Part I - Fields of Poppies
A/N: Part I is of Eyal's top-secret mission Arthur Campbell has given him and at times this will be hard reading because of violence and human cruelty to show the underside of being a spy. A spy's life is not all glamorous as that of James Bond but stay with it as a happy ending of sorts is coming.
First Week in December
Light sprinkle of showers and warm weather on hand for Eyal to leave Tel Aviv. He had talked his ex-wife into keeping Avi with him for the remaining of Hanukkah and Avi was thrilled being with his cousins and in a large happy family. He had no brothers or sisters and being a part of the Lavin family made him feel wanted. Now at thirteen, he realized it wasn't as his mother had leaded him to believe for the many years of being separated from Eyal. It was his mother taking him and leaving, not the other way around and for the reason he was just now figuring it out. After long talks with Eyal and his Grandfather, Avi was proud of what his Abba was doing, making the world a safer place to live. Eyal had made pace with his ex-wife, a blessing for Avi.
Three generations of Lavin's were on their way to the airport for Eyal to catch an early morning flight. Brother Nadav, son Avi and Eyal's father, Reza, a German transplant to Israel in the early fifties when he was only fifteen years old, now 75 and still in good health taking his morning jogs or walks. Tall and his thick wavy hair as white as snow with twinkling, mischievous dark eyes there was no denying he was the father of Nadav and Eyal.
"Son, we'll say our goodbyes here and let you have a few minutes with Avi." Reza with a hug and Nadav with a firm hand shake.
Eyal with his hand on Avi's shoulder, "Let's walk over here son." Taking a few steps from Nadav and Reza, "I don't know how long I'll be gone. As much as I want to e-mail you, we shouldn't. Went I'm at work I need to make sure no one can find any link to you or the rest of the family."
"Grandpapa told about some of the stuff you did. I understand Abba."
"Always keep in your heart how much I love Avi. Always have and always shall." Eyal giving his son a hug.
"I love you too Abba and I'll be here waiting for your return." Avi hugging his father back, "And thinks for all the gifts."
"Shalom Avi." Eyal with a final hug, "Go on back to your Uncle and Grandpa."
Eyal watched for a second as his son walking back to the safety of family, picking up his overnight, turned and walking quickly to the departure area. Of all times he has said goodbye to his family members, this was the hardest. Boarding his flight to Islamabad, Pakistan, Eyal texted a short message to Annie, "Love you Neshama. Signing off until later. E."
Five hours later, Eyal departing the plane, finding his coat because the weather was anything but warm. Standing with a sign 'Dr. George Scopello' stood a woman, maybe in her mid-twenties, plumb, wearing glasses with an adorable smile as people walked by. Dark skin and black curly short cut hair, Eyal couldn't guess where country she might be from, a habit of his to amuse himself.
"I'm George Scopello." Eyal address the woman in Italian.
"Hi. Oh my you are speaking Italian and they had told me you spoke English. We are going to have a hard time as I don't speak a word of Italian." She was going on in a rapid rate almost to a frantic stage.
"I do speak English. What is your name?"
"Oh thank God and dear Jesus above." Shaking his hand, "I'm so glad to meet you and we can really talk together. My name is Butterfly Carter. My mother loved the tiny Monarch butterflies, so I'm name after an insect but most people call me Butter. By the way, I'm from Macon, Georgia. That is in the United States."
"I know, I'm from New York City."
"Oh another American. I'm sorry you must think I'm a real scatter brain, here I am talking a blue circle around you. I do that when I get nerves, oh I'm sorry, I'm still doing it."
"That's quite okay, I find it entertaining and things shouldn't get boring with you about." Eyal with his charming smile.
"Flavia Dufaux, the team's scrub nurse and acting triage head nurse is waiting for us at a small café. The other doctor and his assistant haven't arrived as yet so we are enjoying a few late afternoon drinks."
"Lead the way Butter."
They found Flavia Dufaux having a tall drink of dark brew. Speaking in Italian she greeted Eyal with a friendly hello. "Dr. Scopello welcome to our little group. I'm Flavia Dufaux, you all-around go to nurse."
"Delight to be here." Also speaking in Italian. "Since this team is Swiss, what is our commutation, Italian, French or German?"
"I'm fluent in Italian and French with a touch of English."
Butter perking up, "She is pretty good with her English. Would you like something to drink Dr. Scopello, I'm drinking some fruity shake and it is good."
"Tea for me. Thank you." Eyal taking a seat.
Flavia being a fun type person, carefree and adventurous could be the reason she was attached to this unit. Maybe in her early fifties, slim in stature and slightly graying long hair pulled back with one long plat down her back. She spoke with a tiny lisp.
Chatting sociably waiting for the last of their team to arrive from Bern, Switzerland. The lead doctor, Dr. Julien Christen and his assigned nurse, Klara Hofmann. As they waited, time came for dinner and for Eyal it is welcomed, last meal was his mother's breakfast in Tel Aviv.
He is embedded in a six member team of Doctors Without Borders on an overall mission of Global Vaccine of Remote Communities. The flight from Bern was announced and the balance to the medical side of the team would be arriving at gate 11. This time it was Flavia turn to great the doctor and with her sign, she quickly made her way to the departure gate customs check point.
Butter's random chatter now turning into very important information, "You know I love to read and love the tales of King Arthur and his knights. Sir Lamorak being one of my favorites and his love for King Lot's widow, Morgues."
"And if you could pick a character from that time frame..."
"I would be King Arthur's mistress, Eleirch the daughter of Iaen." Butter's southern accent also had changed to more mid-western. There, the code names for deep cover CIA operatives were given, of course Lamorak and the one for Butter Carter (or whatever her real name is) as being Iaen.
In his muse, Eyal was thinking he had created a premise in picking a knight of the round table and Arthur Campbell enjoying being King Arthur, the mighty leader of an army of crusading warriors.
"So you like being part of King Arthur's crusading causes?"
"I do." Butter smile at the analogy.
"This will be the last we speak of this as we must maintain our complete cover."
"Speak of what?" Butter looking at the door, "They are here." She back to her deep southern accent.
Dr. Julien Christen and his nurse assistant came in with Flavia leading the way. Nothing real special about him stood out, average in every way. His nurse assistant, Klara Hofmann on the other hand was a knockout beauty with green eyes, light brown hair and glowing smile on a hospitable face. Eyal guessed both to be in their late thirties.
Now the medical team was together, they spend an hour or so getting to know each other and was fairly apparent there was more to Dr. Julien and nurse Klara than a working partnership.
Turning in for the night, they were checked into a mid-class hotel for the next two days. The days they would spend in assembling their medical supplies, living tents, food and all the necessities to carry them for four weeks in southwest Afghanistan.
Second Week in December
The four vehicle convoy line up in front of a rented warehouse stocked with non-perishable food. Eyal with a check list as the warehouse workers loaded the Isuzu all wheel drive truck. Dr. Julien had dubbed the truck 'Hotel le Roués', because it was loaded with the tents and all their living necessities. Another Isuzu all wheel drive truck carried the medical treatment tent and supplies while the two remaining vehicles were Land Rovers, also loaded with supplies.
"How is it going George?" Julien Christen coming around the back of the truck and peeking in.
"Almost finished. All we need now is our guide and driver."
"Should be here shortly. Flavia has worked with this guide before and says he is good. There are two drivers coming with him. Sometimes one will get homesick and run off." What Julien didn't want to say was scared out their skin and run off. He was trying to easy this first time doctor into working in the field.
Eyal finished the last check list and sign off on the delivery. Both Julien and him took a break, closed the back of the truck, locked it and turn their backs to rest against the truck.
"What medical school did you attend?" Julien making friendly chitchat.
"Mount Sinai School of Medicine, part of New York University. Now far from my home."
"You are from New York City. I was there once. There is traffic everywhere you go." Julien shaking his head.
"Get use to it. That must be our guide with Flavia." Eyal spotting Flavia walking toward them with three men and Butter in tow.
Introductions made, their guide's name is Qader Hotaki, guide, driver and translator from Zaranj, Afghanistan the other two men were only identified by the given names and almost certainly false. They would be driving the 'Hotel le Roués' truck and labors in setting up tents. The assignments made, Qader and Flavia in the first or lead vehicle, the comfort of a Land Rover. Dr. Julien and his assistant Klara Hofmann in the second Land Rover and Eyal with Butter in the medical supply truck that Butter nicknamed MASH from the TV show many years ago and still in reruns. The last truck being the living quarters for the group. Eyal was going to make the suggestion later that night to Julien to rearrange the line up of the convoy. Put the 'Hotel le Roués' someplace in the middle, less chance of them driving off with needed contraband for the Taliban insurgents.
Eyal starting up the truck and waiting to fall in line behind Dr. Julien and Klara was delighted MASH was a favorite in Israeli in reruns during the 80's and one of his. He couldn't help but chuckle, "MASH so what does that make me, Hawkeye Pierce or Frank Burns?"
"Hawkeye Pierce for sure and I'm the beautiful blonde Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan. Can you picture me as a blonde?"
"Sure, works for me and don't hit me when I call you Hot Lips." Both laughing.
They were on their way south from Islamabad, Pakistan to a safe border crossing into Afghanistan and the start of Eyal's mission and also performing humanitarian help to many children.
Saturday morning and Annie was on her way to the UPS store to mail all the Christmas gifts she had purchased in New York for Danielle and the family. Receiving a simple text from Eyal made feel happier but knowing it was also the last word she would hear from him until his mission was completed, maybe sometime around Christmas. Thinking about Christmas gave he a distressing feeling in the pit of her stomach, she couldn't shake the feeling.
Finishing with the UPS store and on her drive back home, the same annoying feeling wouldn't go away, a premonition perhaps, the fear that she would never see Eyal again. She tried to shake the thought, of course he was coming back, he had promise. Her mind not on driving turned left on the wrong street and would have to drive several blocks before turning on to other street that would put her on the right road.
Stopping at the intersection where she was to make her corrective turn, there diagonally across the intersection on the corner, taking up half a block was a large stone church with a Gothic style tower to one side. Saint Joseph's Catholic Church read the sign. Watching the traffic pass before she could make her turn she felt a pull, an uncontrollable urge to not turn but cross the street and enter the parking lot of the church. She had never been much of on attending church and couldn't remember the last time she went, maybe to a wedding. But the urge was intense and she obeyed the tug. Once parking her car in the lot with several other cars, she just sat there, not moving, wondering if she should go in. Two women came from a side door near the back, going to their cars to get boxes of whatever and return.
"Ok Annie girl, you are here and there is a reason. Go in, you need this time of solitude and trust your six sense this is the place for it." Speaking to herself.
She walked in to the vestibule where a twelve-foot Christmas tree stood to one side all decorated in white and gold, with symbols of the Catholic faith. She stood there viewing the tree and the ornaments, all appeared to be handmade.
"Isn't our Chrismon tree beautiful? The youth of the church over the years made all the decorations." Came a sweet voice from behind her.
"Yes, lovely." Annie turning to come face to face with a nun.
"Hello, I'm Sister Mary Frances and welcome to Saint Joseph's. It there anything I can help you with."
"I don't know. No I don't think so. I made a wrong turn and missed my street and knew I could get on the right road within a few blocks and found your church. Saw some cars outside and figure to have a look."
"Then let me show you around." Sister Mary Frances leading Annie into the nave and down the aisle to the sanctuary all the while explaining the different areas. At one of the front pews they sat and looked at the altar and the beauty of the sanctuary. To the side in an alcove stood a stature of Saint Joseph with rows of burning candles.
"Something is heavy on your heart, which is way God brought her here."
Annie had left her spy mode at the front door and now she was only a fearful woman for the fate of her love. That nagging feeling she had, the missed turn and the powerful urge to enter the church was to meet this nun, Sister Mary Frances. Was it fate guiding her?
Sister Mary Frances went on, "You know we have an awesome God and He knows what is on your heart."
"I'm not much of a church person."
"You are a child of God and that is all the matters. He wants to hear from you thru prayer."
"I don't know any prayers." Annie remembers the beautiful chant Eyal had given at Thanksgiving.
"Have a conversation with Him; tell God what is hurting inside. There is candle waiting for you to light. Lighting a candle is a way of extending your prayer and showing unity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered. It is easy to start, Dear Father..."
Annie kneeling before Saint Joseph and lighting a candle, she begin to pray. She had no idea how long she stayed in prayer, asking for forgiveness herself and for Eyal, asking for protection of him in his missions and blessings on both of them. To her amazement, praying came easy and finally when finished she felt at peace. When she rose from her knees, she found Sister Mary Frances on her knees also in prayer, possibly in prayer for Annie.