An excerpt from
The Dubai Betrayal
Seconds after her chartered flight touched down at Dubai International Airport, Christine Needham dashed to the door, anxious for the pilot to give the all clear and to lower the air stairs. She had Dan contact the US Consulate in Dubai while en route, and they would be sending an SUV to pick her up on the tarmac and take her straight to the consulate. She wanted to tell them what she had discovered, but she couldn’t trust a revelation of this magnitude over an unsecured line. They had secure lines at the consulate, and it was there that she would place the call to the president.
The most important phone call of her career.
As ambassador to the most beleaguered and controversial region in the world, Christine was no stranger to feeling the pressure of the world on her shoulders. But this was something else altogether. Even lobbying Sheikh Khalid for his support on the peace summit on the issue of Israel and Palestine didn’t come close. What she had discovered on the memory card was even worse than the accompanying note had portended. This was instantly and irrevocably world-changing.
The most devastating conflict the world had seen in generations was looming. And only she had the key to stopping it.
She had been in high-pressure situations before, when economies hung in the balance, and had come out on top. Still, without her surging adrenaline, she might have had a panic attack. If she were completely honest, she’d have to admit she was terrified for her nation and for her diplomatic charge.
Despite her role as arbiter for the United States across the region, she couldn’t deny that she harbored a particular affinity for Israel. Her maternal grandmother had immigrated to the United States from Nazi-controlled Germany before the borders were closed to Jews, so she felt a passion for the tiny nation that always seemed to be in the world’s crosshairs. At the same time, she was a pragmatist and realized that within a decade, and without some sort of course correction, there might not be an Israel anymore. America’s influence in the region was waning, and sentiments at home and across the Western world were shifting toward the Palestinians’ cause. The recent refusal of the West to stand up to ISIS or the Iranian nuclear program in any meaningful way had emboldened Hamas and Hezbollah, and conflict in the region seemed to be moving to a point where Israel’s own potent military capabilities might not be sufficient to stave off a massive multi-nation attack on its own. The possibility of losing the homeland her forefathers had been denied for nearly nineteen centuries was unthinkable.
The package she had received in Cairo changed all of that. It changed everything. Peace—in Israel, in the Middle East, and even across the globe—might never again be attainable if she couldn’t get this information to the president before it was too late.
As soon as she reached the stairs, she could see something was terribly wrong. Not one SUV waited outside, but three. And the men getting out of the vehicles were not diplomatic staffers holding agendas and sat phones.
They were jihadists. Guns drawn, well organized, no official uniforms, and very much where they shouldn’t have been. They had come for her.
Christine froze atop the first step and tumbled back into the cabin, rolling away from the open door. She heard shouts from outside, some in Arabic, others in English.
Rick looked at Christine on the ground, and then at the men outside, and also dove out of the doorway. Ben rushed to her side while Dan conferred with the pilots, trying to figure a way out of this mess.
The evidence! Christine thought. That had to be why the gunmen were here. She opened her briefcase and withdrew the Micro SD memory card that had been delivered to her just hours earlier. Back when the world was only marginally screwed up and Christine wasn’t aware of a deadly conspiracy, nor of being actively threatened by terrorists. None of that mattered now. She had to protect the evidence at all costs.
The briefcase was not an option. Far too obvious. But she couldn’t leave it either. Surely they’d either scour the plane for anything they could use to their advantage or, more likely, they’d torch it when they were done. Either way, the revelations on the card would be lost. Then where?
The answer came to her like an inspiration from heaven. She knew all too well that men like these perverted the teachings of Islam to suit their political needs, but she had to hope that they were at least observant enough of their faith’s basic tenets. The fact that she was one-quarter Jewish—and thus, decidedly unclean in these fanatics’ eyes—should work in her favor as well.
As if that would matter if they did manage to get their hands on her.
She took the Micro SD card between thumb and forefinger and, being careful to
ensure the tiny memory stick would remain secure, placed it underneath her left breast inside her bra.
They may be terrorists, she prayed silently, but don’t let them be savages.
Dan and one of the pilots left the cockpit armed with two 9 mm handguns.
“Are you serious?” Ben asked. “You’re going to try to shoot your way out?”
“You got a better idea?” Dan asked, clearly frustrated by their lack of options.
“I think we should get the heck out of here.” He looked at the pilot, who shook his head.
“No can do,” the captain said, a faint tremor breaking through his usually in-control tone. “They’ve put chocks under the wheels. Unless we can remove those, this plane isn’t going anywhere.”
“You think this is about the package?” Dan asked.
Standing from her crouched position, Christine cocked her head. “I hope not. Fingers crossed that they’re just not fans of the peace summit.”
Rick poked his head around the corner of the doorway for a quick glance outside. “Yeah, they don’t look like the types to sit down and talk out plans for peace. More like shoot it out and whoever is left standing wins.”
“I’m not taking my odds with those peashooters,” Ben said, nodding at the handguns Dan had brought from the cabin. “Look, if we delay them long enough . . .”
“Ambassador Needham, please exit the plane now, and we will let your friends live,” an Arabic-tinged British voice called from outside. “This is your only opportunity to avoid bloodshed. You have fifteen seconds to comply.”
“You can’t,” Dan said.
Surely the terrorists’ presence hadn’t gone unnoticed by airport security. Even if there had been clear breaches that allowed the men outside to surround and attack her plane, the authorities were surely on their way. The terrorists would know this. Their window of opportunity was quickly closing. She would be a tremendous prize for any jihadist group, so once she was in their hands, they may well turn and run with her in tow before they found their escape no longer possible. Even if the terrorists did their worst to her, it still would be preferable to knowing that she had the capability of stopping the planned horrors described on the memory card, yet failed to do so.
She was but one life. Millions hung in the balance.
“The evidence is all that matters,” Christine said, starting to reach under her shirt to retrieve the memory card. If she handed it off to her team, they could see that the president received the information. It was their best shot.
“They’ll kill you,” Dan said, putting his hand on her arm. “They’ll kill all of us. I’m not letting you go out there like a lamb to the slaughter.”
The co-pilot leaned out from the cockpit. “Can’t get anyone on the radio. They must be jamming our ability to transmit.”
“Are you kidding me?” Rick said. He kicked a nearby seat in impotent frustration. “So now what? We just going to sit here and wait for airport security to show up? If they were doing their job, those guys wouldn’t be out there waiting to gun us down in the first place.”
“Your fifteen seconds are up, Ambassador Needham,” sounded the voice from outside.
“Let me go talk to them,” Ben said, flicking the safety off his semi-auto pistol as he headed for the open door.
“Ben, don’t!” Christine shouted. A split second later, Ben’s body convulsed as he was perforated with bullet holes, scarlet spraying the wall and ceiling behind him like a hellish Jackson Pollack. A scream escaped her lips before she managed to stifle it. Tears began to well, but she fought them away. She could not afford time for mourning right now.
“Ambassador Needham, you try my patience. Three seconds to reveal yourself. Two.”
“I’ve got to go try to stop this,” she said to Rick and Dan.
“I’ll go,” Rick said, brandishing his pistol and turning toward the door.
The men outside began to shout in a surge of sound that resembled a roar. Seconds later, they were on the stairs and through the door. They stepped on and over Ben’s body. Rick fired his pistol at one of the men, winging him, before a fusillade of bullets knocked him to the ground in a pool of blood.
Christine stood in shock, wanting to get away but realizing there was no escape. Two of her closest friends had just been gunned down, and before she could turn to see if any of the bullets still flying had killed Dan, a pair of men grabbed her arms while another pulled a strange-smelling burlap bag over her head. Within moments, she felt strangely dizzy. They’d drugged her. She felt consciousness slipping away as they cinched her hands tightly behind her back and hoisted her into the air like a rolled Persian carpet.
They were kidnapping the most influential US diplomat in the Middle East. And they were getting away with it.