Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview

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CHAPTER 27. CRISIS

New Orleans. 6:05 p.m.

 

“Dispatch, this is Unit 2 and right behind me is Unit 7. We are eastbound on I-10, just before Poydras Street, about ¼ mile west of the Superdome, and I have a truck in front of me with Louisiana plates CXS-990. That’s the truck!”

The police officers put on their flashers and sirens, and drove around the truck, motioning for him to pull over. The Al Hamal brothers were not in the truck. They had paid a homeless guy $1,000 to drive the truck east on I-10 and stop the truck on Poydras street just underneath the highway overpass. Diego Sanchez, one of the two brothers, was sitting in the driver’s seat of a different type of truck, monitoring the emergency police bands. When he heard the message about the truck with license CXS-990, he pressed the first button on his remote control device and the machine guns on the front of the tractor trailer truck pivoted outward from their sleeves and started firing bullets. No one was more surprised at this than the homeless man driving the truck, who had no idea the machine guns were even there.

“All units! The truck is firing from machine guns mounted on the top of the truck hood! We need to take this truck out before it gets to the Superdome. Where’s our air support?”

The Army pilot of the Apache helicopter circling the stadium was ready for this contingency. He swung the helicopter over the roof of the Superdome and down towards the truck. If he had to, he would blow up the truck with a Hellfire missile.

The homeless man could see where this was going. He was going to be dead soon if he did not stop this truck. He went down the ramp of I-10 to Poydras Street, and pulled the truck to a stop just underneath the highway overpass. The Apache helicopter was hovering just on the other side. He was ready to send a Hellfire missile in the belly of the truck. The police dove out of their cars and swarmed around the truck to get the driver.

Just then, Diego Sanchez, sitting in the front seat of his own truck a short distance away, pressed the second button on his remote control panel, and the C-4 in the back of the homeless man’s truck ignited. The detonation was catastrophic, and the fireball engulfed all the police officers and cars under the bridge, the hovering Apache helicopter, and a huge section of the highway as well. The concrete of the highway came down in a heap of rubble onto the top of Poydras Street. Smoke filled the air. No one would be going anywhere on those roads.

 

Inside the stadium, the Panthers had just scored a quick touchdown on a long bomb from Benjamin to Shane and were getting ready to kick off to the Dolphins. The Panthers’ kicker placed the football on the orange tee and backed up for the kick. Just then, the explosion underneath I-10 occurred. The explosion knocked the ball off the tee, and all the fans in the stadium wondered what the huge sonic boom was. No one really worried too much, though. Not a single fan at that moment realized what had happened less than a quarter of a mile away.

6:08 p.m. Gulf of Mexico, Delta Flight 16, 10 minutes east of the Louisiana Superdome

 

Amy Idris had been an Air Marshall for less than a month. She flew about three to five flights a day, always sitting near the front of the plane in Seat 2B. She wore a blazer and slacks, and packed her gun in a holster that she kept under her jacket. So far, this job had not lived up to her expectations, just flying uneventful flights all day and making conversation with strangers. But she knew it was important, and she owed it to Justin, who had been murdered by the Cincinnati Bomber. She had checked in with the pilot, a Lou Caradonna, at the beginning of the flight, to let him know she would be on board, and to have him sign her flight form. She wished she could sleep, but that was not allowed. Air Marshals had to be always vigilant. Right now, she was reading a People Magazine when she got a text message on her cell phone. She glanced down at the message. It had a code number—333! -- which was used by the Marshal’s Service for dire emergencies, as well as the code number for the Director of the Air Marshal’s Service: AM74Q@&. The message read:

THE PILOT, CO-PILOT, AND FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ON YOUR PLANE ARE ALL TERRORISTS. THEY PLAN TO FLY YOUR PLANE INTO LOUISIANA SUPERDOME IN APPROX. 10 MINUTES. IN 8-9 MINUTES, F-16 AIRCRAFT WILL RECEIVE ORDERS TO BLOW YOUR PLANE UP UNLESS YOU CAN GAIN IMMEDIATE CONTROL OF AIRCRAFT. PRESUME FLIGHT CREW IS ARMED AND DANGEROUS. RADIO AS SOON AS YOU HAVE CONTROL OF AIRCRAFT. YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO USE DEADLY FORCE.

 

Idris’ heart almost stopped when she read the message. She typed back “OK.” She looked around. One flight attendant was in the back of the plane, the other was in the front. If she tried to take out the flight attendant in the back first, other passengers might see her, and might not realize she was an Air Marshal. They might block her attempt to get back up to the front of the plane, and that would be disastrous. She decided to solicit help from passengers. She wrote a message on a napkin and then went back six rows, where she saw three big men in one row. She pretended to fall sideways into their row, said “Sorry,” and walked back another two rows. Then she acted like she changed her mind and went back towards the front of the plane. The message on the napkin read:

“I AM AIR MARSHAL. TERRORISTS IN CONTROL OF PLANE. YOU THREE NEED TO GO TO BACK OF PLANE AND SUBDUE FLIGHT ATTENDANT IN BACK. I WILL TAKE CARE OF REST.”

The three men read the message and were dumbfounded, but they had to assume that the lady was telling the truth. They all got up from their seats and started walking to the back of the plane. Idris went to the front of the plane where the bathroom was. She turned to the Arab-looking flight attendant who was seated near the sink and the drink cart.

“Excuse me,” she said, leaning over to the woman and punched her in the face. The flight attendant was momentarily stunned. Idris then grabbed her cuffs and tried to cuff the flight attendant behind her back, but after she got one cuff on, the flight attendant squirmed and kicked. Idris managed to get the other side of the cuff locked onto a metal post of the seat, shackling the flight attendant by one wrist to the seat. Idris crammed three napkins into the flight attendant’s mouth before she could scream and then punched her again in the face, temporarily knocking her out. Unfortunately, a business man in the front row saw the assault.

“Hey! What are you doing there?” he yelled out.

Idris took out her badge, held it in the air, and motioned with her finger to her mouth for the man to be quiet.

Ever since 9-11, the pilots’ union had argued that the door to the pilot’s cabin should be armored. Some of the airlines had made structural improvements to the doors, so that they could not easily be kicked in, but Air Marshal Amy Idris knew that nearly all of the doors to the pilots’ cabin could not withstand a shower of bullets. Idris took out two extra clips so that she would be ready to quickly reload. At 6:10 p.m., Idris took out her service revolver, aimed it at the lock of the pilot’s cabin, and screamed, “FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL!” and started blasting. The passengers on the plane went into a terrified panic.

In the rear of the plane, the flight attendant heard the gunfire and bolted up to help her friends, but the three burly men grabbed her and manhandled her into a corner by the rear bathroom.

Idris kicked in the pilot’s door. She got a clean shot off on the co-pilot, killing him with a head shot. The pilot of the plane ducked down, however, and her first shot on the pilot missed, hitting the dashboard. The pilot quickly pulled up on the controls violently, and the plane lurched wildly upward. Idris fell back on the ground, but still managed to keep her gun in her hand. The yellow air masks quickly dropped from their tethers in the passenger cabin. The pilot then corrected the path of the plane, and set the plane on a crash course into the Louisiana Superdome. When he had entered the proper coordinates, which only took seconds, he dashed over to Idris and dove on her, trying to get the gun out of her hand. At 6:11 p.m., the plane began its sharp descent towards the football stadium.

 

The two F-16 pilots had scrambled from their air base in New Orleans and had flown at supersonic speeds towards the Delta jetliner. Their screens said they would intercept the Delta plane at 6:15 p.m., three minutes before impact with the stadium. Matt Suba was in the Situation Room at the White House with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the FBI Director, the National Security Advisor, and the President’s new Chief of Staff. The President, who had gotten to a secure location several blocks from the stadium, was receiving inputs and updates over a speaker phone set up in a hastily prepared office. The Director of Homeland Security, along with the Detectives from Homeland Security and the Secret Service, were live on a Cisco Telepresence video conference. The President had given the order to shoot the Delta plane over the sky if it headed for the Superdome. However, she realized that her order would necessarily result in the deaths of over 200 passengers as well as countless others on the ground killed from the plane wreckage. She gave the order that the F-16s should hold their fire until the plane was one minute away from the Dome. That could give the Air Marshall time to get control of the plane and avert a disaster. The President considered evacuating everyone from the stadium, but there could be more truck bombers waiting just outside the stadium somewhere, so that was not a great alternative.

New Orleans, 6:12 p.m. Just outside the Louisiana Superdome

After the explosion, emergency personnel were in a panic, and police cars and fire engines were driving everywhere around the stadium. In the pandemonium, a black truck with the acronym “SWAT” on the side panel quietly rolled down Howard Street, turned left on Magnolia, and right on Girod Street, along the south side of the stadium. On the south side of the Louisiana Superdome, there are two overhead walkways very close to each other connecting the Superdome to the New Orleans Hornets Basketball Arena. After a typical Saints football game, swarms of crowds take these two walkways to reach stairways which lead down to Girod Street below. The driver of the SWAT truck pulled along Girod Street, parking the truck just underneath the westernmost walkway, next to one of the concrete columns holding up the walkway. This would be one of the primary chokepoints for the crowds leaving the Superdome today. Now all the Al Hamal brothers had to do was wait for their brother in the plane. He should be due in about six minutes. They looked to the sky.

 

Outside New Orleans, en route to Baton Rouge. Inside Vehicle of FBI Field Agent Brown. 6:12 p.m.

John Morse was driving to the FBI Field Office in Baton Rouge in an FBI car. He heard the report of events coming in over the FBI agent’s radio.

“That’s really strange,” said Morse.

“What’s strange?” asked his driver.

“Why would they stop short of the Superdome and just blow up a highway? It doesn’t fit their M.O.”

“It sounds like he wanted to get to the stadium but he got stopped.”

“But he didn’t try to ram the police cars to get closer to the stadium? He just stopped and then blew himself up? That doesn’t sound right.”

Then Morse thought a minute. Why had the terrorists not tortured him for the information he had? Why had they placed his chair directly under a light, which they knew he could use to send flashing signals? Why had they pretended to rig the door, and then used fake explosives? Why had they let him see their license plate? It was almost as if they wanted him to be rescued and to tell the FBI about the tractor trailer. Why would they do that? Perhaps the explosion by the highway was another diversion, and the real truck with explosives was somewhere else, prepared to kill fans as they left the stadium.

“Agent Brown, I need to speak with Detective Jensen about the terrorist plot. It is absolutely urgent.”

Brown contacted headquarters and within a minute, Jensen was back on the phone. Morse told him about his theory.

“What about the machine guns that opened fire on the police?” asked Jensen. “Those bullets were real.”

“That could have been rigged with a remote control from a distant location. I am telling you, these guys have gone to great lengths to give us all kinds of diversions. I think this is another one. How are they going to get a truck with explosives close to the stadium with all those roadblocks and police? If I were going to plan this, I would put the explosives in an emergency vehicle. I think we can rule out a police car, because it is too small to house all those explosives. If it were me, I would put the explosives in a fire truck, an ambulance, or a police truck of some kind, and then drive up to the stadium in all the confusion after the tractor trailer exploded. If I were you, I would make sure every one of your emergency vehicles is legit.”

“That’s a great idea, John. Thanks. We will get on that right away.”

At 6:13 p.m., the New Orleans Senior 911 Dispatcher sent out an urgent message to all units to switch to Special Channel 055. Special Channel 55 could not be monitored by individuals eavesdropping on emergency bands. Seconds later, on Channel 55, the dispatcher announced:

“All units. We suspect there is another bomb. Repeat, we suspect another bomb. We are looking for any truck, especially an emergency vehicle, which looks out of place near the Superdome. Could be a fire truck, an ambulance, a SWAT truck, a truck selling T-shirts, anything. We need an inspection of any truck parked near the stadium.”

At 6:13 p.m., Flight 16 was five minutes away from the stadium.

 

6:12 p.m., Delta Flight 16, Somewhere over Louisiana

Francisco Perez, known to his fellow terrorists as Altair, the Flying Eagle, gripped his hand on Amy Idris’ wrist. Then he head butted her, slamming his forehead into her face. When Idris recoiled from the blow, Perez was able to wrestle the gun from her hand. But before he could turn to shoot, he was tackled by the business man in the front row and slammed with force into the wall. The gun went sliding across the floor over to the place where the first flight attendant was sitting. The flight attendant, having recovered from Amy Idris’ initial blows, grabbed the gun with her free hand. As she turned to fire on Idris, Idris pulled Perez in front of her just in time. The three shots from the flight attendant hit Perez squarely in the chest and he went down, bleeding badly. Idris mentally counted the number of bullets fired. She was pretty sure there was only one bullet left in the clip. She kept Perez squarely in front of her so that she would not get shot.

“Hey lady!” said Idris. “You’ve only got one bullet left in there, so you better make it count.” The flight attendant considered Idris’ words.

“Throw me another clip or I will shoot one of these innocent passengers,” she snarled.

“I ain’t throwin’ you nothin’!” said Idris.

“Well, that’s fine, we will collide with the stadium in three minutes anyway. Whoever tries to get into that cockpit will get shot.”

Amy Idris knew what she had to do. She owed it to Justin and all the other little kids like him. If she did not act, everyone on the plane and everyone in the stadium could die. She yelled out a carnal scream and dove on the flight attendant, who shot her in the chest. The flight attendant tried to fire again and the gun clicked. She was out of bullets. The passengers watched in stunned silence as the plane hurdled towards the Superdome with no pilot.

 

6:14 p.m., Headquarters of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.

Christine Bueller, one of the computer analysts at Homeland Security, ran up to Detective Jensen.

“Detective Jensen, I have a SWAT truck outside the stadium which does not have a matching license plate.”

“What do you mean?”

She pulled up satellite images on her screen. “I started pulling SAT images from every big truck parked around the Superdome, and zooming in on their license plates. Look at this SWAT truck here. Its license plate is JHF-343. But that is a license plate registered to a Dodge Pickup owned by a Chris and Carol Higgins. And look, it is parked right under the walkways to the New Orleans Arena, where all the people would come out. It is nowhere near any of the action over on the northwest side of the stadium where the road blew up. Why isn’t he over there? He is just sitting there.”

Jensen agreed. That had to be the right truck.

He got on the phone with New Orleans SWAT and they quickly verified that they did not have a truck with that license plate. They also said they only had two SWAT trucks, and both were on the northwest side of the stadium. That could not be their truck.

At 6:16 p.m., Jensen picked up the phone and called his Homeland Security Crisis Field Team Commander, Jim Briggs.

“Jim, this is Detective Jensen with the Secret Service. We have confirmed that there is a SWAT truck sitting on Girod Street, underneath the walkways to the Arena, on the south side of the stadium. That is not a legitimate SWAT truck. We believe it is being operated by terrorists and may have significant quantities of C4 on board. I have already checked with the sniper team on the roof of the stadium, and they say they do not have a clean shot on the drivers due to the overpasses. You need to take your team, and take out the drivers of the truck, without letting them detonate the C4 inside. You will have to surprise them, so do not go in with guns and sirens blazing. This will have to be totally covert. We believe he will detonate that C4 within two to four minutes anyway, so you have no time at all. Once you take out the terrorists, you need to get that truck out of there.”

“10-4 boss, we are on it.”

6:16 p.m., SWAT truck, south side of the Louisiana Superdome

The two men in the front seat were dressed as New Orleans SWAT members. Suddenly, Diego Sanchez pointed to the sky just east of the stadium.

“There is our brother! He has made it! Praise Allah for this glorious day! Our father will be so proud of us! I am so excited!”

Just then a man and a woman in Carolina Panthers jerseys and hats came running over toward the SWAT truck. The man had a bratwurst in his hand which he was eating and the woman had a Dixie Beer. They looked drunk. They swaggered up to the SWAT truck.

“Hey, SWAT man!” the man yelled, laughing and wavering back and forth like a drunk.

Diego reached for his gun and silencer, but his brother put his hand over him.

“Brother, remain calm. These are just drunken Americans. I will get rid of them.”

Antonio Sanchez opened the door to the SWAT truck and got out.

“Hey, buddy, we are on police business here, so…”

With that, Commander Jim Briggs, the drunk man, opened fire on Sanchez, shooting him in the head.

Diego Sanchez saw his brother die from the front seat, and quickly reached for the C4 detonator.

The woman in front of the hood dressed in the Dolphins jersey shot four shots through the windshield, killing the other Sanchez brother. They quickly ran around to the back of the truck and opened the door. There was a huge pallet of C4 with rigged timers and flashing lights. There were no other terrorists on board.

“We have taken out the terrorists on the SWAT truck. Repeat, we have taken out the two unfriendlies. There is an entire SWAT truck filled with C4. I do not know if it is set on a timer or not, but there is a detonation button on the front seat. We are in the truck now and driving it away from the stadium. Where do you want us to take it?”

“Take it North on 10 to the Mississippi River. The Bomb Squad will meet you there.”

Briggs hit the gas, not knowing if the C4 would detonate at any moment.

 

6:16 p.m. In the sky above New Orleans

The two F-16s were flying just behind the Delta airliner. The F-16 pilots could see the Louisiana Superdome in the distance. They had just been given their orders from the President. In 60 seconds, unless they were contacted, they would take out the airliner.

 

At 6:15 p.m., a lawyer in the fourth row in a gray pinstriped suit stood up, asking if anyone on the plane was a pilot of any kind. Phillip Peabody, sitting in 17B, raised his hand. “I am not a pilot yet, but I have had 20 hours of training on a Cessna 172. But I have never flown anything like this.” The passengers did not care. That was the best they had. “That will have to do,” said the lawyer. Quickly, come up with me to the cockpit. Peabody walked down the aisle towards the front of the plane, with other scared passengers giving him encouragement. As he walked by the first row, Perez, the terrorist pilot, despite his three bullet wounds to the chest, reached out his hand from the floor and tripped Peabody. The lawyer kicked the terrorist in the face, and helped his friend Peabody into the pilot’s chair. One of the other passengers, Ed Jonas, was the owner of a Miami rifle range and knew his way around weapons. He wasn’t going to take any more of this interference from terrorists. He found the extra ammo clip on the floor of the passenger cabin. Then, inserting it into the gun, he pointed the gun at Perez, and shot him four more times, making sure he would cause no further problems. He also shot the chained flight attendant. Then he pocketed the gun, returning to his seat.

“There,” he said to the lawyer and Peabody. “Now go fly this plane.” After a stunned moment of silence, some of the passengers clapped and yelled encouragement.

Peabody was shocked by the violence, but took the pilot’s seat. Both he and the lawyer looked at each other nervously as they looked out the windshield. They were headed right for the Superdome. The new pilot put on his headset and turned the radio on the lower console to the Guard Channel, Channel 121-9.

At 6:16 p.m., Peabody spoke urgently into the plane’s radio.

“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! This is Delta Flight 16. We need your assistance landing the plane. The flight crew is all dead. There was an Air Marshal who managed to kill the terrorist flying the plane, but she died as well. You only have passengers left. My name is Phillip Peabody. I am not a pilot but I have 20 hours of training in a Cessna 172. But I have never flown a commercial airline before. Please give us immediate instructions to fly the plane.”

The President, who was patched in to the FAA Director, heard the announcement from the new pilot moments later. She hovered over the speaker phone.

“Advise the F-16 pilots immediately to hold their fire.”

Back in Washington, D.C. in the Situation Room, Suba could not stand this.

“Madame President,” he said from the Situation Room, “You have to shoot down that plane now. If you don’t, those people up there could accidentally fly it into the stadium!”

“I said, stand down!” the President yelled.

The F-16s got the message immediately over their radios and took their fingers away from the firing button.

The Director of the FAA had his most experienced airline pilot jump on the speaker phone.

“Mr Peabody, this is Bob Twill, I am an airline pilot. Here is what you need to do. First, look to your right, between the pilot’s chair and the co-pilot’s chair, on the lower console below the dashboard, and there is a T-shaped toggle switch. It should say ‘Auto-pilot’ next to it. Do you see it?”

“Yes.”

“OK, I need you to engage that toggle switch by locking it forward. Tell me when that’s done.”

Peabody found the switch and pressed it forward.

“Done.”

“OK, now just to the side of the toggle switch, you should see a dial on its side, kind of like a thermostat dial, that you can dial up or down. When you find it, tell me what the reading is.”

“There is no dial there.”

“What do you mean, there is no dial there? Are you sure you are looking in the right place?” asked Twill.

“I know exactly what you mean. There is no dial there! There is a bullet hole where the dial used to be!”

Twill looked at the FAA Director next to him with a grim expression. Twill thought of new instructions to give the pilot. He hoped it would work.

It was 6:17 p.m.

“Madame President!” yelled Suba over the teleconference from the Situation Room, “You have to shoot that plane down!”

 

6:18 p.m. Outside the New Orleans Superdome.

Several police officers standing at barricades on the east side of the stadium pointed up in the air. A huge airliner was headed right towards them.

“Oh, my God!” one said. “It’s gonna hit the stadium!”

They all started running.

As the plane barreled down towards the stadium, the officers noted that it started to pitch upwards a little bit, and then it got more level. It might miss!

The plane was a few hundred feet from the stadium when it suddenly pitched upwards and barely missed hitting the stadium. It flew off into the sky over western New Orleans, heading upwards to the clouds.

On the streets outside the stadium, in the President’s conference room, in the Situation Room, at the FAA Tower in New Orleans, and at Homeland Security Headquarters in Washington, D.C., there was thunderous applause, and everyone started back-slapping each other and throwing up their hands in excitement.

The FAA pilot continued to give Peabody instructions. He was ultimately able to land the airplane at New Orleans International Airport, although he destroyed the plane’s landing gear during the landing. When the plane touched down and finally stopped on the runway, all the passengers erupted in applause and cheers. Peabody was given hand-shakes and back slaps. He was hero for a day. The FAA had fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances waiting at the airport. The Air Marshals Service took Amy Idris’ body from the plane. Her heroism today would be remembered for generations.

By 6:23 p.m., Commander Briggs arrived with the SWAT truck at the Mississippi River. Bomb Squad officers quickly examined the C4. It was set to be detonated by pressing the arming mechanism. It was not on a timer. They were able to defuse the arming mechanism and the C4. The crisis at the Superdome was over.

Jensen relayed the good news to Morse on his way to Baton Rouge. He informed him that a plane would be waiting for him at 8 p.m. that night to fly him to Washington. Jensen said the President wanted to meet him and thank him. Morse was happy the whole ordeal was over.

7 p.m. Headquarters of Homeland Security. Washington, D.C.

Detective Jensen took a file and went into the interrogation room where Homeland Security was keeping Hector Santiago, known to his teammates as Ammar, the Builder. Santiago had not said anything to detectives during interrogation.

“Have you heard the news?” Jensen asked Santiago.

“What news?”

“The news about the Superbowl. One of your buddies, Francisco Perez, killed a Delta pilot and his wife, impersonated the pilot, and just drove an airliner into the Louisiana Superdome. And then when the fans tried to escape, two of your other buddies, Antonio and Diego Sanchez, blew up a truck filled with C4 and slaughtered them all. The President of the United States and about 60,000 people are dead. So your little plot is finished. Congratulations. You might as well tell me all about it now.”

Santiago started laughing, small at first and then very loudly.

“Hah! You Americans are so stupid! I knew they would succeed! You cannot even see the danger signs when they are staring you in the face. It serves you right. Now we have our revenge on Mr Bush.”

“What revenge?”

“My real name is Shabaz Ma’ak Lom. I had two brothers once, Suhaim and Saif al Din. We lived in the Shaab residential district in northern Baghdad and my father sold produce in the local bazaar. We never caused anybody any trouble. On March 26, 2003, a few weeks after the Baghdad invasion began, my family was working at the produce stand. I had been sent on an errand by my father. Just then, two silver American warplanes with the red, white and blue stars flew over my head at a low altitude. I wondered what they are doing, since there were no Revolutionary Guards in the area where we lived and worked. But the Americans did not care. They bombed my family, which was only trying to sell fruit. They killed my two brothers, my mother, and my father. And that is when I answered the call to jihad. Now you Americans will know what it means to lose your families. I spit on all of your graves. I am happy about what happened tonight.”

“And what are the real names of your buddies?”

“You Americans are so stupid. With all your terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists, you do not even realize it when Osama Bin Laden’s own sons walk about your country. You are so stupid!”

“You’re claiming that Perez and the Sanchez brothers are sons of Bin Laden?”

“It is not a claim, it is a fact. I entered into Mexico with them myself, and helped them enter the United States on student visas. What a joke that was, we did not even show up on campus for class, and no one said anything to us.”

“OK, so you were the Builder?”

“Yes. They call me Ammar, which means the Builder.”

“Perez was the Eagle?”

“Yes, they called him Altair, which means Flying Eagle.”

“And the Sanchez brothers, they were the Rams?”

“Yes, their name Al Hamal means Ram. It is the same name that in Arabic means Aries, the ram.”

“And your co-pilot, what animal was he?”

“He was not an Abisali. He was just a helper. His name was Tikah.”

“What’s an Abisali?”

“It means ‘Warrior of the Faith’.”

“And who gave you these little names?”

“The Master.”

“And who is the Master?”

“Osama Bin Laden, of course.”

“And the flight attendants, what were their names?”

“That was my wife and my brother’s wife.”

“You don’t seem that broken up that your wife is dead.”

“She is a martyr for the faith. She is already in paradise. I will join her soon, as soon as you Americans hang me.”

“Well, that accounts for your whole group except one. Who is the Planner?”

“Mudabbir is the Planner.”

“Who is Mudabbir? What is his name?”

“I do not know, Detective. But I can tell you one thing. He is very high up in your Government. He is what you would call a ‘Mole’.”

“You have never met him?”

“No.”

“Then how did you communicate with him?”

“By text messages or e-mails and once by a DVD.”

“Do you have any of these text messages, e-mails, or DVDs?”

“No, they were destroyed. We are not as stupid as you Americans.”

Jensen started to leave the room, but when he got to the door, he turned back and came over to Santiago, speaking very close to his face.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you. When I said that your friends blew up the Superdome, I lied. Everyone on the plane and inside the stadium is safe. We shot the ‘rams,’ and they peed in their pants when they died like little lambs. And your friend the eagle, he was shot and killed by a lady police officer on the plane who probably weighed 100 pounds. He begged for his life from her when he died. He sounded a lot more like a chicken than an eagle. But you did get one thing right. We are going to hang you.”

Jensen left the room with a big smile on his face. That felt good. But he was still troubled by one loose end. Who was the Planner?