Beef opened his front door after Agent Raynes rang his door bell three times in rapid succession. He was not pleased to see her.
“Raynes,” he said, dryly. “The answer is no. You saw what that powder did to those three cops, and I am not putting my dog at risk again. Lobo is officially retired. Period. End of story.”
Raynes said, “I do not need your dog. I need you.”
Beef listened as she explained, “I researched Waziri. He’s a known terrorist, and yet he has committed no crimes here. The consensus at Homeland is to give him enough rope to hang himself. Khalid inter-vened last night, foiling plans regarding US service dogs. But Waziri contacted the imam who first sent him directives, demanding another gun. Not only did he receive the gun, but the imam gave another mes-sage to Waziri, keeping him on course to destroy those dogs.”
Beef asked, “How do you know this?”
“Homeland has an informant,” she said, “who has infiltrated this particular cell. This informant phoned this morning saying Waziri has plans to assassinate Khalid.”
“What?” Beef said.
Raynes said, “I phoned Khalid to let him know.”
Beef gave a dry laugh. “That he is now the bait in this operation?”
Placing her purse and laptop on the wooden picnic table on Beef’s front porch, Raynes rummaged around in her purse, producing a handheld GPS device. “I assured him we would be keeping a watch on Waziri. With the GPS device our informant managed to install in Waziri’s pistol, I’ve been keeping track of him throughout the day.”
Turning to open the front screen door, Beef allowed Lobo to join them outside on the porch. The dog greeted Raynes in a friendly manner, and said, “The blip on here is the tracker inside the gun.”
Beef said, “You’ve just been following this blip all over Have-lock? You didn’t actually have eyes on the target all this time?”
Raynes said, “My superiors considered our options. Since Have-lock is such a small suburb, they did not put a tail on him, knowing he could easily spot an agent shadowing him. They said follow the gun. If the gun gets anywhere near Khalid’s residence, then I may call in agents waiting on stand-by. My superiors suggested that since you grew up in this area, you would willingly help us keep track of the—”
“The beeping gun,” Beef said, interrupting her, “before it becomes the smoking gun? Is that it, Raynes?”
Nodding at him, Raynes patted Lobo seated beside her. Beef held out his hand, his gaze fixed on the GPS device. She handed it to him. Beef tapped the Program button and read the times and locations to determine where Waziri had been so far. Raynes removed the thin thumb drive from the GPS device and slipped it into the port of her laptop, and connected with Google Map. They studied the screen together, reading the coordinates.
“Odd,” he said, “this indicates he frequented the playground of the park all four visits. You sure that’s Waziri carrying that gun? Why would a grown man visit the park playground four times in one day?”
Khalid had just placed a pistol on a shelf in the kitchen, when Ali stepped in through the front door.
“Hello, Father,” he said, cheerfully. “I am home.”
“Welcome, my son,” Khalid said, forcing himself to smile as Ali entered the kitchen, earnestly looking for his after school snack.
For several moments, Khalid busied himself placing a glass of milk and a box of graham crackers on the kitchen table. The phone rang on the nearby kitchen counter. Khalid stared at it, allowing it to ring again. Ali, dipping a graham cracker in his glass of milk, noted his father’s rigid stance. Stuffing the soaked cracker in his mouth, he looked over at the phone as it rang a third time.
Khalid said, “That is Agent Raynes. For the moment, I am too angry with her to receive her call.”
Khalid frowned as the phone rang three more times before going silent. “By releasing Waziri from custody, she does not know the evil he is capable of. He has already obtained another of the Viper pistols. She is certain the tracking device inside the gun’s butt will give her plenty of warning, before Waziri makes his move. Agent Raynes assures she is conducting surveillance on Waziri but I also have taken measures to prepare for a possible visit by him.”
Khalid eyed the pistol he had just placed on the nearby shelf. It was a Mosin Nagant, complete with a sound suppressor. The Hound was an experienced hunter. He had stalked dozens of extremist prey to their lairs and safe houses. Each time, he’d been fortunate to catch his targets unprepared for his sudden, deadly attack. He had succe-eded on each of these missions only because the terrorists had become careless, and that carelessness had worked in Khalid’s favor. He would not make the same mistake they had. He was armed and ready.
He said, “There is also the possibility that he will not come alone. There is a second operative in this particular cell. If two come, then two die. And you, my son, must cooperate with me with no questions asked. Go and visit Lucas at Johnny’s house. Authorities have not yet released his father. Perhaps the boy might enjoy your company.”
Ali looked up into his father’s dark eyes. “Father, I’m not sure my presence over at Mr. Mason’s will bring Lucas much comfort.”
“Nonsense,” Khalid said. “He likes you more than he lets on. Besides, I want you to get acquainted with Johnny’s dogs—”
“His dogs?” Ali blurted. “Unclean beasts?”
Khalid said, “I am considering getting one for our household. Getting along with his dogs would be a step in that direction.”
“But,” Ali interjected, “the Quran says—”
“My son,” Khalid said, “Allah looks kindly on those who care for the creatures he has created. Many great followers of Islam have owned noble hounds throughout history. Some to guard their houses. Some to hunt with. Others to just grow fat and lazy. A dog would compliment our house and also provide watchfulness on our house.”
Ali muttered, “Wouldn’t a burglar alarm work better?”
Khalid walked over to the kitchen counter, picking up two large envelopes. “Take these to Johnny. I have his phone number. I will call when it is time to come home. Is that understood?”
Khalid handed him the envelopes. “Make certain Johnny gets these. They are dossiers of Waziri and his operative. If I am forced to eliminate the two men, those dossiers should prevent me from ending up like Lucas’s dad when the smoke has cleared in this situation.”
Ali said, “I was listening last night to your phone call to your com-mander back in Iraq. You asked if you had a green light. What did you mean by that?”
Khalid showed no anger for the eavesdropping his son had obvi-ously been doing last night. He would scold him later. Right now, he needed him to get himself safely over to Johnny’s place. He wanted to end their conversation on a good note. It could be the last time on this earth that they spoke to each other, and he did not want to send his son away thinking he was disappointed in him.
Forcing a slight smile, Khalid said, “Ali, you do know Waziri is a very bad man, right? The threat on the service dogs is bad enough, but this particular two-man cell that he leads is responsible for the bombing of a mosque back in Iraq. One that killed not only the imam of that mosque but dozens of men, women, and children. It was an indiscriminate bombing that was not carried out on enemy insurgents, but upon innocent Muslims there that day to worship Allah. Waziri is an evil man. The worst of the worst.”
Khalid then said, “And yes, I have been given a green light to take him out, my son.”