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by • July 26, 2018 • Flash Fiction, Serial, The AmericanComments (0)

The American: Chapter 12

His words were quiet and soft with no implied menace or threat. “You will pardon me interrupting your ablutions, but privacy is so difficult to come by here.”

I felt threatened anyway so asked, “Should I bother asking where the guard went?”

He declined his head slightly, a small bow to the realities of Capanne. “He was assured I meant you no harm, so only a small bribe was necessary to provide us a few moments alone.”

“OK.” I wrapped my towel around myself and straightened up so I towered over him. “Why don’t we start with why I’m talking to you instead of being knifed by one of the gangster wannabes running around this place? Could give you quite the reputation if somebody made their bones with me.”

He smiled as if this hadn’t escaped him and it pleased him that I knew it. “The men you speak of were aware of your deed before your arrival. Or, at least, the important ones were.”

“However, the death of Verdicchio has caused a power vacuum. There are,” he paused as if searching for the right word, which surprised me. His English was excellent. “Factions. Your fate, as it were, has become a bit of a bargaining chip between them. Each side has promised retributions should another steal the honor of killing you.”

While I chewed on that he continued with, “As to the former, you served in the U.S. army?”

“Marine Corps.”

“Ah. Even better.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that but he continued before I could ask. “There are many of my brethren here who arrived after fleeing the wars in Iraq and Syria. Some of them fought there.”

I was beginning to get the idea, but I just said, “Ah-ha.”

His smile became brittle, barely big enough to see through his beard. “Indeed. Some of them see your arrival here as the Prophet’s providence, an enemy delivered into our hands.”

That made sense, but I found myself stifling a laugh. “So how many different groups in this place want me dead?”

His smile became earnest then, seeming to enjoy that I understood and found a bitter humor in the situation. “It’s hard to say.” His smile fell away. “But if one of my fellows were to injure you it would greatly anger the others. The result would be much bloodshed.”

I nodded. “And you don’t want that?”

He returned my nod. “And I do not want that.”

I suddenly wished that we could sit down and have some tea, face each other and discuss this like men. But such luxuries were a long way off, so I just held my towel in place and asked, “So what are you suggesting?”

Again, my visitor pursed his lips, deliberating on his next words. “If you were to convert it would prevent my fellow supplicants from harming you. ‘But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him.’”

“It will also provide you with our protection.” He must have correctly interpreted my skepticism because he continued with, “Your conversion would be seen as a victory for us.”

I couldn’t help but but give another short, bitter laugh at that. My visitor’s eyes narrowed, the closest thing I had seen to anger from him. Not caring if that’s how things went I said, “You know my name. What’s yours?”

“Here? I am called Tariq.” He paused, then went on to say, “Everyone in Capanne knows your name. But they simply refer to you as the American.”

Read the next chapter here.
Read the previous chapter here.
See the author’s published work here.

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