Jamil’s aversion was instinctive, and he turned his back even as he pressed his advantage. “So as you have heard, to touch this woman in order to save her from being crippled is to follow Isa’s righteous example. Omed, you are a family member. You and her husband will help me.”

Omed had said Jamil was an answer to his prayers. If so, then Jamil had not been brought here to fail. His fingertips probed through the burqa’s polyester material. Husband and healer were right. The shoulder was not broken, just badly twisted out of location. But the next procedure would still be painful, and Jamil could be thankful the woman had been dosed with enough opium to render her unconscious.

“Ease her on her back and hold firmly. Don’t let her move.”

The woman’s husband helped without protest. It seemed Haroon had no objection to getting a whole wife back so long as he didn’t have to pay for it! Wrapping his hand in toweling, Jamil thrust it through the burqa material into the woman’s armpit. Then he gripped the affected arm by the wrist, pulling hard even as he pushed against the armpit. The pale blue polyester was slippery, making it difficult to maintain a steady grasp. Sweat had broken out on Jamil’s forehead when a moan signaled returning consciousness. I cannot fail! I must not fail!

“Almighty Creator of the universe, have compassion on this woman in the name of Isa Masih. Give me strength to heal as Isa Masih healed those in pain!”

Jamil didn’t realize he was praying aloud until he felt a sudden pop. A deep sigh indicated the woman’s immediate relief. Folding her arm across the burqa, Jamil probed the shoulder cautiously. “It is done.”

Show over, Jamil’s audience had drifted away by the time he’d rummaged up a sling among the clinic supplies. Only the health worker Naveed and the black-turbaned mullah remained as Haroon and Omed helped the patient down from the table. Omed’s wife followed them out the door. Jamil was tying up his own bundle when he heard the motorcycle start.

Naveed and the mullah stepped forward the moment they were alone with Jamil, fury they’d masked from the approving crowd darkening both faces.

“The words you read did not come from the Quran nor any of the prophet’s hadiths,” the mullah said coldly. “How dare you bring the kristjen holy book here. All know the infidels have twisted and changed the truth about Isa. You will take such false teachings from this town before I summon the police.”

“Yes, we do not need another healer here,” Naveed added even more coldly. “You have made me look a fool. I do not wish to see you near my clinic again.”

Jamil made no attempt to argue. His pack shouldered, he exited the clinic into the night. Where to go now? He’d expected at least a night’s lodging from the patient’s grateful family. He’d no money for the chaikhana, and though he might in other circumstances have negotiated food and lodging in return for treating inevitable injuries and ailments, the mullah’s threat discouraged that option. Well, it would not be his first night sleeping in the open with an empty belly.

“My friend, where are you going?” The hand that clapped down on Jamil’s shoulder belonged to Omed. He waved a hand toward the noise of the motorcycle receding in the darkness. “I have sent my brother-in-law to take the women home. We will have to walk.”

Jamil shook his head. “No, your mullah has ordered me to leave immediately. I do not wish to cause trouble for your family.”

“Do you think I care for that? The words you spoke back there . . . I had dared to hope when the visitor brought word. But now I know it is true. You are no spy for the religious police.”