Rapp’s eyes stayed locked on the general. “We can handle this one of three ways. The first way is the best. You tell me everything you know about Hakim al Harbi.”
“I have never heard of this man.”
“That’s the real name of the smuggler you were dealing with. He’s a Saudi who spent a little time fighting in Afghanistan and then left as an advance scout for the al Qaeda cell that hit Washington last week.” Rapp pulled an envelope from his pocket and extracted three photos that had been lifted from al Harbi’s driver’s license, college student ID, and passport. Dumond had hacked into the various databases and snatched the photos without alerting the Saudis. Rapp watched the general closely. “This is the guy you made the deal with. He passed himself off as an intermediary who was helping the Taliban smuggle opium.”
The general exhaled nervously and again looked over his shoulder to the closest bodyguard.
“He can’t help you, General. You need to tell me everything you know, and I mean everything. Email accounts, hotels, airlines he traveled on, any contacts you know of . . . and most important, the banks he dealt with.” Dumond had had his team scouring the international banking community for close to twenty-four hours and so far they had come up with nothing.
“I don’t know this man.”
“I’ll make a deal with you, General. You don’t insult me, and I won’t insult you.”
“You bring me here under false pretenses and then complain that I am insulting you.” The general angrily shook his head. “The arrogance of you Americans.”
“I know more about you than you can possibly imagine, General. I know, for instance, that before you will do business with anyone, you require an up-front deposit. You used to take it in cash, but with Fidel’s recent decline in health, you’ve begun to have that money deposited in offshore accounts. In fact I’ve been told you prefer it in gold . . . one hundred thousand dollars.”
Rapp’s patience was waning. He figured he’d give it one more shot before he dropped the bomb. “General, this doesn’t have to be difficult. I really don’t give a shit about these drugs. I just want the information.”
sp; General Ramirez looked at the nearest bank for a long moment, and then turned back to Rapp and said, “For one million dollars, I will give you the information you ask for. And I want it in gold,” he added with wry smile. “The American dollar isn’t worth shit these days.”
Rapp’s entire impression of the man changed in that instant. He was either incredibly greedy or extremely stupid. “Let’s get one thing straight. I’m here because Peter convinced me to at least sit down and talk to you. I have been ordered to kill every last piece of scum-sucking shit who had anything to do with this mess. I don’t know you, and going into this meeting I guess I somehow got it in my head that you would be a reasonable man. You’d recognize that you were on the wrong side of a really nasty situation and you would gladly help make amends.”
“You will have to excuse me, Mr. whatever your name is, if I do not feel like kneeling at the American altar. Your country is not without sin. You cannot lure me here under false pretenses and threaten me. What are you going to do—kill me? Right here?” Ramirez held out his hands and looked around. “You think me a petty thug and you are sorely mistaken. You are a wealthy country. A million dollars is nothing to you. You can threaten all you want, but at the end of the day I know you will pay. It is much easier to do things that way. So get on your phone,” he made a move-along gesture with his right hand, “and get the approval to have the money transferred. When you have it, I will consider providing you with the information you seek.”
Rapp’s brow furrowed in disapproval as he sized up the general. He knew Butler and his men were nearby listening to the conversation, and right about now his British friend was hoping he would give the crass general a million dollars and move on. That wasn’t going to happen, though.
Rapp cleared his throat and placed both elbows on the table. “You don’t know me, so I suppose I’ll have to give this one more try. I came to this meeting with a few contingency plans. When you’ve dealt with as many scumbags as I have, you learn that you have to be prepared for the worst. My initial thought was that I’d just shoot you right here and send a clear message to all the other greedy third-world dickheads who want to make deals with terrorists. My second thought was that I’d have one of my guys pop you in the back of the head at the airport. Pretty easy shot, really. We’ve done it before. Everything is set up in advance. You start climbing the stairs to get in the plane and when you hit the top step, bam! A nice heavy-grain, soft-tip bullet right in the back of the head from about three hundred yards. You fall into the plane, door closes, plane takes off, and your dead body gets tossed out the back door in the middle of the big blue ocean never to be found.”
“You don’t scare me, Mr. Rapp. Give me the money and we will talk. Until then I am done with you.” Ramirez started to stand.
Sidorov put his head in his hand and began mumbling to himself. After a moment the Russian looked up and said, “General, this is not the wise approach.”
“Don’t lecture me,” Ramirez snapped.
Rapp reached out and clamped onto the general’s wrist. “Sit.” He pulled him back into his seat.
“Don’t touch me! You Russians and Americans are the same. Your condescending ways have grown old. Neither of you scare me. One word from me to my bodyguards and you will both be dead. Like that!” Ramirez snapped the fingers on his free hand.
Rapp regarded him for a moment and then decided it was time to hit him with option number three. “General, you think that because I’m American I won’t actually follow through with my threats.”
Ramirez snorted. “That is correct. Every time you have tried subterfuge with Cuba you have failed. Just as you will fail to intimidate me.”
“We’ll see about that. That planeload of drugs you and your men helped off-load last week . . . any idea where it came from?”
“I do not know what you are talking about,” the general said in a haughty voice.
Rapp ignored his denial. “Your new friend al Harbi—the guy you set up the drug deal with—he stole it from the Red Command Cartel.” Rapp let the words hang in the air for a beat and saw a flicker of recognition in the general’s eyes.
“I don’t believe you.”
“I really don’t give a shit if you believe me or not. The important thing is that they will believe me, because I have the intel to prove it. Satellite photos of your men off-loading the plane. My source told me you’ve already sold half your take. Phone intercepts of you talking about a new lucrative business partner.” Rapp made some of it up, but he knew the general was too focused on the Red Command Cartel to doubt him. Of all the South American drug cartels the Red Command was by far the most violent. “I figure you have two problems. I tell the Red Command that you helped orchestrate the theft and then I tell the Brits what you did. They’ll come swooping in and seize every offshore account with your name on it. All of those dollars you’ve squirreled away will be locked up in a legal fight for years to come. The families who lost people last week will line up by the hundreds to sue you, and they’ll take every last penny.”
Ramirez turned to Sidorov and said, “You will pay for this.”