Friday, May 20, 2011

Born on 9/11 Chapters 31-40

Born on 9/11

a novel

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

(chapters 31-40) 

Chapter 31: Arrest
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1515 hours.
The florescent light in the corner of the conference room buzzed and flickered. Sergeant Bukowski glanced at the soldier and swallowed hard. She had no choice but to arrest the poor grunt. Should she have given him a warning? It was too late now. She had to do her job and held the cuffs out.
Adam retreated deeper in the room. "Arrest me for what?"
Hartman half smiled. "Aiding and abetting a known terrorist."
"Who's that?"
Hartman sneered. "Xavier Ali, an accomplice to Mohamed Atta."
"Mohammed who?"
"The leader of the 9/11 attack on America."
The grunt's jaws dropped open. He stuttered and could not complete a single word. After a few seconds, the grunt recovered. "Hey, I have no idea what you're talking about. That’s got nothing to do with me. I'm one of the good guys here. What law have I broken?" 
"The material witness law." Hartman's cold stare frightened Bukowski.
Adam scoffed. "I've never heard of it."
They had the grunt cornered and were expecting her to do their dirty work, but Bukowski's feet felt nailed to the floor. Hartman’s abuse of authority and the unfair laws were similar to the erosion of Jewish rights that occurred in Europe. On the other hand, she feared Muslim extremists and saw firsthand what their bombs did in Israel. What should she do?
Carr stepped around the table. "We don't have to clarify anything to you."
Hartman nodded. “You’re with the terrorists.”
Bukowski squeezed the gun handle with all of her strength. She felt like pulling her firearm and shooting Hartman in the foot. He reminded her of the men who killed her grandmother in a death camp. Her grandfather cried as he told her the story on his deathbed. Noam and Hilda were textile merchants who lived in a large house in Germany. At first, they thought nothing of the anti-Jewish propaganda, but then it increased rapidly. One day in 1938, hoodlums broke all the windows in their home, and the police arrested Noam's father, grandfather, and all the Jewish men from the village, and took them to Dachau concentration camp.
Noam managed to hide his mother, grandmother, and Hilda in a shed. Weeks later, his grandfather died of a heart attack, and the family was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. When they arrived, the other refugees stole everything except the clothes they wore. Conditions in the camp were harsh, and potatoes were valuable as diamonds. Then, on a cold November morning, the Gestapo, the secret state police running the ghetto and the attached prison, came and took Hilda from Noam’s arms. He never saw her again.
Did Hartman represent beginnings of a new Gestapo? Bukowski felt she at least owed the grunt an explanation. "The material witness law was enacted in 1984, and it allows the government to arrest persons who are needed as witnesses in ongoing cases and who might not comply with a conventional subpoena."
Adam appeared unconvinced and Hartman played offense. "Why are you supporting the terrorists?"
"You're wrong. Xavier is way too selfish to care for anyone else's cause." The grunt bumped his head as he backed into the wall.
"Sleepers are good at hiding what they do." Carr strode closer to the grunt. "If they're open about their strategy to destroy America, they will be caught. Even wives and children are unaware of their plans."
Bukowski despised the FBI’s anti-Muslim hysteria, but she knew what extremists could do. On a trip to Jerusalem in 2002, she stood across the street from Cafe Moment, waiting impatiently for traffic to clear. Two old friends were already inside and she was eager to see them. Then, an explosion hurled her twenty meters into the air. She hit the ground hard and lost consciousness. When she came to, a few minutes later, there was screaming and ambulances everywhere.
One friend came looking for her and asked what was in his eye. Bukowski did not want to tell him that his eye was hanging out, attached by just a few ligaments. The other friend was in such a mess, she felt sick remembering what happened. Bukowski dreaded another 9/11 attack. However, the grunt did not look like a mole.
Adam's nostrils flared. "He's a freaking vegan who wouldn't harm a fly. I hunt terrorists day and night buddy. I know what they look, sound, smell, feel, and--."
Hartman cut him off. "Mr. Ali confessed already. He was in Prague in April 2001. We have a photo of him and Atta there at the time."
Carr hammered the point in. "For all we know, he could be planning the next 9/11 attack on America."
"It can't be true."
"You admitted you don't know much about Mr. Ali, right?" Carr raised his hands in the air like a preacher. He reminded her of the debate class she took in college. Carr deployed fallacy after fallacy against the grunt, from ad hoc, non sequitur and post hoc, to ad hominem, slippery slope, and the meaningless question. His argument from adverse consequences bordered on the ridiculous, but Carr made them with a straight face.
Carr smiled. "Mr. Ali could be a child molester and you wouldn't know it." Her stomach recoiled. Under the mask of Carr's disarming smile, lurked a cold-hearted monster with the divine gift to make himself appear reasonable. She preferred him out of the pair though. Hartman never bothered with justification, the arrogant sob.
The grunt seemed frustrated. "Alright, I may not know everything about Xavier, but what did I do to deserve being arrested?" He caved in far too easy and Hartman acted like a shark that smelled blood.
Bukowski flinched as the master of entrapment made one of his favorite moves. "You provided transportation to Mr. Ali, right?"
"Yes but I didn't know--."
"And you were with Mr. Ali all this time, correct?"
"I only picked him up last night and drove--."
Carr delivered the fatal blow. "If he is planning something, then that makes you a possible accomplice." Hartman nodded at Bukowski. It was over and she had to do his bidding. Hartman had jurisdiction, seniority, and access to powerful superiors. He belonged to the Family, an influential group of Christian politicians and activists in Washington. Some of its leaders believed they could hasten Christ's second coming by waging war on Islam. On that day, Jews had to convert or they were going to be killed, along with every other non-Christian on the planet. A final holocaust.
She felt revolted watching this awful horror movie unfold, and worst being forced to play a role in it. Despite a strong sense of duty and patriotism, she could not follow Hartman's order. In fact, she had to leave the room or she would throw up right in his face. But he would just write her up and get someone else to book the grunt. And the last person who rebuffed Hartman finally resigned, and had to beg to keep his retirement. That was the station captain.
Bukowski summoned her strength and ordered the grunt. "Lie on the ground and place your hands behind your back."
"No way. I served two tours in Iraq and I'm going on my third next week. I came in here--."
Hartman's voice turned cold. "Are you resisting arrest?"
"I'm on the frontlines with Al Qaeda man. I've seen more in a day than you guys face in--."
Carr chimed in. "Suspect is refusing to follow instructions."
Hartman sneered. "Just like his father. These people are uncivilized." Could the grunt be a mole? Carr and Hartman approached him.
"I have my constitutional rights. You must have good reason to--."
"We told more than we have to." Carr faced her. "We need back up."
Hartman pulled the grunt forward and slammed his head hard into the wood table. He snatched the grunt’s right hand and yanked it behind his back.
The grunt screamed, "But I'm not Muslim."
Hartman yelled. "Get his left hand."
Carr seized Adam's left hand and forced it behind Adam's back. The two men pressed the grunt's face into the table Hartman looked cross. "Get over here now, sergeant."
What would her grandfather want her to do? There were three mouths at home to feed. The people she had to protect. Hartman was capable of anything. She shuddered, stepped in and placed a pair of handcuffs on the grunt's hands. He remained defiant.
"You guys wouldn't even know a terrorist if one bit you in the ass."
"You have nothing to worry about if you haven't done anything wrong." Carr sounded so reasonable.
"I’ve to be back at Fort McCoy on Monday morning."
Hartman lifted Adam up and pushed him hard into the ground. "Change of plans."
Adam tried to get up but Hartman stepped on his head. "Who's the ass now?"
"Are you part of some fundamentalist militia?"
"Your problem is your mouth. Be careful, or you'll slip again." Hartman stepped off his victim and stared at Bukowski. "Book him and put him in with the other one."
The two agents pushed pass her and stopped at the door.
Bukowski helped the grunt off the floor and he stared at Hartman. "If I'm a terrorist, then you're Osama bin Laden and he's Zarqawi."
Carr smiled and started to leave.
"Hold on." Hartman returned and rammed his right knee into the grunt's crotch. He howled, bowled over, and collapsed on the floor, and then Hartman kicked him in the face hard. "Who's the cave rat now, rag head?"
Adam groaned and the two stormed out the room. Bukowski seethed and tried counting to ten. After a minute, Bukowski relaxed a little and helped Adam off the floor. "Hartman's right you know."
"I'm innocent." Adam appeared shaken but not badly hurt.
"That might be, but your mouth's still your problem."
She led him out the conference room and into the hall. At its end, they stepped down a few stairs and entered a smaller booking room on the left. Bukowski locked the door, removed Adam's handcuffs, and gave him a bright orange uniform. The color reminded her of the garish yellow Star of David, which Jews were forced to wear in Germany.
"Empty your pockets, remove your clothes, and put on these." Her uneven voice betrayed her rage, and she calmed down a little as she catalogued and stored his personal items. Adam got down to his underwear and stared at Bukowski. She shook her head and he quickly pulled on the oversized orange pant. She shouldn't allow him to keep his boxers, but she didn't have the heart to refuse his request.
"When do I get to make a phone call?"
"You don't."
"Why not? Isn't it the law?"
"Not for you. You fall under the Patriot Act."
Adam pulled the orange top over his head. "What does that mean?"
"You have no rights. Not as a terror suspect or an enemy combatant."
The grunt look terrified as her words sunk in. "You're kidding me, right?"
"Why do you think you're wearing orange?" She pointed to the ground in front him. Adam lay on the floor and Bukowski kneeled to tie a steel chain around his waist. She secured his feet together and attached the shackles on his feet to the chain around his waist. She felt like an overseer in the South two hundred years ago. They shackled enslaved Africans in the same way…
Bukowski stood up and held a fist. She wanted to punch Hartman so hard. Why did she have to be complicit in this dirty affair? She lifted the grunt up, placed irons on his wrists, and fastened his hands to the chain around his waist. Secured at the wrists, ankles and waist, the grunt now had a limited range of motion.
Covered in sweat, the grunt appeared extremely nervous. "Will I be sent to Gitmo?"
"US citizens go to the old Consolidated Naval brig in Charlestown, South Carolina. That's where they'll probably take you."
"What about my command? If I'm not there on Monday, I'm AWOL."
Bukowski said nothing as she escorted Adam to the back of the room. She took his photographs and started on his fingerprints. She had to forget about him. There was nothing she could do to help him.
"Hey, Sarge, you're a uniform like me. You understand what its like to place your life at risk everyday, not like these suits, eh?"
Bukowski held Adam's right index finger against the scanner.
"I'm a white Christian soldier from Milwaukee. How can these morons even begin to suspect me?"
Bukowski shrugged. "I'm just doing my job."
"If they knew, my buddies would get me out of this mess in no time. They would teach Hartman and Carr a lesson."
She smiled and escorted him out the room. They paused at the corridor. The grunt glanced about frantically, as if searching for someone to help him out of his predicament.
"Let's go." She pulled him forward.
The grunt shuffled a few paces then stopped again to examine the reception area and outside.
"Can you please call my commanding officer and let him know what's happening to me?"
She nudged him ahead and they reached the end of the hall.
"Please, my buddies deserve to know they're going back a man short."
Bukowski avoided his stare. She feared what Hartman could do to her. She opened the cell door, pushed the grunt through, and slammed it shut. Then, she ran to the restroom to throw up. The poor grunt would in sensory deprivation half the time, and would probably never see daylight again.

Chapter 32: Convictions
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1530 Hours.
Xavier felt a hard slap on his shoulders. Walter, the kindest of his four cellmates, did not miss his turn to hit the piñata this time. The African American reminded Xavier of a friend who lived in his building.
"Come on, gimme something man. I gotta buy a cigarette."
Xavier pulled his own hair. “This is all I’ve got. I don't have anything else."
The Vietnam vet shrugged and rambled incoherently about his arrest. He had the least serious charge in the cell, a felony, yet he complained the most. “I was feeding man, feeding and starving too. Then, like god decided to help me out, and all of a sudden, bam, I found this roach on the street.”
Walter put an index finger and thumb close together, almost touching. “The roach was way, way small, man, but I was like, damn. I lit up and killed it.” Walter held the two fingers to his mouth and pretended to blow smoke.
Xavier had no idea why killing and eating an insect made Walter so happy. The man was weird.
“Then a pig turned the corner, pulled up, and busted me. For what?” Walter opened his arms wide.
Xavier did not know what to think. The vet hallucinated a lot.
“I had no smack, but the pig still trashed my works on the sidewalk.”
Xavier listened to Walter’s story even though he had no idea what Walter was talking about. The vet provided a brief respite from the others, and Xavier wanted to be polite.
The lock rattled on the cell door.
Xavier spun around and held a bar for support. It seemed everything he touched reeked of urine. He did a double take as the door opened and Adam shuffled into the cell.
Why did they arrest his son?
Adam approached Xavier and pointed a finger at him. "The police said you're connected to terrorists. Is that true?"
Xavier's cellmates became more animated, and looked like they were getting ready to beat him again. Who would be the first one this time? Jake, the burly Anglo, laid-off, Dearborn autoworker arrested for domestic violence? Or would it be Dan, the thin Asian Republican who swindled retirees out of their homes in Detroit? Maybe, it would be Carlos, the stocky Latino gang member, in prison for murder of a rival in Chicago. It made no difference. They were all the same.
Jake approached Adam and held out a fist. "Why are you wearing the same clothes at Ben Laden here? Are you two together?"
Adam shook his head. "I’m on leave from Iraq."
Jake appeared impressed. "Iraq?"
Adam nodded. "This loser got me into trouble again." He glanced down at Xavier. "What happened after Fatima left?"
Caught in a fishbowl of the foursome's attention, Xavier spoke softly. "The police came looking for terror suspects. They said they didn't need a warrant, searched the house, and arrested three young men."
Adam raised an eyebrow. "Aren't they illegal?" Carlos glanced away.
"Along with twenty million others, half a million who already received final order of removal papers, many decades ago. We should start there." Jake and Dan looked at each other.
Adam appeared calmer. "What did they arrest you?"
Xavier stared at the floor. "For being unable to prove that I'm not an undocumented alien."
Adam scowled. "They said you were in Prague in 2001."
“In 2001 I returned to France after 25 years and traveled around Europe...”
Walter bumped into him as he staggered around the cell, imitating the sounds of a helicopter. Xavier felt sorry for the man. After three years as a pilot in Vietnam, Walter returned addicted and homeless to face Michigan's winters alone. Forty years later, he still suffered from daily flashbacks and PTSD. How could he save Adam from Walter's fate? Soon, they would be separated and shipped to Charlestown.
Xavier lowered his voice to avoid his audience. "Over 1,200 Arab and Muslim men were caught up in sweeps after September 11. Many were held for five years--."
Adam nodded. "Operation PENTTBOM."
"The Justice Department authorized local officials to use immigration charges to detain innocent Muslims. People were caught in their bedrooms while they slept, pulled from restaurant kitchens where they worked, stopped at the border, even at federal offices where they had gone to seek help."
Adam shrugged. "There were many would-be terrorists among them."
"After operation PENTTBOM, the FBI has routinely used a policy of ‘arrest now and ask questions later’ for Muslims."
Dan looked alarmed. "Plant a bomb? Where?" The small cell made privacy impossible.
Adam grabbed Xavier's shoulder. "Muslim extremists are a real threat to our security. Why are you evading my question?"
Carlos ambled over and slapped Xavier's head. "Hey Osama, where were you going to bomb, fool?"
Adam glared at Carlos. "Leave us alone. This is none of your business, alright?" Carlos strolled away.
Xavier shook his head. "The Red scare needed to be replaced so they dusted off the Green scare of Islam from the Middle Ages."
Walter shouted from the corner. "Damn government killed a lot of good men in `Nam." They stared at the vet, but he ignored them and continued mumbling to himself.
Adam shook Xavier. "I don’t understand what you’re trying to get at, but this is my life we're talking about here."
"Portraying Muslims as a threat is an effective political ploy."
"Bullshit." Jake lingered close. "What about all those terrorists who are arrested each year?"
Xavier retorted. "Like Adam?"
Dan chimed in. "Exactly."
Adam backed off. He seemed offended. "Hey, that's me."
Xavier looked at Walter, couched by the door and lost in his own world. "Like Reid, a lunatic trying to light a fire cracker in his shoe? And Moussaoui, who barely escaped execution for simply having evil thoughts?"
Walter fired an imaginary gun into the hall.
Adam pointed a finger at Xavier. "Moussaoui just needed a chance?"
Carlos joined in. "Yea, how about you, fool?"
Xavier scanned the dirty ceiling. "Why convict crazy people for having insane thoughts? They need a straight jacket, not an electric chair. Same thing with Padilla. He will get life simply for being a Latino convert." Carlos cursed and walked away.
Adam bit his lip. "What are you trying to say? Do you have insane thoughts as well?” He seemed confused about Xavier's guilt.
Jake stood in front of the group assembled over Xavier's head. "What about all those terrorist cells we've caught, like the Lodi cell in California who were convicted in April?"
"The ice-cream truck driver and his son? The father's case ended in a hung jury and Hamid got twenty-four years for having newspaper clippings from Pakistan in his garage, and for carrying a verse of the Koran in his pocket." The poor kid was the same age as Adam.
Jake pounded his fist. "The son is linked to Al Qaeda’s network of Islamic extremists in Lodi who recruited U.S. citizens for training at radical Karachi madrassas, and raised funds for international jihadist groups."
"Hamid went home to get married and the terrorist camp they claim he attended is within two miles of a Pakistani military camp."
Jake paused and Dan jumped in. "Why did they charge the two men then?"
Xavier shifted his position on the floor. "The FBI paid over a quarter of a million dollars to a government informant, Khan, who got them to launch an undercover investigation in Lodi by claiming he saw al-Zawahiri there, the number two man in Al Qaeda. That was an outright lie. But rather than fire Khan, the FBI went after Lodi's two imams for four years, but could find nothing on them either. In desperation, Khan befriended a teenager, Hamid, and entrapped him and his father."
"Entrapment?" Dan appeared angry and stepped away.
Jake gnashed his teeth. "What about the 'Toronto Seventeen' arrested earlier this month for planning to blow up Canada's Parliament and behead the Prime Minister? There’re just a few hundred miles across the lake from here."
"All entrapped by Mubin Shaikh, with five teenagers are among them. The informant earned $70,000 and claimed he is owed another $300,000 by the Canadian government."
Walter muttered, "COINTELPRO baby," then ran off to vomit in the toilet. He suffered from heroin withdrawal.
Jake obviously paid attention to the news. "And the Toledo terror plot discovered earlier this year? They're a few hours down the turnpike from here."
Xavier's patience slipped. "Only gullible, self-righteous Americans would take these snow jobs seriously." He paused to regain his composure. "Who could possibly believe three men sitting in the middle of Ohio would plan attacks against US military personnel overseas in Iraq? They were entrapped by an informant called 'The Trainer' who, surprise, surprise, had U.S. military background."
Dan spat on the floor. "Informants are lower than pond scum."
Xavier felt encouraged. "How lazy and brazen will these informants become?"
Jake frowned and grew red.
Xavier filled the silence. "In 2005, New Yorkers sentenced Dr. Rafil Dhafir to twenty-two years in prison. His crime? Raising money for children in Iraq."
Carlos raised his eyebrow.
"Sami Al-Arian, a Florida professor, is still in prison even after being acquitted by a Florida jury on all terrorism charges."
Dan frowned. "Acquitted?"
"Ali al-Timimi, a U.S. born doctor from Falls Church, was sentenced to jail for life, plus 70 years without possibility of parole. These convictions were all based on circumstantial evidence."
Carlos and Dan spoke at the same time. "Same with me."
Jake recovered. “They admitted their guilt.”
Xavier shook his head. "Religiously-biased prosecutors are forcing Muslims to plead guilty to charges they did not commit, just to avoid dying in prison. Given the hostile climate and juries, it's the only hope they may have of seeing their families again."
Dan look puzzled. "In that case, why haven't friends and colleagues come forward to support them?"
“Fear of reprisals. Family and friends are warned if they offer to serve as witness for the defense, they will be subjected to further government harassment and jeopardize their own freedom."
Adam snorted and grabbed Xavier's shoulder. "Nonsense. This is not Latin America. You're just trying to justify your own actions here."
Xavier pointed an index finger in the air. "One man in Texas agreed to support a former business associate accused of terrorism. He was arrested and charged with illegally harboring his own brother, who had an asylum petition pending with the United States government. Another potential witness was accused of mislabeling the speed of computers he was selling in..."
Jake pounded his fists. "What about those home grown terrorists arrested August last year in Los Angeles?"
Adam glared at Jake. "Back off buddy, this is my investigation."
Jake glowered. "I was here first."
Xavier glanced at Walter, curled into a ball on the floor. "Three young African American men, former gang members, who converted to Islam in prison. They robbed twelve gas stations, and the government claimed it was for funding terrorism. Islam forbids theft. Plus, the men were not accused of conspiring with foreign organizations."
"But they wanted to attack U.S. military targets."
"Africans are here over 400 years, much longer than most Anglos. They saw Italians, Gypsies, Jews, and Latinos transform themselves into normal, White Americans, while they remain forever outcastes.”
“African Americans have always resisted racial prejudice, from Prosser, Manor, Deslandes, Boxley, Vesey, and Nat Turner, to the Black Panthers and Malcom X. No one accused Colin Fergerson of being a terrorist."
Walter returned to the air and buzzed by the group. "You sing it brother."
Adam nudged Xavier with his knee. "If there's no evidence, why were they all convicted by their peers?"
"What peers? Muslims are not on these juries, and the propaganda around these legal lynchings cast them as subhuman scum. Ordinary Americans simply use the hysteria to practice their own, ingrained racial prejudice and xenophobia."
Carlos raised both arms in protest. "Yo, I'm not racist, dog. But if you're against our religion, you're going down, fool."
Dan smiled. "Civil rights laws were enacted in the sixties, and since then a lot has changed."
Walter squealed, "I had a dream, baby."
Adam grabbed Xavier's collar. "I've had it with you. Give me an answer now or else--."
Jake's eyes grew bloodshot red. "You’re dead meat Ben Laden." He lunged at Xavier and light flashed from the sharpened eating spoon in his hand.

Chapter 33: Conspiracy
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1545 Hours.
Xavier cowered with hands in the air to surrender and stop Jake from stabbing him. Xavier’s insides chilled, and his entire body broke into sweat. Why didn’t his son help him? Adam stood frozen a few feet away, constrained by his arm and leg chains.  Walter lay near the toilet, of no help either.
Xavier faced his three tormentors alone. “I’m telling the truth, that’s all.”
Jake’s raised his weapon. “I’ve had enough of you.”
Walter groaned. “The horror, the horror.”
Xavier braced himself for the sharp steel and stared at Adam. “Don’t you get it? Hartman set this whole thing up, including the makeup of this cell.” His son appeared unmoved.
Jake took a step and Dan grabbed Jake’s elbow and held him for a moment. The enraged autoworker inched forward, dragging the Asian American man along with him.
Xavier slid back, bumped into the rear of the cell, and could retreat no further. Carlos grinned in the background as Walter struggled to get up. Jake closed in and the sharpened spoon glittered above Xavier’s head. Then, at the last second, Adam intervened and lunged at Jake from his right. The heavier man saw the grunt and stepped to his left to evade him, but as Adam fell to the floor, he used his head to ram into Jake's leg. The collision knocked Jake off-balance and he crashed to the floor. The weapon flew harmlessly towards the cell door and Carlos picked it up.
Jake screamed, “You left-wing conspiracy nuts drive me crazy. How can you claim entrapment without proof?” He crawled towards Xavier on the ground, and Adam dragged his body forward to place himself between them.
Dan stared at Carlos playing with the weapon as he asked Xavier, “Are you saying there's nothing to be scared about?"
Xavier put his hands to his sides. "On the contrary, there's a lot more to be scared about besides upset Muslims." He pointed to Carlos. "Let's start with the millions roving our neighborhoods in armed gangs."
Carlos threatened Xavier with the blade. “Hey fool, there's a big difference between criminals and terrorists who want to destroy America."
Xavier remained calm. "Two million criminals in jail do not compare to a thousand trumped-up terrorist convictions."
Carlos huffed and walked away.
Jake spat at Xavier. "Just a few bombers caused a lot of damage on 9/11."
"Yes they did, but don’t forget about domestic terrorists like Weaver, McVeigh, Nichols, Krar, Waagner, Crocker, and others.” Xavier sighed, “They also killed a lot of people in their attempt to destroy our government."
"Bullshit." The Anglo American walked over to Carlos, and tried to reclaim his weapon.
Dan glared at Xavier. “White Christian supremacists are not a big threat as Muslim fanatics.”
Xavier adjusted his position on the hard floor. The sound of police sirens filled the room, and then faded. "The question is not how groups from one religion or race compare to the other.”
“Why not?” Adam still seemed angry.
“Look, we can debate the significance of a possible, future threat of terrorism until the cows come home, but that discussion can’t be compared to real issues affecting our lives each day.”
The Asian American seemed skeptical. “What could be more important?”
“Real estate fraud that leave whole neighborhoods in blight.”
Walter came to life. “Welcome to the bread line, baby."
Dan sneered. “That’s all you got?”
Xavier looked at Jake and Carlos. “Child abuse and drive-by shootings.”
The two men continued to argue, and Walter edged Carlos on. “You don’t owe this crazy cracker anything.”
Xavier pointed to the vet. “Chemical addiction.”
The Asian American appeared adamant. “Alright, we have other problems. But you sound like one of those 9/11 nuts claiming the government did it.”
"Even if there isn't a Muslim sleeper cell out there worth a grain of salt, the power elite is actively trying to create one. The words 'Islam' and 'terrorist' are used together all day on the television."
Dan laughed. "Our government is not the ones funding terrorist groups."
"In 1998, a British intelligence officer, David Shayler, revealed that British security services financed and supported a London-based Islamic terrorist group."
Adam looked shocked. "Why in the world would they--?"
"To assassinate the Libyan leader, Qaddafi. The bomb exploded at the wrong time and killed innocent people."
Dan appeared unimpressed. "He supported terrorism and denied human rights. We had to kill him somehow."
Xavier struck his forehead in frustration. "That’s double-speak. Besides, Qaddafi is an ally now.”
His son and the Asian American exchanged glances.
“Thatcher and Regan created and supported Islamic terrorists for years to fight the Red scare and break up the Soviet Union in central Asia.”
Walter hugged the toilet and retched. Everyone grew quiet for a moment until Jake and Carlos taunted each other again.
Dan pointed at Xavier. "Al Qaeda weren't terrorists then."
“The entire State Department is an enemy combatant for dealing with the Taliban, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan."
The Asian man seemed puzzled. "Well since we created Al Qaeda, they should be appreciative, not madly attack us."
"Look at it from their perspective. The Mujahideen proved more powerful than our entire nuclear arsenal when they bankrupted the Russians and eliminated our only rival on the world stage."
Dan grinned. "Corruption and inefficiency did the Reds in more than anything else."
Xavier nodded. "True, socialist ideology doesn't change greed, but the faithful Mujahideen got the job done in Afghanistan, and helped to slay the godless-giant. But rather than praise, their American allies cast them to play the role of their vanquished enemy, a betrayal of the highest order."
“Just like Ho Chi Minh.” Walter hovered and sniffed Dan’s neck. The mortgage broker swatted at the African American and tried to avoid him.
"Who betrayed who?" Adam looked confused.
"The Mujahideen didn't get a chance to pack their gear before finding themselves the main target of their former masters. After that, Usama called us the Evil Satan."
Adam sighed. "Blowback. We've trained and armed so many groups to fight insurgents in Iraq, but soon they’re attacking us as well."
"Western governments are pushing a billion Muslims over the edge by demonizing Islam."
Adam grimaced. "They’re too sensitive. No one has insulted Islam.”
"Really? The Pope just did. People are extremely defensive about god and religion. The desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo caused several suicide attempts."
Adam shrugged. "We see the same thing in Iraq when guys are careless with their books." Walter and Dan circled back, and the homeless vet continued to harass the well-heeled mortgage broker.
Xavier stood up. "In addition to slander, they're profiling Muslims on a large scale.”
The African American stopped in his tracks. “Driving while brown?” He laughed hysterically and left the Asian American alone.
Dan exhaled loudly. “Conspiracy garbage.”
“NSEERS required two hundred thousand Arab and Muslim men to report to local immigration offices across the United States, to be fingerprinted, photographed, and interrogated.”
The Asian American shrugged. “A necessary precaution.”
“For what?” Xavier sighed. “And why are LA police and other departments mapping Muslims in their cities?”
“They are?” Adam seemed alarmed.
Xavier nodded. “The next nine-eleven attack, or some other excuse, will be used to launch a large scale internment program for American Muslims."
The Asian American took a step back. "Nonsense. Internment happened a long time ago."
"In Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, more than 600 prisoners from 42 countries, including teenagers, are being refused prisoner of war status or any other formal legal designation. That’s internment.”
Adam snorted. “We’re at war…”
“With who, me and you?” His son grew quiet. “In addition to Gitmo, we have 'holding facilities' throughout the world. These are concentration camps, where unnamed people are held, tortured, and killed by our government."
Dan appeared apologetic. "But that's all overseas. We’ll never have such unpopular programs here."
"Attorney General Ashcroft announced a desire to have camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be 'enemy combatants.' And in January this year, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded the Vice President's former company, Halliburton and its subsidiary, a $385 million contract to construct detention centers in the United States."
Adam looked disgusted. "Not corrupt KBR?”
Dan appeared concerned. “Detention centers for who?"
"KBR said it will build the centers for the Homeland Security Department, each capable of holding 5,000 people, to deal with 'an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.'"
Carlos shouted from the corner. “Immigrants?” He stopped arguing and walked over. "What kind of programs?"
"In the summer of 2002, Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said that a second terror attack would lead to internment camps for Arab-Americans. Even the Sydney Morning Herald reported that we could see internment camps and martial law in the United States."
Jake spat. "You’re just plain crazy.”
Xavier closed his eyes. "Internment is preparation for World War Three. For America, Russia or China to win this war, Muslims have to be suppressed in the Middle East and elsewhere. Dearborn's clampdown is merely a pilot for a larger--."
Jake pounded his fist against the cell. “Shut up.”
Adam scratched his chin. “That would explain why we’re building permanent bases in Iraq.”
Dan shook his head. "With nuclear arsenals, no one’s going to risk a global war for oil." 
Carlos appeared in a daze. “They’re deportation camps.”
Xavier raised his hands in the air. "Desperate times will require dire actions. The devastation caused by global warming will happen sooner than people think, and oil will be the lifeblood for survivors."
Walter pretended to ride a bike. "’Road Warrior’ baby."
Jake screamed. “That’s it. I can’t take this ingrate anymore.”
"Me neither." Dan appeared angry.
"Let's get Ben Laden." The displaced autoworker and mortgage broker rushed at Xavier, and Carlos joined them.   
The African American vet played defense and blocked their path.
Xavier hid behind Adam and held his son’s shoulder. "You're more likely to survive if you accept your fate and make the best out of a bad situation."
Adam appeared puzzled. “What are you talking about?”
“I've prepared myself mentally for this, son. I researched Japanese Americans and other prisoners of war.”
Adam looked disappointed. "So you did meet Atta."
Xavier shook his head. "It was just a matter of time before I got to Charlestown. Now, there's no hope for you either. You'll die within the same walls."
The threesome surrounded Adam and Xavier.
“I’m going to shut you up once and for all." The burly Anglo swung a closed fist at Xavier’s head.

Chapter 34: Detector VI
Dearborn, MI June 25, 2006 1545 Hours.
The room felt stuffy from heat and hot air blowing from the wall of electronic gear in the room.
Joe edged forward in his chair. He licked his lips as he observed the drama unfolding in the cell on a small overhead monitor.
The three cons were about to attack the pair. When should he pull the plug?
He felt alone and wished Roger had stayed. He missed his friend. Roger left twenty minutes ago to return home to his wife and three kids. He did so religiously each night, regardless of how late the job kept them. Such dedication in someone so young. Why couldn't he...
Suddenly, Joe snapped to his feet and paged Bukowski.
"Bukowski here."
Joe hoped to scare a confession out of the pair by now, but his plan was unsuccessful so far. He had to step up the pressure.
"Those two are about to get badly injured in there."
There was a slight pause on the line.
"You told me to ignore whatever happened in there, Sir." Bukowski reminded him of his order, in her holier-than-thou tone.
He had to stage a photo opportunity with the father and son duo at a press conference at the police station tomorrow. That meant he had to keep them out of the hospital. But he also needed a confession out of both. What should he do?
Joe hesitated for a moment, then yelled, "Remove those two from Cell Eight, right now."
"But you said..."
"Just do as I say, Sergeant. Now."
Joe watched as Bukowski barged into the cell, dragged the two Muslims out, and slammed the door on three men screaming for their blood.
"What now?" Bukowski asked on the phone. She sounded anxious.
On the monitor, he saw men from inside several cells reaching to grab at Xavier and Adam huddled in the middle of the corridor. Joe snickered at the thought of leaving the two in the hands of his fellow patriotic countrymen, but that would gain him nothing.
"Are these two free to go?" Bukowski's question garnered loud protest from the prisoners. Shouts of "Terrorists" were interspersed with "Hang the fucking Muslim devils."
"Put them in the last cell by themselves for the night." He had to go to Plan B. "I will interrogate them after I get back from the raid tomorrow."
Bukowski hung up, and he watched as she hurried the pair down the corridor and locked them in their new cell. 
Joe switched the monitor off and returned to his problem. He deserved to get the position but he was worried that Frank would bail out on him. The uncertainty was killing him.
He grabbed the phone and called his mentor in Washington.
"Its late," Frank said on the speakerphone. "This better be good."
"We got two," Joe said. "We picked up his son for transporting him."
"You called me for this?"
"I wanted you to know that I'm still working on it. So don't throw in the towel on me yet, coach."
"It's an improvement but you've still got a long way to go. They have the numbers in Miami."
"We've gonna put up more numbers over time. We're not a flash in the pan. We're going to be more consistent."
"That's good, but they like the big splashes. If you can't give them one, you're not in the game, baby."
"Are you saying I don't make the cut?" Joe asked.
"Not this one, but there will be other posts."
"I really wanted this one."
"You have to earn it Joe."
There was deep disappointment in Frank's voice, and Joe became quiet.
"Why don't you work this angle some more?" Frank sounded excited again.
"What do you mean?"
"You've already got two. Add just a couple more and you'll start to look respectable."
"That may not be possible."
"Don't forget that you're the one who decides what's possible or not Grasshopper."
"Yes, Master."
"Plus you'll have whatever you pick up tomorrow as gravy."
"I'm beginning to see what you're saying."
"I can hold her off for a few more days. Who knows, maybe you could eventually link them together. It's only impossible if you don't try."
"I will try.”
"That's what I wanted to hear. Make me proud Grasshopper."
The line went dead.
Frank knew how to motivate him all right. The man was a Master teacher. Every time the situation looked bleak, and whenever Joe thought that he had hit a wall, Frank always managed to come through for him. He owed him a great deal, all the way back to the old DEA days. He had to get that job.
Joe rubbed his chin and sat staring at the wall until the phone rang.

Chapter 35: Bonding
Dearborn, MI June 26, 2006 1600 Hours.
Xavier stared at the graffiti on the cell wall for the thousandth time. "The new calendar starts soon."
Xavier scratched his head. What did it mean? He could not figure it out, and his feet were starting to feel cramped again. He stood up and stretched. 
He was behind bars for 36 hours, and his son for 24 hours now. He glanced at Adam sleeping on the lower cot. His son had pretty much slept the whole time. Poor kid. Xavier sacrificed a lot to prevent him from ever having to be a part of any of this. But it was not enough.
Xavier finally understood what he was up against. The 9/11 backlash was not about Muslims. It was more Orwellian. Autocratic, one-part rule by the RupubliCrat party has been achieved in America, and democratic dissent was immaterial in the society controlled by corporate media, which helped the state to provide an illusion of security. Terrorism was the only threat that remained to the state's cloak of invincibility, and so they were trying to eliminate even the thought of violent dissent by citizens. All dissent had to be political and thereby channeled through the one-party state, the RupubliCrat party.
Adam's allergies started to act up. He sat up and blew his nose.
Xavier said. "You were such a cute baby."
Adam shook his head and said nothing.
"There's a lot you don't know."
"You're a deadbeat. What else is there to know?"
"I never told you what happened when you were born, son. I've never wanted to burden my children. I've kept my true feelings hidden all these years."
"No one cares." Adam laid down and closed his eyes.
"I felt ashamed to be your father."
"You should. You're a bum."
"I'm content with what little I have."
Adam tossed his hands. "What are you talking about?
"It's because I have a slightly darker skin color."
"This is the twenty-first century. Everyone's over that."
"Its ironic, but in many other countries I would be considered white. But, not here in America. Here I..."
"You're not white, so what? If you were blue, it wouldn't matter. You'd still be a bum."
Xavier smiled. His son didn't get it. "Look, I'm a shade too dull. Dark enough to be noticeable. To expose me as the other."
"You're mostly Arab. So, what's the big deal?"
Xavier coughed. "Ahem. Take a look around you."
Adam shook his head and said nothing.
"Your skin color was light enough to pass for Caucasian."
"I'm Anglo, so what." Adam blew his nose.
"At that time, your grandfather hated me. The whole family still does."
"Because you're a loser, not because of your skin color."
"Some of that is true. I was a selfish addict. But even if I wasn't, I could not have provided you with a better environment than Mom and her family."
Adam snorted. "You mean you didn't want to be a father."
"I couldn't stand you witnessing the way your grandparents behaved toward me, almost as if I was subhuman."
"You treated Mom badly."
"That's not true. She's always making a big deal out of nothing. Look, they drove her to divorce me. We never had a chance to be alone. Besides, I didn't want you facing the same racism I've had to deal with my entire life. I realized that if I was not around, no one would know any different, and you could pass for white."
Adam raised his voice. "Don't try to justify your neglect."
"I thought that--."
"Shut up. Your self-serving excuses are so lame, you pathetic freeloader."
Xavier remained quiet. How could he make his son understand how wrong Mom and her family were to him. He waited years to be invited into the family, but they treated him with contempt. He was only allowed to carry water for the team. Always an outsider, he was never allowed near the team huddles.
Adam sighed. "Harry is my dad and I like to forget I have a biological father. When I was younger, I lied to myself that you were dead. Can you believe that?"
"I wanted to stay and be a--."
"I was so happy I didn't see you in four years. It's sad, the welfare life you live. Who wants to be reminded of that."
"You can never understand what I am saying. You have the arrogance of being Anglo in America. You're conditioned with their racial prejudices."
Adam laughed. "That's crap. Look, I have an Arab sister. And what about all the interracial people in the country? Let's stop it right here. You're just a victim, right?"
Xavier smiled. His son was a typical libertarian. They were in bed with the anarchist even though they did not know it. Both would abolish all government if they had the chance.
"You're insanely selfish and insecure. Why can't you let Rachel and I have a relationship without you?"
Adam's question came as surprise, but he knew Adam never cared to know anything about his sister. He was trying to get him to change the subject.
"Son, I realized that part of my devil's bargain to give you the privilege of being Anglo would result in you treating me as an inferior. And you always have, like you're doing now."
"Let the victim speak."
"But it was the lesser of two evils. You get to take for granted many rights people of color have to struggle for on a daily basis."
"Violins please."
"It wasn't always like this, son. We used to be very close to each other. I adore you. I always have. You're the reason I changed my whole life."
"What are you talking about? You were always a loser. I have no idea what mom ever saw in you."
"Like most people, I used to live my life backwards."
"That's what you do now."
"Hear me out." Xavier paused for a second and continued, "I was trying to have more things and money in order to do what I wanted, so I would be happier."
"That's the way it's supposed to work."
"But this was like attempting to kick a field goal into posts that are moving higher."
"Now you are a goalie?"
"You are never happy if your goals keep changing. The more you get, the more you want."
"I get it now. In your other life you were a soccer player."
"Day in and out, the same routine. Outwardly, I was bold and confident. However, inside, this philosophy makes you anxious and angry. I felt a worthless failure."
"It didn't matter how much I had, it was never enough. It seemed I lived my entire like this and I was tired of the treadmill. I covered it up with alcohol."
"You people want to be failures. That way you can claim to be victims, and keep on feeling sorry for yourselves."
"What do you mean by you people?" Xavier shook his head. Racism was a subtle thing, but it slipped out in little comments.
Adam ignored his question. "You get others to feel sorry for your pathetic lives, and use their sympathies for handouts. Your lives are all self-fulfilling prophecies."
"Yes I was a failure. But it not merely a financial issue. It was a spiritual failure."
"You were never religious."
"After you were born, I tried living my life in reverse. I realized that I must first be who I really am, then do what I need to do in order to have what I want."
"I guess you were just being yourself and ended up here."
"I'm sorry for being Muslim in America." Xavier scratched his head. "I keep forgetting that after September eleventh, Muslim Americans became exempt from the bill of rights."
"That's not true and you know it. You're really starting to piss me off now."
"It's all right. You never anticipated this would happen to you. Ordinary Anglos don't realize--."
"And you anticipated this? Yea, right."
"Eventually the Patriot Act will catch anyone they choose in their widening net. They are using nine-eleven to stifle any form of protest or--."   
Adam had a sneezing fit.
Xavier glanced at the cell door. He wondered whether their captors would ever return his son's allergy medication.
Chapter 36: Alice VII
Dearborn, MI June 26, 2006 1600 Hours.
The three pipe bombs were loaded into Alice. He could deliver the military knapsack, but he had to add a final touch. But that meant exposing himself in public. He had to go to the store for gas, soap, and a common household liquid to make the napalm. The bomber reached for his wallet and keys at the top of the television. He hated to go outside.
Adding a container of petrol next to the explosive device would cause incendiary damage to the target. However, petrol was very volatile and did not burn for a long time. Napalm burned for a longer time and stuck to any surface. He would load another knapsack with homemade napalm. That would make a nice bang.
Al-Fredah knew more about explosives than anyone. He had much more to learn from Al-Fredah, and was sickened each step along the way. Why did Al-Fredah challenge God, as he did so clearly in one poem: "Was there a time when fair Creation lay, Untouched by God, an incoherent clay, Of endless desolation, void of light, To break the gloom of its eternal night? Or was there no beginning? Will there be a future as a past infinity, Of busy worlds without creative cause?"
Why did Al-Fredah entertain such thoughts? How could someone so mentally strong in building bombs be so weak in faith? In another poem Al-Fredah wrote: "Time has taught us much, And will teach more, yet never solve the riddles, Of God and Thought – they are the mind's barriers."
This kind of doubt was unthinkable for him. God was his guide. He did everything according to his wishes. He was God's servant on earth, placed here to defend his name to the death. He worked with others who felt the same way. They were determined to make a statement and bring attention to the serious affronts their religion faced.
Al-Fredah could have served the same purpose, however he chose to worship the devil instead. Why did he let it bother him so much? The bomber closed the door and almost caught his hands on the door.

Chapter 37: Release
Dearborn, MI June 26, 2006 1630 Hours.
Adam sat up when her heard footsteps outside the cell door. He felt hungry and hoped they would receive food soon. Was it Hartman? They had not seen him all day.
Sergeant Bukowski rattled the lock on the cell door. She was probably twice his age, but she looked like a bodybuilder.
"Hello, Sergeant." Too bad she did not have any food.
Bukowski cracked a wide smile and pointed her thumb towards the exit. "One of you is going home tonight."
"Released?" Adam could not believe his ears. "Who?"
Bukowski got serious. "The other is waiting to be transported to South Carolina."
Adam glanced at Xavier. The older man smiled and stepped backward into the room. Why was Xavier smiling? Did he think he was being released?
Bukowski pushed the door open and stepped to the side. "Adam Mackin, you're a free man."
Adam rushed to the front of the cell. He forgot about the leg chains and dived forward into the hallway. Luckily, Bukowski caught him and saved his face from a nasty injury. He shuffled away from the cell without once looking back.
Bukowski clanged the door shut behind him and Adam waited at the end of the hallway. She unlocked the meeting room.
"What happened?" Adam could think clearly again.
Bukowski placed a finger to her lips and pushed him into the room. A clear plastic bag with his clothes and personal items lay on the table. The officer unlocked his chains and left the room.
Adam changed quickly and Bukowski gave him release forms to sign at the counter. She grabbed his arm and escorted him out the door like a suspect. Was it a trick? Were they moving him to another prison?
Outside felt warm, but Adam welcomed the hot air. The half-empty parking lot had a few people in civilian clothes but there were no cops or agents in sight. Was he a free man? He could not believe it. Maybe the FBI finally came to their senses. Bukowski released his arm and walked ahead.
Adam gazed at the blue-sky overhead. He came close to heaven and hell in the past 48 hours. Forget Fatima. She was just bad news.
He gazed down at the city's small skyline. The bizarre trip had to come to an end. He had to leave right away. He just had time to drop Mom's car off in Milwaukee, then take a bus to the military base upstate.
"Where are you parked?" Bukowski asked.
Adam pointed to his car. "Over there."
"Let's go get coffee. Follow me." Bukowski smiled and headed off to her police car.
Adam stood in the parking lot and took a breadth of air while his mind raced. What should he do?
Adam got into his car and followed Bukowski to the parking lot of  'Crossroads Diner.' The exterior of the restaurant was made to look like a railroad car. The train theme was picked up inside with the counter and tablecloth. The Sergeant waited for him at the door. There were a few customers inside.
Bukowski ordered coffee for them. A television blared CNN over the register by the door.
Adam sat in a booth and glanced up at the screen. It read 4:36 pm CMT. He had to get out of Dodge. 
His seat felt like pins and needles and he started to perspire a lot. Was he having a flashback? He glued his ears and eyes to the news channel.
A white Republican Senator debated a black Democratic Senator who had reservations about executive overreach of powers.
The Republican shouted, "Terrorism is our nation's greatest challenge today."
"Terrorism is a big threat," the Democrat frowned, "but there are many threats and vulnerabilities which pose daily risks to our national and economic security."
The Republican smiled apologetically, "In the wake of September eleventh, it became necessary to use every means at our disposal to figure out what terrorists were doing, track them down, and stop their activities."
Their coffee arrived and the waitress left. Adam looked directly into the officer's eyes. He had to know if it was a setup or not.
"Did Hartman realize he made a mistake?"
The officer sat quietly.
Adam laughed nervously. "Probably a typo, huh?"
Her mind seemed far away.
"I know. Names get mixed up all the time. In gets real confusing in Iraq, let me tell you."
Bukowski's flared her nostrils and tightened her jaw, "I've seen them take many Muslims away from Dearborn. Some pass through our police station."
Bukowski's seriousness surprised Adam. What was she talking about?
"Who? Al Queda? Hartman?"
The policewoman paused to take a sip of her brew, then continued, "The detainees are ordinary people who work and live in this area. They're doing well and rarely cause trouble."
She's not on their side, but why didn't she answer the question. Why was he released?
"Why arrest them?" Adam shook his head. "Nothing makes sense."
Bukowski shrugged. "DHS don't tell us. The charges can be immigration or terrorism related. Charges go back and forth between the two areas. We keep them in the station for a few days, and then they are gone. We never see them again."
"Where are all these prisoners held? How many are arrested each year?"
"The department doesn't keep track of DHS cases."
Adam drank from his cup and said nothing. In Iraq, the army did not track civilian casualties either.
Bukowski shifted her chair closer. "We don't agree with everything DHS are doing, but they are operating within the scope of the new terrorism statutes, and we are bound to assist them."
"Yea, I guess you local guys have to obey the Feds' bidding."
"DHS is exempt from whistle-blower protection laws. If you witness fraud, waste, and abuse, you dare not say anything."
"Out of fear of retaliation." Adam smiled. The military had its code of honor as well.
"These guys feel they are above the law. Look at the nepotism in the department's 200,000 jobs. There are a lot of siblings, cousins and relatives hired. There's immense corruption with Katrina funds going on..."
They both remained silent. Adam realized there was a lot more going on the home front than he knew.
Bukowski seethed. "Now they've gone too far. Arresting military personnel willy-nilly is too much. I decided to check their story of Atta's activities in Prague and called some people I know in the CIA."
"And what did you find out?" Adam leaned in to hear her answer.
"They said the agency has always questioned Atta's presence in Prague."
"What? The scum wasn't even there?"
Bukowski shook her head. "I realized they were making it up, so I called your base like you asked."
Adam was confused. "So my arrest wasn't an error?"
"So why was I released?"
"I talked to your commanding officer, Major Peters."
"You did? What happened?"
"The major called the police station, spoke to Hartman, and got nowhere. Hartman warned Peters not to interfere and hung up."
"That guy is a piece of work. He's a pit bull who fights to the end." Adam sat upright. If Atta wasn't there, then why was Xavier arrested?
"After that, Hartman came up to me and asked, 'How did Peters find out?'"
"Oh oh." Adam sighed. What did Peters believe?
"I told him I had no idea. I said, 'Maybe the Army tracked suspect's GPS, sir.' He seemed annoyed but he left me alone."
"Wow." How clever. The sergeant must be a great detective.
"Ten minutes later, a two-star general called the station."
Adam eyes widened. "General Thurman, the base commander?"
The officer nodded. So that's what Peters did. Good going major.
"Hartman had the call on speakerphone, so I overheard their conversation. Thurman appeared calm at first as he personally vouched for your character. He sounded more like a pastor to me.

Adam smiled. The General's nickname was Thor. He was soft-spoken, but he carried a lot of big sticks.
"Hartman still refused to release you. Thurman then promised to get a four-star general involved."
"Wow." Adam knew that the General had a lot of friends up the chain of command. All the way to the level of Joint Chiefs.
Bukowski has a sour expression. "Hartman countered with NSA personnel."
"Does the National Security Agency outrank the Joint Chiefs?"
The policewoman shrugged. "Then, the General lost it. He began screeching loudly that if you weren't released immediately, he'd personally move an entire column of soldiers into the police station."
"What the...?" Adam moved on the edge of his seat.
"Finally, Hartman backed down."
"Yes." Adam gave a salute. "Don't mess with the Army baby."
The Sergeant saluted back.
"Thank you so much." Adam owed his freedom to her.
"You're welcome."
She had such a sweet smile. It made him forget about her work and age.
"You're a godsend. I have to thank my base as well." Adam wiped his forehead in relief. "What would have happened if the Major and General didn't stand up for me in the way they did?"
The Sergeant looked uncomfortable and remained quiet.
"I will probably rot in hell, huh?"
Bukowski said nothing and they obtained refills of their coffee. Adam stared at the television blankly and vaguely registered the familiar video of Osama bin Laden.
Bukowski stared at him. "Major Peters told me you were part of the group trapped in Fallujah. The media covered that story for weeks. What happened?"
Adam sighed. "Guys in Iraq face this all day. It's nothing to talk about." He looked at the television. The senators were still arguing.
The Republican wagged a finger. "The same surveillance program you are expressing reservations about has provided information on domestic terror cells."
"Can you give us an example?" The moderator was a young brunette with a really small nose.
"Many cases are ongoing, so I can't comment, but it helped identify a Brooklyn man convicted on terrorism-related charges last year."
Bukowski stared at the screen with a look of disgust. "Not Siraj."
"Who's Siraj?"
She glanced at Adam. "Oh, just another one. It’s so depressing. Let's change the subject."
"Ok, what should we talk about?"
"I'd like to know what happened over there. If you don't want to talk about it, that's alright too."
Adam sat back in his chair. The 'Fallujah Ambush.' No way. Adam usually refused to describe any aspect of the war to anyone, and the Ambush was out of the question. However, he owed the Sergeant a huge favor.
Adam closed his eyes and transported himself back to the infamous city in late November 2004. He hated flashbacks.

Chapter 38: Fallujah
Dearborn, MI June 26, 2006 1730 Hours.
The sound of the television receded as the coffee shop blurred into the background. The warrior stepped into the military vehicle, his mind and senses on high alert.
"I was on an army recon mission embedded with the marines." Adam felt the vehicle rumble and shake as it moved along an old paved road.
"It all happened so fast. I can't say for sure at what point it got started…" Adam stared at his hands but saw the inside of a military vehicle. Eight men sat with grim faces alongside him in the personnel carrier. "We were driving around for awhile. There was no one else behind us. It became obvious, we were lost."
Adam glanced up at the ceiling and in all directions around him.” The frequent pings ringing off the track reminded us we were deep into Hajji territory." A short pause, and he continued. "One marine insisted we should stop and concentrate on finding good cover, instead of driving around looking for..."
Bukowski spoke softly, "What are the procedures in this situation?"
Adam shrugged. "Navigational decisions are made up front, period."
Bukowski nodded. "Following procedure helps to avoid conflicts."
"After ten minutes, we turned around and went east and north." Adam's stomach started to tighten. "We were going around in a circle."
"That's not good."
"By this time we were so scared, we started shooting at everyone we saw, whether they had a weapon or not." Adam took a sip of coffee and continued with trepidation. "The next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the track, looking up at a huge ball of fire. In was only later on that I realized what happened. I was knocked unconscious when a RPG penetrated the front left side of our track."
"The track took a direct hit from a rocket?"
Adam nodded.
"You're lucky to be alive."
"I was on the floor, stunned and covered in blood. I touched my body to see if I was still alive and I felt parts of the lieutenant's leg on my face and flak jacket. But I had no time to react or be grossed out. The fire raging above demanded my immediate attention."
Bukowski listened raptly.
"We tried to put it out…" Adam broke off. His mind turned over the question for a thousandth time. What would have happened if they followed Leroy's advice and took cover earlier?
The Sergeant nodded with a look of understanding in her eyes. "You did what you had to do."
Adam blinked hard but he still saw the flames. "The driver did not know about the fire in the back. He was trying to get the lieutenant to a forward medical unit ASAP. The noise of the track prevented him from hearing us, and the fire prevented us from getting to the front."
"And the rapid movement kept fanning the fire..."
"With each disappointing turn, it was like a scream that became higher and sharper. All the while, taking fire."
"Stuck deep inside enemy territory."
"Finally we stopped in the middle of nowhere. The sun was almost setting when we dismounted the burning track."
"Did everyone make it out okay?" Bukowski's voice wavered.
"Well…" Adam hesitated and stared at his hands. How many friends had he lost in Iraq? He stopped counting after Max. Was he becoming the same? Adam felt even more uncomfortable
He continued, "We exited the hatch and immediately started to receive bullets from three sides, the north, east, and west."
"From a boiling pot into a roasting fire."
"Literally, because we had to take cover from a vehicle on fire."
"Oh, right."
"We knew we had to get away from the track fast, but where could we go?" Adam scanned the restaurant as if looking for a place to cover. "Most of us ran south, across the street, to the front lawn of a house and started to return fire from there."
"What happened to the track?"
"That was our other concern, getting the injured off the track."
Adam swallowed hard and stared at his half-empty cup. It could easily have been him instead of the others. They were good people. Why did he survive?
He took a sip from his cup, lost for a moment.
He wanted to enjoy life so much. But each time he tried, he felt guilty for doing so. Would be ever feel normal again?
The Sergeant gave him an encouraging look. He had to finish the story for her.
Adam continued, "The driver was in shock and refused to leave. It wasn't his fault we got lost, and there's no way he could have avoided the RPG hit. But he would not budge. He griped the steering wheel and refused to let go, all the while mumbling directions."
Bukowski stared into his eyes. "The poor guy was shell shocked."
"Our platoon sergeant finally leaped over him and dragged the lieutenant from the flames. Then, the sergeant ran back for the crew chief and found him trapped inside, crushed by the metal. He was unable to escape."
Adam paused, then added in a deep voice, "Me and the crew chief were close..."
The Sergeant sat without saying a word.
Adam shuddered. "We realized that this was all we could do for them. We left the driver and crew chief in the track."
The two shared a moment of silence.
Bukowski held his hands. "I know what it's like to leave others behind. But it's best to save yourself than become a martyr to friendship. You've got a long and beautiful life ahead of you."
Adam stared at the police officer. It was if she knew what he was thinking and feeling. Adam nodded an appreciation.
"We were on a lawn, out in the open, and received fire from every road and window. As soon as we cleared one window, they started firing from another one. There were too many of them, and our suppression fire began to have less and less of a restraining effect."
"We no longer needed our temporary position, so we ran into the houses to clear them. Three of us immediately went to the roof to keep the enemy from getting any closer. We were fine for a moment until the enemy figured out we were concentrated in a few houses."
Bukowski voiced concern. "They could surround you."
"The sun barely dipped under the horizon when RPGs and rockets started hitting the rooftops. In the dark, we could not identify their origin, and had to fall back inside."
"You had to concede the only vantage point. The situation just keep getting worse."
"We gathered in the hallway downstairs and waited."
Adam felt similar to the way he felt in the hallway that day. His insides went cold and his mind was filled with dread.
"What happened?"
"We waited for an eternity before we started hearing them all around us. At first, we hoped it was friendly, but then we found out it was Arabic. We prepared to shoot our way out into the night."
Bukowski moved to the edge of her seat. "There was no other choice."
Adam raised his arms in the air in appreciation. "Thankfully, the Arabic speakers turned out to be an Iraqi army unit. They came to provide us with reinforcement. I never thought I would be so happy to see an Iraqi Army outfit."
Bukowski smiled. "You guys are heroes."
Adam's hands shook slightly as he downed his coffee. "We're just trying to do our jobs."

Chapter 39: Detector VII
Dearborn, MI June 26, 2006 1730 Hours.
The walls of the room appeared to cave in on Joe. He held the phone to one ear and slumped into the small chair. His eyes searched for an exit under the desk, but found none.
Joe did not want to discuss the issue with his mentor. Why was Frank obsessed with the Atta link? Joe's two raids today had bagged seven Arabs with ICE violations. Some even had possible terrorist connections. Wasn't that enough?
Frank's voice was insistent. "What about his daughter and the other guys living in the house?"
"I'm going to." Joe had to let his mentor know. Frank would find out anyway. Joe held his breath and blurted, "I lost one, Master."
Frank sounded concerned. "Who?"
"An hour ago. I had to let the soldier go..."
Frank's scream hurt Joe's ears. "You what? Look, the game was almost over but yesterday you gained yards with Atta's man and his contacts at the house. Then you went deep with the son. We were beginning to get within field goal range. Now you're telling me you got sacked and lost the ball?"
"I am trying to connect the raids..."
"You fool, no one walks out on us. You tossed the game away."
Joe pleaded, "Let me tell you what happened."
Frank boomed, "I don't care. I understand all I need to know. You're a quitter."
"I didn't have a choice. His brass threatened to--."
Frank hissed, "Don't forget that it was I who moved you up in the DEA ranks. You did well for yourself there, wouldn't you say?"
Joe stammered, "What are you talking about?"
"You had at least three cartels on your string, my friend."
Joe was dumbfounded. "How do you find out about that?"
"The Agency is highly disappointed in you. We should never have moved you over to Homeland."
Joe remained quiet. He felt worst than pond scum. What would Frank do to him? Would they bury him at the bottom of some ICE bucket?
Frank sounded a bit conciliatory. "What did the brass say?"
"He promised to park a brigade in the station by morning if we didn't let him go."
"How many stars?"
Frank boomed, "Damn military. We're at war in the homeland and once again we're stuck with McClellan's army."
"I didn't want to call the general's bluff."
"Why not? We can put more feet on the ground than they can in a heartbeat."
"He sounded serious and wasn't backing down."
"So what? We can use his force to build ours."
"I don't understand."
"Then just do as I say, son. I want you to go and re-arrest that terrorist's son right away. Put out an APB and mobilize everyone we have in Dearborn. And put Detroit on alert to."
Joe was confused. Had Frank gone mad? "I can't tell the police station that we're being attacked by our own military."
"Don't focus on what's in front of your eyes, Grasshopper. Imagine what you can't see."
"How do I do that, Wise One?"
"The station is holding a bunch of dangerous terrorists, right? Well, you just received a tip from a reliable source that a sleeper cell in Dearborn is planning to attack the station to release the terrorists."
Joe began to get excited. "I see, yes. And the tip came from one of the suspects we picked up today."
"Good Grasshopper. You're capable of great vision if you try."
"Yes, Master."
"Put the whole city on high alert for all contingencies, including nuclear and dirty bombs. That will explain their military presence."
Joe stood up and shouted. "Touchdown. Master, you're a genius."
"Watch and learn. And one day, you too…" The line went dead.
Joe stretched. Recapturing the grunt would be easy.

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