Infidel

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           "Pssst!"

           Muammar stopped. Much to his annoyance, he was still unable to remember everything that had happened to him tonight, as hard as he tried. He had the feeling that there was something he was supposed to do, something very important, but for the life of him could not remember what it was. Now this interference with his concentration, someone hissing at him. Muammar glowered into the darkness and out of the shadows, to his surprise, appeared Rashid the one-eyed beggar. What could this crazy man possibly want?

           "Did you do it?" Rashid asked.

           "Do what?"

           "Kill John Wayne. I heard a shot."

           His earlier meeting with Rashid slowly came back to Muammar. "No, I did not shoot him."

           Rashid's face dropped. "Did you lose your nerve?"

           "No."

           "Then what happened?"

           "John Wayne tried to kill me. That was the shot you heard."

           Rashid nodded. "The dog must know that we know he is making a movie blaspheming the Prophet. Praise Allah that you are unharmed. Do you still have the gun I gave you?"

           Muammar remembered that he had given it to the Africans. "No."

           "No matter, I have another." Rashid reached within his robe and pulled out a second revolver.

           Muammar sniffed dismissively. "I have no need. I have this," he said, taking out the dagger his uncle had given him.

           Rashid nodded approvingly. "Most fitting. You will make short work of the infidel with that. Do you know Walik, the camel seller?"

           Muammar frowned. "Of course I do."

           "The infidel is at Walik's house, tied to a post out back in the courtyard."

           "How do you know this?"

           "A friend told me."

           "What friend?"

           "A foreigner. He is an infidel too, but nevertheless is in sympathy with our cause."

           Something occurred to Muammar. "Rashid, can I ask you something?"

           "Of course."

           "You are not really a member of the Brotherhood, are you? You just made that up."

           "Why would I do that?"

           "Because someone paid you to. For as long as I've known you, that is the only reason you do things. In that regard, you are very much like my uncle."

           "I will take that as a compliment. A poor man must do what he can to survive."

           "Why does this infidel friend of yours want me to kill John Wayne?"

           "That is his business. Does it matter if John Wayne has profaned the Prophet?"

           "I have only your word for it."

           "The evidence is at Walik's. See with your own eyes if you don't believe me. May Allah be with you."

           Rashid turned and walked away. Muammar wondered if he should just continue on to the hotel, but if any of what Rashid said was true, then he had to investigate this matter.

           Muammar soon came to the modest dwelling of Walik, an old camel seller who still occasionally practiced his trade, but was now mostly supported by his family. The door was open and there was a faint glow coming from inside, as well as an odd whirring sound that Muammar could not place. He entered and found a movie projector on a table, he had heard of such things, running without an operator and projecting pictures on a wall. They looked like shadows. Muammar stepped closer. There was no sound and the black and white pictures showed a middle-aged man with a beard, dressed as an Arab, dancing with a camel in a tent, except the camel was obviously someone in an ill-fitting camel suit. There was a close-up of the man with the name Mohammed in white letters over his head, then, to Muammar's disbelief and horror, the supposed Arab got down on his knees in front of the person in the camel suit, took hold of a large but definitely non-camel organ that was sticking out at mid-level and with relish began doing unspeakable things to it. For a moment Muammar was stunned into immobility, then his arm swung out as if acting on its own, knocking the projector off the table. For good measure Muammar kicked the table over too, the projector clattering to a halt and the movie ending. By Allah, Rashid had been right, everything he said was true! Muammar grabbed his dagger and headed out back to the courtyard where, as promised, John Wayne was tied to a post, head down on his chest, looking helpless and beaten.

           John Wayne raised his head, blinking as if he had just woken up. "Hey there, pard, how about cutting me loose?"

           Muammar was almost too furious to speak. "What manner of beast are you? Are you the devil?"

           John Wayne let his head fall again for a second. "Son, I've had one hell of a rough night. I don't know what you're talking about. If I've done anything to offend you, I apologize. Now please, cut me loose."

           Muammar was not about to be fooled by this display of contriteness. "Why are you making this movie, this insult to all of Islam?"

           The American looked completely bewildered. "You mean Legend of the Lost? I didn't know it was an insult to anyone. It's just a movie."

           "No, no, no. The real movie you came here to make, the secret movie blaspheming the Prophet. Do you deny it?"

           "Kid, I don't know any Mohammeds. I'm sure he's a fine fellow and maybe we could have a couple drinks together sometime. But right now, if you could give me a hand, I'd really appreciate it."

           Muammar considered his position. The deviousness of the evil one was legendary, but this seemed more like sheer stupidity than cleverness. "Why should I cut you loose? If you are the devil, that is exactly what you would want me to do."

           "I'm not the devil. I'm an actor, I'm John Wayne, for Christ's sake! Besides, if I was the devil, would I allow myself to be trussed up like this?"

           "If you are the devil, it could be some kind of trick."

           "Sonuvabitch. Look, kid, I swear to God that I'm not the devil, is that good enough for you?"

           "You believe in God?"

           "Hell yeah, only Commies don't believe in God."

           "You obey the will of Allah?"

           "Yeah, sure, if that's what you mean by God."

           "But you don't know who Mohammed is, the Seal of the Prophets?"

           "Seal? The only seals I know are in the zoo. No offense, kid, but I'm no expert on religion. You'd have to ask someone else, like a preacher."

           Muammar no longer believed that John Wayne was the devil, at least in any literal sense. Also, he began to realize the possibility that the movie he had seen was Rashid's doing, or more likely the doing of Rashid's mysterious foreign benefactor, to get him to kill John Wayne for some unknown reason. "Why did you shoot at me at my uncle's?"

           "I didn't. That was some guy named Drinkwine. I don't know what his problem is."

           "Drinkwine?"

           "Yeah. You know him?"

           The name was oddly familiar to Muammar, but he could not place it. His memory had still not fully returned to him. He looked at John Wayne. What should he do with this corpulent, complacent American, so blindly ignorant of the greatness of Islam and probably everything else Muammar believed in. It seemed unthinkable that he should just cut him loose. Muammar fingered his knife and stepped closer.

           "'Bout time," said the Duke. "Just be careful with that thing."

           Before Muammar could come to any final decision, he heard the pounding of hooves. He turned to see a camel with Miss Loren clinging to its back take the low courtyard wall at a full gallop, said camel then coming to an abrupt halt and sending a screaming Miss Loren straight at him, the last thing Muammar remembered before being embraced by unconsciousness and the merciful arms of Allah.


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