Joseph returned to base and to his teaching job. His students were all glad to see him back and his lectures were well attended. The second day back he received a call from Allie telling him that he had contacted some important people in Syria and that they were glad to hear that Joseph was going to keep up his interest in the Arab-American community. Allie told him that although at first he had a rather hard time trying to sell the idea of using the money for inter-faith relations, once Allie pointed out it was Fazzi's last wish, they weakened. And when he proved to them that it would only benefit their cause, they relented and agreed to help in anyway they could. In telling all this to Joseph he tried to inflate his sales abilities. Joseph knew this but let the Arab think he was the world's greatest salesman on earth. As Allie went on with his bragging about his ability to sell an unpopular idea to unreceptive ears, it became plain to Joseph that the Arab was becoming a victim of his own self-importance. This was common in the Arab culture and dangerous within the intelligence community. He would soon have to find a way to take the hot air out of Alli. And he would have to do it soon, before Allie thought Joseph could be made Allie's 'plaything'. The solder realize that he had to be the one in control, he had to be the boss. Anything else was signing his own death warrant and he had no intention of doing that.
'Now you can set up that meeting with the Imam and if he tries to balk tell him to check it out with the embassy. They will be only too glad to explain it to him.' Allie said. 'And if he still needs a little prodding, I will be glad to have a little talk with him myself, however my love, I think this is going to work without the need for the 'Arab Mafia' to get involved.'
'I'm really glad to hear that. I like the man and do not want to see him humiliated. You were not there, but he was very nice to me when I collapsed that Friday in the Mosque when I found out about Ibrahim. I will setup an appointment with him for this Friday after Mosque. Maybe invite him to supper.' Joseph said and then asked, 'Will that be OK? I really want him to want to do this without that pressure.'
'Yes that will be fine, very Arabic. Showing hospitality and putting him at ease before the execution.' He laughed, 'but remember to be firm. Act as you know your father would. Do you want me to be there also?'
'No not at the table. I want to see if I can handle this myself.' The soldier said. 'I should be finished with him by about 10 or 10.30 and you can come over after then, if you want.'
Smiling to himself Allie said. 'Well I would like to come over, but that will be a little late for me... Do you think you could put me up for the night?'
'I'm sure I can have the maid make up one of the spare rooms for you to stay over in.'
'A bedroom not too far from the Master Bedroom, I hope.' Allie whispered into the phone.
'You should have no fear of that, because whichever bedroom you sleep in will be the Master bedroom.' Joseph replied and then smiling said good-bye.
He next called the Imam who was startled by his call. In Arabic he inquired about his health and the state of his congregation. Are your people well? Is there anyone that is in need or is ill? I would like to help if I could.' He asked.
'That is very kind of you to ask. It reminds me of your late father and how every week before Friday he would call and ask the same questions.' He said and added, 'I miss those calls. Your father was a good man we all miss him very much. I am glad to see that some of him has rubbed off on you.'
'Your Eminence, I take that as an undeserved compliment, one I blushingly accept, but at the same time I call to ask a favor of you.' He said laying it on a bit thickly. 'Fazzi's untimely death has imposed a huge obligation on my shoulders. An obligation that as his son, I willingly accept and look forward to carrying out. However, in order to do so I am afraid that I must impose upon you. It is my wish that you join me for dinner this Friday evening here at my house. At that time I will be glad to disclose Fazzi's last wishes and his plans for the Paterson Arab community and the part, you and I will play in them.'
There he thought. I have been both forceful yet diplomatic. I think Allie would have approved.
After a few moments of silence the Imam said, 'I will be most honored to meet with you Friday evening. At what time?'
'Let's see. I am teaching at the base until 5 pm and I will get home about six.... Unless you have an objection, I think seven would be fine. That would give us plenty of time to discuss our business as I have another appointment at eleven o'clock.'
'It appears that you have taken up the mantle of leadership that your father wore so well.' Said the Imam. 'I can see now why he wanted you for his son. I must say that there was a time, in the beginning, that I thought that your father was altogether wrong in adopting you. And at that time I fought with him over it. Now I'm not so sure I was right.'
Joseph laughing said, 'No one more than I fought with him about the adoption. I did not see myself as worthy of being his son and heir. But as you know Fazzi saw things different than the rest of us and had his reasons for whatever he did. And once his mind was set--- there was little you could do to change it.
'Yes I agree, but then the man was seldom wrong and one cannot argue with success.
'It is my hope that you and I can work together on this project. I think it will be in the best interest of the community that we do. But I should warn you that one-way or the other - I intend to carry out my beloved father's last wishes.'
'That is spoken as a true son of Islam and one that honors his father.' The Imam prudently said. 'As long as I can find it within my power and it is not against the precepts of Islam - you will have my complete loyalty and cooperation.'
'Neither Fazzi nor I would ever ask you to violate your religious beliefs.'
'If I may be frank?'
'Please be.' Joseph told him.
'Fazzi was a Muslim - you are not!'
'I am my father's son. I would not do anything to dishonor him or his religion. Keep that in mind. I will look forward to seeing you Friday evening.' Joseph said and cutting him short he hung up.
He realized that he had been a bit too rough. Maybe he should call and try to smooth it out, but he decided not to try. Allie should know what was right and he was just following his suggestions.
Joseph then called the house and told his cook, Summaya, that the Imam would be joining him for dinner Friday evening and to prepare something Syrian, but to keep it light.
'I know his housekeeper.' She said, 'I will call her and ask her if there is some dish that he likes and I will prepare it for the both of you.'
'Excellent!' He said and then told her to clean and prepare Kassie's old room for Allie.
'Will he be joining you for dinner?'
'No he will be coming late after ten o'clock. By then the Imam should be back home. Mr. Balbak and I are working on a project for the 'Fund' and I think he will be staying the weekend. I want you to take the weekend off and spend it with your family. Mr. Balbak and I can fend for ourselves. We will either cook, order-in or perhaps eat out.' Joseph told her.
'Are you sure? It would be no problem for me to prepare some refreshments to tide you over.'
'Thank you Summaya, perhaps some of those Lebanese lamb sandwiches, in case we work really late.' He said, 'but nothing really big or heavy, as we have a lot of work to do.'
Joseph also called Rich to find out about the play and how things were going. He was told that things were moving along.
'I miss you Rich.' Joseph told him.
'It won't be much longer. How are things going with the job?'
The soldier told him about Allie's and his plans for the fund and that things might begin to jell this weekend.
Rich turned cold and said; 'I guess I better stay in New York this weekend then.'
'Now Rich, you know it's the job. I'm play acting---just like you are. You don't see me getting all bothered about you and your play acting. Do you?'
'I don't sleep with anyone but you.'
'We have had this out before and I'm not going to go over it again with you. I will see you soon. Just let me know when the play opens. I want to be there.'
'I'm sorry, I must be getting the last minute jitters. I'll call you after the tryouts. Things will get better by then.'
'It's my fault, Rich.. I really do love you.'
'I know Joseph. I know you have to do what you have to do. These people are dangerous and I just want you to be careful. I know that if there were some other way, you would do it. I just don't want you getting....'
'I am using protection and I never bottom. Rich, I'm also testing. I think it will be over soon, then I promise no more of this shit.'
They stayed on the phone, not talking but afraid to hang up. Then Joseph heard Richard sigh and then hang up...
Friday afternoon came and the school let out at four o'clock. Joseph jumped into his car and headed toward Paterson. About half way there he suddenly remembered that he had not checked in with Bill Barns for a few days. While he was no longer under Bill's control he thought it would be nice to pull over and give him a report anyway. After pulling to the side of the road he punched in Bill's number and after a few rings was glad to hear the F.B.I. agent's voice.
'Well Joseph, how are you?' It's been only a few days that you are on your own. Are you in trouble already? Anything new?'
'No troubles but there are a few things you might like to know.' He said and then filled him in on all that had been going on.
'Nice work! But remember that Allie is a dangerous Syrian agent and from our files he is a known killer. The latest we hear from our agents is, he has moved up in the organization. He has taken Fazzi's place in the organization and as such he is responsible for all acts of terror in the western world. We think that it was either him or Fazzi that set up those idiots who were going to kill your buddies at Ft. Dix. It could have even been your permitting them on base to address your class that may have given them the idea. Remember that both the Emirate and Allie are not fools! He might be even more dangerous than Fazzi ever was.' Bill said.
'I sort of figured that out for myself. Otherwise there would be no reason for him to try to get control of the fund. And believe me he is trying to do that. I will be careful. Do you have any idea why they are changing tactics and are now willing to work with interfaith groups?'
'Maybe they figure that they can work their way into the fabric of American life and take over that way. They seem to have done that in England, France and a host of European countries. You know the old saying 'if you can't lick them - join them and then cut them up and devour them piece by piece!'
'Somehow I do have faith in our nation. I think we will wake up in plenty of time and be able to stop them. Hey, I have got to get going as I am having dinner with the Imam. My regards to the guys in the office.'
'I will do that and I know they send you their best also.'
He arrived home with plenty of time to check on dinner and to get ready for the Imam. The Imam arrived at exactly seven and Joseph met him at the door and directed him into the library, where he had soft drinks and juices ready to serve him.
'Thank you for the Soft drinks. I know that you usually have a pre-dinner drink and I have no objection to your use of alcohol.' He said smiling. 'I even know of your father's love of the forbidden fruits of our religion. While I did not approve, he did have so many other good things about him - that I had to forgive his little side trips into the dark corners of western society. You, not being one of us, are not under our obligations and are free to indulge. However I think that you have more respect for our customs than some of so called Muslim brothers.'
'I must admit that I love to have some wine or beer with dinner.' Joseph said as the two of them sat down and started to discuss the Paterson community and their needs.
Before long Joseph steered the discussion around to the Moslem feeling of xenophobia. The discussion continued even after it was announced that dinner was served and while the two of them sat at the table.
Joseph brought up the time that the Moslem community had reached out to help Ibrahim.
'Yes it was nice at the time and I think that we did feel a part of the rest of the country for the first time since I came to Paterson. It was a great feeling and many within the Mosque have told me that they were longing to do something like that again.' The Imam admitted.
The opening, Joseph at last had the opening and he now exploited it to the fullest. He explained Fazzi's 'last request'.
'You have got to be joking! I cannot do anything like that. You still have a lot to learn about our ways. Joseph as much as I may like and respect you and loved your father you must remember that you are an infidel. And while I find it easy to sit and talk with you, to sit down and talk to infidel Ministers and Rabbis is not something an Imam can just do. If I were lucky all that would happen would be I would be hounded out of the Mosque.'
They discussed the idea over dinner and Joseph could not budge him. Once or twice he thought he had made an inroad or two but the Imam just stood his ground. A soft spot appeared when the Imam agreed to put in a good word for Joseph and to discus the idea with the board of directors of the Mosque. He also agreed to let Joseph bring representatives from the embassy to talk to the board. As coffee was being served Summaya informed him that Allie had arrived and was waiting in the library. 'Ask him to wait until the Imam and I are through.'
'Yes I know this Mr. Balbak. Perhaps you can ask him to join us for coffee.' The Imam said. 'I wonder what thoughts he might have on this subject?'
'Well if you insist.' Joseph said and told the housekeeper to ask Allie to join them. After a few moments Allie appeared and joined them at the table.
The Imam asked him what he thought of Fazzi's wild idea.
'You do know who I am?' Allie asked almost taking over the discussion. 'I can tell you that when Joseph and Fazzi first proposed this interfaith community business to us we, too, felt like you. However, after long consideration and deliberation we have not only decided to back the proposal but to use money from the 'fund' to help support the effort. It is desired that you and the Paterson community take the lead in this effort. Can we assume that you will come on board?'
'I am afraid that I cannot support this idea. I cannot see myself sitting down with the enemies of Islam and working together with them. My whole life has been spent in opposition to these tools of the devil. And to use the money that Fazzi had originally collected to fight these enemies in an effort to make nice to them now---- that is something that I will have nothing to do with.' The Imam said as he got up to leave.
'Sit your damn ass down!' Allie said, lowering his voice to a menacing whisper. So much so that it even terrified Joseph. 'We are not asking for your opinion.' He continued in a whisper. 'You will do this or we will find someone to take your place. We will direct your actions and write your sermons. This week an assistant will be appointed to you and you will work with him. The Emirate will protect you. Do you understand?'
He sat there. Whipped and resigned to the fact. 'Yes, I understand.'
'Good you may go now.' Allie said dismissing him with a wave of his hand and Allie then turned and smiled at Joseph, as if to say, see that's the way you handle riffraff. The Imam then got up and left.
When Joseph heard the front door slam shut he turned to Allie and screamed, 'How dare you? Who the fuck do you think you are? That man was a guest in MY house. My house, not yours! No one treats a guest of mine, let alone a clergyman, like that. I should throw you out.' Joseph raged, as he slapped Allie in the face with such force that he was almost unseated. The slap did leave a red handprint on his cheek.
'I thought I was doing what you wanted.'
'You take too much on yourself. You work for me!' Joseph shouted. 'You are my employee. I hired you and I can fire you! You will do what I say, when I say it and in a manner that pleases me. And from now on this refers to everything. Do I make myself clear?'
Rubbing his face he asked, 'Everything?'
'YES! Everything. And it includes, most of all, our sex life. I can no longer trust you to keep that part of our relationship separate. You are no longer the master. I am and I will be the master at least until I can trust you again.' Joseph shouted. 'Do you understand and agree to that? If not, get the hell out now!'
Allie stood there, transfixed, as if in shock unable to speak for the moment.... 'But he stammered, I thought that you and I were going to be lovers. I was going to be your teacher. You were going to be my slave.'
Joseph approached him and looked him squarely in the eyes and said, 'No, as much as I may have wanted it last weekend and still wanted it until a few moments ago, I know that can never be now. I see now that if I permit it in the bedroom you will only try to extend it into our public life, just as you did tonight. And I cannot have that. I almost had him convinced without the use of force. Now that will never be. No you must realize that it is I that am Master here. Perhaps in time, when I get to know and trust you, and you get to trust me, we will be able to live as equals, together. I want this - I really want this.' Joseph lied, thereby holding out the hope that this latest arrangement would be only temporary. Then taking Allie into his arms and pressing his lips against Allie's ear he whispered to him, 'I want you, but for now it must be on my terms.'
'I don't know if I can be your slave. You know that I have never been penetrated by anyone. I have always been the one.....'
'Fazzi was not my slave we were true lovers. You said this yourself many times. We each gave his love to the other. If you wish I will teach you. From now on it shall be me who is the teacher.' Joseph smiled. 'I will be gentle and take it easy with you, my virgin flower.'
'Well I'm not really a virgin.' Allie smiled. 'But, will it be O.K. if I play the virgin?'
'Come shall we go to bed now or will you want me wine and dine you first and then seduce you?'
To be continued....