BETRAYAL. VENGEANCE. BITTERNESS.
A man orchestrating acts of evil thirsted for revenge. Without a rampage of murder he would never be satisfied. It didn’t matter to him that he would kill thousands to punish one. But when he finally comes face-to-face with the man he most reviles, he kisses his nemesis…and does so twice on each side.
Zach Miller thought he had at last restored normalcy in his life. Then deadly acts of violence began to occur around him. In the mirror of his mind he stood facing a specter from the Middle East, a region where he had been caught up in political machinations and an act of terrorism involving a plot threatening to destabilize world politics and possibly kill masses of innocent people. There was only one man who could have known of his role, but he was assumed dead. If so, then who was toying with Zach and orchestrating prejudicial murder? Evil has only one god, and this madman was a devotee.
Insatiable Hate, a Zach Miller Adventure, exposes what horrors man is capable of committing and what distortions of reality he will perceive when worship embraces an absolute truth.
Because Insatiable Hate picks up where Dennis A. Nehamen’s Mistaken Enemy ends, it’s recommended that readers have a priority familiarity with and affinity for Enemy to appreciate the smooth segue into events in Zach’s life that is represented in this latest thriller.
Here Zach faces the aftermath of events that took place in Mistaken Enemy which makes him seem guilty of crimes he never committed, with the real perpetrator all too visible and all too intent on destroying his life.
Many of the themes that permeated the prior book continue here: revenge, conspiracy, murder, criminal activities, and a whirlwind of deadly circumstances that keeps Zach and those he loves in the center of danger. Readers who appreciated Zach’s struggles in the first book will find added interest here as Zach continues to handle hate crimes and obstacles that seem insurmountable.
Serial killers and international intrigue, moments of relief nearly comic in their logic (“What was I complaining about? I didn’t have any of those pressures. For me, it was just one lousy guy trying to kill me.”), and the interplay between family and deadly forces is well done. These all expand Zach’s personality and purposes and provide prior fans and newcomers with another wild adventure where everything is threatened and nothing is safe.
Insatiable Hate isn’t just about hate and revenge: it’s ultimately about tenacity and its ability to alter the course of events. Zach’s efforts will continue to involve hearts and minds accustomed to thriller formats and will delight audiences with the notion that even when the inevitable seems inescapable, there’s always hope.
Prior fans of Zach’s adventures will find this latest story packed with nonstop action, while newcomers will want to turn to Mistaken Enemy for more.
Midwest Book Review, Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Dennis A Nehamen
Copyright @2016 Dennis A Nehamen All Rights Reserved
Published by Golden Poppy Publications™ Los Angeles, CA
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from Golden Poppy Publications or Dennis A Nehamen, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.
All images, logos, quotes, and trademarks included in this book are subject to use according to trademark and copyright laws of the United States of America.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016903049
Cover and Book Design by Nick Zelinger, NZGraphics.com
Nehamen, Dennis A Author
Dennis A Nehamen
Printed in the United States of America First Edition
Golden Poppy Publications™ Los Angeles, CA
Every person has a path to success. Only a few stay on it long enough to reach the goal.
Sarah and Craig Nehamen
Owing to that wisdom, I dedicate this book to my son and daughter.
And of course to my dear wife, Bernice.
I thought it was the morning of my life. Past horrors had graciously bid me adieu. My shoulders were light and I had no cause to look over them anticipating tragedy. Then I sneezed. As I blew into a Kleenex, a ghastly smelling stringy substance streamed out of my nose, foul matter I imagined might flow from the bowels of evil.
I couldn’t stop it. What is this? I shouted into an echo of irreverence. I had my answer even before I finished posing the question. It was hate. It was the worst sort of hate, the type that wants revenge, the type that won’t be satisfied without a rampage of murder and the type that will kill millions to punish one.
Rueben Cloud and his wife, Josea Roth-Cloud, were causelessly buzzing back stage, trying to appear to be addressing last minute details in preparation for the lights to go up for the first time on their latest musical. In truth, they, as well as the remainder of the staff, were panic-stricken, gravely incommunicative like parents whose teenage daughter hadn’t returned home on time from her first date.
The audience, composed of those privileged souls fortunate to have a ticket for the kick-oﬀ performance of what the couple believed to be their greatest work, was seated, impatiently waiting the unveiling—they would never serve as witnesses to the grand opening.
After fidgeting in their chairs for over half an hour, the announcer informed this eager group that due to an undisclosed tragic event they would all receive refunds, along with the right to see the work as soon as it was next scheduled. That would not happen; the piece would never be staged at the Center for the Performing Arts at Kuruk.
The lead female character, an eight-year-old girl taking the role of Star, had gone missing. The spokesman for the theater must have sensed a worse crisis than any participant of the show would have allowed themselves to imagine when he referred to a “tragic event.” However, that is exactly what accounted for the conspicuous absence of the budding young prodigy. while resting late in the afternoon following the final dress rehearsal, she was lured out of her room and then abducted. the mystery of her missing the curtain call was solved at sunrise the next morning.
The killer had hung sweet Adina Bernard like Christ from a cross. He had driven the stake into the ground deep enough to support her limp body, drenched in blood from a visible puncture to the heart. The site where she rested was half way along the private road leading to Kuruk.
I recall the first time I drove the quarter mile stretch leading to what was then not only our restaurant but also my wife’s home. The earth paralleling the road on both sides had been stingily landscaped by nature. Scattered randomly were a few large yucca, tall figures with their sword-like leaves shooting out in every direction like the frizzy hair of a mad scientist. The older, lower growth was thick and drooped downward from the trunk. The overall impression suggested that this family of cactus had been awakened too early and needed a cup of coﬀee to perk up. Less notable were clumps of mescal plants interspersed with Alaskan Ginseng, the latter creeping their dark green, maple-shaped leaves like tortoises across the blackened loam-covered ground.
Most memorable for me was the wooden gate that at some past time might have proudly permitted or denied entry. Yet as I passed it, I noticed that it was so badly eaten by termites that its miracle was having wrestled with the earth around it such that it had managed to stay standing upright. During my first fall season at the New Mexico Indian Reservation called Mescalero, an early windstorm finally terminated the stubborn structure like a bullet fired into its brain.
At first I felt like weeping but my wife, Preeti, consoled me that all objects, animate and inanimate, have their time. It was our calling to construct not only a new gate but also a fence of similar style spanning the entire length of the road. That wasn’t all. She also surmised, correctly, that with the volume of traﬃc it now served, we needed to pave the entrance to our place of business.
I used to smile, reminiscing about the ticklish sensations I had stored like gems in a leather pouch from my maiden voyage to Kuruk.
Now, if any person by chance turned onto the road leading
to our restaurant the morning Adina’s body was found, they would have been welcomed by a spiﬀy split rail open gate with matching fence. Resting under the crossbars were clumps of blooming coneflowers with their pink petals submitting gracefully to feature the perfectly round-shaped orange jewels cloistered in their center. These bursts of color were so bright that each possessed as potent an eﬀect on the senses as a field of California golden poppies. Dandelions, in their supporting role, covered the adjacent ground.
That very morning the wonder of this precious and beautiful strip of earth was looted from the rootop of my memory like tenderness from a warrior.
I was already, owing to the unsolved mystery of what happened to Adina, in a gloomy mood when I let home just before daybreak to address a number of business matters at the restaurant. I had proceeded only some two hundred yards before the grotesque figure of our lead lady came into view; the image burns eternal agony in my heart to this moment.
I slammed my car to a stop, sending my companion, the esteemed English Cocker Spaniel family pet, Henry Higgins, unpleasantly head first into the dashboard.
He yelped. I screeched. The next thing I recall was the sound of a damn fleet of pickup trucks roaring along the road. then, I heard sirens. the noise of a procession of police vehicles racing toward me was deafening. Successively each skidded to a stop before the oﬃcers bolted from their cars. Ater the near fatal events I had lived through during the few years prior to this tragedy, I felt doomed.
It would not be until some time later that I would come to understand that this adorable little girl was savagely murdered owing to two crimes, neither of which she could have had knowledge of or averted. Putting aside that she was an unusually talented child who was going to bring joy to thousands of people during her career and had been a delight to all of us associated with her at Mescalero, she was sentenced to death for the offenses of being associated with me…and being Jewish.
this was not to be a common hate crime. the evildoer of this act was a rabid animal who had stuffed his belly with viciousness but could never be sated. He wanted me, and everybody and everything precious to me, to suﬀer or be destroyed. He landed in town with vengeance. He wanted to play with me like an alley cat with a field mouse, terrorizing me with pinprick impalements by his wicked incisors before releasing me to scamper away, but only to then mouth me with just enough grip to let me know that at any moment the fatal tightening of the jaw could bring about my termination.
Adina Bernard was only a warm-up exercise for this sick monster. I would soon learn that the man wasn’t bred for the role of cold killer but acquired it out of irrefutable faith— the worst equation for the devil’s work in that the horrors he commits in his demented mind are permissible, rational, necessary and justified.
The end game would come much too late for many innocent people. I’m not sure to this day what other acts of terror were on his agenda when we did finally meet. I do know that his enterprise was futile to him unless at some point he would be able to encounter me face-to-face. I surmised this to be the case as time went on but it wasn’t until the moment he embraced me that my suspicion was confirmed.
After everything, he wanted to kiss me—twice on each side.
ACTS OF EVIL
NO FREE PASSES
Sadly, shortly after turning thirty, the sweet cradle of blessedness I had enjoyed up until that time brashly delivered a Dear John letter—it would be one crisis followed by another for the next several years before a brief respite leading up to the loss of Adina. I presumed this most recent tragedy would be an isolated event, one that would have to be grieved and then survived.
Sure, I knew there would be an atermath to her murder. Yet how could I have imagined at the time that the epilogue to the horrid slaying of Adina Bernard would elasticize into a full blown yarn, the unraveling both inspiring and commanding this thought-to-have-retired author, Zacchaeus Miller, to finger tapping the blues on his computer keys?
This tale took its next turn on a Thursday aternoon in early March, only a week ater the body of Adina Bernard was found. Inside a run-down apartment in the crime-ridden tom tenorio Park area of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Narsi Platta’s body was found lying in a rouge-watered bathtub ater bleeding out from slashing his wrists. If hatred toward me hadn’t been fomenting before this event, the feeling had now stepped out of the mist of silence with a hissing sound, licensed by the owner to aim at me unrestrained rage.
I wish I could have asked the God of Revenge why I was selected. There was no need for dumb questions. The answer was obvious. My own God of Innocence—the teasing type— had laughed an all too familiar chuckle, anticipating that I’d appeal to His sense of justice. “I’m only half Jewish,” I pled, blamelessly. But my words lacked prestige. Like it or not, I was fully chosen. All I recall hearing was a pathetic “tee-he.” I threw up my hands as a prayer, making a last appeal to self-pity, a talent that I had mastered years earlier. Yet my pal turned a backside, abandoning me as if I were a shoddy beggar.
what credential did I possess qualifying me as an object of revenge? Part of the answer is that a couple years before I had assisted my father-in-law, Len Cloud, the legal guide of his tribe, the Mescalero Apache, to investigate the possibility of tribal funds being fleeced by the president, a man named Bernard Platta.
My role was innocent enough. I was asked to sniﬀ the flow of money coming in to and out of the tribal trusts and investigate if contracts entered into by the tribe were on the up and up. with the help of my sidekick, Josea Roth, unfortunately we found the fiscal management of the tribe to be filthy.
The key character in this play of corruption was the senior Platta, father of two sons, Gopan and Narsi, both of which were living high oﬀ illegally attained wealth—and aware of it. Not only had the three Platta’s sprouted noses longer than
Pinocchio’s, there was a host of other actors who had gleefully signed on for supporting roles in the multi-pronged swindle. Once the proof had been attained, and then bound in a tidy book of incrimination, an attempt was made to retrieve the assets without having the entire tribe humiliated by a trial conducted by the State of New Mexico. the effort failed miserably. what it proved, at least to me, was that you can deal openly and honestly with crooks, but expect at just the moment you think you have a deal to be congratulated with a knuckle sandwich smacked into your face.
Bernard Platta was swinging both fists at the same time— toss him a sling blade and he’d have severed my head from my neck like a weed.
BOUND BY REVENGE
Unbeknownst to me, owing to my diligence in amassing the evidence against these criminals, and then my participation in resolving the matter, I was identified as the culprit. Bernard Platta designated me as the loathsome villain; he reviled me.
At the time of Adina’s murder, Gopan had been sentenced and had just begun serving time. Narsi was sentenced but a final appeal had postponed his incarceration for two weeks. Daddy Platta was still free on bail, battling with tooth, nail, hammer, chisel, drill and…lead pipe for a longer Stay out of Jail card.
Several times I was ordered to testify at hearings and on each occasion Platta venomously eyed me. while I had no doubt that he detested me, his rancor was all bluster…until ater his son Narsi carved out his own punishment. Then my father-in-law’s warning to me about Platta, that “he could be a mean son-of-a-bitch” came to fruition.
“I…want…him…dead!” Bernard Platta declared, his foot stomping punctuating each word like a child throwing a tantrum. “You want to help? Then kill that bastard.”
Bernie, as his few friends and many enemies referred to him during the trial, was a short man. He bore a remarkable resemblance to another dictatorial figure, Napoleon. His face was round with sot, light skin several shades lower than most of his fellow tribesmen. His hair had years ago backed off his forehead like an army in retreat, waging his fight against Old-Man time by letting the strands on the center of his head grow long so that he could meticulously comb them forward. It was a defiant, and futile, attempt to challenge nature’s ravaging way.
His belly protruded. As he stood with a perfectly erect spine, his shape might be mistaken for a proud soon-to-be mom showing oﬀ her pregnancy. He impressed you as being a kindly and sweet man…until he lowered his head. Vacuous swagger was not his game. when his chin started to work like a mallet—pounding on his upper sternum—and his teeth gritted with such ferocity that the lips and surrounding tissue stretched tautly, the man was expressing raging determination intended to scare the crap out of anyone thinking of testing him.
He presented himself in this posture when he instructed Mr. Fadi Abbas what service the man could be to him, pertaining to the termination of myself.
“I’m afraid that’s not what I had in mind…at least not right away,” Abbas countered with a demonic grin smeared widely across his face.
If Platta were accurate in his read of this man who was unabashedly proclaiming himself a killer, he would understand that the satisfaction of murder is not solely to eliminate the victim but equally to gratify the sadistic cravings of the slayer. Mr. Abbas was a hungry man—he’s the second piece of the puzzle as to why I was selected for termination.
In a small oﬃce sitting across from one another were these two soon-to-be-partners-in-crime. Abbas was behind a desk covered with papers that had been taken out of a folder and dropped randomly. He was in the process of enlightening Platta on his vast knowledge of the life of yours truly, Zach Miller.
“There are many people from where I was born who despise this man,” Abbas said as he glanced disdainfully at my photo that he was dangling from the tips of his fingers like a germ. “I have been honored with the assignment of avenging his crimes.”
The room was dimly lit. The only light reflected from two lamps resting on one of a pair of oak wood tables. Other than the desk, chairs, a wooden bench and lighting, the interior was empty. The walls were void of decoration, their only sign of wear was several small nail holes revealing that at some time prior an occupant had been more attentive to the ambiance of the space.
Platta had noticed when he entered that adjacent to where they were talking, a grander office was more generously honored with ornaments pleasing to the eye and senses. On the desk of that space was a large photo of a couple. A careless cleaning person had no doubt turned the picture to face the entrance to the suite. Platta recognized the attractive female when he first arrived but didn’t address his concern until moments later.
“Look, Abbas, what if your boss shows up unexpectedly?” “She won’t,” he assured a fidgety Platta. “She’s visiting our friend in Mescalero tonight.”
Platta leaned back in his chair, emboldened by the disclosure.
“I’m still not sure why you’re willing to help me with this. whatever your motive is, let me make it clear to you that if you cross me I’ll see to it you pay.”
Abbas smiled. He took no oﬀense from the explicit threat. “You’ll come to trust me like a brother.” He paused to close his eyes while placing his right hand to his heart. “the betrayal of this man has lead to the death of many people. You have lost a son owing to his juvenile meddling and I know for a fact of many situations where loved ones have been killed, imprisoned or gone into hiding because of what he would suggest are his acts of gallantry.”
Abbas stood, pressing the palms of his hands into the wood desktop, peering deeply into Platta’s eyes. “My services will not be free.”
“I told you when you contacted me that I was running out of funds, that defending my sons and myself has bled me—“ “Please, Mr. Platta,” Abbas abruptly cut him oﬀ, but with a gentle, rhythmic voice that might be mistaken for lyrical. “I take oﬀense at your mistrust. I told you I would not be charging you a nickel to dispense with Miller, didn’t I?”
Abbas appeared to be in his early to mid-thirties, at least two decades younger than his new associate. He wore an armor of musculature yet it was apparent he’d laboriously superimposed it on a more fragile figure to bulk up a perceived shortfall of masculinity. His head was covered with a brown knit cap; his full beard was meticulously cropped at a length of half an inch and was coal black in color.
His eyebrows were thick and composed a perfectly horizontal and unbroken line above the eyes. The latter two organs appeared in a perpetual state of glint, as if his being was one of inner joyousness and playfulness.
“But you just said your services are not free, unless I didn’t hear you?” Platta posed inquiringly.
“No, you heard me perfectly. I want you to be my partner.” “And I want that bastard dead before I’m no doubt sent to prison for most of what is let of my life,” Platta hurled back at him with the potency of Zeus firing a bolt of lightning to smite an enemy.
“As you know, while I’m not a licensed private investigator my boss is,” Abbas continued, ignoring the outburst. “I’ve learned a good deal over the past year working with her.”
“what does that have to do with me?” Platta questioned impatiently.
“I knew that you would hate Miller. No diﬀerent than the detestation you hold toward your father, I assume.”
Platta’s face tightened as he reflexively gripped his brewing anger.
“My father has nothing to do with this,” he stammered. “And it’s no business of yours.”
“to the contrary,” Abbas pleasantly disagreed. “Your father was a Jew, no?”
“He was out of my life by the time I was seven,” Platta retorted dismissively.
“Thankfully, for you. He was a monster, isn’t that true?”
Platta shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Abbas was forcing his new partner to dredge up memories from a cesspool of childhood horrors that the man was never able to conquer but was successful in hiding from anyone else intimate to him.
“My mom was a gorgeous woman. He raped and beat her,” Platta admitted. “He was very wealthy and thought he could do anything he wanted. when she finally got away from him, she came back to her birth home. She raised me after that on the reservation. I’m a Mescalero Apache,” he proclaimed. “
“You’re also as passionate a Jew hater as I proudly label myself,” he smirked, well aware of disclosures on the subject made by Platta. “I know of your past associations with the most respected anti-Semitic groups in this country,” he informed Platta as he was leaning forward to punctuate his point by whispering. “You need not have secrets with me. As I said, you can rely on me like a brother for we share identical goals.” Platta impatiently interrupted. “These people are responsible for—“
Abbas, still speaking in a lowered voice close to the man’s ear, knowingly filled in the answer for him. “Everything evil on earth? Is that what you’re about to say?”
“Then we’re agreed? I’ll help you with Miller and you’ll help me make war on the Jews…and Miller as well.”
Platta nodded agreement, but with bemusement. He still had no idea what role he was to play.
“I want you to have a clear alibi any time we deal with Miller. It’s too transparent that you might want to harm him.” Platta nodded again. Abbas rose and started for the door, motioning his partner to follow. He lead him to his car, a dilapidated old snot-colored toyota Camry, the right passenger door secured shut with a piece of wire and portions of the top and front hood exposing raw metal—the vehicle’s condition was an angry compromise between necessity and disdain.
Hey traveled silently a short distance to an apartment building mimicking the low esteem of Fadi’s wheels. He parked in front of the structure. here was no landscaping other than randomly scattered rocks. Volunteer weeds were proving that spring holds no prejudice against drifters; they were grabbing the otherwise nude grave-like earth and encroaching on a loosely defined path composed of broken steppingstones.
Platta followed Abbas up a narrow stairwell. He banister was secured by one bracket on the upper portion but the bottom hardware hung listlessly out of the wall, allowing the metal rail to rest on the concrete steps. A door opened to a hallway with a filthy carpet of unrecognizable color leading to several entrances on each side. He asked Platta to wait behind the hall door until he called him.
Out of sight of Platta, Abbas stopped at the fourth unit on the right. He paused to carefully inspect the door, eyeing it closely to be sure that the hair-thin clear thread he had placed across it hadn’t been moved. He inserted two separate keys into the locks and opened it. He entered and similarly inspected the single street-facing window to be sure it hadn’t been jarred.
He went back to get Platta. Then he motioned for the man to come along, waiting for his guest to enter first. Abbas’ living space was dingily decorated, and small. The studio apartment had an unmade mattress on the floor and in a corner was a frayed couch. The kitchenette revealed neglected dishes and pots, the only interested parties several flies feasting on the stinking remains of meals likely digested by the master days or even weeks earlier.
Abbas was shameless. His dwelling was obviously inconsequential to his esteem. In the corner of the room was a closet. He swung open the door. A gleeful smile stretched his cheeks. His rounded face redeemed the despair of his abode. He invited Platta to behold the numerous weapons and objects looking like explosives carefully set out on a series of shelves.
“I’ll supply all the materials we’ll need from now on,” he informed his guest. “I think it’s time to get to work Mr. Platta,” Abbas noted, waving his arm as if calling the deadly equipment to attention.
There was a small wooden box sitting on the floor in the closet. Abbas picked it up. while holding it open, he took out a single pill and a small plastic pouch. He replaced the closed box where it sat seconds earlier, dropping the pill into the bag. He then handed it to Platta.
“Take this an hour before you finalize the assignment,” he said with a coy smile. “Trust me, you’ll feel like a saint.”
Platta looked at him with bewilderment. Abbas had already anticipated an objection by Platta.
“You’ll be alone. this will help you overcome any last second hesitation.” Still reading uncertainty—possibly fear— in the man’s glance, Abbas continued. “Don’t be a fool. I need you alive.”
Platta nodded, signaling he’d do as he was told.
THE ECSTASY OF MASS MURDER
In the heart of Central Phoenix, just north of Camelback Ave, is an upscale neighborhood with an unusual inner city treat. Murphy’s Bridle Path is made up of 2.5 miles of a tree-lined urban trail. Previously, it had been an equestrian path. More recently, as it meanders up Central Ave, it invites the exercise enthusiast for a beautiful jog as well as strollers to amble along while viewing the natural setting lined with luxury homes and attractive olive trees planted late in the nineteenth century.
The corner of Central Ave and Bethany Home Road might be seen as the tip of the park. In fact, the North Phoenix Baptist Church rests on that precise location and down the block, the Beth Israel temple.
Three days after the meeting between Abbas and Platta, while under the instruction of his Arab partner, the soon-tobe-convicted Platta drove to Phoenix. He had left Albuquerque at nine in the evening and arrived at his destination, the outer border of Murphy’s Bridal Path, at four in the morning.
He parked on an isolated street behind both the church and temple. In the trunk of his car were three identical objects. They each appeared like large serving platters that were several inches thick. These canisters were soldered closed by the hand of a skilled craftsman. Inside each of them were several sets of high explosives designed to go oﬀ sequentially. They would fill the air with liquid chlorine and tear apart the flesh of anyone in the area with shrapnel composed of tiny razors.
They weighed almost forty pounds each. Visible on the outside was an activation switch. The genius that manufactured these improvised explosive devices (IED’s) had cleverly used old mobile phones and garage door openers to devise the electronics required to set oﬀ the charges by remote control.
Each apparatus had been placed in a material pouch so that Platta could carry one over each shoulder and the third draped around his neck. He didn’t have far to walk so the weight was not a factor.
He moved in the direction of the temple Beth Israel, but only after surveying the area and determining that nobody was around. He had been prepped to know exactly where to place the bombs. He was also informed that the portion of the building he was most interested in was constructed on a foundation with a crawl space beneath the first floor of the two-level structure.
He placed the parcels on the ground and opened the trap door to gain access to the space below the building. He then reached out to pull each of the bombs securely on to the cold dirt surface. He took a small pen flashlight from his coat pocket and crouched down so that he could move to the locations where he wanted to place each explosive, dragging them along the ground behind him.
As he let each of the packages, he set their respective switches.
He turned oﬀ the light as he approached the door and carefully looked around before opening it and exiting. Since he was comfortable that he had not been observed, he strolled away. He moved intentionally in a direction away from where his car was parked. In fact he walked several blocks, backtracking and observing the surrounding area until convinced he had attracted no more attention than that of a spider he noticed spinning a web between the branches of a Chinese Elm tree. He recognized it as a juvenile version of the giant parent elms he had in the back yard of the house he was raised in after birth in Los Angeles.
He finally made his way back to his car and drove several miles before pulling into a rest area where he fell asleep for a couple hours. when he awakened, he used a drive-through window at a McDonalds to purchase breakfast. He then drove back to where he had parked earlier in the morning when he set the bombs. He exited his car and began walking to the bridal path where he found a vacant bench to sit on while eating.
He finished his meal at ten in the morning. Spring was expressing an unusual indolence, leaving the air crisp and sharp, with the sun moseying out from behind a thin sheet of white streaky clouds. Platta was wearing a tan nylon windbreaker with black pants of a similar fabric. On his head was a bright yellow baseball cap. He looked like any other hiker out for a walk. In fact, the smell of pine was faintly perceptible and lured him deeper along the path. His conditioning was poor and he stopped to rest several times.
Diligently monitoring his watch, he took the pill Abbas had given him precisely at ten-thirty.
He knew that it would not be until eleven thirty that the facility he wanted to inflict terror on would be fully occupied. Not long after taking the pill, he perceived a feeling of immense calm. That was followed by the loss of a sensation of weight, as if he might have unwittingly uncovered the elusive elements to create the feeling of anti-gravity.
He then noticed his mind burst out from the confines of his cranial cell, expanding to fill the eternity of universal space. Beams, like visions from giant diamonds with infinite facets piled as high as a mountain, bright and wondrous, shot in every direction. At their distal point the rays began to warp, looping back upon one another to form what at first appeared to be a tangle of yarn. Yet as he visualized the miracle, he noticed that each strand was distinguishable and had ended its voyage by aiming for a particular point. The end product might have been a tapestry, the picture representing what looked to Platta to be a likeness of the resurrection of Christ.
Had God invited him into His private chamber of ultimate peace, he wondered. For at that moment all the conflict, fear and hate he had suﬀered during his conscious existence dissolved into a blissful awareness that life had order, and he was merely a passenger in the cosmic plan. The apprehensions he might have admitted minutes earlier were comical. He sat playing with them. He tossed worry about death in the air like pizza dough and watched the discs take oﬀ like space ships on a celestial journey.
Abbas had honored him to complete a task. It was so obvious. He was doing nothing wrong. to the contrary, he was doing the ordained work of the Creator.
As Platta sat, he couldn’t help noticing the parade of people passing him. Soon they would be grateful for what he was about to do. thank God. Bernard Platta was now the chosen one.
To his surprise, at the same time these miraculous insights were unfolding in a continuum he was able to draw on his normal senses and perceptions. He could hear the yells of children playing in the distance and notice the grey roots of strands of hair on a lady’s head seated on another bench close to him. He was fully oriented to time and place. He knew where he lived, who his family members were, and the need for caution with respect to his upcoming duty.
He glanced down at his watch. It was still only five after the hour of eleven. He stood and began walking slowly out of the wooded area, thinking about the act he was about to commit. It was as vile and cruel as could be conceived. Yet the bitterness he harbored for all that had gone wrong in his life at last would be vindicated through the torment planned for others.
With the little present Abbas had given him, he was void of common human conscience. He laughed to himself thinking about the burden that he and the rest of mankind had pointlessly hauled along in their psyche. Conscience? Superego? Shame and guilt were foolish games…played mindlessly by the foolish. He no longer would have to shoulder responsibility for becoming a murderer. Bernard Platta was no more, and no less, than a thread in the fabric of human destiny.
As he made his way back to the car, a feeling of exhilaration overcame him. He picked up the pace, as if not wanting to be late for a special lady. It was quiet where he had parked. He started the engine. Owing to a slight decline in the level of the street, the car rolled forward about two hundred yards without him engaging the gear. At the precise distance he was told he needed to be from the bombs to transmit the activation mechanisms, he stopped.
He reached into the glove compartment. there was a device with three buttons. He took it out with his right hand and fondled it erotically. He glanced over at the temple, now only about a hundred and fifty yards away. A breath exhaled in slow motion, lacking sound or movement, sponsored his transcendence to an ultimate yogic trance. with a smile on his face he pressed one button after the other, three in total.
The feeling reminded him of the successive pulses of a splendid adolescent orgasm.
Nothing seemed to be able to harm business at Kuruk. we had survived murders of tribal members, threats and attempts on the life of people who were family and friends of mine, and then the inexplicable killing of a little girl so beautiful and talented she would have been looking forward to a long life of fame and accomplishment. Yet we thrived.
If our establishment were being evaluated for investment purposes, the steady stream of profit, regularly increasing sales and revenue, and growth potential, would have a great buyout story. Our chef—who insisted on a low profile—was world class, our service was impeccable, and vacationers coming to the Mescalero reservation for winter skiing, summer hunting and hiking, and year round gambling, generated an inexhaustible stream of customers.
For a man priding himself on being anything other than a businessman, the moneymaking story was a joke. to take the ridiculous to the level of the absurd, there were now four Kuruk restaurants under franchise in Beverly Hills, New York, Boston and Chicago. My friend—and the ex-FBI agent who worked on the murder cases at Mescalero that I just mentioned—along with his chef brother-in-law were inspired to take the Kuruk sensation and recreate it multiple times. They did so with immense success and, as a result, they were tossing royalty fees our way like lollipops.
Thus, while Bernard Platta was enjoying a drug-induced celebration during his ride back to Albuquerque, I was in my oﬃce at Kuruk talking on the phone with our accountant. we had purchased a new set of freezers and refrigerators, an expenditure requiring decisions regarding depreciation, amortization, and interest expense. These were all the subjects that I was as fascinated with as electroconvulsive shock therapy.
I had just hung up with the man my best friend, Preston, referred to as the “ceppa poppa alpha” (for Certified Public Accountant), Martin Crowell, when I received another call. It was close to noon. My discussion with the money counter had been much lengthier than I anticipated and by the time we hung up, my coﬀee cup had cooled to the point that the fresh milk I poured in it had curdled to tiny icicles. In fact, I had just tested the temperature with my lips and was in the process of putting the cup on the saucer when one of the servers peeked in on me and placed a bowl of my favorite soup, Mulligatawny, on the table.
I silently expressed appreciation to her, as I clicked to receive a new call. On the other end of the line was Nadine Street, a woman who had, during an illustrious career as senior investigator for the Washington, D. C. Metropolitan Police Department, run into a most intriguing yet personally impairing serial murder case. In fact, she came to Kuruk to detail the story to me so I could write it as a novel. Along the way, this fascinating and indomitable lady fell in love with Preston. to my surprise, they both wanted to stay in New Mexico.
By chance, our local theater needed a sound engineer and Preston took that position, plus a part-time gig that simultaneously came available at the university in Albuquerque—he was a perfect fit. Then Nadine decided to start up a boutique private investigation firm in the same city. when she called me on the morning that Platta had performed his first hideous assignment with Abbas, she had been operating for just over a year. She was also at the time of that call, engaged. She and Preston were living together. She had become a close friend not only of mine, but my wife as well.
“Zach, I was thinking you’ve never seen my oﬃce.” “You’re right,” I acknowledged, a bit perplexed how that could be the case after such a long period.
“So, what are you doing for lunch?” she asked in the breezy fashion she used when she was in a gay mood.
“Nothing. I’m finishing up a couple projects here at Kuruk.
I’ll shoot down there as soon as I’m finished.” “Good. My treat.”
Within ten minutes, I was on the road. I had let behind my cherished soup to cool next to a full cup of cold coﬀee.
We were still in a tentative temperature cycle in Mescalero as we peeked into spring. The weather was capable of behavior that would land a man in an institution. One day the sun was smiling a full mouth of white teeth, the next day his lips descended over chattering that might crack a denture. None of this was troublesome to the people living in my region, unless they were to leave home without a coat and hat.
It was dark outside when I walked out of Kuruk. the surrounding mountain peaks appeared to have been chopped oﬀ by the sovereign clouds that were sweating a fine mist. there was no wind but the icy cold air exploited every exposed surface of the body. It reinforced the sense of gloom that hadn’t let up for a moment since the killing of little Adina Bernard, a crime still with no known motive and not a single clue who might have been responsible.
Just as I hopped into my car, I noticed the sky illuminate for an instant. The light was coming from the north but lasted only portions of a second before it darkened, as if suﬀering from a power failure. Then it burst a second time, now lingering for moments as its energy assumed the role of master over a magic sword drawing white stick figures on the horizon.
As I was making my way down the hill, my cell went oﬀ. “Zach. Don’t come if the weather is too bad,” Nadine volunteered.
“It’ll be fine. But thanks for the concern.” “Drive carefully. It looks ugly here.”
“I’m used to it; I’ll see you soon.”
Lightning strikes, like temptresses calling seductively from a distance planet, lured me down the mountain and then all the way to her oﬃce. By the time I arrived, massive groans, clashes and grating sounds were belligerently trailed by fractions of a second by bursts of light. I might have arrived at the doors of hell and in a few minutes, I was sure that I had.
Nadine had elected to place her oﬃce in one of the oldest areas of the city, ingeniously called Old town. It was recorded as the first neighborhood settled in Albuquerque, back in the early 1700’s. Organized in the traditional pattern that could be found to this day in Spain, there is a central plaza, which is surrounded by businesses and homes.
Nadine fell in love with the authentic adobe brick structures and wouldn’t consider placing her business anywhere else in the city, although in truth she was in a small, newly constructed building that mimicked the original adobe design but had employed modern techniques and materials.
I parked in front of her building, only a couple blocks from Rio Grande Boulevard where the center of town is located.
I walked up to the second floor. The door opened to a small reception area with no staff in attendance. As I gazed to my right, I noticed a creamy-skinned man close to my age in a small room with a desk. He glanced at me for an instant before averting his attention to the assignment he was working on.
Staring at his now downturned head, my attention was quickly diverted as Nadine came out of the adjacent oﬃce to the left. I could tell something had spoiled her mood between when she invited me to visit her and the instant she looked at me. whatever it was, she muzzled voicing it for long enough to greet me.
I noticed immediately that her long brunette hair that traditionally famously descended in several dangling layers had been straightened and now did a free fall below the shoulders, half resting on the right and half on her let breast.
She was wearing a grey felt hat with such an enormous brim that as she approached to hug me it softly poked my forehead—the vastness of the piece made her face appear to be seeking subterfuge. I knew she was dying to have a baby and I wondered if she purchased the contraption with birth in mind; it reminded me of a far more practical setting to cradle a newborn than to shelter an adult head.
After we disengaged, she resumed a grave stare. She grabbed a jacket she had hung on an oak coat rack near the front door. while putting it on and simultaneously opening the door, she called out to the man in the other oﬃce.
“Going out to lunch, Fadi. I have my cell.”
She then swung the door wide open and waited to follow me out. Before we fully descended the stairwell, she burst out with what was bothering her.
“Zach, my Lord, didn’t you hear the news on the way here?” she inquired frantically.
“No. I use CD’s to listen to music. But what news?” “Somebody bombed the preschool at a Jewish temple in
Phoenix.” She paused, clearly disturbed by what she was about to disclose. “At least twenty children are dead.”
It was dim inside the staircase. I’m sure she couldn’t have noticed that my already light skin had turned to an ashen shade of white. There was a long silence while we made our way into the street.
“They were babies,” she cried out, her eyes moist. “You were in Israel. would those people resort to something as vile as this?”
I noticed my emotions freeze. It was everything I abandoned like an unfaithful lover in Israel: Insatiable hate, the kind that feeds on itself, is never satisfied unless it’s sucked every atom of goodness out of man’s essence.
My head was bobbing. Sure, during my journey to that region of the world I had encountered people—only a tiny fraction—who would kill the innocent and who would rejoice doubly if the victims were children. But after my intervention was employed to arrest a potential tragedy in that country, those capable of evil had been subdued, had been brought to their knees and had been forced to make peace—so I believed. Now these just murdered children would testify to a pathetic truth, that man was saddled with a violent nature no diﬀerent than a stone plagued to live eternally with no volition over its shape. It was more likely that nothing lasting had been accomplished from my participation in the aﬀairs of that region. why couldn’t I respond to her question? It was instinct, a deeply buried awareness that the horror I had experienced during that period of my life had followed me home—but none of this pierced my consciousness at the moment.
“It’s senseless killing,” she muttered, shaking her head in disbelief.
I still said nothing. Nadine must have computed that the news struck me like a hot pin being shoved into one of my nerves and that I was screaming silently.
“I know this isn’t a pleasant subject…especially for you,” she said uncomfortably, as though she had thoughtlessly imposed her emotions on me. Then she attempted to erase what she saw as insensitivity on her part. “It’s not directly related to our lives but it just upset me. Let’s talk about something more pleasant,” she proposed.
“I can’t run away from reality. I would have found out regardless and then been just as upset.” I stood silently for a few moments. “I know these people who did this,” I mumbled as if in a fog.
“You know them?!” Her exclamation forced me to clarify my comment.
“No. I don’t know specifically who did it but I know the mentality. Nadine, I lived with people who would do this sort of thing and then compliment themselves for the accomplishment, as if they had sponsored the cure of cancer.”
“Sick!” she cried out.
“I think it’s a bit diﬀerent than that…no, it’s not sickness.” “I don’t understand how you can say that,” she wearily challenged.
“It’s worse. They believe.”
“Believe in what?” she asked urgently.
“Does it matter if you believe in something that can’t be verified, that has no rational basis for truth, but that you are convinced is absolute and incontestable? Does it matter when based on mere prejudice you grant yourself the justification to act with impunity, and worse, to undertake killing with what you’re supremely sure is God’s will?”
“So a sick person,” she paused to carefully compose her thinking, “is acting because they have no choice, because they are diseased by something they have no control over? But then there is—“
“Right. Then there is warped, wicked belief that breeds evil,” I aﬃrmed. “Nadine, as a peace oﬃcer you’ve dealt with demonic minds capable of harming innocent people; rapists, sadists and brutal murderers. They’re wayward, damaged, tragic and twisted souls; they’re people with regrettable and suﬀered pasts, but they’re not evil. I’ve looked evil in the face. Its blood is frozen, its heart pumps acid and its mind is a razor blade. It believes…unquestionably.”
“It may be diﬀerent but I believe too,” Nadine retorted, wanting to defend the goodness of faith. “I believe in god. I believe in faith and in the commandments.”
“Of course. So does Preeti. So does Josea. So does most of mankind,” I countered.
“I don’t think I’m evil, and I don’t think you or any of them are either.”
“Surely not. I’m only trying to define that point where belief morphs into evil.”
“And where is that?”
“Where belief jettisons doubt, where there can be no other truth.”
After a few minutes she smiled. “well, I still believe—it helps me.”
“Sure you do. My simple point is that you don’t ‘believe’ like a fanatic, like a true believer. That’s what has been worthy about religion for millions of people,” I proposed. “I think that’s why there are so many religions and variations of each system of belief and why throughout the history of mankind there have been so many approaches to faith. the secret is they all believe, but with doubt—most adherents can never be true believers, the type who kill to defend the indefensible.”
I gazed at the people passing by. Each was on a mission. It might be to win a contract, sell a quota of cars, develop the next strain of life-saving antibiotics, defeat a spouse in a divorce court or threaten a neighbor for letting their dog bark at all hours. Their most powerful motive is to survive. I’d have bet that each of those souls crossing my destiny at that second believed.
They want to avoid needing miracles or having to resort to gambles to live in peace. Their beliefs are merit badges that they earn for behaving with decency and common regard for their fellow man. true believers? Hah! Few are endowed with the simple twist of fate permitting them unqualified hate.
“Nadine, the doubt is what allows for tolerance and respect. It’s only when uncertainty is eviscerated, blasted out of the conscious mind like gas farted from the guts of the earth, that we encounter profound lack of conscience—that’s how evil is born and it’s an un-Godly force so potent we have no choice but to smite it.”
Nadine started laughing, more a giggling sound than comical expression. “I never heard you talk like that. Very heady.” She looked at me kindly. Then she hugged me. “Give me about a week to think it over.”
“Take a month,” I generously oﬀered.
All the while we were standing just outside her building. Nadine touched my arm and gently led me down the block.
“Zach, I have a question for you. It’s totally oﬀ the subject of what we’re talking about.”