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“What does that mean?”

“If they had cows or sheep,” Hakim pointed at the screen, “you would see lines in the pasture. Like a goat trail in the mountains. The cattle use them to get from the barn to the pasture and back.”

“Is this good?”

“Yes. If they have cattle, they have to be taken care of. Especially if it’s a dairy operation. The milk has to be picked up daily. That would mean someone showing up tomorrow morning.”

“We might be gone by then.”

Hakim said, “If we are lucky this might even be what they call a hobby farm.”

“What is that?”

“It is no longer used as a farm. People live there and that is it. Some people use them as vacation homes. They live in a bigger city and spend their weekends at a place like this.”

“So it might be empty?”

“It’s possible.” Hakim hoped so.

Karim conferred with Ahmed briefly and explained what they would do. He laid out a precise plan in less than sixty seconds. Hakim had to admit this was where his friend shone. He had a mind for such things. From the moment they had arrived in Afghanistan all those years ago, he proved almost immediately that he was a battlefield commander.

Karim climbed behind the wheel of the RV and pulled back onto the highway. They drove the exact speed limit through Branson and took some comfort in the increased traffic. A few miles later they crossed the border into Arkansas. Two miles after that, they turned onto Old Cricket Road. Karim saw the driveway on the left a short while later and slowed to get a better look. There were two mailboxes, one in perfect shape, the other tilting and looking as if a strong wind might push it over. Karim took note of the name on the nicer box. Ten feet back there was a private driveway sign and a no trespassing sign. Karim checked the odometer and continued. Six-tenths of a mile later he slowed to a near crawl and gave the signal.

Ahmed had changed into black coveralls, a tactical vest, and black floppy hat. Holding a silenced M-4 rifle, he stepped from the RV at a trot and then disappeared into the night. Karim picked up speed and continued down the road at a leisurely pace. Four miles later he pulled into a driveway with a gate. He backed up and went in the direction he’d just come from. The Motorola radio sitting in the cup holder crackled to life with Ahmed’s voice.

“No sign of people. One faint light.”

Karim picked up the radio and pressed the transmit button. “Any animals?”

“Not that I can see.”

“Security system?”

“Not that I can see.”

Karim paused. “Dogs?”


“Are you in position?”


“I will be there in a minute.” He placed the radio back in the cup holder and began looking for the turn. A short distance later he found it. Karim wrestled with the big wheel as he made a near 150-degree turn. He stayed to the right and a hundred feet later cruised past the turnoff for the other house at a respectful twenty miles an hour. As they began the slow, steady climb up the driveway, Ahmed announced that he could see the RV and that the situation in the house hadn’t changed. Karim was feeling more confident by the minute that they had found the perfect place.

Then, as they swung around the rise and pulled into the courtyard, the place lit up like a shopping mall parking lot. Two floodlights on the barn flickered to life as well as the entire front porch of the house. Karim slowed and grabbed the radio. “What is happening?”

“No movement.” Ahmed’s voice came back steady. “I think they are motion lights.”

Karim slowed to a stop, directing the RV headlight at the front door of the house. He put the vehicle in park and climbed out of the chair. With the radio in one hand and his silenced 9mm Glock in

the other, he exited the RV and began to walk across the gravel toward the house. He glanced to his left and right and was careful to keep his gun close to his right thigh. He was forty feet away when the front door opened.



RAPP turned off H Street and parked the car at a yellow curb. He threw a plastic police placard on the dash and looked down the length of the block at the old warehouse. People were lined up from one end of the street all the way to the near corner, a flock of mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings moving and bobbing to the heavy bass that was rattling the grimy windows of the club. The guys trended a little older, the women probably six years younger. The guys all wore their urban chic uniform; two-hundred-dollar designer jeans, splashy shirts, and snappy shoes. The hair was either really short or really long and there was a lot of stubble on the faces. To Rapp’s eye they looked as if they were all going after the eurotrash look that had been all the rage on the French Riviera some ten year earlier.