intended. Sharon has been lucky lately, she's won a few."
Ziva answered "The only sure thing about luck is that it can change."
Tony added "I believe Ziva just nailed an idiom. After 9 years, she's finally getting a handle on them!"
That got him a rib poke from both Annie and Ziva!
Eyal asked "What is the prize?"
Auggie answered "Nothing, it's for fun. We meet and conjure up a challenge or bet at the beginning of our soirée and as the evening goes by, one of us wins!"
Eyal offered, "Since the bet was on me, why don't I offer the winner a night out, Eyal Lavin style? Not that I don't appreciate our little gathering, but tomorrow we don't quite know what we'll be facing. I'd like to stroll around Washington for a bit…. clear my mind. So, Mrs. Welby, you feel like seeing the city by night? D.C. is beautiful when lit up."
Eyal felt obliged to add "AS FRIENDS!"
Sharon breathed in and said "Thanks, but I'll pass. I'm the odd one here; two teenagers at home and it's getting late."
Eyal rephrased his invitation "Promise, you'll be home well before your teenagers' curfew!"
"In that case you have yourself…."
"A date, a date, Sharon Welby, you were going to say a date!" Annie, Ziva, Tony and Auggie teased.
Sharon came a light shade of red and Eyal felt obliged to rescue her. "OK, friends, we are going on A DATE. You happy Mrs. Walker?"
At that Eyal put his arm around Sharon's waist, said his farewells and escorted her out.
As they were pulling out of Annie's driveway, he turned and said,
"Sharon, I can drop you off at your place. Meet 'odd one' # 2; I'm a bit of a loner and needed to get away. My plan is taking a short walk starting at the World War II memorial and ending at the end of the reflecting pool with a stop at the fountain. Walking that route at night helps me relax before starting a mission."
"I understand why you'd want/need some time alone. Just drop me off at my place, it's no more than five minutes from here."
Eyal said "Oh, my invitation still stands. I wouldn't mind your company plus I'd like to get to know you more. We will be working a mission together."
He wasn't sure if she had heard him, she seemed annoyed at answering a text. He asked "A problem?"
"No! Sorry, if it looked as if I was mesmerized by my phone. Just hate it when people, especially my kids, do it to me. It's just that both of them are spending the night at their father's and he wanted me to OK it all. Patience was never a strong suite of his! Seems I'm a free woman for the night, Mr. Lavin."
"Please, call me Eyal."
"Eyal it is. Since we have the night to ourselves, there's a place where you could clear your mind and get to know me better."
"Lead the way, better, I'll stop and you drive."
Sharon got behind the wheel of Eyal's BMW 335i xDrive Sedan.
"Nice wheels, Mossad always spring for such luxury car rental?"
Eyal chuckled "Mossad and I don't see eye to eye on business travel expenses. More often than none I pay my own and they give me the usual meager bean counters allowance. I occasionally grumble about it only to keep up my reputation for being difficult. Care to tell me where we are going or is it a secret?"
"Not a secret: Sandy Point State Park. It's just outside Annapolis at the foot of Chesapeake's Bay Bridge. It's a park, 40 miles from downtown Washington. There is a long, sandy beach with bathhouses and many snack concessions. Well… all will be close at this time, but a friend of mine works at the marina. He can provide us a boat rental, and shoreline fishing is allowed. Plus, it's a special night: the Blood moon. For Catholics and Jews this has biblical significance: A total lunar eclipse marks the end of a Biblical tetrad that started with the Passover Blood Moon (4/15/14), the Sukkot Blood Moon (10/08/14), Passover (4/4/15) and tonight's Sukkot event (9/28/15). There won't be a biblical tetrad for another 567 years, in 2582-2583. It's safe to say that we won't be there! Maybe this special event could give you the change of scenery you're searching for. You up for the 40 mile drive? I don't see distances as most Americans do, 40 miles for a Canadian is a ride in the park. But will understand if you find it too far."
Eyal looked at her in awes "Forty miles for such a promising evening is a very small price to pay! The Blood Moon had completely slipped my mind. You are right, for the Jews, those moons are historically linked with a time period 'that begins with a tragedy and ends with a triumph'. This eclipse will be the fourth in two years and all happened on Jewish holidays — this one is on Sukkot. Some Christian's evangelicals believe that it signals the end of times. We'll have front row seats if that's the case!"
He continued "Mrs. Welby, how did you know beaches were my thing?"
She answered "I pieced together a couple of things Annie said; beaches in Israel are the best, you own a mariner ketch and asked her to witness a wonderful sunset with you. I concluded you'd like walking on a no end in sight sandy beach or even take short but peaceful boat ride on this special night."
Eyal asked "Your friend at the Marina, you sure he'll be there. We should maybe call?"
She bit her lips and answered, "He's an asset of mine, and he's there!"
Eyal shot her a teasing glance, "We've just met and you are involving me in a dead drop?"
With her best roguish expression, she replied "Guilty as charged. It's MI-6's intel gathering on our mission, plus the file of the MI-6 officer that shot the Admiral. As I see it, that USB key is OUR dead drop!"
Eyal closed his eyes, "Remember, no mission talk allowed; make your drop, pocket that USB key and keep it close to your chest until tomorrow. Have a question for you, Mrs. Welby – What is a Sukkah or a Sukkot?"
She smiled "Testing my 'connaissances' are we? A sukkah is a temporary hut (we English say a booth) constructed for use during the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot. Sukkot is an agricultural festival (fruit harvest) that is a bit like our thanksgiving. The words Sukkah and Sukkot originate from the hut-like structures that Jews lived in during the 40 years of travel through the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. As a temporary dwelling, the Sukkah also represents the fact that all existence is fragile, and therefore Sukkot is a time to appreciate the shelter of our homes and our bodies. That's just what I'm offering you tonight, Eyal; an on the beach or in a boat Blood moon Sukkah."
Eyal was now certain that he wanted to get to know this woman more! The man was usually in complete control of his agenda: No asset, girlfriend, colleague or boss had ever succeeded in controlling his actions. How had she managed to make him surrender so rapidly! Maybe because the course of events she suggested were just what he needed to 'shut off' for the night. He couldn't remember a woman being able to read him as well – not even Rivka. He was always the one organising the 'what was needed' for a colleague. or friend It felt good being in 'the passenger seat', especially at this time! Sharon seemed to feel where he was coming from, where he was at and what he needed to shake out of it.
"Mrs. Welby, you've passed the polygraph with flying colors! How would you like to be my official DATE for the evening?"
Sharon shyly answered "I would love to. I'm looking forward to spending this special Blood moon with you".
"As am I!" Eyal lightly kissed her right hand.