Outskirts of Tehran
June 16, 1:41 a.m.
I spun around and tore my pistol out of its holster.
She was ten feet away and she already had her gun out and up.
Ghost came pelting out of the darkness like a white bullet, but I gave him a hand signal and he stopped thirty feet from Violin’s right flank, uttering a low growl that was full of promises. So much for wagging his tail. I guess that he didn’t like being blindsided any more than I did.
“Drop it,” I said.
“No,” she said, “I don’t think I will.”
We stared at each other.
She smiled first. Small and tentative. Then I felt my mouth twitch.
“On two?” I said.
I counted it down and when I hit zero we both abruptly tilted our pistols to the sky and took our fingers off the triggers.
We stood there assessing each other, then lowered our guns. Neither of us reholstered them, though.
“Hello, Joseph,” she said.
She was both similar and different to the image of her that I had constructed partly from memories distorted by the smoke and thunder of the gun battle at Jamsheed’s and partly from how I’d imagined her since that first call yesterday morning. Lean, fox-faced, with erect posture and the slightly splay-footed stance you see in ballet dancers. The MTAR-21 assault rifle hung from its strap, and she held a Ruger Mark III. 22 caliber pistol down at her side. In many ways she reminded me heartbreakingly of Grace, but she was also very different. Younger, taller, with an air of innocence about her-despite her profession-that Grace did not share. I wondered if they could have been friends.
“Come with me,” she said. “Lilith is waiting.”
“You call your mother by her first name?”
“Is it a code name? Like Violin?”
“Nobody I know uses their real names,” she said, and there was sadness in her eyes.
She nodded. “And I find that so strange.”