Hafiz looked down at Jack, his face red. The bar owner was really torqued off now.
Hafiz turned and spoke to Ali. There might have been the slightest hesitation in his voice, but the words that came out sounded plenty angry enough.
Hafiz spoke in Arabic, of course.
Jack contemplated the stone in his pocket, contemplated the gun. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do next. He hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Hafiz and Ali began to argue in their incomprehensible, guttural Arabic. Since coming to Egypt, Jack had managed to learn a few Arabic greetings, and a little bit of vocabulary. When Egyptians spoke their own language, he could occasionally catch a word here and there. But no way he could follow a heated conversation like this. All he could say for sure was that Hafiz and Ali were engaged in an intense disagreement.
Ali was shorter than Hafiz, but probably ten years younger, and stockier. Plus, he was Ali Abber, a feared street hoodlum of Cairo; and he had four of his men with him.
They were starting to attract attention now, even in the crowded, noisy bar. The prostitute and the Turkish businessman—who had still not sealed their deal, apparently—had turned around to look.
Hafiz gesticulated toward the bar, punctuating his words by jabbing the air with one finger. He was obviously telling Ali to return to the bar.
This provoked a harsh response from Ali. He wasn’t about to give up. He knew about the Garnet of Hatshepsut, and he wanted it.
I’m going to have to draw the gun, Jack thought. There would be consequences, of course; but he might have no choice.
“Is there a problem here?” said a male voice in a German accent.
Jack turned away from Ali and Hafiz, toward the voice.
A tall, European man, dressed in a plain white shirt and brown trousers, was standing on the other side of Jack’s table, assessing the situation. The man was perhaps forty-five years old. He had light brown hair that was starting to recede.
The man had a bookish air about him, but also a certain presence. Jack noticed that both Ali and Hafiz stopped their argument.
Jack, meanwhile, gave the newcomer a broad smile.
“Rudy!” Jack said. And he could not help adding, “Man, am I glad to see you!”