Friday, May 20, 2011

Born on 9/11 Chapters 21-30

Born on 9/11

a novel

Moses Seenarine
Version 5.05 5/11/09
62 Chapters - 305 pages

(chapters 21-30) 

Chapter 21: Detector IV
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1230 Hours.
Joe felt claustrophobic. The cramped space grew smaller each day. It was imperceptible, like his waistline, but he knew it was true. Before he moved in, he had the gray walls painted white to make it appear larger. An utterly useless idea since there was hardly a clear spot in the room. Joe used to paste charts up on the ceiling until one day they caved in and he had a panic attack.
The desk phone buzzed.
"Jesus." Joe's mood changed instantly. "Que paso amigo?" He covered the handset and glanced at Roger. "It's my old buddy."
Roger stood up. "I'll grab some coffee." He squeezed through the door and closed it.
It was a long time since Joe spoke with his former deputy. Together, they controlled whatever came through Nuevo Laredo across the Rio Grande River, into Laredo and south Texas.
"Hello my friend," Jesus said on the phone. "How are things in El Norte?"
Joe shrugged. "It could be better. There's a lot of pressure on this side of the business."
"You should've stayed with the old racket. We pulled in a bumper crop this year."
"I know, I know." Joe paused then added, "Then I'd be running the business, instead of you."
"There's plenty to go around. We miss you in Texas, cowboy. It's not the same since you left."
"I miss the ranch too. Playing with the Monterrey high rollers did have its rewards."
Jesus laughed. "Do you remember doing Kilgore down on the Gulf? That was the best."
"Smoke a cigar for me the next time you go on a big one."
"Why don't you come back?" Jesus lowered his voice. "You're fighting the wrong war."
"It’s more important. I know you don't believe that, but it's true."
"I understood why you supported the vigilantes even though they cut into our profits, but you're over your head on this one my friend."
Joe beamed. "Drugs is dead. This area is expanding rapidly. It's the future."
Jesus taunted. "Show me the money."
"Not now, but eventually… as you get higher."
"Is it a power trip? I just don’t get it."
"There are ways to do things under the radar."
"But it's their money and you have to account for it. You're not making your own like before." Jesus paused to cough. A four-pack a day smoker, his coughing bouts could last for hours. "You're much smarter than me man, I don't get it. How come you gave up a good life for nothing?"
"Like I told you before, I'm getting closer to the center of The Family. Real close."
"To who? A bunch of Christians? What is wrong with you man? Somewhere, a bunch of folks are making out like bandits and what do you get? Nothing but grief."
"It’s going to work out in the end, Senor. I'm not worried."
"People ask for you all the time here. Do you remember La Bonita Chiquita Bordello?"
"Cut me some slack man. I'm close to something big. I'm making a name for myself."
"They'll brush you aside and take credit faster than--."
"Who knows, maybe I'll get to the top of the dung hill."
"I hope so. If you do, don't forget your poor, old buddy suffering in the heat down here."
"You'll be the first call I make, don't worry. I'll talk to you soon."
"Take care of yourself my friend. Adios."
Joe slammed the phone and grimaced.
The crazy beaner had a point. Maude has been insufferable since she had to cut back on everything. Joe missed the money too. He shook his head violently. He was doing the right thing for his career, and he was tired of illiterate Tony Montanas acting as if they owed him. Some of those damn grease balls had money for him.
Roger opened the office door and re-entered the room. "Have you heard anything yet?"
Joe glanced at his email and smiled. "Frank says they love the photo of Atta and him."
Roger shouted, "Yes. Touchdown."
Joe jumped in the air to high-five his partner. "They want us to confirm he was in Prague the same time Atta was there."
"Already done."
The two men knocked over stacks of paper in the tiny room as they performed a dance that would appear strange and tribal to the uninitiated.

Chapter 22:  Dearborn
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1230 Hours.
The street was clean and clear, with cars parked on both sides. The midday sun baked the concrete and blacktop, raising the temperature at least ten degrees higher than the 85 degrees displayed at the top of a savings bank. A row of retail stores stretched to the end of the block, selling jewelry, furniture, and clothing. Well-dressed shoppers spilled onto the sidewalk, loaded with shopping bags.
Adam snatch Fatima's hand and headed right, blending into the crowd. "I was a little loud, I guess, but they appeared to be more upset at you. That's not fair."
Fatima looked concerned. "We have to be careful. Khalid's gang could be anywhere."
Adam was not worried since other pedestrians provided good cover. The gang would have had to split up to conduct a proper search, and facing a small group would not be a problem. He held Fatima closer, relieved that their spirited discussion did not cause her to take offense. He allowed her to take the lead and grabbed her waist as they sneaked to the corner.
Fatima stopped suddenly and he embraced her from the behind. A hint of musk remained and he could hear her heart pounding.
"I thought I saw someone," Fatima said. "I can't stand this any longer, it's too nerve-racking. I hate sneaking around. I feel like a teenager again."
Adam smiled. "I'm glad I have you to protect me."
Fatima poked him in the arm. "You should pay more attention."
They reached the corner and found the next block less crowded. Although Fatima did not convince him about the Arabs dancing, Adam had to admit she was smart, and he respected her for standing up for herself. She was beginning to lose some of her usual reticence. How far could he get her to go?
She stopped and he bumped into her. Fatima's soft body sent shivers down his spine. Maybe he could suggest going to a hotel for a drink, except she did not drink. Beside, that was moving too fast and she might become offended. He was crazy with desire but what could he do? She was a good friend and he would still be glad if they remained platonic. She was the bridge that finally connected his two lives.
He needed her.
They stayed close to the buildings and slipped across Main Street. They found the car unbearably hot, and Adam aired it out, and then started the engine. He blasted the cool air and pulled into light traffic.
"Which way to the house?" Adam asked.
"Would you like to do a small tour of Dearborn first?"
"Sure, why not? How many people live here?"
"We're only twenty square miles with close to 100,000 people. A quarter of Dearborn's residents are Arab Americans. Dearborn has one of the densest Arab population of any community outside of the Middle East. We're part of an Arab population of 300,000 in southeastern Michigan."
Adam was surprised. That was a lot of Muslims living in the middle of America. Why were there so many in Michigan? Is there some reason they moved there?
"Where do they come from?" Adam asked.
"The largest group by far is Lebanese Christians, then Muslims from Iraq, Yemen and Palestine. Ford brought them here in the 1930s to work on his automobiles."
That explained how they got here. Arabs were good at math and engineering. Adam found this out after his unit briefly got involved in recovering manuscripts and artifacts looted from the National Museum of Iraq. The material dated from a few hundred to over five thousand years old. Adam particularly enjoyed seeing the fine machines Arabs in the Middle Ages perfected, like clocks, automata, and fountains. They built some machines for practical purposes and others for amusement, and their techniques led to the development of machine technology. Ford must have known this. That's why he went about recruiting Arabs to manufacture his cars.
"Who else lives here?" Adam asked. They passed a block filled with trash and empty, dilapidated brownstones, probably long abandoned by laid-off autoworkers.
"Dearborn's main populations are Germans, Poles, Irish, Italians, and Armenians."
Adam noticed a green trash bag on the curb ahead and changed into the left lane of the two-lane road. "Typical American melting pot."
Fatima stared at Adam. "There's been a lot of discrimination here in the past, and it's on the rise again. The city was known nationally for its racial segregation."
"That was a long time ago, wasn't it?"
"Mayor Orville Hubbard was most famous segregationist north of the Mason-Dixon Line. His 36-year tenure only ended in 1978." Fatima looked intently at Adam as if trying to gauge his reactions.
"What did he do?" Adam could not stand racism although he was surrounded by it. He was sympathetic and understood why many Anglos were upset. With their good-paying jobs rapidly being shipped overseas, they saw their dreams rapidly slipping away and were anxious about the future. They did not want to see minorities getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed. The majority of whites worked hard, played by the rules, and got no breaks. Why should it be different for anyone else?
Adam once held these same opinions.
But after Iraq, Adam saw the danger of thinking this way. The solution was not isolation and division. It was in agreement and unity. All Americans should be engaged in the pursuit happiness, not just a privileged few. The fulfillment of one group's dreams could and did occur without causing harm to another. It did not have to be a zero-sum game. In a rising tide of cooperation, all boats could float. He needed to get more of his fellow citizens to see things this way.
Fatima shrugged. "He was very effective at preventing blacks from moving to the city. That's why there aren't a lot of African Americans here in Dearborn."
The car behind came close and rode the Mustang's rear bumper. Was it a member of Khalid's gang? Adam tightened his grip on the steering wheel in preparation for action. He slowed down briefly then returned to normal speed. The other car switched lanes and sped off.
"That's not the way we live in Milwaukee. We're a very tolerant city, thank god, and we're proud of our large, black population."
"Hubbard's mentor was Henry Ford," Fatima said.
"No. How could it be? Ford was a genius."
"And a fervent anti-Semitic at a time when few people even knew the word."
"What?" Adam could not believe his ears. Why would Ford do that? Everyone knew racism was bad for business. That was why slavery could not survive the expansion of the industrial revolution. What was Ford thinking? Was it because he was a right-wing Christian or what?
"Ford began an anti-Jewish crusade in his newspaper in the 1920s."
Adam shook his head. "He owned the newspaper. He wasn't involved with its operation." Ford probably hated Jews because they were immigrants. Adam's grandfather impressed upon him that each immigrant group in America was hated at first, starting with the Pilgrims, and continuing down the line with Africans, Northern Europeans, Germans, Poles, Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Haitian, and countless others. Adam never understood how a nation of immigrants could remain xenophobic.
"Ford published 'The International Jew: the World's Foremost Problem.' The book had great influence, particularly in Nazi Germany."
Stopped at a traffic light, Adam counted a dozen Ford cars at the intersection. "I'm sure he didn't write it." The man was a busy industrialist, why did he waste his time on such nonsense?
"Hitler was fascinated with Ford's assembly line. He hung Ford's picture on the wall, and Ford was the only American mentioned in his book."
Adam followed Fatima's hand signal. "You can't blame Ford for what Hitler did." At the time, Hitler's ideas of racial hygiene and eugenics were openly shared, but no one knew how far he would go. Besides, America was a far cry from Nazi Germany, and it may still not be integrated, but at least there was peaceful co-existence among the races. It needed to stay that way.
"In 1938, the German consul at Cleveland awarded Ford on his 75th birthday, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle. This is the highest medal Nazi Germany could give a foreigner. Turn Right."
Adam stared at Fatima. "He didn't take it, did he?"
Fatima nodded. "Ford was building trucks in Germany for the German Army, while our troops were bleeding and dying to defeat them. Dearborn's City Hall is coming up on the left."
The building had a simple art deco architectural style. Adam was glad for the distraction. It was upsetting to hear such things about an American icon. He pointed to a modern structure across the street.
"What's that?"
"The $16 million Arab American National Museum."
"Nice." Adam examined the two-story concrete building with its gray, symmetrical façade framing display windows on the first floor, and centerpiece of large Arabic script that give the impression of a blue carpet. Two rectangle sections flanked a large square arch in the center, topped by a white dome. A group of men wearing traditional abayas, assembled outside the Museum. Adam progressed cautiously.
He drove pass a huge, glittering structure, attached to two soaring minarets. There was a large gold dome in the center, and several smaller domes in the front and sides.
Adam mouth opened wide. "Look at the size of that mosque."
"It's the brand new, 70,000-square-foot Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America."
Impressed with the building's amazingly size, Adam also felt confused. Why were Iraq's ancient mosques being destroyed while modern, bigger ones were being built in America? What did this mean? Adam could not think of anything that made sense and gave up as he carefully avoided two piles of waste along the roadside.
At the intersection of Vernor Street and Dix Street, Adam saw another mosque. "Hey, this one looks much older. How old is it?"
"The Dearborn Mosque was built in 1937."
"This mosque was built over eighty years ago? It's the same age as my grandparents. Who built it all the way back then?" Adam examined the old red and white building with a blue dome. At least they got the colors right.
"Sunni Muslims from Lebanon."
Fascinated by the old building, Adam slowed to examine it. "Lebanese? It is three stories high and an entire city block long. Why did they need such a big mosque back then?"
Fatima touched him on the arm. "Be careful, Khalid's father is the Imam here. Keep going, don't stop." She paused then added, "There were a lot of Muslims living in Dearborn then."
Adam looked around for signs of trouble. Why did she bring him here? If the gang saw the Mustang, a big car chase would ensue. Was the white SUV in the rear one of them? He stepped on the gas and drove fast until he got to East Dearborn.
The cultural east side of Dearborn had many store signs and billboards in Arabic. This neighborhood in America closely resembled some in war-torn Iraq. There were stores selling Middle Eastern groceries and spices, Halal meat, Arabic clothes, furniture, video, and literature, and Persian products. Stopped at a light, Adam inhaled the peculiar flavors of Middle Eastern food and wished he could try some tikit, but he could not tell if they were being followed.
He planned on make a few turns to circle back and check on his pursuer, but they were stuck in slow moving traffic. He kept checking the side mirrors. A person of foot could easily run from behind and catch them.
Adam glanced at Fatima. "You were talking about Rachel and the Imams, remember?"
"Yes, I was explaining the significance of numbers to the Imams. Numbers are important. Many second and third generation American Muslims increasingly view their religion as irrelevant to their lives here. Their numbers are growing."
"Many want out. I could have guessed as much. They were born and raised here, not in Saudi Arabia."
"Islam cannot flourish in America if it remains dependent on immigrants. If they can't find a way to inspire young Muslim Americans to remain in the faith, growth will be stunted and the Imams will be seen as failures."
Adam laughed. "You've got to pack them in or god wouldn't be pleased. Same thing with the Church."
"Rachel has the audacity to evaluate an Imam's job performance. In addition, she does it based on their criteria, numbers."
"The fundamentalists are there to gain support and recruit volunteers for Al Qaeda."
"Support for fundamentalism among young people keeps dropping. Muslims want to integrate in America, and these people preach isolation."
"They only need to catch a few fools."
"We are Muslim, but we are also American. We pledge allegiance to the flag everyday. We don't see ourselves as the Great Satan."
Adam raised his hands in mock toast. "Neither do I."
"Requiring females to wear headscarves and prohibiting music, dancing and laughter is not winning a lot of support among the second and third generation. We are part of American culture."
"They don't like you to listen to music here either? How is that even possible? Music is so much a part of our culture."
"For the vast majority, being a good Muslim has more to do with how well you treat other Muslims, and non-Muslims, than avoiding Western dress."
"Like jeans and a tee shirt?"
"More like neckties and Western forms of salutation, like handshakes, and applause."
"The radical imams are captains of a leaking ship. They must change course or sink."
"I hope that you are right. I guess Rachel is doing a good thing by pulling the cloak off and revealing what these guys really wear."
"You should be proud of her."
"What happened to your car?" Adam wanted to change the subject.
"I wasn't paying attention and went through a red light at a busy intersection." Fatima hesitated for a moment then continued, "A van crashed right into the back of my car. It spun around got pinned against a light post."
"My god, were you hurt?"
"Seat belt and air bags, only a few scratches."
"When are they going to fix your car?"
"The whole frame was bent. The car is beyond repair."
Adam shook his head. "You're lucky to be alive."
"If you say so," Fatima said softly.
There was a moment of awkward silence before she spoke again. "Your face is so familiar, it's weird." She placed her head against his shoulders and they listened to soft music on the way to Pine Street. When they arrived on the block, Fatima appeared nervous. What was she worried about?
Adam drove pass the house cautiously. The police were gone and there was no sign of Khalid. Fatima was impatient. Adam parked on Avalon and she rushed down the block to greet a man standing across the street. Adam trailed not far behind.
"Assalamu Alaikum," the man said to Fatima.
He was five feet, ten inches; about one hundred and ninety pounds with a strong, muscular build, deep brown complexion, a serious demeanor, and long beard, extending from ear to ear. He wore a white prayer cap and was dressed in traditional Islamic clothing with a long, light gray, collarless shirt hanging over loose, white pajama pants.
Fatima nodded. "Alaikum Assalam."
The man stepped closer to her and they hugged. He kissed her on the cheek.
"Muhamma, this is Adam, Rachel's brother." Fatima then turned to Adam and continued, "This is Muhamma, my fiancé. He lives here, across the street from us." She pointed to the building behind Muhamma and avoided Adam's stare.
Adam offered an outstretched hand to his rival. Damn, she had a boyfriend.

Chapter 23: Rival
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1300 Hours.
The sun's rays seared into the back of Adam's head, illuminated his rival, and revealed a reality altogether different from Adam's fantasy of being with Fatima. Did he willfully ignore her signs? He did not want to think about it. He felt tired, so tired that even his half closed eyes and outstretched hand felt heavy. He could not stand it anymore. Once again on this trip home he was the odd man out, watching the other guy get put into the game while he stood on the sidelines. It was not fair.
A fiancé was the last thing Adam expected to see on Pine Street. Why did Fatima choose not to tell him about her intended? Was she unhappy with the guy and exploring other options, or was she leading them both on? Was she a flirt? She did not seem like the type but you never know. He started to hate Fatima. Why did she cause him to feel this way?
"Alaikum Assalam." Muhamma refused Adam's handshake and instead, touched his hand to his chest in greeting. His deep voice echoed as if he spoke inside a well, and it made Adam's blood boil. Why did Muhamma refuse his handshake? This was America, not the Middle East. He should follow the standard greeting here. American men shook hands to show they' are equal and friendly. Did Muhamma feel he was better than Adam or something?
Adam dropped his arm and closed his eyes for a second to center himself. He was too nervous. He had felt the same way when Aggie's tour ended. On the day she left, he was on patrol feeling angry with himself. In the front yard of one house, he pulled the trigger too easily. Adam regretted what happened and was gloomy for months. He needed to let it go. He exhaled loudly, opened his eyes, and stared at Muhamma. Who was this guy anyway?
How long had Fatima known Muhamma? What did he do? Was Muhamma a radical Islamist? He looked and acted like one of those arrogant, self-righteous, and Allah-intoxicated bastards. For extremists, being Muslim meant you only had to submit yourself to god, not to modern laws or reason. This form of thinking was dangerous. What was Fatima doing with him? Adam's mind spun with questions. He became suspicious and decided to check Muhamma out before he left Dearborn.
The pair walked across the street to Rachel's house, speaking with hushed voices. Adam tried to listen but was unable to hear anything. The cool interior soothed his skin but he was taken aback by how ransacked the house was. What the hell happened?
The contents of drawers and boxes lay the floor, and clothes were strewn everywhere. On the wall was a smashed picture of the Kaaba. Why did they have to do that? Apparently, Dearborn cops were no different from GIs in theater. The scene was way too reminiscent of the war and Adam slowly shook his head, on guard to prevent a memory from occurring.
The last time he saw him, Xavier was in the living room, but Adam saw no sign of his father now. Fatima listened to phone messages and started to clean up. A procession of voices congratulated Rachel over the speakerphone, and each one caused Adam to feel more embarrassed. He sighed and joined Fatima in clearing the mess. It was the least he could do. After a minute, he noticed Muhamma tapping his hands in the kitchen impatiently. Why was he not helping them? What was Muhamma up to?


Muhamma gazed at Fatima and Adam in the living room. He had no idea Rachel had a brother, and an Anglo one at that. Nonetheless, he was unfamiliar and could not be trusted. Fatima must have been equally surprised. She said Adam gave her a ride to the graduation and back. How long was this infidel going to stick around? Muhamma had to make sure he did not interfere with their carefully laid plans.
Fatima and Adam argued about how to move a cabinet into place. She was wasting time cleaning when they were late for prayers, and had to leave for the airport. Muhamma struggled not to become upset.
The situation was rapidly changing and he needed her more than ever. Did she appear a little nervous? Was she having second thoughts about going through with their plans?
Adam gave Fatima a handful of coins he picked off the floor. She refused them and pointed to a piggy bank in a corner. He sulked over and dropped them in. It seemed that Fatima did not like the stranger. Muhamma had no reason to question Fatima's commitment. She was dutiful and followed the religion closely. She knew what was at stake and more or less supported the plan. Nevertheless, Muhamma had to be careful. They needed a willing participant. Regardless, one way or another, he would make sure she went thought with it.
"I wonder who keeps calling the authorities over here?" Muhamma thought aloud. "It's the second time they've done this."
Fatima continued cleaning and said nothing.
Muhamma waved his arms. "Look at this mess."
"What are they looking for?" Adam asked.
Muhamma was reluctant to give any information to the infidel. "DHS and local cops as usual. They can plan, but Allah is the best of planners."
"The Department of Homeland Security?" Adam asked.
Muhamma shook his head. This unbeliever was so rude. He should not try to control their conversation. "Allah knows best. This time Hartman got Mufid, Ra'uf, and Hilmi. Whatever they worked for is gone."
Adam's eyebrows climbed higher, and he stood upright. He was about to speak when Fatima cut him off. She looked alarmed.
"I warned them before I left. How come they didn't escape?"
"Ra'uf hid in a garbage drum outside. They were about to leave when a reporter lifted the lid and discovered him." Muhamma held his hands open and made a silent prayer. "Subhana' Allah. If this is the test Allah has assigned for us, he is merciful indeed. We will succeed." He paused for a second then said, "Fatima, we're missing prayers. Let's go."
Adam stared at Fatima. "Who are they?" Rachel's brother was acting strange, suspicious. What did he do for a living?
"Students Rachel met at school." Fatima said. "Karim is from Afghanistan, Ra'uf is a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, and Mufid lost his family in Iraq. They worked on oil tankers and jumped ship nine months ago."
"Masha'Allah. When comes the help of Allah and the conquest?" Muhamma clenched his fist as Fatima's words evoked his own experience crossing the Mexican border two years ago. It had rained for days before that morning, and the river was deep and strong. With the coyote in the lead, his three-dozen travel companions formed a chain and waded into the chilly currents. A few children narrowly escaped being swept away, but eventually everyone made it safely to the other side. All praise is due to Allah.
However, two over eager young men crept to the top of the exposed riverbank and a remote airplane spotted them immediately. The group soon found themselves surrounded by a well-armed vigilante group in three vehicles. The Minute Men started firing and pandemonium ensued. Allāhu Akbar.
The would-be immigrants scrambled back into the river and some were swept down steam. With the noisy machines in hot pursuit, Muhamma used the distraction to hide under a pile of dirt and rocks under the riverbank. He could have slipped back across the border and attempted another crossing later like the others, except that was admitting defeat. He had a mission to complete and nothing was going to stop him. Insha'Allah.
Covered in wet dirt, insects crawled along his skin, yet Muhamma dared not stir. The toy plane with its camera circled noiselessly above, and the few men who stayed behind shot at the slightest movement on the ground. If discovered, he could end up in Guantanamo or be renditioned.
He waited until it grew dark, long after the drone's battery died and the racial tirades receded in the distance. He crawled for an hour to evade heat-seeking radar, then walked fifteen miles to a border town. At dawn, he walked into a squalid restaurant for his first meal in twenty-four hours. There was no Lady Liberty to welcome him, but Allah is merciful.
"What are they doing in this country?" Adam asked. Muhamma stared at him. What was wrong with this kafir? Did he fail to take his medication? He wanted to tell the genocidal progeny off but decided to control himself. People like Adam refused to face the truth. Americans were good at that. That was why they believed whatever the government said. It did not matter how many times they are lied to, they always think, 'This time the government is telling the truth.' It was obvious to the rest of the world that Americans were in an abusive relationship with their government. Allāhu Akbar.
They refused to see the truth in Iraq. Most Iraqis were nationalist who hated the US imposing martial law in their country. That was why they thought it was okay to kill Americans. They viewed the occupation as their main problem and wished it would end. They wanted the US to get out of the way and so they could sort things out for themselves. Instead, the US military supported separatist Shites and the slaughter of innocents. They would pay dearly for this. Insha'Allah.
Fatima asked Muhamma, "Can you call Nahid and let him know Ra'uf wouldn't be there anymore?" She looked at Adam and said, "Ra'uf worked nights at the restaurant we went to."
Why did Fatima take Adam to a restaurant? Was she trying to recruit him to help with her plans? It that case, Fatima was wasting her time. Adam seemed like a die-hard Republican who supported the war and would not change his mind about it.
Adam smirked. "Why were the students arrested?"
"They don't have papers to legally stay and work here." Fatima said.
"So what will happen to them?"
"They'll be deported." Fatima turned to Muhamma. "Was Xavier here?"
Muhamma was puzzled. "Who's that?"
"Rachel's father. He came to the gradation, along with Adam."
Muhamma shook his head. "I came out around nine and watched them take the boys in a white unmarked van around ten. After that, I had to leave so I don't know what happened later."
"Maybe Xavier's at the graduation," Fatima said.
Muhamma smiled at Fatima. "Do not worry, everything is fine, Insha'Allah. Please, we have to pray now. Then, we have to fight traffic to get to the airport. Let's go."
Hand on hips, Fatima gave him her look of disapproval. "Can you pray alone? I have to clean this mess up and I want to say goodbye to them. Rachel and Xavier will be home soon."
Muhamma was annoyed but said nothing. She never missed prayers. It must be her time of the month. No wonder she was acting cranky. Fatima made a cup of coffee, walked over, and gave it to Adam.
"What happened to mine?" Muhamma asked.
"Adam is a family guest. You're standing in the kitchen. Serve yourself."
"Allah truly sustains us." Muhamma seethed as he made a cup of coffee. Fatima knew better than to treat him this way in the presence of other men. She was taking advantage of the situation, otherwise, she knew he would teach her a lesson she would never forget.
Fatima joked to Adam about something, then she became serious. "Please leave before Rachel gets here. You know she disapproves of what we are doing."
Muhamma shrugged. "I think she's starting to support us, Masha'Allah."
Fatima glowered. "She's not crazy like me. Is everything ready?"
Muhamma nodded. "I have to pray now. I'll have it all done by tonight, Insha'Allah."
"We're meeting them around seven," Fatima reminded him. "They'll ask us if we've completed the checklist."
Muhamma felt testy. "Where are your items?" Why was she discussing this with a stranger in the room? Adam's eyes bulged and he appeared tense.
Fatima pointed upstairs. "In the closet, unless they got to it."
Muhamma frowned. "Alright, I'll get it later. I have to leave enough space for their luggage."
Fatima seemed worried. "They're going to drill us on everything tonight. Have you memorized your part?"
"I've gone over it a million times. There'll be no mistakes, I promise." Muhamma was embarrassed over his dyslexia, yet he understood that it made him stronger. He would try to memorize the steps again.
Allah needed his strength.
Fatima glanced at her watch. "Call me around four-thirty."
Muhamma glared at Adam. "Have a safe trip." And good riddance. Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. He kissed Fatima on her cheek and mumbled,  "Tomorrow our prayers will be answered, if Allah wills."


Fatima was quiet after Muhamma left. Her time was limited and there were many loose ends remaining. Caught in a trance, she gazed at Adam as precious seconds ticked away, with little concern. He replaced DVDs and videos on a shelf, avoided her eyes, and pouted. 
He appeared to be hurting inside. They had experienced so much together, and it was obvious he cared for her. Fatima felt guilty to see how affected he was. She should have told him. Why didn't she? Was she trying to test his resolve and affection for her? If so, he passed the test. Fatima smiled and continued cleaning. Adam finished stacking the DVDs and moved on to books toppled from shelves under the stairs. The living room was already clean.
Why did he affect her so? From the first time she met him, Adam made her crazy. She did not expect to feel this way at first. He was handsome, but he had pimples, sweat, soiled clothing, and made crude jokes that were not funny. On the other hand, his easy smile was infectious. It melted her nervousness, and like a dog in heat, she helplessly succumbed to his presence ever since.
Adam stood next to the bookcase he arranged and looked at his watch. "Nice guy, your fiancé. I don't understand what you see in him though. What are you doing, going out with a fundamentalist like him?"
Fatima remained quiet.
"What's going on tomorrow?" He seemed tense about Muhamma. She had to put his mind at ease.
"Please, let's unwind a little. It's no big deal." Fatima could not tell him anything. She was reluctant to go through with their plans, but she was helpless. Her friends were going to be shocked, disappointed, and conclude she was crazy, but there was nothing she could do to change what would happen tomorrow. She had to make the ultimate sacrifice.
"Why is he always talking about prayers?"
"That's the way he talks. Everything's according to Allah."
"Why wouldn't you tell me what's going on?"
Fatima hesitated and bit her lower lip. "A friend is getting married and we'll be attending."
"Why doesn't Rachel approve of that?"
Adam's questions started to get annoying.
Fatima walked into the dinning room and continued to clean. "Rachel has her own plans and she wants our help. Alright?" 
"That's not fair." Adam drained his coffee. "If I offended you, I apologize."
Fatima smiled. "It's okay."
"I'm just worried, I guess. Where is Xavier?"
Fatima shrugged.
Adam walked to the front. "Why don't you show me upstairs?" Fatima's eyes widened and she rushed after him. She had to stop him before he entered her room.

Chapter 24: Alice V
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1300 Hours.
The bomber placed the relay in his palm and examined it. The afternoon sun on the left wall made the kitchen several degrees hotter than the rest of the apartment, and caused the week-old urine he collected near the fridge to reek beyond anything he smelt before. It was hard to imagine this stench came from his body, and that he had to collect more for another week to have enough for his next project, a urea nitrate explosive.
The pipe bomb lay complete on the table with a wire extruding from one end. Time to escape was critical. He could leave nothing to chance. He had to disassemble the relay and put it back together before installing it.
The science of time bombs is much more complicated than the use of conventional explosives. Anyone could put a fuse in a pipe bomb and blow it up. Only a few were capable of controlling their explosions down to a second, hours after they deployed the device. That was the difference between a bomb maker and an explosive specialist.
The bomber's nemesis, Al-Fredah, was an explosive specialist, a master of black powder, nitroglycerin, dynamite, and ballistite. Al-Fredah made many mistakes, of course, however he continued headstrong. When everyone refused to have him live near, Al-Fredah moved to a raft on a river and continued working. His dedication to the craft was nothing short of amazing.
Last week, the bomber had gone to a local electronics shop and bought three time-delay relay circuits. They are common hobby items and no one cared that he brought the inexpensive parts. He could build a time-relay from scratch if necessary, or use an analog clock or watch to make his time bombs, however, the relays he purchased were durable and convenient to use.
Constructed with a kind of "shock absorber" mechanism attached to the armature, the devices prevented immediate, full motion, when the coil was either energized or de-energized. This addition gave the relay the property of time-delay. He started to slowly take it apart.
Was Al-Fredah broken after Emil died in that explosion? His youngest brother was only twenty-one. Al-Fredah was not there at the time, or he might have died as well. In any case, his bombs killed many more people. Did all this guilt cause him to hate God? Why did he not seek further strength in faith, rather than abandon God for some impersonal natural power that pervaded the universe? Why did he cast away his treasure to ungodly sinners?
The bomber stripped the relay into its constituent parts. They seemed fine, and he begun to put it back together. Halfway through, there was a knock on the door. He jumped, dropped the relay, and almost knocked the bomb off the table.
A male voice shouted. "The backpacks are on the front step," "Leave it by the door when you're done. I'll pick it up later. I have to run."
At long last they got here. The bomber picked up the relay and placed it on the table. What kept them so long? He connected the relay to a safety switch, then to the fuse, creating a circuit on the pipe bomb that would trigger the explosion.

Chapter 25: Mystery
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1330 Hours.
Fatima joined Adam at the top of the staircase on the second floor. She opened the door to her bedroom on the left and told him to wait. Papers rustled as air rushed in from an open window opposite the door. She closed the window, put underwear laying on the floor into the dresser, picked up the desk lamp, and straightened the two verses of the Koran above the small desk.
On the left, the closet door was slightly ajar. Fatima crawled below the mass of clothes hanging from the rack, checked under a shelf in the back, and smiled with relief. Her suitcase was undiscovered. She pulled it closer to the door and shuddered at the thought of what they discovered in the basement. The young men stored an assortment of weapons for Khalid. She picked up more personal items from the floor, hid them in a drawer, and beckoned Adam to enter.
Fatima closed the door after him, walked over to the computer on her desk, and heard Fallout Boy singing, "We're Going Down." Adam picked up papers as Fatima sang the words, 'I'll be your number one with a bullet; a loaded god complex, cock it and pull it.'
Adam lingered near the closet, and she walked over to him, held his hand, and swung their arms together. He laughed, spun her two times to his right, and pushed her out again. She released his hand and danced alone. Adam examined the photographs on the dresser. He pointed to her grandparents and said, " Are these your grandparents? They're familiar, like I've seen them before."
Fatima turned the photographs face down and pulled him away. "All Iraqis look alike to you."
She started to dance in the open space near the bed. He grabbed her shoulders, swayed to the beat, and whispered, "You were such a cute baby." Fatima smiled and they danced until the song ended. Fatima broke their embrace, switched to Garbage's "Why do you love me?" and sung the words to him, 'so what if I'm no baby bird hanging upon your every word? Nothing ever smells of roses that rises out of mud; why do you love me, it's driving me crazy.'
She bumped her hips into Adam and he chased after her. They giggled and played until they collided too hard. Adam grabbed Fatima for support as he howled in pain and hooted at the same time.
"I like you a lot," Adam said after a minute. "It's too bad you have a fiancé."
Music softly in the background and Fatima sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm not married yet."
"But you people are really strict."
"What do you mean by 'you people?' I'm a regular American woman."
"With a boyfriend."
"I'm just trying to make my family happy, which for them meant marrying a Muslim man. But I'm not married yet, so I belong to no man."
There was a look of disappointment on his face. "You can stop teasing now."
"I'm not," She reassured him.
He still appeared unconvinced. "Why are you so different from other Muslim women?"
"Thank you, I think."
"Wouldn't your fiancé be back?"
"We have a couple of hours at least." Fatima turned away. "I'm calling it quits soon anyway."
"Good for you."
Adam moved closer to bed then stopped to pick up a picture of a human skeleton. "I noticed you have a lot of these. Were you studying medicine?" He sat next to Fatima.
"I wanted to be a doctor," Fatima paused then added, "But it doesn't matter anymore. All my--."
"A medical doctor?" Adam raised Fatima's hand to his lips and kissed it gently.
"Yes." Fatima pulled her hands away and placed it in her lap. She sang the chorus of the song.
"Traditional Western medicine, not some alternative mumbo-jumbo?"
Fatima glared at Adam. "Do you think Arabs can't become real doctors?"
Adam laughed. "You're so sexy when you're angry."
Fatima tried to stand up but he held her on the bed. She did not resist. "What did you mean by that crack about 'mumbo jumbo?'"
"They only know how to heal camels." Adam moved back and blocked her slap at his face. 


Adam glanced about Fatima' bedroom. Rachel's breaking of the law by renting to illegal aliens disturbed him. And where was Xavier? Adam was curious about Fatima's closet. He decided to try and distract her.
"Why don't you give me a physical exam and prove me wrong?"
Fatima poked a finger into his chest. "If it weren't for the Ancient Arabians there would never have been anything called, 'Western Medicine'."
Adam smiled. "I'm sorry to bust your bubble but I've read enough to know the Greeks and Romans practiced medicine long before Muslims."
"They conducted a lot of primitive experiments in medicine, that's true."
"Maybe you could start by examining--."
"But it was not a profession. Muslims revolutionized the science and practice of medicine and made it into a real science."
Adam grabbed her hand and placed it on his chest. "What did they discover, missing humps?" Fatima smiled at his crude joke and he continued, "Haven't you heard of something like the 'Renaissance'? Those guys practiced other things besides chivalry, you know. How's my heartbeat?"
"Normal. Muslims were into vision before the tenth century. And, haven't you ever heard of Ibn-Haytham? He was known as the 'Father of Optics.'"
"Hmm, let me check your optics." He stared into her eyes. She seemed excited about him but she was gloomy some of the time. He had to cheer her up. "Do humans have the same optics as camels?"
She pushed him away. "Can't you see I'm serious?"
Adam ran his hands across Fatima's chest and started to undo her blouse. "Besides vision, what did Muslims accomplish in medicine?" She seemed not to notice what his hands were doing. He wondered if she knew but was pretending not to.
"In cardiology, Egyptian physician Ibn al-Nafis, discovered the circulation of the blood in the thirteen century."
Adam's hands shook slightly as he took off her top. His eyes popped open and his ears throbbed. "A heart surgeon, huh? Did he find a cure for a broken heart?"
"You would have heard about it. Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, wrote 'Canon of Medicine' which was translated 87 times."
Adam caressed her tummy. "He may be okay, but you're still wrong."
"We're taking about the father of--."
He kissed her upper body and played with her hair.
"Hospitals were built as early as the eight century."
"Where?" Adam kissed her face and neck. His hands massaged her breasts.
"Hospitals were established throughout the Abbasid Empire including Baghdad in the ninth century. There were many hospitals."
Adam pulled Fatima on top of him. "They were probably staffed by quacks with Quigi boards to ward off evil spirits."
Fatima giggled at his touch and continued, "They even had special wards for the mentally ill. They would even have a special ward for you, Adam."
Adam thought he heard something. He paused for a moment then laughed. "Shut up, Fatima." He helped Fatima to remove her jeans and admired at her lovely thighs. "Alright I give up. You win. The Muslims invented everything, probably even baseball."
Fatima pushed herself all the way back to the headboard. "You're so correct. Many centuries later, Europeans simply copied Arabs. Get undressed."
Adam lay on the bed next to Fatima. He held her tightly and slowly caressed her back. For the first time in a while, he felt whole and complete. Was he in love? It seemed like he'd waited an entire life for a moment like this, and it was going to better than anything he could ever have imagined. He was in heaven and wished the moment would last forever.
Abruptly, he heard a knock on the door.
Adam glanced at Fatima. "Your boyfriend?"
"I don't know."
There was a louder knock and someone rattled the doorknob.

Chapter 26: Sister
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1400 Hours.
Rachel heard a hushed voice inside Fatima's room. Whom was Fatima talking to on the phone? She sounded anxious. Rachel opened the door and took in the disaster scene. Trashed, like the rest of the house. Then, she glanced over to the bed and shrieked. Her brother rolled off Fatima and they scrambled for a single pillow to use as cover.
Rachel stared at Adam's aroused state. How gross. She stepped out and closed the door. Fatima was up to no good again. Rachel should have known. The woman despised her. Rachel's weasel brother merely presented an opportunity for Fatima to be nasty to Rachel. The woman had serious issues and was certifiably insane. She wanted to evict Fatima, but Mother would be upset, and it was hard to find good tenants.
Rachel looked intently at the door and twitched her nose. It was a little sad. They used to be such good friends, almost like sisters. Not now though. She detested Fatima. For over a year, the two lived alone in the house. When Fatima's grandparents left, Amneh put Rachel in charge even though Fatima was older, and Rachel used her mother's checks to pay the bills. Fatima did not even have a lease, yet she began inviting Muhamma and his friends over.
Fatima was sly about Muhamma at first, and he and his group hung out quietly in her room. Rachel only found out about them weeks later. They started acting as if the whole house belonged to them, and soon, it became their personal mosque. A mullah practically resided in the living room, and a line of Persians sought his counsel day and night. He even caught the attention of the FBI, parked in a van across the street to monitor his every move.
Rachel paced the hallway. What kept them inside?
After Muhamma and company mobbed the house, Rachel loss her privacy and the use of her own home. Nevertheless, she tried to be tolerant and did not become upset at Fatima. Then, one day, the mullah made a negative remark to Rachel regarding Sunni's practice of Islam. That was the last straw. No one reprimanded her on religion, and especially not a Shia. She told them all to leave immediately.
The mullah left, taking the police with him, but others resisted and kept on returning. Fatima played helpless, even after Muhamma insulted Rachel repeatedly. They came close to blows and finally, Rachel sought the help of Khalid. A few days and broken bones later, Khalid's gang finally expelled Muhamma and his friends.
Rachel stared at the bedroom door. Where they trying to finish what she interrupted? She hoped not.
This showdown with Muhamma was four months ago. Since then, more bad blood has spilled between the two groups, and Allah only knows what those crazy Iranians were up to now. Rachel was glad to rid of them. Fatima claimed she broke up with Muhamma because of what happened, but she has turned a cold shoulder to Rachel. It did not matter. She did not need 'friends' who stabbed her in the back. Rachel just wished Fatima would return all the clothes she 'borrowed' over the years.
Fatima opened the door. She was dressed and Rachel saw a hint of a smile before it quickly disappeared. What was Fatima happy about?
Rachel was distraught over her house. "They even smashed the Kabah picture in the living room. Was it Hartman again?"
Fatima nodded and Rachel glared at her. "What is he doing here?"
Fatima said nothing. Adam strayed near the closet, peeked briefly inside, and then exited the room.
"Waiting for our father," Adam said.
Rachel was confused. "The last I saw him, he was with you two here at the house. He never showed to the graduation."
"Then where in the world is Xavier San Diego?" Adam's humor failed to impress her.
Rachel glowered at Fatima. How could Fatima even think of doing it with her brother? The woman would stop at nothing to hurt her. Rachel tossed her head at them and stepped downstairs.
The two followed her into the kitchen. Rachel poured herself a cup of coffee from the half-filled mug, and took a seat at the dining table, while Fatima tidied the rooms. She seemed ashamed. She should be.
Adam stood by the back door. "What am I supposed to do about the Loser who got lost? That's kind of what Xavier does."
Rachel smirked. "You brought him here."
"Yes I did. I fetched him all the way from Chicago for your graduation."
Dealing with their father for that length of time must not have been easy, nonetheless, Xavier never made it to the graduation.
Rachel sighed. "Today was the biggest day of my life. I gave the valedictorian speech. Yet, no one close to me heard it. Worse, I had to answer, 'Where is your mother, where is your family?' a zillion times."
Adam stared at his feet and did not say a word.
Rachel glared at him. "Then you showed up bullying me over the police. Just look at what they did to my house. I did not want to think about this before I gave the speech, but you kept insisting. How cruel."
Adam frowned. "Why are you harboring illegals? What else is going on here?"
"Because they need help. They were practically homeless."
He gasped for air, gazed at Fatima in the living room, and calmed down. "Alright, I'm just a visitor here, so what do I care? Forget everything that happened, okay. I was wrong and I'm sorry."
Rachel sipped her coffee and said nothing. There was an unconformable silence for a minute.
Adam appeared unrepentant. He avoided her eyes. "We're family and know nothing of each other. I admit in the past I couldn't care less, but--."
"And you do now?" Rachel scoffed. She was not sentimental. Her mother traveled often and left her in the care of Fatima's grandparents. Early in life, she had hardened herself to disappointment and expectations. In spite of this, today she had been foolish enough to allow herself to think it would be different, and she paid dearly. Her 'father' and 'brother' were complete letdowns.
Adam appeared defensive. "You have a useless father. Thankfully, I've had Harry for most of my life. You're nothing like the Loser. I had no idea you're a community organizer. By the way, congratulations."
Adam extended an arm to her. Rachel folded hers and remained seated. "Like father, like son. What you did is totally inexcusable."
"At least I didn't ambush you. I could have gotten seriously hurt you know."
"I had nothing to do with that. Why did you agree to fight anyways?"
"How did you know I agreed to fight?"
Rachel glared at him. "Khalid told me. Did you show up without Xavier at the graduation just to spite me?"
"No I didn't. It's why I came to Dearborn."
Fatima entered the room. "It wasn't Adam's fault. I made him abandon Xavier so he could help me escape out the back."
"What are you talking about?" Rachel asked.
"It's what I was trying to tell you," Adam said. "But you didn't give me a chance."
Rachel ignored Adam and watched in disbelief as Fatima casually stepped on one of her favorite blouses.
Fatima exhaled loudly and pointed to the front. "The three of us were going to leave, but the police were at the door."
"They arrested Mufid, Ra'uf, and Hilmi."
Rachel frowned. "How did you find out?"
"Muhamma saw them taken away in a van."
"Muhamma?" Fatima swore she had broken up with the Iranian lunatic.
Fatima walked to the back door and stood next to Adam. "We begged Xavier to come with us."
Rachel shook her head. Fatima was such a compulsive liar. Adam was in for a big surprise, but he totally deserved it.
Rachel glared at him. "Aren't you even slightly concerned about Xavier?"
"We assumed he took a cab over to the school." Adam said. "Who's Hartman?"
Rachel felt blood rising in her temples. "You were there. Wouldn't you have seen him?"
Adam scoffed. "There were so many people there. For all I know, he could be bar-hopping downtown right now."
"He quit drinking four years ago." One of the few good decisions he made.
"I didn't know that. Excuse me for being out of touch. Despite what you might think, I've been busy working for the common good half a world away."
"Cool it, George." The last thing she needed was a lecture on ethics from a murderer. "Aren't you going to look for your maker?"
Adam's eyes flared and he appeared tense.
Fatima held him back and turned to leave. "I'll make some phone calls."
Rachel glared at her. "No need to, I'll take care of it." Fatima slumped into a chair.
Rachel turned to Adam and pointed to the front door. "Please tell your mother I appreciate her gift very much. You can go now."


Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1415 Hours.
Fatima did not believe Rachel would kick her own brother out of the house. She enjoyed their romance, and came this close to feeling a powerful release. She hoped Adam would complete their unfinished business and help her find a way out of her predicament.
Adam walked into the hallway. "Fatima was burning some CDs upstairs for me, weren't you Fatima?" He looked to her for support.
Fatima followed him to the front. "Yes." Good thinking.
Adam pressed on. "We don't have a lot of musical choices in Iraq."
"He'll just get them and leave." Fatima said.
Rachel hurried to the bottom of the stairs and blocked their way up. "I don't care." She pointed at Adam. "You're not staying a moment longer in my house."
"I'm sorry Rachel," Adam said softly. "I shouldn't have suspected you of anything. I'm tired and haven't been feeling well today."
"Please, you've done enough psychological damage to last me another four years."
Adam pushed up against his sister, but she refused to budge. "I need to get those CDs. We spent a lot of time copying them."
"You're abusing me. This is the second time today."
Adam backed off the stairs and looked at Fatima. "Don't you have a right to have guests over?"
Fatima's lips quivered, but she said nothing. A teardrop rolled off her cheek and she walked away. She sat at the dinning room table and cried. Insanely envious, Rachel took pleasure in tormenting her daily in countless ways.
Rachel was just one more aspect of Fatima's miserable life. Fatima was alone and a dropout, sad about her family, and angry over Iraq. She could no longer bear to see the country of birth spiraling into a deeper nightmare, day after day. She had to do something about it, to stop the killings, but what could she do on her own? She had nothing left to lose and nothing to live for. She might as well follow Muhamma's plan. He claimed it was Allah's plan and she hoped Muhamma was right.
Adam sat next to Fatima and held her hand. "You're so beautiful. Please don't cry. It's-."
Rachel yelled, "You've been warned. I'll be right back." The front door slammed and startled them. Fatima composed herself and remained quiet. She could not let Adam see her like this.
"What's the matter?" Adam asked.
"Ever since we've been alone, Rachel began acting weird towards me."
"For nothing. She's a jealous person. Her mother is never home and Xavier doesn't exist, but she still feels that I have more freedom than she does. She always had to have more of everything."
"You're alone?"
"Yes." Fatima paused thinking of what to say. "She should be glad to have her mother. Being alone is not free. You are tied to boredom and depression."
Adam massaged her shoulders. "You get used to being alone after a while."
"She hates Muhamma, but she is also jealous of him. She hates me no matter what I do."
"What does she have against him?"
"He's too traditional for her. Once they invited--."
They heard the front door opening. Fatima stood up quickly and they walked into the kitchen.
Rachel stomped into the room with Karim not far behind. The gang must have accompanied Rachel home. That meant more were outside. Would Allah save them?
Karim approached Adam. He had a bulge under his long loose shirt, probably a handgun. "You sucker-punched Khalid today. You'll pay the price now."
Fatima tried to grab Karim's gun.
Rachel effortlessly overpowered her and held her back. "This is none of your business."
Adam put his hands in front. "I beat Khalid fair and square."
"Why don't we go out back and prove it. Let's see who the better man is, Ken Doll."
Adam's eyes widened and his eyeballs rolled as if he was struggling to keep a demon bottled up inside. Fatima saw that demon earlier. It tried to kill Khalid.
Adam lunged at Karim and pinned him against the wall. "You're dead meat, Hajji."
Fatima hoped Adam could maintain control of his anger. And stay alive. She struggled with Rachel and screamed. "Adam, he's got a gun."
Karim turned to his left and punched Adam's head with a hard right. Adam shrugged it off, moved back, then quickly step forward and jammed his knee into his opponent's groin. Karim howled, doubled-over, then recovered and head-butted Adam's chin with the back of his head.
Adam fell backward, grabbed Karim's arm, and pulled him along. With his right foot, Adam lifted his opponent and tossed him backward into the hallway. They both hit the floor hard and got up to face each other.
Fatima reached for Karim, but Rachel yanked her away. She needed to break Rachel's grip and call Muhamma. He would give them weapons and help fight Khalid's gang. Fatima tried to break free but Rachel's nails sunk into her neck and twisted her hair. Fatima screamed as Karim barreled into Adam's chest and slammed him into the kitchen.
Adam stumbled but stayed on his feet and smashed into the sink. He tied up Karim's arms and tried to reach under his shirt to grab the gun. They grappled against the counter and caused a big fruit bowl to shatter on the floor. Karim bit Adam's shoulder, Adam tripped, and the two scrambled near the broken glass on the floor.
Rachel released Fatima and hurried into the kitchen. "Karim, stop before you destroy everything. Take it outside right now."
Karim tried to back off and Adam immediately went for his gun. Karim blocked him and pulled the gun out. Adam raised his hands and they both stood up.
Karim walked to the backdoor and stuck the pistol in his waist. "Let's take this outside. I'll let Rachel keep the gun."
Adam lowered his hands, breathed heavily, and leaned against the counter. "How many of you are waiting out there?"
Karim flapped his arms and Rachel yelled, "Get out."
Adam refused to move.
Rachel walked over to Karim and stared at Adam. "Leave through the front door right now, and I promise you'll not be harmed."
"Or else what?" Adam said. "You'll call the cops? Go ahead. They'll arrest you like they did the others."
"I'm warning you," Karim said. "Fatima will not save you this time." 
Adam stared at Fatima. "Why don't we ask Fatima how she feels about that?"
Fatima knew Adam was cornered. If he did not take Rachel's offer, they would beat him severely. "I'm sorry. You should go." She refused to meet his eyes.
Rachel glared at him. "Well?"
"You're all trying to hide something." Adam brushed pass Rachel and did not look at Karim. He paused at the bottom of the stairs as if he was considering going up regardless.
Fatima slowly opened the front door. It was the last time she would see him.
Adam appeared disappointed. "Why don't we go out for a cup of coffee? I can't bear to abandon you again."
"I'm sorry, but I can't," Fatima cried softly. She pulled him towards the door and hugged him. His body went limp and she pushed him into the stifling heat.
"Wait," Adam turned around, but she slammed the door in his face with a tearful, "Goodbye."

Chapter 27: Detector V
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1415 Hours.
It was too suffocating inside the closet. Joe stepped out to take Frank's call.
Frank shouted. "Is it some kind of joke?"
When Frank was in his mood, it was better not to say anything.
"You didn't have a shot for that promotion, Joe, but I tried anyways. You know what the competition has. Thayer showed his cards in Miami yesterday."
"Are you talking about Roger's email?"
Frank laughed. "Before I went in, I saw it. A tiny morsel indeed. It only makes us both look weak."
"I'm going out again tomorrow."
"Forget it." 
"Come on, Frank. Cut me a break, will you? Down South, I could give you ten dealers on a moment's notice. It's brand new territory up here for me. It'll take me some time to develop the same kind of networks."
"You're on your own. I'm cutting you off. The Family no longer knows you, understand?"
Frank would not carry out his threat. They had a temporary setback that would soon blow over. Joe had done nothing wrong. He tried to stroke Frank's ego.
"But Master. I have several traps I could spring in a few weeks."
Frank sounded frustrated. "You don't get it, do you? I have many interests to serve, and I wasted most of my time priming the pump for you, you fool. I don't see her often and I thought you'd show some appreciation."
"What did she say?"
"What do you think? Miami gave them seven, so Thayer's their star now."
"But that was a complete setup job. The man throws money around like Santa Claus to people with their mouths closed. Those guys they picked up are all morons. Nothing will stand. What do you think--?"
"Perception gets the job done and she gets her monster fed. Everybody's happy."
Joe could not argue. Seven was quite a score. He had to respect Thayer for that.
Frank's voice became softer. "But I convinced her to hold off making a decision until Monday. You have until this weekend. Make use of it grasshopper."
He knew it. Frank came through once again. The man was god.
Joe grew excited. "Grasshopper will do better, Master, I promise." Joe desperately wanted to move closer to the center of power. He had to find a way to get that promotion.
"You just have to want it bad enough."
"I'll prove to you I do, Master."
"I'm watching the headlines. I'll know when you're serious."

Chapter 28: Gas
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1430 Hours.
A group of five men gathered on the porch outside Rachel's house. Adam hastened to the car, jammed the key in the ignition, and zipped up the block. In the rearview mirror, men scampered to their cars in pursuit. He would easily loose them. He turned left and grimaced as his wet shirt stuck to the scorching leather.
He heard a strange noise. It sounded like a persistent beep, and it came from inside the car. A car bomb? Adam searched frantically for the sound source, and had to swerve quickly to avoid hitting a parked car. The beeps thundered in his ears and he screeched to a halt. Should he jump out? Aluminum and plastic bins lined the curb, and his stomach tightened. Why did it have to be garbage collection day? The next roadside bomb could be lurking anywhere.
The warrior gripped the door handle and glanced at the indicator lights on the panel. The gas gauge blinked red. Christ. He had completely forgotten about the empty tank. What a relief. He sped ahead and went right. Wait a minute. He could not get far without gas. He had to find a station fast.
Adam made three right turns along narrow streets and found a four-lane road. He heaved into the left lane to avoid trashcans, and raced the engine hoping to lose the gang. After a few minutes, the beeping from the gas indicator reached a peak and died. That was not a good sign.
The car sputtered, and Adam's frown deepened as his mode of escape lost speed. Thankfully, the rearview mirror was still clear. A block further, a gas station sign loomed ahead, and he narrowly made it in, heart racing and nerves on edge. He held the steering wheel nervously and examined the cars passing by. Without his guns, he felt naked and exposed. He would consider going to a gun shop, but he had no money.
The sign read $3.09 for regular gasoline. He fueled the car in the sweltering heat and whistled at the total. With America protecting strategic resources in Iraq, why were gasoline prices there a fraction of the price in the U.S.? Adam shook his head. Grunts were not supposed to think, that was the general's job. He hid the car in the back of the service center and walked inside.
The adult magazines for sale at the bottom of the counter caught his eye. He was still aroused. He paid for coffee, a four-pack of condoms, and chewing gum. He had to get laid. Should he cruise a few bars, or get a room then phone for a call girl? Adam stepped outside and stretched his arms, unhappy with either choice. A prostitute would be empty and meant admitting defeat. He wanted to care for someone and to feel cared for in return. He was not going to settle for anything less.
He sat in the car and chewed a stick of gum. It was too hot. A seat cover from the gas station would make a big difference, however it would be a waste of money. He slumped and stared at the sky. A discarded puff of soft feather floated on top of the windshield outside and swirled for a minute. Adam stared, mesmerized. The feather slid off to the side and he reached through the window to grab it, but it slipped through his fingers.
Adam sighed. Was Fatima in need of his help? Her sweet, sad voice rang in his ears, tormenting him. He had finally met someone he could relate to, who connected both of his separate lives, but were his feelings for Fatima interfering with his judgment? Who was Hartman? What was going on tomorrow? He should have dashed up the stairs and checked out Fatima's closet, however what if he found nothing?
Fatima's plans and events at the house were too much to figure out. He should just forget about them and leave Dearborn for good. He did not care if Mom scolded him over Xavier. Adam did what she wanted. Adam brought the Loser and attended his daughter's graduation, so Adam was free and clear of Mom's wishes. He glanced around the station. He should leave before the gang found him.
He decided to head off, turned on the radio, and heard a song Fatima played in her room. Adam smiled thinking of her lying naked in bed and the fake fight they had over medicine. One of the smartest women he had ever met, Fatima taught him much about Iraqi and Western culture. He knew the Middle East was important because of oil, but she told him aspects that were more vital to the region. During her tour of Arab business districts in Dearborn, he asked a question he had kept inside for many years.
"How did Mohammad and a small group of people in Arabia come to have such great influence on the world today?"
Fatima smiled. "Because for almost a millennium, Muslims controlled a large portion of global power and wealth," Fatima said. "While Europe remained in the Dark Age for centuries, the Islamic golden age was a blossoming of human culture."
They traveled passed a closed 1920s art deco department store. "A thousand years is a long time. Few civilizations remained powerful for so long."
"That's right. The great empires of the Abbasid caliphs, Mughals, Seljuk Turks, Safavid Persia, and Ottomans, are among the largest and most powerful dynasties the world has ever known."
"What helped Muslims to advance faster than Christians at that time?" Adam noticed the Lebanese cedar tree and Iraqi flag on many stores, accompanied by the American flag. A few stores displayed the Michigan state flag as well.
Fatima motioned the movement of a pen. "Literacy."
"Didn't they create better swords, shields and military tactics?" 
"Yes, but the pen was mightier than the sword."
"How so?"
"From early times, a common script was used throughout the Islamic world," Fatima said.
"Which one was that?"
"The Arabic script."
"I knew that," Adam lied as they passed an older, two-story apartment building with a marble façade surrounding the entrance. A small arch sheltered the front door, and one of inlaid brick covered a window on the second floor. Brown bricks made triangular-arch patterns along the sides showing Islamic architecture in the 1930s. Interesting.
"Arabic script and language became a medium for the spreading of ideas. Islam also helped to advance the culture because it teaches Arabic reading and writing."
"I see that in Iraq. All of the Mosques have these classes. We have the same thing here with the church schools. I went to public school but the three Rs, reading, 'riting and religion, builds character."
"In Islam, great emphasis is placed upon learning. This led to the establishment of the first university in the world, Al-Azhar, in 800 AD. Hundreds of other universities were started in the Middle East and Asia."
"But they have become the home of extremists now, right?"
"In the eighteenth century, Muslim elites in resource rich South Asia lost everything to the Europeans. They influenced some Islamic schools to become anti-Western. Can you blame them?"
"Some aspects of the culture I will never understand."
Adam shrugged. "Let's get back to what we were talking about. Muslims were able to make advances in communication and commerce because of the widespread use of one language, right?"
"Yes. Even today, Al Wissam, America's most successful Arab designer, uses the script to inspire embroidery on custom-made leather jackets and sports wear."
"While at that time in Europe, probably only a few scholars knew Hebrew or Latin."
"The literary culture advanced human learning. Documents and ideas in geometry, algebra, medicine, and astronomy, written by Persian, Greek, Roman and Indian scholars, were rediscovered, translated, and circulated."
"Global communication through one language." Adam slammed his hands on the dashboard. "You guys created the first Internet." He raised an eyebrow. "Are you aware of this?"
Fatima nodded and smiled. "Arabic has influenced hundreds of languages across the globe, including Spanish in Europe, Swahili in Africa, Hindi in Asia, and Indonesian in the Pacific."
Adam shook his head, and remained quiet, visibly impressed.
"The Koran's emphasis on empirical observation, and the rigorous historical methods established in the science of Hadith, led to the interest and development of a scientific method. By the tenth century, all essential Greek medical and scientific writings were translated into Arabic in Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad."
"They were done by hand?"
She nodded. "Even today, a lot of value is placed on penmanship and calligraphy."
"That's a lot of writing." Along Warren Avenue, Arabic script covered many of the stores. The beautiful lines constantly link and unlink, with neither beginning nor end. He even saw Arabic graffiti and tags.
"Baghdad emerged as the capital of the scientific world." Fatima smiled. "My hometown."
"What was it like back then?" Adam asked.
"Very different."
"I imagine a bunch of men dressed in long robes walking around, debating each other. By the way, what kind of instrument did they write on, scrolls?"
"By the middle of the ninth century, paper was used throughout the Islamic world."
"Paper. Just like today." Fatima bobbed her head to Arabic music blaring from a car that sped ahead.
"At this time, the Paper Sellers' Street in Baghdad had more than one hundred shops in which paper and books were sold. Medieval Islamic libraries had hundreds of thousands of volumes, far outstripping the relatively small monastery and university libraries in the West."
"Baghdad must have been so cool then." They passed another two-story apartment building with rows of perfect arches along the front. Two young women sat outside and waved. One had a long black headscarf and the other a long white one. They both wore t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. Adam imagined ancient Baghdad with women dressed in robes waving to him as they shopped along narrow streets lined with bookstalls, looking for the latest romance novels.
Fatima counted her fingers. "Muslims developed mathematics and were responsible for the transmission Arabic numerals throughout Islamic lands and the West."
"The ten digits." Adam considered Fatima's information.
In the back of the gas station, a dark minivan pulled alongside the Mustang, and Adam snapped out of his reminiscence. Had they discovered him? He stared at the vehicle, tensed, prepared for action. The door slowly opened and Adam held his breath until he saw an elderly person step out.
Fatima may be his last chance to love someone. Before he made it back to base, he had to let Fatima know how strongly he felt about her, which meant he had to see her tonight. Maybe after Rachel went to sleep, he could sneak into the house. The old man made it up the ramp and into the service center. Adam cheered silently. He was happy he had a plan to see Fatima again.
He was still mad at Rachel over the way she treated him, and he had to give her a piece of his mind before he left, but he needed an excuse to go back. What could he use? He thought for a moment then it occurred to him. Xavier. If Adam found the Loser, he could surprise them by taking him back to the house. He would get the Loser to reprimand Rachel and force her to become deferential to her older brother. Xavier might not cooperate but at least Adam would get a chance to tell Rachel off.
He raced inside the service center, obtained directions to the local police station, and drove toward the Third Precinct. After a long day of being out of his element, he was happy to be doing something he was good at, carrying out an investigation. It was going to be fun.

Chapter 29: Precinct
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1445 Hours.
The sergeant wiped her forehead and wished she had a cup of coffee. She hated counter duty Fridays. She needed to get back to her desk and complete the report of the Kendall Street burglary. She did not believe the detective squad's conclusion that the robbery was random. Piecing together a report about how the break-in resulted in the murder of an Arab man in his own home took hours of research and work. She felt close to a breakthrough, but she needed some more time to examine the files on her desk.
She stared at the young man who marched in and stood at the spotless counter. The early evening news blared from the spanking new television above the reception area, a phone rang in the back office, and an Anglo couple with two infants sat on a bench by the entrance waiting on a call from the shelter. She cringed and quickly glanced away. She had seen one too many families destroyed by crystal meth addiction.
"What can I do for you?"
"Hello officer. I'm Adam Mackin with the Army on leave from Iraq."
"Sergeant Christine Bukowski, nice to make your acquaintance. You guys have a tough job over there."
Adam nodded. "Thanks. It's good to hear that. These days, people aren't so grateful for our service."
Bukowski waved her arms. "Many of us here have a close friends and family in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's tough being far away."
Adam smiled and said nothing. He reminded someone, but she could not remember of who it was.
She offered a handshake. "Are you here on Army business?"
Adam held her firm grip. "I'm here to find the whereabouts of Xavier Ali, last seen outside a house on Pine Street four hours ago."
Bukowski hurriedly withdrew her hand. The morning sergeant on duty had briefed her on the Pine Street raid. It was trouble. "Why are you interested in this individual?"
"He missed an important event today and I'm a relative. Do you know where he is?"
Bukowski glanced at the ceiling. "I'm not sure."
"Can you ask if anyone saw him? He has short gray hair, a bald temple, white shirt, khaki pants, and blue blazer."
Bukowski mouth twitched. She had to prevent the grunt from stirring the nest. "Some of the guys are on break so it could take a while. Here is the number to the station. Call in an hour and ask for me."
Adam pleaded. "I need to find Mr. Ali right away. Please Sergeant, I have an emergency."
"I've got my hands full. It's better if you call."
"I would really appreciate it Sergeant." The grunt refused to let it go. She had to give him the stall.
"All right, let me check the computer. Have a seat." Bukowski dawdled at the keyboard tucked away under the counter and watched television. She hoped the soldier would get tired and leave soon.
The television screen showed footage of the President's meeting with the commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq, General Casey.
"We're making good progress," the general said.
"We have to stay the course," the commander-in-chief said.
A montage of the daily gore in Iraq trailed the sound bites. Bukowski saw Adam quickly close his eyes, perhaps to avoid having a flashback. The poor grunts, no one cared about them.
The reporter in Baghdad read the numbers regarding the crackdown. "After four weeks of extra searches, patrols and checkpoints in the city, over 92 Iraqi police and soldiers died, and 444 were injured. We do not have any numbers on American casualties."
Bukowski scowled. It would simply be a number. Few cared to remember how many of America's bravest gave their lives each day, much less try to find out about a single individual. She knew firsthand that except for family and friends, no one cared.
"The latest security crackdown in Baghdad is not working," an African American democratic senator complained.
Everyone behaved like an armchair general these days, Bukowski thought. They should ask grunts like Adam who patrolled the front lines. Bukowski wanted to get back to her report but Adam kept looking at her. She tapped away on the keyboard and pretended to be busy. The stall was not working, but she had to try it longer. She did not know what else to do.
The news left Iraq to a special report on a surveillance suit brought against a large telephone company for helping the U.S. government monitor calls and emails. The Bush administration argued to dismiss the trial because it would reveal secrets in the case, and open the country to terrorist attacks. Bukowski pushed her chair back as Adam returned to the counter. He seemed determined not to leave without an
"Do you have some identification?"
The soldier handed over his drivers' license and she compared the picture with him. "I'll make a photocopy of this."
Adam appeared to be puzzled. "Why do you need a copy?"
"They will ask for it. Let me see what I can find out for you." She walked slowly to the back and tapped on the narrow door.
She returned ten minutes later and was disappointed to see Adam still there. He stared at her in anticipation.
"Come this way please." Bukowski motioned Adam to step through a half-door and accompany her to the back. She turned left and stopped outside a meeting room with a conference table and four chairs.
Two tall blond men dressed in navy blue suits stood inside the room.
Bukowski opened the door for Adam. "These agents have some questions for you."
"What's going on?" Adam asked her. "I came to find out what happened to Mr. Ali. I never got an answer."
"You will find out everything inside." Bukowski pointed to the room and departed. She tried to get him to go. It was out of her hands now. She could do nothing to help him.


Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1500 Hours.
The open conference room was heaven compared to the stifling closet. The cops only used it a few times a week for their boring meetings. What a waste of space. They fought for it tooth and nail though, and he had let them win, for now. He stared at the perpetrator who entered the room. "I'm Joe Hartman, Department of Homeland Security."
Roger stood up. "Agent Carr with the FBI."
The suspect extended a hand. "Adam Mackin at your service."
Hartman was a good detector and spotted Adam's evil intentions right away. He nodded towards a chair. "Sit down. We have some questions for you."
Adam sat on the opposite side of the table.
Roger started the warm up. "Tell us what you know about Xavier Ali."
"Is he here?"
"We can't confirm anything right now," Hartman said. "Answer the question first."
Adam scratched his head. "I don't know him much. What would you like to know?"
"What does he do?" Roger asked.
"He used to be a journalist in Milwaukee, but he hasn't worked in ages. He lives off the government." Hartman wrote furiously.
"When was he working as a journalist?" Roger asked.
"In 1976. He got hired to do a bicentennial publication." The suspect was being intentionally vague. They were getting nowhere.
"Let's start from the beginning," Hartman said. "Where is Mr. Ali from?"
"He's been living in Chicago for many years."
"No, I mean before that. Which country is he from?"
"He emigrated from France."
Hartman stared at his pad. France was close to the Czech Republic and host to a whole bunch of Jihadis.
"When did he move to the U.S.?"
"He and his mother left Paris and moved to New York when he was fourteen. He was born in 1950, so maybe thirty years ago."
"We know he's Muslim," Hartman said.
Adam laughed. "Actually, he's mixed with French, and he converted to Buddhism."
"What's he doing in Dearborn?" Roger asked.
"Attending a graduation, but he was not at the school. I'm here to find out what happened."
"How long has Mr. Ali been in Dearborn?" Roger asked.
"We arrived early in the morning. We came to Dearborn today for my stepsister's graduation."
Hartman tugged on Roger's arm. "Get Bukowski back in here now."
"I have to head back to Milwaukee," Adam said, "I need to drop Mr. Ali off in Chicago first. Can you please tell--?"
"Wait here." Hartman got up and walked to the door.
Carr and Bukowski entered the room.
Adam looked up. "Did you track Mr. Ali down?" Playing innocent. What a sneaky bastard.
"Please stand up and place your hands behind your back," Bukowski said.
"What? Is this some kind of joke?"
"You're under arrest."

Chapter 30: Alice VI
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1500 Hours.
He admired at his handiwork. The filler inside the metal pipe was securely capped. The fuse at the top led to the time delay relay, and black tape covered the entire device. Now for the final touch.
He took a half-inch carpentry nail from a box and taped it to the pipe. Adding loosely fixed shrapnel material outside the bomb was a cheap an easy way to increase the damage of the explosion. He could also use scrap metal or ball bearings, but he preferred nails for their sharp, hard tips. They could penetrate the thickest bone in the human body.
Al-Fredah was married to his work. He had a girlfriend, a twenty-year old flower sales clerk, whom he met when he was forty-three years old. However, he remained a committed bachelor his entire life and took care of his mother seventeen years after his father died. There were no questions about his work, sexuality, or commitment to family. Why did he turn into the Godless Satan?
He took another nail and taped it next to the first one.
Why did Al-Fredah write about Beatrice, a woman involved in a shocking murder trial? How was her story relevant to Al-Fredah's life? Beatrice's rich father was a violent man who abused her mother and two brothers. He was close to committing incest with her when Beatrice reported him to the authorities. Her father threw the family out after he discovered what she did, and they killed him in revenge.
No one believed his death was an accident, and the authorities arrested four family members. They were tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. The Church beheaded Beatrice by the sword, and she became a symbol of resistance. A legend arose that every year on the night before her death, Beatrice came back to the town carrying her severed head. Why would a genius write about such things?
He taped a nail to the top cap.
In the past, he placed the bomb inside a cardboard box with nails laid around the sides and on top. It required much less time and energy. However, through numerous experiments, inspired by his nemesis, the bomber found he could achieve a far greater effect with particular alignment of nails on the bomb, and placement of the bombs in relation to each other within Alice. Since then, he started taping the nails on individually, even though this process increased the risk of an accidental explosion. He had no other choice. He worked with a more powerful medium than other artists, but his art demanded perfection nonetheless.
He had about five nails completed along one side. He wanted to add twenty-one nails to this bomb. Why did Al-Fredah try to compare Beatrice's father to his own?

No comments: