“That’s him.”

Amos Black was sitting in the center back seat of the black HiLux, with Bryan and Hassan crowding him on each side. Bryan was there to quietly kill Black as soon as he showed any sign of treachery. Hassan was there to help coordinate with the team of Hussein Ali’s finest that was running overwatch. Hussein Ali had suggested that his boys should take this, but I’d declined, and Mike had backed me up. This was our hit, for very special reasons.

The man Black had fingered looked nondescript as hell, especially in southern Iraq. Short, skinny, short black hair, neatly trimmed beard, black dishdasha, talking on a cell phone. There was nothing in his appearance to suggest that he was anything special.

Not that that was in any way odd in this strange, shadowy war. Some of the nastiest opponents were the ones who looked like frail businessmen. And according to Black, this guy was one of the top commanders of the Abdul Qadir Brigade, a sub-unit of the Islamic State in Iraq and as-Sham.

Right now, this skinny, inoffensive-looking motherfucker was walking down a still-crowded street in a primarily Sunni part of Basra. There weren’t a lot of majority Sunni areas here in the south these days; in fact, until things really got nasty between Moqtada al Sadr’s Jaysh al Mahdi and Zarqawi’s AQI, much of Iraq’s Sunni and Shia lived pretty intermixed. Not anymore.

The street was narrow and increasingly dark as night descended. A few of the streetlights flickered to life, but with the fighting that had been going on in Basra for the last couple of months, things like power had gotten pretty hit-or-miss. Trash and sewage had always been secondary (or tertiary, or lower) priorities; there was standing water in the street—and it wasn’t the rainy season yet—and trash was piled against the dingy buildings.

I lifted the mobile phone to my ear. It was a cheap, local throwaway job, that kept hitting me with Arabic text messages from the local cell provider. I hit the speed-dial and after a moment, Jim’s voice scratched over the circuit. “Go.”

“Our guest is coming at eleven,” I said. “I told him to wear black. He says he’s running late, just getting out of the Laundromat now.” It sounded like ordinary chitchat if anybody was listening in, but I’d just sent a description of his dress, his direction of movement, and identified the point he was passing in those three short sentences.