From the Prologue.

When the phone rang I jumped—startled—and nearly shot myself. This would have been somewhat ironic, because I was sitting in a truck, about to kill myself and was already holding the pistol in my hand. But I would have pulled the trigger while the pistol was pointed at my foot rather than my head. After all the crying and shaking, the moralizing and justifying, the calming of hands and nerves, the intense focusing on the immediate act of charging the weapon to put a bullet into the firing chamber, and then taking off the safety and preparing to put the barrel in my mouth, the ringing phone broke the spell, and pulled me back from the brink.

I looked down at the phone lying on the seat of the pickup and saw that it was my wife calling from Washington, D.C. I looked up as a boy with a camel in tow walked past my truck. The boy’s face was dirty—he’d probably been walking in the desert all day—and he was wearing a stained, full-length thawb (the classic garment worn by many Arab men) and dusty sandals. He looked at me, our eyes locked for a second. Then he looked away and pulled the camel’s rope bridle a little harder. I picked up the phone.

“Hello?” I answered. The static on the phone cleared up.

“Hey,” she said. “What’s up?”

I paused. I certainly couldn’t answer with the truth.

“Not much,” I said. “What’s up with you?”

I swallowed hard to clear my throat and fought to get control of my breathing. The pistol felt good in my hand. I felt surprisingly deft with it. The selector switch had two painted dots, one red and one white. White is safe; red is not. With my thumb, I put the pistol back on safe and laid it on the seat. While I talked to my wife for a few minutes, I stared out through the windshield and watched the sun setting over the rocky brown desert of Darfur.

“I’ll be careful, don’t worry. I’ll be home in a few weeks.”

I started the truck’s engine and drove back to the United Nations guesthouse where I was staying. On the way, I returned the pistol to the peacekeeper sergeant I’d borrowed it from. We had served together for five months. He loaned me the pistol, no questions asked, because he knew me and because I was a senior officer with more than twenty years of field experience whom he believed to be competent and trustworthy. I’d given him no reason to think otherwise.

Note: All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2013 Ron Capps

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