BY: E LESSLY TAYLOR
During two mass immigrations from 1984 to 1991, thousands of Ethiopian Jews were permitted to flee persecution in their country and migrate to Israel. This is their story and how it could possibly save a nation from a plague.
Israeli coastal towns suddenly experience a rash of severe flu-like symptoms. As those infected become gravely ill and die at an alarming rate, it becomes apparent that this is an epidemic. The plague is identified as a variant of Anthrax, a deadly disease used in chemical warfare. The nation of Israel is faced with total annihilation.
With tens of thousands dead, and finding no antidote, the nation prays for a Messiah. The answer comes from a Falashian refugee named David Yasuda, who knows a secret: Hidden in a reclusive mountain valley in Ethiopia is a secret pool of miracle water. When the Mossad is refused admission into the country to search for it, a secret mission is launched. But someone knows they are coming and will stop at nothing to prevent the elite team from finding what they seek.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Messiah Drug by E Lessly Taylor, David Yasuda is a “Black” or Ethiopian Jew who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. He works for the Israeli Government, acting as a liaison between them and the rest of the Ethiopian immigrants and helping the newcomers to find jobs and assimilate into Israeli society. When David falls in love, he doesn’t know that the Mossad is investigating him and his love is an agent assigned to seduce him to get information on the Ethiopians who have immigrated into the country. Then an outbreak of deadly anthrax is instigated by an enemy country and Israelis start dying by the thousands, all but the Ethiopians, who seem to have some sort of immunity. Now David’s girlfriend, Sarah, is tasked to get the secret out of David as to why he and the others aren’t getting sick. This precipitates a secret mission into Ethiopia to search for this mysterious cure.
Taylor does a good job of laying the foundation of the hate and prejudice that cause the bio-terrorism, the plot is strong, and the characters realistic and believable. It’s a suspenseful and intriguing read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Messiah Drug by E Lessly Taylor is the story of hate, prejudice, and betrayal on the most basic level. Imagine how you would feel if you suddenly discovered that the love of your life was an intelligence agent who had been assigned to seduce you for information. Well, that is exactly what happens to our hero, David Yasuda. Not only has his lover been assigned to seduce him, she also has to confess that she has been assigned to him and solicit his help to stop a ma-made plague, regardless of how he might feel about it. Needless to say, he’s upset, but since people are dying, he agrees to help secure the information as to why he and his fellow immigrants from Ethiopian seem to be impervious to the anthrax that has been foisted on Israel by an enemy. Talk about being torn between doing what is right for your new country and wanting revenge for being duped. Not an easy position to be in, I’m sure.
The Messiah Drug is a chilling tale of love, betrayal, terrorism, and the damage this combination can cause in the lives of innocent bystanders. It will catch and hold your interest from beginning to end.
Haifa, Israel, April 1999:
David Yasuda took out his handkerchief and wiped the beads of salty sweat from his face. Leaning back against the wire fence, he studied his handiwork. “I hope she appreciates all this hard work,” he mumbled knowing he did it as much for himself as for her.
The polished old van reflected his hard work from every angle. So clean it could pass for new with streak-free windows. Nothing annoyed him more than to be driving along, peering out a window, and spotting a flaw in his effort. Today, he’d spent more time on the van windows than usual. Finally, the van was clean inside and out, just in time, as the morning sun began to assert itself upon the day. A yellow orb in a cloudless sky, looking for victims to fry. Twice he had the unfortunate pleasure of tasting his own body salt as sweat-painted lines ran down his face. Soaked and dirty from his effort, he didn’t allow that to sway him because this was a very important day, and he wanted everything perfect. Or as nearly perfect as he could manage.
The second coat of wax had given the old van the luster he desired. The shine was impressive but deceptive, belying the vehicle’s true age. Even if it doesn’t impress Sara, he thought, at least it looks good. A frown broke through his satisfied grin when, on his final walk-a-round, he spotted an imperfection hidden in the corner of the rear window.
“Not today,” he vowed at fate’s weak attempt to mar what was going to be a beautiful afternoon. One quick wipe at the small streak and David pronounced the van finished.
“Now to get showered and pick up Sara.” Her name triggered that stunned and stupid grin men get when the woman that possessed their soul danced across their minds. Added to what he knew was a smitten expression, was a song he started singing by Hall & Oates, asking Sara to smile.
The last few months have sure been fantastic, David thought as he gathered up his cleaning supplies and placed them in the box he carried in the back of the van. Never in his dreams did he think he would meet someone like Sara. Snippets of their times together sidetracked him as he started to lock the rear doors of the van. Stopping, he stared out at the harbor and the calm Mediterranean Sea. Various ships passed before him unseen, the native fowl squawked overhead unheard, as he speculated about his life lately and its remarkable twist and turns.
Another set of eyes were watching David’s idle musing from two streets over and taking careful notes. From that advantage point, he scrutinized his mark with complete privacy. Well, minus being annoyed by some loud kids kicking a soccer ball around in the street. For a moment, he relished in the idea of shooting a few of them and watching the others flee screaming in terror.
Raising his binoculars, he continued monitoring his subject for information gathered for possible future “close” encounters.
“Yes, that’s him,” the small microphone in his collar recorded. “He’s about six feet one and, let’s see, yes, about one hundred and eighty pounds. He was washing his van when I arrived but appears to be finished now.” The observer tapped his collar shutting off the mike. “What are you up to Mr. Yasuda? I hope it’s something interesting. All I get are the boring assignments. Maybe I should leave some incriminating evidence in your van, or are you so well connected it might backfire on me? I better check you out first my brown friend.”
A car driving past with a faulty muffler snapped David out of his trance but that smile never left his face. Her cameo image was the air that lifted his spirits and gave wings to his feet. He raced up the steps to his apartment and, just as he unlocked the door, the phone rang. A trumpet blasting in his ear couldn’t have startled him more. Paralyzed, he weighed the consequences of answering. All day he had struggled with the taunting voices of doubt. In his labor of love, getting the van ready for his date, he had sensed that the fingers of fate were waiting in the shadows, mocking him, waiting to intercept his prospects for happiness and detour his plans for the evening. Just let it ring, he decided, but what if its Sara calling? That possibility on the fourth ring triggered a mad rush for the phone.
His heart leaped at the mention of his name. The voice was soft and feminine—but not Sara’s. Disappointed, he sighed deeply and then put the traitorous phone back to his lips. “Yes, this is David.”
“David, this is Yael Tefera.”
David closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. It wasn’t the caller that provoked that response but the picture of her troublesome brother that flavored David’s frustration. No, there was nothing wrong with the caller. Yael was a very sweet young woman. It quickly became clear to both of them that there could be something between them the first time their eyes met.
She had adjusted quickly to living in Israel when her family arrived from Ethiopia. Yael was bright, fun to be with, and very beautiful. He had often kicked himself for not following up on the obvious openings she had given him. Every time he made an effort to open that door, her foolish brother would do or say something to screw it up. Naw, it’s too late now, anyway, he mused. Sara had entered his life and Yael was now only a very pleasant memory.
“David, are you there?”
“Yes, Yael, I’m sorry, what can I do for you?”
“It’s not for me…”
The long silence answered his question. He just waited for the painful confirmation.
“It’s Yonatan. David, he’s in trouble with the authorities. He needs your help—again—I’m sorry to say.”
The pain in her voice reached through the phone and touched a familiar cord. Not today, David prayed silently. Please, not today.
“What’s wrong this time, Yael?” Her reluctance to answer caused him to close his eyes and mumble to himself. He pounded his fist against the wall. “Look, Yael—” He had to ask, as his feelings for the petite winsome lass touched something in him. “I’m meeting someone in a few hours. Is there anything I can do to help?”
He knew it was a hollow and empty attempt at saving his date and that those special plans were shattered the moment he answered the phone.
“Thank you, David. I knew I could count on you for help. You’re his only friend and I—” Silence again punctuated the air between them. She was careful to hide her feelings for the man on the other end of the line after having made it abundantly clear how she felt about him and received nothing but friendship in return. She valued that friendship but dreamed of much more. There wasn’t an available woman in their synagogue who didn’t want to catch him—a few, she giggled to herself, who weren’t available but also whispered about being with him. Only her pride prevented her from opening that door wider, like some had vowed to do, and make her desires plain.
“The policeman at the station said he knew you and would release him into your custody. Can you help him, David? I promise never to bother you again. I told my brother this is the last time I’m going to try and help him out of the holes he jumps in.”
The urge to say no lost its sting as the softness of her voice caressed his ear. “All right. Look, Yael, I’ll go down to the station and do what I can. But I want to make something very clear. The last time he was arrested, I told Yonatan that, if he wouldn’t listen to reason, not to call me anymore. I’m going to go down there and try to get him out. But I’m not doing it for him.” The reason went unspoken but it was clear.
Her gentle song of thanks chimed in his ears long after she hung up. It was another minute of listening to the dial tone before he removed the phone from his ear and placed it in its cradle. There was nothing to be gained from throwing it against the wall, he finally reasoned, but he wanted to, so much.
Would he ever learn to say no to people? He scolded himself. They sure as hell knew how to say it to him. He wanted to berate himself further but knew that would only make him feel worse. Maybe he could deal with Yonatan’s problems and still make it back in time to take Sara out like they planned. That possible likelihood put enough charge in his batteries to energize a dispirited David Yasuda.
“Don’t hand me that,” the prisoner said. “What do you know about how I’m feeling? You’re one of the elite.”
“Elite? That’s the first time someone has called me that,” David answered.
“You have everything but we common people have nothing,” the angry man explained as he paced the cell room. A six-by-eight-foot-sized room that reeked of urine and something he was afraid to label. “They treat you better than they treat us. I don’t want their token jobs. Why don’t they train us to be a real part of this country? They save the good jobs for their own. We Black Jews are no better than the Arabs are to them. I’ve had enough of their condescending attitudes and derogatory comments. The last smart remark I heard was answered with my fist.”
“That’s great, and look where it got you. Yonatan, you’re wrong and you know it,” David countered as he pushed him against the cell wall. “I’ve begged you to take the time to get to know the customs of this country, to find your place in this society. You have to want to be successful. You’re complaining. Will that get it done? Sure, there are people who do not want you here. I recall there were plenty of people at home that did not want us there either. They didn’t hurt our feeling with words, they were killing us. Look around you, Yonatan. Some of these people risked their lives to get you here. If they can risk everything, can you do any less to stay here?”
What, no snide comeback? David thought as he looked into the fiery eyes of his angry friend.
Yonatan’s failure to answer him wasn’t a complete surprise. It was the same argument he had used to deal with other dissidents. He always acknowledged their strength, and their right to their opinions, but never wavered on the need for their commitment to endure any and every obstacle. The significance of his argument was clear, even to the most impassioned, disgruntled, Falashian Jew. David backed off and tried to calm down.
Yonatan recovered quickly and pointed his finger at David. “You’ve changed.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know what I mean.” Having said that, Yonatan then walked to the far end of his cell and sat down.
Unfortunately, David did know. He had heard the whispers, the small talk. None of it was true, David thought. He was the same person. What was different was that he wasn’t agreeing with any of their bull—
“I haven’t changed,” David said calmly to the man watching him and anyone else listening. Jewish jails were known for their hidden listening devices. “I’m still doing my job. I’m still battling for more aid for my people, for all peoples for that matter. I can’t create jobs that aren’t there. I’m doing the—”
“Then you’re not doing enough!” Yonatan shouted at him as he stood up and again aimed a finger at his friend. He was sorry as soon as he said it. He knew plenty of people who David had gotten jobs for, good jobs. No one worked harder in the community to help their people and yet thousands remained out of work. Yonatan knew that wasn’t David’s fault. “Sorry, David,” he forced himself to say and then pounded his fist on his leg. “That was unfair.”
“Don’t worry about it. Look, Yonatan, I will talk to the magistrate about getting you out of here. I’ve dealt with him before. He’s tough, but fair.”
Yonatan looked into the troubled face of his friend. The hurt hiding in those eyes was evident in the lack of the usual fire in David’s voice. Damn, Yonatan swore. This is the last time I will drag him down with my problems. David is a good friend, he grudgingly admitted, and probably the only friend who would have come down here to help him.
They were the same age and liked the same sports, music, and food. That became a common ground for a friendship when David interviewed him upon Yonatan’s arrival in Israel two years ago. Their friendship grew until they were like brothers to the rest of the community. But slowly, as many struggled to find work, Yonatan became discontented with the pace of change and started running with a more vocal group. The final straw in their friendship, he sadly remembered, was when he noticed David and his younger sister Yael becoming interested in each other. Every time they took a step toward some kind of relationship, Yonatan did or said something to put cold water on it. Only after David stopped coming around and he saw the loneness in his favorite sister’s eyes did he realize, too late, that his jealousy had fueled his actions to keep them apart.
Yonatan walked over and hugged him. “Whatever you can do, I’d appreciate it. Thank you, my friend.”
David shook his head, walked to the door, and signaled for the guard to let him out.
It’s your job, he argued with himself as he drove down Jaffa Street. You’re paid to help these people and the problems they brought with them. Those facts weren’t the dilemma. The real reason for the funk he was in had more to do with what hadn’t happened than what had. He was able to get the charges dropped, but Yonatan would spend the next three days in jail, with a promise from the magistrate to be twice as hard on Yonatan if he saw him again.
“Cheer up,” Sara told him when he called from the jail with the bad news.
Besides, he thought, she did say she was free all day and night tomorrow…hmmmm, day and night. A big smile appeared on his face as he started scheming. Feeling better about his prospects, he became more reflective. As that loud American he’d met at the hospital would have said, “It’s no big deal.”
On the drive home, David stole glances at the orange ball setting in Haifa harbor. The sun’s dying rays reflected off the shiny, dark water, highlighting ships, large and small, dotting the harbor. It was a common picture to him, noteworthy for its daily originality, a familiar sight bordering a changing seascape. The passing ships did little to distract the daydreaming man scanning the darkening port city.
Tomorrow, he conceded to his growing optimism, will be my day. Tomorrow. The word wrapped him in warm arms of expectation summed up in one word—Sara.
© 2016 by E. Lessly Taylor