If Fuad benefited from the war, he had to be getting help from the Americans. With US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf, he could use a supply chain that stretched all the way across the Middle East, bypassing Afghan smugglers and Turkish drug runners. The Afghan would be able to cut costs and take advantage of military security. If he could find proof that Abdel-Kareem was mixed up with the operation, it would come together.
For a while, he stared out the tinted windows of the sedan. The city seemed impossibly remote from him, not truly there but merely projected onto the side of the car. His mind was far away, trying to trace the patterns, spiralling out from the Afghan highlands like a woven carpet. Which Americans were involved? He vaguely remembered a story about American drug runners using the coffins of slain soldiers. That didn't seem the likeliest scenario, though.
If Abdel-Kareem was involved, that meant the military would also be involved. Every year, millions of dollars in military aid flowed from the United States to Egypt. Some of that could easily be diverted to running drugs out of the remoter areas of occupied Afghanistan. Fuad wouldn't talk, obviously, but someone else in the chain might. He absentmindedly took the finger-length brick of hash and secreted it away in a pocket.
“So you do opium and guns too, Fuad?” he asked. “Maybe I need something else, I come back to you?”
Fuad gave him a searching look. “Maybe so. But guns, never. Too much risk, too little money. But for now, we have a deal?”
Evan nodded. He would have killed to have his pocket recorder with him right now. He wasn't sure yet what the significance of Fuad avoiding weapons was, but he knew it had to be there. Mentally, he filed it away for future use.
He produced a wad of a battered Egyptian pounds and thumbed through them for the least frayed bills. Money in Cairo circulated endlessly, the cheap paper steadily disintegrating further and further. More than once, Evan's payments had been rebuffed by clerks disdainful of the wretched state of his currency. He handed over the money and Fuad signalled for the driver to pull over. The car rolled to a halt before the front gate of the Nile Hilton under the bored, impassive gazes of the guards.
“This place is good for you?” asked Fuad.
“It's as good as any.”
“Ma'salaam,,” said the Afghan in a firmly dismissive tone. Obviously he didn't much trust Evan.
“Ma'salaam,” replied Evan as he stepped from the car. In front of the armed soldiers, the hashish felt heavy in his pocket. Fuad's driver pulled away from the curb in a cloud of dust and Evan looked after it as it faded into the snarls of traffic, a shimmering mirage of heat hanging over the square.