cause immediate disarray in the American leadership.â
The minister inclined his head slightly, a small smile etching its way across his face. âAn interesting proposal. What do you require?â
âAt first, nothing. Merely your support.â
âYou have it. My country is in your debt, and it shall be repaid many times over. I will convey your proposal to His Excellency.â
âYou have my gratitude. I am confident that we shall both prosper from this agreement.â
Hamza smiled and stood, as did the Iranian minister. Both men shook hands and then embraced, causing the small group surrounding the table to break into spontaneous applause.
Jason March stood to the side, his face wiped clean of any emotion. Inside, though, he felt a wave of pleasure ripple through his body as a vision of Washington ablaze seeped its way into his mind. The image of fire erupting from the windows of the White House was so powerful that Hamza had to speak his name several times before he snapped back to reality.
âYes, what is it?â
Hamza frowned slightly at the manâs tone. He was still, after all, a traitor to his native country. A man who changed sides once could do so again. Hamza wanted to test this manâs loyalty; to do so, he was about to take a serious risk.
âFollow me. There is someone I would like for you to meet.â
The ancient Ford Cortina moved steadily through the darkened streets of Mashhad, stopping at various locations, sometimes for several minutes at a time, before moving off again unexpectedly with a sudden burst of speed. Although hundreds of volunteers would have jumped at the chance to drive Hassan Hamza about the city, he placed trust only in his own instincts, and rightfully so; he had seen many other experienced operatives die at the hands of the American Special Forces by exercising less caution than was necessary in their chosen profession. The American seated next to him had not spoken since leaving the heavily guarded two-story residence northeast of the city center. Hamza wondered what was running through the other manâs mind.
After forty-five minutes had passed, Hamza decided they had not been followed. In any city in Afghanistan, he would not have attempted such a meeting, but he felt reasonably secure in this part of northeastern Iran. He turned abruptly into a dusty alleyway, the sedan clattering to a stop between buildings of pale stone.
âFollow me. You have nothing to worry about,â he assured the other man. He handed the American a woolen watch cap. âPut this on.â
March pulled the material down low over his blond hair, which, if left uncovered, would be immediately noticed and stored away for future use by the cityâs many inhabitants. Given the chance, the people in this area would eagerly criticize the decadent West; however, he was aware that they might easily change their tune when presented with a generous reward for information. Such was the fickle nature of humanity, March knew. Most people would gladly sacrifice their principles for money.
The two men moved quickly down the alley, and then past a row of dilapidated, low-slung brick buildings. March noticed that the street was unusually dark, the bulbs in the streetlights above having been either removed or destroyed. Despite the late hour, an old woman wandered down the uneven street in their direction, her gait unsteady. She averted her eyes as she passed the two men, another fact that was not lost on the American. He decided that the organization had taken substantial measures to ensure their security in this area, perhaps even to the point of bribing people house to house. Certainly, the local officials would have been well compensated for their cooperation.
They stopped at the fifth house on the left. March hesitated before pushing through the wrought iron gate, sensing that something was amiss. Hamzaâs easy smile did little to alleviate his sudden