It is over the hill where he had to go. Samuel Burroughs squinted hard at the horizon and his eyes thought he saw wisps of smoke rising. His heart told him it was smoke, maybe his silent, incorrect wish. His head said they were merely dirty clouds.
Over the hill was where the tip from Carla Hudson said to go, the one that came to him almost by accident, the way the beginning of most true scoops, true stories come. He had been back to Berlin, where he lived, and was in the Cafe Paris with an out-of-town buddy, and during dinner an old girl friend of the guest dropped by. She worked for an aid group, was worried about the war and told Sam and his chum that her group was deeply concerned about rumors of Bosnian villages where Muslims lived being destroyed – along with the Muslims. She was heading down there to see what her group could do.
So Sam’s friend went home with her that night, but two weeks later she showed up in Belgrade, at the Hyatt, where Sam’s friend had thoughtfully told her where to find Sam. The friend was back in Boston and had no interest in burning villages. Sam had no interest in the woman but a lot in burning villages in Bosnia. Carla actually came through. She got him a seat in a humanitarian convoy and paperwork and he did not have lie or break any journalistic vow, just keep his mouth shut. Then, the plan was when they got to the village, he could ask away.
But that was over the hill, or perhaps several hills. The seven hours from Belgrade had produced many zigs and zags, numerous checkpoints and already a very bad back. But each village they went through was still standing and, although there were not a lot of people, each village felt like it was alive and moderately well.
And then suddenly is changed. As the collection of trucks and autos turned the next corner, there were people on the road. At first, Sam did not take note, lost in thoughts and the eagerness of the hunt. Then, the paces of the people quicken and thickened and the convoy slowed to a crawl, then stopped.