Serpent of Moses - By Don Hoesel


The jeep slowed and pulled off the highway, the suspension struggling to settle the vehicle onto the narrower road that wound a barely discernible path through the hills. The night-vision binoculars in the hands of the Libyan rendered the details of the jeep with perfect clarity despite the fact that it was running with lights out. The absence of headlights suggested the man driving—the only one of the group Boufayed’s team had not been able to identify—was a local who knew the terrain surrounding Tripoli well enough to navigate in the dark.

The Libyan watched as the jeep worked its way up a steep hill and then as it disappeared over the edge. Only then did he lower the binoculars and bring a phone to his ear. He said a single word before turning his eyes back down the highway, waiting for the dark SUV that had trailed the jeep from afar. It took almost half a minute before the truck came into sight and, on reaching the turnoff, pulled onto the dirt road and made the same climb as the vehicle that had preceded it. When it too disappeared, Boufayed again raised the phone.

“They are no good to us dead. Remember that,” he said to the man who answered, a man who acknowledged the directive and communicated it to the others with him.

As Boufayed ended the call he looked up into the evening sky, searching for any sign of the helicopter, but he could not find it nor hear any sound of its presence.

After he slipped the phone into a pocket he remained at the top of the ridge for another moment, regarding the spot where he had lost sight of the jeep, before turning away and walking down to the waiting car. He slipped into the back of the dark sedan, and the driver started off as soon as the door was closed.

“Do we have any information on the driver yet?” Boufayed asked.

“It just came in,” the other man said. “He is a local courier. No apparent foreign connections.” The man looked up and caught Boufayed’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “It is doubtful he knows anything about his passengers.”

Boufayed grunted. “Which means he will be dead as soon as he has taken them where they want to go.”

The driver did not answer but returned his eyes to the road, leaving Boufayed to again ponder the presence of the Mossad so near the capital. He thought the Israelis had been foolish to try to send them in by plane—even a small one. They had been spotted before they were ten miles past the border. It spoke of sloppiness and Boufayed was not accustomed to such from the Israelis. Nor was he used to foreign agents ferrying lettered German historians into the country.

When the car reached the highway the driver pulled onto it and aimed for the same road down which their quarry and the tail had disappeared. Boufayed looked at his watch and saw that the current time was within the acceptable engagement window, which meant that things would likely be concluded by the time he arrived.

It took the driver some time to force the sedan onto a road not meant for a vehicle of its type, but soon it was bouncing up the hill, Boufayed bracing himself with a hand on the roof in order to keep from leaving his seat. When they reached the top of the hill, all the Libyan could see was sky until the car shifted to level and then into a decline. And what Boufayed saw with that change in perspective brought a vehement curse uttered quietly enough that it was doubtful the driver heard it pass his lips.

The helicopter he had not been able to spot from the ridge was on the ground, its rotors still spinning. It had come down in the jeep’s path, and the SUV had pulled in behind, pinning the Israelis and their passenger between two groups of heavily armed men. Boufayed saw the problem immediately: the helicopter had landed too close. The lack of a buffer zone did all but ensure a fight.

By the time the driver had brought the sedan to a stop within yards of the SUV, the firefight was in full force. Boufayed exited the car in time to see one of the men in the jeep slump forward. It was the driver, who likely only realized that his passengers were anything other than his standard low-profile fares when a military helicopter landed on the