Chapter 24 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

Chapter 24, in which Brinker's inquiry claims its first victim. Comments are welcome.

Chapter 24

Buchwald accomplished his mission for the day. He delivered Brinker to his dinner appointment. And now Chet Brinker, Efraim Moscowitz and Seth Buchwald dine in an upscale restaurant on the bottom floor of the Haifa Suites. The three men sit at a window table that would provide a view of the pitch-black beach were it not for the reflection off the windows of the restaurant’s lighted interior. Although the hour is late by American standards, the restaurant is full and noisy.

Brinker finishes the last piece of his New York steak, places his fork and knife on his plate, wipes his mouth with his white linen napkin, and addresses his Shin Bet friend.

“So, Efraim, no more small talk. What did you find?”

“Before I tell you, I have one more item of business to clear. Where did you get the weapon you pulled on Seth?”

“Your black market. It takes about as long to get a weapon in this town as it does to score a bag of heroin in Hollywood.”

“I should make you surrender it.”

“You could try, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“Forget it. I see you worked on your cover on the beach.”

“Overdid it a tad. Look, do you have anything for me, or am I buying three overpriced dinners for nothing other than the delightful company?”

“I wrote it down for you.”

“No way I can see the microfiche for myself?”

“Not on your own. You get something from your boss, I can get you in.”

“That’s not gonna to happen. Not on this round.”

“I guess you’ll have to trust me.”

Brinker turns to Buchwald.

“Should I?”

Buchwald takes a sip of his mineral water before answering.

“Absolutely not!”

The three men share a laugh, after which Brinker returns to the matter at hand.

“You must have found something, or you wouldn’t have bothered to write it down, right?”

“Right. I did in fact. One name fits your parameters better than any others.”

Moscowitz pulls a piece of folded paper out of his shirt pocket and hands it to Brinker who unfolds it and reads it.

As Brinker reads, Moscowitz goes over what he found.

“He entered June 29, 1924, and left July 2, 1924. He went through the same border control point both times. He clearly wasn’t a trained spy. Too sloppy.”

“A Russian?” Brinker asks.

            Moscowitz smiles.

“Better.”

“I’ll bite. Better how?”

“There was a notation in the ledger identifying your man as a Russian Orthodox Priest.”

Brinker immediately sees the significance of the find.

“If that’s true, then Moscow might have an old KGB file on him.”

“Exactly my thought. Your chances of actually finding out who this man was just went way up.”

“Any connection to our FSB friend tagging along a little earlier?” Buchwald interjects.

“It can’t be a coincidence,” Moscowitz responds.

“Christ!” is Brinker’s terse response.

“What’s that, my friend?”

“And if that’s true, it means someone at CIA tipped off Moscow about what I’m doing.”

“I’d say you’re lucky.”

“How so? ‘Cause it doesn’t feel like I’m lucky.”

“It confirms that your Russian Orthodox Priest, your thief, is worth chasing,” Moscowitz explains.

“And since he’s dead, what he stole must be valuable enough to cause someone to commit treason. I knew it!”

Buchwald suddenly slumps face forward in his chair, smashing his plate with his face, a bullet hole in the back of his head. Brinker and Moscowitz immediately duck below the table and tip it on its side for cover sending the plates, glasses, cutlery, and Buchwald crashing to the floor. The crowd screams. Nearly inaudible muzzle flashes from the restaurant’s entrance give away the source of the shot. Bullets rip into the thick, wooden tabletop, but do not penetrate it. Brinker and Moscowitz return fire.

“Give me some cover. I’ll go after him,” Brinker shouts over the growing chaos.

“Not a chance. You need to get out of here. We can’t have dead Americans littering our hotels.”

More shots slam into the table as the restaurant’s customers panic. Brinker waits for a brief lull in the firing, ignores Moscowitz, stands up, and heads for the gunman, firing as he goes.

“God damn it!” Moscowitz realizes his only choice, and maybe Brinker’s only chance, is if he follows and provides cover. He stands up and fires in the gunman’s direction. The gunman turns and flees the restaurant, turning to fire as he runs for the beach with Brinker and Moscowitz in pursuit.

The gunman leaps over a low, stone wall separating a sidewalk along the outside of the restaurant from the sandy beach. He sprints towards two men armed with Uzis who crouch in front of an inflatable launch beached at the high tide line. They fire automatic bursts at Brinker and Moscowitz who dive for cover behind the wall. Rounds slam into the top of the wall from the Uzis keeping Brinker and Moscowitz pinned down.

The restaurant gunman and one of his armed assailants push the launch into the surf as the third man continues to fire towards the wall. Once the launch is in deep enough water, the gunman starts its outboard engine. The third man ceases fire, runs into the surf, and jumps into the launch while the other Uzi gunman, already in the launch, continues to pour suppressing fire at Brinker and Moscowitz. Once the third man is in the launch, it quickly turns and speeds away out to sea.

Brinker and Moscowitz jump up from their covered position and head for the water. By the time they reach the water’s edge, the launch and the three assassins are out of range. Moscowitz holsters his weapon. Brinker returns his to his waistband.

“Glad you didn’t confiscate my weapon?”

“I didn’t know it would turn into such a lovely evening.”

“You’d better check on Buchwald.”

“No need. He was dead when his face hit the table. You’d better get the hell out of here, my friend. I have a feeling that bullet was meant for you.”

“I’m on the next flight to Moscow. I’ve still got a contact there.”

“I’ve got a friend at Moscow FSB, a fellow named Gregori Druzhnikov. I’ll let him know you’re coming. Call him if you get into trouble.”

“Thanks. Someone back at Langley wants me dead, and I think I know who it is.”

The two men walk slowly back to what was moments ago a public shooting gallery. Sirens pierce the night air as first responders rush to the scene to pick up the pieces.