And A Child is Born - 19. Three Men From The East
“Hey, big guy, we need to have a meeting.”
“Okay, little guy.”
They both laughed.
“Seriously, Ayal, what now? Ayal hesitated and said that it involved Erick and Todd and there would be dinner. Yonatan was perplexed because he had hoped that after his apologies at the very expensive dinner at the Williamsburg Inn, that everything was okay. Not great, but okay. Yonatan wondered why Ayal was coordinating the meeting and why his lawyer needed to be present? To further complicate matters, the dinner was being held in the conference room at the law firm. Yonatan asked Matan if Erick had mentioned anything about having dinner together. He said he hadn’t, but recently even Erick had started acting strangely, and he didn’t know why.
Yonatan tried not to worry about the dinner because he and Matan were enjoying their lives for the first time in months. Yonatan focused on his partner, then their children, and finally schoolwork. He knew it would be a long slog to get through the spring semester, so he hunkered down and stopped worrying about what he couldn’t control and focused on happiness. That was a challenge to him as he was such a control freak. Even Matan mentioned how he was smiling so much more than in the past few months.
Matan enjoyed being the recipient of the laser-like focus during their private time together. He didn’t understand the change in his partner but was absolutely thrilled with the end results. Yonatan was playful and attentive. He was a sex machine with high maintenance needs. The household thrived. Ossie and Juju were growing at an incredible rate which Yonatan attributed to Jan’s attention. Jan’s grandmother was also a huge contributor as she spent 2-3 nights a week at the house taking care of the babies.
Black was always nearby but was generally unobtrusive. Green was always in the background and became even more of an enigma to Yonatan. Black passed it off as Green being a weird guy.
Nash had started walking. He was diligent in his therapy which was a carry-over from the discipline of his sports training. After the Prom, Nash blossomed and started joking and teasing everyone about his dance moves in a wheelchair. Griff became a family member and no longer felt like he and Nash were intruding. He made Yonatan and Matan promise to spend a couple of weeks in England that summer.
“We will visit castles with me as your tour guide. The house in London is big enough for you, the babies, Jan, and your Secret Service team. We can also stay in the castle outside Bakewell. Plus, we have to visit King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola. He is having some health issues, and every time I speak with mum, I am reminded that I need to visit them. Plus, cousin Fabby wants to see the babies.”
Yonatan still thought it incredible that Griff would be on such intimate terms with royalty. He would always hedge when asked about his exact relationship with people. He would become a self-effacing bumbler about his relations when pressed and start using a west country accent instead of speaking in his usual received pronunciation. His antics induced laughter and put everyone at ease, plus his dry sense of humor, which was like a heat-seeking missile when deployed. Yonatan and Matan were so happy when he would arrive on Friday afternoons. There was an ease and graciousness when they were all together.
Yonatan knew that so much had changed over the past two years, and yet it felt like Matan had always been in his life. He then realized that he hadn’t come alive until Matan seduced him. Prior to that, he had been a country boy who was lost and moving through life without purpose or goals. He felt like he was born the day at Camp Falls when he held Matan in the water. He still remembered their first night together. When thinking about Matan, he would unknowingly rub his forearm where he had been bitten and then lick his lips, thinking of them being blood brothers.
And now, Ayal said they needed to meet with Todd and Erick. Life was too good to be screwed up by hearing of his past misdeeds. Perhaps he really was a fuck-up. He was doing his best, and he felt like he had learned some of life’s hard lessons in the fall, and now he only wanted to focus on the future. If he were Catholic, he would have gone to confession. If he were still Baptist, he would have walked down the aisle on a Sunday morning and asked forgiveness from the preacher. Instead, he was waiting for Yom Kippur when he would atone for all of his misdirected actions this year. He didn’t need to keep a list because he would replay them in his brain in the middle of the night. Matan had told him to forgive himself so he could move on. That had helped, and the weight of those actions felt much lighter. Yet, his failures in life continued to nag at him.
On the Saturday night of the meeting, Black drove Matan and Yonatan to the law offices in downtown Norfolk. The office building was closed, but a security guard met them and said they were expected. Matan had made them wear suits because he didn’t believe this was a casual social gathering. They arrived on the floor of the conference room and were met by the receptionist. The evening was more and more curious. They gave her their topcoats, and she asked that they have a seat.
Ayal came out to get them, and he too was wearing a suit. Matan had correctly assessed the gravity of the dinner. Ayal gave them a grim smile and asked that Black join them in the conference room. Yonatan looked at Black and nodded his head. When they walked into the room, they immediately saw Todd and went up to hug him. He gave Yonatan a man hug which meant that their shoulders touched, but the rest of their bodies were as far apart as possible. Erick reached out to shake Yonatan’s hand. It was clear that he didn’t want to be hugged. Yonatan then noticed that Mr. Cohen was present and three men whom he did not know. He and Matan went over to introduce themselves. Yonatan then looked further down the row of men and saw Green. Yonatan gave him an inquisitive stare, and Green nodded his head in recognition. Why was Green present, and why was he sitting with these men?
At that moment, Ayal said that food was ready. A catering firm had prepared a buffet of Middle Eastern foods. While the food looked good, Yonatan had a sinking feeling in his stomach and chose only to take small portions of a couple of things. He had a sense that he would be heaving before the night was over. Yonatan assumed that Todd and Erick were suing them for the unpleasant encounter at Cameron Farm and that those gentlemen were their attorneys. Why else would they be there on a Saturday night? There was no rational explanation for the presence of the men or even the meeting?
After everyone finished eating and getting cups of coffee and dessert, Ayal thanked everyone for attending. He then pulled out a folder of papers and asked again if everyone had been introduced. Yonatan spoke up and said he met the gentlemen with Mr. Cohen, but he didn’t know who they were or why they were present. Ayal said it would become evident during the meeting. He was as skillful as Monsieur Lambert in keeping information close to his vest.
“I would like to thank everyone for coming to my office on a Saturday night. I know it was a significant inconvenience. We needed a level of confidentiality, and no one would think that a lawyer would hold a meeting on a Saturday evening.” He laughed at his own joke.
There were several chuckles in the room, but not from Yonatan. Matan pulled out the Cobalt Blue Hermes portfolio given to him by Ayal and Zeke on his birthday when they had celebrated in Paris. He then handed Yonatan a black portfolio. Next, Matan handed Yonatan the black-framed glasses that he had worn in Vienna. He was already wearing his. Matan looked at Ayal and nodded his head that he and Yonatan were ready.
“Some information has come to us regarding the attack on Nash Gillette that I need to share. But let me back up and review several key points that led to that attack. We all must understand the gravity and scope of what happened.”
Ayal then, in his matter-of-fact voice, laid out a timeline of events in Williamsburg, Suffolk, and Brussels in the weeks preceding the opening of the art show in Brussels and the attack on Nash. Yonatan knew some of the information, but there were a great many things that he did not know. He was watching Todd and Erick to assess their reactions. Erick’s mouth would flop open when details were revealed. Todd’s face was passive as he took in all that was told until it was disclosed that his anxiety medications had been switched out and he had been taking a strong mind-altering psychotic drug.
“When the drug analyses came back after your hospitalization, we were contacted by the District Attorney’s office about the possibility that you were stealing medications from the hospital where you are training. The drugs in your system did not match the medications you were prescribed. We had agents investigate, and we have just learned that foreign agents were switching out your medications without your knowledge. Ingestion of those drugs would explain your erratic behaviors over those several weeks and months. Todd, you are lucky to be alive.”
Yonatan and Matan gasped as they heard what had happened to their friend.
Ayal then asked one of the three gentlemen, General Dumville, to detail events from his perspective. Yonatan did not know what General Dumville was a general of, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. The General methodically talked through a series of events using military jargon that was barely comprehensible. Yonatan knew not to interrupt and ask questions. Questions and there were lots of them, would come later. The General finished and closed his portfolio.
“Drugging Mr. Emmanuelson-Reynolds and the injuries that Mr. Gillette sustained were viewed as collateral damage to a more devious scheme. We knew certain pieces but didn’t understand the full picture until two weeks ago. Mr. Emmanuelson-Reynolds, drugging you was to fracture the relationship you have with your partner, your brother, and his partner. The goal was for you to incite violence that would cause Dr. Emmanuelson-Reynolds to react violently toward you. The expectation was that if you did not die, you would at least file charges, and Dr. Emmanuelson-Reynolds would end up in prison or worse, and that he would die during a violent confrontation while behind bars. I can say that when you and Mr. Jenner-Ward had a verbal altercation at the farm in Westmoreland County, the agents felt that you were on track to commit the violence they wanted. Mr. Gillette was in the wrong place at the wrong time; Dr. Emmanuelson-Reynolds was the intended victim of that crime.” There was a gasp from both Todd and Erick.
“How do we know that Erick was the intended victim? Why Erick? Why Todd?”
The General looked at Yonatan and smiled ruefully as he told the group that when forces went into the apartment to rescue Mr. Gillette, they left with the perpetrators. He said they took the men to a place where they could elicit the desired information without violating U.S. laws. Even before they got the information from the perps, which was weeks later, the Ambassador to Belgium was notified of a planned attack at the art exhibit’s opening. A plan was put into place for heightened security for the opening of the art exhibit.
“It was no mere coincidence that the Queen was at the opening night of the exhibit. We worked with her staff on rearranging her schedule. We told her it was important for the people of Belgium that she attend. We notified the press of her attendance and encouraged them to write stories about her endorsement of the exhibit. We pulled U.S. troops in from Germany to assist in the protection of your family and the Queen. She was a true professional that night. She knew her life was in danger, but she was willing to give her life to protect the people of Belgium from a violent outbreak of civil unrest and to prevent further anti-Semitism. About the time that your flight landed in Belgium that morning, we disengaged a terrorist cell in The Hague. Unfortunately, all of the terrorist cell members were either shot, or they shot themselves. They had a pact that no one would leave alive if they were discovered to protect the larger mission. We immediately notified the King and the Prime Minister.
There is a movement in Europe to develop a multi-country union that is to be based at The Hague. There are a lot of people who are not happy about the concept of a European Union. People are willing to die to prevent this from happening, and they felt blowing up the museum on the night of a Jewish art exhibit would aid their cause, especially on a Jewish holiday. The terrorists knew the power of optics and knew how to manipulate the press. Remember the fire at the Reichstag in 1933. The terrorist felt that history could repeat itself and this time in favor of Hezbollah causes. Yonatan, you and Matan were being held up as new Zionists with an agenda to fund military actions against Lebanon. The King and Queen were aware of the risks involved but said that the Nazis did not win, and neither would these modern-day terrorists. The King announced that he would be attending the opening also, but the Queen convinced him to stay at the Palace. There was a radio transmitter on the Queen, and His Majesty listened to every conversation she had. The Queen told me later that she attended out of duty, but that when she met the two of you and your children, she was thoroughly enchanted, and that is why she asked you to visit over your winter break. She and King Baudouin could not have children and always felt that loss most acutely over the holidays. Her Majesty sent word through the Ambassador that this was their best holiday in years after your family joined them on Christmas Day.”
Yonatan smiled, remembering the fun-filled day as the King insisted that he would be Sinterklaas and hand out presents. The children immediately took to the King, and he jokingly said he would like to keep them at the Palace and never let them leave. An official photograph was taken that day which had pride of place in Yonatan and Matan’s apartment. Yonatan thought it would be a casual day at the Palace and was going to wear Chinos and a sweater, but Matan insisted they wear tuxedos. The children were dressed in the same outfits they had worn for the opening night at the museum. Matan always knew the right thing to do. The Queen asked Matan about painters and if he could identify an artist who could use the photograph taken that day and translate it onto canvas. Matan and the Queen spent part of the afternoon wandering through the Palace looking at “her pictures” while the children napped. The King had Yonatan talk about school at William and Mary and their plans to move to Brussels after Yonatan’s graduation from law school. The King said he was an old man and probably wouldn’t live long enough to see Yonatan and Matan graduate but wanted his brother Albert, the future King, to meet them. It had been a magical day after the blow-up at Cameron Farm.
Yonatan came back to the present, looked around the table, and asked the needed question. “Why us? We are just two guys who are trying to get through college.”
The General spoke again.
“You are everything that Hezbollah despises. First, you are Jews. Second, you have a lot of money; a lot of money you have publicly said will help Jewish causes in Europe and the U.S. Third, Yonatan, you are seen as a traitor because you converted to Judaism. Matan was born Jewish and couldn’t help his birth circumstance, but the fact that you chose to become Jewish and possibly lead others to convert was seen as anathema. Next, you men are gay. You may be accepted in your circles, but gays are hated as much as Jews in many parts of the world. Finally, the fact that you sired more Jewish children sealed the deal.” Many people see the two of you as devils incarnate. Your pictures were in every major newspaper in Europe after the art opening. Some people crave that level of publicity. It was like you were thumbing your nose at the world. The fact that the Emmanuelson twins partnered with Christian brothers was also seen as proof that you were converting others to Judaism. That is why they are being targeted.”
Todd and Erick looked at Matan and Yonatan. Yonatan felt cold chills running up and down his spine but held it together. He had never felt so manipulated in his life. Yonatan knew that he would have had a pseudo-seizure in the past and worked hard to maintain his consciousness. Matan was lightly rubbing Yonatan’s thigh under the table. He and Matan had practiced the therapy of matching his breathing to Matan’s stroking his thigh. His ragged breath became regular. Black gave Yonatan an inquiring look, and Yonatan smiled, indicating that he was okay. The General continued.
“When we learned of the attack on you in Vienna, we thought it was a random event, but it has turned out to be something much more Machiavellian. There is still a great desire from various nationalistic groups for these terrorists to take you out. Even removing your friends. Still, they have a more important mission – which is to fracture support for the Jewish State of Israel and to destabilize the formation of the European Union so that countries can finish what the Nazis did not: to kill all Jews in the world.”
We sat in silence.
Mr. Cohen spoke for the first time. “We traced the money that your mother was paid for your photographs. The check was from a publisher, but the reporter was part of the terrorist cell, and she had convinced the publisher that she had someone to financially underwrite the story if she was the reporter. The money came out of Iran and was channeled through banks in other countries. We know the source of the money, and we are close to having the evidence in hand to prove it. It will be helpful information, and the administration will use it in future negotiations, but this information will never be public.
Yonatan realized he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world by a long shot, but the underlying premise of what had been presented seemed beyond ridiculous.
“Okay, I have heard all of the information, but so what? Are we really in danger here in Norfolk and Williamsburg? The two attempts on us have been in Europe. What practical steps are we taking because we know this? Do you expect me to believe that Matan and I are the cause of this upheaval?”
“You are not the cause, but your pictures are plastered on the walls of every terrorist cell affiliated with Hezbollah.” Yonatan did not know the second man speaking as he had sat patiently observing throughout the evening. “The fact that they believe that you are a not-so-smart Boy Scout who could be manipulated was seen as the ultimate insult to God. I think you are smart, but the terrorist do not and are concerned that others will follow your lead. They are not Christians, but believe we are in the end times, and they are doing God’s work.”
Yonatan looked at Matan, and he could see that he was overwhelmed.
“Where is Max when I need him?”
All of a sudden, they heard Max’s voice.
“I wondered when you would ask for me, Yonatan.” Max was on a speaker. “I have been present the entire time and want you to know I agree with everything I have heard tonight except the part about you being stupid.” He chuckled.
“Max, don’t do this shit. You should have identified yourself at the beginning of the meeting.”
He sighed and said that he technically should have but wanted to hear Yonatan and Matan’s unadulterated reaction.
“Talk to us, Max.”
Max then laid out what he thought they should do. Yonatan agreed with part of it but disagreed with other parts. They negotiated and refined strategies. There was one issue that was nagging at Yonatan.
“We started the meeting talking about Todd and Erick, and then Nash, and somehow our current discussion has nothing to do with them. I am not leaving tonight until we figure out what we can do to protect them. They are our friends, and I want them to be safe.”
Erick started sniffling and said he owed his life to Nash. He said that he would not have been able to endure the pain that Nash suffered and would have caved and told the terrorists everything. Todd was still too stunned after learning that the terrorist had poisoned him to change his perception of his family and friends.
Matan spoke up and said that Nash had a lot of pride and was emotionally crushed, not by what happened to him, but by how his life had been made extraneous by the college. Before Yonatan could speak, Mr. Cohen interrupted and said that Nash would receive a letter reinstating him to the football team and that a scholarship would be offered.
“We are working on this, so it appears that the football team convinced the coach to reinstate him. Matan, you did a Tikkun Olam the day you took Nash to the dining hall. The reality is that Nash will probably never play college football again, but his team has lifted his case as the rallying cry for restoring fairness and justice to the world.”
Yonatan laughed and asked how much this was costing him. Mr. Cohen glared at Yonatan and said that he was surprised that he was already so jaded.
“I thought better of you than that, Yonatan.”
Yonatan’s mouth gaped as he tried to respond. He attempted to say he was sorry for voicing something like that and said he was only joking, but his words fell flat. Even he didn’t believe what he was trying to say.
The General spoke, “We found a great deal of cash in the apartment where the terrorist cell was operating in Brussels. Somehow all of that money disappeared.” He smiled, “I then discovered a foundation that will underwrite Nash’s medical care and education. I am happy to report that there is money to help this young man. Serendipity. It is a just and fair thing to happen.”
Ayal reviewed the steps being taken to ensure the safety of the Emmanuelson and Jenner families. He asked if there were any additional questions. The third gentleman had listened to everything during the meeting and had not spoken. Yonatan asked if he had anything to add. He replied that all of the cogent facts had been covered, and anything he said would be repetitive. Yonatan took a long look at him. He was very handsome, but there was a nervousness about him that came across as young and charming. Yonatan decided that this was his first high-level meeting which gave him the jitters.
“Then, I only have one. Green, why were you here before we started, and how do you know these men?”
Green looked at Yonatan and then the other people at the table.
“Yonatan, we had an unpleasant initial encounter. I told you that day that I needed one thing from you: when I spoke, you were to listen. You agreed. I have kept you and Matan safe. I also remember me saying that day that the less you knew about me, the safer you would be. I have shown you a side of myself tonight that you didn’t know before. That is all I can say, but understand that I am devoted to you and your family. I am always looking out for your safety. I need for you to believe that.”
There was silence around the table. Yonatan looked at his wristwatch and noticed it was after midnight. He closed his portfolio and realized that he had just scribbled on paper the entire evening. Matan had drawn the faces of the men in the room on a piece of paper in his portfolio. They closed their portfolios and stood. As they were preparing to leave, the General went up to Matan.
“Mr. Jenner-Ward, may I have the page of drawings? It is for your safety that I ask. No one is to know who we are and what we look like.”
Matan opened the portfolio and tore the sheet from the pad, and handed it to the General. Yonatan knew Matan had the images imprinted in his brain and could reproduce the drawing at any time. They were shaking hands with everyone except Todd and Erick. They both received long, lingering hugs. Todd was apologizing and crying as he held onto Yonatan. Ayal excused himself and said he needed to go to his office to retrieve some documents for Yonatan and Matan to take with them.
As Yonatan walked toward the conference room doors, the third gentleman approached him and said it was a pleasure to meet him and Matan. The man was not only incredibly handsome but had a soft lilting accent. Yonatan didn’t usually pay attention to handsome men, but this one caught him in an unguarded moment. He was utterly charming, handsome, and had a sense of vulnerability. Todd, Erick, and Matan were waiting for Yonatan in the foyer, yet he kept talking to the man. Yonatan was enjoying the attention.
“Well, tonight is good, Yonatan. You will no longer have to worry about your safety. You and your children are so fortunate.”
Yonatan gave him a quizzical look and was about to ask him what he meant when he felt a presence behind me. Green whispered in his ear. Yonatan tried not to look startled while he looked at the handsome young gentleman. Yonatan asked to be excused for a minute as he needed to use the Gents. The man smiled and said he looked forward to talking more and that he wanted to take them out for a drink. Yonatan said he would return immediately so they could decide on a place to go. Yonatan tried not to run to the elevator lobby where Matan, Todd, and Erick were waiting. The restrooms were located beside the elevators. Green was behind him and said for them all to go down the fire escape. Yonatan felt Black push him through the safety door. Their daily swimming lessons proved to be beneficial as they ran down the enclosed stairway. Their legs were feeling the burn, but they kept pumping. They lurched when they felt the blast.
“Run, motherfuckers. Run.”
Yonatan had never heard Green use that language before. He wanted to laugh but was too damned scared. They pushed through the fire doors at the ground level and immediately heard the sirens. They looked up and saw that the conference room windows had been blown from the building. There was broken glass everywhere.
Yonatan stood and looked at Green as he pulled out his telephone.
“Pink, it is Green. Fish Pond. I repeat, Fish Pond.”
Yonatan knew those code words. They were escaping to Camp Falls.
Thank you for reading Book 3 of the Yonatan and Matan series. I would be very grateful if you would please leave a review of the book.
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