youâll get a bullet in the eye. Hamid get the door.â
The rumble of gunfire was incessant now. The street was bathed in fire and headlights, Koranic verses rapping out in between, the midnight calling card of the Mahdi. Dagr could hear the chants of soldiers, the roar of engines. Terror made him slow.
âAmal, heâs Druze,â Dagr said, waving the broken watch, as Kinza pulled him back toward the door. âDo you understand? The Lion of Akkad is Druze. We found his watch! He has Fouad Jumblattâs watch! He canât have a brother in the Mahdi Army. Heâs not Shiâa at all. There wonât be any retribution, Amal! Heâs not JAM, Amal. Heâs Druze!â
âDagr!â Kinza shouted, shoving him aside. âRun.â
5: MAROON INVESTIGATIONS
âY OU KNOW WHAT THIS IS , T OMMY ?â H OFFMAN ASKED .
âThis is a list of stuff I need you to get.â Hoffman was lounging in the passenger seat of his newly requisitioned Humvee, smoking a garuda clove cigarette that he had caged from his friend Marconas, the only Indonesian resident of Baghdad.
âTen gallons of detergent?â Tommy was a slow reader. âFifteen cases of shotgun shells? Two-dozen barbeque skewers? Ten cases of Skittles?â
âYes, yes, and yes, my dear lieutenant, all of that and more.â
âIâm just a private, sir.â
âItâs a figure of speech, Tommy. I am the president; you are my vice president. I am the captain; you are the first mate. I am the hero; you are the sidekick. I am the NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and you are the, er, Supreme Allied vice commander,â Hoffman said. âYou get the picture? Now get your ass to the commissary and get our stuff.â
âHoff,â Tommy said. âWhat should I tell him you want this stuff for?â
âBargaining power, Tommy,â Hoffman said. âBartering. See, I believe in the soft power of mutually beneficial trade over the brute force that has become, all too sadly, our only currency in this cluster-fucked region.â
âYou want me to say all that?â
âTell them itâs for the secret mission, Tommy. Tell them itâs for Col Bradley.â
âAre we leaving finally, then, Hoff?â
âYes we are,â Hoffman said. âWere you getting impatient?â
âNot me, Hoff,â Tommy said. âItâs just that Captain Fowler told me to report everything you do to him. And heâs been getting testy.â
âI see,â Hoffman said. âAnd have you been reporting away?â
âI write things down in this notebook,â Tommy patted his right breast pocket. âHe told me to write down stuff so I donât forget.â
âAnd Iâm supposed to call him from my sat phone every night on the down low.â
âI see,â Hoffman said. âThatâs a tough job, Tommy. All this remembering and writing and reporting.â
âRight, Hoff,â Tommy said, miserable. âAnd we ainât even left yet. I got nothing so far. The captainâs getting kinda testy.â
âWriterâs block is a terrible thing,â Hoffman said. âIâll get you started. Why donât you write down that you found me sitting in the jeep smoking a garuda?â
âCan you spell garuda for me?â
âYou want a hit, Tommy?â
âIs it that clove stuff you got from that Chinese guy?â
âIndonesian, underling,â Hoffman said.
âI hate that stuff, Hoff.â
âYou will find, however, that it serves very admirably to mask the smell of pot,â Hoffman said. âAllowing me, in fact, to smoke in public in broad daylight without incurring the wrath of, say, any preachy military-type officials.â
âDoes that Chinese cigarette have pot in it?â Tommy asked.
âYes, Tommy. Have a hit. Donât slobber all over the