16

Alex headed straight home after his meeting with the Mobassars and didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Shannon would undoubtedly head back to the office, but Alex had long ago stopped trying to keep up with her. He wanted to get in an hour or two of surfing before it got too late. He assuaged his conscience by reminding himself that he had landed a big new case today and could always bill a few hours at his home computer later if he got inspired.

Right after he changed into a pair of board shorts and a ratty T-shirt, his BlackBerry started vibrating. He was ready to hit ignore but checked the caller ID first. Shannon.

“Please tell me you’re not back at the office,” Alex said.

“I like this guy,” Shannon answered, ignoring Alex’s statement. She had perfected that part of her job. “Have you Googled Khalid?”

He hadn’t, of course. But why would he need to with the obsessive Shannon Reese for a partner? “What’d you find?” Alex asked.

“Interesting stuff. He lost a son who was working in a refugee camp when the Israelis bombed Lebanon in 1996 as part of Operation Grapes of Wrath. For a while he became an outspoken supporter of Hezbollah. But eighteen months later, he lost his second son during a suicide bombing mission in southern Israel.

“And here’s the really intriguing thing: instead of fueling Khalid’s hate for the Israelis, this somehow mellowed him. He became a leading voice for an Islamic reformation and an outspoken opponent of those who preached violence and jihad. He came to the U.S. on a teaching visa about five years ago and started the mosque in Norfolk.”

Alex was delighted to see Shannon’s growing enthusiasm for the case. But most of this information seemed irrelevant. “And this helps us how?” Alex asked, slipping into his Chacos.

“Credibility. I mean, the only evidence we have that there’s a John Doe vehicle is the testimony of Ghaniyah Mobassar. The defense will never say it, but they’re going to play the Muslim card, painting the Mobassars as radicals who can’t be trusted. I’m just saying-they’re not that way.”

“Good,” Alex said. “I’m glad you like these guys. Now, why don’t you go home and get a life.”

“This is my life. Somebody around here’s got to work for a living.”***

Two hundred fifty miles to the north, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Hassan Ibn Talib was also thinking about Khalid Mobassar. It had been nearly a week since Hassan had received the text message from Mobassar’s phone. This weekend, he would complete the assignment and send a one-word message in response: Finished.

Afterward, he would toss his phone into the river, get a new phone, and wait for further instructions. These honor killings, he knew, were just the beginning.

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