Perhaps it was the way she said “maybe”. It could have been the slight shimmer he caught out of the corner of his eye as he looked away briefly. Either way Amir knew at once what he was dealing with, and though he tried to remain casual he felt a shiver run up his spine.
“Maybe? So you’re being noncommittal then?”
“What is it you would have me commit to, Amir?”
He needed to know if he had betrayed his sudden awareness. He studied her face for any sign of a tell. The light flared in her eyes briefly, but the dawning smile on her lips added uncertainty in a disquieting way. The answer that leapt to mind was the last one that would ever leave his lips. He continued to maintain a steady gaze and returned her smile.
“Never in my wildest imaginings would I have you commit to anything. What do you take me for?”
She didn’t answer, further confirmation of his new realization of what he was dealing with. Instead, she got to her feet and reached for her wine glass, draining it as she studied him over the rim. She turned on her heel and tossed her hair.
“Meet me here tomorrow. Same time.”
With that she was gone. Cool and commanding, that was her way. He should have recognized her sooner, but then again he was no longer a believer. So what then? Much thinking and some research, that was what. He finished his drink and was about to leave when a friend entered the bar and spotted him, waving as he approached. Great. He didn’t want to be distracted and was going through possible excuses in his mind when it occurred to him that there was opportunity here. This one was a scholar, he could probably be useful. He stood up to greet his friend.
“Boulos, old friend. Where have you been keeping yourself? It’s been quite awhile.”
“Ah, Amir, it is so good to see you again. You are missed at prayers, my friend.”
Amir bristled at the mention, but brushed it off.
“I saw the most delightful creature leaving here as I came in. She was…bewitching. Did you see her?”
How very apt your choice of words is, thought Amir. He needed to be careful how he played this.
“Yes, I saw her. Quite beautiful. So how have you been, Boulos, life is treating you well I hope.”
“Yes indeed my friend. I am blessed in so many ways. My wife will grace me with another son in several months time, Allah willing.”
“I too am well, Boulos. Can I buy you a drink?”
“Some coffee would be good. Will you join me?”
Amir wanted another drink but knew it would offend his friend, and since he needed him onside he went along.
“Waiter, two cups of coffee please.”
“Boulos, I wonder if you might be of some assistance. You see, I’m working on a piece for a magazine and I need to know a bit more about the three sentient creations.”
“The three creations? But you know what they are, my friend. What is it you think I can tell you?”
“Well, I’ve never been really knowledgeable about the Djinn. As I recall, you know their history, don’t you?”
Boulos put down his coffee and sat quietly for several moments and then folded his hands on the table and leaned forward.
“Amir, my good friend, what in the name of heaven are you up to?”