GULALAY disappeared as soon as we got into Chaman, and within three hours Zahir and I were in a long-cab Toyota pickup headed for Quetta. While the driver played a cassette of a fanatic-sounding mullah, I stared dully at the hilly void between Chaman and Quetta. I felt burnt out.
Amid greetings and expressions of relief at the Nothilfe hospital in Quetta, my spirit was almost palpably withdrawing into some inner shell, but Hakenberg had to have a full explanation of events without delay.
When I'd finished, he told me what happened to them. When Qajir and I were attacked, he and Wahidi happened to be crossing a stretch of gravel on foot; Zahir was riding alone out in front. At the sound of gunfire, they tried to conceal themselves in the scrub off the road. After the firing stopped, they decided to continue in the same direction. Toward the sound of firing…? Hakenberg waved away my second-guessing impatiently. They figured they could make it through. After a short distance, they came across the motorcycle, abandoned but with the key still in it. There was no sign of their driver, Zahir.
Still they continued in the same direction, Hakenberg pushing the motorcycle. When they rounded the curve above the river, they were fired on from the right. He said he didn't realize what was happening until a bullet bounced off the bike. They took off running with bullets flying all around them and threw themselves to the ground. The firing stopped, they looked around: silhouettes of the soldiers were coming toward them. Wahidi heard them talking and didn't recognize the language. Wahidi and Hakenberg bolted, there was more firing, they hit the deck, crawled. The firing finally stopped, and they crawled and then ran again and finally escaped into the night. The next day they ran into a guy whose work it was leading groups into Pakistan, so they got back to Chaman a day and a half before I did.
They were very lucky not to have been hit; bullets were ricocheting off the ground within inches of them. Hakenberg said he expected one any time