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BOOK V: RABBI GABRIELLE IGNITES A TEMPEST

ROGER E. HERST

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The Rabbi Gabrielle Series Book I: Rabbi Gabrielle’s Scandal Book II: A Kiss for Rabbi Gabrielle Book III: Rabbi Gabrielle’s Defiance Book IV: Rabbi Gabrielle Commits a Felony Book V: Rabbi Gabrielle Ignites a Tempest

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Diversion Books A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp. 80 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1101 New York, New York 10011

www.DiversionBooks.com

Copyright © 2011 by Roger Herst All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For more information, email info@diversionbooks.com.

First Diversion Books edition June 2011.

ISBN: 978-0-9838395-4-5 (ebook)

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Beginning Note

While the characters in this story are entirely fictitious, the historical background and setting accurately reflect the time and place where the events occurred. While the story is fiction, the biblical scholarship is fact.

Rabbi Gabrielle Ignites a Tempest didn’t happen, but it may well have!

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KHIRBET QUMRAN, NEAR THE DEAD SEA WEST BANK OF THE JORDAN RIVER

Night had chased away the winds, bringing to the wilderness a precarious calm. As the sun climbed from the eastern horizon over the biblical Hills of Moab where tradition says Moses was buried, long shadows crossing the rocky terrain thinned. Cliff swallows now darted through the young sky in erratic patterns, snatching up newly hatched insects for breakfast. A suggestion of heat warmed the cold igneous rock and storm blown sand. Dawn's gray light slowly gave way to a subtle mixture of browns and reds, establishing a new day upon the Judean Desert. A Bedouin shepherd was watching his goats graze on winter grass when a series of bright mirror flashes distracted him. He directed his eyes to the distant bursts of light, recognizing immediately a familiar silhouette of the gentle, rounded mountains where his cousin, Mumud banu-Nazeem, pastured his flock. The light came in starts and stops, matching his tribe's code by deflecting the sun's rays with quick shifts of the mirror to shape the length and intensity of a signal. He missed the first few words, but not his cousin's unique signature on an urgent message calling for help. He wanted to signal back with his mirror that he would forward this plea to others, but the sun was behind him in the wrong position. Instead, the young shepherd left his goats to climb a wall of volcanic rock, seeking higher ground on which to alert another kinsman farther south. Mumud banu-Nazeem's message was instantly relayed to four Bedouin camelmen guarding the northern perimeter of the tribe's winter migration. Within minutes, these powerful shepherd-warriors were mounted and caning their animals to advance at a fast trot. Simultaneously, the young shepherd's distress signal continued from one tribesman to another along a desert telegraph to the black tents of the Ta'amireh encampment. As tribal chieftain, Telfik banu al-Fahl knew the precise location where each of his teen-age boys pastured their flocks. Four days before, he had given Mumud banu-Nazeem his

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consent for a dangerous mission. Now that trouble had erupted, he regretted having put the youngster in harm's way. To save time mounting a rescue, Telfik dispensed with the customary coffee at the tribal council and granted Mumud's father only a few words before barking orders. Several kinsmen were instructed to gather Lee Enfield rifles and 30 rounds of ammunition for each man; others, to pack three folding tents along with coils of rappelling rope and two 5-gallon jerry cans of fuel oil. Only fourteen minutes after Mumud's message had arrived in the Bedouin camp, ten of his tribesmen were racing north over a desert track in a pair of Land Rovers, kicking up behind them ferocious fantails of dust. Several kilometers ahead, the camelmen had already turned from the flat desert sands into rocky terrain, driving their beasts relentlessly in the direction of their injured kinsman at Qumran.

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CHAPTER ONE
Seven hours earlier, under a still star-bright sky, the Reverend Timothy Matternly brought night-vision binoculars to his eyes, focusing on the opposite mountainside. Only someone who knew what to look for would notice how a tarpaulin camouflaged the entrance to a cave cleaved from the dolomite and soft chalk. Occasionally, he would see a man open one of its flaps and, for a brief moment, become silhouetted by faint light from inside. Someone behind would pass buckets of dirt that were scattered widely over the escarpment. Twice during this night’s vigil, men emptied their bladders before disappearing back into the cave. Winter sun in the Judean Desert can be quite warm, but after nightfall, the temperature drops to a bone-chilling two degrees Celsius. Tim Matternly burrowed against cold rocks to shelter himself from the January wind seeking to penetrate his sweater, cap, and gloves, all as black as the charcoal coating his face. To fortify his resolve, he stroked the stock of a World War II carbine, a clip of 30-caliber ammunition locked below the chamber. Often during the three nights he had been observing thieves looting historical artifacts from this newly discovered cave, he would envision scenarios in which bloodshed might become necessary, reminding himself that he hadn't brought along a carbine as a fashion accessory. He knew he was departing from the bookish persona of a university professor and that his colleagues at the University of Chicago would disapprove of what he was about to do, though they might well understand his hunger to make contact with their biblical ancestors. Like his Savior, who had died for a higher purpose less than twenty-five kilometers from this very spot, Tim prepared himself to act and, if necessary, suffer the consequences. Coiled beside him for warmth was the squat, muscular body of Dominican priest Benoit Matteau, dean of the École Biblique et Archéologique Française in Bethlehem, a man known to possess eyes and ears everywhere in the Judean Desert. Nothing happened in this remote wilderness by way of archeology that he didn’t know about. Well, not exactly, because he hadn’t been privy to the initial discovery of this new cave, a mere half-kilometer from where the Dead Sea Scrolls had first been unearthed in 1947. But through his network of Bedouin informants, he learned soon enough that cave robbers were in the process of looting its treasures.

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Benoit had briefly considered sharing this information with the Israel Antiquities Authority that regulates and protects artifacts of its nation’s archeological history. But throughout his forty-one years working in the Holy Land, he had found the Israeli government annoyingly insensitive to the nuances of Christian archeology. With respect to this newly discovered cave, he was in no mood for cooperation. At sixty-eight years of age, he couldn’t afford bureaucratic delays seeking official permission to study what this new cave was certain to disgorge. He stood firmly with Reverend Matternly on the need to snatch up its treasures before thieves placed them on auction blocks in London, Geneva, New York or, God forbid, E-bay! Based on how dolomite walls in the original Dead Sea caves had collapsed and required extensive excavation in the prior half-century, Benoit and Tim knew that before anything substantial could be extracted from this cave, large amounts of dirt required displacement. Boring ventilation holes in the dolomite was backbreaking toil, especially with the hand tools needed for an operation in which secrecy was paramount. The clerics planned to wait until the looters had completed this labor-intensive toil then, as Father Benoit put it in the foul language he cultivated for the startling effect it had on laymen, "Let those bastards do the heavy lifting before we swoop in for some judicious cherry picking." For three nights, Benoit and Tim had been observing looters avoiding being spotted by drone aircraft of the Israel Air Force patrolling for terrorists. On this third night, the illuminated dial on Tim’s watch confirmed that in two hours the sun would rise in the east over the mountains of Moab. He listened for the telltale growl of a drone in the night sky, its high-intensity cameras missing virtually nothing. Fortunately, for the moment, there was only the gentle whistle of wind through the desert sage, a propitious time to abandon their observation post and establish a new position on the opposite mountainside above the cave entrance. Faint shafts of daylight had begun to penetrate the darkness as the clergymen approached the spot from which they planned to rappel down to the cave. Along with dawn's first light, came the looters who, precisely as they had done on two previous mornings, ended their night’s work and began climbing along rappelling lines secured nearby. Tim and Benoit strained to hear what language they spoke, but, much like themselves, the thieves honored the desert’s protocol of silence. The churchmen stripped off their heavy night clothing to expose

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beneath light camouflage tunics with multiple utility pockets stuffed with equipment. They adjusted their backpacks and strapped headlamps above stocking caps like miners in anticipation of darkness below the earth's crust. In case one or more of the looters remained inside the cave, they switched off the safeties on their weapons. A rising sun peeking over the hills in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan now exposed them to a new danger, for in addition to the drone aircraft above, Israeli soldiers on the ground were bound to be scanning the hills with high-powered field glasses. Their government boasted that, within minutes, attack helicopters armed with machine cannons and air-to-land missiles could cover every square kilometer of desert. Against Israeli firepower, Tim's antique carbine and Father Benoit’s 9-mm Uzi wouldn’t stand a chance. And if discovery by the Israelis was not enough, Bedouin grazing their flocks nearby were known to possess the eyesight of Peregrine falcons. Tim and Benoit quickly located the climbing lines the looters had hidden and redeployed them. Hand signals telegraphed when they were ready to rappel off the sandstone to the cave entrance twenty-five meters below. They lowered themselves along the hillside on separate lines until they flanked the entrance, where a heavy goatskin tarp stained in desert colors blended into the terrain. Tim took a series of deep breaths to steady his nerves, then readied himself to swing inside by poking the muzzle of his carbine through a slit in the curtain. By releasing his footing, he let his weight drop him through the tarp. The opening produced a shaft of intense sunlight that startled one of the looters left behind on guard. As far as Tim could see, the man was seated in the dark with a rifle on his lap when the unexpected flash of light blinded him. Tim was no more ready for combat because his carbine hung from his shoulder on a leather strap and he needed both hands to stabilize himself once inside the cave. The guard recovered a portion of his sight a moment before Tim regained his balance. Two blasts of bullets spewed from an automatic rifle he raised to spray the invader. The first slugs slammed into the cave wall beside Tim's hip; the second ripped through the tarpaulin to his right. He imagined the burning sensation of lead tearing through his vital organs and his life cascading into darkness. Were any ancient treasures, however illuminating of the past and however valuable for biblical scholarship, worth his life? The brief reflection ended with the crack of more bullets—two, three, then three more in an angry salvo.

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But they were not from the guard. Tim saw Father Benoit flying through a second slit in the tarp, his Uzi flaring. The guard—who appeared to Tim as little more than a shadow, toppled backward—but just as suddenly, the tarp slapped closed and sunlight from the desert disappeared. Sounds of scrambling filled the new darkness. Tim staggered for better footing until his boot struck a metal object, sending it spinning over the earthen floor. The beam of his headlamp suddenly circled the walls and came to rest on the earth where the looters had left a pile of black rubber tubs with rope handles commonly used to haul dirt from archeological sites. "Turn off that damnable light," growled Father Benoit somewhere to Tim's left. "You're a target. And don't shoot me in the dark." Tim switched off his headlamp and swept the ground with his foot to identify an object he had just kicked. After hitting it a second time, he bent over to touch the wooden stock of an assault rifle. "The guy's not shooting anyone now," he reported to Benoit, as he turned his light back on to examine a Chinese AK-47. "There's blood on the butt and trigger guard." Benoit answered in a raspy growl caused by dust particles suspended in the thick, motionless air. "Did… did you see… him?" "For an instant. He wore a white Bedouin kafia. He must be hiding in the cave somewhere. Thank God we didn't kill him." "Non, non, mon reverend," the Dominican priest exclaimed, reverting to his native French under pressure. "No Bedouin would box himself inside a cave. These people live in open spaces. Before he settled down, he made an escape route through a ventilation port. Better if we had killed him." "You, want… him dead?" Tim said, coughing dust deep in the throat and gagging for air. "Let's get out of here." "What?" Tim wheezed, thinking how they had fully discussed the potential perils, including something like this. "I'm not leaving until I've looked around." "Listen to me, Timothy," the priest said. "That Bedouin is already outside signaling his kinsmen with a mirror. In minutes, his comrades will be headed here." "We agreed on six hours. What's the worst that could happen?"

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"You don’t want to know. Bedouin practice only one form of vengeance, an eye for an eye. To them, the notion of fair compensation doesn't exist." "I don't give a damn. I expected six hours. Tell me how much time I've got." "Less than thirty minutes. And don't expect the rappelling lines to be in place. The first thing that guard will do is cut them." "We'll signal the Israelis for help." "Choose your poison. If we stay, Bedouins will dismember us organ by organ, starting with our testicles, then leave our carcasses for vultures to pick clean. Or we expose ourselves outside and let the Israeli police throw us in prison for looting. Let me remind you, mon ami, Jews treat terrorists who brutalize their wives and children with more compassion than they do traffickers in their sacred artifacts." "We're wasting time," Tim's voice cracked with emotion. "Go without me." "Thirty minutes. Not one second more. Bedouins move over the desert like gazelles. And we've still got to find a way off this mountain." As soon as their eyes adjusted to sunlight from the opening in the tarp, the clerics made a preliminary tour of the twenty-by-thirty-meter chamber. Headroom was insufficient for Tim, but comfortable for the shorter Benoit. Dust particles coating Tim's glasses, forced him to unhitch them from his ears and wipe the lenses with a special cloth he had brought for that purpose. Near the spot where he believed the Bedouin guard to have been sitting, they found more blood. Broken pottery shards were everywhere, making it difficult to move about without damaging them underfoot. Many of these clay pieces were painted with Aramaic lettering and crude images. As the clergymen moved away from the cave entrance, they became more dependent upon their headlamps for illumination. Tim's first discovery was a quartzite ossuary, turned on its side without signs of human remains. A terracotta jar, 32x12 cm, its gray-red hue similar to those used for storing scrolls in previous Qumran caves, lay overturned as well. Benoit peered inside, but discovered nothing. "Too late," the priest said, shaking his head in frustration. "Too late." "What’s that suppose to mean?" Tim replied. "Thieves have beaten us to what’s here." "If they took everything, why post a guard?"

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"These shards will fetch thousands on the international market, if the Israelis don't catch you first." They next examined the walls for signs of previous inhabitants. Had this cave served primarily as a depository for scrolls like those found in the early 1950s? Or was it used for human habitation? And if people had actually dwelt here, who? Social misfits from Jerusalem or nearby Jericho? Religious zealots and ascetics? Early Christian dissidents or Jews fleeing Roman oppression? The high-pitched buzz of a drone aircraft flying overhead alerted them to the danger of tapping the sun's light through the open tarp. A nod from Benoit confirmed that their futures outside the cave were now little better than remaining too long inside. Once they shut the curtain, they became entirely dependent on their headlamps. "Twenty-six minutes," the Dominican announced, leading Tim from the cave's outer chamber into an excavated crawl space with scarcely room to slither through single file on their stomachs, dragging tethered backpacks behind. When the tunnel forked in ten meters, they agreed to increase their chances of discovery by splitting up. "Rendezvous here in twenty minutes sharp," Benoit said. "If I'm not back by then, don't wait for me. And, I can assure you, mon ami, I have no intention of waiting for you. If you're late, you're on your own." Tim crawled forward until the tunnel opened into a tiny cavern where he could kneel but not stand. No shards lay on the floor and no carvings adorned its hand-chiseled walls. For a moment, he entertained the prospect of crawling back empty-handed. But on the right wall, his headlamp captured yet another tunnel entrance, this one barely large enough to squeeze through on his stomach. It proved to be dustier than the first, but shorter, debouching into a small grotto with sufficient room to lift his head over his elbows. His fingers made immediate contact with a familiar substance—animal skins used in ancient scrolls. He adjusted his headlamp to examine a small piece of decomposed parchment and noticed that the ground was strewn with hundreds similar to it. This was exactly what he and Father Benoit had hoped to discover! Or was it? Yes, there were plenty of words written in the ancient form of the Aramaic script, but no complete scrolls. Just fragments, hundreds, no perhaps thousands, several layers thick! To his left, he discovered a small terracotta jar on its side and another upright but uncovered and empty. Had the looters already stolen scrolls found inside? In their

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quest for jewelry and statuary easily sold to collectors, had they left these fragments for later retrieval? Or had they simply abandoned them because they seemed unreadable? Tim called to Father Benoit, knowing there was little chance his voice would carry through the surrounding walls. To confer with him, it was necessary to inch back through the two tunnels with a few fragments tucked in a utility pocket. At the original fork, the priest’s trail curved left through another dusty conduit. He caught up with Benoit in a small grotto on his knees, complaining about arthritis in his hip, but studiously examining human skeletal remains from a limestone ossuary. Under normal rules of excavation, a discovery would have been carefully photographed and documented, then removed to an accredited laboratory for X-ray and chemical analysis. Yet at the moment, conditions were anything but normal, giving the priest license to violate nearly every conventional rule of modern archeology. He had simply jimmied the seal on the ossuary lid with a utility knife. No names were inscribed on the limestone exterior, so the identity of the deceased would probably remain unknown. Though suffering from a hacking cough, Benoit insisted on voicing his excitement over the remains of an early Christian, or perhaps an Essene. Tim reminded him that with no identification on the ossuary, this would likely remain mere speculation. Benoit tapped his watch to mark the time. He seemed encouraged by the fragments Tim showed him, but refused a request for an additional half-hour to collect more. "I'm going back to get what I can," Tim announced. "Twelve minutes, no matter what." Back in the original chamber, Tim fumbled nervously with his backpack, now racing against the clock. Unfortunately, the plastic Ziploc bags so essential for collecting parchment fragments were tucked near the bottom of his pack. In the tight confinement, it was necessary to empty all his equipment on top of ancient documents, risking damage to them. To make matters worse, a rubber band holding together a wad of the transparent bags popped, scattering many over the ground. At least a full minute was lost gathering them. A temptation to interrupt the collection and read some of the text tormented him. It was possible he had stumbled onto a great discovery, but how would he know until at least some of these fragments had been deciphered? He was sure they were of historic value, for why else would ancient people go to the trouble of storing them in this remote, nearly

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inaccessible place. Almost everything taken from previous Dead Sea caves had proven to be of historical significance, shedding light on the lives of recluses at the dawning of the modern age. Why not the documents in his hands? "Collect, collect," he urged himself, driving his fingers relentlessly into compliance. "Don’t read. Don't even glance at the words. Just get this stuff up!" It was necessary to remind himself that he was handling precious treasures, not mere scraps of paper. His plan was to place small clusters of parchment in separate Ziplocs, squeeze out the surrounding air to prevent deterioration, then seal the tops. But in fact, he was stuffing bunches of fragments into the containers with abandonment, almost as if they were carrot or celery sticks packaged for a Sunday picnic. Simultaneously, he found himself cursing Father Benoit for setting an arbitrary time limit and wondering if he had surrendered to the priest's judgment too easily. But even if he had, he lacked confidence in his own ability to escape through the mountains without the priest's experience in the desert. His breathing seemed to echo the metronomic clicks of the second hand on his wristwatch. If only there was more time, these fragments might be displayed beside the revered Dead Sea scrolls in Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book. Written words in his fingers collapsed time, binding him with a distant generation. In that moment, he imagined that, through these ancient documents, he was actually conversing with his forefathers over the expanse of millennia. Yet this sensation morphed quickly into a darker vision in which the delicate thread linking the past and present shattered. When he dared glance at his watch, he was tardy by seven minutes. Had the Dominican father already made his way to the cave entrance without him? Tim started to squeeze backwards through the tunnel, but as his head turned, he noticed in the beam of his lamp a tab of parchment stuffed between cracks in the inner wall. This new discovery caused him to hesitate. More time would be lost retrieving it, but then he was already overdue. To snatch it, he was forced to reverse directions and crawl forward. When he inserted his fingers into the crevice, he experienced a familiar sensation of dried animal skin, but this was different from fragments on the ground. The parchment felt as if rolled into a scroll, the holy grail of Dead Sea discovery! In the course of millennia, the organic composition of the material had evidently expanded like mortar between bricks, making extraction nearly impossible without damaging

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the very thing he wanted to preserve. A prayer for dexterous fingers slipped from his lips as he attempted to pry the document free. When the scroll refused to budge, he decided to manipulate it to a new location where the groove appeared larger. At that moment, he heard Father Benoit thundering behind him, his words garbled by the echo in the confining conduits. "Give me another minute," he yelled back in the loudest voice he could muster, having little faith the Dominican would understand. The scroll seemed determined not to move. Each new degree of pressure Tim applied threatened either to collapse the precious document or damage whatever was written inside. He nevertheless applied additional force, pushing hard with his index finger and thumb. A responsible archeologist would leave the document in place and return with proper tools and adequate time for careful removal. For an instant, Tim considered choosing this path and abandoning this treasure for another scholar to retrieve. Still, a deeper, more determined voice commanded him to ignore his scruples and persevere. He pressured the parchment still harder, nudging it first in one direction then another until finally it eased higher. Slowly, the precious scroll moved upward some fifteen centimeters to an expanse in the crevice. In that position, extraction was possible, though it required another full minute. Smaller than he had originally thought, the scroll was darker than the other fragments. A quick scan told him it was not in Hebrew or the lingua-franca of the time, Aramaic, but in the Greek language of the educated aristocracy. Finding it too large for one of his Ziploc bags, he improvised by wrapping it in the cloth he had brought to clean his glasses. Far from a hightech solution, but it would have to do. Crawling backward to the rendezvous junction, Tim wondered why, after being told about these fragments, Father Benoit had not wanted to assist in their collection. He asked himself if perhaps the priest had discovered artifacts still more valuable, perhaps something from the unopened ossuary? Or another scroll? It was sixteen minutes past the deadline when Tim arrived at the rendezvous juncture, not surprised to find himself alone. He scrambled still faster on his knees, dragging his backpack behind him on a tethered line. The umbilical cord had a tendency to tangle, forcing him to stop frequently to free it.

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When Tim finally caught up with Benoit, just shy of the cave's entrance, the Dominican father was bowed on his knees, halted by a choking cough. At first, Tim thought his lungs had succumbed to the ubiquitous dust. But a moment later, this suspicion was abandoned in favor of a more palpable cause. It was not dust that stopped Benoit. The tight air was impregnated with thick a smoke, snaking through earthen conduits from outside. Benoit hacked away as he spoke through a cloth protecting his nose and mouth. "I... I was afraid of something like... this." "What's burning?" Tim asked, now joined with him in the coughing. "Oil... a Bedouin trick. Why enter... a cave... when you can light a fire at the entrance and smoke us out?" Tim crouched alongside Benoit and breathed through his sleeve. "The treasures here will be damaged irreparably. How can civilized people do this?" Benoit snapped in a voice conveying his authority on the local Arab culture, "What's here is... Judeo-Christian history, not… Bedouin history. These people live only for today and tomorrow. They have no interest in their own past; why should they give a shit about ours?" Tim felt his lungs woefully short of air as he sputtered, "Let's signal the Israeli drone." "Let's not. Jews would love to crucify me on the Via Dolorosa. And humiliate the Holy Father in Rome." "You didn't wait for me back there," Tim said, revealing an anger that had disturbed him since finding the priest had already fled without him. "If you had... kept to the schedule, we would have made it," Benoit answered. "This is… your mess, not mine." "A few minutes wouldn't have made any difference. I've got fantastic fragments." Benoit's coughing increased, breaking up his words, "Time… to choose whether we want to get barbequed here... or shot outside." Tim considered Benoit's prospects, but somehow they didn't seem to cover all the alternatives. He stretched himself prone along the ground, staying as low as possible under smoke wafting overhead. Despite hacking, he managed to keep his words together. "…The Bedouin guard escaped through a hole somewhere. We... must find it." Benoit said nothing while hauling himself to his knees.

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Tim continued, "We didn't notice the vent before... so it must have been in one of the conduits… over to the left. Smoke will... exit through it like a chimney. Let's follow the current above us." Benoit seemed to agree, for he led in the direction Tim suggested. Their path weaved in a semi-circle until the tunnel forked into two channels. The men rolled on their backs to observe how smoke seemed to move equally in both directions, forcing them to split up once again. At least one might manage to get out. Tim discovered the vent only minutes later, but it appeared too small for the stout Dominican. As soon as Benoit rejoined him, he spied the small aperture chiseled in the roof of the tunnel and said, "Bedouin are... rodents. They can squeeze through fissures of any size." "Then we must become rodents too," Tim replied, pulling a collapsible spade from his backpack. "Empty your pockets into the packs. I'm leaving the carbine behind, but take your Uzi. Be sure to bring all the water. If we get out of here, we're going to need it. As I climb, I'll enlarge the passage for you." "Go without me... Timothy." "We came here together and we'll leave... together." "An ignoble end for a fat priest who loves his food," Benoit murmured. "...Before you start climbing, take a deep breath. Smoke will funnel through the aperture, making breathing impossible. Et mon reverend," he paused to catch his companion's arm, "Grace a Dieu." "Right," Tim said as he reached up to pull himself into the opening, "let's pray the Good Father shows compassion for His servant thieves."

Both clerics were nauseous, dehydrated, and caked with a mix of smoke embers and dirt when they saw daylight ahead. Fearful of Bedouin warriors waiting for them, Tim cautiously hauled himself into the daylight to survey the terrain. His body remained low to the ground, his camouflage tunic blending into the surrounding rocks. He had just managed to pry Father Benoit free from the last impediment when the buzz of an Israeli drone forced him to shove the priest back into the hole. "From the frying pan into the fire," he said before covering the aperture with his camouflaged shirt. The top of Benoit's head poked into his stomach.

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The drone appeared to circle Bedouin tents in the valley below, tents Father Benoit had correctly predicted their owners would pitch to conceal their intentions. A moment of relief came when the aircraft eventually veered in a northerly direction. But their relief passed immediately. In the wake of the drone's receding engine, they now heard voices calling in desert Arabic, announcing how Bedouin warriors were scrambling among surrounding rocks. Without standing, it was impossible for Tim to know how close the pursuers were. He whispered their predicament to Benoit, lamenting that he had abandoned his carbine inside the cave, but then he knew it would be foolish to shoot it out with an enemy he couldn't see. Benoit warned that Bedouin eyes were superior to their noses and were keenly sensitive to movement of any kind. Even the motion of replenishing one's lungs with air and expelling it might reveal their presence. Tim heard a boot plow into stones no more than ten meters away, sending a stream of pebbles rolling down the hillside. More boots pounded the rocks nearby, as Bedouin seemed to be tightening a circle around them. Tim held his breath. Sooner or later, shooting was inevitable. The bullets he expected didn't come, at least not until the voices had begun to recede. Then suddenly, two rifle shots erupted, then echoed among the rocks some hundred meters below. Perhaps aimed at a jackal or rodent. The sun seemed to penetrate Tim's shirt and sear his flesh. Thirst racked their dry throats. But even sipping from their water bottles was risky when they were uncertain where the Bedouin were. Both men understood that it would be a long, miserable day before it was safe to move after dark.

As the sun sank in the west, twilight lingered interminably and when they first dared to stir, their muscles ached, making standing an ordeal. Starlight was uncomfortably bright, but there was no moon. Father Benoit discouraged searching for the rappelling lines he knew the Bedouin would remove, if for no other reason than to use the valuable cord in their camp. This forced them to descend along a circuitous route into the valley, making a wide detour around the Bedouin tents, then moving west and working their way back to Tim’s Hyundai SUV, hidden under camouflage netting in the ruts of a dry wadi. If they were lucky, the Israeli operator monitoring the drone overhead would be looking in another direction or perhaps mistake their movement for a feral goat, ibex, or a rare leopard.

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By the time Tim and Benoit reached the valley floor, there was little doubt that they had been spotted. The drone not only flew in their direction, but circled above, ominously drawing smaller circles like a hawk targeting its prey. Even with the cover of night, they could not traverse enough ground to retrieve the SUV before dawn. This unwelcome development required another change of plans: ten more hours hiding during the day and moving only after dark. They were exhausted, ravaged by thirst, encrusted in dirt, and suffering from pain in their joints, but their spirits soared with achievement.

Once back in the SUV, Tim drove Father Benoit to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George near Jericho, where Benoit sometimes retreated for meditation and prayer. The Dominican priest then planned to drive Tim's vehicle to Bethlehem and hide it on property abandoned by Christian Palestinians who, six months before, had fled from sectarian violence in their neighborhood to join relatives in Northern California. "I'll need a computer and some heavy-duty digital equipment," Tim told Benoit while driving to the monastery. "With the right machines I can get started scanning and coding these fragments. The sooner I begin, the sooner we’ll know what we’ve found." "Make a list for the abbot at St George’s, Father Nicholas Afanasieff. I’ll see that everything you need is sent as soon as possible." "What if I must contact you?" asked Tim. "Don't," the Dominican answered in an uncompromising tone that precluded further discussion. "As soon as the Israelis learn a cave's been fleeced, they'll come looking for me. Hopefully, without photos from the drone that's been dogging us. Stay under the radar, mon ami. When you've got this stuff in digital format, I'll come to you."

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JERUSALEM

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Not more than a meter and a half tall, Dr. Shimshon haLevi, an army surgeon in a commando regiment before joining the police force as a forensic pathologist, stood on a 30-centimeter footstool, working over a corpse in Jerusalem's police morgue. He would have skipped the removal of skin from the skull of his cadaver had it not been for a desire to impress the border-police officer beside him, Rav-seren “Major“ Zvi Zabronski. "Feeling all right?" the pathologist asked without removing his eyes from the body. "Let's put it this way," answered Zabronski as he rocked back on his heels to combat mounting nausea in his stomach, "I wouldn't want to be eating lunch now." "If you feel sick, step away. Me? I got used to this sort of thing. The boys I worked on in the army were a mess, if they were lucky enough to stay alive." "I'll make it," said Zabronski, his balding head shining in the Halogen spot-light as he tested his resolve by forcing himself to bend far over the corpse. "The report says that Bedouins brought this fellow to Jericho last night. When one kinsman kills another, they don't come to the police. I can tell you right now, Doctor, this guy wasn't killed by another Bedouin." "So why did they bring him?" the pathologist asked, while glancing to Zabronski, his enlarged owlish eyes blinking through perfectly round spectacles. "They think he was killed by an outsider and they want us to find out who. Notice anything unusual?" "Not much of his face to work with. You can see how jackals gnawed at his facial muscles where I found a bullet lodged in the jawbone. Bedouin youth, in his late teens. Exposed to the elements for two days, I'd say." Major Zabronski studied the exposed portion of the skull where the pathologist was poking a stainless steel scalpel. "The intake officer wrote that vultures led his tribesmen to find him. Any ballistics on the bullet yet?" "Absolutely. You're not going to like this, major. The slug was 9-mm, probably from an Uzi." "No, I don't like that at all," Zabronski answered. "Thank God we're not the only bad guys using Uzis these days. Cause of death?" "People don't usually die from a single bullet, especially if it hasn't entered a vital organ like the jaw. But they can go into shock and bleed to death."

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"You're certain he's Bedouin?" "His neck was wrapped with a white kafia. The braided 'agal is definitely Negev Bedouin. Look at the color of his skin. Alabaster white. Desert people never expose their torsos to direct sunlight. And his teeth are badly decayed for a young man. That means he had little contact with modern dentistry. When I finish my report, what should we do with the body?" Zabronski angled away from the table, saying, "My orders are to return it to his tribesmen. I can tell you, Doctor, I'm not looking forward to this. I must make an official condolence call. And there's nothing worse than sitting in a stuffy mag'ad accepting the hospitality of a Bedouin sheik. We all know they hate our guts, but their culture requires them to be hospitable and feed all visitors, including Jews, who they particularly despise. And for my part, I can't stand roasted sheep testicles and their syrupy coffee. The delivery of a body that should take a few minutes will take the better part of a day." "Will they help you find the killer?" "To an extent, but when we do, they won't want us to punish him. Bedouin have their own brand of vengeance. The minute I return this corpse, I'm setting into motion another killing. Who's exactly? That's never clear because it's not necessarily the original killer. And these days, their young stallions study in the universities and pass themselves off as city Arabs. Revenge can have a long-reach, far from the desert." "Can't you do anything to stop this?" "Not unless the government is willing to endure a Bedouin rebellion. These are proud people who know only one brand of justice—their own." "So you'll go slow tracking down the killer." The doctor flashed a conspiratorial smile in Zabronski's direction. The policeman started to reply but stopped himself, thinking it unwise to disclose his department's not-so-pretty law-enforcement practices in the Occupied Territory.

From the morgue, Zabronski made a second official visit. Galya Bar Jehoshua, with the insignia of a colonel in the Israel Defense Force on her shoulders, met him in her Jerusalem office with a handshake as strong as his. The police officer noted her tiny, but somewhat heavy, figure, immediately accrediting her success in the IDF to brains rather than

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brawn. She dropped back into her chair and motioned for him to take a seat opposite her, removing a pair of reading glasses she had perched on her forehead. A young female enlistee brought coffee in fired clay mugs. Bar Jehoshua's uniform was pressed and starched. Though she outranked Zabronski, she conveyed a feminine softness as she steered the conversation to a report balanced in her hands as if she were testing it upon the scales of justice. "A lot going on out in the desert these days," she said, observing Zabronski. "I want to ask you about this dead Bedouin. Don't these people usually bury their dead quickly?" "Usually," Zabronski answered. "This fellow was probably a shepherd working some distance from his tribal encampment. My pathologist thinks he bled to death hours after being shot." Bar Jehoshua dropped the file to her desk and leaned forward before saying, "That's why I asked you to come here. The army and police don't always cooperate the way they should, but on this matter I'd like you to be in the loop. We think there's more to this than a simple murder. One of our photo analysts working on drone flyovers discovered a suspicious car in the Qumran area three days before this Bedouin youth was brought in. When we studied photos from the previous days, we found it was a Hyundai SUV hidden under camouflage netting. Unfortunately, by the time we realized what we were dealing with, it was gone. What does that suggest?" "Terrorists don't park their vehicles in the same place on consecutive nights. They like to move them around to confuse us. Perhaps the Hyundai belonged to an amateur archeologist scrounging around Qumran to get rich." "Possible," Bar Jehoshua said, “but I suspected terrorists, so I sent out a team with mountain climbing experience. My boys struck gold on the second day. An unexplored cave, only a half kilometer from where this victim was found." "I haven't read anything about a new cave at Qumran," Zabronski's voice betrayed his surprise. "And you won't. One word about this in the press and the desert will be swarming with treasure hunters. On their heels will follow legions of lawyers telling the IDF what it can do and what it can't. As soon as Orthodox members of the Cabinet learn about a new cave with

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archeological implications, they'll throw up barriers to all investigation. Then the prime minister's office will start issuing instructions to me." Like so many people who worked in the region, Zabronski was an amateur archeologist. "Nu? What's with this cave?" "Itamar Arad's people from the Antiquities Authority are working there as we speak. They're even more interested in keeping this secret than the army." "Any scrolls?" Zabronski pressed on with more than casual interest. "You know I can't answer that. What I can say is there was a tarpaulin camouflaging the entrance. And remains of a recent oil fire, so we know others were there before us. We discovered a hole in the tarp from a small-caliber bullet. We also found two slugs from an AK-47 and three from a 9-mm weapon embedded in the chalk wall. There might be a connection with your Bedouin." "Not my Bedouin, Galya. It's my job to investigate and I will, but I can tell you right now that I've got better things to do. These people don't enjoy us messing around in their business. Once I solved a homosexual murder in one of their camps. The tribe got hold of an Israeli lawyer and lodged a complaint with my superior officer. I was suspended for six months. I'm telling you, we're better off without this. These people don't need our help, thank you." "Have you no shame, Zvi?" she joked with an artificial grin. "Should it matter whether the victim is a Bedouin or a Jew? Isn't it our duty to bring all murderers to justice?" "Tell that to our Palestinian neighbors. And if I find the killer, will Arabs thank us for it?" "Perhaps not, but I'd like you to consider a link between the Qumran cave and your victim." "I will," he said and stood up to leave, thinking to himself that he had made no promise other than to roll the matter around in his mind. As far as he was concerned, the sooner he was finished with this case, the better.

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