âJumblatt?â Hamid said. âJumblattâ¦Jumblatt, Iâve heard this name before.â
âThe nameâs Lebanese,â Dagr said. âWasnât he some kind of politician or something? Look, hereâs a book on him. He was the governor of the Chouf district in Lebanon.â
âI remember now,â Hamid said. âFouad Jumblatt was the grandfather of Walid Jumblatt, the guy who runs some Lebanese political party. He is long dead. He cannot be the Lion of Akkad.â
âSo why does this guy have Fouad Jumblattâs watch?â Kinza asked.
âJumblatt was Lebanese,â Hamid said. âThis is some kind of Lebanese conspiracy.â
âBack in the day, we had some run ins with the Lebanese secret service,â Hamid said. âWhen this was a real country. They must be crawling around here again. The Lebanese are probably thinking about invading us too.â
âNo, no, I donât think so,â Dagr said. He began to flip through one of the books. âNot Lebanese. Druze. Druze . Look here. The star is the star of Druze. The writing is gibberish because they have some kind of secret language. Ninety percent of their own tribe donât know their sacred texts. Fouad Jumblatt was one of their luminaries. This watch was either given or worn by Fouad Jumblatt. It would be considered an heirloom. This man is not Mahdi Army. Heâs not even Shiâaâ¦ Heâs Druze.â
âThis makes no sense,â Hamid said. âDruze? There are no Druze in Iraq. Maybe he just stole it from someone.â
âHe had it hidden away,â Dagr said. âHe made drawings of it. It must have meant something to him. Otherwise itâs just a broken watch. He must have forgotten to take it with him in the rush. Think about it. The Druze are known for keeping hidden. They must have a secret community here.â
âThere is nothing else here. We need to go back,â Kinza said. âTell the others that he is gone, probably for good. Take whatever you can.â
They found Amal waiting up in his store with a small knot of people.
âDid you get him?â The old man asked, shuffling forward. âIs he dead?â
âHe fled,â Kinza said. He looked around. The shop was full of armed men, cigarettes and nerves. âWhat the fuck are you all doing here?â
âYou brought this trouble on us,â Amal pointed his finger accusingly. âThis is on your own head. You let the Lion get away, and now the JAM want you.â
Kinza drew his gun and pointed it at Amalâs forehead. Weapons clicked into place all around them. âJAM? Why bring up those fuckers. You sold us to the Mahdi Army, you fucking traitor? After sharing salt with us? After begging us for help? I will put you down like a dog right now, I swear, I will kill every man in this room.â
It stopped them cold. There was a murmur of uncertainty. Some of the men lowered their heads, shamed, but the guns stayed up, circling the three of them, barrels shaking, small circles of pitiless dark hovering like angry wasps. In the street, Dagr heard the rumble of jeeps, the cackle of rifle fire popping in the air. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Yakin edging toward them, gun out, a gloating look in his eye.
Kinza swiveled his gun smoothly, the barrel locking onto Yakinâs face. âStep back, and lower your weapon.â
Yakin faltered, sweat beading his forehead, transformed suddenly into a panicky shop boy caught with his hand in the till, facing a certain beating.
âThey were coming. We had no choice. They would kill us anyway,â Amal wailed. âTheyâre coming. Theyâre here. What could we do? You never found the Lion.â
âWeâre leaving, now,â Kinza backed toward the door. âIâll take my chances against the Mahdi fuckers. Any of you step out of this shop,