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Keyword: political thriller

 

The Man from Tehran

Saturday February 11, 2006

Rigshospitalet 11.15 a.m.

- Well, if you can stand to hear it, I'll tell you everything, said Rolf. Where should I start?
- For example, with the moment when Williams ... what actually happened to him? Was he really shot at or was he attacked with a knife? she asked.
- He was shot at, answered Rolf. Well then I'll start there. He looked ahead as he considered his words.
- There were at least four terrorists involved, he began. The day before yesterday, the day before the attack, they kidnapped a woman and two small children from a house near the airport. The woman is married to a manager in the baggage department at the airport. They were held in a holiday home south of Copenhagen. The hijackers forced the employee concerned to apply a remote control pulse to one of the suitcases for flight SK779. He really had no choice but to do what they asked.

In the meantime, a van has been moved into position at the east end of the airport. Inside the car was a fairly powerful propelled missile that Flight SK779 was supposed to shoot down during takeoff. Tom and a young man from the Danish police reached the van at the very last minute, where they put down a colossus from a man who already had his finger on the trigger. And I really mean at the last moment. Ten seconds later the plane would have been hit. The giant was thus forced to fire the missile earlier than planned, and fortunately that foiled the assassination attempt. The giant tried to escape, but the policeman broke his neck with his motorcycle. He died here in the hospital last night.
Its story is incredible in itself. He picked up the van in Marseille and drove all the way to Copenhagen with the rocket in the hold. On the way here, he still had time to turn the neck of a German policeman. They found him near Lyon, which is also pretty strange. But the German is not the only one he killed on the way. We found the badly burned body of a young man next to the launch pad in the back of the van. The Danish police are now trying to identify him. His face was completely smashed to pieces. So we're assuming he was dead before the missile launched a fire in the hold. Lisbeth sat up with a frown and was listening to Rolf without interrupting him.
- Then there are the events around you in the long corridor, he continued. Williams died of a violent epileptic fit on the way to the emergency room. A mysterious ring was found on his finger, a ring with a small point pointing towards the palm of his hand. The police are investigating the ring at the moment, but they suspect it contains some type of poison. It was most likely William's intention to use the ring in the washroom where he was shot. The assumption is that he injured himself while being transported to the emergency room with him.
After you asked for reinforcements twice, I sent CharlyTeam, he continued. Not fast enough, unfortunately, but it just couldn't be any faster. One of the CIA agents caught your shadow and had it taken to the command center, where we unfortunately had to hand it over to Antonsen. For the first time Lisbeth interrupted:
- Did Antonsen get anything out of him? No, absolutely nothing, he replied. We wanted to have a little chat with him ourselves, but Antonsen didn't want to go into that. We had to follow the rules and hand him over to the Danish police. The man had a valid French passport and a boarding pass for a flight to Amsterdam. He steadfastly maintained that he was right to be in the aisle, as his plane was supposed to be leaving from there. He didn't even deny seeing you. He was sure you were looking for someone. In any case, he thought you looked very searching. It ended up with Antonsen letting him go again. You can imagine how sorry I am.

- Oh, man, Lisbeth burst out, I'm not at all pleased with that. I think I dreamed about him last night and I'm pretty sure he's still dangerous.
- Don't lose heart, replied Rolf. I asked Jørgen to shadow him. According to the latest reports, the man left the airport and took a room in a hotel in the city. If he does anything against any rules, we will arrest him again.
- What about the one who hit me? she asked. Rolf shook his head.
- It's like sunk in the ground, he said. Our chances of finding him in the crowded and chaotic airport, where people were getting irritable and impatient, were extremely slim. But our theory is that it disappeared along with the passengers from flight SK779 when they landed again. They were dropped off in close proximity to you within two or three minutes after we called the red alert for you.
- That would be absolutely grotesque then, she replied.
- I totally agree on that, he replied. But regardless of how it happened, he's gone now. But one thing amazes me. Yeah, how should I put it, when you lay unconscious on the floor in front of him, he put a gun to your head and ... well, he didn't shoot. But after we analyzed the footage from the camera, one of the technicians wanted to swear that the man said, "Bang, you're dead" and then he threw away the gun, your own gun by the way. Lisbeth had an absent look in her eyes.
- Why do you think he let me live? she asked in amazement.
- I have no answer to that, Lisbeth, said Rolf, but I am extremely grateful to him that he did it. And you see, he left the three hostages alive too. Unusual, extremely unusual.
- And the bottom line? she asked. Was it a success or a failure for us?
- Both, he replied. We succeeded in the sense that our research got us to the right place at the right time. We were also successful in the sense that it was us, and not the assassins, who ultimately got lucky, even though we were only a hair's breadth past a catastrophe. On the other hand, it was a failure because we only caught two of the bastards, one of whom died and the other we had to let go again. But most of all it was a failure for me because I let Williams fool me.
- I understand what you mean, she said, but you didn't have much choice, did you?
- No, maybe not, said Rolf, but in any case it won't happen again. I spoke to a CIA friend at the hotel last night. Williams played a few games without the CIA, and he knew for sure who we were following at the airport. Jørgen found a list of names in William's hand while he was bleeding in the washroom. There were 22 names on the list and 20 of them were crossed out. Our IT manager Michael Anthony is in the process of checking the names. Let's see what that brings.
- In any case, this is the worst thing I've been through so far, said Lisbeth. The door opened and the nurse, who had shown Rolf the way to Lisbeth's room, came in with a bucket full of flowers.
- Sorry to bother you, she said. Even our largest vase was not enough for this bouquet. This is the best I can offer you.
- Oh my goodness, called Lisbeth with a radiant smile. Could you put it by the window? And thank you for your kindness.
- Don't worry, answered the nurse. A bouquet like this should impress everyone. They waited for the nurse to leave the room. Then Rolf continued:
- I have to go now, Lisbeth, he said. I have a meeting in Brussels tomorrow morning.
- A meeting? she repeated. Good news or bad news? He looked ahead for a while without answering.
- All in all, the incident at the airport was not exactly flattering for EATO, he finally said, and that will inevitably have consequences. Personally, I believe that those who opposed me as the head of EATO are now rubbing their hands together. In other words, I expect to be thrown to the wolves to eat. Lisbeth was sad, but knew inside her that Rolf was right. The whole counter-terrorism machinery was corrupted to the core. There were so great economic interests involved that Rolf could hardly expect fair treatment.
- If they saw you off, I'll leave the organization immediately, she said.
- Maybe you should think twice about that, he said and took her hand. Whether I'm with you or not, you can still make a difference. Now promise me to take it easy for a few days. I plan to call a regional meeting next week, provided I'm still in office at the time. We want to see each other on the occasion, don't we?
- I'll be fit again by then, she said. Thanks for coming. Rolf smiled at her. Following an inspiration, he bent down and kissed her on the cheek. Lisbeth felt the warmth rise in her face. She squeezed his hand.
- I'll see you, he said, and left her alone.

“Rigshospitalet” hospital, 1:05 pm

The elevator doors opened and Sadou stepped into the corridor for the second time that day. The doors closed immediately behind him and the elevator went back down. He stopped a little and listened. From his post in the lobby he had seen the man leave the hospital. There was of course the possibility that the woman wasn't alone in the room, but that shouldn't make much difference. In spite of everything, this was a women's department. How much resistance would a few sick women be able to put up? He still had the box of chocolates in his hand and said he could easily mingle with the other visitors. But there was no one in the corridor. Was visiting hours over?
He was about to go to Lisbeth's room when the elevator doors opened again behind him and a younger couple with two children came out. He made room for her and avoided eye contact. The people obviously knew where to go and walked past him, noisy and talking to one another. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but he didn't care at all. They went in the direction he wanted and he decided to follow them. He assumed that he would attract less attention with someone than alone. Despite everything, he was a foreigner, box of chocolates or not.
On the way down the corridor they passed a nurse. He recognized her as the nurse who had taken care of the flowers the last time he was here. She gave them a friendly smile and took quick steps in the opposite direction. The young family passed the room where the woman was lying and Sadou stopped in front of the door and let her go on.
Three rooms down they disappeared through a door, and the noise disappeared with them. He listened at the door for a moment. There was nothing to be heard. He reached into his pocket and felt the handle of the knife. It wasn't that easy to hide a 12-inch meat knife in the pocket of a winter jacket, but he had solved the problem by poking the blade through the lining of the pocket. The blade was therefore under the chuck and only the handle was in the pocket. His heart was beating faster and a feeling of joy began to spread through his body. He took a few deep breaths and then opened the door. He was in the room in three steps and had closed the door behind him. He looked around. The room was empty. What was that supposed to mean? Had she been fired or moved, or ... Someone moved the door handle behind him.

Lisbeth was done in the toilet and washed her hands. She had a basin next to her bed, but that's where she drew the line. She wanted to use the toilet in the hallway because she was finally able to get up.

She hadn't even used the basin that night. She didn't get much exercise here in the hospital, so she took every opportunity to get on her feet. Outside in the corridor she heard voices, apparently a family with children. She waited for the voices to stop before turning off the lights and stepping into the corridor. She went back to her room. She had decided that she would fire herself tonight or tomorrow at the latest. It seemed pointless to her to lie around and stare at the ceiling when she was much more comfortable at home. She came to her room, pressed the door handle, and opened the door.

Sadou quickly jumped aside and stepped into a small alcove with a sink behind a wardrobe on the right side of the door. From there he could see most of the room, but couldn't be seen by those who came in unless they turned straight to the cupboard and sink. He recognized the woman immediately. She walked past him to the bed. Sadou's heart was beating so hard now that he thought the woman should be able to hear it. She stood with her back to his hiding place and took off her hospital robe. She lifted one knee on the bed. Sadou jumped out of hiding and attacked.

Lisbeth felt movement behind her and turned around. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the man. She recognized him immediately. It was he who had followed her at the airport yesterday. Adrenaline was pumped into her blood with such force that it was paralyzing. Her heart stood still in her chest and she felt that she couldn't move a single muscle. The blood in her veins was frozen to ice.

Sadou felt like a tiger attacking. He instinctively felt the horror of the woman and a feeling of pleasure roared through his whole body. With one quick movement, he reached for the knife and wanted to pull it out of his pocket. But instead of the knife he pulled out the pocket lining with him; the knife was stuck in the fabric. With a confused look in his eyes, he stopped waving his hand and tried again, but the food was still stuck. He bent his head down and tried desperately to get the knife free, but to no avail. That was completely crazy, he thought. A sudden rage rose in him and he yanked at the knife with blind fury. The result of this uncontrolled movement was almost predictable. The knife came free of the lining, but it flew up sideways and cut a deep wound in Sadou's cheek. A startled roar escaped his mouth and he was on the verge of throwing the knife away in pain and frustration, but he managed to get hold of it. With a wild expression on his now bloody face, he threw himself at Lisbeth. The knife pointed directly at her chest, where in the next moment it would slide between her ribs and cut through her heart.

Lisbeth had watched paralyzed while the man tried desperately to pull something out of his pocket. With one wild movement, the man tore something out of his pocket that seemed to be stuck in the lining of his jacket and suddenly began to bleed profusely from a large cut on his face that ran from his chin to his hairline. The blood flowed in rivers.
With a grotesque expression, he threw himself forward with a large and terrifying knife pointed straight at her. But now her moments of shock were over, the paralysis was gone, and she reacted reflexively. With an unbelievable agility in her condition, she threw herself back on the bed so that she was flat on her back. At the same time she pulled her legs up and kicked as hard as she could. Both feet rammed the man's stomach with the knife and he flew back towards the cloakroom, which he slammed hard into. The thin door shattered as if it were made of cardboard. The blood from the cut on his face literally splashed onto the floor and the wall next to him. The sight was macabre to say the least.
Surprisingly, the man immediately got to his feet and rushed towards her again. This time he held the knife high above his head, ready to thrust towards her while she lay helpless on the bed. Every muscle in Lisbeth's body was strained to the limit. When he was almost over her, she rolled backwards out of bed and the man chopped the blade through the bedspread and into the mattress, making it disappear up to the handle. She landed on her feet on the other side of the bed and again saw the man try to get his knife free. She instinctively felt to the right.Her hand closed on the handle of the metal basin that stood by her bed. Without noticing exactly what she was holding, she hit the pelvis with full force on the man's head. It hit his temple just as he was removing the knife from the mattress. The sound of the basin hitting his head was like a rubber mallet hitting a garbage can.
The knife flew to the ground and the man staggered backwards. The bed was smeared with blood. Lisbeth didn't want to take any chances. She jumped around the bed and pounded the basin on the man's head again. The strange sound came again, and the man was now clearly struck, but was still on his feet. Lisbeth gave him a third blow, and this time she put so much strength into it that her arm hurt.

The rubber mallet rang for the third time, and this time the man slumped in a pool of blood in front of her. Lisbeth was trembling all over as she backed away from the man against the wall. At that moment the door jerked open and a nurse rushed into the room.
- What on earth is here ... she began and broke off when she saw the severely bleeding, unconscious man lying on the floor. Lisbeth let herself slide on the wall on the floor. That was enough now. Now it was enough once and for all.
- Take him away, she gasped, please take him away.

Tuesday March 8, 2006

Paris, 12.30 p.m.

The doors clattered shut behind Lisbeth. She stayed on the platform until the train left the metro station. People hurried towards the signs that said “sortie,” and a moment later she was more or less alone. A large blue sign informed her that she was in the Blanche metro station. Next to the sign were various posters advertising the numerous cafes, restaurants and bars in the area. Lisbeth let her gaze wander over the many tempting offers. She noticed an advertisement for the cafe she was on her way to. A train rattled into the station on the opposite side, and she headed for the exit. Shortly afterwards she was standing on Place Blanche at the foot of the high-altitude district of Montmartre.

Place Blanche is located on the wide Boulevard de Clichy and forms a kind of meeting point for another five streets that run in a star shape towards the large square. Diagonally to the right, she saw the Moulin Rouge with the characteristic red painted mill in the background. A mill is good, she thought, amused, but it is one mill too little. I need two She went to rue Lepic, next to the Moulin Rouge. The road went up rather steeply, and she was puffing with the effort. Maybe I'm not as fit as I thought I was after all, she thought. She knew the street, yes, the whole neighborhood, from previous visits, and if she had time she would have visited the fantastic fish shop. But that had to wait. She had an appointment at Café Tabac des 2 Moulins.
The air was mild in spring, and although it was exhausting to walk up the street, she enjoyed it to the full. She had used the past four weeks to recover from both the events at the airport and the attack at the hospital.

As Rolf had predicted, a meeting had been called in Hamburg, but he himself had not attended. At the meeting, which was chaired by a Swedish diplomat named Axelsson, it was officially announced that Rolf Duvenhart had left EATO at his own request and that the future of the organization would be discussed at one of the next EU summits. Lisbeth had already more or less decided to quit her position after everything that had happened. But she had actually expected to hear from Rolf first. The announcement of his departure had been decisive. She had immediately expressed a wish to leave the organization, and as soon as possible. And a few days later Rolf had called her.
- Lisbeth, I would like to meet you, he said. What do you think of an invitation to Paris next month? And now she was on her way to meet him here in Montmartre. She saw the café, which had become really well known through the award-winning film "The fabulous world of Amélie", which was filmed here in 2001, among other things. She was looking forward to seeing Rolf again.

Rolf was sitting in the farthest corner by the window, directly under a poster for the film in question. He had been there for twenty minutes and had reached his second espresso. When he saw her come in, he was more moved than he had expected. He got up and waved to her. She replied with a brilliant smile.
- How good it is to see you again, Lisbeth, he said and took both of her hands in his. How are you?
- I'm fine, she replied, making no attempt to pull her hands away. I just noticed on the way here that I have not yet regained my old shape. But it will come soon. I'm also happy to see you again, Rolf. He let go of her hands and they both sat opposite each other.
- What do you want, a cup of coffee or something to eat? asked he.
- Coffee like you, she replied. He ordered an espresso for her. They talked about all kinds of things for a long time, but eventually the pauses got longer and longer. It was in the air that Rolf had to get down to business.
- You left yourself too, I can understand, he began. She just nodded.
- That didn't come as a surprise, he said. You already mentioned it in the hospital. She looked at him for a long time without answering. Then she leaned across the table.
- Rolf, so you have to tell me what happened, she said with a firm voice. Why did you stop? You didn't say anything yourself, and we really didn't get to know anything in Hamburg. There was an expression in Rolf's eyes that she had not yet recognized. He almost looked like he was sad.
- No, I can imagine that, he replied. Who talked to you guys?
- A Swede, she replied, his name was probably Axelsson.
- Ah, Axelsson, he repeated, then we'll be back where it all began.

She looked at him questioningly.
- I'll tell you another time, it's not that important now, he went on. And of course you're right, I haven't said anything to anyone. After I left, I was forbidden to have any contact with you.
- Did you get fired? she asked. Axelsson said you left at your own request.
- Axelsson is a diplomat, said Rolf, he likes to tell the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. But now I'll tell you what happened. He sipped his coffee.
- As I said to you in the hospital, I had been called to a meeting in Brussels. The meeting turned out to be a farce and everyone said a lot more than they had planned. But at least some truths came on the table, and that is not very common in these terror-ridden times. There was an official complaint from the American side about my handling of the events in Copenhagen. It was said that I put the US ambassador in unnecessary danger and that I handled the whole business very poorly at the airport. EATO has been blamed for William's death. Lisbeth felt angry rise within her.
- what are you saying? she exclaimed angrily. It was we who tried to prevent ... He interrupted her with a wave of his hand.
- I'm afraid that's not the point, he continued. Regardless of how an event of this type ends, there must always be someone responsible. If things go well, responsibility is placed as high as possible, if things go wrong, the tendency is the other way around. The responsibility could easily have ended up elsewhere, but there are so many political factors at play. A real thunderstorm came towards me from the English side. They directly and openly expressed their distrust of me. He shook his head and continued:
- The race was just over. Nothing I could have done or said would have changed anything.
- You just took it that way? Lisbeth asked with a frown.
- Oh no, he replied with a wry smile. I didn't keep my mouth shut. Lisbeth discovered to her own astonishment that she was pissed off. Diplomacy doesn't seem to be one of her strengths.
- Well what did you say? she asked.
- Something you should never say if you want to be popular with politicians, he replied. I was telling the truth, at least the way I see it. Lisbeth wanted to say something, but Rolf's face suddenly changed and his gaze hardened.

- I reminded the ladies and gentlemen, he said, that there have never been so many willing terrorists as now, after the so-called war on terror was launched. I told them that the fight against terrorism has already cost many more innocent lives than terrorism itself ever would. Lisbeth's anger subsided a little.
- I also made the remark, continued Rolf, that the cause of all these acts of terrorism is to be found in the humiliations to which the Islamic countries in the Middle East are constantly exposed. I couldn't help but say that September 11th was not directed against the West as a whole, but against the United States, and that this may not have been a coincidence. That the rest of the western world has since become a target for terrorists shouldn't come as a surprise. We finally declared war. Lisbeth looked at him in amazement.
- Did you really say all of that? she asked. He nodded and replied:
- That and much more, but everything went more or less in the same direction. In short, the conversation turned into bickering, and I myself was accused of the worst. The meeting ended with my resignation and my resignation with immediate effect. Lisbeth wanted to say something, but was stopped by a wave of the hand.
- I would like to leave it all behind now, you understand, he said. She nodded in agreement.
- What do you want to do now? Do you have any plans for the future? she asked.
- Yes, the future, he repeated and nodded. It's much more interesting, and that's actually what I wanted to talk to you about. The world is usually much more nuanced than one imagines. His face grew serious.
- Immediately after the meeting in Brussels, I was approached by a man. He claimed to represent a group of anonymous international business people. For some inexplicable reason, he knew more or less every detail about my time at EATO. He even knew about my fantastic speech at the meeting in Brussels. These business people, he told me, are very concerned about the world’s developments and they want to try to put things right again.
- Get it right, repeated Lisbeth, what do you mean by that?
- Well, it is difficult to put that into simple words, said Rolf, but as I understand it, they believe that one can fight terrorism better with what they call less aggressive methods.
- Didn't he give you any details? she asked with obvious interest.
- Not many, he replied. If I want to know more, I have to first agree to work more closely with them.

- Do you have any idea who they might be? she continues to drill.
- Not exactly, he replied, but I have an idea of ​​the direction in which it could go. There are a number of influential and wealthy business people around the world who would like to use some of the resources at their disposal to influence global events. Most are certainly only out to further their own interests, but some have a broader range than just greed.
- Do you have the slightest idea who that could be? interjected Lisbeth.
- Not really, he replied. But I think several organizations could be considered.
- Do you want to work with them? she asked.
- Maybe, he replied. She looked at him for a long time. There was a sly expression about his mouth.
- What do you mean by that, maybe? she asked him out.
- It depends on whether you want to be there, he replied.
- Whether I want to be there! she repeated in astonishment.
- Yes, he went on, when I enter into a collaboration of this kind, I need support, and I honestly have to admit that I can't think of a better partner than you. She blushed slightly.
- That doesn't sound uninteresting, she contented herself to say. What should we work with specifically?
- Now that you are not completely opposed to the idea, I want to share my thoughts on it with you, he replied.

Four espressos later they left the café, arm in arm.

***** END *****

ENGLISH

The Man from Tehran

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Rigshospitalet (hospital), 11:15 a.m.

- Well, if you are already strong enough to hear it, I'll tell you everything, said Rolf. Where should I start?

- For example, the moment when Williams ... what actually happened to him? Was he really shot at or was he attacked with a knife? she asked.

- He was shot, answered Rolf. Well, I'll start there then. He looked in front of him as he chose his words.
- There were at least four terrorists involved, he began. The day before yesterday, the day before the attack, they kidnapped a woman and two small children from a house near the airport. The woman is married to a manager in the baggage department at the airport. They were held in a holiday home south of Copenhagen. The hijackers forced the employee concerned to apply a remote control signal to one of the suitcases for flight SK779. He really had no choice but to do what they asked. In the meantime, a van has been moved into position at the east end of the airport. Inside the van was a fairly powerful missile that was supposed to shoot down Flight SK779 during takeoff. Tom and a young man from the Danish police reached the van at the very last minute, where they neutralized a colossus of a man who already had his finger on the trigger. And I really mean at the last moment. Ten seconds later the plane would have been hit. The giant was forced to fire the missile earlier than planned, and fortunately that foiled the attack. The giant tried to escape, but the policeman broke his neck with his motorcycle. He died here in the hospital last night.
His story is incredible in itself. He picked up the van in Marseille and drove all the way to Copenhagen with the rocket in the hold. On the way here, he still had time to break the neck of a German policeman. They found him near Lyon, which is also rather strange. But the German is not the only one he killed on the way. We found the badly burned body of a young man next to the launch pad in the back of the van. The Danish police are now trying to identify him. His face was completely shattered. So, we are assuming he was dead before the missile caused a fire in the hold.

Lisbeth sat up with a frown and was listening to Rolf without interrupting him.

- Then there are the events around you in the long corridor, he continued. Williams died of a violent epileptic fit on the way to the emergency room. A mysterious ring was found on his finger, a ring with a small point pointing towards the palm of his hand. The police are investigating the ring at the moment, but they suspect it contains some sort of poison. It was most likely William’s intention to use the ring in the washroom where he was shot. The assumption is that he injured himself with it during the transport to the emergency room.

- After you had asked for reinforcements twice, I sent Charly Team, he continued. Not fast enough, unfortunately, but it just couldn't be any faster. One of the CIA agents caught your shadow and had him taken to the command center, where we unfortunately had to hand him over to Antonsen.

For the first time Lisbeth interrupted:
- Did Antonsen get anything out of him?

- No, absolutely nothing, he replied. We wanted to talk to him a little ourselves, but Antonsen wouldn't have it. We had to follow the rules and hand him over to the Danish police. The man had a valid French passport and a boarding card for a flight to Amsterdam. He firmly insisted that he was in his right to be in the corridor because, after all, his plane was supposed to take off from there. He didn't even deny seeing you. He was sure you were looking for someone. Anyway, he thought you looked very searching. It ended up with Antonsen letting him go again. You can imagine how sorry I am.

- Oh, no, Lisbeth burst out, I'm not at all pleased with that. I think I dreamed about him last night and I'm pretty sure he's still dangerous.

- Don't lose your courage, replied Rolf. I asked Jørgen to follow him. According to the latest reports, the man left the airport and took a room in a hotel in the city. If he violates any rules, we'll arrest him again.

- What about the one who hit me? she asked.

Rolf shook his head.
- He has vanished from the face of the earth, he said. Our chances of finding him in the crowded and chaotic airport, where people were getting irritable and impatient, were extremely slim. But our theory is that he disappeared with the passengers of flight SK779 when they landed again.They were dropped off in close proximity to you within two or three minutes after we called the red alert for you.

- That would be absolutely bizarre then, she replied.

- I totally agree, he replied. But regardless of how it happened, he's gone now. But one thing amazes me. How should I put it ... well, when you laid unconscious on the floor in front of him, he put a gun to your head and ... well, he didn’t shoot. But after we analyzed the footage from the camera, one of the technicians would swear that the man said, "Bang, you are dead" and then he threw the gun away, your own gun by the way.

Lisbeth had an absent look in her eyes.
- Why do you think he let me live? she asked in surprise.

- I have no answer to that, Lisbeth, said Rolf, but I am extremely grateful to him that he did. And you see, he left the three hostages alive too. Unusual, extremely unusual.

- And the bottom line? she asked. Was it a success or a failure for us?

- Both, he replied. We succeeded in the sense that our research got us to the right place at the right time. We were also successful in the sense that it was us, and not the assassins, who ultimately got lucky, even though we were only a hair’s breadth away from a catastrophe. On the other hand, it was a failure because we only caught two of the bastards, one of whom died and the other we had to let go again. But most of all, it was a failure for me, because I let Williams give me the runaround.

- I understand what you mean, she said, but you didn’t have much choice, did you?

- No, maybe not, said Rolf, but in any case, it won't happen again. I spoke to a CIA friend at the hotel last night. Williams played some games without the CIA and he knew for sure whom we were following at the airport. Jørgen found a list of names in William’s hand while he was lying bleeding in the washroom. There were 22 names on the list and 20 of them were crossed out. Our IT manager Michael Anthony is in the process of checking the names. Let's see what that brings to the light of day.

- In any case, this is the worst thing I've been through so far, said Lisbeth.

The door opened and the nurse, who had shown Rolf the way to Lisbeth’s room, came in with a bucket full of flowers.

- Sorry to disturb you, she said. Even our largest vase was insufficient for this bouquet. This is the best I can offer you.

- Oh my goodness, called Lisbeth with a radiant smile. Could you put it by the window? And thank you for your kindness.

- You are welcome, answered the nurse. A bouquet like this should impress everyone.

They waited for the nurse to leave the room. Then Rolf continued:
- I have to go now, Lisbeth, he said. I have a meeting in Brussels tomorrow morning.

- A meeting? she repeated. Good news or bad news?

He looked ahead for a while without answering.

- All in all, the incident at the airport was not exactly flattering for EATO, he finally said, and that will inevitably have consequences. Personally, I believe those who opposed me as the head of EATO are now rubbing their hands. In other words, I expect to be thrown to the wolves.

Lisbeth was sad but knew deep inside that Rolf was right. The whole counter-terrorism machinery was corrupted to the core. There were so great economic interests involved that Rolf could hardly expect fair treatment.

- If they kick you out, I'll leave the organization immediately, she said.

- Maybe you should think twice about that, he said and took her hand. Whether I'm there or not, you can still make a difference. Now promise me to take it easy for a few days. I plan to call a regional meeting next week, provided I'm still in the office at the time. We want to see each other on that occasion, don’t we?

- I'll be fit again by then, she said. Thanks for coming.

Rolf smiled at her. Following an inspiration, he bent down and kissed her on the cheek. Lisbeth felt the warmth rise to her face. She squeezed his hand.

- I'll see you, he said, and left her alone.

“Rigshospitalet” hospital, 1:05 p.m.

The elevator doors opened and Sadou stepped into the corridor for the second time that day. The doors closed immediately behind him and the elevator went back down. He stopped a little and listened. From his position in the lobby he had seen the man leave the hospital. There was, of course, the possibility that the woman wasn't alone in the room, but that shouldn't make much difference. Despite everything, this was a women’s department. How much resistance could a few sick women offer? He still had the box of chocolates in his hand and thought he would be able to blend easily with the other visitors. But there was nobody in the corridor. What visiting hours over?

He was about to go to Lisbeth’s room when the elevator doors opened again behind him and a younger couple with two children emerged. He stood aside for them and avoided eye contact. The people obviously knew where to go and walked past him, noisy and talking to one another. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but he didn't really care. They went in the direction, where also he wanted to go, and he decided to follow them. He assumed that he would attract less attention together with someone than alone. He was a foreigner after all, box of chocolates or not.

On the way down the corridor they passed a nurse. He recognized her as the nurse who had taken care of the flowers the last time he was here. She gave them a friendly smile and walked with quick steps in the opposite direction. The young family passed the room where the woman was lying and Sadou stopped in front of the door and waited for them to go on.

Three rooms further down they disappeared through a door and the noise disappeared with them. He listened at the door for a moment. There was nothing to be heard. He reached into his pocket and felt the handle of the knife. It wasn't easy to hide a 12-inch meat knife in the pocket of a winter jacket, but he had solved the problem by poking the blade through the lining of the pocket. The blade was therefore under the seam, and only the handle was in the pocket. His heart beat faster and a feeling of joy began to spread through his body. He took a few deep breaths and then opened the door.

He was in the room in three steps and closed the door behind him. He looked around. The room was empty. What now? Had she been discharged or moved, or ... Someone moved the door handle behind him.

Lisbeth was done in the bathroom and washed her hands. She had a basin next to her bed, but there she drew the line. She wanted to use the toilet in the hallway because she was finally able to get up.

She hadn't even used the basin at night. She didn't get much exercise here in the hospital, so she took every opportunity to get on her feet. Outside in the corridor she heard voices, apparently a family with children. She waited for the voices to stop before turning off the lights and stepping into the corridor. She went back to her room. She had decided that she would discharge herself tonight or tomorrow at the latest. It seemed pointless to her to lie here and stare at the ceiling when she was much more comfortable at home. She came to her room, pressed the door handle, and opened the door.

Sadou quickly jumped aside and stepped into a small alcove with a sink behind a wardrobe on the right side of the door. From there he could see almost the whole room, but couldn't be seen by those who came in unless they turned directly towards the wardrobe and sink. He recognized the woman immediately. She walked past him to the bed. Sadou’s heart was beating so hard now that he thought the woman should be able to hear it. She stood with her back to his hiding place and took off her hospital robe. She lifted one knee on the bed.

Sadou jumped out of hiding and attacked.

Lisbeth felt movement behind her and turned around. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the man. She recognized him immediately. It was he who had followed her at the airport yesterday. Adrenaline was pumped into her blood with such force that it was debilitating. Her heart stood still in her chest and she felt that she couldn't move a single muscle. The blood in her veins was frozen to ice.

Sadou felt like a tiger attacking. He instinctively sensed the fear in the woman and a feeling of pleasure roared through his whole body. With one quick movement, he reached for the knife and wanted to pull it out of his pocket. But instead of only the knife he pulled out the pocket lining with it; the knife was stuck in the fabric. With a confused look in his eyes, he stopped moving forward and tried again, but the knife was still stuck. He bowed his head down and tried desperately to get the knife free, but to no avail. This is completely crazy, he thought. A sudden rage rose in him and he tore at the knife with blind fury. The result of this uncontrolled movement was almost predictable. The knife came free of the lining, but it flew up sideways and cut a deep wound in Sadou’s cheek. A startled roar escaped his mouth and he was on the verge of throwing the knife away in pain and frustration, but he managed to hold on to it. With a wild expression on his now bloody face, he threw himself at Lisbeth. The knife pointed directly at her chest, where in the next moment it would slide between her ribs and cut her heart in half.

Lisbeth had watched paralyzed while the man tried desperately to pull something out of his pocket. With one wild movement, the man goal something out of his pocket that seemed to be stuck in the lining of his jacket and suddenly began to bleed profusely from a large cut on his face that ran from his chin to his hairline. The blood flowed like water.

With a grotesque expression, he threw himself forward with a large and terrifying knife pointed straight at her. But now her moments of shock was over, the paralysis was gone, and she reacted reflexively. With an unbelievable agility - considering her condition - she threw herself back onto the bed so that she was lying flat on her back. At the same time she pulled her legs up and kicked as hard as she could. Both feet rammed the stomach of the man with the knife, and he flew back towards the wardrobe, and slammed hard against it. The thin door shattered as if it were made of cardboard. The blood from the cut on his face literally spattered the floor and the wall next to him. The sight was macabre to say the least.

Surprisingly, the man got to his feet again and rushed towards her once agian. This time he held the knife high above his head, ready to thrust towards her while she lay helpless on the bed.

Every muscle in Lisbeth’s body was strained to the limit. When he was almost over her, she rolled backwards out of bed and the man hacked the blade through the bedspread and into the mattress, making it disappear up to the handle. She landed on her feet on the other side of the bed and again witnessed the man trying to get his knife free. She instinctively felt to the right. Her hand closed on the handle of the metal basin that stood by her bed. Without noticing exactly what she was holding, she hit the basin with full force on the man’s head. It hit him in the temple just as he was removing the knife from the mattress. The sound of the basin hitting his head was like a rubber mallet hitting a garbage can.

The knife flew to the ground and the man staggered backwards. The bed was completely smeared with blood. Lisbeth didn't want to take any chances. She jumped around the bed and pounded the basin on the man’s head again. The strange sound came again, and the man was now clearly struck, but was still on his feet. Lisbeth gave him a third blow, and this time she put so much strength into it that her arm hurt.

The rubber mallet rang for the third time, and this time the man slumped in a pool of blood in front of her.

Lisbeth was trembling all over as she backed against the wall, away from him. At that moment the door opened with a jerk and a nurse rushed into the room.

- What on earth is… she began and broke off when she saw the heavily bleeding, unconscious man lying on the floor.

Lisbeth let herself glide down the wall onto the floor. It was enough now. It was absolutely enough now.

- Take him away, she gasped, please take him away.

Tuesday 8 March 2006

Paris, 12.30 p.m.

The doors clattered shut behind Lisbeth. She stayed on the platform until the train left the metro station. People hurried toward the signs that said "sortie," and a moment later she was more or less alone. A big blue sign informed her that she was at the Blanche metro station. Next to the sign were various posters advertising the numerous cafés, restaurants and bars in the area. Lisbeth let her gaze wander over the many tempting offers. She noticed an advertisement for the cafe she was going to. A train rattled into the station on the opposite side, and she headed for the exit. Shortly afterwards she was standing on Place Blanche at the foot of the high-lying district of Montmartre.

Place Blanche is located on the wide Boulevard de Clichy and forms a kind of meeting point for another five streets that run in a star shape towards the large square. Diagonally to the right she saw the Moulin Rouge with the characteristic red painted mill in the background. A mill is good, she thought, amused, but it is one mill too little. I need two. She went to rue Lepic, next to the Moulin Rouge. The road went up rather steeply and she was puffing with the effort. Maybe I'm not as fit as I thought I was after all, she thought. She knew the street, yes, the whole neighborhood, from previous visits, and if she had time, she would have visited the fantastic fish shop. But that had to wait. She had an appointment at Café Tabac des 2 Moulins.

The air was mild this spring, and although it was exhausting to walk up the street, she fully enjoyed it. She had used the past four weeks to recover from both the events at the airport and the attack at the hospital.

As Rolf had predicted, a meeting had been called in Hamburg, but he himself had not attended. At the meeting, which was chaired by a Swedish diplomat named Axelsson, it was officially announced that Rolf Duvenhart had left EATO at his own request and that the future of the organization would be discussed at one of the next EU summits. Lisbeth had already more or less decided to quit her job after everything that had happened. But she had actually expected to hear from Rolf first. The announcement of his departure had been decisive. She had immediately expressed a wish to leave the organization, and as soon as possible. And a few days later Rolf had called her.

- Lisbeth, I would like to meet you, he said. What do you think of an invitation to Paris next month?

And now she was on her way to meet him here at Montmartre. She saw the café, which was made famous by the award-winning film "The fabulous destiny of Amélie Poulin", which was filmed here in 2001, among other places. She was looking forward to seeing Rolf again.

Rolf was sitting in the far corner by the window, directly under a poster for the said film. He had been there for twenty minutes and had reached his second espresso. When he saw her come in, he was more moved than he had expected. He got up and waved to her. She replied with a brilliant smile.

- How good it is to see you again, Lisbeth, he said and took both of her hands in his. How are you?

- I'm fine, she replied, making no attempt to pull her hands away. I just noticed on the way here that I have not yet regained my old shape. But it will come soon. I'm also happy to see you again, Rolf.

He let go of her hands and they both sat opposite each other.

- What would you like, a cup of coffee or something to eat? he asked.

- Coffee like your’s, she replied.

He ordered an espresso for her. They talked about all sorts of things for a long time, but eventually the pauses got longer and longer. It was in the air that Rolf had to get down to business.

- You left yourself too, I can understand, he began.

She just nodded.

- That didn’t come as a surprise, he said. You already mentioned it at the hospital.

She looked at him for a long time without answering. Then she leaned across the table.

- Rolf, you have to tell me what happened, she said with a firm voice. Why did you stop? You didn't say anything yourself, and we really didn't get to know anything in Hamburg.

There was an expression in Rolf’s eyes that she hadn’t seen before. He almost looked like he was sad.

- No, I can imagine that, he replied. Who spoke to you?

- A Swede, she replied, his name is Axelsson or something similar.

- Ah, Axelsson, he repeated, then we are be back where it all began.

She looked at him questioningly.

- I'll tell you about it another time, it's not that important now, he went on. And of course, you're right, I haven't said anything to anyone. After I left, I was forbidden to have any contact with any of you.

- Did you get fired? she asked. Axelsson said you left at your own request.

- Axelsson is a diplomat, said Rolf, he likes to tell the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. But let me tell you what happened.
He sipped his coffee.
- As I said to you in the hospital, I had been called to a meeting in Brussels. The meeting turned into a pure farce and everyone said a lot more than they had planned. But at least some truths came on the table, and that is not particularly common in these terrorist times. There was an official complaint from the American side about my handling of the events in Copenhagen. It was said that I put the US ambassador in unnecessary danger and that I handled the whole business very poorly at the airport. EATO has been blamed for William’s death.

Lisbeth felt anger rise within her.
- What are you saying? she exclaimed angrily. It was us, who tried to prevent ...

He interrupted her with a wave of his hand.
- I'm afraid that's not the point, he continued. Regardless of how an event of this type of ends, there must always be someone responsible. If things go well, responsibility is placed as high as possible, if things go wrong, the tendency is the other way around.The responsibility could easily have ended up elsewhere, but there are so many political factors at play. A real thunderstorm came towards me from the English side. They directly and openly expressed their distrust of me.
He shook his head and continued:
- The game was over. Nothing I could have done or said would have changed anything.

- And you just condoned that? Lisbeth asked with a frown.

- Oh no, he replied with a wry smile. I didn't shut up.

Lisbeth discovered to her own astonishment that she was really pissed off. Diplomacy apparently wasn't one of her strengths.

- Well what did you say? she asked.

- Something you should never say if you want to be popular with politicians, he replied. I told the truth, at least the way I see it.

Lisbeth wanted to say something, but Rolf’s face suddenly changed, and his gaze hardened.

- I reminded the ladies and gentlemen, he said, that there has never been so many willing terrorists as now, after the so-called war on terror was launched. I told them that the fight against terrorism has already cost many more innocent lives than terrorism itself ever would.

Lisbeth’s anger subsided a little.

- I also made the remark, Rolf continued, that the cause of all these acts of terrorism is to be found in the humiliations to which the Islamic countries in the Middle East are constantly exposed. I couldn't help but say that September 11th was not directed against the West as a whole, but against the United States, and that this may not have been a coincidence. That the rest of the western world has since become a target for terrorists shouldn't come as a surprise. We did actually declare was.

Lisbeth looked at him amazed.

- Did you really say all that? she asked.

He nodded and replied:
- That and much more, but everything went more or less in the same direction. In short, the conversation turned into bickering and I was accused of the worst. The meeting ended with my resignation from the office with immediate effect.

Lisbeth wanted to say something but was stopped again by a gesture.

- I would really like to leave it all behind now, you know, he said.

She nodded in agreement.

- What do you want to do now? Do you have plans for the future? she asked.

- Ah, yes, the future, he repeated and nodded. That’s a lot more interesting, and that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. The world is usually much more nuanced than one can imagine. His face grew serious.

- Immediately after the meeting in Brussels, I was approached by a man. He claimed to represent a group of anonymous international business people. For some inexplicable reason, he knew more or less every detail about my time at EATO. He even knew about my fantastic speech at the meeting in Brussels. These business people, he explained to me, are very concerned about the world's developments and they want to try to put things right again.

- Put things right, Lisbeth repeated, what do they mean by that?

- Well, it's hard to put that into simple words, said Rolf, but as I understand it, they believe that terrorism can be better combined with what they call less aggressive methods.

- Didn’t he give you any details? she asked with obvious interest.

- Not many, he replied. If I want to know more, I first have to agree to work more closely with them.

- Do you have any idea who they might be? she insisted.

- Not exactly, he replied, but I have an idea of ​​the direction in which it could go. There are a number of influential and wealthy business people around the world who would like to use some of the resources at their disposal to influence global events. Most are certainly only out to further their own interests, but some have a broader range of interests than just greed.

- Do you have any idea who this could be? interjected Lisbeth.

- Not really, he replied. But I think several organizations could be participating.

- Do you want to work with them? she asked.

- Maybe, he replied.

She looked at him for a long time. There was a sly expression about his mouth.

- What do you mean by that, maybe? she stuck to her guns.

- It depends on whether you want to be part of it or not, he replied.

- Whether I want to be part of it or not! she repeated in astonishment.

- Yes, he went on, if I enter into a collaboration of this kind, I need support, and I honestly have to admit that I can't think of a better partner than you.

She blushed slightly.

- It doesn't sound uninteresting, she contented herself to say. What should we work with specifically?

- Now, as you are not completely negative about the idea, I would like to share my thoughts on it with you, he replied.

Four espressi later they left the café, arm in arm.

*** THE END ***

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