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Rapp didn’t answer for a beat. “I think we should sit down and discuss a few things.”

“I would love to. How does your evening look?”

“Not good,” Rapp said, looking at the house. “How about right now?”

Sidorov laughed. “I am barely awake, Mr. Rapp. I still haven’t adjusted to the time change and we stayed out very late last night.”

“That’s all right. I didn’t get much sleep either. Besides . . . you Russians can all handle your booze.” Rapp put the car in drive and pulled across the street into the flat U-shaped drive. “Listen, I’m parked in front of your house right now. Invite me in for a cup of coffee. I’m kind of on a tight schedule this morning.” Rapp turned off the engine and got out. He counted to ten and then Sidorov appeared in a second-story window. He was still in a robe.

“You are a resourceful man, Mr. Rapp. How do I know you are not here to kill me?”

Rapp looked up at him and wondered what assurance he could offer. “For starters . . . I don’t like to shit in my own yard.”

“Meaning?” Sidorov asked.

“This is Washington. I live here. I don’t need that kind of exposure. Besides, if I was going to do something like that I wouldn’t call you up and ask you to talk. I’d just do it. You’d never see me coming.”

Sidorov thought about it for a long moment. “I suppose you are right. I’ll tell my people to let you in. Give me a few minutes to get dressed.”



HAKIM stayed in the overstuffed leather chair and carefully chewed a banana. Between bites h

e sipped the warm lemon water Ahmed had prepared for him. The tall Moroccan was outside doing a sweep of the property—his punishment for nursing Hakim. Hakim could tell it bothered Karim that Ahmed was trying to take care of him. He had always held the frail in contempt. Even when they were young. He had no time for excuses or kids who claimed to be infirm.

Hakim watched him pace from one end of the house to the other and could tell he was irked to be in the presence of his feeble friend. Never mind that he had caused the injuries. Karim was far too narcissistic to own up to that. In his mind, Hakim had deserved the beating, and he had done nothing more than carry out the punishment. Karim probably thought that if his friend had been in better shape, he would have suffered less from the blows. None of it actually made any sense, but it allowed him to rationalize away his guilt and look down on his injured friend with disgust.

The front door opened and Ahmed entered the room. He leaned his rifle against the wall and took the binoculars from around his neck. With flushed cheeks he said, “The perimeter is secure. No sign of anyone.”

Karim stood with his deliberate military posture and looked out the big window. “I heard a dog.”

“Yes,” Ahmed said with a slight bow of his head. “From down the hill. The next house. Eight hundred meters away. There are several of them.”

“Are they fenced in?”


“And what should we do if they wander up here?”

Ahmed looked nervously at Hakim for help and then said, “Shoot them?”

“Maybe.” Karim slowly turned and looked him in the eye. “I do not like this place.”

“Why?” Hakim asked, inserting himself into the conversation.

Karim looked as if he might not answer the question, and then said, “There is too much we do not know.”

“Such as?” Hakim asked

“We do not know if someone is expected to show up. They could have deliveries. The phone has already rung twice.” He looked to the photos on the mantel. “Family may live nearby.”

He was right, but all of that could have been avoided. He gambled and decided to point out the obvious. “Maybe if you weren’t so quick to kill everyone we stumble upon, we might be able to answer some of your questions.”

Karim looked to Ahmed and shook his head. It was one of those looks that said, See . . . what I have been telling you. Turning back to his old friend, Karim said, “What is wrong with you? Why must you argue with everything I say?”

“Why must you kill every person we come across?”