Hope and love grows in a place that lacks both – 03

Hope and love grows in a place that lacks both – part 3 continues..

Her adrenaline rushes now came from black diamond slopes and moguls rather than bullets and close escapes. This wasn’t the life she had envisioned for herself, but she was comfortable. Far removed from the Middle East and the conflict she had dedicated much of her adult life to ending, she found herself less sure of right and wrong.

Quiet words spoken by a terrorist had gained even more power as she tried to find an answer. In the end, the only answer she had found was forging a kind of separate peace with it. She now studiously avoided the news and the papers and the talk shows and anything else that served to remind her of it and raise the questions to which she had no answers.

Today was different though. Several papers sat beside her on the ornate chaise launch.  Every headline screamed the same bloody and triumphant message. In a pre-dawn raid, acting on a tip from a paid informer, the IDF had killed twenty militants hiding out in the West Bank, last week. Among those killed was The Jackal.

Emilia wondered if her identity had finally been revealed, or if some other surrogate had met a bloody end. The papers quoted numerous sources, but none mentioned how they knew for certain they had finally gotten him. She was almost tempted to call someone and find out, but, after several hours, she had decided to let it lie.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a short woman in a fur coat enter the lobby and approach the desk. Emilia would have given her no notice at all, except for the fact her face was swathed in bandages. It took several burly bellmen to lug all of her luggage to her room, and Emilia felt a ghost of a smile tug at her lips. Another aging star going under the knife to try to keep her youth and hiding out at Aspen while she recovered, Emilia thought.

American culture was still strange to her, and she often found herself at a loss when she saw the superficiality of it. Last week the hot gossip among the staff was that the busty woman staying in the penthouse was actually a famous singer recovering from a boob job. The month before, she had tried to teach one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming action-adventure stars to ski. She had found him so clumsy and uncoordinated that she would be surprised if he could walk and whistle at the same time, and now laughed to herself every time a tabloid pronounced solemnly that he did his own stunts.

Emilia watched the snowfall for another hour, enjoying the tranquility of the scene, and then headed to her room in the staff wing of the hotel for a hot bath. She had barely finished stripping off her still damp clothes and starting the hot water, when someone knocked on her door.

“What do you want?’ she called, wrapping a towel around herself.

“Open up,” a deep masculine voice called. She recognized it as Gregory, the head of hotel security. Curious, she opened the door a crack and peered out.

“Hey, girl. Big muckety-muck just checked into eighteen-oh-one; rented the whole fucking floor. She wants to sign up for skiing lessons,” he said.

“So? Sign her up. My schedule is at the desk, put her into any of the free time slots,” Emilia said.

“No dice, girly. She wants to talk to the instructor personally. You know the drill; what the rich patron wants, the cocksuckers who run this place make sure she gets. Don’t forget your nametag,” he said sarcastically before turning on his heel and walking away.

Emilia growled in frustration. So much for a hot bath. The only part of her job she didn’t like was kowtowing to every idiot who had money. Still, it was a small price to pay, she thought as she dressed. She dug out her name tag, clipped it to her blouse and headed for the elevators.

The eighteenth floor was two floors below the penthouse, and the kind of money someone would have to waste to rent all thirty rooms boggled her mind. When she stepped off the elevator, she was met by a giant of a man. He towered over her and his muscles bulged beneath his black suit coat. His skin was ebony, and his brown eyes traveled up and down her body with undisguised interest.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I’m the ski instructor,” Emilia said simply, noting the bulge under his arm that had to be a very large pistol.

“Oh, right. Hang on a sec,” he said, and then turned slightly and spoke into the mic clipped to his lapel.

“Miss Brenner is in 1801. She’s expecting you.”


Emilia made her way down the hall and knocked on the door. She could feel the security man’s eyes on her, but chose to ignore it.

“Come,” a voice called.

The room was lavishly appointed, and featured a California king. The woman sat in a chair before the big picture window, watching the snowfall.

“This snow will be good for skiing, will it not?” she asked in a clipped British accent.

“Actually, this snow is not good for skiing; it’s too heavy and wet. But there will be plenty of powder when we go out,” Emilia replied.

The woman stood and faced her, then laughed. The sound was beautiful, like water cascading down a falls. It was also familiar and stirred something in Emilia’s memory, but she couldn’t grasp it.

“It’s a long way from Cairo, you seem none the worse for the wear,” she said in a softer and very familiar voice, the accent no longer British. Emilia was unable to speak; she could only watch as the woman reached up and slowly unwrapped the bandages. The face was different, beautiful still, but softer and less distinct.


“Yes. A new face, but the same tarnished soul.”


“How did I find you? Or how did I survive the raid? Or how did I get into the U.S. amid the current hysteria?” she asked with amusement.

When Emilia didn’t reply, the slight woman sat back down, facing the window and the tranquil beauty of the snow.

“I allowed myself to be taken by the Egyptians. For once, the stereotypes and expectations of men worked in my favor; they readily believed my story that I was simply the housekeeper. After they released me, I fled to Yemen and paid a call to the best forger in the region, if not in the world. Fifty thousand dollars bought me the identity of Miss Brenner, of Ontario, Canada. I flew there from Yemen with a stop in Switzerland to empty my numbered account. I was on the other side of the globe when the IDF foiled the bomb plot.”

She paused, to take a sip of tea before continuing.

“I spent six months in Canada, improving on my identity by buying a house and contributing liberally to charities and political parties, and then applied for U.S. citizenship. I would have been happier in Canada, where there is less prejudice, but I knew I would find you here, so I came.”

“But how did you find me?” Emilia asked. The slight woman chuckled softly.

Hope and love grows in a place that lacks both – 03 will continue in the next page.

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