Sleeping Giants Page 38

—Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

—You will catch the premiere of Oprosti mi, Mina. It is a very small film by a young Serb cineaste named Goran Lukic´. He is someone I know and trust. He will be your guide in Bosnia.

—What does Oprosti Mina mean?

—Oprosti mi, Mina. Mina is a name. Oprosti mi means “forgive me.”

—Sounds like a nice guy…

—Goran is actually one of the kindest, most selfless people I have ever met.

—Coming from you, I’m not really sure what that means. When will he be expecting me?

—He will not be expecting anyone. He will, however, host a small party at Zlatna Ribica after the premiere. You will make an appearance and congratulate him on his movie. When no one else is around, you will remind him that he never paid for the plumber in Belgrade.

—What’s that? Some sort of code?

—No, not a code. More like a subtle metaphor.

—Why don’t you just contact him yourself? You seem to like him. He might enjoy talking to you again.

—I assure you he would not.

—How do you know him?

—I assisted in his interrogation during the war.

—You mean you helped torture him.

—It is, as most things are, a matter of personal and historical perspective. In CIA parlance, we were given an “alternative set of procedures.” Suffice it to say that, however unpleasant the experience might have been, he is indebted to me.

You will procure some inconspicuous clothing and ask him to take you to Srebrenica. It is a small mountain town at the east end of Bosnia.

—Why does that ring a bell?

—Thousands of Bosnian Muslims were rounded up and slaughtered there in the mid-nineties. Once you reach Srebrenica, you will try and find a woman called Fata.

—Fata who?

—I do not know her last name. Nor do I know where she lives. I can tell you that she had three sons and one daughter. Her oldest son worked in the salt mines of Srebrenica with her husband. They might have come into town for work every day from one of the surrounding villages.

—Really? That’s all you have? Do you know which village she might have come from?

—I do not have that information. Unfortunately, the Serbs also destroyed hundreds of villages during the war. Hers may no longer exist. She would be in her early fifties by now. I know she was well liked by everyone, and that she might have served as some sort of informal nurse.

—How will I know I found the right person? Unless I’m mistaken, Fata’s short for Fatima. I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that’s probably not the most unique name for a Muslim woman. Sounds a lot like: “Hey! Go find John in New York.”

—You will know when you find her. Talk about the war. She will have stories to tell.

—How long do I have?

—You requested two weeks of vacation.

—When?

—The premiere is on the fifth. You leave Saturday.

—And let’s assume I find this Fata of yours. What do I need her to do?

—Nothing. She needs to do nothing. I only need to know where to find her. I may need her in the future.

—For what?

—Nothing you should concern yourself with. Hopefully, it will never come to that, and you will have a worthwhile experience visiting the remote corners of Bosnia. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to be on a plane in one hour.

—Sir?

—What is it?

—Thank you.

FILE NO. 230

INTERVIEW WITH UNKNOWN SUBJECT

Location: New Dynasty Chinese Restaurant, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC

—Begin recording. It is almost noon. I am waiting for the man who contacted me this morning on a classified number. I am sitting by the window. There is a sniper across the street with a clear view of my table.

There is a short, stocky, old man entering the restaurant. He appears to be in his sixties or early seventies. He is wearing a tan trench coat, about two sizes too small, and a brim hat. He…He has no eyebrows…I sincerely hope he is not the man I am waiting for…Unfortunately, he is now approaching my table with a large smile on his face.

—Hello, sir! I’m so happy to finally meet you! I’ve heard so much about you.

—I seriously hope not, for your sake. Please be aware that this conversation is being recorded.

—I’m now perfectly aware. Thank you! Do you know who I am?

—I have absolutely no idea who you are, and I do not particularly care to find out. I want to hear what you know about me, who gave you that information, and what you intend to do with it.

—Oh…You’re upset because I mentioned your son on the phone. I didn’t mean to stir up bad memories. As I said, you have my deepest sympathies. I can’t tell you how I know what I know, but you can trust me when I say you have nothing to fear from me. Your secret is perfectly safe.

—Listen to me very carefully for I will only say this once. If you value your life in any way, you will not mention my son to me, or to anyone else, ever again. You will tell me exactly what you know, and if I am satisfied with your answer, you will be allowed to leave this place unharmed.

—That’s a bit rude, don’t you think? What’s the signal?

—What signal?

—The one for the sniper across the street?

—…

—It’s OK, you can show me. He’s sound asleep. By the way, get the man some food next time! Poor fellow would have had to watch us eat for an hour.

So…Let’s start this again, shall we? Would you care to guess who I am?

—I would not.

—Please! Take a guess!

—You are a retired clown who lost his eyebrows in a tragic fire-juggling accident.

—OK. No guessing then. You can call me Mr. Burns.

—That is a horrible alias.

—It’s my last name, thank you very much.

—What do you want?

—I’m here because we have a friend in common. You should try the Kung Pao chicken.

—Thank you, I am still looking at the menu. And who might that friend be?

—I don’t believe you know her name. But she’s a very special friend. Someone who had a very, very large place in your heart. Someone whom I understand you recently lost touch with.

—…I am listening.

—Ah! Finally! Now that I have your attention, it’s your turn to listen very carefully to what I’m about to say…

Put the menu down and get the Kung Pao chicken. The Indonesian rice is also very good, but you have to try the chicken.

—I should warn you that I have little or no sense of humor, and very little patience.

—Don’t be modest! You have a great sense of humor! You’re a little phlegmatic, I agree, but it’s there…I see it. OK, you look like you get grumpy when you’re hungry so I’ll just move right along.

Do you like stories? I hope you do. I’m going to tell you a story that I was told as a child. It has a bit of everything: love, war, betrayal. I’m sure you’ll like it.

A very long time ago, there was a vast empire. I mean vast—it literally spanned thousands of colonies. It was ruled by extremely powerful people. They believed that each colony should evolve at its own pace and be free to rule itself. They would intervene as little as they could, only to preserve life or defend the interests of the empire. They were a very wise people, a race of artists and engineers that had an unmatched understanding of the makeup of the universe. They were able to build just about anything, to manipulate matter, and harness energy in ways that no one else could.

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