“An old man,” Abdullah said. “A Bedouin, Al Murrah, by the look of him.”

“That is correct,” said Richat. “Your contract is to kill him as soon as possible. It need not be secret or silent, and collateral damage is acceptable.”

“Why lavish such attention on an old nomad?” Abdullah said. “Time will kill him with no fuss in a year or two.”

“We are hiring an assassin, not a reporter,” was the reply. “You are not being retained for your ability to ask questions.”

“I also have a reputation as being a choice for sensible people, and a payday like this for a job so seemingly unnecessary…people will talk. Some will say it is a payoff, or that drugs are involved. Surely you understand that I cannot allow that.”

“Very well,” Richat growled. “That old man is the last person on earth that knows a certain story. He has told it to no one that yet lives, but while he is alive, the chance exists that he might impart it, or that—worse yet—record it.”

“I see,” Abdullah said. “Killing someone for something they know is very much my business, and if I let it be known—without any details, of course—that he was silenced, that should be enough.”

“Good,” Richat said. “You have work to do, then?”

Abdullah paused. “Out of…curiosity…what is the danger of this particular story?”

“It is the last clue in living memory to the location of Irem of the Pillars, the lost paradise of the Rub al-Khali.”

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