“A dislocation this bad will not restore itself.” No wonder Omed had been so frantic for Jamil to come. If Jamil was no true doctor either, he wasn’t just a villager who’d taken a few first aid courses in order to man the local medical outpost.

Omed looked anxiously at Jamil. “You can repair her shoulder?”

Jamil didn’t answer immediately. He knew the mechanics of fixing a dislocated shoulder, not only from those long-ago studies, but because he’d helped the American medic tend just such an injury after the New Hope bombing in Kabul. But that patient had been a child, the injury fresh. After a full day, this woman’s torn ligaments and tendons would be hardened into place, the dislocated shoulder well-set into its new position.

“I cannot determine for sure without X-rays. It would be best to take her into a hospital for a proper examination.”

The room erupted into speech, some in agreement with Jamil, others angry denial. Omed’s disappointment showed clearly on his face. It was the husband who spoke up. “That is not possible. I do not have money for such a trip nor a hospital. Naveed—” Haroon gestured toward the health worker—“says in time the shoulder will heal enough to work again. If not—” he glanced slyly at Omed—“she can return to her own family. A new bride price will be cheaper than hospitals.”

As chuckles rippled across the clinic, a man standing behind Haroon added, “Besides, who are we to interfere? Does not the Quran state that Allah fastens every person’s fate upon their neck at birth?”

The man speaking was not the oldest here, his full, long beard still untarnished black. But he carried himself with authority, and he wore the black turban that the Taliban had made infamous as a sign of Islamic piety.

The village mullah.

Fury swept Jamil. Would the mullah speak out so against interference if one of these men suffered a dislocated shoulder? Were mullah, health worker, even husband really so willing to condemn a woman to a lifetime deformed and crippled rather than reach for a remedy so easily at hand?

Lowering his bundle onto the table, Jamil undid its knots. There’d been nothing he could do for those women and children working in drugged stupor so their male family members could squeeze out a few more weavings. Here was not the case. Jamil didn’t look at Omed as he drew out his Pashto New Testament. If he was about to offend the man who’d brought him here, he’d make his apologies later.

“Does not Allah also send healers to the children of men? And was not Isa Masih the greatest healer of all? Muhammad himself taught that Isa’s words and actions are to be commended and imitated.” Jamil flipped through the holy book. “I have here the very words of Isa Masih. He was teaching on the holy day when a woman crippled for eighteen years came before him. Having compassion, Isa placed his own hands on the woman, and she was healed. But the mullahs of that village grew angry and demanded to know why he had healed a woman and on a holy day above all.

“I will read what Isa Masih answered. ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the holy day untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the holy day from what bound her?’”

The mullah had crowded close to scrutinize the graceful loops and swirls of Pashto script, his black beard quivering with fury. But among other listeners, Jamil’s reading drew a murmur of surprise and agreement. Raising his eyes from the page, Jamil saw that his audience had grown, villagers squeezing into the clinic to watch, those who couldn’t jostling each other in the doorway. An olive green arm raised above the sea of heads caught Jamil’s eye. It belonged to the outsider from the carpet stall, and Jamil could see in that upraised hand a camera or cell phone angling toward the table.