Out of the corner of my eye I saw Charlie concentrating, making sure he'd heard right. I was sure he was thinking the same thing I was: it was Hizballah operatives that were hunting us, rather than the other way around. Three months ago we'd caught Hizballah planning to kidnap, torture, and kill a CIA operative here. We pulled him out in the middle of the night, right before Hizballah's plan was to be executed. Bottom line: we were playing in Hizballah's backyard.
Bob must have seen the expression on our faces. "Invisibility," he said. "We become invisible."
He talked about the stuff he'd learned in Lebanon during the civil war -- from Hizballah itself, how Hizballah created their own protective covering by constantly moving between houses, changing cars and routes, staying off the telephone and radios, and never patronizing any one establishment exclusively. "Why can't we do the same?" he said, smiling.
Bob relit his cigar, sending up a fat column of smoke that crouched over the table. The cigar looked Cuban. I wondered where he'd gotten it. Probably in Sarajevo's black market, where you could find anything from machine guns to stolen cars.
That was pretty much it for the first meeting. I wouldn't see Bob again until this day: in front of Split airport, leading me toward a car you can see from the surface of the moon. I throw my bag into the back of the station wagon and climb in the passenger side. So much for being invisible, I think.
We start the five-hour drive to Sarajevo not saying a word. Bob breaks the silence by telling me how he's rented the car from a British former military officer who owns a small travel agency in Sarajevo.
"What does he think you do?" I ask.
"It doesn't matter. The point is, he'll catch any flak the car draws, not us."
I nod my head, letting him think he's convinced me of the logic of it, and we fall into another long silence. As he darts in and out of a British tank convoy, I can't figure out how he sees to pass.
I wonder about the butter-yellow houses we are passing, with their red tiled roofs. How was it that an incredibly bloody war started in a place like this? These people are modern Europeans, and then one day, I don't know, sitting around watching a national football championship on Eurovision, they picked up axes and started killing each other, Croats slaughtering Serbs, Serbs slaughtering Bosnian Muslims. Aren't they all Slavs? And don't they all look alike and speak the same language? It just doesn't make sense to me. But headquarters doesn't really care if I know next to nothing about Bosnia. My job is to surveil the Arab Mujahidin, who showed up here at the beginning of the war. Period.
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At Sarajevo's outskirts I point to a trolley stop, telling Bob I'll get off here. He shakes my hand, and I watch his lime-green station wagon as it disappears into traffic. I don't mind when it starts to rain and I reach to pull up the hood of my parka. The fresh air and uncomplicated anonymity feel good.
A week later, headquarters cables that Charlie and I now work for Bob -- chasing Hizballah. We're immediately to cut all contact with the embassy and scatter to diffferent houses and apartments around Sarajevo. Charlie finds his own place, and I'm to move temporarily into a safe house Bob works out of until I can find my own apartment.