Note: In this post, you’ll hear from Ben Evans, Ziad’s best friend and an FBI agent posted at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
People use many words to describe me. Benjamin is Mom’s favorite, and she’s the only one who calls me by my full name on a regular basis. I've also been called smart and funny. And probably some cuss words by those who I’ve arrested over the years. I think my favorite is loyal. You can be loyal to a cause and loyal to people. Guess you could say I’m loyal to both.
A cause? How about justice? Sorry. That’s a little bit a sarcasm coming through. But seriously. As a law enforcement officer, more specifically, a special agent in the FBI, I’ve been sworn to protect the constitution of the United States from those who wish it harm, be it foreign or domestic. When I was posted with the FBI in Atlanta, Boseman, and Washington, I did just that. Now at the consulate, I do the same, except on a different level.
I’m also loyal to people. With people, there’s a catch. You break my trust, I’m done. Period. I think I learned that from my bio-dad. That’s right. Dad’s my adopted dad, but he’s the one who loved me despite my teen-aged self. He’s the one I turn to for wisdom, be it about personal stuff or professional stuff since he’s a detective in the Macon Police Department. My bio-dad? Well, he walked out on Mom, my sister, and me when I was six. I haven’t seen him since, and honestly, I’m not sure if I care to see him.
Of course, I’m loyal to my fiancée, Emma Montgomery. She’s truly an answer to prayer. When we were dating, I knew within a month that I wanted to marry her. Problem was, she’d had her trust broken by her ex-fiancé, who ran around on her. I had to work to gain her loyalty and trust. But I knew one thing. She was worth waiting on.
And finally, I’m loyal to my best friend, Ziad al-Kazim. We met over work, of course. An almost instant friendship sprang up between us, most likely because I respected the way his culture does business. No rushing into things and leaving. And I hate meeting in an office if I can help it. When I met him for the first time, coffee at the end of the workday sufficed, and it took us a bit before we got down to our business. During that time spent with our brews, I learned a lot about him. He’s loyal. To his family. To the crown. To the kingdom. I’ve jokingly called him one of Saudi Arabia’s most enthusiastic patriots.
Hunting down Islamic radicals within Jeddah sealed our friendship. When we busted the last cell the spring after we met, it nearly meant the end of us. He’d chased one of the guys who escaped. He got ambushed. My heart was in my throat as I noted the gun to his head. Then it was like my mind and body slid into the autopilot that’s always ground into us through training. I had no choice. Take out the radical before he took down Ziad. Thing was, if I screwed up my aim, I’d kill Ziad instead. My heart was in my throat as I desperately prayed, Lord, steady my aim. I get literally one shot at this. Then I squeezed the trigger. The radical collapsed, pulling Ziad down with him.
Later that night, he and slouched at a coffee house. Boy, did my hands ever shake by that point. His too. He looked at me. “Thank you, my friend.” Those words meant the world to me. I knew at that point that I’d found a best friend in him.
We do lots of stuff together. We talk about deep things. And I’ve told him that under no uncertain terms, I’ve got his back. No matter what. And I do. After all, that’s what best friends do.