Font Size:  

Adams shook his head defiantly. “They will know something is wrong and they won’t stop until they get to the bottom of it.”

Rapp shrugged as if he’d given it his best shot. “I wish I could say it was nice knowing you, Glen, but I’d be lying. You’re a self-serving prick, and you won’t be missed . . . not even by your own family.” Rapp hit the intercom button. “I’m done in here. He’s all yours.”



HAKIM learned to play chess when he was seven years old. His grandfather had taught him the game, and for the next six years until the kind old man died, they played every week. One of the first things his grandfather had taught him was that a chess match was often decided because of one bad move. A move that, once made, set the game on an almost certain path. And in chess, as in life, a move like that could never be taken back. So the moral of the story, according to his grandfather, was to think long and hard before deciding something difficult. Look at it from every angle. See what you see and then ask yourself if there’s something you can’t see.

Hakim didn’t know if it was all that chess, or a God-given abundance of common sense combined with an easy attitude, but whatever it was, he had been able to avoid a lot of trouble over the years by staying patient and making prudent decisions. The same could not be said for Karim. His daring, brash behavior had led him to great success on the battlefield in Afghanistan, and his plan to attack America, despite his own criticism, had been a huge success. In the more subtle arena of daily life, though, his ability to pick up on the moods and currents of a foreign land was almost nonexistent.

The gun came up and before Hakim could react it was fired. It was as if the entire thing painfully played out before him in slow motion. The father went down with a wound to the gut and the kid turned in panic and began to run. He made it three steps and then collapsed with a bullet to the lower back.

Karim lowered his weapon and turned to Hakim, “Now let’s find out why they were really here.” He walked down the porch steps and onto the gravel.

With the loud cracks of the 9mm pistol still echoing down the river valley, Hakim’s brain took off headlong in an attempt to assess the damage. In the first millisecond he knew it was bad. Extremely bad. He had had the situation under control and then Karim’s massive, paranoid ego led him to step in when there was so clearly no need for him to do so. It was as if all the frustrations of the last week came pouring out at once. He followed his friend down the steps and said, “I already know why they are here, you idiot.”

Karim spun to face his friend. “What did you just call me?”

“I called you an idiot! An unbelievable idiot!”

“You will show me the proper respect,” Karim commanded, “or you will be punished.”

“I’d like to see you try.” Hakim took a step toward his old friend and pushed his sleeves up. “Do you have any idea what you have done?”

An incredulous look on his face, Karim answered, “I stopped these two men from walking away and telling the authorities that we are here. I did what you should have done.”

“Should have done? You are an utter fool. You have ruined everything and for nothing. These two weren’t going to tell anyone anything other than what I told them. They were going to go hunt down by the river and leave us alone.” Hakim looked at the father and son. Both of them were writhing on the ground in pain. Now what the hell were they going to do with them? “They believed me, you arrogant ass.”

“You are the fool,” Karim spat back. “They only acted like they believed you. They are probably police.”

“You have never been to this country before. You have no idea how to read these people. They are not police.” Hakim motioned at the house, the barn, and the surrounding land. “Where are we to go?”

Karim was obviously irritated by the question. “Well . . . if they are hunters as you say, we will bury the bodies and be done with them.”

“And when they don’t make it home for dinner tonight, and the wife calls the police and tells them they were coming out here to hunt. What do we do then? Because the police will come and look for them.”

Karim saw that the boy had pulled a cell phone from his jacket and was trying to make a call. He raised his gun, took aim, and squeezed the trigger. The orange hat flew off the boy’s head in a puff of dust and his foot twitched a few times before he went completely still. Looking back at Hakim as if nothing had happened, he said, “Then we will have to leave.”

The father howled in agony and started to frantically crawl toward his son. Hakim was sickened by the entire scene. None of it had to happen. These two men had done nothing wrong. “I explained to you what would happen if we had to leave. I told you in detail that our best chance for survival was to stay here for at least a month. To wait them out. Then we would be able to slip out of the country.”

“I am sick of your complaining,” Karim announced. “I question your devotion.”

“And I question your devotion. You are a coward. No different than the rest of the lazy rich men who claim to lead us.”

Genuine anger flashed across Karim’s face. “How dare you question me?”

“I am not one of your brainwashed robots. I have known you for too long. If you were a real warrior you would have gone into that building with your men and martyred yourself. But you are too obsessed with your own fame. The Lion of al Qaeda . . . Ha!” Hakim spoke in reference to the name that Karim had given himself in the videos he released after the attacks. “You should be called the coward of al Qaeda.” He looked back to the father, who had reached his son and was sobbing uncontrollably.

Karim could not take another word. The insolence of his friend should have been checked a long time ago. “Prove to me that you are not a coward. Kill the father now. I order you.” Karim tossed his gun to his friend.

The gun sailed through the air, but Hakim made no effort to catch it. The gun landed at his feet and skidded a few inches along the gravel. Hakim looked down at the gun and shook his head. “There is no honor in this. No bravery in killing an unarmed father and son who have done nothing to offend you, or Allah.”

“I order you!”

“We are the infidels in this land. This is wrong. If you want him dead, then you should finish what you started.”

“For the last time I order you to pick up the gun and shoot the father.?

Articles you may like