"Please be seated, General." Omar motioned the visitors to their seats. "Farouq will be with you shortly."

Classic subliminal power play, the general thought. Make your guests wait.

No one made Suparman Perkasa wait. He was the chief of staff of the Indonesian army, and as such, its most powerful officer.

He would not wait long.

Perkasa handed another cigar to the doctor.

"No thank you, General."

"Take the cigar, Doctor," the general ordered. "Strike it, and do what I do."

"Yes, General."

Perkasa lit a second cigar and took a long drag.

A slender Arab in white, who looked to be in his mid-forties, descended the oval staircase into the lobby. He was followed by two younger men. One looked Malaysian. The other looked Arab.

"General Perkasa." The man extended his hand. "I am Farouq Al-Fadil."

Perkasa rose, opened his mouth, and blew cigar smoke toward the Arab. "A pleasure, Mr. Al-Fadil." Perkasa nodded at Dr. Budi, who blew a second wave of smoke. "Thank you for your invitation."

"We're both on foreign soil, General."Al-Fadil smiled. "Thanks to our Malaccan hosts, whose common mindset is the same as ours." He nodded at three Malaysian officers standing around the table, their arms folded.

"Really?" Perkasa sucked and then swirled more cigar smoke between his teeth. Smoke wafted from his mouth as he spoke, rising into a cloud around the chandelier. But he did not blow smoke at the Arab. He had made his point. "And what is this common mindset of yours?"

"General, meet Admiral Chahava of the Royal Malaysian Navy. To his left, General Kersen of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. To his right, General Pramana of the Malaysian Army."

"Gentlemen." Perkasa nodded.

"These officers are natives of Malacca, and all three — like you and me — are members of the Great Faith."

Another drag from the cigar. "Mr. Al-Fadil, many Muslims serve in the militaries of both Malaysia and Indonesia. Your point?"

"Please be seated, gentlemen." Al-Fadil motioned them to their seats.

They sat, exchanging awkward glances. Al-Fadil broke the silence. "How is your friend, President Santos?"

"My friend, you say?" Perkasa smirked. "Ask Dr. Budi. The doctor is the president's personal physician."

"We know of Dr. Budi, and his father's sacrifice for our cause."

"Thank you," Dr. Budi said. He looked over at General Perkasa, as if unsure of what to say next.

"I am a busy man, Mr. Al-Fadil," the general said. "My time is valuable. What is your point?"

The Arab smiled. "My point is this: we have watched Indonesia for years." Al-Fadil motioned to one of his assistants. "Bring us drinks, please."

"Right away." A servant wheeled in a silver tray displaying bottles of Indonesian and Malaysian hard liquors and wines, along with an assortment of fruits, cheeses, and breads.

"General?" the servant asked.

"No." The general waved his hand and eyed Al-Fadil. "I am sure you did not bring us here to discuss international politics or to sip wine and eat cheese. You did not answer my question."

"Your finest red wine, please." Al-Fadil nodded at the server, who uncorked an expensive bottle of Malaysian merlot. "Ah, yes. My point . . ." He sniffed a splash of wine in his glass and took a sip, nodding approval at the server, who filled his glass. "We know your background, General. We know your fervent devotion to the faith. We know that under the circumstances your power is limited. The problem is not you. The problem is with your president."

Perkasa chomped his cigar between his teeth, studying the man's face.

"You are an Arab, Mr. Al-Fadil. And you are Islamic. Indonesia is the world's largest Islamic country." A drag from the cigar. "More than one hundred eighty million Muslims live in Indonesia. We are the fourth largest nation in the world. What is your problem with Indonesia?"

Al-Fadil sipped his wine. "Your country is like Pakistan was. A great nation full of Muslims, but with lukewarm leadership that is Muslim in name only, leadership that embraces our greatest enemy, the United States." Another smile. Another sip. "We took care of the problem in Pakistan."