Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview
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January 20, 2013. FBI Headquarters. 10 a.m. EST. Washington, D.C.
“Boss, I think we have a hot one,” said Ahmad Mahmood, a tall, India-born FBI analyst who had been assigned to assist Lead Investigator Ruddy Montana.
Montana came across the room to Mahmood’s desk, and looked over his shoulder at the computer screen. Montana was handsome for his fifty years, with a square jaw and friendly brown eyes, gray buzz cut and tan complexion. But he was only 5 foot 4 inches tall. And for most people he met, that was all they needed to know—he was short. It made no difference that Montana had been a cum laude graduate of Yale, a decorated Army Ranger, a municipal police captain cited multiple times for valor during duty, or a former Olympic fencing champion. All most people saw was his height. But what he lacked in stature, he more than made up for in an uncanny ability to close cases. Montana held the record for closing more cases than any other FBI Detective, which was the reason he was assigned the Cincinnati case. Unfortunately, however, this case was proving difficult to crack. Most big cases would have broken by now, and it was irritating Montana that the Cincinnati massacre was largely still a question mark.
The FBI investigators were able to find the detonator in the rubble, of course. Nothing special about its origin. The materials could have been purchased at any Home Depot. The RDX from the C-4 explosives, however, was unique. The RDX came from a Defentris, Inc. chemical plant in Alexandria, Virginia, but unfortunately the Defentris security tapes did not reveal the thief. All current and former employees of Defentris were interviewed, but nothing looked like a promising lead. There were no prints on the white trash barrel other than students and teachers from the school. A full twenty-block canvas of neighbors by the FBI and local police turned up no witnesses who had seen the bomber. The school had no video cameras. There were no cameras on the graveyard across the street or on any of the intersections. The 1-800 number established by the FBI for hot tips came up with nothing but junk and false leads. Because the fire department had responded so quickly, firemen and paramedics ran all over the crime scene before the FBI could get there, so no shoe imprints were available.
Montana had been focusing on the janitor’s uniform. Montana reasoned that an adult could not just wander into the elementary school carrying a heavy trash barrel without looking strange. He must have worn Mills Janitorial coveralls, and probably a red Mills Janitorial hat to cover his face. In order to get that, he probably stole either a hat or coveralls or both from Mills Janitorial. Montana’s team had poured over the security tapes at Mills looking for anything strange and had found nothing. No one person remembered losing their uniform. No one remembered any stranger asking about coveralls or hats. The other option was to hire a seamstress to make the Mills Janitorial patch, and then sew it on a cap and coveralls. A telephone canvas of forty seamstresses and sewing companies in Cincinnati came up with nothing. Montana tried dozens of other ideas, but so far the well was dry, until now.
“Two days ago,” said Mahmood, “we received an anonymous tip about the bombing which later proved to be interesting. I will tell you the tip in a minute. Anyway, we traced the tipster’s call to a payphone in downtown D.C. We pulled up satellite images from two days ago, and here he is. You can see that the caller is a medium to heavy set male, wearing a brown winter jacket, no markings, jeans, white Nike shoes, and a cowboy hat which covers his entire head and face. Nothing much we can go by there.” Montana looked at the satellite images of the caller.
“We followed the caller on the satellite images, and he quickly ducks into the subway at Chinatown, and then we lose him. I have ordered the Transit Authority tapes to see if we can identify him when he is in the subway. That’s it for the caller so far. On the 911 call, the caller says we should check out the Store-a-Lot Facility in downtown Cincinnati.”
“Did you send the 911 audio to the voiceprint guys?”
“Already done,” said Mahmood.
“What’s with the Store-a-Lot?”
“Yesterday, we sent some agents down there. We could not get a warrant to search the garages there because all we had was the word of an anonymous tipster. But we were able to secure all of the Store-a-Lot security tapes. Fortunately for us, they keep the tapes for six months. I have been going through these for the last hour. Take a look at this. It is from the morning of the bombing, at about 6 a.m.”
The tape showed a man driving a 1998 white Mazda hatchback up to a storage unit, parking his car, and, after looking around, opening the door with his key. About three minutes later, the video showed the garage door opening and the man peering out of the garage. The man then exited the garage, this time dressed in a set of dark coveralls and a baseball cap. He dragged a heavy white trash barrel into the back of his Nissan and closed the hatchback.
“Did you zoom on his coveralls or his hat?” asked Montana.
“Yep.” Mahmood pressed a button and the computer zoomed in on the hat. “Cannot say for certain but it could say ‘Mills Janitorial’ on it.”
“That is definitely our man,” Montana said quietly, and with far less enthusiasm than Mahmood would have expected to see under the circumstances.
“Watch this,” said Mahmood.
Just as the man in the hat and coveralls pulled out of his parking space, a man on a motorcycle, came speeding around the corner. The cyclist was not expecting the car to pull out in front of him. The cyclist skidded out and the bike went crashing into the bomber’s car. The long-haired man on the motorcycle, smarting from the fall, got up and limped toward the bomber’s car. He was visibly upset. The video showed the motorcycle driver banging on the window angrily, waiving his hands, and pointing to his damaged motorcycle. The video next showed a wisp of smoke from the bomber’s car window, and the motorcycle driver recoiled, holding his chest. It appeared that the bomber had shot the motorcycle driver through the open window. The video then showed the bomber exiting his vehicle, standing over the motorcycle driver, and shooting him two more times.
“Looks like he has a silencer,” remarked Montana.
“Yep. Right again.” The computer then zoomed in on what appeared to be a silencer.
In the video, the bomber then re-opened the storage unit, lifted up the metal garage door, and went back to his victim. Holding the man by the wrists, making sure none of the victim’s blood got on his uniform, he dragged the motorcycle rider into the storage room and dumped him. Then he rolled the man’s motorcycle into the storage unit and closed the door behind him. Before getting back in his car, the bomber then looked at the ground where the motorcycle rider had been lying, and paused.
“He is trying to figure out what to do with all that blood,” said Montana.
“Think so,” said Mahmood.
“Look, he’s looking for a hose, see…. No, there’s no hose. What are you going to do now, punk?”
The video then showed the bomber lifting the hood of his car and taking out a plastic bottle.
“He’s taking out the washer fluid.”
The video then showed the bomber pouring the blue wiper fluid on the ground where the blood was, and watching the liquid run in a small rivulet toward the drain a few stalls away. The bomber then replaced the wiper fluid container and closed his hood. Then he calmly drove away.
“Did you get the plate?”
Mahmood closed in on the plate. “DFE-778, from Virginia. Registered to a Alonso S. Vasquez, Virginia DMV lists a dummy driver’s license for him, what they call a ‘MA’ or ‘Master Add’ listing, meaning the DMV created a license number for him so they could attach the tickets he kept getting. He has two tickets for driving without a license. No show on each one. Warrant out for his arrest in Virginia. On each of the tickets, he told the police he lived at 1916 Castleberry, but near as I can tell that is a warehouse in the produce district of Virginia Beach. No one lives there. He has all the classic signs of an illegal Mexican alien. But we have his picture….” Mahmood pulled off the sheet coming off the laser printer from the Virginia DMV database and handed it to Montana. “He’s 5’ 7” tall, medium build, no facial hair, scar on his left cheek.”
“Put an APB out for this guy and his car and get this photo on every news channel in the next fifteen minutes. We will have everyone in the country looking for this guy. We should have him by lunch. Also call our Virginia branch office and have a TAC-team execute a search warrant for the Castleberry address just in case.”
Montana did not show it, but he was quite satisfied. He would close this case today.
January 20, 2013. 10:15 a.m. San Antonio Riverwalk
So far, Mash’al had stuck to the plan by staying on his anti-psychotic medicine, and had made it as far as San Antonio. Unfortunately, however, he had gone through all the money the Planner had given him for the medicine. Soon the voices would return. He was wearing an Army surplus jacket and underneath the jacket, a black and orange Cincinnati Bengals jersey. He had no money left, and for the last week had been begging tourists on the San Antonio Riverwalk for change. Today, his voices had returned for the first time in months and they were not happy. They were screaming at him, telling him he was running out of blood, running out of skin. He needed more blood and skin to complete the tapestry. Yes, complete the tapestry, that’s what he must do. He went up to a bunch of men in suits and asked them for change. They quickly ignored him and moved on. “The Americans have taken my skin,” he mumbled angrily.
Police Officer Ray Gallagos had been on the San Antonio Police Force for only six months. His job was to make sure the pan-handlers and homeless people stayed away from the Riverwalk, which was San Antonio’s primary tourist draw. From his perch on the bridge on Presa Street, he saw the man in the Army jacket hassling tourists. He quickly went down the stone steps from the bridge and went up to the man in the coat.
“Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave this area. Come with me.”
“Oh, OK, sorry,” the man mumbled. The police officer followed the man in the Army jacket up the stone steps onto Presa Street. As Masha’al walked up the steps, the voices descended on his brain. “He knows! He knows! He is the man who took the blood and the skin! He wants more!” Mash’al looked back at the police officer and his face looked like a jackal with blood on his mouth. “He is the one,” thought Mash’al. Suddenly, Mash’al wheeled around, grabbed the officer’s gun out of his holster and shoved him back down the steps. Mash’al ran onto the street yelling, “They will not get me! I have the tapestry!”
Gallagos was angry and worried. The man had stolen his revolver, and that would get him in trouble. If he hurt anyone with that gun, it would be on Gallagos’ head. He sternly announced into his shoulder mike. “This is 517 to all units. We have a vagrant, 5’ 7” tall, medium build, no facial hair, scar on his left cheek, wearing an Army surplus jacket, Cincinnati Bengals football jersey, and jeans. He just assaulted me, threw me down a flight of stairs, and stole my firearm by the bridge overpass on Presa Street.” Gallagos ran up the stairs and looked for the man in the Army jacket. “Suspect has a loaded firearm and is running down Crockett toward the Alamo!” Gallagos dashed down Crocker Street toward the Alamo. “He is waiving the gun, and he is going straight toward the Alamo. There are kids in there!”
Within five minutes, ten police cars had surrounded the Alamo. Police sergeant Will Ramirez heard the officer’s callout at the precinct. “Did he just say Cincinnati Bengals?” He raced back to his desk, and pulled up the FBI photo of the Cincinnati bombing suspect. It said he was 5’ 7” tall, no facial hair, scar on his left cheek. Holy Christ. He called Officer Gallagos on his shoulder mike.
“517, where are you right now?”
Gallagos said, “Outside the Alamo, I am standing on Crocker Street near one of the police cars. I did not go in there because the guy has my weapon. Look, I am really sorry, Sarge.”
“Ray, do not worry about that right now. Get to a squad car and turn on the video monitor. I am sending you a photo. I want you to tell me if this is the guy who assaulted you.”
Officer Gallagos jumped into a nearby squad car and turned on the video monitor. A few moments later, the face of the vagrant flashed on his screen. He radioed the Sergeant. “That’s him, Sarge.”
“Are you positive, Ray? I need you to be 100% positive.”
“I am positive, Sarge. I looked him right in the eye. I will never forget that face.”
“Ray, that’s the Cincinnati Bomber you have there. I want your men to proceed with extreme caution. Find Captain Trudeau immediately and let him know.”
Sergeant Ramirez went to the central dispatcher down the hall. “Wanda, I want all cars to know that the suspect in the Alamo is, in all likelihood, the Cincinnati Bomber. Proceed with extreme caution. We need all units to go to the Alamo. What’s happening down there? Do they have him or has he taken any hostages?”
The dispatcher immediately relayed the message. “All units respond to the Alamo. Suspect may be the Cincinnati Bomber. I repeat: all units, this may be the Cincinnati Bomber. Proceed with caution. Suspect is 5’ 7” tall, medium build, no facial hair, scar on left cheek, Army jacket, Cincinnati Bengals jersey, jeans. He has a loaded firearm stolen from a police officer. He is armed and dangerous. Unknown where he is in the Alamo or if he has taken hostages. Last seen running into the Alamo.”
The vaulted stone shrine room of the Alamo has two large brown doors, several purple funeral wreaths on metal stands, and a series of tablets around the room listing the names of the brave soldiers who died in the 1836 battle. Near the ceiling are six flags. On this day in particular, a local Cub Scout troop was visiting the Alamo. A Mexican illegal alien, Rosa Trujeo, and her three daughters, Eva, Esperanza, and “Cat” (short for Catarina) were visiting the Alamo that day. Rosa was a maid at the Marriott Riverwalk downtown. She was interested in showing the children the monument because one of Rosa’s ancestors was a Tejano volunteer who had fought in the first battle to capture the Alamo for the Texans in 1835. She was on crutches today because she had sprained her ankle at work slipping on liquid detergent in the hotel laundry room. Also present was Tommy Dickerson, a 60 year-old stocky Vietnam vet with a receding head of gray hair, worn long to his shoulders, who enjoyed visiting war memorials. He was on a cross-country trip to visit places like Gettysburg, the 9-11 Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
The Mexican woman, her three daughters, the twelve first-graders and their two Den Leaders were reading the names of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others listed on the memorial tablets when the crazed madman in the Army jacket came running in.
“Everyone on the ground!” Mash’al shot a round in the air at the flags on the wall, and everyone in the room screamed and ducked to the floor.
“You, cell phone!” He pointed his gun at one of the terrified female den leaders, who handed over the phone. Mash’al called 911 and spoke to the dispatcher.
“I have a gun inside the Alamo. I have fifteen children in here. You get all the police out of here immediately or I will start killing children one by one. And I am going to need you to bring me blood. Lots of blood. And skin for the tapestry.” Mash’al’s voices began screaming at him again. “Quiet!” He yelled to no one in particular. The petrified girls huddled against their mother and the scouts did the same to the den leaders.
Mash’al began pacing the floor, mumbling angrily. He was distracted by the voices, and not paying very close attention to the hostages. Rosa Trujeo was not a timid person. She had not traveled in the back of a poultry truck thousands of miles to have her children killed by a maniac. As soon as the gunman turned his back to pace in the opposite direction, Trujeo crushed the terrorist’s head with a roundhouse swing of her crutch, knocking him to the floor. That was all the opening the Vietnam veteran needed. With his wartime instincts from forty years ago kicking in, he dove on the terrorist, putting his hand on the gun and trying to dislodge the gun from the terrorist’s hand. Rosa Trujeo was not finished. She ran to the terrorist’s outstretched hand and stepped on it as hard as she could, crushing his finger bones, while Dickerson kept the terrorist pinned. The gun went off into the wall, firing wildly. Trujeo stomped again, and this time the gun became dislodged. Trujeo kicked it against the far wall. Dickerson yelled to one of the scouts. “You there! Take off your belt and throw it to me.” The boy did as he was told. Dickerson used the belt to tie the terrorist’s hands behind his back. Meanwhile, one of the den leaders had picked up the gun from the floor and trained it on the terrorist’s face. “Don’t move!” the den leader yelled, with suddenly much more courage than she had a moment ago. Dickerson yanked the terrorist up, who was now yelling in Arabic. Dickerson kicked open the door to the hall to see twenty police officer’s revolvers trained on him. “Don’t shoot!” he yelled. “We’ve got him!” Dickerson threw the terrorist down to the ground of the hall in disgust, and the police officers pounced on him, handcuffing him and leading him out of the Alamo. The other cops started back-slapping Dickerson and giving him high-fives.
Dickerson turned to the Rosa, her children, and the cub scouts and said, “Now that was fun!” They all laughed. They stayed behind in the shrine room a few more minutes to speak to police officers. After the brief interviews were complete, the group of brave tourists headed out of the Alamo, where they were greeted with wild applause from dozens of police officers and a newly-formed crowd of onlookers. The crowd died down after a few seconds. Dickerson proudly came forward, holding Rosa’s hand in triumph with one hand and a cub scout’s hand in the other. “All I have to say is it’s finally nice to win one at the Alamo!” The crowd erupted into more cheers.
Thousands of miles away, Ruddy Montana heard the news coming in from San Antonio Police. He quickly called the FBI Director, who was at the White House this morning. If they hurried, they just might be able to get this into the Inauguration Speech.
It was time. Mohammed el Faya put the bullets into his long-range sniper rifle. The target had come into the kill zone.