Shamron nodded in agreement. Well, at least theres something to be said for consistency.
DOES THE NAME Ali Massoudi mean anything to you?
Hes professor of something or other at a university in Germany, Gabriel replied. Likes to play the role of an iconoclast and a reformer. I actually met him once.
Shamrons eyebrows went up in surprise. Really? Where?
He came to Venice a couple of years ago for a big Middle East symposium. As part of their stipend the participants got a guided tour of the city. One of their stops was the Church of San Zaccaria, where I was restoring the Bellini altarpiece.
For several years Gabriel had lived and worked in Venice under the name Mario Delvecchio. Six months earlier he had been forced to flee the city after being discovered there by a Palestinian masterterrorist named Khaled al-Khalifa. The affair had ended at the Gare de Lyon, and in the aftermath Gabriels name and secret past had been splashed across the French and European press, including an exposé in The Sunday Times that referred to him as Israels Angel of Death. He was still wanted for questioning by the Paris police, and a Palestinian civil rights group had filed a lawsuit in London alleging war crimes.
And you actually met Massoudi? Shamron asked incredulously. You shook his hand?
As Mario Delvecchio, of course.
I suppose you didnt realize that you were shaking hands with a terrorist.
Shamron stuck the end of the cigarette between his lips and struck his Zippo. This time Gabriel didnt intervene.
Three months ago we got a tip from a friend at the Jordanian GID that Professor Ali Massoudi, that great moderate and reformer, was actually a talent scout for al-Qaeda. According to the Jordanians, he was looking for recruits to attack Israeli and Jewish targets in Europe. Peace conferences and anti-Israel demonstrations were his favorite hunting grounds. We werent surprised by that part. Weve known for some time that the peace conferences have become a meeting place for al-Qaeda operatives and European extremists of both the left-wing and right-wing variety. We decided it would be wise to put Professor Massoudi under watch. We got to the telephone in his apartment in Bremen, but the yield was disappointing, to put it mildly. He was very good on the phone. Then about a month ago, London Station chipped in with a timely piece of information. It seems the Cultural section of the London embassy had been asked to provide a warm body for something called the Policy Forum for Peace and Security in Palestine, Iraq, and Beyond. When Cultural asked for a list of the other participants, guess whose name appeared on it?
Professor Ali Massoudi.
Cultural agreed to send a representative to the conference, and Special Ops set its sights on Massoudi.
What kind of operation was it?
Simple, Shamron said. Catch him in the act. Compromise him. Threaten him. Turn him around. Can you imagine? An agent inside the al-Qaeda personnel department? With Massoudis help we could have rolled up their European networks.
So what happened?
We put a girl on his plate. She called herself Hamida al-Tatari. Her real name is Aviva and shes from Ramat Gan, but thats neither here nor there. She met Massoudi at a reception. Massoudi was intrigued and agreed to meet her again later that evening for a more lengthy discussion of the current state of the world. We followed Massoudi after the last session of the conference, but Massoudi apparently spotted the watcher and started to run. He looked the wrong way while crossing the Euston Road and stepped in front of a delivery truck.
Excerpted from The Messenger, Copyright © 2006 Danile Silva. Reproduced with permission of the publishers, Penguin Putnam. Reproduction prohibited. All rights reserved.
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