Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
The BMW sped through the night until it reached lower Scotland. It was
nearly three in the morning. Wes turned across the bridge over the Esk
River. Roya slept and Wes hated to wake her. He said after steering the
car to the back of the house. "Ms. Southgate, we're here. We're safe
now. No one can find us."
Roya stirred and woke. She forced herself up, pushed open the passenger
door, and took up her knapsack. Walker came around the car's hood and led
Roya up short stairs to a patio entrance. Walker turned on a light. Roya's
eyes looked on furniture covered with sheets. The house looked as though
it didn't expect anyone's arrival. Nevertheless, even in her weariness
Roya thought the home charming with the look of an English country house.
Walker said, "There's a bathroom off the kitchen and one up the
stairs to the left."
"I'll go upstairs."
Walker watched Roya climb the stairs still holding onto the knapsack.
He knew the young woman's life was far from The Old City and unable to
get her mother's ashes. Walker called after her, "Roya, your bedroom
will be the first door on the right."
Roya turned back, gazed down on Walker and said, "Thank You."
Five minutes later she crawled into a large double bed and slipped beneath
the covers to sleep.
Roya woke early to descend the stairs and find Wes pulling off the furniture
coverings. He stayed up during the night while reviewing the papers and
photographs. He said as Roya entered a breakfast area, "Since we're
going to be here for a while we might as well make it livable."
Roya knew Walker needed sleep. She said, "You go upstairs and get
some sleep, Mr. Walker. I'll do this." Roya pulled a cover off a chair
and folded it. "I'm serious," she added, "Go to bed. You
can't write if you're exhausted."
"Will you be OK?"
"I've slept for most of the trip. I'll clean up. After you're rested,
I'll make you breakfast."
"I stopped to have the power turned on before continuing to Israel.
There's food in the fridge." Walker said nothing of the Browning pistol
or the weapons placed opposite the highway.
Roya appreciated the man taking her out of The Old City and back into
the world. Nevertheless, Roya still had to hide and she hoped that would
soon end. Wes said, "I'll be upstairs." Walker left the room
with Roya thinking that he presented a robust form that carried him through
the night drive.
Through the next hours Roya folded dust covers, vacuumed with a machine
found in a closet, and dusted the lower level. In the kitchen she found
a dishwasher, and washed all the dishes and silverware. At eleven, Roya
went to the upper bathroom to shower. She put on a robe she found in the
bedroom before returning downstairs to the kitchen.
Wes Walker slept soundly. It was now two-thirty in the afternoon. Roya
made an omelet along with toast and coffee. After finding a tray from a
pantry, she carried the meal up the stairs, and pushed open the door of
Walker's bedroom. Roya wore the robe with her hair tied up in a towel.
She said, "I fixed you breakfast or a late lunch. You deserve it."
Wes sat up in bed. He said, "Thank you." Walker thought Roya
Roya set the breakfast tray on Walker's lap. She said and sitting on
the bed. "I hope you managed a decent sleep."
"I did. What did you find to do?"
"I finished downstairs. It kept my mind off the last days. I took
a short walk to the bridge. It's beautiful here. It's almost like a dream."
"We're going to be here while we put a story together. You're going
to be an intricate part of the effort. I can't do it without you."
"I want to be here. It's as though I left the problems of the world
behind. I only wish I could have gotten my mother's ashes."
Walked saw her sad expression. He said, "Men will protect you after
this is over. You'll be able to return for your mother's ashes."
Roya tried to smile but found it hard to do so. She asked, "Mr.
Walker, I need to ask you a question."
"Sure . . . anything."
"Do you find me attractive?"
The question surprised Walker. Roya surprised herself by asking it.
Walker answered, "I find you exquisite. You're beautiful. Hasn't some
young man told you that?"
Roya's face remained expressionless as she answered, "I never really
went on a date, Mr. Walker, and I'm twenty-six years old. The boy you talked
to on Christian Street is the only boy I really know. We would go for walks
and talk about the problems of The Old City. It wasn't very romantic. He
was more like a brother. I think it often hurt him."
"Maybe he's in love with you and doesn't know how to tell you."
Walker took a bite of the omelet and toast. He was thankful the girl knew
how to cook.
Roya answered, "But I want more out of life than living in The
Old City and selling trinkets to people. Many come to The Old City and
leave disappointed. Jerusalem isn't what it was two thousand years ago.
Belief is in the soul . . . not in the place. I want to become a Carmelite,
but doubts trouble me."
"We all have our crosses to bear. Perhaps coming to the city helps
those with their different faiths."
"Do you believe in Christ as the Son of God?"
Walker knew he just about lost faith in everything. He said, "As
a young man I did. Now, I don't know what I believe. I've been too busy
writing the last years to stop and ponder the question of faith."
"Someday you will."
The young woman impressed Walker. Not all she suffered had killed her
faith. He envied her for it.
Roya added, "I better go see if my clothes are dry. I found your
washer and dryer. I need to buy some things . . . girl things."
"You're free to use anything you want. I'm going to have to go
into Edinburgh to buy a Laptop. You can shop there."
Roya stood. The robe she wore reached above her knees and Walker saw
the redness of her right knee. Roya saw Walker looking on it and she said,
"I cut it when I found my mother. The stitches are solid so I think
it'll be all right. I suppose I need to keep an antiseptic on it."
"There's some in the vanity of the bathroom." Roya turned
to leave the room. Walker's words caught up to her. "The breakfast
is great . . . thanks."
Roya turned back at the door. She said a simple, "My pleasure."
Roya closed the door. Thirty minutes later, after coming down the stairs,
she wore the outfit she purchased in Zurich two days earlier.
Walker stayed on highway A1 driving to Edinburgh. On reaching the city,
he stopped at a petrol station and bought petrol. He also stopped at a
phone-box and went through a telephone directory. From there, he drove
to a store where he and Roya walked the aisles. Fifteen minutes later,
Walker picked out a laptop, formatted disks, and software he used in The
Paying cash for the purchase, he drove to a clothing store where he
remained in the car as Roya shopped and purchased several articles of clothing.
He also drove her to a chemist shop for her personal needs. To allow Roya
time to feel free, and returning to the house, Walker drove a road through
the moorland country. He drove a detour through the Moorefoot hills, descending
through the Ettrick Forest, and to Yarrow Water. From there, he stayed
on the road through the Ettrick and Tima Valleys. After this, he connected
back to A1. As he drove, Roya remained quiet and taking in the green of
Roya didn't speak until the BMW crossed the bridge before the home.
She said in a sad voice, "I've forgotten what the rest of the world
is like. I've come to accept heat, and dust, and dreariness."
Walker said, "Well, you have nothing to worry about. There's not
any way that anyone can trace us to the house. The property is in my first
wife's father's name."
Roya felt a tremendous sense of sorrow wash through her. She hadn't
thought about Wes Walker's problems. She repeated the words, "Your
first wife owns it?"
"Legally, her father does. The family never uses it. It's a hideaway
. . . a place to escape and work without the intrusion of others."
Roya dreaded asking the question. She asked, "What about your current
"She died five months ago. A drunk driver hit her car. My unborn
son also died."
Roya felt a sense of sorrow for Walker. She said, "I'm sorry."
"It's not any one's fault except the son-of-a-bitch killing them.
All he got was a year in county jail."
Roya asked, "What was she like?"
Wes said as he parked the car behind the home. "Sally was twenty-five
and too young to die. I met her in L.A. I was autographing a new novel.
I was sitting in a bookstore in a mall. I'll never understand why anyone
wants an author's autograph. Sally read my writing." Walker turned
to Roya and added, "You remind me of her. She possessed a certain
spunk and a need to know life."
Roya repeated her earlier words, "I'm sorry. I guess all of us
have to suffer in some way."
Walker pushed the door open and said, "Isn't that the truth. Isn't
that the damn truth."
Roya pushed her door open to reach for a shopping bag containing the
clothes and personals she purchased. If having to be in the home for an
extended time she was determined to look alive.
Inside, she climbed the stairs and went to her bedroom. There, Roya
changed into a blue cotton print and white flats. She teased her hair and
applied makeup and lipstick. Returning down stairs, she found Walker sitting
in the library, behind a desk, and gazing at the screen of the laptop.
He just finished installing the word processing program. Wes said, "You
"Thank you. Would you like dinner?"
Walker said, "Sure. We can celebrate being alive."
Roya turned to leave the room. Walker turned his attention back to the
desk. There, he opened the envelope from Roya's knapsack and placed its
contents before him. Again gazing at the black and white photographs taken
with a long-range lens, he studied a man running as fire consumed him.
He studied the photograph and thought of the horrible death. The next shot
exposed a body laying on the desert floor and burning. In the background,
he saw men running to escape the flames.
Putting the photograph aside, Walker turned his attention to the laptop
and began typing. The first words he typed and centered on the page of
the screen were "Chapter One."
David Rice sat on an El Al Airline to New York. He settled in a seat
and winging his way through the indifferent altitude of thirty-five thousand
feet. David thought of killing the young man entering the house on The
Old City's Christian Street.
Roya Sanders was with Walker, and Rice knew Laleh would have told Roya
some part of the truth. The girl had gone to Zurich to retrieve something
from a safety deposit box. David was certain that something would contain
the papers he sought.
Now there was a desperate need to know Walker and Roya's direction.
It was the key to finding the young woman. Walker would have a place removed
from others where he could isolate himself and write. On his arrival in
Washington, D.C., he would need to make a decision about interrogating
Fred's sister. If Southgate knew enough of Walker's life to know he had
a secure place to write, Rice was certain the sister would know of it.
It would be another reason Fred reached out to Walker with the story. The
next days would tell. David Rice laid his head back on the headrest to
endure the flight across the Atlantic. >>>
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