Night Sweats: How Moral Philosophy Failed
In the past Max and Sally duked it out with racists, torturers, and drug counterfeiters. Is there anyone left on the planet who can compete with these for vileness? How about doctors and their abettors who remove healthy organs from young women for the sole purpose of selling the organs to desperate patients? The 'donors', unsurprisingly, die. Or, where do men who kill women in the name of 'honor' or throw acid on them fit in the pantheon of despicable humans?
In this, the final episode in their colorful careers, Max and Sally Brown are confronted with different faces of evil, some motivated by greed, some motivated to commit atrocities out of personal insecurity.
Sally, for the first time, tries her hand at writing and shares authorship with her husband.
The action takes place in Switzerland and Jordan. Vivid descriptions of some of the most marvelous sites and scenery found anywhere on earth provide a bonus; in the eyes of some reviewers these alone were reason enough to recommend this fast-paced and thought-provoking thriller.
The driver slowly rotated in Jr.’s direction, and, as Jr. pulled back his foot, the driver sprang at him. We’d been waiting for that.
But so had Jr. who dodged to the side, pulled the gun, and fired at the driver who spun and fell.
Jr. inspected the driver. The bullet wound appeared to be in the man’s neck. Jr. looked questioningly at his uncle, who shrugged. Jr. echoed the shrug, then pushed the driver hard, sending him rolling down the steep rock face.
We watched, sickened by the sight of the lifeless body tumbling and flopping inexorably toward the vertical cliff that was twenty meters below the path. The rolling body accelerated, then lurched to a stop just short of the drop-off.
The Mohammads exchanged looks, then both turned to me. Jr. gestured with his gun in the direction of the driver. It was clear they wanted me to ease my way down to the twisted body, free it from whatever was holding it – inconveniently in plain sight of passersby – and dispose of it over the edge. My return up the steep rock face was optional.
I shook my head, no. Jr. stepped behind Sally, wrapped his arm around her neck and pressed the pistol against her temple. Sr. nodded, yes.
I started to inch my way down backwards, trying to place each foot flat on the surface. The slope was too steep to get more than the front third of my shoe flat against the stone. If I went sliding, arms wind-milling, to my death, to whom would the body-disposal assignment be given next?
Sally spoke, her voice constricted by the arm around her neck. “No, Max. You’re doing it wrong. You have to lie on your stomach and try to keep as much contact with the rock as you can.”
I tried it. She was right. I did feel more in control, but I expected that at any second I’d feel myself slip and start irrevocably toward the cliff. Would my route carry me into the driver? Was his body’s purchase on the rock-face strong enough to halt my slide? Not questions that needed to be put to the test. Sweat was making my hands slippery and I tried to wipe them on the rock as I continued the slow descent, afraid to lift my head high enough to check progress.
My feet encountered something soft. I’d arrived at the destination. Twisting my head, I could see no impediment holding the driver in place. Must be something under him. All I had to do was get a toe under him and boost him slightly. I looked back up the mountain. Jr. held Sally tightly, nodded yes, and smiled thinly. Hammurabi? This man’s life for his brother’s?
I inched a foot under the driver and lifted. Nothing. I pushed my foot further under the body and looked back at him. His eyes were open and pleading. He blinked, but made no sound. I looked up at Sally; she appeared to be having trouble breathing in Jr.’s choke hold. I edged my foot further under the driver, and lifted. He rolled. There was the soft sound of the body making one more rotation, then silence. I kept my eyes fixed on Sally.
After less than a kilometer bouncing along ruts, the track turned right, steeply uphill. Years of water cascading down the road had carved deep channels. I steered the left wheel into a channel, and the Volvo dropped on its suspension. Ride over.
“This looks like a good place, Haddadin.” It didn’t. He and I got out of the car to examine the situation. The car was immobilized. To the east traffic could be faintly heard on the highway. “Now you have to figure out how you want to restrain us.” Said matter-of-factly. Two workmen, solving small technical problems together.
“I shoot you all in legs.” Said simply, and clearly not up for negotiation.
No one said a word. This was better than some possible outcomes, but I hadn’t considered maiming, perhaps being permanently crippled.
“Uh, nothing to tie us with? Shots will be heard.” Still trying to keep that neutral, problem-solver note in my voice.
Haddadin dug in his jacket pocket and produced a silencer which he twisted onto the pistol.
“Better I shoot you in car. More comfortable for you to sit.” A humanitarian gesture.
“Would you allow me to remove the tape from Sally and Hanan. They might need to put pressure on the wound so as not to bleed to death.”
The absurdity of this conversation was lost on Haddadin, who gave the request serious consideration.
“First you get in car.” He understood the dangers of allowing us out where we might surround him.
Hanan started to weep softly. There’d be no rescue and I had agreed with the BBM on how the game was going to end. Wheelchairs – with luck.
Haddadin positioned himself by the left front fender from where he could watch his three hostages. He looked relaxed. There was a plan in place that he understood and could execute: Disable us, and walk through the woods to safety. It was, after all, a pleasant day for a walk. He reloaded his pistol – how many bullets did he think he’d need to put into us? – thumbing cartridges into the clip and scanning the tree line on the west side of the road.