Karim held on to the gun so tightly he began to shake. “Allah wants this mission to succeed. That is what will please him. You and all of your Western ways disgust him. Allah cares nothing for you. He would award me for ending your life and sending you to hell.”
“Now you claim to know what Allah thinks. I am truly in the presence of greatness. Maybe you could ask him where we are.”
“I have heard enough.” Karim raised his pistol and pointed it at Hakim.
From the front of the RV, Ahmed called, “Sir, please, may I have a word with you?”
Karim turned to find Ahmed standing ramrod straight, his hands at his sides, his chin pointed slightly up and his eyes looking straight ahead as if he was on the parade grounds waiting inspection. “What?”
“In private, please, sir.”
Hakim lay there on the bed wondering briefly if he had lost his senses. Why provoke an unstable man who had killed and would gladly do it again rather than admit he was wrong? The answer, he guessed, was that he didn’t care. He watched Karim hesitate and then yield to Ahmed’s request. The two men stepped outside and closed the door, leaving Hakim alone in the RV wondering if he would have the courage to leave these two on their own. Let them fend for themselves. That would be poetic justice. Let the egomaniac rely on his inflated opinion of his own skills. He wouldn’t last more than a few days.
Ahmed came back into the RV by himself and closed the door. He moved carefully to the back and sat on the edge of the bed. In a quiet tone he said, “I know this hasn’t been easy for you. That jungle changed him. It changed all of us.”
“That is no excuse.”
“No, but it is a cause.”
Hakim thought for the first time that Ahmed might not be as dimwitted as he seemed. “Be that as it may, he is not my commander.”
“You may think that, but you will have a hard time convincing him.”
“Then there is nothing to talk about.”
Ahmed made a calming gesture with his hands. “I think you need some time away from each other.”
“Please, by all means . . . drop me off at the next town.”
Ahmed ignored him. Lowering his voice to a mere whisper he said, “I have offered to deal with you.”
“Are you my superior officer now? We must keep the chain of command in place,” Hakim said in a mocking tone.
“No. I want to save your life. I think you are a good man. And I think we need you. Please help us.”
Hakim thought about it for a long moment and then said, “In the rear luggage compartment on this side,” Hakim pointed over his head to the starboard side of the vehicle, “you will find a black Oakley backpack. Bring it to me.”
Ahmed left and a minute later returned with the backpack. Karim came back into the RV and stood just behind Ahmed, his gun still in his hand. It occurred to Hakim that he was keeping an eye on him in case he drew his own weapon from the backpack. Instead he unzipped one of the pockets and withdrew a Garmin hand-held GPS device. He fumbled with the device for a second and then pressed the power button. As the unit powered up, Hakim looked at Karim with his one squinty eye and said, “All you had to do was ask. I have a backup for nearly everything.”
HAKIM held the small device in his bruised and battered hands, waiting for the inner workings to reach out to the nearest satellite, or mobile phone tower, or whatever it was that allowed it to be so precise. It took a total of forty seconds for the device to power up, run through a bunch of graphics, and deliver the information he was looking for. Hakim would have laughed, but the pain from his previous attempt was still fresh on his mind, so he kept his composure.
Squinting at Karim, he announced, “Congratulations, we are in Mexico!”
Karim frowned, “How can that be?”
“Mexico, Missouri.” Hakim wanted to throw in a you idiot, but knew it would likely elicit a further beating or maybe even a bullet. “It is a town west of St. Louis.”
“I knew we were near St. Louis.”
Hakim didn’t believe him. He looked at Ahmed and said, “There is a laptop in the bag. Would you please hand it to me.” After he was given the laptop, he said, “And in the outer pocket, on the side, you will find a small USB device with Verizon printed on it. Please find it for me.”
Hakim turned on the computer, and while he waited for Ahmed to give him the USB modem he asked Karim, “Do you have any idea where you have been?”
“I didn’t ask precisely. I asked if you have any idea.”