He spent a few moments cleaning his palette and brushes, then went into the
kitchen. Shamron sat down at the small table and waited for Gabriel to turn his
back before hurriedly lighting one of his foul-smelling Turkish cigarettes.
Gabriel, hearing the familiar click-click of Shamrons old Zippo lighter,
pointed toward the Rubens in exasperation, but Shamron made a dismissive gesture
and defiantly raised the cigarette to his lips. A comfortable silence settled
between them while Gabriel poured bottled water into the teakettle and spooned
coffee into the French press. Shamron was content to listen to the wind moving
in the eucalyptus trees outside in the garden. Devoutly secular, he marked the
passage of time not by the Jewish festivals but by the rhythms of the landthe
day the rains came, the day the wildflowers exploded in the Galilee, the day the
cool winds returned. Gabriel could read his thoughts. Another autumn, and were
still here. The covenant had not been revoked.
The prime minister wants an answer. Shamrons gaze still was focused on the
tangled little garden. Hes a patient man, but he wont wait forever.
I told you that Id give him an answer when I was finished with the
Shamron looked at Gabriel. Does your arrogance know no bounds? The prime
minister of the State of Israel wants you to be chief of Special Operations, and
you put him off over some five-hundred year-old piece of canvas.
Gabriel carried the coffee to the table and poured two cups. Shamron scooped
sugar into his and gave it a single violent stir.
You said yourself the painting is nearly finished. What is your answer going
I havent decided.
May I offer you a piece of helpful advice?
And if I dont want your advice?
Id give it to you anyway. Shamron squeezed the life out of his cigarette
butt. You should accept the prime ministers offer before he makes it to
Nothing would make me happier.
Really? And what will you do with yourself? Greeted by silence, Shamron
pressed on. Allow me to paint a picture for you, Gabriel. Ill do the best I
can. Im not gifted like you. I dont come from a great German-Jewish
intellectual family. Im just a poor Polish Jew whose father sold pots from the
back of a handcart.
Shamrons murderous Polish accent had grown thicker. Gabriel couldnt help
but smile. He knew that whenever Shamron played the downtrodden Jew from Lvov,
something entertaining was certain to follow.
You have nowhere else to go, Gabriel. You said it yourself when we offered
you the job the first time. What will you do when youre finished with this
Rubens of yours? Do you have any more work lined up? Shamrons pause was
theatrical in nature, for he knew the answer was no. You cant go back to
Europe until youre officially cleared in the bombing of the Gare de Lyon.
Julian might send you another painting, but eventually that will end, too,
because the packing and shipping costs will cut into his already tenuous bottom
line. Do you see my point, Gabriel?
I see it very clearly. Youre trying to use my unfortunate situation as a
means of blackmailing me into taking Operations.
Blackmail? No, Gabriel. I know the meaning of blackmail, and God knows Ive
been known to use it when it suits my needs. But this is not blackmail. Im
trying to help you.
Tell me something, Gabriel: What do you plan to do for money?
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