A rattling pickup trundled beneath his window, the steel canisters of cooking gas clanking back and forth in its bed. It made slow rounds on the street below, stopping at each building to unload its delicate cargo. An Egyptian army truck hurtled by, filled to the brim with underpaid conscripts slumped in dejected rows on narrow wooden benches. The sight brought Evan back to the problem that had been tormenting and tantalizing him – the vast invisible web of connections stretching through aircraft holds and car trunks and poppy fields that funneled a stupefying narcotic stream across the deserts and mountains and valleys of the Middle East.
The unbearable complexity of the idea oppressed him. He felt unable to get a handle on it, a vast smooth globe that glimmered in his mind's eye but eluded his grasp. Already he'd wandered far past the bounds of journalistic practice – he had nothing on which to hang a story, no quotes, no sources. He irritably scratched at his arm, picking at a sore despite his best instinct to let it lie. With a force of effort, he pushed his hand down to the railing. The world troubled him, and the story most of all, a mere amorphous collection of suspicions and allegations – and the photos.
In the thrill of pursuing Fuad and his underworld allegiances, he'd entirely forgotten the photos Said had delivered to him. An aura of distrust hung around them – that sort of thing felt too impossible to be true. Nevertheless, the possibility was too tempting to ignore.
He sat down in a decaying armchair and drew the photos out, laying them out in an arc across the glass table before him. They had the vague, distant quality of a telephoto lens to them, like the paparazzi shots that appeared in glossy celebrity magazines. A dusty milieu and a figure in military uniform featured prominently in them, mingling with militant figures clad in the robes and scarves of mountain guerrillas. Kalashnikovs featured prominently with a kind of totemic significance.