Abd al’alim Ben Asad Kadir An-Nafud lifted his forehead and sat back on his feet his knees still against the floor. He prayed to Allah to give him courage and stealth in his mission. He touched his head to the floor again. When he had given his final prayer of thanks, he rose to his feet and folded his prayer rug into the briefcase he was taking with him on his flight. Two short blasts of an auto horn outside his motel room announced the arrival of the taxicab. His eyes swept the room one last time dismissing the cheap furniture and shoddy carpet. Ben Asad snatched a hand towel off the bed where the hotel maid had left the stack of fresh linen. He opened the door with the towel, stepped outside the room dropping the towel to the ground after he pulled the door shut, then climbed into the taxi.
“Municipal Airport,” he instructed the driver avoiding eye contact and focusing on the scenery outside the grimy cab windows. The colors blurred together in the ever-increasing light of day. The cab driver’s voice droned on but he made no acknowledgement.
“Where’re you headed?” the cab driver spoke to his passenger in Farsi.
Ben Asad snapped his head around locking eyes with the cab driver in the rearview mirror.
“What did you say?” Ben Asad replied in Farsi.
“I asked where are you headed?” the cab driver answered.
“I have business on the West Coast,” Ben Asad replied. “How is it you speak Farsi so well?”
“My parents emigrated from Saudi twenty-five years ago. Farsi was my first language. I still have problems speaking American.”
The driver continued to rattle on about going to Mosque, marrying his wife who had been picked out for him, and other details about which Ben Asad did not care. Thirty minutes elapsed. He mentally checked off every step he must take to accomplish his task. The taxicab pulled to the curb and stopped. The driver got out, walked around the vehicle and opened the door for Ben Asad. When Ben attempted to pay the driver, the driver waved him away.
“May Allah be with you,” were his parting words.
Ben turned to look at the man whose presence he’d dismissed. A big smile covered the face of the driver. He waved as he climbed into his taxicab pulling away from the curb into the flow of the morning traffic.
Ben carried his briefcase into the terminal and found a seat. He placed the briefcase on his lap, snapped the clasps open and lifted the top. He moved the prayer rug and shuffled the carefully written instructions from one side of the case to the other until the item he was searching for rested in his fingers.
~ * ~
Twenty-four hours earlier
“Once you have reached the terminal, enter the men’s restroom and occupy a stall. Take out the badge I am giving you and clip it to your right pocket flap. This will get you past the security station and through one of the service doors to the tarmac level without anyone stopping to question you. Once on the tarmac, you will be contacted. A cleaning jumpsuit will be given you to wear over your clothing. Put your briefcase inside the jumpsuit, zip it up, then follow the instructions given by your contact. He will get you safely inside the plane. Head directly for the bathroom. Lock yourself inside. Once you hear passengers boarding, change out of the jumpsuit, hiding it in the trashcan, locate your seat and wait. The rest we have rehearsed. You will do well, Ben Asad. Go with Allah.”
Abd al Bari hugged Ben Asad. Ben’s awe for his teacher, his redeemer, dissipated his momentary fear. It was his holy duty to show these infidels how decadent and wicked their influence was on righteous men and women of Allah. He would succeed.
~ * ~
Ben rose from the comfortable airport seat. The thought this would be the last time he would know comfort flitted through his mind. He mentally brushed it away. He awaited a greater reward than comfortable seats. Striding with determination, he found the nearest men’s room and secured a stall. With slightly trembling fingers, he placed the badge on his pocket flap. Grabbing the briefcase from its resting place on the top of the toilet, he opened the stall door and pushed past people streaming into the public restroom.
He moved with the tide of people. The security station lay directly ahead. Ben’s stomach lurched.
I’m going to be sick.
The security guard glanced at his badge and waved him through ahead of harried, baggage-loaded passengers. He heard several passengers complaining as he walked toward the boarding areas.
In five hours, it will not matter. He smiled slightly.
Ben registered the sound of shouting but shrugged it off as usual airport noise. He started at the touch on his shoulder and spun around to confront the soul foolish enough to place their hand on his person.
A middle-eastern face stared into his. The badge read ‘Nassar Yaman’. Nassar reached out slowly touching the badge Ben was wearing on his pocket.
“Faruq. You must stop daydreaming on your way to work.”
The look in Nassar’s eyes indicated this was his contact.
“It is time to get into uniform and start our shift.”
Nassar lead him through a door and down steps to the tarmac level. They entered a locker room facing the jetway. Nassar opened a locker and removed a tan jumpsuit.
“Put this on over your clothing with the badge on the outside.”
Ben complied placing the briefcase inside the jumpsuit, as instructed, and zipping the jumpsuit closed.
The two men exited the employee locker room and strode across the jetway to the chosen target. Following Nassar’s lead, he climbed the metal utility steps through the open door of the cabin into the jet airliner. He traversed the aisle taking great pains to stop, open out the pocket on the back of several seats, rifle through the magazines and emergency exit instructions, nod his head and move to the next row of seats recreating the same motions. He had watched Nassar perform this ritual in the front portion of the plane then nod to him indicating he do likewise. When he reached the back of the plane, he slipped into the bathroom. He pulled the briefcase from inside the jumpsuit and placed the case upon the small sink. Sinking to the floor, he leaned against the door. This should stop anyone from entering if they tried the door. The scent of vanilla tickled his nose.
Must be the flight attendant.
Soon the slamming sounds of overhead compartment doors reached his ears. He stood up, wiggled out of the jumpsuit and jammed it into the garbage receptacle, grabbed his briefcase, opened the bathroom door and went about the task of locating his assigned seat.
His first class seat was located two rows behind the cockpit.
Ben caught a glimpse of Nassar out of the corner of his eye. Not sure whether to acknowledge him or not, he simply nodded. Nassar’s seat was in the middle row one set of seats behind his. The flight attendants closed the outside doors, rechecked that all the passengers’ carryon luggage was safely stowed in the overhead compartments or under seats and went through the “in case of depressurization” speech pointing out the emergency exits. The flight taxied onto the runway and launched into the air.
As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, Nassar moved to the seat next to Ben’s and began speaking lowly in Farsi.
“There are two more of us in the coach section. I have secured a key to the cockpit, which they will undoubtedly lock, once our plan is initiated. We are to take control anyway we can. At that time, you and Tamir will enter the cockpit and fly us to our destination. You have been told what our objective is, haven’t you?”
Ben Asad nodded affirmatively.
“Good. The less said the better. One cannot be sure who understands.” Nassar glanced at this watch.
“We must proceed. Allah be praised.”
“Allah be praised.” Ben sat in the seat and focused his mind on the task at hand. He was an hour from his reward. He inhaled deeply, praying to his god for strength. A scream pierced his concentration. It was time.
He pulled the briefcase from under the seat in front of him. Popping the latches, he slid his hand into the deepest pocket in the lid and pulled out a sharpened seven-inch blade. He shut the briefcase and replaced it under the seat.
The sound of passengers in the coach section sobbing and praying loudly to their god assaulted his ears. The other members of the team were shouting in English for everyone to stay quiet and cooperate or they would kill one of the flight attendants in front of them. Ben heard a scuffle ensue and the garbled sound of someone trying to scream. Nassar marched up the aisle a bloody knife in his right hand, Tamir in step behind him. He motioned Ben to get up and move forward. Nassar and Tamir each grabbed the arm of a flight attendant and dragged them to the door of the cockpit. The door was locked. Nassar picked up the phone next to the door.
“I will kill the two flight attendants I have here if you do not open this door. It will be on your heads if they die. Open this door!” he commanded.
The metal scraping of the lock opening could be heard. The moment the door popped open, Ben and Tamir rushed inside. Tamir sliced the throats of the navigator and co-pilot. Ben cut the throat of the pilot. The bodies were pushed to the floor and the men slid into the seats. They went through and adjusted the flight headings to reach their target. Ben flipped the radio off. Tamir began surveying the horizon for familiar landmarks. Nassar had taken the flight attendants to their jump seats, strapped them in and slit their throats. He herded the first class passengers to the coach section and sat them in the center rows. Praying and sobbing were the only sounds. The smell of fear permeated throughout the plane.
The target came into view. Ben glanced at Tamir and began to smile.
“The time has come. Seventy-two virgins await, then I will see my father and grandfather.”
Tamir grinne., “For me, too.”
They steered around the Statute of Liberty and aimed the plane at the tallest structure visible in the sky.
In unison, they yelled as the plane hit the building and exploded, “ALLAH BE PRAISED!”
~ * ~
Ben spotted a small pinpoint of light in the far distance among all the blackness. His expectations rose. He turned and looked below him. The destruction was overwhelming. He had accomplished his task. The building started rumbling and slid into itself crashing to the street one hundred ten stories below. He felt joy bubbling in his soul. He had served his leader well. The reward would soon be his. The light brightened blotting out the darkness overtaking all his sensations. He was on fire. His skin was burning, bleeding, peeling off in strips. Acrid streams of foul smelling smoke choked his lungs, blinded his eyes, and burned his throat. He became aware he stood naked and bleeding in front of millions of piercing eyes, judging him. He was confused. This wasn’t heaven. Heaven was beautiful, sweet smelling, cool and happy, full of virgins awaiting him. Why did he feel so wretched? Every portion of his body screamed in writhing pain. What was going on?
He felt the shadow of an ominous presence fall on his desolate soul, sucking the air from his lungs.
“Abd al Bari!” his thoughts screamed. “What has happened? This is not heaven. You promised us a reward if we completed your mission and killed as many infidels as possible. We completed the task. Why am I not in heaven?”
Abd al Bari smiled wickedly.
“You are such gullible, stupid fools! This is your reward. I did not promise you heaven. I promised you would receive what you deserved. Allah does not approve of killing for any reason. What ever made you think killing in his name would secure you a place in heaven?”
The echoing of Abd al Bari’s laughter bounced from every crevasse in Hades.
Ben Asad tried covering his ears with his hands. He could not. Hell Hounds were eating one digit at a time. The laughter rang louder and louder. Ben tried calling out to Allah but he could not remember any prayers. He looked above him and viewed all his victims. They were peacefully entering the gates of heaven.
Ben Asad’s father and grandfather stood at the entrance of heaven and wept.