I'm now closing in on the end of Heaven & Hell, at long last. Admittedly, it has taken me longer then I expected. First off, it's my first solo novel, so it took longer then I estimated. Second, not having a computer close at hand at all hours of the day meant that my writing time was curtailed. And lastly, well, there have been times in the last year that I haven't been up to writing. On a personal level, I've had a difficult year at times, and trust me... when you've got a proverbial black dog looming right in front of you, telling him to bugger off doesn't always do the trick. So the writing gets put to the side.
I've been writing lately what's basically a transitional pair of chapters. The Very Bad Thing (no, I'm not telling) has long since happened, and the truth has been exposed. Now everything is about the final act of the book, moving the action from Israel to Greece, where I have a final reckoning to come on the island of Andros between my protagonists and the terrorists they've been after. Incidentally, I'd like to apologize to the citizens of Andros in advance for setting a battle on their lovely island.
Late in the book, I've introduced the final players in the book, members of the Greek counter-terrorism unit. The following is a passage introducing their commander. Tell me what you think.
The man sat in his office that day, a comfortable though utilitarian room in the Hellenic Police headquarters in Athens. He needed little more then what was already there: a desk, chair, shelves, and two chairs for visitors. There was also a safe for any sensitive documents, hidden behind a landscape charcoal sketch of the isle of Santorini on the wall behind him. The man was in his mid-fifties, and had a full head of neatly cropped black hair mixed with some grey, brown eyes, a moustache, and a typical Greek look. His eyes were constantly scanning when he was outdoors, tracking each face he saw, comparing them to faces in his memory. He wore khaki trousers and a tan dress shirt, open at the neck. At five feet eleven, he was tall and lean- that despite being in management these days- and in good shape, a holdover from his Army days.
His name was Stavros Maras, and he was the director of E.K.A.M., the division known in English as the Special Suppressive Anti-Terrorist Unit. His officers all had backgrounds in the military and police, just like him, and trained and drilled constantly as counter-terrorism specialists. They were posted across the country, their drills taking place at a variety of locations, including ports, train lines, and airports. Their opposition remained far left revolutionaries, for the most part, and their duties also included rescue operations and hostage situations. They cross-trained regularly with various agencies, including the FBI, and they were the elite in the Hellenic Police.
Maras had taken part in the dismantling of terrorist groups like November 17, the ruthless leftists who had waged their violent private war on his country. The groups that had followed in that path remained a thorn for his agency, as did the growing problem of Islamic radicals. Still, he had confidence in the abilities of the men and women under his command, and knew they were more than a formidable challenge for any of those who might launch an operation within his country.
There was a television on in the room while he worked at his computer, on a low shelf on the other side of the room. One of the local television stations had been on the air since the explosion yesterday, reporting on the latest developments in the region. The statement from Nahas had been a surprise; the Covenant exposed as being behind the attack even more so. Maras was well acquainted with the group’s history, though they had never operated in Greece. He was half-listening as he typed, scanning reports on leftist groups in the country. Maras found himself surprised by the ringing of the phone. It was the secure phone, directly bypassing his secretary. There weren’t many people who had that number. He reached over, pressing a button on the console, and picked up the receiver, answering in Greek. “Yes?”
“Stavros, it’s Udi,” a familiar voice replied in the same language.
Maras glanced at the screen, and saw a familiar Greek reporter speaking from Tel Aviv. Small world, he thought to himself. This wouldn’t be a social call, not with all that’s been happening. “Udi,” Maras said, changing over to English. He knew Zahavi’s grasp of Greek was limited, so it was polite. “Good morning. What can I do for you?”
“Obviously you’ve been keeping up with the news,” Zahavi remarked.
“I have. The Covenant is responsible, I understand.”
“They are. And they’re in your area.”
That surprised him. “Tell me, Udi.”
And this is a brief snippet I thought you ought to get a look at. It's my Four Musketeers moment, with my protagonists about to head off into battle. It's a quiet moment for them, and I think it needed a dash of humour.
Zahavi lingered a moment, Eli coming up beside him. He looked at them, one by one, and nodded, as though confirming what he already thought of each of them. “Give them hell,” Zahavi told the foursome.
“We intend to,” Stryker replied.
Zahavi walked out, followed by Eli, the two men following Nahas and Singer. Devon and Stryker stepped out after them, turning to go another way, back towards the helipads. Sabra and Tarif joined them in the corridor. They walked in silence, and Tarif spoke, asking, “Is there some appropriate saying for a time like this?”
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” Stryker noted.
Sabra smiled despite herself. “You know your Shakespeare.”
“I always liked that one,” Tarif remarked. “Seems appropriate.”
“Fortune favours the bold comes to mind,” Devon suggested.
Stryker smirked, saying, “Or the slightly deranged.”
Now that I'm getting near the end, I've found myself in a bit of a quandary. The characters Sabra, Tarif, and Udi Zahavi were always meant to appear in just one book, and one book only. And yet here I am, getting towards the end, and I've gotten to really like them. So, the solution to the quandary? Bring them back. It can always be done down the line.
A couple of things left to keep in mind before I write the final words: I still haven't made up my mind just who will speak a certain bit of dialogue in regards to going to interesting places (it'll be whoever feels right for it as I'm writing it). And the final conversation of the book, I think, will only take shape when I get there. I know who has to speak... but the words will come when I get there. I've already experienced that in the writing, and I expect the same when I reach that point. Besides, I can't just impulsively bring in the police out of nowhere to arrest everyone for no reason. That's already been done before.
I can promise you, however, that the ending of the book will not turn out like this. Though I wouldn't mind borrowing one of those to use on my idiot ex-brother-in-laws' car....