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The Mad Bomber

 

 

 

          Omar Hammid had but one mission in life.  After so many setbacks and the success of the new American President and his allies to stamp out terrorism, all his lofty dreams of a jihad and sharia-centered world were reduced to a goal of vengeance against the chief aggressor: the United States.  The last president had made matters easy for the Jihadists, such as himself.  The president’s only concern was appeasing his party and the voters, who were reluctant to enter another Middle Eastern War.   Now, there was a hawkish, no-nonsense leader in the White House, who proclaimed to the world his aim to wipe terrorism from the face of the earth.  The USA—a sleeping giant—had finally awakened.  The latest poll showed that sixty-five percent of Americans favored a strong military response to end terrorism’s threat.  With the exception of his co-conspirators Abdul Amman and Bagrad Zawadi, the terror cell in which he belonged knew nothing of his plans.  They had, because of defeat and despair, become, like all other Jihadists, soft in his way of thinking.  It was time to regroup, the supreme leaders would say, to plan their next moves before they were wiped out entirely.  Cowards!  Fools!  Omar thought with great bitterness.  It was time for Allah’s Avengers, as he fancied their splinter group, to take matters into their own hands.  Today, as his own plan was set into motion, he was taking the first step.

As he stood in front of the United States Capitol building, looking up at this great edifice, he appeared, with his Anglo-Saxon features and new name (Marvin Hamilton), to be just one more tourist with a camera.  No one was the wiser.  As part of a group scheduled to visit the White House, he looked like any gawking tourist.  Because of the high state of security in this country, he could take pictures of the outside of the Capitol but never snapshots inside the building.  In this age, no one was above suspicion.  Though shots of the exterior was important, he dare not try taking pictures on the sly, as many tourists did.  It wasn’t worth the risk, so he tucked the small digital camera into his shirt pocket—in plain sight for White House security.  Through his spectacles, his mind’s eye would be his camera.  His memory, which had served him well in the past, would store away all the nooks and crannies of the Capitol Building, and, in the security of his small apartment, use it for the master plan developing in his head. 

          In the past, Jihadists had concentrated on easy-to-sabotage public edifices, such as the World Trade Center in New York and, earlier, the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma.  The attack on the marathon runners in Boston was done by lone wolves, not associated with ISIS and Al Qaida—the chief Jihadist organizations.  There were two wars between the Trade Center bombing and today and countless acts of terror in the name of Allah.  The vast majority of law-abiding Muslims, however, suffered because of the backlash caused by Jihadists.  When an Islamic State was declared in Iraq by these fanatics, and a new war was ignited by their atrocities, it looked as though Christians, Jews, and Shiites would be wiped out in the Middle East.  The previous administration remained disengaged with reality, focusing upon domestic issues and his campaign promise to keep the United States out of war.  Occupied with its own problems and a resurgent Russia, Europe likewise offered meager assistance to the embattled Muslim countries facing the Jihad…. And then the new president stepped onto the stage, reversing the pacifistic policies of his predecessor.  A reluctant Europe joined Canada and Great Britain in support of the US president.  Matters changed drastically for the Islamic State, when thousands of allied troops invaded the occupied areas and state. 

It looked very much to Omar Hammid as if the infidels might soon crush the Islamic army.  Once a sleeping giant, the United States had marshaled its allies into a mighty force of air, land, and even sea operations—a juggernaut intent on exterminating all elements of the Jihad.  He knew that it was just a matter of time.  They had, by their threats to destroy the American people and needless public slaughters, shaken the Americans awake.  According to his co-religionists, the conscience of Islam had been prickled.  They, too, were awakened at last.  But in Omar’s fanatical mind, the Jihad was still on.  His own people had sold them out.  Who could blame believers who couldn’t see the bigger picture as he did?  Overkill was the great enemy of terrorists.  Their onetime leaders, as if they had forgotten what terrorism was intended to do, had gone to such excesses they alienated moderate factions of Islam and even the ayatollahs of Iran.

One of the most important factors of the cause, all Jihadists knew, was surprise, veiled in initial secrecy.  More importantly, each attack had to count, causing both numerical and symbolic damage.  Those fools in his own cell, who went overboard and blew up anything in sight, invited their own destruction.  Collateral damage had been accepted as a necessary evil, but more recently, during the ISIS and Boko Haram atrocities, this term became meaningless.  Their purpose was to kill all infidels, regardless of whom they were.  Everyone, from the highest official down to children and infants were fair game.  The lessons of history had been ignored.  Mohammed didn’t murder children.  He gave the infidels a chance to change religion and, if they refused—pht!—off went their heads.  That was fair, was it not?  Omar asked himself.  The problem with all the so-called lone wolves and the new brand of terrorism itself was that it no longer had discipline and clarity.  More importantly for the Islamic State, in general, it had become an open book.  It lacked surprise.  The gambler’s adage, “never show your hand,” Omar had always followed, had been forgotten as they went about indiscriminately attacking infidels, allowing the enemy time prepare and gather its forces.  Now it appeared as if the whole world—not just the Americans, Europeans, and Arab States, were at war with Muslim extremists, including his own small group.  From Indonesia to Africa, governments had risen up after inciting their people to stamp out Jihadism. 

Now, Omar told himself with great bitterness, the United States Government, the chief aggressor, must be punished.  The world would realize that Jihad wasn’t dead, when his own cell, the Avengers for Allah, struck.  Each month to rev up enthusiasm and the esprit de corps of the American people for both domestic and military issues, the President presided over congress.  Next month, the chief executive would be speaking again to congress on the subject of terrorism, the economy, and the latest immigration disasters.  The American infidel leaders had their chance to recant Christianity and Judaism.  Omar and his cohorts would get them all this time—the President, Vice President, the cabinet, and both Houses of Congress—in one great blast.

          At least this is what Omar thought.  You see, Omar Hammid was quite mad.  His cohorts Abdul Amman and Bagrad Zawadi had come to realize this.  It was a hopeless, they believed, an insane idea that would bring Omar certain and swift death, but Abdul and Bagrad feared Oman; he threatened to kill anyone, including them, if they interfered with his plans.  So, until they could slip away on the sly, they played along with his enterprise, not believing for a moment he could pull it off.

 

******

          As the terrorists sat in Omar’s tiny apartment, Abdul and Bagrad pretended to be enthusiastic about the enterprise, listening with mounting fear and anxiety to a plan that sounded very much like the ramblings of a lunatic.

          “It’s so very simple,” he babbled, slurping his coffee. “There’s no way for them to know.  Metal detectors, x-ray, and even full body search won’t detect it.  After swallowing the device, which is non-metallic, it will look like undigested food in my stomach.  You see I am the bomb!”  “Voila!” He did a pirouette. “Instant Paradise.  I will have a harem of seventy virgins, a palace, and live forever as a martyr of the Jihad!”

          “And what will we be doing while you blow yourself up?” Abdul tried not to sound sarcastic. “You’re mother was a Swede; you have her genes.  We look like Arabs.  Those Hispanic-sounding names on our passports won’t convince the secret service if we’re caught.  I don’t speak Spanish; neither does Bagrad.  They’ll take one look at us and pat us down.  When they hear our Arab accents, it’s all over!”

          “Are you afraid, Abdul?” Omar snarled. “What happened to that fire I once saw in your eyes?” “And you Bagrad?” He turned to the third terrorist. “You look like you pissed in your pants!”

          Bagrad shook his head.  “It’s not dying for Allah that bothers me, Omar.  You’re going to blow yourself up after swallowing a C-4 packet?  To avoid metal detectors, we can’t even carry weapons.  You expect us to run interference by charging through the visitor line up the steps—without guns!  What kind of plan is that?

          “It’s a brilliant plan,” Omar snarled defensibly. “Do you have a better one?”

          “Yes.” He blanched from an imaginary blow. “Don’t do it!

          “Coward!  Your words betray the cause!” Omar began swatting Bagrad with a newspaper on hand.

          Abdul now grabbed his hand and scolded him. “That’s enough, Omar.  Shame on you!  Bagrad is our friend.  You have badgered us and threatened us, but you can’t beat us.  We’re in this equally.  If we leave you, you’ll have to do this by yourself.  We’re all you have left!”

          “Yes, Omar,” exclaimed Bagrad. “If I have to die for Allah, I want it to matter.  You’re insane plan is doomed to failure!” 

On that note, Bagrad, gripped the newspaper, pulled out of Omar hand, and through it across the room.

“What?  Is this a mutiny?” cried Omar. “You expect me to do this alone?” “Where’s my gun.  I’ll blow your brains out—you cowardly swine!”

Turning on him now, his partners wrestled him to the floor, and, after a few well-placed blows to his face, tied him up.

“You’ll die for this!” shrieked Omar.

“Not before you,” spat Abdul. “If you don’t get shot on the scene, you’ll blow yourself before you ever get in the building.”

“I’ll call Homeland Security anonymously and turn you in,” Omar threatened. “You’ll never make it out of Washington.”

“Oh yes we will,” Bagrad laughed sourly. “No one’s looking for us.  We’ll look like tourists.  Our passports show us as Mexican nationals.  So that’s were we’re going?  If we get caught, we’ll be locked up.  Without proof of terrorism, all the authorities can do is hold us until we’re cleared or send us directly back to Iraq.  It’s better than dying a fool’s death like you!”

“Filthy scum!” Omar shouted, as they departed. “Spineless jackals!”

“Better a live jackal than dead fool.” Bagrad replied in a singsong voice.

Upon leaving the apartment building, the two men agreed upon their own plan: they would beat Omar to the punch.

“Hello…” Abdul said in a disguised voice. “Homeland DC hotline?… I’m fine; how are you?  Listen carefully ma’am.  A lunatic who’s ingested a bomb will enter the Capitol Building.  He plans to hide out in one of the closets or restrooms there, until the scheduled speech by the president in front of congress.  When that begins, he intends to blow himself up and kill the nation’s leaders in one blast.  He’s quite insane, but his mind’s made up.  Thank you and goodbye…Click! 

“Now throw it away.” Bagrad pointed to his phone. “By the time they trace it, we’ll be long gone.” “So we head south?” He looked at Omar for agreement.

“No,” Abdul shook his head, “that would insane.  I told him that to get them on the wrong trail.  We’ll drive into Virginia and lay low for a while.  By then Omar will be in custody or more likely dead.”

 

******

While Abdul and Bagrad made their getaway, Omar broke free finally, and it fit of unbridled fury grabbed the handgun he purchased from a gang-banger.  “If the Feds don’t get them I’ll kill them!” he roared. “They’re a disgrace to Allah.  They betrayed the cause!”  Before he charged out the door, however, he took stock of himself, straightened his shoulders, and, with his bottle of infidel whiskey took a long, bracing swig.  While he prepared himself, contemplating the dark deed ahead, Homeland Security was looking into the latest threat.

          “Sir,” reported agent Margaret Millhouse, “we might want to check this out.”

          “What does that make it now, Marge,” replied Assistant Deputy of Homeland Security Marvin Meyer, “one thousand, two thousand this week?  Lately, they’re all pranks.  What is it this time, Marge, another mad bomber or chemical terrorist?  We’re spending all our resources hunting down and prosecuting these pranksters.  Everything from Ebola rumors to remote control model plans are suspect.” “Let me have it, Marge,” he added gruffly. “So far you’re batting zero.  You’re last caller was a nine year old kid!”

          Unruffled, in a condensed fashion, Margaret related the message received.  “A man, who swallowed a bomb plans to blow up the president and congress tomorrow during the president’s speech.  The caller hung up without a name.  We traced the call to the DC area close to the Capitol building where the bomb will go off.  That’s it, sir.”

          “Ho, ho, ho,” Marvin guffawed, “that’s a new one.  In the first place, Margaret, that’s impossible.  In the second place, he won’t get one foot in the building.  That place is will guarded, better than Fort Knox!”

          “Oh, I forgot one detail.” She slapped her forehead. “He plans on hiding out in a closet or a restroom until tomorrow.”

          The Assistant Deputy Director continued to chuckle.  “Ho, ho, Margaret, that’s a great plan.  Of course he’s going to hide.  Why didn’t I think of that?” “But Margaret,” his tone changed to mild irritation, “that’s ridiculous.  The last tourist group enters the Capitol building in the next hour.  You just got that tip, so our terrorist doesn’t have time.” 

          “No sir, that’s incorrect,” she disagreed. “He does have time.  The last tour group is in the late afternoon.”

          “Well,” he snorted, “it’s almost noon.  He’d better hustle.”

          “Sir,” she grew frustrate, “this is so ridiculous it could be real.  We should at least call the Direct of Secret Service.   The Capitol’s security should be notified.”

          “Heighten the security?  All right,” he acquiesced, “that sounds reasonable.  You call the director.  I’ll talk to the Capitol.  In fact, I’ll send some of my people there.  Keep this to yourself, however.  The media would have a field day with this rumor.”

 

******

          When the calls were made, the reaction was predictable, and yet security was bolstered, not only at the Capitol Building but also the White House and all federal buildings throughout the US.  While making their escape in a rent-a-car with the intent of hiding out in Virginia, the two one-time terrorists were stopped for speeding by a Ray Hernandez, a Virginia State Policeman.  Because both their driver’s licenses looked strange to the patrolman and they were acting in a suspicious manner, he performed a simple test. 

          Eres ustedes los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos?” he asked the driver in Spanish.

          “Si,” Abdul bobbed his head.

            Having just asked him if he was a citizen of the United States, the officer studied the grinning man.

Cuál es su destino?” (What is your destination?), he asked, his hand poised over his holster.

“Si,” Abdul nodded again, “mucho bueno.”

A red flag went up in Officer Hernandez’s mind.  “Gentleman, please step out of the vehicle.”  He moved back and drew his weapon.

Without weapons, themselves, Abdul and Bagrad gave up meekly.  Lying face down with their hands in back of them, they were handcuffed by the officer.  Before continuing, he paused to call in backup.  Then he bent down to pat them down.  While the suspects were on the pavement, he ran their licenses and the vehicle’s plate number through the database. 

“You’re offending our civil liberties,” Abdul protested in the background. “I’ll report this to our ambassador.  Your American President will hear of this!”

Officer Ray Hernandez, who didn’t suffer fools, looked back with disgust. “You’re both idiots!” he mumbled aloud. 

Not only were they carrying fake identification, but their car was registered to Enterprise Rentals under the name Abdul Amman—a red flag in itself.  Using the patrol car’s camera, he took pictures of their driver licenses to obtain mug shots, which would be compared to suspected terrorists or other felons on file. 

“This is an outrage,” Bagrad cried, “we’re law-abiding citizens.  You’re treating us like criminals?  We’ve done nothing wrong! 

“Really?” He looked down scornfully. “You’re carrying fake identification.  That’s a serious offense.  You obviously have something to hide.”

The two men wriggled helplessly on the pavement.  Suppressing a laugh, Officer Hernandez decided, just for good measure, to search the glove compartment, back seat area, and the trunk for hidden weapons, contraband, or drugs.  In the crevice of the backseat, he discovered a crumpled joint of marijuana, and in the trunk he found a nearly empty bottle of Jim Beam, with just enough whiskey inside to count as a misdemeanor.

“Officer,” Abdul continued protesting, “there’s no law in changing our names.  This is police brutality.  I shall have your badge!”

“You dumb bastard!” He shook his head in disbelief. “It is too a law: Penal Code 470b PC.  You didn’t have records.  You could’ve used your own names.  If you hadn’t left that joint in the car and that bottle, you’d be scott-free!”

The officer heard Bagrad groan, “We should never have listened to Omar.  We were led by a mad man!”  What he heard, however, was in Arabic, which made him even more suspicious of the men.  When a second and third officer arrived on the scene, the suspects were secured in one of the patrol cars, still grumbling to each other.  During the wait, Abdul had wet his pants. The second officer, Sergeant Frank Higgins, now listened intently to Officer Hernandez brief report from the database. Though there were no outstanding warrants or terror alerts on the men, they had been carrying fake identification and masquerading as Hispanics and had drugs and an open container of alcohol, certainly enough reason, the sergeant agreed, for bringing them in. 

          “All right Ray.” He nodded thoughtfully. “You did good.  We got cause!  “Anything you might’ve missed?”

“No,” Officer Hernandez said, looking back at the suspects’ vehicle. “I searched the car, their pockets, and ran a check.  I caught the driver speeding; that’s why I pulled them over.” “Wait a minute Frank.” He snapped his fingers. “Hold on a sec.  There’s one more thing!”

Walking briskly over to the suspects’ car, he slipped on a pair of latex gloves, reached in to retrieved a map from the glove compartment, and then, trotting back quickly, presented it to the other men.

“Damn!” The third officer whistled under his breath. “That’s a map of the Capitol Building—one of those tourists’ pamphlets and some Arabic scrawled on top.  Now we’re talking about cause!”

          “Let’s get moving on this!” cried Sergeant Higgins excitedly. “These men might be terrorists.  On the way back, I’m calling Homeland Security.  Put them into a holding cell.  Don’t wait for booking.  This is a job for the FBI!

         

******

Officer Hernandez and the third officer climbed into the patrol car containing the suspects; while Sergeant Higgins led the way, sirens blaring, back to the station.  As the junior officers discussed Abdul and Bagrad’s fate, the two suspects chattered fearfully amongst themselves.  At the station things moved quickly now that the FBI and Homeland Security had been alerted.  While the men waited for interrogation and the inevitable arraignment and potential court proceedings, the third, ‘phantom,’ suspect moved quickly.  After ingesting the high-powered packet he claimed would kill the President and his governing body in Congress, he hailed a taxi, and, with a queasy tummy, was on his way to the nation’s capitol.  The cab driver tried to chat with him during the trip, but Omar was in no mood for small talk.  A fierce, fanatical look was on his face.  His jaw was set tightly on his task.  Any moment, he feared he might barf.

          “You all right mister,”’ the cabby asked, looking into his rear view mirror.

          “Yes,” his passenger mumbled.

          The cheerful look on the driver’s chocolate face changed suddenly to alarm when Omar groaned and held his mouth.  “Don’t you be pukin’ in my cab, sir,” he cried, pulling off the road. “I don’t want none of that Ebola.  You get out of here—now, else I call a cop.  You heard me, man—git!

          Realizing that he was a mere block from his destination, Omar complied, bending down almost immediately as the cab took off.  Hoping that the packet wouldn’t be dislodged easily, he prayed to Allah that the sensation would stop.  Fortunately for him (or unfortunately for a sane man), the packet remained in his stomach, while everything else including a half bottle of whiskey was purged.  As he staggered on his way, the cab driver drove straight to headquarters, fearful of what he might catch.  On the other side of DC the two suspects were booked ostensibly on drug position, Homeland Security finally returned the call, and Margaret Simpson, Hanson’s assistant, chirped politely into the phone.

          “…Yes ma’am,” a lieutenant was reassuring her. “These two claim there’s a mad bomber on the way to the Capitol.” 

          “Yes, we heard about it on our voice mail,” She said wearily. “We notified the Director of Homeland Security.  The assistant director, my boss, is still talking to Capitol security.  I’ve been on the phone myself.  Now its up to them.” “What’s going to happen to those fellows?” she asked almost off-handedly.

          “Well, they don’t have any records and aren’t on the watch list, but they have fake id’s, were caught with weed, and were carrying a map of the Capitol.  That should be enough to hold them until arraignment.”

          The lieutenant gave Margaret all the details he had on the third terrorist.  That he carried the bomb inside of him caused Hanson’s assistant to gasp in the phone.  This was so bizarre she sat there a few seconds staring into space, unable to reply.  Had they not nabbed two additional suspects, it might have sounded like another false alarm, and yet it all seemed so absurd, she admitted to the lieutenant, it might just be true.  Giggling hysterically, she dialed the assistant director’s cell phone, thankful she was on the other side of town.

 

******

When Omar reached the Capitol Building, he was exhausted from lack of sleep, sprinting almost deliriously up the steps.  He scarcely remembered joining the tourist group.  His head was swimming with fear and doubt.  The trigger that would ignite the explosive inside of him was in his watch.  They had checked his camera on his last visit.  What if they checked his watch this time?  Because it’s hands were frozen, it didn’t tell time and, in fact, functioned much like a butane lighter that would incriminate him immediately if he was caught.  The sparking device, which had to be held to his abdomen, also required precise timing.  He must somehow sneak into the congressional chambers—the maddest of follies, unless he was forced it detonate himself in the main hall.  He must at the very least, he thought practically, kill the most infidels as possible…. Then it was paradise—Allah be praised!

The visitors who stood in line with him looked at him with contempt and panic.  His eyes were bloodshot and he was sweating profusely.  He tried to reassure them that he didn’t have Ebola and had just ran across town to make it on time (the one thing he said that was the absolute truth), and yet two of them ran to inform security.  At the very least, they complained, he had the flu or some other plague.  A tall black man appeared with a infrared thermometer, took a reading of his temperature at a safe distance, shook his head, and then walked away.  Certain that this was sign, Omar prayed silently again, thanking Allah and his good luck.  He had passed the first hurdle to get in the building.  Next, as they passed from the steps into the Capitol, they were searched by metal detector and also patted down.  Placing both his camera and watch in the tray, he waited breathlessly, as he walked through the detector, glancing nervously at his items as they were scrutinized by the guards.

“Your watch appears to be broken,” commented a small redheaded bespeckled guard. “There’ll be no pictures inside today,” he reassured him. “You’ll get the camera when you leave.”

Hoping that the second issue canceled out the first in the guard’s mind, Omar nodded hesitantly as he waited for his watch to be returned.  It seemed logical that they would begin confiscating cameras.  Each camera, after all, could hide explosives.  A watch, on the other hand, would be too small for such a device.  Who could imagine that it was a triggering mechanism?  Retrieving it quickly and slipping it onto his wrist, he mumbled something about the watch’s battery.  By then, however, the man was questioning another tourist on another matter, which was drowned out by the beating of Omar’s heart.  Realizing he had passed another hurdle in his plan to destroy the infidels, he prayed once more, adding special thanks for the stupidity of the Capitol Police.

As the tour guide, a petite woman, with short golden hair, led them into the great, circular hall, he looked around immediately for his chance.  Somewhere and soon he must slip away to hide out until the next day.  That would be his greatest hurdle until his final act.

The woman gave them a history of the Capitol building throughout American History, including its most recent remodeling, which included state of the art security, an added underground wing, and several features that became a blur in Omar’s crowded head.  After her long-winded introduction, she began the official tour, pointing out statues, special offices, and architectural innovations, until finally leading them into the congressional chambers, itself.  Catching his breath, Omar felt physically diminished in this room.  It was everything he had read about and more: the heart of the chief infidel nation of the world.  And yet the circular room, which seated five hundred congressmen and their attendants, was overshadowed by the dais on which the president would speak.  He was, Omar’s dark mind believed, the filthy core, a man comparable to the Christian Antichrist in his Jihadist mind. 

          When the tour was almost through and the group was led back toward the great hall, he managed to be at the tail end, slipping down a corridor that was miraculously empty of security guards.  Despite his good fortune, he panicked a moment as he planned his next move.  Where were the restrooms or janitor’s closets in this building, he wondered, as he scanned frantically up and down the hall?  When he spotted the transgender sign with the male/female figures, he snarled with contempt as he snuck in, found a stall, and sat down to do the second honest action of the day: empty his bowels.  The packet was too big to pass into his intestines, and yet he was fearful his calculations might be wrong.  For an excruciating period of time, as one person after another, including two women, used the out-of-the-way restroom, he suffered both discomfort and defilement.  His hatred for the American infidels was now greater than ever.  Omar didn’t know that there were both men and women facilities in the building.  Nevertheless, his discovery of the transgender restroom in the Capitol proved that the infidels were decadent and deserved extinction.       

          Those hours, in which the Capitol was closed to tourists, he wondered if heads had been counted when the tour group exited the building.  If so, where they looking for him now?  Would they find him hiding in this stall?  It occurred to him finally how utterly insane was his obsession.  Neither Al Qaida nor ISIS were privy to his exploit; after the new President and his allies success against the Islamic State, they no longer sponsored lone wolves with harebrained plans.  The word had gone out: Jihadists must see the bigger picture; their actions must count.  Even his friends had abandoned him.  The queasiness he had felt earlier was compounded by hunger and thirst as the hours passed.  In his lonely stall, unable to wash his hands for fear of being caught, he remained, comforted only by his fanatical faith and personal Jihad.

 

******

          The following morning found Omar in dire straights.  Hunger was a minor issue.  He was ill.  At times he felt as if he might pass out.  That same hour, Abdul and Bagrad were being questioned again by the agents from Homeland Security and the FBI, both men resigned to their fate.  While they suffered at the hands of the infidels, Omar would try to blow himself up.  They had told their story and no longer cared.  A wise Islamic sage once said, “Better to live as a coward than die as a fool.”  That a man had swallowed a packet of high-grade explosive sounded so silly to his interrogators, they found it laughable.  Despite the absurdity of the claim, they would act upon the threat, and lock up the third terrorist’s associates until a trial date was set.  For their part, the Director of Homeland Security and his minions, having done their best to alert the White House of the urgency for extra security and having also notified the Capitol Police, likewise went about their business.  Though they proceeded expeditiously, no one took the story seriously.  Memories of 9-11, the Oklahoma bombing, the Boston Marathon massacre, and countless other incidents of terrorist attacks in the United States and the world should have overshadowed this trifling ‘non-event.’  The ongoing brutality of the Islamic State, Russian aggression, and Chinese cyber attacks—in the long run much more serious forms of terrorism seemed just too awesome for most people to conceive. 

To a few conscientious minds, the nagging concern generated by the preposterous claim of Abdul and Bagrad lingered much as a fly buzzing over the dung pile of crime and terror.  There were just too many other criminal activities and real threats to consider for the government that required immediate attention and the taxpayers money, and yet Margaret Simpson, the assistant to the Assistant Director had slept poorly last night.  All she could think of were the story given by the two men now in custody.  When she asked a forensic specialist about the possibility of a person swallowing an explosive, he said it was possible, but it would be such a small explosion it would have little effect.  On the other hand, he admitted, if someone could do such a thing—which, considering the normal gag reflex and the fact it might very well be toxic, seems highly unlikely, there are more powerful explosives than C-4—several experimental explosives in fact.  The odds of anyone pulling it off therefore depended upon this fact and the culprit’s physical and mental strength.  No ordinary, sane person would even attempt such a foolhardy act.  Weighing his words with what she had heard from the DC Police, FBI, and her own people, she felt her uneasiness fade, lingering as troubling reminder of the bizarre methods of lone wolf terrorists.  There had been attempted shoe bombers, underwear bombers, and now, if she believed Abdul and Bagrad, a ‘stomach’ bomber…. What would they think of next?

 

******

On the day of the President’s speech in front of Congress, Margaret, like millions of other Americans, were in front of the television, expecting him to give another rousing, patriotic pitch.  His unconventional, down-to-earth method contrasted the partisan professorial method of the previous presidents whose action and non-action had, according to seventy-five percent of the public, caused all the crises of today.  The most recent economic indicators had already shown improvement under the new president’s measures and there had been significant military successes against the Jihadists.  And yet the job was unfinished—economically, socially, and militarily.  There were still problems with the economy and disaffection among minority and ethnic groups.  The threat of Russia, China, and Jihadists was offset by a new fence on the border—one of the president’s most important visible achievements that proved that he meant business.  A marked reduction in non-terrorist related crime resulting from his no-nonsense attitude had helped him in his recent re-election, and yet, with the memory of so many terrorist acts and constant media reminders of the ongoing Middle Eastern war, the Americans, along with other Western Nations, many of the presidents one-time adversaries, and even supporters remained fearful and concerned by his ‘cowboy’ and ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ style.   As he began his speech in front of congress and the nation, this group, unlike the vast majority, sat on the edge of their seats.

“Ladies and gentleman of the Senate, Congress, Mister Speaker, members of the cabinet, honored guests, and, above all the nation of whom we serve, I come here today to remind you of our socio-economic and military goals—all of which we share with the free world.  I’m therefore speaking not only to the Americans but everyone who share my vision of an earth free of terrorism and bully nations, working together socially and economically, and striving to make the world a safer place for our children, grandchildren, and the whole human race!  At the same time, I am speaking to our enemies—you know who you are.  Whether through terrorist acts, territorial aggression against their neighbors, or cyber attacks, understand one thing: we’re united against you.  The might of the free world will prevail against the forces of darkness.  I mince no words. We will crush the Jihad—the most evil of our foes.  All lone wolves in America, who sponsor or conduct terrorist acts will be hunted down and be dealt with like the cockroaches they are.  I’m personally putting you on notice all rogue nations working against our free way of life, with the full cooperation with our allies.  An act of aggression against one of us is an act of aggression against us all.  The mess made in the last administration is being cleaned up.  Its failed healthcare system and damaged economy will take time to heal.  But our military couldn’t wait.  The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard have been bolstered by more men, more guns, more ships, more bombs, and a green light to hunt down our enemies when they threaten our security.  Theodore Roosevelt once said we should speak softly but carry a big stick.  Well, Theodore was wrong.  That logic implied diplomatic impotency by cow towing to belligerent nations.  No one took us seriously.  You don’t wait for battle or war and then hit them with your big stick.  You warn them first—loudly, not softly.  You warn them once more and then bam! you hit them with your big stick and if that doesn’t work bam! you hit them again.”

Overwhelming applause erupted in the chamber.  In front of the television screen, folks clapped their hands and high-fived each other.  Others, a small minority, shook their heads in dismay. Omar Hammid, who could hear the speech from the speaker placed in one corner of the restroom, had been struggling to his feet.  Even now, with so little time left to perform his act of terrorism, he took time to wash his hands before emerging from into the corridor.  With his watch in one hand, ready at any moment to trigger the device inside his stomach, he tried looking non-chalant as he entered the main hall.  As the president resumed his speech, he simply followed his voice.  Louder and louder it became as he approached House of Congress.

He prayed once more.  As if God was actually supporting his action, in fact, he chatted with him deliriously, as if he were listening, not suspecting how repugnant his action might be perceived: “Yes, Allah, you have guided my steps and guarded my crusade…Now the infidels will be reminded of your glory and might!  You were with us that day on 9-11 and on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.   You will be with us again—here now on Jihad’s greatest day!”  He rambled on about the glories awaiting him, praising Allah for his success so, as if oblivious to his surroundings.  Light-headedly, suffering from stomach pains and fighting back flu-like symptoms of nausea and discomfort, the lone wolf Omar managed, after whispering another prayer himself, to reach the chamber doors, even slipping past two Capitol Police officers, before he was ordered to halt. 

The guard’s deep voice immediately caught the president in mid-sentence.  With amazing composure the president, adlibbed with the remark, “Hark!  Friend or foe?”  “Foe!” Omar shouted hoarsely. “Allähu Akbar!” he added, as he dashed frantically down the aisle. With his last ounce of fanatical fury, as he surged toward the dais, he heard the faint hum of silencer, and then another.  If it hit the packet he would explode.  This had been calculated into his plan if his initial effort failed.  The first and second shots had penetrated his lung and liver, though, and missed his stomach.  Excruciating pain stopped him cold, and yet he was only a few meters from the dais.  As he fumbled with his watch to press it against his abdomen and trigger the bomb, he failed to hear the third shot, crumbling like a rag doll onto the floor.  The bullet entered his brain.  After that there was nothing.  No paradise… No seventy virgins or reward in heaven…not even darkness.  Omar, the mad bomber had ceased to exist.

Gathering his composure, the president looked out at his audience and summed up his speech, which had been cut short.  “You see how close that was, folks…. Even the leader of the free world can be brought down.  The lone wolves of Jihad still lurk everywhere.  We must stand together against fanatics and tyranny.  We’re one people in this endeavor—not Americans, Europeans, Africans, or Asians.  That poor fool will be followed by others.  Whether organized or acting alone, we must stamp them out like the human cockroaches they are.  Be always vigilant.  Unite against those who would make us slaves to their will.  Fight tyranny!  Fight terrorism!  Fight injustice!  Stand against ISIS, Al Qaida, and all Jihadists who wish to take away force their values upon us and take away our freedom.” “If they won’t listen to reason and threaten us,” he cried, raising his gavel and slamming it down, “bam! bam! bam!  Remember this sound.  Words don’t work on this kind of enemy.  We owe it to our families, children, and grandchildren to be vigilant and not faint-hearted.  Under the last President, the police and military were coached to be politically correct.  Even the word ‘terrorism’ was considered improper.  But this didn’t work.  The last four years has seen a degrading of the enemy’s power.  Our ground troops are making great progress against them, but there much more left to do.  As our army, marines, navy, and air force lock with the forces of darkness, Homeland Security, the FBI, and local law enforcement must root out lone wolves such as that man—mercilessly, without political correctness, with swift justice before they do more harm.  From the shadows, they came doing the Devil’s work.  It’s time to send them all back to Hell!”

Cheers and excited shouts rose up.  A dead man lie in the aisle surrounded by Capitol police officers, and yet the president had struck a chord with congressmen and senators in both parties.  Several of the men and women, in fact, kicked the corpse and spat on it.  America had its fill of terrorist creeps like Omar.  Liberal minds were offended by the callousness of their actions, but, unlike the audience of the previous president, there were no protests this time.  An immediate poll showed that eighty-five percent of the viewers approved of the president.  A new bulletin flashed on the bottom of the screen, so as not to interrupt the speech, informing the public of the attempt on the presidents life.  Nothing was said about a ‘human bomb’ and the identity of the man awaited further investigation.  No one could see the pained expressions on the police officers that shot him dead.

“He wasn’t armed,” the first police officer murmured. “We shot an unarmed man.”

“We didn’t have time,” the second shooter replied. “He could’ve had a bomb strapped to him.  I’m glad he didn’t.  He would’ve blown us all up!”

“Look.” A police woman pointed. “There’s something in his hand…It’s a watch.  That could’ve been the trigger.”

Not knowing how close to the truth, she was, she shrugged in disappointment. “There’s no bomb attached to him.  He wasn’t armed!”  

A senator, who had once been a physician, had been checking his vital signs, pronouncing mock reverence, “Dead as a door nail!”  As the president was escorted out the back way, he glanced down from the dais as the dead man.

“What was his name?” he asked, a snarl playing on his face.

“There’s no identification on him, Mister President,” the first police officer responded grimly. “He didn’t have a weapon.”

While the president retreated with his security team, the dead man was placed on a gurney and carried out a less public corridor of the Capitol.  Before this point, reporters and cameramen had been ushered out of the building, with reassurances that the man had carried a detonating device.  As the entire building was evacuated as a precaution, Capitol police officers scolded the inquisitive reporters as they attempted to question witnesses, but not in time to prevent many news teams from gaining eyewitness accounts of the shooting.  When viewers’ television screens shifted to news anchors reporting the event, several brief interviews were shown, followed by summations by reporters of what witnesses claimed: a suspected suicide bomber, shouting “Allähu Akbar,” entered the congressional chamber and was shot dead.  Footage from the video cameras inside the chamber caught the actual attack, but was immediately sequestered by Homeland Security.  Because the man wasn’t carrying a gun and there were no explosives strapped to his chest, it might be incriminating.  What viewers needed to understand was that an attempt had been made by a Jihadist on the president’s life.  Considering the history of lone wolf attacks and terrorism in general, this sounded reasonable enough. 

No one could have imagined what a DC coroner found during the autopsy of Omar Hammid.  After opening him up in what began as a routine autopsy, the corner began the grimy business of inspecting his entrails.

“Slight case of overkill,” commented his assistant. “I counted twenty slugs.”

“Twenty-three,” the chief coroner replied, extracting one more, “but this fellow would’ve died without being pumped full of lead.  There’s massive damage to his esophagus and stomach lining…” “Son-of-a-bitch!” He drew back, his arms forcing his assistant back protectively, his face frozen in terror.

“Where’s that Homeland Security agent?” He looked around at his team.

“He turned green and ran out of the room.” An attendant stepped forward. “I’ll go chase him down.”

When the young man was ushered into the room, he was still pale, an expectant look growing on his face, and yet the coroner’s expression changed from alarm to relief as he looked down at the corpse.

“What’s up doc?” the young man tried to sound glib. “I had to take a leak.”

“You were sick agent Fredericks,” the coroner said gravely. “This is a nasty job.  I found something in this man’s stomach: a packet.  Unless I’m mistaken, I just found our bomb.”

“Shouldn’t we call the bomb squad?” The agent pulled out his phone.

“Not yet.  That was my first instinct.” The coroner sighed. “Show Mister Fredericks the watch CSI claims is a triggering device.” He motioned to his assistant.

 Agent Fredericks inspected the watch and shrugged.

“It’s a watch,” he mumbled, “a broken watch.  The hands are frozen in place.  Where’s the device?”

“That’s the difference between CSI and you feds,” the coroner chuckled grimly. “You guys are amateurs.  I heard how you messed up the crime scene.  You rushed in like a bull in a China shop, instead of waiting for the forensic team to arrive.  You were lucky you didn’t blow yourselves up.  Now the president and his security squad can breath easy.”

Reaching in ever so carefully, he extracted the packet. “Obviously this lunatic had planned on igniting this explosive using his watch.”

Demonstrating to the disbelieving eyes of the agent how it worked.  He drew back to a safe distance and, holding the watch with a pair of pliers, pointed it away from himself, and, with a small hammer, banger the screw.  A flame shot out, reminiscent of the light on fire starters and cigarette lighters.

The agent shook his head. “That would’ve burned his hand.”

“What did he care?” The coroner snickered. “He was going to blow himself up.”

“But it’s so tiny,” the agent made a face. “That would just make a mess—splatter him all over the place.”

“Au contraire.” The coroner wagged a finger. “Not if he was right next to the president.  I have a hunch that’s what he had in mind.  If this is one of those new brands of explosives it might have killed them all!”

The agent rolled his eyes.  “The man was insane.”

“No more insane than the shoe or underwear bombers,” he exclaimed cheerfully.  Gingerly placing the packet in a container nearby and shutting the lid, he added with a

sigh. “…. Now we can call the bomb squad!”

 

******

 When the packet was retrieved by the bomb squad and he was finished with the autopsy, the coroner sewed up Omar Hammid, pulled the sheet over his head, and exited the room.  On each side of him were several people: members of the media and CSI staff.  When he reached the podium set up for him, he cleared his throat nervously and explained to the television audience the obvious facts (he died of multiple gunshot wounds to his head and torso), and then added briefly that the man had been a human bomb.  The gory details were left out.  All that the American people and the world needed to know was that it had been just enough explosives to kill someone close enough to feel the impact.  The truth was, of course, as the bomb squad discovered, it would have killed everyone in the chambers.  No effort was made to explain how the triggering device worked.  Enough people were privy to this information. The president and Director of Homeland Security didn’t want to give out any more lone wolves ideas.  In many homes, lunch rooms, or streaming laptops, the latest news about the shooting on Capitol Hill was aired throughout the day and night, the next day, the day after that, until, like all other top stories, it faded in importance and became old news—just another terrorist attempt by a mad bomber.  Placed in the custody of his only relative, Uncle Rashad, who first introduced him to Jihad philosophy and gave him his Islamic name, Omar was discreetly buried in a municipal cemetery in nearby Maryland.  On his headstone was carved his God-given name: Marvin Whittlesby, which was, in fact, the only name on record for him.  CSI was able to identify him after his apartment was searched and they found his original drivers license that showed a man with light brown hair, blue eyes, and a smiling face.  There was no evidence, except on his forged passport, of a person named Omar.  When visitors to the cemetery glanced at his headstone they would see his legal name, the dates for his birth and death, but no epitaph carved beneath.  What could one say for this lost soul?  There would be no flowers by his graveside.  It seemed as though no one, even Uncle Rashad, who saw him as a great disappointment, cared enough to pay him a visit.  He was now a name on a long list of failed terrorist, with a brief footnote in history books that set him apart from the others.  Unlike other bombers, Marvin Whittlesby (A.K.A Omar Hammid) hadn’t been carrying a bomb.  Explosives had been strapped to his chest and he had driven a suicide vehicle to the scene…. He was the bomb and that made him unique.  The new type of explosive was detonated in special container, and the original detonator was locked away to make sure no one attempted to build such a device. 

Except for an infrequent reference to his failed attempt, Marvin was, in fact, a minor footnote in terrorist history, all but forgotten as the years passed, and yet to many like-minded Jihadists a hero—another warrior for the cause.  While being a legend among lone wolf Jihadists, his ability to almost pull it off unnerved the Homeland Security Director and still worried congressmen on Capitol Hill.  Despite the implications of what happened and the possibility a similar feat might be attempted again, his actions had been too bizarre to take seriously by most folks.  There was still an ongoing war on terror.   An army of Muslims were still on the march.  A touch of humor said it best.  Scrawled crudely next to his legal name, by an unknown visitor, was a title that summed up both his detractors and fellow Jihadists sentiments: “Omar—the human bomb!”