This is an excerpt from the third chapter:
ε is a number 7 x 10-3 that defines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together and how all the atoms on Earth are made. It controls power from the sun and how stars transmute Hydrogen in all the atoms in the periodic table.
Slightly less or more and we would not exist
(Martin Rees – Just Six Numbers)
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FLIGHT TO SAFETY
“A novel is a territory where one does not make assertions; it is a territory of play and of hypotheses. Milan Kundera
Aaron, arm in arm with his wife Sharon, strode after their Rhodesian Ridgeback, Themba, who criss-crossed the path ahead sniffing the scents of the day. Themba was a perfect example of the breed that originated in the Cape Colony when the early settlers crossed their dogs with the ridged hunting dogs of the indigenous Khoikhoi. The locals called them Shumba Imbwa, meaning Lion Dog, because they were sufficiently aggressive and capable of keeping a lion at bay whilst their master prepared for the kill. He was the ideal watchdog.
Sharon had lit the Shabbat candles for the Kiddush and with about forty minutes to go before sunset, they had time for a quick stroll around the block. The sun hung on the horizon as a deep red ball, its last rays filtering through the atmospheric dust and the rustling leaves of the blue gums that formed a natural green belt in front of their home. Their evening walk was a daily ritual that they had followed ever since they had moved into the suburbs. Both were quiet, each immersed in their own thoughts after a long, hot day.
Neither was aware that a visitor awaited them. The sign on the gate said “Hapana lo Inja” in the Shona language, which translated meant “Beware of the Dog”. Their gardener was busy packing up his equipment for the day and the visitor asked him where Aaron was. He replied that Aaron and his wife had gone for a short walk and suggested that he wait inside the property. Barak declined politely and stood leaning against his car, smoking and taking in the extraordinary beauty of the sub-tropical evening.
Aaron and Sharon rounded the last corner for home just as Themba sighted the stranger encroaching on his territory. Themba raced ahead barking furiously. Aaron noticed the man but didn’t recognise him, so he let Themba have his moment. Themba stood a few metres from the stranger, his growl menacing. Barak didn’t move a muscle, his cigarette-end burning dangerously close to his fingers.
As they drew nearer to their gate Aaron tensed and tightened his grip on Sharon’s arm. They were not expecting visitors and were grateful for the protection Themba provided.
Aaron murmured, ‘May I assist you?’
Barak answered in Hebrew, ‘You must be Rabbi Aaron Abendstern?’
‘Yes, I am, and who might you be if you don’t mind my asking?’ asked Aaron courteously, his tension easing after hearing the Hebrew.
‘I am Barak Madar, Rabbi. I am from Tel Aviv and I have been asked by the Aish HaTorah Institute to meet with you and convey a message in person.’
Aaron scrutinised the stranger’s face for a long time, his intense blue eyes searching for any sign of insincerity. Sharon stood watching them both, stroking Themba’s head as he emitted a persistent growl.
‘It’s all right, Themba. It’s OK, boy,’ said Aaron, looking at Themba who stopped growling and wagged his tail.
‘Bring your car in Mr Madar; you can park next to the tree over there. Please join us for shabbat’
Aaron watched as Barak parked the car and then stepped out carrying a bottle of whisky wrapped in a brown paper bag.
‘For you Rabbi, with my compliments,’ he said grinning and more at ease. Aaron peeped into the packet.
‘Oh thank you. Johnnie Walker. My favourite. Please, come in and sit down in the lounge.’
He made way for Barak to enter the front door first. Sharon went through to the kitchen to finalise the preparations for their dinner, leaving the men to talk. She left the door ajar so she could hear them. Themba went with her and after slurping noisily at a large bowl of water he nosed the inter-leading door open a little wider and settled himself down in the middle, half in the kitchen and half in the lounge, his yellow eyes fixed on Barak.
‘Some dog you have there Rabbi. What is he?’ Barak said, no longer able to repress his curiosity.
‘Rhodesian Ridgeback. He’s a great dog. As tough as nails, and we have had no theft whatsoever.’
‘I bet,’ said Barak, still unsettled by the intensity of Themba’s yellow eyes.
‘Don’t worry. He’s fine now’, and then, as if as an afterthought, ‘but if you were to lift even a finger in an aggressive manner he would be on you in an instant.’
Aaron opened the packet containing the whisky and sighed. ‘Ah, Black Label. Even better. Excellent, and thank you again. How did you know I was a whisky drinker, Barak?’ he asked, opening the bottle and pouring two shots into crystal whisky glasses.
‘Benny Friedman told me,’ Barak replied watching Aaron’s face.
Aaron hesitated from pouring, then said, ‘Benny! Now I haven’t heard from him for a good few years. How is he?’
‘Fit and well, and he sends his regards.’ Barak continued, ‘He also said that I shouldn’t waste words, as you like to get straight to the point. May I?’
Aaron smiled. ‘Benny and I go a long way back. Lacheim, cheers!’
‘Carry on, please,’ said Aaron settling on the sofa opposite Barak and swirling the whisky, watching it wet the high quality crystal glass, one of the few luxuries he had brought with him from Lithuania.
‘Benny has read your latest paper and he sends his congratulations. I have with me his written appraisal for your consideration.’
‘From Benny, that’s praise indeed. I take cognizance of what he has to say.’
‘He also says that once that paper reaches the public domain there may be trouble.’ Pausing, Barak gazed about the room thinking about his next words carefully. ‘Your life will be in danger and we need to make plans.’
Aaron was shocked. He downed his whisky with one gulp, rising to pour another. ‘What do you mean? My life is in danger?’ he asked, a sense of foreboding flowing through him.
‘I have been hired to see to your safe removal to Israel… ’
Aaron shook his head and held up his hand in protest, but Barak pushed on.
‘You have to leave immediately. Everything has been arranged.’