Chapter 3: Ari Levin, March 16, Year O

It wasn’t after I was served lunch that I remembered it was my birthday. I was born 30 years ago. I was on an Emirates Airline flight from Lahore, Pakistan to London, Heathrow airport. My passport said I was a British citizen of Pakistani descent; according to my passport, it wasn’t my birthday.

I picked up some newspapers to kill time on the long flight. Lahore is a large city. I was able to buy a copy of the New York Times along with a couple British rags. The main story was about a zombie outbreak in Kenya. Zombies caught my interest. I paid extra for internet access during the flight and surfed the web for more recent news.

I checked out the CCN video clip of a news crew being eaten by zombies in Kenya. News organizations were on a feeding frenzy, new posts were coming up every minute. It made the long flight pass quickly. Most of the talking heads thought that an experimental AIDS vaccine was responsible for the zombies. Experts with letters behind their names discussed the dangers of biological science. They claimed that the virus manufacturer had been grossly negligent. Hundreds of US attorneys were flying out to Kenya to recruit plaintiffs for a class action suit.

Most people dread long plane trips. For the past few years, the only time I could relax was on a plane. Everywhere else, I had to be alert. On a plane, I was either safe which was great. If I wasn’t safe, there wasn’t much I could do about it. If there was a bomb on the plane, I was dead. If another assassin was on the plane without my knowledge, I was dead. I was as vulnerable to an attack I didn’t see coming, as anyone else. It was liberating not to have to be constantly aware of my surroundings. This was the most relaxing birthday I’ve had in years.

Eight years ago when I had started my solo career, I was young enough to still be idealistic. I knew then that I was fighting for my country and civilization. I was certain that I was one of the good guys. I told myself that even though I was becoming a mercenary for higher pay, I’d still be one of the angels. It didn’t make sense to be limited to a government salary when I could make millions as a private contractor doing the same job. I assumed that the only thing that would change would be the money. What could go wrong? Regardless of how I got paid, I was still killing bad guys.

I know now that there are always tradeoffs. When I was working for the government, I had support and back up. I didn’t have to be ruthless because I always had help. No one in my black-ops team ever went into the field alone. Life has taught me that it’s easier to do the right thing when you know someone is watching.

My illusions didn’t last long. Without backup, the only way to survive was to be invisible. As I expected, I had a knack for being invisible. My first innocent was a hotel maid in Kabul. I was on my second solo mission and she saw me. I couldn’t let her cry for help. Her death was an accident; it wasn’t part of the plan. Over the last few years, I have gotten used to collateral damage. A couple weeks ago, I killed a man and most of his family because they had the misfortune of having a house I wanted.

If I was the type to make excuses, I could have told myself that I had chosen the house of the worst man in the village and that his family deserved to die; this wasn’t true. There were three homes in the village that fit my needs. I had chosen the house of the man who had the fewest male relatives in the area. I destroyed a family because it was convenient. I had no regrets; I’d do it all over again. My last op had gone perfectly. I regretted losing my illusions. I had enjoyed believing I was a good man.

I was tired of having to be aware of my surroundings. I was tired of killing for money. The thrill of the hunt no longer was fun. I knew that I wasn’t doing the right thing for the right reasons. Bahsir Baglani was no worse than me. Most of the men I had killed in my years in the Middle East were guys who were making a living. Their job was killing minions of the Great Satan and my job was killing them.

There aren’t that many true believers. On my last job, I pretended I was a religious fanatic. From what I could tell much of the Taliban faked their religious fervor too. It’s ironic but I think the worst atrocities in Afghanistan were committed by guys who were pretending to be religious. Truly religious people tend to centered; they have nothing to prove and they tend to be merciful. The ones that are faking it try too hard and overreact. It was certainly true in my case. Whenever I’m undercover as a religious fanatic, I always try to be the biggest asshole possible. I think this works because most of the guys in the groups I’m infiltrating are faking just like me.

If there is a God, he has a sick sense of humor. Atheists refuse to believe in God because of atrocities done by people who don’t believe. It makes me laugh.

In the last eight years I had made enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life. It was time for me to retire. When you’ve lived the life that I have, you can’t just turn in a resignation letter. I may have been done with dealing with my enemies but they weren’t done with me. There were multiple men and organizations that would go out of their way to kill me. This wasn’t necessarily because they hated me; it’s bad business practice to let guys who hurt them survive. Most terrorist organizations have global reach. I needed to go where I couldn’t be found, or at minimum, where I could see my enemies coming.

In addition to the British passport I was using currently, I had an US Passport and documents proving that I was Ari Levin, an American citizen. According to my paperwork I was born in Israel to Hannah and Aaron Levin. My mother was an Iranian Jew who immigrated to Israel when she was 16. This explained my ability to speak Hebrew and Persian fluently. Farsi is the variant of Persian spoken in Iran; Dari is the version spoken in Afghanistan. My father had American and Israeli dual citizenships.

If you have one American parent, even if you are born in a foreign country, it’s easy to get US citizenship. Hannah and Aaron Levin were both dead and had left enough money to their only son. He was independently wealthy. Ari Levin did not have any living relatives and had spent most of his life living outside the US so there was almost no paper trail of his earlier life.

Spies often make the mistake of choosing fake names and life histories that are similar to their real ones. I didn’t make this mistake.

I already knew where I would retire. I spent the last 12 years of my life living in the deserts of the Middle East. I was comfortable in deserts. I was moving to in Arizona next to the Kaibab Paiute Reservation. I’d been planning my retirement for awhile. Assassins, who don’t plan, don’t live long. A couple years ago, a small 200 acre ranch had been put up for auction because of failure to pay taxes. The ranch didn’t have enough water to be run as a viable business. The previous owner had been in his late 80’s when he died. None of his children wanted the ranch. Most years when he was running the ranch, he didn’t make expenses. I ended up being the only bidder at the auction. I got the ranch for almost nothing, just the unpaid back taxes.

There were 192 Paiutes living on 188 square miles of desert living just of west of me. I knew that any stranger in the reservation would stand out. It was unlikely that an assassin or hit squad could hide out among the Paiutes without me finding out about it.

My ranch was 16 miles due east of Colorado City, a town of six thousand people that straddled the border between Arizona and Utah. The side in Arizona was Colorado City and the side on Utah, Hildale. Most of the locals were members of a cult. The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints were polygamists who had a habit of marrying underage girls to their close relatives. FLDS uncles routinely married their nieces. If a Utah cop tried to arrest the uncle, he could walk across the State border and be out of the cop’s jurisdiction, vice versa for an Arizona cop.

As a non-FLDS person living near Colorado City, I would stand out. Anyone who wasn’t a local stood out. The population living in Hildale and Colorado City was small enough that I could get to know all the locals by face. I knew how to blend in, after a few months I could probably get the locals to almost forget I was a newcomer.

There was no tourism in Hildale and Colorado City, and hardly any outside commerce. People traveled through these towns but they almost never stopped. The main reasons for strangers to come to these towns were to arrest one of the FLDS or to do a news expose about the wacko polygamists. Any stranger in these towns would be treated like an undercover cop or reporter. They would be under intense scrutiny and easy for me to pick out.

Chapter 4