It was the end of the road for Sarfraz. We dismounted and took pictures. Sarfraz had become a friend, and we were going to miss him—just how much, we had no idea. We hugged and shook hands, and then Doug and Teru and I walked into Tajikistan.
We followed a washed-out tank track due east along the barbed-wire fence, passing two tall, abandoned guard towers. After ten miles we still hadn't seen a soul. Up on the hill to our left were another guard tower, some tanks buried in tank pits, and some buildings, but the place appeared deserted, so we kept going.
A quarter-mile past the outpost, we heard a pop and a zing. "That's a shot," said Doug. He was brilliant.
We heard another round and spun on our heels to see an officer with an AK-47 running down the hill toward us. We put our hands in the air. In seconds the officer was upon us, screaming in Russian and waving his rifle in our faces. "Dokumenty! Dokumenty!"
He was the spitting image of a young Robert De Niro in The Godfather: Part II, and seemingly just as volatile and unpredictable. I could see his finger trembling on the trigger.
We slowly handed him our passports, along with the note from Wohid Khan.
"Wohid Khan, Wohid Khan," we said in high, choirboy voices. The name seemed to register.
He marched us to the base. All the buildings were abandoned but one. We were taken inside, past a small kitchen, into an even smaller office, the door closed behind us. A metal desk, a shelf with Russian military books, a couch. We sat on the couch while Vito Corleone laid his AK-47 on the table and allowed us to see that he was also packing a sidearm. He looked like the kind of guy who was waiting for us to do something stupid so he could blow us away right there.