The only thing left for Fazal to decide was where to get rid of the F-150. With the dead State Trooper's body in the squad car over the embankment, there would be little time before every patrolman in the state would be looking for the 'cop killer' and only a little more before the lab would tie the 9mm slug in him to the one in the ranch owner from whom Fazal had taken the pick-up.
After some thought, Fazal decided that he would ditch the truck after taking Interstate 34, somewhere between San Antonio and Waco. The fake identification he had in the tattered case with the Druganov SVD, would allow him to even rent a car if he wished.
"Maybe a Mercedes Benz or other classy vehicle..." he mused. "...No."
Ever the professional, Fazal knew he must be as invisible as possible. A common sedan would be the most practical.
Practical was an understatement as it pertained to Fazal. His mission had always been his sole focus. The last had been carried out with a cold, unwavering sense of purpose. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto had been his last job which, even though he was not the 'trigger man', he was the brains behind. He had received the Druganov SVD as a gift for the successful mission from, as his Imam had said, "The Soldier of Allah". After receiving the weapon and the blessing of his Imam, Fazal was given the details of his next mission. The Bhutto assassination was causing too much interest in his town of Wana in South Waziristan, so the timing for his departure to Mexico was for his own safety as well as for the purposes outlined to him. Fazal knew better.
He was no longer safe in his own land and was considered by some to be a walking dead man. Martyrdom was not something that Fazal sought out, but he would welcome it if needed. He was prepared to die for Jihad. The beard he had worn all of his adult life had been shaven and blessings had already been given to him. If his life were required, he would gladly give it to enter Paradise. But only if there were no other way. He would not give the infidel the satisfaction of taking him down without inflicting as much pain as he possibly could. The enemy of Allah would not soon forget the name Fazal Chaudry.
After driving a few miles outside of San Antonio, Fazal pulled off the interstate to a nearby rest stop. Leaving the pickup in an unused section of the parking lot, he grabbed the old case and headed toward the public rest room. Setting the case on a nearby bench, he went to a wash basin and splashed water onto his face. He needed to wash away the grime from miles of travel through Mexico and southwest Texas. A shower was not possible here....not now. There was still a distance to go before he would be able to allow himself such luxuries.
"Looks like you've been on the road for quite a while too." a voice behind him said.
Fazal had been alone in the restroom, so he had thought. The man spoke with the drawl of a native and Fazal turned to see a tall man with graying hair protuding out from under the Stetson he was wearing. Removing the hat and setting it on the bench near Fazal's worn case, he saw that the man's graying hair was only a fringe surrounding a shiny dome.
"Aaron Johnson is my name..." the aging cowboy said with a grin and lower lip full of Copenhagen. "...but my friends call me 'Buck.'"
Taking perhaps a little longer to respond than he should have, Fazal responded, "Glad to meet you, Buck. My name is John Hazir." The name was the one, Fazal remembered, from the fake ID he carried in the case with the sniper rifle.
"Judgin' by your appearance," the big man continued, "it looks like maybe you've been hitchin' rides for quite some time. My rig is parked outside and I'll be headin' north to Oklahoma. You're welcome to ride along if you've a mind to."
Fazal was taken a little off guard by the invitation of this stranger. The idea of not only getting rid of the rancher's pickup, but also putting some significant distance between it and himself, appealed to him. But the idea of riding in some big truck with this personification of everything he hated about the west, did not. His loud manner, the big hat, oversized silver belt buckle all the way to his pointed toed snakeskin boots represented to Fazal the pushy, domineering Western society. In the end though, the success of the mission took precedence over his personal distaste for the man.
"Hey, that would be great." Fazal heard himself say without hesitation.
"Well, go ahead and stow your gear in the truck, Boy, and we'll see about findin' some place to grab a bite on the way." said the man with a tobacco stained smile.
After picking up some tacos at a Mexican food take-out, the tall cowboy talked continuously until they reached the Texas-Oklahoma state line. Most of the one-sided conversation revolved around the spiraling cost of diesel fuel and that it was all the fault of the government. Fazal had only nodded in faked agreement with the man.
When the big rig reached Oklahoma City, Fazal said that it was where he needed to get out. Buck pulled the Peterbilt off to the shoulder and set the brake so Fazal could grab his case and jump to the gravel below.
"By the way," Buck drawled as he spit out the driver's side window, "I never asked where you was headed for, Son?"
"I'm going back east to take care of some work for a family friend." Fazal answered somewhat truthfully.
"Back east?!" snorted Buck with a laugh, "Well, if you get out near any of those sons of bitches in Washington, give 'em a good kick in the **** for me, okay?"
A smile appeared on Fazal's ruddy face, "You know, I just might do that."